No need for new laws to protect LGBT Community – Bar Association President

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 March 2016, 13:45 by Denis Chabrol

Chris Ram

President of the Guyana Bar Association, Chris Ram.

President of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) Christopher Ram says that Guyana’s Constitution provides protection for persons within the Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Community hence there is no immediate need for reforms.

A number of gay rights activists and organisations have for several years been clamouring for Guyana’s constitution and the anti-discrimination law to be amended to guarantee the rights of persons based on their sexual orientation.

Ram made statement as Guyana Trans United observed International Day for Transgender persons with a panel discussion on the issue.

The GBA President noted that  fundamental human rights have been incorporated into domestic law because Guyana has signed International Conventions that provide protection for such individuals; however those laws now to be enforced and implemented.

“There is no need for any special package of rights to protect LGBT people. They are covered by the normal human rights international treaties,” Ram said echoing statements by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

“There is no need for new laws,” Ram emphasized stating that it is time that Guyana’s judiciary recognizes the responsibility that it owes to the Guyanese public.

“What we need is for places like the courts to recognize that they in fact should enforce and protect those rights rather than raise questions and doubts about whether the rights exist,” said the GBA President.

He said that it is time for Guyana, as a society, to move forward with an open mind of acceptance because “if we stay in this backward state and reducing and denying rights for every people then where does it end.”

Speaking specifically on a topical matter whereby a cross dresser was blocked from entering a courtroom, Ram said that the matter should be taken up with the judiciary.

At the forum, Guyana Trans United (GTU) Director Quincy “Gulliver” Mc Ewan said that the trans community is heightening awareness on the issues facing the community by using minibuses as a form of transport rather than using private transportation as they usually would.

A High Court ruling on cross-dressing, which is being perceived as somewhat vague, is currently before the Guyana Court of Appeal. That case has stemmed from the arrest and prosecution of several gays in 2009 because they had been clad in female attire.

Then Chief Justice  Ian Chang had subsequently ruled in September, 2013 that cross-dressing was not illegal once it was not used for an improper purpose. Organisations like GTU and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) have pondered what is the definition of improper purpose and have sought clarity on the Chang ruling from the Guyana Court of Appeal in October, 2013.

Cross-dressing is an offence, based on colonial-era laws that Guyana inherited from Britain at the time of independence in 1966.