Dr Leonardo Raznovich (INCISE – Canterbury Christ Church University)
The QP7 (2016) conference was a milestone for change in the Cayman Islands. But what is holding back legal progress in the British Overseas Territories? And why is the most powerful LGBT advocacy group in the UK, Stonewall, silent?
INCISE Caribbean LGBT rights project leader Leo Raznovich comments.
The UK government is failing to secure good governance and to uphold the rule of law in its British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean with respect to preventing discrimination against LGBTI people. This is now well documented and has been previously reported here. These failures by the UK Government stand in stark contrast to:
Furthermore, the UK’s failures constitute breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which after Oliari v Italy (ECtHR, 21 July 2015) requires that all countries to which the ECHR applies provide a legal framework for same-sex couples. This legal requirement includes the British Overseas Territories to which the ECHR has been extended.
The rights of LGBTI people in the Caribbean British Overseas Territories are failing to be protected and failing to be advanced in accordance with applicable international law, directly as a result of the UK’s refusal to act, the UK’s refusal to secure good governance and the UK’s refusal to uphold the rule of law. The UK is arguably, therefore, complicit with certain of its British Overseas Territories in their illegal discrimination, oppression and segregation of LGBTI people. The UK’s preference is to support the majority rather than protect the minority from the illegal discrimination, oppression and segregation that they suffer. The UK is holding these countries back with the result that there is now a huge disparity between the rights of its LGBTI citizens in the UK vs its British LGBTI citizens in its other territories. To be clear, these territories, although largely self-governing, are part of the UK and their people are British citizens and have been extended the rights and protections afforded under the ECHR, yet the UK wilfully allows the rights and protections of these British LGBTI people to be breached. Unfortunately, notwithstanding that the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean are geographically within the American continent (which is actively progressing LGBTI rights), they do not benefit from the American human rights system because politically they are part of the UK. The consequence: British Overseas Territory LGBTI persons are some of the least protected and most oppressed and segregated people in the Western Hemisphere.
In light of the foregoing, one would have thought that this situation would prompt an organisation such as Stonewall to effect the purpose of its existence and to seek to bring about some positive change. As will be seen below, astonishingly this seems not to be the case. In fact, Stonewall refuses to get involved notwithstanding its knowledge of these breaches of international human rights in the UK’s British Overseas Territories. I shall give two documented examples that evidence this appalling attitude of Stonewall.
In August 2015, senior politicians of the Cayman Islands incited violence and sexual hatred against the LGBTI community, avoiding prosecution by hiding behind parliamentary immunity privileges, by making the following statements in the local legislature:
The Rt Hon Anna Soubry MP and Helen Grant MP wrote a joint letter to Ruth Hunt, the Chief Executive of Stonewall, regarding, inter alia, the rather ‘disturbing’ (SIC) debate in the Legislative Assembly on the motion to reaffirm marriage as between a man and a woman. This letter was sent on 6 November 2015 (a copy is attached) and, to the author’s knowledge, neither Ruth Hunt nor Stonewall ever replied to it, or even condemned those remarks.
In September 2016, Colours Cayman, an LGBTI grassroots group of the Cayman Islands, petitioned the UK government, via the Governor of the Cayman Islands, for an Order in Council so that local legislation can be corrected and made to comply with the ECHR and its court’s judgments in order to bring about some equality to the LGBTI people of the British Overseas Territories. The UK government has refused to act regardless of its constitutional powers and its international legal obligations to do so.
Stonewall was approached again in this instance and on 25 January 2017, Alysha Khambay replied that Stonewall ‘won’t be able to do anything’ (copy of the correspondence on file with author).
The silence of Stonewall and its Chief Executive Ruth Hunt in the face of arguably criminal actions being committed by state officials in the Cayman Islands against LGBTI individual must not remain unnoticed; neither should be its decision of not assisting the British Overseas Territories people, British citizens as well, in their fight against the UK government for LGBTI equality, when the very purpose of this organisation is to fight for equality and to help protect British LGBTI people from discrimination.
During 2017, further serious violations of LGBTI rights have been taking place in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands; in brief:
These serious breaches of LGBTI rights evidence more than just a failure of these British Overseas Territories to comply with the ECHR. They, along with those that took place in 2015 and 2016, which Stonewall decided to ignore, evidence an attitude of the UK with respect to its British Overseas Territories that demonstrates the UK government has no respect for human rights in its overseas territories, particularly in the Caribbean. Even though the UK has the constitutional powers and the legal duty to stop or redress these breaches, the UK chooses to do nothing with the complicity of Stonewall who also chooses to do nothing.
Stonewall has, now, once more the opportunity to show that they do in fact care for LGBTI people more than its alliance with the British Government. Is Ruth Hunt going to keep her head in the sand, or actively seek to assist Bermudian, Caymanian and other LGBTI people in the UK’s territories?
Dr Leonardo J Raznovich, Barrister
Visiting Senior Research Fellow
Intersectional Centre for Inclusion and Social Justice (INCISE)
Canterbury Christ Church University
Co-Vice Chair of the LGBTI Law Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA)
Save the Date and Call for Papers: QUEERING PARADIGMS 9
Queer(y)ing Justice in the Global South
11-13 July 2018, University of Sydney, Australia
Recent years have seen social, criminal, and legal justice campaigns for sexuality and gender diverse people gain increasing visibility and popular support in many jurisdictions, while repression and discrimination have increased in others. At the same time, academic LGBT and queer scholarship in fields such as criminology, criminal justice studies, sociology, and socio-legal studies, has grown significantly.
Despite reversals of enfranchisement for sexuality and gender diverse people in some countries, important changes in the interests of social and legal justice have been achieved, and there is a growing space in some legal and criminal justice contexts for the needs of sexuality and gender diverse people to be recognised. However, more can be done to respond to the intersections of inequalities in these contexts. Culturally diverse people, Indigenous people, and people seeking safety, among others, have not always benefited from these gains. A gulf remains between academia and practitioners in these areas, with greater opportunity to pay attention to the voices of those in the Global South in these debates, and to how ‘Northern’ frameworks guiding research and practice in this area may need to be reconsidered. These issues are central to ongoing campaigns to achieve greater social and criminal justice for sexuality and gender diverse people globally.
To further explore and respond to these issues, and strengthen the international networks of scholars and practitioners working in this area, we invite proposals to speak at an upcoming conference on ‘Queer(y)ing Justice in the Global South’. We hope to question how justice can be ‘queered’ and queried from the perspectives of sexuality and gender diverse people.
We welcome proposals from academics as well as practitioners working in the field. We particularly welcome proposals from those in the Global South. The conference is an opportunity to bring together researchers, community members, and organisations working at the intersections of sexuality, gender diversity, and justice, broadly conceived.
The conference will be held at the University of Sydney, Australia, from 11-13 July 2018. It will include keynote presentations by Dameyon Bonson (Black Rainbow, Australia), Professor Jo Phoenix (Open University, UK), and Dr Jace Valcore (University of Houston Downtown, USA).
We invite abstract submissions for oral presentations, panels, or roundtables at this conference that respond to the above considerations. Abstract submissions should include information about the author(s), their institutional affiliations, their contact details, and a 300 word (maximum) abstract. Abstracts must be submitted by email (email@example.com) no later than Friday 2 March 2018. Acceptance of an abstract will be advised by Friday 16 March 2018. Selected presentations will also be considered for publication in an edited volume after the symposium.
This conference is being jointly hosted by The Sydney Institute of Criminology (University of Sydney), the Crime and Justice Research Centre (Queensland University of Technology), the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies (University of Tasmania), and the School of Social Sciences and Psychology (Western Sydney University).
This is part nine of the Queering Paradigms conference series.
More details to come in early 2018.