by Rex Wockner
The South American nation of Guyana should halt arrests and police abuse of transgender people and repeal a law that criminalizes dressing like the opposite sex, human rights organizations said March 5 in a letter to President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The letter was signed by the Caribbean Forum for Liberation of Genders and Sexualities, Global Rights, Guyana Rainbow Foundation, Human Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination. They called on Guyanese authorities to drop the charges against seven people arrested under the law in February and investigate allegations of abuse by the police.
“Police are using archaic laws to violate basic freedoms,” said Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program. “This is a campaign meant to drive people off the streets simply because they dress or act in ways that transgress gender norms.”
Between Feb. 6 and 10, police in the capital city, Georgetown, detained at least eight transgender people, charging seven of them under a law that prohibits men and women from appearing in public in the clothes of the opposite sex for “any improper purpose.”
Police kept five of the men in solitary confinement until the day of trial. All eight were fined $36 each, HRW said.