Cross-dressers look forward to positive ruling

Published: June 6, 2013

If the decision is positive, we can safely go about wearing our clothes – one litigant

Two of the litigants challenging the laws against cross dressing here are hopeful that the acting chief justice, Ian Chang will rule in their favour, when the case comes up again for decision shortly.

Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser, Seyon Persaud, and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) had filed the constitutional challenge back in February 2009 by SASOD and four of seven persons convicted and fined in 2009 for violating section 153(1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, which makes it a criminal offence for men to wear female attire and for women to wear male attire in a public place for an improper purpose.
 
On Tuesday, Justice Chang, sitting in the Constitutional Court, heard full arguments from lawyers acting on behalf of the applicants. He will make his ruling at a later date.

According to a SASOD release, McEwan, better known as Gulliver, said, “If the decision is positive, we can safely go about wearing our clothes without the police arresting us for dressing a certain way – and this case is evidence that we do face discrimination.”

Fraser, known as Peaches, said, “There are plenty of transgenders out there who are looking for jobs; who don’t feel comfortable in male clothes, so they are discriminated against because of the way they dress – and as a result, engage in sex work to make a honest living. If the chief justice does not rule that this law is unconstitutional, everything will go back to square one and we will continue to be oppressed,” Peaches added.

SASOD said this is an important case that will help to determine the implications of the commitment made in the Guyana Constitution to “eliminating every form of discrimination”.
 
Attorney, University of the West Indies law lecturer and UWI Faculty of Law’s Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) co-coordinator, Dr Arif Bulkan, and Attorney Gino Persaud appeared for the applicants. Dr Bulkan argued that Section 153(1) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, which criminalises cross-dressing for an ‘improper purpose’ violates the Constitution of Guyana because it is discriminatory and vague. He argued that the cross-dressing law is discriminatory on the basis of sex and gender as it seeks to criminalise persons who do not conform with socially constructed stereotypes associated with their biological sex.

“Tuesday’s full-day court hearing is really the culmination of more than four years’ work between SASOD, U-RAP, Guyanese human rights attorneys ,and the transgender folk who suffered egregious abuses and enduring injury to their human dignity during the February 2009 police crackdowns on cross-dressing,” said SASOD co-chair Joel Simpson. “Justice can only be served by the court declaring this insidious law unconstitutional, null and void,” Simpson concluded.

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