Letter to the Ethnic Relations Commission

2 Dec, 2005

Ms Christine King
Chief Executive Officer
Ethnic Relations Commission (Secretariat)
66 Peter Rose & Anira Streets

Dear Madam

Re: Request for Intervention by the ERC in the Prohibition of Hate Lyrics

Article 212D paragraph (f) of the Constitution of Guyana states that the one of the functions of the Ethnic Relations Commission is to “encourage and create respect for religious, cultural and other forms of diversity in a plural society”.

We the undersigned as citizens of Guyana believe that sexual orientation is one of the forms of diversity in a plural society and that therefore the ERC holds a constitutional mandate to encourage respect for the rights of gay and lesbian people in Guyana.

The Forum of the Americas for Diversity and Plurality held in Quito which was a precursor to the 2001 World Conference on Racism, stated "Diversity is understood as an intrinsic feature of humankind, societies and cultures. It includes identity and the sexual life and activity of all persons, aspects that, under specific human rights, cannot be subjected to the imposition of models, be subjected to intolerance or the denial of freedom and respect.”

Furthermore, Justice Albie Sachs of the South African Constitutional Court noted that “The acknowledgment and acceptance of difference is particularly important in our country where group membership has been the basis of express advantage and disadvantage. The development of an active rather than a purely formal sense of enjoying a common citizenship depends on recognising and accepting people as they are.”

Homophobia in the public domain presents the greatest threat to the livelihood of gay and lesbian people. Homophobia in Guyana is present in popular cultural expressions. The evidence of the rising trend of homophobia in popular culture was displayed at the concert held by 'Beenie Man' at the National Park at 29 July, 2005 at which he sang freely his song 'Bad Man Chi Chi ' in which he urged the audience to kill and maim all gay and lesbian people.

We the undersigned believe that the state's silence is a tacit approval of the incitement to kill and maim gay and lesbian people. This constitutes an infringement on the right to life under Article 138 of the Guyana Constitution afforded to gay and lesbian people in Guyana. We therefore make this request of the Ethnic Relations Commission to urgently initiate the following actions to stop the incitement of hatred towards homosexual people :

1. Recommend to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports that any licenses granted for the use of state owned venues prevent the expression of any form of hatred towards any section of the population, including the homosexual population.

2. Recommend appropriate sanctions against promoters and artistes who violate the terms of such licenses.

3. Develop regulations which could prevent the airing of homophobic lyrics (in any language) in all forms of media, especially television and radio.

We look forward to the urgent consideration of the Ethnic Relations Commission as Guyana struggles to build a society which is tolerant of all forms of diversity.

this was signed by
Anton Rocke, Colleen McEwan, Stacy Gomes, Nastassia Rambarran, Vidyaratha Kissoon and others
Tags: LGBT RightsERCOffensive Lyrics