Press Release: Human Rights Day 2012
Sunday, 9 December 2012 - 11:57am
In observance of World Human Rights Day, December 10, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) stands with all who suffer violations of their human rights and echoes the theme for this year, set by the United Nations (UN) Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights, which is: "Inclusion and the right to participate in public life." It aims to highlight the rights of all people to be included in decision-making processes and participate in public life. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, in his Human Rights Day message stated “Everyone has the right to be heard and to shape the decisions that affect their community. This right is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and fully integrated in international law, especially in Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).” Not only has Guyana signed and ratified the ICCPR, it is directly into the Guyana constitution under Article 154A and therefore is part and parcel of the ‘supreme law of the land.’
Every human being is entitled to be treated fairly and equally, but yet in 21st-century Guyana, archaic laws still exist which criminalize same-sex intimacy and cross-dressing while perpetuating many forms of discrimination and social stigma against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Guyanese. The appointment of a special select parliamentary committee to hold public consultations on these and other key human rights challenges, corporal and capital punishment, present a golden opportunity to emancipate Guyana from these colonial practices. But inclusivity and equality must be our guiding principles as the nation embarks on this process if we are serious about our commitment to human rights for all Guyanese. Public consultations should not be a euphemism for a popularity poll. As Article 13 of the Constitution of Guyana makes clear, “The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision-making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision-making that directly affect their well-being.” It is the people whose lives these laws directly affect who have the greatest stake in this issue and their voices must be heard and play a central role in this process. That is inclusivity in operation. And given the homophobic nature of Guyanese society, the state has a duty to create the conditions where LGBT Guyanese, their organisations and their allies feel safe and comfortable to come forward and participate meaningfully in this decision-making process, without fear of intimidation, stigma or discrimination. This is the real challenge we face as the process unfolds.
LGBT Guyanese continue to experience rights abuses in their daily lives. Youth continue to suffer homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools by their peers and those supervise them. They are being assaulted and verbally abused while others witness and do nothing to help. Many of their painful stories never make official reports because they fear retaliatory acts and re-victimisation by those who should protect them. Transgender folk continue to be harassed and extorted by the police to perform sexual favours. Discrimination impedes the rights to work, housing and health for many LGBT Guyanese. Our laws offer them no protection, but instead, brand them as unapprehended criminals for their private acts and choice of clothing. This must stop! Human rights are not a privilege; each and every one of us is entitled to them as human beings. We must all be treated fairly. Our rights must be protected, respected and fulfilled. Equal rights for all Guyanese must become a reality, and it is our human duty to speak out until it does.