Historic constitutional motion filed against cross-dressing law

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and four men, who were fined last year on a charge of wearing female attire, have filed a motion in the High Court against that section of the law stating that it contravenes their fundamental rights.

Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser and Seyon Persaud—the four who were fined last year—and SASOD filed for redress seeking, among other things, to have Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02, Section 153(1)(xlvii) under which the men were charged invalidated as irrational, discriminatory, undemocratic, contrary to the rule of law and unconstitutional.

The parties are also seeking a declaration that the offence affords different treatment to different persons because of non-conformity to stereotypes based on sex in breach of the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex and gender contained in Article 149(1) of the Constitution.

Another declaration being sought is that the said offence, by authorizing different treatment based on sex stereotypes, contravenes the guarantee of equality before the law in Article 149D of the Constitution.

The parties are also seeking a declaration that the offence, by preventing persons from giving expression to their gender identity and dressing in conformity with their innermost beliefs, contravenes the guarantee of freedom of expression contained in Article 146 of the Constitution.

Further, a declaration that all criminal proceedings against the four men who were arrested between February 6 and 7, 2009, based on the allegation of wearing female attire were unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect by reason of the contraventions of the rule of law and the explicit guarantees contained in Articles 1, 30, 139, 144, 149 and 149D of the Constitution.

Among other declarations and reliefs and damages, the parties also seek a declaration that Acting Chief Magistrate Melissa Robertson, in telling the four men during the course of the hearing in the Magistrate’s Court that they must attend church and give their lives to Christ, was improperly influenced by irrelevant considerations, discriminated against them on the basis of religion and violated a fundamental norm of Guyana as a secular state in breach of Articles 1, 40, 145 and 149(1) of the Constitution.

Representing the five parties are Senior Counsel Miles Fitzpatrick and Attorneys-at-law Nigel Hughes, Arif Bulkan and Gino Persaud.

Last year Stabroek News reported in its February 10 issue that seven persons were fined for wearing female attire. Anthony Bess, Joseph Fraser, Joshua Peters and Seyon Persaud pleaded guilty to the charge. Quincy Mc Ewan, Seon Clarke and Leon Conway pleaded not guilty to the charge of dressing in female attire and loitering.

The facts of the matter read that the seven men were all dressed in female clothing.

Magistrate Robertson had ordered that the men pay fines of $7,500 each for dressing in female clothing and that Bess, Fraser, Peters and Persaud pay $2,000 court costs.



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