Commissioners: Margarette May Macaulay (Rapporteur of Guyana & Women) and Esmeralda A. de Troitiño (Rapporteur of Children & Young Persons)
At a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 22, 2017, petitioners advocated on behalf of educational and equality rights of Guyanese youth. Petitioners argue that if the government does not take action the violations of adolescents’ human rights will continue as discrimination and violence remain prevalent in Guyana. The Petitioners asserted the lack of implementation of pre-existing anti-discrimination policies, police brutality and imprisonment of LGBTI youth, and lack of educational reintegration for pregnant or post-natal women violate international human rights laws.
SASOD presented facts and cases where LGBTI youth have been discriminated against resulting in educational deprivation and other forms of abuse. Twinkle Bissoon of SASOD argued that LGBTI youth are discriminated against in school and unable to obtain or maintain employment. LGBTI youth often drop out of school and because of this, they are without the needed education to enter into the workforce which creates a gap in employment and sustainable income. LGBTI youth are often forced to join the sex-trade for work. Most of these vulnerable adolescents often attempt suicide and are put into hospitals or mental health institutions which do not recognize their gender identity.
Mr. Smith of GRPA alleges that certain religious groups are advancing notions of discrimination and homophobia against LGBTI youth. He also explained the government’s failure to introduce a “comprehensive reintegration policy for pregnant and parenting adolescent girls.” The GRPA argues that the Government of Guyana, specifically the Minister of Education, continues to violate rights of Guyanese children and young people that are protected under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The government, Mr. Smith explained, has an obligation to meet these standards under both the CRC and Guyanese Constitution, which provides for an equal right to education.
Neketa Forde, speaking on behalf of the GNYC (or “Youth Council”), explained how the legislature drafted a National Youth Policy on the handling of youth misconduct, but never finalized it or made available to the public. The Youth Council argues for actualization of policy implementation with an action plan to put mechanisms in place to monitor police activity and rehabilitation and care of juveniles. Ms. Forde also calls for finalization, publicity, and implementation of the 2016 Juvenile Justice draft bill to ensure an action plan. Further, Ms. Forde discusses the shortcomings of the National Youth Policy, such as the lack of reintegration plan for pregnant and nursing mothers into the school system.
John Inniss, Representative of the Permanent Mission of Guyana to the Organization of American States (OAS), apologized for the absence of the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Guyana. The government representative stated the conventions to which Guyana is a state party, and acknowledged certain obligations. Stating the recognition of petitioners’ arguments by the Guyanese government, the representative described the government’s desire to provide a “comprehensive response” to petitioners’ grievances. Further, he asked for more time to provide a plan and apologizes for the government’s “inability to do so at this time.”
In thanking both parties, the Commissioners lauded the petitioners as Guyanese youth for coming forward, and referred to them as the future of the country’s leadership. Commissioner Macaulay asked the government of Guyana, on behalf of the Commission, to consider signing and ratifying the OAS Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance. She stated that children must be protected and the detention of young persons should be a “last and final result.” Commissioner Troitiño called for the revision of policies and new implementation in accordance with proper protections of young persons.
Author’s Legal Analysis
Guyana is a state party to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Collectively, these conventions set forth standards for young persons, including the right to education, equality, freedom of thought, and right not to be discriminated against. The CRC calls for the “courts of law,” judicial system and state institutions to consider the “best interest of the child” and enact appropriate legislation in Articles Three and Four of the Convention. Article Ten of CEDAW provides that women are granted equality regarding employment opportunities. Given the discussed violations regarding adolescent discrimination and imprisonment in education and the justice system, Guyana fails to meet the standards provided by the above conventions. The representative’s remarks failed to address the concerns of the petitioners directly and provided more of an unconcerned response. Without timely action, the IACHR can further pursue Guyana because the country is a member of the OAS. If the State does not comply, as Commissioner Macaulay noted, the Commission can definitely “come after” those responsible.