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domenica 8 aprile 2012

The 'Politics of Rape'

While Jamaica is lamenting the high incidence of sexual abuse of children, there is political furore in Guyana over the decision of its acting Chief Justice, Ian Chang, to dismiss a submission for the prosecution of Police Commissioner Henry Greene committing an alleged rape.
The acting chief justice feels so offended by public political comments over his recent decision to block the submission from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that he has signalled his intention to consider resigning from office.

Simultaneously, a militant women's organisation in Guyana, 'Red Thread', has gone public with new concerns over the long delays in court proceedings against a politician and owner/operator of a private television station charged with sexual molestation of a schoolgirl and her sisters, members of a poor family.
Rape is generally regarded as quite a challenging crime to establish in a court of law, but in the court of public opinion details often provided to the police and subsequently reported in the media continue to be a haunting nightmare for many families and communities across the Caribbean.
In Jamaica — as reported last Thursday by the Daily Observer, the Office of Children's Registry (OCR) was lamenting the shocking news that at least 7,245 Jamaican children were victims of sexual assaults over the past four years, with parents or guardians among the perpetrators.
Blaming the frightening culture of "death to informers", the OCR has frustratingly reported that it has no record at this time of how many of these thousands of sexual abuse cases have been prosecuted.
This sad situation is not, however, peculiar to Jamaica in the Caribbean Community. For, to follow similar developments in other Caricom states — Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago for example — it at times takes a mix of party politics and corruption by elements in law enforcement agencies for revelations to emerge about the degrading cases of rape and various forms of sexual abuse.
Currently in Guyana, with party politicking a major factor driving public reactions, there seems to be the need for a separation of the reported admission by the police commissioner that he did have sex with the complainant, but that it was by "mutual consent".
But women groups and opposition parties erupted in anger at the acting chief justice's decision to reject the DPP's recommendation that the top cop be tried for rape and with apparent preference to ignore his reasoning as outlined in a lengthy court statement,
The Stabroek News, as a leading newspaper in Guyana, perhaps deserves to be commended for demonstrating the vital element of social responsibility of journalism when it chose to publish, unedited, the full text of the acting chief justice's decision. Basically, that a case of rape — as distinct from sex by mutual consent — had not been established against the accused Commissioner Greene.
From an independent perspective, readers of the text of the judge's decision would not require any special legal training to exercise a judgement in support of the position he took against the rape complainant.
It would be a great pity, therefore, if the judge, who had long ago established a healthy reputation in Guyana's legal profession and judicial system, should feel constrained to resign his office because of what he considers inaccurate assumptions and conclusions about his decision.
He has stated that his concerns were not over reactions from women's groups or other civil society organisations, but people in public life. Although he did not name them, they would include the parliamentary Opposition Leader David Granger, and the minister of education, Priya Manickchand.
But, apart from the acting chief justice's expressed deep disappointment with the criticisms levelled at his judgement, there is, on the other hand, the focus on critical attention also on Police Commissioner Greene.
It is felt in some quarters that having been freed from facing a court trial for alleged rape, the commissioner, by his own admission of having had sex with the complainant in the circumstances of their meeting, owes it to the very high office he holds to simply do the honourable thing of tendering his resignation.
However well he may have previously preserved it, Greene's credibility has been seriously compromised by the sexual encounter he had with the complainant, and he is under increasing pressure to resign. But there appears to be more in the mortar than the pestle.
After all, Commissioner Greene has been holding his post-retirement position amid political controversies involving himself and the man he succeeded — Winston Felix — and with whom he had poor relations.
It so happens that Felix became a parliamentarian of the main Opposition party, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), following last November's general election. So, welcome to party politics, law and justice in Guyana.
Meanwhile, hope should be kept alive for concerted action, as distinct from political rhetoric, in Jamaica to deal with the huge number of cases of sexual molestation against children and for success in the latest effort by the Red Thread women activists to achieve a court trial of the television owner and politician, CN Sharma, who is facing charges of sexual molestation of children.
For his part, Acting Chief Justice Chang could perhaps be prevailed upon to give careful consideration to resigning from office. Such a development may give joy to his political critics but create a serious problem for the independence, competence and integrity of the judiciary in Guyana.
At the time of writing it could not be officially confirmed if there is precedent elsewhere in Caricom for a chief justice, having rejected the submission of a DPP, coming under enormous public political pressure to warrant consideration to resign.

Sexual abuse of children and the 'politics of rape' April 08, 2012

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