Henry assures gov’t commitment to equal rights for LGBT community

-at local ‘Spirit Day’ event

Education Minister Nicolette Henry speaking at Monday’s Spirit Day reception. (Photo taken from Ministry of Education’s Facebook page)

Education Minister Nicolette Henry on Mon-day assured the government’s commitment to the “inclusion, protection, and recognition” of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, saying it is deserving of all rights under the law like the rest of the citizenry.

“Recognition of the [LGBTQ] community is not an addendum to the agenda of the Government of Guyana (GoG) as it is not an anomaly of nature. Support and a good life for all our people is what this government is all about,” Henry was quoted as saying at a ‘Spirit Day’ reception, which was organised by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the British High Commission.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, Henry also told the reception that any attempt to bully, ridicule, condemn, and threaten the well-being of others because of their sexual orientation should be rejected by all of society.

The event was hosted at the British High Commissioner’s residence at Bel Air Gardens, Georgetown, ahead of today’s international observation of Spirit Day. It was the first official Spirit Day commemoration held in Guyana

The ministry statement said Henry noted that she was aware of the vulnerabilities associated with the LGBTQ community and she emphasised the importance of its members not lacking knowledge of the “facts, challenges, and solutions” to issues that confront them.

“The power of education is recognised as a driver and enabler for more inclusive and sustainable development,” she was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the statement said British High Commissioner to Guyana Gregory Quinn told those gathered at the reception that the United Kingdom (UK) is committed to the principle of non-discrimination.

“We are committed to promoting and protecting the rights of the LGBT community. It is our belief that LGBT people are not asking for special rights, merely to be accorded the same dignity, respect and rights as other citizens,” he noted.

Quinn, the statement added, said human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people and that the UK will continue to work tirelessly to uphold the rights and freedoms of LGBT people in all circumstances.

Quinn also said he had noted some recent provocative and inaccurate comments made about the LGBT community.

“There is no excuse for such ill-informed commentary… It cannot be dressed-up as free speech,” he was quoted as saying, while also observing that free speech has its limits and does not mean freedom to incite violence.

Also among the guests in attendance at the event were other members of the Diplomatic Community as well as First Lady Sandra Granger, who only last month called for amendments to be made to the legal system in the Caribbean that would “comprehensively address the needs of vulnerable groups” in the region, including the LGBT community.

Spirit Day, according to the website of US non-governmental organisation Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), is observed on  the third Thursday in October, during National Bullying Prevention Month, and has become the most visible day of support for LGBTQ youth.

It notes that the observances began in 2010 as a way to show support for LGBTQ youth and to take a stand against bullying, in wake of a “high-profile suicide deaths” of gay teens in that same year.

The colour purple, which symbolises spirit on the rainbow flag, is worn to show solidarity.