The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Tuesday ruled in favour of the cross-dressing Appeal.
The Court ruled that “a law in Guyana, which makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in a public place while dressed in clothing of the opposite sex for an “improper purpose”, is unconstitutional. The law, Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, is to be struck from the laws of Guyana.”
It was also outlined that the “highly undemocratic section” is inconsistent with the several Articles of the Constitution stated and must be declared void for that inconsistency.
The Court made the following declarations and orders:
Appeal is allowed;
SASOD has standing to join in these proceedings and the Order striking it out as a party is set aside;
The judgment and other orders of the Court of Appeal are set aside;
Section 153(1)(xlvii) violates the right to equality and non-discrimination guaranteed under section 149 and 149D of the Constitution;
Section153(1)(xlvii) violates the right of freedom of expression guaranteed under section 146 of the Constitution;
Section 153(1)(xlvii) is unconstitutionally vague and offends the rule of law;
The Court also declared that Section153(1)(xlvii) be struck from the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act. Chapter 8:02 of the Laws of Guyana;
The landmark ruling means it is now acceptable for men to dress as women in Guyana.
The appeal was advanced by transgender and other Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual advocates.
The four appellants Quincy “Gulliver” McEwan, Seon “Angel” Clarke, Joseph “Peaches” Fraser and Seyon “Isabella” Persaud challenged Guyana’s 1893 Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act that deals with matters Against Religion, Morality & Public Convenience which makes it an offence for a man “in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose” to appear in female attire, or for a woman, “in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose” to appear in male attire.
The transgender appellants were detained, convicted, and fined by the then acting Chief Magistrate after their February 2009 arrest in Georgetown.
After they appealed the law banning their mode of dress, former acting Chief Justice Ian Chang in September 2013 said that while the act of cross dressing was not a crime in itself, when for an “improper purpose”, it constitutes an offence. That ruling was also appealed at Guyana’s Appeal Court, but their case was similarly dismissed.
Many observers believe that the CCJ ruling could set the stage for other colonial era laws to be amended.
Earlier this year, the CCJ ruled in favour of the LGBT community in neighbouring Trinidad as many in the religious community remain strongly opposed to such changes.