Government supported LGBTI resolution at OAS General Assembly

Dear Editor,

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) recently participated in the 47th General Assembly of the Organisation of the American States (OAS) in Cancun, Mexico from June 19 to 21. Representing SASOD was member and volunteer Terianna Bisnauth who met with several local and international representatives of government and civil society organisations while there. Since her return, Bisnauth was also recently elected as the Chairwoman of SASOD Women’s Arm Guyana (SWAG).

Leading up to the official events, Bisnauth engaged in several meetings with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender, Transsexual, Travesti and Intersex (LGBTTTI) Coalition of Latin America and the Caribbean of which SASOD is a member organization. The Coalition met a few days before the General Assembly meetings to discuss the issues in their respective countries and agree on proposals that were tabled at the official General Assembly meetings.

SASOD joins with the LGBTTTI Coalition of Latin American and the Caribbean to celebrate the adoption of the Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression by OAS during its 47th General Assembly.

According to a statement prepared by the LGBTTTI Coalition, “in that Resolution, the OAS condemns all forms of discrimination and acts of violence based on sexual orientation or on gender identity or expression, and urges Member States to take effective measures for the protection of the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) people. In particular, the Resolution calls on Member States to generate data, prevent and investigate acts of homophobic, lesbophobic, biphobic, and transphobic violence. Further, it calls on States to guarantee proper protection to human rights defenders working on the rights of LGBTI people through the implementation of policies and procedures ensuring the protection of these rights. The Resolution, as in previous years, urges States to afford appropriate protection to intersex people, regarding medical practices”.

SASOD commends the Government of Guyana for joining the Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression in consensus for the past two respective General Assemblies in 2016 and 2017 without footnoting any reservations, as was done by Guyana at the previous four General Assemblies from 2012 to 2015. SASOD calls for the full implementation of the resolution and extends its willingness to partner and assist the government in fulfilling its international commitments and meeting its human rights obligations to the LGBT population of Guyana.

The OAS Resolution comes on the heels of SASOD’s 14th anniversary where the organisation released its latest report titled ‘Guyana’s Voting Records and Responses on LGBT Human Rights Issues at International Fora’. The report was commissioned by SASOD and written by two law graduates, Bryce Celestan and Samy Dorgham, under the tutelage of Professor Andrea Parra at the American University Washington College of Law.

The foreword to the report was written by Guyanese-British Barrister Ulele Burnham who specialises in mental health, mental capacity, human rights and equality law. Burnham wrote, “whilst we wait to see whether the current administration will act less as neutral arbiter and more as custodian of citizens’ rights, this report is a startling reminder of just how little leadership, and how much inertia, successive governments have demonstrated in relation to this issue.” She pointed out that the graduates collected invaluable data on Guyana’s voting record on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) issues before international bodies. “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 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons were ratified between 20 to 50 years ago.” She added that, “it is also difficult to see how it is possible to reduce discrimination against LGBT persons where same-sex sexual acts remain criminal offences.”

In its Declaration which was read at the Dialogue with Heads of Delegations at the General Assembly, the Coalition demanded that member states “review legislative frameworks and repeal laws that criminalize same-sex sexual relationships, the use of clothing traditionally associated with another gender, and any other legislation that criminalizes and directly or indirectly discriminates against LGBTTTI persons.” Guyana’s delegation was led by Second Vice-President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge.

The report concluded that “before the Government of Guyana can adequately protect persons suffering violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, Guyana must turn its pro-LGBT rhetoric into action that is viable and meaningful …” Bisnauth presented a copy of the report to the First Vice-President and Rapporteur for Guyana of the Inter-American Commis-sion on Human Rights, Margarette May Macaulay, at the 47th OAS General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico.

Yours faithfully,
Ernestine Leonard
Human Rights Coordinator
SASOD

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