Statement & Event: International Day of Tolerance

Friday, November 16, 2007, is designated International Day of Tolerance by the United Nations.

This year’s commemoration of International Day of Tolerance follows on the heels of a panel discussion to promote the release of the Yogyakarta Principles at UN Headquarters on November 7, 2007. These principles collate and clarify current state obligations under international law to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Each Principle is accompanied by detailed recommendations to States, as well as other actors, including the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, the media, NGOs and funders. (See: Several permanent missions were represented at the event, including Guyana’s, along with NGOs and others working to promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Given recent manifestations of homophobia in Guyana, two key points are of particular interest from the panel discussion. Federico Villegas Beltrán, Director of Human Rights at Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Worship, concluded with a call to stop using the words 'tolerance' and 'intolerance' in relation to the rights of LGBT people. The dictionary definition suggests that 'tolerance ' of these rights would mean we are 'suffering with patience' – which we are not. As an alternative, he encouraged the use of the phrase 'respect for diversity' wherever possible. In addition, a statement was read from Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights. In her view, respect for cultural diversity is insufficient to justify the existence of laws that violate the fundamental right to life, security and privacy by criminalizing harmless private relations between consenting adults.
A press report in the Stabroek News of October 29, 2007, under the caption “Buju sings controversial tune at music festival” has confirmed that Kiprich (real name: Marlon Plunkett) and Buju Banton (real name: Mark Myre) uttered and sung homophobic lyrics even after the GT Entertainment group, local promoters, and the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, gave public assurances that there will be no discriminatory lyrics at the recently-held Guyana Music Festival. The fact that there was police presence and there was no intervention to curb the offensive lyrics of these murder musicians also illustrates the nonchalance with which homophobic abuse is treated in Guyana. It is now also clear that a response by Tracii McGregor, President of Gargamel Music, Buju’s record label, painting a glowing picture of Buju as a 're-invented artist' was nothing but a public relations maneuver. Publicity moves, like giving pocket change to an orphanage, do not make up for the damage done daily to gay and lesbian persons in Jamaica and Caribbean, for which Buju’s song is a rallying call to violence. Interestingly enough, Gargamel Music has gone silent after the fact as even the international press has failed to receive a response from McGregor (See:
The homophobic rantings of Kiprich and Buju at the Guyana Music Festival have shown that lip service is clearly not enough to stem calls to hate, violence and murder at public performances in Guyana. SASOD has long recommended that preventative measures and sanctions be put in place to achieve this end. In a request dated December 2, 2005, to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), SASOD recommended that any licenses granted for the use of state-owned venues include clearly-written provisions prohibiting lyrics which promote hatred, violence and murder against any section of the population, including LGBT citizens and that stringent sanctions, which may include fines and custodial sentences, are meted out to performers and promoters who breach the terms of the agreement. The ERC has failed to address these concerns.
International Day of Tolerance will be observed this year on the eve of a slated performance by Baby Cham (real name: Damian Beckett), another Jamaican dancehall singer known to have repertoire of homophobic songs and has performed homophobic lyrics as recently as last year. (See:

We call on Wildlife Promotions to ensure that Baby Cham’s performance is free of lyrics that incite hate, murder and violence against any segment of the Guyanese population, including LGBT citizens.

SASOD would like to take the opportunity to invite all members of the public to a panel discussion titled "Batty boy fi dead: Muder Music, Culture and Freedom of Expression" which will be held on Friday, November 16, 2007 from 5pm at Oasis Too on South Road. Panelists will be
Dr Christopher Carrico - anthropologist;
Ruel Johnson - writer and journalist;
Akim Ade Larcher - human rights activist and founder of Stop Murder Music campaign - Canada (via teleconference).
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