The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled Tuesday that Guyana’s cross-dressing ban was unconstitutional.
The appeal was brought by Quincy McEwan and Seon Clarke, who were arrested in 2009 because McEwan was dressed in a pink shirt and a pair of tights along with a black hair piece and Clarke was wearing slippers, a jersey and a skirt. The men were not made aware of why they were arrested. When in magistrate court several days later they learned that the charged offenses were loitering and wearing female attire in a public place for “an improper purpose.”
The law, which was enacted in Guyana in 1893, was part of the vagrancy laws of the post-emancipation era. The CCJ found the law violated the rights of McEwan and Clarke. CCJ further stated that courts when interpreting the constitution, need to recognize when parts of it go against the fundamental rights of individuals.
CCJ President, Justice Saunders stated:
Difference is as natural as breathing. Infinite varieties exist of everything under the sun. Civilised society has a duty to accommodate suitably differences among human beings. Only in this manner can we give due respect to everyone’s humanity. No one should have his or her dignity trampled upon, or human rights denied, merely on account of a difference, especially one that poses no threat to public safety or public order. It is these simple verities on which this case is premised.
The CCJ held that section 153(1)(xlvii) of Guyana’s code is unconstitutionally vague and offends the rule of law. The court ordered that the section be struck from the laws of Guyana.