Consideration of reports of States parties
Second periodic reports
The Committee considered the second periodic report of
Guyana (CEDAW/C/GUY/2) at its 527th meeting, on 18 July
2001 (see CEDAW/C/SR.527).
(a) Introduction by the State party
In introducing the report, the representative of Guyana
informed the Committee that her Government was committed
to ensuring the existence of mechanisms to guarantee the
full and equal participation of women and men in society.
She also acknowledged that, while significant progress
had been made, patriarchal norms, social and cultural
attitudes and the challenging economic situation constituted
obstacles to the achievement of full gender equality.
The representative informed the Committee that the constitutional
reform process had led to the agreement that non-discrimination
on the basis of sex, gender, marital status and pregnancy
should be an enforceable fundamental right enshrined in
the Constitution. A law passed in 2001 by the National
Assembly provided for constitutional commissions, including
the Women and Gender Equality Commission.
The representative explained that the Women's Affairs
Bureau was an agency within the Ministry of Labour, Human
Services and Social Security, with the responsibility
for coordinating national efforts to remove discrimination
against women in society. Since its establishment in 1981,
the Bureau had been responsible for policy changes and
legislative and administrative measures to guarantee women
equal opportunities in education, training and employment.
While the Bureau's wide range of functions had limited
its capacity in the past, it would be strengthened in
the near future in terms of human and financial resources.
The representative explained the purpose and functioning
of other mechanisms and institutions to promote gender
equality. The Guyana National Plan of Action for Women
2000-2004 constituted a comprehensive approach towards
addressing such factors as health, education, agriculture,
unemployment, violence against women and leadership issues.
The Guyana Women's Leadership Institute had been established
in 1997 by the Government in cooperation with the United
Nations Development Programme, with the objective of empowering
women in terms of both personal and public leadership.
The National Resource and Documentation Centre was responsible
for the collection and dissemination of materials and
information on women and gender issues. The Inter-Ministry
Committee provided the Women's Affairs Bureau with technical
advice and was responsible for gender mainstreaming in
governmental ministries, departments and agencies. The
National Commission on Women was comprised of representatives
of the political parties represented in Parliament and
advised the Government on policy issues affecting women.
The representative explained that the Constitutional Reform
Commission had made a recommendation for a mandatory representation
of 33.3 per cent women in the list of candidates representing
all political parties participating in general and regional
elections. While no provision had been made to ensure
that women were chosen from the list to represent their
party in the Parliament, that provision had resulted in
women comprising 30.7 per cent of members of Parliament
following the most recent elections. At present, women
held 21 per cent of ministerial posts, and an Amerindian
woman was in charge of the portfolio of Amerindian Affairs.
The representative noted that measures would be taken
to strengthen the capacity of women to participate in
politics, with a special focus on local elections. She
also noted that, while the participation of women in the
regional democratic councils had increased, all of the
chairpersons of those councils were male. The representative
informed the Committee that the position of Chancellor
of the Judiciary was held for the first time by a woman.
Concerning women's health, the representative highlighted
the national concern about the increasing number of people
being infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. According to
recent data, Guyana had the second highest infection rate
in the Caribbean region, with women representing 45 per
cent of those infected. In cooperation with non-governmental
organizations, the Government planned to engage in a multifaceted
programme to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS.
The representative addressed the issue of education by
describing programmes to provide skills training for women
who had dropped out of school. She also noted that the
absence of a national policy for maternity leave continued
to disadvantage women in the labour force, particularly
since no legal or administrative provisions existed to
guarantee women maternity benefits in the private sector.
Since the passage of the Domestic Violence Act in 1996,
counselling services and legal aid had been made available
by the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security
and non-governmental organizations. Members of the police
force and social workers had also been trained to deal
with cases of domestic violence.
In conclusion, the representative noted that, while the
current climate of political instability was a major challenge
to gender equality, she hoped that the National Plan of
Action for Women's Development would unify women despite
religious, social, cultural and political differences,
so that they would be able to contribute to the country's
economic and social development.
(b) Concluding comments of the Committee
The Committee commends the Government of Guyana on its
second report, which is in accordance with the Committee's
guidelines for the preparation of periodic reports. It
also commends the Government for the comprehensive written
replies to the questions of the Committee's pre-sessional
working group, and the oral presentation of the delegation
that sought to clarify the current situation of women
in Guyana, and provided additional information on the
implementation of the Convention.
The Committee congratulates the Government for the high-level
delegation, headed by the Minister of Labour, Human Services
and Social Security. The Committee expresses its appreciation
for the frank information provided and the constructive
dialogue that took place between the delegation and the
members of the Committee.
The Committee welcomes the constitutional reform process
which led to the recognition of non-discrimination on
the basis of sex, gender, marital status and pregnancy
as a fundamental human right enshrined in the Constitution.
It also welcomes the passage of Bill No. 6 of 2001, which
provides for the establishment of constitutional commissions,
including the Women and Gender Equality Commission, which
will be responsible for ensuring that women are not discriminated
against in any sector of society.
The Committee commends the Government for achieving an
impressive level of representation of women in the highest
political offices of the country. The Committee welcomes
the appointment of a young woman of Amerindian descent
to a ministerial office, for the first time in the history
of Guyana, assigned with the portfolio of Amerindian Affairs.
The Committee commends the Government on the mandatory
representation of 33 1/3 per cent women on the lists of
all political parties contesting the general elections
and regional elections and a representation of a critical
mass of women in a range of professions in the public
The Committee also commends the Government on the adoption
of its National Plan of Action for Women 2000-2004, which
constitutes a comprehensive approach to addressing critical
issues affecting women, such as employment, violence against
women and women in decision-making.
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation
of the Convention
The Committee recognizes that the implementation of structural
adjustment programmes and the increasing debt burden,
as well as political instability, have impeded progress
in the full realization of women's rights.
Principal areas of concern and recommendations
The Committee expresses concern that, in spite of the
legal measures introduced, the successful implementation
of such laws and policies has yet to be achieved in many
areas. The Committee expresses concern at the absence
of reference to indirect discrimination in the Constitution
and legislation seeking to eliminate discrimination. It
further expresses concern that the Constitution does not
as yet provide for a complaints procedure to enforce the
guarantees on gender equality and fundamental human rights.
The Committee recommends that the Government give priority
to constitutional and legislative reform to address these
gaps and strengthen law enforcement so as to ensure that
women's de jure and de facto equality will be realized.
The Committee recommends, in particular, the strengthening
of civil remedies so that women can enforce their rights
through litigation. The Committee encourages the Government
to establish the constitutional commissions, including
the Women and Gender Equality Commission, as soon as possible.
The Committee expresses concern about the effectiveness
of the national machinery engaged with gender issues in
Guyana. The Committee also expresses concern that insufficient
human and financial resources have been allocated to the
The Committee recommends that the Government clearly define
the mandates of the various commissions and the level
of interaction among them. The Committee encourages the
Government to continue its process of restructuring the
national machinery and to allocate the necessary human
and financial resources to ensure effective implementation
of governmental policies and programmes related to gender
equality. It also encourages gender mainstreaming in all
The Committee expresses concern that women do not seek
legal redress when they suffer discrimination in employment
because they are deterred by the delays in litigation
caused by the enormous backlog of civil cases.
The Committee recommends that employment arbitration be
provided as an option and that measures be taken to prevent
delays in litigation. It also recommends that the Government
take measures to increase women's awareness and understanding
of their rights and provide legal aid facilities, where
possible, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations.
While there seems to be a policy on maternity leave, the
Committee expresses concern that women continue to be
discriminated against on the grounds of pregnancy and
maternity, particularly in the private sector, where contractual
arrangements are also made to circumvent the existing
laws. Law enforcement is dependent upon prosecution by
the Chief Labour Officer; this does not appear to provide
The Committee urges the Government to bring its laws and
policies on maternity in conformity with the Convention.
It encourages the Government to develop a national policy
for the private and public sectors that includes minimum
mandatory and paid maternity and parental leave, and to
provide effective sanctions and remedies for violation
of laws on maternity leave. It also encourages the Government
to establish training programmes for the staff of the
Labour Office to facilitate prosecution and ensure the
effective enforcement of existing laws for both the public
and private sectors.
The Committee expresses concern that stereotypical attitudes
and behavioural patterns owing to cultural beliefs about
the roles of women and men in the family and in society
The Committee urges the Government to implement awareness-raising
campaigns to change stereotypical and discriminatory attitudes
concerning the roles of women and girls, including specific
programmes targeting boys and men.
The Committee expresses concern about the persistence
of gender-based violence, in particular domestic violence.
The Committee urges the Government to place a high priority
on measures to address violence against women in the family
and in society in accordance with the Committee's general
The Committee expresses concern about the situation of
rural women and Amerindian women, and the lack of information
The Committee encourages the Government to give full attention
to the needs of rural women and Amerindian women and to
ensure that they benefit from policies and programmes
in all areas, in particular access to decision-making,
health, education and social services. The Committee requests
that the Government provide detailed information in that
regard in its next periodic report.
While the Committee recognizes the negative effects of
structural adjustment programmes on certain groups of
women, it is concerned at the high incidence of poverty
The Committee requests the Government to provide additional
information on the programmes and projects that have been
implemented to combat the negative impact of structural
adjustment programmes on women and, in particular, households
headed by women, and to ensure that governmental policies
to eradicate poverty are continuous and do not further
The Committee notes with concern the increasing number
of HIV/AIDS cases in Guyana, especially among young people.
The Committee strongly urges the Government to take a
multifaceted and holistic approach to combating HIV/AIDS,
including broad-based educational strategies and practical
prevention efforts, targeted at women and adolescents.
The Committee expresses concern about the application
of legislation on prostitution, dating from 1893, which
has not been reformed and continues to penalize the prostitute
but not the client or the procurer.
The Committee urges the Government to take effective steps
to review and amend existing legislation on prostitution
in conformity with the Convention, and to ensure its full
implementation and compliance. Moreover, in the light
of the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in Guyana, full attention
must be paid to the health services available to prostitutes.
The Committee urges the Government to sign and ratify
the Optional Protocol to the Convention and to deposit,
as soon as possible, its instrument of acceptance of the
amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention,
concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
The Committee requests the Government to respond to the
concerns expressed in the present concluding comments
in its next periodic report submitted under article 18
of the Convention.
The Committee requests the wide dissemination in Guyana
of the present concluding comments in order to make the
people of Guyana, in particular governmental administrators
and politicians, aware of the steps that have been taken
to ensure de jure and de facto equality for women and
of the further steps that are required in this regard.
It requests the Government to continue to disseminate
widely, in particular to women's and human rights organizations,
the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee's
general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform
for Action and the results of the twenty-third special
session of the General Assembly, entitled "Women
2000: gender equality, development and peace in the twenty-first