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Saturday, June 17, 2006
An alarming number of rape cases in Guyana


Stabroek News

Dear Editor

In the mist of all the news about the burgeoning criminal industry, the most heinous crime of rape is being committed too often on women in Guyana and the perpetrators are going unpunished. Apart from a few letters and articles, the voluminous cases of rape have virtually gone unnoticed. I must let it be known that I write this letter with outrage and anger and all of Guyana should be outraged too. The time has come when the judicial system, the government, the media, the Guyana police force and opposition parties take responsibility and make punishing these monsters who perpetrate these acts of barbarism upon women and children top priority. It is an uncivilized society that allows these acts to go on unnoticed and unpunished for this long.

While an indicted and fugitive drug lord and his illegally obtained tapes get weeks of media attention, the rape and murder of 16 year old Roshni Partabsingh received one article mention in the various media centers. Is it because this promising 16 year old girl and her suffering family are not as rich as this fugitive, that her brutal rape and murder by the hands of those monsters have not received the same media attention? Is it possible if weeks of media attention were given to her rape and murder, our politicians and citizens would take notice and act?

For the year an estimated 100 cases of rape have been committed on young women in Guyana, according to probation and family welfare officer, Anne Green. The Guyana human rights commission reported a study which shows 9 convictions out of 647 cases in the judicial system for the past five years. Our magistrates, judges and the government should bow their heads in shame. What type of society allows such statistics to prevail? Why this issue has not garnered the attention of the many commentators who fill the pages of the print media and television anchor rooms with divisive issues? While they defend African resistance fighters and drug lords, poor young women are being raped. Why is it that communities and organizations are not taking to the streets demanding justice for these women?

Reported cases of rape increased from 117 in 2000 to 154 in 2004 according to the GHRA study. There have already been in excess of a hundred cases of reported rape for the first haft of this year, and these numbers do not account for the unreported cases which usually are twice the amount in societies where victims feel they have no protection in the administration of justice. In addition, statutory rape, incest and sodomy are on the increase. Young women are molested with impunity in the mini buses, in the bars and wherever and whenever these malicious men feel necessary.

If perpetrators of rape in Guyana are not investigated and brought to justice, if there is no recourse for women then most likely they will not be encouraged to report cases of rape. Women want to know there is legal protection for them. They want to be assured that when they report cases of rape their identities will not be revealed by the media or the police. They do not want their cases to be tried in an open court where their identity is revealed to all. Guyana is a small society and the social stigma attached to rape victims can be suspicious, relentless and unforgiving at times, and this is especially traumatic to young women who form the majority of victims. It is important that rape victims and their families receive the necessary counseling. The welfare department and social services need to be adequately funded and equipped with trained rape specialists and psychologist made available to rape victims. Police officers need to be trained not only in gathering evidence in rape cases but more importantly in sensitivity toward victims. There is need for more crisis centers and women support groups, and financial support made available for them to facilitate their work. The crime of rape can be a life long scar for victims, especial if there is no post counseling.

The Guyana human rights association recommended last year that a special court be set up to deal with rape cases. To date this recommendation has gone unheeded. Is our society so callous and chauvinistic that it does not care about women? There have recently been announcements to set up a business court, when there is hardly any business going on in Guyana but with sexual violence against women escalating, no consideration is given to their plight. The city of New Delhi, India, which has a population of 15 million finds the figure of 300 reported cases of rape alarming in 2003 and found it necessary to setup special courts with women judges and women prosecutors to deal with rape and other sexually related offenses. The thinking is that victims feel more comfortable before women judges. It is indeed true that men can be insensitive towards alleged rape victims, especially in a society like Guyana, with the social stigma attached to rape victims. Guyana with a population of 750,000 and 100 reported cases of rape for the first half of the year operates as business as usual.

There is urgent need for legal reform to deal with rape cases and the perpetrators. Too often the onus is put on women to demonstrate virtue as a requisite to them proving allegations of rape. The focus must be put on the rapist and the culture that produces them. No woman can invite rape upon herself no matter how short the skirt she may wear, and her sexual history.

I urge all Guyanese to take action. The fact that it has not happened to your daughters should not prevent you from being outraged. Women, it is your responsibility to organize yourselves for action. Men these victims can be your sisters, mothers and daughters. I urge overseas based Guyanese support groups to put this issue on their agendas for discussion and action. Women groups in Guyana need the financial support to combat this menace. The time has come for us to take action and protect women in our society.

Yours faithfully

Dennis Wiggins