Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. There were legal protections against spousal rape for women holding a court-issued divorce decree, separation order, or nonmolestation order. Rape was underreported for fear of further violence, retribution, and societal stigma. A former member of the Justice Department reported that perpetrators commonly made payoffs to survivors of rape or sexual assault in exchange for not pressing charges. In addition, sources reported that victims were sometimes reluctant to report crimes to police because of their perceived ineffectiveness. Authorities charged 74 persons with sex-related offenses through October, compared with 99 in all of 2012. Authorities brought charges in 25 cases of rape, compared with 56 in 2012; 18 cases of sex with a minor, compared with three in 2012; and 31 cases of indecent assault, compared with 38 in 2012. Many cases remained pending in the courts for months or years.
Violence and abuse against women continued to be significant social problems. The law prohibits domestic violence and provides protection to all members of the family, including men and children. While it applies equally to marriages and to common-law relationships, the law does not protect those in informal relationships. Penalties depend on the severity of the charges and range from a fine for first-time offenders (unless the injury is serious) up to the death penalty for cases resulting in death of a victim. Victims may request restraining orders, which the courts often issued. The courts can sentence an offender to jail for breaching such an order. The police have a victim support unit, consisting of civilian volunteers, that offered assistance primarily to female victims of violent crimes, but reports indicated that services provided were inadequate. Victims reporting a sexual assault were subject to lengthy waiting procedures at the police station and for examinations at the hospital staffed primarily by male doctors. There were also several reports that police did not respond promptly or adequately to complaints of sexual assault.
Two highly publicized murders inspired public debate about the treatment of women in society. In May a man stabbed his Guyanese girlfriend to death as she sought refuge at a friend’s house. Three days earlier, the victim reported to the police that she had survived an attack by the same man at a bus terminal, and observers criticized police inability to prevent the subsequent attack. On August 19, a man allegedly killed his girlfriend at a fish market, where the woman worked as a vendor. The broad daylight killing spurred public demonstrations, a rarity in the country. Commentators called on the government not only to improve law enforcement response to domestic violence complaints but also to address broader societal attitudes toward women.
There were public and private counseling services for victims of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse. There were programs to sensitize clergy who counsel abuse victims, to encourage hairdressers to identify domestic violence and direct women to seek expert assistance, to offer domestic violence awareness training for high school students, and to prevent elder abuse for workers in geriatric hospitals. According to the acting police commissioner, since the June establishment of a Family Conflict Intervention Unit, the RBPF addressed 96 cases, arrested 58 alleged offenders, facilitated issuance of 12 protection orders, and referred several cases to other state entities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Ministry of Family implemented a Partnership for Peace program that targets perpetrators of domestic abuse. The NGO Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPW) operated a crisis center staffed by trained counselors and provided legal and medical referral services. In addition to a 24-hour hotline, the BPW operated a walk-in crisis center designed to provide psychological, social, and legal services, and meant to be a conduit for other responders to gender-based violence. The government provided some funding for a shelter for battered women, also operated by the BPW, which housed 20-25 persons at any given time, and occasionally reached 35 persons, including children. The shelter offered the services of trained psychological counselors to victims of domestic violence.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs cited a lack of specific information and inadequate mechanisms for collecting and evaluating data on incidents of domestic violence as major impediments to tackling gender-based violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically address sexual harassment. There were no statistics available on the prevalence of sexual harassment cases. Media reports often indicated that women avoided reporting sexual harassment because they feared retribution in the workplace.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care was widely available, as was access to information on contraception.
Discrimination: The Bureau of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports, and Youth worked to protect the rights of women. Women have equal property rights, including in a divorce settlement. Women actively participated in all aspects of national life and were well represented at all levels of the public and private sectors, although some discrimination persisted. Reports indicated that women earned significantly less than men for comparable work. The law does not mandate equal pay for equal work.