National consultations on scrapping gay laws delayed; SASOD calls it “inexcusable”

Guyana’s two-year old delay in holding national consultations on the decriminalizing of homosexuality is being labeled “inexcusable” by a gay advocacy group. And with time already running out for the next United Nations review, government is yet to say exactly when this work will begin.

Scrapping British colonial laws was also one of the agenda items of last October’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia where Britain had been making efforts to secure an agreement.

Guyana in late 2010 had also given a commitment to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review that national consultations would have been held on the issue.

When asked at a news conference why this was not done, Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, she cited preparations for last November’s general elections as one of the reasons.

“We still have to have consultations. We have had some other activities happening in Guyana, preparation for elections and things like that,” she told a news conference.

She could not give a time-frame when the consultations might begin but said was in talks with Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira and preparations might begin after the 10th Parliament is convened later this month.

Though the issue has been discussed at the United Nations and the Commonwealth, she noted that countries around the world could not take a decision at the multilateral level. Instead, the matter must be subjected to national consultations.

“You have to have consultations at the national level and our position in Guyana is that we would have to have widespread consensus on this matter,” she said.

Co-chair of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Joel Simpson lamented government’s delay in holding the consultations over the last two years that had been promised.

Noting that Guyana has to report on its commitment in September 2012, Simpson urged government not to rush through the process to meet the deadline.

“If anything didn’t happen within the first year, that’s problematic. Anything within ten months will be rushed and pretty insincere. I am disappointed that when they came back (in October 2010) they didn’t hit the ground running,” Simpson told Demerara Waves Online News ( ).

He called the delay “inexcusable” and said it reflected the lack of commitment by the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration to human rights.

“They could have a consultation and say this is what the people said and we are either going with or not. The government doesn’t consider this a priority. Human rights is not a priority issue for the PPP or important enough for them to hold consultations,” he added.

Guyana’s report to the United Nations Periodic Review later this year is expected to again face concerns by Developed Nations about matters such as the total abolition of the death penalty and an inquiry into death squads and extra-judicial killings.

Guyana has amended its laws making the death penalty mandatory only in certain cases where there is a loss of life of certain categories of agents of the State. The death penalty is still the only penalty for treason.

by Denis Scott Chabrol
Source – Demerara Waves