Monday, December 31, 2007

Submission made on the reform of the sexual offences legislation

STAMP IT OUT” Strengthening protection against sexual violence and reforming the law on sexual offences
Comments and recommendations from the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination

1. The Ministry of Human Services, Labour and Social Security has embarked on a consultation on the reform of the legislation pertaining to sexual offences in Guyana.
Proposals for reform are located in a consultation paper called “Stamp It Out: Strengthening
Protection against Sexual Violence and Reforming the Law on Sexual Offences.”

2. The Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is a non-governmental organisation based in Guyana. In 2006, the Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination had joined with other civil society organisations across the country and individuals to call for the reforms which are expanded in the consultation paper.

3. SASOD therefore endorses the spirit of the recommendations which are in the document and summarised in Annex 2 of the document. There are concerns about aspects of the reform and proposals are made to deal with these issues in this submission. These proposals are grouped under these headings :-
A) Establishing the Age of Consent as 18 years
B) Decriminalising of consensual same-sex activity in private
C) Eliminating stigma of male victims of rape
D) Enforcement of the reformed legislation

A) Establish the Age of Consent as 18 years for both females and males
The proposals for Age of Consent are discussed in para. 87 and other places of the document.
SASOD believes that the age of consent should be raised to 18 years for both males and females and furthermore, that there should not be any criminalising of sexual activity between young persons with a three year difference in ages when either party is above the age of consent.
SASOD had joined with the Age of Consent Coalition in 2005 and the following points were made:

• Age of consent legislation has always been about the age at which children can enter consenting sexual connections with adults. It is not about the age at which adolescents should initiate sexual activity.

• Raising the age of consent is a measure to increase protection, particularly of girls, to predatory approaches by adults, usually men, whether these are exploiting poverty, manipulating immaturity or adults trafficking under-age girls.

For all the reasons listed below, the organizations in the Age of Consent Coalition, which deliberated on three occasions, agreed to raise the age to 18 years which is recognized as the point at which the children reach the age of majority.

In order to avoid the application of penalties proposed for sexual predators to consenting under-age teen-agers, SASOD further proposes that sexual connections between young people within a three- year age range of each other should not be liable to criminal penalties. This should also include when one person is over the age of consent.

Any interventions required by the State as a result of such activity should be of a welfare or probation character. Like under-age smoking or drinking, under-age sexual activity should be discouraged but not criminalized. With this proviso there is no sound argument for not raising the age of consent as high as possible.

Summary Arguments In Support Of Raising AOC to 18 Years

  • 18 conforms to the Convention on the Rights of The Child definition which the Guyana courts must now take into account following the constitutional reform (Art.154)
  • 18 makes a clear distinction between adulthood and childhood
  • 18 is the age of majority for other decisions of responsibility – right to vote, dispose of property, obtain passport. Public health benefits with respect to the prevention HIV, other STIs and teen-age pregnancy from encouraging delayed sexual.activities
  • Protection against physical and emotional health consequences for children
  • Deterrence of the commercial sexual exploitation of children
B) Decriminalise consensual same-sex activity in private

4. SASOD notes that in reforming the laws on sexual offences, the Ministry of Human Services proposes not to discuss consensual same sex activity. The Ministry proposes to retain s. 351 of the Criminal Law Offences Act Cap. 8:01 as it is presently constructed.

5.The continued presence of s. 351 in its present construction is a violation of the human rights to privacy, equality, non-discrimination and health. In Toonan v. Australia1, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the right to privacy under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Guyana has signed, ratified and directly incorporated into our Constitution, was breached by laws which criminalise private homosexual acts between consenting adults, noting that:

“… the criminalisation of homosexual practices cannot be considered a reasonable means or proportionate measure to achieve the aim of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS… by driving underground many of the people at risk of infection… [it] would appear to run counter to the implementation of effective education programmes in respect of HIV/AIDS prevention.

6. The Yogyakarta Principles are a set of principles on the application of International Human Rights Law to issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.3 These principles were developed by a group of international human rights experts convened by the International Service for Human Rights and the International Commission for Jursists. Principle 6 on the right to privacy recommends that States shall:

“Repeal all laws that criminalise consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex who are over the age of consent, and ensure that an equal age of consent applies to both same-sex and different-sex sexual activity.”

By denying a natural expression of human sexuality, criminalisation of consensual activity between adult men in private under s. 351 demoralises gay and bisexual men and robs them of their dignity and self-respect.

7. The reluctance of the Government to urgently deal with the s351 in this reform panders to homophobia and heterosexism in Guyana which are rooted in colonialism and based on constructions of masculinity and femininity which subordinate women and exclude and persecute homosexuals. Homophobia and the misogyny which fuels sexual violence against women and girls are inextricably linked and s. 351 offers a space in the law to locate those anti-social prejudices which contravene human rights protections for all citizens of Guyana.

8. Homophobia is often based on fear of the male being perceived as feminine and male rapists often use rape of women to reinforce perceptions of aggressive, heterosexual masculinity, while in some cases of male-male rape, the act of raping is concurrent with a perception of the 'feminising' of the male victim. Hegemonic masculinity is enforced by condemning homosexuals who are viewed as transgressing gender norms and through the possession, and objectification of women. The outcome is that ‘real men’ oppose homosexual men, abuse, rape, and neglect women in order to prove their masculinity. In this way, homophobia can be considered as an effort to maintain the bipolar system through which women are devalued.1 Homophobia therefore affects all men, and not just gay men, and is rightfully viewed as a gender prejudice more than a sexual one, which it is generally assumed to be.2

9. Popular culture is replete with examples which reinforce these anti-social prejudices. For instance, dancehall artist Beenie Man, in his song, “Weeping and Moaning” preaches the following to his listeners: “You nuh see pressure man a get outa man/ Every nite Peter him wine pun Devon/ Hold hotty-boy and bun(burn) dem one by one/ Look pon Patsy, Suzette and Yvonne/ Look how de gal-dem sexy and tan/ I charge fi’ rape Suzanne/ More than go a prison/ Fi’ wind pon Jonathan.” Feminist researcher, Tara Alturi assesses Beenie Man’s disturbingly-clear message, which should concern all policy-makers and state-managers seeking to eliminate sexual violence:

“In order to proclaim heterosexual masculinity, in order to protect himself from falling prey to homosexuality, the character/singer performs masculinity by objectifying, demeaning and in its most brutal form raping women. This is a perfect example of the way in which homophobia enforces a reiteration of masculine hegemony in expressions of sexual violence against women.”3

10. Statutes criminalising sexual activity between consenting adult men in private, even though they may not be enforced, their continued existence and threat of enforcement legitimizes stigmatization of homosexuals and this can undermine the response to HIV and AIDS. According to the National Assessment on HIV/AIDS Law, Ethics and Human Rights in Guyana prepared by Arif Bulkan, “criminalisation encourages secrecy, which in turn prevents the exchange of information. Whereas heterosexual young men and women freely discuss heterosexual practices and may learn about safe behaviours, such opportunities are lost in relation to homosexual behaviour.”1

11. Bulkan also admonishes that the constant threat of enforcement can be used to persecute marginalised communities of men who practise same-sex desire in Guyana. Renowned regional sociologist Dr. Robert Carr documents the experience of gay Jamaican communities in his work on ‘judgements,’ where high levels of violence, particularly against working class gay men – are
meted out by members of their families and communities and tolerated, even encouraged, by the police and government. According to Carr, “The [Jamaican] security forces, according to the informant’s testimonials, interpret the laws banning sodomy to mean the identity itself is illegal. The law thus becomes an umbrella under which they feel free to harass, single out, and threaten men they perceive to be gay or who state that they are gay.”1 Carr notes that the influence of dancehall culture cultivating avenues of sanctioned violence has emerged from Jamaican ghettoes and penetrated other countries in the region. He continues: “The violence described here in working class Jamaica is thus becoming embedded in regional culture and in the psyches of other countries.”2 Bulkan warns that “even though similar levels of violence do not exist in Guyana, instances of homophobic violence are not unheard of and it is therefore important to confront this phenomenon before it takes hold.”3 Bulkan’s caveat is instructive and should be cause for urgent concern to state-managers seeking to curb gender-related violence.

12. Although s. 351 in relation to consensual, sexual behaviour in private may not be presently enforced, it is unhealthy to keep laws which are routinely violated on the statute books for this breeds disrespect for authority and is generally inimical to the rule of law and good governance.

C) Eliminating stigma of male victims of rape

13 .Part of the stigma for male victims of rape stems from the fact that the law in Guyana stigmatises consensual sexual activity between men in private. Male victims of rape are often stigmatised by society and themselves as objects of a ‘homosexual attack.’ While the gender-neutral definition of rape is commendable and welcomed as part of the reforms needed, the utility of the proposed reform is severely undermined by the very existence of s. 351 on the statute books which reduces same-sex practising men to unapprehended criminals in Guyana. As Caribbean gender law scholar Tracy Robinson states, “in this heterosexist paradigm, the sexual violation men experience by other men ranks no different from consensual sex between men – they are both categorised as perversion – and therefore the former does not feature as a serious social issue, and rape by men as a distinctive feature of women’s lives is slowly neutered.”4

14. Police procedures should recognise the particular social and cultural environment which would limit male victims of rape in the prosecution of rapists. Male victims of rape have special needs which must be addressed.

15. Male victims of rape have reported visible signs of arousal and even involuntary ejaculation during rape. These bodily responses are noted as being physiological and sometimes and involuntary response to the pressure on the prostate gland. Some rapists also force their victims to ejaculate so as to reinforce the perception that ejaculation means an orgasm.5 Consent shall not be inferred from these responses. There must be provisions which are clear that 'signs' of arousal or ejaculation should not be introduced as consent from any victim.

16.The sexual orientation of male victims of rape should not be brought into any case as a reason for the defence of rapists.

D) Enforcement of the legislation

SASOD is concerned that there are no provisions to ensure that the legislation when passed, is enforced. The framework for the proposed reforms is comprehensive, and will require political will to acquire the resources at Ministerial and Judicial levels especially. There must be a committment to ensuring that all provisions are adhered to and that all systems are put in place to ensure that there is protection from sexual violence.


Atluri,Tara, “When the Closet is a Region: Homophobia, Heterosexism and Nationalism in the Commonwealth Caribbean,” Working Paper No. 5, Centre for Gender and Development Studies, UWI Cave Hill, 2001.

Bulkan, Arif. “National Assessment on HIV/AIDS, Law, Ethics and Human Rights in Guyana,” National AIDS Committee, 2004.

Carr, Robert. “On ‘Judgements’: Poverty, Sexuality-based Violence and Human Rights in 21st Century Jamaica,” Caribbean Journal of Social Work, Vol. 2 (2003)

Groth, Nicolas A et al, “Men Who Rape: The Psychology of the Offender”, 2001

Plummer, David and Simpson, Joel. “HIV-AIDS and Caribbean Masculinities” in Financing Gender Equality; Commonwealth Perspectives 2007.

Robinson, Tracy.“Fictions of Citizenship: Bodies without Sex and Effacement of Gender in Law” (1999) 7 Small Axe 1

Toonan v. Australia. Communication No. 488/1991. Official Records of the General Assembly, 49th Session, Supplement No. 40 (A/49/40), vol. II, annex IX EE.

Official Website of Yogyakarta Principles:

30 December, 2007 – corrected 2 January, 2007
Prepared and submitted by: Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Reports on SASOD's presentation to Human Rights Day Symposium held on 10 December, 2007

His report is from Kaieteur News of 14 December, 2007
Homophobic lyrics infringe on right to life
Danielle Campbell
Homophobic lyrics belted out by Jamaican artistes, who are noted for their extremely anti-gay stance, has been described as an infringement on a fundamental human right to life.
This is according to a SASOD Representative who was making a presentation at the Human Rights Symposium held at City Hall on Monday.
The forum was in observance of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and was held under the theme, “What Difference Has It Made?”
The representative said that though persons hold varying theories on the issue of sexuality, living with diversity is one of the truest spirits of human rights.
He stated that SASOD’s work is premised on the view that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” as guaranteed under Article (1) of the UDHR.
He stressed that since homophobic lyrics calls for the killing and maiming of gays, then it is an infringement of their fundamental rights to life.
“Article (4) of the UDHR guarantees the right to life yet in minibuses and at State-owned venues, Jamaican artistes and Guyanese deejays are allowed to whip up frenzy to “Bun batty man”, a reference they claim to their biblical teachings.
“One CD has a DJ who intersperses his ‘bigging’ up of Carib Beer and GiftLand with calls to ‘kill all chichi man’,” the representative said.
He observed that many private sector entities sponsor events where deejays and artistes violate human rights of gay people by calling for their destruction.
“The private sector – GT&T, Digicel, Buddy’s, Ansa McAl, others, have no problem supporting these calls to kill homosexual people, not only in music but on the internet…,” the SASOD member noted.
A recent discussion thread on the website “” was seen with the heading, ‘Should gays be allowed to live?'.”
The discussion on that Guyana Palace forum has shown a range of opinions including one person’s confusion.
That person said, “Can the name of this thread be changed somewhat so as not to make it seem that anyone who disagrees with homosexuality is not frowned upon as someone who wants to ‘kill’ homosexuals? The name of this thread is just too distasteful in my opinion.”
According to SASOD, the name was later changed to “Homosexuality”.
He pointed out that it is possible to request of some minibus operators to change the music from those calling on listeners to kill homosexuals.
“I urge those of you who use minibuses to try that. While all of us here will speak on the rights we expect, all of us also have duties towards those who for one reason or another cannot achieve their full potential in our society.
“We all have an obligation towards each other to ensure that our common humanity is nurtured.”
The SASOD representative remarked that true human rights can only be achieved when the State disallows teachers to beat students, when domestic violence is given the same urgency as other crimes, when HIV positive persons are accepted for employment; when disabled persons are assured decent work, when drug kingpins are caught instead of the poor who carry small portions of drugs, when there are economic and fiscal policies which ensure a decent quality of life, and when democracy becomes fully inclusive and participatory at all levels.
The right to privacy secured under (Article 10) is denied by Section 351 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act which seeks to criminalise sexual activity between consenting male adults and which is preserved as an offence like rape.
The right to work in (Article 23) is the most affected among the economic rights as many persons in Guyana are discriminated against in employment because of their perceived sexual orientation, and are too scared to raise these issues in the public domain for fear of further victimisation.
According to SASOD, in March, the Ministry of Health, the Guyana Teachers’ Union and the National AIDS Programme Secretariat posited a moot for a debate entitled “Teachers who are homosexual/lesbian should not be allowed to teach”.
He questioned whether teachers are discriminated against due to any other factor including their gender, ethnicity, religion or otherwise.
The SASOD representative argued that the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being is also at conflict with discriminatory practices within the healthcare system where for example, specific HIV interventions with men who have sex with men are driven underground.
He detailed that the right to equal protection of the law without any discrimination is denied by omitting sexual orientation from Article 149 of the Constitution.
“We lost the opportunity in 2001 and then 2003 to improve our human rights legislation when the President and the Parliament succumbed to the homophobia of sections of the Christian and Muslim communities rather than side with the calls for reason and tolerance articulated by other sections of the religious community and civil society,” the SASOD representative detailed.
In November 2007, the Yogyakarta Principles were presented to the United Nations. The Yogyakarta Principles are a set of principles on the application of International Human Rights Law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.
They were developed by a group of human rights experts including judges, academics and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Article (1) asserts that people are endowed with reason and conscience, and should therefore act towards each other in a spirit of brotherhood.
“Let us then commit to education, frank, and open dialogue and to listen to each other… SASOD salutes those individuals and organisations whose work epitomises that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” the Representative stated.

The text was also full printed in Dayclean , Vol 1 No 5 of 14 December, 2007.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Towards a more open, more tolerant Caribbean

Steering Committee: M Kleinmoedig, C Mc Ewan, C Orozco, C Robinson, J Simpson et al.
PO Box 1750, 92A Wrightson Rd., Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
+1-868-463-5599; +1-868-752-8517 •

December 11, 2007

To the Editor:

Towards a more open, more tolerant Caribbean

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons have been among the most productive citizens of the Caribbean. Although our place has often gone unrecognised and our status as moral citizens denied, we continue to contribute to the project of building a Caribbean where the equal and inalienable rights of all persons, whatever their social or economic status, are recognised and protected. As the world pauses this week to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the many individuals and organisations across the region who belong to the Caribbean Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (C-FLAG) are urging Caribbean citizens to reflect on the need to foster a culture of rights in the region that values diversity. There have been clear signs of progress in this regard during 2007.

A sign of hope that our culture of openness, tolerance and hospitality is alive and well is the recent declaration by the Grenadian government, in the context of a controversy over whether it would welcome gay visitors to the country, that “Grenada is a member of the United Nations community and is party to the various Conventions on the respect for and preservation of human rights and non-discrimination” and as such “respects the rights of all persons of all persuasions and lifestyles.” The government added that it would enforce indecency laws in ways “directed at all persons” that would not “target any specific group.” Similarly, by pulling the plug on a concert planned for the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies in September featuring artiste ‘Dr. Evil’ who sings about shooting gay men, the institution’s administration showed its commitment to protecting sexual minorities from the threat of violence. As the Guyanese Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination stated, the response of the university debunked “the prevailing idea that homophobia is an acceptable cultural norm in the Caribbean.”
Nevertheless, if signs that the Caribbean is not defined by homophobia could be seen throughout the year, 2007 was also marked by significant events that indicate that the region has a long way to go in ridding itself of tendencies that violate the rights of all who reside at its margins. A series of public beatings across Jamaica of men perceived to be gay demonstrated the depth of the crisis that socially sanctioned homophobia creates. It took much hand-wringing and soul-searching to bring even church leaders to publicly admit that socially-sanctioned violence against any group, including lesbians and gays, should be anathema to right-thinking citizens.

The profound challenge of how we deal with issues of same sex relationships and their place within Caribbean society was demonstrated by the ban by the Jamaican Minister of Education of a secondary school textbook that mentioned same sex couples as possibly constituting a family and another that mentioned the debate about the social legitimacy of same sex desire. Justified on the grounds that same sex desire was against the cultural values of the country and supposedly illegal, the move suggested that the educational system was not permitted to engage students in reflection on the justification of legal or social sanction of particular questions. This startling censorship of thought and debate signals how much democracy we are willing to risk to ensure that even the concept of discourse around changing laws criminalising homosexuality is not countenanced.

Our vision of equality and a culture of rights cannot be achieved in a context where the purveyors of our popular music celebrate, with impunity, the killing and maiming of citizens and defend such articulations of hate by pointing to ‘Caribbean’ religious and cultural values. Reneging on pledges by his management that he had moved on from his 1992 hit, ‘Boom Bye-Bye’, Buju Banton in October belted out lines from the graphically violent anti-gay song at the Guyana Music Festival. An editorial in the Guyana Chronicle the day following the performance declared that while the violence in the song was to be condemned, Buju’s last minute performance of the piece might have been “understandable within the context of attempts made to have him banned from performing” in Guyana and those fighting homophobia failed to recognise that their actions constituted “an assault on the majority’s most sacred values.” Journalist Ian Boyne, himself no defender of the rights of lesbians and gays, points to the inherent dangers of promoting the killing of citizens as a cultural value. He urges Christians to “disassociate themselves from the deejays who promote violence in the name of defending the Bible … a gross perversion of the Bible, of the sort used by slave owners and assorted oppressors.”

Another challenge to realising our vision is the continued view that the discourse on gay rights is an import into the region and that protests against homophobic violence constitute attempts from the Global North to silence authentic Caribbean voices denouncing practices alien to the region. In fact the entry of voices from the Global North into the debate is, ironically, the result of a failure on the part of local media, faith-based and cultural organisations to engage various local gay rights groups in a true spirit of dialogue. The irony of the situation is doubled when groups that seek to preserve the so-called right of Caribbean peoples to their moral and cultural values are supported and coached by conservative North American Evangelical organisations such as Canada’s Christian Legal Fellowship.
C-FLAG partners across the region call for a new commitment from all sectors of society, including faith-based organisations and the media, to further the vision of a Caribbean where freedom, justice and peace prevail. Without this commitment, the region will remain a place where, to quote Buju, “those who can run, will run.” As he recognises, some of us can’t; others of us are determined not to.

Signed by,
Caribbean Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

SASOD Statement for International Human Rights Day 2007

International Human Rights Day 2007 is the start of
the year to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). SASOD,
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination,
advocates that discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation and gender identity is the violation of
human rights.

The right to equal protection of the law without any
discrimination (Article 7 of the UDHR) is denied by
omitting sexual orientation from Article 149 of our
constitution and anti-discrimination laws. The right
to privacy (Article 10 of the UDHR) is denied by the
existence of s. 351 of the Criminal Law (Offences)
Act Cap. 8: 01 which seeks to criminalize sexual
activity between consenting male adults. The right to
work (Article 23 of the UDHR) 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 perceived sexual orientation and are too
scared to raise these issues in the public domain for
fear of further victimisation The right to a standard
of living adequate for health and well-being including
medical care and necessary social services (Article 25
of the UDHR) is at conflict with discriminatory
policies and practices within the healthcare system.

Internationally, progress has been made to recognise
that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons
are part of the humanity which is assured of dignity
and justice. The Yogyakarta Principles were
unanimously adopted in November 2006 and presented to
the United Nations in November 2007. The Yogyakarta
Principles are a set of principles on the application
of international human rights law in relation to
sexual orientation and gender identity. Many countries
are repealing their discriminatory laws and some
Caribbean leaders – most recently Grenada's Minister
of Tourism - have started to recognise that the
homophobia in the Caribbean has to change.

We believe that full human rights will also be
achieved in Guyana when the state does not allow
teachers to beat children in schools; when HIV
positive persons are not rejected for employment; when
disabled persons are assured of decent work and
livelihoods, when there are economic and fiscal
policies which ensure a decent quality of life for all
citizens; and when our democracy becomes fully
inclusive and participatory at all levels.

SASOD also recognises that as human beings, we are not
only bundles of rights, but also we have an d
obligation towards each other to ensure that our
humanity is nurtured. While we are beneficiaries of
rights, we also have duties towards those who for one
reason or another cannot achieve their full potential
in our society. SASOD salutes those individuals and
organisations in Guyana who have worked to eliminate
prejudices and discrimination at all levels; and who
subscribe to the believe that "the inherent dignity
and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of
the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice
and peace in the world"

Saturday, December 01, 2007

World AIDS Day Statement 2007

This December 1st, around the globe, we commemorate together the 20th World AIDS Day by focusing on ‘leadership’, which is required in strong and unyielding fashion if we are to reverse the spread of the epidemic. Guyanese civil society organizations have taken leadership in responding to the epidemic at the community level. Government leadership, especially in ensuring legal protection for people made vulnerable by HIV, is critically needed.

In Guyana, structural stigma and discrimination, especially homophobia, are a major area where such leadership is needed.

Guyana joined with other states last year to commit at the highest inter-governmental level at the UN General Assembly to the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS to:

". … eliminate all forms of discrimination against and to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups, in particular to ensure their access to… legal protection…”

It is not who they are that put gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) at risk for HIV. It is the political, legal, economic, social, cultural forms of marginalisation and exclusion that make MSM vulnerable. Stigma and discrimination continue to undermine our efforts to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Criminalisation of sexual activity conducted between consenting, adult men in private reinforces the perpetuation of homophobia at all levels of society, and drives this vulnerable group away from the information and education that is necessary to save their lives and the lives of their partners.

When asked what the government can do to address these structural issues, we at SASOD respond: decriminalize consensual, sexual activity between adult men in private. This will send a strong message across the country that we are serious when we say we respect
people’s human rights to privacy, non-discrimination and health. AIDS rhetoric from politicians and public officials on MSM issues is not enough. It is time for the government to take leadership actions now.

This year, SASOD, with support from the Government of Guyana/World Bank Guyana AIDS Prevention and Control Project is implementing Spectrum Health Net, an Internet based-project to provide comprehensive and holistic education across the spectrum of human
sexuality, with a special focus on MSM. While specific interventions are necessary and indicate some recognition of the vulnerability of the groups, SASOD has recognised that these types of interventions are more costly and difficult when there is an atmosphere of

We therefore call on the Government to fulfill their committment made in 2006 so as to increase the effectiveness of all interventions to reduce the impact of the HIV epidemic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

SASOD Statement & Event: International Day of Tolerance - Fri Nov 16

Friday, November 16, 2007, is designated International Day of Tolerance by the United Nations.

This year’s commemoration of International Day of Tolerance follows on the heels of a panel discussion to promote the release of the Yogyakarta Principles at UN Headquarters on November 7, 2007. These principles collate and clarify current state obligations under international law to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Each Principle is accompanied by
detailed recommendations to States, as well as other actors, including the UN human rights system, national human rights institutions, the media, NGOs and funders. (See: Several permanent missions were represented at the event, including Guyana’s, along with NGOs and others working to promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Given recent manifestations of homophobia in Guyana, two key points are of particular interest from the panel discussion. Federico Villegas Beltrán, Director of Human Rights at Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Worship, concluded with a call to stop using the words 'tolerance' and 'intolerance' in relation to the rights of LGBT people. The dictionary definition suggests that 'tolerance ' of these rights would mean we are 'suffering with patience' – which we are not. As an alternative, he encouraged the use of the phrase 'respect for diversity' wherever possible. In addition, a statement was read from Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights. In her view, respect for cultural diversity is insufficient to justify the existence of laws that violate the fundamental right to life, security and privacy by criminalizing harmless private relations between consenting adults.
A press report in the Stabroek News of October 29, 2007, under the caption “Buju sings controversial tune at music festival” has confirmed that Kiprich (real name: Marlon Plunkett) and Buju Banton (real name: Mark Myre) uttered and sung homophobic lyrics even after the GT Entertainment group, local promoters, and the Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, gave public assurances that there will be no discriminatory lyrics at the recently-held Guyana Music Festival. The fact that there was police presence and there was no intervention to curb the offensive lyrics of these murder musicians also illustrates the nonchalance with which homophobic abuse is treated in Guyana. It is now also clear that a response by Tracii McGregor, President of Gargamel Music, Buju’s record label, painting a glowing picture of Buju as a 're-invented artist' was nothing but a public relations maneuver. Publicity moves, like giving pocket change to an orphanage, do not make up for the damage done daily to gay and lesbian persons in Jamaica and Caribbean, for which Buju’s song is a rallying call to violence. Interestingly enough, Gargamel Music has gone silent after the fact as even the international press has failed to receive a response from McGregor (See:
The homophobic rantings of Kiprich and Buju at the Guyana Music Festival have shown that lip service is clearly not enough to stem calls to hate, violence and murder at public performances in Guyana. SASOD has long recommended that preventative measures and sanctions be put in place to achieve this end. In a request dated December 2, 2005, to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), SASOD recommended that any licenses granted for the use of state-owned venues include clearly-written provisions prohibiting lyrics which promote hatred, violence and murder against any section of the population, including LGBT citizens and that stringent sanctions, which may include fines and custodial sentences, are meted out to performers and promoters who breach the terms of the agreement. The ERC has failed to address these concerns.

International Day of Tolerance will be observed this year on the eve of a slated performance by Baby Cham (real name: Damian Beckett), another Jamaican dancehall singer known to have repertoire of homophobic songs and has performed homophobic lyrics as recently as last year. (See:

We call on Wildlife Promotions to ensure that Baby Cham’s performance is free of lyrics that incite hate, murder and violence against any segment of the Guyanese population, including LGBT citizens.

SASOD would like to take the opportunity to invite all members of the public to a panel discussion titled "Batty boy fi dead: Muder Music, Culture and Freedom of Expression" which will be held on Friday, November 16, 2007 from 5pm at Oasis Too on South Road. Panelists will be
Dr Christopher Carrico - anthropologist;
Ruel Johnson - writer and journalist;
Akim Ade Larcher - human rights activist and founder of Stop Murder Music campaign - Canada (via teleconference).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

SASOD Statement: Buju Banton must publicly renounce his homophobia

“Boom bye bye [gun shot sounds]
Inna batty bwoy [gay boy] head
Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man
Dem haffi dead”
These are some of the infamous lyrics of Jamaican dancehall singer, Buju Banton, who is slated to perform in Guyana under the auspices of the GT Entertainment Group. Banton's lyrics go on to gleefully promote pouring acid over gay men and setting them on fire. Buju Banton is one of the most notorious of a gang of Jamaican dancehall singers whose lyrics call for the killing and maiming of gay and lesbian people, in no uncertain terms. It is precisely for this reason that major sponsors have pulled out of concerts featuring Buju Banton in Europe and North America. Banton has never apologized for his murderously homophobic lyrics and has been documented in video by Jasmyne Cannick as still performing and leading an audience sing-a-long of his infamous song “Boom Bye Bye” as recently as May 29, 2006 (see
The Guyana National AIDS Committee, in a December 2005 press release condemning the murder of gay Jamaican AIDS activist Steve Harvey, called for Caribbean Community to reject the violence perpetuated by the likes of Banton. The Caribbean has suffered from serious problems with growing violence in recent years. This development is mirrored in the growth of dancehall music that promotes extreme violence – known as ‘murder music.’ Dancehall murder music singers like Banton have been at the forefront of the homophobic campaign in Jamaica which has lead to the murder and maiming of men and women presumed to be gay or lesbian.
There are many other dancehall/reggae artistes whose lyrics are tolerant, respectful and non-discriminatory who can provide the entertainment for the Guyanese public which the GT Entertainment group seems to want to provide. Leading Jamaican female international recording dancehall/reggae artist, Tanya Stephens in her 2006 “Rebelution” album offers these lyrics in a song titled “Do You Still” Care”:
“... He was rescued by a car with plates that said 'Gay Pride,’
It would have been fatal, a shot in your head,
They saved your life, though you always said "chi-chi [gay] Fi Dead!
…Do you still Care, Do you still find it hard to love your neighbour as you love yourself now,
Tell me why can’t you accept me as I am, just as I am now.”
Unsurprisingly, the two most successful dancehall performers, Shaggy and Sean Paul, are artists that have publicly distanced themselves from homophobic content. As recently as May of this year, Sean Paul reiterated that young fans are influenced by lyrics in songs:
“I believe that youths are influenced by what they learn. Songs teach you about life… so you can understand that somebody could be taught violence by a song or even an indication of what is violence.”
While the GT Entertainment group asserts that Guyana will see a “completely changed” and “different” Buju, the fact remains that Banton is an unrepentant homophobe who has never publicly renounced homophobia, even going so far as to claiming that his signature was forged on a Reggae Compassionate Act. The Reggae Compassionate Act is an agreement renouncing homophobia and condemning ant-gay violence, brokered by the international Stop Murder Music campaign. The Stop Murder Music campaign consists of more than 60 organisations in over a dozen countries in Europe, North America and the Caribbean which have campaigned against the performers who have called for the murder of gay and lesbian people. With the recent onslaught of murder music singers performing in Guyana, SASOD has joined this monumental coalition of human rights organisations to ensure that Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean do not become the wastelands for venting hatred given the zero-tolerance boycott in other parts of the world.
Recently, the Senior Management of the St Augustine Campus of the University of West Indies recently canceled a concert for performer “Dr Evil” which was carded for Saturday, September 29, 2007. The performance was canceled after a number of complaints were issued by members of the University community who protested that Dr Evil's music threatened the human rights to life, liberty, safety and security of person for university students and staff who may be perceived to be gay or lesbian.
SASOD applauds the UWI St. Augustine Campus Senior Management for taking a principled and ethical stand against murder and violence and the ignorance and prejudice which breeds bias violence. This stand challenges the prevailing idea that homophobia is an acceptable cultural norm in the Caribbean.
The GT Entertainment group have committed to ensuring that the Guyana Music Festival is not discriminatory to any Guyanese citizen. As a result, they should formally arrange for Banton to publicly renounce homophobia and anti-gay violence before he performs in Guyana. There is no room for hate in any civilized society.

Also published in Stabroek News

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Information for Refugee Advocates

SASOD has been asked to provide information in various formats to support claims for asylum for Gay and Lesbian Guyanese who have sought refugee status on the grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation.

Information has been provided to :-
  • Wilson & Co, Solicitors, UK
  • The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
  • Gay Men's Health Crisis, New York, USA
  • Immigration Equality, New York, USA
  • Legal Aid Society, New York, USA
  • Glazer del Mar Solicitors, UK
  • Masliah & Soloway, PC, USA

SASOD does not have the resources to provide data based research evidence. SASOD does not intend to undertake any report writing for payment either. The purpose of this page is to provide information which could be used by advocates of those who are seeking asylum.

This link from Asylum Law provides more current resources.

About Guyana
1. Guyana is an independent country located on the North Coast of South America. The population of 750,000 people lives mostly on the coastland of the country. The population is made of descendants of the indigenous Amerindians, slaves from Africa, indentured immigrants from India, China and Portugal, and other settlers. The country is a former British colony. The cultural influences are from these diverse backgrounds, and the religious influences are Christianity in various denominations, Islam, Hindu, Bahai and others.

2. The legal structures of Guyana are inherited from the British Legal system, Guyana is signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other Rights Conventions established by the United Nations.
3. Section 351, 352 and 353 of the Criminal Law Offences Act (8:01) state that
351. "Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission, by any male person, of any act of gross indecency with any other male person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour's and liable to imprisonment for two years.
352. Everyone who: (a) attempts to commit buggery:; or
(b) assaults any person with intent to commit buggery; or (c) being a male, indecently assaults any other male person, shall be guilty of felony and liable to imprisonment for ten years.
353. Everyone who commits buggery, with a human being or with any other living creature, shall be guilty of felony and liable to imprisonment for life".
4. These laws have not been used to incriminate consensual acts recently, but only used when there is a form of sexual assault, especially against minors.
“If any laws were broken, the police would charge ...”
“Commissioner of Police, press conference, 2004 responding to reporters' questions after a police officer and a civil servant were 'found' in a hotel room.
In one recent incident, it was reported that the charges might be laid for sexual acts between a 15 year old boy and an adult male. There is no age of consent for boys in Guyana at the moment, though proposals exist in the reform of the sexual offences legislation.

Homophobia in Guyana is grounded on these laws.
Furthermore, the evidence of state sanctioned homophobia exists in :-

a) the President's refusal to assent to a Constitutional Amendment Bill in 2001 which would have removed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. This refusal was done under pressure from sections of the Christian and Muslim communities.

b) tolerance of music with homophobic lyrics which call for the killing and maiming of homosexuals despite an appeal by SASOD to the Ethnic Relations Commission and other entities which are responsible for maintaining respect for diversity, and for prevention of hate speech. The music reinforces that killing of homosexuals is seen as a righteous thing, and the comments which are reportedly used by attackers of gay men come from these songs.

c) The reluctance of the Government to amend the legislation to prevent stigma and discrimination of men who have sex with men, even though medical services are provided for those men who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

The first attempt to address the legal basis of homophobia is in 2000 during the Constitutional Reform process. The Constitutional Reform committee used the South African model as the basis for a new inclusive society in which human rights are guaranteed for all persons.

6. In January 2001, the Parliament of Guyana voted for a constitutional amendment that would amongst other things, include 'sexual orientation' as one of the characteristics for non-discrimination. The issue was raised again in May 2003, when the Constitutional Amendment bills were passed to establish the various rights commissions.
The public debate was led largely by the Christian and Muslim community which lobbied at all levels to remove that discrimination. The Amendment Bill floundered in Parliament, with no vote being taken. This was because the Government introduced a bill which it had no intention of supporting, creating unprecedented history in the Parliament.

7. In November of 2004, the Minister of Health acknowledged that the sodomy laws in the Caribbean would have to be repealed to effectively deal with HIV/AIDS . His views were opposed by members of the Evangelical Christian Community, who also protested against the idea that the Ministry of Health would offer condoms to male prisoners. The Cabinet Secretary subsequently indicated that the Government had no intention of changing their position on the Sexual Orientation;
Dr Ramsammy said existing laws that make prostitution and homosexuality offences are not being enforced and if they are enforced, commercial sex workers and gays will go underground because of fear of discrimination.
"We know them, and we have stopped criminalising them. We aren't going to take them to court. But our legal books say it’s wrong," he said.
"It's better that you take the thing (laws) off the books than to have them and be hypocritical about it and do nothing about it (HIV). For me it's not a moral issue, the fact is that these things stigmatise people."
Dr. Luncheon refutes speculations that Government’s position conflicts with that of the Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy..
This may seem to be so, but there is no conflict…there might have been arguments made in the public, maybe even suggestions about courses of interventions from the health perspective; but when it comes to the Government’s positions on sexual orientation, I can assure you that the Government’s position is the Government’s position,” he said.
8. The Ministry of Health has embarked on various interventions to prevent HIV/AIDS and to ensure fair treatment of HIV/AIDS infected men who have sex with men. These efforts are driven underground by fear of backlash from the homophobic sections of the religious community and there has been criticism of sections of the health care sector.

Rights violations
9. SASOD has asserted the following :-
* 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 perceived sexual orientation and are too scared to raise these issues in the public domain for fear of further victimisation
"A SASOD affiliate was asked by a human resource officer to change his CV to delete affiliation from SASOD. The officer indicated to him that it would be easier for him since the organisation did not want to get into 'sexual orientation' issues.

"A woman believes she was fired from a financial institution when her employers became aware that she was living with a woman and her child. She did not want to bring this charge because she felt that she had no case and did not want to face further discrimination.

* 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.

10. SASOD has engaged in several public activities to promote awareness around the issues on gay and lesbian rights, while participating in different actions. SASOD has been successful in hosting several events such as a film festival, a leaflet distribution campaign, and some other forums. However, persons have been concerned about the publicity of these events since it is felt that people would be targeted for attending them.

Many gay and lesbian Guyanese hide their sexual orientation since the sodomy laws could be invoked. As a result, some people have accused for example SASOD members of making up stories since there is no evidence to back the stories. The environment of secrecy discourages full evidence led actions in some instances.

Combating homophobia in popular Culture.
11. In December, 2005, SASOD members wrote to the Ethnic Relations Commission, a public body mandated to,amongst other things ““encourage and create respect for religious, cultural and other forms of diversity in a plural society” (Article 212d(f), Constitution of Guyana) requesting sanctions against the musicians and their promoters who attacked gay and lesbian people in their lyrics. The Ethnic Relations Commission responded one year later to say that this appeal did not fall in their mandate.

In 2008, the Minister of Home Affairs noted that two singers were banned from Guyana because of their violent lyrics. He did not mention the nature of those lyrics. Other homophobic singers have visited Guyana and have made statements at their concerts without any sanctions.

12. Police protection of openly gay persons
There are different stories depending on where the person lives, how the person chooses to live and the community in which they live.

“Openly gay” in Guyana usually refers to someone who is usually engaged in sex work and might dress in women's clothes. There is always a risk of violence or verbal abuse. Other gay men who do not wish to live this way would find it difficult to assert themselves since the homophobia in the society could result in persecution in different ways. There is always the threat of violence , and many gay persons have to live dual lives to avoid that violence.

While there are communities of support, the communities of support cannot offer protection.

Gay and lesbian people have different experiences and have found ways to survive in Guyana. The experiences of gay men vary with economic background and political affiliations. Young gay men who live in rural areas are at greater risk if they live openly unless they have affiliations and connections with police or other prominent persons in the community. Communities of support can offer some solace, but no protection and gay men have to find their own ways to survive, and this usually means by not living openly – sometimes living dual lives.

There are serious concerns in Guyana about the inability of the Guyana Police Force to offer protection to citizens in all parts of the country. The number of unsolved crimes is higher than solved crimes (leading to court cases), the most high profile being the murder of Government Minister in office in April 2006.

Critics of the police have included political parties (in Government and in opposition) and civil society organisations. The GPF have indicated that they are short staffed and under resourced and that they have a commitment to professional responses to all reports of crime.The response of the police is inconsistent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some police are professional, while others respond to reports of homophobic attacks with ridicule and victim-blaming.

Police have been accused of harassing and even beating openly gay men. “Petronella', an openly gay man openly testified on radio on 17 May, 2006 that some police further participate in the harassment of gay men on the streets, and that there are no recourse to complaints since the laws are structured to encourage homophobia. The police did not respond to those claims. Gay male sex workers note that many police also rape and brutalise them, or ask for sexual favours in return for protection.Other gay men have noted that some police would laugh and mock them when they try to make reports of attacks and do not take the reports seriously.

13. Gender Identity and ExpressionThere are some men who are effeminate in their expressions and some who 'cross-dress'

"Section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02 which makes an offence of being a man, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in female attire, or being a woman, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in male attire…
There was a recent case in which several cross-dressers were arrested and charges were laid. SASOD has issued a statement protesting this action.

Some cross dressers are attacked in different places. Many of them do not report to the police because they do not have the confidence that police will respond to the attacks.


14. SASOD recognises that in Guyana and the English speaking Caribbean, the sodomy laws can be enforced selectively depending on the judicial system. SASOD recognises that other countries, including the United Kingdom have repealed the sodomy laws, and have also enforced stronger legislation to combat sexual assault perpetrated on male victims. The English Speaking Caribbean territories must also overcome the historical injustices which were imposed on people who are not heterosexual.

15. SASOD believes that the homophobic rhetoric emanating from fundamentalist religious bodies in North America and elsewhere will impact on the ability of local activists in the Caribbean to combat discriminatory practices.

16. SASOD notes that different Caribbean Governments, and Government officials have taken different stances on the rights of gay and lesbian peoples. SASOD believes that the Caribbean Governments which are signatory to International Conventions must rise above the pressure exerted in the name of religion to ensure that all citizens can be assured of their right to sexual orientation and gender identity.

April 2009

Saturday, August 11, 2007

SASOD Press Statement: Reject homophobia of dancehall artiste Dr Evil

" i bought dis A.K to spray on all gays. including outrage whose fightin all are dj's, gun shots for all u fagits, i really hate u magits."
These are some of the infamous words of Jamaican dancehall singer, Dr Evil, who is tipped to perform at the much publicised Jamzone Beach Pageant. "Dr Evil" is one of the most notorious Jamaican dancehall singers whose lyrics call for the killing and maiming of gay and lesbian people, in no uncertain terms.
The Guyana National AIDS Committee, in a December 2005 press release condemning the murder of gay Jamaican AIDS activist Steve Harvey, called for the Caribbean Community to reject the violence perpetuated by the likes of Dr Evil. The Caribbean has suffered from serious problems with growing violence in recent years. This development is mirrored in the growth of dancehall music that promotes extreme violence - known as 'murder music.' Dancehall 'murder music' singers like Dr Evil have been at the forefront of the homophobic campaign in Jamaica which has led to the murder and maiming of men and women presumed as being gay. Homophobic violence and discrimination is a flagrant violation of human rights, including the rights to privacy, non-discrimination and protection from violence of HIV/AIDS.
SASOD calls on the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce; the private sector sponsors and the promoters of the Jamzone 2007 event to reject the homophobia of Dr Evil and to distance themselves from calls to murder any section of the Guy-anese society. SASOD further calls on the Government and the Guyanese public to reject calls to kill homosexuals since violence in any form is detrimental to our society. In the words of Tanya Stephens
"That's the reason why the world is in pain, We say we want peace fi reign, but a bullets again,"
Article Published in Stabroek News
Dr Evil or plain hate?
"My name is Dr. Evil¦"
Austin Powers aside, the intro is as notorious now as the musical assault that typically follows: a rapid-fire burst of raucous rhymes layered over frenetic up-tempo dancehall riddims. The headliner of the Jamzone Summer Break billed for the Splashmin's resort this weekend, Dr. Evil is arguably one of the most controversial acts among the current dancehall artists - not an easy feat with the likes of Elephant Man, Mavado and Vybz Kartel as contemporaries.
And while the Trini gospel reggae singer Isaac Blackman and Bajan soca star Peter Ram also share top billing for the Hits and Jams event, all eyes will be on the Jamaican sensation. At a time when established names like Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton have renounced homophobia and added their voices to condemnation of violence against gays and lesbians, Dr. Evil remains an unapologetic exception to the rule, deliberately courting controversy with a small but wildly popular catalogue of anti-gay hate songs that advocate the murder of gay men:
I bought this AK/
To spray on all gays/
Including OutRage!/
Who's fighting all our deejays/
Gunshots for all you faggots/
I really hate you maggots/
(From "JA Don't Like Gays" by Dr. Evil, 2006)
It's that kind of defiant bigotry that has made Dr. Evil a cult figure on the dancehall scene, where inciting violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community remains in vogue under tenuous cultural and theological guises. There are no illusions about dancehall-it's all about getting behinds shaking on the dance floor and there's no denying that Dr. Evil's signature sound is what the masses are stepping to, which is how they ended up the unlikely headliner for an event that has been heavily promoted as being for the entire family.
DJ Kerwin Bollers admits that Hits and Jams is aware of concerns about the musical content, but he has assured that Dr. Evil will not be performing any songs that advocate homophobia. He tells me that the performers will not be allowed to use explicit or obscene lyrics, or material that would discriminate against anyone, given the event's family-oriented nature. "They know the nature of the event," he says, "They alter performances to suit the venues."
Asked if Hits and Jams is worried about being seen as endorsing the artist's homophobia, Bollers says there is obvious concern but he is adamant that they would not encourage it: "We are promoting a family event, it's just clean fun… we don't indulge in certain things. Fortunately or unfortunately [Dr. Evil] is one of the artists in demand at this time, but we do not seek to offend the gay community or to offend the general public at large." Additionally, he points out that for Hits and Jams, the 'Summer Break' is not a one-off event and as promoters, they don't plan to jeopardise their reputation by offending anyone. Indeed, the promoters do have a lot at stake, including a bevy of huge corporate sponsors, including GT&T, DDL, Ansa McAl and a few others. Added to that, is the Ministry of Tourism, which has been sponsoring the Miss Jamzone Beach Pageant for the last few years.
Esther Sookraj, the spokesperson for Tourism Minister Manniram Prashad, maintains that the ministry's sponsorship is limited to the pageant, which has a focus on sport tourism. (Each contestant is expected to be campaigning on a selected area of sport as her platform.) "When it comes to entertainment we have no say, but as to the music and the content, we do not support violence of any kind against anyone, based on age, gender or anything else," she says, adding, "We believe that women should be treated with respect and I also want to add that the ministry does not propagate hate of any kind."
As fans know by now, Dr. Evil is a side-project of Jamaican dancehall duo Leftside and Esco of "Belly Nuh Bang (Tuk Een Yuh Belly)" and "Wine Up Pon Her" fame. During the last year and a half, Dr. Evil tracks steadily appeared on riddim compilations, often upstaging more established acts with its often raunchy and more often acerbic plaints. (In fact, with the success of "More Punany", "JA Don't Gays", and "Marijuana", it seems that the creation has outshone the creators, who have yet to produce anything near as interesting.) The songs are playful, clever and subversive, but they are also equally sexist, homophobic and hateful-hell, some might even ignore the wisdom of avoiding bad punning and simply call it evil.
During our chat, Bollers made a point of mentioning that Dr. Evil does have positive songs. He was referring to condom promo "No STDs" and the social commentary track "Jamaica", where the standards "batty bwoy" "chi-chi" "sodomite" and "child molester" are missing. The same can't be said for the caustic "Stay Far From We (Batty Bwoy)" and "Osama". While the former speaks for itself, the latter is a dis track targeting rap producer Dr. Dre (referred to as "Dr. Gay" and a "homof#@*" during a two-and-a half-minute tirade) in which Dr. Evil, with faux Arab accent, raps as bin Laden over the beat of Dre's "The Watcher". It is an ironic scenario when you consider the uncanny similarity between Dr. Evil and Dr. Dre's protégé, Eminem, who rode on the back of controversy on the way to mainstream success.
But for all their dazzling inventiveness, Dr. Evil is the stereotypical dancehall homophobe, and those superbly crafted rhymes are laden with the bigotry gay rights activists have been campaigning against since "Boom bye bye" created such a storm more than a decade ago.
According to the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), dancehall 'murder music' singers like Dr. Evil have been at the forefront of a homophobic campaign in Jamaica, leading to the murder and the maiming of men and women presumed as being gay.
In a statement that was issued on Thursday, the gays rights group urged the Ministry of Tourism as well as the private sector sponsors and promoters of the show to reject the homophobia of Dr. Evil and to distance themselves from incitement to murder any section of the Guyanese society. "Homophobic violence and discrimination is a flagrant violation of human rights, including the rights to privacy, non-discrimination and protection from violence of HIV/AIDS," the group says.
SASOD has also called on the government and the Guyanese public to reject calls to kill homosexuals, noting that violence in any form is detrimental to the society on the whole.
The group reminded that in the past the Guyana National AIDS Committee condemned the murder of gay Jamaican AIDS activist Steve Harvey, while calling for the Caribbean community to reject the violence perpetuated by the likes of artistes like Dr. Evil. "The Caribbean has suffered from serious problems with growing violence in recent years. This development is mirrored in the growth of dancehall music that promotes extreme violence," it adds.
During the last few years, gay rights activists on both sides of the Atlantic have waged successful campaigns against reggae and dancehall acts that perpetuate homophobia. The Stop Murder Music campaign organised by UK LGBT group OutRage! is perhaps the most well known: it convinced sponsors to drop artists; forced the cancellation of concerts in the UK, Europe and the US; and successfully lobbied for an entry ban on musicians who advocated violence against gays. The huge financial losses coupled with the pressure from record companies and promoters resulted in many performers eventually signing a Reggae Compassionate Act, agreeing to renounce homophobia and the incitement of violence against homosexuals in their music.
It's unfortunate that homophobia is so ingrained in dancehall listening as to be a guilty pleasure. (You might feel similar pangs of guilt about R Kelly or any of those American gangster rappers who perpetuate stereotypes of the African American experience in rap and hip-hop.)
Debates over the merits of form versus content will persist in all arenas of social discourse, but whether there is any question of limits on freedom of speech is by now a moot point. There is no denying the considerable influence of the dancehall culture on our society, which behoves us to acknowledge bigotry, as it relates to race, gender or sexuality, for what it is.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Stigma & Discrimination Lecture Event

Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)
Stigma & Discrimination Lecture Event
Activity Outline & Report

Overcoming stigma and discrimination is the gravest difficulty towards achieving universal access to HIV-AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support services. This is highlighted under Section 2.3 Determinants and Dynamics of the Epidemic of the National Strategic Plan on HIV-AIDS 2007-2011 [NSP] (page 34) which reads “stigma and discrimination is the major barrier to achieving universal access to prevention, treatment and care services.” What the NSP fails to recognise is that homophobia is at the root of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, most severely affecting vulnerable populations.

SASOD believes that public awareness and education is a key part of any strategy to challenge stigma and discrimination against infected and affected communities in Guyana. In this regard, SASOD will take the invaluable opportunity to capitalize on the presence of the Commonwealth/UNESCO Regional Chair in HIV-AIDS Education, Professor David Plummer, in Guyana to give a free, public lecture with an interactive discussion under the theme “Stop Stigma & Discrimination! Stop AIDS!” This will provide a great opportunity for interested persons and those working on HIV and AIDS issues to enhance their knowledge on stigma and discrimination and thereby build capacity to engage in dialogue on these issues for social awareness and change. The event will target 70 persons through public advertisement and publicity in other networks in which SASOD is resourceful.

The activity was held on Thursday, June 28, 2007 at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre Conference Room (Red House) on 65-7 High Street, Georgetown at 17:00 hrs. Financial support from UNAIDS for the event was expended according to lines in the final budget above. Approximately 55 persons, including public health officials, staffers of AIDS agencies and members of civil society, attended a very interactive and spirited lecture by Professor Plummer. The event served an added value for persons to share their experiences tackling stigma and discrimination and further commit to challenging these hurdles to universal access through dialogue and advocacy at all levels. Also, the forum allowed persons working on different aspects of stigma and discrimination to learn from each other and network through continued peer support within the HIV sector. Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, in the form of posters, on stigma and discrimination and HIV prevention targeting Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) were also distributed after the discussion. SASOD is of the view that the activity was worthwhile as a public education event as the lecture was recorded by the national radio station for later broadcast so that radio listeners may also benefit. There was also television coverage of the lecture by “First Look” of HBTV Channel 9.
Financial support for the logistics of this lecture was provided by UNAIDS.

SASOD has received the following comments as feedback via email:

"It was a very informative and insightful lecture from David. I'm glad I was there.”

"The presentation was interesting & presented fairly well. I am not accustomed to lecture like episodes. I thought there would have been more meaningful inputs from members of the gathering...only a smattering few, which can or might indicate that we don’t have a "big problem." I was telling Ruben, that we need to be more sessions like these, and efforts should be made for more, just as how you guys do your movie month."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Painting the Spectrum 3 - SASOD's Lesbian and Gay Film Festival- June 2007

SASOD held Painting the Spectrum 3 - Celebrating Love in all of its Diversity
June 2007, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Sidewalk Cafe, Georgetown Guyana

The report of the festival can be downloaded here

The Celebration on Wednesday 27th featured Andrew "Kei' Miller, who was in Guyana compliments of Earl Fowlkes, President/CEO of the International Federation of Black Prides, Inc.
Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. He studied at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK . His first collection of short fiction, The Fear of Stones, was short-listed in 2007 for a Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. He is also the author of a poetry collection, Kingdom of Empty Bellies , and editor of the anthology New Caribbean Poetry (Carcanet, 2007). The Journal of Commonwealth Literature has hailed him as "one of the finest poetic talents to have emerged from the Caribbean in recent decades." As of September Kei will join the faculty of University of Glasgow as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing. He has also recently been selected as an International Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa. His forthcoming publications include a new collection of poetry 'There is An Anger That Moves' coming out this October, and a novel, 'The Same Earth' to be published in 2008.

Friday June 1

Fresa y Chocolate (Cuba/Spain/Mexico) Comedy/Drama
Diego, a cultivated, homosexual and skeptical young man, falls in love with a young heterosexual communist full of prejudices and doctrinary ideas. First come rejection and suspicion, but also fascination. Fresa y chocolate is the story of a great friendship, that is, a great love between two men, which overcomes incomprehension and intolerance. This film was produced in Cuba and is recognised as one which had criticisms of the Government. Winner of an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and other awards(104 minutes) Ratings : 16+

Monday June 4
Hsi Yen - Wedding Banquet (Taiwan/USA) Comedy/Drama
Ang Lee's funny film is about Simon and Wei-Tung who are a gay couple living together in Manhattan. To defer the suspicions of Wei-Tung's parents, Simon suggests a marriage of convenience between Wei-Tung and Wei-Wei, an immigrant in need of a green card. When Wei-Tung's parents come to America for the wedding, they insist upon an elaborate banquet, resulting in several complications (106 minutes) Ratings 16+

Wednesday June 6 Fingersmith (UK) Drama

Susan Trinder (Sally Hawkins) has been brought up in a house of thieves in London. She gets sucked into a plot by a family friend. She becomes Maud Lilly's (Elain Cassidy) maid so as to get her to marry Mr Richard Rivers. They plan to put Maud in a mental asylum once she marries so they can claim access to her $40,000. The plan becomes a nuisance when Susan mistakenly falls in love with Maud. (181 minutes)

Friday June 8
Sea in The Blood (Canada) DocumentarySea In The Blood is a personal documentary from Trinidad born, Richard Fung, about living with illness, tracing the relationship of the artist to thalassemia in his sister Nan, and AIDS in his partner Tim. At the core of the piece are two trips. The first is in 1962, when Richard went from Trinidad to England with Nan to see a famous hematologist interested in her unusual case. The second is in 1977 when Richard and Tim made the counterculture pilgrimage from Europe to Asia. The relationship with Tim blossomed, but Nan died before their return. The narrative of love and loss is set against a background of colonialism in the Caribbean and the reverberations of migration and political change. (30 mins)

We are Dad (US) – donated by Director Michel Horvat
Heartfelt documentary about two gay men in Florida who are foster parents to children with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses (68 mins)

Monday June 11
Gulabi Aina - The Pink Mirror (India)

Screening rights donated by Director Sridhar RangayanA unique film coming from India where homosexuality is still taboo, The Pink Mirror (Gulabi Aaina), is a colorful funny look into the Indian homosexual closet.
It pits two Indian drag queens against a westernized gay teenager in a battle to woo a handsome hunk. It's a clash of the east and west. Who will win? The drag queens who are expert in the art of seduction with their wit, innuendo and cunning or the young teenager who is saucy, slutty and sly? (40 minutes)

Wednesday June 13
Boys Dont Cry (USA) Drama/True StoryThe story of the life of Brandon Teena, a transgendered teen who preferred life in a male identity until it was discovered he was born biologically female.
Hilary Swank Oscar's winning performance of a girl who wanted to be a boy is a moving tribute to the people who feel trapped in bodies different from their minds (118 minutes)

Friday June 15

Some prefer cake (USA) Drama/ComedyFilmmakers Jeannie Kahaney and Heidi Arnesen created this comedy-drama starring Tara Howley and Kathleen Fontaine as a pair of San Francisco friends struggling with relationships and professional challenges. Kira is a would-be stand-up comedienne embittered over the fact that her sister, also a comic, has a flourishing career in comedy, while she is reduced to writing jokes for her sibling -- her own unfunny act failing to generate much success. A lesbian, Kira grapples with her frustrations by engaging in a series of one-night stands with other women, but her combative, acerbic nature keeps any long-term affairs at bay. Her best friend is Sydney, who's dealing with her own stunted aspirations to be a food and restaurant critic, and who deals with her lack of any heterosexual romance by choosing to eat rather than date, asserting that in any choice between chocolate cake and sex, a woman will always choose cake. (118 minutes)

Monday June 18
Mambo Italiano (Canada) Comedy
Angelo Barberini is the oddball son of Italian immigrants Gino and Maria, who inadvertently ended up in Canada rather than the States. Angelo shocks his parents by moving out on his own without getting married, and shocks them further still when he reveals that he's gay. But his boyfriend, policeman Nino Paventi isn't as ready to come out of the closet -- especially not to his busybody mother, Lina. (88 Minutes)

Wednesday June 20
Juste une question d'amour (France) Romance
Just a Question of Love follows the whirlwind romance of two young men in different stages of coming out. The film paints a heartbreaking portrait of the difficulties that befall a relationship when one man lives proudly out of the closet, while the other has created a double life to please his parents (88 minutes)

Friday June 22
Heavenly Creatures (UK/ New Zealand) Romance
Based on the true story of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, two close friends who share a love of fantasy and literature, who conspire to kill Pauline's mother when she tries to end the girls' intense and obsessive relationship. (99 mins)

Monday June 25
Better than Chocolate (Canada)
Two attractive young lesbians, Maggie and Kim, meet in Vancouver, develop a passionate romance, and move in together. Maggie's well-meaning but naive mother Lila gets divorced and decides to move to Vancouver and join the household. Complications ensue as the conservative Lila learns the truth about Maggie, Judy, and their diverse group of friends.(101 minutes)

Wednesday June 27 "Celebration"
A special evening of film, music, dance, poetry and reading.. we celebrate acceptance of diversity.
An Intimate Evening with Nhojj (USA)
Donated by Nhojj

Nhojj started singing as a child in Guyana - the home of his parents, he sang in churches, on radio programs and eventually performed for the President. His father, a minister moved his family to Trinidad where Nhojj joined a quartet, eventually touring the country and again performing before the President. At the age of 18, he moved to New York City and would eventually graduate with honors from NYU with a BA in Economics. With education out of the way Nhojj could settle down to what he really wanted to do - music. This DVD features a musical performance by Nhojj. His second CD -someday peace love & freedom will be available for sale.. donated to SASOD.

Donated by Director Sean DrakesThe Devil's Day (Trinidad)

The dancefloor is a sacred sanctuary where we release, reaffirm and renew with dance-- and a little hot paint. Shot at J'ouvert in Trinidad (8 minutes)

Vale of Cashmere (USA)
Public space.. increasingly an oxymoron, public parks taken for granted by straight folks are secret outlets for black same-gender-loving men, where , sometimes, life is the price of the ticket (12 minutes)

From a Guyanese visitor to Prospect Park "With Prospect Park..people go because it's different, not because there's a lack of gay spaces...but I know the park, nature can have a telling effect when mixed with the possibility of adventure and sex...the only thing is that it's usually cheap and empty, but I like to observe all the same."

Friday June 29

Kinky Boots (USA/UK) Comedy
Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots is a comedy which challenges prejudice and intolerance. After the death of his father, Charlie Price must find a way to save his family's failing shoe factory , or his entire town would be left out in the cold. Charlie finds help in an unlikely ally - female impersonator "Lola", and together they would hatch a plot to save the factory. (107 minutes)

Admission is FREE.

Check the reports for the 2005 and 2006 film festival.

email sasod_guyana (at) for any other details

Other films for Spectrum 31/2 - dates to be announced

Donated by Director Aykut Atasay
Travesti Teror - The Transvestite Terror (Turkey)
The documentary discusses the way transvestites and transsexuals are presented in the Turkish media. (19 minutes)

YÜRÜYORUZ (YÖNETMEN KURGUSU) (Turkey) - We are Marching

Gay and lesbian activists who want to make a demonstration against governorship’s will to close down their foundation were going to march and then release a press statement in Bursa; but..(50 minutes)

Rag Tag (Nigeria/UK )

Donated by Director Adaora Nwandu

Raymond (aka Ray) and Tagbo (aka Tag) have a friendship forged in childhood. Ray is from a single-parent West Indian home and Tag is the pride of middle-class Nigerian parents. The two are inseparable until Social Services discovers Rag's mother isn't around and he's taken far from his London home to Birmingham. A decade passes. Tag is finishing law school and, despite incredible grades, can't find a firm willing to hire him. Meanwhile, Rag returns to London and finds his old friend. Their lives and circumstances have changed, but their rekindled friendship is more intense than ever. Once based on bonds of an innocent camaraderie, now their feelings have grown into something far more complex and confusing. As tensions build, the two realize they both must decide how far they're willing to go to satisfy the newfound urges they can't explain. (1 hour, 50 minutes)