By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Carl Singh has expressed frustration at the high incidents of domestic abuse, many of which have ended in persons losing their lives in Guyana.
According to Justice Singh, it has become a stomach churning experience to read about the incidents of the scourge in local newspapers, describing it as “horrifying and appalling.”
He was at the time delivering remarks at the opening of a two day seminar on domestic violence/abuse at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown, organized by the Supreme Court in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges Association.
Chancellor Singh expressed the view that the incidents of domestic violence in Guyana is at an alarming level, adding that in 2013 the country recorded 29 deaths as a result of domestic abuse of which 21 accounted for women and girls.
“A sound advice recently was from a woman who survived domestic abuse and as she lay on her hospital bed she told women to run, there is no second chance,” the Chancellor added.
He explained that these incidents not only damages the prospects of social and economic development but must be seen as a critical human rights issue that impacts on the victims’ right to life and security.
“In order to eliminate this, the role of central government cannot be ignored… it’s not only about outlining policies and programs but it is the implementation coupled with meaningful interventions, that is what will make the difference.”
Meanwhile, Justice Shamin Qureshi, Director of Programmes for Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association reminded the gathering that in 2009, Commonwealth Countries met in Port of Spain, Trinidad where it reaffirmed values in this regard.
He also recalled that in December 2012 the countries developed the Commonwealth Charter, the heart of which was the ‘rule of law’, adding that this is what this seminar is about.
“It deals with equality, access, right to a fair trial and judicial independence.”
Justice Qureshi opined that every death is one too many as he compared Guyana’s statistics to other parts of the world.
“It can be prevented and we have to eradicate it at all cost… it is no longer a private family issue, it is a public issue,” Justice Qureshi added.
Also making presentations was Red Thread’s Karen De Souza who highlighted several cases where the Police, Court or simply Social Workers had failed the victims of domestic abuse.
She said there is legislation that provides for quick remedies but argued that it not instituted, in some cases, by the justice system.
De Souza made the case that the absence of equality is the cause for many of the incidents.
“The institutional support mechanism also peddles inequality, telling women that the man is head of the home or that they must stay and try to make the relationship work.”
There were calls from participants for there to be a more integrated positive approach in dealing with the issues. The role and importance of a local government system was also underscored and participants explored the impacts of contributing factors such as substance abuse.
Participants included Police Officers, Prosecutors, Probation, Welfare and Child-Care Officers, NGO’s, civil society groups and other key stakeholders.
The aim of the event is to provide participants with an opportunity to discuss the major issues in domestic violence cases as they confront them in the dispensation of justice with a view to strengthening the administration of justice.