Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ramkarran’s call for repeal of anti-gay laws should be cue for other politicians -SASOD

From http://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/news/stories/06/26/ramkarrans-call-for-repeal-of-anti-gay-laws-should-be-cue-for-other-politicians/

The Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is applauding former Speaker of the National Assembly and member of the PPP/C Ralph Ramkarran for his recent statements in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Guyana and said that other political leaders should take their cue from him.

Writing in April in an edition of the Weekend Mirror, Ramkarran noted that the current laws against gay sex are a colonial artefact, archaic and should be expunged from the statute books.
“What Mr. Ramkarran has done is open up this issue in Guyana,” said Vidyaratha Kissoon, one of the founding members of SASOD. He noted that some persons in the Caribbean, such as Portia Simpson Miller in Jamaica, have already been speaking on the issue.
Further he pointed out that anytime former president Bharrat Jagdeo—who remains one of the leaders of the ruling party—was asked about these issues, he always tried to maintain the position that he was not interested in discriminating against anyone. Kissoon said that Jagdeo took this stance when other leaders in the Caribbean at the time were taking a different approach to the whole question of LGBT rights.
“While we welcome Mr. Ramkarran’s statements we hope that other politicians make similar statements on their own behalf,” he said, recognising the challenges that party politics create in this regard. “We were surprised by that position but we welcome it,” he said.
“What we would expect though is that Mr. Ramkarran could be further engaged on this and we don’t know if he would be amenable and accessible to being involved in further discussion, more than just writing in the papers. This is how Guyana is…these messages have to be enforced,” he said.
“It is also clear that he is not representing the PPP which we think is unfortunate,” Kissoon added. “One of the things we have been learning from our history is that the PPP as a party held very progressive views on certain social issues, such as not supporting corporal punishment of children.”
“SASOD’s experience has been that many of the MPs know that these issues have to be dealt with but they are afraid of the backlash,” he said. Nevertheless, he noted that SASOD hopes Ramkarran’s open support of the LGBT community would inspire others to do the same. “Their silence means that they are consenting to the discrimination out there,” he pointed out.
SASOD’s executive and founding member Joel Simpson also applauded Ramkarran for finding the courage to publicly support equality and human rights for LGBT Guyanese and the repeal of laws which discriminate and justify abuses against that community.
“We have long recognised that rational, right-thinking Guyanese who support human rights and democratic freedoms for all citizens could come to no other reasonable conclusion, but to call for the repeal of these insidious laws,” Simpson said in a comment to this newspaper. “We hope that other Guyanese politicians, religious figures and opinion leaders will be as brave to publicly articulate similar positions soon,” he said.
Simpson noted that the Government of Guyana has announced its intention to honour its international commitments made through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process to hold consultations with a view to repealing the laws which run contrary to Guyana’s human rights obligations.
“Given the response by sections of the Evangelical Christian community to government’s announcement, SASOD is also pleased that Mr. Ramkarran recognises that homosexuality is completely normal, and not a ‘condition’ that ought to ‘cured’ by counselling, therapy or other means,” Simpson said.
“In fact, science supports Mr. Ramkarran’s position. No less a world-renown body than the American Psychological Association (APA) has indicated that there is no adequate research that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation is safe and effective, and that these attempts can rather be harmful, by reinforcing stereotypes and contributing to a negative climate for LGBT people, especially in conservative religious settings,” he said.
“SASOD is proud that Mr. Ramkarran took this public stance, knowing that he will be on the right side of history,” said Simpson.
In his column, Ramkarran said that the Guyanese society should be liberal in outlook and socially progressive in character. “We must lead the way in the Caribbean region and lead the way in dispensing with the outdated notion that heterosexuality is the basic premise of masculinity for the male and femininity for the woman. Negative social attitudes should be combated even if they are popular. And where conditions exist making it is possible to do so, as in Guyana, it ought to be done,” Ramkarran wrote.
“Discrimination has no place in Guyana. The LGBT community is crying out for recognition and an end to ridicule, violence and discrimination,” he wrote.
He said that the continuation of discriminatory practices “harms our society and criminalises people in our midst who chose to live differently from the majority but nevertheless make as good a contribution to society as anyone else.” “Unfortunately Guyana and the rest of our Caribbean societies are deeply conservative on social issues. But I am not going as far on this occasion as asking for approval of same sex marriage. While I support it, I hardly believe that either our people or our Government, and indeed even our Opposition, will want to accommodate that issue at this time,” Ramkarran wrote.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gays, lesbians face greater inequality here because of criminalising of same sex relations

Gays, lesbians face greater inequality here because of criminalising of same sex relations
Posted By Stabroek staff On June 22, 2012 @ 5:15 am In Local | No Comments
A human rights expert says that by virtue of Guyana keeping on its books laws that criminalise homosexual behaviour, persons from the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community face inequality on a higher scale than other marginalised groups.
Speaking at a public forum on equality and LGBT rights at Moray House Trust on Wednesday evening, Dr. Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of Equal Rights Trust says Guyana’s laws criminalising homosexuality and cross-dressing are not in consonance with Government’s responsibility of ensuring that there is equality for all.

Dr. Dimitrina Petrova
The expert, who hails from Bulgaria, said that the mission of her organisation is equality and it is regarded as a basic principle of human justice and a fundamental human right.
She said that equality is one of many human rights and it is the business of Equal Rights Trust to put serious human rights issues into context so that they can be seen as being based on equality.
In explaining why it was that the organisation chose to work in Guyana, Dr. Petrova said that while there are many problems in Guyana for many groups – indigenous peoples, women, race – it is the LGBT group that seems to be the most affected since the discrimination against them is enshrined in law.
“There are gaps in the protection.
The levels of protection are different for different people [in Guyana]. Looking from outside, the LGBT seems to be the most unequal group,” Dr. Petrova said. She pointed out too that there can be no equality if one group is left out.
Dr. Petrova shared SASOD’s view that the Government should not be taking its cue from the religious community in order to make decisions regarding the rights of LGBT people. SASOD reported that representatives of the Government stated they would have been seeking moral guidance from the three main religious groups in Guyana without considering any discussions with the groups which are affected by the discriminatory laws and policies. “The dialogue should be [among] the faith-based groups, cultural promoters, the Ministry of Health, the Guyana Police Force and should include citizens and groups who support the view that LGBT Guyanese are deserving of the same rights as any other Guyanese citizen,” SASOD said in a statement.
Speaking at the event, Vidyaratha Kissoon, one of the founding members of SASOD said that the body believes that a Guyana which offers equality for LGBT Guyanese will be characterised by the inclusion of LGBT issues in all human and social development discussions that occur at national and community levels and will be incorporated as a cross cutting issue in development plans.
“SASOD has called on the Government and national decision makers to amend   the Constitution to include gender identity and sexual orientation as grounds (prohibiting) discrimination so as to protect LGBT citizens and allow for legal recourse,” Kissoon said.
He said too that SASOD is calling for the repeal of Section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02, which sanctions the wearing of clothes considered to be those of the opposite sex. Kissoon said this law stigmatises transgendered people and facilitates arbitrary arrest and police abuse.
The group also wants Section 351 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act Chapter 8:01 which reads, “any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is party to the commission, by any male person, of an act of gross indecency with any other male person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for two years.”
SASOD is also campaigning and making representation to educate members of the uniformed forces – police, prison and army – and to evaluate their performance based on their obligations in terms of non-discriminatory treatment towards sex workers, LGBT persons and people living with HIV/AIDS. “Discriminatory and abusive behaviour on the part of police officers should be investigated and punished where necessary,” Kissoon said.
He said that SASOD hopes to embark on the critical implementation of actions which ensure that the needs of LGBT citizens are addressed within the health care system and social services provision. “The health and well being of LGBT citizens should not be left to the selective judgements of the health care workers and social workers,” Kissoon said.
SASOD wants to also open a broader dialogue on culture and human rights so as to guarantee that no human rights violations will be perpetrated under the name of culture, religion or tradition. Further, Kissoon said that many LGBT persons need low income housing and are not allowed to apply for a house lot since they are single and often have no children of their own.
SASOD wants Government to ensure that the Ministry of Labour is equipped to deal with cases of discrimination against LGBT persons which prevents access to employment. It wants Government to ensure that the Ministry of Education implements a policy which ensures that LGBT youth are not discriminated against in the school system and that health and family life educators speak to the diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity.

Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com
URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/news/stories/06/22/gays-lesbians-face-greater-inequality-here-because-of-criminalising-of-same-sex-relations/

Sunday, June 10, 2012

SASOD Statement on inappropriate Kaiteur News Front Page picture

On Saturday, June 2, Kaieteur News published a picture on its front page which showed a man beating a woman. This picture was published at a time when the intensity of male violence against women has increased.
Kaieteur News in its editorial of  June 6 said that their intention “was to bring home the seriousness of the disorder: it was not something that we should read about and then mutter “Tsk!Tsk!” Something has to be done.”
Kaieteur News seems not to understand that the objection to the photograph is not because people want to hide from the violence; the violence exists around us. The objection to the photograph is that the newspaper has, probably unintentionally, removed power from the woman to deal with her situation as she chooses. What is worse is that Kaieteur News itself might be guilty of what it accuses others of doing – just observing. Was a report made to the police? What did the police do? Was the man charged? If not, why not?  Guyana’s National Domestic Violence Policy states: “The safety and well being of those who are victims of domestic violence must be the first priority for any response.” Again, has the man been charged? Are the woman and any other vulnerable family member safe?
SASOD’s work with survivors of violence includes a reality that many survivors want to be healed and get over the trauma. Some might not want to go through an unfriendly police and justice system. The organisations in Guyana which have been working on gender-based violence can work with Kaieteur News and other media to show how to help to deal with this problem without causing stigma to any person who might not want their story told.
SASOD agrees with the KN editorial that “Females and males are all equal and must be given the autonomy to make their own decisions.”  If KN does not understand that the survivor of the violence must give permission for her story to be told and be able to decide what next steps to take then its editorial standpoint will only seek to reverse what it seems to want to set out to do. The rights of the survivors are paramount when dealing with gender-based violence or any other kind of violence.