The arrests, harassment, and discrimination faced by lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) people in Guyana demonstrate the urgent need for the Government of Guyana to act.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recognizes a right to protection from discriminatory laws, stereotypes, and cultural attitudes for all women. Yet despite these guarantees, the Government of Guyana has taken no steps to repeal laws that impact LBT persons or to modify cultural attitudes that lead to climates of fear, harassment, and discrimination. There is an urgent need for the Committee on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (“the Committee”) to act so that all people in Guyana, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can enjoy their most basic human rights.
Many LBT people experience discrimination by the police and law enforcement officials. Discriminatory laws against cross-dressing have led to detentions and fines for transgender women. Because of cultural attitudes against LBT people, there have been documented incidences of police intimidation, detention, and the failure to investigate homophobic assaults. LBT people in Guyana experience harassment on the street and in their homes. Women are often targeted for harassment because they dress against gender norms. Verbal harassment is common for LBT persons, and many have also reported threats of violence and sexual harassment. LBT persons are subject to pressure from their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They may be forced to conceal their sexual orientation or enter into sham relationships. Such discrimination is a product of stereotyped roles, which the Government has failed to combat.
Because of pressure to conform to rigid gender roles, many LBT women experience discrimination in education and employment. LBT women are forced to conceal their sexual orientation at school. In the workplace, many women are expected to wear feminine, sexualized attire. Transgender women have found it difficult to seek employment, other than sex work.
LBT persons are entitled to their full rights under the CEDAW Convention. In order to protect the right to a life free from discrimination or harassment and the rights to education and employment, the Government of Guyana must take positive steps to repeal discriminatory laws and combat discrimination. There is urgent need for the Committee to take appropriate action to ensure LBT people can enjoy the full Convention rights to which they are entitled.