The Caribbean Voice, a NGO based in Guyana and the US, released the findings of an opinion poll it commissioned in Guyana. The poll was conducted by Dr. Vishnu Bisram during the last week of January. The findings revealed the following:
Ø 73% of those surveyed felt that social problems like depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicide would increase because of the closure of the sugar estates.
Ø 75% felt that the government is not doing enough to address suicide.
Ø 69% felt that the government is not doing enough to address domestic abuse.
Ø 79% support the call for the age of consent to be raised from 16 to 18.
Ø 86% believe that sexual exploitation against young people is on the rise and that government needs to take action to deter such occurrences.
Ø 80% support the call for a sex registry for offenders.
The survey also found that Guyanese were generally not aware of entities involved in suicide and abuse prevention but there was more awareness of the work of The Caribbean Voice. This was most likely because TCV’s work is not centralized in Georgetown and other urban areas and their environs but extends to various regions and is often a collaborative effort with other NGOs, special interests and mass based organizations. TCV, founded by Mr. Annan Boodram and others, has been doing significant work on social issues in Guyana. Mr. Boodramis a trained journalist and grass roots activist with over 30 years of experience.
Conducted by experienced pollster, Dr. Vishnu Bisram, the survey interviewed 490 individuals representing Guyana’s ethnic makeup (41% Indians, 30% Africans, 18% Mixed, 10% Amerindians, 1% others) of the population. The findings, analysed at a significance level of 95%, has a margin of error of 4%.
This is the third survey commissioned by The Caribbean Voice since the organization launched its anti-violence campaign in 2014. The first survey, done in November 2014 found that 92% of respondents believed suicide is preventable and 96% were willing to help in suicide prevention if given the relevant training. That survey also found that 66% of those interviewed were willing to intervene in domestic abuse if provided with the requisite training, although 19% were not willing to get involved, pointing out that the ‘peacemaker’ usually ends up being the enemy, an age old perspective that still seems to hold currency both in Guyana and the Diaspora. And this is why TCV has been continually calling for a return of the Gatekeeper’s Program and piggybacking mental health on other government training programs.
A subsequent survey done in March 2016 found that 92% felt that government was not doing enough to address mental health while 78% believed that people with mental illnesses could live normal lives. And this is why TCV has been engaged in continual lobbying on a basket of measures including counselors in schools, mental health care integrated into the physical health care system and relevant training for all police officers.
In any case the most recent survey clearly indicates that not only is it time for a registry of sex offenders but provides evidentiary support for reported plans to that effect by the Child Care and Prevention Agency and another government agency. As well the survey makes it clear that those who resist the call for raising the age of consent from 16 to 18 are in the small minority and thus the government should not allow the outmoded views of a vociferous few to override the desire of the vast majority of Guyanese. In fact, we urge the government to commission its own survey, perhaps through the University of Guyana.
Last year neighboring Trinidad & Tobago with ethnic and cultural similarities to Guyana, raised the age of consent to 18. Haiti and the Dominican Republic also have the age of consent at 18 while there are ongoing calls for a similar measure in Jamaica, Barbados and a number of other Caribbean nations.