Guyana judge rules cross-dressing only criminal when done for 'improper purposes'

[JURIST] Guyana's acting Chief Justice Ian Chang ruled Friday that cross-dressing is a criminal offense only when done for improper purposes such as prostitution, but that people cannot be arrested for cross-dressing to express their personal gender identity or sexual orientation. The judge was interpreting a law [AP report] from 1893, while Guyana was still a colony, but which survived further legislative reforms. Because of the law's persistence despite legislative changes, the judge argued that any change to the law must come from the legislature. The ruling drew criticism from gay rights activists in Guyana who want the law abolished. The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination [advocacy website] has stated that it plans to appeal the decision [official statement], since the decision still permits police to arrest cross-dressers and transgender citizens for ambiguous reasons. The litigants in the case were arrested while wearing female attire as they waited for taxis.

Rights for transgender individuals remain a contentious issue throughout the world. Although international human rights laws should provide protections for LGBT individuals, those laws have been criticized for poor enforcement [JURIST comment]. In August California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] into law that amended the state's education code to specifically prohibit public schools from discriminating on the basis of gender identity and gender expression and allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities consistent with their own gender identity. In July the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in favor of a transgender woman who endured physical and verbal harassment during her employment as a federal contractor in Maryland. A number of human rights groups in May urged Cameroon to drop charges [JURIST report] against two transgender youths who were arrested for engaging in homosexual conduct. Earlier that month, Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal ruled [JURIST report] that a law prohibiting a transgender woman from marrying her boyfriend was invalid under the Chinese constitution. Last March Canadian lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] that would outlaw discrimination against transgender individuals.

 

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