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The US State Department’s 2021 report on human rights practices in Guyana has reported cases of discrimination and societal abuses. The report states “there were reports by the opposition of government discrimination against Afro-Guyanese citizens in the distribution of COVID relief grants and flood grants, as well as civil service firings throughout the year that disproportionately affected the Afro-Guyanese population.” While the constitution prohibits any law that discriminates based on race or national origin, the political party system in Guyana is overwhelmingly race-based. Members of both ethnicities hold senior leadership positions in the government.
The report also highlights the struggles faced by indigenous peoples in the country. Laws such as the Amerindian Act of 2006 protect the rights of the indigenous community, but indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated, and the government has the authority to override village councils when issuing mining concessions. The indigenous population constitutes 10% of the total population, and the standard of living in indigenous communities is lower than that of most citizens. Reports of interference by government officials in the affairs of indigenous peoples’ councils, labor exploitation, and harassment have been reported, along with discrimination in housing and employment.
The report also sheds light on the frequent and widespread reports of physical and sexual abuse of children in Guyana. The law prohibits child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation, but NGOs allege that some police officers can be bribed to make cases of child abuse “go away.” The legal age for marriage is 18, but boys and girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent or judicial authority, and UNICEF reports that 30% of women are married before age 18. There were continued reports of children being trafficked in commercial sex, and laws related to pornography and pornographic performances do not prohibit the use, procuring, and offering of a child for each of these purposes.
Overall, the report highlights the need for greater protections for vulnerable populations in Guyana, including Afro-Guyanese citizens, indigenous peoples, and children. The government must take concrete steps to address discrimination and societal abuses and ensure that all citizens are treated fairly and equitably under the law.