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Why is this good news?

4 March 2012

Why is this headline NOT bad news?

The United States Constitution rather vaguely mentions that the Federal Government cannot favor any particular sectarian belief (Amendment 1), added in 1791, and in 1870 added that voting rights could not be denied on the basis of  race, color, or previous condition of servitude (Amendment 15). The franchise was extended to women in 1920 (Amendment 19), but says nothing about other forms of discrimination.  Of course, the U.S. Constitution is not so much a social document, as an outline of the Federal Government’s role, and a check on certain activities and the United States does have various anti-discrimination laws at various levels of government, some more inclusive than others.  


The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, promulgated in 1982 does reflect more modern social thinking, spelling out that persons are “equal before and under the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”

Mexico’s Constitution of 1917 was a social document, and — having been written originally as a blueprint for society as much as a political document, has been radically altered over the years.  Ten years ago, Mexico rewrote Article I (which initially only mentioned that slavery was illegal in the Republic, something going back to the original Constitution of 1824) to include the following:

Discrimination based on ethnic or national origin, as well as discrimination based on gender, age, disability of any kind, social status, health condition, religious opinions, preference of any kind, civil state, or any other reason which affronts human dignity and works to deny or restrain an individual’s priviliges and immunities is prohibited.

Mexico’s record when it comes to protecting human rights is spotty at best, but what a magnificent and inclusive statement of those rights!

That there is still discrimination is not the focus of El Universal’s front-page story yesterday, but that the number of complaints to the Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación (National Council for Prevention of Discrimination, CONAPRED) have skyrocketed.  That the largest number of complaints are about discrimination based on “preference” (specially discrimination against GLBT individuals).  Complaints about discrimination against the physically disabled nearly equal those filed alleging discrimination based on sexual preference, followed by allegations of discrimination based on health condition, gender, physical appearance, pregnancy, social condition (which could be either financial or marital status, although the latter is usually referred to as “civil state”), national origin, ethnicity and opinions.

But think about it.  More complaints don’t mean more discrimination… but less tolerance for discrimination.  One of the extremely bright spots in Mexican human rights is that the complaints are coming more and more from the lower social classes… as CONAPRED President Ricardo Bucio notes, especially with regard to GLBTs discrimination occurs more in the low socioeconomic status and lower educational level, and “as with violence, those who suffer the most are more likely to commit the acts themselves.”  In addition, at least with respect to GLBT, the culprits are much more likely to be persons over 60… meaning that discrimination based on what the Constitution calls “preference” is less and less tolerated by the educated, the middle class and the not-yet-old.

Bucio cites several examples of what I would call self-justification when it comes to discrimination… storekeepers refusing entry to a person with a service dog (supposedly to prevent the dog from causing problems), or school administrators “suggesting” the different child should apply to another institution.  Or, simply thoughtless… Bucio mentioning a case in which a single mother was not invited to the Parents’ Day activities at her child’s school.

Of course, Bucio sees a need for CONAPRED to have the power to sanction administratively  or though the penal system  those who discriminate, but the growing number of complaints (expected to double this year) means that affected citizens are becoming aware of the rights, and that affronts against human dignity are not something that can be brushed off as simply part of the “real Mexico”.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 March 2012 7:43 am

    that was pretty much my reaction exactly…

  2. 6 March 2012 2:25 pm

    As Mexico is moving forward – even through the violence – in leaps and bounds, RW politicos of the US are determined to move the country backward.

    Even as their ideology- rather than fact-based economic and trade policies have shattered the economy — nothing proved the fallacies of the uber-free market like utter-collapse of the financial sector which had purposely been given a free hand by Greenspan — they are determined to undermine sound health policies, splinter social cohesion, lay waste to the middle class, and literally advocate for discrimination on the campaign trail.

    The comparisons are becoming stark:

    Mexico is a modernizing nation, beset with problems caused by her northern neighbor (demand for drugs and supply of arms).

    The USA is nation slipping backwards, releasing past progress and sound practices, and to what end? To prove that John Birchers were right after all? And then what? Are they like Franciscans still waiting breathlessly for the Apocolypse? After destruction, what?

    I’m happy to let them wait, as long as they’d leave the rest of us alone.


  1. It’s MISTER to you… « The Mex Files

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