The Cooperative Republic of Guyana is a multiparty democracy. National and regional elections took place in March, and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won both the presidency and a majority of representational seats. International and local observers considered the elections free and fair. The incumbent government, however, contested the results of the national elections, leading to numerous rounds of litigation over a three-month period that included a month-long recount, which the incumbent government accepted.
The police commissioner heads the Guyana Police Force, which reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs and is responsible for maintaining internal security. The Guyana Defense Force is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The defense force, headed by a chief of staff, falls under the purview of the Defense Board, which the president of the country chairs. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over police and the military. Members of the security forces committed few abuses.
Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; harsh prison conditions; and laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adult men.
Government officials did not enjoy impunity for human rights abuses. There were independent and transparent procedures for handling allegations of abuses by security forces.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. Independent media were active and at times expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. The ruling party’s monopoly of state media creates an imbalance in public discourse and tends to give them a public affairs advantage, since the opposition does not have an outlet of its own.
Libel/Slander Laws: Defamatory libel is a crime punishable by imprisonment of three years or less. There were no reports the government used these laws to restrict public discussion or retaliate against journalists or political opponents.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
In May authorities arrested antigovernment political protesters. Officials stated the protesters violated supplemental legislation that prohibited public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government put in place a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. from April to September and 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. from October to protect public health and announced that violators would be fined. Police arrested and fined more than 2,000 persons for curfew violations as of October.
In-country Movement: The law requires that local village councils grant permission in advance for travel to indigenous areas, but most individuals traveled in these areas without a permit.
e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons
f. Protection of Refugees
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for protection of asylum seekers, and the government has not established a system for providing protection for refugees. Although the government is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Protocol on Refugees, the government reported that it did not prosecute or deport Venezuelan refugees or asylum seekers. In the absence of national legislation and requisite government capacity, the UNHCR assumed the main responsibility for determination of refugee status.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees.
g. Stateless Persons
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
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. There were reports of successful prosecution of cases of rape. Successful prosecution of domestic violence cases was infrequent.
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. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction.
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: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to manage their reproductive health. They had access to information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. No legal, social, or cultural barriers or government policies adversely affected access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth.
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. The United Nations Population Fund reported that 34 percent of women used a modern method of contraception.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
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.
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 exploited in prostitution. 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.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution mandates that the state “take legislative and other measures” to protect disadvantaged persons and persons with disabilities. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but civil society groups stated the law was not regularly enforced. The law provides for a National Commission on Disabilities to advise the government, coordinate actions on problems affecting persons with disabilities, and implement and monitor the law. The commission focused its attention on sensitizing the public about the law and on compliance, as well as performing sensitization workshops with the Ministries of Human Services and Social Security, Education, and Health.
There were segregated schools for the blind and for persons with other disabilities in the most populous regions of the country. As a result, children with disabilities rarely attended mainstream schools, since these lacked the necessary accommodating curriculum and infrastructure. Lack of appropriate transportation and infrastructure to provide access to both public and private facilities made it difficult for persons with disabilities to be employed outside their homes.
Various laws 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.
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, and they had limited access to education and health care. A UN study found that pregnant women in indigenous communities were not receiving mandatory HIV tests. In March political protesters made denigrating remarks against indigenous persons.
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; activists reported it was more common for police to use the law to intimidate men who were gay or perceived to be gay than to make arrests. A law criminalizing cross-dressing remains despite a 2018 decision by the Caribbean Court of Justice that the law is 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 official and societal discrimination in employment, access to education and medical care, and in public space. According to a 2014 survey, approximately 12 percent of men who had sex with men experienced stigma daily, while approximately 30 percent of transgender youth and adults encountered stigma every day or regularly. A leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) NGO reported frequent acts of violence against members of the LGBTI community.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
A 2014 UNICEF survey reported only 23 percent of persons ages 15 to 49 expressed accepting attitudes towards individuals with HIV.