Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Criminal Law (Offences) Act 1893, which criminalises acts of ‘buggery’ and ‘gross indecency’. These provisions carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Only men are criminalised under this law. Transgender people were previously criminalised under a ‘cross-dressing’ law which was actively enforced, however this law was ruled unconstitutional in 2018 and the law was struck down.

The law was inherited from the British during the colonial period, in which the English criminal law was imposed upon Guyana. Guyana retained the provision upon independence and continues to criminalise same-sex sexual activity through the colonial-era 1893 statute today.

There is no evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, however reports suggest the law is sometimes used by police to intimidate men perceived to be gay. Regardless of enforcement, the mere existence of this provision is itself a violation of human rights and underpins further acts of discrimination (see further). There have been reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, including murder, assault, harassment, and denial of basic rights and services.

Sexual Offence Law Assessment

We’ve also assessed Guyana’s sexual offence laws against international human rights standards. Although Guyana continues to criminalise same-sex sexual activity, in recent years it has modernised its other sexual offence provisions and provides good protection for other marginalised groups.

Find out more


The US Department of State reports have found that the law is not enforced, and activists report that police are more likely use the law to intimidate gay men or perceived gay men than to make arrests.


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

In June, MP Manzoor Nadir indicated that he would vote to decriminalise same-sex sexual activity, but claimed that LGBT people are not currently prosecuted under the country’s anti-gay laws.


Although there is little evidence of the laws criminalising same-sex sexual activity being enforced, prior to repeal, the law criminalising ‘cross dressing’ was used to arrest transgender people. In 2009, Human Rights Watch reported that seven people were charged under the law in February.

Discrimination and Violence


In September, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) launched the campaign ‘Guyana Together’ aimed at increasing acceptance and tolerance towards LGBT people, reducing stigma and discrimination and repealing laws criminalising same-sex relationships.


The US Department of State report for 2020 found that NGOs reported widespread discrimination and violence against LGBT people, including in employment, education, healthcare, and in public spaces. It referenced a 2014 study in which 12% of men who had sex with men and 30% of transgender people experienced daily stigma.


In June, the Managing Director of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) was attacked and beaten by six men in the early morning as he was purchasing food at Bourda Market. The attack occurred after he has been harassed by the same group of men at a nearby nightclub.


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. 


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

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 had taken place over the last year, reporting that such murders had become 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.”

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.

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.

Other Developments


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


Related Countries


Grenada criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment.


Jamaica criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

Local Organisations

Guyana Equality Forum

a national network of CSOs working to address human rights abuses against sexual and gender minorities.

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