By Dr Lawrence A Joseph
Are the fundamental rights and freedoms in the Grenada Constitution sufficient? As Grenada is presently in the process of reviewing its constitution, it is a good time to thoroughly examine its Bill of Rights section. This examination may reveal that the fundamental rights and freedoms included there may need to be improved.
Since the coming into being of the Grenada Constitution over 40 years ago, quite a lot has changed by way of our philosophical thoughts and general approach to life. It is quite reasonable to assume therefore that some may be of the view that the Bill of Rights section of the constitution may need some beefing up.
The Bill of Rights section of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa which came into being on 15 January 1996, that is, 22 years after Grenada’s Constitution came into effect, is regarded by many as representing a good example of a modern day constitution. The South African Constitution has included several far-reaching fundamental rights and freedoms which Grenada’s Constitution does not have.
What are the fundamental rights and freedoms in the Grenada Constitution? Section 1 provides that everyone is entitled to life, liberty, security of the person, protection of the law, freedom of conscience, of expression and association, protection for the privacy of home and other property and from deprivation of property without compensation and the right to work. Other sections go into more details concerning those rights and freedoms and spell out the limitations.
The Bill of Rights section of South Africa goes much further than this. Section 9 includes an equality section which guarantees that there must not be any discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic and social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. Section 10 guarantees that everyone has inherent dignity and has the right to have their dignity respected and protected.
Section 24 establishes that everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable and other measures. Section 26 provides that everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing and that the state must take reasonable and other measures within its available resources to achieve progressive realisation of this right. There are also provisions for adequate health care, food, water, social security, and basic and further education.
Despite the abovementioned guarantees, section 36 of the South African Constitution goes on to state that those rights may be limited only in terms of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.
This article is not advocating that all of the abovementioned fundamental rights and freedoms which have been adopted by the South African Constitution must be adopted here in Grenada. They are mentioned here for due consideration to be given to them to see if any of them may assist in improving our own fundamental rights and freedoms. Are our own fundamental rights and freedoms sufficient?