As International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was observed yesterday, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) called for more to be done regarding the elimination of violence against women in Guyana, saying that despite the tendency to cite legal improvements intended to secure women’s rights, the gulf is widening between politics and the lived reality of women and girls.
A release from GHRA highlighted that sexual and physical exploitation and abuse of girl children and women remain the most pressing human rights violation in Guyana. It pointed out that a series of measures to protect women and girls remain unimplemented, among them, the establishment of procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of all child sexual abuse and exploitation cases. It said that the gap between laws on the books and implementation is growing.
GHRA stated that women’s access to rights contained in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), other international standards and local laws apply to every woman without any exception.
It said with the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, member states emphasised that violence against women stems from discrimination and inequality and that governments needed to put measures in place to prevent the various categories of violence against women, for example, within state institutions, in the economic and social arena, the family environment, within religious institutions as well as in the entertainment industry. In the declaration, indigenous and migrant women were seen as vulnerable groups needing special attention, and for the first time, domestic violence was recognised as a crime.
GHRA referred to evidence-based reports and all the news articles that reveal the various forms of violence including sexual, and physical exploitation and abuse meted out to women and girls.
It particularly highlighted recent reports of the negative impacts women are experiencing, both on the coast and in the interior, resulting from the gold rush, saying that, “Family and community life is under threat due to the absence of males in the mining fields. More responsibility is being thrown on women as homemakers and child nurturers as well as being burdened with maintaining kitchen gardens, farms and community “clean-ups”.
“A number of communities, for example, on the West and East Coast Demerara, in Essequibo, Berbice and interior locations are witnessing the results of increased cash flow from mining, that is, increased alcohol and drug consumption, mental illness, multiple partner relationships, breakdown of traditional marriages and higher levels of violence against women and young girls. The impact is still to be assessed in other economic and socio-health areas.”
GHRA stated that another increasing prevalent abuse is the trafficking of young women from the coast, other parts of the interior and even Brazil, under the guise of being employed as cooks, cleaners and consenting sex workers, to mining areas.
The organisation also disclosed that a recent meeting with female community leaders in Essequibo, revealed rising number of incidences of family violence, especially in the rural areas where women and girls are expected to be ‘first up and last to go to bed’.
Another disturbing issue raised at the meeting was the frequency with which male and female students visit the beaches during daylight hours at the lake-side communities of Mainstay and Capoey, under the guise of going to ‘extra lessons’ or skipping classes from some schools. It also mentioned the practice of older boys and men grooming young girls with the inducement of gifts like expensive cellphones.
The GHRA stated that there was no single formula or magic remedy to deal with violence against women, which has developed over centuries. It said that women in Parliament play a pivotal role. At a minimum, they should ensure relevant laws are being implemented, and be alert as to whether budgetary allocations are made or matched with requirements, in a transparent and accountable manner. They can also devise strategies to cooperate with independent civil society and grass roots organisations.
The human rights organisation made the call again for the implementation of the mandated task forces under the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offences Act in order to assist in the reduction of violence against women and girls.