Referendum to decide legality of homosexuality

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GUYANESE will soon have a chance to vote on whether they believe homosexuality should remain a criminal act or if those laws which criminalise it should be struck down via a referendum.

The Government made this announcement in a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) following the 161st Ordinary Period of Sessions which addressed issues of human rights violations against young persons in Guyana.

According to the Government in its letter, there are mixed views on the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity and repealing of the laws to decriminalise homosexuality.

The executive added that with these existing circumstances, more needs to be done regarding a collective and consensual approach and the implementation to fulfill such rights.

The Government pointed out that the issue of repeal was brought to the attention of the National Assembly on several occasions, but it was deemed unfit for that arm of Government to make a decision on the matter.

As such, the Government noted that “… it was recommended, that the matter be taken to a vote, where the people of Guyana will decide by a referendum on these matters”.

No indication was made as to when this referendum is likely to be held.

The signaled support of President David Granger, for the reformation of the laws with respect to the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community was also referenced in the letter.

Over the years, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) has been lobbying support to get the Government to decriminalise homosexuality and laws which discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and identity.

In a broader context, the Executive noted that its position on the cross-cutting principles of discrimination towards members of the LGBTI community, is that the principle of universality admits no exception and that human rights are the birthrights of all human beings.

“With this Executive support, efforts will be made to advance the cause and strengthen the implementation, enforcement and the system of the protection of every Guyanese citizen, including the LGBT community,” the Government committed to the Commission.

Weighing-in on the issue of discrimination of the LGBT community in accessing work, the Government made it clear that “no person should be discriminated against on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, since everyone has a right to work, pension and gratuity”.

Article 149 ‘A’ of the Constitution states that: “No person shall be hindered in the employment of his or her right, that is to say, the right to free choice of employment.”

Government also noted that the Constitution of Guyana provides specific guidelines regarding the fundamental human rights and freedom enshrined in the international treaties.

With these, the Government noted that members of the LGBT community benefit from the Protection from Inhuman Treatment (Article 141); Freedom of Conscience (Article 145); Freedom of Expression (Article 146); Protection of Freedom of Assembly, Association and Demonstration (Article 147); Protection from Discrimination on the grounds of Race….Sex, Gender, etc. (Article 149); Right to Free Education (at any Primary or Secondary School owned and funded by the state) (Article 149); and Protection of Human Rights (Article 154).