Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The law provides sufficiently stringent penalties for rape, with life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. Successful prosecution of cases of rape and domestic violence was infrequent. Based on media reports and commentary from NGOs, the high incidence of rape and sexual assault was not reflected in official statistics. Many survivors did not report rape and other forms of sexual assault to authorities, presumably due to fear of stigma, lack of confidence in authorities, retribution, or further violence.
As of September authorities received 204 reports of rape and charged 36 persons. There was a large court backlog of cases alleging rape. A judge has discretion to issue a sentence of any length in a rape conviction, depending on the circumstances and severity of the act committed. The norm appeared to be a sentence of five to 10 years’ imprisonment.
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. Police received 2,170 reports of domestic violence, and 1,131 persons were charged. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines up to GYD 10,000 ($50) and 12 months’ imprisonment. Victims frequently were unwilling to press charges due to a lack of confidence in obtaining a remedy through the courts. Some preferred to reach a pecuniary settlement out of court. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and other reports of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction.
According to Help & Shelter, an NGO whose primary focus is assisting victims of domestic violence, police units are required to have domestic violence units where victims can be counseled in private. Help & Shelter observed that in most cases domestic violence reports were not taken confidentially but rather were discussed in the open at police stations and were not treated as a matter of urgency. The NGO handled cases of abuse and violence, including child, spousal, and other domestic abuse, and provided psychosocial services to those victims.
The government and private donors funded Help & Shelter to run a free shelter for victims of domestic violence and operate a hotline to counsel victims. The NGO also conducted awareness sessions to sensitize individuals about domestic violence and counseled persons affected by domestic abuse or violence during face-to-face counseling sessions and via the hotline.
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 were filed. Charges of sexual harassment often were settled out of court.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The UN Population Fund reported a maternal mortality ratio of 230 deaths per 100,000 live births. Media highlighted cases where nurses ignored family members’ complaints of lack of prompt attention, leading in some cases to sickness or death.
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. As of 2014, 44 percent of women were in the workforce, compared with 83 percent of men. Job vacancy notices routinely specified that the employer sought only male or only female applicants, and women earned approximately 61 percent less than men for equal work.
The Women’s Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labor monitored the legal rights of women, but its role was limited to employment-related services. The bureau also held seminars on leadership and gender equity problems for women throughout the country. The constitution provides for a Women and Gender Equality Commission to draw attention to problems that affect the development of women. The commission engaged in a countrywide dialogue and met with regional representatives, stakeholders, government officials, and residents to hear the concerns of women in order to plan more effectively and implement policy at the national level. The law protects women’s property rights in common-law marriages. It entitles a woman who separates or divorces to one-half of the couple’s property if she had regular employment during the marriage and one-third of the property if she had not been employed. Women’s property rights were generally observed.
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. In practice births at hospitals and health facilities were registered within a day of delivery.
Child Abuse: There were frequent reports of physical and sexual abuse of children, which was a widespread and serious problem. As of July there were 223 cases of child abuse reported to the authorities, but law enforcement officials and NGOs believed the vast majority of child rape and criminal child abuse cases were not reported. As with cases of domestic abuse, NGOs alleged that some police officers and magistrates could be bribed to make cases of child abuse “go away.” The Child Care and Protection Agency operated a hotline to take calls regarding suspected abuse of children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years, but boys and girls may marry at 16 years of age with parental consent or judicial authority. The UN Children’s Fund reported that 23 percent of women were married before the age of 18 and 6 percent of girls were married before age 15.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 16 years. By law anyone who has sexual relations with a child under age 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 ages 18 years and younger. The law also regulates selling, publishing, or exhibiting obscene material, defined as anything that could deprave or corrupt those open to immoral influences.
International Child Abductions: The country is not 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community was very small, perhaps fewer than 50 members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution mandates that the state “take legislative and other measures” designed 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 (NCD) to advise the government, coordinate actions on problems affecting persons with disabilities, and implement and monitor the law. The NCD focused its attention on sensitizing the public about the law and on compliance, as well as performing sensitization workshops with the Ministries of Social Protection, Education, and Health.
There were segregated schools for the blind and for persons with other disabilities in regions four and six, the most populous regions of the country. Children with disabilities rarely attended mainstream schools, as these lacked the curriculum and infrastructure necessary to accommodate children with disabilities. 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. The NCD received very few complaints of discrimination.
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 indigenous people’s affairs before entering into force. By law persons wishing to enter indigenous lands must obtain prior permission from the local village council, but most visitors traveled in these areas without a permit.
According to the most recent available data, the indigenous population constituted 10.5 percent of the total population. There were nine recognized tribal groups. Ninety 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. Little reliable data existed regarding the situation of women and girls in indigenous communities, although indigenous women tended to face three-fold discrimination and vulnerability on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and reduced economic status. All indigenous communities had primary schools, and as of 2012 there were 13 secondary schools in remote regions. The secondary schools had dormitories that housed students at government expense. Government programs trained health workers, who staffed rudimentary health facilities in most communities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex activity between adult 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. Activists reported that 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. There are no laws concerning same-sex sexual activity between women. The law also criminalizes cross-dressing.
No antidiscrimination legislation exists to protect persons from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and NGOs reported widespread discrimination of persons in this regard. Reports noted discrimination in employment, access to education and medical care, and in public space. A 2012 report noted that LGBTI persons were fearful of reporting crimes committed against them because they believed that charges would also be brought against them due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In January the president announced that he was prepared to treat the rights of LGBTI individuals as human rights. Nevertheless, the government did very little after the announcement to advance legislative protection for LGBTI persons.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
In the most recent demographic and health survey (2009), 45 percent of women and 38 percent of men reported discriminatory attitudes towards those with HIV. The government reported that stigma and discrimination towards persons with HIV/AIDS were prevalent in the workplace and health-care facilities.