Nice to see systems are being upgraded


THE Sexual Offences Bill was passed on Thursday, in a week when a public figure was charged with one count of carnal knowledge of a minor. Where do I begin here? We are being forced, as a society, to reconcile these two extreme poles of a situation.
The nation should be applauding the accomplishment of Members of Parliament so move beyond party lines and collectively create a law, which went through a thorough consultation process, and will protect the innocent/victim and punish the offender. Instead, families are crushed and embarrassed by allegations of pedophilia from a person who had become a trusted public figure.
It was incredible for me to read that PNCR member, Basil Williams, say that his party supported the provisions in the legislation, and that the Bill was praiseworthy and timely because it is a reform of the laws that govern sexual offences.
I am personally encouraged by the number of considerations that have been included in the new legislation. The victim now has broader anonymity rights and cannot be cross examined about previous liaisons with the accused or sexual relations with other men. The Bill also addresses equal rights in justice issues since there is a provision for the equitable balance of male and female jurors.
It seems the drive to stamp out social ills is strong and advancing rapidly. As the new family court building is being painted, across the street at Parliament building elected representatives were passing a law that broadened of the definition of rape, abolished the marital rape exemption, formally made it an offence to coerce a person into performing a sexual act, recognizes new child-sex offences, created a category of offences for vulnerable adults with a learning disability or mental disorder to be coerced into sexual acts and standards for other offences such as indecent exposure, voyeurism and bestiality.
It was heartening to read the rational logic that was expressed by Minister Jennifer Westford when she said that “one does not have to become a legal luminary to understand that children under 16 years old can never legally consent to sexual activity.”
It was also proposed that the administration keep a register of the identity and location of known sex predators who commit crimes ranging from rape, molestation, torture and murder.
This registry is a good idea and one that is being implemented in communities across North American, as a way of monitoring the activities of abusers after they are released from prison and providing safe-guards against incidences of re-offences and harm to women and children. The widely watched Oprah Show did a special feature on the benefits of this overseeing mechanism and constantly refers to instances where it is proven to apprehend a violator or avert a crime.
As life in Guyana, and the society, becomes more sophisticated and modernized, the denial and/or tolerance of degenerative behavior have no place. It’s nice to see that systems are being upgraded, that the legal framework is being strengthened and the legislation evolving to protect the rights of Guyanese.