Nov 25, 2021 Letters
Kaieteur News – Newsroom has reported online, “Region One records significant increase in reports of statutory rape” (at https://newsroom.gy/2021/11/18/region-one-records-significant-increase-in-reports-of-statutory-rape/).
The report notes the work of the communities with NGO Blossom Inc. and the police to raise awareness of child sexual abuse in Region One. The report outlines an increase of 342 percent in reporting of sexual offences against children as a result of awareness raising and action in and by community members, Blossom Inc. and the Guyana Police Force.
The protection and prevention of every child from the trauma of sexual abuse is essential, and the duty and responsibility of every citizen of Guyana. We note the many children in Port Kaituma, Region One who have benefitted from collaborative action for their safety from sexual violence.
There is a need for clarification. There is no sexual offence in our Sexual Offences Act of 2010 called ‘statutory rape’. It is critical that language is clear and that our education and advocacy against sexual offences is aligned with the law. The police have noted the importance of educating communities about the law. The news report makes a reference to a definition of statutory rape as “non forcible sexual activity in which one of the individuals is below the age of consent” .This adjective “non-forcible” is nowhere used in the Act and opens the question as to what term is given to ‘forcible’ sexual activity.
The sexual offences against children in the SOA are addressed in sections 10 to 21 and there are clear definitions of those offences. The police should be making charges based on those offences. The offences include rape of a child under 16 years, sexual activity with a child under 16 years, causing a child under 16 years to watch a sexual act, meeting a child under 16 years following sexual grooming, with additional penalties for different circumstances. These offences recognise that coercion, guilting and grooming constitute a pattern of behaviour used by persons in power, trust and authority to abuse children and others who are vulnerable.
While we might want to assume that the police and other official sources should be credible, we realise that there is a lot of work which needs to be done to educate the police and others about the sexual offences.
In the meantime, the media might want to also do their own verification of the law and ethical guidelines for reporting on sexual offences.
Josephine Whitehead, Danuta Radzik – Help & Shelter
Nia Williams – Tamukke Feminists
Dr. Raquel Thomas – Citizens Against Rape
Karen de Souza
Halima Khan – Red Thread
Whanita Phillips – Former Toshao of Santa Rosa Village Region 1
Paulette Allicock – Coordinator Makushi Research Unit
Immaculata Casimero – Wapichan Women’s Movement
Nicholas Fredericks – Councillor Shulinab Village R9
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