Human Services and Social Security Minister Dr Vindhya Persaud has said there are programmes in the pipeline to further address gender-based violence (GBV) and human trafficking in 2024.
Dr Persaud revealed that, for 2023, more than 14,300 reports of gender-based violence have been lodged through the 914 toll-free hotline. Of that number, 418 were related to domestic violence and 83 were sexual offence reports; however, only 150 of the GBV reports were significant.
In response thereof, 74 persons benefitted from shelter support and more than 1,000 persons received free legal advice through the legal pro bono project being run by the Ministry and the Guyana Bar Association.
As a result, 20 persons were represented in court, and about 10 per cent of the reports were resolved at the level of the judiciary.
Dr Persaud has said that while the number of cases resolved legally is relatively low, it is important to note that hundreds of women and men were provided with sums of money for home rental after leaving abusive living situations. Additionally, safe vouchers worth $15,000, survivor kits which contain necessities to maintain a healthy hygiene, and counselling services were made available to victims.
In an interview with this publication, Minister Dr Vindhya Persaud revealed that Government’s efforts to eliminate GBV would be amplified with commissioning of the Hope and Justice Center at Lusignan, ECD and with tabling of the Family Violence Bill in the National Assembly. She noted that while the act would be laid in the National Assembly early next year, Government is working to make the services of the Hope and Justice Center available before the end of 2023.
“So, we’re looking at this, not just through narrow lenses; we’re looking at it comprehensively. So legislation, policy, services, and we have exceeded the number of Police men and women we’re trained. We’ve trained over 2000 Policemen through the COP squad initiative…and so every Police station right now in the country should have at least one to two persons at several levels trained through that initiative, which that Police station would benefit from case management, case reporting, and taking reports, and doing so in a professional manner,” Dr Persaud explained.
A mere 36 cases of human trafficking have been reported this year, and 317 alleged victims have been identified by the Trafficking in Persons Unit for psychosocial support. Also, 30 raids have been conducted, eight persons have been placed before magistrates’ courts, and three individuals have received restitution.
Minister Persaud has said that a special taskforce will be developed in 2024 to eradicate human trafficking and ensure more perpetrators are brought before the courts.“There is a new Counter-in-Trafficking piece of legislation, and that mandates that the minister… will head a taskforce where we pull together all the stakeholders, develop a national action plan, move forward (that) action plan to ensure that actions are taken in such a way to reduce and eradicate trafficking in persons, and each of the ministries will have their own programme,” Dr Persaud has said.
GBV and human traffickingThe Spotlight Initiative aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through its six pillars: legislation, institutional strengthening, prevention, services, data, and women’s rights and civil society.
Through this initiative, 2,688 persons were assisted through the Survivor Advocate programme, less than 1000 frontline personnel were trained to identify trafficking in persons, and 1,500 persons were trained through the Community Advocates’ network to assist with reporting, support, and identifying persons they believe are being abused.Moreover, 2,456 GBV victims received crisis counselling, 1,851 received court support, and 100 social workers were trained in GBV.
These efforts form part of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Administration’s 2020-2025 manifesto commitment to provide expanded access to Legal Aid Services for persons across Guyana.