Litigants and Civil Society Group Eagerly Await CCJ Ruling in Guyana Cross-Dressing Case

FLASHBACK: Members of the Guyana Trans United and SASOD along with their attorneys last year, after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that cross-dressing is not a crime but disagreed that the law was discriminatory. (Credit: Guyana Chronicle)

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday November 12, 2018
– Two weeks after Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) was expecting a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in an appeal that focuses on the rights of transgender persons, the Trinidad-based court has announced it’s ready to give a decision.

Late last month, SASOD announced that the long-awaited judgment would be delivered on October 30, four months after the matter was heard by the Trinidad-based court. However, the CCJ subsequently released a statement saying that no date had been set.

But in a release issued this morning, the CCJ said it will hand down its decision in Quincy Mc Ewan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser, Seyon Persaud vs. The Attorney General of Guyana—a case which challenged the constitutionality of a law that criminalizes wearing attire of a different gender in public in Guyana—tomorrow at 10 a.m.

In 2009, four trans women were arrested and convicted under the 1893 Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act of the offence of being a “man” appearing in “female attire” in public for an “improper purpose”. They spent three nights in police detention after their arrest.

A year later, the trans women and SASOD brought an action challenging the constitutionality of the law—on several grounds, including that it is discriminatory and inconsistent with the Constitution— and the treatment of the appellants during the legal process.

The High Court of Guyana held that cross-dressing in and of itself is not a crime, but disagreed that the law was discriminatory or disproportionately impacted trans and gender non-conforming persons.

That decision was appealed at the Guyana Court of Appeal, and finally at the CCJ, which is Guyana’s highest court.

On June 28 this year, the CCJ reserved judgment after hearing arguments from both sides.

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