Guyana might stop treating LGBT people as criminals

Guyana's location in South America
Guyana's location in South America

Guyana has agreed to at least consider the possibility of repealing its anti-LGBT laws.

The gay rights group Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, or SASOD, in Guyana praised the new stance, which came in response to a United Nations human-rights push.

A change in Guyana’s laws could also help with the fight against AIDS among the country’s LGBT population, who currently are categorized as criminals.

The country’s overall HIV infection rate is estimated at 1.2 percent, but an estimated 19.4 percent of Guyanan men who have sex with men are infected, according to the United National AIDS Report of 2010.

SASOD said it “welcomes the commitment of the Guyana government to host consultations on issues related to matters of law reform on sexual orientation and gender identity, as part of its obligations to report back to the United Nations Human Rights Council … by September 2012.”

However, SASOD criticized a Guyanan official for misrepresenting the subject of the proposed legal reform, the blog Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender & Queer Jamaica reported:

We are disappointed that the Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, misled the Guyanese public that the focus of these consultations is on “decriminalization of same-sex unions,” as reported by Demerara Waves.

The Cabinet Secretary, as well as the Presidential Advisor on Governance and the cabinet sub-committee on governance, should fully well know that same-sex unions, or “gay marriage” as one newspaper headline has already indicated, are not the subject of the state’ obligations which are presently being considered.

We are disappointed that such a high-ranking government official would misuse, whether deliberately or unwittingly, the critical politics of language to whip up public hysteria with such snide references to fearful notions of “gay marriage.” …

The UN Human Rights Council recommended that the state repeal all laws which discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity [including laws that] penalize consensual forms of intimacy between adult men in private with prison sentences ranging from two years to life imprisonment, and … cross-dressing. After a targeted police crackdown in February 2009 where seven persons who were born biologically male were arrested for wearing female attire, four of those persons and SASOD filed a suit against the state challenging the constitutional validity of these discriminatory laws. The case is presently before the court ….

The blog Gay Jamaica Watch reported earlier this month:

Guyana is launching a national debate on whether to eliminate its death penalty and overhaul laws that discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender people.

Town-hall-style meetings will be held across the socially conservative South American country as part of a promise that Guyana made to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The government plans to analyze public opinion before deciding whether it will submit any bills to revise current laws.

“Government has no line or position on the gay rights issue,” Presidential Adviser Gail Teixeira told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We will hold the consultations, and if the recommendation is to change the laws, then that will be taken into consideration.”

The Demerara Waves news website reported that Luncheon said decriminalization of “same-sex unions” was “the one recommendation offered by the Cabinet sub-committee that considered the matter that enjoyed the support of Cabinet.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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