PM Douglas defends PANCAP’s Justice For All programme

ST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA, JULY 3RD 2014 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has defended the “Justice for All” programme of the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), saying it was not designed to encourage a re-order of the Caribbean society in a negative way.

According to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), a joint statement issued by 140 Caribbean organisations, which say they represent thousands of CARICOM nationals, made reference to an April 11, 2014 CARICOM press release which indicated that the regional leaders will be presenting for endorsement, several actionable recommendations on eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The recommendations were made following a regional HIV consultation earlier this year.

In the statement, the regional groups including churches, the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), the Caribbean Centre for Family and Human Rights, Lawyers for Jesus and Advocate Caribbean, said the recommendations include repealing laws criminalising consensual sexual acts between adults and making sexual orientation a protected category for non-discrimination.

But Prime Minister Douglas, who has lead responsibility for health matters within the quasi-CARICOM Cabinet, told (CMC) that he does not think that PANCAP was making any recommendation on issues such as same sex marriages.

“PANCAP has been saying for several years that if we are going to successfully fight the scourge of HIV and AIDS we need to make sure that we fight discrimination and stigmatisation,” said Dr. Douglas, adding “we have developed recently a programme called Justice for All which would have been taken to several Caribbean countries …hearing views on how they can reduce stigmatisation and discrimination.”

He said following the consultations, a report will now go before the regional leaders “to ensure that they are briefed on what is happening and whether they are ready to support the declaration.”

The regional groups said they are “alarmed that the leaders of the Caribbean are pursuing a demonstrably illogical path which with regards to sexuality seeks to define normal without reference to design.”

In a June 24 letter to the regional leaders and the CARICOM Secretary General His Excellency Irwin La Rocque, the organisations called for transparency and accountability in the discussions leading up to the formulation of the recommendations.

“We urge CARICOM heads of government to place the health and well-being of our societies as their top priority,” the statement said, adding “we also urge these leaders to desist from endorsing any recommendation which will fundamentally re-order society in negative ways that could jeopardise the future of our children and our region.”

But Prime Minister Douglas said while many people may have taken the declaration out of context and that issues such as “same sex marriage have never come up.

“We are clearly speaking of the issue of reducing stigma and discriminisation against persons who are associated with HIV/AIDS,” he said, adding that the intention also is to ensure that those affected with the virus do not go underground but are allowed to receive proper medication and support.

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