CROSSDRESSING CASE CITED AT GUYANA’S 2020 UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

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The case between Quincy McEwan and Ors v The Attorney General of Guyana was noted in Guyana’s third Universal Periodic Review. The review was adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council at the United Nations Office in Geneva on January 31, 2020.

His Excellency Ambassador Dr. John Ronald Deep Ford and team presented a 22 page report on Guyana’s International Human Rights obligation and achievements for over the past five years.

One achievement highlighted by the Ambassador was Guyana’s efforts to promote gender equality and equity through the National Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Policy (NGESIP) and related programs to eliminate discrimination by reviewing and updating the National Stigma and Discrimination Policy (NGSIP) and broadening the scope of non-discrimination legislation. In this light, the case between Quincy McEwan and Ors v The Attorney General of Guyana in which the laws prohibiting ‘cross dressing’ were struck down and found to be unconstitutional was mentioned.

The case of Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser, Seyon Persaud and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) v The Attorney General of Guyana began with the arrest of the appellants in February 2009. Four of the appellants, who identify as transgender were arrested, convicted and punished for cross-dressing in public. When they were taken to the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court on Monday, February 9, 2009, they first learned of the charges of loitering and wearing female attire in a public place for “an improper purpose”.They all pleaded guilty to the cross-dressing charge and McEwan, Clarke and Persaud were fined GY$7,500 and Fraser was fined GY$19,500. After the High Court and Court of Appeal denied the constitutional challenges, the appellants took the case to the CCJ arguing that the law violated their constitutional rights to equality and non-discrimination and freedom of expression thereby offending the rule of law. On November 13, 2018, the Court ordered that Section 153(1) (xlvii) be struck from the laws of Guyana and that costs are to be awarded to the appellants.

Other areas in which Guyana was thanked by the Vice President of the Council for efforts in meeting its International Human Rights obligations were education, housing, trafficking in person among others.

Ambassador Dr. Ford, leader of the Guyana delegation reaffirmed Guyana’s deep commitment to protecting and advancing the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all its citizens and thanked the Human Rights Council and the more than seventy countries that demonstrated their interest in Guyana through their statements and recommendations.  

Delegations encouraged the Government of Guyana to consolidate and complement these advances by legislative action in several areas, including with respect to gender based violence and abolishing the death penalty.

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