CCJ declares Guyana’s cross-dressing law unconstitutional

November 13, 2018 in Regional

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Tuesday ruled as “unconstitutional” a law in Guyana that makes it a criminal offence for a man or a woman to appear in public while dressed in clothing of the opposition sex.

The CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, said that the law, Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, is to be struck from the laws of country and that costs are to be awarded to the appellants in the appeal before it and the lower courts.

In 2009, several trans women were arrested and convicted under the 1893 Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act of the offence of being a “man” appearing in “female attire” in public for an “improper purpose”.

They spent three nights in police detention in Georgetown after their arrest for the minor crime. One year later, McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) brought an action challenging the constitutionality of the law and the treatment of the appellants during the legal process.

At the time of arrest, McEwan was dressed in a pink shirt and a pair of tights and Clarke was wearing slippers and a skirt. A few hours later, Fraser and Persaud were also arrested by the police and taken to the Brickdam Police Station.

At the time, they were dressed in skirts and were wearing wigs. While in custody, Fraser requested legal counsel, medical attention, a telephone call and that the police take a statement.

However, the court heard that those requests were not granted and that McEwan, Clarke, Fraser and Persaud spent the entire weekend in police custody and they did not receive any explanation as to why they had been arrested and detained.