Don't even joke about a person's sexual orientation

2013-07-05 22:06

A while ago I attended a social function open to members of the public where a special guest was busy cracking lewd jokes but whilst the majority were laughing, titilated by an abundance of alcohol of their choice, I noticed a few whose sexual orientation betrayed them, experiencing a sense of trauma especially when the guest comedian directed lewd remarks at them.

Words and expression, bordering on sexually vulgar that are never uttered in the public domain alluding to their sexual practice were greeted by inebriated guests with loud remarks most of them looking directly at these, lets call them lesbians.

That experience left them severely traumatised and needing psychological intervention.

What were the rights of this offended group? Could they institute a class action and succeed in obtaining punitive damages for trauma as well as violation of their human rights not to be discriminated on the grounds of their sexual orientation?

I opine that they can in SA. So I would strongly caution people reading this article to desist from this abomination.

In fact in Canada a recent judgment handed down a landmark decision which held a restaurant owner and a comedian entertaining guests in a function where members of the public could attend we're liable for the trauma that lesbians who were present and who were expressing their sexual orientation in full view of heterosexual guests or patrons , experienced as a result.

One of them was Lorna Pardy. Let me boil them down and allow you to judge whether Ms. Pardy was the subject of unlawful discrimination.

Ms. Pardy and her friends were enjoying a pleasant evening on the patio of a local restaurant. At 11 p.m. they were asked by restaurant staff to move inside where -- unbeknownst to them -- the restaurant was hosting an open mic comedy night. The evening's master of ceremonies was Guy Earle.

Ms. Pardy and her friends spoke to a waitress about a drink order, and then Ms. Pardy's girlfriend kissed her. According to the Human Rights Tribunal and Court, that was when it started.

In direct response to this simple kiss, Mr. Earle directed lewd and sexually offensive comments at the women.

As a result of her experience in the restaurant on that night, and the actions of Mr. Earle afterward, Ms. Pardy was diagnosed by a doctor with post-traumatic stress disorder. She pursued, and won, a case of discrimination against the restaurant and Mr. Earle.Want to read more about this? Then look at the case of [Ismail v. British Columbia (Human Rights Tribunal), 2013 BCSC 1079]

Ms. Pardy's victory would certainly rankle those lwho believe that the "liberty to speak freely should prevail", In other words your 'freedom of artistic expression' advocates. But ask yourself this.

Would you accept it if, say at the work place your boss calls you a "stupid c*nt" and a "stupid dyke"?

I suspect that most people reading this would not accept that kind of expression in our workplaces, in our housing and in our services. This basic principle -- that all people should be able to work, live and participate in society with dignity regardless of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age, family status or ancestry constitutes the cornerstone of our human rights legislation. And so, necessarily, is the recognition that not all speech is permissible in all circumstances in a society where all strive to be equal in dignity and rights.

We don't have a comparable case law in SA to catalogue some of the egregious human rights violations that people whose sexual orientation is contentious experience at the workplace or in the private/public domain.

However, if you ever have the time,make the time I urge you to, and study the judgment I have cited you would learn that even 'jokes" that stereotype formerly disadvantaged and discriminated minorities have adverse legal consequences against those who engage in such type of conduct that Ms Pardy had experienced.

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