Cross-Dressing Suit Set for Appeal Hearing Tomorrow Friday November 18
As the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual
Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) join the global observances of November as
Trans Awareness Month, Guyana’s Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case
McEwan and others versus Attorney General of Guyana tomorrow, Friday, November
18, 2016 at 9:00 hrs at the Court of Appeal, 60 High Street, Kingston. The
Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Hon. Justice Carl Singh, is expected to
preside over the hearing with a panel of appellate judges.
The appeal was previously fixed for hearing on Wednesday July 13
at 9 am before Guyana’s Court of Appeal. Gulliver McEwan, the first-named
appellant, and representatives of the GTU and SASOD were present in a
completely full courtroom. At this hearing, the appellants filed their
skeleton arguments in accordance with the rules of the Court. The arguments of
the State were yet to be filed. The Court of Appeal noted that the arguments
filed by counsel for the appellants were extensive and that it wished some time
to fully review them and to receive the arguments from the State.
The case was initially filed in February 2010, following the
widely reported arrests and convictions of seven trans persons for the 1893
summary offence of ‘being a man’ and wearing ‘female’ attire in a public way or
public place, for an improper purpose.’ Four of the convicted persons filed
this action, along with SASOD, which approached the Faculty of Law UWI Rights
Advocacy Project (U-RAP). Thereafter, with the assistance of U-RAP and local
counsel, a constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law was filed.
The McEwan case argues that the archaic cross-dressing law, found
in section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1893, is
inconsistent with the Constitution of Guyana. It also argues that the conduct
of the Chief Magistrate, who told the individual appellants that they were confused
about their sexuality and should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, was also
not consistent with the Guyana Constitution.
In September, 2013, then Chief Justice, Ian Chang, heard the case
and ruled that cross-dressing per se is not a crime, unless done for an
“improper purpose.” The parties appealed this ruling, in part because of the
inherent uncertainty in the terminology employed in the statute. With that
uncertainty, state officials have virtually unlimited discretion in applying
The entire legal team includes Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick SC, Mr. Nigel
Hughes, Dr. Arif Bulkan, and Mr. Gino Persaud.