PRESS RELEASE FOR INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
Today, Saturday, 10 December 2005, the international community observes Human Rights Day to commemorate the day in 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is really the foundation of modern international human rights law.
SASOD-Guyana contends that, as stated in the UDHR, the rights set out therein apply to all without distinction of any kind and that for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in Guyana, these rights are violated. For instance, the following rights enshrined in the UDHR are clearly not respected in Guyana in relation to the LGBT community:
The right to equal protection of the law without any discrimination (Article 7) is denied by omitting sexual orientation from our constitution and anti-discrimination laws.
* The right to privacy (Article 10) is denied by the existence of ‘sodomy laws’ under s. 352 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act Cap. 8: 01 which seek to criminalize sexual activity between consenting male adults.
* The right to work (Article 23) is the most affected among the economic rights as many lesbians, gays and bisexuals in Guyana are being fired or discriminated against in employment policies and practices because of their sexual orientation.
* The right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being including medical care and necessary social services (Article 25) is at conflict with discriminatory policies and practices, some physicians’ homophobia, the lack of adequate training for health care personnel regarding sexual orientation issues or the general assumption that patients are heterosexual.
* Some lesbian, gay and bisexual students in Guyana do not enjoy the right to education (Article 26) because of an unsafe climate created by peers and educators in schools.
Clearly, these rights are not ‘special’ or ‘additional’ rights but the same rights as those of heterosexual persons.
For Human Rights Day 2005, the theme crafted by the UN is “End Torture Now!” Internationally, torture is a burning human rights issue, particularly in light of the so-called “war on terror” in which some states are trying to use ‘the end to justify the means.’
SASOD-Guyana has developed a sub-theme to the UN theme in order to make the issue of torture more relevant to the local context. Our combined theme reads:
End Torture Now!:
Speak out against severe pain and suffering inflicted on the LGBT community in Guyana
Torture is a pressing issue on the human rights agenda for the LGBT community in Guyana. Tortue may be defined as the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering to punish a person for any act that person or a third part may have committed or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind which seeks to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being.
Discrimination of any kind is a human rights violation in itself but one may ask how does discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation amount to torture?
First, the large incidence of unreported physical harassment and violence perpetrated on men perceived to be openly gay, particularly male transvestite commercial sex workers, and the failure of the state to put adequate measures in place to provide equal protection of the law clearly subjects these victims within the LGBT community in Guyana to torture.
Pervasive social discrimination through homophobic taunts and harassment, widespread proliferation of homophobic lyrics in reggae/dancehall music and the failure of the state to institute the necessary legal framework to curb these offences causes severe mental agony which forces victims to conceal their sexual orientation. This quest to escape society’s psychological ‘stone throwing’ results in a whole myriad of problems in social encounters and relationships as persons seek desperately ‘to fit in’ in order to avoid further persecution.
SASOD-Guyana calls on all Guyanese, citizens and state actors alike, to bring to an end the torture inflicted on this segment of our population. Speak out against the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms of the LGBT community in Guyana! We call on the state to put the necessary framework, systems and measures in place, legislative and otherwise, in which, according to Article 28, the rights and freedoms set forth in the UDHR can be fully realized for the LGBT community in Guyana.
End Torture Now!
Speak out against the severe pain and suffering inflicted on the LGBT community in Guyana