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Speech

The 10th of December each year is celebrated by the international community as Human Rights Day. It commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, among other things, that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. This theme has been incorporated as the basic foundation of international human rights law. However, despite great improvements in this area of the law throughout the international community, discrimination is still suffered by millions of individuals across the world.
The theme that has been adopted this year by the United Nations is that of Non- discrimination. This theme will continue throughout the calendar year 2010, and the slogan “Embrace diversity. End Discrimination” has also been adopted. The Jamaican Government remains committed to the eradication of any form of discrimination in our society, whilst being mindful of the local challenges that exist.
Jamaica became a member of the United Nations on the 18th September, 1962, and in the same year, promulgated the Jamaica Constitution Order in Council. The Jamaica Constitution Order in Council 1962, under Section 24, Subsection (1), states that “… No law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect.” Subsection (2) also states that “…no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority.”
The above mentioned sections of the Constitution are a direct reflection of the core ideals and values of our great nation. Additionally, they also demonstrate one of the most important concerns that the architects of our Constitution had to ponder – that is, the construction of an affirmative statement that was neither vague nor ambiguous, but clear, concise and effective, which would serve to eliminate discrimination from our society.
At the national level, the Legislature has demonstrated its commitment to the eradication of discrimination by the introduction into Parliament of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Constitutional Amendment) Bill, 2008.
This Bill specifically addresses the issue of discrimination in that it states that “discrimination on the grounds of being male or female, race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinion” would not be tolerated in the Jamaican society. The Government of Jamaica remains committed in ensuring that it conforms to both the spirit and letter of this declaration, as we continue to work with human rights organizations and individuals to raise awareness and ensure that any form of discrimination in Jamaica is abolished.