Last Thursday the United States renewed its Level 2 travel advisory on Guyana. It advised travelers to exercise increased caution. The US’s four travel advisories range from ‘exercising normal caution’ to ‘do not travel.’ The recent shooting to death of three men at Black Bush Polder, Berbice, and another three men in a home in Norton Street, Georgetown, that they had invaded, is a backdrop to the travel advisory, which is the same level of caution that Guyanese would normally exercise.
Most who live or work in Georgetown avoid certain areas and exercise increased caution even when not in those areas. Most do not wear jewellery or keep it safely hidden on their person. It is not safe for women to walk with handbags or for men to have easily accessible wallets which are easy targets for pickpockets, with the aid of knife or gun. Reports of harrowing incidents fill our daily news and these are only the tip of the iceberg of what happens every day in our streets and homes. Many overseas Guyanese, particularly from Berbice, do not visit Guyana on holiday because of the crime situation. All Guyanese know that visiting relatives are an invitation to bandits, as the Norton Street incident demonstrates.
Most of the reports on domestic violence describe it as prevalent. Statistics are not reliable because of under reporting. Nevertheless all of the experts and activists in this field agree that the statistics that are available suggest that domestic violence in Guyana is extensive and deep rooted. The incidents of domestic violence against women and children over the past five years or so suggest that it has now reached epidemic proportions, notwithstanding a large number of government and non-government agencies which are doing dedicated work to reduce or prevent domestic violence. Domestic violence seem to be getting more gruesomely spectacular with each passing year.
While there can be substantial improvements in the services offered by both government and non-government bodies with the appropriate amount of resources, the impression of some observers is that the problems are too entrenched and in segments of society which are either not reached by agencies or, if reached, are impervious to the programmes normally deployed. It is believed that it is in these sections of society that the vast majority of incidents of domestic violence take place. Clearly the strategies adopted must take into account this fact and should target these communities in a more creative fashion.