Guyana: More talk of change, but no action

Guyana's location in South America

Guyana’s location in South America

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.

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)

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.


3 thoughts on “Guyana: More talk of change, but no action

  1. It is interesting to see that The Guyana Government is still pussyfooting around the Issue/s of The Fundamental Human Rights of Members of Its Society. This not only includes The Rights of the LGBT Community, but, also The Rights of Those Homeless Persons who I see everyday on the Streets of Georgetown. I have been here for the past three months. I am appalled at the lack of enforcement when it comes to the traffic. One is almost afraid to walk on the streets. The cars are speeding out of their lanes and drivers are discourteous to pedestrians. I also hate how the mini buses play their music at a loud rate. Is this music being played to entertain the passengers as well as the public? I notice too, that minibus drivers and conductors are disrespectful to the elderly. As more Guyanese and other Foreigners arrive to Celebrate The Country’s 50th Independence, I hope that more positive measures will be taken to correct these problems which are ongoing.



    • Exactly, the government and police shouldn’t be spending time criminalizing homosexuality when they have so many problems with child sexual abuse, child labour, electricity, drinking water, etc etc


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