Wednesday, December 07, 2011

SASOD Statement on the 2011 General Elections Polls

SASOD joins in celebrating the historic shift in the political system after the November 28, 2011 elections. SASOD welcomes the opportunity for Guyana to acknowledge that there is a need for an inclusive system of Governance which recognises all forms of diversity, not only of political affiliation or opinion, but also of race, place of origin, colour, creed, age, disability, marital status, sex , sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, language, birth, social class, religion, conscience, belief or culture.
SASOD also calls on GECOM to investigate and honour all claims related to the conduct of the elections in the interest of transparency. SASOD looks forward to the continued reform of the electoral system which will ensure a future of completely free and fair elections as we work to build a healthy and prosperous society for all Guyanese.

Printed in Guyana Chronicle on 5 December, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

SASOD's position against the Criminalization of HIV Transmission

Listen to the podcast of Korey Chisolm, Anton Rocke and Sherlina Nageer after their presentation to the Parliamentary Select Committee on 13 July, 2011

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination opposes the Criminalisation of HIV Transmission which is under consideration by the Parliament of Guyana. SASOD's presentation to the Special Select Committee considering the Resolution 129 of 2010 has noted several reasons why such a law would reverse the progress being made in Guyana to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

  • According to UNAIDS and other international agencies, there is no evidence to suggest that criminalizing HIV transmission is an effective means to prevent the further spread of the virus or achieve criminal justice.
  • Several countries that have such laws e.g. Guinea, Togo, Denmark and Senegal, are reviewing and suspending them in the face of increasing awareness of their inefficacy as well as concerns of violating individual human rights.
  • SASOD supports international consensus that criminal and/or public health legislation should not include specific offences against the deliberate and intentional transmission of HIV but rather should apply general criminal offences to these exceptional cases.
  • A legal review by the Belizean National AIDS Committee found that the criminalizing of deliberate transmission deterred persons from getting tested for fear of criminal sanctions. The review indicated that there have been no prosecutions under the section because of the evidential difficulty in proving these cases under law and as a result, the recommendation is to repeal the law.

  • We share Mr. Franklin’s (MP who proposed the legislation) desire to better protect women from dishonest and malicious sexual partners, but the fact is that criminalization does not protect women- it increases the likelihood of them being victimized. The reason for this is that women access healthcare services more often than men (for reproductive services especially), so in many places, women who know their HIV status more often than men. As such, they can be accused of transmitting the virus to their male partners, even if those partners are the ones who infected them in the first place. Therefore, these laws can be described as harmful instead of helpful to women.
  • More helpful to women would be to address gender-related violence, inequality and sexual coercion, as well as stigma and discrimination.
  • Some women might be prosecuted for mother-to-child transmission. This occurs where laws criminalizing HIV transmission or exposure are drafted broadly enough to include transmission to a child during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

  • HIV is no longer a death sentence; it is now a medically manageable disease. Legislation such as the proposed one continues to spread fear and misinformation about HIV, however. There are other infections that can be transmitted via unprotected sex- some of which are also lifelong conditions- such as Herpes- but the same level of attention is not paid to those.
  • The focus on criminalization of HIV transmission increases stigma and discrimination against HIV positive people by making potential criminals of all of them and has a deterrent effect on testing. Testing is a critical tool in reducing HIV transmission and anything that interferes with its efficacy- such as legislation like this- is very dangerous and counterproductive in the fight against this disease.

  • Criminalization of HIV transmission also makes it even more difficult to work with ‘hard to reach’ communities such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, drug users, etc who are already fearful of the authorities and being criminalized for their lifestyle or sexual behaviors.
  • Confidentiality between people and their healthcare provider is extremely important- especially in cases of HIV+ individuals who require long-term treatment. As such, anything that forces doctors and health care providers to reveal patients’ private health information, or even testify about it, has a negative impact on patient trust of the health care system and willingness to remain engaged in HIV care- which has a negative long term impact on society as a whole. Far more effective HIV prevention programmes exist such as testing, counseling and general awareness campaigns.

  • We already have legislation in place- The Sexual Offences Act- which would deal with cases of non-consensual sex. In cases of such offenses, the accused is compelled to obtain a HIV test, the results shared with the victim, and taken into account when determining the sentence.
  • Strengthening this existing legislation, educating citizens, law enforcement, and judicial officers about their rights and responsibilities under the Sexual Offences law and putting policies into place that make it really work effectively on the ground is a better use of time and resources, in our opinion, instead of putting yet another misguided, ill-informed, and un-enforceable law on the books.

The job of preventing HIV falls to society as a whole, not just those who are HIV positive. Focusing solely on HIV positive persons does us all a disservice. We need to focus instead on proven prevention strategies such as testing and counseling, education, and reducing stigma and discrimination, and protecting peoples’ human rights and dignity.

FIRST SESSION (2006-2010)
WHEREAS the fight against HIV and AIDS has been relentless especially during the past 15 years;
AND WHEREAS some success has been recorded throughout the country in reducing the instances of infection and transmission of HIV and AIDS;
AND WHEREAS educating the population is of utmost importance in the arsenal of weapons and/or measures required to combat this dreaded disease;
AND WHEREAS despite the best efforts of health care officials, religious organizations and NGOs in educating the population with respect to AIDS and HIV, infection rates are still disappointingly high;
AND WHEREAS persons, some knowingly, still infect others with the Human Immune Deficiency Virus, causing immense suffering and pain to the infected persons, their families, community at large along with increased cost to the health care system;
AND WHEREAS persons are not held responsible by law for knowingly transmitting this deadly virus to innocent victims;
AND WHEREAS the confidentiality and non-discriminatory laws in place which protect persons affected with HIV and AIDS prevent disclosure of their identity, these persons are free to have unprotected sex with unsuspecting partners, thus further spreading the disease,

That the criminal laws of Guyana under all relevant sections be amended, to make it an indictable offence for any person to transmit the virus to any other person, when they would have had prior knowledge of their infected status;
That non disclosure laws or guidelines be so amended to allow information to be used by the prosecution if so required;
That all agencies, clinics, hospitals which have the results of tests and other vital information be bound by law to release such information to any court engaged in a matter; and
That the manner in which society and law treat with persons who willfully transmit HIV be taken to a Special Select Committee to examine this issue comprehensively, drawing from other countries’ experiences which have criminalized this offence and those which have not, taking into consideration experts’ and the public’s views, as well as examining the present laws of Guyana and return to the National Assembly with considered opinions and recommendations on this issue.
Passed by the National Assembly on Thursday, 29th July, 2010.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: LGBTI Groups Advance Gains with Passage of Fourth Resolution at 41st OAS General Assembly

June 11, 2011

Jermaine Grant represented Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) at the 41st Organisation of American States (OAS) General Assembly that was held on June 5-7, 2011, in San Salvador, El Salvador. SASOD’s participation in this year’s OAS General Assembly served as the fifth year of its advocacy in the Inter-American system for human rights protection of persons on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

SASOD’s representative along with other members of the Coalition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Organisations of 21 countries in the hemisphere participated in peripheral meetings with Dr. Irene Klinger, Director of the Department of International Relations of the OAS and Vanda Pignato, First Lady of El Salvador and the country's Secretary of Social Inclusion who both expressed support and appreciation of the work of the Coalition in its human rights advocacy. Further, Grant and others also participated in the Informal Dialogue with the OAS Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza on June 4, 2011 with other members of civil society in highlighting the human rights situation of LGBTI persons in the Americas in strengthening transparency and inclusion of human rights defenders participating in the decision-making process of the organization.

In the context of the General Assembly’s theme, “Citizen Security in the Americas,” and noting that the concept of security is multi-dimensional, members of the coalition recognised that any threat to the survival and livelihood of all human kind compromises citizens’ security. From this perspective, participants from the Anglophone Caribbean LGBTI civil society articulated that laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy serves to create an unsafe environment and perpetuate discrimination in the forms of harassment, abuse and violence of LGBTI persons.

Mentioned was that most member states of the OAS from Latin and North America have made notable strides in the promotion and protection of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression whilst those in the Anglophone Caribbean are retrogressing by not taking legislative steps in repealing laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing along with enactment of legislation that willfully exclude rights of LGBTI persons.

SASOD’s representative posited that such actions by member states of the Anglophone Caribbean make them complicit in perpetuating discrimination and intolerance; thus, legitimising human rights abuses and violence that oppress LGBTI persons, compounded by an unsafe environment, which creates social vulnerabilities. These laws embody state-sanctioned homophobia which devalues human life and undermines citizens’ security.

In advocacy to effect human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, Grant, along with other human rights defenders from the Anglophone Caribbean drafted a statement that was distributed to government delegations from the sub-region, on the human rights situation of LGBTI persons and which called for “leaders of CARICOM to guarantee the rights of all citizens… and aggressively address the scourge of homophobia that undermines our collective security.” (Please see statement attached.)

SASOD’s participation in the 41st OAS General Assembly serves to reinforce and strengthen advocacy of previous years for human rights protection on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Further, its participation highlights the realities and challenges of LGBTI persons in Guyana to the attention of the OAS and member states whilst urging definitive action in legal and policy changes. This year’s General Assembly approved a fourth resolution on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” that encouraged member states to consider “adopting public policies against discrimination by reason of sexual orientation and gender identity,” inter alia.



1. San Salvador Communiqué of the Coalition of LGBTI Organisations of Latin America and the Caribbean
The Coalition of LGBTTTI Latin American and Caribbean organizations, formed by groups belonging to more than 20 countries expresses in this communiqué its assessment of the activities of the 41st General Assembly of the Organization of American States, which took place in San Salvador on June 5th-7th, 2011.
This Assembly adopted the fourth resolution AG/RES. 2653 (XLI-O/11) “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”, showing the increasing attention to our situation and the need of encouraging member states to commit to taking action to fight human rights violations against our communities. The mentioned resolution, which is the result of the advocacy of the coalition, makes progress towards the realization of an hemispheric thematic study. It also highlights the need for member states to implement public policies against discrimination of LGBTTTI people, calling on the States to investigate, record, and punish hate crimes against our population.
We are pleased for the possible reinvigoration of the negotiation process of the draft Inter American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
However, we are concerned that, on the very occasion of the Assembly, whose theme was “Citizen Security in the Americas,” the opportunity to advance in the construction of an instrument that would contribute to challenging the structural causes of violence has been lost by opening the door to the possibility of dividing the draft Convention in one main text, and one or more additional protocols (which would strengthen the idea of the existence of a hierarchy among forms of discrimination). We recognize, in any event, that advancing the discussion on racism would be in itself a fundamental achievement that would improve the quality of life for all.
With reference to the Declaration of San Salvador, we are concerned that it focuses on issues related to organized crimes and not on day-to-day security. The majority of killings, serious assaults, sexual abuses, and other crimes against the individual are the result of bias and vulnerability associated with gender violence; discrimination against afro-descendant and indigenous people; sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; xenophobia; disability; migrants, displaced people and other vulnerable groups.
Additionally, we express our concern for the lack of visibility we suffer by the omission of any reference to specific security needs of LGBTTTI people, despite being especially affected by the consequences of violence and crimes caused by homophobia, lesbophobia and, most of all, transphobia. These concerns were raised in our intervention during the dialogue between the civil society and the heads of delegations of member states.
We report the election to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of Felipe
González, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Tracy Robinson and Rosa Maria Ortiz. The election of Rosa Maria Ortiz and Tracy Robinson is an honor for the Coalition; women of great value for their well-known commitment and expertise in human rights, and whose candidatures the Coalition have supported vigorously through our ministries of foreign affairs.
Finally, we want to highlight a fundamental concern for civil society, related to the
attempt by some member states and OAS organs to weaken the scope of work of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
About the Coalition’s activities
Beyond the resolution that has been formally adopted, the Coalition celebrates the
consolidation of its space as civil society component after four years of advocacy work within the OAS and in the region, before, during and after the General Assemblies.
In the days that preceded the 41st General Assembly, the Coalition organized a two-day parallel event in preparation for the advocacy and participation within the OAS. Our main discussion topics were:
(a) implementation of the resolution “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity”;
(b) Interaction with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (with specific focus on thematic hearings); (c) Interaction with the Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs; (d) Advocacy in the negotiation process of the
draft Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance; (e) Advocacy with member states.
During the two days, invited participants included Irene Klinger, director of the
Department of International Relations of the OAS, who highlighted the importance of the commitment of the LGBTTTI civil society in all processes of the OAS and the increasing visibility of the issue within the OAS, particularly with reference to the Hemispheric Forum.
The Coalition met the First Lady of El Salvador and Secretary for Social Inclusion
Vanda Guiomar Pignato, who spoke about the need that societies make progress in regard to the inclusion and the respect for all forms of diversity and greeted the Coalition for its presence within the OAS.
Finally, Edgar Carrasco and Herbert Betancourt from UNAIDS, and Maria Tallarico from UNDP also attended the workshop.
During the informal dialogue with the Secretary General of the OAS and the civil society in San Salvador, four delegates of the LGBTTTI coalition addressed to Secretary General José Miguel Insulza their concerns regarding the undue influence of religion on states and the weakening of the principle of secularity, violence and discrimination that LGBTTTI individuals suffers within their own families, hate crimes and the need of recognition of self-perceived identity for travesti, transgender, transsexual and intersex people.
Mr. Insulza confirmed the OAS commitment to fight for recognition of the rights of LGBTTTI individuals and expressed his concern for the lack of progress of the draft Inter American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, partially due to the criminalization of same-sex intimacy in several Caribbean countries. He also indicated that some countries still have official religions, statement that would suggest that official religions are an obstacle to the introduction of protective policies, as religions would be prioritized over human rights protection.
The Coalition also met Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State of the
Government of the United States, and Paula Uribe, Senior Advisor of the Department of State of the United States, who were accompanied by a delegation from the U.S. Embassy to El Salvador; the first secretary of the Mission of Canada before the OAS
Douglas Janoff and Danilo Gonzalez Ramirez, Minister Counselor of the Mission of
Costa Rica before the OAS and Chair of the Working Group in charge of drafting the draft Inter American Convention against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance were also present at the meeting. The discussion focused on the commitment of the U.S. Department of State to support LGBTTTI human rights in the region and the progress in the discussion on the Convention.
Later on, the Coalition met Víctor Madrigal Principal Specialist of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, who explained the working plan to draft a hemispheric report on the situation of human rights of LGBTTTI people, the success of which will depend on the participation of the organizations of the region that will provide continuous information to the Commission.
The Coalition also met Lionel Veer, Ambassador for Human Rights of the Netherlands, who expressed his support and availability to strengthen civil society organizations and highlighted the need of establishing a dialogue between the ministries of foreign affairs and the IACHR.
We welcome the increasing interest for the work of the coalition that constitutes an
acknowledgment of the work carried out in these years.
We thank Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, UNAIDS, UNDP, and
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights for their support to
make our participation to this General Assembly possible.
The participants of the Coalition of LGBTTTI Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean within the OAS were:
AIREANA - Camila Zabala – Paraguay, ASOCIACIÓN LIDERES EN ACCION -Germán Rincón Perfetti - Colombia, ASPIDH ARCO IRIS – Mónica Hernández – El Salvador, COALITION ADVOCATING FOR INCLUSION OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION – Kareem Griffith – Trinidad and Tobago, COLECTIVA MUJER y SALUD, Julie Betances – Dominican Republic, COLECTIVO OVEJAS NEGRAS – Valeria Rubino – Uruguay, COLECTIVO UNIDAD COLOR ROSA – Roxana Almendarez – Honduras, COLOMBIA DIVERSA – Marcela Sánchez – Colombia, CORPORACIÓN PROMOCIÓN DE LA MUJER, Tania Correa - Ecuador, DIVERLEX – Tamara Adrián – Venezuela, DOMINICA CHAP – Daryl Phillip – Dominica, FRONTE TRANS – Mario Sánchez Pérez – Mexico, INSTITUTO RUNA – Belissa Andia – Perú, INTERNATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION LAC – Marcelo Ferreyra – Argentina, J-FLAG – Jaevion Nelson – Jamaica, AIDS FREE WORLD - Maurice Tomlinson – Jamaica, MULABI-ARGENTINA – Fernando D’Elio – Argentina, MULABI-COSTA RICA – Natasha Jiménez – Costa Rica, ORGANIZACIÓN DE TRANSEXUALES POR LA DIGNIDAD DE LA DIVERSIDAD – Andrés Rivera Duarte – Chile, ORGANIZACIÓN TRANS REINAS DE LA NOCHE – Johana Ramírez – Guatemala, RED AFRO LGBTI - Edmilson Medeiros - Brazil, RED LATINOAMERICANA Y DEL CARIBE DE PERSONAS TRANS - Marcela Romero- Argentina, RED NICARAGUENSE DE ACTIVISTAS TRANS – Silvia Martínez – Nicaragua, SOCIETY AGAINST SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION- Jermaine Grant - Guyana, UNIBAM – Caleb Orozco – Belize, BARBADOS HIV/AIDS ALLIANCE - Emerson Emmanuel – Barbados.
Mister Secretary General, Ministers, Members of the Official Delegations, Civil Society Representatives,
We, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Travesti, Transsexual, Transgender and Intersex organizations, convened in San Salvador, El Salvador on June 2 and 3, 2011, in accordance with the directives established by the General Assembly of the OAS in its resolutions AG/RES.2092(XXXV- O/05); CP/RES.759(1217/99); AG/RES.840(1361/03); AG/RES.1707(XXX-O/00) and AG/RES.1915(XXXIII-O/03), which determine a regulatory framework to enhance and strengthen civil society participation in OAS activities and in the Summit of the Americas process
We fully share the concern for ensuring that citizen security must concretely constitute the basis for full and sustainable development of human rights for every individual.
However, we express our concern as the draft Declaration “Citizen Security in the
Americas” focuses on issues related to organized crime rather than crimes experienced in daily life. The majority of killings, serious assaults, sexual abuses, and other crimes against the individual are the result of bias and vulnerability associated with gender violence; discrimination against afro-descendant and indigenous people; sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; xenophobia; disability; migrants, displaced people and other vulnerable groups.
Additionally, we express our concern for the lack of visibility we suffer by the omission of any reference to specific security needs of LGBTTTI people, despite being especially affected by the consequences of violence and crimes caused by homophobia, lesbophobia and, most of all, transphobia; contravening the content of the Resolutions “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” adopted in 2008 (AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08), 2009 (AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) and 2010 (AG/RES. 2600 (XL-O/10).
Every year thousands of children and adolescents in the region are expelled from their homes because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. They are victims of attacks by State security organs as well as by non-state actors. They are excluded from education, access to dignifying work, health, social security, and the most elementary rights as citizens, particularly sexual and reproductive rights. The most serious concern relating to citizen security is the situation of transsexual, travesti, transgender men and women. Being particularly affected by stigma, deprived of the right to personal identity based on their social name and identity, without which the exercise of most rights are simply impossible; excluded from any public policy; carrying the huge risk of suffering the worst forms of social, economic and labour segregation. Located at the margin of any real opportunity, many of them find in prostitution the only means of survival, which aggravates the circle of marginalization and poverty, as well as a risk to personal security.
Crimes committed against LGBTTTI people are made invisible in official data on criminality. Investigation authorities rarely complete their investigations. Courts of law are often carried away by bias that does not allow access to a just and inclusive
judgment, that occasionally is favorable to the perpetrator. The majority of victims
prefer not to report crimes committed against them because of fear of suffering
harassment, maltreatment or institutional victimization.
We applaud the significant progress in equality legislation, case law and regulations in several countries of the region in the last year. However, we are concerned that the same progress is not occurring in all countries simultaneously. At this point in almost all English speaking Caribbean countries same sex intimacy is still criminal. We denounce religious beliefs constantly interfering with human rights, which contributes to worsening issues of citizen security for LGBTTTI people.
We denounce that the process of negotiation of the Draft Inter-American Convention
against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance is basically dormant, if not close to failure, which would mean losing the opportunity to address the issues mentioned above.
We are concerned that the implementation of policies that are aimed at repressing
criminality in society often have the effect of worsening the vulnerability situation of
LGBTTTI people.
Therefore we demand:

To the Member States:
1. To introduce in their laws clear norms to effectively criminalize hate crimes; to
repeal laws that criminalize same sex intimacy; to fight against discrimination in
every area.
2. To establish effective and speedy mechanisms for the integral recognition of legal
identity of transexual, trangender, travesti and intersex individuals, based on their
names and perceived gender identity, without need for genital surgery nor of
pathological protocols.
3. To implement adequate, integral and transversal public policies to fight stigma,
exclusion and segregation of individuals on grounds of their sexual orientation,
gender identity and gender expression; as well as ensure their effective protection
from violence.
4. To consider the proposal for an Inter-American Convention on Sexual Rights and
Reproductive Rights.
To the General Assembly:
5. To approve the draft resolution CP/CJP-2951/11, Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity presented by the Brazilian delegation, whose initiative we fully endorse.
We are not dangerous. We are in danger!
GENDER IDENTITY (Adopted at the fourth plenary session, held on June 7, 2011)
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, TAKING INTO ACCOUNT resolutions AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08), AG/RES. 2504 (XXXIX-O/09), and AG/RES. 2600 (XL-O/10), “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity”;
That the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in that instrument, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status; and
That the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the security of his person without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed, or any other factor;
CONSIDERING that the Charter of the Organization of American States proclaims that the historic mission of the Americas is to offer to man a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his just aspirations;
REAFFIRMING the principles of universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of
human rights;
TAKING NOTE of the Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,
presented to the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 2008; and
NOTING WITH CONCERN the acts of violence and related human rights violations as well as discrimination practiced against persons because of their sexual orientation and gender identity;
1. To condemn discrimination against persons by reason of their sexual orientation
and gender identity, and to urge states, within the parameters of the legal institutions of their domestic systems, to adopt the necessary measures to prevent, punish, and eradicate such discrimination.

To condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against
persons because of their sexual orientation and gender identity; and to urge states to prevent and investigate these acts and violations and to ensure due judicial protection for victims on an equal
footing and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
To encourage the member states to consider, within the parameters of the legal
institutions of their domestic systems, adopting public policies against discrimination by reason
of sexual orientation and gender identity.
To urge states to ensure adequate protection for human rights defenders who
work on the issue of acts of violence, discrimination, and human rights violations committed
against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
To request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to pay
particular attention to its work plan titled “Rights of LGTBI People” and, in keeping with its
established practice, to prepare a hemispheric study on the subject; and to urge member states to
participate in the report.
To ask the IACHR and the Inter-American Juridical Committee each to prepare
a study on the legal implications and conceptual and terminological developments as regards
sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and to instruct the Committee on
Juridical and Political Affairs to include on its agenda the examination of the results of the
requested studies, with the participation of interested civil society organizations, before the
forty-second regular session of the General Assembly.
To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its forty-
second regular session on the implementation of this resolution. Execution of the activities
herein shall be subject to the availability of financial resources in the program-budget of the
Organization and other resources.
2. Statement by a Coalition of Caribbean LGBTI and AIDS Organisations at the 41st OAS General Assembly

Laws criminalising all forms of same-sex intimacy, whether private or public, threatens progress towards ‘peace, security, democracy, human rights, development and cooperation1in the Anglophone Caribbean.

Over the years, we have recognized that:
  • Homophobic statements made by political and religious leaders as well as entertainers reinforce prejudice and discrimination against LGBTI persons;
  • These statements drive the social exclusion of LGBTI persons, thereby preventing them from being active in civil, political and social life; and
  • Impede LGBTI persons’ access to healthcare and justice, increase their vulnerability to poverty, homelessness, denial of employment, etc.

As a result, we have documented in the Anglophone Caribbean:
  • HIV and AIDS prevalence of up to 30% among men who have sex with men (MSM), second only to sub-Saharan Africa;
  • Physical and mental torture, including bullying in schools, harassment, employment discrimination, corrective rapes, murders, home invasions; and
  • Denial of access to justice because of poor response by police to LGBTI complaints of abuses and the absence of legislation to protect them.

Laws criminalizing consenting adult same-sex intimacy contradict the Organisation of American States’ commitment ‘to promote … a set of values, attitudes and modes of behaviour based on respect for life, human beings and their dignity’2.

We therefore call on the leaders of CARICOM to guarantee the rights of all citizens by repealing all these laws and aggressively address the scourge of homophobia that undermines our collective security.
1 & 2 Draft Declaration of San Salvador on Citizen Security in the America (2011)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Painting the Spectrum 2011 : SASOD's Seventh Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Painting the Spectrum 7 : Schedule of Films

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays from Monday 6 June, 2011 to Wednesday 29 June, 2011

Venue : Sidewalk Cafe, Middle Street, Georgetown Guyana
Programme starts at 7pm each Night

Monday 6 June, 2011
First public screening of My Wardrobe , My Right

SASOD/Neil Marks, Guyana, 2011, 20 minutes, colour, documentary, English

“My Wardrobe, My Right” explores the issues related to the criminalization of cross-dressing in Guyana. It captures the stories of Peaches and Gulliver, two of the cross-dressers who were victims of the February 2009 crackdowns and the views of SASOD and one of the human rights attorneys, Gino Persaud, representing the litigants in the constitutional suit against Guyana’s laws which penalise cross-dressing. The film's producer is Neil Marks. Support for the film was received from the Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG)

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Stephen Elliot, Australia, 1994, 104 minutes, colour, drama/comedy, English
A bus named Priscilla, and three drag queens who are travelling across the Australia Outback in search of work. This the story of their adventures as they meet different people and individuals. The Adventures of Priscilla stars Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp and is a cult classic in Australia and
Winner of Oscar for Best Costume Design
This film was recommended by an Australian supporter of SASOD, Dr David Plummer and other members.

Tuesday 7 June, 2011

L-word Season 1 - Episodes 1 to 4

Ilene Chaiken and others, USA, 2004, colour, TV series, English

L-Word was a television series that ran on Showtime from 2004 to 2009. The series follows the lives of a group of lesbian, bisexual and transgender people
These opening episodes were nominated by Natasha Yhapp and other members of SASOD who have enjoyed different seasons.

More information..

Wednesday 8 June, 2011
Rag Tag
Adaora Nwandu, (Nigeria/UK ), 2006 , colour, drama, 110 minutes, English

The film was donated by Director Adaora Nwandu for the 2007 film festival but the DVD was damaged. This DVD donated by Dion Pelham

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. The film stars Daniel Parsons, Adedamola Adelaja and Tamsin Clarke

Monday 13 June, 2011

Saving Face
Alice Wu, USA, 2004, colour, romance/drama, 91 minutes, English/Mandarin with subtitles
Wilhelmina Pang, a lesbian Chinese-American surgeon, is shocked when her single mother shows up on her doorstep pregnant. To help her mom save face and avoid the taboo in the Chinese community of an unmarried woman pregnant, the doctor helps her mom find Mr. Right while at the same time dealing with her own relationship. The film stars Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen and Lynn Chen

Tuesday 14 June, 2011

Jonah Markowitz, USA, 2007, colour, romance/drama, 88 minutes, English

Forced to give up his dreams of art school, Zach spends his days working a dead-end job and helping his needy sister care for her son. In his free time he surfs, draws and hangs out with his best friend, Gabe, who lives on the wealthy side of town. When Gabe's older brother, Shaun, returns home, he is drawn to Zach's selflessness and talent. Zach falls in love with Shaun while struggling to reconcile his own desires with the needs of his family
The filme was the winner of "Outstanding Film – Limited Release" at the 2009 GLAAD Media Awards, Best New Director and Favorite Narrative Feature at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, and the People's Choice Award for Best Feature at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Shelter represents the feature directorial debut of Markowitz. The main actors are Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe and Tina Holmes

This film was recommended by a donor to the festival who wanted to remain anonymous. In his words, he said that "it is good to see a nice film with gay characters which does not end with someone dying.."

Wednesday 15 June, 2011

Yair Hochner, Israel, 2008, colour, drama/comedy, 110 minutes, Hebrew with English subtitles
Antarctica follows the lives of a group of young people living in Tel Aviv . Omer is almost thirty and still hasn’t found himself — or the man of his dreams. A series of disastrous blind dates hasn’t helped. Shirley is a little younger and has already nabbed her dream woman, Michal. As the siblings sort through their feelings and prepare for adulthood, friends and relatives chime in with their advice and problems of their own.

Watch the trailer..

Monday 20 June, 2011

Boy Culture
Q Allan Brocka, USA, 2006, colour, drama, 88 minutes, English
'X' is a successful male escort who describes in a series of confessions his tangled romantic relationships with his two roommates and an older, enigmatic client. This film is based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Matthew Rettenmund. The film stars Derek Magyar as 'X', Patrick Bachau and Darryl Stephens. Boy Culture received several awards at various film festivals and has been screened at major LGBT festivals around the world

Tuesday 21 June, 2011

Viola di mare (Sea Purple)

Donatella Maiorca, 2009, Italy, colour, drama/history/romance, 105 minutes, Italian with english subtitles

Viola di mare is a sensous film based on a little known European tradition of women who dressed and lived as men.. for various reasons. The film is set in 19th century Sicily and revolves around Angela (Valeria Solarino) and her attraction to her best friend Sara (Isabella Ragonese). Angela becomes Angelo as a way to deal with the scorn of her family , church and society. The film is based on a true story, adapted from the novel Minchia di Re by Giacomo Pilati.

Wednesday 22 June, 2011

Desert Hearts Donna Deitch, 1985, USA, colour. romance, 96 minutes,
It is 1950's Nevada and Vivian Bell (played by Helena Shaver), an English professor at Columbia University, travels to Nevada to establish six-week residency to obtain a divorce. She stays at a guest house for women waiting for their divorces to be finalized, and then establishes a friendship with the free-spirited ranch owner Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau). The film was praised for its photography of the Nevada scenery. The film received a few nominations, and was commended for the way in which portrayed a happy relationship between two women.

Watch the trailer

Monday 27 June, 2011

Difficult Love,
Zanele Muholi and Peter Goldsmid, 2010, South Africa, documentary, 57 minutes
Difficult Love’ is a highly personal take on the challenges facing Black lesbians in South Africa today emerges through the life, work, friends and associates of ‘visual activist’ and internationally celebrated photographer, Zanele Muholi.
Video available at IMDB

Voices of Witness Africa

Cynthia Black & Katie Sherrod, U.S.A./Uganda/Kenya/Rwanda, 2009, 30 min., colour, documentary, in English with no subtitles.
Anglican women and men from across Africa tell their stories of intolerance and community, of secrecy and hope, of facing challenges and seeking dignity as LGBT people of faith. This film was donated by the Voice of Witness producers to the 2010 Film Festival. Read more..

Tuesday 28 June, 2011

Spectrum Celebration
Our annual evening of poetry, praise, song, dance and whatever form people want to celebrate the struggles and survival of LGBT people from around the world.

Wednesday 29 June, 2011
Joel Schumacher, 1999 , USA, colour, comedy/drama, 112 minutes

Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro) is a homophobic "local hero" officer of the New York police department who lives in a downtown apartment complex. He suffers a stroke and is advised to take singing lessons. His neighbour, Rusty(Phillip Seymour-Hoffman) is a pre-op transgenderist who needs money for the operation. The two dislike each other but need each other...

Thank You to ....
For Film nominations, donation and selection :-

  • Sherlina Nageer
  • Natasha Yhapp
  • Mark Ross
  • Stacey Gomes
  • Paula Fraser
  • Dion Pelham
  • Korey Chisholm
  • Keimo Benjamin

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Text of British High Commissioner, His Excellency Simon Bond's Remarks at IDAHO Event Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.

I’m very pleased to be here on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) and for the launch of the video “My Wardrobe, My Right” by SASOD and partners.

The first question some of you might be asking yourselves is what is a diplomat doing at an event like this?

The short answer is “why not?”.

There is a school of thought – with perhaps some adherents in Guyana – which seems to liken diplomats to children in the Victorian era, that is, that they “should be seen and not heard”.

A more realistic view is that the role of diplomats is to represent their country’s interests and to promote their country’s values.

And that is why I am here today.

The UK opposes all forms of violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as a matter of principle.

We believe that human rights are universal and that LGBT people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled.

Discrimination is never acceptable. The UK is committed to combating violence and discrimination against LGBT

people as an integral part of the UK’s international human rights work.

So British embassies and High Commissions overseas are encouraged to support the efforts of civil society organisations to change attitudes by supporting anti-discrimination events, such as the marking today of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Of course the UK has not always held these positions. Britain, like almost every other country, used to have discriminatory legislation and practices against LGBT people until relatively recently.

And those laws and attitudes, of course, were reflected in the way Britain administered its former colonies. So, we clearly have some historical responsibility for the legislation that countries like Guyana inherited at independence.

But the UK has been moving in the right direction for some time:

- It was fully 44 years ago, in 1967, that the British parliament passed the Sexual Offences Act which decriminalized homosexual acts in private by consenting men.

- In 1972 there was the first Gay Pride March in London

- In 2000 the UK equalised the age of consent between LGBT and non-LGBT people at age 16;

- In 2004 we passed the Civil Partnership Act which provided significant legal rights for same sex couples

This is not now a party political issue in the UK. All UK political parties have senior members who are openly lesbian and gay and all parties strongly support the promotion of LGBT rights.

The current Conservative/Liberal coalition Government in the UK took a further major step forward in 2010 when Prime Minister David Cameron launched “Working for Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual and Transgender Equality” to ensure a more coordinated approach to the UK’s work in breaking down barriers that exist for LGBT people both at home and abroad. This has been followed this year with an Action Plan with specific commitments covering areas like education, employment, sport and culture.

Of course I am not suggesting that the UK is perfect. London is one of the most cosmopolitan and liberal cities in the world but there are still problems with anti-gay propaganda.

But we are getting there.

Internationally the picture remains mixed and very challenging.

Homosexuality remains illegal in around 80 countries. Shockingly it is punishable by death in seven countries: Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Nigeria.

As I mentioned we are well aware of the legacy of British colonial laws prohibiting homosexual acts. Sadly those laws have not been changed in many countries and again, shockingly to me, some 43 Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexual behaviour.

It’s fair to say that the international community continues to struggle to fully recognise the rights of LGBT people and many countries, including many in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, in Africa and the Caribbean continue to actively block promotion of LGBT rights in international fora.

The arguments for this approach tend to be based on religion, morality and culture and that LGBT issues are somehow a “Western thing”.

Customs and traditions are constantly changing. This happens everywhere. There was a time of course when women were treated as inferior to men in every culture and tradition.

Culture and tradition cannot justify denying people their rights. Homosexuality exists among all people and has done so since the start of recorded history. It was not something invented, or practised only in the West.

The UK recognises of course that these are sensitive issues.

It is important to strike a balance between religious freedoms and the rights of LGBT people not to be discriminated against.

But human rights are universal. They cannot be subject to different interpretations of morality. States have an obligation to ensure that laws guarantee the same rights to everyone regardless of sexuality.

And sometimes that means Governments need to lead their people, not simply to follow public opinion.

Although the picture in the Caribbean on LGBT issues may not always seem bright, among Guyana’s neighbours to the South it is often different. Brazil’s Supreme Court recently recognized the legal rights of same sex unions. Argentina and Uruguay also recognise such rights. So, not just decriminalising sexual acts which they did many years ago but recognising legal and financial rights.

The Government of Guyana committed at the Universal Periodic Review at the UN in Geneva in May last year to “hold consultations on this issue over the next two years”. We encourage progress on that and an open and constructive debate.

I want to wish you well in your activities to mark this important day and for the success of the documentary.

Thank you very much.

Monday, May 16, 2011

International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia (IDAHO) 2011

SASOD launches cross-dressing documentary and ‘soft’ launches quarterly newsletter for International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia (IDAHO)
WHO: SASOD with support from the Caribbean Treatment Action Group (CTAG)
WHAT: Launch of “My Wardrobe, My Right” video documentary and ‘soft’ launch of the inaugural edition of quarterly newsletter, “Spectrum Vibes,” with feature remarks by His Excellency Simon Bond, British High Commissioner to Guyana
WHERE: Sidewalk Café & Jazz Club, 176 Middle Street, Georgetown
WHEN: International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia (IDAHO), Tuesday, May 17 at 10:00 hrs
WHY: SASOD with support from CTAG, the regional funding and advocacy mechanism of the Collaborative Fund for HIV Treatment Preparedness - A Project of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and TIDES Network – is producing a series of video documentaries. On the occasion of IDAHO 2011, SASOD launches the first in the series, “My Wardrobe, My Right” which examines the criminalization of cross-dressing in Guyana. SASOD also takes the opportunity of IDAHO to ‘soft’ launch the inaugural issue of its quarterly newsletter, “Spectrum Vibes,” which is dedicated to the life and work of the late Dr. Robert Carr, who passed away last week. Dr. Carr was the director of advocacy and policy of the International Council of AIDS Service Organisations (ICASO), co-chair of the Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF), founder, co-chair and first executive director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), former executive director of Jamaica AIDS Support and former coordinator of the Graduate Studies Unit at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, among many other affiliations.

Information Note on IDAHO Launch of “My Wardrobe, My Right” Video Documentary
What is IDAHO?
On May 17, over 50 countries around the world celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), marking the anniversary of one of the most powerful steps in advancing human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people globally – the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the World Health Organization 21 years ago. IDAHO is recognized by the State in a number of countries, including Brazil and Cuba, which includes a month of government-sponsored activities, and is observed in Jamaica and in Guyana, this year for the sixth year. IDAHO is a global collaboration to take local action to engage violence, stigma, unequal treatment and state oppression, including criminal laws, that target people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is an occasion to call for and demonstrate political action, to build public awareness, and to mobilize alliances within and across borders. The international celebration of a day against homophobia was spearheaded by a Caribbean man, Martiniquan Georges-Louis Tin.
What is this SASOD/CTAG video-documentary about?
The goal is to create a more supportive socio-cultural environment for sexual and gender minorities through public education efforts which aim to mitigate stigma faced by these marginalized groups. It aims to create a supportive infrastructure by building a more enabling socio-cultural environment which encourages ordinary people to embrace these groups who are stigmatized because of sexual taboos and gender non-conformity. It is envisaged that this locally-made film, which can have a wide reach and mass appeal, will buttress other ongoing efforts to build supportive infrastructure through policy and law reform, training and skills-building by various stakeholders. Film technology provides an invaluable tool to humanize these taboo issues in mainstream television media and address sensitive areas where lack of knowledge is pervasive among Guyanese and Caribbean people.
Guyana’s laws criminalise cross-dressing. 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… ” This antiquated piece of legislation dates back to the 19th century, colonial period, but is still being selectively enforced today – in the 21st century. In 2006, Ronell Trotman, better known as ‘Pertonella,’ a cross-dressing sex worker, was fined for vagrancy and wearing female attire; $5000 for each offence (Stabroek News, Tuesday 16 May 2006). And then between February 6 and 10, 2009, police detained at least eight people, some of them twice, charging seven of them under section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02. The first arrests took place on February 6, when plainclothes policemen detained three persons in downtown Georgetown, near Stabroek Market. On February 7, the police detained five more. In both occasions, the then acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson fined the detainees GY$7,500 each. On February 10, the police detained four people; three of whom had been among those arrested on February 6 and 7. In court, when handing down the sentence, the then acting Chief Magistrate Robertson told the detainees they were not women but men and exhorted them to “go to church and give their lives to Christ.”
Laws which penalize cross-dressing effectively criminalize persons whose ways of expressing themselves, in their manner of dressing, goes against certain stereotypical expectations for gender roles. In this regard, dressing, as a form of gender expression, is a question of freedom of expression. Laws against cross-dressing therefore violate the right to freedom of expression, as all persons have the right to express their gender freely through the way in which they dress. These insidious provisions should therefore be urgently expunged from the law books given their contravention of basic, democratic freedoms.
On February 19, 2010, the eve of World Day of Social Justice, four cross-dressers and SASOD filed a notice of motion before the Supreme Court of Judicature for redress claiming, among other relief, to have section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:02, invalidated as irrational, discriminatory, undemocratic, contrary to the rule of law and unconstitutional. The matter is sub judice, presently before the High Court.
“My Wardrobe, My Right” explores these issues related to the criminalization of cross-dressing in Guyana. It captures the stories of two of the cross-dressers who were victims of the February 2009 crackdowns and the views of SASOD and one of the human rights attorneys representing the litigants in the constitutional suit against Guyana’s laws which penalise cross-dressing.