Human Rights: Majority vs Minority
Today, we live in a world where different groups of people exist. These different groups of people may have different beliefs and come from different backgrounds. Persons may also have differences based on their skin colour, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, religion, class, caste, occupation, language, education, political opinion, health status, marital status, parental status, age, disability and/or other status.
In some areas of the world, some groups are classed or seen as the “majority” whilst other groups are classed or seen as the “minority”. The majority usually has most of the power, influence, or wealth in society compared to other groups of people in that same society. They also may sometimes have more members belonging to their group.
The minority on the other hand usually has less power, influence or wealth in society compared to the majority. They may also have fewer members in their group when compared to the majority. Because of this, minority groups are usually more vulnerable to discrimination, violence, exploitation, and even death at the hands of the majority or other more powerful, influential, and/or wealthier groups within society based on ascribed and/or achieved characteristics such as their skin colour, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, religion, class, caste, occupation, language, education, political opinion, health status, marital status, parental status, age, disability and/or other status.
Should a minority suffer because of the majority? No. All of us are born equal in dignity and rights. Whether we can exercise our inherent rights does not and should not depend upon whether we belong to a majority group or a minority group in society.
However, we do not live in a perfect world. Throughout history, we have seen how dominant or majority groups used their numbers, strength, wealth, power, influence, and/or intelligence to take advantage of or oppress minority or less dominant groups, abusing, exploiting, and killing them, etc. Many bloody and deadly events are recorded in the books of human history.
Today, SVG is a democratic society and yes democratic decisions are largely based on what the majority desires or agrees upon in a society. However, in making decisions in a democratic society, the interests of all persons should be considered. In a functioning and progressive democracy, the rights and freedoms of minority groups should be taken into consideration.
Majority groups have fundamental rights and freedoms in society but so do minority groups. If what the majority agrees upon will unreasonably infringe upon the inherent rights and freedoms of a minority group, then such decisions should be avoided as they may be considered unconstitutional or in violation of fundamental rights and freedoms in a democratic society.
The protection of human rights results in a balancing exercise between many competing and conflicting rights in society. If the rights and freedoms of minority groups are not taken into consideration, we may have a society ruled by the tyranny of the majority. In such a society, the rights and freedoms of others considered “less than” would not be respected and protected. This will only lead to chaos.
From a human rights perspective, it does not necessarily matter who is the majority and what they want. What matters is protecting the human rights of all, especially the most vulnerable groups of people in a society. This means that other groups in society, who wish to exercise their rights and freedoms, must also have respect for the rights and freedoms of others in a democratic society, whether they belong to a majority group or a minority group in that society.
Today, I encourage us to respect the rights and freedoms of all persons in society, even those who we may consider as belonging to a minority group. By respecting the rights of all persons, we help to make society a better place for all.
Author: Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian Barrister-at-law and Solicitor. He is also the President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]