A hate crime report is currently being finalised by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) in collaboration with the Human Dignity Trust, highlighting a need for comprehensive legislation protecting vulnerable groups.
The report, titled “A Situational Analysis on Hate Crimes in Guyana,” will be officially published later this year with a breakdown of the prevalence of hate crimes in Guyana and recommendations for legislation and policy reform needed to protect better persons affected.
Managing Director at SASOD Joel Simpson said, “We wanted to collect the evidence that exists of hate crimes that have already occurred and that are already documented with a view to analysing what the policy and legislative prescriptions could be to address those hate crimes.”
This report was commissioned in early 2021 in collaboration with the UK-based organisation Human Dignity Trust.
The research for this study was conducted by way of a two-fold data collection process.
The first part of this was a desk review where SASOD reached out to a number of organisations who work on issues in of discrimination and violence concerning race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality for existing reports of incidences locally.
The second part encompassed a media scan of what reports of incidents exist in local newspapers and interviews with “key informants,” including civil society advocates, academics, and other stakeholders.
“So we didn’t need to do a survey per se for the purposes which we set out the research because we want our research to inform policy and legislation.”
Simpson added that another key preliminary finding was the need for local standardisation of the term “hate crimes” to increase awareness of the issue.
“For even across civil society, the criminal justice system and so on – people don’t use the term hate crimes, nor do they use it consistently with the same meaning. So we are also putting forward a definition that we could use in the Guyanese context, as part of the policy work we want to do.”
The United States National Institute of Justice defines a hate crime as a distinct category of crimes that have a broader effect than most other kinds of crimes because the victims are not only the crime’s immediate target but also others like them. Simpson added that locally most of these crimes are rooted in prejudice on the basis of gender.
“And we recommended that women’s organisations, women’s rights groups and LGBTI groups work more closely together on hate crimes of that nature. Because, at the root of it, was really heteropatriarchy which drives these crimes of prejudice which say women aren’t equal to men or that say LGBTI people are not equal to their cisgender heterosexual counterparts.”
The only current legislation in place to address hate crimes is the Racial Hostility Act, which is restricted to protecting persons who are subject to hostility or ill-will on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
An Act to make provision for preventing conduct tending to excite violence against persons by reason of their race.
“We’re considering that more comprehensive legislation might be needed than what we already have in Guyana.”