GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Nov 21, CMC – The Guyana government says it respects the ruling of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that recently ruled as “unconstitutional” a law here that makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in public while dressed in clothing of the opposition sex.
The CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, also said that the law, Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, should be struck from the laws of country and that costs are to be awarded to the appellants in the appeal before it and the lower courts.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, in an interview with the state-owned Guyana Chronicle newspaper, said Georgetown respects the decision.
He said that now that the CCJ has ruled, Guyana must now work on adjusting its culture to include all sections of society including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people.
Nagamootoo acknowledged that the issue is a human rights one and that education will need to form a major part of the process intended to change the way persons engage with the LGBT community.
“So I think social organisations in particular have a responsibility to start the education process to be more tolerant to accept that we have differences in our society that we are not all the same; that we are all entitled to the same rights,” he told the newspaper.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo said that the Ministry of Social Protection and the Ministry of Social Cohesion would also have a role to play in the process, emphasising that the ruling “is one step forward in an appreciation of the fact that society has differences.”
He said the David Granger government must also find mechanisms through which it can give “teeth” to the decision.
In 2009, several trans women were arrested and convicted under the 1893 Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act of the offence of being a “man” appearing in “female attire” in public for an “improper purpose”.
They spent three nights in police detention in Georgetown after their arrest for the minor crime. One year later, McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) brought an action challenging the constitutionality of the law and the treatment of the appellants during the legal process.
At the time of arrest, McEwan was dressed in a pink shirt and a pair of tights and Clarke was wearing slippers and a skirt. A few hours later, Fraser and Persaud were also arrested by the police and taken to the Brickdam Police Station.