Women's Issues In Guyana


A woman’s lot is unpleasant, for now

Posted in Gender Equality,Law Enforcement by wiig on March 9, 2007
Tags: , , ,

Kaieteur News – March 9, 2007
Editorial

Yesterday, International Women’s Day came and with it, the grim reminder that women are still victims of just about every abuse under the sun. They are the victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse, domestic violence and even objects of discrimination.

In this male-dominated world, there was a time when the woman was merely an object. She was supposed to present herself to her spouse at his whims and fancy, raise any children that the union might produce and keep the surroundings clean. In some societies this is still the case.

India, considered the world’s largest democracy, is fighting to end certain practices that tend to reduce the status of women to little above chattel. For example, the practice of suttee (a now illegal act) is still considered by some to be the best thing to happen in the life of a woman whose husband dies before her. She is expected to join him on the funeral pyre since she is considered useless once the husband dies.

In parts of Africa, especially in Ethiopia, a girl, on attaining puberty, was expected to present herself to have her sexual organ sewed and remain that way until she is married. Some are circumcised since the woman is not expected to enjoy a sexual encounter.

The world is fast coming to realise that a woman is equal to her male counterpart although in some areas she is expected to receive less than a man who holds the same office.

Just this past month, some international sporting organisations opted to pay the same fee to women that they pay to the men. International tennis’ Wimbledon is most renowned among them.

In Guyana, there are some Amerindian communities that have ordained a specific pride of place for a woman. They are the ones who must fetch and prepare the meal hunted by the man.

But these women are also subjected to more abuse than any other in this country. A recent survey by the Guyana Human Rights Association revealed that the women of the Amerindian communities in Region One are three times more likely to be sexually abused than the women in Region Four, and even more likely than her counterpart in Region Ten, which also has its share of Amerindian communities.

But what is more tragic is that even as the world seeks to adjust the notion of a woman as a sex symbol, in Guyana, the men seem unwilling to change this. And to make matters worse they prey on those women who are still in the process of development.

“Amerindian women between the ages of 12 and 16 living in Region One are the most vulnerable group of females in Guyana.” If this is not a case that begs the attention of the wider society then something is wrong.

There is the view that the police in that part of Guyana could be more vigilant and that cases of sexual abuse are readily reported and pursued. If that is the case, then the Guyana Police Force needs to have those officers stationed in Region One emulated in wider Guyana.

The rate of prosecution in the other parts of the country is so low as to be ignored, although within past months, a greater number of people are coming forward with allegations of sexual assault.

The GHRA found that a whopping 92 per cent of the victims of sexual violence are women. This simply reinforces the view that women continued to be viewed as objects of sex and there appears to be nothing that they could do to change this.

This could have evolved from the situation in which women see themselves as being dependent on a man. One offshoot is the presence on some homes of children with different fathers. Another is the prevalence with which stepfathers rape the young women in the home.

Each year we address these issues but do little else. It took pressure from the United States to have us deal with the issue of human trafficking. But having done that, are we monitoring the situation? We think not.

For one thing, there are too many single-parent households headed by women. These women, in a country like ours where poverty levels are high, are at a great risk of sexual abuse and men, being who they are, would most likely sit back with an understanding nod.

We are slowly moving from the position where the police would be reluctant to become involved in domestic disputes on the grounds that they are ‘husband and wife’ affairs. Our decision-makers are jailing the male abuser but we are still lagging in the extent to which we should prosecute them.

Many women are reluctant to file complaints because of the apparent reticence of the men who must administer the system. This must change, and we suspect it will, very soon.

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