Guyana LGBT Laws

Discrimination Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

In July 2003, Guyana’s parliament shelved a constitutional amendment that would have outlawed discrimination against gays and lesbians, sending the measure to a constitutional review committee for further discussion, which can hear public testimony [R1.1].

The constitutional amendment would require approval from two-thirds of the 65 members in the National Assembly, though both the opposition and governing parties have said most of their members will block its passage [R1.1].

Two years ago, legislators passed the bill unanimously. But it was vetoed by President Bharrat Jagdeo.

R1.1 Associated Press: Legislature shelves bill that would bar discrimination 25 JUL 03
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual
1. National

The Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02 provides –

Section 153 (1) Every person who does any of the following acts shall, in each case, be liable to a fine of not less than seven thousand nor more than fifteen thousand dollars—

(xlvii) being a man, in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose, appears in femal attire; or being a woman, in any public way or place, for any improper purpose, appears in male attire; or [L1.2].

On 21 November 2018, it was reported that the government says it respects the ruling of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that recently ruled as ”unconstitutional” a law here that makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in public while dressed in clothing of the opposition sex [R1.1].

Now see 2. Courts & Tribunals below at [C1.9], [R1.8]

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 13 November 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Guyana’s Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act , which makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in a public place while dressed in clothing of the opposite sex for an ”improper purpose”, is unconstitutional [C1.9], [R1.8].

On 27 June 2018, the five-judge Caribbean Court of Justice was reported to have reserved judgment in an appeal filed by Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser and Seyon Persaud, four transgender women from Guyana, who are challenging Section 153 (1) (XLVII) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, one of the country’s ”archaic” laws which makes it an offence for men or women to cross-dress in public for any ”improper purpose” [R1.7].

On 28 February 2017, the Court of Appeal in an oral decision delivered by the acting Chancellor, the Honourable Carl Singh, confirmed the ruling of the then acting Chief Justice Ian Chang in the High Court that the expression of one’s gender identity as a trans person is not in and of itself a crime. However, the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal, rejecting the appellants’ arguments that the law in question – making it an offence for a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’ to cross-dress in public ‘for any improper purpose’ – discriminates based on gender and violates multiple equality provisions in the Constitution [R1.6].

On 06 September 2013, acting Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled that cross-dressing is a criminal offense under the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act only if it’s done for an “improper purpose” such as prostitution and not if only “for the purpose of expressing or accentuating his or her personal sexual orientation in public”. The challenge failed to prove the law amounts to discrimination contrary to the constitution [R1.5].

On 04 June 2013, Chief Justice, Mr. Ian Chang, sitting in the Constitutional Court reserved his decision in Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser, Seyon Persaud and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), that section 153(1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act (1894) which criminalizes cross-dressing for an ‘improper purpose’ violates the Constitution of Guyana [R1.4].

On 19 February 2010, six male-to-female transgender individuals who were detained last year filed a motion calling on Guyana’s supreme court to strike down laws against homosexuality and “cross-dressing” [L1.3], [C1.2], [R1.1].

L1.2 Government Information Agency: Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act Chapter 8:02 PDF 13.48MB (Accessed 13 MAR 17)
R1.1 TheDailyObserver: Guyana accepts CCJ ruling on transgender matter 21 NOV 18
1. Courts & Tribunals
C1.9 Judgment: Quincy McEwan, et al. v. The Attorney General of Guyana [2018] CCJ 30 (AJ) PDF 459.89kb 13 NOV 18
R1.8 Media Release: CCJ Declares Guyana’s Cross-Dressing Law Unconstitutional No. [44:20-18] PDF 189.63kb 12 NOV 18
R1.7 DailyExpress: CCJ reserves ruling in transgender appeal 28 JUN 18
R1.6 SASOD: Cross-dressing case likely heading to the CCJ 28 FEB 17
R1.5 NewStraitsTimes: Guyana judge clarifies rule against cross-dressing 09 SEP 13
R1.4 SASOD: Constitutional Court Reserves Judgment in Guyana Cross Dressing Case 04 JUN 13
L1.3 Chapter 8.02: Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act (Accessed 10 SEP 13)
C1.2 Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke & Others v. The Attorney General: Originating Notice of Motion Word 48kb, 19 FEB 10
R1.1 The Advocate: Guyana Group Fights Transphobic Laws 23 FEB 10
Homosexuality, Sodomy Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

Under the Criminal Law (Offences) Act consensual sex between male same-sex couples is unlawful [R1.3].

Section 352 – Committing acts of gross indecency with male person

“Any male person, who in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission, or procures or attempts to procure the commission, by any male person, of an act of gross indecency with any other male person shall be guilty of misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for two years.”

Section 353 – Attempt to commit unnatural offences

“Everyone who –
(a) attempts to commit buggery; or
(b) assaults any person with the intention to commit buggery; or
(c) being a male, indecently assaults any other male person, shall be guilty of felony and liable to imprisonment for ten years.”

Section 354 – Buggery

“Everyone who commits buggery, either with a human being or with any other living creature, shall be guilty of felony and be liable to imprisonment for life” [R1.2].

On 26 April 2017, it was reported that the government had announced in a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) it would hold a referendum on whether homosexuality should remain illegal. There was no indication as to when the referendum would be held [R1.2].

On 05 April 2012, Guyana was reported to be launching a national debate on whether to eliminate its death penalty and overhaul laws that discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender people [R1.1].

R1.3 ILGA: State-Sponsored Homophobia PDF 382.87kb, MAY 08
R1.2 GayStarNews: Guyana to hold referendum on decriminalizing homosexuality 26 APR 17
R1.1 The Washington Post: Guyana seeks public opinion on death penalty, laws that target gays, lesbians 05 APR 12