Women's Issues In Guyana

An unendurable shame

Posted in Commentary,Crimes against Women by wiig on March 16, 2006
Tags: , , ,

Kaieteur New – March 16, 2006

It is an unendurable shame that the scourge of violence against women continues to plague Guyana year after year, with no end in sight and with no sustained public outcry against it, especially from women.

According to a recent report by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, the year 2005 was one of ‘business as usual’ for the males who violently abuse women in Guyana. The report released this month came to the quite predictable conclusion that violence against women in this country, including domestic violence, continued to be widespread, crossing racial and socio-economic lines last year, as it was in every previous year in recent memory.

The findings in the US report are important because they substantiate, by way of detailed facts and figures, the chronic inability of Guyanese women to protect themselves from violence. The report also points to the corresponding failure of the relevant social institutions to protect women from violence and to provide adequate support services for female victims of violence. How much longer will Guyanese society continue to tolerate this deplorable state of affairs?

It is not likely that any Guyanese would be surprised to know that violence against women is widespread, but many would be startled to know how high the prevalence level has become in recent years. For example, last year’s report found that just one organisation — Help and Shelter — dealt with 312 abuse cases in the first nine months of 2005, the vast majority of which involved spousal abuse against women. Other organisations also recorded a high incidence of such abuse.

According to the report, Guyanese women were subjected to all conceivable forms of violent abuse. They experienced child abuse, incest, spousal abuse, non-spousal abuse and every other domestic abuse. The brutal truth is that day in and day out Guyanese women are debased, harassed, stalked, forcibly confined, kidnapped, beaten, raped, tortured and murdered in this country.

One particularly disturbing aspect of the report was an ominous statement by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA). The GHRA notes that institutional resistance to the protection of women is a major contributing factor to the vulnerability of women to sexual and physical exploitation and abuse. Institutional resistance, the report states, occurs in all sectors of society, including law enforcement and the judiciary.

There is no question that such resistance has a long-term debilitating effect on women’s right to protection from violence and their right to seek legal redress when they are victims. The report states that, although increasing numbers of victims were reporting violent crimes to the authorities, these reports were often inadequately investigated and were very rarely prosecuted to the point of penalising the perpetrators.
Although Guyana’s legislature has various laws and penalties that specifically address violent abuse of females, these have been notoriously difficult to enforce. The report attributes this situation to glaring faults in the attitudes and actions of persons responsible for implementing such laws and penalties, especially those in law enforcement and the courts system.

The social problems that breed violence against women in Guyana are much too complex and deep-rooted for there to be a quick fix. But there is no good reason why our society should sit back and accept such a shameful paucity of forward movement by the relevant authorities and institutions towards the reduction of violence against women.

It is clear that Guyana will not make any meaningful headway in curbing violence against females unless there is a concerted and sustained outcry from all right-thinking Guyanese, particularly women.

Those who abhor this type of abuse must use every means at their disposal to mount a powerful and public protest against it that no one can ignore. They must call for a significant reduction in the incidence of violence against women within a specified time frame.
They must neither rest nor waver from their protest until they get satisfactory results.


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