The landmark cross dressing case that has been the subject of much debate in Guyana came up in the Appeal Court on Wednesday but was quickly postponed until mid-October of this year.
The appeal hearing was rescheduled due to the failure of the legal counsel representing the Attorney General to prepare his cross appeal.
The appellants in the case are challenging the constitutionality of the law criminalizing cross-dressing in Guyana and had moved to the Appeal Court to seek clarity on a ruling handed down by former Chief Justice Ian Chang in which he said that that cross-dressing could not be considered a crime, unless it’s for an “improper purpose.”
The litigants’ argument is that the archaic law which was used by the police to charge them for cross dressing not only offends but is inconsistent with the new constitution.
Lead Counsel for the appellants, Attorney Nigel Hughes said the request for leave to file the cross appeal by the Attorney General was not opposed by the appellants.
Attorney Hughes noted that the Chancellor took issue to an academic publication that was co –authored by Dr. Arif Bulkhan from the University of the West Indies who is also a co-counsel for the appellants.
In that article, Dr. Bulkhan pronounced that the then Chief Justice Ian Chang’s decision to strike out the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) as a party was wrong.
“The Court raised whether it was appropriate to do that. We of course very strenuously opposed that position that was canvased by the Court,” Hughes said as he defended the expressed opinion.
It was back in September 2013 that the then acting Chief Justice had ruled that cross-dressing is not a crime, unless it’s for an “improper purpose.”
The litigants are challenging the vagueness of the Chief Justice’s ruling, as well as his decision to strike out SASOD as a valid litigant in the case.
Hughes said that his team is not taking the matter of the rights activist group being struck out lightly. He believes the Chief Justice erred in law when he made that decision and supported SASOD’s entitlement to be heard.
Given the far-reaching implications that this case has for human rights work in Guyana and the region, the University of the West Indies’ Faculties of Law Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) representative Tracy Robinson is also a co-counsel for the appellants.
Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh, Acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Brassington Reynolds, presided over this morning’s proceedings.
The next hearing is October 17.