Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, but many incidents were not reported to law-enforcement officers. Authorities seldom successfully prosecuted cases that were reported. Based on media reports and commentary, a high incidence of rape and sexual assault was not reflected in official statistics. Many survivors did not report rapes, presumably because of fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence.
During 2012, the latest year for available data, authorities charged 102 persons with rape, but only 28 were convicted, due in part to the large court backlog. A judge has discretion to issue a sentence of any length in a rape conviction, depending upon 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 and crossed racial and socioeconomic lines. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. Court records showed that 279 domestic violence cases were filed during 2012, and 143 persons were convicted. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines up to 10,000 GYD ($49.50) and 12 months’ imprisonment. Survivors frequently were unwilling to press charges due to a lack of confidence in obtaining a remedy through the courts. Some such persons preferred to reach a pecuniary settlement out of court. There were reports of police accepting bribes and other reports of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction. In addition, cases heard involving violation of a protective order tended to be categorized as assault cases.
According to an NGO, police units were required to have domestic violence units where victims could be counseled in private. The NGO 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.
The government and private donors funded an NGO 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.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law prohibits FGM/C, and the practice was virtually nonexistent in the country.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for monetary penalties and award of damages to victims, but its application is confined to the workplace. For instance, the law does not cover harassment in schools. Any act of sexual harassment involving physical assault can also be 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 freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to obtain the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to contraception and skilled health attendance during pregnancy, at delivery, and in postpartum care was widely available. Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. The UN Population Fund reported a modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 40 percent and a maternal mortality ratio of 250 deaths per 100,000 live births. Skilled health personnel attended 87 percent of births. Media reports highlighted cases where severe bleeding after childbirth and hypertensive disorders contributed to the high maternal mortality ratio. The media also highlighted cases where nurses ignored family members’ complaints about 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 2012 only 48 percent of women were in the workforce, compared to 85 percent of men. Job vacancy notices routinely specified that the employer sought only male or only female applicants.
The Women’s Affairs Bureau of the Ministry 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 listen to the concerns of women 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.