Monday, December 17, 2018

SASOD Celebrates 15th Anniversary and Human Rights Day

On Sunday, December 16, 2018, Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) celebrated its 15th anniversary with a cocktail reception at the Impeccable Banquet Hall in Georgetown. For over 15 years, SASOD Guyana has been a dedicated voice for the LGBTQ+ Guyanese and has promoted non-discrimination and equality in the country and the Caribbean region.

The Hon. Dr. Nicolette Henry, M.P, Minister of Education, delivered special remarks on behalf of the Government of Guyana. Minister Henry spoke about SASOD’s notable achievements on local, regional, and international stages such as engaging local government, leading public education and sensitization on gender and sexual diversity, and providing essential services to Guyana’s most marginalized citizens. Minister Henry also commended SASOD for the recent victory at the Caribbean Court of Justice where the organization played a critical role in demolishing a colonial-era law that criminalized cross-dressing and disproportionately penalized transgender and gender non-conforming persons. She said that this landmark decision highlights the fact that outdated laws do not reflect the current realities and values of inclusion and cohesion in Guyana today. The Minister confirmed the Government’s commitment to ending all forms of discrimination and fulfilling the promise of equality and a good life for all Guyanese.

Education Minister Hon. Dr. Nicolette Henry M.P. delivering special remarks.
Founder and Managing Director, Joel Simpson, spoke on behalf of SASOD Guyana. Simpson spoke fondly of the grassroots movement’s humble beginnings as a student-led lobby group, and proudly of the acclaimed, influential movement, it has become. SASOD Guyana has represented the LGBTQ+ people for the past 15 years and has used every opportunity possible to hold the state accountable for its human rights obligations. SASOD will continue to advocate for equality and inclusion of all persons in Guyana.

Managing Director of SASOD Guyana, Joel Simpson, giving opening remarks.
Also in attendance was Opposition Chief Whip, Hon. Gail Teixeira, M.P., and Hon. Nigel Dharamlall, M.P., of the People’s Progressive Party / Civic (PPP/C). The two PPP/C parliamentarians joined the Education Minister and Simpson in cutting the SASOD 15th-anniversary cake. The evening concluded with holiday merriment and excitement for the anticipated progress in the upcoming New Year. The celebratory event was supported by the United Nations Development Programme and COC Netherlands.

SASOD Guyana's Joel Simpson (third from left) cuts the 15th anniversary cake as opposition PPP/C parliamentarians, Nigel Dharamlall M.P. (far left) and Gail Texeira M.P. (second from left) and Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Nicolette Henry M.P. (far right) look on. 

SASOD Guyana's Joel Simpson (third form left0 feeds Opposition Cheif Whip Gail Texeira M.P. (second from left) a piece fo the 15th-anniversary cake as Nigel Dharamlall M.P. (far left) and Minister of Education, Hon. Dr. Nicollete Henry M.P. (far right) look on.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Recruiting Data Collectors for Key Populations Viral Load Study

Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) is seeking data collectors to assist with in-country efforts on a project to estimate viral load suppression among key populations enrolled in HIV care and treatment in Region 4 of Guyana.

Core Qualifications and Experiences
·         Completed secondary school
·         Excellent communication skills
·         Ability to work in a non-judgemental and sensitive manner with stigmatized groups such as men who have sex with men, transgender persons and female sex workers living with HIV
·         Willing to travel moderate distances
·         Ability to work as part of a team
·         Familiarity with technology, smartphones and tablets

Additional Desirable Qualifications and Experiences
·         Prior experience in conducting surveys
·         Post-secondary education in social sciences or health-related field would be an asset
·         Previous work with marginalized communities

Successful applicants will be required to:
·         Attend a mandatory 3-day training session tentatively scheduled to start on January 11, 2019, in Georgetown. Transportation stipend and lunch will be provided
·         Conduct surveys as needed using predetermined guidelines and protocols
·         Complete scheduling and logging activities
·         Report to supervisors and other personnel in the research team as outlined in the guidelines, terms of reference and contract 
·         Adhere to strict ethical and confidentiality standards; will be required to sign confidentiality agreements
·         Participate in team correspondence, meetings and debriefings as needed
·         Interact in a professional manner with the research team, participants and stakeholders
·         Uphold respect for diversity and equality in interactions, maintain good interpersonal working relationships and conduct duties in accordance with appropriate health, safety and sustainability practices

Working Hours: Day-time hours and week days only for data collection.

Duration: Data collection is expected to last approximately 8 weeks

Remuneration: Data collectors will be paid per survey completed at rate of $2,000 per survey

Application Procedures
Please submit application letters and resumes especially noting any prior survey experience by email only to no later than 23:59 hours on Monday, December 31, 2018. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted for interviews. SASOD Guyana is an equal-opportunity group and encourages applications from marginalized persons, including sexual and gender minorities, sex workers and people living with HIV.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Trans litigants and Caribbean civil society groups welcome the landmark ruling 

In a greatly anticipated decision delivered on Tuesday morning, November 13, Guyana’s final court of appeal, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), ruled unanimously that the law which makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in a public place while dressed in clothing of a different gender for “an improper purpose”, violates the Constitution of Guyana and is void. 

The judgment of the Hon. Mr. Justice Saunders, the newly appointed President, said, “No one should have his or her dignity trampled on, or human rights denied, merely on account of a difference, especially one that poses no threat to public safety or public order.”

 The four appellants, Gulliver (Quincy) McEwan, Angel (Seon) Clarke, Pheches (Joseph) Fraser and Isabella (Seyon) Persaud, are trans women who were arrested and convicted in 2009 of the cross-dressing offence found at section 153(1)(xvlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, which is an 1893 law.

 The four spent three nights detained at a police station after their arrest for the minor crime. At their trial, the magistrate told them that they were confused about their sexuality, that they were men and not women, and urged them to go to church. They pleaded guilty to the cross-dressing offence because, as the President of the CCJ pointed out, “it was more convenient and less expensive to do so than to retain counsel to dispute the charges”, and were ordered to pay a fine of $7,500 Guyana dollars each.

 In 2010, the four appellants and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), brought an action challenging the constitutionality of the offence and the statements made by the magistrate. The CCJ said that, given SASOD’s objectives, the courts below had no good reason to strike the organisation from the proceedings in 2013. The CCJ said courts should take a liberal approach to standing in litigation that seeks to ensure the Constitution is properly interpreted and applied.

 First-named litigant and co-founder of Guyana Trans United (GTU), Gulliver McEwan, elatedly reacted that “the whole trans community in Guyana is very happy today. I have always said that we should know what the law expects of us before we act and I am pleased that the court agreed that this law is vague.” McEwan added: “It was very important for us to be heard and get justice.” Discrimination is a part of everyday life for many trans Guyanese. Isabella Persaud, one of the appellants said, “We are always treated like trash.”

 The CCJ looked at the historical context of this post-slavery vagrancy law and concluded that it was a law from a different time that no longer served a legitimate purpose in Guyana. The panel of CCJ judges comprised the President, the Hon. Mr. Jacob Wit, the Hon Mr. Justice Winston Anderson, the Hon. Mme. Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee and the Hon. Mr. Justice Denys Barrow.

 The entire panel of five judges concluded that the law was unconstitutionally vague. The Court said that laws must define criminal offences with “sufficient clarity that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited.” The majority concluded that the vagueness left transgender persons “in great uncertainty as to what is and is not allowed” and also gave law enforcement virtually unlimited discretion in applying the law.

 A majority of the judges also found that the law resulted in transgender and gender non-conforming persons being treated unfavourably because of their gender expression and gender identity.

 Justice Winston Anderson in a separate decision noted that forms of dress by themselves are not objectionable and that “the essence of the crime … appears to consist … entirely of the state of mind of the persons engaged in otherwise perfectly innocent conduct.” He concluded that “our jurisprudence properly accepts that intentions by themselves are not constitutionally the proper subject of the criminal law.” The CCJ strongly criticized the comments of the magistrate at the 2009 trial, describing them as “inappropriate.” The majority said that “judicial officers may not use the bench to proselytize” and went further to say that the remarks “went beyond proselytizing” and “revealed stereotypical thinking” about transgender persons.

 Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD, lauded the decision as “a clarion call to engage state actors on how the law engenders social and economic exclusion of disadvantaged groups. Trans persons remain vulnerable to arrests for small crimes like loitering in Guyana’s colonial-era vagrancy laws which are still on the statute books.” He added that “The Court’s ruling that SASOD has standing to bring a claim on behalf of the broader community of persons we represent will allow civil society groups to take legal action when rights of its members are violated. This is a victory for human rights and justice in the Caribbean.” 

Colin Robinson of Trinidad and Tobago’s Alliance for Justice and Diversity, who was among representatives in court on Tuesday morning in Port of Spain, said, "There's so much to celebrate about Caribbean justice today—about Caribbean lawyers, about Caribbean judges, about four pioneering trans women who have expanded justice for so many Caribbean people the law fails, but what we in Alliance for Justice and Diversity celebrate most is the CCJ's ruling that organisations like ours must have access to the courts to advocate for our constituents."

 The legal team for the appellants and SASOD was led by human rights lawyer, Douglas Mendes SC, a co-founder of and Advisor to the Faculty of Law, The UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP), which has been involved in the case from the outset. Dr. Arif Bulkan, also a member of U-RAP, and then attorneyat-law Mr. Gino Persaud, appeared in the earlier stages of the case. The legal team also included Mr. Nigel Hughes (Guyana), and Ms. Mishka Puran (Guyana), Clay Hackett (Trinidad and Tobago) and Isat Buchanan (Jamaica). Lead counsel Douglas Mendes SC described today’s judgment as one that “will be acknowledged as a significant contribution to Caribbean jurisprudence, especially because of its insistence on the need to give due respect to everyone’s humanity.” 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bullying in schools requires urgent attention – CPCE Principal, Viola Rowe (SASOD, GRPA’s YAM Launch Essay Competition for Students)

The head of Guyana’s national teacher-training institution has called for urgent attention to curb bullying the nation’s schools. Viola Davis, Principal of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) gave the warning at a reception to commemorate Spirit Day last Thursday on October 18, 2018 at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Georgetown.Rowe delivered the keynote address highlighting the challenges faced by students who experience bullying on a constant basis in the country’s schools. The event was hosted by Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) and the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association’s Youth Advocacy Movement (GRPA’s YAM) with support from the British High Commission in Guyana as part of their activities this October to markBullying Prevention Month.

Also attending the event were H.E. Sandra Granger, First Lady of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, H.E. Greg Quinn and Ms. Wendy Quinn, British High Commissioner to Guyana and spouse, H.E. Lilian Chatterjee, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr. Martin Oditt, UNAIDS Country Director, other members of the diplomatic corps, civil society representatives, youth volunteers, private sector representatives and other key stakeholders. The reception featured a short programme including remarks from British High Commissioner, along with musical renditions and the recitation of an anti-bullying pledge. 
(Left to Right) Ms. Wendy Quinn looks on while First Lady Sandra Granger signs the guest book at last week’s Spirit Day reception at the British High Commissioner’s residence.

In her remarks, Rowe appealed to all stakeholders including school partners and corporate society, to “act now in observance of Spirit Day 2018 to make commitments to join the fight to stop bullyingagainst LGBTQ persons and by extension, those who are targets because of their race, ethnicity, gender, physical appearance, financial status, religious persuasion, or intellectually ability.”

Rowe also emphasized that schools have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that learners are exposed to safe learning spaces, adding that bullying must be curbedat its roots to ensure that the learning environment is safe for everyone, including teachers. She explained to the gathering that the impact of bullying on academic performance continues to become progressively negative because of the stress and mental distress caused. The CPCE Principal insisted that bullying, especially against minorities,is an issue to be brought to the top of the list of social school issues, requiring urgent attention as access to education is fundamental for the youth of Guyana. She added that bullying is a threat to public health as it has major negative effects on persons’ mental and physical health, resulting especially in depression, anxiety, distress and ultimately, suicide. She assured the audience that CPCE is adamant in the promotion of love, care, respect, tolerance and cohabitation. 
PCE Principal, Ms. Viola Rowe, delivering the keynote address.

British envoy,H.E. Greg Quinn in his remarks stated that he has been dismayed by some of the “provocative and downright inaccurate comments” made about LGBTQ people.  Quinn stated that there is no excuse for such ill-informed commentary and it cannot be dressed up as free speech as free speech does not mean license to incite hate and violence. Quinn urged the audience to not be dismayed by the ill-informed abuse and violence but to stand up for equal rights and ensure that no one faces persecution because of who they are or who they love.

Before closing the programme, SASOD and GRPA’s YAM launched an essay writing competition for students in Grades 7 to 9 enrolled in any secondary school in Guyana. The topic for the essays is “There should be effective policies and redress mechanisms to curb all forms of bullying and discrimination against students and teachers in Guyana’s schools.” Students in Grades 7 to 9 are encouraged to contact SASOD or GRPA’s YAM for details of the rules and prizes of the competition and submit their essays by the November 16, 2018, deadline. 
A section of the gathering at the Spirit Day reception.

Spirit Day is an annual LGBTQ awareness day observed on the third Thursday in October. Started in 2010 by Canadian teenager Brittany McMillan, it was initially created in response to a rash of widely publicized bullying-related suicides of gay school students in 2010. The name "Spirit Day" comes from the purple stripe of the Rainbow flag, whose creator Gilbert Baker defined it as representing 'spirit'. Supporters wear the colour purple as a visible sign of support for LGBTQ youth and against bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month as well as to honour LGBTQ victims of bullying and suicide.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Berbice Teams Dominate Civil Society Peace Day Games

On Sunday, September 23, 2018, the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) held its third annual “Peace Day Sunday Fun Day,” celebrating the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, under the theme, “The Right to Peace: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.” The Fun Day saw the participation of GEF member organizations and Guyanese of all walks of life.

United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in Guyana, Ms. Mikiko Tanaka, delivered opening remarks and officially declared the games open. The UN Resident Coordinator referred to a recent report published by the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute this year titled “Trapped: Cycles of Violence and Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Persons in Guyana.” Tanaka stated “the “Trapped” report documents the heart-breaking plight of LGBT Guyanese. The discrimination and bullying that people experience on a daily basis because of their gender and sexual orientation are unacceptable. The act of discrimination or bullying disrespects the dignity of the affected persons, and violates their right to life, liberty and security. Furthermore, it fosters hate, prejudice, intolerance and division in society. Ignorance and indifference provide the fertile ground for hate and discrimination to grow like a cancer. It is so important to foster the voice and acts of conscience, reason, courage, compassion and understanding to curb this social cancer,” the UN envoy pleaded. 
UN Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka at the GEF Peace Day Sunday Fun Day

Teams from civil society groups in Berbice dominated the games, including; United Brick Layers, who emerged as the champion team of day, and Comforting Hearts, who placed third at the end of the games. Both local groups are based in New Amsterdam. Family Awareness, Consciousness Togetherness (FACT) from Corriverton came in fourth place, while Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) placed second. The top three teams were awarded trophies. Competitors placing first to third received individual medals for all of the activities, which included a series of sprint and relay races, along with novelty games such as lime and spoon, jockey race, sack race, buns-eating competition and many others.

The third annual GEF Fun Day provided an opportunity for diverse civil society groups and Guyanese of all walks of life to come together through sports and entertainment to build peace, unity and social cohesion. This signature GEF events promotes Guyanese civil society working in unison for respect and protection of the rights of all people, regardless of race, age, religion, class, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, disability status, health status, or any other human characteristic, in keeping with the mandate of the network. 

United Bricklayers receives their trophy from GEF Manager, Joel Simpson (right)

The GEF is a network of civil society groups working cohesively to achieve equal rights and justice for all Guyanese. The GEF currently has 26 registered member organizations from across the coastal regions of the country. SASOD Guyana serves as the secretariat of the GEF. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Award-Winning African Film “Tchindas” at ‘Spectrum 14’ Film Festival Next Week

Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guyana) continues its “Painting the Spectrum 14” Film Festival with two screenings that explore lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) rights, culture and history. Advocacy for rights through music, vlogs, carnival costumes, recounting histories of violent oppression or (quite literally) “messing around” with cardboard politicians, the films scheduled for the third week of Spectrum 14 celebrate queer culture and show that, whether willingly or not, being part of the LGBTQ+ community can immediately become political.

On Tuesday, September 18, at 18:00 hours, SASOD will be presenting “Tchindas”, a co-production between Cape Verde and Spain. The movie focuses on Tchinda, one of most beloved women in Cape Verde, especially after she came out as a transgender person in the local newspaper in 1998. Every February, the month leading up to the Carnival, the slow-paced atmosphere of the island transforms into a frenzied hustle and bustle as thousands flock to the streets. Tchinda and other LGBT Cape Verdeans are, of course, part of the celebration. This documentary is as trip to an unknown side of Africa that very few may have ever imagined. The Hollywood Reporter praised the film, writing it was "a beautifully shot vérité chronicle of the all-consuming Carnival preparations on São Vicente." Since its international premiere 'Tchindas received several awards at festivals such as the Outfest, the Chicago Reeling LGBT Film Festival, Miradas Doc, and Les Gai Cine Mad.

On Thursday, September 20, the Festival continues with a screening of six shorts. A transgender vlogger in Spain; a gay man deported during Italy’s fascist regime; a queer and feminist Hip Hop artist in Germany- they all come together to show the many layers of queer culture and the many ways LGBT communities can resist oppression and advocate for their human rights.

“Painting the Spectrum” will continue every Tuesday and Thursday of September. The screenings take place at SASOD’s office, 203 Duncan Street, Lamaha Gardens (between Durubana Sq. and Eastern Highway) at 18:00 hours each evening. For more information on the screenings, visit the festival’s website:

Admission to the film festival is free. The films are intended for mature audiences. SASOD reserves the right to refuse admission to minors who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian or persons who do not have identification to prove that they are not minors.

The Festival aims to both offer a safe space for the LGBTQ+ Guyanese to interact and communicate, and to educate the general public by presenting queer-themed films, which are almost never screened in mainstream cinemas in Guyana. SASOD is a local and international award-winning, 15-year old, human rights movement and organization, leading change, educating and serving communities, to end discrimination based on sexuality and gender in Guyana.

Trinidad and Tobago’s “Play the Devil” Set to Screen at Spectrum 14 Next Week

Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD Guayna) 2018 film festival, “Painting the Spectrum 14,” continues with two screenings that explore LGBT love, break-ups, challenges and sexual exploration.

On Tuesday, September 11, Spectrum 14 presents “Play the Devil”, a gay-themed film produced and set in Trinidad and Tobago, aiming to show the diversity of love stories and sexualities in the Caribbean. In “Play the Devil”, set against the backdrop of Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival, a gifted and struggling young man becomes the object of intrigue for an older, well-meaning businessman until their worlds collide. The film is the winner of the Jury Award at the KASHISH Mumbai Queer Film Festival, winner of the Best Female Director award at the Woodstock film festival and the winner of the Special Jury Prize for Best Screenplay at the Nashville Film Festival.

On Thursday, September 13, the festival continues with a screening of eleven shorts on themes such as an amusing discussion about sex between a mother and a gay son; the separation of a lesbian couple from South Africa; the religious opposition that gay parents face; spontaneous encounters between future (or past) lovers. The films come from all over the world- Thailand, Russia, Poland, Iran, Canada, showing the many ways in which LGBTQ+ people can express their love and their desires.

“Painting the Spectrum” will continue every Tuesday and Thursday of September with our upcoming themes being. The screenings take place at SASOD’s office, 203 Duncan Street, Lamaha Gardens (between Durubana Sq. and Eastern Highway) at 18;00 hours each evening. For more information on the screenings, visit the festival’s website:

Admission to the film festival is free. The films are intended for mature audiences. SASOD reserves the right to refuse admission to minors who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian or persons who do not have identification to prove that they are not minors.

The film festival aims to both offer a safe space for the LGBTQ+ Guyanese to interact and communicate, and to educate the general public by presenting queer-themed films, which are almost never screened in mainstream cinemas in Guyana. The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is an international and local award-winning, 15-year old, human rights movement and organization, leading change, educating and serving communities, to end discrimination based on sexuality and gender in Guyana.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Ordinary People Can Prevent Suicide – British Envoy Tells Equality Forum

Marking World Suicide Prevention Day, observed on September 10 annually, the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) held an awareness-raising event for its member organizations and the local media at the Herdmandston Lodge in Georgetown on Monday morning. 
The keynote address was delivered by the acting British High Commissioner to Guyana, Ray Davidson, who is a mental health specialist. Davidson challenged many of the myths surrounding suicide and urged persons to help break down some of the barriers to proper mental health. “You don’t have to be mentally ill to commit suicide,” Davidson said, pointing out that “ordinary people can fall into despair and ordinary people can help. Don’t be afraid to approach someone and ask that difficult question.”

Acting British High Commissioner Ray Davidson giving the keynote address.
The GEF also remembered Zenita Temall Nicholson who completed the act nearly three years ago. Managing Director of Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Joel Simpson, read short extracts of the letter to him Nicholson wrote just a couple of days before she passed in October 2015. Nicholson’s letter stressed on the importance of confidential mental health services and urged the community to strengthen their mental health services. “Let them know that I would still be alive today, if I got treatment. Not just treatment, but treatment in a confidential way,” the letter stated.

SASOD’s Joel Simpson reading extracts of Zenita Temall Nicholson’s letter.

The GEF event aimed to inspire civil society groups to include mental health in their work and strengthen collaboration among key stakeholders at the community level to prevent suicide in Guyana, while raising awareness the general population, through the media, about the simple things that ordinary people can do to save lives in our societies.
Prompted by this year’s global theme, “Working Together to End Suicide,” this is the first time that the GEF organized an activity to observe World Suicide Prevention Day. 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year close to 800,000 people die owing to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among 15 – 29 year olds globally. As at April 2018, data on WHO’s website indicates that Guyana has the fourth highest suicide rate in the world with 29.0 for every 100,000 inhabitants. 
Formed in May 2011, the GEF is a network of civil society organisations working cohesively to achieve equal rights and justice for all Guyanese. The GEF currently has 26 registered member organisations from the coastal regions of Guyana. SASOD serves as the secretariat of the Guyana Equality Forum. Civil society groups who are interested in joining the GEF can contact SASOD on 225-7283 or 623-5155 for more information.