[www.inewsguyana.com] – The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in collaboration with the United States Embassy engaged members of the diplomatic community, last week, at a roundtable discussion of a SASOD’ report titled ‘On Devil’s Island’.
The 11-page report was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on June 15 this year ahead of Guyana’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in early 2015.
Hosted by the Charge’ d’ Affaires of the US Embassy, Bryan Hunt, the diplomatic roundtable was organised to facilitate this engagement ahead of Guyana’s UPR pre-session on December 4, 2014, in Geneva.
In his opening remarks, Hunt welcomed the representatives of the diplomatic community and emphasized that this gathering is to enable them to submit accurate, updated information on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights ahead of Guyana’s UPR.
Meanwhile, SASOD’s Advocacy and Communications Officer Schemel Patrick outlined that the “Universal Period Review is of paramount importance because it provides an opportunity for countries to declare what actions they have taken to improve human rights situations and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR assesses the human rights records of UN member states in an effort to address human rights violations wherever they occur.”
Also SASOD’s Co –Chair Joel Simpson made a presentation on the legal framework; highlighting the punitive laws which perpetuate targeted violence and wanton discrimination against LGBT people as they are socially and sporadically enforced by police and magistrates.
Simpson also addressed in detail the violations of civil and political rights of LGBT people in Guyana, specifically focusing on the rights to life, liberty and personal security; right to equality; right to privacy; freedom of expression and restrictions against hate speech; as well as SASOD’s recommendations to address these issues.
He reiterated SASOD’s call for the removal of Government Minister and Member of Parliament Juan Edghill who the report cites as “flagrantly inciting hatred and intolerance in the public sphere in direct contravention of the Guyana Constitution.” Edghill made headlines when he appeared on the local radio programme “Hard Talk” on June 15, 2014, spewing alleged hate-filled remarks against LGBT people.
Many diplomatic representatives commended SASOD on its work, keeping these issues prominent on the national agenda, and reiterated their commitment to continuing their support of the work to address LGBT issues. Some issues raised included the need for an independent Human Rights Commission in Guyana; one which is free from political interference, and the need to invest in claiming legal rights for LGBT Guyanese.