Saturday, January 06, 2007

Minority Rights

Broadly put a society which claims to be a democracy cannot survive if the government of the said society only panders to those who elected it and not all the citizens of the country.

In short governments aren’t allowed to play favourites. The two most common ways in which government plays favourites is race, gender and religion.

The model of democracy to which most countries in the world aspire (or pay lip service to the aspiration of cf Zimbabwe) is a rationalist secular construct based upon the fact that if significant portions of a society are denied a voice in the ordering of the society those people will act against the common good, as the common good offers them only oppression. In short the model works around the idea of government of the people, by the people and for the people.

However due to the nature of the methods used to determine representation in the governing authorities (one vote for all citizens with the suffrage which is generally held to be all citizens above age 18) can lead to problems. If the majority of the citizens wish for the government to play favourites to their particular group can compel the government (through the selection of agents) to do so.

The mechanism that was introduced to limit this “tyranny of the majority” was by the citizens of the society agreeing that all citizens have certain rights. However, there has always been a tendency to limit these rights the parties which elected or selected the government. Fortunately as the ideals of the enlightenment have spread so to has the extension and adoption of these rights. Hence the right to vote is no longer restricted to white landed gentry as it was at its inception but it has now been extended (in most of the countries that have adopted representative systems) to all citizens of the country above age 18. These rights have also been adopted internationally as the Universal declaration of human rights.

However consider the recent furore regarding the Civil Union Act

What I particulary found interesting was the following missive from the poisoned pen of Jon Qwelane. In this he rails against South Africa going to the dogs, he complains about various points. These are in the order he raises them

1) Crime in South Africa – A serious concern

2) Rumours linking the police commissioner to various organised crime figures – A serious concern

3) A complaint that there is a proposal suggesting that schoolgirls be given “maternity leave” if they fall pregnant – e.g. they are allowed to resume their studies at the states schools after delivering – What legitimate reason is their to act against teenage mothers by denying them education?

4) Complaining that ANC Chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe will not be punished for sexual harassment (Goniwe was subsequently kicked out of the ANC) – A serious concern

5) Civil Unions Act (to which he refers as the “so called Gay Unions Act” – The government had been ordered to pass this act by the constitutional court in order for the government to not be in violation of the constitution. The act was passed shortly before the 1 year deadline set in place by the constitutional court expired.

6) In line with the constitutional court ruling this the ANC ordered all its members of parliament to vote for the measure to avoid a constitutional crises.

One point I would just to add is that something is indeed rotten in South Africa that a man who writes as badly as Jon, who cannot even get the minor facts (name of the legislation he is whining about) of his articles right is apparently paid to write a weekly column for one of the largest media conglomerates (Media24) in the country.

Let us look at some of the choice quotes from this missive of his

The constitution is being seriously undermined by the plethora of “rights” which anyone can claim to bolster their crazy ideas, just as, I am sure, someone out there will say by complaining loudly about such things I am myself “undermining” the constituion (sic).

Forcing people to vote against what may have been their clear consciences calls into question the constitutionality of such action I seriously believe that some judges of the Constitutional Court may be gay themselves; otherwise there seems no sensible explanation for them to want to insist on it in the first place.

Let us look at what marriage is when one strips the religious babble from it. Marriage (or a civil union) is an agreement enforced by the state between two parties regarding rights and responsibilities of the various parties to each other. These include communal property rights, support responsibilities and privileged access. Now if the government allows certain citizens to enter into such relationships and denies other citizens those same rights merely because of the gender of the participants and has no better reason for the denial than “It is a sin” then that would be discrimination based upon sex and religion. Also the originally privileged group does not lose its privileges simply because the privilege is extended to others.

The comments of P.SHAMASE is particularly disturbing due to its outright homophobia and desire for theocracy. But the view that democracy is the view that the view of majority will always prevail is particularly frightening.

Going to the dogs
20/11/2006 09:38
My understanding of a democracy is that the view of the majority will always prevail. This concept does not dicriminate against any person, of any colour or creed. with regard to the gay issue, we needed a referundum to express our views as the people. South africa appears not to be a God fearing nation,away with this gay and lesbian nonsense, everything found in the human body is designed to do a particular task and only that task.away with artificial plastic organs. - P.SHAMASE

In response to this I can only say. Muppet!

I applaud the ANC for acting as it has with regards to the Civil Union Issue. Too bad the majority of government officials are corrupt, but so it goes.

Daily Tally
Weight = 100kg
M = 1

Post Script: I saved this post as a draft instead of publishing it so it should count as the post for Friday 5th January.

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