GUYANA: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO)
By Alana Da Silva
The Guyana Equality Forum and its partners gathered together on May 18, 2013 at 3:00pm to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) by painting a section of the seawall between Vlissengen Road and Pere Street. The GEF is a local network of civil society groups who support equal rights and justice for all Guyanese. The coalition is chaired by Red Thread, while SASOD serves as its administrative secretariat.
IDAHO is celebrated annually on May 17 by millions of people around the world and marks the 1990 anniversary in which the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. For the Guyana Equality Forum, this year’s event was titled “Painting a Brighter Future” under the theme, “The Children are our Future” to raise awareness of the issues children face in Guyana, such as violence, abuse, and discrimination based on sexuality and gender. IDAHO was also utilized to keep a local spotlight on the Select Committee of the National Assembly that is currently holding consultations on the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and the need to create a safe and enabling environment for children, regardless of race, religion, social status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. IDAHO was therefore acknowledged by highlighting the immense work of Guyanese groups advocating to advance human rights protections of all citizens, especially our vulnerable children.
The painting activity was supported by scores of members, supporters of SASOD, Red Thread, and other civil society groups including, Youths for Guyana, students from the University of Guyana and their recently-formed Human Rights Group. As Renuka Anandjit (Programme Coordinator at SASOD) said in a brief remark, “We are all here because we believe in the protection of human rights.”
The event was experienced with laughter and cheer as the group lined up to paint the IDAHO symbol in black and pink; silhouettes of children holding hands under a rainbow; and plastered colorful handprints on the white concrete wall.
In keeping with the theme of this event, SASOD believes that in order for us as a nation to move forward and protect vulnerable children, marginalized groups, and all Guyanese from the dangers and inequalities that seek to rob us from a brighter future, we must remain committed to eliminating all forms violence and discrimination meted out to all Guyanese – including discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
Guyana’s record on children’s rights was reviewed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in January 2013. Red Thread, Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.), Family Awareness Conscious Together (FACT) and SASOD partnered and presented a submission on sexuality and gender issues affecting children in Guyana to the CRC Committee. The Committee’s recommendations included that Guyana:
• Take all appropriate measures to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, particularly in the domestic and school contexts:
• Strengthen and expand awareness-raising and education programmes and campaigns, in order to promote positive and alternative forms of discipline and respect for children’s rights, with the involvement of children, while raising awareness about the adverse consequences of corporal punishment on children:
• Address harmful cultural practices involving child abuse and exploitation;
• Establish procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse and exploitation cases pursuant to the Sexual Offences Act 2010;
• Prioritize the elimination of all forms of violence against children; and
• Address the prevalence of discrimination against Amerindian children, and children with disabilities and on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
SASOD and the Guyana Equality Forum believe that part of their work is to ensure that days such as IDAHO are commemorated as a reminder that the path to achieving human rights for all is a continuous struggle, but one that can pave the way for a brighter future for all Guyanese.