On Wednesday, July 16, 2014, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted a Human Rights Workshop titled “Know Your Rights: Citizens Rights vis-a-viz Police Powers”at Moray House in Georgetown. The workshop was facilitated by Former Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix, M.P. The aim of the workshop was to educate LGBT Guyanese, sex workers, other marginalized groups who frequently interact with police and civil society practitioners who work with these vulnerable groups, on the rights afforded to them as Guyanese citizens vis-a-viz police powers as stipulated under the Police Act and the Guyana Constitution.
Former Police Commissioner, Mr. Winston Felix, M.P., holding up a copy of the Guyana Constitution during his presentation.
SASOD embarked on this workshop as a means of empowering these groups as they frequently come into contact with law enforcement officials and many of them are unaware of their rights and the powers of the police. Mr. Felix enlightened participants about the laws as it relates to being questioned, searched and arrested by the police. He informed them of the powers, responsibilities and limitations of the police and also about their rights and protections guaranteed to them under the Guyana constitution. He also went through the standard operating procedures that officers should follow if they are questioning, searching or arresting an individual.
Former Police Commissioner Mr. Winston Felix and Participants of the Know Your Rights workshop.
The interactive workshop allowed participants to frankly share their experiences with the retired Commissioner in their previous interactions with police officers. Many of them noted instances where their rights were violated by officers who do not afford them equal treatment under the law because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Mr. Felix in his discussions with the participants noted that constant sensitivity training is required for police officers both in training and as refresher courses in order for them to become more familiar with the issues affecting LGBT Guyanese and other vulnerable groups, and how to interact with them on a daily basis.
Attending the workshop were 30 participants from a number of civil society organisations, including, Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.), Diverse Youth Movement (DIYOME), Guyana Trans United (GTU), Guyana Sex Work Coalition (GSWC), Guyana Youth Coalition, Hope For All Foundation from the Essequibo Coast, Family Awareness Consciousness Together (FACT) from Corriverton, United Bricklayers from New Amsterdam, and members and associates of SASOD.
Participants at the “Know Your Rights” workshop
The workshop was supported by the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and conducted under SASOD’s Human Rights programme to promote social change by empowering LGBT Guyanese to understand their rights as citizens of Guyana and to sensitize the public on the LGBT issues.