Guyana’ s national statement to the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women – Hon. Amna Ally, Minister of Social Protection
Madam chair, members of the committee, it is my pleasure to present Guyana’s statement on the ninth country report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Before I proceed further, please permit me to introduce the Guyana delegation. My name is Amna Ally, Minister of Social Protection and the other members of the delegation include:
– Deep Ford, Ambassador to Guyana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Geneva;
– Bibi Ally, Minister Counsellor, Guyana’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Geneva;
– Alicia Jerome-Reece, Ministerial Advisor to the Minister of Social Protection;
– Patrice La Fleur, Secretary General, UNSECO, Guyana
– Ertenisa Hamilton, Director of Primary Health Care Services, Ministry of Public Health;
– Whentworth Tanner, Director of Social Services, Minister of Social Protection
Madam chair, since Guyana approved the convention in 1980, our nation has worked tirelessly to implement the convention.
As a small upper middle income country with a population of less than 800,000, Guyana has made progress in gender equality and empowerment of women in line with the convention despite financial and institutional constraints.
– We have made legislative reforms and implemented national legislation which is consistent with the object and purpose of the CEDAW, some of these include:
- The domestic violence act, no. 18 of 1996
- The prevention of discrimination act, no. 26 of 1997
- The representation of people’s act
- The combating trafficking in persons act 2005
- The marriage amendment act 2006
- The sexual offences act 2010
- The childcare and development services act 2011
- The common law union (amendment) act of 2012.
We have established 2 sexual offences court in two regions where the highest population resides and have had approximately 50% convictions from those prosecuted. Indeed, our penial system is working. Policemen and officers are now being held accountable for crimes committed.
We are cognizant that our challenges are many, but we remain resolve and committed to do more to implement the convention and to uphold the human rights and dignity of all persons in their diversity.
Guyana attaches great importance to the committee’s comments and recommendations to advance progressively the agenda of the rights of women and girls.
The concluding observations and recommendations have guided the design, formulation and implementation of regulatory frameworks and public policies that allows Guyanese to work towards guaranteeing the rights of women and girls and promote gender equality and the advancement of the status of women in Guyana.
Madam chair, the principle of equality and non-discrimination is enshrined in article 149 of the revised constitution of Guyana and guarantees the fundamental rights and freedoms of people living in the state.
The Government of Guyana recognizes its responsibility to ensure that legal gaps are removed to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Minister of Social Protection has established an active dialogue with stakeholders and is working towards the path to filling these gaps to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Since the establishment of Guyana’s 4 rights commission following the 2001/2003 constitutional reforms, the government has recognized that the agencies need review and strengthening. In the case of the rights commissions that have operated in the last decade (rights of child, women and gender equality, indigenous peoples), this review will encompass the adequacy of their mandates and resources based on results to date. In the case of the human rights commission, the current structure will be revisited in the context of the original constitutional reform commission’s recommendation for a more independent and empowered commission.
Madam chair, Guyana’s national gender and social inclusion policy will provide strong leadership within institutions to ensure that a gender perspective is reflected in all its practices, policies and programmes.
Guyana has been selected as one of six beneficiary Caribbean countries of the spotlight initiative to end violence against women and girls. Actions will be geared towards advancing changes in the prevention strategies and strengthen multi-sectoral responses to violence against women and girls. Madam chair, Guyana is currently in the process of formulating a country program document with the assistance of EU, un agencies and other key stakeholders, including victims and survivors of violence. It is expected to be finalized and approved in November 2019 and a total of £4.5mil euros is expected to be allocated to fund this programme.
The government believes that every individual regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity has an inherent human right to live their life free from violence, abuse and discrimination. The recent attack on one of the leading LGBTQ rights activist in Guyana was recently condemned by the government. Such an attack has no place in our society, despite the many challenges we continue to encounter such as cultural attitudes of many within our society, the government of Guyana remains firmly committed to protecting and promoting the dignity and freedom of every human being.
The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) has been working closely with the hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force (GPF). A number of measures have been initiated that aim at re-training and training police officers on how to respond professionally to complaints from LGBTQ persons especially when their human rights are violated or when they are accessing general services.
With regards to women in politics section 11b of the representation of People’s Act, Chapter 1:03 allows for the inclusive participation of women in decision-making processes. The act stipulates that one-third of the list of representatives of each political party wishing to contest the national and local elections must be women. Women sit as elected members on the executive of all major political parties. During the period 2011–2015, women occupied 33 percent of the seats in the National Assembly however, this has recently increased to 36% in 2019 and at the level of the Cabinet, women now comprise 40% of all members.
Gender based violence continues to be a challenge, however, to tackle this issue, the Minister of Social Protection has implemented numerous initiatives and commissioned a study on “the incidences and drivers of gender-based violence in Guyana.” The main objective of the study is to identify the prevalence of gender-based violence and learn from women, through their personal accounts and to understand “the drivers” and factors associated to the many forms of violence. In addition to that another study – “the Guyana women’s health and life experiences survey” has been undertaken.
Madam chair, Guyana is the first in the Caribbean to establish a specialized court for sexual offences that is sensitive to the needs and circumstances of victims. The first sexual offences court was launched on November 13, 2017 and the second was established in May 2019. These courts have been established where approximately 80% of the population resides and measures are now being taken to have more courts established throughout Guyana.
To support the operations of the court, model guidelines for sexual offence cases were developed, taking into account international best practices for the management of such cases and are now being implemented in several regions. Workshops have been held for judges, magistrates and the director of public prosecutions and staff in relation to model guidelines for sexual offence cases.
Currently, there are two government owned shelters that are accessible to survivors of domestic violence. The government also subsidizes a privately owned and operated shelter in region 4 that provide accommodation for survivors of domestic violence and their dependents and serves a significant portion of the population. Steps have been taken to invest resources to establish more domestic violence centers shelters throughout Guyana.
Madam chair, a national plan of action for domestic and sexual violence has been finalised. This plan of action focusses on the protection of victims, prevention of gbv, sexual and domestic violence, prosecutions, rehabilitation of victims among others will soon be approved for implementation.
With support from the UNFPA, a consultancy for the development and implementation of an essential services package for survivors of gender-based violence, is being undertaken. This initiative will provide greater access to a coordinated set of essential and quality multi-sectoral services for all women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence. It aims to identify the essential services to be provided by the health, social services, police and justice sectors.
Guyana continues to fight the scourge of trafficking though numerous programmes and policies. This is evident in Guyana’s maintenance of tier 1 ranking for three consecutive years. We continue to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts by increasing funding for victim assistance and identifying and assisting more victims. The 2019/2020 national action plan was launched in june 2019 and its focuses on prevention, protection and reintegration, prosecution and partnership.
Investments are being made to advance and encourage the participation of girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through information and empowerment initiatives.
With regards to health, Guyana wishes to report that initiatives in keeping with universal access to sexual and reproductive health remain a national priority in keeping with SDG 3. The government acknowledges that challenges faced by the public health sector are many and varied. Nevertheless, Guyana continues to make every effort to ensure that investments within the public health system is geared towards improving service delivery – quality, efficiency and effectiveness.
The Ministry of Education has been proactive in addressing the rate of dropout over the years by implementing policies and taking corrective actions. The reintegration of teenage mothers aims to advance the prevention of adolescent pregnancy and the management of the reintegration of adolescent mothers into the formal school system.
A report of the Situational Analysis of Adolescent Pregnancy presented to the government by the United Nations Children’s fund (UNICEF), uncovered that the hinterland accounted for the highest rate of teenage pregnancy.
The Ministry of Public Health, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) along with representatives of the India-United National Development Partnership Fund Project signed a $G117Million pact to address this issue. The India- UNDPF project aims to provide the availability of, and access to quality sexual and reproductive health information and services, including commodities for adolescents. Specific goals include a ten percent reduction in adolescent pregnancy in several hinterland regions by 2022.
Madam chair, Guyana’s sexual and reproductive health policy has been finalized and has been given the approval at the level of cabinet. It will address all issues regarding the access to information on sexual and reproductive health inclusive of sexual orientation. The policy will cater for adolescents, the elderly, men, female sex workers and male sex workers as each priority population has a section that lists the actions that are recommended to increase access and reduce barriers.
The elements of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality will be institutionalized throughout all health facilities.
A number of seminars and workshops are held throughout the year to address the negative customs and traditional practices in rural and hinterland areas. These seminars and workshops are conducted by the gender affairs bureau, child care and protection agency and the sexual offences and domestic violence policy unit and other NGO’s.
It is imperative to note that fueled by mega oil discoveries and production set to hit close to 1 million barrels per day by mid-2025, Guyana is listed at number 1 among the 5 fastest growing economies in the world according to a contributor at NASDAQ, the second-largest stock exchange in the world.
With a projected growth rate of 16.3% during the four-year period 2018-2021, and with a GDP size of $3.63 billion (2018 rank: 160), a growth rate of 4.1% in 2018 and 4.6% in 2019, Guyana’s economy is expected to grow by 33.5% and 22.9% in 2020 and 2021 respectively. This will without a doubt have huge positive outcomes for our nation in terms of expanding our programmes.
Madam chair, members of the committee, Guyana appreciates the opportunity that this space represents to sustain a frank and constructive dialogue in favor of the rights of Guyanese women and girls, to highlight the reality, our progress and the challenges in implementing the convention.
To conclude, I wish to reiterate the continuing commitment of the Guyana government to the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and looks forward to the constructive dialogue and further recommendations from the committee.
I thank you!