Trans sex workers and supporters picket police inaction in drive-by shooting probe

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Members of the Guyana Trans United (GTU) took to the area outside the Brickdam police station last week picketing against the inaction of the police in delivering justice to the four trans sex workers who were victims in a drive-by shooting.

GTU was supported by members of the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) as well as other NGOs and individuals sympathetic to the plight of the sex workers.

On April 7, four trans women came under the attack of pellet bullets while plying their trade at the corner of King Street and North Road. Seon Persaud, commonly known as Isabella and another individual identified as Nick were injured in the drive-by shooting. According to the women, they were faced with hostility while attempting to report the matter to the police station and when they attempted to seek medical attention from the Georgetown Public Hospital.

Present at the picketing was Deputy Superinten-dent N Timmerman of ‘A’ Division, who assured the protestors that the matter is being investigated. When contacted, he said “files were prepared and sent to the DPP.” He continued, “[We] will address the matter, it is not that nothing is happening.”

Spokesperson for SASOD Joel Simpson, commenting on the matter, said he believed this was in fact a case of delayed justice as it has been over a month and no one has been officially charged. He related that even though the police were provided with the registration number of the bus involved in the shooting, they are yet to officially identify the driver and charge him. This stance was reiterated by Cracey Fernandes, Director of Global Network of Sex Work Projects as well as the Co-Chairman of the Guyana Sex work Coalition. Fernandes said it was his view that the police are allowing their transphobia to take precedence over their duties to the people. He stated “The police try to penalize people because they have the power to do.” According to him, in cases where transgender individuals are accused, the matters are dealt with swiftly and often unfairly. He related that this is one of those very rare instances where there is actually evidence of the crime, yet nothing is being done. “We have to be very careful cause people can just come out and shoot people… anyone can come out and hurt us,” Fernandes lamented. He bemoaned that the people of the trans community have been “psychologically damaged” by the ongoing violence against the community.

According to Simpson, “There are good senior officers who are willing to deal with and treat matters professionally. The problem is with the junior ranks who are transphobic and homophobic. They have an ethical conflict because they want to do their job but their prejudices against the LGBT community is preventing that.” He believes that to counter the quandary there should be “systematic training embedded into the police officers” on how to approach matters of the nature. He said that this system should be implemented from the inception in the Felix Austin Police Training College.

This article originally appeared Stabroek News here. The language has been slightly modified.