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Guyana Strikes Down Outdated Transphobic Law

Guyana Strikes Down Outdated Transphobic Law

Enacted in 1893, it banned people from dressing in "clothing of the opposite sex." 

The Caribbean Court of Justice has struck down a law in Guyana that bans people from being in public places while "dressed in clothing of the opposite sex for an 'improper purpose.'" Part of the Section 153(1)(xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, the law was enacted in 1893. According to Gay Star News, it was developed as part of the country's post-emancipation vagrancy laws.

The Honourable President Mr. Justice Saunders was one of the justices to rule against the law, along with Justices Wit, Anderson, Rajnauth-Lee and Barrow. They found the law was outdated and contradicted Guyana's constitution, which prohibits discrimination.

"Law and society are dynamic, not static," said Justice Saunders. "A Constitution must be read as a whole. Courts should be astute to avoid hindrances that would deter them from interpreting the Constitution in a manner faithful to its essence and its underlying spirit... If one part of the Constitution appears to run up against an individual fundamental right, then, in interpreting the Constitution as a whole, courts should place a premium on affording the citizen his/her enjoyment of the fundamental right, unless there is some overriding public interest."

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