500 gender-based violence victims to receive free legal services

0

(Press release) – The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, as part of its mandate to end gender-based violence and specifically violence against women and girls in Guyana, is on a mission to build programmes geared towards providing efficient and effective services to victims of gender-based violence.

Access to free legal services by victims can diminish the losses experienced by women, children, families, and communities in terms of productivity, educational achievement to name a few and most importantly help break the cycle of violence.

Data from the 2019 Guyana Women’s Health and Life Experiences survey revealed most survivors are not accessing services at acceptable rates. Access to justice and legal services can be a challenge for vulnerable groups of people across Guyana, owing to high legal costs, limited legal aid reaches in certain regions, the backlog of cases and lengthy trials, lack of human and technological resources, among others. Therefore, there exists a need for the expansion of legal pro-bono services.

For these reasons, the Legal Pro-bono 500 Initiative was conceptualized by the Minister Dr. Vindhya Persaud, to expand the provision and reach of free legal services to persons experiencing gender-based violence.

The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security recognizes that the Bar Association of Guyana is equipped with the necessary resources and expertise to provide high quality essential legal services and is, therefore, a reliable strategic partner to provide additional free legal services to gender-based violence victims.

In order to formalize their commitment to this initiative, the Bar Association of Guyana and the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security executed a Memorandum of Understanding on the 9th December, 2021. The Memorandum of Understanding outlines their respective obligations and responsibilities to the Legal Pro-Bono 500 Initiative. This includes the Bar Association’s commitment to providing pro-bono legal services to 500 gender-based violence victims.

 

The Memorandum of Understanding was executed by Ms. Pauline Chase, President of the Bar Association of Guyana and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Ms. Shanielle Hoosain-Outar.

To ensure that this Initiative is effectively managed and is sustainable, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has engaged the United Nations Population Fund under the Spotlight Initiative, the global initiative funded by the European Union to end violence against women and girls worldwide, to provide funding and technical support through the establishment of a legal pro-bono referral department within the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.

Mr. Adler Bynoe, UNFPA Liaison Officer was present and reaffirmed UNFPA’s commitment to supporting the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security on this initiative. Also in attendance were UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Yesim Oruc and European Union Ambassador Mr. Ponz-Canto, who both recognized the Minister of Human Services and Social Security’s commitment to ending gender-based violence in Guyana.

The Minister of Human Services and Social Security has signalled her intention to engage other existing law societies to provide legal pro-bono services and stated that, “access to justice is even more important when someone has experienced domestic violence and this initiative will complement the already existing and overburdened legal aid services”. The Minister acknowledged the contribution of the Bar Association of Guyana and thanked them for “unhesitatingly partnering with the Ministry”. The Minister expressed that she looks forward to a time when, “there will be a lesser need for this type of service but for now, the Ministry is ensuring that every survivor has access to justice as is their fundamental human right”.

Dr. Persaud also thanked the United Nations Population Fund under the Spotlight Initiative and is grateful for their contribution to this program.

In her speech, the President of the Bar Association of Guyana noted that “initiatives such as these do not imbalance the scales of lady justice but rather assist in lending balance”.

The Legal Pro-Bono 500 Initiative will be operationalized in January 2022.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.