General and regional elections is less than a month away and Guyana’s leading gay rights activist group –the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) – has launched what it calls a manifesto with a list of changes it wishes to see from a new Government.
The list of measures which the LGBTQ+ activist group covers Constitutional Reform, Healthcare, Education, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Social protection.
Of major concern to the group is protection of LGBTQ+ students who are often bullied in school.
Jasmine Bacchus, who represented transgender persons at a press conference on Tuesday, noted that she was forced to drop out of school due to bullying and this must not continue.
“Education, particularly educational institutions, are consistently rated by LBGTQ+ youth, as the place they experience the most discrimination in Guyana,” she added.
To deal with the issue, Bacchus said teachers should be trained from the level of the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) about the issues students face and how to effectively address them, while LGBTQ+ persons must feel safe, supported and included in the education system across all settings in Guyana.
She called for Comprehensive Sexuality Education to be introduced in schools to inform students about diverse sexualities and genders and reduce targeted bullying of LGBTQ+ students in public schools.
SASOD is looking to engage political parties on issues affecting its members and Managing Director, Joel Simpson is optimistic that some of its proposals will be adopted.
SASOD has also written to the Guyana Elections Commission expressing concerns about discriminatory remarks from party leaders and supporters during the current campaign season.
Simpson told the media that “a lot of the rhetoric hints around homophobia and transphobia, people denigrating other colleagues, other officials, especially on social media and it is now being done more by supporters.
“I think that parties have a responsibility to tell their supporters no racism, no sexism, no xenophobia, homophobia or transphobia in their campaigns.”
A similar letter was sent to the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Private Sector Commission, Simpson said.
Below is a full list of measures highlighted in The LGBTQ+ Manifesto for the 2020 General and Regional Elections:
Constitutional and Law Reform
- Include sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination in the non-discrimination provision of the Guyana Constitution (Article 149) by 2025.
- Repeal sections 351 to 353 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act which criminalize same-sex intimacy between consenting, adult men in private, by the end of 2020.
- Include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as grounds for discrimination in the Prevention of Discrimination Act (Section 4) by the end of 2020.
- Guyana is party to international treaties that require the protection of basic human rights for everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer (LGBTQ+) people. Guyana’s next government must engage in law reform efforts to bring Guyana’s laws into compliance with its international obligations, and to ensure that the rights of every citizen are fully realized.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
- Fully implement and apply existing laws regarding sexual and gender-based violence, ensuring there are adequate resources to provide services to all victims, including LGBTQ+ persons.
- Ensure all police, probation officers, social workers, and child protection officers have been trained on gender, sexual diversity and human rights, so they are fully equipped to respond to instances of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as hate-motivated crimes.
- Sexual and gender-based violence is a silent epidemic affecting LGBTQ+ Guyanese. Although the Domestic Violence Act is gender-neutral, persons in LGBTQ+ relationships are unlikely to seek out health, protective and judicial services provided by the state because of ignorance and insensitivities towards LGBTQ+ issues, and high levels of discrimination. There are also several reported cases of LGBTQ+ persons being attacked, verbally and physically, because of their gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Transgender people are particularly targeted because of their visibility.
- The Ministry of Public Health must make pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available in the public healthcare system in all 10 administrative regions of Guyana for persons who are “substantial risk” of contracting HIV, according to the World Health Organization guidelines, by January 2021.
- Allow persons who have been exposed to HIV to access post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), regardless of the circumstances of that exposure, by the end of 2020.
- Support organizations led by key populations to provide targeted and specialized health services for their communities who fear and experience stigma and discrimination in public healthcare.
- Provide quality, accessible and stigma-free mental health services for vulnerable groups, especially LGBTQ+ people who face greater burdens due to homophobia(s), to prevent suicide and achieve the highest attainable standard of health for all persons in Guyana.
- The Government of Guyana must provide comprehensive and accessible entrepreneurial training programmes for vulnerable groups, including LGBTQ+ people, and make capital accessible to start up small businesses through grants and low-interest lending schemes.
- The Government of Guyana must provide access to housing for LGBTQ+ people, especially children, who have been temporarily displaced or rendered homeless due to violence.