NGO advocates for introduction of Sex Offenders Registry
Jan 20, 2018: Calls are being made for the establishment of a Sexual Offenders Registry. Essentially a Sex Offenders Registry is a system in various countries designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences.
Advocating for this system is Caribbean Voice, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) with a membership that operates on a voluntary basis. The NGO is one that focuses on anti-violence, especially suicide prevention in the Caribbean and its Diaspora.
Speaking at a forum yesterday Mr. Nazim Hussain, Coordinator for the Guyana Chapter of Caribbean Voice, said “If we were to establish a Sex Offenders Registry you would know who the people are who have in the past committed these atrocities.”
According to Hussain, much in the way the police keep mug shots and a list of names of suspects, the registry is one that will ensure that the names of sex offenders are kept in database too.
But Hussain explained that keeping such a measure in place does not mean that allowance will granted for the sex offenders to be castigated.
“A Registry is not meant to castigate these people and not allow them a role in society because we strongly believe that people can change,” said Hussain.
“We don’t want to castigate people; we understand empathy, in that many times these things happen because of a reason,” Hussain related.
It is however the expectation of the Caribbean Voice that the Sexual Offenders Registry will be one that will not only help officials be able to put a tag on the offenders, but also provide training to them too. The aim, he said, is to help to reform the offenders with the hope that they can become law-abiding citizens.
Sex offender registries exist in many English-speaking countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, as well as Israel. According to reports, sex offender registration does not exist outside of the English-speaking world.
Information also suggests that the United States is the only country with a registry that is publicly accessible; all other countries in the English-speaking world have sex offender registries only accessible by law enforcement.
In risk-based systems, the offender is screened against a scientifically-validated screening tool, and determination of inclusion is made, according to the results. In offence-based systems, registration is required when a person is convicted under one of the listed offences requiring registration.
In some jurisdictions, where sex offender registration is permitted, registration is accompanied by residential address notification requirements. In many jurisdictions, registered sex offenders are subject to additional restrictions, including on housing.
Those on parole or probation may be subject to restrictions that do not apply to other parolees or probationers. Sometimes, these include [or have been proposed to include] restrictions on being in the presence of underage persons [under the age of majority], living in proximity to a school or day care centre, owning toys or items targeted towards children, or using the Internet.
Online abuse reporting system launched
Jan 20, 2018: Report Abuse Guyana [www.reportabusegy.com] is a new website that has been introduced to allow persons to report incidents of abuse. Although the website is one that was initially intended to allow for anonymous reporting – since some persons making reports would rather remain behind the scenes – one of the engineers behind the initiative, says the legal aspect of it all did not permit for this.
Speaking to media operatives yesterday, Ms. Akola Thompson, who has been working with Caribbean Voice, an NGO which promotes anti-violence measures, said that moves were instead made to create an online reporting system.
“The purpose of the site is to give victims the space that they can report crimes [against them]. When you go on the website there is a very short form where your name is required because the Guyana Police Force, they do not deal with anonymous reports…If you want to seek charges then your name is required,” Thompson noted.
Thompson said that once the form has been submitted, a group of civil society persons are then tasked with filtering the information to the relevant authorities. In the case of children, Thompson said that the information is sent to the Childcare and Protection Agency, while in the case of adults, the information is sent to the Guyana Police Force.
The initiative, Thompson said, is one that draws from the expertise of persons who have had experience with dealing with such situations complete with confidentiality. As such, she assured that the site is monitored by persons who documented experience and follow certain tactics to ensure that victim information remains safe.
“We work solely with civil society such as Red Thread and Help and Shelter…these are two organisations that are already on board, and we are looking to invite more,” said Thompson. She however observed that “there aren’t really a lot of organisations that have the necessary way of dealing with victim information, so we have very limited organisations…”
However, there still remains a need for court support services, and according to Thompson, “we are still looking to provide as part of the platform, group support services, because even when reports are made, a lot of them don’t actually reach the court system…that is due to several reasons.”
For this reason, Thompson noted that having persons in place to see victims through the process is a necessary step in ensuring that justice is realised.
Also as part of the platform, Thompson said that moves have been made to establish a network of counsellors. In fact, according to her, “when you go on the platform, you can choose an option whether you want it to go to the police or if you want to just gain counselling, or if you just want to share your story, those are options that are available.”
Thompson also made it clear yesterday that the platform is open to everyone, with absolutely no discrimination. “It does not matter what is your race, your sexuality, your religion; once you report a crime it will be handled,” Thompson added.
The website was launched last November and although it has not yet been extensively publicised, one person has already utilised it. That report has already allowed for one person to received counselling services. “We are really not trying to push PR for it, so not a lot of persons are aware that it exists,” said Thompson.
GTU teams up with Caribbean Voice…training teachers on social issues
January 20, 2018: In an effort to cushion the mental and social effects of the recent laying off of more than 4,000 sugar workers in Region Six, the Guyana Teachers Union has teamed up with the Caribbean Voice, a non-profit organisation, to train teachers to deal with social and mental issues affecting students and the larger community.
General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Coretta McDonald, noted that the union decided to begin collaboration with The Caribbean Voice with the interest of the students in mind. She added that while the union is concerned about the welfare of its teachers, the needs of the students are also of paramount importance.
“The GTU is much more than just more money and better working conditions. We see our members as being important; we see our charges for the students and pupils as being even more important, because they’re the ones who are going to be our leaders for tomorrow. We have to ensure that we put systems in place for this. It is against that backdrop that we decided that we are going to have this partnership with The Caribbean Voice, because we recognize that in everything we cannot stand alone,” she explained.
McDonald added that the union recognises that “in this partnership, because of the areas we are going to focus on, we are going to achieve a few things that GTU could not have done on (its) own — save lives, developing and nurturing new attitudes and behaviour patterns.”
She added that the GTU also recognises that the partnership will not only build teachers in terms of assisting them in developing new skills in terms of dealing with social ills, but it is going to enlighten them so that they can pass the knowledge on to students.
The Guyana Coordinator of The Caribbean Voice, Nazim Hussain, has said that one such training exercise has already been conducted with over 100 teachers in the Canje, East Berbice area.
“The sugar estates are closing. The Rose Hall Estate is one of the affected areas, and we have seen signs of school children being affected by the spill-off, and GTU said we should train the teachers so that they can train students and parents,” he noted.
He explained that the teachers have been trained to deal with a range of issues, inclusive of suicide and violence of all sorts.
The next leg of the training workshop with teachers would be held at the Berbice High School on January 26.
Training programme should include mental health modules
January 18, 2018: The Caribbean Voice notices that the HEYS programme is being replaced with “a more holistic training programme targeting youths across the country”. May we suggest that this holistic programme should also include modules on mental health, especially coping strategies (including breathing exercises, mindfulness and possibly meditation) to deal with stress and challenges, developing high self-esteem, self-confidence and self-love. This would ensure that our young people do not easily give in to challenges and become stressed and/or succumb to depression and anxiety which are the precursors of suicide. As it is the 15 to 25 age group already has the highest suicide rate in Guyana.
A wish list for the 2018
January 12, 2018: If The Caribbean Voice (TCV) were to present a pragmatic wish list for the year 2018, elimination of the law criminalizing attempted suicide would probably top the list. In 2016 a motion to this effect was debated in parliament and in principle supported by both sides of the house, but government voted against it because they did not want the Opposition to be given credit for the bill.
TCV suggested a bipartisan bill that would avoid this competition for credit but nothing has since been done.
Other very doable measures, all of which have been ventilated many times in the public domain include:
TCV IN THE MEDIA
TCV IN THE MEDIA