PEOPLE’S Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament (MP) and Attorney-at-law, Mr. Anil Nandlall, has described the Sexual Offences Bill 2009, as a landmark legislation which has reformed and revolutionalised the law of sexual offences in Guyana.
At the time, he was making his presentation and giving his support before the National Assembly, prior to the passing of the bill in parliament. He congratulated Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Ms. Priya Manickchand, for the tremendous amount of work she put into the bill “from the beginning of the consultation process till to the very end”.
He said, “This bill can be described as a landmark piece of legislation, because for the first time in the history of this country, we have a consolidation and an amalgamation of all the sexual offences under the laws of Guyana, in one singular piece of legislation.”
He noted that it creates a number of new offences, adding, whenever a legislation of this type and magnitude is being discussed, one needs to begin by examining the circumstances which may have inspired or precipitated the enactment of the legislation.
“Because this legislation has very deep and far-reaching social ramifications,” he insisted, dealing with a very important aspect of society.
“It is, I think, an accepted fact by now that we have in Guyana an unusually high rate of crime prevailing in our country; it is also accepted that we have an unusually high level of sexual offences being committed in this country,” he stated.
A weapon of exploitation
He observed that what is also peculiar is the victims invariably being children and women, adding, “…sex in our society is almost used as a weapon of exploitation by those who have economic power, largely against those who are less fortunate.”
“I feel compelled to refer to the last few days coverage of a particular incident in our newspapers, which captures, I think, which epitomizes a significant problem that we face in this country, and which this legislation seeks to address,” he insisted.
“Because here you have based on the newspaper report, and I am aware that there is a charge instituted and I will speak in a manner not to prejudice that charge, but it is an important social reflection of the type of situation that this bill seeks to address,” he said.
He said he thinks that it is important in a debate of this type that one confronts the social realities, and, “if we are serious about tackling the question of sexual crime in our country, we must face the reality of what is going on.”
He noted that in the newspapers, “you have these sad and very sadistic allegations being made against an individual of some prominence, and you read the number of allegations which are being made against this person by very young and underprivileged persons, and it really is a situation that cries out”.
He reiterated that he used that example to demonstrate the type of problems with which the country is faced, and highlighted the fact that in one of the newspapers, there was an article where a sum of about $10M was offered to the victims of the unfortunate and perverted act.
“Now that is exactly what I am speaking about - economic power, financial power being used to purchase themselves out of prosecution and out of charge, and that is what the reality is, and those are the types of situation and the type of circumstances which inspired and precipitated this type of legislation,” he reiterated.