It is not our culture Human Rights Culture in Guyana and the Caribbean
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Like this? Share it with your network


It is not our culture Human Rights Culture in Guyana and the Caribbean



The oringal slidecast can be seen at ...

The oringal slidecast can be seen at
This presentation was made on 7 June, 2013 at the Caribbean Studies Association conference in Grenada. Guyana and the rest of the English-Speaking Caribbean have a history
of violence and subjugation of human subjects. Independence provided opportunities for equality of all citizens. However, the ending of the 20th century saw increased activism on two human rights issues.
These issues are :-
i) the beating of children as a form of discipline

ii) discrimination against lesbian,gay , bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) citizens

The resistance to change in these issues has been 'it is our culture'.
The response to the international human rights obligations which call for change has been framed in ideas of nationhood and sovereignty; preservation of cultural values and resistance to cultural imperialism. This presentation examines the work which has been done to change the attitudes to these issues. This review will be done through examination of the strategies which are being used by
organisations and individuals who advocate on these rights.

The presentation is a work in progress towards identifying how the changes have been happening and identifying the opportunities for deeper activism to promote equality for children and equality for LGBT in the Caribbean.
Thanks to the IDEAS Forum for their initial feedback and to Roxroy Bollers for providing the shape files to use for the maps which were created using QGIS



Total Views
Views on SlideShare
Embed Views



2 Embeds 29 27 2



Upload Details

Uploaded via as OpenOffice

Usage Rights

CC Attribution License

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
Post Comment
Edit your comment

It is not our culture Human Rights Culture in Guyana and the Caribbean Presentation Transcript

  • 1. “It is not our culture:Human rights culture in Guyana and the Caribbean”Vidyaratha KissoonCaribbean Studies Association Conference7 June 2013
  • 2. “Is whu really yuh talkin bout?”● A work in progress..● How can we deal with the culture of beating ofchildren in Guyana and Caribbean?● How can we deal with the culture of homophobiain Guyana and the Caribbean?● How can we deal with the culture of anyoppression ?
  • 3. Personal interest● Indian Guyanese Judge to Indian/Guyanese Hinduwoman lawyer on the Domestic Violence Actmovement – “How could you betray yourculture?”● “I did not realise you were Hindu”● “How come you are Hindu and talking aboutthese things?”● “Did you live abroad? When did you return”
  • 4. What is the Caribbean?
  • 5. Caribbean Culture..Antonio Benítez-Rojo : “Caribbeanness is a system full ofnoise and opacity, a nonlinear and unpredictable system.In short a chaotic system beyond the total reach of anyspecific kind of knowledge or interpretation of the world”via late Prof Rex Nettleford, CARIFESTA 2008
  • 6. Caribbean culture
  • 7. American culture
  • 8. Caribbean/T&T culture“In developed countries, writers, academics, comedians, filmmakers, journalists andintellectuals continuously and publicly respond to, discuss and criticise their societyvia art, cultural and social criticism. There is often violent but transformative publicdebate with establishment figures. But our entire state cultural apparatus and notionsof culture were pointedly designed, and are rigidly managed, to not be that. Ourwhole notion of culture is dedicated to the ludicrous notion that it is Carnival andcelebration. Because of this, the occupation of territory by Carnival that books,visual and cinematic art, plays, social and cultural criticism should own is socomplete, it is embedded in the educational system and has warped socialconsciousness. Education is subverted and unable to provide the values which, inother countries, effect social change. It isn’t accidental. The purpose of Trininational culture, to paraphrase Martha Nussbaum, has historically been to encouragethe population to not see the complexity of human experience, and literally reduce itto song and dance. This is the reality of post-independence PNM culture. Its aim wasto socially engineer a generation to accept and even celebrate lying, corruption, andexploitation as an acceptable way of life while simultaneously crying for moralityand transparency.” Raymond Ramcharitar, Trinidad Guardian “Gay Ol Trinidad”24 May, 2013
  • 9. Human Rights in the Caribbean● Genocide of Indigenous persons● Slavery● Haitian Revolution● Indentureship● Universal Declaration of Human Rights● Cuban Revolution● Independent nation building and Republics
  • 10. Caribbean cultural relativism● Rights of women and girls– Abortion– Marriage/Property– Recognition of unwaged work– Rape culture (“she is a lady she should expectthat”)– Rights of children● Democracy?● LGBT Equality
  • 11. Caribbean on beating children in schools
  • 12. Beating children in schools (Guyana)● “Education Minister Priya Manickchand says while she is personallyagainst corporal punishment being administered in schools many parentsdo not see such disciplining as abuse and hence the need forconsultations”. (Stabroek News 10 Aug, 2012)● “..But Opposition Leader, David Granger, said, that the Government ismaking a mockery of the issue since it has signed onto an internationaltreaty against the use of corporal punishment in schools. Granger said, heand his household does not believe in corporal punishment and that theconsultations should have taken place before signing on to the treaty.”(Capitol News 04 October, 2012)● “Admittedly, there is a strong case for the abolishment of corporalpunishment because of the physical and emotional pain it causes. Andthere is a tendency to blindly follow the policies of other countries,particularly those of the advanced countries. This is where the danger liesbecause what may be effective in one society may not necessarily beeffective in others. “( Guyana Chronicle Editorial 27 Sept, 2012)
  • 13. Caribbean on LGBT Equality
  • 14. Gay rights in the Caribbean● In Jamaica , shift from “No gays in my Cabinet (PM Golding in 2008) to "Ouradministration believes in protecting the human rights of all Jamaicans. No one should bediscriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Government should provide theprotection.. (PM Miller – Nov 2011)● In Dominica “The government’s position in relation to this matter is stated in law andthis matter is still on our books and will remain there for the foreseeable future,” . “Idon’t think any compelling argument can be made for it to be repealed.” PM Skerrit –May 2013)● In Belize, First Lady Kim Barrow speaks out on Intl Day against Homophobia (2013),while the National Womens Commission includes sexual orientation in the gender policy● In Trinidad & Tobago, the Minister with responsibility for gender listens to the religiouspersons and does not acknowledge sexual orientation issues in the National GenderPolicy (2013).● Constitutional challenges in Jamaica, Guyana and Belize (2013)
  • 15. Children vs LGBT● It is our culture to preserve the colonial laws of beating children andhomophobia in 10 places : Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada,Guyana, Dominica, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, St Kitts & Nevis,St Vincent & Grenadines, St Lucia● It is our culture to beat our children in schools, and to accept LGBTin 15 places : Aruba, Bermuda, Bonaire, The Bahamas, Saba,Statia, St Barts, BVI, USVI, Bermuda, Montserrat, TCI, St Martin,Martinique, Guadelope● It is our culture to not accept homosexuals in Belize, and not to beatour children in schools● It is our culture to not beat children and to not legally prohibit samesex relations 6 places : Suriname, Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic,Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Anguilla, Curacao
  • 16. Cultural Relativism● “No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe uponhuman rights guaranteed by international law, nor limit theirscope.” UNESCO 2001 Universal Declaration on CulturalDiversity● “The ultimate vision of the Coalition is a healthy Jamaicansociety. We believe this entails physical, emotional, spiritualand mental health. Furthermore, this health rests on a nation-wide understanding, support and realization of Judeo-Christian beliefs as delineated in the Bible.” Charter of theJamaica Coalition for a Health Society Charter
  • 17. Cultural Relativism - Guyana“The undersigned organizations in their representative capacities as part of theapproximately 57% Christian community of the Co-operative Republic ofGuyana express their concerns and offer clarity on the issues of rights ofhomosexuals and proposed legislative reform which advances the “cause” oflesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgenders [LBGT]... The interrelatedness andinterdependency of humanity demands that we appreciate the need andvalue for principles, morals and standards that enable the holistic well-being of all... As the Servants of the Living God, we implore you, HonorableMembers of the Tenth Parliament of Guyana, not to pursue thedecriminalization of homosexuality. .. We are conscious of the political andeconomic pressure that you may experience or are experiencing and assuch encourage you to: (i) preserve the sovereignty of our nationand (ii) preserve the integrity of family life which continues to be the bedrockof our society “ Statement by the Christian Community in Guyana 2012
  • 18. Culture – Catholic Church“Sadly, especially in the West, one frequently encounters ambiguities about themeaning of human rights and their corresponding duties. “Rights are oftenconfused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, whobecomes self-referential, no longer open to encounter with God and with others,and absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs. “To be authentic,the defence of rights must instead consider human beings integrally, in theirpersonal and communitarian dimensions.” Pope Benedict New Year Message2013“ Mercifully, the Roman Catholic Church … has moved from being one of theworld’s leading, even notorious, proponents of beating school children to one ofthe world’s leading institutions to have sought more civilized methods ofdiscipline… “(Mike James, Catholic Standard Guyana, 19 Jan, 2007)“I wish to make it clear that the Catholic Church in Dominica adheres to the callof the Holy See ‘to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons aswell as to urge all States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminalpenalties against them’. Bishop of Roseau, Gabriel Malzaire – May 2013
  • 19. Culture – Hindu WomensOrganisation“Principal of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) High School, Swami Aksharanandasays he respects the rights of homosexuals but he will not promote or judge alifestyle.”Demerara Waves reporting Plain Talk, Guyana 3 Feb, 2012
  • 20. Culture - Politics● Whilst one may see the reasoning behind unnatural connection with an animal, one may be left towonder why should it be considered unlawful for two adult consenting males to have sexualrelations in the privacy of their homes. This may well be taking it a bit too far and the law ought tobe reconsidered. The homosexuality issue has caught Caribbean people between a rock anda hard place. Their whole moral upbringing has been called into question. They are just notcomfortable with the idea of men caressing men and women caressing women.” Dr LawrenceJoseph, President of the Senate of Grenada, May 2013● Having regard to this situation it is incumbent on the Government and Opposition to boldly leadpublic opinion in this matter. Our society should be liberal in outlook and socially progressive incharacter. We must lead the way in the Caribbean region and lead the way in dispensing with theoutdated notion that heterosexuality is the basic premise of masculinity for the male and femininityfor the woman Negative social attitudes should be combated even if they are popular. Andwhere conditions exist making it is possible to do so, as in Guyana, it ought to be done.Discrimination has no place in Guyana. The LGBT community is crying out for recognition and anend to ridicule, violence and discrimination.(Ralph Ramkarran, former Speaker of the National Assembly, Guyana , May 2012)
  • 21. Culture - Politics● –Sí –recuerda–, fueron momentos de una graninjusticia, ¡una gran injusticia! –repite enfático–,la haya hecho quien sea. Si la hicimos nosotros,nosotros… Estoy tratando de delimitar miresponsabilidad en todo eso porque, desde luego,personalmente, yo no tengo ese tipo de prejuicios... (Fidel Castro, 2010)
  • 22. Culture - politics● “ I have Belizeans in my party who arehomosexuals and we embrace all Belizeans.” HonFrancis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition inBelize May 2013● “APNU does not discriminate” Hon DavidGranger,Leader of the Opposition in Guyana,November 2012
  • 23. Culture – Parents after workshop• “Very informative and I learnt a lot. Parenting is not just givingbirth.”• “I thought the only necessity was preaching until I come here.When I have my children I will know what to do”• “Good to hear each other’s situation; we opened, we shared, we feltcomfortable. I did not know it all; how to deal with my children.We will take this back to our churches. We can be bold enough tospeak to parents. Thank God I am here.”• “The timing was perfect to be informed us all of a newmethodology of parenting. I will no longer drive fear in mychildren. Over these days I have stopped ‘shutting my daughterup’; I am giving her a chance to speak.”
  • 24. Culture – Individual“ I did a lot of soul searching and realized that thereare good people and bad people, in every race,religion, sexual preference, whatever. It will behypocritical of me to dislike good people because oftheir sexuality. As a Rasta, I have to be careful whatI say or do. Im always under scrutiny... I realizedOne Love is exactly that. No exceptions” YoungRastafarian man
  • 25. Culture - Individual“I dont look to laws or treaties or conventions for afix. The solution, as with most problems, is changein the education of regular people. I mentioned theinternet and mass media enabling this. Once thepopulation comes to the side of equality, then thelaws will either be irrelevant or fall intorighteousness.” young gay man April 2013
  • 26. Questions● Try to rework/reframe the culture?Which/Whose culture?● Culture is religion.. what else?● Push for the political change? Do people listen to politicians?● Push for legal change and the culture will evolve in response?● Embrace treachery/treason or redefine patriotism?● Cuss dem and call dem backward and barbaric?● Are these the right questions?● Where/How do we find the answers to these questions?