Jul 25, 2008 Letters Comments Off on Progressive views are being stifled by various fears
On 23 July, 2003, Members of Parliament were challenged when they had to consider outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the Guyana Constitution.
Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims were picketing at Liliendaal, while representatives of political parties found loopholes in Parliamentary procedure to ensure that this bill never came to a conscience vote. Is it that Guyana’s political leadership did not want to acknowledge an uncertain truth?
Perhaps representatives of all political persuasions would have been more progressive in recognising that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has no place in any civilised democracy.
Five years later, and Guyana’s society continues to be challenged by polarisation in the public sphere. Progressive views are stifled by various fears – fear of being labelled, fear of having to defend those views, fear of being seen as different.
SASOD works in this environment, because even as the homophobic views are expressed loudly, Guyanese of all walks of life have expressed a range of views which indicate a desire for a change to show that we are capable of building a cohesive society.
In the five years since that Parliamentary decision to succumb to prejudice rather than demonstrate respect for diversity, Guyana’s economy has slowed and crime has not decreased.
The State is accused of torture, and it would appear that corruption is rampant in public offices. While different civil society organisations continue to protest, it is unfortunate that the religious groups who target homosexuals remain silent in the face of other atrocities.
It is also unfortunate that those same sections of the religious community continue to ask for the beating of children as a form of discipline; and in one case, to ask for young girls to be part of marriage.
Several achievements have been made in the past five years in our region. Latin American countries have progressed with recognising that all human rights apply equally to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, as they advance in their democratic processes.
This year, Cuba and Brazil have had state sponsorship of events related to resolving issues faced by their LGBT citizens.
The colonial shackles are finally being broken in this hemisphere, as all aspects of human rights are being addressed at different levels.
In Guyana, SASOD’s work has been received not only with criticism and opposition, but also with support and encouragement, which have sometimes come from unexpected quarters.
We recognise that the media has been generally fair, despite the nervousness of some editors and journalists who are reluctant to provide coverage because of fear that they, too, would be branded homosexual.
The experiences of networking with civil society organisations in Guyana, the Caribbean and Latin America have been invaluable.
SASOD has answered the call to join in CARIFESTA X, and is organising a fringe under the theme “Vele kleuren, één regenboog/Many colours, one rainbow/Beaucoup de couleurs, un arc-en-ciel/Muchos colores, un arco iris.”
This participation is a tribute to Guyanese and Caribbean people who have rejected the notion of our region as a homophobic place, and who are determined to change that perception and recognise that Caribbean diversity also includes respect for diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity.
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