Sunday, April 23, 2006

Report on participation in 26th world conference of International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)

Report to IGLHRC on results of participation in the 23rd ILGA Conference in Geneva, March 2006

Guyana and rights to sexual orientation and gender identity

Guyana's debate on the rights to sexual orientation started in 2001 after President Bharaj Jagdeo refused to assent to a vote by the Parliament which would have modified Article 149 of the Constitution of Guyana to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. In 2003, this debate resumed as the final amendments to the Constitution were passed through the parliament. The strong opposition from the Evangelical Christian and parts of the Muslim community contributed to the amendment being lost. Guyana also criminalises sex between males in the Criminal Law Offences Act, s351,352,353.

SASOD is a group which formed in 2003, and a relationship for information and knowledge sharing was established with IGLHRC Latin American secretariat. IGLHRC extended an invitation to attend the ILGA world conference and arranged for facilitation of meetings with various officers from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This participant chose to attend those workshops which dealt with human rights mechanisms, even though all other workshops were equally informative and exciting.

Pre-conference on Religion and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identi
This workshop was valuable, since the opposition in Guyana is on the grounds of religious fundamental values. The track on Queer Islam was very informative. As a result of the contacts made here, SASOD intends to have messages from Imam Muhsin and Reverend Jide for activities around International Day Against Homophobia. We hope that we could increase the visibility of religious non-homophobic groups in Guyana and the Caribbean to balance the fundamental values which preach all kinds of intolerance.

Pre-conference on health issues, workplace discrimination

The information on lesbian and bisexual women's health will be made available to SASOD members and other interested people. The health of lesbian and bisexual movement is often subsumed under the health of MSM since the HIV funding available allows for discussions only on the health of MSM.
The discussion on same sex domestic violence is also valuable, since it will help to build the capacity of Guyanese organisations which work against domestic violence to intervene better.
The discussion on workplace affirmation was enlightening. The presentation from IBM was very informative, especially since options for employment is one of the main concerns of the LGBT population in Guyana and the Caribbean. These will be used as case studies to prevent workplace discrimination in Guyana.

Funding and International Co-operati
We are happy that in Guyana we have managed to keep our movement local, which was also to avoid the accusation of being 'western' or 'foreign influenced'. We have also been able to move at our own pace without pressure. The sessions on International Co-operation show how linkages, especially knowledge and information linkages, help to promote an issue, and also highlight failures within a country, without the need for urgent appeals or actions. The networking is also important so that internationally, local movements could motivate and support individuals and groups with even moral support, where there is none. Unfortunately, HIVOS does not work in Guyana, so we cannot benefit from their funding or programmes.

LGBT Rights at the UN and ECOSOC processes
This information is valuable, so as to understand the language to use to develop SASOD as an organisation. SASOD could apply for ECOSOC status, if only to highlight the presence of LGBT rights organisations. Other Caribbean Organisations are encouraged to do the same. The Cuban experience is interesting and hopefully more information would be made available. It is also good to know of the Inter American Human Rights system, and to keep in touch with how these mechanisms work for Guyana. There are some ideas to approach the Caribbean Court of Justice and the possibilities of linkages with people like Douglas Sanders could help this.

The workshop which was held with OMT also highlighted the opportunities for networking and information sharing, and the submission made to them through Marcelo Ferreya is in Annex 4 to this document.

Networking and knowledge connections

ILGA LAC members, though language barriers remain an issue, and the legal systems are different, but we still hope to continue some relationships
Inner Circle South Africa (Queer Islam) – to keep the discussion on progressive views on Islam to share with people in Guyana who are interested in Islam.

LaBRYS Kyrgistan - transsexual issues, for some information on how to do some training
Spartacus - to update the gay guide
CENESEX in Cuba which is working on the discussion on gay rights in Cuba
International Day against homophobia – to network on the IDAHOMO events and activities

Meetings attended

29 March
Assistant to Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders
This meeting was very important since new information on dealing with the protection of human rights defenders. It was interesting to note how the Human Rights Officers understood how the sodomy laws could also impact on the human rights defenders. A submission, which is in Annex 1, was made.

30 March
Assistant to Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
A submission was made to this special rapporteur and the sharing of information from Guyana about concerns about the abuse of freedom of expression in the homophobic dancehall music; and the fear that at any time the sodomy laws could be invoked to stop teh defense of human rights. A copy of this submission is in Annex 2 to this report.

31 March
Assistant to Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
The submissions to each one of these groups is in the Annex to this report. It was noted that the Caribbian misogny and homophobia are closely linked, and note was taken of the homophobic lyrics which called for the violence against lesbians, and the refusal/apathy of state parties to stop or ban these.

The discussions with colleagues in other parts of the world, who even though some of them operate independently, show that all efforts help to form the foundation of a global movement to remove discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. There is diversity within the international rights movement, but it is clear from this conference that SASOD’s work will be important.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Activities for IDAHO 2006

SASOD joined with organisations in a number of countries around the world to commemorate International Day against Homophobia 2006.

On Monday 15 May, Stabroek News printed the press release which was issued to all media houses. None of the other newspapers issued the press release of activities.

On Tuesday 16 May, we screened the film Bent at Sidewalk Cafe. There were about 30 persons there for the screening. We wanted to make the point of the original Nazi persecution of homosexuals, linked to Archbishop Desmond Tutu's comparison of homophobia and apartheid. Some persons liked the film, others thought that it was too deep.

On Wednesday 17 May, SASOD and GUYBOW members participated in a live radio programme 'Let's Talk' from 10pm to 11:30pm. An important presentation was made by Ronnel Trotman who was arrested and fined for cross dressing and vagrancy. GuyBow members also noted that they witnessed the harassment by police/soldier patrols of persons perceived to be male sex workers. There were some key points in that crime ridden Guyana, the police priorities seemed misplaced. There were a couple of call ins to the programme - some which supported our views, while others opposed the views, one caller saying homophobia is a lot of hype and that gender confused people could change if they want to once they get the demons out.

Saturday May 20 - Interactive forum/exhibition at the National Library, Georgetown, Guyana from 10am to 3pm.
This exhibition was set up with GuyBow and SASOD at the National Library. The first participant who arrived, said he had heard the radio programme. He lives about 40 miles from Georgetown, and had left his home at 6am so he could be on time. Another older participant who also heard the radio programme came a little later.
Some of the persons who viewed the exhibition were students who were using the library.
We also aired the recordings prepared by Reverend Jide Macaulay from the Metropolitan Community Church in UK, and Imam Muhsin Hendricks from the Inner Circle in South Africa. We also read a statement from a Hindu worker of Guyanese origins who wanted to remain anonymous since he was still in touch with Guyana, the extract of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's foreword to the Amnesty Report on Homophobia, and the Dalai Lama's message to ILGA.

During the rights gaff, SASOD and GuyBOW agreed to do the following :-
1) to meet with the Guyana Police Force to discuss the harassment of cross dressers, and acknowledging that the HIV workers felt under threat by the police actions

2) To write to the Director of the National Blood Transfusion Service protesting the continued portrayal of HIV as a gay disease.. even going so far as to listing women who have sex with women as a higher risk than women who have sex with men
3.) To follow up on the application to the Ethnic Relations Commission on the homophobic lyrics.
4) to prepare and distribute flyers to people who are targetted by the police which would explain their rights, the powers of arrest and the remedies for complaints on improper police conduct

SASOD will also add the 'cross dressing' offence to the list of homophobic laws which need removing from the law books.

The evening activity at Oasis was well attended and enjoyed by those who stayed for the entire performance. There were recitations of Alan Moore's Mirror of Love and other poems; songs, and tango dances done by two men in the traditional Argentine fashion.

Funding for all activities was done from contributions from members and individuals. Special thanks to Sidewalk Cafe and Oasis Cafe for supporting these activities.