SASOD launches Cine Campaign to End Discrimination against LGBT Guyanese - Facebook “Self(ie) Expression” extended to Mark Independence Day

Coinciding with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) launched its Cine Campaign at Moray House on Friday, May 16, aimed at eradicating discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Guyanese through film technology and social media.

Observed globally on May 17, IDAHOT draws the attention of policy makers, opinion leaders, social movements, the media and the public in general to the issues of violence and discrimination affecting LGBT people, and to promote a world of tolerance, respect and freedom regardless of people’s sexual orientations or gender identities.

In her opening remarks, SASOD’s Social Change Consultant, Tiffany Barry, highlighted that the date of May 17 was specifically chosen as it commemorates the 1990 decision by the World Health Organization to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. The global theme for this year’s observances is “Free Expression.” The right to freedom of expression for sexual and gender minorities should be universally respected as part of the most fundamental human rights, as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

SASOD’s Social Change Consultant, Tiffany Barry, delivering opening remarks.

SASOD has embraced this year’s theme and have launched a “Self(ie) Expression” album as its free expression zone on their Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/sasodguyana. Over the past week, SASOD has been encouraging persons to submit their photos with a statement tackling homophobia and transphobia. The response has been overwhelming as we have received more than 100 photos from persons, and organizations both locally and abroad saying no to homophobia and transphobia and calling for LGBT equality in Guyana and around the world. “These messages of hope and solidarity are a source of encouragement and inspiration to LGBT Guyanese and citizens who support equality and human rights for all people,” remarked SASOD Co-Chair, Ulelli Verbeke. Given the increasingly positive response, SASOD has extended this Facebook component of the campaign until May 26 to mark Guyana’s Independence. Persons are encouraged to like the SASOD fan page on Facebook, tag their photos and statements there, or email them to advocacy@sasod.org.gy.

SASOD’s main event commemorating IDAHOT was the launch of the Cine Campaign. The campaign uses film technology and social media in innovative and interactive ways to tackle homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination. The project will see 5 video documentaries produced by SASOD broadcast on local television in the month of June, and then on YouTube.

In her overview of campaign, SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Schemel Patrick, emphasized that homophobia and transphobia kills human dignity. She added, “violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are not only human rights violation themselves, but they have an insidious effect on other basic rights issues like access to healthcare and other basic social services. There should be no place for hate in Guyana.”

SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Schemel Patrick, giving an overview of the SASOD Cine Campaign

Through its active promotional campaign, the project purposes to increase the viewership of the “SASOD Cine” campaign's video documentaries on local TV; correspondingly, the  campaign aims to increase public awareness of issues affecting LGBT Guyanese. The SASOD Cine Campaign blog was also launched: www.sasodcinecampaign.wordpress.com This blog will serve as the main online portal for the dissemination of information about the campaign events and video documentaries.

One of the new video documentaries for the campaign was premiered at Friday’s launch. The documentary – “Selina’s Voice” – chronicles a violent transphobic attack experienced by an articulate Guyanese transgender woman called Selina Perez. Perez was part of a panel at Friday’s launch and told the gathering that she doesn’t feel safe in Guyana and is therefore migrating to the Netherlands through marriage to live with her partner there. 

Delivering the feature address at the launch was the Director of the PANCAP coordinating unit, Dereck Springer. Springer in his address highlighted the importance of a human rights approach to HIV reduction. LGBT people experience stigma and discrimination that prevent them for properly accessing health services. Springer elaborated that, “the region is at a critical point where further progress towards an AIDS-free Caribbean is premised on mobilizing a strong and coordinated multi-sectoral effort to remove the legal, social and cultural barriers that prevent universal access to a wide range of comprehensive and high quality health services.  Eleven CARICOM states have laws which criminalize consensual sex between same sex adults. Recent studies conducted by the Health Policy Project in selected countries have found stigma and discriminatory practices present across all levels of staff in health systems. The Global Commission on HIV and the Law has found that countries that criminalize same-sex sexual activity have higher HIV prevalence rates among MSM than countries that do not.  Specific to the Caribbean, stigma is cited as the main reason for the lack of attention to marginalised groups in the prevention efforts, and their general lack of access to HIV-related services, and stigmatising and discriminatory legal and policy measures are common in the regional legal systems. In recognition of these challenges, the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) 2014-2018 is grounded on the understanding that ending HIV is not possible until the human rights of all people, and particularly those most vulnerable to HIV, are fully realized.”

Springer noted that there are encouraging signs in relation to law reform and shifting attitudes towards LGBT and he commended SASOD for its proactive approach to tackling the issues in Guyana.  Springer added that “at a personal level we must do our own introspection to ensure that our work is geared towards valuing the diversity of all people and seeing everyone as a valid part of that diversity. In so doing we would be demonstrating that we are willing to address the prejudice in ourselves and others. I believe that SASOD has helped open a new era in history and stormed the gates of the status quo with the confidence that collectively you would prevail.”

PANCAP’s Director, Dereck Springer, delivering the feature remarks at the Friday’s launch.

Friday’s event also featured a panel which included  transgender advocate Selina Perez, featured in the new video documentary  “Selina’s Voice;” SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simpson; Guyana Trans United (GTU)’s Director, Quincy McEwan; and PANCAP’s Director, Dereck Springer. They discussed homophobic and transphobic violence; the importance of supporting human rights and challenging stereotypes; and gave an update on the transphobic shooting incident that occurred on April 5 when two members of GTU  were shot with missiles by individuals travelling in a private, off-duty minibus. Since the incident not much was done by the police who were very sluggish in investigating and apprehending anyone. On May 5, GTU lead a mid-day, hour-long picketing exercise opposite Brickdam police station with support from SASOD and other advocates to protest the inaction in the matter. After the picketing exercise, ‘A’ Division Commander Cliffton Hicken committed to sending the file to the Director of Public Prosecutions by the end of last week. The file was sent to the DPP recommending that charges are instituted against the perpetrators.

(From left to right) Transgender advocate, Selina Perez, GTU Director, Quincy McEwan, SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simpson, and PANCAP’s Director, Derek Springer.

Delivering closing remarks at the launch was Ms. Zenita Nicholson, Guyana Country Coordinator CVC/COIN “Vulnerabilised Groups” project and SASOD’s trusteeship Secretary. She reiterated CVC/COIN’s support for the project and sharing their excitement about the upcoming broadcast of the 5 video documentaries on local television stations.  She lauded all the partners who continue to support work on public education on LGBT issues towards building a more just and equal society for all Guyanese.

While the SASOD Cine Campaign is funded by the CVC/COIN PANCAP/CARICOM Global Fund Round 9 “Vulnerabilised Groups” Project, Friday’s IDAHOT launch event was sponsored by the Astraea Foundation for Lesbian Justice.

 

Related Web-Links:

SASOD Cine Campaign Blog: www.sasodcinecampaign.wordpress.com

SASOD – Guyana Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/sasodguyana

Feature Remarks by PANCAP Director:http://sasod.blogspot.com/2014/05/speech-on-occasion-of-international-da...

The CVC/COIN Vulnerabilised Groups Project: www.focusright.org

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice: www.astraeafoundation.org