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Nov 13, 2018

C.C.J. Declares Guyana ‘Cross Dressing’ Law Unconstitutional

Today, the Caribbean Court of Justice handed down a landmark decision that may have effects in countries who have subscribed to the C.C.J.  The C.C.J. ruled that the law in Guyana, 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.  The C.C.J. struck down the law, saying that this law was from a different time and no longer served any legitimate purpose in Guyana. The decision was read by C.C.J. President, Justice Adrian Saunders.

 

Justice Adrian Saunders, President, C.C.J.

“The objective of these laws was not to promote fairness, social justice of equality. The specific offence target homosexual conduct. Justice Barrow addressed the state’s argument that the judiciary should be cautious not to succumb to deciding on issues, social policies and legislative reform. He states that it is not every law that the executive must feel obliged to defend against a challenge especially when the constitution affords an aggrieve person the right to make these challenges. Having regard to all the opinions expressed the court allowed the appeal and declared that section one-fifty-three, subsection one, subsection one-forty-seven violated the appellants’ right to equality and non-discrimination and to their right to freedom of expression. The court held that the section is unconstitutionally vague and offends the rule of law. The court ordered that the section be struck from the law of Guyana and awarded cost to the appellants to this appeal and in the courts below.”

 

The case was launched by transgenders Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser and Seyon Persaud after they were arrested and charged by Guyana police for cross dressing.


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