Despite efforts by the UN and western countries urging Guyana to discard colonial-era British laws that criminalize homosexual behavior, the country has resisted modernizing its laws to align with more than 125 countries that do not have such laws. Although there has been free and unfettered freedom of expression (including tiny gay pride rallies), as of December 2015 no laws have changed.
Why? The low population base and weak secular educational system, along with Christian-Hindu presence (that includes prejudice against homosexuality) influence the substantial Amerindian population (Indo-Guyanese–East Indian–and Afro-Guyanese–African–cultures). Although anti-discrimination legislation was passed by the Guyanese National Assembly, it was not passed into law by the previous Presidents because of fervent lobbying by the religious communities–despite expressing hypocritical “love” for individuals engaged in same sex relationships. As a result, legislators are cowed into maintaining the irrational stigma that homosexuality carries, claiming that it’s an offense to religion, morality and public convenience. This despite changing worldwide opinion that equality for all is a broader human rights issues in international law and not a narrow religious opinion. The debate in Guyana on LGBT rights has lagged because these small vocal special interest groups (churches) cannot get beyond petty beliefs to see the larger human rights issue.(see: http://www.guyanatimesgy.com/2015/06/28/same-sex-marriage/)
Repression of LGBTI people in Guyana has come under fire from abroad as part of the past year’s United Nations review of countries’ human rights records.
Among countries with anti-gay laws, the past year’s reviews also focused on Grenada, Guinea, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan as part of the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which scrutinizes each country’s human rights record every four years.
Excerpts below focus on human rights for LGBTI people in Guyana, as compiled from the 21st UPR session by the U.N. Human Rights Council:
Recommendations to Guyana
Five years ago, Guyana had agreed to discuss recommendations that it repeal its law against same-sex intimacy between men. This year (2015), the government reported that discussions of that issue, and of repealing the law against cross-dressing and adding an anti-discrimination law, had taken place in the legislature, in the media, in churches and in other non-government organizations.
“During this period, there has been free and unfettered freedom of expression by NGOs including the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), religious organizations and the media on these issues,” Guyana’s official representatives said. But, in the end, no laws were changed.
The government noted that four men who were found guilty of cross-dressing in 2010 are appealing their conviction. In the process, each man was awarded US $193 because police did not inform them of the reason for their arrest.
The government report added, “Guyana, however, acknowledges that there are interpersonal prejudices based on cultural attitudes and religious beliefs as reflected in a 2013 survey which indicated that at least 25% of Guyanese are homophobic.”
This year, renewed UN calls to Guyana for repeal of its homosexuality law and for passage of an anti-discrimination law came from Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United States, Argentina, Canada, Norway, Spain, Chile, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Colombia.
Guyana accepted the following recommendations:
- Take measures to ensure that hate crimes and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are vigorously investigated and appropriately prosecuted (Recommended by the United States of America);
- Continue its effort in eliminating discrimination against LGBT starting with the review of its related legislation (Recommended by Thailand);
- Strengthen the protection of LGBT individuals (Recommended by Brazil)
But so far nothing has change for the LGBT population in Guyana.
For more information, read: The statement of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights “Combatting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
- The High Commissioner’s report to the Human Rights Council on discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (May 2015) (Summary or full report)
- An analysis by ARC International of recent proceedings at the Human Rights Council titled “Denying the Rights of persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status is challenging the universality of human rights”
- Excerpts of outcomes of the 21th UPR session compiled by the U.N. Committee on Conferences.
- Related articles:
- U.N. members to Grenada: Repeal anti-gay law (76crimes.com)
- Obama: one of many opposed to Kenya’s anti-gay policies (76crimes.com)
- 10 years later, tally of 92 anti-LGBT nations drops to 76 (76crimes.com)
- Progress + disputes: Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia (76crimes.com)
- Guyana suit seeks to end anti-transgender ‘dress code’ (76crimes.com)
- Laws in Guyana contribute to high HIV rates (76crimes.com)