Update laws to reflect rights of LGBTQ community – advocate

…Pride Festival 2022 launched

The need for Guyana to update its laws regarding same sex intimacy was once again highlighted as LGBTQ organisations – with support from the British High Commission in Guyana – on Wednesday launched this year’s Pride Festival.
During the launch, SASOD’s Managing Director Joel Simpson spoke about the need for the country’s laws to be updated to better reflect the rights of the LGBTQ community.
“We know that those laws are colonial in nature and is something that we inherited from colonization. When it comes to criminalization of same-sex intimacy, the current administration has not signalled any particular interest or any indication to repeal that law,” he said.

File photos: Pride Festival in 2019

“We have heard some rhetoric to support amending the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997, which deals with the right to work, to include sexual orientation, sex characteristics, gender identity and gender expression; so, at least in the context of labour rights, in the context of the workplace, there will be some protection for LGBTQI people,” he said when asked about the steps taken by authorities.
British High Commissioner to Guyana, Jane Miller, who was presenting during the event, explained that Guyana inherited these laws that were put in place many years ago by the British.
She pointed out that those laws have since been repealed in the United Kingdom, and she encouraged local lawmakers to follow suit.
“Guyana has inherited laws that were brought in many, many years ago; British laws. The UK has now repealed that, we now have very progressive laws in the UK that protect rights of the LGBT community, and there are many countries, including Guyana, that have never changed. The UK has changed, and I’m very proud of the fact that the UK has changed, which is why I’m very happy to (be) championing the rights of the LGBT community. My view is that they were wrong then and they are wrong now, and I will do all I can to be championing changes to protect the rights of the LGBT community,” she stated.
Meanwhile, the Pride Festival 2022 will feature a wide range of events, which will commence on Sunday June 19 with a virtual interfaith forum, and will continue with other activities throughout the following weeks until July 16, when the festival will conclude with a Pride Parade and Pride Party.
According to Simpson, this year’s festival, being held under the theme “our bodies, our lives, our rights”, will be focused on sexual rights.
“We really want to celebrate the freedom to love and the freedom to people to express themselves, and everyone deserves to enjoy those freedoms. We still have situations where these punitive laws are used for extortion by Police and other state actors, especially now in the context that restrictions have been lifted,” he said.
“We are seeing some of the same forms of human rights violations against our communities that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the return to the ‘New Normal’, we are seeing that arising again, so that is why we decided to focus on sexual rights this year, and in particular in terms of advocacy agenda to call for the repeal of sections 351 to 353 of the Criminal Law Offences Act, which criminalises same-sex intimacy,” he explained.
All events will be open to the members of the public, who were encouraged by Simpson to attend the events, which he assured would be completely safe and secure.
“Guyanese at home and abroad are welcome to join us for all these activities,” he said. “I would encourage everyone to come out, that the coalition has always been very responsible in hosting this festival. We have not taken security for granted, and every person, every citizen, can feel safe coming out to our events. All the indoor activities enjoy security at the private venues that are hosting those activities as well,” he stated.
The British High Commissioner also encouraged persons to be a part of the activities, as she fully supports and will be a part of them.
“The UK is very proud of being a champion for LGBT rights across the whole world. LGBT rights are fundamental human rights, and we are committed to the principle that everyone everywhere should be able to love the person they love, and should express themselves without fear of violence.
“Guyana’s Pride Festival sounds like an amazing festival of activities, where LGBT community an allies can get together and celebrate the diversity of this country, celebrate the (inclusiveness), and celebrate being together,” Miller added.