Cross-dressing in Guyana “improper” – Appeal Court

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…SASOD might move to CCJ

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Guyana Trans United (GTU) could within the next few weeks take their cross-dressing case to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), SASOD’s Head, Joel Simpson said, if advice from their lawyers is prudent.sadsookc

The two Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have made this disclosure after the Guyana Court of Appeal on Monday upheld a decision by now retired Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang, who in September 2013, ruled that cross-dressing per se was not a crime, unless done for an “improper purpose”. The case was dismissed by the panel of acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards; Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh and High Court Judge Brassington Reynolds.

The case, which was first filed in February 2010, following the widely reported arrests and convictions of seven persons for the summary offence of “being a man and wearing female attire in a public way or public place, for an improper purpose” (1893 Act). 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. 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 legal team for GTU and SASOD includes Miles Fitzpatrick SC; Nigel Hughes, Dr Arif Bulkan, and Gino Persaud.

Speaking on behalf of the two bodies, SASOD Head Simpson told Guyana Times on Monday that the gay and lesbian community was very “disappointed” that the Court of Appeal had moved to dismiss the case.

According to Simpson, following the ruling of Justice Chang and the ruling by the Court of Appeal, the community has been seeking clarity of what constituted “improper use”.

“Now we wanted the Court Of Appeal to clarify and gave some reasons on what the term improper reasons mean. We thought that as a senior court, they would have been a little more appreciative of a more nuanced argument. We are disappointed that the court basically repeated everything that the Chief Justice said. We find the judgment to be a repetition,” he said. (Guyana Times)

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