In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of the famines which killed between 12 and 29 million Indians(1). These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy.
When an El Nino drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, government officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”(2). The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices.” The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. Within the labour camps, the workers were given less food than the inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.
The writer article adds, at, ‘.. least twenty such atrocities overseen and organised by the British government or British colonial settlers: they include, for example, the Tasmanian genocide, the use of collective punishment in Malaya, the bombing of villages in Oman, the dirty war in North Yemen, the evacuation of Diego Garcia.’
In a separate article, Michiko Kakutani wrote in 1998:
…’Under the reign of terror instituted by King Leopold II of Belgium (who ran the Congo Free State as his personal fief from 1885 to 1908), the population of the Congo was reduced by half — as many as 8 million Africans (perhaps even 10 million, in Hochschild’s opinion) lost their lives…’ He continues
‘..Marchal, the Belgian scholar, estimates that Leopold drew some 220 million francs (or $1.1 billion in today’s dollars) in profits from the Congo during his lifetime. Much of that money, Hochschild suggests, went to buying Leopold’s teen-age mistress, a former call girl named Caroline, expensive dresses and villas, and building ever grander monuments, museums and triumphal arches in honor of the king…’
Mechanisms, it seems, start with understanding, the political structure under which L.G.B.T citizens live. When one look at Westminister and compare political environment of Belize, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Guyana and Belize, activists seems to hold inadequate knowledge of how to engage political systems at home. More precisely, comparative analysis shows us that we have an advantage politically in the following way 1). Our systems of government is centralised 2). We need not duplicate our issues at the national level multiply times. Furthermore, our system does not have four different forms of parliament like the UK has among Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales to engage politically. Looking deeper into Scotland political structures, for example, it seems, after the establishment of Parliament, approving laws must go through the Scottish parliamentary, even if WestMinister approves. A process, which calls for civil society concern about diversity issues to duplicate human and financial resources, to ensure there is rights protection in Scotland.
The people of Scotland elects 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). MSPs represent their constituents on devolved matters in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh while, an additional, 59 MPs represents Scotland in the House of Commons at Westminster in London. Their role is to represent their constituents on reserved matters. MSPs and MPs are elected by separate general elections.
In addition, with the elections in 2011 in Scotland and the Scottish National Party, a referendum on Scottish independence was tabled to the public. The results, helped to shape efforts on 18 September 2014 to try to transfer further powers to the Scottish Parliament in areas such as taxation, welfare and power’s over Scottish Parliament and local government elections in Scotland.
When the Parliament of Northern Ireland was established by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, it was intended to establish two devolved Parliaments, within the UK and lasted till 30th March, 1972 when the Act was suspended to introduced direct rule from Westminister. This ended 8th May, 2007 when parliamentary arrangements devolved to include 15 areas called transferred matters while West Minister retained control over 12 expected matters areas, like defence, constitution, international relations, currency, security, energy, international treaties, conferring honours. There is also a reference to reserve matter which has 11 areas that the Northern Ireland can legislate with consent from WestMinister.
Beyond this, L.G.B.T organizations in the region have not advance legal capacity to 1). Analyzed constitutional frame works to identified legal gaps in national subsidiary laws, 2). Improved knowledge about the rules of national parliaments legislative processes 3). Identified, sufficiently, the power brokers who drive legislative development nationally and regionally. 4). Identified, the mechanisms that drive reform at national and regional spaces.
While litigation on Belize and Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Act is still on-going at the Caribbean Court of Justice, legal processes are on-going in Guyana (cross-dressing case) and in Jamaica ( media challenge) and Belize section 53. Litigation, is just one strategy in the fight to sustain calls to action for political acknowledgement and policy advancement. In Belize, we have complimented litigation with public education using art, pride events, ADS, conferences to amplify its public education work. What we have seen, is the the region and small countries like Belize have moved faster on the use communication plans to complement its litigation strategy.
The policy frame work of the directive, gave life as well to 2007 legal amendments which made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation when providing them with goods or services. The 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act added a new criminal offence of ‘incitement to homophobic hatred.’ The amendments spoke to behaviour or materials which stirred up hatred towards gay people. Reproductive rights was never far behind in the advancement of Civil rights issue for L.G.B.T citizens as a 2009 law made it easier for same sex couples to both be recognised as the legal parent of their child. Push Forward 2010 and we have the Equality Act of 2010 which supersedes the regulations and sought to centralise the issues of equality under one law. The Equality Act 2010 was intended to replace over 100 acts of parliament, regulations and judicial clarifications. The framework for equal rights protection in Britain can be traced back to the 1960’s and 1970’s and the Labour Government of Harold Wilson. Further traces of addressing equality can be found in the Representation of the People Act in 1928 – which finally gave equal voting rights to women. The legislative road began with the first Race Relations Act in 1965 which was updated in 1976 – followed by the Equal Pay Act in 1970-The Sex Discrimination Act in 1975. The efforts at reform followed similar forms of protection introduced in the United States a decade prior. Indeed these three Acts of Parliament (Pay, Sex, Race), plus a few accompanying regulations, were all you needed to know about Equality in the 1970’s and for almost two more decades. With Britain becoming a member of the European Community in 1972 and which became the European Union in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, the conservative government opted out of the social Chapter of the Treaty which includes references to anti-discrimination. Nevertheless, the conservative government did enact the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995. It was not until Tony Blair’s “New Labour” government won the 1997 election that the UK opted in to the social provisions of EU law.
The third shift, in UK L.G.B.T history is that politicians have been coming out the closet in all parties which meant in practice that no party owned the the equality and diversity issued. Of note, Union representations, pointed out that there was an L.G.B.T committee in every major party and that dialogue and engagement does happen across party lines. We don’t have out MP’s in Belize or in any country among CARICOM member states, we have rumors only. What is interesting is that Belize is at a place where the UK was 30 years ago, where one’s private business remain private, even if a person is a public secret. We don’t have an L.G.B.T committee to advance political engagement within both parties and we have not successfully engagement in manifesto development between the parties that exists and we have not engage the legislative process in any significant way as yet. What I can say we have done is change the political tone in the country, but not the substance. The sky is the limit in how we push forward to extend legislative protections.
Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group: http://uklgig.org.uk/
Physician for Social Responsibility