Friday, April 22, 2016

GEF Delegation Lobbies Minister Greenidge on Human Rights Concerns

On Friday, April 8, a delegation representing the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) met with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Carl Greenidge along with Foreign Service Officers, Jason Fields and Vonetta Victor, to follow up on the thematic hearing between the GEF and Guyana at the 154th period of sessions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a year ago in March 2015.
Sabine McIntosh, President of the Deaf Association of Guyana (DAG) along with Managing Director, Joel Simpson, and Advocacy and Communications Office, Schemel Patrick of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) attended the meeting with the Minister to call attention to Guyana’s international commitments and remind the state of its obligations to address discrimination in the enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights in Guyana.

(l-r) Sabine McIntosh, DAG; Joel Simpson and Schemel Patrick, SASOD; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Carl Greenidge and Foreign Service Officers, Jason Fields and Vonetta Victor.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bar President Calls on Legal Fraternity to Do More for LGBT Guyanese

Commemorating the International Transgender Day of Visibility 2016 held just a few days ago, the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in collaboration with the USAID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project held a special media engagement which lead into a “Brunch Talk” forum to discuss the recent case where a male-to-female transgender person, Twinkle, was barred from attending matters in court by Magistrate Dylon Bess for cross-dressing, presenting herself in female attire. SASOD and APC have been organizing a monthly panel-discussion series on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Deliberate and mischievous ruling
Karen De Souza of Red Thread made it clear that the law should be just and applied equally to everyone, it should not discriminate against anyone regardless of who they are. In her opinion the Magistrate presented gender and class biases in Twinkle’s case. She further opined that the High Court judgment is problematic and deliberately been made so, “Ian Chang deliberately and mischievously left “improper purpose” undefined and that is what Magistrate Bess is using for his own biased reasoning.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Show me the “Improper Purpose” – Transgender Woman Tells Forum

To commemorate the International Transgender Day of Visibility 2016 observed on March 31 just a few days ago, the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) held a special media engagement which lead into a “Brunch Talk” forum to discuss the recent case where a male-to-female transgender person, Twinkle,  was barred from attending matters in the Georgetown court by Magistrate Dylon Bess for “cross-dressing” by presenting herself in female attire.

Justice delayed is Justice Denied

Twinkle spoke of her experiences from the incident to the actual court hearing. GTU member Twinkle talked about transphobic hate crimes perpetuated against her. In this particular instance, she was attacked by a man because of her gender identity. After being hit in the head with a glass bottle, Twinkle defended herself against the man which caused him bodily harm and he reported this to the police. She reported that the police did not take any reports from her and although she was physically harmed, no medical report was facilitated. “The police didn’t treat me as a matter of concern. They didn’t ask for a medical or anything because they said they didn’t see any injuries but the man got taken care of,” Twinkle said.


At the court hearing, Magistrate Dylon Bess who presided refused to even acknowledge the case, asking Twinkle to change her clothing before she could present herself to his court. “I had to be rebellious. I don’t think the case mattered on how I’m dressed as a trans-woman.” Twinkle was fully dressed in female attire. “I wouldn’t change for a magistrate. I respect the Magistrate for his position as someone in the law and the Magistrate should respect me as a human being expressing my true identity.”

Even the Prosecutor warned Twinkle about how she presents in court stating that she, Twinkle, has little respect for the Court and if she was in America (The United States of) she was going to be locked up. Aside from being barred from the courtroom it was the Prosecutor that informed Twinkle that the Magistrate will not even listen to the case, despite that there were allegations were brought against her to defend. The case was subsequently dismissed while there were police officers guarding the gates to the Court to prevent Twinkle and other GTU members from entering the premises.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Equality before the Law for All

Twinkle, Transgender Activist & Member of GTU
March 31, 2016 (Georgetown, Guyana) Transgender persons in Guyana face grave levels of discrimination, harassment and humiliation and social exclusion in their daily lives. On Transgender Day of Visibility, the Guyana Trans United (GTU), Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the UWI Faculty of Law Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) call attention to the fundamental principle affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.

It is the duty of judges to respect a person’s gender identity, consistent with the Constitution of Guyana which guarantees that ‘the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection and benefit of the law’, universal principles of equality and non-discrimination under international law and regional and international standards of judicial conduct.

During the course of March 2016, in at least three separate incidents in the Magistrates Courts, transgender women have been prohibited by sitting Magistrates from attending court or appearing before the court in matters that relate to them because they have been dressed as women.

In one instance, Magistrate Dylon Bess in Georgetown alluded to section 153(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act which makes it an offence for any person who, ‘being a man in any public place or way, for an improper purpose, appears in female attire’. Magistrate Bess said that the law had not changed and that the defendant would not be permitted to be remain in his courtroom to answer the charges dressed as a woman.

Contrary to the Magistrate Bess’ assertions, the laws of Guyana do not prohibit a trans woman from attending court dressed as a woman. This was explicitly confirmed by the then Honourable Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Chang, in his 2013 decision in the challenge to the constitutionality of section 153(xlvii), the case of McEwan and others v The Attorney General. Individual members of GTU and SASOD as an organisation are the applicants in that case which has been appealed and is awaiting a date for a hearing before the Court of Appeal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sexual harassment, Access to Health Services Still Challenging Issues for Women

On Thursday March 17, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) – Guyana Project held their seventh monthly “Lunch Talk” forum. This month the discussion focused on “Women and Workplace Discrimination” as part of a series of activities being held to commemorate International Women’s Day 2016 observed on March 8.

Under the theme “Pledge for Parity,” Commissioner Renata Chuck-A-Sang on the Women and Gender Equality Commission (WGEC) sat with Ms. Renuka Anandjit, Programme Director of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) and Mr. Nicholas Persaud, Stigma and Gender-Based Violence Specialist at APC to discuss how women still struggle for equal rights and opportunities, particularly in the workplace. The session was moderated by Secretary of SASOD’s Board of Directors, Ms. Alana Da Silva.

Not enough being done to address Gender Inequality
APC’s Stigma and Gender-Based Violence Specialist Nicholas Persaud called for strong policies to be implemented, not just drafted and sitting on paper. “A National Policy on Sexual Harassment does not exist but even if we do have legislative support there needs to be a unit to oversee that this policy is adhered to and that everyone follows the guidelines. We have transgender people being shunned and facing discrimination for simply being who they are by “cross-dressing” to attend court.”

Monday, March 21, 2016

Gender Equality Commissioner Encourages LBT Women to Test Cases in Court

On Thursday March 17, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) – Guyana Project held their seventh monthly “Lunch Talk” forum. This month the discussion focused on “Women and Workplace Discrimination” as part of a series of activities being held to commemorate International Women’s Day 2016 observed on March 8.

Under the theme “Pledge for Parity,” Commissioner Renata Chuck-A-Sang on the Women and Gender Equality Commission (WGEC) sat with Ms. Renuka Anandjit, Programme Director of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) and Mr. Nicholas Persaud, Stigma and Gender-Based Violence Specialist at APC to discuss how women still struggle for equal rights and opportunities, particularly in the workplace. The session was moderated by Secretary of SASOD’s Board of Directors, Ms. Alana Da Silva.

SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Ms. Schemel Patrick, who leads the organization’s portfolio for women and gender issues, introduced the forum sharing that women’s advancement and leadership are central to economic development, but, workplace discrimination based on gender and sexuality is rampant in Guyana. “This hinders productivity and advancement for all workers. Transgender women especially face unrestrained discrimination when accessing employment because of their gender identity,” Patrick lamented. She added that those who go through their transitioning during the period of employment are often denied promotions or fired unjustly with no real consequences under the law for discrimination based on their gender identity. Guyanese lesbian and bisexual women have also reported discrimination in the labour market which results in joblessness, unjust denial of promotions or unfair dismissals. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Minister Lawrence Calls for Inclusion, Recognition and Upward Mobility of LGBT Persons

Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence (left)
 and First Lady Sandra Granger
 
(Ulelli Verbeke Photography)
In commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2016, the British High Commission, Georgetown, in collaboration with Red Thread, Guyanese Women Roundtable (GWR), Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted a Women’s Empowerment Cocktail and Reception to celebrate marginalized women.
The event, which was held on the evening of IWD itself, last Tuesday, March 8, at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in Georgetown, was organised to create an empowering space for lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women and allies; to celebrate the strength and perseverance of these women; and to stimulate networking and strengthening of relationships among LBT women and allies. Chaired by GWR’s Convenor, Dr. Dawn Stewart,  the programme was well attended by scores of persons including First Lady,  Sandra Granger; Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence; Minister within the Ministry of Communities, Dawn Hastings–Williams; many members of the diplomatic corps, civil society representatives and media personnel.

Delivering welcome remarks was Acting British High Commissioner, Ron Rimmer. He underlined that International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and that the United Kingdom is fully committed to equality and non-discrimination and actively promotes women’s rights nationally and internationally, and has done so for a considerable period of time.  He urged everyone present to do their bit to ensure that the rights of girls and women are realized. “Each of us can assist within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender equality, pledge to take concrete steps to help achieve gender equality more quickly, take action to collectively help women advance equal to their numbers and realize the limitless potential they can offer. This can be done by helping women and girls achieve their ambitions, calling for gender-balanced leadership, respecting and valuing difference, developing more inclusive and flexible cultures and rooting out workplace bias,” Rimmer said.