An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Guyana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In May police shot and killed robbery suspect Peter Headley while he was being transported by police in a civilian vehicle to a police station. According to police, Headley reached under the seat of the vehicle and pulled out what appeared to be a firearm, leading an armed police officer to shoot Headley, who died a short time later. The officers involved were placed under arrest. The Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Police Complaints Authority investigated the matter, and as of October the Department of Public Prosecutions was reviewing the results of the investigation. In September the Guyana Police Force SWAT team shot and killed Orin Boston during a search of his home. Boston was unarmed. As of November, the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility was conducting an investigation into the incident.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices. There were allegations that prison officials mistreated inmates.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and jail conditions, particularly in police holding cells, were reportedly harsh and potentially life threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions.

Physical Conditions: In September the Guyana Prison Service reported there were 1,914 prisoners in seven facilities with a combined design capacity of 1,505. Overcrowding was in large part due to a backlog of pretrial detainees, who constituted approximately 46 percent of the total prison population.

One death occurred because of injuries inflicted by other inmates.

In 2018 the government reported a study finding that prison officers physically abused prisoners and that prison conditions at Lusignan Prison were appalling and cells were unfit for human habitation. Prisoners reported unsanitary conditions and a lack of potable water, and they also complained of lengthy confinement in their cells with limited opportunities for sunlight.

The adult prison population contained individuals 16 years of age and older. In most cases, however, offenders younger than 16 were held in a juvenile correctional center that offered primary education, vocational training, and basic medical care.

Administration: Authorities stated officers in charge of each prison location conducted weekly meetings with prisoners’ Complaints Committees to hear concerns. Prisoners often circumvented procedures for submitting complaints of inhuman conditions or mistreatment by passing letters addressed to government officials through family members.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted outside groups to monitor prison conditions independently.

Improvements: Expansion work at the Mazaruni Prison was completed to accommodate 220 additional prisoners. Expansions at Lusignan Prison were begun to accommodate 1,000 additional prisoners. To address overcrowding, a 2021 expansion of the prison included three additional dormitories, improved kitchen and dining areas, a rehabilitated well, and a farming area for prisoners to grow food and raise chickens.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

An arrest requires a warrant issued by a court official unless an officer who witnesses a crime believes there is good cause to suspect a crime or a breach of the peace has been or will be committed. The law stipulates that a person arrested cannot be held for more than 72 hours unless brought before a court to be charged. Authorities generally observed this requirement. Bail was generally available except in cases of capital offenses and narcotics trafficking.

Although the law provides criminal detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members, authorities occasionally did not fully respect this right.

The state provides legal counsel for indigent persons only when such persons are charged with a capital offense. The Legal Aid Clinic, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), provides legal counsel at a reduced fee in certain circumstances, as determined by the clinic. Police routinely required permission from the senior investigating officer, who was seldom on the premises, before permitting counsel access to a client.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention. In June the Police Complaints Authority issued its report covering 2019, which found most police officers interviewed were ignorant of constitutional provisions regarding arrests and searches and that a substantial number of members of the police force under investigation openly violated the constitution in the performance of their duties.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, due primarily to judicial inefficiency, staff shortages, and cumbersome legal procedures. The average length of pretrial detention was three years for those awaiting trial at a magistrates’ court or in the High Court. This often exceeded the maximum possible sentence for the crime for which they were charged.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Delays and inefficiencies undermined judicial due process. Shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, occasional allegations of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and police slowness in preparing cases for trial caused delays.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. Cases in magistrates’ courts are tried without jury, while cases involving more serious crimes are tried by jury in the High Court. The constitution provides that a person shall be informed in detail of the nature of the offense charged as soon as reasonably practicable. Defendants have the right to a timely trial and free assistance of an interpreter. The constitution also provides for persons charged with a criminal offense to be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of a defense. Authorities routinely granted trial postponements to both the defense and prosecution. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and confront adverse witnesses, and they may present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have the right to appeal.

While the law recognizes the right to legal counsel, it was limited to those who could afford to pay, except in cases involving capital crimes. Although there is no formal public defender system, a defendant in a murder case that reaches the High Court may receive a court-appointed attorney. The Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic, with government and private support, provided advice to persons who could not afford a lawyer, particularly victims of domestic violence and violence against women.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, and the government generally respected this provision. Individuals can access the court system to initiate lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. The magistrates’ courts deal with both criminal and civil matters. Delays, inefficiencies, and alleged corruption in the magistrates’ court system affected citizens’ ability to seek timely remedies in civil matters, and there was a large backlog of civil cases. Citizens have the right to appeal adverse domestic decisions to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law generally prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The law provides stringent penalties for rape, with life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. Successful prosecution of domestic violence cases was infrequent. As of September, police reported that only 38 percent of reports of rape resulted in criminal charges, while rape cases countrywide increased by nearly 50 percent compared with the same period in 2020. In June a pregnant teenage girl told authorities she had been raped by two men who filmed the encounter, and she subsequently miscarried. As of September, only one of the perpetrators was in custody.

Domestic violence and violence against women, including spousal abuse, was widespread. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines and 12 months’ imprisonment. The law was not enforced effectively. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction. In other instances, police noted that cases were dropped after the victim refused to proceed with charges or support the evidence collection.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides for monetary penalties and award of damages to victims. The law does not cover harassment in schools. Acts of sexual harassment involving physical assault are prosecuted under relevant criminal statutes. While reports of sexual harassment were common, no cases had been filed as of September.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Vulnerable populations were able to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including for sterilization.

No government policies adversely affected access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, but geographical circumstances remained the primary barrier to access health care, specifically in the interior regions. The World Health Organization reported the country had a maternal mortality rate of 169 deaths per 100,000 live births. Primary causes for maternal death included poor obstetric performance, malaria, poor nutrition, and infrequent access to prenatal care among some women in remote areas due to inadequate transportation. A 2017 UNICEF study reported anecdotally that maternal mortality rates for the indigenous community, irrespective of location, were higher than for the rest of the population but did not have qualitative data to back up the date.

UNICEF data from 2017 indicated that the rate of adolescent pregnancy within the indigenous community, 148 per thousand, was double the national average of 74 per thousand.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

The greatest barrier to accessing emergency health care was geographical; residents of remote interior regions were not able to access nearby medical facilities.

Discrimination: Although women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, gender-related discrimination was widespread and deeply ingrained. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but there was no meaningful enforcement against such discrimination in the workplace. Job vacancy notices routinely specified that the employer sought only male or only female applicants, and women earned approximately 58 percent less than men for equal work.

The constitution prohibits any law that discriminates based on race or national origin. The political party system is overwhelmingly race-based, with Indo-Guyanese forming most of the government and Afro-Guyanese forming the majority of the opposition as well as the civil service. There were, however, members of both ethnicities in senior leadership positions of the government. There were reports by the opposition of government discrimination against Afro-Guyanese citizens in the distribution of COVID relief grants and flood grants, as well as civil service firings throughout the year that disproportionately affected the Afro-Guyanese population.

A constitutionally mandated and broadly based Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), a government body, existed with a mandate to promote ethnic harmony among all citizens, but it was not successful in fulfilling its mandate. In February one of the ERC commissioners called the commission “dysfunctional and wasteful,” citing the high salaries of its leadership and few achievements, which were narrowly centered on public calls for unity around national holidays. Civil society organizations generally agreed with this assessment but noted the ERC’s mission was a necessary one.

Various laws, including the Amerindian Act of 2006, protect the rights of the indigenous community, and members have some ability to participate in decisions affecting them, their land, and resources. Rules enacted by village councils require approval from the minister of Amerindian affairs before entering into force. Indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated. The government has the authority to override village councils when issuing mining concessions. In March the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) reported to the United Nations that the government established several townships in remote areas without consulting the indigenous population holding recognized title to these lands, resulting in conflicts over land use and governance. The APA also reported discrimination in housing and employment for indigenous peoples.

According to the 2012 census, the indigenous population constituted 10 percent of the total population. There were nine recognized tribal groups. An estimated 90 percent of indigenous communities were in the remote interior. The standard of living in indigenous communities was lower than that of most citizens, with limited access to education, health care, and professional mobility, especially for youth. There were reports of interference by government officials in the affairs of indigenous peoples’ councils, as well as labor exploitation and harassment. The APA reported difficulty in securing meetings with government ministers on land titling issues.

The government conducted outreach during the year to several remote indigenous villages in the country’s interior to distribute COVID-19 information and education-related cash grants.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or by birth to a Guyanese citizen abroad. The law requires that births be registered within 14 days but also provides for registration of births after the 14-day period. Births at hospitals and health facilities were registered within a day of delivery.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits abuse of children, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation. There were frequent, widespread reports of physical and sexual abuse of children. As with cases of domestic abuse, NGOs alleged some police officers could be bribed to make cases of child abuse “go away.”

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, but boys and girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent or judicial authority. UNICEF reported that 30 percent of women were married before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 16. By law a person who has sexual relations with a child younger than 16 may be found guilty of a felony and imprisoned for life. There were continued reports of children being trafficked in commercial sex. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children age 18 and younger and stipulates penalties commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Laws related to pornography and pornographic performances do not prohibit the use, procuring, and offering of a child for each of these purposes. The law also regulates selling, publishing, or exhibiting obscene material, defined as anything that could deprave or corrupt those open to immoral influences. The country is not a destination for child sex tourism.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Excluding expatriates, the Jewish community had fewer than five members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law calls for the formulation of policies regarding access to education, health services, and public buildings for persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities in the most populous areas attended mainstream or special education schools, while the majority of those living in rural areas did not have the ability to attend school as there were no specialized programs or special needs curricula in mainstream education. Special education schools used a primary school curriculum, irrespective of age, and students did not receive certification upon graduation. Most children with disabilities who graduated with high school qualifications were those who were blind or had a physical disability.

The public health-care system was accessible to all persons, including persons with disabilities. Most public buildings were inaccessible to persons with disabilities, but new schools were being built with ramps and elevators. Some information from the government was provided in accessible formats, including sign language, audio, and braille. The transportation system, based on privately owned minibuses, was not accessible to persons with physical disabilities.

Persons with disabilities reported some episodes of police intimidation. In May the head of the local Society for the Blind was robbed while exiting a taxi on his way to his office and noted to media it was not the first time a blind person had been robbed in the area. There were reports of private abuse by family members against persons with disabilities. Government officials did not condone violence, harassment, intimidation, or abuses against persons with disabilities.

There were reports of private discrimination against persons with disabilities in attaining employment and housing.

Local activists noted continued stigma against individuals with HIV/AIDS.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual activity among men is illegal under the law and is punishable by up to two years in prison. Anal intercourse is punishable with a maximum sentence of life in prison, regardless of whether the intercourse is between persons of the same sex. These laws were not enforced during the year, and there were no reports of arrests. In August the National Assembly formally removed cross-dressing as a criminal offense from the law, fully incorporating a 2018 decision by the Caribbean Court of Justice that the law was unconstitutional.

No antidiscrimination legislation exists to protect persons from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. NGOs reported widespread discrimination of persons in this regard. Reports noted continued official and social discrimination in employment, access to education and medical care, and in public spaces. A leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) NGO reported frequent acts of violence against members of the LGBTQI+ community.

Human Rights Reports
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future