May 11, 2013 News Comments Off on Delay skirts hearing in challenge against dress code laws
The hearing into the constitutional challenge brought against the country’s dress code was delayed yesterday.
The matter was scheduled for yesterday, but Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang set a new date – June 4.
A group of transgender persons have appealed to the Supreme Court to strip the constitution of laws that leave them open to arrest for cross-dressing.
Intimate same sex relations are outlawed in Guyana as is cross-dressing. Groups say the laws smack of hypocrisy since women who dress in male clothing do not face arrest, but men who dress as women risk being jailed.
The challenge was launched in February 2010 following a police crackdown on cross-dressing.
Police had arrested and briefly detained six persons for cross-dressing a year before the challenge was filed.
They were arrested and charged under Section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02, which criminalizes as a minor offense the “wearing of female attire by man; wearing of male attire by women.”
The six were born male but dress as women. The men claimed they were humiliated by the Police and the court.
“It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I felt like I was less than human,” Seon Clarke, one of the persons arrested stated in a statement from the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).
The then acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson fined the six persons $7,500 each and told them to “go to church” and give their lives to Christ.
SASOD is leading the challenge for those arrested with a team of lawyers which include human rights attorney Arif Bulkan.
The crackdown in February 2009 was heavily criticised by rights groups locally and overseas.
The law prohibits men from appearing in public in female attire, and vice versa. The law appears in a section of Guyana’s legal code that also makes homosexuality a crime.
In 2001, protests by the religious community forced then President Bharrat Jagdeo to withhold his signature from a constitutional bill which would have prohibited discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.
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