PANCAP News-in the caribbean
St Kitts and Nevis poised to fast track Elimination of Discriminatory Laws
- Last Updated on Friday, 29 November 2013 15:52
- Published on Friday, 29 November 2013 15:52
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At the second in the series of Justice for All national consultations coordinated by the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) in St Kitts and Nevis on 27 November 2013, it was recommended that several pieces of draft anti-discriminatory legislation be accelerated into law, in keeping with the 2015 deadline of getting to Zero discrimination.
Chief among these is the Sexual Offenses Act, originating in Common Law that has already been modified and awaits consultation with specific stakeholders before being finalized. A similar process applies to the Buggery Law which has already been drafted. In this regard, while same sex between consenting adults has been decriminalized, interference with children and incident exposure in public places remain criminal acts. In this revised version of the draft act, HIV compulsory testing is deemed to be illegal.
Under consideration are the standardization of the age of consent and that of accessing sexual and reproductive health which mainly affect adolescents as well as the strengthening of Intellectual property legislation to deal with the deficiencies in the Patents Act. This is being influenced by the country’s Intellectual Property strategy which has been recently completed following an intensive consultative process and will assist in compliance with WIPO and in strengthening the claim for the flexibility in the TRIPs agreement designed to support access to affordable medicines.
A more recent development is the approval of the revised National Insurance Act to include coverage of HIV. Another is the amended labour code to protect the rights of workers in keeping with the ILO Decent Work Agenda.
Several challenges remain to be tackled by parliamentarians. Among them are the legislation regarding Migrants and sex workers. Given the changing regional and international environments, it was considered necessary for Parliament to be informed by relevant studies on which to base their decisions and approaches. It was recognized that in many cases, resistance to changing regulations and laws that are discriminatory is due either to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the situation or, to an inclusive discussion among stakeholders. As a result the Parliamentarians agreed that there is need to engage their constituents in a dialogue on these matters and to ensure that elimination of stigma and discrimination is not seen as limited to HIV and AIDS but encompassing the wider concerns for human rights and Justice for All.
In his opening address to the over 80 delegates comprising representatives of faith based organizations, private sector, youth, civil society, government workers and parliamentarians, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, the CARICOM Lead Head for Human resources, health and HIV urged that bold recommendations be made to foster changes in the laws that unnecessarily infringe the human rights of people - "… our legislators and judicial officers now have a responsibility to examine the legislation on our books and to take the necessary steps to bring on stream, measures that will prevent discriminatory practices which contribute to stigma and discrimination.
Reflecting on the outcome of the consultation the Prime Minister said " we are now poised to fast track the elimination of discriminatory laws".