Discrimination law move welcomed by human rights groups
Long-discussed amendments to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and age will be tabled soon, Government said yesterday.
Governor George Fergusson announced the promise move in the Throne Speech.
“There is no place for discrimination in Bermuda in any form,” he said. “Government believes all people must be treated with fairness and dignity, regardless of race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation.
“To expand the protection of human rights, amendments to the Human Rights Act 1981 will be introduced to ensure no one is discriminated against on the basis of age or sexual orientation.”
Campaign groups welcomed the announcement, but lamented the lack of action on past promises.
Said a spokeswoman for the Centre of Justice: “For those who have had no protection in law, these amendments are very welcome and long overdue.
“The inclusion of age and sexual orientation in the protected grounds of discrimination also means that the Human Rights Act moves us in the direction of conforming with fundamental human rights standards.
“We look forward to seeing these long awaited amendments being introduced in the House in this session with great anticipation.”
Age Concern director Claudette Fleming said the promise to prevent discrimination based on age was welcome.
However she noted the legislation had been mentioned in three consecutive throne speeches and said a timeline for the amendment was “required and past due”.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda was also encouraged by the Government’s pledge.
The group, which represents the interests of the Island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, called the move “a crucial step” towards making Bermuda more inclusive but noted that change has been promised before.
“The amendment of the Human Rights Act has been consistently promised since 2004 and has yet to come to fruition,” the organisation said.
“The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda urges the Government to follow through with this legislative change as quickly as possible. Combating discrimination requires more than just a change in the law. It requires a change of attitudes, which we hope to see modelled by the leaders of our country and community.
“The time has come where homophobia should not and will not be tolerated from anyone, particularly not our role models.”
The organisation said it would continue to campaign for policies to combat prejudice and equal rights.
The issue of amending the Human Rights Act to include age and sexual orientation has been broached repeatedly in recent years, and mentioned in multiple Throne Speeches since 2004.
In 2006, PLP MP Renee Webb brought legislation to the House, but the motion failed.
Former Culture Minister Dale Butler took a proposal to Cabinet in 2009, only for it to be turned down.
Last year, the House of Assembly debated a take-note motion on a proposed Equality Act
Both political parties promised to implement the amendments during the lead-in to December’s general election.