(CNS): A local organisation standing up for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Cayman has asked the governor to identify who, if not Gender Affairs Minister Tara Rivers, is responsible for human rights. Having receiving no response from Governor Helen Kilpatrick to their enquiries about a request that the UK minister intervene over the legal discrimination faced by the LGBT community, Colours Cayman has written asking for an update. In the letter they posed this new question.
In the clearly articulated correspondence, the organisation that represents the interests and seeks to protect the rights of members of the LGBT community in the Cayman Islands and its coordinator, Billie Bryan, asked the governor about the request, which was made via her office.
Colours Cayman wants the governor to request Baroness Anelay to issue an order in council to address the ongoing discrimination against their community and the lack of any provision for legalising same-sex partnerships. Three months since they set out their issues, there has been no response.
But the bulk of this latest correspondence focuses on the declaration earlier this year by Rivers that she is not responsible for issues relating to the LGBT community.
Bryan pointed out that in Rivers’ view, neither sex discrimination nor gender discrimination includes sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination.
“Beyond the point that her understanding is contrary to case-law decided long ago by the European Court of Human Rights, which is binding on this jurisdiction, it seems also a blunt slap in the face to Baroness Anelay,” Bryan wrote.
She added that the baroness had warned the members of the Legislative Assembly when she came here on her first OT visit in October that the continued discrimination puts the Cayman Islands in breach of its international obligations and there was a legal imperative to change. Suggesting that the gender affairs minister’s position was “incomprehensible, both legally and politically”, Bryan asked the governor who, if not Rivers, is responsible.
“Notwithstanding the poor knowledge and understanding that Tara Rivers has shown regarding matters of discrimination law—given that she is also a lawyer—and setting aside the issue of whose responsibility LGBTQ issues fall under in the current government, her statement has inexorably led me to enquire about a much simpler issue,” Bryan wrote. “Under whose portfolio do human rights fall?”
This is a question that many people in the community have asked since Rivers made the statement in the Legislative Assembly, distancing herself from the controversies surrounding the same-sex partner question. Rivers had declared that she did not think gender issues related to the rights or concerns of the LGBT community. So as a representative of the LGBT community, Bryan asked the governor to assist because, she said, it “is imperative that someone within government be responsible”.
CNS asked the governor’s office and we were told that portfolios are allocated by the premier. Even though Kilpatrick sits in Cabinet, it appears that she does not know either.
In a statement her office said: “The allocation of ministerial portfolios is the responsibility of the premier under Section 54 (1) of the Constitution. Human rights is an issue for everyone. It is the responsibility of all government servants including all ministers in the Cayman Islands to uphold the highest standards of compliance with human rights and international obligations. As you are also aware, the Cayman Islands has a Human Rights Commission established under the Constitution whose function it is to promote understanding and observance of human rights. Our excellent judicial system provides independent safeguards where human rights standards are not met.”
CNS has also contacted the premier asking him which Cabinet member is responsible for human rights and we are awaiting a response.
The letter from Colours Cayman can be found on the CNS Library