Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be banned

Stabroek News
July 12, 2001

Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter captioned "Is there discrimination against homosexuals in Guyana" (07/10/2001), in which the writer, Emile Mervin, responded to a previous letter written by Ronald V. Alexander. Mr. Alexander was calling for an end to all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Mr. Mervin asks if there was a practice of discrimination or abuse of gays and lesbians in Guyana. I'd like to say that no one probably knows the answer to that question, because, as far as I know, no intensive study or survey was ever done to find out.

In his response, Mr. Mervin said "to ask parliament to make laws that would legitimize a behavior or lifestyle is truly making a mockery of the highest decision-making body in the land." My question for Mr. Mervin is, how does it make a mockery? I see that Mr. Mervin is writing from the United States. The constitution of the United States specifically protects people from discrimination, based on sexual orientation.

Mr. Mervin proceeded to state that homosexuality is "not suitable for children to grow up emulating or considering as an option and alternative, whether as young children or young adults." However, I would ask him to give specifics. Why is it not an option? Are we to assume that a heterosexual relationship is the only option? Have heterosexual relationships really been that good? What is the rate of divorce, what is the role of women in such relationships, what about domestic violence and how do these affect children. There is no evidence that homosexuality negatively impacts children. In fact, homosexuals, when allowed to adopt children, prove to be excellent parents. People should have a choice as to what type of relationship they want to have. Gays and lesbians are not asking for any special rights or privilege. They are asking for equal rights, equal protection from potential discrimination.

Mr. Mervin further states that " no one has the right to tell religious organisations, which have their own set rules and standards, to acquiesce to behavior previously forbidden among members of such organisations." No one is asking religious organizations to acquiesce to anything. In my previous letter responding to religious groups asking for "sexual orientation" not to be included specifically, in the new constitution, I pointed out that the reason they gave was that homosexuality was "undesirable", and that homosexuals were pedophiles. Like I stated before, pedophiles are generally not homosexual and to spread such blatant lies and falsehood, especially from religious institutions, is only intended to demonize homosexuals and legitimize discrimination against them.

Let's face it, homosexuals in Guyana live in fear of being open, in fear of people finding out. If they were assured that they would not be discriminated against in job offers, promotions etc, they would not be in the closet.

It is understandable to me that this is a touchy and sometimes difficult issue for a society such as Guyana. But if we are going to have a modern constitution that protects the rights of all Guyanese, then sexual orientation must be specifically included, so that there is no chance of an interpretation later by a court of law that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not covered in the constitution. It must not be taken for granted in the same way that discrimination based on religion or ethnicity is not.

Yours faithfully,
Rohan Sooklall