SASOD report condemns inertia of successive governments on LGBT matters

A new report entitled `Guyana’s Voting Records and Responses on LGBT Human Rights Issues at International Fora’ which was commissioned by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) has accused the government of an inconsistent record on issues and resolutions related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and called on it to “turn its pro-LGBT rhetoric into action that is viable and meaningful.”

The report was released last Wednesday just  after the administration indicated to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) its intention to hold a referendum on the issue of changing the buggery laws.  SASOD noted in a release that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon later said that Cabinet had not taken a decision on the issue.

From left to right are Human Rights Co-ordinator of SASOD, Earnestine Leonard; Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson and SASOD’s Board Secretary, Alana Da Silva.

“Although Guyana has encountered economic and administrative hindrances over the years, it is critical that Guyana make good faith attempts at meeting submission deadlines for UN monitoring bodies. Commitment to advancing LGBT human rights from within the government will contribute to the elimination of prejudices related to SOGI within Guyana,” the report concluded, according to the SASOD release.

The referendum was first mentioned by Government in its response to the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) submission to the IACHR thematic hearing in the 161st ordinary period of sessions which addressed issues of human rights violations against young persons in Guyana, the SASOD statement said.  In their submission government said that “the issue of repeal [of discriminatory laws] was brought to the attention of the legislative arm of government on several occasions and it was deemed unfit for the legislature to decide on the matter.

As such, it was recommended, that the matter be taken to a vote, where the people of Guyana will decide by a referendum on these matters,” the submission concluded.

SASOD and other organisations condemned the government for its position on the referendum pointing out among other things that human rights should not be determined by a referendum, according to the press bulletin.

The report found that the government has consistently failed to meet submission deadlines by UN human rights monitoring bodies and even when submissions are made, these have stunted the advancement of human rights protections, including LGBT issues in Guyana, the media bulletin said.

It further noted that although in 2008 the General Assembly of the OAS had unanimously adopted the resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity, with Guyana signing on with no reservations. However, beginning in 2013, Guyana began withholding consent on the grounds that SOGI issues were under debate domestically.

The report was written by two juris doctorate graduates, Bryce Celestan and Samy Dorgham under the supervision and review of Professor Andrea Parra, at the American University Washington College of Law, according to the SASOD statement.

Barrister Ulele Burnham in a foreword for the report pointed out that successive administrations have appeared to have “shirk[ed] their primary obligation to extend a constitutional guarantee of equality before the law to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens,” the report stated. According to Burnham, the authors have charted the many opportunities squandered by successive governments to make progressive legislative change.

“Their analysis indicates that many of the international conventions which now require Guyana to take steps to repeal discriminatory laws and confer positive statutory rights to LGBT persons were ratified by Guyana between 20 to 50 years ago. Its content exposes what appears to be a belief shared by governments of different persuasions: That LGBT rights are not a priority and that the government has no proactive role to play in shifting prejudices,“ Burnham was quoted in the SASOD release as saying.

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