GUYANA: The untouchables- Sexual assault and harassment – By Akola Thompson

Underreporting of crimes within the realm of sexual assault and harassment, has long been an issue of concern. Reporting is often held up as the end all goal for those with experiences of abuse, as it is seen as adding a layer of believability to their reports. There is also the belief that the road to justice for the abused is one that is well paved and non-traumatic, leading them towards the justice that is deserved. These rationales however, are often the furthest thing from the truth, as reporting systems, despite a lot of progress, remain very traumatic and time consuming.       

Added with the low conviction rates that often accompany reports, it is not surprising that many do not instantly jump at the opportunity to rehash their experiences in front of police and judges. A reason why reporting continues to be seen as the only way to offer validity to a survivor’s account is because many abusers and those who support them are very aware of the way society and the court system often sides with them, rather than the abused.

Despite these realities however, there are many who continue to weaponize the lack of reporting as being an indication that accounts are not to be believed. An example of this was recently seen in the response by President Irfaan Ali, after he was questioned about allegations made against one of his Ministers, Nigel Dharamlall. Dharamlall was accused of pressuring a young woman for sex when she was in a vulnerable state. In response to this, Ali stated that he could not concern himself with accusations on the internet as anyone could make them, and that the young woman needed to file a police report. The president’s words were not only dismissive to the very real possibility that a member of parliament was acting unethically, he demonstrated what we already know, abusers who are connected will always be well protected.

Sometimes, I wonder if it is that there is a political playbook regarding abuse that all members need to diligently study. Ali’s response was eerily similar to Bharrat Jagdeo when he faced questions surrounding his then Press Liaison, now Minister, Kwame McKoy. McKoy in 2009 had been accused of soliciting sex from a young boy (age 15) in a recorded conversation. Jagdeo, upon being questioned by the media, stated that he had not listened to the tape, as he does not believe a person should be judged on the basis of a recording. He had also encouraged reports to be made and for the police to investigate the matter. Unsurprisingly, nothing came out of that.

What has also remained consistent in the party’s response to allegations of abuse is the eerie silence of the female leaders within their ranks. Regardless of the type and intensity of the abuse meted out by their peers, they remain resolute in their staunch commitment to turning a blind eye. Examples of this are repeatedly seen, more recently in the cases of McKoy allegedly hitting Opposition MP Tabitha Sarabo-Halley and Dharamlall’s comments about an Opposition female MP needing a “dildo,” all within the halls of parliament. Were allegations or witnessed accounts of abuse to emanate from the opposite side of the battlefield however, these female Ministers waste no time in coming out unreservedly (as they always should) to champion the rights of the abused and downtrodden.

It is hypocritical at best, but also incredibly dangerous as it signals to survivors that they are only to be believed if their story can be seen as valuable, and of course, only if they themselves happen to be from the same class and ilk as those in power. Their continued silence in the face of the excesses of their comrades is demonstrative of the fact that as important as it is to have women in power, it is even more important to have women of resolute ethics and accountability.

There is a clear history of violence, bullyism and apathy from those within the political field that needs to be curbed. One cannot on one hand urge that women be believed, respected and protected, while on the other hand dismiss their accounts if the abuser lives a little too close to home.

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  • Dennis Albert  On 04/11/2022 at 4:22 am

    Remember that in Saudi Arabia, women get their heads chopped off for allegations of adultery (except for white female expats who are allowed to sunbathe nude at the resorts).

    AmeriKKKa has no problem funding a government which does not protect the rights of women, as long as there is oil.

    We have about 150 billion barrels of oil; 20 billion has been discovered so far in less than 5% of the offshore block.

    • Brother Man  On 04/11/2022 at 6:44 am

      “Remember that in Saudi Arabia, women get their heads chopped off for allegations of adultery (except for white female expats who are allowed to sunbathe nude at the resorts).” Dennis Albert (Trevor).

      The above article has absolutely nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. Rather, it’s about the reporting or under-reporting of sex crimes in Guyana and the dismissive manner such allegations are viewed by some government officials.

      Can you please explain the relevance of nude, white women sunbathing in Saudi Arabia to the article?

      Furthermore, what does Guyana oil or America have to do with the article?

      • Dennis Albert  On 04/11/2022 at 5:21 pm

        You can ask Swami Aksharanada how he feels of Guyana becoming the next Dubai.

  • Peggy  On 04/11/2022 at 11:12 am

    Very distressing and concerning. Thank you for shedding light on this topic which often gets brushed under the rug.

    The saddest statement I read is:

    What has also remained consistent in the party’s response to allegations of abuse is the eerie silence of the female leaders within their ranks.

    The trauma those poor victims sustain haunt and damage them forever. This topic needs to be at the forefront to push and shame people, who can take action, to do so.

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