More horror at businessman's tryst with child
PPP women's arm condemns act, urges law reform
June 3, 2004
The Women's Progressive Organisation (WPO) and the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) have joined in the condemnation of businessman Reeaz Khan's sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl.
Meanwhile, women's groups are calling on concerned persons to join a peaceful protest outside the High Court tomorrow just before a hearing on the matter.
The child has been at the centre of a tug of war between her mother, Bibi Shameeza Hamid and Khan. Hamid says the businessman took the child away, had sex with her and did not want to return her to her home. The child fled from her aunt's home last Saturday night into a vehicle connected to Khan, according to the relatives. Khan has since said he does not know where the child is.
He has applied to the courts for permission to marry the girl and in other sections of the media has disputed the circumstances under which the child came into his home. However, he has not denied having sex with the child.
WPO condemns actions
The WPO, the women's arm of the ruling PPP, said that the ongoing saga raises two important points: "One is the legal aspect and the flouting of the court's decision that Mr Reeaz Khan should return the child to her mother and not see her again. The legal system shows flaws in that it has, so far, been unable to protect the interests of the child and her mother." The case comes up in court tomorrow.
Khan, according to Hamid, had removed her from her aunt's home the night after the court order was made. The woman said that she only took her daughter when Khan's lawyer informed her attorney that the child was at a city hospital. And the woman said when she arrived at the hospital Khan was there talking to the child.
The WPO also notes that the situation shows that the age of consent needs to be changed from the "archaic 12 years to 16 or 18 years. We urge the government to treat this as urgent and to immediately have drafted the required legislation. Had the necessary change been the law, the character of the case would have been changed." It was noted that those responsible for the changes have been much too slow in preparing the draft legislation and "we urge them to move ahead with the urgency and commitment required."
"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."
The IAC said that it is extremely concerned about the "sordid developments in the story of the Camp Street businessman and the 13-year-old girl whom he has allegedly been having an affair with."
It said that it strongly condemns such alliances which involve girls of all ethnicities who are minors and called upon authorities to, "in light of this incident, to set up the Law Reform Committee, which is provided for under 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".
It suggested that the age of consent be moved to 16 and that the penalty for statutory rape be a minimum of 15 years in jail for offenders.
WPO and IAC join the Guyana Indian Heritage Association (GIHA), the first organisation to come out and condemn the relationship, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) and several other organisations which issued joint statements. These include Red Thread, Help & Shelter, the Guyana Association of Professional Social Workers, Women Across Differences, Women Against Violence Everywhere, Guybernet, The Amerindian Action Movement of Guyana, the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples and the National Amerindian Development Foundation.
GIHA corrects KN report
GIHA has also denied a statement made in the Kaieteur News yesterday attributed to its President Ryhaan Shah. The newspaper had quoted her as saying "that she would have to speak to Hamid and her lawyer before a comment can be made given the new developments in the issue" reported by Kaieteur News yesterday. The organisation in a release yesterday said it does not consider the newspaper's report on June 1 as new evidence in the case of the child and the businessman. "Ms Ryhaan Shah, GIHA's President when contacted by the KN (Kaieteur News) reporter, said "the morality of the issues stands." She referred the reporter to the statement already made by GIHA that Mr Khan's sexual relations with a 13-year-old are immoral and indecent. GIHA questions KN's accuracy in reporting."
Meanwhile, over 100 persons have signed the online petition supporting Hamid in her quest to have her daughter returned and condemning Khan's actions.
Persons who wish to sign the petition can send their emails to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picket for tomorrow's court date
And the women yesterday issued a call for anyone who is in support of Hamid or against an adult having sex with a 13-year-old to join the silent line of protest/picket outside the High Court at 10:30 am tomorrow, one hour before the court matter between Khan and Hamid is expected to be heard before Justice BS Roy. The picket/protest is in support of the protection of the nation's children.
Yesterday Stabroek News visited Hamid's village on the West Bank Demerara.
All the persons this newspaper spoke to refuted the claims by Khan in another section of the media that the child was being ill treated by her mother.
Some residents, while questioning why Hamid allowed the child to go to Khan, even it was to pursue `work-study', said that nothing could excuse Khan being involved with the child.
"What we do know is that the child was never ill treated by her mother. That woman loves that child and lives for her. She has everything and we all admire her when she is well dressed for school. One thing I could say for sure, if I can't say anything else, is that she was not ill treated by her mother," one woman said. She further said that even if the businessman's claim of ill treatment is true, "does it make it right for him to take an abused child and start a sexual relationship with her? Is that right? How could it be?"
Another resident recalled that Hamid worked hard, at first as a domestic, to support her children and then started to sell clothes. "When that woman buys her clothes to sell she allows her daughter to pick out what she want. That girl and she big brother used to be so loving and buy Mother's Day gift fo deh mother. I don't understand wah happen and how she get so."
"I don't think it was right for her to take the child to the man, but I know it is not right for he to have sex with her," another resident said.
Some persons, while not speaking glowingly of Hamid, maintained that the child was never ill treated and that she was provided for.
According to the sister, after her niece was released into her custody on May 20 the same night an employee of Khan had visited her and brought food for the child and they chased her.
However, she said last Wednesday the woman returned and came through their door before they realised what was happening. Her husband told this newspaper that he saw the woman come in the door and she asked to use the bathroom and he told his wife that someone was there.
"When I went to dah door and I see she I ask she how she could come in me house and she started to run away," the woman said. By them Hamid was alerted and she and her son started to run behind the woman who leapt into a vehicle parked on the road with Khan at the wheel. Hamid said that as she approached the vehicle Khan issued a threat before driving away and a report was made to the Wales Police Station.
Attempts by Stabroek News to contact Khan yesterday on this allegation proved futile. On Tuesday Khan declined to speak Stabroek News about the issue.
It could also not be ascertained why the police did not act on the woman's report.