February 25, 2010 / 12:13 AM / 9 years ago

Transgender group seeks end to Guyana dress code laws

GEORGETOWN (Reuters) - A group of transgender people in Guyana have asked the country’s Supreme Court to strike down laws that leave them open to arrest following a police crackdown on cross-dressing.

Police in the small South American country, where both homosexuality and cross-dressing have been illegal for decades, detained and briefly held six people in jail on charges of cross-dressing last February.

The six were born male but identify as women and say police ridiculed them when they were taken before a judge and fined.

“It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I felt like I was less than human,” Seon Clarke, who was among those detained last year, said in a statement from Guyana’s Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) on Monday.

Clarke is also one of those who on Friday filed a motion for the Supreme Court to overturn the sexual orientation and dress laws. SASOD, which is representing the group, said it had assembled an international team of lawyers for the case.

The recent crackdown brought criticism from international rights groups, and drew attention to similar laws that make homosexual activity and cross-dressing a crime in many of the Caribbean region’s former British colonies.

The Supreme Court has not said whether it will hear the case.

Guyanese law prohibits men from appearing in public in female attire, and vice versa. The law appears in a section of Guyana’s legal code that also makes homosexuality a crime.

An effort to overturn the laws has been opposed by Guyana’s powerful Christian, Hindu and Muslim clergy and has gained little traction with the government.

Reporting by Neil Marks in Georgetown; Writing by Joshua Schneyer; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Paul Simao

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