From Gillies C. Kasongo - Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) on **basis of a human rights-based approach to programming. **
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Human Rights for All
People, the world over, are entitled to universal, inalienable and indivisible rights, by virtue of their common humanity.
Everyone is entitled to live and enjoy a life of freedom and dignity regardless of their age, status, income, gender, sexual orientation, religion, among others. Human rights are indivisible. Whether of a civil, cultural, economic, political or social nature, all human rights are inherent to the dignity of every human being. They all have equal status and cannot be ranked.
Sadly, there are parties that feel certain groups or individuals deserve space, respect and dignity, while others do not. One such marginalised group is that of sexual minorities. Sexual minority people get ostracised on account of their sexual identity.
Sexual identity looks at the overall sexual self-identity, including how the person identifies as male, female, masculine, feminine, or some combination of these, and one’s attraction to another - emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually, and most prominently, sexually (sexual orientation).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines sexuality as a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction; experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) perceives human rights as universal - belonging to all people, and that all people have equal status with respect to these rights.
While implementing some activities in Siavonga district, Southern Zambia, a Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) team monitored debates on human rights in relation to human sexuality.
The discussions showed that sexual minorities are viewed with contempt. This has been the trend in most public dialogue activities that PSAf has been involved in. As a result, when someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity does not conform to the majority, they are often seen as a legitimate target for discrimination or abuse, being denied of the right to equality through special criminal provisions on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Respect for human rights ensures that all persons enjoy goods and services as their entitlements, and freedoms that are necessary for dignified living. This means that freedom of expression and the right to access correct and safe information, for example, should be an entitlement (not a favour) of all people and not some. It promotes the space for free speech squarely and safeguards the possibility of co-existence and non-discriminatory practices and activities.
Looking at the Bible, the Gospels report of Jesus Christ dining with Tax Collectors, Lawmakers, Pharisees and Sadducees, prostitutes, among all kinds of persons, including those that society at the time perceived with disdain. The message of the Gospel is clear: Christianity is about caring for the marginalized, for the least of our brothers and sisters; it is not about harassment and exclusion.
Despite the fact that international human rights instruments and laws apply to all human beings and all citizens, marginalised communities are still fighting for their full enjoyment of these rights.
The failure of many Southern African states to legally recognise the individual as the 'right holder', with rights over control of their own lives and bodies, is a violation this right.
Duty bearers have a clarion call to realise these rights. Therefore, those who bear the duties with respect to a human right are accountable if the right goes unrealised. When a right has been violated or insufficiently protected, there is always an institution or someone that has failed to perform a duty. That institution or person should secure the safety of sexual minorities and end of a culture of harassment and hate speech.
Each person should equally embark in an open dialogue without fear of prosecution, while at the same time recognising the sensitivity of the issue.
PSAf rights-based approach programming aims at protecting vulnerable groups like sexual minorities, differently abled persons, children and women through communications and media platforms. PSAf believes that there is an urgent need for constitutional and social transformation in order to achieve human rights for all.
Gillies Kasongo is PSAf’s Senior Programme Officer for Media Development and ICTs. For feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org