Georgetown, Guyana – (March 10, 2018) A champion for women’s empowerment, First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, yesterday, joined the Women and Gender Equality Commission (W&GEC) for a presentation on the preliminary findings on women’s rights under national and international law. The presentation was done in observance of International Women’s Day and was held in the conference room of the National Library in Georgetown.

During her address, the First Lady focused on the issue of gender-based violence, which she said is “eating away at the soul of our nation”. “Reported incidents of domestic violence by an intimate partner in Guyana rose from 74.8 percent in 2011 to 89 percent in 2017, with females accounting for upward of 80 percent of the victims. The highest number of these crimes occurs in Region Three – Essequibo Coast and Islands, Region Four- Demerara/Mahaica and Region Six- East Berbice/Corentyne, which account for roughly three-quarters of the reported incidents of gender-based violence. The majority of the victims are between the ages of 16 and 45 years of age,” the First Lady said.

Mrs. Granger went on to describe some of the causes of the violence against women noting that these are often grounded in women pushing back against the expectations created in society by archaic gender roles and norms.

International Lawyer, Ms. Melinda Janki, delivered the feature address and focused on gender equality, local and international laws regarding women rights and culture. “Equality is not just a goal or a principle of international law. It’s a requirement of national law. Article 1419 of the Constitution has the right to equality and it says the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection and benefit of the law. Article 149F deals with equal rights for women and it says that every woman is entitled to equal rights and status with men in all spheres of political, economic and social life… and yet, equality in Guyana is a long way off,” she said.

Ms. Janki recommended that in order to achieve gender equality, which would ultimately promote peace and prosperity within local society, the Law must be applied and enforced. “There is much to do; to use existing laws to eliminate gender based violence and protect women’s rights to life, to use laws to change society’s economic priorities, to use laws to help change our culture and values to entrench equality for women,” she said.

Chairperson of the W&GEC, Ms. Indranie Chandarpal, delivering opening remarks, reflected on the opportunity the Commission was granted to speak with a body of magistrates on Guyana’s sentencing, policy, women rights’ issues as well as recommendations the body had proposed to combat those issues. “I had the opportunity to look at some of the recommendations and I’m very impressed with some of them, especially the one dealing with the production of a harmonised code of law on women’s rights,” she said.

Ms. Chandarpal, also reminded the audience that although much progress had been made within the realm of women and gender equality, it is a continuous battle that must be fought through education and sensitisation. “A lot have been done but we still have a far way to go. We have to continue educating our citizens, especially women, about their rights and their responsibilities as well. We know from experience that it can be daunting as well as challenging but still we have to press on,” she said.

Former Attorney General, Mr. Anil Nandlall headed the question and answer session where attendees were given the opportunity to share concerns and ask questions. On the discussion panel were the First Lady and Ms. Janki.

The Women and Gender Equality Commission is a one of the Rights Commissions appointed by the Parliament of Guyana to promote, research and recommend issues related to Women and Gender Equality.

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