Guyana president takes aim at his nation’s anti-gay law

Guyana President David Granger (Photo courtesy of merrill.umd.edu)
Guyana President David Granger (Photo courtesy of merrill.umd.edu)

The president of Guyana, the only country in South America with a law that defines non-celibate homosexuals as criminals, last week said, in effect, that he considers that law to be a human rights violation.

“I am prepared to respect the rights of any adult to indulge in any practice which is not harmful to others” President David Granger told reporters.

Guyanese law calls for a life sentence for men convicted of engaging in same-sex intercourse, although that law is currently unenforced.

However, Granger has taken no steps to repeal the law, which a leader of Guyana’s LGBT organization, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), criticized yesterday.

Joel Simpson, managing director of SASOD (Photo courtesy of the Guyana News Network)
Joel Simpson, managing director of SASOD (Photo courtesy of the Guyana News Network)

Joel Simpson, managing director of SASOD, told the Guyana News Network that Granger’s words were a step in the right direction, but criticized Granger for not presenting the issue in a cabinet meeting or elsewhere.

The government needs to demonstrate political will and leadership on LGBT issues, he said.

“Repealing these archaic laws is the first step towards respect for human rights of LGBT Guyanese,” Simpson said.

“SASOD is very disappointed that a clear commitment of the coalition government has not at least been discussed for implementation in the now more than seven months since the administration has taken office. It would take very simple amendments to repeal the laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing – nothing complicated,” Simpson said.

Cross-dressing is prohibited by a Guyanan law that was challenged in court. The nation’s Supreme Court ruled the law invalid, except in cases when cross-dressing is done for undefined “improper purposes.”

Granger, who was raised an Anglican, previously said he will not allow “religious impositions” to dominate his administration’s positions on LGBT issues.

Granger is not alone in expressing opposition to the nation’s “buggery law.”

Last month, Guyana’s former health minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, called for Guyana and others in the Caribbean community to “demonstrate leadership” and repeal laws that “stigmatize, discriminate and criminalize” the LGBT community.

Ramsammy said in a statement, “If we are serious about achieving the goals and targets to end AIDS by 2030 in accordance with the global collective agreements, Guyana signed under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), then we in Guyana and in Caricom must demonstrate leadership,” he said.

Guyana’s 2015 elections saw the major parties promising not to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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