SASOD continues advocacy for law changes to prevent workplace discrimination
Members of the queer community, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, experience substantial workplace discrimination because of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
As such, there have been calls for amendments to Guyana’s Prevention of Discrimination Act so that members of the community could at least have some legal recourse if discriminated against.
Joel Simpson, the Managing Director of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), one of the local bodies championing human rights in Guyana, says there have been formal engagements on amending this Act since 2016.
According to him, queer persons often complain about the discrimination they face in the workplace, especially when seeking employment.
“…Where legislation doesn’t exist in the first place, you can’t take matters to Court,” he however told the News Room on Wednesday.
The 1997 Act currently prohibits discrimination in a place of employment based on: race, sex, religion, colour, ethnicity, indigenous population, nationality, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, pregnancy, marital status or age.
But SASOD and other local organisations asked for it to include ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ as grounds for discrimination. If this is done, any employer found guilty of discrimination could be sanctioned.
There have been recent engagements with the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, on taking draft amendments to the National Assembly. Simpson also said there have been positive talks with members of the parliamentary opposition, trade unions and private sector bodies.
And he thinks it is about time these amendments are done. For one, he believes legal protection in the workplace setting is a “low-hanging” fruit that is not as contentious as other law amendments such as decriminalising same-sex intimacy or broadening accepted gender identities.
“We are targeting low-hanging fruits first now because we think it will be easier to pass (in the National Assembly) and it will build confidence in the legislature and the public,” Simpson said.