Georgetown, Guyana, November 9, 2010 – Courtesy of
SASOD is a group based in Guyana which is committed to eradicating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. It started work in 2003 with the campaign to include sexual orientation as one of the fundamental rights in the Guyana constitution, and has since been working on promotion of rights for gay and lesbian people.
On Tuesday, October 26, 2010, four representatives of the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities in the English-speaking Caribbean participated in a thematic hearing before five of the seven Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, DC. The Commissioners who sat for the hearing were Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (First Vice Chair); Dinah Shelton (Second Vice Chair); Rodrigo Escobar Gil; Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero and María Silvia Guillén.
The IACHR is the body of the Organization of American States (OAS) responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Inter-American system and the hearing was facilitated in accordance with OAS resolution 2600 ‘Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’ which mandated the IACHR to report on the status of human rights of LGBT at the next General Assembly of the OAS in June 2011.
The petitioners, representing organizations from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, presented a 72-page report detailing the situation of LGBT people in the region and requested the assistance of the IACHR in helping to repeal the laws that criminalize same-sex sexual behaviors, expression and identities in the Anglophone Caribbean.
One of the key points made in the hearing, was that the existence of the laws that criminalize same-sex sexual behaviors, expression and identities result in widespread societal stigma and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, significantly restricting LGBT people’s ability to live safe, happy and fulfilling lives.
Maurice Tomlinson, of AIDS-Free World (Jamaica), reviewed the various laws and their penalties, and gave examples of how they affected gay men in the region; Patsy Grannum of MOVADAC- Movement Against Discrimination Action Committee (Barbados), spoke about how the laws impacted lesbian women; Ashily Dior of CAISO- Coalition Advocating Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (Trinidad and Tobago) advocated for the rights of transgender individuals and Sherlina Nageer of SASOD- the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (Guyana) discussed the deleterious effect of the laws on the response to HIV in the region.
The petitioners urged the Commissioners to consider that the Caribbean countries which retain these colonial-era laws against homosexuality foster an environment in which real and perceived homosexuals are regularly threatened, harassed, raped, murdered, and otherwise ill-treated. Because their sexual identity has been criminalized, LGBT people in these countries often feel unable to seek legal remedies when their human rights are violated.
Finally, the petitioners called for the repeal of these discriminatory laws as an essential step in winning the Caribbean’s response to HIV, since stigma and discrimination often prevents LGBT people from seeking vital HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.
The Commissioners acknowledged the seriousness of this issue and pledged their full support to LGBT individuals and organizations in the Anglophone Caribbean that are working on these issues. The Commissioners also urged affected individuals and organizations to continue to inform and involve them about the status of LGBT human rights in accordance with the OAS resolution, and to utilize all the tools and mechanisms available through the Inter-American human rights system in their efforts. In its release reporting at the conclusion of the 140th period on November 5, the Commission affirmed its commitment to intensify its efforts to defend the rights of LGBT persons and prepare a hemispheric report on this issue.
The participation of the petitioners at the hearing and the preparation of the report was made possible through support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the Open Society Institute (OSI), AIDS-Free World, Global Rights and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).
IACHR Press Release on the 140th Period of Sessions:
Audio File of the Thematic Hearing on the Punitive Measures and Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Identity in Caribbean Countries at the 140th Period of Sessions of the IACHR:
LGBT Panelists at the IACHR Thematic Hearing on October 26, 2010, during the 140th Period of Sessions (from left to right): Patsy Grannum (MOVADOC – Barbados), Stefano Fabeni (Global Rights), Maurice Tomlinson (AIDS-Free World – Jamaica), Sherlina Nageer (SASOD – Guyana), Marcelo Ferreyra (IGLHRC) and Ashily Dior (CAISO – Trinidad and Tobago).