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and other publications about Human Rights

 

Older articles can be read on our Archived Articles page

Go to: Human Rights & YouThe Right to Water and SanitationSame-Sex Marriage - The FactsHuman Rights - What does it Mean to You?The Equality & Human Rights Office: An organization now with powerAbout Human Rights DayAre you being abused?Are you being abused?Involving womenMore on Freedom of Information

Human Rights & You 

Issued by the E&HRC in August 2018, for publication in the island’s newspapers

Over the coming weeks / months the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be publishing short articles entitled ‘Human Rights & You’. We will begin by introducing you to the people that make up the team. They are:

The Chairperson
Mrs Catherine Harris Cranfield

Mrs Catherine Harris Cranfield The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

Deputy Chairperson
Miss Danielle Anthony

Miss Danielle Anthony The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

Commissioner
Mr Barry Francis

Mr Barry Francis The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

Commissioner
Ms Janine Egan

Ms Janine Egan The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

Chief Executive Officer
(Commissioner, ex officio)
Mrs Catherine Turner

Mrs Catherine Turner The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

Executive Manager
Mrs Carol Thompson

Mrs Carol Thompson The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

Administrative Assistant
Mrs Phyllis Coleman

Mrs Phyllis Coleman The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

With the exception of the Chief Executive Officer the team is fairly new to the organisation. There is still much to learn and do and lots for you to know about. We would welcome any questions you may have and will be happy to provide written responses, published in the media, with your permission. You may contact either of us on the following addresses or call the office on telephone 22133 between 8:30 and 16:00 hrs Monday to Friday:

Role

 

Name

 

Email

 

Telephone

Chairperson

 

Mrs Catherine Harris Cranfield

 

harris.cranfield2@gmail.com

 

Telephone 24730

Deputy Chairperson

 

Miss Danielle Anthony

 

daniellemarieanthony2000@yahoo.co.uk

 

Telephone 22581 /61719

Commissioner

 

Mr Barry Francis

 

barry.francis@live.co.uk

 

Telephone 65062

Commissioner

 

Ms Janine Egan

 

janinenyschens@icloud.com

 

 

Chief Executive Officer
(Commissioner, ex officio)

 

Mrs Catherine Turner

 

catherine@humanrightssthelena.org

 

(+290) 22133

Executive Manager

 

Mrs Carol Thompson

 

admin@humanrightssthelena.org

 

(+290) 22133

Administrative Assistant

 

Mrs Phyllis Coleman

 

admin1@humanrightssthelena.org

 

(+290) 22133

The first article will aim to explain ‘What is Human Rights?’

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The Right to Water and Sanitation 

Issued by the E&HRC on 25th June 2018, for publication in the island’s newspapers

The Right to Water and Sanitation The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

Article plain text:

There is no life without water, and there is nothing that can be substituted for it when water is scarce. This week there is much concern and anxiety within the community regarding the proposed increases in water and sewage charges from the 1 July 2018. What is the Right to Water? The Government has an obligation to ensure that everyone has access to a sufficient and continuous amount of safe drinking water for personal and domestic uses, which includes water for drinking, washing clothes, food preparation and personal and household hygiene. Water for personal and domestic uses must be safe and acceptable. It must be free from elements that constitute a threat to a person’s health. Water must also be of an acceptable colour, odour and taste to ensure that individuals will not resort to polluted alternatives that may look more attractive. Water and sanitation facilities must be physically accessible and within safe reach for all sections of the community, taking into account the needs of particular groups, including persons with disabilities, women, children and the elderly. Water services must be affordable to all. No individual or group should be denied access to safe drinking water because they cannot afford to pay and should not compromise people’s ability to pay for other essential necessities guaranteed by human rights such as food, housing and health care. Sanitation is access to and use of wastewater facilities and services ensuring a clean and healthy living environment for all. ‘Facilities and Services’ should include the ‘collection, transport, treatment and disposal of human excreta, domestic wastewater and solid waste’ to the extent demanded by the particular environment conditions. This includes not raising the price of water and sanitation services so that people can no longer afford a basic minimum. Government should adopt legislation or other measures to ensure that water providers or individuals comply with human rights standards related to the right to water. It should, for instance, adopt the necessary legislative and other measures to ensure that third parties do not arbitrarily and illegally disconnect water and sanitation services.

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Same-Sex Marriage - The Facts 

Issued by the E&HRC, published in the island’s newspapers 3rd November 2016{1}

E&HRC Logo The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

There has been, and almost certainly will be more passionate discussion about the subject of the proposed Marriage Bill that should go to LegCo on 09.12.2016. These are the facts: Our Constitution states that the people of St Helena are committed to government in partnership with the UK, to democratic principles and the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms (preamble, letter l). While the Constitution does not specifically refer to a right to marriage by same-sex couples, it does state at section at section 14 that Every man and woman of marriageable age (as determined by or under any law) shall have the right to marry and found a family. It does not say that a man and a woman must marry each other, but that they as individuals have the right to marry. I would say that when you read this with section 5 of the Constitution, then you have it: same sex couples should be allowed to be married.

Section 5 protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of every individual. These rights exist for everyone without distinction of any kind, such as sex, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, age, disability, birth or other status, so long as those rights do not stop other people from exercising their rights.

This means that same-sex couples should be afforded the same opportunity to be married if they so wish. Why? Because marriage is a passport to a lot of things that otherwise you would need lots of pieces of paper to achieve the same result. For example, the automatic right to inherit property on the death of your spouse, rights to make decisions as next of kin, etc. If our councillors do not wish to allow marriage to same-sex couples but would want to extend to them the protections that marriage covers, then the councillors would need to revise many of our Ordinances - this would be a long and expensive process, an unnecessary expense when this small change the Marriage Bill can address this quickly and cheaply.

Under the Marriage Bill proposed, no church will be forced to conduct marriage services if they do not wish to, nobody will be forced to attend the wedding and it goes without saying that nobody can be forced to marry anyone they do not want to marry. So allowing any couple the right to marry does not interfere with anyone else’s rights.

In fact research has shown that there are benefits for everyone. Research shows that gay and lesbian people experience higher-than-average levels of stress and mental health problems as a result of legal discrimination and social exclusion, particularly when that discrimination and exclusion occurs in a core institution like marriage. Studies confirm the highest risk group are young gay and lesbian people for whom legal discrimination and exclusion can contribute to suicide. There is also a growing body of research showing that married partners, including same-sex married partners, are, on average, healthier, happier and longer lived than their cohabiting peers, or singles.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry may boost the economy through expenditure on weddings, and an increase in overseas visitors coming to St Helena to marry. There are many Saints who have left the island because they have not felt able to be the person they are; their talents are needed here. Many of their friends and family miss them and our community is the poorer for their absence. Not recognising and valuing them in their diversity is in effect a breach of their right to private and family life.

There are so many reasons why Same-Sex Marriage is a good thing, everyone has a right to live fulfilled and happy lives. Nobody should be denied that right.

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Human Rights - What does it Mean to You? 

By Andrew Turner, published in the St Helena Independent, 10th July 2015

Human Rights What does it Mean to You? The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

There were many interesting decisions made during the LegCo meeting on Wednesday. One that I have a particular interest in was of course the passing of the new Human Rights Legislation.

This legislation is a very important part of the lengthy struggle to bring proper Human Rights practices to St. Helena.

The work began four years ago with the formation of the Human Rights Capacity Building Committee. They developed the National Human Rights Action plan after consulting with several hundred people across the island. This plan was agreed by elected members in December 2011 and was completed in March this year. Of the 94 agreed actions 48 have been completed, 20 are ongoing 8 have changed due to changing circumstances and 18 remain to be completed. This is a tremendous achievement on the part of all the people involved.

Some of those actions were related to the setting up of the Human Rights Office which initially opened 2 days per week in the Baha’i Centre in Napoleon Street. They moved twice and are now permanently based in the PWD yard and the office is open five days per week. During that time they have seen the number of visitors to the office, seeking assistance with issues as diverse as child birth, employment, racism, domestic abuse, child abuse, police complaints, access to medical treatment and housing matters (to name but a few).

In these four years so much has been done. One of the main objectives was setting up the Equality & Human Rights Commission, the format of which was developed through the 2011 consultation.

Work has been going on for almost 2 years to draft the legislation to set up the Commission and on Wednesday it went before LegCo where it was given the go ahead. All that remains to do now is for the Governor to sign it into law and there is no good reason for him not to do so.

The Bill allows for a Commission’s whose aims will be to encourage and support the development of a society in which:

The Commission’s role is to promote the understanding of human rights, equality and diversity and create awareness and understanding of rights in St. Helena. It will:

Human Rights Facilitator Catherine Turner said “Thinking of the thanks due, it is very long list but I would like to thank the Chair and members of the Social and Community Development Committee, members of the HRCBC past and present and everyone who has helped and supported us.”

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The Equality & Human Rights Office: An organization now with power 

By Tammy Williams, published in the St Helena Independent, 20th February 2015

Sixty years have passed since the founders of the United Nations inscribed, on the first page of the Charter, the equal rights of men and women, stating: “We the Peoples of the United Nations, determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…”

Sometimes on St. Helena we forget about our rights. That’s why it’s important to have an institution in place that will remind us of our rights and, not only that, help us to exercise them. This week I spoke to Catherine Turner, Director-designate of the Human Rights Office, and Liz Johnson Idan, member of the Human Rights Committee and committee member on Saint FM Community Radio.

Historically we had no such organisation in place so while the rest of the world was reveling in human rights we were still hobbling with two left feet.

Catherine said “Three years ago we did a human rights action plan and a lot of research of where human rights stood on the island and how it could be accessed in the future. So for the past three years I have been Human Rights Facilitator and initially the job was just to see that the plan went ahead. But the minute we opened the office doors people started coming in and asking questions, and from there it really snowballed. The office was originally only open two days per week; now we’re open full time and hopefully in the next few weeks the legislation will go through LegCo{2} to set up the Human Rights Commission and this will be different because the Commission will now finally have power!”

Previous attempts have been only partially successful, as Catherine explained: “Up until now, when somebody has come in all I can say is that ‘I’m sorry to hear it’ and try and tackle it through Councilors, who have been very receptive and have helped to feed into legislation”. The new legislation will see the set up of an Equality & Human Rights Commission, staffed by a full-time Director and 3-5 part-time Commissioners. The Commissioners’ role will be to hear cases, rather like that of a Magistrate. There will also follow investigations if they think a human rights abuse is taking place or if someone is being treated unequally. They will also have the right to request documents. Catherine commented that her role would be “the full-time professional, dealing with enquiries and guiding the commissioners and helping them to come to a conclusion”.

Seeing that the office has been busy since its inception I asked Catherine what sort of issues she dealt with regularly. She replied: “People who feel they are not being treated fairly at work, not having the rights to representation in the form of disciplinary hearings or appeals. There’s been quite a bit about equal pay: should I be paid like a man doing the same job. The other big things that come up are around domestic violence; rights to housing; access to protection; and, I have to say, child abuse too. Sometimes it’s about helping people speak up for themselves, health issues and freedom of information. It’s a vast range including education and health. All the government directorates probably get asked some questions; health probably more than most”.

Liz Johnson, who is also a member of the Human Rights Committee, said “My role is really about monitoring and steering the way through to its legislation and looking further ahead so that people can be aware of how their rights can be upheld”.

Asked about the role of a Commissioner Liz replied: “Someone’s who’s willing to stand up and speak out for equality and human rights and isn’t scared to say that is what they’re there for. We are hoping to get a wide range of people because everyone has different experiences and expertise and we don’t want everyone to come from the same route. We would like a wide range of people and I don’t think that educational qualifications are important. It’s being able to speak clearly, help people understand their rights and the processes, because it can be a bit of a minefield!” Equally Catherine said “What we want are people who understand life here, that represent different sections of the community and have a true reflection of what the island would want, because human rights can be very black-and-white - such as you cannot be tortured. Full stop, end of story. There are other things which are culturally dependent and have to fit in with what society is comfortable with, so we need people that can represent the real St. Helena. The only people excluded are the councilors, therefore anyone is welcome to apply and we would be delighted to hear from anybody”.

The posts for commissioners are on a voluntary basis to begin with. However, with confirmed budgets there is hope in the long-term to pay a retainer to cover costs. Training and support will also be provided, however it’s not a full-time job and you should be able to do it alongside your full-time job.

Catherine said: “An open morning is planned this coming Saturday, 21st February from 10am, for tea and coffee and a chat and to view the new office. This commission is new and we’d like to hear from everybody”.

We will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.”UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan

The human rights office has now moved: From number 1 Main Street to the former planning office at PW&SD.

To contact Catherine call 22133 or email humanrightsoffice@helanta.co.sh

To contact Liz email guineagrass@rocketmail.com

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About Human Rights Day 

Stop discrimination poster The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

The UN General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France, on the December 10th 1948. All states and interested organizations were invited to mark December 10th as Human Rights Day at an UN meeting on December 4th 1950. It was first observed on December 10th that year and has been observed each year on the same date.

Each year Human Rights Day has a theme. Some of these themes have focused on people knowing their human rights or the importance of human rights education.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted between January 1947 and December 1948. It aimed to form a basis for human rights all over the world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considered as the most translated document in modern history. It is available in more than 360 languages and new translations are still being added.

What do people do?

Events focused on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are held worldwide on and around December 10th. Many events aim to educate people, especially children and teenagers, on their human rights and the importance of upholding these in their own communities and further afield. Human Rights Day on 10th December recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination. Acting alone or in groups within their communities, every day human rights defenders work to end discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws, reporting and investigating human rights violations and supporting victims. While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

The day may also include protests to alert people of circumstances in parts of the world where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not recognized or respected, or where the importance of these rights are not considered to be important. Cultural events are also organized to celebrate the importance of human rights through music, dance, drama or fine art.

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Are you being abused? 

Poster Stop violence against women The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles

More than one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence, a report by the World Health Organization and other groups says.

38% of all women murdered were killed by their partners, and such violence is a major contributor to depression and other health problems.

WHO head Margaret Chan said violence against women was “a global health problem of epidemic proportions”.

The study also calls for toleration of such attacks worldwide to be halted.

The key findings in the report are:

The document adds that “fear of stigma” prevents many women from reporting sexual violence, but many women do not recognize that the way they are being treated is abuse. It can be hard to know if you’re being abused as abuse can take many forms and the culture we have grown up can effect what we think of as normal. You may think that your husband or partner is allowed to make you have sex. That’s not true. Forced sex is rape, no matter who does it. You may think that cruel or threatening words are not abuse. They are. and sometimes emotional abuse is a sign that a person will become physically violent at a later stage.

Below is a list of possible signs of abuse. Some of these are illegal. All of them are wrong.

You may be abused if your partner:

If you think someone is abusing you, get help. Abuse can have serious physical and emotional effects, not just on you but on your children too. No one has the right to hurt you.

“Violence against women is always a violation of human rights; it is a crime; and it is always unacceptable. Let us take this issue with the deadly seriousness that it deserves.”

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General

The 25th of November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is usually marked on St Helena please check press or our Facebook page for details.

Please join us (whether you are male or female) to show you believe all forms of violence against women should stop.

If you cannot join us wear a white ribbon, dress your vehicle, window, even your dog in a white ribbon or just wear white on 25th November.

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Are you being abused? 

It can be hard to know if you’re being abused. You may think that your husband or partner is allowed to make you have sex. That’s not true. Forced sex is rape, no matter who does it. You may think that cruel or threatening words are not abuse. They are. and sometimes emotional abuse is a sign that a person will become physically violent in future.

Emotional abuse is the act of belittling, ignoring, corrupting, being cruel, isolating, rejecting, and/or scaring another person, which can lead to ultimately winning control over them. It could come from a parent, spouse, co-worker, friend, classmate, or caregiver. Emotional abuse is a form of brainwashing. An extreme example could be locking a child in a bathroom for hours as a punishment. An example of abuse that subtly builds over time could be telling a spouse they are ugly and useless repeatedly. Emotional abuse slowly eats away at a victim’s self-confidence until they feel they can no longer trust anyone else and possibly not even themselves, as they lose their sense of self-worth. It can sometimes be outwardly displayed in a person’s behaviour or it can be something completely hidden, so emotional abuse is not always easy to spot by the eyes of an outsider.

A person may be continually yelled at or humiliated when abused. They may be told they will be hurt or killed, thus they constantly live in fear for their life. They may be teased or have confusing inconsistencies in their life, like when an alcoholic parent or spouse comes home happy one night and angry the next. They never know whom they will be dealing with. Any and all of these events, among others, can create deep emotional scarring. Often, if treatment is not provided, a person who has been abused as a child will continue the cycle as an adult with his or her own family.

Possible signs of abuse

Below is a list of possible signs of abuse. Some of these are illegal. All of them are wrong. You may be abused if someone:

You may be abused if your partner:

If you think someone is abusing you, you need to get help as abuse can have serious physical and emotional effects. No one has the right to hurt you physically or mentally.

If you want to talk to someone in complete confidence you can contact

In an emergency call 999

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Involving women 

My grandfather, born early last century, spent one lunch time explaining to me that it was a well known scientific fact that women had different brains to men; smaller, easily confused and not as good at intellectual stuff.

He was not at all shaken in his belief even when I pointed out that of his 5 grandchildren I was the only girl and the only one to graduate university. Today my arguments would be stronger and there would be plenty of evidence to back me up.

A huge and growing body of research and experience shows that when women are involved:

and why is this? Because, actually, my grandfather was right in his facts (but not in his conclusions). Our brains ARE different. Women often experience life differently and that experience affects the way we see problems and think about solutions.

Women also communicate differently. They listen more, encourage dialogue and aim to build consensus.

Studies show that women also lead differently than men. They’re more likely to be collaborative, inclusive and team-oriented - all characteristics that tend to be effective.

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, says that women also bring an inter-generational perspective to their work. She said “We need to take decisions now that will make for a safer world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and I think women are more likely to do that when they come into positions of leadership.”

Men and women bring different qualities and different skills to public life and the difference is important because they are a source of strength. For too long, women were expected to think like men and act like men if they wanted to succeed. Now we know the power of women who think and act like women.

The benefits of empowering women are undeniable. Women are the engine driving global economic growth. Women are earning more (although still way less than men) and when women have more cash, they spend it differently. They feed their families healthier diets and send their children to school. They invest in clean water, better schools, education and health care. They start businesses and hire other women. The entire community prospers. As a result, investing in women has become more than good public relations. It has become a strategic imperative for companies around the world.

Women are also essential to building and sustaining peace. Today, nearly half of peace agreements fail within five years because half the stakeholders are excluded. When women are at the negotiating table, they help bridge the gap between different groups and ensure that a broader range of issues, from food security to sexual violence, are addressed. As a result, peace is more likely to take root.

So empowering women isn’t about political correctness, it’s about improving outcomes. It’s about investing in stronger economies and healthier communities - it’s about ending conflicts, and sustaining peace. It’s about improving the quality of life for people all over the world.

I just wish my granddad was still around to see it for himself and understand what a better place the world is becoming as a result.

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More on Freedom of Information 

Last Friday the public consultation on the changes to our Constitution ended, this week Government staff and some businesses have received information on a consultation process to look at “Ethics and Anti-Corruption for St. Helena”

We need to show the world that we are reliable and trustworthy place to do business. Tourists need to be sure we are an ethically sound place to visit. The changes to the Constitution may well improve the operation of our legislature but we are skirting around the edge of the one thing that will make SHG the Councillors accountable and all of us feel responsible for ensuring good governance: A freedom of information act.

It is as the foundation of democracy that freedom of information is most important. Information held by public authorities is not acquired for the benefit of officials or politicians but for the public as a whole. Unless there are good reasons for withholding such information, (e,g. individual privacy, commercially sensitive information and national security) everyone should be able to access it. More importantly, freedom of information is a key part of transparent and accountable government. It plays a key role in enabling people to see what is going on within government, and in exposing corruption and mismanagement. Open government is also essential if voters are to be able to assess the performance of elected officials and if individuals are to exercise their democratic rights effectively. How do we know which councillors to re-elect if we do not know what they have done?

It is increasingly being recognised that states are under an obligation to take practical steps including through legislation - to give effect to the right to freedom of information. Even Pitcairn with its tiny population has Freedom of Information Legislation

This has been raised at various constituency meetings and submissions to newspapers. and as I have said in a previous article Freedom of information is a basic human right. A right recognized by the United Nations, extended to the UK but not it seems to St. Helena.

I repeat the quote from William Hague, Secretary of State:

“...the UK Government’s objective is that the governments of the Overseas Territories abide by the same basic human rights standards that British people expect of the UK government.

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Older articles can be read on our Archived Articles page

We value diversity! The Equality & Human Rights Commission Articles


Footnotes:

{1} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.

{2}Legislative Council’, effectively the island’s parliament.



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