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Guyana[1] [print]

Last edited: December 2005

 

Summary and Analysis

Though Guyana ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] in January of 1991, the Convention is not legally enforceable there.  Still, Guyana has taken some steps to incorporate the provisions of the Convention in domestic legislation through both the amending of existing legislation and the drafting of new law.  Since 1991, Guyana has improved its child protection legislation through the approval of the Domestic Violence Act in 1998.  Meanwhile, Parliament is currently reviewing five bills regarding children, including the Protection of the Children Bill, the Child Care and Developmental Services Bill, and the Custody, Access, Guardianship and Maintenance Bill.[2]

Working with UNICEF, Guyana announced the establishment of the Child Protection Monitoring System [CPMS] in May of 2005.  The CPMS will take a projected five years to be fully implemented, but, when functioning, will aid the existing services in the monitoring of children's welfare and the evaluation of the state of Guyana's children as a whole.[3]  The existing services include the Child Services Unit of the Ministry of Labour, Health, and Housing, which acts to investigate reports of maltreatment and neglect and the Schools Welfare Division of the Ministry of Education, which makes social services more readily available to children.  Also, Guyana has several “Drop-in Centres” which provide basic services to street children.  The protection system is coordinated by the Rights of the Child Commission, which is also responsible for the implementation of the CRC in Guyana's policy.  However, according to UNICEF, the protection system is severely understaffed, with one child welfare officer serving a population of children aged 0 to 14 of up to 31,867.[4]

Currently, several statutes govern child protection proceedings in Guyana, the Constitution, the Infancy Act, and the recent Domestic Violence Act.  Though the views of the child are adequately provided for in legislation on adoption proceedings, Article 12 of the CRC is not currently implemented in protective legislation.  The only section of law providing for children's participation in proceedings is in the Domestic Violence Act, which allows a child over 16 to apply for an order of protection for herself if, “the court is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to make the proposed application.”[5]  Presumably a child allowed by the court to apply for protection would have an opportunity to express herself because that child would be a party to the proceedings.  Additionally, Guyana reports that the draft bills currently undergoing review do provide all children with the opportunity to state their opinions.[6]

Though Guyana is making significant progress in the area of child protection and the implementation of the CRC in general, several factors are hindering that progress.  Guyana's population faces increasing levels of poverty; in 2002 the UNDP reported that for 1987 to 2000, 43.2% of the population was living in poverty.[7]  Furthermore, Guyana is fighting the accelerating spread of HIV/AIDS among its population, leaving many children orphaned or infected.  Still, Guyana has demonstrated a strong commitment to children's rights, and the government is readily accepting the assistance of UNICEF and other non-governmental organizations.

 

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

Statutes

Domestic Violence Act[8]

4.  (1) An application for a protection order may be made by any of the following—

(a) a person associated with the respondent;

(b) where the alleged conduct involves a child under sixteen or a person suffering from a mental disability—

(i) a person with whom the child or person normally resides on a regular basis;

(ii) a parent of the child or person;

(iii) a qualified social worker approved by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette; or

(iv) a police officer;

(c) a police officer;

(d) a qualified social worker approved by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette.

(2) Where the applicant is a person other than the person on whose behalf the application is made, the person on whose behalf the application is made shall be a party to the proceedings, save if that person is a child under sixteen or suffers from a mental disability, the parent of that person shall be a party to the proceedings as long as such parent is not the respondent.

(3) A child under the age of sixteen may with leave of the court apply for a protection order but such leave shall not be given unless the court is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to make the proposed application. . .

 

International Law

Convention on the Rights of the Child, [9] ratified Jan. 14, 1991.

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

 



Endnotes

[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] Press Release, Government Information Agency, Family legislation for National Assembly after Recess— Dr. Luncheon (Aug. 18, 2005) available at http://www.gina.gov.gy/archive/daily/b050818.html.

[3] Press Release, Government Information Agency, Government takes lead in children and violence project (May 6, 2005) available at http://www.gina.gov.gy/archive/daily/b050506.html.

[4] UNICEF, Guyana, NGO Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, at 10 (2003) available at http://www.crin.org/resources/infoDetail.asp?ID=3785.

[5] Domestic Violence Act, 18 of 1996, CAP. 11:09, § 4 (1998) available at http://www.gina.gov.gy/gina_pub/laws/Laws/cap1109.pdf and also as .pdf Document.

[6] Initial Reports of States parties due in 1993: Guyana, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Aug. 6, 2003, ¶138, U.N. Doc. CRC/C/8/Add. 47 available at http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf.

[7] Initial Reports of States parties due in 1993: Guyana, ¶34.

[8] Domestic Violence Act, § 4(1-3).

[9] G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989).

 

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