Thursday, July 14, 2022

SASOD Guyana Welcomes Antigua Court Decision Decriminalizing Same-Sex Intimacy

Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD Guyana

SASOD Guyana welcomes the decision of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court following the conclusion of a challenge brought by a gay man against the state, who argued that the Sexual Offences Act (of 1995) contained several unconstitutional and discriminatory sections.

According to the Court’s ruling, sections 12 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act which prohibited several acts of same-sex intimacy were deemed by the Court to be unconstitutional and discriminatory. SASOD Guyana emphatically celebrates with the people of Antigua and Barbuda, civil society and other partners who contributed to the success of the legal challenge.

Celebrating the victory, Co-Chair of the Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAGS) Lucien Govaard, stated that “we reiterate that it is time governments in the region let go of these colonial structures as they have no place in a modern, diverse, and developing Caribbean.” The leader of the regional LGBTIQ+ network went on the urge regional leaders to “tackle these issues as a united region, one Caribbean, where all our peoples can live without fear, discrimination, harassment, or violence.”

Similarly, the Caribbean Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Observatory and the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) are urging Caribbean Governments to repeal discriminatory laws that continue to marginalize and infringe upon the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people and to firmly adopt and promote a culture of inclusion and respect for all people.

The Court’s decision in Antigua and Barbuda follows rulings in Belize (2016) and in Trinidad and Tobago (2018) where similar legal provisions were struck down. There are currently ongoing constitutional challenges of the same nature in St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Barbados, where final rulings are expected to be handed down by the end of the year.

SASOD Guyana notes that there are now fewer Caribbean nations where these archaic laws remain on the books. Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD Guyana, reminded that “We have been lobbying and working with the Government of Guyana for over 19 years to remove these discriminatory and dangerous laws here in Guyana. We remain among a rapidly decreasing number of Caribbean nations that continue to allow these colonial remnants to endanger the lives of LGBTIQ+ people, in spite of the human rights implications.” Simpson went on to state that “we hope that the Guyana government can see that this issue is now practically settled law. These provisions are discriminatory and unconstitutional, and they must go! We hope the government is encouraged to table legislation in the National Assembly to repeal similar provisions which criminalize same-sex intimacy in our law books.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

“They were wrong then and they are wrong now” – British Envoy on Laws Criminalizing Same-Sex Intimacy at Media Launch of Guyana Pride Festival 2022

 

Georgetown, May 12, 2022

On May 11, 2022, the Guyana LGBTQ Coalition, comprised of the Guyana Rainbow Foundation (GuyBow), Guyana Trans United and SASOD Guyana, with support from Her Excellency Jane Miller OBE, British High Commissioner to Guyana, launched the Guyana Pride Festival 2022 ahead of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). 

In providing brief remarks, the British High Commissioner to Guyana, Jane Miller OBE noted that “the UK is very proud to be a champion for LGBT rights across the whole world. LGBT rights are fundamental human rights, and we are committed to the principle that everyone, everywhere, should be able to love the person they love and express themselves without fear of violence”.

The Pride Festival will be celebrated this year under the IDAHOTB theme, “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights.” Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD Guyana, stated that the advocacy focus of this year’s Pride Festival would centre around sexual rights, noting that, “we want to draw attention to laws which criminalize same-sex intimacy; we know that these laws are colonial in nature and they are relics we inherited from colonial rule.” He shared that as part of the festival’s advocacy plans, there would be various opportunities during the course of the activities for there to be discussions around the impacts of the criminalization of sexual rights and how they particularly impact the LGBTIQ people in Guyana.

When asked what she thought about the laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy, High Commissioner Miller stated that “Guyana has inherited laws that were brought in many, many years ago, British laws, the UK has now repealed that. We now have very progressive laws in the UK that protect the rights of the LGBT community and there are many countries like Guyana where that has never changed. The UK has changed, and I am very proud of the fact that the UK has changed, which is why I am very proud to be championing the rights of the LGBT community. My view is that they [the laws] were wrong then and they are wrong now and I will do all I can to be championing changes that protect the rights of the LGBT community.”

Simpson stated that the festival would see “us celebrating ourselves, our communities and who we are and we are saying that we will not shy away, we will not cower in the face of stigma, discrimination and prejudice. We will stand proud because we are a part of the Guyanese society and we are championing a one Guyana these days and we believe that we are part of that one people, one nation and one destiny that is promised to everyone in this country.”

The Coalition presented that Guyana Pride will return to the streets of Georgetown in 2022 after 2 years of being confined to virtual Pride events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the Festival’s activities will be in-person events this year.

Guyana Pride Festival will open on Sunday, June 19, 2022, with a Virtual Inter-Faith Forum hosted in collaboration with the Caribbean Inter-Faith Network (CARIN) at 18:00hrs on SASOD Guyana’s social media pages. Then, on the night of Saturday, June 25, 2022, the Guyana Trans United will be hosting the much anticipated “Drag Fest” event, further details will be provided by the GTU in the coming days.

On the evening of Friday, July 1, 2022, the Coalition will host an “Open Mic” Night where attendees are invited to take the stage to showcase their talents in music, dance, poetry, prose, spoken word and other art forms. On Monday, July 4, 2022, SASOD Guyana will host a Movie Night.

On the following Friday, July 8, 2022, the Coalition will also be hosting a Games Night which will see competitors battling to win a number of exciting prizes. Then, in the afternoon of Sunday, July 10, 2022, GTU will be hosting a Tea Party and Hat Show. The following day on Monday, July 11, 2022, GuyBow will host the Pride Symposium which is slated to start at 17:00hrs.

Finally, Pride 2022 will conclude on Saturday July 16, 2022, with the two of the most anticipated events: Pride Parade 2022 and the Pride Party. As customary, the Pride Parade will move off from the Parade Ground at Middle and Carmichael Streets at 14:30hrs and is set to conclude at the Square of the Revolution. GuyBow will then host the Pride Party from 21:00hrs at Cocktails Hotspot Bar and Grill on High Street, Kingston. 

The calendar of events and details of all activities will be available on the social media pages of the members of the Guyana LGBTQ Coalition: GuyBow, GTU and SASOD Guyana.

Please access the live streamed event here: https://youtu.be/EAD28OobzG8

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

SASOD, Human Dignity Trust Gather Evidence on Hate Crimes in Guyana

Georgetown; March 25, 2022 

SASOD Guyana and The Human Dignity Trust (HDT) - a UK-based organisation working to challenge laws that persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity – have embarked on a process to examine the occurrence of hate crimes in Guyana.

In early 2021, the two organisations commissioned “A Situational Analysis on Hate Crimes in Guyana” which was conducted by Guyanese researcher Pere DeRoy, a social scientist and doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas in the USA, to document the nature and extent of hate crimes based on prejudices related to race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality in Guyana.

The preliminary results of the research have highlighted the need for more discussion and dialogue on prejudice in Guyanese society. SASOD Guyana and HDT are working to condense the situational analysis into a short summary chapter which will be accompanied by chapters examining the local legal context, and the international context and good practice principles, which together will inform the approach to be taken to address hate crimes in Guyana.

This past week the two organisations hosted introductory workshops on hate crimes to raise awareness and receive feedback on the preliminary results of the situational analysis from key stakeholders in Guyana. From Tuesday, March 22, to Thursday, March 24, 2022, SASOD Guyana and HDT held three, half-day workshops with civil society groups. The workshop sessions successfully engaged a wide range of civil society groups, especially from the Guyana Equality Forum. On Wednesday evening, March 23, there was also a special workshop with Guyanese human rights lawyers. The workshops were led by Joel Simpson, Managing Director of SASOD Guyana, and Naomi Lumsdaine, Senior Lawyer at HDT. There was consensus among civil society groups who noted the need to build a coalition to support reform and to better protect racialised groups, gender and sexual minorities, and other marginalised groups from hate crimes.

The two organizations committed to continue working together to finalize the report on hate crimes and disseminate the findings widely in Guyana, whilst building further consensus among civil society and other key stakeholders on a comprehensive approach to tackle hate crimes.

Joel Simpson, SASOD Guyana


Naomi Lumsdaine, HDT





Monday, May 17, 2021

SASOD Guyana Announces Second Virtual Pride on IDAHOTB 2021


May 17, 2021

SASOD Guyana Announces Second Virtual Pride on IDAHOTB 2021

SASOD Guyana joins civil society and state actors around the world in observance of  the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), under the theme: “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!” As the world continues to grapple  with COVID-19, now more than ever the need for solidarity is  a matter of life and death. We all must do our part to ensure the survival of the most vulnerable groups among us.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in  Guyana in March 2021, SASOD Guyana recognized that this global health crisis could  have had a disproportionate impact on sexual and gender minorities. Alongside the University of the West Indies and other partners in the Eastern Caribbean, SASOD Guyana therefore conducted a study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among LGBT people. The June 2020 survey found, unsurprisingly, that over 70% of participants  had lost their job or experienced reduced working hours due to COVID-19 pandemic and national containment measures; most of these persons reported having had very little savings. The analysis also revealed moderate levels of psychological distress among the target population. Most participants  were unable to meet their basic nutritional needs  and are in need of supporting services to cope with the emotional distress brought on by the pandemic.

 As the response against this global health crisis  wages on, SASOD Guyana reiterates its previous calls to the Government of Guyana to provide tangible support to LGBTQ+ persons and other vulnerable groups across  the country.

As in most other parts of the world, there are no public gatherings for IDAHOTB and Pride celebrations this year. SASOD Guyana is therefore pleased to launch its second 592 Virtual Pride 2021, under the theme: #LiveOutProud. The one-week online festival will commence on June 7, marking SASOD Guyana’s 18th anniversary, and run until June 13. LGBTQ+ persons and allies alike can look forward to the Live Launch on June 7, Pride Yoga on June 8, Queer Film Night on June 9, "Global Guyanese Gaffing" on June 10, Pride Games Night on June 11, Caribbean Inferno Pride Party on June 12 and a final Pride Inter-Faith Forum on June 13, which brings the curtains down on  the week of virtual activities. Persons can follow SASOD Guyana on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more details on the upcoming 592 Virtual Pride celebrations.  

Friday, March 26, 2021

SASOD Guyana Mourns the Loss of Former Trustee and Co-Chair, Namela Henry

 

The Board of Directors, Management, Team, Members and Volunteers of SASOD Guyana are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of early member and former Trustee, Namela Henry. Namela joined SASOD not long after its formation in 2003. Affectionately called “Aunt Nams” by the young people in SASOD, Namela was always a proud and vocal ally, demanding that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people be treated equally to their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. Given her passion, empathy and activism for LGBTQ+ human rights, Namela joined the SASOD Board of Trustees in 2009 and served as a Trustee, and later as Co-Chairperson, until 2014.

 

Namela participated actively in the projects and work of SASOD Guyana. One of her many invaluable and tangible contributions which live on today is her role as a community researcher in the “Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights” Project led by York University in Canada. Namela diligently applied her skills in communications and journalism to document the experiences of violence and discrimination against LGBT people in Guyana. As part of the project, she also produced short documentary videos in 2014 which SASOD Guyana still uses today in its awareness and education efforts.

She also co-authored a chapter with Pere DeRoy titled “Violence and LGBT Human Rights in Guyana” in the project book, “Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights: (Neo)colonialism, Neoliberalism, Resistance and Hope” published by the University of London Press, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, in 2018. Namela was empathetic and always willing to lend a helping hand to support the LGBTQ+ movement. Before resources became available for office space, Namela opened her home in Charlotte Street as a venue to host Board meetings and gatherings for members of SASOD. In fact, when Namela joined the Board of Trustees in 2009, it was her home address that was registered as SASOD’s official address. Her contributions to SASOD are too numerous to mention all.

Namela was also active in many other civil society groups, including the HIV-focused Comforting Hearts group in Berbice where she was an early member. Namela later went on to found Rainbow House – a now defunct organization which provided short-term housing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth while its benefactor resided in Guyana between 2015 and 2017. Her selfless efforts have saved many lives.

SASOD Guyana extends sincere condolences to the family and friends of Namela Henry in this time of bereavement.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Photo-Release: SASOD Guyana Discusses Recent Research with Health Minister

 

On Wednesday, February 17, 2021, SASOD Guyana’s Managing Director Joel Simpson (centre) met with and discussed the findings and recommendations of two recent research reports published by his organization to the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, M.P. The reports are titled “Desires for Care and Access to Services among Transgender Persons in Guyana (March 2020) and “Qualitative Assessment of HIV Services for Key Populations in Guyana during the COVID-19 Pandemic (January 2021). 


Simpson was accompanied by SASOD Guyana’s Human Rights Coordinator, Kobe Smith (second from right) and Community Representative on the Guyana Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism, Christopher France (right). Programme Manager of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat, Dr. Tariq Jagnarine (left) also participated in the meeting at the Minister’s Secretariat.

 

Photo Credit: Aubrey Odle for Ministry of Health

 

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Sex-Positive Youth Groups Call on New Government to Improve Sexual Health

 

World Sexual Health Day, observed on September 4 annually, provides the opportunity to galvanize action for the promotion of sexual health for all, irrespective of age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, health status, national origin or any other human characteristics.

The reality, though, is that every day should be Sexual Health Day. Every day, people are faced with the issues of early sexual debut, unsafe sex practices, the contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and the lack of access to sexual health information and services. Young women, girls, youth, sex workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer (LGBTQ+) people are most affected. 

According to “The Situation Analysis of Adolescent Pregnancy in Guyana” Report (UNICEF, 2018), Guyana recorded the second highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 19 to 22% of girls becoming pregnant before the age of 18.

In 2014 alone, UNICEF found that 15% of adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 began childbearing and that 62% of adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 have an unmet contraception need. Additionally, Guyana has noticed an increase in HIV and other STIs among the youth demographic.

Further to this, discrimination, stigma, fear, and violence prevent many people from accessing basic sexual health services.

The Government must do more to realize our legal right to the highest attainable standard of health. Article 24 of the Constitution of Guyana provides that every citizen has the right to free medical attention.

Let us be clear: Guyana must do more for vulnerable groups and their sexual health. And therefore, ASPIRE Youth Network - Guyana, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association’s Youth Advocacy Movement, SASOD Guyana and SRHR Adventures call on the new PPP/C Government to:

·        Invest in training for healthcare workers to deliver confidential, youth-friendly, and non-discriminatory services;

·        Invest in mobile clinics and tele-medicine to deliver sexual health services and care during the COVID-19 pandemic;

·        Provide PrEP for those at substantial risk of HIV infection in accordance with WHO guidelines;

·        Promote sexual health information on all media platforms;

·        Conduct age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education in schools; and

·        Support civil society organisations as partners in addressing sexual health issues in Guyana.

Because sexual health matters; today and always.

ASPIRE Youth Network – Guyana            

Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association’s Youth Advocacy Movement

SASOD Guyana

SRHR Adventurers