Public policy must include gender identity – Kissoon

Published: December 19, 2011

The Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is urging a comprehensive review of a broad range of policy statements and is calling for the development of clear guidelines of policies in the public sector.

Social rights activist, Vidyaratha Kissoon, who spoke on behalf of the society, said the education policy has shown signs of discriminatory practices against persons with contemporary sexual tendencies.

Kissoon pointed out that since most teachers are very religious-minded, they unknowingly perpetuate prejudice against students perceived to be lesbians, gays, bisexual or transvestites (LGBT).

“It’s a confusing time for most young people and many LGBT people dropout of school, so it’s a matter of the importance of ensuring that these young people remain in schools,” Kissoon said.

There is a high dropout rate of lesbian, gay and bisexual students who are not supported by the school system, Kissoon said, noting that this lack of skills could lead to further poverty and risky behaviour.
Quoting Guyana’s Universal Periodic Review, Kissoon said there should be no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Kissoon applauded policies that were issued by the last administration, especially in the area of health.
He noted that while the society appreciates these efforts, it is concerned about inconsistent policies and double standards exhibited by public and private officials, despite government’s stance.
Kissoon disclosed that in the absence of law, there are some other policies that must be established, clearly stated and closely monitored.

As it relates to security, Kissoon lamented the response of the police to reports of attacks on gay people, and explained that this is another area which exhibits inconsistency with the relevant legislation.
He noted that some policemen are even known for laughing at persons filing such reports or resort to turning them away from the police station.

“We have seen that the Guyana Police Force has to undergo further reform in its understanding of human rights.

LGBT people have had various responses from police, but mostly negative. One person who was slashed on his face has given up on getting the police to charge the perpetrator. Others do not want to report issues because the police have laughed at them or taken complaints and not followed up. Sometimes, the police are helpful and sometimes they are not.”

He said many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transvestite people are concerned about access to low-income housing, which only focuses on persons with families and children.

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