Wednesday, November 22, 2006

SASOD's note about the ERC delay

Letter published in Stabroek News and Kaieteur News of 22 November, 2006
Dear Editor,

The news that the South African parliament has voted
to legalise same sex marriages is encouraging.

This, at a time when South Africa faces serious
problems with crime, the spread of the HIV/AIDS
epidemic and poverty, demonstrates the commitment to
human rights even as, in other places, homophobic
leaders try to turn energies to preventing rights of
gay and lesbian citizens while ignoring issues such as
poverty and poor governance.

In Mexico City, same sex unions are also now
recognised, while in Buenos Aires, the laws which
criminalised the travesti (cross dressing) have been

As these trends emerge in the Global South, the
Caribbean continues to be plagued by homophobia and
excuses for homophobia. It is now almost a year since
SASOD has applied to the Ethnic Relations Commission
to exercise their mandate to "encourage and create
respect for religious, cultural and other forms of
diversity in a plural society" and rule on the
permission given by the State entities to promote
homophobic lyrics in the public venues.(
The Ethnic Relations Commission has not considered the

It is unknown whether the ERC has decided that
homosexuals are not worthy of human rights and respect
in a diverse society.

The tolerance of a call to kill is an indictment of
the society, especially since no one knows who next
will be targeted.

Yours faithfully,

Members of SASOD

1 comment:

SASOD said...

ERC says appeal over homophobic lyrics outside mandate
Wednesday, November 29th 2006

The Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) has declined a request to look into concerns about the use of homophobic lyrics at public venues, saying that the issue falls outside of its constitutional mandate.

In response to a letter by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the ERC said last week that after seeking legal advice on the matter it felt that it should not widen its mandate beyond matters of an ethnic nature to include social groups. "[The Commission] has therefore determined that the issue brought by SASOD is clearly beyond the mandate and jurisdiction of the ERC," it said in a statement issued last Wednesday.

The year-old issue was raised again last week when SASOD members in a letter to the newspapers noted that the ERC had not considered their request.

In a letter to ERC CEO Christine King, dated December 2nd, 2005, members of SASOD requested the intervention of the body to prohibit what they described as the "hate lyrics" being used by artists at public venues.

They noted that Article 212D paragraph (f) of Guyana's Constitution states that the one of the functions of the ERC is to "encourage and create respect for religious, cultural and other forms of diversity in a plural society." In this regard, they opined that sexual orientation is one of the forms of diversity in a plural society and that the ERC holds a constitutional mandate to encourage respect for the rights of gay and lesbian people in Guyana. The group noted that the Forum of the Americas for Diversity and Plurality that preceded the 2001 World Conference on Racism included "identity and the sexual life and activity of all persons" as aspects of diversity that cannot be subjected to intolerance or the denial of freedom and respect. They also cited Justice Albie Sachs of the South African Constitutional Court, who said that "The acknowledgment and acceptance of difference is particularly important in our countryĆ¢€¦ The development of an active, rather than a purely formal, sense of enjoying a common citizenship depends on recognising and accepting people as they are."

However, the ERC said its decision was based on the intent of Article 212 and to make its case referred to the explanatory memorandum of Bill No.9 of 2000 which said among other things, that the ERC should be a "modest" effort to heal the problems of racial conflict, to promote ethnic harmony and good relations among people of different ethnic groups.

The SASOD members in their request said homophobia in the public domain presents the greatest threat to the livelihood of gay and lesbian people, while noting that homophobia in Guyana is present in popular cultural expressions. They cited a concert held here last July by Jamaican dancehall artist 'Beenie Man' who sang his song 'Bad Man Chi Chi' in which he urged the audience to kill and maim all gay and lesbian people. SASOD felt that this was a clear indicator of the rising trend of homophobia in popular culture. Moreover, they held the state's silence to be a tacit approval of the incitement to kill and maim gay and lesbian people. "This constitutes an infringement on the right to life under Article 138 of the Guyana Constitution afforded to gay and lesbian people in Guyana," they said, while calling on the commission to urgently adopt recommendations to stop the incitement of hatred towards homosexual people. Among their recommendations were for the Ministry of Culture to ensure that any licences granted for the use of state-owned venues prevent the expression of any forms of hatred towards any section of the population, including the homosexual population; that there be appropriate sanctions against promoters and artistes who violate the terms of such licences; and that regulations be developed to prevent the airing of homophobic lyrics (in any language) in all forms of media, especially television and radio.