Saturday, December 10, 2016

Guyana Equality Forum Hosts “Orange Walk” to Close 16 Days of Activism on Gender Violence

Last Saturday, December 10, Human Rights Day, the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) hosted its “Orange” Walk to commemorate Human Rights Day 2016 and close the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, which is held annually to galvanize action to end gender-based violence.
SASOD’s Joel Simpson led the marchers as they chanted “Equal Rights! Equal Love! Equal People!” and “Break the Silence, End Gender-Based Violence.”
At the end of the walk, brief remarks were shared by Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence and keynote speaker Dr. Dawn Stewart. Dr. Stewart is the civil society representative to Guyana’s Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) and founder and Chief Executive Officer of CPIC’s Monique’s Caring Hands - a leading, local grassroots women's rights group. 
Dr. Stewart commenced her remarks by expressing, “It is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development. I am talking about violence against women and children. I am honoured to be here, at your request, to address this urgent matter as we join together to advance human rights, and the common values of humanity.” 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Cross-Dressing Appeal Case for Judgment in 2017

The case McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and SASOD versus Attorney General of Guyana was heard on Friday, November 18, 2016 before Guyana’s Court of Appeal. The hearing was presided over by Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh, Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Brassington Reynolds. Gulliver McEwan, the first-named appellant, other representatives of the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) were also present at the hearing.

The Chancellor noted that the Court had received extensive submissions from both the appellants and the state, which did not require rehashing orally. However, Dr Bulkan, counsel for the appellants, noted that there were two issues in the state’s submissions that were raised for the first time and to which he would like to respond. He was permitted to address these issues, but after doing so the Court indicated that these new submissions should be recorded in writing, and both parties were given four weeks to present their further written submissions to the court.

The Court questioned counsel for the appellants on their contention that the law was uncertain, asking whether it was not possible for a Magistrate to define the term ‘improper purposes’ on a case by case basis by reference to its dictionary meaning. Dr Bulkan responded that permitting this would offend the requirement of the rule of law, since penal statutes had to be defined with sufficient clarity to give citizens prospective notice of how to conduct themselves. He pointed out that even if a person was eventually acquitted by a Magistrate, the fact of being charged and subjected to the state’s coercive powers would have already resulted in violations of their fundamental rights. He added that the term ‘improper purpose’ had no boundaries whatever, and thus gave police unfettered discretion in enforcing the law.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Cross-Dressing Suit Set for Appeal Hearing Tomorrow Friday November 18

As the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) join the global observances of November as Trans Awareness Month, Guyana’s Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case McEwan and others versus Attorney General of Guyana tomorrow, Friday, November 18, 2016 at 9:00 hrs at the Court of Appeal, 60 High Street, Kingston.  The Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Hon. Justice Carl Singh, is expected to preside over the hearing with a panel of appellate judges.

The appeal was previously fixed for hearing on Wednesday July 13 at 9 am before Guyana’s Court of Appeal. Gulliver McEwan, the first-named appellant, and representatives of the GTU and SASOD were present in a completely full courtroom.  At this hearing, the appellants filed their skeleton arguments in accordance with the rules of the Court. The arguments of the State were yet to be filed. The Court of Appeal noted that the arguments filed by counsel for the appellants were extensive and that it wished some time to fully review them and to receive the arguments from the State.

The case was initially filed in February 2010, following the widely reported arrests and convictions of seven trans persons for the 1893 summary offence of ‘being a man’ and wearing ‘female’ attire in a public way or public place, for an improper purpose.’ Four of the convicted persons filed this action, along with SASOD, which approached the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP). Thereafter, with the assistance of U-RAP and local counsel, a constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law was filed.
The McEwan case argues that the archaic cross-dressing law, found in section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1893, is inconsistent with the Constitution of Guyana. It also argues that the conduct of the Chief Magistrate, who told the individual appellants that they were confused about their sexuality and should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, was also not consistent with the Guyana Constitution.
In September, 2013, then Chief Justice, Ian Chang, heard the case and ruled that cross-dressing per se is not a crime, unless done for an “improper purpose.” The parties appealed this ruling, in part because of the inherent uncertainty in the terminology employed in the statute. With that uncertainty, state officials have virtually unlimited discretion in applying the law.
The entire legal team includes Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick SC, Mr. Nigel Hughes, Dr. Arif Bulkan, and Mr. Gino Persaud.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Civil Society Groups Remember Late Activist at Campaign Event on Gender-Based Violence

On Friday, November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted the second annual Zenita Temall Nicholson Memorial Event. The event took the form of a Public Discussion on Gender-Based Violence in Guyana and served as the commencement of SASOD’s 16 Days of Activism Campaign. The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. In 2016, the campaign strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls towards the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The official theme for this year’s Campaign is: “Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls.”

Raising funds
The Public Discussion was facilitated by Guyanese feminist advocate and stalwart educator, Bonita Harris. She began her presentation by underscoring that “ending violence against women begins with awareness and consciousness of why the names, nouns, and pronouns we use to call and refer to persons can violate their integrity and sense of their gender identity.” 
In her presentation, Harris urged participants to “talk the talk and walk the walk”. “I want to encourage everyone here to ‘walk the talk’ … Raising money to end violence against women and girls is an important action for walking the talk or as Guyanese say, putting your money where your mouth is.” She used the opportunity to launch a fundraising initiative by producing an orange bowl to be used to raise money during the 16 Days of Activism. “See this large orange bowl; I will be passing it around for a collection to galvanize action to eradicate violence against women and girls. And I will be donating the bowl for future collections. Please give generously from whatever you have in your pockets and purses today.” She also encouraged civil society organisations to forego refreshments and use that money to eliminate gender-based violence in Guyana.

Friday, October 21, 2016

SASOD presents “Butches & Barbies” Costume Ball this Saturday October 22!

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is hosting its highly anticipated “Butches & Barbies” Costume Ball this Saturday, October 22, at the Tower Suites Hotel on Main Street, Georgetown.

The party starts at 9 PM. Mix Master Tony is on board to keep persons energized by playing the best hits in all genres of music. Added attractions include signature cocktails and shots. Partygoers are urged to come out with their best ‘butch’ or ‘barbie’ costume in order to win special prizes.

Limited pre-sold tickets for the event cost $1000 and can be purchased from the Vintage Wine Bar & Lounge, Lamaha Street; Oasis Cafe, 125 Carmichael Street; Tower Suites Hotel, Main Street and SASOD’s Office, 169 Charlotte Street. Admission at the door is $1500.

All proceeds from this fundraising event go towards SASOD’s Community Shelter Fund to build an emergency shelter for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims of violence in Guyana. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SASOD and GEF Launch Public Policy Advocacy Programme for Civil Society Trainers

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) with the support from the European Union (EU) and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice on Wednesday, October 19 launched the final installment of a three-part training series as part of the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project. The three-day Civil Society Public Policy Advocacy Training of Trainers Programme takes place at the Moray House, at Camp and Quamina Streets, Georgetown, until Friday October 21.

Project and Training Overviews 
In a short opening, SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Ms. Schemel Patrick, shared a brief overview of the Guyanese Vulnerable Communities Capacities Strengthening Project, stating that it was designed to contribute towards the equitable treatment of all peoples in Guyana by supporting efforts to strengthen the participation of vulnerable persons and their representative organisations in decision-making processes of the state.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

GEF Holds Second Annual Sunday Fun Day for International Day of Peace


    U.N. Resident Coordinator, and Director of Youth spoke of national importance to foster peace and development
The Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) on Sunday last commemorated International Day of Peace with their second annual “Peace Day Sunday Fun Day” in which five teams from various civil society and youth groups competed in eighteen activities, including novelty games and sports. 

International Day of Peace was celebrated under the theme “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace” which supports the GEF's mandate of human rights and equality for all Guyanese since gender equality, quality education, good health, reduced inequalities, peace and justice are all sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

Peace and Equality 

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the event, the new United Nations Resident Coordinator for Guyana, Ms. Mikiko Tanaka expressed that peace is created in synergy with all the SDGs. Numerous studies, she said, have pointed out that poverty, hunger, unemployment, competition over natural resources such as land and water are factors that contribute to conflict. “Education and wellbeing, including living in balance with our natural environment and mitigating risks from disasters, are important drivers to sustainable development and peace.” Speaking of equality, she said that “peace can only be appreciated if we are all equal, despite our gender, race, sexual orientation, spoken language, religion or which part of the country we are from.” 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Remarks by Abdel Fudadin at World Suicide Prevention Day Candlelight Vigil

Remarks by Abdel Fudadin 
SASOD-TCV “Voices Against Violence” Candlelight Vigil for World Suicide Prevention Day

We have all been programmed to respond to the human difference between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human difference as equals. As a result, those differences have been misused in the service of separation and confusion.

Prejudice, discrimination, social exclusion and mental ill-health are interconnected in more than one way. While people with mental illnesses may face discrimination due to stigma attached to mental health symptoms, discrimination on a variety of grounds can also be at the root of mental health issues.

Discrimination and exclusion have proven to negatively impact persons with mental health illnesses which then increase their risk of suicide ideation. On a social level, prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are reflected in everyday stereotypes compounded by very rigid social identity expectations, for example, limitations on job opportunities, parenting, and relationship recognition are often justified by stereotyping assumptions.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Remarks by Allie Schlafer at World Suicide Prevention Day Candlelight Vigil

Hello and good evening. First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Allie Schlafer and I am a current serving Peace Corps Response volunteer at both SASOD and Guyana Trans United, specializing in the field of mental health. For those who may not know, the Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government in efforts to address social and economic development worldwide.

As a volunteer, I will be working in collaboration with SASOD to strengthen and support the staff in addressing mental health concerns within the community. The comments and views I express tonight are in no way affiliated with Peace Corps but are my personal opinions based on experience working in community mental health and also individual experiences of losing dear friends who have taken their own life.

We are gathered here on World Suicide Prevention Day to address the difficult and painful subject of suicide, a reality which fractures the happiness of too many families, individuals, and communities across Guyana. The loss of a family member, friend, coworker or peer through suicide is a devastating experience. Those who remain after a suicide are often overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, hurt, and regret; they struggle to adapt or understand a life robbed of the presence of a loved one, often times grappling with the simple question – why?

Friday, August 26, 2016

SASOD to host "Sing De Ting: Karaoke & Lyme" Next Wednesday

Next Wednesday, August 31, 2016, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) will be hosting its first “Sing De Ting: Karaoke & Lyme” at the Dutch Bottle Cafe, located at 10 North Road, between Light and Cummings Streets, Bourda, in Georgetown.

The fun starts at 6 PM and admission is absolutely FREE. Karaoke fans are encouraged to come out for an entertaining and exhilarating evening filled with singing, networking and merriment. All genres of music will be available for singers to make their selections. Drinks and snacks will be on sale. Come enjoy the evening’s signature cocktails and shots by popular Guyanese mixologists. 


This exciting fundraising event will benefit SASOD’s LGBT Emergency Shelter Fund which aims to provide support and services to homeless LGBT youth and other victims of bias violence.

Friday, August 12, 2016

SASOD Engages in Three Days of Activities for Youth Day

On the eve of International Youth Day, Thursday August 11, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted a Youth Empowerment Session for 20 young people at their Charlotte Street office in Georgetown. The half-day session which was facilitated by renowned Guyanese motivational speaker and personal development coach Dr. Astell Collins focused on self- discovery, leadership, enhancing talents, abilities, and strengths to maximize potential and having emotional intelligence for good mental health. The session, which was well received by the participants, began three days of activities from the human-rights organisation to commemorate International Youth Day. Lunch and juice for the participants were donated by Bettencourt's Food Inc. and Global Fruit Mart, respectively.  

On the Day itself, Friday, August 12, SASOD participated in the Youth Fair organised by the Ministry of Education's Department of Youth which was held at the National Cultural Centre's tarmac.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Dinner and Discussion on Discrimination in the Workplace

On Wednesday, August 10, 2016, Ambassador of the United States of America to Guyana, H. E. Perry Holloway hosted a “Dinner and Discussion on Discrimination in the Workplace” at his residence. The milestone event was organized at the request of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) as part of the Guyana Workplace Equality Project, which is a partnership between SASOD and the US Embassy and funded by the US State Department’s Global Equality Fund. Present at the dinner meeting were key business leaders from major private sector organisations and SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Schemel Patrick, and Managing Director, Joel Simpson. 

The gathering discussed practical ways that the private sector can partner with SASOD to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and health status in the workplace; particularly in policy development and implementation, workplace education programmes and legal reform. 

The other attendees were Vishnu Doerga, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI); Suzanne French, Executive Director of the Guyana Business Coalition on Health Awareness (GBCHA); Donna Roberts-Benjamin, GBCHA’s President; Ramesh Persaud, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) and Past President of the Private Sector Commission (PSC); Patricia Bacchus, CEO of Caribbean Container Inc. and Chairperson of the Board of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest); Gerald Gouveia, Director of the Roraima Group of Companies; and US Embassy officials Sandra Zuniga Guzman, Deputy Counselor, Political, Economic and Commercial Section D. James Bjorkman, Counselor of the Political, Economic and Commercial Section and Terry Steers-Gonzalez, Deputy Chief of Mission.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

SASOD met with the Brazilian Ambassador

Representatives of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) met with the Brazilian Ambassador and his First Secretary on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, at the Brazilian Embassy in Georgetown. They discussed the state of human rights for LGBT people in Guyana, and how Brazil can support the Guyanese LGBT human rights movement. 

In photo from left: Joel Simpson, SASOD Managing Director; Miriam Leitao, First Secretary; H.E. Lineu Pupo De Paula, Ambassador of Brazil to Guyana; Jairo Rodrigues, SASOD Social Change Coordinator. (SASOD Photo)






Wednesday, August 03, 2016

SASOD and Linden Partners Launch Region 10 LGBT Sexual Health Training Project

– Linden M&TC pledges to work in support for an equitable society free from discrimination


The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in partnership with Linden Care Foundation (LCF) and For the Children Sake Foundation (FCSF) with support from Peace Corps Guyana launched the Region 10 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Sexual Health Training Project in Linden, the district’s town on Friday, July 22, at the LEAP Building, McKenzie.

Members of the general public and various representatives of civil society in the Upper Demerara -Upper Berbice region attended the simple launch event, which was chaired by SASOD’s Assistant Treasurer and LCF’s Health Advocate, Trevon Garner. The speakers were Joel Simpson, SASOD’s Managing Director; Yanick Copeland, LCF’s Prevention Coordinator for Key Populations; Vernon Todd, FCSF’s Executive Director; Keenan Williams, Chairperson of the Social Development Committee of the Linden Town Council; and Caitlin Sullivan, Region 10 Health Volunteer with Peace Corps Guyana.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

GEF’s Dr. Dawn Stewart elected as Civil Society Representative to Guyana’s Global Fund CCM

On Friday last, Guyanese civil society representatives elected Dr. Dawn Stewart, who was the unopposed nominee of the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF), as the civil society representative to Guyana’s Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM), replacing Ms. Renuka Anandjit, Programmes Director of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) who resigned after serving for five months.

The Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) was established as an oversight apparatus for the effective implementation of grants provided to Guyana by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  The mandate of the CCM is to coordinate the preparation and approve proposals for submission to the Global Fund and to monitor the implementation of all approved grants. The CCM focuses on performance by linking Global Fund resources to the achievement of clear, measurable and sustainable results based upon agreed monitoring indicators.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cross-Dressing Appeal Put Down until October

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the University of the West Indies Faculties of Law Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) welcome the setting down of the McEwan and Others appeal, related to the cross-dressing law in Guyana, for a full hearing on October 17, 2016.The appeal was fixed for hearing on Wednesday July 13 at 9 am before Guyana’s Court of Appeal. Gulliver McEwan, the first-named appellant, and representatives of SASOD and GTU were present in a completely full courtroom. 

The appellants filed their skeleton arguments in accordance with the rules of the Court. The arguments of the State are yet to be filed. The Court of Appeal noted that the arguments filed by counsel for the appellants were extensive and that it wished some time to fully review them and to receive the arguments from the State.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cross-Dressing Suit Set for Appeal Hearing on July 13

Guyana’s Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and SASOD versus Attorney General of Guyana on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 9:00 AM at the Court of Appeal, 60 High Street, Kingston.  The Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Hon. Justice Carl Singh, is expected to preside over the hearing with a panel of appellate judges.
The case was filed in February 2010, following the widely reported arrests and convictions of seven transgender persons for the 1893 summary offence of ‘being a man’ and wearing ‘female’ attire in a public way or public place, for an improper purpose. Four of the convicted persons filed this action, along with SASOD who approached the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) for advice in relation to the arrests. U-RAP proposed a constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law, working with counsel Gino Persaud, who had already been counsel retained in the criminal matter.The entire legal team includes Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick SC, Mr. Nigel Hughes, Dr. Arif Bulkan, U-RAP Coordinator and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, UWI, St Augustine, and Mr. Gino Persaud.
After the case was filed, the organisation Guyana Trans United (GTU) was established to ensure respect for the dignity of transgender persons in Guyana and the protection of their human rights. The first named applicant/appellant Quincy (Gulliver) McEwan is a founder and the Executive Director of GTU. That organisation and its members are closely following this case.

Cross-Dressing Suit Set for Appeal Hearing on July 13

Guyana’s Court of Appeal is expected to hear the case McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and SASOD versus Attorney General of Guyana on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 9:00 AM at the Court of Appeal, 60 High Street, Kingston.  The Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Hon. Justice Carl Singh, is expected to preside over the hearing with a panel of appellate judges.
The case was filed in February 2010, following the widely reported arrests and convictions of seven transgender persons for the 1893 summary offence of ‘being a man’ and wearing ‘female’ attire in a public way or public place, for an improper purpose. Four of the convicted persons filed this action, along with SASOD who approached the Faculty of Law UWI Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) for advice in relation to the arrests. U-RAP proposed a constitutional challenge to the cross-dressing law, working with counsel Gino Persaud, who had already been counsel retained in the criminal matter.The entire legal team includes Mr. Miles Fitzpatrick SC, Mr. Nigel Hughes, Dr. Arif Bulkan, U-RAP Coordinator and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, UWI, St Augustine, and Mr. Gino Persaud.
After the case was filed, the organisation Guyana Trans United (GTU) was established to ensure respect for the dignity of transgender persons in Guyana and the protection of their human rights. The first named applicant/appellant Quincy (Gulliver) McEwan is a founder and the Executive Director of GTU. That organisation and its members are closely following this case.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Short Film Challenge for Queer and Trans People of Colour

PROJECT: Short Film Challenge for Queer and Trans People of Colour - a collaboration with CaribbeanTales

TIME FRAME: June - September 2016

DESCRIPTION:
An international film contest for short films produced by and with Queer and/or Trans People Of Color who are from the Caribbean or the Caribbean Diaspora. Globally the media represents Queer and Trans voices as overwhelmingly white, and tends to paint the picture that Queer and Trans people from other communities are always marginalised within their communities, perpetuating an idea of white supremacy. This is not the full story. Queer and Trans People of Color live lives as full as anyone else, this platform was created to share our authentic stories, for, by and about QTPOC.Jamaica (for example) is said to be one of the most homophobic places on earth. Those of us who live in the Caribbean know that this isn’t the full story. And those of us who live in the diaspora know that there are stories of migration and the struggles of life abroad that are also not told. QTPOC are underrepresented across media, and are also often not in positions of access to film/media training and equipment access. In Toronto we have sourced equipment for people to use in the creation of short films, and are also encouraging the use of media devices that more and more of us now have access to: high quality smart phones.

Monday, June 20, 2016

SASOD and Peace Corps Guyana Launch LGBT Sexual Health Training Programme in Region Three

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) with support from Peace Corps Guyana hosted a “Lunch & Launch” Event on June 18 to open their Region Three Sexual Health Training Programme, at the Aracari Resort in Versailles, West Bank Demerara.

The event was chaired by SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer, Schemel Patrick who highlighted that the Region Three targeted outreach and training programme is intended to empower and build capacity of LGBT persons in the West Demerara community, while promoting positive mental and sexual health practices; basic human rights relating to non-discrimination and accessing health services, reducing internal stigma among LGBT persons in the Region and identifying a support network of LGBT persons and allies to establish a sustainable and ongoing linkage of local support after the project has ended.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Remarks by Hon. Volda Lawrence, Minister of Social Protection

              Remarks by Hon. Volda Lawrence, Minister of Social Protection
             On Shooting in Orlando on Sunday12th June, 2016

I would first like to express my condolences and words of comfort to the bereaved families and survivors who have been impacted by this heinous crime. It is impossible to fathom the depth of their grief and trauma at what has been perpetrated, but at the same time, we have witnessed the outpouring of love and support in the aftermath and so I would like, on behalf of the Ministry and my own behalf to lend my heartfelt support.

It is difficult to imagine in this era of freedom of expression and tolerance for sexual preferences that such biases continue to exist to the extent where a lone-wolf, armed with military firepower can snuff out the lives and maim so many in the twinkling of an eye. This assault on human life has touched atvarious strata of the society robbing the world at large of the potential expertise that this target group embodied. It is my hope that the families and survivors can be comforted in the knowledge that no effort is being spared to get to the root of this outrageous crime and to return some measure of normalcy to their lives.

Remarks by US Ambassador Perry Holloway at Iftar in Remembrance of Orlando Victims

Remarks
United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway
Iftar in Remembrance of Orlando Victims



Thank you for inviting me to deliver remarks this evening. Ramadan Mubarak to you all. My remarks will be very brief, as I know many of you are keen to break your fast. I wish we were brought together under better circumstances. The events that took place in Orlando were devastating, but often in the face of tragic events we come together and gain a better understanding of the superficial traits we once thought divided us. It is in that vein that folks from all walks of life in Guyana are brought together for this Iftar. Thank you to the organizers from SASOD and Mr. and Mrs. Khan for gathering us here tonight.

First of all, our hearts go out to the families of those who have been killed. Our prayers go to those who have been wounded. This is a devastating attack on all Americans. It is one that is particularly painful for the people of Orlando, an area I am quite familiar with as my son attends university not too far from where the incident took place. However, I think we all recognize that this could have happened anywhere in the U.S., and we feel enormous solidarity and grief on behalf of the families that have been affected.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Advocates Brief Minister Norton on Key Issues for HIV Meeting at the UN this Week

On the evening of Monday, June 6, representatives from the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), on behalf of the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF), met with the Minister of Public Health, Hon. Dr. George Norton, M.P. ahead of the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV (HLM), that is set to take place at the UN Headquarters in New York, from Wednesday June 8 to Friday 10, 2016.

The GEF representatives attending the HHLM are Miriam Edwards of the Guyana Sex Work Coalition (GSWC) and the Caribbean Sex Workers Coalition (CSWC), Devanand Milton of Guyana Trans United (GTU) and John Quelch of SASOD. The three local groups led by key populations are also members of the regional Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC).

SASOD’s Managing Director, Joel Simpson, Projects Coordinator, John Quelch and Advocacy and Communications Officer Schemel Patrick,  attended the meeting with the Minister Norton to discuss the important opportunities the HLM presents for both government and civil society in the global AIDS response, particularly as it relates to setting bold new targets for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, human rights and the legal framework, young people, women and girls, key populations, financing and investment.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chilean Ambassador to Open SASOD’s 12th Film Festival this Thursday


“Painting the Spectrum 12,” SASOD’s twelfth annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) film festival 2016 opens this Thursday, June 2, for nine ‘edutaining’ evenings of thought-provoking films and post-screening discussions at the Dutch Bottle Café located at 10 North Road, Bourda.


From June 2 to 30, patrons are invited to enjoy screenings every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The dates to remember are June 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23 and 25. Showtime is 6 pm every evening.

This year’s festival is set to be opened with a “Chilean Night” hosted by Ambassador H.E. Claudio Rojas Rachel, Chile’s Ambassador to Guyana. The evening’s treat will feature tasty empanadas and wine from Chile. The featured film for the evening is a Chilean movie donated by the Embassy titled “My Last Round.” The movie chronicles the intense romantic relationship between Hugo and middle-aged local boxing champion, Octavio. Unfazed by the attention he receives from women, Hugo searches for something meaningful to break up the monotony of his life. He becomes captivated with Octavio who must maintain a hard and gruff image for his fans and fellow fighters. They enter into an intense romance that would never be accepted in their small town in southern Chile. This feature tells a heartfelt story with an assured hand, eliciting complex and naturalistic performances that capture the passionate rise and tragic fall of a couple's relationship.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Painting the Spectrum 12: SASOD’s LGBT Film Festival 2016

Painting the Spectrum 12:
SASOD’s LGBT Film Festival 2016
Movie Schedule 

Thursday, June 2 
SPONSORED BY EMBASSY OF CHILE TO GUYANA 
MY LAST ROUND – Gay / Drama
Country: Chile | Duration: 110 mins

Unfazed by the attention he receives from women, Hugo searches for something meaningful to break up the monotony of his life. The young man becomes captivated with Octavio, a middle-aged local boxing champion, who must maintain a hard and gruff image for his fans and fellow fighters. When Octavio furtively acts on the subtle flirtations Hugo throws at him, he is abruptly rejected. Hugo tries to curtail his desire, but eventually surrenders to their magnetic attraction. They enter into an intense romance that would never be accepted in their small town in southern Chile. This feature tells a heartfelt story with an assured hand, eliciting complex and naturalistic performances that capture the passionate rise and tragic fall of a couple's relationship. (www.imbd.com)

Guyana Charged to Amend Discrimination Law in 50th Jubilee Year

Stephanie Joseph de Goes, Guyana’s Country Coordinator for the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief – PEPFAR, a United States governmental initiative to address the global HIV epidemic with her office based at the US Embassy in Georgetown, spoke on the dire need for Guyanese to come together to fight against stigma and discrimination for those living and infected by  HIV.

Her remarks made at Guyana’s 7th Annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial held at the Catholic Life Centre by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) Sunday last gave an uplifting charge for the future. “This year’s theme, to engage, educate, and empower, emphasizes the need for each one of us – not just people living with HIV or gender minorities –to join forces in the movement for human rights and zero discrimination. We must put an end to the disease of stigma and discrimination,” she said. “Stigma and discrimination eats at the soul of a society. We know that eliminating stigma and discrimination will positively affect a nation’s progress, well-being, and public health for things like HIV prevention, care and treatment.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bigotry Towards LGBT Guyanese Causes Poor Mental Health – says Expert Panel

In observance of the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17 and commemorating Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) hosted a Lunch Talk on Mental Health and Well Being for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Guyanese with discussions being led by Dr. Janice Jackson, Psychologist and retired University of Guyana lecturer; Leroy Adolphus, Policy and Advocacy Officer at the National Coordinating Coalition Inc (NCC); and Dr. Melissa Varswyk, Principal of Georgetown American University and Vice-Chair of Blue CAPS. The discussions were moderated by Ulelli Verbeke, Chairperson of SASOD's Board of Directors.

Guyana needs more mental health professionals 
Given the scarcity of mental health professionals in Guyana which impedes access to services for LGBT people, Dr Melissa Varswyk made a call for vulnerable communities such as the LGBT Guyanese to form groups in civil society for policy and advocacy and community support like SASOD which she said can very influential in offering support for persons suffering with mental health conditions. This she said will not be easy initially but support mechanisms are essential for persons who are struggling. Dr. Varswyk expressed that there is a significant lack of trained mental health professionals in Guyana and on the policy side of things Guyana needs to focus heavily on investing in more skilled professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists. According to the medical professional, a lot of students show interest in mental health and psychiatric specializations but Guyana does not have the human resources and necessary specialized training to fulfill the needs for these fields of study.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

GCCI President Calls for Amendment of the Prevention of Discrimination Act

President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Mr. Vishnu Doerga made a call for the government to amend the 1997 Prevention of Discrimination Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and health status as grounds for non-discrimination in employment; he made this call while addressing an audience at the seventh national AIDS Candlelight Memorial Vigil hosted by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) Sunday evening at the Catholic Life Centre, Brickdam.

The Chamber President spoke about the importance of engaging people, communities, governments, donors and the private sector in ending the epidemic and to also support those living with the HIV virus, “We must seek to empower people living with HIV to stand up for their right to live a life free of stigma and discrimination. In this regard, it is important for us to ensure that our organisations are free from stigma and discrimination through workplace programmes for our staff.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Remarks by President of GCCI, Vishnu Doerga at the 7th National AIDS Candlelight Memorial

President GCCI, Vishnu Doerga 
Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Guyana, Bishop Francis Alleyne, PEPFAR Guyana Country Coordinator, Ms. Stephanie Joseph de Goes, other members of the diplomatic community, government officials, civil society representatives, ladies, gentlemen, boy and girls, good evening to you all. 

The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial brings together affected communities, policy makers, health professionals, religious leaders and members of the public to show solidarity and support for persons infected and affected by HIV; to encourage people to continue to act together, and to call on the public to end stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and key affected populations.

As President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), I fully endorse this year’s theme which is “Engage, Educate, Empower.” I do believe that it is imperative to engage people, communities, governments, donors and the private sector in ending the epidemic. The private sector has a pivotal role to play in limiting the spread of HIV. An important avenue to ensure that this happens is through workplace education. We have a responsibility to educate the current and next generation about HIV prevention, treatment and care, and how it affects our lives.

Friday, April 22, 2016

GEF Delegation Lobbies Minister Greenidge on Human Rights Concerns

On Friday, April 8, a delegation representing the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) met with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Carl Greenidge along with Foreign Service Officers, Jason Fields and Vonetta Victor, to follow up on the thematic hearing between the GEF and Guyana at the 154th period of sessions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a year ago in March 2015.

Sabine McIntosh, President of the Deaf Association of Guyana (DAG) along with Managing Director, Joel Simpson, and Advocacy and Communications Office, Schemel Patrick of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) attended the meeting with the Minister to call attention to Guyana’s international commitments and remind the state of its obligations to address discrimination in the enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights in Guyana.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bar President Calls on Legal Fraternity to Do More for LGBT Guyanese

Commemorating the International Transgender Day of Visibility 2016 held just a few days ago, the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in collaboration with the USAID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project held a special media engagement which lead into a “Brunch Talk” forum to discuss the recent case where a male-to-female transgender person, Twinkle, was barred from attending matters in court by Magistrate Dylon Bess for cross-dressing, presenting herself in female attire. SASOD and APC have been organizing a monthly panel-discussion series on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Deliberate and mischievous ruling
Karen De Souza of Red Thread made it clear that the law should be just and applied equally to everyone, it should not discriminate against anyone regardless of who they are. In her opinion the Magistrate presented gender and class biases in Twinkle’s case. She further opined that the High Court judgment is problematic and deliberately been made so, “Ian Chang deliberately and mischievously left “improper purpose” undefined and that is what Magistrate Bess is using for his own biased reasoning.”

Bar President Calls on Legal Fraternity to Do More for LGBT Guyanese

Commemorating the International Transgender Day of Visibility 2016 held just a few days ago, the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in collaboration with the USAID Advancing Partners and Communities (APC) Project held a special media engagement which lead into a “Brunch Talk” forum to discuss the recent case where a male-to-female transgender person, Twinkle, was barred from attending matters in court by Magistrate Dylon Bess for cross-dressing, presenting herself in female attire. SASOD and APC have been organizing a monthly panel-discussion series on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Deliberate and mischievous ruling
Karen De Souza of Red Thread made it clear that the law should be just and applied equally to everyone, it should not discriminate against anyone regardless of who they are. In her opinion the Magistrate presented gender and class biases in Twinkle’s case. She further opined that the High Court judgment is problematic and deliberately been made so, “Ian Chang deliberately and mischievously left “improper purpose” undefined and that is what Magistrate Bess is using for his own biased reasoning.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Show me the “Improper Purpose” – Transgender Woman Tells Forum

To commemorate the International Transgender Day of Visibility 2016 observed on March 31 just a few days ago, the Guyana Trans United (GTU) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) held a special media engagement which lead into a “Brunch Talk” forum to discuss the recent case where a male-to-female transgender person, Twinkle,  was barred from attending matters in the Georgetown court by Magistrate Dylon Bess for “cross-dressing” by presenting herself in female attire.

Justice delayed is Justice Denied

Twinkle spoke of her experiences from the incident to the actual court hearing. GTU member Twinkle talked about transphobic hate crimes perpetuated against her. In this particular instance, she was attacked by a man because of her gender identity. After being hit in the head with a glass bottle, Twinkle defended herself against the man which caused him bodily harm and he reported this to the police. She reported that the police did not take any reports from her and although she was physically harmed, no medical report was facilitated. “The police didn’t treat me as a matter of concern. They didn’t ask for a medical or anything because they said they didn’t see any injuries but the man got taken care of,” Twinkle said.


At the court hearing, Magistrate Dylon Bess who presided refused to even acknowledge the case, asking Twinkle to change her clothing before she could present herself to his court. “I had to be rebellious. I don’t think the case mattered on how I’m dressed as a trans-woman.” Twinkle was fully dressed in female attire. “I wouldn’t change for a magistrate. I respect the Magistrate for his position as someone in the law and the Magistrate should respect me as a human being expressing my true identity.”

Even the Prosecutor warned Twinkle about how she presents in court stating that she, Twinkle, has little respect for the Court and if she was in America (The United States of) she was going to be locked up. Aside from being barred from the courtroom it was the Prosecutor that informed Twinkle that the Magistrate will not even listen to the case, despite that there were allegations were brought against her to defend. The case was subsequently dismissed while there were police officers guarding the gates to the Court to prevent Twinkle and other GTU members from entering the premises.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Equality before the Law for All

Twinkle, Transgender Activist & Member of GTU
March 31, 2016 (Georgetown, Guyana) Transgender persons in Guyana face grave levels of discrimination, harassment and humiliation and social exclusion in their daily lives. On Transgender Day of Visibility, the Guyana Trans United (GTU), Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the UWI Faculty of Law Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) call attention to the fundamental principle affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.

It is the duty of judges to respect a person’s gender identity, consistent with the Constitution of Guyana which guarantees that ‘the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection and benefit of the law’, universal principles of equality and non-discrimination under international law and regional and international standards of judicial conduct.

During the course of March 2016, in at least three separate incidents in the Magistrates Courts, transgender women have been prohibited by sitting Magistrates from attending court or appearing before the court in matters that relate to them because they have been dressed as women.

In one instance, Magistrate Dylon Bess in Georgetown alluded to section 153(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act which makes it an offence for any person who, ‘being a man in any public place or way, for an improper purpose, appears in female attire’. Magistrate Bess said that the law had not changed and that the defendant would not be permitted to be remain in his courtroom to answer the charges dressed as a woman.

Contrary to the Magistrate Bess’ assertions, the laws of Guyana do not prohibit a trans woman from attending court dressed as a woman. This was explicitly confirmed by the then Honourable Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Chang, in his 2013 decision in the challenge to the constitutionality of section 153(xlvii), the case of McEwan and others v The Attorney General. Individual members of GTU and SASOD as an organisation are the applicants in that case which has been appealed and is awaiting a date for a hearing before the Court of Appeal.