Fresh calls for repeal of anti-gay laws in Guyana

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One day after the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court ruled that Antigua and Barbuda’s buggery law contravenes the Constitutional rights of its citizens, there were fresh calls in Guyana on Wednesday for the Parliament and Government to be proactive in removing those colonial-era laws here.

The ruling in Antigua will no doubt have widespread implications for the region with it being the third time a Caribbean Court has found that these laws are unconstitutional.

Belize and Trinidad and Tobago have had rulings in favour of removing the laws already.

To this end, the Managing Director of local human rights organisation and movement SASOD – the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination – has reasoned that the unconstitutionality of laws that criminalise same-sex intimacy is almost academic now.

“No court in the region has said otherwise even in a minority decision.

“The message is clear for our Government, Parliament to be proactive and remove a law rooted in colonisation and a law we should have gotten rid of since we became an independent state,” Simpson told the News Room.

In addition to Antigua, there are pending cases litigating this issue in five other Eastern Caribbean States and Barbados.

Rulings are expected later this year in Barbados and St. Lucia.

“The only two English-speaking CARICOM states that haven’t resolved the issue through repeal or through a court or have a case in the domestic court are Jamaica and Guyana,” Simpson added.

Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson

Guyana has already removed the criminal offence of cross-dressing from the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act.

But Simpson says more needs to be done to repeal the Criminal Law (Offences) Act Chapter 8:01 (352 – 354) which criminalises buggery with a life sentence.

“Governments come and go, promises are made, there is rhetoric on the international stage… there are great promises and commitment and no action.”

Simpson acknowledged that nothing is stopping any individual or organisation in Guyana from challenging the law’s constitutionality.

“I also believe that there is no reason why we must expend resources going to court in a constitutional battle when the Government and Parliament can show leadership,” he added.

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