Guyana Filling Legal Gaps to Protect Against Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday July 15, 2019 – The Guyana Government says it has been working to ensure all legal gaps are removed to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This was revealed by Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally during her presentation of Guyana’s National Statement on the Ninth periodic report at the 73rd Session of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at the United Nations Headquarters, Geneva Switzerland last Friday.

According to Minister Ally, the principle of equality and non-discrimination is enshrined in Article 149 of the revised Constitution of Guyana and guarantees the fundamental rights and freedoms of people living in the state. The Social Protection Ministry, she said, has established an active dialogue with stakeholders and is working towards the path to filling the gaps to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The government believes that every individual regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity has an inherent human right to live their life free from violence, abuse and discrimination,” Ally told the meeting.

On the morning of June 16, Managing Director of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Joel Simpson was allegedly beaten by a group of men, hours after those same men attacked him at a night club. The incident is under investigation by the police.

“Such an incident has no place in our society, despite the many challenges we continue to encounter such as cultural attitudes of many within our society, the government of Guyana remains firmly committed to protecting and promoting the dignity and freedom of every human being,” Ally said.

She said SASOD has been working closely with the hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), and a number of measures have been initiated aimed at retraining and training police officers on how to respond professionally to complaints from LGBTQ persons, especially when their human rights are violated or when they are accessing general services.

Since the establishment of Guyana’s four rights commission following the 2001/2003 constitutional reforms, the government has recognized that the agencies need review and strengthening. In the case of the rights commissions that have operated in the last decade (rights of children, women and gender equality, Indigenous peoples), this review will encompass the adequacy of their mandates and resources based on results to date. In the case of the human rights commission, the current structure will be revisited in the context of the original constitutional reform commission’s recommendation for a more independent and empowered commission.

“Guyana’s National Gender and Social Inclusion policy will provide strong leadership within institutions to ensure that a gender perspective is reflected in all its practices, policies and programmes,” Minister Ally vowed.

This policy is geared towards moving forward with prevention strategies and supporting multi-sectoral responses to violence against women and girls.

Ally said that Guyana has been selected as one of six beneficiary Caribbean countries of this spotlight initiative, and the government is currently in the process of formulating a country programme with the assistance of the EU, UN and all relevant stakeholders…and is expected to be finalized and approved in November 2019.

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