Two advocacy groups are calling on the Guyana government to fire Juan Edghill as Minister within the Finance Ministry and as a Member of Parliament (MP) as a result of statements he made about the LGBT community which they said are in violation of local and international regulations.
Edghill’s dismissal is one of fifteen recommendations contained in an 11-page report sent to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on June 15th by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI).
In the report, titled ‘On Devil’s Island: A UPR Submission on LGBT Human Rights in Guyana’ SASOD and SRI told the UNHRC that Edghill, while on a local radio programme “used the most inflammatory language” when he described homosexuality as “destructive, unwholesome and unhealthy.”
The report said that Edghill went on to state that it is “scientifically proven” that homosexuals are promiscuous, disease laden and more violent than “normal” people.” SASOD also told the UN that “Edghill was adamant and unapologetic for his hateful comments which were clearly intended to incite ill-will against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people, which is a violation of Article 146 (3) of the Guyana Constitution.”
The report also noted that Edghill’s comments came in the wake of similar comments made by Pastor Ronald McGarrell. While commenting on the LGBT community in Guyana, McGarrell recommended that LGBT people should live on an island by themselves so as to not endanger others when God visits his wrath on them. In the report, McGarrell was reported as saying that “homosexuality is a learnt behaviour and that all gay persons should live on an island by themselves to prevent it from spreading.”
The report also outlined several ways in which the organisations believes Guyana’s laws encroach on the rights of the LGBT community.
The report pointed out that Articles 141, 145 and 146 of Guy-ana’s Constitution speaks in favour of freedom from inhumane treatment, freedom of expression and freedom of movement respectively while Article 149 (D) makes provisions for equal rights to protection under the law. It was noted that while the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, race, place of origin, political opinion or creed, it fails to “expressly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The report also noted that Guyana’s buggery laws leads to the proliferation of discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. These factors, the groups argued, combine to weave a web of complexity for LGBT persons which affects them in various ways, including their access to health care and employment.
Chapter 8:01 in Sections 351 to 353 of the Criminal Offences Act makes it illegal for adult men to have consensual sexual relations in public or in private while Section 153 (1) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, in part, stipulates the illegality of cross-dressing by men in public for “any improper purpose.”
The groups noted that a bill was tabled by government in 2003 in an attempt to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The government opted not to pass the bill though, after sections of society, the religious community in particular, voiced overwhelming disapproval.
The report said that conditions in Guyana threaten the LGBT community’s rights to life, liberty and personal security, equality, privacy, freedom of expression, work and housing, health and education.
In addition to outlining the situation in Guyana, several recommendations for government were included in the report. The groups said that members of the disciplined forces should be educated to inform their treatment of marginalized groups, “especially LGBT people.” Also, members of the disciplined forces who are found abusing and discriminating against LGBT people should be punished, the report said.
To enhance equality, the groups are asking that Article 149 of the Constitution be amended to “include gender identity as grounds for discrimination in order to provide legal protection for LGBT people’s rights and equality and non-discrimination.”
SASOD and SRI are also calling for restrictions on hate speeches and the repealing of all laws which infringe on the rights of LGBT people.