War Against Women in Guyana

 

Shot, hacked, beheaded, stabbed, burnt, strangled, drowned, mercilessly beaten, chopped like fish… Guyana’s women are being brutalised and murdered and there is a little more than a ripple from the political establishment or the movers and shakers of society. These women are victims of “crimes of passion”, home invasions, sexual assaults, alcoholic rages, misplaced macho mind-sets and isolation/neglect by families and society.

Guyana’s Second Periodic Report to Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) concludes that “violence against women is widespread in Guyana,” and cites a 1998 survey of 360 women in Greater Georgetown as evidence. The survey found that, “Out of more than 60 per cent of women who were involved in a relationship or union, 27.7 per cent reported physical abuse, 26.3 per cent had experienced verbal abuse and 12.7 per cent experienced sexual violence. Approximately half of the surveyed women responded that one of the likely causes of their abuse was jealously (55.4 per cent) or “hot temper”. Nearly four of every five respondents perceived violence in the family to be very common in Guyana (76.8 per cent). More than one in three knew someone who was currently experiencing domestic violence (35.5 per cent).

Between January and September 2006, Help and Shelter handled 297 cases involving spousal abuse directed against women. They reported, 306 cases involving spousal abuse directed against women. In 2009, they reported 544 cases of domestic violence. A disturbing 61 per cent of these cases were spousal abuse. Also, the organisation reported 300 cases of domestic violence for the period January 1, 2010 – June 30, 2010, 48 per cent of which were spousal abuse cases.

At the end of 2008, the Guyana Police Force confirmed that it had received and investigated 2,811 reports of domestic violence in the policing divisions throughout the country. Of this number, only 579 persons were charged and placed before the courts, while 299 cases were referred to the Probation and Family Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security. The Police also stated that in 1,609 cases, persons were “warned” at the request of the victims. Investigations were said to be continuing in other reports. What is heartbreaking is that the actual level of domestic violence will never truly be realised, as many cases of violence against women go unreported and undocumented. According to the Stabroek News (Jan 17, 2012) “…domestic violence, and particularly the abuse of women by their male partners, is among the most common and dangerous forms of gender-based violence. Women become targets by virtue of their relationship to the male abuser and the violence is inflicted on them usually, but not exclusively, within the home. Media reports also place the domestic violence rate as anywhere between 50 per cent and 66 per cent but some activists argue that it could even be higher given that domestic violence continues to be seen as personal, private or a family matter with its purpose and consequences often hidden. Besides, domestic violence is frequently portrayed as justified punishment or discipline in what is still a male-centric society Against this background there is the urgent need for a serious action plan to counter what the Minister George Norton rightfully termed a human rights issue. These should include:

* encouraging education, including directing professional development towards helping teachers to better support diverse learning styles and levels of academic preparation, provide vibrant and diverse opportunities for girls’ leadership, frame learning experiences within projects that strongly incorporate individual inquiry, teamwork, and concrete, real-world applications and address behaviours that reflect intense personal challenges;

* eliminating poverty and introducing equitable investment in programmes and support for girls and young women;

* eliminating the conditions that have led to Guyana’s exceedingly high rate of maternal deaths;

* ensuring that all medical institutions have adequate amounts of rape kits, as well as conducting timely DNA tests;

* continuing to focus on trafficking in persons and applying the full force of the law on perpetrators;

* engaging females as co-authors of solutions to the challenges they face in their lives and developing gender-specific and gender-competent programming to meet their needs;

* expanding school-based sexual education programmes to provide better options and support to girls whose situations put them at particularly high risk of coerced, unwanted, or premature pregnancy and parenting.

Tackling gender-based violence must remain an ongoing endeavour that must gradually incorporate all stakeholders. In this respect TCV and the almost forty partners, urge all stakeholders and activists to raise the focus on gender-based violence as we embark on Voices Against Violence Anti-Domestic Violence Month in November.

To be involved, please email caribvoice@aol.com, IM us on our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/suicideepidemic) or call us at 718-542-4454 (USA) or in Guyana at 644 1152/646 4669 (Nazim) or 662-2161/ 677-3597 (Sixtus).