Derwayne M. Wills
- 19 Posts
- Age 25
The massacre of 49 persons at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida builds on the conversation of violence meted out to members of the LGBT community. Here in Guyana, no effort was spared by politicians to condemn the mass-shooting in Orlando. But my leaders are yet to tell me what is the way forward.
Guyana's government official responsible for citizen well-being, Volda Lawrence, condemned the shooting saying it is difficult to see such biases "in this era of freedom of expression and tolerance for sexual preferences." She underscored the need to put measures in place to eliminate “violence in all forms" and "eliminate all aspects of radical and extreme behaviour.”
Governments have a responsibility to ALL their citizens and my government is no exception. Recognising and eliminating anti-LGBT violence means destroying the institutional framework that encourages violence, and working with the marginalised LGBT community to guarantee their unfettered access to justice.
In the presence of bigoted laws, state funds are utilised to foster a system of persecution and exclusion. The outpour of solidarity with the LGBT community in the wake of Orlando was and is greatly appreciated. Such solidarity must be matched by a conscientious effort of the powers-that-be to change anti-LGBT laws, and to challenge anti-LGBT violence however it manifests itself.
Guyana’s anti-LGBT laws exist in tandem with a plethora of similar legislative arrangements across the Caribbean. The highest Court in the Caribbean, based in Trinidad and Tobago, recently ruled against a case brought by Jamaican lawyer, Maurice Tomlinson, who fought to have anti-LGBT laws struck from the books in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago.
Tomlinson argued that the immigration acts of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, which empowered the rejection of Caricom nationals on grounds of their sexual orientation, violated provisions for free movement in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Caricom (Caribbean Community) is the caribbean equivalent of the European Union, and my country is one of Caricom’s four founding members.
Tomlinson aptly cintended in Court that the mere existence of these laws challenged his right, as a gay man, to free movement in these two countries which are part of the 15-member Caricom body. The Court however felt that Tomlinson could not prove the laws were utilised by either Belizean or Trinbagonian authorities, since he was never barred entry from either of those countries.
The Orlando massacre happened thousands of miles away from Guyana, but its resonance here showed strength of a global community condemned for living its truth. The massacre was an attempt to create fear and suspicion in safe spaces which are sanctuaries for pride expression, especially in countries where such expression is unwelcome.
At the state level, an overhaul of Guyana’s bigoted institutional
framework is a must. When Guyana reflects on lessons learned from
Orlando, our greatest achievement must be the liberation of LGBT
identity from prospects of state-sanctioned violence. Taxpayers
money must not be used to prop up homophobia. And if my country's
leaders are content with condemning the massacre in the absence
of concrete forward-thinking measures, then they have reduced my
country to a duplicitous reactionary nation capitalising on
optics and political grandstanding.