GHRA to hold child protection discussion
Kaieteur News

June 5, 2004

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THE Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is proposing that concerted action be undertaken on two fronts by civil society to strengthen child protection.

According to a press release, the GHRA is inviting all interested organisations and individuals to a meeting aimed at supporting a specific parliamentary initiative to fast-track legislative protection of children against sexual assaults and consider other actions for the longer term.

The meeting will be convened at the Guyana Human Rights Centre next

Tuesday and is intended to generate broad-based agreement on a new age of consent; fast-tracking the issue through Parliament; a medium term strategy to deal with paedophilia-related issues and committing the Children’s Bill to Parliament. “In the first place…urgent action is needed to amend sections of Ch.8:01 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act that addresses the age of consent. Article 69(1) states that carnal knowledge of a girl above the age of 12 years and under 13 is a misdemeanour liable to five years imprisonment.

Article 69(2) states it is a reasonable defense if the accused person had cause to believe the girl was above thirteen years. Article 70 states that carnal knowledge of any girl under the age of twelve years is a felony and liable to life imprisonment.

The aim of the proposed action is to have these articles amended to raise the minimum age of consent,” the GHRA said in the press release.

The GHRA noted that a range of tighter protections against paedophilia is required. The meeting will address a strategy for securing these in the medium term.

Thirdly, the Children’s Bill 2002 – which deals mainly with civil rather than criminal issues - still requires considerable work before it can be passed into law. Having languished for almost a decade at Ministerial level, this project needs a new lease of life, the GHRA said.

“We are proposing that any further work on the Bill ought to take place within the context of a Select Parliamentary Committee. To set this process in motion, we need to mobilise around having the Bill sent immediately to Parliament,” the Association said.

Several parliamentary options to obtain rapid legal changes will be explained at the meeting. Resource persons with parliamentary and legal experience will be available.