Women's Issues In Guyana

Female Parliamentarians discuss sexual violence

Kaieteur News – January 19, 2008
by Danielle Campbell

Participants who attended the first-ever Female Members of Parliament (MP) Conference, recently, said they are committed to the fight against sexual predators and their devastating clasp on society.

The decision-makers were at the time offering their take on the “Stamp it Out” proposals pioneered by Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand.
The paper was compiled by the Ministry of Human Services and is aimed at revamping the laws against sexual violence and strengthening protection for victims.
The women congregated last Wednesday at Cara Lodge, on Quamina Street, for the discussions held under the theme, “Women of One Cause”.

Among the attendees were PNCR legislators Deborah Backer, Clarissa Riehl, Africo Selman, Amna Ally and Volda Lawrence; former Human Services Minister Bibi Shaddick; Amerindian Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues; Indra Chandarpal; Minister within the Ministry of Finance Jennifer Webster; Philomena Sahoye-Shury; and AFC member, Sheila Holder.

Holder said that sexual crimes are on the rise in Guyana and appear to be taking over society. She said that in addressing sexual crimes, the paper failed to recognise the significance of causal factors.

According to Holder, studies should be done to examine the root cause of sex crimes and the reason they abound. “When we understand this, only then will we be able to move objectively and put a handle on this situation.”

The parliamentarian observed that victims have suffered long enough at the hands of a defunct judicial system. She said that a drastic degree of stringent measures must be implemented to curb this societal ailment.

Echoing Holder’s sentiments, Backer noted that a crime begins long before the act is committed. She pointed out that societal influences and a person’s upbringing are factors that fuel criminal dispositions.

Backer stated that the cycle of crime continues when there is a lack of rehabilitation.
“The crime does not begin when someone snatches a chain; we must examine the influences and when these persons go to prison, if there is no rehabilitation, they return to society to repeat the act or commit even worse crimes,” Backer said.

The PNCR frontbencher called on corporate entities to be more active in the fight against sexual violence. Backer suggested approaching corporate bodies to sponsor post-graduate studies in data analysis and research.

Lawrence added that Guyana’s legislation must include penalties for women who provide false information. She remarked that rape allegations are the surest way to punish a man when relationships fall away.

Lawrence admonished that the new laws must show no indication of being geared against men. According to Lawrence, the trend of victims being prone to compensatory settlements rather than a conviction must also be discouraged.

She suggested the monitoring and documenting of sex offenders who may relocate from one area to another. Lawrence added that legislators must also recognise the important role of the media, since most victims gravitate to media houses before police stations.

During the discourse, the parliamentarians cited many examples of young girls who were raped or molested. The Sade Stoby case did not escape notice. Minister Manickchand said that the paper needs the support of women’s voices since there are many social issues which affect them.

She said the conference is an initial effort to assemble female parliamentarians with a view to discussing issues of social concern to women.

The Minister said the forum was a much needed break from the custom of fighting each other in Parliament.

Guyana’s laws relating to sexual offences were adopted from the British in 1894 and have not been updated since.

Some of the proposed changes in the Paper is the abolition of Preliminary Inquiries (PI), the introduction of integrated services (police, hospital, counselling), and the establishment of a Sex Offences Court.

The “Stamp it Out” consultations were launched in October and have seen more than 50 public discussions countrywide.


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