Concerns raised over hate crimes in Guyana
The Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) has called for hate crime laws to be instituted here as it warned that such crimes are very real, a serious problem and a reality for many on a daily basis in Guyana.
Speaking at a news conference to launch its report on hate crimes in the country, GEF managing director, Joel Simpson, told reporters that in the absence of hate crime laws, the Forum found it difficult to garner statistical data on hate crimes that were committed based on one’s race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. However, he said there is strong evidence to suggest that hate crime is a major issue.
“We definitely saw an upshoot during the study period of hate crimes relating to race and ethnicity, and chapter one gives the examples, ‘the Henry boys’, Haresh Singh [and] the retaliatory murders. So, we saw that in more prominent ways that you haven’t seen since we have gotten out of that elections cycle,” Simpson said.
The Henry cousins and Singh were murdered in September 2020 and Simpson said evidence suggests that race-related hate crimes escalated towards the end of the 2020 controversial general and regional elections.
The three-part report was released three days after Guyana observed International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The report provides a situational analysis on hate crime in Guyana, taking into account the causes of such crimes, and how hate crime legislation could help to prevent them from happening.
DISCRIMINATORY BELIEF SYSTEMS
According to the report, hate crimes are motivated by discriminatory belief systems, such as racism, patriarchal sexism, homophobia and transphobia. It said these ideologies regard certain groups as superior, in contrast with inferior, alienated or minority groups within society.
Simpson said for LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups in Guyana including indigenous peoples, it is almost a daily occurrence.
“Where LGBTIQ issues are concerned it is very hard to tell because there tends to be so much under-reporting that I am very cautious about saying that because we are getting more reports or because the media is highlighting it more, that there is an increase.
“I think hate crimes against LGBTIQ people and [though] they don’t necessarily result in murder, but there is the issue of harassment. For LGBTIQ people that’s an everyday reality,” he said.
Attorney Rosemary Benjamin-Noble explained that while Article 149 of the Constitution provides for the protection of the individual from discrimination on several grounds including race, disability, sex, gender and religion, it does not explicitly refer to sexual orientation or gender identity.
She said also that while there is no dedicated hate crime legislation in Guyana, some offences which are akin to hate crime or hate speech can be found in several pieces of legislation.