Indifference to sexual violence against women and girls reflect the day-to-day combination of ignorance, inefficiency and corruption demonstrated by the agencies responsible for the administration of justice.
This was one of the concerns raised during the Second Quarterly Meeting of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) which was held last Saturday.
According to the GHRA, the situation is not only a problem of ‘bad apples’ and corrupt individuals, but is systemic and institutionalised violation.
In a statement issued yesterday, the local human rights body pointed to the new and updated legislation which came into being in Guyana (and most other countries) due to pressure and influence mobilised by sectors of the society with an interest in the issue.
The GHRA noted that in the case of reform of Sexual Offences legislation, the issue was driven by a strong coalition of civil society mobilised by organisations such as the GHRA, Red Thread and Help & Shelter in conjunction with the Ministry of Human Services.
However, since the beginning of this year, the momentum behind the reform has been hampered by the unwillingness of the government to make the draft legislation available to civil society.
The GHRA added that for the past eight months efforts to secure copies of the draft by the GHRA have been met with the excuse that it is at the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
It was noted that parallel with government’s indifference to approving the reformed legislation, front pages of newspapers, including the state media, have maintained daily revelations of sexual offences committed during 2009.
Nauseating as these cases may be, the GHRA pointed out, it must be taken into account that they represent only a fraction of the actual violence taking place against women and girls.
It noted that two recent well-publicised sexual offences involving schoolgirls only attracted charges because of media publicity.
In neither case was the charge related to the actual sexual offences because the current sexual offences laws do not cover grooming.
“If you are raped, you won’t get satisfaction from the police; if by a miracle your case gets to the High Court, can the understaffed DPP’s office prosecute your case effectively? Is the judge likely to be moved by any of this prejudice against female victims?
“The message to females in Guyana 2009 is that you don’t matter enough and the message to rapists is – feel free to ‘do wha you want’,” the GHRA statement said.
The Executive Committee of the GHRA has agreed to write to the Director of Public Prosecution concerning a number of recent sexual violence cases not being properly addressed.
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