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Georgetown, Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Madame Chairperson;
Madame President, Executive and Members of the Inner Wheel Club of Georgetown Central;
Distinguished Guests;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for inviting me to address you today on an issue which is of grave concern to me. I do not know
whether the Inner Wheel Club of Georgetown Central may have had a preference, but in its invitation to
me, the Club asked me to speak on either domestic violence or child abuse.
I thought about it for a while and decided to speak about domestic violence since I believe that child abuse
is partially linked to the acceptance in our country of violence as a means of establishing power or of
dispute resolution. So people who grow up in a society where violence in all its forms is perpetrated and
accepted come to believe that such violence is normal. Violence becomes banal; people who are verbally,
physically or psychologically abused deserve it.
I know that I will not be saying anything here today that has not already been said in Guyana. Agencies,
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community and faith-based organisations have been
speaking out and writing about and against domestic violence ad nauseam.
In preparing this presentation, I sought the definition of domestic violence and came up with the
following Domestic violence (also named domestic abuse, spousal abuse, intimate partner violence,
battering, or family violence) is a pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by
one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation.

Domestic violence is defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as a forced 'pattern of
behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an individual.'
This behavior is considered abusive because it is unwanted and often unwarranted by the person
who is being abused. (Family Crisis Foundation)
Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to
control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living
together, separated or dating. (
While men, women and children may be victims of domestic violence, the majority of victims are women.
UN Women estimates that globally, about 35 per cent of women have suffered physical or sexual abuse
at some point of their lives, with the figure reaching as high as 70 per cent in some countries.
The Government of Guyana has, over the past thirty-seven years, ratified a slew of international
conventions aimed at improving the status of women. These include:

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)

The Vienna Declaration and Platform for Action (World Conference on Human Rights, 1993)

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1994)

The Cairo Programme of Action (International Conference on Population and Development,


The Convention of Belem do Para (Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment

and Eradication of Violence against Women, 1994)

The Regional Action Programme for Latin American and Caribbean Women, 1995-2001

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995)

The Domestic Violence Act was introduced in Guyana twenty years ago, in 1996, to give legal protection
to persons who have suffered abuse or are at the risk of suffering abuse.
Around 1997, the UNDP published a booklet, The Domestic Violence Act: How can it help you or a friend?,
which informs us in simple language that any person suffering from domestic abuse, regardless of age, is
automatically eligible to be protected by the Act; that any abused person, can get protection from:

A spouse, fianc(e) or reputed spouse, or partner with whom they live

Anyone who lives in the household today or has lived in the past, but not tenants or employees
unless there were sexual relations with them

A relative

Any person with whom the victim has had a sexual relationship.

Abuse is defined as ill treatment, violation, molestation, seduction and betrayal. It includes
psychological abuse which means any activity which persistently humiliates the victim, dishonours her
or him, or lowers their self-esteem like:

Not allowing them to handle their own things or property


Watching over them in a way which is threatening

Not allowing the victim to eat or sleep well

Manipulating the children

Causing the victim emotional agony.

It further states that a person has to have suffered abuse or harrassment to qualify for protection under
the Domestic Violence Act:
Harrassment is when someone threatens or intimidates another person by:

Verbal abuse cussing up, screaming, humiliating

Threatening with physical harm or violence

Breaking things or damaging things which are important to the victim

Making the victim scared of afraid of physical or psychological harm

Threatening the victim

Hiding things belonging to the victim

Watching over the house, work place, school, or anywhere the victim goes for daily

Making unwelcome advances

Using abusive language.

Guyanas Domestic Violence Policy was launched eight years ago, in June 2008, under the theme, Break
the cycletake control.

Many conferences and workshops have been convened; ministers both religious and political have
spoken; flyers and posters and pamphlets and booklets have been printed and circulated; public service
announcements have been aired; the Guyana Police Force has included the issue of domestic violence in
its training. But where are we now, in 2016, in Guyana in respect of domestic violence?
Almost daily, we see or read reports of domestic violence. On 3rd June, a former security guard was hacked
to death by her jealous husband at her workplace. On 6th June, Kaieteur News carried an article headlined
Sleeping with the enemy? Ten women killed by partners in five months.
The scale of the incidence of domestic violence is revealed by examining some reports which have been
issued. For instance,
Between March 1994 and December 2015, the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic, which operates in four of our ten
administrative regions 2, 4, 5 and 6 interviewed 3,936 persons in respect of domestic violence matters,
of which it advised and represented 1,978. During the period January-March of this year, the Legal Aid
Clinic interviewed 42 persons on domestic violence matters from three Regions 2, 4 and 6. No one in
Region 5 was reported to have been interviewed on domestic violence during this period.
Wikipedia on a page it states was last modified on 4 April 2015, posits that domestic violence in Guyana
is widespread and crosses racial and socioeconomic lines. The law prohibits domestic violence,
gives women the right to seek prompt protection, and allows victims to seek protection,
occupation or tenancy orders from a magistrate. [however] this legislation frequently is not

Domestic violence is a problem in all regions of the country. Enforcement of the domestic violence
laws is especially weak in the interior, where the police do not have as strong a presence and
courts meet only once a quarter.
Further, The government also does not prosecute cases in which the alleged victim or victims
family agreed to drop the case in exchange for a monetary payment out of court.
The findings of a relatively high level of acceptance of domestic violence in Guyana by the LAPOP (the
Latin American Public Opinion Project) survey conducted between 2006 and 2014 indicate that Guyana
ranked third at 35.6%, after El Salvador, 42.1%, and Guatemala, 58%).

The Coordinator of Help and Shelter Margaret Kertzious was not surprised since it is her opinion that
domestic violence is perceived to be a normal activity in the Guyanese culture. She noted that
persons were constantly seen fighting, even on the streets, and she deemed the society an
abusive one Further, she said that domestic violence was so pervasive that most Guyanese
children were already aware or had experienced it in their lives.

She said that studies had shown that many persons believe that women who are unfaithful and
are subsequently beaten deserve the licks. (Kaieteur News, 9 March 2015)
Wintress White of Red Thread, in an interview with The Commonwealth published on 28 January 2016,
stated that Cases go unreported because women are too afraid to come forward. And sometimes no
action is taken if they do come forward.
The Analyses of Domestic Violence published by the Ministry of Public Security appear to show a
downward trend in reported incidents of domestic violence between January 2012 and June 2015, but
the numbers remain unacceptably high, averaging close to 200 incidents per month, with women
accounting for over 80 per cent of the victims. And even in its Analyses, the Ministry recognises that the
data may not be accurate and may under-represent the situation: in its Analysis for the period JanuaryJune 2015, it states that
Many female victims of domestic violence may not report the crime to the police because of
shame, humiliation or an expectation that agencies would be less than effective or responsive in
treating with their complaints. Also the police may suggest that the parties reconcile their
differences. In addition, female attacks on males may also be under-reported because males
are ashamed to report the matter to the police or the police may not take them seriously.
The policy analyst at the Ministry of Public Security made the very good observation that most
interventions are geared toward actions after the event and very little on strategies to prevent domestic
violence. She/he recommended that data be collected on the characteristics of those involved in each
event, including age, ethnicity, level of education, employment status, marital status, class, and number
of children, and generally the mindset of males and females about domestic violence. Alcohol or drug
use should also be indicated.

In relation to domestic violence, the Guyana Police Forces Monthly Statistics Summary published for
January, February and April of 2016, indicate that

In January, there were 274 reports of domestic violence, resulting in 176 cases. Under the heading
of murder, 14 were committed, of which three were domestic related.

At the end of February, 473 reports were made, resulting in 311 cases. Five of the 25 murders
recorded were reported to be domestic related.

There was no report of domestic violence recorded for April 2016.

Our toleration of domestic violence reveals where we are as a society.

How often have thieves used the pretext and cover of domestic violence to rob women of their jewellery,
cell phones and/or money as these women go about their daily lives, while passersby do nothing? Some
may even encourage the thief with comments like Manners she, man. Or Dash two cuff in she.
How often have a womans clothes been torn off by her partner while others stand and watch, entertained
by the spectacle of anothers humiliation and dehumanisation?
How many of us have viewed as a sideshow the verbal abuse of another? This applies not only to
obscenities, a cussin out, but the use of language meant to belittle and humiliate the victim.
How many times have neighbours refused to heed the cries of a woman being physically assaulted in her
home and expressed surprise when they discover after one such hiding that she has been murdered?
To make matters worse, there are many occasions when an incident of domestic violence is reported to
the police and, as reported by the Ministry itself, police advise the victim not to proceed with the matter.
Or the file disappears. Or it is sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution which advises that
the police should not proceed with the case because those involved have come to an agreement.
In my view, this encourages the perpetrator to believe that he/she can get away with his actions. It makes
a mockery of the Domestic Violence Act.
I believe that regardless of any agreement of any kind between the perpetrator and the victim or the
victims family, the law must follow its course. The case must go before the court and the perpetrator
must be tried for the offence and sentenced accordingly.
When will we say enough is enough?

We, as women, must not ignore or miniaturise the damage that domestic violence has done and continues
to do to us, to our children and to our communities. Our voices must be raised in our homes, in the schools,
in our offices, in field and factory, on our playfields, in our churches, masjids and temples, in the media,
in our restaurants and bars to demand an end to the scourge of domestic violence.
Thank you.