The Cooperative Republic of Guyana is a multiparty democracy. National and regional elections took place in 2015, and the APNU+AFC coalition parties won both the presidency and a majority of representational seats. The largest APNU+AFC components were A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)–itself a coalition of the major People’s National Congress/Reform party and other minor parties–and the Alliance for Change (AFC) party. Former opposition leader David Granger led the election coalition and became president. International and local observers considered the 2015 elections free, fair, and credible.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included reports of unlawful killings; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity between men, although the law was not enforced during the year; and child labor.
Government officials did not enjoy impunity for human rights abuses. There were independent and transparent procedures for handling allegations of abuses by security forces.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year, and administration officials responded to the reports. There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and the judiciary.
Corruption: Corruption by police officers was frequent. There were no reports the government prosecuted any members of the police force during the year.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to declare their assets to an integrity commission and sets out both criminal and administrative sanctions for nondisclosure. If a person fails to file a declaration, the daily newspapers and the official gazette can publish that fact. Failure to comply with the law can lead to a summary conviction, fines, and imprisonment for six to 12 months. If property is not disclosed as required, the magistrate convicting the defendant must order the defendant to make a full disclosure within a set time. Although the integrity commission was reconstituted in February after a 12-year hiatus, it did not appear to be fully functional. No publications or convictions occurred during the first nine months of the year.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. These groups at times complained government officials were uncooperative and unresponsive to their requests and stated that when officials responded, it was generally to criticize the groups rather than to investigate allegations.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The law provides for an ombudsperson to investigate official government actions or actions taken by government officials in exercise of their official duties. Observers reported the ombudsperson operated independently of government interference.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape and domestic violence. The law provides stringent penalties for rape, with life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. Successful prosecution of cases of rape and domestic violence was infrequent.
Domestic violence and violence against women, including spousal abuse, was widespread. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines up to 10,000 Guyanese dollars (GYD) ($47) and 12 months’ imprisonment. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides for monetary penalties and award of damages to victims. The law does not cover harassment in schools. Acts of sexual harassment involving physical assault are prosecuted under relevant criminal statutes. While reports of sexual harassment were common, no cases had been filed as of October.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Although women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, gender-related discrimination was widespread and deeply ingrained. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but there was no meaningful enforcement against such discrimination in the workplace. Job vacancy notices routinely specified that the employer sought only male or only female applicants, and women earned approximately 61 percent less than men for equal work.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or by birth to a Guyanese citizen abroad. The law requires that births be registered within 14 days but also provides for registration of births after the 14-day period. Births at hospitals and health facilities were registered within a day of delivery.
Child Abuse: There were frequent reports of physical and sexual abuse of children, which was a widespread and serious problem. As with cases of domestic abuse, NGOs alleged some police officers could be bribed to make cases of child abuse “go away.”
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years, but boys and girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent or judicial authority. UNICEF reported that 23 percent of women were married before the age of 18, and 6 percent of girls were married before age 15.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 16 years. By law a person who has sexual relations with a child under 16 may be found guilty of a felony and imprisoned for life. There were continued reports of children being exploited in prostitution. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children 18 and younger. Laws related to pornography and pornographic performances do not prohibit the use, procuring, and offering of a child for each of these purposes. The law also regulates selling, publishing, or exhibiting obscene material, defined as anything that could deprave or corrupt those open to immoral influences.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
The Jewish community was very small, perhaps fewer than 20 members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution mandates that the state “take legislative and other measures” to protect disadvantaged persons and persons with disabilities. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but civil society groups stated the law was not regularly enforced. The law provides for a National Commission on Disabilities to advise the government, coordinate actions on problems affecting persons with disabilities, and implement and monitor the law. The commission focused its attention on sensitizing the public about the law and on compliance, as well as performing sensitization workshops with the Ministries of Social Protection, Education, and Health.
There were segregated schools for the blind and for persons with other disabilities in the most populous regions of the country. As a result, children with disabilities rarely attended mainstream schools, since these lacked the curriculum and infrastructure necessary to accommodate children with disabilities. Lack of appropriate transportation and infrastructure to provide access to both public and private facilities made it difficult for persons with disabilities to be employed outside their homes.
Various laws protect the rights of the indigenous community, and members have some ability to participate in decisions affecting them, their land, and resources. Rules enacted by village councils require approval from the minister of indigenous peoples’ affairs before entering into force. Indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated.
According to the 2012 census, the indigenous population constituted 10.5 percent of the total population. There were nine recognized tribal groups. Ninety percent of indigenous communities were in the remote interior. The standard of living in indigenous communities was lower than that of most citizens, and they had limited access to education and health care. A UN study found that pregnant women in indigenous communities were not receiving mandatory HIV tests.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual activity among adult men is illegal under the law and is punishable by up to two years in prison. Anal intercourse is punishable with a maximum sentence of life in prison, regardless of whether the intercourse is between persons of the same sex. These laws were not enforced during the year; however, activists reported it was more common for police to use the law to intimidate men who were gay or perceived to be gay than to make arrests. The law also criminalizes cross-dressing. Despite this, the government permitted the first gay pride parade in June.
No antidiscrimination legislation exists to protect persons from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and NGOs reported widespread discrimination of persons in this regard. Reports noted official and societal discrimination in employment, access to education and medical care, and in public space. According to a 2014 survey, approximately 12 percent of men who had sex with men experienced stigma daily, while approximately 30 percent of transgender youth and adults encountered stigma every day or regularly.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
A 2014 UNICEF survey reported only 23 percent of persons ages 15 to 49 expressed accepting attitudes towards individuals with HIV.
Section 7. Worker Rights
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 15 years old, with some exceptions, but it does not sufficiently prohibit the worst forms of child labor. Technical schools may employ children as young as age 14, provided a competent authority approves and supervises such work. No person under 18 may be employed in industrial work at night. Exceptions are for those ages 16 and 17 whose work requires continuity through day and night, including certain gold-mining processes and the production of iron, steel, glass, paper, and raw sugar. The law permits children under 15 to be employed only in enterprises in which members of the same family are also employed. The law prohibits children under 15 from working in factories and stipulates that those under 18 may be removed from factory work if authorities determine they are engaged in activities hazardous to their health or safety.
The government did not always enforce laws effectively. The Ministry of Social Protection collaborated with the Ministry of Education, Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Forestry Commission, National Insurance Scheme, and Guyana Police Force to enforce child labor laws. Fines for child labor offenses are low and were not sufficient to deter violations. The government did not prosecute any employers for violations relating to child labor.
Child labor occurred and was most prevalent in farming, bars and restaurants, domestic work, and street vending. Small numbers of children also performed hazardous work in the construction, logging, farming, and mining industries. NGOs reported that incidences of the worst forms of child labor occurred, mainly in gold mining, prostitution (see section 6), and forced labor activities, including domestic servitude. According to local NGOs, children who worked in gold mines operated dangerous mining equipment and were exposed to hazardous chemicals, including mercury.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law provides for a national minimum wage for private-sector employees. Minimum wages for regular working hours of all full-time, private-sector employees are set nationally for hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly workers. The national minimum wage for regular working hours of full-time, public-sector employees was 55,000 GYD ($260) per month. A normal workweek is 40 hours, distributed over no more than five days per week. The law prohibits compulsory overtime, and overtime work must be paid according to rates set in the law or according to any collective bargaining agreement in force where workers are unionized. The law establishes workplace safety and health standards. These standards were current and appropriate for the country’s main industries and were effectively enforced.
The law provides that some categories of workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe work environments without jeopardizing their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations.
The Ministry of Social Protection is charged with enforcement of the labor law, but the number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties for violations were not sufficient to deter violations. Labor inspections carried out during the year targeted all sectors, including agriculture, mining, and construction. Ministry follow-up of labor inspection findings varied, and compliance among employers was also inconsistent.
According to local trade unions and NGOs, enforcement of minimum wage legislation was not effective. Although specific data were unavailable, a significant number of workers were employed in the informal economy. Unorganized workers, particularly women in the informal sector, were often paid less than the minimum wage. Local trade unions and NGOs also reported the Ministry of Social Protection lacked sufficient resources to enforce occupational safety and health laws adequately. In 2017, 207 workplace accidents were reported, of which 153 were investigated.