Up-to-date figures are not readily available for Guyana, but over the last three years or so there have been at least eight reported cases of elderly women found murdered, almost all of them after being raped. The latest such victim was a 74-year-old pensioner at Richmond on the Essequibo Coast home earlier this month.
In fact sexual violence crimes against women in Guyana are escalating; a rise of one-third in rape reports (117 to154) occurred between 2000-2004 and a sixteen-fold rise in statutory rapes (2 to 34). However the rape rate in 2010 was 15.5 per 100,000 which would translate into a 124 rapes for that year – an almost four-fold increase over 2004 figures. Also according to the Guyana Times from January to September 2014, police stats indicate that there were more than 140 cases of rape reported, while from January to July 2013, there were 179 reported cases.
Also a 2007 report by the Guyana Human Rights Association analyzed sexual crimes between 2000 and 2004 and found that 92% of all victims were females, 43% were in the twelve to fifteen age group, and 26% were in the one to twelve age group. It also found that Amerindian girls between 12 to 16 years were the most vulnerable group nationally.
Furthermore, while it is well known that rapes are vastly under-reported globally, moreso in nations where family honour prevents victims from reporting, in Guyana rape is still considered taboo, too shameful to be made publicly known and a significant percentage of rapes is incestuous. In fact the 2007 GHRA report found that more than two thirds of sexual assault crimes occurred in the homes of the victims, while three out of four perpetrators were known to victims and one in every five perpetrators were related to their victims.
And while there is legislation pertaining to rape, with the Sexual Offences Act being completed in 2012, the conviction rate is abysmally low for a number of reasons: lack of rape kits at hospitals, flimsy evidence, an inefficient jury system, shoddy prosecution of such cases, the reluctance of victims to give testimony, and the discontinuance of cases owning to the unwillingness of victims to pursue. In fact, in 2014, Guyana’s Attorney General, Anil Nandlall reported that there had been no convictions for sexual offences since 2011.
And according to a 2005 study done by the Guyana Human Rights Association, entitled ‘Without Conviction: Sexual Violence Cases in The Guyana Justice Process,’ Guyana only reached an average conviction rate of 1.4 per cent in rape cases.
From all of this emerge very disturbing trends. The rape/murder of the elderly is one such trend. Another is the rape, resulting in serious injuries, to small children less than 10 years old and as young as a few months old. The latest victim is an eight-year-old, raped by an uncle who, to date, has not been arrested. Meanwhile, even after the child underwent surgery because of extensive bleeding, the bleeding was not fully stopped. A third trend is the rape of teenagers, many of whom end up pregnant, forever changing their lives and often times putting an end to dreams and aspirations. In most cases sex may have been consensual, but the reality is that sex with anyone under 16 is statutory rape. And in many cases the victims are bought off, with police often fostering the ‘deal’ for commissions. Sometimes families are also bought off after being intimidated, especially if the rapist is politically connected or comes from a family with status and influence. In effect, in Guyana, issues such as poverty and complicity involving law enforcement officers also impact both the under-reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists. Furthermore, the Sexual Offences Act is still to be given teeth and too many police still do not enforce the provisions of that act; in fact sensitivity training with respect to provisions of the Sexual Offences Act, is still to be widely implemented.
Given these realities, there is really very little protection against rapists for communities across Guyana. Thus The Caribbean Voice, and Save Abee Foundation have teamed up to promote an online petition to the Government of Guyana to establish a registry of sex offenders in Guyana. In the diaspora, this petition is also being promoted by a range of media including “Let’s Talk With Lakshmee” and “Shanaz Musical Sensation” TV shows, The West Indian newspaper, Conversations with Mark Anthony, “Finding Wisdom TV” (Linda Singh), NewsAmericanow.com and GuyanaChunes.com. We welcome the support of other institutions and organizations, including those from Guyana, for this campaign. And we welcome the support of Yvonne Sam whose letter calling for a registry was published in the Guyana media, as well as others with similar conviction.
Also, we’re asking for the support of the public. Please see the following link, sign then share and urge others to do so: https://www.change. org/p/president-of-the-republic-of-guyana-establish-a-registry-for-all-sex-offenders? utm_source=guides& utm_medium=email&utm _campaign=petition_created. Or log on to www.caribvoice.org and click the petition link.
Institutions and individuals can also help out by getting handwritten signatures. Please call 646-461-0574 (US) or 621-6111 or 223-2637 (Guyana) or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for printed copies of petition sheets as well as to become involved in promoting the campaign. We are aiming for 10,000 signatures by July 2015.