Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Successful prosecution of cases of rape was infrequent. Based on media reports and commentary from NGOs, a 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, a lack of confidence in authorities, retribution, or further violence.
Authorities received 233 reports of rape and charged 36 persons. There was a 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. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. The police received 2,170 reports of domestic violence cases, and 1,131 persons were charged. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines up to 10,000 Guyanese dollars (GYD) ($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 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 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, and provided psychosocial services to those victims.
The government and private donors funded Help & Shelter, an NGO, to run a free shelter for victims of domestic violence and operate a hotline to counsel victims. The Help & Shelter 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 and provides for monetary penalties and award of damages to victims, but the law’s scope is confined to the workplace. For instance, 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. Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Nevertheless, the UN Population Fund reported a modern contraception use of 40 percent and a maternal mortality ratio of 250 deaths per 100,000 live births. The media 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 with regard to family, labor, nationality, and inheritance laws, 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 only 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.
In August three members of the law enforcement department of the city council of Georgetown were dismissed for becoming pregnant. This department’s rules prohibit a female constable from becoming pregnant within her first two years of employment with the department. Following public outcry, the government acknowledged that the policy was discriminatory, and the constables were reinstated.
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.