Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday expressed shock at a Guyana Defence Force (GDF) recruitment advertisement which called for male applicants.
“Male only recruits? In our newspapers? In this era?” he asked incredulously after reporters called on him to respond to the ad. The former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces then lamented that he doesn’t “know what our women organizations are doing but you can’t have an ad like that.”
“What are they effectively saying that women don’t have a place in the army; they can’t do certain types of work; they can’t fight on the border if necessary if that’s the case it’s 14th century thinking,” Jagdeo concluded.
According to a recruitment advertisement published in the April 22, 2018 edition of several newspapers, potential candidates for the Standard Officer’s Course must be male.
The advertisement goes on to list several other criteria, including that these “male candidates” must be between the ages of 18 and 25, fit and healthy with a minimum of 5 CSEC subjects, inclusive of Math and English with Grades I and II.
Stabroek News attempted to ascertain the rationale behind the decision to only seek male candidates and was told by the recruitment office that the force is currently “over strength with females.” Director of the Institute of Gender Studies at the University of Guyana, Dr. Pauline Bullen has also expressed shock at the employment policy revealed in the ad.
Chairperson of the Women and Gender Equality Commission Indra Chandarpal is more concerned with its language.
Speaking with Stabroek News on the corridors of the Public Buildings last Thursday Chandarpal said the “language is not appropriate.”
“In our constitution it speaks to equality…it is inappropriate language, suitable persons would’ve been appropriate,” he said.
Chandarpal who represents the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) advised that the armed forces would be better off to use the “bureaucracy to weed out” those who don’t fit their criteria.
The language of the ad she stressed “connotes discrimination.” When told that the GDF had indicated that they were “over strength” with females, Chandarpal responded “Even if they have that problem what they need to do is change the language. They will have to tell the public in this department our quota is this or that and we have the desired amount. If in their statutes they are saying we have to have equality well then if it is 50-50 that’s fine but I don’t know that’s why I am saying let’s call on them to change their language and put persons and if they have to use administrative measures to have what they want that’s another thing but their language doesn’t augur well to us as a country which is speaking to women’s equality”, the activist noted.
In the absence of a suitable explanation the ad is a clear violation of Guyana’s constitution and the Prevention of Discrimination Act, which specifically states that is it unlawful for any employer to discriminate against any person because of sex in relation to recruitment.
Bullen had highlighted this discrepancy while lamenting the GDF’s silence on the violence being perpetuated against women and girls.
Obviously, the GDF is failing to rise to the challenge of providing an equitable environment for employment. It flies in the face of the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for countries to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. It is a clear example of regressive workplace hiring practices still being employed in this country,” she lamented.
According to Bullen, it would have been preferable to see an ad stating that the GDF is willing to put in place training which can prevent officers from displaying behaviour detrimental to the health and well-being of women.
The GDF is an institution which has boasted distinguished female members, she noted, while lamenting that it is publicly exhibiting workplace discrimination.