Americas

Guyana plans referendum on its anti-gay law

Guyana, the only country in South American with anti-LGBT laws, plans to put the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality to the voters.

Guyana's location in South America

Guyana’s location in South America

In general, LGBT rights activists discourage such moves, because human rights should be guaranteed by law, not dependent on a referendum of often ill-informed and homophobic voters.

Guyana has an unenforced law that calls for life imprisonment for homosexual acts and another that bans cross-dressing.

In recent years, several Guyanese leaders have expressed willingness to repeal those laws, but have taken no action to do so.

News Source Guyana reported on April 19:

Decriminalization of homosexuality to go to Referendum -Govt. tells Human Rights Commission

Guyana protest march on Jan. 11 seeks justice for increasing numbers of murdered LGBT people. (Photo courtesy of Starbroek News)

Guyana protest march in January 2014 seeks justice for increasing numbers of murdered LGBT people. (Photo courtesy of Starbroek News)

Laws which criminalize homosexuality could soon be struck down, if Guyanese decide to vote against them through a referendum which the Government intends to hold in the future.

The Government articulated its position in a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) ….

In the letter seen by News Source, the government said that while there may be mixed views on the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality, much more has to be done regarding a collective and consensual approach and the implementation to fulfill such rights.

The government explained to the Commission that the issue of repeal was brought to the attention of the Legislative arm of Government on several occasions and it was deemed unfit for the legislature to decide on the matter.

As such, a recommendation was made for the matter be taken to a vote, where the people of Guyana will decide by a referendum on these matters. The government did not indicate when this was likely to happen.

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

Guyana President David Granger has spoken about repealing the country’s anti-gay law, but has not taken action on the issue. (Photo courtesy of merrill.umd.edu)

The Commission was also informed of the position of President David Granger, who has signaled his support for the reformation of the laws with respect to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community.

“With this Executive support, efforts will be made to advance the cause and strengthen the implementation, enforcement and the system of the protection of every Guyanese citizen, including the LGBTI community” the government stated in its letter.

The executive added too, that as it relates to conducting business transactions, it is expected that all existing statures, especially, the Criminal offences Act (Subsections 352-355), be reversed.

In relation to gender equality, the government said that this is an essential basic human right and it remains committed to eliminating gender bias and gender-based violence in every form.

Further, the executive weighed in on access to employment, noting that “no person should be discriminated against on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation” since everyone has a right to work, pension and gratuity.

“The Government of Guyana has one position on the cross-cutting principles of discrimination towards members of the LGBTI community. Whereas, we believe ‘the principle of universality admits no exception. Human rights truly are the birthrights of all human beings.’ As such, we are committed to implementing the rule of law” the government told the human rights commission.

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