Banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

What the people say about...
By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
February 5, 2001

Do you agree with the wording of the constitutional amendment banning discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation? This was the question we asked the man/woman-in-the-street after the amendment, passed previously by parliament was not assented to by President Bharrat Jagdeo. It has been returned to Parliament because of objections from some sections of the religious community. Their views follow:

Helen Greene - housewife: `I do not agree with the wording of the bill because it licenses anyone to do anything with the law protecting them. I do not believe that there should be laws to protect those people whose habits are against the norms of society. Giving people rights based on their sexual orientation will only make things like homosexuality more prevalent in our society. I for instance would not employ a person to look after my children knowing that, that person is a lesbian. I think she would be bad for my child especially my girl child. It would also be worse if she had a teacher who is a homosexual.'

Rawle `Tyson' Cole - national rugby player/private sector employee: 'I am not against the wording of the bill, that is to protect persons against discrimination based on their sexual orientation. I think it is fair as all of us are human beings. We should not shun or discriminate against one another or that may be to the detriment of our already divided society. If we cannot respect each other for what we are then the law should be there to ensure that. I am not an advocate for the homosexual society but I believe that crimes, and crimes of a sexual nature, are committed when a person does not consent to have sex. In that case if anyone does not adhere to these laws once they are heterosexual or homosexual then the arms of the law should deal with them. There are other laws in society which will ensure a balance.'

Elke Rodrigues - private sector employee: 'The country's laws should in no way debar a person his or her right because of his or her sexual orientation, because it may be because of a freak of nature that some people are born the way they are. No one must say who and who should enjoy a sexual relationship. That should be a mutual understanding between whoever are involved--be it man and man, woman and woman or woman and man. There should be no laws barring persons from the type of relationships they want to enjoy. Society is not stagnant and we have to adapt to changes.'

Veronica Bagot - housewife: 'I totally disagree with the wording of the constitution because it will encourage lawlessness. Things I feel will get out of hand and out of control if the law makes provision for homosexuals as well. Instead of protecting homosexuals under a blanket law for everyone, I think that there should be laws to keep them away from society... jail them.'

Afrose Prasad - secondary school student: 'Yes, the bill calling for the protection of persons against discrimination based on his or her sexual orientation should remain as it is. I strongly feel that the law should be there to protect everyone regardless of his or her sexual preference or sexual orientation because humans are humans. If someone chooses to be that way or was born that way there is not much that can be done about changing their sex and because of this they too must be protected. I do not see the big fuss being made about homosexuals and homosexual relationships and basing it on religious books. If this is the case then there should be laws against fornication as well.'

Zaheera Haniff: 'I have not studied the subject but I believe that all people are entitled to enjoy certain rights as human beings. I think that homosexuals must have those rights but for now because we are accustomed to mocking them we would not want to change that habit overnight. However, we should still keep our private life to ourselves and should not be made to reveal who we are and who we are not but if needs be the law must be there to protect. It must be a constitutional right. We must be careful that in rewording the bill we might end up discriminating against homosexuals and find ourselves in some real problems.'

Wayne Farley - public servant: 'Yes the bill should be assented to as it is. Why should you discriminate against a man or a woman because of his or her orientation? Laws in other countries are changing to accommodate gays, I don't see why Guyana should be different when we will still have to take another look in the future to make provision for all citizens regardless of their sexual preference.'

Michael Benjamin - sports personality: 'The wording of the bill should be changed. It should be made to be more acceptable to society. Sexual orientation covers everyone including homosexuality. Homosexuality to me is not considered as something that is wholesome. I don't agree with the wording because it could encourage same sex marriages and that could pose a problem. Our society is not prepared for such things. It may be man's law but it is flying in the face of God's laws governing relationships. On the other hand I see no problem with homosexuals being given the right to employment and other rights in society but the right to same sex marriage I cannot agree with that.'

Keisha Mootoo - private sector employee: 'No, I do not agree with any law giving homosexuals the right to enjoy the rights of normal human beings. If we are looking at the morals in our society we have to look at it from the point of view of our religious teachings and God, according to the bible, does not approve of same sex unions. He blesses a man and woman union. Anything otherwise would be like Sodom and Gomorrah.'

Vivian Edwards - private sector employee: 'The bill should be assented to as it is by the President. I do not see the fuss as I feel that no one should be discriminated against because they prefer a woman/woman relationship or a man/man relationship. If we have to accept that people have a right to be gay or not to be gay then we must contemplate laws to protect them as everyone else. Right now we have lots of people hiding their relationships but making more contributions to society than the [straight] man or woman.'

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