Wednesday, February 05, 2020

The LGBTQ+ Manifesto for the 2020 General and Regional Elections

Constitutional and Law Reform

1. Include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories in the non-discrimination provision of the Guyana Constitution (Article 149) by 2025.

2. Repeal sections 351 to 353 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act Chapter 8:01, which criminalize same-sex intimacy between consenting, adult men in private, by the end of 2020.

3. Include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Prevention of Discrimination Act (Section 4) by the end of 2020.

Guyana is party to international treaties that require the protection of basic human rights for everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer (LGBTQ+) people. Guyana’s next government must engage in law reform efforts to bring Guyana’s laws and policies into compliance with its international obligations, and to ensure that the rights of every citizen are fully realized.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

4. Fully implement and apply existing laws regarding sexual and gender-based violence, ensuring there are adequate resources to provide services to all victims, including LGBTQ+ persons.

5. Ensure all police, probation officers, social workers, and child protection officers have been trained on gender, sexual diversity and human rights, so they are fully equipped to respond to instances of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as hate-motivated crimes.

Sexual and gender-based violence is a silent epidemic affecting LGBTQ+ Guyanese. Although the Domestic Violence Act is gender-neutral, persons in LGBTQ+ relationships are unlikely to seek out health, protective and judicial services provided by the state because of ignorance and insensitivities towards LGBTQ+ issues, and high levels of discrimination. There are also several reported cases of LGBTQ+ persons being attacked, verbally and physically, because of their gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Transgender people are particularly targeted and most vulnerable because of their visibility.

6. Tackle bullying of LGBTQ+ youth. Teachers should be trained from the level of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) on the issues students face and how to effectively address them.

7. Ensure that LGBTQ+ persons feel safe, supported and included in the education system across all settings in Guyana. Education, particularly educational institutions, are consistently rated by LBGTQ+ youth, as the place they experience the most discrimination in Guyana.

8. Introduce Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in all schools across Guyana to provide young people with the tools they need to make more informed decisions to either delay their sexual debut or prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, if they choose to be sexually active. CSE would also inform students about diverse sexualities and genders, and reduce targeted bullying of LGBTQ+ students in schools and other educational settings.

9. The Ministry of Education must provide remedial and second-chance education programmes for disadvantaged youth, including LGBTQ+ persons, who have not completed secondary education.
Public Health

10. The Ministry of Public Health must make pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available in the public healthcare system in all 10 regions of Guyana for persons who are at “substantial risk” of contracting HIV, based on the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, by January 2021.

11. Allow persons who have been exposed to HIV to access post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), regardless of the circumstances of that exposure, by the end of 2020.

12. Support organizations led by key populations to provide targeted and specialized health services for their communities who fear and experience stigma and discrimination in public healthcare.

13. Provide quality, accessible and stigma-free mental health services for vulnerable groups, especially LGBTQ+ people who face greater burdens due to homophobia(s), to prevent suicide and achieve the highest attainable standard of health for all persons in Guyana.
Social Protection

14. The Government of Guyana must provide comprehensive and accessible entrepreneurial training programmes for vulnerable groups, including LGBTQ+ people, and make capital accessible to start up small businesses through grants and low-interest lending schemes.

15. The Government of Guyana must provide access to housing for LGBTQ+ people, especially children, who have been temporarily displaced or rendered homeless due to violence.

Monday, December 02, 2019

HIV Prevention Pill Launched Through Private Sector – Civil Society Partnership

As World AIDS Day 2019 is observed under the theme “Communities Make the Difference,” a new private clinic and a 16-year old local NGO have teamed up to make HIV prevention medication more available. Today, Midway Speciality Care Centre Guyana (MSCCG) and Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) signed a Memorandum of Understanding at a media launch of the clinical services to formalize their partnership in preventing new HIV infections in Guyana.

Midway Speciality Care Centre Guyana (MSCCG) is a not-for-profit clinic that is established to provide non-communicable and infectious disease care. Dr Moti Ramgopal MD, FACP, FIDSA, founded Midway Speciality Care Centre, which treats 6,000 patients in eight clinics in the United States of America. These clinics have provided a wide range of speciality and primary care services for patients. SASOD Guyana is a well-known human rights organization that has been at the forefront of the HIV response in Guyana.
SASOD Guyana has been a long-time advocate for the introduction of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Services (PrEP) for all persons who are at risk. Midway Speciality Care Centres have acquired tremendous expertise in providing Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in the United States. After a series of intense deliberations between MSCCG and SASOD Guyana,  have agreed to introduce PrEP and non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (nPEP) services at a weekday, full-service clinic located at 100 Carmichael Street (opposite Woodlands Hospital) and a satellite community clinic every Saturday at the SASOD Guyana office at 203 Duncan Street in Lamaha Gardens. The two agencies are convinced that with the introduction of these services that it would prevent those that are “substantial risk” from acquiring the HIV infection.

MSCCG and SASOD Guyana are providing PrEP and nPEP as part of combination prevention which includes condoms and lubes, STI screening and management, HIV testing and counselling, risk reduction management and harm reduction. The partners are also providing comprehensive support, consisting of adherence counselling, mental and emotional support, and sexual and reproductive health services. These services will be available to the from next week Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm,  starting on December 9. SASOD Guyana’s  Saturday clinic will commence on January 4, 2020. To make an appointment, interested persons can contact MSCCG by phone on 502-1951 or by email at SASOD Guyana can also be contacted by phone on 225-7283, 623-5155 or by email at MSCCG’s Medical Doctor, Dr. Ruth Ramos, and SASOD Guyana’s Managing Director signed the  Memorandum of Understanding in the presence of the media with MSCCG’s Nurse Lois Barrow witnessing the inking of the private sector – civil society agreement. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Laws against bullying needed to protect LGBTQ+ youth - CPA Head, Ann Greene

At a reception on Thursday, October 17, 2019, at the British High Commissioner’s residence, Director of Children’s Services and Head of the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), Ms Ann Greene delivered feature remarks, highlighted that for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other (LGBTQ+) youth, there must be laws against bullying to curb the quiet epidemic. The third, annual event was hosted by Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) and the British High Commission in Guyana to mark Spirit Day – an annual day to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying in schools observed on the third Thursday of October. 
In attendance were the co-hosts, British High Commissioner Greg Quinn and Mrs Wendy Quinn, other representatives of the diplomatic corps, civil society representatives, youth advocates, and private sector officials. The reception featured a short programme which also included remarks from the British High Commissioner, along with musical renditions and the recitation of the Spirit Day Pledge.
CPA Director, Ms Ann Greene delivering the feature remarks
In her feature remarks, Greene stated that LGBTQ+ people in Guyana are oppressed and marginalized because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and suffer discrimination in accessing their civil rights. She lamented that LGBTQ+ persons need what every other person needs, regardless of their human characteristics. “It is love and acceptance. Every human being born into this world has a right to be here, being placed here by the Superior being of the Universe with their own purpose,” Greene said.
Greene emphasized that Spirit Day – is a day to stand up and give support to persons who suffer infringement of their human rights.  The CPA head pledged to use her role “to contribute towards bringing about the needed social change – the right to social inclusion for all persons. All groups of people must be respected for who they are, with prejudice,” she empathized.
In addition to laws against bullying, the Child-Services Director called for specific interventions to address the unique challenges facing LGBTQ+ youth in Guyana. Greene said these include targeted social programmes; safe schools, care centres, neighbourhoods, and housing; safe access to recreational facilities and activities; access to adequate health services and supportive workplace policies. She closed her remarks with an inspiring quote that “the beauty of standing up for your rights is so that others can see you standing and stand up as well."

H.E Greg Quinn, British High Commissioner delivering short remarks at the Spirit Reception

H.E Greg Quinn in his brief remarks reiterated that “LGBTQ+ persons are not asking for special rights; they are seeking to be afforded the same rights as any other Guyanese citizen.” The High Commissioner further called for persons to promote diversity and tolerance for LGBTQ+ persons.

In closing SASOD Guyana’s Homophobia(s) Education Coordinator, Valini Leitch commented that taking a stand against LGBTQ+ bullying is not a one-day affair, but requires collective daily action.

 SASOD Guyana's Homophobia(s) Education Coordinator, Valini Leitch giving the Vote of Thanks

Monday, July 29, 2019

The LGBTTTI Coalition Celebrates the Culmination of Another Successful OAS General Assembly in spite of the Attempt of the Host Government to Close Spaces to the Civil Society

Medellin, Colombia
July 2019


The Coalition of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans, Transsexuals, Travestis and Intersex (LGBTTTI) of Latin America and the Caribbean that work within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS) was present at the 49th regular session of the General Assembly, which took place in Medellín, Colombia, on June 27-28, 2019. As in previous years, we also participated in the Dialogue with Heads of Delegation and the OAS Secretary General, among other actors, through two coalitions, one coalition of LGBTI people and another - established for the first time this year - of sex workers.

As a Coalition, we welcome the important advances in the field of human rights, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics in this General Assembly, including the adoption of the 11th resolution on the human rights of LGBTI people - with a more inclusive language than in previous years-, the re-election of Commissioners Arosemena and Macaulay and the election of Julissa Mantilla, despite the attempts of anti-rights groups to delegitimize their candidacies. Likewise, we reject the attempt to close spaces to civil society, led by the Colombian government in the context of the OAS General Assembly and call on the OAS to avoid these situations in the future.


We emphasize that, despite considerable progress in terms of policies, laws and judicial recognition in most countries of the Americas, there are many challenges that restrict the full enjoyment and exercise of our rights. We continue to see high levels of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people, or those perceived as such, in the Americas. In this regard, we express our concern about crimes based on prejudice because of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, without the State maintaining official records on such crimes, which makes prevention and investigation difficult. In particular, the Coalition categorically condemns the wave of murders and violence directed at LGBT people in recent weeks in Honduras, and encourages the authorities to take all effective measures to respect and guarantee the life and personal security of LGBT people and their human rights defenders.

Likewise, there are still state laws, policies and practices that directly criminalize us, violating our human rights. However, in 2016 and 2018 we noticed considerable progress in terms of discrimination based on the law in the English-speaking Caribbean. In addition to the recent decriminalization of consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean Court of Justice issued a ruling at the end of 2018 in McEwan and others, ruling that the criminal provision prohibiting the use of garments associated with another gender in Guyana was unconstitutional. Likewise, there have been important advances in Latin American countries, among which we highlight the following: the adoption of the Integral Gender Identity Law (Ley Integral Trans) in Uruguay; the Gender Identity Law in Chile; the implementation of the trans labor quota in several Argentinean cities; the approval of same-sex marriage. as well as the judicial recognition of co-maternity in the Satya case and the recognition of the right to identity of a trans girl in Ecuador; and the adoption of the LGBT National Public Policy and the inclusion of a gender perspective in the Peace Agreement in Colombia, among others.

Regarding autonomous sex work, although it is not explicitly prohibited in most countries in the Americas, there are regulations and laws that criminalize the different acts related to sex work. This, coupled with the absence of clear regulations that recognize sex work as work, creates the conditions that foster institutional violence -including sexual and physical violence, extortion and illegal detentions- and reinforce obstacles that prevent sex workers access to basic health and justice services. We note with concern that, although the IACHR held a first hearing on human rights violations of female sex workers in March 2017, the Commission has not granted further hearings on this subject, despite numerous requests in this regard.

We also see with great concern the emergence of bills or laws that seek to criminalize transmission, non-disclosure and exposure to HIV, or the misuse of criminal law to criminalize people living with HIV. We commend the Constitutional Court of Colombia for its June 5, 2019 judgement which declared unconstitutional the criminal provision that imposed imprisonment to a person living with HIV or Hepatitis B who engaged in activities that could infect another person.


During the Dialogue we saw a growing number of allies who incorporated in their declarations a message of equality for all people and of acceptance towards sexual and gender diversity, including a recently established Coalition of Sex Workers. This Coalition is made up of organizations associated with the Network of Sex Workers of Latin America and the Caribbean (Red de Trabajadoras Sexuales de América Latina y el Caribe - RedTraSex), which are members of our LGBTTTI Coalition since 2018.

We continue to see that conservative and anti-rights groups promote messages that violate human dignity and attempt to undermine the human rights of LGBTI people in the Americas. Many of these messages include a narrative that ignores the legitimacy of the organs of the Inter-American Human Rights System to monitor the compliance of States with the most basic international human rights obligations, which are not up for debate, such as the obligation to guarantee rights. equality and non-discrimination.

This year, in the context of the Dialogue we noticed how some of the anti-rights coalitions misrepresented concepts such as corruption to openly attack members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), using precepts such as “gender ideology.” In this regard, we emphasize that experts and international human rights organizations have criticized the use of this term, void of real content, which only seeks to attack any progress in favor of equality and non-discrimination, particularly in relation to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics.

Finally, the Coalition emphasizes that space of civil society is increasingly being restricted. With the high number of coalitions this year (33), each coalition had only three minutes to make its statement. In this regard, we urge the OAS to extend the time allotted for the Dialogue, so that each Coalition has a minimum of five minutes to make its statement, regardless of the number of coalitions.


The OAS General Assembly was held at the Medellín Convention Center. Although the Dialogue with Heads of State and the Secretary General was held in one of its largest rooms, the day before the General Assembly; the actual General Assembly took place in a smaller section of the Convention Center where there was reduced capacity. This led to limiting the number of participants that could enter the room, affecting all civil society organizations, both anti-rights groups and groups that defend the human rights of all people, without discrimination. Thus, only one representative from each of the civil society Coalitions was allowed access to the room where the General Commission was held and no substitutions were accepted.

Further, the first day of the General Assembly, the entry of civil society members to the Plenary was
severely restricted, although it was evident that there was enough space in the room to place more chairs and allow access to all attendees. Due to this, at the end of the first day, some civil society organizations directly complained to the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General, but the situation worsened when the General Secretariat sent a statement that night indicating that only three representatives of each Coalition could have access to the premises of the General Assembly, which meant that only 99 people would be allowed access. There was also a tacit agreement that the first 300 people who arrived at the Convention Center would enter. This meant that on the second day, civil society representatives waited, standing in line, outside the Convention Center from 6 am to 10:30 am, when the doors finally opened, after the attendees started complaining. Also, on the second day, the General Commission was held without the presence of civil society organizations. Regarding the Plenary room, it was not only civil organizations complained that more chairs were added, and we finally gained access to the room.

We reiterate our deep rejection of the attempt to close spaces to civil society, led by the Colombian government in the context of the OAS General Assembly and call on the OAS to ensure that similar situations are not repeated.

The Coalition notes the re-election of the Commissioners to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR): Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño (Panama) and Margarette May Macaulay (Jamaica) and the election of Julissa Mantilla (Peru) and Edgar Stuardo Ralón (Guatemala). In relation to the reelection of Commissioners Arosemena and Macaulay, the Coalition wishes to highlight their great commitment to respect and guarantee the human rights of all people, without discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.

In this regard, we encourage the Inter-American Commission to continue protecting the rights of all persons, without discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics, thus supporting the proper interpretation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in inter-American human rights instruments.


This year the paragraphs entitled "human rights and prevention of discrimination and violence against LGBTI people" of the Omnibus Resolution "Promotion and Protection of Human Rights", was presented by thirteen OAS countries: Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Mexico and Uruguay.

The resolution adds for the first time the category “sex characteristics,” together with the categories “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.” Thus, this year, the OAS General Assembly passed a strengthened resolution that has the same content as the previous resolutions but includes greater protection for intersex people.

This resolution is the result of the hard work that the LGBTTTI Coalition has carried since 2007 at the OAS. Like previous occasions, the presence and continuous participation of our Coalition in different actions and dialogues with OAS Member States during the General Assembly counteracted the intolerant actions and hate speech of anti-rights organizations that tried to stop its approval.

This resolution was successful again this year, despite the initial opposition of certain countries such as Paraguay, Saint Lucia and Jamaica; which stand out for their lack of protection of the human rights of LGBTI people domestically. A small minority of OAS Member States added footnotes to the resolution. This year the resolution has the lowest number of footnotes that have ever been included so far, since this practice began with the 2013 resolution. Only seven countries placed footnotes or announced that they would insert them at a later stage (Barbados, Guatemala, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Lucia), compared to twelve countries in 2013.

Likewise, we congratulate the OAS General Assembly for including a diversity perspective regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in the resolution adopting the Hemispheric Plan of Action to guide the Development of Public Policies for the Prevention and Reduction of Intentional Homicide.


More than 70 activists - including human rights defenders of LGBTI people and sex workers from Latin America and the Caribbean, representatives of Coalition and non-Coalition members, met in Medellín to attend our annual meeting and the OAS General Assembly. During the three days of our annual meeting, which, like every year, is open to any LGBT or human rights organization that wants to participate, we discussed important issues related to regional advocacy. Likewise, the Coalition decided to accept the request to join the Coalition by the following organizations: Caribe Afirmativo (Colombia), Asociación Ciudadana ACCEDER (Costa Rica), Las Reinas Chulas, Cabaret y Derechos Humanos A.C. (Mexico) and Diversidad Dominicana (Dominican Republic).


We would like to thank Akahatá - Equipo de trabajo en Sexualidades y Géneros, the Arcus Foundation, COC - Netherlands, IPAS, Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Personas Trans (RedLacTrans), Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Trabajadoras Sexuales (RedTraSex) and Synergía - Initiatives for Human Rights, as well as the numerous financial efforts made by the different organizations within our Coalition, to guarantee our participation in this OAS General Assembly and our annual meeting.

The LGBTTTI Coalition highlights the commitment of Catherine Pognat and the entire OAS Department of Social Inclusion to achieve a successful General Assembly where there was significant progress in terms of dialogue, including a space entitled “improbable dialogues”, which sought to encourage the exchange of ideas between groups with radically opposite positions regarding the recognition of human rights.

We ask all OAS Member States to continue guaranteeing the protection and promotion of the rights of LGBTI people, and to repeal laws or modify state practices that criminalize or discriminate against us. We urge all OAS Member States to take measures to promote the legislative, administrative and judicial reforms necessary to adapt their legal systems, interpretations and practices to the standards established in Advisory Opinion No. 24/17, issued by the Inter-American Court in November 2017 and to respect its binding nature.

We encourage OAS Member States to follow the leadership shown by Uruguay, which in May 2018 became the first country to ratify the Inter-American Convention on all forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.


The following people sign as part of the LGBTTTI Coalition of organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean that work within the framework of the OAS:

2.       AIREANA – GRUPO POR LOS DERECHOS DE LAS LESBIANAS – Mirta Moragas & Judith Grenno – Paraguay,
3.       AKAHATÁ, EQUIPO DE TRABAJO EN SEXUALIDADES Y GÉNEROS – María Luisa Peralta – Argentina,
4.       ASOCIACIÓN ALFIL – Rashell Erazo – Ecuador,
5.       ASOCIACIÓN ASPIDH ARCOIRIS – Ambar Alfaro – El Salvador,
6.       ASOCIACIÓN CIUDADANA ACCEDER – Larissa Arroyo Navarrete – Costa Rica,
8.       ASOCIACIÓN LÍDERES EN ACCIÓN – German Rincón Perfetti – Colombia,
10.   ASOCIACIÓN PANAMBÍ – Vicky Acosta & Marie García – Paraguay,
13.   ASOCIACIÓN TRANS DEL URUGUAY (ATRU) - Karina Pankievich – Uruguay,
14.   CARIBE AFIRMATIVO – Vivian Cuello Santana – Colombia,
16.   COLECTIVO OVEJAS NEGRAS – José Ramallo – Uruguay,
17.   COLECTIVO UNIDAD COLOR ROSA – Gabriela Redondo – Honduras,
18.   COLOMBIA DIVERSA – Juan Felipe Rivera Osorio – Colombia,
20.   D’MARCO ORGANIZATION – Alexus D’Marco – The Bahamas,
21.   EASTERN CARIBBEAN ALLIANCE FOR DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY (ECADE) – Maria Fontenelle – Eastern Caribbean region,
23.   FUNDACIÓN DIVERSENCIA – Ronald Céspedes – Bolivia,
26.   LETRA S, SIDA, CULTURA Y VIDA COTIDIANA, A.C. – Laura Hernández – Mexico,
27.   LIGA BRASILEIRA DE LÉSBICAS – Mariana Meriqui Rodrígues – Brazil,
28.   ORGANIZACIÓN TRANS REINAS DE LA NOCHE – Andrea González & Stacy Velásquez – Guatemala,
29.   RED DE TRABAJADORAS SEXUALES DE LATINOAMÉRICA Y EL CARIBE (RedTraSex) – Elena Reynaga, Herminda Gonzalez, Maria Lucila Esquivel, Azucena del Corzo, Fidelia Suarez, Irina Cevallos, Nubia Ordoñez, Maria Elena Dávila, Regina Barahona, María Consuelo Raymundo, Samantha Carrillo, Anahí López, Miriam Gonzalez, Santuzza – Regional,
31.   RED MEXICANA DE MUJERES TRANS – Paty Betancourt – Mexico,
32.   RED TRÉBOL – Rayza Torriani – Bolivia,
33.   SINDICATO AMANDA JOFRÉ – Alejandra Soto Castillo – Chile,
35.   TALLER DE COMUNICACIÓN MUJER – Cayetana Salao S. – Ecuador,
36.   *THE CANADIAN HIV/AIDS LEGAL NETWORK – Maurice Tomlinson – Canadá (*Associate Member),
37.   TRANSVIDA – Kerlyn Obando Quiros – Costa Rica,
39.   WOMEN’S WAY FOUNDATION – Suzanna Bridgewater – Suriname.

Also in assistance:

40.   HONDUREÑOS CONTRA EL SIDA – Alfredo González – The United States,
41.   REDE TRANS DE BRASIL - Tathiane Araujo – Brazil.

In addition, Synergía - Initiatives for Human Rights (Stefano Fabeni, Marcelo Ernesto Ferreyra and Fanny Catalina Gómez Lugo) participated as the organization that supports the coordination of the LGBTTTI Coalition.

Monday, May 20, 2019

New US Ambassador and SASOD Guyana Celebrate Recent LGBTQ+ Victorie

In observance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) on May 17, the United States Embassy in collaboration with Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) hosted a reception at Aura Sky Lounge, Pegasus Hotel Guyana, on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, to celebrate recent victories.   
Guyana’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) movement has had some small triumphs over the past year. Guyana was the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to host a Pride Parade in early June last year. And then in November, the Caribbean Court of Justice, Guyana’s highest court, delivered a landmark decision declaring a colonial-era law against ´cross-dressing’ unconstitutional and striking it down. On World Day for Social Justice on February 20 this year, SASOD Guyana closed its first phase of two-day training workshops where 153 police officers from all across the country were trained in Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights.
In her opening remakes Her Excellency Sarah-Ann Lynch, US Ambassador to Guyana, posited, “In Guyana and many other parts of the world, members of the LGBT community have sometimes faced violence, harassment, intimidation, and disregard of their basic human rights. More troubling is the fact that despite being signatories to the many United Nations human rights agreements, many governments still seem far from establishing real legal protections for members of the LGBT community.” “[However,] Gay rights are human rights [and] If we as a society are committed to ensuring that all people are respected and treated equally, then it is imperative to remember that this includes the LGBT community as well. Justice and protection must be for all.”

US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch delivering opening remarks at the reception.
The Ambassador commended SASOD Guyana for leading the effort to bring about judicial and legislative change to ensure justice and protection for all Guyanese. “We are encouraged by the small triumphs for the gay community in Guyana recently,” Ambassador Lynch added. “The Government of Guyana has signaled a softer tone towards the LGBT community, permitting the first gay pride parade in June 2018.  We commend the government for its support.  And last November, the Government said that it respects the Caribbean Court of Justice’s landmark decision that found that the Guyanese law against cross-dressing was unconstitutional.  These are slow but promising changes in attitude at the national level,” Ambassador Lynch remarked.  

US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch (second from left) delivers opening remarks while US Deputy Chief of Mission Terry Steers-Gonzalez (left), First Lady Sandra Granger (second from right) and SASOD Guyana’s Managing Director Joel Simpson (right) listen from the stage.
Speaking on behalf of SASOD Guyana, Managing Director Joel Simpson echoed Ambassador Lynch that IDAHOTB 2019 was a moment for Guyana to celebrate the recent LGBTQ+ victories. Simpson, however, noted that the struggle for non-discrimination and equality still continues as LGBTQ+ Guyanese face violence and discrimination in every the sector of their lives. He reminded the gathering that Guyana’s laws still criminalize same-sex intimacy between consenting adult men and that colonial-era “small crimes” like vagrancy and loitering target “the poorest of the poor” in society. Simpson mentioned the social and economic challenges that LGBTQ+ persons face accessing public transportation, education, healthcare and work in the formal economy. He noted that the IDAHOTB 2019 theme which is “Justice and Protection for All” is timely as SASOD Guyana is proposing a simple amendment to the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997 to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as categories of protection from discrimination. While alerting the gathering that the 1997 Act only deals with discrimination in relation to the right to work, Simpson posited that just adding those three terms would be an important first step in providing legislative protection from discrimination for LGBTQ+ Guyanese who face social and institutional discrimination and have no specific recourse under the law.

In the foreground, First Lady Sandra Granger (left), US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch (middle) and SASOD Guyana’s Managing Director Joel Simpson (right) sharing a light moment with some of SASOD Guyana’s Board Directors (in the background).  

Thursday, April 11, 2019

GTU and SASOD Mark Transgender Visibility Day with Public Transport Consultation

In observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure hosted a Stakeholder Consultation on Violence and Discrimination in Access to Public Transportation for LGBTQ+ Persons at the Ministry’s Fort Street Kingston board room on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.
The aim of the consultation was to share information, facilitate dialogue and formulate solutions with regards to the standard of respect and treatment required for all persons utilizing public transportation. The meeting discussed the effects of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in accessing public transportation and regulations and solutions aimed at preventing and punishing violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons seeking to utilize public transportation services.
Participating in the stakeholders consultation were representatives from the United Mini Bus Union, Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Ministry of Business, Guyana Police Force, UNAIDS, USAID Advancing Partners and Communities Project, GTU and SASOD Guyana.
In brief opening remarks, Managing Director of SASOD Guyana, Joel Simpson, noted that the goal of the consultation was to find collective solutions to prevent the violence and discrimination some LGBTQ+ persons, especially transgender persons, suffer when using public transportation. SASOD Guyana’s Human Rights Coordinator, Valini Leitch, pointed out the difficulties some LGBTQ+ persons encounter in accessing public transportation. This, she said, subsequently affects persons’ ability to access healthcare and basic needs and has been an ongoing problem, especially for transgender persons who face the brunt of the abuses simply because of their visibility.
Simpson emphasized that every citizen should be able to access public transportation without fear of violence or discrimination. The problem, he said, is not just limited to mini-buses, but cuts across the local transportation sector, including taxis and speed boats. He also noted the limitations that LGBTQ persons encounter in accessing justice while also pointing out that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) struck down Guyana’s law against crossdressing in November of last year.
The Traffic Chief, Senior Superintendent Linden Isles explained that the law is clear on the obligation to carry passengers. He recognized that cases of discrimination do occur and pointed out the importance of reporting swiftly to the police and giving a clear and detailed statement of the police when these infringements occur. SASOD Guyana’s Managing Director, Joel Simpson, noted that in some cases the traffic ranks do prejudicially take the side of the taxi driver or mini-bus operator. Simpson emphasized the need for sensitizing traffic ranks and transport operators.
 Muriel Tinnis-Duke, Director of Consumer Affairs at the Ministry of Business, noted that the recently released Code of Conduct for Minibus Operators was prepared with the prevention of all forms of discrimination in mind. Recognizing gender as a prohibited category of discrimination in the Code of Conduct, Simpson noted that “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” needs to be expressly included in the list of grounds in the Code’s non-discrimination provision. He expressed the need for broader consultations on future iterations of the document.
Clive Williams, Planning Officer at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure’s Central Transport Planning Unit, noted that his Ministry was in full agreement that persons should not suffer any discrimination in accessing public transportation. He emphasized the need to engage transportation bodies to have sensitization sessions. In closing, Simpson acknowledged the role of education going forward and expressed interest in further collaborations and bilateral meetings with the other stakeholders at the meeting. He also noted the need for GTU and SASOD Guyana to undertake community education so that LGBTQ+ persons can be informed of their role in the process.

               Traffic Chief, Senior Superintendent Linden Isles (right) speaking at the consultation. 

           GTU representative, Omatola Edwards (left) listens attentively at the consultation. 

Some of the participants at the recent Stakeholder Consultation on Violence and Discrimination in Access to Public Transportation for LGBTQ+ Persons. Seated (left to right) are President of the United Mini Bus Union, Eon Andrews, Traffic Chief, Senior Superintendent Linden Isles, and Executive Director of Guyana Trans United, Q. Gulliver McEwan. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

LGBTQ+ Movement Celebrates Social Justice Day with Closing of Police Training

Marking World Day of Social Justice on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) and Guyana Trans United (GTU) celebrated a milestone in their collaboration with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Ministry of Public Security with a closing ceremony of the first phase of training workshops on Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights.

The ceremony was held at the Guyana Police Force Officers’ Training Centre. In attendance were Deputy Police Commissioner (Administration), Paul Williams, DSM, representing Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, DSS, and Lead Training Officer, Senior Superintendent Fizal Karimbash, representing the GPF; Mikiko Tanaka, United Nations Resident Coordinator, other members of the diplomatic corps, public officials, officers of the GPF, and civil society representatives, and sexual and gender minorities.

Mr. Clement Henry, Manager of the Citizens Security Strengthening Programme at Ministry of Public Security, delivered the feature remarks. Mr. Henry discussed the necessity of this type of training to address pervasive discrimination in Guyana at its core. The first series of two-day workshops entitled “Gender, Sexuality, and Human Rights” facilitated by SASOD Guyana and GTU began on January 21, 2019, and sensitized 143 officers from all the divisions across the country. The training was designed to educate officers on basic human rights, sensitize them to the unique needs of vulnerable populations, including gender and sexual minorities. The pre/post-test results from the first phase of the training have shown a marked improvement of the police officers’ knowledge and understanding of diversity issues.

Clement Henry, Manager of the Citizen Security Strengthening Programme at Ministry of Public Security, delivering feature remarks.
Deputy Police Commissioner, Paul Williams, DSM, spoke on behalf of the Commissioner of Police. He reiterated the GPF’s commitment to continuous education for the eradication of discrimination and the protection of human rights. Mr. Williams remarked on the necessity of collaboration and training for collective progress, and endorsed subsequent phases of this collaborative training programme. He voiced optimism for an inclusive and respectful Police Force and stated “that there must be no discrimination.” The Deputy Commissioner told the gathering that the GPF would welcome posters on LGBTQ+ human rights for display at every police station in the country that would remind the officers of their commitments to equality and respect for gender and sexual diversity, based on this training intervention. 

Deputy Commissioner (Administration) Paul Williams, DSM, speaking on behalf of the Guyana Police Force.

With ongoing support from the Ministry of Public Security and the Guyana Police Force, this training programme will be extended to more members of the GPF on a broader scale in the coming months. This project is being supported by Frontline AIDS’ Rapid Response Fund and the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition’s Global Fund Regional HIV Grant.

Representatives of the Guyana Police Force, Ministry of Public Security and SASOD Guyana at the closing ceremony.