September 28, 2016

Bar Association says no new laws needed to protect LGBT community

President of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) Christopher Ram is of the opinion that it is not necessary for the existing equal protection laws to be altered to explicitly provide protection for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
In an interview with Guyana Times on Friday, he observed that non-discrimination of persons is already guaranteed in Guyana’s Constitution.
“I have looked at the Constitution of Guyana which guarantees equal protection and non discrimination so if you were to take those together and you were to take this matter to the court, I believe it would not be impossible to persuade the court,” he noted.
He explained that there is no need for immediate reforms on the matter.

Guyana Bar Association  President Christopher Ram

Guyana Bar Association
President Christopher Ram

Former Chief Justice  Ian Chang

Former Chief Justice
Ian Chang

When asked about the calls from interest groups to adjust laws based on complaints that many LGBT face discrimination due to their lifestyle choices, Ram pointed out that indeed, the laws can adjusted but further emphasised that this was not necessary.
“Yes you can do that… but the point I am making is that I do not think it is necessary to reinforce the laws by making explicit provision,” the Bar Association President posited.
Ram related that the LBGT community is covered by normal human rights international treaties and reiterated that these views are shared by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
With regards to the recent transgender person who was born male but was banned from appearing in court in preferred female attire, the GBA President emphasised that access to the courts is a right.
“I think there are all protections in the law; I thought Justice Chang’s decision on this matter is fairly clear, that once you don’t do it for an improper purpose… what is an improper purpose? A person going to the courts hardly be considered an improper purpose, in fact, you have a right of access to the court,” Ram posited.
In a statement issued by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Thursday, it was noted that, “Transgender persons in Guyana face grave levels of discrimination, harassment and humiliation and social exclusion in their daily lives.”
“It is the duty of judges to respect a person’s gender identity, consistent with the Constitution of Guyana which guarantees that “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection and benefit of the law, universal principles of equality and non-discrimination under international law and regional and international standards of judicial conduct,” the release further added.
SASOD further noted that the repeated refusal of Magistrates to allow transgendered persons to appear in court consistent with their gender identity “undermines their dignity and guaranteed rights to non-discrimination and equality before the law”.
In September 2013, then Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled that cross-dressing was not illegal, as long as it was not used for “an improper purpose”.
However, cross-dressing remains prohibited under Guyana’s laws which were drawn from the pre-Independence era in 1966 when Great Britain ruled the country.

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