The survivors of rape are often blamed. Questions like: What were you wearing? Why were you there? Why were you there so late? And many are told, to remain quiet; to forget it happened and move on with their lives; if you did not like it you would have spoken about it before; what did you do to upset him like that; and it happened long ago. The burden of not being raped is substantially placed on the victims, where they are taught how to not get raped rather than teaching men to respect women, and not to rape. According to the World Health Organisation, victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 14 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Additionally, the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) is not fully implemented, making it even more difficult for justice to be served to survivors of rape. There needs to be ongoing specialized training for all sectors of the justice system, health and social services and law enforcement on the provisions of the SOA 2010. The lack of an integrated and comprehensive service and protocols for the treatment and care of victims of sexual violence also needs to be addressed urgently. The responsibility of the state to educate Guyanese about the SOA 2010 has failed to materialize for the past 4 years. What is equally unacceptable is that the Sexual Offences Task Force, an inter-agency body whose overall responsibility is to develop a national plan for the prevention of sexual offences and the eradication of sexual violence, is not functioning, as the subject Minister of Human Services and Social Security has failed to set up and convene meetings of this statutory body.
Guyana is party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Government of Guyana has particular obligations to all Guyanese women as a signatory to CEDAW. As such I would like to reiterate key recommendations, which the CEDAW Committee published after its review of Guyana in July, 2012: “To accord high priority to the full implementation of the Sexual Offences Act and to put in place comprehensive measures to prevent and address violence against women and girls, recognizing that such violence is a form of discrimination against women and constitutes a violation of their human rights under the Convention and a criminal offence and ensuring that women and girls who are victims of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection and that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished.”