Collateral Damage : The Social Impact of Laws affecting LGBT in Guyana

Published: March 23, 2012

From the Executive Summary
 
This study focused on the social effects of laws that criminalise lesbian, gay and
 bisexual orientations and transgender identities in Guyana. It was designed
 to assess the effects of the enforcement, or the implicit or explicit threat of
 enforcement of laws against sodomy, same sex sexual activity, cross-dressing,
 loitering and vagrancy.
 
The research project also aimed to assess the background effects of these laws
 in social control, surveillance, and discipline in the wider society, outside of the
 scope of the enforcement of laws by the police and the courts.
 
While most of the world has been moving towards the decriminalisation of
 homosexual acts, sodomy and same sex sexual activity remain illegal in Guyana
 and in ten other countries in the Caribbean, all of which were formerly British
 colonies.
 
Persons found guilty of sodomy in Guyana can be sentenced with up to life
 imprisonment. Guyana also has laws against ‘gross indecency’ between males, and
 cross-dressing. These crimes carry punishments of up to two years imprisonment,
 and fines of not less than 7,000 Guyana Dollars respectively.
 
While the laws against sodomy and same sex sexual activity are largely unenforced,
 research in other national contexts has shown that even unenforced laws can have
 pervasive effects in the society.
 
The laws against cross-dressing are periodically enforced and brought to trial.
 In 2009, seven persons, who were born biologically male, were arrested and
 prosecuted under this law. The courts found them guilty and they were fined.
 This study examined the effects of the laws mentioned above on the LGBT
 community in Guyana. It also took in
 
The study relied on the accounts of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender
 Guyanese, who told us about the effects of the laws used against sexual minorities.
 21 interviews were conducted, 11 of males who identified as homosexual or bi-
 sexual, five of females who identified as lesbian or bi-sexual, and five of biological
 males who cross-dress as women.
 
The interviews consisted of an open-ended, qualitative questionnaire that
 collected information on demographics, subjects’ knowledge of the existing laws,
 the effects of the actual or threatened enforcement of the laws, and the laws’ wider
 societal effects.
 
The research indicated that there were a series of very direct impacts of the
 continued existence of the laws against sodomy, same sex sexual activity, cross-
 dressing, and loitering. Interviewees reported a number of injuries that were
 directly inflicted by the police and the courts, such as police harassment and
 abuse, arrest, prosecution, and conviction of crimes.
 
Many of our respondents also expressed fear of reporting crimes that had been
 committed against them. They believed or were told that charges would also
 be brought against them because of their sexual orientation. The research also
 shows that many of the crimes committed against sexual and gender minorities
 are enabled because perpetrators know they will not be punished, or believe that
 they are privately enforcing the law.
 
Laws criminalising same-sex intimacy and their gender expression affected where
 LGBT persons chose to live and go on vacation, and the extent to which they felt
 free to express their identities in public and private space. Even with family and
 close friends, some interviewees reported that they did not feel that they could
 freely express their gender identities and sexual orientations.
 
Interviewees felt the daily impact of the effects of the laws on their access to
 health care and social services. They faced stigma and actual or threatened
 discrimination when they accessed public entitlements. Some also reported that
 they faced discrimination when they tried to access the real estate market.
 One of the most profound impacts of the laws is the degree to which sexual and
 gender minorities feel that they needed to regulate their behavior at the workplace
 in order to have access to employment and a means of livelihood.

Full text of article available at link below –

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