Sexual offences in majority at Demerara Criminal Assizes - women lawyers
Stabroek News
June 8, 2004

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The Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) has noted that in the published list of cases for trial at the Demerara Criminal Assizes, sexual offences make up the majority, far in excess of those for capital and homicide offences, yet the focus is usually on the latter offences.

The list includes 11 cases of carnal knowledge of a girl; 35 cases of rape; two cases of incest; and two cases of buggery, a GAWL press release said.

The association last Friday made this observation while expressing its concern over the recent revelations about the reported relationship between city businessman Reeaz Khan and a 13-year-old girl, which has generated significant outrage and protest. But since the actual events are now subjudice, GAWL said it would be improper to comment on the particular case.

However, the association said it "agrees that the age of consent has been a matter of concern to women's and children's rights groups for some time and many recommendations have been made over the years for the amendment of our sexual offences laws to raise the age of consent to sixteen years for sexual relationships with adults."

Meanwhile, representatives of GAWL, the Guyana Bar Association and other social partners are currently working on legislation to revise the sexual offences provisions in Guyana's laws, the release said. When this project is completed, consultations would be held with other stakeholders and subsequently the drafted legislation will be presented to the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security.

In addition, the association is working on reviewing the Children's and Family Court and Status of Children legislation to give legislative weight to other concerns which have been continuously highlighted.

Further, GAWL urged that the Constitutional Commissions on Women and Gender Equality and on Children be speedily appointed and adequately staffed.

The body also called on members of parliament, especially the women MPs, to take up the cause of ensuring that relevant social legislation is placed on the front burner.

Moreover, GAWL pointed out that protection of children does not vest in the law alone, but also is a part of parental responsibility. Therefore, parents should seek to avoid situations which later may prove to be ones of misunderstanding and compromise.

But the association acknowledged that owing to poverty and other vulnerabilities, many persons especially women and children are open to exploitation.