By Sen. Dr. Kathy Michelmore, One Bermuda Alliance Shadow Health Minister, August 4, 2011
Our Human Rights Act 1981 was passed to “enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of every person”.
As with any piece of legislation, it was expected that it should evolve and develop. Changes have taken place over the years, with amendments such as the protection of individuals with disabilities from discrimination, a broader definition of sexual harassment, the institution of Commission-initiated investigations, and equal pay for equal work. The legislation passed this week in the Senate is another example of a necessary improvement to the principal Act.
What is highlighted, however, is the fact that there are still members of our community who are excluded from protection under the current Act. Specifically, it is still possible to discriminate in Bermuda on the basis of age and sexual orientation. Each time these glaring anomalies in the Act are raised, they are met with a deafening silence from the Government.
At the same time, the Government has claimed in a ministerial brief to “seek to ensure that no one is discriminated against in our society. Wherever we can, we endeavour to give greater protection against discrimination to our citizens.” These statements are disingenuous when held up against the lack of action regarding age and sexual orientation, and is indefensible.
The One Bermuda Alliance stands for opportunity, integrity, fairness and inclusiveness. We are guided by the principle of non-discrimination and equal rights and the over-riding principle that all people are equal before the law. We strive for a Bermudian community that is tolerant of differences and demonstrates mutual respect for all. These principles and values are embedded in our Party’s Constitution and we therefore would outlaw all forms of discrimination. We cannot build a better Bermuda without being fair to all our citizens.
On this basis, we challenge the Government to reassess their lack of discussion regarding expanding the grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act, and to declare to the country how they plan to rectify the current state of unfairness.