Rights campaigner places ‘heterosexuals need not apply’ advertisement for house cleaner
“Wanted: homosexual house cleaner (heterosexuals need not apply),” reads an advert placed in today’s
The message, perfectly legal because of Government’s failure to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, has been posted by frustrated human rights campaigner Claire Smith.
Ms Smith is hoping to provoke a response from the community by highlighting the lack of legal consequences for infringing people’s human rights based on their sexuality.
Measures have long been in place to outlaw discrimination based on race, place of origin, skin colour, ethnic or national origins, gender, marital status, disability, religious beliefs or political opinions.
It’s also illegal to treat people unfavourably because they have a criminal record, were born out of wedlock, or may have a child born in or out of wedlock.
Ms Smith is irritated that sexual orientation has never been added to that list on the Human Rights Act, despite years of campaigning by human rights groups.
“I’m just hoping to demonstrate that the law allows us to place this kind of outrageously discriminative advert in the newspaper and nobody can do anything about it,” she told
The Royal Gazette about the advert on today’s page 70.
“I’m hoping it will provoke a debate and encourage people to consider that it’s not acceptable in our community to discriminate against heterosexuals in this way, just as it isn’t acceptable to discriminate against homosexuals or anyone else.”
Former Progressive Labour Party MP Renee Webb brought a private members’ bill to Parliament in 2006, calling for sexual orientation to be added to the Human Rights Act. However, her bid failed as MPs refused to enter into any debate.
Former Premier Ewart Brown promised in the 2009 Throne Speech moves were afoot to ensure no person is discriminated against in Bermuda, but still sexual orientation was not added to the Human Rights Act.
Former Minister Dale Butler said two years ago he twice tried to get the amendment made but was thwarted by Cabinet, even though the majority of the PLP caucus had agreed it should go to a conscience vote.
In the latest development, this month’s Throne Speech promised it would assess the feasibility of an Equality Act.
Asked why Government couldn’t just add sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act during last week’s Throne Speech debate, Families Minister Glenn Blakeney replied: “We are going to do it in the context of Bermuda. One size does not fit all.”
Ms Smith reflected yesterday: “I’m just fed up with all the hesitation and false promises by the Government.
“It amounts to a message of homophobia. That’s how I interpret their action. I find it unacceptable, cowardly and indeed shameful. Any kind of discrimination should not be tolerated. By their inaction, they are causing division.”
Ms Smith is one of Bermuda’s few openly homosexual residents.
She believes by the law of averages there must be several thousand gays on the Island, but the vast majority are afraid to admit their sexuality because of homophobic attitudes which are effectively condoned.
“Why do you think there are so few homosexuals that speak out publicly?” she asked.
“I think there are only about three of us. It’s because we live in a homophobic society, and people are scared to stand up and open themselves up to potential negative attitudes and behaviours, and ultimately be subject to discrimination.
“This would lead us to conclude that sexual orientation legal discrimination protection should be even more important in a society that does not tolerate homosexuality.
“So what’s taking the Government so long? Why this need to introduce all kinds of new legislation when all that is needed is to add two words and a comma to existing human rights legislation.
“It’s an easy thing to fix if there was the political will.”
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