Principle or popularity: Political parties grilled on LGBTQ issues

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Just days before the 2020 general and elections, political parties are being asked the tough question of choosing, in principle, the fundamental rights of some marginalised groups or their political popularity.

At a Town Hall styled discussion on LGBTQ – Human Rights, political parties were Monday grilled on its distinct posture on issues affecting the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community in Guyana.

Striking the nerve of the discussion among the political representatives was a question on choosing the fundamental rights of LGBTQ persons put squarely against the popularity of political polities.

It stirred a lively discussion with those political parties saying, in one way or another, that while some gay rights are highly unpopular for Guyanese at this time it remains committed to ending discrimination

The two major political parties, the People’s Progressive Party and the APNU+AFC had senior representatives and former Parliamentarians present in the persons of Priya Manickchand and Catherine Hughes, respectively.

APNU+AFC Coalition member (third from left) Cathy Hughes speaking at the forum [Photo provided by SASOD]
They both agreed that while not special, each person is entitled to their fundamental rights, enshrined in the committed and committed to protecting that.

The two major political parties said, however, that they are not prepared to make unpopular decisions or commitments at this time.

Manickchand said under a PPP government no law will be passed that will discriminate against LGBTQ persons but said she believes persuasion can come through widespread advocacy.

“In reality, political parties are in the business of securing votes… very few will tell you that they are doing something that is highly unpopular,” she added.

Meanwhile, Hughes argued that part of the challenge is that political parties are made up of individuals who bring own personal beliefs, whether religious or moral.

She said greater discussions on the issues affecting the gay community will be necessary going forward.

The LGBTQ+ Human Rights Town Hall meeting was organised by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Guyana Press Association (GPA) on Monday at Georgetown Club.

A section of the gathering at the Town Hall meeting [Photo provided by SASOD]
It should be noted that the political hopes and aspirations are high for those parties contesting next Monday’s general and regional elections and while Guyana awaits the outcome of those polls, promises for championing the cause of the LGBTQ community along the lines of ending discrimination were abundant.

Other political parties who were part of the meeting included A New and United Guyana,  The Citizenship Initiative, The New Movement, The Liberty and Justice Party and Change Guyana.

All parties committed, in one way or another and in response to questions from the public, to use its influence following the 2020 general elections to ensure that LGBTQ+ persons enjoy equal rights and opportunities in Guyana and are not sidelined in one way or another.

This equally, as envisioned by the speakers, will see unhindered access to health care and education, social services and employment, free of discrimination.

Acknowledging that there is more work to be done to ensure that Guyanese and persons coming here are not discriminated against based on their sexuality and gender expression, the political parties also committed to doing what is necessary to engender that change.

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