Workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ people on SASOD’s radar


Workplace discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) people is prevalent and as such, amendments to the 1997 Prevention of Discrimination Act is necessary to provide legal protection.

This is according to Joel Simpson, Managing Director of Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).

Simpson, during an interview with the News Room on Wednesday, welcomed the formal decriminalising of cross- dressing in the National Assembly.

This came after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), in 2018, ruled that the section of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act that criminalises cross- dressing serves no legal or social purpose and inhibits the right to freedom of expression.

With this important action successfully done, Simpson said that further legislative amendments are necessary to protect the fundamental human rights of LGBTQ+ people in Guyana.

One important legislative amendment, he said, would be changing the 1997 Prevention of Discrimination Act.

Currently, the Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on: “race, sex, religion, colour, ethnic origin, indigenous population, national extraction, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, pregnancy, marital status or age…”

Simpson, however, said that SASOD has been advocating for the prohibition of discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.

Simpson stressed that LGBTQ+ people undergo much discrimination in workplaces because of their identity. He also said that they suffer “a good deal of socio- economic disadvantage.”

Often, when such instances of discrimination occur, the Managing Director highlighted that SASOD is forced to take “softer routes of negotiations” between the LGBTQ+ employees and employers.

This is not always favourable or easily done, however.

As such, Simpson explained that an amendment to the Act would allow LGBTQ+ people to pursue legal recourse.

“We really need legislation that is inclusive of LGBTQ+ populations,” he emphasised.

Cognisant of the government’s focus on law reform, Simpson said that he is hopeful for fruitful engagement with the Attorney- General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall SC and the newly- appointed law reform commission.

He is hopeful that there will be bipartisan support on this matter, also.

But he said that the level of the discourse in the National Assembly during the debates for the formal decriminalisation of cross- dressing was a “reality check”.

There, some opposition parliamentarians rebuked the amendment and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Those kinds of disparaging remarks lead to the kind of stigma and discrimination that we see often amounting to hate crimes

“… If you see this in the National Assembly, you can expect far worse from the man in the street,” Simpson lamented.

As such, Simpson said that SASOD and the government has to work together to ensure that there is wider public awareness and education on the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

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