Guyana Judge Clarifies Rule Against Cross-Dressing
A judge interpreting a colonial-era law has ruled that cross-dressing is a criminal offense only if it’s done for an "improper purpose" such as prostitution, but the partial victory has frustrated gay rights activists in Guyana who are pushing for the 120-year-old statute to be removed from the books.
On Sunday, a group called the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination said the constitutional court’s "dubious decision" means police can continue to arrest cross-dressers and transgender citizens in the South American country for ambiguous reasons. They plan to appeal the judgment.
The rare court challenge of the controversial 1893 law was filed by the rights group after several of its members were hauled before the courts and slapped with minor fines for wearing female clothing in 2009. The transgender litigants were born male but say they identify as female.
Reacting to the decision, Quincy McEwan, the director of transgender rights group Guyana Trans United, said the judge failed to define "improper purposes."
The litigants were apparently waiting for taxis when they were arrested for wearing female attire. When they appeared before the court the first time, a magistrate told them they were confused about their sexuality and should attend church and give their lives to Jesus Christ.
"The trans community is very worried and still fearful of arrests in light of this decision," said McEwan, one of the challenge’s litigants.