The businessman and the 13-year-old
Police question mother over 'abduction' -probation hearing today
Stabroek News
June 4, 2004

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Police from the Criminal Investigation Department yesterday visited the home of the 13-year-old girl at the centre of a controversy with businessman, Reeaz Khan and took a full statement from her mother.

Bibi Shameeza Hamid later told Stabroek News that when she had reported the alleged threat issued to her son by Khan at the Wales Police Station last Thursday, two officers from that station had visited her sister's home and had spoken to the child. However, this is the first time officers from Georgetown have visited her since the saga began. She said the officers yesterday copied information from her child's birth certificate. Khan has been accused of having sexual relations with the 13-year-old and refusing to return her to her mother. Khan has declined to speak to Stabroek News on the case.

Meanwhile it is expected that Hamid's attorney will file proceedings seeking to have the court cite Khan for contempt after he allegedly flouted the High Court order requiring him to stay away from the teen.

This matter will coincide with today's presentation of a probation report by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security on the girl before Justice BS Roy. Some rights groups are calling for a peaceful picket at the High Court starting at 10.30 am today.

The judge had ordered a probation report on the teenager's background on May 20 after hearing arguments in relation to habeas corpus proceedings filed by the teenager's mother.

Justice Roy had also instructed that Khan release the teenager into the joint custody of her mother and maternal aunt [Hamid's sister] and further that Khan refrain from having any form of contact with the 13-year-old.

The child fled from her aunt's home last Saturday night into a vehicle connected to Khan, according to relatives, but Khan has since claimed to be unaware of the teenager's whereabouts.

In her affidavit in support of the habeas corpus proceedings, Hamid claims that Khan abducted the child, had sex with her and did not want her to return home.

Khan has since filed a petition in an attempt to obtain legal authority to marry the child but Stabroek News has been reliably informed that corresponding documents are yet to be served on Hamid or her attorney. He has not denied indulging in sexual relations with the child.

UNICEF calls for raising age of consent
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), meanwhile, concurs with the stipulation contained in the mandate of the National Convention on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) denoting that the legal age for consent to sexual relations and marriage is 18 years.

Ambassador Lebohang Moleko, who is the president of UNICEF's Executive Board, indicated yesterday that his organisation's position is concurrent with the NCRC proviso in response to a question put to him by the media in relation to the Khan saga.

At the time Moleko was addressing the media in relation to a four-day visit to Guyana by members of the UNICEF executive board to assess the work of that organisation's Country Office in promoting the fulfilment of the rights of the child.

It was pointed out that every country in the world has ratified the NCRC with the exception of the United States and Somalia thus UNICEF's position on the issue of consent reflects the international perspective.

The legislation governing the issue of consent in Guyana, according to the Criminal Law Offences Act indicate that a man who indulges in sexual relations with a girl aged 12 years and under can be charged with carnal knowledge.

PNCR condemns disregard for law
The PNCR yesterday came out in condemnation of Khan at its weekly press conference. Central Executive Member, Deborah Backer said the issue was more a national one than a women's rights matter as some would treat it. She said her party condemned the act and would support today's protest action outside the High Court.

According to Backer, while the party sympathises with the child's plight, the saga provides an opportunity for the government to update the current law dealing with the age of consent.

Another Central Executive Member, Deryck Bernard, condemned Khan's reported flouting of the court order.

Raphael Trotman, in flaying Khan's involvement with the 13-year-old, said last year the government had rushed a number of pieces of legislation through the National Assembly, some dealing with kidnapping. Trotman said the whole country was now awaiting the full application of the laws.

The Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT), in a press release yesterday, said Islam completely prohibits sexual relationships outside of wedlock and any form of interaction that is likely to cause sexual relationships to develop under such circumstances.

The GIT said: "The recent concerns expressed over the relationship of Mr. Reeaz Khan and Miss Hamid highlight the vulnerability of children in Guyana. 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. It is our responsibility as Guyanese, to build a society based on clear principles of purity, faith and morality."

GIT issued a call for all Guyanese to use this incident as an "...opportunity to work harder towards instituting mechanisms for the protection of our children, and for the strengthening of our society; eliminating those factors that influence young and old towards immorality and emphasising uprightness and God-consciousness."

However, the organisation condemned what it referred to as "...the sensationalising of the matter by the news media and any attempt to use this incident to portray Muslims in a negative light."

It added: "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."

Numerous women's groups and other cultural organisations have condemned the relationship between Khan and the 13-year-old.

These include the Women's Progressive Orga-nisation [the women's arm of the ruling PPP], the Guyana Indian Heritage Association (GIHA), Red Thread, Help and Shelter, the Guyana Association of Professional Social Workers, Women Across Differences, Women Against Violence Every-where, the Indian Arrival Committee, Guybernet, the Amerindian Action Move-ment of Guyana, the Guyana Human Rights Association, the Guyanese Organisation of Indigenous Peoples and the National Amerindian Development Foundation.

McCormack upbraids Kaieteur
Meanwhile Co-president of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), Mike McCormack, yesterday denied telling the Kaieteur News that he [McCormack] was 'not privy to the real facts of the case' because he had not spoken with either Khan or Hamid.

A press release from the GHRA Executive Committee said that McCormack had made it clear that the concerns expressed in the statement issued on Monday by his organisation in relation to the Khan saga, "did not require interviewing either of the people."

"The facts of the court action as presented in the Stabroek News have not been challenged by anyone. Having been silent on the issue until two days ago, Kaieteur News cannot complain when people rely on other media."

GHRA further noted that the "recent revelations [in the Kaieteur News] serve to provoke uncomfortable comparisons with the grooming techniques of paedophiles that are causing widespread concern in developed societies. Hopefully they will shake us out of the complacency pervading Guyana on this issue."

GIHA, the first group to have issued a condemnation of Khan's actions, also had cause on Wednesday to issue a similar correction to a report in that day's edition of Kaieteur News.

Khan in other sections of the media had reported that he took the child to Barbados with the consent of her mother. However, Hamid said the trip occurred while she was in hospital after ingesting poison. The woman stated that she had chosen to end her life as she was not getting any help in the matter. She has now pledged to continue to fight Khan all the way in light of the support she has received adding that she would not allow the man to marry her daughter once she can help it.