Last Thursday, December 4, 2014 the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) presented its shadow report “On Devil’s Island: A UPR Submission on LGBT Rights in Guyana” at a Pre-Session to Guyana’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which was hosted in Geneva by the international non-governmental organization, UPR Info. The report focused on the situation of sexual rights in Guyana, with special attention focus to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Guyana. SASOD’s Social Change Coordinator, Chelauna Providence, in her statement, highlighted discriminatory laws and practices that hinder the civil, political, economic and social rights of LGBT Guyanese.
Also presenting at the pre-session was Child Link’s Director, Omattie Madray, on the situation of children’s rights in Guyana, reiterating the calls to abolish corporal punishment. She posited that though the Government of Guyana noted several recommendations to repeal laws that criminalise same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing in the first UPR cycle, and agreed to host consultations on these issues, very little has been done in the past four years.
|Child Link’s Omattie Madray and SASOD’s Chelauna Providence in Geneva|
SASOD’s statement also emphasized that the Guyana Constitution does not make provision for sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination, resulting in LGBT persons living in a repressive socio-cultural environment that limits their access to services. Providence pointed out that there have been at least five unsolved murder cases of transgender and homosexual persons in circumstances which suggest they were hate crimes between 2013 and 2014. She attributed this to high levels of homophobia and transphobia and hate speech in the public sphere, intended to incite ill-will against LGBT persons, such as the comments made by Government Minister Juan Edghill on iRadio’s “Hard Talk” on June 15 this year.
Despite the Government of Guyana’s acceptance of Argentina’s recommendation to adapt laws and mechanisms to combat discrimination against groups in vulnerable situations, it was cited that LGBT persons still face higher levels of unemployment and underemployment, and those who are employed have no legal protection from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity under the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997.
Providence’s statement also mentioned the so-called “Modern Education Bill” which was introduced to Parliament on June 20, 2014 which did not specify sexual orientation and gender identity in its proposed non-discrimination clause.
SASOD proposed several recommendations to the missions represented for the Government of Guyana, including; recalling Juan Edgehill as a member of Parliament and removing him as a Government Minister, amending Article 149 of the Guyana Constitution to include sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination, and reviewing the sex and sexuality theme in the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum to include objective information on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Representatives from Colombia and the Netherlands expressed particular concern about the situation of LGBT people in Guyana and the Government’s responsibility to protect and promote the human rights of all Guyanese, including LGBT citizens. A total of 22 missions with a diplomatic presence in Geneva attended the UPR Pre-Session on Guyana, including representatives from Latin America, West Africa, Europe and North America.
Guyana’s UPR will take place at end of January of 2015, where the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva will respond to the national report on human rights by the Government of Guyana and make recommendations for improving Guyana’s human rights situation. SASOD’s participation at the Pre-Session was supported by COC Netherlands and UPR Info.
Click here to read SASOD's UPR Pre-Session Statement presented by SASOD’s Social Change Coordinator, Chelauna Providence in Geneva.