Congratulations to Jamaica’s Margarette May Macaulay, elected President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

I started writing a post about International Women’s Day – but it is not complete. I needed to sort out my thoughts, but fundamentally, I am always torn (and increasingly so each year) between the desire to celebrate women and all their achievements, and the painful awareness that all is not well for women, whether locally, regionally or worldwide. Perhaps one can do both.

There is so much work to be done. One Jamaican woman who has never been afraid of work is attorney and mediator in the Supreme Court of Jamaica Margarette May Macaulay, who was recently elected as President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

If you want to have a detailed biography, here is one from the Organization of American States (OAS). Her resumé is very powerful; one of her key achievements was her inclusion on the Legacy Wall for Gender Justice for women’s rights advocates, launched in December 2017 at the United Nations in New York.

In a press release on International Women’s Day, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith observed:

“As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, the announcement of Mrs. Macaulay’s election as President of the Board of Directors on March 7 is welcomed news, as she is well known and is a strong advocate for women’s rights. Not only will Mrs. Macaulay serve as President for the second time, but she will be leading an all-woman board of directors and the first with all-women from the Caribbean and Central American countries.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade, March 8, 2023

By the way, Ms. Macaulay was born in Sierra Leone, moved to Jamaica, and has a wonderfully mixed family heritage, which her daughter, New York-based artist Berette lovingly celebrated in a photographic series.

Minister Johnson Smith continued in congratulating Ms. Macaulay:

“Jamaica sincerely values the work of the IAHCR in promoting and protecting human rights. The valuable service of Mrs. Macaulay on the Commission and her ongoing work to improve the operations and the efficiency of this body in the service to member states and the people of the region is truly commendable. As a representative of the Caribbean, we look forward to her continued service to achieve the mandate of the Commission during her final year.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade, March 8, 2023

Now, please correct me if I am wrong, but the Jamaican Government, despite “sincerely valuing the work of the IACHR,” has ignored the Commission’s recommendations and rulings on bauxite mining (last year) and LGBT rights (two years ago).

To my knowledge, the Jamaican Government has not yet responded to the Commission’s request on November 24, 2022, for an update on precautionary measures taken to preserve health and protect residents of St. Ann from the harmful effects of bauxite mining. The first two letters were sent in July and September, 2022, respectively.

On January 1, 2023, the Jamaica Gleaner‘s editorial said it was “surprised and appalled at the contemptuous manner with which Jamaica has seemingly treated the IACHR, a creature of the Inter-American Convention of Human Rights, of which Jamaica is not only a signatory but has ratified.”

Equally, the Jamaican Government seems to have taken no interest in the IACHR’s recommendations two years ago on LGBTQI+ rights in Jamaica. On February 21, 2023, the London-based Human Dignity Trust noted:

On the second anniversary of a landmark decision from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urging the Jamaican government to repeal the country’s homophobic laws, Rainbow Railroad and the Human Dignity Trust call on Jamaica to immediately comply with the top Americas human rights tribunal’s recommendations. 

Despite two years having passed since the IACHR’s decision was made public, Jamaica has failed to show interest in complying with a single recommendation made by the Commission, say the international organisations. In particular, homophobic laws remain in force and there is inadequate protection from discrimination for the LGBTQI+ community.  

In the face of this lack of progress, the organisations today released a joint report, A Caribbean Outlier: Repeal anti-LGBTQI+ laws in Jamaica, documenting the violence, harassment and discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ people in Jamaica over the last two years.   

Human Dignity Trust, February 21, 2023

I would like to think that the Jamaican Government truly values the work of the IACHR, now headed by a Jamaican. Please convince me, someone…

An all-woman team: President Margarette May Macaulay (centre) is flanked by (left) Roberta Clarke of Barbados, Second Vice President; and (right) First Vice President, Panama’s Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. (Photo: IACHR)

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