There have been many letters in the
newspaper concerning the protections of rights of persons on the grounds of
their sexual orientation being enshrined in our constitution.
This exchange has been going on more or
less since 1998 when the parliament passed the equal rights bill and presented
it to the President who has refused to sign it.
The religious bodies Christian and
Muslim are objecting to the rights of persons who are not purely heterosexual
being enshrined in the new constitution.
I have written on this matter before,
the constitution is the supreme law of the land and in it; I am guaranteed
freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Nothing can be placed in the
constitution that collides with my right to freedom of association and if I
were, say, a person who does not want to associate with homosexuals, I have the
constitutional right not to do so.
The Guyana constitution, a socialist one, has never contained an equality clause;
it was in the preamble to it, but was never contained in it.
If I wanted to sue someone for competing
unfairly with me or giving another person, or entity, or business, a privilege
whilst at the same time denying me that same privilege, I would not be able to file
a motion under any existing law in this country, if the owners of private aircraft
wanted to sue the GDF for competing unfairly with them they also could not do
so. If any one of you saw a person receiving treatment which you were not
getting simply because they have friends in Robb Street, you could do nothing about it.
So we need these modifications to the
constitution which are laid out in article 137 A (1) (2) & (3) and provide
that and I quote "(1) the state shall not deny to any person equality before
the law and equal protection and benefit of the law. (2) Equality includes the
full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedom and the state shall, for the
purpose of the achievement of such equality, take legislative and other
measures designed to protect disadvantaged persons and persons with
disabilities and (3) the state shall not discriminate directly or indirectly
against anyone on grounds of race, gender sex, pregnancy, marital status,
ethnic or social origins, colour, creed, sexual orientation, age, religion,
conscience, belief, culture, language, birth or disability.
These provisions now to be enshrined in
our constitution guarantees a large number of rights to all of us, which
were never ours before, and frankly, holding it up for the sole objection
of conferring equal rights regardless of "sexual orientation" which only
pertains to a few members of our society, is absolutely nonsensical. Most of
the people I have spoken to about this, do not appreciate what is involved,
they think that this sexual orientation clause is an isolated clause, which can
be left out, without affecting the conference of the numerous other rights to
all of us, it is not so.
The President continues to refuse to sign
these amendments of the constitution into law, and why should he? It will raise
a barrage of complaints in our courts of violations to our constitutional
rights guaranteed under these new equality clauses and which are being breached
daily by his Government.
The letters now demanding that this
provision of homosexual rights be left in at article 137 A (3) to irritate a
national debate with the religious and other organisations, to the detriment of
implementing the other very important rights guaranteed by it, takes on a new more
Who is orchestrating these letters? Is
it the very persons, the executive in this country, who have to sigh it, and do
not want to? Since it is a tailor made excuse not to sign it? You decide ladies
and gentlemen, but using this homosexual rights clause buried within all of the
other fundamental equality rights we are entitled to, and desperately need, as
an excuse not to sign it into law, is low, even for the PPP.
Take it out, leave it in, but give me the
equality rights which I am entitled to. In the end since we say that this is a
democracy you ladies and gentlemen should have the last say, what
the majority of you say, is what counts.
Equal rights in any constitution is an
absolute necessity and our Muslim brothers, who are the most vocal in their
objection to this provision being in the constitution, must understand that
they have wanted a Muslim religious television channel for close to 5 years and
have been denied having it, if however there was this equality clause in the
constitution it would be unconstitutional for anyone to deny them a means of
communicating their beliefs and ideas to their fellow Muslim brothers and the public
at large. My church of course also condemns homosexuality but to my mind having
it in, is much less of an encumbrance to obtain justice, than not having it in
and not benefiting from any of the protections it confers on ME.
However since these sexual orientation rights
are in conflict with other parts of the constitution, which are far more
important and necessary, take it out, and after a national consensus is
established then we can be put back, in a form that does not conflict
with other guaranteed fundamental rights. There is an ongoing Constitutional
Reform standing committee in the Parliament now, which can address this
Even the US [where we are all packing to migrate to] has not enshrined a gay
rights clause into their constitution and have refused to allow gay marriages
to be accepted by any of its 50 states. Since non discrimination clauses in the
constitution can allow gay couples to be married and enjoy the same rights and
privileges as the rest of the heterosexual population, with the same tax
benefits that pertain to other married couples, it can also therefore mean
legal access to the Supreme Court to obtain divorces and division of property
etc. from such marriages. The complications are endless. But many cases are
taken to the US Supreme Court yearly that address discrimination against Gays
since the words "all men and women are equal under the law" covers everything,
all rights, and once homosexuality is not illegal under the law, then
you cannot discriminate against them. So it is not essential that we
specifically state "regardless of sexual orientation" in our constitution for
Gays to enjoy equality under our laws.
Let me give you an example of
governments not signing basic human rights for all of their citizens because of
a provision that pertains to only a few.
The International Human Rights Covenant
has not been ratified by the Guyana Government; this means that we, especially
those in the media, are not protected by much of the provisions of the
covenant. The reason is that we cannot get a national consensus on the death penalty;
it is a very convenient excuse for our governments not to sign these covenants
on the grounds that we, their constituents, want blood and demand the execution
of all murderers, but how many people condemned to death have actually been
executed over the past 10 years? So we are denied the privilege of opening the
umbrella of rights and protections guaranteed by the International Human Rights
Covenant for a reason which is not enforced anyway, does anyone see the utter
stupidity of this?
Or is it only me?