Thursday, March 28, 2013

Red Thread, 
Guyana Rainbow Foundation (GuyBow),
Stella’s Sisterhood of Support & Service (S4) Foundation and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)

invite all members of the public to a discussion forum on

“Gender Equality and Sexual Rights 
in Guyana”

on Thursday, April 4, 2013 from 17:00 hrs at Moray House Trust,
239 Camp and Quamina Streets, Georgetown, Guyana


For further information contact SASOD by telephone on (592) 225-7283 or 623-5155 or by email at

Friday, March 15, 2013

          Submission to Support the Abolition of Corporal Punishment in Schools in Guyana

March 15, 2013

The Clerk of the Committee,
Special Select Committee On Guyana’s Commitment
To The United Nations Human Rights Council
With Regard To
The Abolition Of Corporal Punishment In The Schools,
The Abolition Of The Death Penalty And
The Decriminalization Of Consensual Adult Same Sex Relations And Discrimination Against Lesbians, Gays, Bi-Sexual And Transgender Persons
(Resolution No. 23 Of 2012) Committees Division

SASOD, as a human rights group, is in full support of abolishing corporal punishment in schools.

Physical violence is masked as corporal punishment in all spheres of Guyanese society, homes, schools and other institutions, and it is a significant contributing factor to the violence that prevails and plagues our society today. Such behavior towards children teaches them at an early age that resorting to violence is an acceptable way of dealing with:
·         intense emotions, such as anger, anxiety and stress;
·         to deal with conflict; and
·         that it is acceptable for people in authority to foist their will, rules or ways on those in their care through the use of brute force, in this case corporal punishment.
Further corporal punishment attacks the child's body and not the problem itself. It is useless if the goal is to correct a particular behavior. Rather it communicates and instills hatred and fear in the child.
Some persons believe that because their religion sanctions beating children that it is an acceptable form of disciplinary action, but those same religions also endorse many other human rights abuses that we consider abhorrent in civilized society today. Besides, Guyana is a secular nation where religion should be separate from the state and without undue influence on public policy and law making. Anything less would be regressive and colonial.   
The Ministry of Education has a ZERO tolerance policy on bullying, yet it is acceptable for teachers to beat children, as we have seen being reported in the local media. Is this not a form of bullying? The power lies with the bigger person, in this case the adult in charge.
To put it simply, beating children in Guyana's schools is an abuse of the power of adults over children. Guyana has to overcome a history of institutional violence being used, as was in the case during slavery, indentureship and colonialism. We are now an independent country and must move away from these barbaric, archaic practices which our current laws legitimize.
 The 2005 UNICEF/Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security/Red Thread Report "Voices of Children: Experiences with Violence" states:
"The 2002 Ministry of Education guidelines state that corporal punishment of children should not be used by class teachers, but only by the Head Teacher in extreme cases. However, during this survey, children reported that corporal punishment is administered more often by teachers in the classroom than by the heads in Schools."
The report identifies not doing school work well as among the six most common reasons for the administration of corporal punishment in schools. Twenty percent (20%) of children interviewed said that they received corporal punishment for such things as not finishing work, not writing fast enough, and spelling words incorrectly. This indicates that corporal punishment is not only being used as a means of imposing discipline but to penalise children whose only 'crime' is performing below expectations in academic subjects. This group will include children who may be dyslexic, abused, or have mild physical disabilities.
The use of corporal punishment in this way is all the more intolerable because by creating a psychological association between physical punishment and school work, it encourages children who are unable to satisfy their teachers to believe themselves failures and this no doubt contributes significantly to the dropout rate. The 2005 report also states that:
"Children often mentioned being physically and emotionally hurt by the use of corporal punishment and even described being 'beaten bad' by their teachers [resulting in] swelling of hands so that it was difficult to write, leaving permanent marks on their skin, leaving them so humiliated that they could not concentrate on their work, or leaving them too afraid to ask for help."
The UN Secretary General's Study on Violence against Children suggests that there must be a turning point - an end to adult justification of violence against children, whether accepted as “tradition” or disguised as “discipline”. There can be no compromise in challenging violence against children. Children’s uniqueness - their potential and vulnerability, their dependence on adults - makes it imperative that they have more, not less, protection from violence.
Indiscipline throughout our institutions and throughout our streets is the product of women and men who suffered corporal punishment. The failures of reason and the easy recourse to violence in every situation in Guyana come from women and men who suffered corporal punishment.
We therefore call for the removal of the corporal punishment provisions from the Education Act and for legal abolition of corporal punishment in Guyana.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Joint Press Release - International Woman’s Day
The Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) Women’s Network (GY Sista Friends), Stella’s Sisterhood for Service and Support (S4) Foundation, Red Thread, Guyana Rainbow Foundation (GuyBow) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) unite in celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of Guyanese women on the occasion of International Women’s Day (IWD), notwithstanding the challenges women face living in our patriarchal society. Our groups remain committed to advancing progress for all women in every sphere of their lives.  IWD is commemorated annually on March 8. 
Despite efforts to empower women, leading roles in many sectors of the formal economy are still heavily dominated by men. In order to create meaningful, positive change, gender equality must also result in both equality of opportunity and outcome for women and men alike. Women must have equal access to the same opportunities, as well as equal pay for work of the same value, as men. “We also need to value women’s caring work,” said Karen De Souza, National Coordinator of Red Thread. “Women are often trapped in abusive relationships because of their economic circumstances, so valuing the caring work that women do in their homes and communities is critical to ending violence” she added. 
Guyana has good laws on its books aimed at eradicating violence against women. However, gender-based violence has reached pandemic proportions. Imarah Radix, Project Coordinator of the S4 Foundation vehemently stated that, “we need to stop hitting and hurting women. Each one of us has a role to play in ending domestic violence and we must recognise this. We cannot wait on the police or the courts to make a judgment; as the facts have shown that even though someone may have a court order, they are killed in the middle of the night, at home, in bed, by their partners.”
Colleen McEwan, Executive Director of GuyBow and member of GY Sista Friends pointed out that, “we must change our attitudes towards discrimination and violence against all women, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. We must challenge discrimination and violence wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head,” she added.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, to which Guyana is a party. The CEDAW committee meets regularly – one year after a country ratifies the Convention and every four years thereafter – to review reports submitted by governments on progress towards its implementation. In its most recent review of Guyana in New York in July 2012, the CEDAW Committee in its concluding observations urged Guyana “to provide effective protection against violence and discrimination against all groups of women through the enactment of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against them and the decriminalization of consensual adult same sex relations...”
 We challenge every person to play their part in ensuring that we continue to create a society where women are empowered and have equal opportunities to their male counterparts. Every Guyanese woman has the right to the freedoms as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and should be protected, regardless of their differences.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Press Relase: World Day of Social Justice

Marking World Day of Social Justice, celebrated on February 20 annually, leading Civil Society Groups highlight key recommendations from the recently-concluded review of Guyana’s obligations before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Red Thread, Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.), Family Awareness Conscious Together (FACT) and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) contributed a joint submission on sexuality and gender issues affecting children in Guyana to the review which took place in Geneva last month. 

Field research for joint submission prepared by the groups found that many Guyanese children face a wide range of challenges such as poverty, violence, and lack of support from family and teachers, who have little understanding of the problems affecting them and often do not possess the skills to empower, but rather shun them when they seek support and guidance. Desiree Edgehill, Executive Director of A.I.D.S. reiterated," a major concern is contracting HIV, since we know that children are sexually active as early as 14 years old, according to the 2008/2009 Biological Behavioural Surveillance Survey done by the Ministry of Health.” In light of these issues CRC recommended that Guyana undertake targeted programmes for improving access to age- appropriate, HIV and sexual reproductive and health information and services among adolescents.

Additionally, CRC recommended that Guyana adopt a sex and reproductive health policy for adolescents and ensure that sex and reproductive education is widely promoted and targeted at adolescent girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, HIV and sexual health services and information for children. “Children need comprehensive sex and sexuality education so that they can make informed decisions regarding their own healthy, sexual development and growth without the judgements and condemnations that are too often forthcoming from the adults around them. The education authorities must move to implement urgently the age appropriate HFLE programme that has been promised for so long" said Karen de Souza, National Coordinator of Red Thread.

The responses to sexuality and gender issues affecting children are severely constrained, which stems from cultural norms and attitudes which further weaken the support to children and youth specifically when it conflicts with norms and expectations of society. There is too little in place structurally to address the need to provide information and support to these children and youth who are grappling with questions and prejudices about sexuality and gender. When children encounter discrimination based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, the responses they receive from adults are often punitive, rather than educational. Many children therefore grapple with these issues without adequate support. Civil society organisations (CSOs) continue to advocate for the rights of all children and youth, and often provide refuge, in lieu of state protection, for children facing abuse, even with their very limited resources.  Specifically, CRC requested that Guyana address discrimination against children based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We recognise that discrimination against children based on sexual orientation and gender identity is an issue we need to address not only by educating children, but also their parents, guardians, teachers and community leaders - the ones children turn to for help and support," said Anette Jaundoo, Project Coordinator of FACT. The four Civil Society Groups are calling on all Guyanese to play their role in protecting children’s rights; end discrimination against children based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other grounds and provide access to comprehensive sex and sexuality education. It is by removing barriers related to sexuality and gender like these, which impede children’s rights that social justice will be advanced in Guyana.