20-30% of children sexually abused in Guyana – UNICEF


…mixed survey report of 2014 reveals over 75% experienced violence

Data retrieved from a mixed survey throughout Guyana in 2014 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that over 75 per cent of the children interviewed reported that they experienced some form of abuse in their lives.

This is according to UNICEF’s Country Representative to Guyana, Sylvie Fouet, who told a gathering at the recently-held University of Guyana’s Tain Talks on Sexual Violence, that this survey was conducted in various communities and households across the country.

According to statistics, between 20 and 30 per cent of these children and youths have been subjected to some form of sexual violence.

“For UNICEF, our message is clear, no form of violence including sexual violence, is acceptable. Sexual violence is a silent emergency … you don’t see the wounds. They might be inside of them, the emotional consequence – that is a lifetime. So this silent emergency demands our attention and action at all levels – at home, school, community, institutions and system, including at workplaces,” Fouet declared.

UNICEF Country Representative to Guyana, Sylvie Fouet

She emphasised that no one person or agency could create a safe environment for the country’s children and youths and as such, all hands should be on deck to change social norms and cultural silence on the issue of child sexual abuse in Guyana.

Meanwhile, according to the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, prior to the establishment of the Sexual Offences Court in Georgetown (2017) and in Berbice, there was a very low conviction rate and low reporting of sexual abuse cases.

“We know only too well that when the matter is reported and investigated and proceeds to trial, there is even more trauma if the case is not handled properly or if we are insensitive to the needs of the victims. This in itself can cause secondary trauma or revictimisation. And this may cause the victim to withdraw from the court system; they may refuse to give their statement to the Police, or they may stay away or decide not to face the offender or the jury,” Justice Cummings-Edwards noted.

She explained that in some cases, victims may believe that they would be subjected to harsh environments, and would be reluctant to pursue the act of seeking justice for the crime committed against them.

“Prior to the Sexual Offences Act and the Sexual Offences Court, victims went through the ordeal, had to face cold confines of Police station, then the Magistrate’s Court and then the High Court to be questioned and even humiliated,” the acting Chancellor noted.

Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette

However, Justice Cummings-Edwards reminded that the aim of the Sexual Offences Court was to ensure that the environment was conducive to victims and support services were offered. Quite soon, she said, another such court will be established in Suddie, Essequibo.

“Sexual violence is a criminal offence and also a violation of human rights. Reports have shown that there is a high incidence of rape within the Caribbean and Guyana has signed on and ratified a number of instruments. The Constitution provides for appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measure to protect children, women and others from physical, mental and sexual violence.”