Cayman HRC Call For Same Sex Union Laws

February 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

“Immediate steps should be taken to introduce legislation to recognise same-sex unions and to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the Cayman Islands as a matter of the greatest importance.”

That was the view expressed by the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission in their submission to the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the British Overseas Territories.

Their submission said, “Tackling discrimination against LGBT+ persons remains an important challenge for the Cayman Islands. Whilst it remains extremely rare for this discrimination to manifest itself in physical violence or abuse, a culture of homophobic attitudes within sections of the Legislature and vocal sections of the community [particularly some of the churches] has a potent and pernicious impact, with the capacity to encourage discrimination and bullying and lead to the denial of equal rights for members of the LGBT+ community.

“Tackling discrimination against LGBT+ persons remains an important challenge for the Cayman Islands. Whilst it remains extremely rare for this discrimination to manifest itself in physical violence or abuse, a culture of homophobic attitudes within sections of the Legislature and vocal sections of the community [particularly some of the churches] has a potent and pernicious impact, with the capacity to encourage discrimination and bullying and lead to the denial of equal rights for members of the LGBT+ community.

“It is a source of regret that, over three years later, the Commission’s recommendations have still not been adopted. More regrettably still, the Government is currently contesting a Judicial Review being brought by a same-sex couple seeking the right to marry. It is the Commission’s view that this is an inexcusable waste of public funds; expended purely for political reasons to placate the demands of the more vocal discriminatory voices in the Cayman community.

“Clearly, the provision of a framework for legal recognition for same-sex partnerships is now urgently required; it is undeniable that it is unlawful under the ECHR to fail to provide equality to same-sex couples in areas as diverse as adoption, inheritance, pensions, next of kin visiting rights, access to welfare and even to residency in the Islands.

“At a speech to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2018 Lord Ahmed, the UK government minister with responsibility for both human rights and the Overseas Territories, noted that the United Kingdom will take over as co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, a grouping of 40 countries working together towards LGBT equality. He was also explicit about the UK’s commitment to human rights:

“…the UK government has been a champion of human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic values. Let me assure you this will continue to be an absolutely integral part of what we do in Government as part of British foreign policy.”

“He concluded his speech noting, “Sitting back and saying, “Isn’t this terrible, what more can be done?” On a point of personal reflection, more can be done and often the question lies within yourself.

“Because, if we collectively do more we will be able to start making the kind of differences we all wish to see. One of my biggest heroes in my life, who shaped many things in how I looked at the world was Ghandi. He famously said that “we must become the change we wish to see”. Let us become that change, let us ensure we stand up with passion, with vigour, with commitment and emulate the bravery of human rights defenders around the world to ensure that we play our part…”

“It is regrettable that, despite the clear breaches of an international treaty extended to the Cayman Islands [and other Overseas Territories], which creates directly-enforceable rights for individuals, the UK government has not taken action to remedy this ongoing human rights violation.

“The UK has the ability to end this legislative discrimination by an Order in Council. The failure to do so arguably places the UK itself in breach of its legal obligations under the ECHR. The UK Parliament has recently shown its willingness to legislate for its Overseas Territories [without consultation] on beneficial ownership; the decision not to act where the fundamental human rights of British citizens within its jurisdiction are concerned is hard to justify. The laudable foreign policy statements articulated above by Lord Ahmed should be acted upon.”

Written evidence from the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission follows below [PDF here]:

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