groups are urging the Guyanese government to stop
arresting and abusing transgender people for violating national
laws against cross-dressing.
A letter to President
Bharrat Jagdeo addresses at least seven arrests in February
alone, calling on the government to drop the charges against
them. The arrests, "targeting people born male who wore
what police regarded as female clothing," were made in
Georgetown, the capital, between February 6 and 10, according
to the letter. Those arrested were taken to a local police
station, where police refused them access to phones and
lawyers, although they have rights to such access
under the nation's law.
Seven of the people
arrested were charged with violating part of the Summary
Jurisdiction Act, which criminalizes the "wearing of
female attire by man; wearing of male attire by women."
The violation is a minor offense.
The detainees said
police then photographed them and demanded that they remove
their clothes in front of several police officers, according to
Human Rights Watch, one of the letter's signatories. One
detainee said they were subsequently asked to bend down so
police could "search" them and then ordered
to put on men's clothing. Five men were kept in solitary
confinement until they day of their trial. Police said it was
for their safety.
In court Acting Chief
Magistrate Melissa Robertson told the defendants they were not
women but men and directed them to "go to church and give
their lives to Christ."
In addition to Human
Rights Watch, the letter was signed by the Caribbean Forum for
Liberation of Genders and Sexualities, Global Rights, the
Guyana Rainbow Foundation, the International Gay and Lesbian
Human Rights Commission, and the Society Against Sexual