Further review of offences act, sensitisation needed with cross-dressing law removed- SASOD
Further review of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act to remove other sections which may infringe upon fundamental human rights is necessary, says Joel Simpson, Managing Director of Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).
SASOD is a local human rights organisation that focuses on safeguarding the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people.
On Wednesday, during an interview with the News Room, Simpson welcomed the successful passage of the Bill which removes the criminal offence of cross-dressing from the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act.
As per this Act, it was an offence, punishable by law, to be a “man” and appear in “female attire” for any “improper purpose” or, to be a “woman” and appear in “male attire” also for any “improper purpose”.
Now, in-keeping with a 2018 decision handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Guyana’s highest court, the offence was formally removed.
The CCJ- Guyana’s apex court- affirmed that an individual does not have to wear the clothes that are commonly associated with one’s sex. And, it was highlighted that the law serves no legal or social purpose and inhibits the right to freedom of expression.
Simpson explained that the CCJ’s 2018 judgment meant that cross-dressing was already decriminalised. But he said that the formal removal of the offence from Guyana’s law through the National Assembly was a “good initiative in public awareness.”
Moreover, he stated, “… I think the symbolism of this administration saying that they respect the decision of Guyana’s highest court, the CCJ, especially when it comes to matters of fundamental human rights and constitutional issues is a very important symbolism.”
But, beyond public awareness and the symbolism, Simpson called for there to be a further review of the entire Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, since there are other sections which do negatively affect LGBTQ people.
Section 166 of the Act, which deals with prostitution, is one such section.
This Act says that it is an offence for any male person to: engage in prostitution, engage in solicitation for “immoral purposes” and loiter in any street or public place for the purpose of prostitution.
People who are convicted in these regards are liable to fines, imprisonment and/ or whipping or flogging.
Many activists have been calling for the decriminalising of sex work for a number of years. And, Simpson said, is another example of how various sections of the Act infringes upon fundamental human rights.
“I think to really give full meaning (to the CCJ decision), the entire Act should have been reviewed and not just simplistically doing what the CCJ would have done in terms of removing the offence,” Joel contended.
Meanwhile, with the decriminalisation of cross-dressing already successful, Simpson said that emphasis has to be placed on sensitising stakeholders to help with the implementation of the decision.
This sensitisation would include training for members of the disciplined forces, social workers and health workers- all of who provide services to members of the LGBTQ+ community.