On Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at a press conference held in the Burbon Room at the Sidewall Café, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) launched a damning 11-page report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights in Guyana.
(l-r) Mr. Joel Simpson, Managing Director, SASOD; Ms. Tiffany Barry, Social Change Consultant, SASOD and Ms. Schemel Patrick, Advocacy and Communications Officer, SASOD.
SASOD, submitting the report along with the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI), reported homophobic Government Minister Juan Edghill to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council for hate speech, as a violation of the Guyana Constitution and international human rights law, and called for his removal. SASOD also presented a 15-point list of recommendations to the Government of Guyana.
Ms. Tiffany Barry, Social Change Consultant, SASOD giving a brief synopsis of the UPR report
In giving a synopsis of the report, SASOD’s Social Change Consultant, Ms. Tiffany Barry outlined the 15 recommendations posited by SASOD. The recommendations include educating members of the uniformed forces and evaluating their performances based on their obligations in terms of non-discriminatory treatment towards marginalized groups; repeal sections 351 to 353 of the Criminal Law Offences Act Chapter 8:01 and 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02 which criminalise same-sex/gender intimacy between consenting adult men in private and cross-dressing, respectively; amend section 4 of the Prevention of Discrimination Act, Chapter 99:09, to include sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination in employment, training and recruitment; among others.
The report titled “On Devil’s Island: A UPR Submission on LGBT Human Rights in Guyana” was submitted a month ago on June 15, the same day that Minister within the Ministry of Finance Juan Edghill made hate-inciting comments on Hard Talk – a local radio programme on iRadio - describing homosexuality as “destructive, unwholesome and unhealthy” saying it should not be tolerated in the Guyanese society.
Mr. Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD, answering questions from the media.
In his remarks, Managing Director of SASOD, Mr. Joel Simpson said that “Edghill’s inflammatory edict amounts to hate speech as described by Article 146 (3) of the Guyana constitution as “speeches or other expressions, in whatever form, capable of exciting hostility or ill-will against any person or class of persons.” He further went on to say, “We are therefore calling for his removal as a Government Minister and Member of Parliament as this is a blatant violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms under the Guyana constitution.”
Others government representatives who have made comments on LGBT issues over the past month were PPP/C’s Member of Parliament Manzoor Nadir stating that the outcry to scrap anti–LGBT laws is a “storm in a teacup” issue; and Presidential Adviser on Governance, Gail Teixeira’s recent remarks that “there is no fast track… to see change and support new rights.” Simpson questioned “which rock Nadir is living under” citing monthly media reports of violence, discrimination and injustice against LGBT Guyanese and multiple reports from the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Law, SASOD and other groups. Simpson also responded to Teixeira declaring “yes, there is a fast track way. It’s political leadership and our government sorely lacks this when it comes to human rights issues.” He reiterated the call for better protection of existing human rights for LGBT people, rebuffing Teixeira’s salvo that these are “new rights.”
The full report can be found here.