By Sueann Wickham
The Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Wednesday launched its “Guyana Together” campaign. This public education initiative aims to foster greater acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community within Guyana while simultaneously combating the stigma and prejudice faced by its members.
In a collaborative effort, SASOD partnered with key organizations such as the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), the Black Entrepreneurs Association (BEA), and the Guyana Press Association (GPA) to bring this campaign to fruition.
During the campaign’s launch, attendees were introduced to the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals in Guyana who have experienced acceptance and support from various facets of society, including their families, coworkers, neighbors, friends, and religious leaders. Notably, the event garnered a significant turnout.
Joel Earl Simpson, Director of SASOD, highlighted the campaign’s objectives noting that the first phase of “Guyana Together” will span two years, focusing on both public education and engagement with lawmakers to advocate for the repeal of laws criminalizing same-sex intimacy. Simpson described this phase as an “aggressive” start to law reform for LGBTQI individuals.
Simpson also shared encouraging statistics, citing a notable shift in public opinion over the years. The first national poll on LGBTQI-related issues in 2013 showed an increase in acceptance from 19 percent to 34 percent, coupled with a reduction in hatred from 25 percent to 12 percent. Notably, 54 percent of the population now supports decriminalizing intimacy between consenting adult men in private, emphasizing the need for legislative changes and the prioritization of LGBTQI concerns by the government.
Looking ahead, the campaign envisions a second phase that will concentrate on amending Guyana’s Prevention of Discrimination Act, providing legal recourse for community members facing discrimination.
Also speaking at the event was, Reverend Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, who urged all Guyanese to support the “Guyana Together” campaign, emphasizing the importance of initiating a national conversation regarding LGBTQ+ individuals and striving for justice and fairness.
She said, “I call on all Guyana to support the Guyana Together campaign, and hope that it will spark a national conversation regarding LGBTQ persons and what is required for justice and fairness to prevail. Our dialogue or conversation will need to be initiated with respect, which is key to overcoming fear and prejudice, so we may move forward to grow together in love and understanding.”
“We pray that this time will be one of listening with our hearts to those who differ from us in their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression She stressed that respectful dialogue is the key to overcoming fear and prejudice, ultimately fostering a society characterized by love and understanding,” Bisnauth added.
On the sidelines of the event, Simpson noted that the campaign has thus far attracted at least 60 sponsors and in a matter of days, it may very well meet 100. This he said showcases the willingness of local organizations and businesses to help the community in achieving its humanitarian goals and foster a more welcoming environment in Guyana so that persons can feel safe and secure about their sexuality.