… as SASOD launches paralegal servicesLocal LGBT advocacy group, the Society Against Sexual Orientation and Discrimination (SASOD), on Wednesday launched their Community Paralegal Services initiative. This initiative was launched owing to what they described as the lack of equal justice for persons in the LGBT community.Managing Director of SASOD, Joel Simpson noted that although the organisation has been informally providing legal aid to LGBT persons for many years, this programme will aim to provide legal representation and justice for persons in theManaging Director of SASOD, Joel Simpsonlesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.“So the intention of the initiative is to address the unmet needs of LGBT persons and to strengthen the capacity of vulnerable communities and act on their rights. We are trying to deal with a diverse range of problems which include inter-partner violence, societal discrimination, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse and family violence, civil society groups are an invaluable link to accessing justice,” Simpson explained.Meanwhile, President of Guyana Trans United (GTU), Devanand Milton, shared an experience which saw the need for him to receive legal representation through the Community Paralegal Services Initiative. Milton explained that in September 2017, he was in the process of entering a minibus at the 32-bus park when he encountered a most unfortunate experience.The GTU President was reportedly threatened by a bus driver who said, “If you know what is good for yourself you will come out this bus.” Milton continued to share saying, “Often times it is difficult for LGBT persons to get legal support and representation because we can’t afford it. With this initiative in place, vulnerable persons more, like me, now have access to qualified and trained advocates whoAttorney Mishka Purancan navigate us through the legal system.”The Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) is funding the programme. Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the CVC, Kristina Mena, said they received a collaborative three-year grant from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. She said the grant is being implemented in eight Caribbean countries mainly Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, The Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.“One of the key objectives of this grant is to improve the legal and policy environment to support the delivery of access to justice to key populations. One of the key actions under this programme is the community paralegal programme, the community paralegals would support clients in terms of providing outreaches in legal literacy and human rights documenting and reporting human rights violations using the shared instant database which is an online tool that was Caribbean developed to support documentation and reporting human rights breaches, pursuing redress for clients and providing referrals for pro bono lawyers and supporting strategic litigation,” she noted.Also working on the initiative is the Caribbean Lawyers for Social Justice (CariBono). Attorney Mishka Puran and steering committee member of CariBono noted that, “CariBono is a network of human rights lawyers and advocates dedicated to facilitating access to justice and legal services for members of vulnerable communities.” Additionally, she noted that there are five practicing attorneys in Guyana who are members of CariBono providing pro-bono services to SASOD’s Community Paralegal Services Initiative.
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