Gov’t against sexual discrimination
– but not ready to repeal laws against buggery, cross-dressing
The government on Thursday restated its position against discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation, but stopped short of saying if it was ready to repeal laws which make it criminal for men to have sex with men or for anyone to cross-dress.
By law, sexual intimacy between men is not allowed in Guyana, as is the case in most of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Leading figures in the fight against HIV/AIDS, including UN envoy Sir George Alleyne, have suggested that this hinders an effective public health response to the epidemic.
Further, a leading rights group is seeking to get the High Court to rule that the law against cross-dressing violates constitutional rights of individuals who wish to do so. “Cabinet did reflect on social responses to homosexuality and reiterated its position of not supporting discrimination of those whose sexual orientation offended contemporary social norms and also consequently any advocacy of such lifestyles,” Dr Roger Luncheon, the government’s chief spokesman said.
But for the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), which has been leading the fight against homophobia, mere talk from the government would not do.
“If Cabinet is serious about its position of not discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, then they should be taking steps to repeal the laws that criminalise consensual same-sex behaviour.
The Attorney General should be moving quickly to respond favourably to the constitutional challenge to the cross dressing laws which are now pending in Court,” SASOD said in an initial response to Luncheon’s comments.
Further, SASOD charged that the Government should also be concerned about the homophobic statements by Mr Juan Edghill, Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission. According to SASOD, Edghill abused his office to wrongfully criticise the SASOD Film Festival in June 2010.
“To date, Mr Edghill has received no sanctions from the President despite the condemnation from several sections of the society,” the Society stated.
SASOD said that while it is good to know that the Cabinet is letting its belief and positions known, “the transforming of the words into positive action is going to be more critical to the livelihood of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Guyanese, and to those who are working towards a society which accepts all forms of diversity.”
SASOD has worked over the years to end homophobia and is representing a group of transgender people who have filed a motion for the Supreme Court to overturn the country’s law against cross dressing.