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Opposition should use gay rights as vote-getter- political analyst

Director of CADRES, Peter Wickham delivering the findings of a research on Attitudes Towards Homosexuals in Guyana.

A Caribbean political analyst and pollster believes that Guyanese political parties should win over homosexual voters, though he does not believe that category can definitively decide the outcome of an election.

Head of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), Peter Wickham says the opposition Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR)/ A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) should persuade its somewhat homophobic support base to be more open-minded to homosexuals to win votes from the governing Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC).

“If APNU or whatever the alternative colour is were to become more progressive on gay issues, it may very well present an opportunity for persons who are associated with the PPP Civic to defect,” Wickham told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

He does not believe that the PNCR will lose votes if takes a pro-homosexual stance because its supporters have been historically dedicated to that party even in the worst of times. “I don’t know it is a vote-loser but I think it could be a vote-gainer and I think in a narrow election race I would think that it is unwise not to explore that option,” he said.

In the 2011 general election, the PPPC secured 166,340 votes (32 seats), APNU 139,678 votes (26 seats) and the Alliance For Change (AFC) 35,333 votes (seven seats).  

Back in 2006, the PPP won 183,867 votes (36 seats), PNCR – now the major partner in the APNU- 114,608 votes (22 seats), and the AFC 28,366 votes (five seats).

“You are in a very tight election race. If the position on gay issues can help to gain voters, I would think that it is something that a political party would want to do because I think you need to look at every single opportunity to gain voters and I do believe that it is a plank on which voters can be gained,” he said. At the same time, the analyst is unsure whether there are sufficient persons who believe that the gay rights issue is significant enough to change the tide of every election.

Asked whether being pro-homosexual could scare away hard-line religious persons, Wickham said he was not worried because that group was in the minority and they were known to identify battles on issues such as common-law marriage, abortion and gambling to continue to make them relevant.

“I think we have to understand that they are in a minority in Guyana. I think the poll more than anything said that as virulent as the views of hard-line religious people are, they are a minority of people in this country,” he said.

A recent CADRES survey on Attitudes Towards Homosexuals in Guyana, which was funded by a research grant from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), shows that  active-Evangelical Christians, Afro Guyanese and those who have been “less-well” educated tended to be more homophobic.

Figures show that 26 percent of active Evangelical Christians hate homosexuals, 47 percent tolerate it and 14 percent accept it, while 17 percent non Evangelical Christians hate homosexuals, 51 percent tolerate it and 13 percent accept it. For active Muslims, 24 percent hate homosexuals, 34 percent hate it and 16 percent tolerate it, and 26 percent of Hindus hate homosexuals, 42 percent tolerate it and 18 percent accept it.

“One general observation of interest relates to the impact of the “active” pursuit of a religious orientation since it can be seen that active evangelical Christians are more inclined to be homophobic and less inclined to be accepting or tolerant, while active non-evangelical Christians are significantly more inclined to be tolerant, and also significantly less inclined to be homophobic and accepting.

The differences within the Muslim and Hindu groups are less dramatic and it can generally be argued that “active” Evangelical Christians in Guyana appear to be the most homophobic, while “passive” non-Evangelical Christians are the most accepting,” states the study.

US President Barack Obama successfully used the gay rights platform, considered a ‘wedge issue’ across political parties, to win a second term in office.

A Fundamental Rights provision of Guyana’s constitution that had included the protection of persons from discrimination despite their sexual orientation had not been signed into law by then President Bharrat Jagdeo after stiff objection by the religious community.