Jul 04, 2016 News
Imagine watching a movie where a young girl is being raped by her own father during the day and then sold off to older men at nights.
Or one where an underprivileged teen was tricked by someone she trusted and taken far away from home and then forced into prostitution.
These are the types of scenes that bring tears and not only are they featured in movies but they are all too real, happening right here in Guyana, and mostly in the hinterland regions
Vulnerable women are being led to believe that decent jobs await them in areas far from their homes only to discover that they had been deceived all along.
With nowhere to go or no money to buy food, these girls are then forced into prostitution. Sometimes, their identification cards and other personal belongings are held captive until they (girls) serve “their purpose”.
But just as movies have a hero, there is one woman who has dedicated her time to helping Trafficking in Persons (TIP) victims.
She is Shenay Castello, a Guyana Police Force (GPF) Corporal. She has been in the Police Force for the past 10 years and is the subordinate officer in charge of the Force’s TIP unit. She has been in this field for the past three years.
She stops at nothing to bring justice to the TIP victims and putting the bad guys, and in some cases women, away.
Guyana’s TIP Act says human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, or the giving or receiving of payment or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation, sexual or otherwise.
Because of the hard work of Corporal Castello and that of other agencies, Guyana is no longer on the “Tier 2 Watch List,” but is now on the “Tier 2” stage.
This was disclosed in the annual TIP report published by the United States Department of State.
The “Tier 2 Watch list” is characterized by countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
These countries have an alarmingly high number of victims; the number is significantly rising and there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons (TIP).
On the other hand, “Tier 2” is categorized by “Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
This improvement in ranking takes Guyana closer to being a Tier 1 state, which is a nation found to be in full compliance with the TVPA’s minimum standards.
“I would say that this is because of the outstanding work done by the Trafficking in Persons Unit, Guyana Police Force in collaboration with the Counter Trafficking in Persons Unit, Ministry of Social Protection, Guyana Women Miners Organization along with other stakeholders who has placed a lot of emphasis in dealing with trafficking in Persons cases in Guyana over the years,” Corporal Castello said.
Now that the country has moved up in the US annual report, Castello is determined to work harder to push Guyana further.
For the year 2015, 18 reports of Trafficking in Persons were made to the police of which 19 victims were under 18 years.
Of these cases, nine charges of TIP were instituted with five other charges arising from the said reports; one of which was rape. These cases are presently in the courts.
So far, one conviction was obtained for 2015.
For this year, 18 reports were made, of which 17 victims are under 18. One case of Trafficking in Person has been made so far, while four other charges arising from the said reports were instituted.
Castello is the leading officer in all these cases and she admitted to being emotional when interviewing the victims. Some of these cases even bring tears to her eyes.
Commenting on her performance, Crime Chief, Wendell Blanhum said that since Castello has taken over as the subordinate officer in charge of the TIP Unit, she has been working extensively to enforce the TIP legislation.
“We are still a far way in terms of enforcing the laws but we have been giving human trafficking some priority. We have trained a number of detectives recently, six of them were trained in Jamaica and they came back and what we decided is that they are going to facilitate training to investigators and general duty policemen so that they (too) can detect certain instances where trafficking in persons may be occurring.”
Most TIP cases are forwarded to the police by the Ministry of Social Protection and other agencies for investigations to be launched.
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