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Gov't deliberates changing buggery, death penalty laws

Published:Thursday | April 5, 2012 | 12:00 AM

GEORGETOWN (AP):

Guyana is launching a national debate on whether to eliminate its death penalty and overhaul laws that discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender people.

Town hall-style meetings will be held across the socially conservative South American country as part of a promise that Guyana made to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The government plans to analyse public opinion before deciding whether it will submit any bills to revise current laws.

"Government has no line or position on the gay-rights issue," Presidential Adviser Gail Teixeira told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We will hold the consultations, and if the recommendation is to change the laws, then that will be taken into consideration."

The death penalty is common across the Caribbean, as are laws against cross-dressing and gay sex.

The government said officials also plan to meet with leaders from Christian, Hindu and Islamic communities who represent Guyana's most prominent religions. Many religious leaders in the country oppose legalisation of homosexuality.

The independent Society Against Sexual Orientation and Discrimi-nation said it will campaign to remove what it says are extremely discriminatory colonial-era laws.

"It is making criminals out of ordinary people," spokesman Joel Simpson said, noting that under current law, two consenting male adults could face a minimum of two years in prison for having sex in the privacy of their home.