Hate crimes a ‘everyday reality’ for many in Guyana – Equality Forum releases new report

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By Kurt Campbell

Kurt@newsroom.gy

Hate crimes are a very real, serious problem and a reality for many on a daily basis in Guyana.

So says the Chairman of civil society body, the Guyana Equality Forum, Joel Simpson as he released a new report on hate crimes in the country on Friday.

The first situational analyst of its kind, the three-part report found that hate crimes are persistently committed in Guyana on the basis of gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity.

And it makes recommendations for all organisations representing women, race and LGBT issues to work together and; it also recommends that a broad based, simple and practical hate crime legislation be enacted.

Offering an overview of the study, Simpson recalled that it was set in motion just after the 2020 elections and its five-month impasse; he said there were certainly increases in hate crimes on the basis of race during that period.

Hate crimes against other marginalised groups, including LGBT persons have been persistent over the years, but highly under-reported, according to the study.

There is also the instance of sexist hate crimes linked to and disguised as domestic violence.

From R – L: Attorney Rosemary Benjamin-Noble pointed, Chief of the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples Colin Klautky, Chair of the Guyana Equality Forum Joel Simpson and Social Media Manager Arian Dahlia Richmond

Guyanese researcher, Pere DeRoy authored the first chapter (situational analysis) and the second chapter (comparative legal analysis) was authored by Professor James Chalmers, who is the Chair of Law at the University of Glasgow.

James delivered a video-recorded explanation for his findings and Simpson said researchers were able to interview over 20 national stakeholders, including civil society activists and politicians.

Advocacy and consultation on the compiled data will continue in the coming months and years.  The study, which makes an international comparative analysis on the legislative front, also addresses the need for reform of the local legal landscape.

Guyana has laws that criminalises hate crimes but the report found that the same levels of protection are not afforded to all categories of people with many of the incidents going unsolved and unresolved.

Altogether, it was agreed that the issue of hate crimes is not well understood in Guyana.

And while there are laws that protect citizens against discrimination, it does not explicitly refer to sexual orientation or gender as protected characteristics.

For example, the 2002 amended Racial Hostility Act 1964 makes it a criminal offence to excite hostility or ill-will against persons by reason of their race and prohibits incitement to racial hatred, punishable if one wilfully excites or attempts to excite hostility or ill will against any section of the public or against any person on the ground of their race.

Protection, in part, also exist under section 18 of the Cyber Crime Act, attorney Rosemary Benjamin-Noble pointed out. She was part of a team of three local lawyers who contributed to the study.

Under Sigimund Consultants Inc., they have recommended a repeal of discriminatory portions of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act.

The three-part report was released days after Guyana joined the world in observing International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

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