Women's Issues In Guyana


Some 127 groups petition to reform Sexual Offences Act

Posted in Legislation by wiig on November 24, 2007
Tags: , , ,

Stabroek News – November 24, 2007

To date 127 non-governmental, civil society and religious organisations have called for major reforms to the Sexual Offences Act.

The reforms include a gender neutral definition of rape and for sentencing options to include compensation and rehabilitation.

A press release the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) issued in advance of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which will be observed tomorrow, listed organisations such as cooperative societies, community development groups, sports clubs; churches, mandirs, temples, mosques and other religious groups; youth groups, trades unions, orphanages, schools’ classes, old students organizations, citizens with disabilities and women’s groups as supportive of the proposed changes.

The major proposed reforms cover the reporting process, investigation and charge, procedures at court and evidence and sentencing. They call for changes in a number of areas, including abolishing marital rape exemption, specialized training for police and mandatory investigations into all allegations of sexual violence, a mandatory charge for child sex offences and a mandatory charge for child sex offenders.

Reforms proposed for procedures at court include replacing preliminary inquiries with paper-based committals; creating a sexual offences court; closing hearings; taking evidence by video link or behind a screen; allowing support persons in court; training for judges on cross-examination of victims, banning the accused from cross-examining the complainant, ensuring anonymity for the complainant and abolishing male-only juries.

As regards evidence and sentencing, the new reforms proposed are the inclusion of new child sex offences, new rules of determining competence, abolishing corroboration for complainants’ and children’s evidence, banning references to sexual reputation of complainants and any sexual history of complainants below 16 years, narrow discretion of judges to allow sexual history for adult complainants in certain circumstances, no inference to be drawn from delay in reporting, and new sentencing options such as compensation and rehabilitation and new sentencing guidelines.

The GHRA said that organisations interested in signing on to the petition can send an e-mail to ghra_guy@networksgy.com or contact the organization at telephone numbers 226-1789 or 227-4911.

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