SASOD to provide free legal aid to vulnerable persons
By Devina Samaroo
Devanand Milton was forced to exit a minibus at the Route 32 bus park after the driver abusively refused to offer his transportation services to her.
Devanand is a transgender woman and is a member of Guyana Trans United (GTU) – a nongovernmental organization that advocates for rights of members of the local transgender community.
The incident at the bus park occurred in September 2017 and is just one of the many instances of discrimination Devanand experiences on a daily basis.
At a press conference hosted by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Wednesday, Devanand said she decided to take a stand against the bus driver and had reported the matter to a traffic police at the park.
The cop escorted both Devanand and the bus driver to the Stabroek Outpost where they both made statements.
The LGBT activist said she persistently followed up the matter but the police dragged their feet.
“There was no redress to the matter. I was lost for something that needs representation,” she expressed.
Milton said she eventually approached SASOD under the Community Paralegal Services Initiative – a project which offers free legal aid to vulnerable persons.
Accompanied by a SASOD representative, Devanand said she revisited the officer who took her statement but he advised that he had misplaced it.
Nonetheless, she resubmitted a statement and the matter was finally taken to court on January 16, 2018.
However, the driver did not show up and Devanand said an arrest warrant was issued for him.
At the press conference, she expressed much gratitude to SASOD for helping her come this far in seeking justice.
“I think with the Paralegal Community Service Initiative, I received the support I needed because we as LGBT people are so vulnerable to a lot of other issues, we cannot afford fees for lawyers,” she expressed.
The Paralegal Community Service Initiative was launched on December 20, 2017, and will run for 12 months.
SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simpson explained that the organization has been offering free legal services to vulnerable groups but under this programme, the entity can finally do it in a structured way.
Under the project, Simpson said officials will be visiting entertainment spots such as bars and clubs as well as communities to educate persons about their rights and redress services available.
The organization will provide legal aid for victims of intimate partner violence and discrimination, juvenile delinquents, parties in family disputes, and drug users.
Five Guyanese lawyers are providing free services under the programme and since its launch last year, two persons are benefiting from the initiative.