Mrs. Lawrence: Thank you Mdm. Deputy Speaker. A Partnership for National Unity on whose behalf I rise, and also to represent the many individuals and groups within and without our beloved country Guyana who are concerned about the morality of our people and our sovereignty as a nation. These concerns arise out of the second resolve clause which calls for the establishment of a special select committee in the determination of paragraph 3:
“The attitude of Guyanese to any changes to the legislative provisions and criminal code regarding consensual adult same sex relationships and discrimination, perceived or real, against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender persons.
This motion moved by the Hon. Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, and moreso the paragraph I just quoted, speaks to the removal of values and structures established since creation. The motion seeks to request the Guyanese people not only to change their attitudes but also to sanction the removal or repealing of sections of our laws in the Summary Jurisdiction Act, a paragraph under the title “Minor offences chiefly in tongue”, and the Criminal Law Offences Act under the title “Offences against morality”.
The question being posited is: Why has the Government brought such a motion? It is reported that the Hon. Member Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkette on the 13th May 2010, presented Guyana’s report to the AIDS Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations Human Rights Council and four days later our report was adopted by the working group. Further a list of questions prepared by 10 European countries was transmitted to Guyana by the rapporteur. In relation to the issue under discussion page 5, paragraph 17 of the Report reads as follows:
“With regard to the advance questions concerning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons the delegation indicated that no cases involving the harassment of lesbian or gay persons had been received by the Government through any of its complaint mechanisms. Further, there had been only one case cited in which a person was charged with cross dressing and the matter was still before the court.”
Changes to laws require widespread consultations and a major change in attitude on the part of the populace.
“The Government’s attempt to include the phrase “sexual orientation” in the anti-discrimination clause of the Constitution has been met with widespread consternation and protest.”
It is to be noted that during the interactive dialogue session that of the 32 delegates which represented countries from the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Americas and a large contingent from Europe only two countries, namely Sweden and Australia, made reference to our laws which criminalise sexual activities between people of the same sex.
However, it must be noted that during the interactive dialogue 112 recommendations were made of which Guyana accepted 26, endorsed 31 which were already or in the process of being implemented, and committed to provide responses to the remaining 55 recommendations in September, 2010 at the 15th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It was the Hon. Gail Teixeira this time around who in her presentation stated:
“Recommendations 70.47 to 70.53 refer to decriminalisation of consensual same sex relations and ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisesexuals, and transgenders. Whilst the state does not discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation Guyana does not deny that interpersonal prejudices exist based on cultural and religious beliefs. Guyana noted these recommendations and voluntarily commits to hold consultations over the next two years. Based on the outcome of this democratic process these will be reflected in its domestic laws.”
We are now some six weeks shy of two years since the Honourable Ms. Teixeira made this commitment to the UNHRC.
This motion brought by the Hon. Prime Minister to the National Assembly gives Members a basket and asks them to fetch water. Several important questions arise, namely: What was the Government doing all this time? Where is the data? Where are the studies? What percentage of our population is affected by these laws which we are told should be repealed? What is the percentage of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in our society? These are just a few of the fundamental questions for which information needs to be forthcoming in order to facilitate the investigative perspective and process. [Interruption] You do not start from nowhere. You have to start from somewhere. Permit me Madam to ask how soon is the Government expected to return to the UNHRC? We heard the Hon. Gail Teixeira say in 2016. Am I correct? Is this motion to hoodwink this body into believing that the Government has begun a process of consultation? Was the Government afraid to deal with this issue prior to the regional and national elections? Why would the Government seek to place three waited issues into one motion? Unlike the death penalty and corporal punishment, for which evidence and statistics exist, it is our view that the discrimination of consensual adult same sex relations and discrimination of lesbian, gays, bisexual, and transgender persons ought to have been presented separately.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that both of the Government representatives in the reports to the UNHRC in May and September, 2010 stated that Government does not discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation despite our laws which state that males who commit acts of gross indecency with another male, the attempt to commit or the committal of buggery, and that the wearing of female attire by a man is an offence. These laws merely act as a deterrent. Two known organisations in Guyana representing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders contend that this silent legislation is not enough. Rather SASOD and Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBT) contend that unless these laws are repealed, in other words, removed, this group of persons would be denied the right to freedom of expression, would be discriminated against by the police and non-state actors, and would be criminalised for expressing their identity, that is men dressing as women or women dressing as men. They would be denied the freedom for men to have sex with men and also denied the removal of stigma and discrimination based on gender. However, persuading one fellow citizen in one thing but imposing one’s view in absence of the democratic majority is something else. There is no doubt there are other views within our 83,000 sq miles which need to be entertained; the views of the 57 percent Christian and the 7 percent Muslims in our country are among those. While the Muslim community remains relatively quiet on this issue Islamic scholars have stated that based on the teachings of the Quran homosexuality is condemned on these grounds, merely that it clashes with the natural order in which God created human being. It brings destruction of the family and the institution of marriage, and it leads people to ignore God’s guidance in other areas of life. The Christians have been more vocal in actively sharing their views which includes those expressed by the Quran. The tenets of Christian society can be found in the Holy Bible in the book of Numbers Chapters 4 through 6.
It is further argued that our national anthem closed with the prayer, and I quote:
“God guard you great mother, and make us to be more worthy our heritage, land of the free.”
Implicit in those words is our acknowledgement as a people that we are a nation under God. In order to secure our elusive rendezvous with divinely ordained destiny we have to ensure, as a nation, that creation structures that God has built into the very fabric of human society are protected, promoted and preserved. By the term creation structures the Christians refer to those fundamental elements which God has ordained and established for the health and well being of ourselves as individuals, as family units, as communities, and indeed as a national family of Guyanese. These fundamental and functional threads of our social fabric are essential to our survival, strength and sustainability as a nation.
Creation structures include the following: human sexuality expressed in the distinctiveness of our being created male and female; marriage and family life based on that essential and inclusive distinctiveness; work and it’s just reward; law; discipline and order, including restraining measures strategically and selectively applied; freedom and fulfillment of worship; human intelligence and scope for its development and proper use; and health and wellness in their deepest sense.
This list is indicative rather than exhaustive but reminds us that in nature as established and sustained by God they are built into the mystery and marvel of the human personality, certain privileges and responsibilities. According to the Christians, creation structures are therefore safe zones that protect human beings from other tendencies toward self destruction through what is unnatural perverted and perverse.
There are others who believe that homo-sexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism and bisexuality are psychosexual mental disorders and their ultimate and none negotiable goal is the destruction of core creation structures.
There exists, also, the view that Governments are instituted for safe guarding the rights of its people. In the article titled, Homosexuality is not a civil right by Garcia and Rigor. It is stated that when protecting one’s inalienable and civil rights, the Government must discern between liberty and license. This requires that rights ought to be attached to persons because of the humanity, not because of their behaviours.
This motion addresses also the change in attitude of our people towards the repealing of our laws against same sex relationships and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender persons. It must be noted that to effect such a change, our people must be exposed to the arguments and facts on both sides of the divide. This can and must be done in a structured and focused way, that is, encompassing all areas, namely the medical field where it is claimed that homosexuality, as I said, is psychosexual and a mental disorder that can be cured, while this particular group to whom we are speaking, talks about an in balance hormones and gay genes. We must also look at the area of social mealy, destruction of family structures, ability of same sex relationships to raise families; an attack on man hood and woman hood and an attack on marriage.
The group to which we are speaking about describe it as freedom of expression for men to dress as women and women to dress as men. Giving up the right to decide on the moral calibre of the person who teaches your child is one which persons who we determine straight would say, but the group to whom we speaketh, speaks about the right to sexual orientation. The right of parents to decide whether they would allow their child to visit the other parent, who is in a same sex relationship, is described by the group to whom we are speaking of as discrimination.
The Government placing this motion at the feet of the Parliament does not remove them from their obligation to this nation. As I said before, this motion by the Hon. Prime Minister gives the Parliamentarians a basket to fetch water. My view is supported by the omission of any budgetary allocation to facilitate the special select committee, in achieving the forth “WHEREAS” clause. Further, no mention is made of providing the special select committee with skilled and technical personnel to assist the committee in its work. Perhaps, the Hon. Prime Minister will address this in his response.
In conclusion, allow me to pose a question, ask of me to the Hon. Prime Minister: What has happen to Guyana, the severance state and why do we have to repeal our laws because a few European delegations proposed that we do that? I hope the Prime minister will answer. Further, it is my firm believe that the decision, as outline in the third paragraph of the second Resolved clause of this motion, which reads:
“The attitude of Guyanese of any changes in the legislative provisions and criminal code regarding consensual adult same sex relationships and discrimination, perceived or real, against Lesbians, Gays, Bi-Sexual and Transgender persons;”
I want to reiterate that this decision is too contentious a matter and ought not to be made by any legislative body; rather it is the voters who must be given the opportunity to make such an important decision. Hence, I recommend that the people take this matter to a vote. Let us have a referendum on these matters Hon. Prime Minister; let the people of Guyana decide whether they are straight, gay, lesbian, homosexual, transgender or whatever category they would like to place themselves in, let them make the choice. Thank you Mdm. Deputy Speaker. [Applause]