Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Cross-Dressing Appeal Case for Judgment in 2017

The case McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and SASOD versus Attorney General of Guyana was heard on Friday, November 18, 2016 before Guyana’s Court of Appeal. The hearing was presided over by Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh, Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Brassington Reynolds. Gulliver McEwan, the first-named appellant, other representatives of the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) were also present at the hearing.

The Chancellor noted that the Court had received extensive submissions from both the appellants and the state, which did not require rehashing orally. However, Dr Bulkan, counsel for the appellants, noted that there were two issues in the state’s submissions that were raised for the first time and to which he would like to respond. He was permitted to address these issues, but after doing so the Court indicated that these new submissions should be recorded in writing, and both parties were given four weeks to present their further written submissions to the court.

The Court questioned counsel for the appellants on their contention that the law was uncertain, asking whether it was not possible for a Magistrate to define the term ‘improper purposes’ on a case by case basis by reference to its dictionary meaning. Dr Bulkan responded that permitting this would offend the requirement of the rule of law, since penal statutes had to be defined with sufficient clarity to give citizens prospective notice of how to conduct themselves. He pointed out that even if a person was eventually acquitted by a Magistrate, the fact of being charged and subjected to the state’s coercive powers would have already resulted in violations of their fundamental rights. He added that the term ‘improper purpose’ had no boundaries whatever, and thus gave police unfettered discretion in enforcing the law.
University of the West Indies' Faculties of Laws Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) co-coordinator, Dr. Arif Bulkan, and Litigation Specialist, Westmin James, in discussion after the Court of Appeal hearing with Managing Director, Joel Simpson, and Advocacy and Communications Officer, Schemel Patrick.

In his response, Counsel for the state, Kamal Ramkarran, insisted that since the appellants had pleaded guilty before the Magistrate, they were barred from bringing this constitutional action. He added that the case was hypothetical and academic and should be thrown out. Mr Ramkarran further stated that in order to bring a constitutional claim a person had to allege a past, present or future breach of their rights, whereas the appellants provided no evidence that they were likely to be charged in the future. Ramkarran stated that there are far more serious crimes deserving of a constitutional challenge, “like the buggery law”. He pointed out that a conviction for cross-dressing is punishable by only $15,000, whereas a conviction for buggery carries life imprisonment. He concluded by saying that to charge the police would have to peep in someone's room to see them committing the act, at which point the court indicated that it was obliged to consider the case before it

This case was initially filed in February 2010, following the widely reported arrests and convictions of seven trans persons for the 1893 summary offence of ‘being a man’ and wearing ‘female’ attire in a public way or public place, for an improper purpose.’ Four of the convicted persons filed this action, along with SASOD, after approaching the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) for legal advice. Thereafter, with the assistance of U-RAP and local counsel, a constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law was filed.

Even since the case was filed in February 2010, transgender persons are overpoliced, underprotected and have suffered physically and mentally because of the vagueness of the cross-dressing law in Guyana. The McEwan case argues that the archaic cross-dressing law, found in section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1893, is inconsistent with the Constitution of Guyana. It also argues that the conduct of the Chief Magistrate, who told the individual appellants that they were confused about their sexuality and should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, was also not consistent with the Guyana Constitution.

The legal team for the appellants included Mr. Nigel Hughes, Dr. Arif Bulkan, and Mr. Gino Persaud.

The Court of Appeal is expected to set a date for judgement in early 2017 after both sides have presented their further written submissions.

Cross-Dressing Suit Set for Appeal Hearing Tomorrow Friday November 18

As the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) join the global observances of November as Trans Awareness Month, Guyana’s Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case McEwan and others versus Attorney General of Guyana tomorrow, Friday, November 18, 2016 at 9:00 hrs at the Court of Appeal, 60 High Street, Kingston.  The Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Hon. Justice Carl Singh, is expected to preside over the hearing with a panel of appellate judges.

The appeal was previously fixed for hearing on Wednesday July 13 at 9 am before Guyana’s Court of Appeal. Gulliver McEwan, the first-named appellant, and representatives of the GTU and SASOD were present in a completely full courtroom.  At this hearing, the appellants filed their skeleton arguments in accordance with the rules of the Court. The arguments of the State were yet to be filed. The Court of Appeal noted that the arguments filed by counsel for the appellants were extensive and that it wished some time to fully review them and to receive the arguments from the State.

The case was initially filed in February 2010, following the widely reported arrests and convictions of seven trans persons for the 1893 summary offence of ‘being a man’ and wearing ‘female’ attire in a public way or public place, for an improper purpose.’ Four of the convicted persons filed this action, along with SASOD, which approached the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP). Thereafter, with the assistance of U-RAP and local counsel, a constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law was filed.
The McEwan case argues that the archaic cross-dressing law, found in section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1893, is inconsistent with the Constitution of Guyana. It also argues that the conduct of the Chief Magistrate, who told the individual appellants that they were confused about their sexuality and should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, was also not consistent with the Guyana Constitution.
In September, 2013, then Chief Justice, Ian Chang, heard the case and ruled that cross-dressing per se is not a crime, unless done for an “improper purpose.” The parties appealed this ruling, in part because of the inherent uncertainty in the terminology employed in the statute. With that uncertainty, state officials have virtually unlimited discretion in applying the law.
The entire legal team includes Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick SC, Mr. Nigel Hughes, Dr. Arif Bulkan, and Mr. Gino Persaud.

Friday, October 21, 2016

SASOD presents “Butches & Barbies” Costume Ball this Saturday October 22!

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is hosting its highly anticipated “Butches & Barbies” Costume Ball this Saturday, October 22, at the Tower Suites Hotel on Main Street, Georgetown.

The party starts at 9 PM. Mix Master Tony is on board to keep persons energized by playing the best hits in all genres of music. Added attractions include signature cocktails and shots. Partygoers are urged to come out with their best ‘butch’ or ‘barbie’ costume in order to win special prizes.

Limited pre-sold tickets for the event cost $1000 and can be purchased from the Vintage Wine Bar & Lounge, Lamaha Street; Oasis Cafe, 125 Carmichael Street; Tower Suites Hotel, Main Street and SASOD’s Office, 169 Charlotte Street. Admission at the door is $1500.

All proceeds from this fundraising event go towards SASOD’s Community Shelter Fund to build an emergency shelter for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims of violence in Guyana. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SASOD and GEF Launch Public Policy Advocacy Programme for Civil Society Trainers

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) with the support from the European Union (EU) and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice on Wednesday, October 19 launched the final installment of a three-part training series as part of the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project. The three-day Civil Society Public Policy Advocacy Training of Trainers Programme takes place at the Moray House, at Camp and Quamina Streets, Georgetown, until Friday October 21.

Project and Training Overviews 
In a short opening, SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Ms. Schemel Patrick, shared a brief overview of the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project, stating that it was designed to contribute towards the equitable treatment of all peoples in Guyana by supporting efforts to strengthen the participation of vulnerable persons and their representative organisations in decision-making processes of the state.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

GEF Holds Second Annual Sunday Fun Day for International Day of Peace


    U.N. Resident Coordinator, and Director of Youth spoke of national importance to foster peace and development
The Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) on Sunday last commemorated International Day of Peace with their second annual “Peace Day Sunday Fun Day” in which five teams from various civil society and youth groups competed in eighteen activities, including novelty games and sports. 

International Day of Peace was celebrated under the theme “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace” which supports the GEF's mandate of human rights and equality for all Guyanese since gender equality, quality education, good health, reduced inequalities, peace and justice are all sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

Peace and Equality 

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the event, the new United Nations Resident Coordinator for Guyana, Ms. Mikiko Tanaka expressed that peace is created in synergy with all the SDGs. Numerous studies, she said, have pointed out that poverty, hunger, unemployment, competition over natural resources such as land and water are factors that contribute to conflict. “Education and wellbeing, including living in balance with our natural environment and mitigating risks from disasters, are important drivers to sustainable development and peace.” Speaking of equality, she said that “peace can only be appreciated if we are all equal, despite our gender, race, sexual orientation, spoken language, religion or which part of the country we are from.” 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Remarks by Abdel Fudadin at World Suicide Prevention Day Candlelight Vigil

Remarks by Abdel Fudadin 
SASOD-TCV “Voices Against Violence” Candlelight Vigil for World Suicide Prevention Day

We have all been programmed to respond to the human difference between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human difference as equals. As a result, those differences have been misused in the service of separation and confusion.

Prejudice, discrimination, social exclusion and mental ill-health are interconnected in more than one way. While people with mental illnesses may face discrimination due to stigma attached to mental health symptoms, discrimination on a variety of grounds can also be at the root of mental health issues.

Discrimination and exclusion have proven to negatively impact persons with mental health illnesses which then increase their risk of suicide ideation. On a social level, prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are reflected in everyday stereotypes compounded by very rigid social identity expectations, for example, limitations on job opportunities, parenting, and relationship recognition are often justified by stereotyping assumptions.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Remarks by Allie Schlafer at World Suicide Prevention Day Candlelight Vigil

Hello and good evening. First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Allie Schlafer and I am a current serving Peace Corps Response volunteer at both SASOD and Guyana Trans United, specializing in the field of mental health. For those who may not know, the Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government in efforts to address social and economic development worldwide.

As a volunteer, I will be working in collaboration with SASOD to strengthen and support the staff in addressing mental health concerns within the community. The comments and views I express tonight are in no way affiliated with Peace Corps but are my personal opinions based on experience working in community mental health and also individual experiences of losing dear friends who have taken their own life.

We are gathered here on World Suicide Prevention Day to address the difficult and painful subject of suicide, a reality which fractures the happiness of too many families, individuals, and communities across Guyana. The loss of a family member, friend, coworker or peer through suicide is a devastating experience. Those who remain after a suicide are often overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, hurt, and regret; they struggle to adapt or understand a life robbed of the presence of a loved one, often times grappling with the simple question – why?

Friday, August 26, 2016

SASOD to host "Sing De Ting: Karaoke & Lyme" Next Wednesday

Next Wednesday, August 31, 2016, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) will be hosting its first “Sing De Ting: Karaoke & Lyme” at the Dutch Bottle Cafe, located at 10 North Road, between Light and Cummings Streets, Bourda, in Georgetown.

The fun starts at 6 PM and admission is absolutely FREE. Karaoke fans are encouraged to come out for an entertaining and exhilarating evening filled with singing, networking and merriment. All genres of music will be available for singers to make their selections. Drinks and snacks will be on sale. Come enjoy the evening’s signature cocktails and shots by popular Guyanese mixologists. 


This exciting fundraising event will benefit SASOD’s LGBT Emergency Shelter Fund which aims to provide support and services to homeless LGBT youth and other victims of bias violence.