The male-to-female cross-dressing case was on Wednesday adjourned to October when it was brought before Justice Carl Singh at the Court of Appeal.
The case filed by the Guyana Trans United (GTU) with support from the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the University of the West Indies Faculties of Law Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) sought to strike down laws which left transgenders open to arrest because of cross-dressing.
Gulliver McEwan, representatives of SASOD and GTU, first filed the case after then Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled that cross-dressing by men is not a crime as long as they did not do so for an improper purpose.
After the ruling, cross-dressers believed that it did not prevent them from being harassed and arrested by police. As such they moved to the Court of Appeal to have Chang’s ruling overturned.
However, when the matter was called, the appellants filed their arguments but were told that the State is yet to file theirs.
The Appeal Court noted that the arguments filed by counsel for the appellants were extensive and that it wished some time to fully review them and to receive the arguments from the State.
During the hearing, justice Singh questioned the validity of SASOD being on the rubric of the appeal, since the organisation was struck out as a party at first instance.
However, in response, representing attorney Nigel Hughes stated that the documents would be amended but added that a formal application would be made for SASOD to be joined in the appeal.
Commenting on the ruling, McEwen stressed that excluding civil society organisations (CSOs) such as SASOD and GTU would inhibit marginalised persons from being able to access justice.
“If civil society groups are not included in the case, then how can we as a community be represented in something that affects us all? This case does not just affect the four individual litigants, it affects us all.”
Managing director of SASOD Joel Simpson posited that Caribbean courts have taken a very restrictive approach to the standing of organisations, which he finds untenable.
He added that it is particularly important for advancing human rights in Guyana, where individuals are often stigmatised, re-victimised and face amplified risks to their safety and security when challenging the state to respect the rights of a minority group.