SASOD Responds to CIOG Comments on UN LGBT Stamps

The United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) has issued six (6) commemorative stamps which promote the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as part of the "Free & Equal" campaign - an official UN campaign which promotes LGBT human rights worldwide, launched and led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). While the UN is being heralded in the global media as the first international organisation to issue stamps promoting LGBT human rights, it is completely erroneous and misleading for the CIOG to suggest that the UN has released "stamps promoting homosexuality and transgenderism." The six, commemorative stamps promote the human rights of LGBT people - the same human rights to which members of the CIOG are entitled, and probably take for granted. It is also irrelevant whether or not the CIOG, other groups and countries approve of this publicity move. One of the fundamental pillars of the United Nations is the promotion of human rights. The human rights of sexual and gender minorities have way too long been neglected by the UN and it is way past time that the rights of this historically marginalized and socially disadvantaged group is given much-needed attention by this global, human-rights body. 
UN LGBT commemorative stamps
 
SASOD is also concerned that CIOG feels it can speak for "Muslim community of Guyana." All Guyanese Muslims are not homophobic and transphobic. In fact, many prominent Guyanese Muslims who SASOD engages in our work to promote equality are very supportive of LGBT human rights. If however, the CIOG has taken this homophobic position that the human rights of all people, including LGBT Muslims, are "detrimentally opposed" to the CIOG's "beliefs and culture," then the organisation should simply not purchase or use the stamps - which are not even available in Guyana; only at UN Headquarters in New York, Geneva and Vienna. Guyana is a plural society made of diverse peoples of many beliefs, cultures and faiths. We are not homogeneous. Our diversities should be celebrated and promoted in all its forms - be it ethnic, racial, religious, gender, sexual, bodily and any other forms of human diversity. While we might not all the share the same views on any given issue, we are all entitled to freedom of expression under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Guyana Constitution. Guyanese are not all Muslim, nor are we all religious, but the CIOG is freely entitled to print stamps promoting Islam in Guyana. Non-Muslims, atheists, agnostics and others who do not subscribe to Islam would not be justified in any attempt to trample on freedom of expression to print stamps promoting Islam. So why is the CIOG seeking to use its own prejudices to justify a violation of human rights against another group? The reasoning - or lack thereof - in the CIOG statement is the anti-thesis of human rights. The CIOG is sadly mistaken if it thinks the role of the United Nations - or even the Government of Guyana - is "upholding the moral values" enshrined in Islam or any other religion. History has taught us that many of these "moral values" of the "great religions of the world" have lead to wars, destruction and despair at the hands of human beings who have misused religion in the most divisive socio-political ways - as the CIOG is seeking to do with its statement - which lead to the need for global institutions like the United Nations, and its precursor the League of Nations. If the CIOG really believes the UN should "foster peace, inclusion and respect for the rights of others," then the organisation would not issue such a toxic statement. It would in fact support the UN "Free & Equal" campaign in these efforts. It is because groups like the CIOG still exist in the twenty-first century, that the UN needs to have a "Free & Equal" to promote respect for the human rights of people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. SASOD is disappointed, but not surprised, that the CIOG would use its own "fear" to threaten the "already fragile coexistence and religious tolerance and harmony that currently exist" in Guyana and the world. SASOD opposes the extremism of the CIOG in all its forms.