Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
Commonwealth member state
Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1893, Section 352 Gross Indecency with Male Person

Section 352 prohibits acts of “gross indecency” between men, or the procurement or attempted procurement thereof, with a penalty of two years imprisonment.1

Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1893, Section 353 Attempts to Commit Unnatural Offences

Section 353 criminalises attempts to commit buggery, with a penalty of ten years imprisonment.2

Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1893, Section 354 Buggery

Under Section 354, anyone who commits buggery is liable to life imprisonment.3

Enforcement

2017

Activists have reported that the police are more likely to use the laws which criminalise same-sex sexual conduct to intimidate men who are or are perceived to be gay than to make arrests.

2014

One MP, Manzoor Nadir, indicated in June that LGBT people are not currently prosecuted under the country’s anti-gay laws.

On 19 January the director of Guyana Trans United said that no one has been “locked up” recently.

Statements by Public Figures

2015

In July, Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, said that the gap in access to healthcare is stymieing the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic and: “Unless we can fill that gap – unless we can ensure that there is no person left behind – it will take quite a long time, or might be almost impossible, for us to conquer the AIDS epidemic”.

Guyana’s new President, David Granger, stated in an interview in June when addressing the issue of legalising same-sex sexual conduct that: “There was a time when same-sex relations were punishable by law, but in many countries those laws have been repealed, we have to keep abreast with what is happening in other countries. At the same time we try not to get ahead of what the people want.

The APNU and AFC, Guyana’s newly elected coalition government, launched their manifesto. The Coalition had campaigned on a platform of national unity, social cohesion, equal rights and gender equality. In their manifesto, the new government stated: “We commit to putting in place measures which will ensure that all vulnerable groups in our society, including… those marginalised because of sexual orientation are protected and not discriminated against. This means that the Coalition will strive towards equality in law and moral situations, such as democratic activities and the securing of equal pay for equal work.”

We commit to putting in place measures which will ensure that all vulnerable groups in our society, including… those marginalised because of sexual orientation are protected and not discriminated against.

APNU and AFC Coalition Government Manifesto

2014

MP Manzoor Nadir indicated in June that he would be willing to support a law decriminalising consensual same-sex conduct. However, he also criticised current calls for decriminalisation, arguing that until the country’s laws were enforced, the level of criticism received from LGBT groups was unwarranted: “People make a lot of money and create a lot of jobs by creating these storms in a tea cup.”

In June, Guyana’s former junior Finance Minister, Bishop Juan Edgehill, spoke against homosexuality within the country, saying: “The gay agenda is an in your face agenda, that is what the religious community has stood against.” The minister was later quoted: “Do we want people in our school system telling young boys and girls that it’s ok to have same sex, in our military barrack room two men having sex, at our border locations homosexuality… do we want at the police college two men having sex or do we want in the parks, when I take children for a walk two people of the same sex embracing each other?”

A pastor was forced to resign in June after suggesting that gay people should live on a separate island to protect the community from the “wrath of God”. On 17 June a second Pastor, Wendell Jeffrey, criticised his resignation as an effort to stifle the debate on homosexuality within the country: “What is the real issue? Is it that they fear a reprisal from their donor agencies or potential donor agencies? Is it that the voice of SASOD [an LGBTI organisation in Guyana] is so loud that the freedom of speech in Guyana is now under threat? Or is it that spiritual leaders – for fear of being politically incorrect – are quick to throw each other under the bus?

In response to calls from the European Union to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual conduct in Guyana, former President, Donald Ramotar, acknowledged the issue in May, but warned of failures under the previous administration, responding: “I wish to state that in relation to the death penalty and the sex relations you will find sympathy with your views but I am sure you will agree with me that as a democracy we have to take the opinion of our people into consideration as well.”

2013

Guyana’s former Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Public Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, called for the removal of punitive laws against sexual minorities from the books, stating that: “while HIV/AIDs brought these [LGBT] groups to prominence, they were here before we were born”.4

2012

In November, the former Speaker of the Guyana Parliament called for the repeal of buggery laws: “The reality is that the archaic laws against homosexuality adopted from the UK over a century ago violate our constitution. Our young and forward looking Attorney General, who has been vociferous about the constitutional rights of high officials, should follow the example of Commodore Best and talk a bit about ordinary people who are forced to live in hiding because of fear of intolerance and worse.

In April, national consultations on the death penalty and anti-gay laws were announced.

Persecution and Discrimination

2018

LGBT activists held the country’s first ever pride parade on 2 June 2018. Despite calls from the Georgetown Ministers’ Fellowship for the government to intervene and stop the festival and parade, the event went ahead peacefully.

2017

The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Guyana stated that widespread discrimination against LGBT people was reported by NGOs, including in employment, access to education and medical care.

2015

During its second UPR cycle, it was noted that there had been unfettered freedom of expression by NGOs, religious organisations and the media on LGBT issues. In response to an NGO submission on LGBT rights in Guyana, the Government wished to reiterate that the state did not discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation and that every Guyanese was entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms as provided for in the Constitution, laws and policies of Guyana.

2014

In addition to reports of discrimination against LGBT people, the 2014 US Department of State Human Rights Report reported that LGBT persons were fearful of reporting crimes that had been perpetrated against them.

It was reported in the media in May that LGBT persons were ridiculed and shunned on account of their sexual orientation when attempting to access medical care around the country. Police also allegedly ordered an LGBT person to strip and stand on a counter in a police station for hours when he tried to lodge a formal complaint against another individual.

In April, an indiscriminate shooting took place against a small group of transgender persons standing by a road. The police only initiated an investigation and prosecution following public protests.

A march was organised in January in memory of a young man murdered in Guyana. The Director of Guyana Trans United, Quincy McEwan, told reporters of three murders of LGBT people that have taken place over the last year. Such murders are reportedly becoming increasingly common. People on the march also criticised the police for their handling of reported incidents. One member of the Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination claimed: “There’s a lack of will to investigate these incidents against transgender people because of transphobia and homophobia in the police force.”

2013

A 2013 survey on “attitudes towards homosexuality in Guyana” indicated that 58% of Guyanese people are “tolerant or accepting of homosexuals”, whilst 25% could be categorised as “homophobic”. The report also indicated that, whilst the issue of decriminalisation was not pressing, “Guyanese [people] believe that a clear demonstration that these laws are impacting negatively on the physical or psychological well-being of young people or adults would provide good grounds for change. There is also support for change if it can be proven that the laws contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

Legislative News

2018

In November, in the case of Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser, Seyon Persaud and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) v the Attorney General of Guyana, the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled that a law in Guyana that criminalises cross-dressing is unconstitutional.

2015

Following its first UPR review, Guyana voluntarily committed itself to consulting on 28 recommendations of which seven related to decriminalising consensual same-sex adult sexual relations and discrimination against LGBT persons. A nine member Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) was appointed as part of the consultative process and commenced meeting on 28 November 2012. The mandate of the PSSC was to receive and hear submissions on the attitude of Guyanese to any changes in legislative provisions and the criminal code regarding consensual adult same sex relationships and discrimination, perceived or real, against LGBT persons. During its second UPR cycle in 2015, Guyana’s delegation underscored that compared to 2010, in 2014 and 2015 there had been an increase in discussions on LGBT issues, which was a good sign, but Guyana society remained divided. Due to the prorogation of the tenth Parliament, the PSSC’s work had ceased. The Government hoped to resubmit these matters to the National Assembly following General Elections in May. Following the second UPR, Guyana supported the below recommendations with respect to sexual orientation:

  • Strengthen the protection of LGBT individuals;
  • Take measures to ensure that hate crimes and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are vigorously investigated and appropriately prosecuted; and
  • Continue its effort in eliminating discrimination against LGBT starting with the review of its related legislation.

The following recommendations are currently being examined by Guyana:

  • Repeal all provisions that discriminate against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly those which criminalise consensual adult same-sex relations;
  • Guarantee to LGBTI persons the full enjoyment under equal conditions of their human rights, through the abolishment of the norms that criminalize and stigmatize them, and the investigation and sanction of cases of violence or discrimination motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Amend Article 149 of the Guyana Constitution to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; and
  • Take the legislative and policy measures to prevent and fight against violence and fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

2014

In June, Guyana indicated that it would not be able to support a Draft Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity and Expression, stating: “several of the issues addressed herein are currently the subject of deliberation by a special select committee of the National Assembly”.

2013

In September, Guyana’s Constitutional Court held that the country’s law prohibiting cross-dressing (section 153 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act 1893) was constitutional. The Court did, however, stress that providing such an act did not constitute an “improper purpose” under Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, so no prosecution could be brought and cross-dressing in and of itself was not a criminal offence. What would constitute an “improper purpose” for the purposes of the Act was not expanded upon. The Chief Justice also ruled that since the law had been in existence since 1893 and it was therefore protected from challenge under Article 152(1) of the Constitution (the savings law clauses, which essentially preserved pre-existing laws at the time of independence from constitutional scrutiny). Legislative rather than curial action was necessary to invalidate that provision.

Footnotes
1. Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1893, Section 352 Gross Indecency with Male Person

“Any male person, who in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission, or procures or attempts to procure the commission, by any male person, of an act of gross indecency with any other male person shall be guilty of misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for two years.” Full text.

2. Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1893, Section 353 Attempts to Commit Unnatural Offences

“Everyone who—

(a) attempts to commit buggery;

shall be guilty of felony and liable to imprisonment for ten years.” Full text.

3. Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1893, Section 354 Buggery

“Everyone who commits buggery, either with a human being or with any other living creature, shall be guilty of felony and liable to imprisonment for life.” Full text.

4. International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014

Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, Daring to Dream, International Conference on Population and Development Beyond 2014, 15 August 2013.

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