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Rights groups call for end to discrimination against LBT women

There is a call from rights groups for action against discrimination meted out to Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) women in the workplace and other settings within the society.

Red Thread, Stella’s Sisterhood for Service and Support (S4) Foundation, Guyana Rainbow Foundation (GuyBow) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Thursday teamed up to discuss several issues faced by women, sexual and gender minorities in Guyana.

Programme Coordinator of S4 Foundation Imarah Radix in outlining the discrimination and harassment faced by LBT women in the workplace, called for repeal of the laws which criminalise consensual same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing.

She also called for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories against discrimination in the realm of employment, training and recruitment under the Prevention of Discrimination Act, Chapter 99:09, a release from the organisations stated.

Attorney-at- Law Sadie Amin of the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers, presented on “Gender, Sexuality and the Law.”

She stated, “There are laws which protect women, but implementation is sorely lacking.” Speaking about possible protections for lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women she added that, “our laws do not offer any specific protection,” the release added.

GuyBow’s Executive Director Colleen McEwan stated that police harassment of transgender women was “real and triple jeopardy.”

She discussed the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee’s most recent review on Guyana in July 2012. She reiterated that the CEDAW Committee in its concluding observations urged Guyana “to provide effective protection against violence and discrimination against all groups of women through the enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against them and the decriminalization of consensual adult same sex relations.”

Meanwhile, Red Thread’s Karen De Souza was reported as saying that the “these discriminatory laws are not harmless as they legitimize the harassment and discrimination meted out to LBT women.”

“Access to justice particularly in the cases of sexual harassment and rape are non-existent.” De Souza, also reiterated calls for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act.

“Yes we have fancy laws, but you try to use them. To protect people who are poor, voiceless who have no influence.” She noted that “the barbaric practice” called the confrontation was still being done by the police even though the 2010 Sexual Offences Act specifically stated it must not be done.

SASOD’s Zenita Nicholson, who moderated the forum, challenged everyone in her closing remarks to play their part in ensuring that they build a Guyanese society where all women are empowered and have equal opportunities to their male counterparts.

“Every Guyanese is entitled to the rights and freedoms outlined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and should be protected from discrimination, regardless of our differences,” she concluded.

Thursday’s public forum on “Gender Equality and Sexual Rights in Guyana” was held at the Moray House Trust in Georgetown.