Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) has raised its voice against the nation’s colonial era buggery laws which place restrictions on sexual activity with in certain sections of the LGBTQ community.
On Wednesday, the SASOD initiated a campaign aimed at both the incumbent government and the opposition with the express purpose of amending mandates which violate the human rights of the gay community. According to general manager and founder Joel Simpson, the aim is to get these laws criminalized and subsequently repealed within the next two years.
Black Entrepreneurs Association, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Guyana Presbyterian Church and Help and Shelter and 60 other business enterprises and organisations have endorsed the movement as of now.
Sections 351 to 353 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act, Chapter 8:01 criminalise intimacy between consenting, adult men in private by regarding those acts as grossly indecent, attempted buggery and buggery. This, in simpler words, criminalizes consensual sexual relations between gay men altogether.
A recent poll in Guyana revealed that acceptance towards the LGBTQ community had grown from 19% to 34.5%. Additionally, 54% of Guyana’s population is in favour of repealing the laws.
Understandably, considering the current climate in the world, with LGBTQ rights being of immense importance in most societies, these colonial era laws are seen as draconian and quite unacceptable by a large number of people in Guyana. Another interesting facet is that a major section of the population that stands against the laws includes the younger sections of Guyana’s society.
Simpson added that the new campaign was based on figures from the 2022 poll that shows 49.4 per cent of Guyanese who did not know an LGTB person in their daily lives, “we needed to bring real-life stories of people to them- to their homes, to their workplaces, to their communities, to their faith groups.”
The flip side is that 50.6% admitted to personally knowing someone from the LGBTQ community. That was seen to have a strong correlation with acceptance towards the community as well.
“Friends, we all know in our hearts that all Guyanese deserve nothing less than full equality under the law and freedom from discrimination. Guyana cannot progress without addressing discriminatory laws, which hurt individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole” Simpson said.
According to Presbyterian Pastor, Reverend Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, Guyana has a moral obligation to stand up for and speak in support of the LGBTQ community. She also stated that the it was necessary to bring equal rights and opportunities to those who has been oppressed, regardless of their background or sexual orientation.
She also stated that the nation needed to eliminate discriminatory laws which went against the basic rights of, and devalued the dignity of citizens. According to her, it is a necessary step in the nation’s progression and development. The only way in which this problem can be tackled appropriately is by engaging in a dialogue at the national level, so that the people of the nation can move forward together without prejudice and fear.