Despite CCJ ruling on cross-dressing, transgender people still face violence, discrimination


By Isanella Patoir

Project Coordinator at Guyana Trans United, Alessandra Hereman, has said that despite a historic ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) throwing out the ban on cross-dressing in Guyana, stigma and discrimination persists and can lead to violence.

Hereman, who is a transgender woman, was speaking on Tuesday night at the first of its kind LGBTQ+ Film Festival to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) which was held at the Argentine Embassy in Georgetown.

One of the films – My Wardrobe, My Right – from 2011 highlighted the cross-dressing crackdowns that took place in February 2009.

The CCJ in November 2018 ruled that Guyana’s law which prohibits cross-dressing should be struck out as it serves no legal or social purpose and inhibits the right to freedom of expression.

However, Hereman said that there is an increased risk of violence and discrimination towards transgender people in Guyana.

These findings came out of research done with the trans community in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project in July and August this year.

“A few transwomen alluded to the fact that the increased visibility gained from the CCJ ruling also means an increased risk for violence and discrimination for trans people,” Hereman said.

As it relates to employment for trans women, Hereman highlighted KFC Guyana and Qualfon Guyana as two companies that hire persons despite their gender expression.

“A few trans women reported experiencing discrimination in seeking jobs post CCJ ruling; examples given are businesses located on Regent Street,” Hereman said.

She called for trans people to be recognized as legal citizens of Guyana.

Meanwhile, Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson said: “We have to be mindful of those lessons that we can change all the laws in court, but if we don’t educate people, including our communities so that people are more confident…there is a huge gap in terms of how people would experience these rights.”

Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson

President of SAVE Guyana, Nazim Hussain, said Guyanese do not understand who the LGBTQ people are.

“Batty man, antiman has been the term to reference persons [who are LGBTQ] but they are not taking the time to identify the person’s preferable choices and if we are going to have a free society, we must respect the choices of human beings to enjoy their rights,” Hussain said.

Hussain said SAVE Guyana is concerned about the stigma against the LGBTQ community which he noted can add to the suicide rate in the country.

Argentina Ambassador to Guyana, Felipe Gardella

Meanwhile, Argentina Ambassador to Guyana, Felipe Gardella during brief remarks noted that same-sex marriage in Argentina has the same conditions and values of traditional marriage since 2010.

At the end of 2018, the number of equal marriage exceeded 14,000 in Argentina.

He noted that the Argentine Embassy is committed to following the principles in Argentina to become legal norms in Guyana relating to the rights of the LGBTQ community.

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