Attorney General meets with Women and Gender Equality Commission

The Hon. Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall SC, MP on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, met with a delegation from the Women and Gender Affairs Commission at the Attorney General’s Chambers, Carmichael Street, Georgetown. The delegation was led by Chairwoman of the Women and Gender Affairs Commission, Ms. Indra Chanderpaul.  Accompanying the Hon. Attorney General in the meeting were   Deputy   Chief   Parliamentary   Counsel,   Ms.   Joann   Bond and Principal Legal Advisor, Ms. Shoshanna Lall.

Ms.  Chanderpaul extended appreciation to the Hon. Attorney General for meeting with the Commission, especially on short notice. The delegation raised a number of issues, including, the need for the Government to implement a Family Code, the need to address the gaps in the Domestic Violence Act, the Sexual Offenders Act, whether the Evidence Act will be amended, whether a Sexual Harassment Bill will be implemented, whether the Government of Guyana will sign on to the optional protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), among others.

The Hon. Attorney General thanked the delegation for their visit and assured them that the Government continues to accord the highest priority to the rights and concerns of women and children.

In addressing their concerns, the Hon. Attorney General informed the delegation that work is progressing on the Family Violence Bill which will overhaul the Domestic Violence Act enacted in 1997.  He noted that the Government now has 30 years of practical experience drawing from that Act and has been able to observe deficiencies, omissions and weaknesses and is working now to correct them. He explained that many procedural deficiencies are being corrected to make it easier for persons to lodge complaints under the law.

Significantly, the Domestic Violence Act is civil in nature and it permits only civil remedies. That will be changed. The Family Violence Bill will be both civil and criminal in its nature and persons can be imposed with criminal sanctions for violations committed under the intended law. Importantly, persons would be exposed to imprisonment under the new law.

Additionally, the Hon. Attorney General informed the delegation that work is ongoing to review the Sexual  Offences Act.   He explained that a multi-ministerial effort comprising the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Human   Services and   Social   Security and   Ministry of  Education is undertaking the initiative. The legal profession, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Guyana Police Force and other important stakeholders will also be engaged.

He also informed the delegation that the Government, through the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, is undertaking a project to create a ‘Help and Justice Centre’ which will see two physical structures being built on the West Coast of Demerara and the East Coast of Demerara to offer legal and medical services, counselling, police

protection and accommodation to families and victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The Hon. Attorney General disclosed that the Law Reform Commission recently reviewed the Evidence Act and has proposed certain amendments. These amendments are currently under review by the Attorney General’s Chambers. The legal profession will also be duly consulted in the process.

The Attorney General informed the meeting that there is a new Trafficking in Persons Bill 2023 which is before a Cabinet Sub-Committee and work is ongoing on a Sexual Harassment Bill. The latter is a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) model legislation produced under the Spotlight Initiative funded by the Canadian Government.

On the issue of the optional protocol of the CEDAW, the Attorney General advised the Commission to raise that matter with the Hon. Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira who has responsibility for that matter.

The Hon. Attorney General also informed the Commission that the entire Laws of Guyana is currently being revised up to the 31st of December, 2022. This process will achieve the insertion into the principal legislation of all amendments made since 2012 as well as the consolidation of all the new laws enacted. The end result will be new and updated volumes of the Laws of Guyana as of December 31, 2022.