The Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) in collaboration with several local LGBT rights advocacy groups wants the Government to reconsider any plans it has to hold a referendum on the criminalisation of same-sex intimacy in Guyana.
Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge recently told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the Government intends to hold a referendum on whether Guyana’s colonial law which criminalizes same sex intimacy should be repealed.
But Guyana Equality Forum backed by the Guyana Trans United, Guyana Rainbow Foundation and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Wednesday said it will not support the government’s proposal for a referendum on the issue.
SASOD’s Managing Director Joel Simpson led the call and said that such a move will likely result in increased marginalization and isolation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons in Guyana.
“Homophobia will increase as misguided, emotional arguments are made on a topic which the majority of the population is not educated to engage on rationally. Fear of the unknown exists and religion and personal biases will be misused to attempt to justify the laws of a secular, democratic state,” Simpson told a news conference on Wednesday.
The Guyana Equality Forum was supported by other Human Rights bodies including Red Thread and Justice Institute Guyana, in its call for the coalition government to fulfill its stated commitment to the LGBT community.
GEF believes that a referendum on whether same sex intimacy should remain a criminal offence does not fulfill any of the government’s commitment to the LGBT community.
Simpson wants the government to use the resources it intends for holding a referendum to educate the population on human rights and gender and sexual diversity.
The government’s proposal was repeated by Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams during an engagement with the LGBT community earlier this month.
Executive Director of Justice Institute Guyana, Melinda Janki called on the government to use the occasion of Guyana’s 51st Independence anniversary to rid the nation of Colonial laws to rob citizens of their dignity.
“Are our minds so hurt by colonialism that we cannot break this colonial shackle of intolerance and backwardness?” she asked.
She believes that colonial laws like this one is strangling the country’s ability to progress into a mature society.
“If the government wants to hold a referendum then let’s hold a referendum on article 152 of the Constitution. Let us get rid, once and for all, of this last element of colonial subjugation. Let us have the courage to be free,” she added.