Children in Guyana to benefit as Sexual Offences Bill passed in Parliament
Receives unanimous support
Georgetown, April 22, 2010 - The long-awaited Sexual Offences Bill which was tabled in the National Assembly in July 2009 by Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, was today passed subsequent to it being reviewed and amended at the level of a Special Select Committee.
The Bill seeks to reform and consolidate the laws relating to sexual offences and to provide for related matters. It places special emphasis on rape as it broadens the definition to include any intrusion, however slight of any part of a person’s body or any object into the vagina or anus of another person.
Minister Manickchand in her presentation said that the process of changing the law as it relates to sexual offences began many years ago by a number of persons and organizations which were instrumental in trying to change the lenient way in which rape cases were dealt with and drafted recommendations aimed at protecting victims of rape.
She pointed out that in March 2007, the “Stamp It Out” document drafted by Attorney-at-Law, Laura Gyte, was launched. “This document contained proposals to strengthen protection against sexual violence and reform the law on sexual offences and it was circulated widely across Guyana,” the Minister said. The proposals laid out in this document, captured those that were recommended by the Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO), Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) and other agencies.
Following the formulation of the document, a widespread consultation process was carried out across the country by the Human Services Ministry to get the input of the masses on a matter that was considered taboo in society. Additionally, there were also many written submissions from organisations, religious leaders and citizens. “We heard from over 5,000 people at these 60 odd consultations and we listened to what they wanted and compiled the recommendations and suggestions into a document called the “Stamp It Out Report”, Minister Manickchand pointed out. Further, these recommendations were incorporated into the Bill, so it is representative of what the people of Guyana have been asking for over a number years.
Minister Manickchand highlighted that they have modernised the laws while at the same time, making it real as it relates to what is happening in Guyana. The passage of the Bill will also see the abolition of the assumption that males under the age of 14 are incapable of sexual intercourse and allowing for prosecution in Guyana to address offences committed abroad.
Critical to the success of this piece of legislation is proper training for its implementation. “We have to train our service providers and we are going to be making stringent efforts to target particular service providers to ensure that this Bill is implemented in the way that it should, so that victims of sexual abuse could receive justice and hopefully this will deter persons who are so inclined to perpetrate sexual violence,” the Minister said.
For more information:
Leslyn Thompson, firstname.lastname@example.org, UNICEF Guyana
Tamar Hahn, email@example.com, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.