Thursday, January 28, 2016

LGBT people among most vulnerable, susceptible to suicide and depression



The fifth instalment of ‘Lunch Talk’ was held on Thursday, January 14 at the APC Office. Lunch Talk is facilitated by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with Advancing Partners and Communities (APC). This month's Lunch Talk focused on Mental Health Challenges affecting LGBT Guyanese. 
 
The panel included: Lisa Punch, President of the Prevention of Teenage Suicide (POTS) Organisation and Miss Guyana World; Caitlin Vieira, Psychologist and Addiction Specialist,Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation and Abdel Fudadin, Mental Health Researcher, CUSO International. Moderator: John Quelch, Project Coordinator, SASOD.
 Persons who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender (LGBT) are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual persons, global research shows – this was pointed out by Cuso International’s Mental Health Researcher, Abdel Fudadin on Thursday last,  at a forum on Mental Health Challenges facing LGBT Guyanese.
The discussion forum, facilitated by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with USAID’s Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project, sought to evaluate with various civil society organisations (CSOs) ways and means the Guyanese society can aid vulnerable communities such as LGBT persons from falling into mental despair and how support can be offered to them.
LGBT persons are often marginalised from society, discriminated against and shunned from accessing health, social and security services; this adding to some already possessing underlying issues such as social anxiety, battling with conservative and religious views and even stemming from impoverished neighbourhoods only weaken their mental health. Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety can develop along with post-traumatic stress which only makes the person more susceptible to substance abuse, risky behaviour, and suicide.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

SASOD calls on President to put words into action

 
On December 31, 2015 President Granger expressed his support for freedom of choice by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons in Guyana during his weekly media briefing, “The Public Interest”. The President stated that he is prepared to respect the rights of any adult to indulge in any practice, which is not harmful to others. President David Granger was further reported to have said, “I would like to feel that there should be some element, first, of respecting the human rights of individuals, and second, at the Governmental level, free choice; that persons should be able to express their views freely without necessarily sticking to a party line.”

SASOD can only describe the comments made by President Granger as a progressive step in the right directions towards respect for human rights and equality for all, however while noting that the issue has not been discussed at the level of Cabinet, President Granger maintained that human rights are paramount, over party opinions. 

Presently, Guyana is the only country in South America where homosexual acts are still illegal. Under the laws of Guyana, same-sex intimacy between men carries a possible punishment of life imprisonment.

SASOD commends the President’s stance, but needless to say the organisation looks forward to further engagement and legislative amendments which action his position. 

At a media engagement held at SASOD’s Charlotte Street office last Monday, January 11, the organisation issued the following statement: 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Single applicants, homosexuals are eligible to adopt, be foster parents, guardians – CPA Director Anne Green

Ann Greene presenting at the Workshop
The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) with the support of the USASID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) - Guyana Project held a Children’s Rights Workshop last Friday commemorating International Human Rights Day 2015 which was held under the theme, “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” This workshop, which was attended by representatives of nearly thirty Civil Society Organisations focused on the rights and issues affecting orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in Guyana.
During her presentation on childcare services offered by the state at a Children’s Rights Workshop hosted by SASOD with support from USAID’s Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project last Friday, Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) Ann Green announced that there are no laws barring homosexuals from adopting or being foster parents, the agency does not discriminate and under her direction she encourages anyone to apply for the care and protection of vulnerable and neglected children. “There is nothing in the law barring gay people from adopting or applying to be foster parents, the Childcare and Protection Agency does not discriminate and under my direction the agency is more than willing to try it.”
Traditionally it has been heterosexual couples that are selected to be foster parents or adopt children but the agency has recently began exploring other options in its quest to find more comfortable and secured homes for OVC. She encourages more citizens to apply to be foster parents and/or adopt. Green disclosed that the CPA recently tried a single male; he was screened, selected and approved to be a parent, this however was challenged by the child’s biological parents who argued against the adoption – the agency won the case on the grounds that the single man has met the state’s requirements and the selection was in the best interest of the child’s welfare.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

UNICEF Gears at Partnering with Guyana Government and People for AIDS-Free Generation

Marianne Flach (Photo credit: Theresa Campbell, APC)
The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) with the support of the USASID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) - Guyana Project held a Children’s Rights Workshop last Friday commemorating International Human Rights Day 2015 which was held under the theme, “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” This workshop, which was attended by representatives of nearly thirty Civil Society Organisations focused on the rights and issues affecting orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in Guyana.
Noting that stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV has decreased in Guyana, UNICEF’s Resident  Representative to Guyana and Suriname, Marianne Flach noted that her organisation will continuously support the Government and People of Guyana in their efforts to combat the virus that has threatened and taken the lives of millions globally. “Love, respect and dignity are essential to achieving an AIDS free generation, unfortunately for many people living with HIV, stigma and discrimination persist despite global efforts to reduce the burden for those affected by this disease. In many instances, children are usually the ones who are disproportionately affected.”
Addressing a gathering of thirty Civil Society Organisations at a Children’s Rights Workshop hosted by SASOD in collaboration with the USAID’s Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project at the APC’s Georgetown office Friday last, Flach focused her speech on the vulnerability of women and children. Sensitive, child-friendly services she said are needed to protect treat and respond to children affected by HIV, this she opined is absolutely critical.
Twenty-five children globally still acquire HIV every hour despite the majority of pregnant women in low and middle income countries living with the virus are receiving treatment to remain healthy and to avoid transmitting HIV to their babies – this prevents 1.3 million new infections among children since the millennium year. UNICEF, she said is actively supporting the Ministry of Public Health to reduce and prevent mother-to-child transmission. Current and future projects she revealed are the integration of HIV education and care into maternal, new-born, child and adolescent health services; support of male partner involvement, and case tracking management systems, and ensuring that all babies, children, and their mothers are able to access healthcare and information, particularly  life-saving HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
Guyana is in the validation process towards eliminating mother-to-child transmission of the HIV. Flach also noted that the Caribbean region may be the first region to eliminate this form of transmission and this is a promising development and exciting achievement to look forward to.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

SASOD held Children’s Rights Workshop to Mark Human Rights Day

Participants at Workshop  (Photo credit: Theresa Campbell (APC)


The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) with the support of the USASID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) - Guyana Project held a Children’s Rights Workshop last Friday commemorating International Human Rights Day 2015 which was held under the theme, “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” This workshop, which was attended by representatives of nearly thirty Civil Society Organisations focused on the rights and issues affecting orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) in Guyana.
Chief-of-Party of the APC Project, Folami Harris, expressed that “we have an obligation, a moral sense to protect and respect the rights of our children but there are not a lot of caregivers and programmes in Guyana to assist vulnerable children in communities,” in her opening remarks. “How we respond to children is very important but unfortunately we do not have enough people dealing with children specifically,” she related to the gathering of nurses, social workers, caregivers, counsellors and peer educators in attendance. “We as caregivers don’t always do it, teachers don’t always to the extent it needs to be done and this needs to change. We are in a very unique position. Very few of us have the capacity to offer formal dispute resolution and support.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SASOD, APC Push Dialogue, Law Reform, on Intimate Partner Violence in LGBT Relationships

Panel and Moderator  (Photo credit: Nekete Forde, GYNC)
On Monday, November 30, 2015, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the USAID – Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Guyana Project hosted the third in its series of monthly Lunch Talks at the APC office in Oleander Avenue, Bel Air Park, Georgetown. The session was held as part of SASOD’s observances of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), which kicked off on November 25 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – and runs until December 10 – Human Rights Day. SASOD is holding daily activities, both on its social media sites and in-person events.
The “Lunch Talk” had a special focus on “Barriers Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People Face in Accessing Services for Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)”. The event featured a panel which consisted of Attorney-at-Law Ayana McCalman, who is Assistant Secretary on the Board of Directors of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA), Vanda Radzik, renowned human rights activist and Commissioner on the Women and Gender Equality Commission (WGEC), and Joel Simpson, SASOD’s Managing Director. The discussion was moderated by SASOD’s Social Change Coordinator, Chelauna Providence.

Monday, December 21, 2015

SASOD Makes Submission to the National Dialogue on HIV and the Law

Marking World AIDS Day 2015, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) has made a robust submission to the National Dialogue on HIV and the Law, slated to begin on December 9 and culminate on December 10, Human Rights Day. SASOD’s submission focuses on the first-listed thematic area of the call for submissions: “sexual orientation and gender identity.” In the submission, SASOD reiterates calls for the repeal of archaic laws which criminalize same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing – a position which the organization has been advocating at local, national and international levels for over 12 years. These and other issues related to human rights and key populations affected by HIV will form part of the two-day national conference being spearheaded by a 10-member advisory committee of government ministries and civil society organisations in equal ratio, with technical and financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).