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Alicia Wallace: Human Rights Are Not Something To Fight For, They Are Something We Already Have - Even Haitians

We are all born free and equal. We are all entitled to human rights. We all have the right to life, freedom and safety. Gender, race, nationality, class and education level are non-factors. We do not have to earn human rights. There are inherently ours.

Yesterday was the last day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. The campaign started on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ended on International Human Rights Day. Human rights are often misunderstood, often seen as a vague term with no real meaning or a replacement for a more specific term (such as LGBT+ rights). Human rights are actually quite simple and it would be beneficial for everyone to understand them.

The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has equal human rights, they are universal (meaning everyone is entitled to human rights), inalienable (meaning they cannot be taken away), they are indivisible (meaning all human rights have equal status and denial of one impacts another) and they are interdependent and interrelated (meaning they affect one another).

The declaration itself has 30 articles. The first five articles state everyone is equal and free, irrespective of difference in identity or demographic and ought to be safe from harm. Articles Six through 11 make it clear we are all equally entitled to protection under the law, have the right to remedy for the violation of rights grants by law, should not be arbitrarily arrested, detained, or exiled, have the right to fair hearings regarding their rights where criminal charges are concerned.

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The Kendal GL Isaacs Gymnasium.

Article 12 covers the right to privacy and protections from attacks on our reputations. Freedom of movement is covered by Article 13, and Article 14 states that we all have the right to seek asylum, in other countries, from persecution. Article 15 covers the right to a nationality which is important to remember in discussions about immigration and citizenship. There are circumstance wherein people are born stateless because their country of birth does not give automatic citizenship and the place of their parents’ birth does not give citizenship when they are born outside of the country. This is a violation of the human right to nationality.

Everyone, at the age of maturity, has the right to marry under Article 16. The following articles make clear the right to own property individually or with others, freedom of thought, conscience, religion, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association and assembly. We do not have to agree with one another’s opinions, associations, or expressions, but we all of the right to them.

Article 21 affirms the right to democracy which includes the ability to participate in government directly or through representatives. It states the people’s will is the foundation of the government. Social security and workers’ rights are covered by Articles 22 and 23; the latter includes the right to equal pay for equal work and the right to form and join trade unions. Rest and leisure, food and shelter, and education are the human rights detailed by Articles 24 through 26. Article 27 covers the right to protect what we produce through copyright. The last three articles state what must exist for these rights to be protected and effective – a free and fair world requires order, we have to be responsible to one another as a community and none of the rights affirmed in the declaration may be taken away by any state, group, or individual.

Knowing about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not the same as understanding the human rights it affirms and protects. The above description of the 30 articles gives general information about human rights, but true understanding comes from application. They need to be put in context. To do this, we can take our situation today as we continue to experience the effects of Hurricane Dorian.

Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights focuses on social security. We have the right to affordable housing, healthcare, education and childcare. These are economic, social and cultural rights necessary for human dignity and development. Let us consider the people still living in the shelter at the Kendal GL Isaacs gymnasium. They are being housed in tent in conditions that are, at the very least, questionable. The government has announced that it’s closing the shelter and no plan has been shared for the housing of the people who would, again, be displaced. It is their human right to be adequately housed while it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all residents are safe.

Many children evacuated to Nassau from Abaco and Grand Bahama. They needed to be enrolled in school. The existing capacity of schools, cost of the influx of students and the requirements for registrations and attendances – including school uniforms and provision of school supplies – did not, do not and cannot outweigh their human right to receive an education. The government is responsible for ensuring school-age children are enrolled and attending school. The same applies to healthcare and childcare. Public services exist because there is a responsibility to ensure everyone has access to them, regardless of their ability to cover the cost of the service. This is the way human rights are acknowledged and protected by governments. The government is not to say: “Sorry, all of the schools in Nassau are full.” Its job is to make accommodations, whether that is opening a new school, adding classrooms, making use of technology, or some other means. It is obligated to educate the children living in The Bahamas.

Human rights are easy to understand and agree upon when we are talking about children. The concept seems to be more difficult to grasp when we talk about other groups of people. We can look, for example, at Haitian migrants. We know that Haitian migrants have been impacted by Hurricane Dorian. They, as human beings, have human rights that we are obligated to acknowledge and protect. Article 22 affirms their right to social services. There is no exception. There is no loophole.

No part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights suggests that citizenship is a prerequisite for human rights. Haitian migrants have the right to be properly housed, to access health services and to be educated. Not only is it the Christian thing to do (if we are still insisting The Bahamas is a Christian nation), showing brotherly love - but it is a legal obligation.

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The Christmas tree pictured on Thursday. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff

Making a festive gift of sustainability

We are complaining about the Christmas tree in downtown Nassau, wearing reindeer headbands and playing Christmas music. The holiday season is really here. One of the things people get most anxious about at this time of year is gift-giving. What should you get for mom? Dad? In-laws? Friends? People you like, but have not known for that long? Ideally, gift-buying would be done by now, but the traffic we will see over the next few weeks will certainly prove the search and the spending both continue.

Over the past few months, I have been paying more attention to my consumption habits and the amount of waste it produces. I have decided not to give people more clothes they do not need, toys to add to what is probably enough, candles they will never light, plants they do not want to care for, or anything else that will bring a few seconds of happiness before fading into a mess of other things. I am giving people things that I hope will encourage them to be more mindful of what and how they consume. Bamboo utensil sets, reusable straws and canvas shopping bags are among my go-to gifts this year.

The plastic ban is just a few weeks away and while companies have been given a grace period to use the plastic they already we have, we need to change our habits. We do not have to spend a lot of money to do it, and it is definitely worth the positive effect it will have on our environment. We took a lot of lessons from Hurricane Dorian, but we are still not as focused on climate action as is necessary. It is time to practise less consumption, or at least more mindful consumption and enjoy the savings – financial and otherwise.

Comments

Porcupine 10 months, 1 week ago

Alicia, I'm happy that the Tribune gives voice to your, our concerns. They are well thought out and eminently human. Continue your forward, upward, onward together path. Your views are essential in the national dialog we must be having. Continue to ruffle feathers. Nothing has ever been gained without doing so.

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bahamianson 10 months, 1 week ago

We all have " Rights', agreed, but in your own country.It doesn't give 9 million people from Haiti the right to decide that they want to move to the Bahamas, and I have to take care of them. They don't come here to take care of themselves, they want Bahamians to take care of them. After they have pleasurable sex, they want to involve us in their lives. Let me enjoy some of the sex, since you want me to pay for your education,healthcare, clothing and anything else.All I get are increased taxes placed on me because someone else decides to use my country illegally !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let them PAY TAXES , and I will be okay with them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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CoolHead 10 months, 1 week ago

what tax do you pay that most of them dont pay? NIB contribution, VAT? waiting patiently on your answer..

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My2centz 10 months, 1 week ago

Are you naive or just playing devil's advocate?

Illegal workers pay NIB, really? Are the owners of the shanty town lands paying property taxes, which are passed on to the renters? How does illegal electric hookups contribute to the economy? Are unlicensed store owners in the shanty towns collecting VAT from their customers?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 10 months, 1 week ago

No part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights suggests that citizenship is a prerequisite for human rights. Haitian migrants have the right to be properly housed, to access health services and to be educated. Not only is it the Christian thing to do (if we are still insisting The Bahamas is a Christian nation), showing brotherly love - but it is a legal obligation.

I suspect Ms. Wallace would have us believe that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that she refers to somehow trumps the national security interests of the Bahamas and all the related rights of the Bahamian people under their country's very own Constitution. Perhaps Ms. Wallace should explain to the Bahamian people why she believes opening up our borders to thousands and thousands more of Haitians fleeing Haiti (and then granting Bahamian citizenship to the many thousands more of their stateless children) will not jeopardize and severely harm the national security interests of the Bahamas and the fundamental human rights that all Bahamians are entitled to enjoy under their very own Constitution.

Is Ms. Wallace supportive of our immigration laws being vigorously enforced on a sustained basis by roundups and deportations that are not unduly delayed and defeated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that she speaks of? Is she the least bit concerned by the pitiful state of our public education and healthcare systems that have already succumbed to the crushing weight of the ongoing invasion of our country by Haitian nationals who have illegally entered the Bahamas and then proceeded to reproduce at a rabied rate? Is Ms. Wallace ignorant of the many wars that have been fought the world over throughout history (with much violence and blood shed) for the purpose of preserving human rights? Does she somehow consider these wars to have been unnecessary, inhumane or an egregious violation of human rights? It's always good to think in terms of ideal values, but even ideal values come up against the reality of limitations that exist in the real world. And these limitations quite often must be observed for the very sake of preserving the human rights of a citizenry under their own Constitution. It is for this reason we (the Bahamian people) must insist that our immigration laws be aggressively enforced even when doing so offends ideal values to which we aspire.

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My2centz 10 months, 1 week ago

We are animals, differentiated by only 1% of our DNA. Healthcare, education and shelter are societal constructs, not human rights. This is why it's not free, like air. If these were fundamental human rights, diseases would not exist, shelters would randomly sprout like trees and nature would provide all the education needed...like it does for other animals.

The writer presents herself as an open minded humanitarian. A genuinely open minded person would present realistic solutions outside of other human constructs called nations, economies, currency, borders. These are the things that create barriers. You cannot conform to these man made limitations, and also be of the view that no barriers should or would exist on the basis of being "human". This is why the UN is a useless contradiction...it creates ideals that it cannot support.

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joeblow 10 months, 1 week ago

She is completely brainwashed by the human rights propaganda that was perverted by the UN and European countries (simply because it supports her alternative lifestyle ideas). What many of these dimwits don't realize is that by elevating individual 'rights' above communal rights, they will systematically destroy the very sense of community, traditional family values and morality that makes nations strong and gives them their individuality.

The purpose of this propaganda is to create a global community of like minded people to advance the globalist agenda. Does anyone really believe the UN has Haiti or any number of African countries best interest at heart? The ultimate goal is to obliterate national sovereignty and boundaries and exert control. The EU is only the first step in what will become a global experiment!

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jamaicaproud 10 months, 1 week ago

My dear sister, your decent common sense approach is alien to a lot of your peeps. I was even in an argument with one who was adamant about deporting dead bodies in a cooler.

I think Many Bahamians have never heard of what happened in Monsterrat a decade ago when the whole country had to be Evacuated. People are strutting around like peacocks touting superiority to Haitians.

The Bahamas does have a good eçonomy, but ironically and it's fact the average Bahamian who gets up and goes to work, does not access these benefits and are no better off than anyone in the Caribbean. Yes I went their. Maybe this is why people get joy in villifying Haitians.

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