Representatives of Guyanas LGBTI advocacy group met recently with the nation’s Ministry of Social Protection and recommended that the government extend workplace discrimination protection to include sexual orientation, gender identity and health status.
Jairo Rodrigues, social change coordinator for the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), told Volda Lawrence, minister of social protection, that Guyana has a dilemma because same-sex intimacy between men is still criminalized under the laws of Guyana.
Although such acts are currently not prosecuted, the very fact that the laws exist inhibits LGBT people from seeking police protection when they face harassment, assault, intimate-partner violence, homophobic and transphobic violence because of fear of discrimination, re-victimization and threat of possible prosecution, Rodrigues said.
He recalled in June 2014 that the late Dr. Faith Harding, a child specialist and former government Minister stated that “If people are being abused and dying because of such [anti-buggery] laws and we are not doing anything about it, then we are all killing them, for every child that commits suicide because of rejection, we must all take the blame.”
Guyana is the only country in South America with an anti-gay law. Although the law is currently unenforced, it calls for a life sentence for men convicted of engaging in same-sex intercourse.
Lawrence advocated improved communication on such issues, which she said would be necessary before change could occur. SASOD reported:
The Minister stated that she is fully aware of her responsibility to bridge the gaps in society to foster better functioning services between the people and the government and in her mandate as Minister of Social Protection, whatever there is she can do to bridge these gaps she would like to do it; “We would like to see more collaboration, we need it if we are to make a change. We must work together.”
She discussed projects and initiatives by her Ministry that would see more cooperation with Civil Society Oraganisations such as SASOD to work with people and other Non-Government Organisations to foster better relationships, communication and advocacy for marginalized groups.
The president of Guyana, David Granger, has spoken out against the country’s anti-gay law, but has taken no steps to repeal it.
“I am prepared to respect the rights of any adult to indulge in any practice which is not harmful to others,” he said in January.
SASOD Managing Director Joel Simpson has criticized Granger for not presenting the issue in a cabinet meeting or elsewhere.
“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.
- Guyana president takes aim at his nation’s anti-gay law
- Nations push Guyana to repeal anti-LGBTI laws (July 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Progress + disputes: Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia (76crimes.com)
- Guyana suit seeks to end anti-transgender ‘dress code’ (76crimes.com)
- Laws in Guyana contribute to high HIV rates (76crimes.com)