Dec 01, 2008 News
…represents highest number of Legal Aid cases
Most persons seeking legal aid services are those that want to terminate their marriages.
Statistics from the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic (GLAC) Georgetown Office show that 510 persons were interviewed regarding divorce matters between January and September of this year.
Of that figure, 409 persons were represented and 101 were given advice only.
The GLAC has dealt with divorce matters more than any other case type.
Last year, divorce was one of the most dealt with case types. According to GLAC, they interviewed 646 persons overall during 2007. The clinic represented 446, gave advice only to 179, and 21 were found ineligible for legal aid service.
It was revealed that divorce is quite prevalent in society, and it continues to rise. Other prevalent case types dealt with by the GLAC include domestic violence, custody, and access. This newspaper understands that GLAC interviewed 132 persons concerning domestic violence, represented 38 and gave advice alone to 94.
Statistics for custody and access cases show that the GLAC interviewed 123 persons, represented 52, advised 70 and found one person ineligible for legal aid.
There has been a lot of talk recently about having ‘no-fault divorces’ instituted in Guyana.
Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, has held a series of consultations on her proposed introduction of the new type of divorce.
The consultations were well attended and saw representation from groups such as the Family Commission, the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL), the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), Red Thread, Help and Shelter, as well as representatives of the religious community, among others.
The main criticism of the proposal was the fact that the new legislation would erode family values.
However, the minister posited that there is need for an open, national debate on ways and means of preserving family values.
According to Manickchand, when all else fails to keep the family values intact, there needs to be a way to amicably dissolve the marriage.
She added that there needs to be legislation to facilitate good post-divorce relations, especially when there are children involved.
For decades, lawyers have struggled to convince judges, using the present Matrimonial Causes Act (Divorce Law) that was first enacted on December 30, 1916, that there was reasonable ground for a married couple to be granted a divorce.
Under the current legislation, lawyers find it difficult to prove that one spouse was wrong or guilty of causing the relationship to come to an end.
When this could not be achieved, and after spending significant sums of money, two persons bound by law as husband and wife would be forced to live their lives miserably, and possibly endure consistent physical, verbal and emotional abuse.
This prompted Minister Manickchand to seek to update the archaic law, which was last amended in 1953.
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