Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 August 2021, 8:42 by Denis Chabrol
A gay rights organisation, Equal Guyana, has “condemned” at least two opposition parliamentarians for remarks they made during parliamentary debate on the removal of the cross-dressing offence from Guyana’s law books in line with a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) decision almost three years ago.
“These remarks, in the opinion of mental health and human rights professionals at EQUAL Guyana, were inherently discriminatory, misinformed, intolerant, and collectively abhorrent to any forward thinking, learned Guyanese,” the organisation said in a statement.
Equal Guyana singled out A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) parliamentarians Annette Ferguson and Richard Sinclair, saying that they failed to consider Guyana’s religious diversity. The organisation said the comments could impact on the well-being of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community in Guyana.
“Undeniably, there is no place for the perpetuation of such ruthless discrimination in a democratic, developing state, governed by overarching principles of inclusivity and unity. Such blatant derogatory statements have no place in our society and are out rightly condemned by EQUAL Guyana,” said Equal Guyana which recently obtained support from Canada.
That organisation, however, credited AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira and Attorney General Anil Nandlall for their progressive thinking in advocating and supporting the removal of cross-dressing as an offence from the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act.
The CCJ in November 2018 ruled in favour of three men, who had been locked up and charged with cross-dressing, and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) that the cross-dressing law was a violation of Guyana’s Constitution and stated by order that it was removed from the lawbooks.
“Fortunately, progressive-thinking minds understand that the laws which govern Guyana protect all persons from discrimination, but whilst some archaic colonial laws still have not been adequately reviewed, Guyanese of all backgrounds are entitled to life live authentically and free from fear of stigma, discrimination, and violence. These same principles apply to every cross-section of the Guyanese population regardless of race, religion, sex, gender (expression and identity), socio-economic background, or any other human characteristic,” Equal Guyana said in welcoming the amendment to the law.
EQUAL Guyana said it trusts that the Government of Guyana will continue to recognize the rights of Guyanese and make every effort to emancipate Guyana from archaic laws which have oppressed Guyanese of all backgrounds for generations. “As Guyana shifts its focus to rapid development and economic diversification, the Guyanese culture of unity, peace, compassion, and democracy still resonates, and our motto remains “One People, One Nation, One Destiny”,” the organisation said.