Absence of Human Rights Commission affecting work of Women and Gender Equality Commission

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Women and Gender Equality commission Chair, Indranie Chandarpal during her debate presentation in the National Assembly

The Women and Gender Equality commission has recommended, among other things, the implementation of paternal leave in the public and private sectors and the establishment of the Human Rights Commission; the absence of which has affected its work.

This is contained in the commission’s seventh annual report, covering the years 2017-2018 which was recently presented to the National Assembly. The commission had visited a number of locations and consulted with various local and international organisations in the months preceding this report.

The Commission is chaired by Indranie Chandarpal of the Women’s Progressive Organisation. The Deputy Chairperson is Cheryl Sampson from the National Congress of Women. The other Commissioners are drawn from the labour unions, regional women’s affairs committees, culture and ethnic groups and the Private Sector.

“The commission is still constrained by the non-functioning of the Human Rights Commission, which has a number of specific mandates as is outlined under article 212 G of the constitution of Guyana,” the commission noted in its report.

The commission urged that the Human Rights Commission be established with the appointment of the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer. A total of 18 other recommendations, including the introduction of paternity leave into the law, were made.

In fact, the commission wants this to be included in contracts of employment and also in collective bargaining agreements. It also urged that work places be required to provide facilities for child care.

Recommendations were also made for legislative and judicial changes. The commission urged that on-going specialised training be given on the Sexual Offences Act and the Domestic Violence Act, specially catered for judges, magistrates, police officers and others involved in the criminal justice system.

According to the commission, a sexual harassment policy and a harmonised code of law on women’s rights should also be implemented. In the case of the latter, the commission recommended that the code be harmonised with international laws and best practise.

“Conduct training workshops and provide women with information on their legal remedies including redress for criminal offences and remedies against discrimination. Guyana should improve access to justice for rural women by having mobile courts,” the commission also urged, adding that this suggestion was made by now acting Chief Justice Roxane George.

The commission also advised that Government investigate and report on conditions for women prisoners. It noted the importance of cross-checking such conditions with the standards set in the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial measures For Women Offenders.

It was also advised that Articles 149 (6), 152 and 154 (6) of the Constitution of Guyana be repealed. According to the commission, these respective articles provide loopholes for discrimination against women and the denial of fundamental rights. There are also recommendations for increasing child support.

At a press conference last year, British High Commissioner to Guyana, Gregory Quinn, had stated that there is an obvious lack of will in the fight against gender inequality amongst the Guyanese population.

According to previous World Bank statistics on international levels of employment, the ratio of female to male labour force participation in 2013 showed that women globally are less likely than men to participate in the labour market, that is, less likely to be employed or actively looking for work.

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