Political parties to meet on `homosexual law'

Guyana Chronicle
January 24, 2001

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has convened a meeting today with representatives of political parties in Parliament to encourage them to amend the `homosexual' legislation to address the concerns of the religious community.

Officials said the meeting is fixed at the Office of the President in Georgetown.

All political parties in the National Assembly -- the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic), and the opposition People's National Congress (PNC), the Alliance For Guyana (AFG) and The United Force (TUF) - earlier this month passed a constitutional amendment to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by 55-0.

This controversial legislation has attracted widespread criticism from the religious community.

Representatives of Christian, Hindu and Muslim groups met President Jagdeo requesting that he does not give his assent to the bill until it is discussed with the various political parties with the view to amending the offending section of the Legislation.

President Jagdeo has given a commitment not to assent to the bill, officials said.

The religious community has since expressed their appreciation to the President for stopping the legislation from becoming law, an official said yesterday.

The Muslim community in Guyana, in a statement yesterday, joined other religious bodies and organisations to vociferously oppose the bill.

The Muslim community also called on President Jagdeo and all members of the National Assembly to act immediately to have the legislation revoked.

The statement from the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) and the Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT) said a section of the bill on "sexual orientation is not only distasteful to Islam but to all of the major religions practised in Guyana, which constitutes the vast majority of the Guyanese population."

"Furthermore, such a legislation like many already enacted, such as the Abortion and Lottery Bills, undermine the religious and moral conscience of our nation and invites the wrath of God on our already bewildered society," the statement said.

The statement was also in the name of the Guyana Muslim Mission Ltd and the Guyana United Sad'r Islamic Anjuman.

The Muslim community pointed out that the Quran (the holy book of Islam) views this matter very seriously and warns about an entire nation that was destroyed due to their indulgence in this most heinous abomination.

The Holy Quran states: "When their brother Lot said to them: Will you fear God?

"Of all the creatures in the world you approach males, And leave those who God has created for you as wives? But you are a transgressing people."

They said: "O Lot, if you do not desist, you shall surely be expelled."

He said: "I truly detest what you do, My Lord rescue me and my family from what they are doing."

"So we rescued him and family all together, Except an old woman who was among those who stayed behind. Then We utterly destroyed the others, And we rained down upon them a rain and evil is the rain of those who are warned.

"Surely there is a Sign in this, but most of them are not believers." (Ch. 26:161-174)

"The Muslim community therefore appeals to all members of the National Assembly to respond to our call to revisit and revoke this section of the Bill in interest of the moral, spiritual and material well being of our entire nation," the statement said.

Catholic Bishop of Guyana, Benedict Singh, said some Christians are vigorously opposing this element in the amended Constitution on the grounds that it is an "official endorsement and national approval of sexual perversion".

Bishop Singh, in a pastoral letter read in all the churches of the Diocese, said when dealing with questions that generate strong emotions, "we need to be careful and precise with our choice of language".

"First, we must note that what is at issue here is not discrimination against homosexuality but discrimination against `persons' who are homosexuals."

Bishop Singh said "we need to remind ourselves that as Christians we are called to oppose every kind of discrimination against persons. We are called to reach out to all minorities and especially to those who find themselves in a minority they did not choose..."

The Catholic Bishop pointed out that one is aware of the view held by some that homosexual persons choose their sexual orientation and they are accountable for it.

"It is true that there are persons who can be said to have a sexual preference over which they have some control," he said.

The Bishop noted that one thinks of some of those individuals termed bisexual, who find themselves sexually attracted to both men and women.

"Most of us, whether we find ourselves sexually attracted to the opposite sex or our own sex, did not choose one or the other: we simply discovered that that is how we are," he said.

According to him, homosexual persons are sexually attracted solely to their own gender. There is strong evidence that their orientation is fixed early in life (in many cases before birth), and it is totally outside of their control.

The Bishop said experience has taught that no therapy or counselling can change it.

According to him, "many homosexuals have been taught by their families, churches, schools and society at large to hate or reject all homosexuals and, therefore, themselves.

"They have the poorest of self-images: realising that they are despised by others, they have learned to despise themselves (and) many live in constant fear of being found out by their contemporaries."

Bishop Singh appealed that "as Christians, we are called by the Lord to love our neighbour including our homosexual neighbour."

"They are our brothers and sisters, children with us of the one Father. We do not show them that we regard them as brothers and sisters if we do nothing to remove the discrimination which they undoubtedly suffer," he said.

He pointed out that in society at large - and in the church - there are homosexual men and lesbian women who lead useful and virtuous lives.

"Many of them show an active concern for justice and for the plight of the needy which is an example to all of us (and) in the face of the discrimination they encounter, some of them can be described as truly heroic."

Bishop Singh noted that some allege that to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is to "open the flood-gates" to all kinds of "corrupt and ungodly sexual practices".

"Undoubtedly, if this amendment stands as it is and its effects are worked out, we Christians will have to define and proclaim our beliefs and moral standards with regard to sexuality and we will not fear to do so," he said.

"We do believe that God Himself is the author of marriage in which a man and a woman `are no longer two but one' and we believe that the act of sexual intercourse is the highest expression of that unity," he added.

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