On Universal Children’s Day, Wednesday, November 20, 2013, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) made oral presentations and responded to questions based on its February 2013 written submission to the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Guyana’s Commitment to the United Nations Human Rights Council to abolish corporal punishment.
At the meeting with the Committee, SASOD was represented by member Collis Augustine, Advocacy and Communications Officer Schemel Patrick and Secretary of the Board of Trustees, Zenita Nicholson. The meeting discussed the necessity to strengthen dialogue with civil society partners, other stakeholders and more conservative groups on the issue of corporal punishment in schools. Discussions were also centered on the need for these groups and individuals working to create change to continue to advocate and to demonstrate why it’s imperative for the government to comply with United Nations children’s rights standards on corporal punishment.
In recent times, SASOD has been increasingly focused on children’s issues in Guyana. In December 2012, SASOD launched its Child Protection Policy which echoed its commitment to ensuring that the rights of Guyana’s children are respected and protected, as well as to provide a framework to assist all representatives in carrying out their duties to safeguard children’s welfare and promote awareness of child protection issues.
In January 2013, SASOD along with three other civil society groups - Red Thread, Family Action Consciousness Togetherness (FACT) and Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.) - made a joint submission to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child that focused on “Sexuality and Gender Issues Affecting Children in Guyana” as the state's record was under review. In its concluding observations, the UN Committee recommended that Guyana address discrimination against children based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Then in May 2013, SASOD led the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) in its observance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) under the theme “Children are Our Future” to keep a local spotlight on the Special Select Committee of the National Assembly that is currently holding consultations on the abolition of corporal punishment in schools, and the need to create a safe and enabling environment for children, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
And just last month, on October 28, 2013, SASOD along with three other civil society groups -Red Thread, Family Action Consciousness Togetherness (FACT) and Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.) – made submissions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on "Violence, Sexuality and Gender Issues Affecting Children in Guyana." One of the issues highlighted was corporal punishment. The Ministry of Education’s guidelines on maintaining order speak to the regulated and documented use of corporal punishment in schools “as a last resort.” However, the use of corporal punishment in schools is commonplace, to the extent that teachers appear not to recognize when they are using this form of abuse on the children in their care. Additionally, the very fact of allowing “regulated and documented use of corporal punishment” gives teachers permission to use it. Children have suffered needless injuries because of teachers’ violence. Past newspaper reports of dislocated shoulders, fractures and marks left on children have only served to intensify the chorus that children are out of control and that teachers need protection. To put it simply, beating children in Guyana's schools is an abuse of the power of adults over children.
SASOD joins other rights groups in the call to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, particularly in the domestic and school contexts; strengthen and expand awareness-raising and education programmes and campaigns, in order to promote positive and alternative forms of discipline and respect for children’s rights, with the involvement of children, while raising awareness about the adverse consequences of corporal punishment in Guyana.
As we observe Universal Children’s Day, SASOD is reiterates its position to abolish corporal punishment in schools and continues to work with other civil society groups advocating for an end to all forms of violence, abuse and discrimination against children.
On Saturday, November 23, 2013, SASOD, as part of the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF), is hosting a mural painting exercise at the Georgetown Seawall, between Vlissengen Road and Pere Street commencing at 15:00 hrs. Also collaborating with the GEF are the interim Guyana National Youth Council, Youth Challenge Guyana, Youths For Guyana and the Guyana Girl Guides Association. Ms. Ann Greene, Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency, and Ms. Marianne Flach, UNICEF Representative to Guyana, are expected to make remarks. The GEF is observing Universal Children’s Day under the theme “Speak out against Violence, Abuse and Discrimination of Children.” We expect attendance from a wide cross-section of civil society, governmental and international partners. The general public and the media are invited to attend and participate in this event.
Children at the Mural Painting with Director for Childcare and Protection Agency, Ms. Ann Greene; UNICEF Representative, Ms. Marianna Flach; SASOD contractors and volunteers.
Photo Credit: Guyana Chronicle