Last Updated: Monday, 20 October 2014, 09:33 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Guyana

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Guyana, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee78b.html [accessed 20 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Guyana (Tier 2)

Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Identified cases of human trafficking within the country during this reporting period generally involved women and girls in forced prostitution. Guyanese nationals have been subjected to forced prostitution and forced labor in other countries in the region. People in domestic service in Guyana are vulnerable to human trafficking, and instances of the common Guyanese practice of poor, rural families sending children to live with higher-income family members or acquaintances in more populated areas sometimes transforms into domestic servitude. Other groups particularly vulnerable to human trafficking in Guyana include women in prostitution, children working in hazardous conditions, and foreign workers. Guyanese from rural, economically depressed areas are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in mining areas and urban centers. Trafficking victims in Guyana face disincentives to self-identify to authorities due to fear of retribution from trafficking offenders, fear of resettlement to abusive home situations, fear of arrest, and lack of awareness that human trafficking is a crime.

The Government of Guyana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Officials achieved an important milestone during the year – the first conviction of a trafficking offender – and there was new information that some public servants, including mining officials, made efforts to try to rescue potential victims. Continued rhetoric from higher levels of the government minimizing the potential scope of human trafficking, poor results in the area of victim protection, and lack of action against official complicity of human trafficking are major obstacles to future progress.

Recommendations for Guyana: Foster a climate in which officials and NGOs are encouraged to discuss human trafficking vulnerabilities openly with the government and feel empowered to assist potential victims throughout the country, instead of being constrained by public statements that the problem is small; identify and help more potential victims of sex and labor trafficking throughout the country; empower and fund or offer in-kind support to NGOs to identify and actively help the women, men and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; develop policies to ensure all identified victims are helped and not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being in a forced prostitution or forced labor situation; vigorously and appropriately investigate and prosecute forced prostitution and forced labor, including trafficking complicity; raise awareness of forced labor and forced prostitution and opportunities for help in and around mining areas in addition to Georgetown and coastal areas.

Prosecution

The government made limited progress in holding human trafficking offenders in Guyana accountable during the reporting period. The Combating Trafficking of Persons Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties, ranging from three years' to life imprisonment. The penalties are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported that four new sex trafficking investigations were initiated in 2010. Authorities initiated two new prosecutions against sex trafficking offenders as compared to the previous reporting period, during which authorities did not initiate any new prosecutions. In one case, a magistrate refused bail for an alleged trafficking offender at the request of a prosecutor. Two prosecutions initiated in other years were dismissed. For the first time, authorities reported a conviction of an offender who received a three-year prison sentence for sex trafficking. Local experts believe, and media reporting suggests, that some government officials are making a good-faith effort to obtain convictions in human trafficking cases. Officials and other local experts also view Guyana's legal system as largely dysfunctional and an ineffective deterrent against human trafficking. Accused criminals generally wait two years or longer for a judgment, and their cases are often delayed by backlogs, incorrectly filed paperwork, or the failure of witnesses to appear at a hearing. The Minister of Human Services and Social Security has attempted to strengthen trafficking prosecutions by hiring private attorneys to serve as special prosecutors in trafficking prosecutions, although this appears to be a temporary solution.

The government's anti-trafficking task force denied the existence of forced labor in Guyana, raising concerns about their credibility. According to several media reports, authorities removed a domestic servant complaining of forced labor and sexual assault by her private employers. Other government officials intervened and apparently brokered an informal settlement between the parties. The government reported no follow up investigation of this case for potential human trafficking.

Protection

The government made limited progress in protecting victims of trafficking during the reporting period. The government reported identifying only three forced  prostitution victims and no forced labor victims during the reporting period. The government has a protocol in place to guide officials in identifying and referring suspected trafficking victims to assistance, but a 2010 government report indicated that the small quantity of victims is an internal measure of success in combating trafficking, creating a potential disincentive for officials to identify victims proactively. In a positive development during the reporting period, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission officials found during routine inspections children working in gold mines, a warning sign of potential human trafficking, and ordered the mine operators to remove the children; the government did not report on any subsequent action to refer the children to protective services or hold the mine owners accountable. While NGOs reported overall good working-level relations with anti-trafficking officials, some local observers expressed concern that pressure from senior officials may have prompted some lower-level officials to suppress information to avoid drawing attention to trafficking in Guyana. The government provided approximately $50,000 to a domestic violence shelter in 2010 (an increase from $45,000 the previous year) that provided psychological counseling and shelter for two child trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government also provided medical assistance to one of the two victims placed in the shelter during the reporting period. The government did not report on assistance provided to any other potential trafficking victims. There was evidence that some trafficking victims were penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being in a trafficking situation. Local observers have noted that other potential victims may have been sent to the juvenile detention center, and one victim was arrested and charged with "wandering" as a result of her trafficking experience during the reporting period, according media reports. The government did not enact formal provisions ensuring legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to their home countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

Prevention

The government made limited progress in preventing human trafficking during the reporting period. The Ministry of Human Services distributed anti-trafficking awareness materials throughout the country. In a positive development, during a speech to a large group of Chinese nationals in Guyana, the president reportedly addressed the issue of forced and bonded labor; however, during the reporting period, the government continued to focus public comments on propagating a position that there are few trafficking victims in Guyana instead of fostering awareness, open discussion, credible research of the problem, and a self-critical approach to monitoring government efforts. The government has not updated its national action plan to combat trafficking in persons since 2005. Officials did not report any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. While child prostitution exists in Guyana, there were no reports that Guyana was a significant sex tourism destination.

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