Hong Kong must change human rights focus

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2012, 2:55am

The rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people are human rights.

Unfortunately, most of us do not understand what is meant by human rights.

In Hong Kong, attempts have been made to draw a protective baseline to secure the rights of citizens who may feel marginalised and vulnerable, including those from the LGBT community.

In many countries in the West and in the region, people are now discussing allowing same-sex marriage, while in Hong Kong this is not happening.

The rights being denied to LGBT citizens could not be more fundamental - freedom from discrimination and the assurance of equal opportunities. In this regard, why are we not making progress?

Some people, when looking at the issue of human rights, refer to religion, and even those without any religious beliefs tend to look at the issue from a moral perspective.

Human rights appear to them as a self-evident concept that requires little reasoning, and they often conclude by surmising that these rights, when infringed, would induce a sense of grievance to be shared by the majority in the society.

The confusion of such rights with religious principles or moral obligations may suggest why many, who may accept with ease the right to life or to freedom from torture, are finding it hard to convince themselves that there is a need in society to safeguard LGBT rights. It has never occurred to them that these are basic human rights.

In raising notions of rights in society and ensuring respect for them, not only should individuals' entitlements be protected but there must also be a change in the system.

Concepts of human rights are firmly incorporated in the constitutions of countries such as the United States, Germany and France, often emerging as a response to previous experiences of injustice, maladministration and inhumanity. Any laws, regulations and other government policies must comply with all aspects of the constitution.

The protection of these human rights becomes part of the culture.

People in these countries will support calls from LGBT citizens for further protection of their rights.

It is time for Hongkongers to seriously acknowledge and consider human rights issues.

Looking at the rights of members of the LGBT community would be a good place to start.

Ted Chan, Quarry Bay