… SASOD describe move as “misguided”Attorney General Basil Williams has reaffirmed Government’s commitment to take the issue of decriminalising homosexuality to a referendum for the people to decide, adding that the Government does not support discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.“The laws in the Commonwealth Caribbean that criminalise same sex intimacy are remnants of the region’s colonial past… the remnants that have remained, have caused local and international bodies to call for reforms of our laws… the Government noted that the Guyanese people are to decide in a referendum whether homosexuality should remain a criminal offence,” Williams said.Attorney General Basil Williams engages British High Commissioner Greg QuinnThe Legal Affairs Minister made those remarks at a reception hosted by the European Union delegation in Guyana in collaboration with the Society Against Sexual Orientation and Discrimination (SASOD) to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia (IDAHOT). IDAHOT is celebrated on May 17 every year and this year it was celebrated under the theme “Love makes a family.”Minister Williams said that sexual orientation, and by extension LGBTI rights, are considered a sensitive topic for both citizens and Governments. He added that owing to religious and cultural beliefs, the climate of intolerance has developed; hence isolating some sections of society.The Attorney General stated that the Constitution provides for persons not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and gender. “The Government believes that the principle of universality admits no exception and human rights are birth rights of all human beings,” he said.“We must document and expose allegations or reports of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity promptly. They must be impartially investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice,” Williams said.EU Ambassador, Jernej Videti? said on IDAHOT Day, the EU delegation in Guyana will proudly fly the rainbow flag in a very public show of support for Guyanese people who are fighting for human rights for all. He added that IDAHOT is an opportunity to remind governments around the world of their obligation to promote the universality of human rights and to ensure that everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, enjoys this right without discrimination.He said that the European Union is committed to ensuring that there is no discrimination or violation of human rights based on sexuality or gender identity. He also said that cultural or religious values should not be used as justification for any form of discrimination.“During Guyana’s most recent universal periodic review by the European Union it was recommended that Guyana change its laws to guarantee better protection of LGBTI persons, especially the laws criminalising same sex intimacy and cross dressing, which are discriminatory. In response, Guyana agreed to strengthen the protection of LGBTI individuals and to continue its efforts in eliminating discrimination against LGBTI persons starting with the review of its related legislations,” the EU envoy said.ReferendumOver the years there have been calls by international and local bodies to decriminalise Guyana’s anti-buggery laws. The law criminalises intimacy among same sex persons.In March of this year, SASOD along with a delegation from Guyana Trans United, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association’s Youth Advocacy Movement (GRPA’s-YAM) and the Guyana National Youth Council (GNYC) attended a thematic hearing of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in Washington, DC, where SASOD called for the reforms of Guyana’s discriminatory laws.First Secretary of Guyana’s Mission to the Organisation of American States (OAS) represented the Government at the hearing. However, he was in no position to inform of measurers to be put in place to address the issue.Following his report to the Government, a statement was released indicating the Government’s intention to take the issue to a national referendum for the citizenry to decide.MisguidedHowever Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson, told Guyana Times that the organisation is totally opposed to the idea of a referendum.“There is no way you should be putting anybody’s human rights to a popular vote. The Government is there to lead on issues and to respect human rights for everybody, under no circumstances will we support a referendum on our rights as citizens of this country,” he said.Simpson opined that the Administration is totally misguided when it comes to putting the decriminalisation of homosexuality to a popular vote, noting that it is totally misguided and unprincipled.