31 October 2012

Cayman Islands: Artists for Human Rights (Special Report)


While the Cayman Islands are still a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean, the ministerial governing country will finally establish a Bill of Rights Freedoms and Responsibilities act stemming from the Cayman Islands Constitution come November 6th...just 3 years after its conception.

Deborah Bodden, the government’s Human Rights Commission Secretariat stated several months ago that, “One of the things that we’ve said to them is that written policies and procedures should be available...There is no reason," she continued, "that the general public cannot understand what they need to do.”

The Human Rights Commission set a number of artists to work on depicting the various sections of the Bill of Rights to promote an artistic representation of the people.  The Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities containing sections of the Constitution and each one will have an artistic display.But one artist stands out among the rest. Cayman native, artist and musician, Natasha Kozaily is depicting Section 16, Non Discrimination for her piece.

Section 16: Non-Discrimination of the Bill of Rights, expresses the essence of just what the country’s Human Right’s Commission hopes to advocate at the November 6th commemoration.

“Government shall not treat any person in a discriminatory manner in respect of the rights under this Part of the Constitution. “Discriminatory” means affording different and unjustifiable treatment to different persons on any ground such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, age, mental or physical disability, property, birth or other status.”

Kozaily’s work shows the face of a woman, a “mother-earth type figure who embodies an ambiguous ethnic background,” she says, constructing “her face of hundreds of small photographs of people’s faces from all ages, sex, race, background, nationality.”

The face of the woman comes up out of the ocean – representative of the Islands.  Kozaily used paint and paper photographs for her medium.

Ironically, enough, Kozaily herself, personifies the multi-ethnic background identified in the Non-Discrimination act. While Kozaily’s mother is of Caiman decent, her father is from Lebanon.  Kozaily says she has spent time in Beirut and has adapted as much of her father’s culture as her mother’s.  Even her music carries international rhythm, with both Latin and Middle Eastern under-tones.  

The Cayman Islands have a long history of welcoming foreigners, as it was largely un-inhabited until the 17th century.  Most Caymanians came from namely English and African Decent.  

When the Bill of Rights was presented in 2009, controversy surrounded the document because it did not include specific reference toward non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Human Rights Watch appealed to Governor Stuart Jack, stating that it was “unacceptable” that such discrimination “be allowed to persist.”  

But Gillian Merron, a Member of Parliament in the UK, stated in a letter she did “not accept the assertion made by some members” that the Constitution “did not provide comprehensive human rights protections for certain groups,” noting that Section 16 of the Bill of Rights aligned with the European Convention for Human Rights article that provided protection under “or other status” groups. Merron said the 2009 Bill of Rights was an improvement on the existing Constitution, which said provided “no human rights protections at all.”

Nevertheless, the ceremony will move forward in just a few days.

The British Territory’s Human Rights Commission was established in 2009 to help educate the public about the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities in the Constitution for the country and currently helps to investigate violations and breaches of those rights for citizens.

The commemoration of the artistic work holds a standing significance for the artists and of course, for the people of the Cayman Islands and certainly for Miss Kozaily, it's her contribution to a community that raised her.

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