Submission to the Global Commission on HIV and the Law
Tuesday, 29 March 2011 - 5:51pm
Guyana’s laws criminalize cross-dressing, consensual sex between men and aspects of sex work, thereby making vulnerable, these groups, transgenders, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and sex workers, to discrimination which causes disempowerment, barriers to effective prevention, treatment, care and support services, thereby exacerbating their vulnerability to HIV.
Under Section 166 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1894, of the Laws of Guyana, every person who:
a) being a male person, knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution; or
b) being a male person, in any public place persistently solicits or importunes for immoral purposes; or
c) loiters about, or importunes any person in, any street or other public place for the purpose of prostitution.
Transgender persons are criminalised for expressing their identity by ‘cross-dressing’ under section 153 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, Laws of Guyana, which establishes as an offence:
“being a man, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in female attire or being a woman, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in male attire… ”
Some police have reportedly used the existence of the laws for extortion. Males who are found in compromising positions are made to pay bribes rather than face charges and the possibility of prosecution. Although consensual same-sex activity between adult men is difficult to prove, the damage is really in the accusation itself because of the stigma attached to homosexuality.
Abuses by Non-Sate Actors
Sex workers in Guyana, and other parts of the world, face disproportionate levels of violence which is often unreported. The assault, battery, rape and even murder of sex workers, which is all too common in the industry, goes unnoticed because of the existing legal framework around the profession which prevents sex workers from reporting violence. The stigma and discrimination perpetuated by sex-work related offences has made violence against sex workers acceptable.
SASOD is a founding partner in the Guyana Sex Work Coalition and recalls the violence faced by a female sex worker at the hands of a male client:
“Soon as the sex was over, this man started slapping and cuffing me up and he empty my purse and take away all my money, not just what he pay me,” recounted a female sex worker based in New Amsterdam, who had been assaulted and robbed by a client, to an advocate at United Bricklayers, a local AIDS-prevention, community-based organization. “Now how could I go to the police and make a report when sex work is not really legal,” she added.
The Terborg (2006) report, which details interviews with female, gay male and cross-dressing sex workers, concluded that the majority felt rejected by society. In 2003, during a debate to revise Article 149 of the Constitution to include a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, SASOD and other civic organizations supported the move to prohibit such discrimination but some sections of the religious community and the bill was never voted on, as the government presented but did not support it.
Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)
In Guyana, the Criminal Law Offences Act (8:01) under section 351 criminalizes consensual sexual activity between men while Sections 352 and 353 criminalizes 'buggery'. The laws do not distinguish consensual and non-consensual acts.
 The latest surveillance study finds a HIV prevalence of 19.4% among MSM, Kempadoo, Kamala, et al.
 Human Rights Watch, Hated to Death: Homophobia, Violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic. New York 2004. Available at: http://hrw.org/reports/2004/jamaica1104
Amnesty International, Report on HIV/AIDS in Guyana and the Dominican Republic.