Category Archives: United Nations (UN)

Gay rights groups urge gov’t to fire Juan Edghill after anti-gay remarks

-submits report to UN human rights body

Two advocacy groups are calling on the Guyana government to fire Juan Edghill as Minister within the Finance Ministry and as a Member of Parliament (MP) as a result of statements he made about the LGBT community which they said are in violation of local and international regulations.

Juan Edghill

Edghill’s dismissal is one of fifteen recommendations contained in an 11-page report sent to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on June 15th by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) and the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI).

In the report, titled ‘On Devil’s Island: A UPR Submission on LGBT Human Rights in Guyana’ SASOD and SRI told the UNHRC that Edghill, while on a local radio programme “used the most inflammatory language” when he described homosexuality as “destructive, unwholesome and unhealthy.”

The report said that Edghill went on to state that it is “scientifically proven” that homosexuals are promiscuous, disease laden and more violent than “normal” people.” SASOD also told the UN that “Edghill was adamant and unapologetic for his hateful comments which were clearly intended to incite ill-will against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people, which is a violation of Article 146 (3) of the Guyana Constitution.”

The report also noted that Edghill’s comments came in the wake of similar comments made by Pastor Ronald McGarrell. While commenting on the LGBT community in Guyana, McGarrell recommended that LGBT people should live on an island by themselves so as to not endanger others when God visits his wrath on them. In the report, McGarrell was reported as saying that “homosexuality is a learnt behaviour and that all gay persons should live on an island by themselves to prevent it from spreading.”

The report also outlined several ways in which the organisations believes Guyana’s laws encroach on the rights of the LGBT community.

The report pointed out that Articles 141, 145 and 146 of Guy-ana’s Constitution speaks in favour of freedom from inhumane treatment, freedom of expression and freedom of movement respectively while Article 149 (D) makes provisions for equal rights to protection under the law. It was noted that while the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, race, place of origin, political opinion or creed, it fails to “expressly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

SASOD Managing Director Joel Simpson (left) speaks to reporters on the report alongside Social Change Consultant Tiffany Barry

The report also noted that Guyana’s buggery laws leads to the proliferation of discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. These factors, the groups argued, combine to weave a web of complexity for LGBT persons which affects them in various ways, including their access to health care and employment.

Chapter 8:01 in Sections 351 to 353 of the Criminal Offences Act makes it illegal for adult men to have consensual sexual relations in public or in private while Section 153 (1) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, in part, stipulates the illegality of cross-dressing by men in public for “any improper purpose.”

The groups noted that a bill was tabled by government in 2003 in an attempt to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The government opted not to pass the bill though, after sections of society, the religious community in particular, voiced overwhelming disapproval.

The report said that conditions in Guyana threaten the LGBT community’s rights to life, liberty and personal security, equality, privacy, freedom of expression, work and housing, health and education.

 

Recommendations

In addition to outlining the situation in Guyana, several recommendations for government were included in the report. The groups said that members of the disciplined forces should be educated to inform their treatment of marginalized groups, “especially LGBT people.” Also, members of the disciplined forces who are found abusing and discriminating against LGBT people should be punished, the report said.

To enhance equality, the groups are asking that Article 149 of the Constitution be amended to “include gender identity as grounds for discrimination in order to provide legal protection for LGBT people’s rights and equality and non-discrimination.”

SASOD and SRI are also calling for restrictions on hate speeches and the repealing of all laws which infringe on the rights of LGBT people.

Education Ministry, UNICEF hold two-day forum on Health and Family Life Education

Project stakeholders from left are Dr Morella Joseph, Programme Manager of HFLE and the Development of the Caribbean Person; UNICEF Representative to Guyana, Marianne Flach; Chief Education Officer Olato Sam; Deputy Chief Education Officer (Administration), Donna Chapman; Chairperson, DCEO of Development, Doodmattie Singh; and programme facilitator Bonita Harris.

THE Education Ministry yesterday hosted a forum on Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) at Parc Rayne, Rahaman’s Park, Greater Georgetown in a collaborative effort with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The two-day review and planning forum facilitated a stakeholder’s discussion on the findings of a recent evaluation conducted on the HFLE programme, and will host a range of group work, revision of the project, group reports, oral evaluations, presentations, and other activities which would review the progress achieved thus far, and roll out future plans for the project.

The event is being held under the theme “Revisiting Health and Family Life Education in Guyana: A comprehensive approach to children’s success in the 21st century.”

Participants at yesterday’s event

The Ministry of Education says that Health and Family Life Education is an important aspect that is essential for development of Guyanese Society.

Elaborating on the Ministry’s role in the HFLE, Chief Education Officer Olato Sam stressed that the aim of the programme was and is to focus on developmental health strategies in fostering a more health educated population.

He noted that activities of the HFLE were initiated mainly by the Ministry of Health, but were later transferred to the Ministry of Education. Sam explained that training and research materials were developed between 2000 and 2005; and that through testing, the Education Ministry was able to identify challenges, after which avenues were sought to combat them.

One of the main challenges encountered was that teachers felt uncomfortable discussing certain topics with children, he said.

In 2010, through the Ministry’s efforts, HFLE as a timetabled subject was implemented in 30 schools, followed by an additional 40 schools in 2011. By the end of 2012, HFLE was already part of the curriculum of 98 schools.

Sam said that the programme is presently engineered in 117 school systems across the country, and the Ministry is aiming to have the programme integrated in all schools across the country, so as to provide children with training and education in health and sex education.

“It is expected that, with a little more work, the programme will be implemented in all grades at the primary and secondary levels,” Sam revealed.

The CEO also revealed that improvements in school life for children have also been manifested through HFLE training in health, sex health education, and anger management programmes. He thanked UNICEF for the integral role that body has played in the HFLE programme, and noted that HFLE is a vehicle through which critical life skills are transmitted.

“Children will become more productive if HFLE impacts them”, he concluded.

UNICEF Representative to Guyana and Suriname, Ms Marianne Flach, stressed in brief remarks the need for discussion of social issues enveloping the society, so as to strengthen health and family life, and impact children positively.

She noted that social, educational, and reflective skills are vitally important not only for development within the home, but the community as a whole. “Life skills programmes help children to think critically,” she declared.

Flach maintained that children do not see the importance of acquiring education, and fail to recognize the adverse effects of some of their actions. She said that teenage pregnancy particularly is one such issue where, through education, young teens can know the difficulties which they should be prepared to encounter, and as such, the training provides training and learning materials for them.

She said that UNICEF is proud to participate in this initiative, and would continue to support the Education Ministry and other agencies in this and other developmental projects.

Life skills training and education through UNICEF have been formally implemented in 145 countries’ schools’ curriculum worldwide, and in 11 other countries informally.

(By Ravin Singh)

 

 

Too much illegal guns in the Region – UN official

- as locals undergoing training to combat trafficking in firearms, ammunition and explosives

“The United States is not in a position to lecture anyone on how to prevent illicit firearms trafficking…” Deputy US Ambassador

Local legal practitioners are undergoing specialized training to make them more equipped to combat the illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition and explosives.
The three-day training programme which is being held at the Police Officers Training Centre, Eve Leary, is sponsored by the government of the United States of America in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The 24 participants who are drawn from the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Forensics

UNLIREC’s Juliet Solomon addressing the opening of the training programme on combating illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition and explosives

Laboratory, the Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, will have the opportunity of expending their knowledge in all the different aspects of small arms control, from weapons classifications and definition, legal frameworks, investigative techniques for firearms proliferation, armed violence and forensic ballistics among others.
The training could not have come at a better time, since according to Juliet Solomon, Senior Programme Director (Caribbean) for the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), the main objective is to reduce the proliferation of firearms within the Region.
“In recent years, the number of firearms in circulation and the devastating consequences of improper or illegal use represent one of the biggest concerns for many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The direct and indirect human and material cost of all the violence represents a significant portion of the gross domestic product of states in this region,” Solomon told yesterday’s opening ceremony.
She explained that the easy access to illicit weapons, ammunition and explosives affects the livelihood of communities beyond national borders, and it is closely linked to other illegal activities such as drugs and human trafficking and organized crime.
To this end, she said that preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, ammunition and explosives is one of the most persistent challenges of the public security and development agenda of the United Nations.
Solomon said that given the transnational nature of this problem, it is essential to increase international cooperation in this area.
According to Solomon, the UN Regional Human Development Report on Citizens’ Security highlights high deficits in the justice system in Latin America and the Caribbean and this is reflected in crime and insecurity.
“Strengthening legal mechanisms and building security and justice sector capacities, such as ongoing training for judges’ prosecutors and police investigators should be considered an essential tool to ensure the quality and efficiency of criminal investigations,” she said.
She said that in order to meet this specific need in the field of legal practitioners, UNLIREC developed the specialized training course, which is aimed at supporting the implementation of the international firearms instrument as well as reducing impunity of firearms related offences.
Guyana’s Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, who delivered the key note address, reminded the audience that his government remains committed to peace disarmament and development, a commitment which dates back way beyond when the People’s Progressive Party/CIVIC came into office in 1992.
He said that disarmament both at the national and international levels is a foundation principle to which the government of Guyana is committed, since disarmament would impact positively on peace and development.
The Minister said that it is this context that Guyana became a signatory to many of the protocols and conventions of the United Nations to demonstrate its commitment to the UN Charter.
“It is further in manifestation of this commitment that we have signed on to the Convention in respect to the illegal trafficking in firearms….and only recently in the national assembly the motion was passed and later on signed into an act,” Rohee stated.
He however, acknowledged the challenge that faces Guyana with its porous multiple borders, and he welcomed the assistance of the United States Government and other multinational agencies.
But these challenges, he said, are being undermined by the position taken by the local judiciary with regards to persons who are charged under the firearms act, granting bail to such persons who commit crimes with illegal firearms.
“We do not look for concubinage with the judiciary; what we look for is a balance between pretrial liberty of individuals who have been charged with commission of a gun crime and the human rights of the victims. It is important that this balance be taken into consideration and the balance be struck between those who seek pre trial liberty through the courts and the victims who have suffered physical damage or economic losses,” the Home Affairs Minister declared.
Rohee welcomed the training, which he said, will always be a work in progress for law enforcement in any field of its mandate.
Juliet Solomon disclosed that the current training activity is part of a broader assistance package which the agency has been providing to the government of Guyana since 2013 with the support of the United States of America.
“As the regional arm of the UN office of disarmament affairs, UNLIREC is willing with the support of the donor community to continue providing assistance to Guyana in its efforts to reduce gun crimes and strengthen public security,” she said.
Deputy US Ambassador to Guyana, Bryan Hunt, noted that security is one of the main areas of cooperation between his government and the government of Guyana.
He said that there is no question that illicit arms trafficking is a global problem and the United States is not insulated from the violence that is derived from the proliferation of firearms.
Hunt reminded the audience of the recent shooting at the University of Southern California, pointing out that gun violence is a problem that the entire international community has to work together to combat.
“ The United States is not in a position to lecture anyone on how to prevent illicit firearms trafficking and I would never presume to do so, which is why I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to bring the experts from UNLIREC here to engage directly with the stakeholders in Guyana to offer an international perspective on the best strategies that can be used collectively to investigate, successfully prosecute and to bring to justice those who choose to engage in gun violence and the trafficking of illicit firearm ammunition and explosives,” the US diplomat said.
He said that the course is a model for inter-agency collaboration which is tremendously important when dealing with important cross-cutting societal problems.