Home » High incidence of unreported cases of rape, sexual assault continues to plague Guyana

High incidence of unreported cases of rape, sexual assault continues to plague Guyana

Not really a shock.  Acceptance of sexual violence is a part of Guyanese culture.

A high incidence of unreported cases of rape and sexual assault continues to haunt Guyana. This is according to information provided by the United States Department report on human rights for 2015.

In a detailed document, the US government outlined a large number of cases of rape and other forms of sexual assaults are unreported to authorities, most likely due to fear of stigma, a lack of confidence in authorities, retribution, or further violence.

The report noted that the law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape; successful prosecution of cases of rape was infrequent.

“Based on media reports and commentary from Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), a high incidence of rape and sexual assault was not reflected in official statistics.”

According to the document, the authorities received 233 reports of rape last year but only 36 persons were charged. The US government also highlighted the court backlog on tackling cases of sexual violence.

“A judge has discretion to issue a sentence of any length in a rape conviction, depending upon the circumstances and severity of the act committed. The norm appeared to be a sentence of five to 10 years’ imprisonment.”

Acts of sexual harassment involving physical assault are prosecuted under relevant criminal statutes.  But while reports of sexual harassment were common, no cases were filed.

“Charges of sexual harassment often were settled out of court,” the US reported.  The Department outlined monetary penalties and award of damages to victims, but the law’s scope is confined to the workplace.

For instance, the law does not cover harassment in schools. Acts of sexual harassment involving physical assault are prosecuted under relevant criminal statutes.

In 2015, the police received 2,170 reports of domestic violence cases, and 1,131 persons were arraigned on charges. According to the US State Department domestic violence and violence against women, including spousal abuse, was widespread.

“The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines up to $10,000  in addition to 12 months’ imprisonment.”

With regards to survivors of domestic crimes, the State Department noted that quite frequently such persons were unwilling to press charges due to a lack of confidence in obtaining a remedy through the courts.

“Some preferred to reach a pecuniary settlement out of court. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and other reports of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction.

According to the document, NGOs, police units were required to have domestic violence units where victims could be counseled in private.  In most cases NGOs have observed that domestic violence reports were not taken confidentially but rather were discussed in the open at police stations and were not treated as a matter of urgency.

According to the report, NGOs handled cases of abuse and violence, including child, spousal, and other domestic abuse, and provided psychosocial services to those victims. The government and private donors funded Help & Shelter, an NGO, to run a free shelter for victims of domestic violence and operate a hotline to counsel victims.

“The Help & Shelter also conducted awareness sessions to sensitize individuals about domestic violence and counseled persons affected by domestic abuse or violence during face-to-face counseling sessions and via the hotline.”

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