Human rights body to hold meeting on child protection
Stabroek News
June 5, 2004

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The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday which aims to mobilise civil society in support of a specific parliamentary initiative to fast-track legislative protection of children against sexual assaults and consider other actions for the longer term.

All interested organisations and individuals are invited to the meeting which will be convened at the GHRA centre from 4:00 - 6:00 pm. The human rights body is proposing that concerted action be taken on two fronts by civil society to strengthen child protection.

The meeting hopes 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, a GHRA press release said yesterday.

In the first place, the release said, urgent action is needed to amend sections of Ch.8:01 of the Criminal Law (Offences) Act that address the age of consent. Article 69 (1) states that carnal knowledge of a girl above the age of twelve years and under thirteen is a misdemeanour liable to five years imprisonment. Article 69 (2) states it is a reasonable defence 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, GHRA pointed, is to have these articles amended to raise the minimum age of consent.

Secondly, a range of tighter protections against paedophilia is required, and the meeting will address a strategy for securing these in the medium term, the release said.

And 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.

The GHRA contended that having languished for almost a decade at ministerial level, this project needs a new lease on life. "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 in motion, we need to mobilise around having the Bill sent immediately to parliament."

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