WPO joins other groups in condemning abuse of girl, 13
Guyana Chronicle
June 4, 2004

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THE Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO), the women’s arm of the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP), has joined other groups in expressing outrage over the alleged abuse suffered by a 13-year-old girl at the hands of a City businessman.

A release from Freedom House earlier this week said that the issue raises two important points: one is the legal aspect and the flouting of the Court’s decision that businessman Mr. Reeaz Khan should return the child to her mother and not see her again, and the other is that this dreadful example of sexual offences against a child has shown the need for the age of sexual consent to be changed from the archaic 12 years to 16 or 18 years.

The WPO urged the Government to treat this matter as urgent and to immediately set about drafting the required legislation. It noted that had the necessary change been the law, the character of this case would have been changed.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child signed by the previous Government and implemented and upheld by the PPP/C administration calls for the improvement of all laws relating to children’s rights, the women’s body noted. Those responsible for these changes, which include the alteration of the age of consent, have been much too slow in preparing the draft legislation and “we urge them to move ahead with the urgency and commitment required”, the release said.

“We must not forget the moral issue which is basic. The sexual abuse of women, and in particular young women and girl children, is a mark of moral degeneration, and any society, which condones this abuse is bound to be in trouble. We know that Guyanese as a whole condemn such practices and we hope that justice will be quick and positive,” said WPO press release pointed out.

The Indian Arrival Committee (IAC), which also issued a press release on the issue this week, noted that the body was extremely concerned about the sordid developments in the story of the Camp Street businessman and the 13-year-old child, with whom he has allegedly been having an affair.

“The IAC strongly condemns such alliances, which involve girls of all ethnicities, who are minors and not those of Indo-Guyanese origin only.

The organisation calls upon the authorities, in light of this incident, to set up the Law Reform Committee, which is provided for in the 1997 Law Revision Act, to deal urgently with family law reform so that in future girls of all ethnicities can be protected from sexual predators such as this businessman,” the IAC press release said.

The IAC said it is of the view that the age of consent for Indo-Guyanese girls must be moved to 16 years of age, and that the penalty for statutory rape be a minimum of 15 years in jail for offenders.

In most countries the age of consent ranges from 14 years to 18 years, the IAC said, but in Guyana it remains at 12 years. In light of the many new cases of child abuse, rape and other child-related crimes many persons are of the view that the laws should be amended and the age of consent be set at 16 years.

The Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT) in a press release said that the recent concerns over the relationship between Mr. Reeaz Khan and Miss Hamid highlight the vulnerability of children in Guyana.

The GIT said that a key point of contention is the legal age of consent, which, “in a permissive society like ours has become, opens the doors to just this kind of scenario”.

The Guyana Islamic Trust noted that this issue also highlights the necessity for strengthening and emphasising the family unit (which entails) the development of a strong and mutual relationship between parents and children; as well as the discipline, conduct and attitude displayed by parents, which often determine the behaviour of their offspring.

“Islam is also definite in its complete prohibition of sexual relationships outside of wedlock, and consequently, prohibits any form of interaction that will lead to this. This must once again become a core value of our society. It is useless to rail against the inevitable products of a society from which basic moral values are steadily eroded and de-emphasised,” the organisation stated.

The GIT said that it also viewed with great concern the sensationalising of the matter by the news media, and any attempt to use this incident to portray Muslims in a negative light.

According to the Guyana Islamic Trust, Islam, in fact, established and upholds the rights of men and women, parents and children; but at the same time, establishes guidelines to ensure that these rights are exercised in the best possible manner.

GIT said that it is the responsibility of Guyanese to build a society based on clear principles of purity, faith and morality.

Meanwhile, the man who is standing in the centre of all the allegations involving his alleged relationship with the 13-year-old child told the Guyana Chronicle yesterday that he is especially upset with the article published in the ‘Stabroek News’, which media house did not contact him for a comment.

He said that the allegations leveled at him in the ‘Stabroek News’ are very serious and have caused him some discomfort, while damaging his character.

“The child’s mother is misleading the public. She brought the girl at my home, spent two weeks (and) left the girl at my home. Since I picked them up at Parika they have been staying at my house. (This was) after we attended a religious function together that day,” Khan said during an interview.

He said that the child and her mother spent time at his home and that the mother left the child in his care. It was then, Khan said, that he brought the child to his business place.

On Friday, May 28 2004 Reeaz Khan petitioned the High Court for permission to marry the 13-year-old girl, stating among other things, “that much love and affection had grown between us”.

That petition followed the mother’s move to the High Court by way of a habeas corpus order before Justice B.S. Roy to compel Khan to produce the girl.

Justice Roy had granted the mother a nisi order directing that the girl be placed in custody of the mother Bibi Sameeza Hamid and the child’s aunt, Bibi Hamid.

That matter comes up for hearing today.