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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 19, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 16
Getting tough with Guyana - State Dept. pushes recalcitrant country on LGBT rights
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Getting tough with Guyana - State Dept. pushes recalcitrant country on LGBT rights

by Mike Andrew SGN Staff Writer In a test drive of the U.S. State Department's newly announced program to promote LGBT rights in the Western Hemisphere, the U.S. ambassador in Guyana has warned his hosts that they must take action to decriminalize same-sex relations.

Speaking to journalists in the capital of Guyana on April 17, U.S. Ambassador Brent Hardt said that Guyana's government took a positive step last year with a 'National Consultation' on LGBT issues, but he noted that 'conversation and dialogue must lead to action and specifically to legislation that replaces antiquated colonial laws with modern, national laws that advance the rights of all Guyanese people.'

'BUGGERY' STILL OUTLAWED
A former British colony, Guyana is the last country in South America that criminalizes same-sex acts, applying very severe anti-Gay British colonial codes. 'Gross indecency' between men can bring two years in prison, 'attempted buggery' brings 10 years, and 'buggery' - the colonial-era term for anal sex - brings a life sentence, even if it was consensual.

Hardt challenged Guyanese politicians to show courage on the issue.

'It requires courage in standing up for the dignity of all fellow citizens and persuading others to do the same,' he said. 'And that is what is now required in the National Assembly and among all parties.'

He added that 'beyond legislative progress, it is vital to recognize that the lives of our Gay brothers and sisters are shaped not only by laws, but also by the way they are treated and accepted every day.'

Hardt promised that the U.S. Embassy in Guyana would continue to support LGBT human rights defenders and civil society groups.

U.N. PROMPTED DIALOGUE
The ambassador's remarks came one year almost to the day after Guyana's government agreed to consider repealing its anti-Gay laws.

On April 20, 2012, Guyana said it was opening what it called a National Consultation on possible revisions of anti-LGBT laws and abolition of the death penalty. The initiative came in response to pressure from the United Nations.

The U.N. Human Rights Council recommended that Guyana repeal all laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including laws that criminalize consensual sex between adults.

'Government has no line or position on the Gay rights issue,' Guyanese presidential adviser Gail Teixeira told the Associated Press at the time. 'We will hold the consultations, and if the recommendation is to change the laws, then that will be taken into consideration.'

As part of the consultation, town-hall style meetings were held in several parts of the country. To date, no results or recommendations have been announced, and no legislation on LGBT rights issues has been formally proposed.

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