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“You talking ‘bout everyday story”: An exploratory study on trafficking in persons in Guyana

An Exploratory Study on Trafficking in Persons in Guyana
By Andaiye, Nicola Bell, Karen de Souza, Halima Khan and Linda Peake (on behalf
August, 2004
Table of Contents
1. Guyana's External and Internal Borders
2. Limitations of Prevailing Economic Models/Growth Of Informal and
Underground Economies
3. Forms and Distribution of Poverty
a. Income and non-income Poverty
b. Old and new sites of poverty
c. Women and poverty
1. Data Collection
a. Purposive sample
b. IOM National Seminar
c. Secondary data taken from newspapers
d. Other secondary sources
2. Comments On Data Collection Process
3. Description Of Participants In The Purposive
1. General Comments
2. Tips In The Context Of Migration
a. Migration to Guyana
b. Illegal migration to Guyana
c. Migration from Guyana
d. Migration through Guyana
e. Circumstances of migrants
1. Dominant Forms: Links To Sex Tourism, The Drug Trade, Cheap Domestic Labour And
The Sex Trade
a. Sex tourism.
b. Drug trade.
c. Domestic labour
d. Sex trade
2. Trafficking For Sex Work, Forced Labour And Domestic
Servitude (Including Methods Of Recruitment And
a. Sex trade
b. Forced labour
c. Domestic servitude
2. Victims Of Tips; Trafficking Of Girls, Women, Men
And Boys
3. Impact On Victims
a.Health care
a. Ability to tell people of their plight
5.Traffickers; Level Of Organization
1. Media Sources
2. Data From Other Sources
a. Red Thread
c. Amerindian Peoples Association
d. Reports on implementation of Conventions
to which Guyana is signatory
e. International agency sources
1. The Ongoing Campaign To Sensitise The Public And Organizations On
2. Level Of Understanding And Awareness Of TIPs In Government
3. Level Of Acceptance That TIPs Is A Problem In Guyana
4. Status Of The TIPs Legislation
5. The National Plan Of Action
6. Readiness Of Institutions
Summary of Aims, Methods and Main Findings
1. Assess the key factors that may contribute to trafficking in persons within
the 7 target countries. Such an assessment may include the links between sex
tourism, drug trafficking, and particular historical and cultural norms that may
contribute to trafficking in persons.
2. The extent and trends of trafficking in and within the 7 target countries. In
addition, on a secondary level, flows through and from the 7 target countries will
also be addressed.
3. Identify and assess the general trends and typologies that are indicative of
the trafficking phenomenon within each target country. In as much as is possible,
contribute to the overall understanding in trafficking in persons within the
following elements:
1. Characteristics of the phenomenon in each country: method of
recruitment, the routes taken, destinations, and types of exploitation.
2. Profile of victims: places of origin, age, social and academic
background, the duration of stay in countries of transit and destination,
type of exploitation.
3. General profile of the traffickers.
4. Basic living conditions of victims including food, clothing and
shelter, health risks, and security concerns in countries of transit and
5. Victims' visa status, career experiences, working conditions
including duties, wages, holidays, etc. in their home country.
6. Human rights conditions for victims during the trafficking stages
(recruitment, movement, exploitation) including whether there has been
any assault and physical abuse, a delay or denial in payment of wages,
forced prostitution, forced labour, etc.
7. Public health impact of trafficking in persons.
4. Conduct a media review of any recent coverage on the subject of
trafficking in persons. Assess any trends in the coverage of the issue.
This report represents an exploratory study of trafficking in persons in Guyana The report
does not aim to quantify trafficking in persons in Guyana but to build up a picture of the
extensiveness and different forms of trafficking in the country.
Red Thread already had information about cases of trafficking in persons in Guyana from
previous work done around Guyana, including a needs assessment we conducted with
female commercial sex workers in Georgetown, Bartica, Mahdia (and environs),
Kwakwani, and on the Corentyne in 2001. Based on this information and on leads from
other organizations, we made our preliminary list of key informants, including traffickers
and victims. Unfortunately, the fact that the survey started simultaneously with the
government's campaign to combat trafficking, drove these potential informants
underground, and even officials (for example, in the police force) who gave us interviews
expressed apprehension about whether they would be “on the record”. These problems
obviously limited what the study could achieve.
Nonetheless, between July and August 2004, we collected data from a number of primary
and secondary sources.
Our most useful source of data, and the one we relied on most heavily, was
a purposive (i.e., non-random) sample of 34 participants selected by Red Thread,
using a questionnaire/interview guide. Interviews were conducted in July and
August 2004 in three different locations in offices, bars, homes, markets, and
police stations by two women from Red Thread;
In addition we used a short questionnaires completed by 24 participants at
the International Organization on Migration (IOM) seminar on June 16, 2004 (this
questionnaire was identical to the final section of the questionnaire mentioned
above). Thus, we had a total of 58 respondents answering some questions ;
Analysis of newspaper coverage of trafficking in persons in Guyana from
April 23, 2004, when the GoG announced a campaign to combat TIPs in Guyana,
to August 30, 2004.
Data from various reports on implementation of Conventions to which
Guyana is signatory, and data from NGOs and international agencies.
The main findings from these data were as follows:
Knowledge of what TIPs is: The vast majority (83%) of participants (n=58) knew what
trafficking was: while there is no general agreement among respondents on what
activities constitute TIPs (some respondents for example, do not place young girl being
taken to the coast to work in bars in the same category as women being forced to work as
drug mules or women being sent overseas to work in the sex trade) the vast majority of
respondents phrased their definition of trafficking in terms of movement for the purpose
of exploitation.
View of whether TIPs is a problem in Guyana: 76% of the respondents considered TIPs a
problem in Guyana (44 out of 58).
We caution that these answers may have been inflated by the recent government
campaign against trafficking as well as the press coverage given to the US State
Department Level Three report.
Whether for Guyana TIPs is external or external: Although the majority of respondents
knew of trafficking within Guyana far fewer were aware of people being trafficked out of
the country. Moreover, participants' responses did not define trafficking in terms of
people going overseas although 8 people did know of specific cases of women who were
taken to the neighbouring countries of Barbados, Trinidad, Venezuela, Suriname,
Holland, and French Guiana.
Linkages to sex tourism, the drug trade and cheap domestic labour: 20 out of 34
participants (59%) said they didn't know or weren't sure if TIPs in Guyana is linked to sex
tourism, although the vast majority knew it was linked to the sex trade. We believe this is
due to the fact that sex tourism is virtually non existent in Guyana. One half (n=16) said
they didn't know or were not sure about a link to the drug trade. We attribute this low
level of knowledge to people’s reluctance to talk about dangerous and illegal activities.
However, on a link to the demand for cheap domestic labour, 23 (68%) said yes.
Awareness of forced prostitution, forced labour and domestic servitude: Asked about their
awareness of forced prostitution, forced labour or domestic servitude in Guyana, the
responses (multiple answers) from the 34 participants in the purposive sample were:
forced prostitution (n=24); forced labour (n=13); domestic servitude (n=7); and none of
these (n=6).
Re. trafficking for forced prostitution: Of the 24 people who knew of specific cases only
2 reported cases involving transporting young women and (in one case) young men
overseas (to Barbados and Trinidad). All other cases related to women engaged in sex
work in Guyana.
Re. trafficking for forced labour: Answers were less full and fewer respondents answered
(n=12 knew of specific cases). All cases related to trafficking within Guyana.
Re. trafficking for domestic servitude: There were 8 answers overall and all related to
trafficking in Guyana. (We believe this low number is explained by the fact that most
respondents classify migration that is supposedly for domestic work, but tends up as sex
work, as trafficking for forced prostitution).
Who are the victims: Responses from participants indicate that their perception is that
trafficking takes place primarily in response to the demand from the sex trade. Cases
mostly involve young girls and women (from early teens to early twenties) who live in
riverain or interior areas who are deceived into leaving their communities to work as
waitresses in small establishments on the coast. After a period of often only a few days
they are told they have to engage in sex work and through various forms of control they
are prevented from leaving. Although most of these cases appear to involve Amerindian
women, Red Thread is aware that trafficking also takes place of young women of all
races overseas to neighbouring countries to engage in sex work. Another common form
of trafficking is that of men (but also of women and children) to work on grants in the
interior who are kept in debt bondage.
Methods of recruitment: The method most commonly used by recruiters was to make
friends with people in a community and then get them to recruit girls. Women on the
coast are reportedly approached in night clubs with offers of employment overseas or in
mining and logging camps.
Methods of control: Methods of control involved debt bondage, restricted movement
(including being locked up); withholding of pay or insufficient pay; and threats
(including death threats) and physical violence from the employer and clients.
Living conditions: These are very basic regardless of the purpose of the trafficking. There
were several cases of women living in a room attached to the bar in which they worked
(sleeping on mattresses, make shift beds, or a single bed for which they paid), or of living
in a room in the owner's house or of sleeping in a former pig pen. In the interior workers
lived in makeshift tents or very basic accommodation.
Beneficiaries of TIPs in Guyana: The respondents were all in agreement that it was
business people working with go-betweens in communities who were benefiting by
exploiting poor people. Either business people - both women and men - would directly go
into communities and recruit young girls (and in fewer cases young boys) or they would
have an intermediary in the village who would tell them who to contact.
Data from various other sources only served to reiterate the findings from the research
participants. There was no media coverage of TIPs prior to the GoG campaign which
began in April 2004, although articles appearing since the campaign began make it clear
that some elements of the media had knowledge that it existed. Among 5 newspaper
reports of alleged cases of trafficking between April 23 and August 30, 2004, 3 were
cases of actual trafficking.
Factors that contribute to TIPs in Guyana: TIPs in Guyana is most strongly linked with
the sex trade and domestic servitude, although there are examples of trafficking involving
forced labour. Doubtless, the small but visible number of women being brought into
Guyana to work in sex clubs and some of the forced movement of women out of Guyana
to work as prostitutes in the Caribbean is linked to the growth of the drugs trade in
Guyana. The high number of people living in poverty has an impact on the opportunities
available and the sense of opportunities available to people. The paucity or non existence
of economic opportunities in the places where people live has led to the equation of
betterment with movement away. Given the entrenchment of migration into Guyanese
ways of living, both for employment and for family betterment (for example, child
shifting), and its acceptance as a norm there has been very little questioning of movement
associated with trafficking. This situation is even more prevalent in areas that are
geographically isolated from the coast. In addition the prevalence of child labour and its
general acceptance further contributes to TIPs. Moreover, the ambivalence towards
prostitution works against any attempts to help women who want to leave this
occupation. Finally, lack of awareness of the problem (until recently) by both the
government and within civil society has allowed TIPs to proliferate. This latter point is
further exacerbated by a lack of an institutional and legal framework to combat TIPs and
by peoples’ lack of knowledge as to what exists.
The government and TIPs: In April 2004 TIPs was not on the government's agenda. Since
then a National Plan of Action on Trafficking in Persons in Guyana has been developed
by the MLHSSS. The assessment of the MLHSSS is that the campaign is working well
because of the responses they have been receiving. It is certainly true that the campaign
has put TIPs in Guyana on the map, given the level of media coverage it has garnered.
Unfortunately, the intensity of the campaign has fuelled skepticism that it is externally-
driven. As among the general public, amongst MLHSSS officials there is a strong feeling
that many people enter voluntarily into situations that are now being defined as TIPs.
A steering committee has been established including representatives of the MLHSSS,
NGOs, the GGMC, the police and the media. In an interview held on August 25 interview
Ministry officials reported that in addition to public awareness programmes, the
MLHSSS has begun work towards training people to recognise cases of trafficking and
exploitation. Also, a building has reportedly been identified in Mahaica and negotiations
are in train. However, there is serious concern about the readiness of institutions to deal
with trafficking. Ohter organizations we are aware of which have shown public
awareness of trafficking in persons in Guyana or taken any action against trafficking are
Amerindian organizations, the human rights organization GHRA and Red Thread. Since
the general understanding in Guyana is that TIPs is an Amerindian problem, other ethnic
organizations have never seen it as an issue to take up until recently.
The Introduction to the Report is designed not as a general situational analysis of
Guyana; such an analysis would have to include, among other factors for example, a
discussion of HIV/AIDS, since after Haiti, Guyana has the highest incidence of
HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, which has the second highest incidence in the world after
sub-Saharan Africa. Instead, it is an analysis of the political, economic, social and
physical aspects of Guyana to show what circumstances of this country could be
facilitating the development of trafficking in persons.
While Guyana's main economic, social, cultural and political ties mark it as part of the
Caribbean and specifically of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM1), geographically it
is within South America: it shares a north-western border with Venezuela; a south and
south-western border with Brazil; and an eastern border with Suriname. Accurate figures
on the size of the permanent and temporary migration across these borders are not
available but there is unquestionably a high level of both kinds. “Informal” access across
these borders is routine: from Guyana to Venezuela, it is from the Pomeroon River in
Essequibo via the Atlantic Ocean using outboard engine boats; from Guyana to Brazil,
overland by road from several border settlements; and from Guyana to Suriname, by ferry
or speedboat across the Corentyne River. The following map shows the countries
bordering Guyana as well as the 10 administrative regions into which the country is
Map 1 Guyana's Administrative Borders
Internally, the geography and population distribution of Guyana, allied to the high cost of
travel between coast and interior, combine to create a de facto border between the two
areas of the country. With an area of 215,000 square kilometers divided into 10
administrative regions, 86% of the resident population of only 749,000 (Guyana
Population and Housing Census 2003) live on the narrow coastal plain which occupies
1 CARICOM is a grouping including all the English-speaking countries of the region plus
Suriname and Haiti; it is now moving towards the formation of a Common Single Market
and Economy.
about 5% of the country's land mass. The majority of coastal residents are from the three
largest race/ethnic groups - Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese and Mixed, in that order,
while the majority of the fourth largest group - Amerindians - live in the interior in
Regions 1, 7, 8 and 9, bordering Venezuela and Brazil, often in scattered communities.2
There are also areas within the coastal plain where there is a relatively high degree of
race/ethnic homogeneity in communities and clusters of communities. This may be of
some significance in terms of race/ethnic directions of migration.
In the 1980s, a number of political and economic developments in the domestic and
global arenas led to a serious decline in the Guyana economy. This was the context in
which, in 1982, the Government of Guyana (GoG) banned the commercial importation of
staple foods like wheat flour to encourage increased consumption of local products and to
save foreign exchange - a decision which precipitated the large-scale informalization of
the economy (with the burgeoning informal sector operating side by side with a massive
state sector), a significant increase in the movement of people across the country and the
region, and the criminalization of the economic activity of large sectors of the population
at both the lower and upper ends of the economic scale who engaged in the buying,
selling and/or transporting of banned items. For that period in Guyana, the word
“trading” came to mean “an occupation which originated in the early 1980s in the
resistance by thousands of Guyanese, the majority of them `ordinary housewives', to the
banning of a number of staples and the criminalization of the acts of buying, selling (and
even possessing) food” (Andaiye, undated).
A further radical shift in the economy took place after the 1989 introduction of an
Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) based on the IMF/World Bank Structural
Adjustment Programme (SAP), focusing among other elements on privatization of state
enterprises, the miniaturization of the public sector, and the identification of the private
sector as “the engine of growth”. Given the level of decline of the economy, it was argued
that there was no alternative to this policy and that the positive effects of the ERP
2 On the coast, only in Region 2 is there a substantial Amerindian population scattered in
9 villages. Regions 4 and 5 also have small villages in relatively inaccessible areas.
included the restoration of the old private sector with some new actors and the opening
up of the interior to foreign and local private investment. But there were clear negatives.
One criticism has been that the terms under which foreign investment into forestry and
mining was initiated have increased the under-development of the interior regions. The
2003 Report on Progress towards the Achievement of the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGR) warns that “…Guyana's environmental vulnerability is increased by the
fact that …it has only been able to attract investment for the extraction of natural
resources. To compound this, international agreements dictate how natural resources
should be extracted without providing compensation which recognizes the opportunity
costs of not utilizing the resources” (10).
The document also describes some of the other fallout from the ERP:
In the early stages, the severity of the SAP measures had a negative effect on employment
and incomes. In particular, the downsizing of the public sector and the concomitant loss
of jobs, the privatization of State enterprises, coupled with the virtually jobless growth in
the private sector, reduced opportunities for young people, especially school leavers and
university graduates seeking white-collar jobs. (29)
These particular effects of the ERP had both a race and a gender component. In terms of
race, actions to hold down wages in and to reduce the size of the public sector were
especially hard for Afro-Guyanese, who predominated in this sector. In terms of gender,
the ERP made no effort to strengthen the economic position of the petty traders who had
virtually kept the country, including the formal private sector, alive. These traders were
poor, of all races, and as mentioned earlier, mostly women - for some of whom trading
was their first paid economic activity, for all of whom it had provided a measure of
economic autonomy. All of this was ignored and undermined as the restrictions of the
banning years were reversed under the new ERP measures that heralded the end of state
ownership and ensured the re-privatization of state assets and the re-establishment of the
local private sector.
Following a change in administration in 1992, considerable debt relief and new donor
programmes were granted. The economy grew an average of 7% per annum between
1991 and 1997. In 1997, under a Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative (HIPC)
programme agreed by the IMF and the International Development Agency (IDA),
Guyana was granted further debt relief to reduce its external debt by 25 % in net present
value terms, on condition that it continued its adjustment and reform efforts according to
a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) agreed with the boards of the Fund and
Bank. The ultimate goal was “to put the country in a sounder fiscal position while
simultaneously increasing expenditure on social sector objectives - mainly health,
education and social safety nets” (MDGR, 9); it should be noted that the GoG has met its
HIPC target objectives for all the main social spending categories since 2000.3
In spite of all this, since 1997 growth has averaged less than 1 %. By the end of the
1990s, although production had improved, markets had declined. Guyana's terms of trade
deteriorated by 2% over the second half of the 1990s. After a period in which bauxite,
gold and forestry attracted foreign investment, investment declined. There has been
limited success so far in developing eco-tourism, identified as a major growth sector.
Reduced preferential access to EU markets is expected to have a very negative impact on
the economy (MDGR 8). A return to a growth rate of 6 % is estimated to be necessary if
Guyana is to meet its MDG target on poverty, but this is unlikely due to “the limited
private investment in diversifying the economy, reduced donor assistance, the slow
incorporation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and the pending
loss of lucrative historical markets…” (MDGR 9-10). In addition, there is the continued
migration of skilled labour which creates an increasing human resource and capacity
constraint in most sectors, but particularly in education and health, and is an obstacle to
implementation of the PRSP, and the absorption of external aid.
Throughout the decades from the 1980s to the present the informalization of the Guyana
economy appears to have continued its increase: rough estimates by the World Bank and
others, during the 1990s put its size at approximately 20 % of GDPsource. There is strong
evidence of continued growth in the underground layers of the sector, especially those
related to the narco-industry, with Guyana emerging as a major transshipment point for
illegal drugs, and to the movement of undocumented people (called back-tracking
locally) - developments which have fed a rise in corruption and violence. This violence is
further fed by an alarming increase in the number of criminals with a history of
involvement in armed violence deported back from other jurisdictions, especially the US.
3 Discussion with businesswoman Jocelyn Dow on August 26, 2004
Poverty is expressed not only in income poverty but in inadequate access to other
resources which shape opportunity, including literacy, good nutrition and protection from
child labour.
(a) Income and non-income poverty
Income poverty: While the most recent figures available showed a decline in poverty it
remains high: absolute poverty was 36 % in 1999, down from 43% in 1992/93, while
critical poverty was 19% in 1999, down from 28% in 1992. Overall, the poverty gap
declined from 16% in 1992/93 to 12% in 1999 (MDGR, 12).
Access to literacy: According to the Guyana EFA-FTI Proposal/ Credible Plan 2002, “…
an estimated 33% of children are graduating from primary school without acquiring basic
literacy skills.” The report continues: “a functional literacy survey of out-of-school
youths ages 14 - 25 found that 89 % of the sample surveyed was operating at below or
well below acceptable levels of functional literacy and that an estimated 20% were
absolutely illiterate.” (page). These findings are related to the high rate of dropout,
particularly from primary tops4 and Community Highs which serve students from poorer
households: in 1999-2000, among students aged 13 to 18, for the first group, the dropout
rate was 25 % for boys and 29 % for girls and for the second, 12 % for boys and 15 % for
girls. Corresponding figures for the more prestigious General Secondary Schools were 11
% for boys and 9 % for girls (MOE (1998) and MOE (2000). The statistics are less clear
for children in the interior but there are obvious disparities between the access of children
on the coast and in the interior to educational opportunity.
Access to adequate nutrition: Overall levels of malnutrition among children under 5 are
high in Guyana compared to other English-speaking Caribbean countries (State of the
World's Children 2003). There are significant race/ethnic differences in types of
malnutrition: Ministry of Health figures for 2003 show that stunting is highest for
Amerindian children and lowest for Afro-Guyanese children; wasting is highest for Indo-
Guyanese children and lowest for Amerindians; and anemia is most prevalent among
Afro-Guyanese children, followed by Mixed children. However, all types of malnutrition
are linked with poverty and low levels of education. This is clearest in the figures for
Amerindian children, among whom wasting is lowest because of the length of exclusive
4 These are secondary level classes located in primary schools.
breastfeeding and other infant feeding practices in Amerindian communities, and where
stunting is extremely high at 23.5 % as a result of deficiencies in calcium and zinc,
among other micronutrients. (UNICEF, 11)
Protection from child labour: A 2002 ILO analysis prepared by Dr. George K. Danns has
described child labour in Guyana as “pervasive, ubiquitous but largely unrecognised”,
involving children from all race/ethnic groups who are “driven by culture, parental
neglect, family breakdown and economic necessity to work for their own upkeep or that
of their family and relatives” (Danns,.1). The report continued: “The problem with child
labour in Guyana is that there is considerable cultural support sustaining it. Among the
Amerindians and rural East Indians and Blacks, child labour is viewed as the
socialization of children in preparation for adult role responsibilities. In such
communities like Black Bush Polder (a rural Indo-Guyanese community) and Amerindian
settlements in the Pomeroon, real education is acquired not in schools but in the farms
where families eke out a living” (Danns, 1).
MICS 2001 figures show 27% of children 0-14 as “currently working” (i.e, performing
paid or unpaid work for a non-household member, 4 or more hours of household chores,
or other family work). The 2002 ILO report on child labour in Guyana estimated that the
incidence of children under 18 performing child labour in Guyana may be more than
twice the number provided in the MICS survey, and it provides the link between child
labour and poverty when it describes the worst forms of child labour as being among
street children, child victims of prostitution and children from remote Amerindian
(b) Old and new sites of poverty.
Along with the persistence of old sites of poverty, new sites of poverty have emerged as a
result of global economic developments. The interior is an old site of poverty: in a period
where for the country as a whole, the head count index for absolute poverty and the
numbers in critical poverty declined between 1992 to 1999, poverty among rural coastal
people declined more slowly than in the towns, where it was halved, and declined not at
all in the forests and savannahs of the interior.
On the coast, in addition to the longstanding and persistent pockets of poverty reflected in
the figures, new sites of poverty are developing. While there are no new data on
household income, anecdotal evidence shows that the low level of growth in the macro
economy and the particular problems being experienced in some sectors are having a
negative impact at the levels of communities and households: the MDGR points out that
“[E]xternal factors originating from global commercial centers have led to serious
instability and even threaten the existence of communities such as Linden and Kwakwani
( townships established around the bauxite industry which is in critical decline) and some
rural agricultural villages bordering sugar estates”( 9). The impact of the removal of
preferential access to EU markets is likely to be soon and to be devastating, given the size
of sugar's contribution to the national economy.
The percentage of single-parent families in Guyana, historically smaller than in most
other Caribbean countries, has been rising as a result of the phenomenon of de facto
single parent households resulting from the migration of male household heads (Red
Thread 1999). In addition, surges of migration during periods of heightened
political/racial conflict further fragment families and communities; for example, during
the violence of the last 2 years.
(c) Women and poverty.
Especially but not only for women at the bottom end of the economic scale, paid work is
low-waged work. Women at the lower end of the economic scale are super-exploited in
terms of wages and other conditions of work for the jobs available to them. This situation
was compounded when the National Minimum Wage policy was quietly eliminated,
giving employers carte blanche to use the low participation rate to bid down wages.
As in other parts of the Caribbean, in Guyana “the burden of women's unwaged work is
so heavy that it negates the impact of those favourable changes that have been
achieved….in women's access to education and in their legal status” (Andaiye 1994, 4).
Thus, in both education and jobs, women continue to cluster in the low-waged caring
professions which mirror the unwaged caring work they perform in the home and
community. As Table 1 demonstrates, at the University of Guyana where women
outnumber men, “there is a distinctly gendered pattern to the programmes of study that
men and women undertake”(WAB 7).
Table 1
University of Guyana Graduates by Course and Sex for 2000
Faculty Percent Female Total
Social Sciences 65% 226
Technology 11% 36
Agriculture 16% 19
Education 85% 65
Natural Science 47% 30
Arts 76% 34
Health Science 62% 79
Total 65% 453
Source: Ministry of Education
Tables 2 and 3 show that women earn less than men in both lower level and professional
Table 2
Persons with Gross Income below G$30,000 per month in lower level occupations
Major Occupation Females Males
Clerks 90% 69%
Services/Sales 95% 87%
Elementary Workers 94% 73%
Agricultural Workers 97% 87%
Source: Bureau of Statistics
Table 3
Persons with Gross Income below G$30,000 per month in professional occupations
Major Occupation Females Males
Managers 60% 47%
Professional 77% 42%
Technician 91% 65%
Source: Bureau of Statistics
Data were collected from a number of primary and secondary sources.
(a) Purposive sample.
We compiled a purposive (i.e., non-random) sample of 34 participants selected by Red
Thread. Interviews were conducted in July and August 2004 in offices, bars, homes,
markets, and police stations by two women from Red Thread. We were aiming to
interview people who knew directly about TIPs and other people who may not be
involved directly but would have some knowledge of the activities involved in TIPs.
People in three areas were chosen because they encompass all three counties (the primary
administrative units in the country), they were all easily accessible, and they are typical
of what Red Thread considers to be the major (albeit mostly restricted to coastal) centres
of source, destination and recruitment communities in TIPs. These locations were
Georgetown; the Essequibo coast and lake communities; and coastal communities in
Berbice and the Corentyne (see Map 2).
In each place we contacted people using a snowballing technique (i.e., asking people to
recommend other people who they thought would fit our profile of people who we
wanted to interview). We started with a number of key individuals and from them got
names of other people to interview. For the sake of anonymity these cannot be identified.
We interviewed a woman suspected of being trafficked, as well as taxi drivers, sex
workers, social workers, teachers, librarians, police officers, market vendors, sales clerks,
hotel and bar owners and others such as hinterland coordinators from the Ministry of
Agriculture, officers in the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, members of NGOs
and administrators from various field offices whom we thought might have come into
contact with victims in various interior locations. Each of the 34 people in this sample
was interviewed using the questionnaire designed by IOM.
Because of the difficulties in getting interviews (see below), we decided to select people
who we encountered in various public places to participate in the research, keeping in
mind the status of persons and their geographical location that might have helped them to
come into contact with incidents of TIPs.
Map 2 Location of respondents and locations associated with trafficking mentioned
by respondents and other sources
(b) IOM National Seminar.
This seminar, took place on June 16, 2004. The participants included senior and junior
government officials, community representatives, media and NGO representatives who
are likely to have some information about TIPs and who may be involved in the national
response and they were invited to the seminar by the Ministry of Labour, Human Services
and Social Security. As part of this day long session participants were asked to fill out a
short questionnaire (which was identical to the final section of the questionnaire
mentioned above) and 24 participants did so. Given this fact, much less use of this
material was made in the analysis.
(c) Secondary data taken from newspapers
We analysed newspaper coverage of trafficking in persons in Guyana from April 23,
2004, when the GoG announced a campaign to combat TIPs in Guyana, to August 30,
2004. During this period, 49 (to check doc centre; we have 42) separate pieces of
newspaper coverage were found, almost all of them articles. Prior to the launch of the
campaign this issue was not covered by the Guyana media: only one article pre-dating
April 2004 was discovered during a spot check of newspapers for the previous year. No
newspaper coverage was found between January 2004 and the start of the campaign. The
four newspapers in which articles or other coverage of TIPS were identified for the
period April 23 to August 30, 2004 were the Kaiteur News, Guyana Chronicle, Stabroek
News, and Catholic Standard.
The electronic media were not similarly monitored; a video of one programme covering a
visit by the Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security (MLHSSS) to two
interior communities (Moruka and Port Kaituma) was examined but yielded nothing
(d) Sources of other secondary data
Three other sources of secondary data identified were reports on implementation of
Conventions to which Guyana is signatory, and data from NGOs and international
agencies. Among NGOs clearly Red Thread was the most easily identified: in 2001 we
had uncovered some information about TIPs in the course of conducting a participatory
needs assessment with female Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs) in Guyana.5 From
experience and observation, we knew that the main NGOs to which problems that might
be associated with TIPs would be taken were the GHRA and the Amerindian
organizations. Finally, we knew that if there was any prior knowledge of TIPs in Guyana
other than in these NGOs, it would most likely be revealed in reports to and of
international bodies
A number of difficulties were experienced in the interviewing process. As research
proceeded and we gathered information on TIPs involving Indo-Guyanese and Afro-
Guyanese we became increasingly concerned at the degree to which the focus of all
parties was on the exploitation of Amerindian women and girls, with only a few even
mentioning Amerindian men and boys, and almost none mentioning those of other
race/ethnic groups of any age or sex. We felt that while it is important to recognize the
particular ways in which power is abused against Amerindians (coastal/interior power
relations; and race/ethnic power relations) it is also essential (a) not to be paternalistic
and (b) not to ignore areas of exploitation of people of other race/ethnic groups that may
be/are similar to those experienced by Amerindians. It was at this point that we stopped
identifying more interviewees whose experience would be in the interior (Amerindian or
non-Amerindian) and focused on following or trying to follow leads in relation to other
Another difficulty was that the campaign by the Ministry of Labour and Human Services
and Social Security (MLHSS) had highlighted issues of TIPs and we were having great
difficulties in getting interviews. Some potential interviewees said that what we were
5 The needs assessment was conducted in several communities in each of five regions -
Regions 4, 5, 7, 8: the communities were: Region 4 - Georgetown; Region 5 - Albion,
Crabwood Creek and Skeldon; Region 7 - Bartica, Arimou, Mazaruni River; Region 8 -
Cambelltown, Mahdia, El Paso, Tumatumari, Amatuk and Micobie; and Region 10 -
Kwakwani. The group's sources were girls and women in bars, hotels and mining camps
in the interior and on street corners, proprietors of the establishments and a public official
in the Corentyne.
doing was dangerous and they did not want to endanger their lives the way we were
endangering ours. Some expressed fear of being penalised by the law for what they know
or by the perpetrators of TIPs for what they might have said to us. Many people promised
to give interviews but changed their minds after they read about the Ministry's campaign
or saw it reported on television. Possible interviews with victims were also lost due to the
For example, contact was made with a caretaker in xxx who agreed to be interviewed.
She was reluctant to be interviewed for fear that information would be leaked to the
media but we assured her that it was confidential. She said that she was afraid of being
attacked by people who are involved in trafficking which is prevalent in the area. On the
day of the interview she went in to hiding from us, she told others in the area to say that
she wasn't there. When we finally met her, she said that she changed her mind about
doing the interview. She was afraid because she lived alone and did not want any harm to
come to her and she claimed she did not know anything as it related to the interview.
Other interviewees also promised that they would do the interview but every time we
approached them, they claimed that they were not ready. We also planned to go into the
area known for trafficking mentioned by her but decided against it after we received a
phone call from a taxi driver telling us that it wasn't wise for us to do so. He said that the
proprietor of the hotel in xxx had learned that we were in the area and she was waiting for
us. His exact words were “ You all better don't worry with that thing about going around
the xxx area to do no interview because the woman who owns the xxx, hear you all
coming and she is setting for you all. You all might get a good licking because she is a
upstart and she is gon set up she people fuh beat you “.
We also had a hard time trying to convince people that their interviews are confidential.
Even police officers decided that they did not want anything they said to be taped and in
some instances they asked us not to write certain things they said. For example if they
wanted to tell us of a particular incident, they would say “ this is off the record”. Some of
the interviewees asked us how could they be sure that what they said would be
confidential and that we wouldn't use the tapes on the radio or put their names in the
newspapers. We told them that they would just have to trust us. There was no problem
with privacy however because even in the public places there was some degree of privacy
since the conversation could not be overheard. The interviews conducted in the markets
were difficult though since the interviews had to stop so that vendors could attend to
customers, and some public officials had to break interviews because of their duties, and
reschedule continuations. Some interviews required several visits and persuasion before
people actually agreed to do the interviews.
Some of the participants did not want to be interviewed using the questionnaire so in
these cases we had more of a conversation in which we occasionally asked questions
around the issues to ensure that all the information asked for on the questionnaire was
Given that the major source of data came from the purposive sample we detail their
characteristics below. Of the 34 respondents two-thirds were female and a third male and
all were born in Guyana. The respondents came from three locations: the capital,
Georgetown (n=7), in county Demerara; 15 came from the coastal area of county
Essequibo; and 12 came from the Corentyne in county Berbice.
Table 4 below shows the characteristics of the sample in terms of union status, age,
education and type of employment. The majority of both women and men were married
or in a live-in relationship but a significant proportion of women also claimed single
status which we assume to represent women who head households as well as single
women who were not yet in a relationship. Given that most (Afro-Guyanese) women do
not marry until a later age i.e., around 40 years of age, this finding substantiates those of
age with half of the women falling in one of the youngest age groups of 26-40 years old.
Nearly all the men and the remainder of the women fell into the 41-55 years age group.
While the population profile for Guyana is heavily skewed towards a youthful population
it is not surprising that this is not represented in this purposive sample for which it was
assumed that people of working age were much more likely to have information and to be
prepared to speak on issues pertinent to the survey. Women were more likely than men to
have only primary education although equal proportions had educational experience
beyond secondary level school. Again these results replicate trends within Guyana of
poor women and men having low levels of education (and educational attainment) but of
women out performing men at tertiary levels of education. The employment profile is
also what we would have expected from a population that has endured the negative
economic consequences of structural adjustment programs and neo-liberal policies i.e.,
although there is a high proportion of the population making their living from being
employed by the public sector (although this has declined drastically in the last decade) a
number of these indicated having other sources of employment in the informal sector
and/or from being self employed.
Table 4: Characteristics of Respondents
Characteristics Female
Union status:
Married/ Live in;
Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
Age group
Type of employment
Government agency
Private sector
Self employed / Retired/Other
Our initial concern was to make clear the extent to which TIPs was considered an issue
by the research participants. The answers below clearly indicate that the vast majority
(83%) of participants (n=58) knew what trafficking was and 76% considered it a problem
in Guyana (44 out of 58). A large number knew of specific cases in the country.
Considerably fewer, however, were able to give details relating to specific cases of
trafficking overseas (n=8). We would caution that these answers may have been
influenced (i.e., inflated) by the recent government campaign against trafficking as well
as the press coverage given to the US State report about Guyana being given Level Three
status. This means……..?? [KAREN DO THISAuthor ID1: at Thu Sep 9 10:48:00 2004 ].
One respondent, for example, indicated that TIPs has been present for decades in Guyana
but is only now being highlighted as needing serious attention in the interests of the
population. Certainly, Red Thread's understanding of the phenomenon described in this
report is that they are not new activities but that government action in relation to them is,
and this may have altered people's perception of these activities that are now being
referred to as trafficking. Thus while we would have expected a large number of
participants to have knowledge of trafficking we did not expect that so many of them
would have been able to articulate what it comprised.
What is trafficking in persons?
Of the 58 respondents only 10 did not know how to define trafficking. Of the remainder
the vast majority phrased their definition in terms of movement for the purpose of
exploitation, `Trafficking is moving persons from one place to the next and have them
under control” (R2). “It is physical movement of persons from their home to another
environment for the purposes of exploiting them” (R30). The most comprehensive
response is listed in Box 1 below. It was the only definition to mention the possibility of
trafficking taking place outside of national borders and is indicative of the perception of
trafficking in Guyana as a localized occurrence. It also explains why few participants
were aware of trafficking of peoples from Guyana (see below).
Box 1
Taking people from their homes/communities to other countries/areas to work for little or
no money/treating them like slaves or dogs, forcing them to do things they don't want to
Female respondent, aged 26-40, single, secondary education, self-employed,
Georgetown. Q.001
Is trafficking a problem in your country?
Of the 58 respondents, 44 said yes, 4 said no, 8 did not respond and 2 said they did not
Of the 58 who thought trafficking was a problem the majority explained this in terms of
lack of economic opportunities. People are considered as wanting to `better themselves”
and they are `tricked` into believing that leaving their communities will lead to this.
Respondents especially saw this as a problem of young girls in the interior where
Amerindian communities were being targeted although others also stressed that it was
something that was happening to people of all races.
Are you aware of any trafficking of people IN your country?
Of the 58 respondents, 43 said yes, 10 said no and 5 did not reply. These responses
indicate that knowledge of trafficking activities is widespread.
Are you aware of any trafficking of people FROM your country?
Of the 58 respondents, 19 said yes, 21 said no and 8 did not respond. Of those answering
about specific cases and the numbers involved one half did not know how many people
were involved and the others ranged in answers from 1 to 5 individuals. Of the 8 people
who knew of specific cases they answered that these were mostly women who were taken
to Barbados, Trinidad, Venezuela, Suriname, Holland, and French Guiana.
These responses indicate that trafficking does take place from Guyana to neighbouring
countries in South America and the English speaking Caribbean (even though movements
overseas do not feature in the participants' definitions).
What is the scale of trafficking in your country?
In terms of the scale, 26 out of 34 (77%) said they did not know the extent of the
problem; 3 said it was not very widespread and 2 said it was widespread. (NB. This
question was only asked of the purposive sample). It is impossible to gauge the true
extent of trafficking in Guyana for two reasons. First, people are not always prepared to
speak openly about illegal activities. Second, there is no general agreement on what
activities constitute TIPs. Some respondents for example, do not place young girl being
taken to the coast to work in bars in the same category as women being forced to work as
drug mules or women being sent overseas to work in the sex trade.
Given the longevity of the issue of TIPs in Guyana and the centrality of movement to its
definition we believe that the activities it comprises must be understood in terms of the
broader context of migration - both internal and external - that have characterized life in
Guyana. Within Guyana and regionally, in the Caribbean, there has always been
movement for work and settlement. Internally, movement has been from rural to urban
areas and from coastal to hinterland areas, and regionally, there has been movement to
and from Caribbean territories, including the Atlantic coast of Central America. Hence in
the first half of the 20th century there was substantial migration from Guyana into other
Caribbean countries. There was also migration from southern parts of the country into
other Amazonian territories such as Venezuela and Brazil by Amerindian peoples who
have traditionally not recognised national boundaries. More recently, in the post WWII
period, migration to the UK and North America has taken place, with a second wave
beginning in the mid-1960s, which continues to date. Since the 1980s there has also been
a substantial increase in temporary movements across borders with the arrival of petty
trading. Migration into Guyana from other Caribbean territories has been limited since
the decline of the bauxite industry. In the latter half of the 20th century and particularly
since the onset of SAPS since the early 1980s small numbers of migrants have come to
Guyana from further a field
The analysis below is taken solely from the purposive sample of 34 individuals. It
sets the broader context in which TIPS takes place in Guyana.
(i) Migration TO Guyana
The main reasons given why people come to live and work IN Guyana
were related to setting up business and developing the country; other reasons cited
were to work in health and education and as VSOs. The picture presented of
migration into Guyana was of a variety of people seeking economic opportunity.
Guyana was portrayed by respondents as being a `friendly', hospitable place to do
business where the cost of living is cheaper and which is free of natural disasters ,
a peaceful place that provided business opportunities, and a place where contract
workers (such as those with VSO and the Peace Corps) might want to stay . It was
also presented as a county where entrepreneurs could thrive given the availability
of land for farming and mining and the availability of other resources such as
The main countries of origin of migrants coming to live or work in
Guyana (based on multiple responses) were said to be Brazil -20; China - 13;
USA - 13; Canada - 10; Suriname - 6; Trinidad & Tobago - 6; Venezuela -4;
England - 4; Japan - 4; Barbados - 3; Caribbean islands - 2; St. Lucia - 1; Norway
- 1; Jamaica - 1; Cuba - 1; Korea - 1; Africa - 2; Germany - 1; and Holland - 1.
The reasons cited above correspond with Red Thread's understanding of the current
contours of migration. Namely, migration from Brazil to participate in gold mining in the
Guyanese interior; Chinese nationals who arrive in Guyana as part of a transnational
process of migration whereby a short stay in Guyana acts as a prelude to migration to
North America; re-migrants from the USA, Canada and Caribbean islands who are
Guyanese nationals returning from these countries (reasons include family reunification,
lack of economic advancement, and engagement in criminal activities resulting in forced
return by North American authorities) as well as people coming from the neighbouring
countries of Venezuela and Suriname. The responses relating to countries in S.E. Asia
(apart from China) - namely Japan and Korea - may be indicative of professional
employees from multilateral and bilateral assistance programmes as well as from MNCs
working in Guyana, such as that of the controversial Malaysian based logging company
of Barama that has also been associated with bringing in illegal migrants who work in
debt bondage (see p.31). Hence, there appear to be three migration streams to Guyana;
those who come from neighbouring countries where ease of access is a major factor; the
relatively new stream of migrants from S. E. Asian countries that appears to be related to
ease of access to exploiting Guyana's natural resources; and re-migrants (some voluntary,
some forced) from North America.
(ii) Illegal Migration TO Guyana
Answers as to where illegal migrants come from corresponded to a large degree with the
answers on migration perhaps indicating the large degree to which illegal migration is
synonymous with migration experiences in the Caribbean. A significant exception
however, was that none of the participants assumed that illegal migrants came from the
USA and Canada, indicative of the fact that Guyana is, and is perceived to be, a sending
country as opposed to a receiving country of migrants to these countries.
Twenty-three out of 34 respondents i.e., 75% said they knew of people living and
working in Guyana illegally.
Just over a third of the respondents could not estimate the scale of this
illegal migration. Of the remainder 4 estimated it was between 100-200 people,
and 2 said over 300 but less than a 1,000 while seven said it was in the lower
Just under a third of respondents chose not to answer where illegal
migrants came from. Of the remainder 21 mentioned Brazil and 6 mentioned
China; 7 said Suriname; and 7 said Venezuela; while one said Trinidad.
Ten out of the 34 respondents did not reply to the question about specific
knowledge of illegal migrants. Of the remaining 24 who said they knew of people
living and working in Guyana illegally 12 said that these migrants were both men
and women while another 8 said mostly men, 3 said mostly women and 4 said
children. There was little agreement on age with a few respondents stating `all
ages'. Also some of the respondents gave more than one age range, responses
were as follows: 13 - 25 (n=7); 18-25 (n=12); 26-40 (n=11) 41-55 (n=6); and 56-
65 (n=1). In relation to the level of education of illegal migrants to Guyana, 2 said
they had no schooling, 10 said they had primary schooling, one said secondary
level and one said advanced studies. In terms of type of labour respondents think
illegal migrants do in Guyana 19 said mining/ logging; 9 said working in
restaurants and/ or bars; 9 said prostitution; 3 said trading, 1 said labouring, 2 said
to open a shop or a business and one said working as a cook.
Given the prevalence of out migration among Guyanese we would have expected these
answers i.e., that participants would have been aware of people coming into the country
to work, and the fact that in-migration occurs on a much smaller scale than outward
migration. Nobody estimates illegal immigration was more than in the low thousands,
which may be indicative of the true scale of its level or of peoples' perception that this
was not an important issue or also of the fact that it has not been an issue receiving a lot
of media attention. However, the fact that 33% of respondents `chose' not to answer this
question should not be ignored. While this may be indicative of people's ignorance of the
issue it may also speak to respondents' lack of willingness to have a public opinion about
movements of people they associate with illegal activities, including TIPs.
In terms of the major characteristics of illegal migrants the majority were assumed to be
between the working ages of 18 - 40 although families with children were also assumed
to migrate. Levels of education were not assumed to be high with the majority of
respondents assuming illegal migrants had only primary education. In terms of
employment Brazilians were linked with mining and construction. People from
Venezuela, Suriname and Trinidad were also associated with these two sectors but to a
lesser degree. Chinese were associated with the retail sector i.e., owning restaurants. One
respondent also mentioned that Barama and other MNCs have been bringing in tribal
people from their own countries whom they hold in debt bondage.
Some respondents indicated that people migrated to Guyana because of the country's
resources; the majority of responses about this were couched in neutral terms although a
few stated that migrants were in Guyana to “get rich on our resources”. Women were
assumed by some respondents to have migrated as the partners of men who were in the
logging or mining sectors and then worked in bars or restaurants. Women who migrated
alone were assumed to be working either as prostitutes or also in bars and restaurants.
The variety of views expressing approval or disapproval of these activities is indicative of
the different views held about in-migrants. For example, some garimpeiros (Brazilian
miners) are resented because of the belief that they are given better mining grants than
Guyanese but others view them more benignly because they are reputed to pay higher
wages than Guyanese nationals. Similarly, construction workers from Trinidad are
resented for what is perceived to be the shoddy nature of their workmanship as well as
the favouritism they receive from the government. And views about women engaged in
prostitution also ranged from those who felt the women were `bad' to those who stated
they did this because it was the only way they could make enough money to live on.
(iii) Migration FROM Guyana
The countries most people go to FROM Guyana were identified as
follows: there were numerous choices each for Canada = 23; the US = 28; and
Barbados = 21. There were slightly fewer responses for Trinidad = 11; Suriname
= 11; and England = 8. Other Caribbean islands figured most prominently in
terms of; St. Marten = 5; Antigua = 6; and St. Kitts = 4. Other Caribbean
territories figured less, such as Bermuda = 1; Montserrat =1; St. Vincent = 1;
Cuba = 1; Virgin Islands = 2; Bahamas = 1; St. Lucia = 2; Montserrat = 1; as well
as neighbouring countries in mainland South America such as French Guiana = 2;
Brazil = 2; Mexico = 1; Columbia = 1; Belize = 1 and Venezuela = 5. The
remaining countries to feature were Holland = 1; and Botswana = 2; as well as
responses such as “all over the world” = 2.
Twenty four respondents said that migrants from Guyana were both
female and male, 18 also stated children were involved; only 4 claimed that
migrants from Guyana were mostly men and only 5 claimed they were mostly
women. In terms of ages responses were as follows: 0-12 (n=12); 13-17 (n=5);
18-40 (n=27); 41-65 (n=10); 66+ (n= 0). In terms of levels of education, 18
respondents said out migrants had primary level education, 14 said secondary, 13
said advanced, 5 said some technical and 2 said none. (Seven said they did not
know). For the activities in the country of destination in which out migrants are
engaged, the responses were family reunification =23, professional work = 14,
study =12, prostitution = 10, informal trading/ vending = 9, agriculture = 8,
construction =5, domestic work = 8, marriage including business marriage = 4,
while 7 responses were recorded as `work' and 2 were don't know. There was one
response for each of domestic problems, entertainment and self sponsorship.
The answers above indicate that it was assumed that most people migrating from Guyana
went to North America or the Caribbean, particularly Barbados (which has one of the
highest GNP per capita in the English speaking Caribbean) and the neighbouring
countries of Trinidad, Venezuela and Suriname. A few respondents also said migrants go
to England, indicative of the links to family members already established in an earlier
migration stream to the UK. The findings are also suggestive of professional recruitment
(of teachers and nurses mainly) to Botswana, USA, some Caribbean Islands.
Men, women and children were all assumed to migrate. They were perceived to either
have little education above primary level or secondary and above indicating a wide range
of class groups engaged in migration. This is reflected in the kinds of activities in which
people engaged in the country of destination. Those with education were there to study or
work in professional positions and those without were engaged in the informal sectors.
Men without education were engaged in construction or agriculture (including cane
cutting) while women without qualifications were engaged in trading, prostitution, or
domestic work or in family reunification. However, the majority of migrants were
assumed to be part of a process of family reunification and `getting a better life' although
this did not preclude their engagement in occupation activities as well.
Only two of the respondents made specific mention of women going to Brazil, Trinidad
and Barbados as prostitutes.
(iv) Migration THROUGH Guyana
In relation to countries of origin of people migrating THROUGH Guyana,
there were again multiple answers, with 20 for China; 11 for Brazil; 10 for
Suriname; 6 for Africa; 3 for Venezuela; 2 each for French Guyana and the USA;
and one each for Canada, Barbados, Cuba, Germany, Asia, and India. “Islamic
groups” was volunteered by one person 5 said “don't know”.
Responses to the questions relating to migrants passing through Guyana indicate
knowledge about Chinese nationals using Guyana as a transhipment point that it is
assumed will gain them easier entry into North America than applying directly from
China. They also give an indication about the small numbers of Africans, who in the last
five years or so, are also starting to appear in Georgetown (a few of whom have been
charged for illegal entry), presumably on their way to elsewhere. We assume the
relatively high number of through migrants from the neighbouring countries of Brazil and
Suriname to indicate the level of movement that would normally be associated with
countries in which various ethnic groups predate the imposition of colonial boundaries.
Some of the respondents also suggest that some of the Surinamese passing through
Guyana are Javanese nationals or descendants who may be part of broader ex-colonial
migratory routes.
(v) Circumstances of migrants
Only one respondent was unaware of people who migrated INTO, FROM,
or WITHIN Guyana for work and then ended up in circumstances that were not
what they expected.
There were multiple answers on forms of control used against these
persons: debt bondage (n=15); low wages (n=21); delay or denial of payment
(n=22); physical, emotional, sexual violence (n=14); verbal abuse (n=10); threats
to individuals (n=10); restricted movements (n=13); withholding of documents
(n=4); and false contracts (n=2). Only 2 respondents did not respond.
As far as awareness of migrants TO Guyana forced to work in dangerous
or poor conditions, the majority said no (n=25) with only 8 saying yes. In
interpreting answers to this question it should be kept in mind that the majority of
people working in Guyana work in these conditions so the high level of negative
responses indicating that migrants are not forced to work in these kinds of
conditions is suggestive that they simply experience the same kinds of work
conditions that the majority of Guyanese experience.
NB. All the respondents answering this section only gave examples of migrants WITHIN
and FROM Guyana, so the comments below relate to Guyanese nationals.
The majority of specific cases mentioned - 21 out of 30 - related to girls and women
being taken from one area of Guyana to another, being promised domestic work or work
as waitresses and ending up being pressured to engage in various forms of sex work such
as table dancing or prostitution. Of those who mentioned the ages of the girls and women
involved most commonly said they were within the range of 13 -20 years. In most cases
they were taken from small rural communities on both the coast and interior into other
communities. A large number of these cases (n=16) were of young Amerindian girls
being taken from their villages. Certainly, Red thread agrees that as members of a
minority coastal population, young Amerindian girls are very visible in the communities
the participants were familiar with and their presence is suggestive of their centrality to
trafficking practices. This centrality is largely due to the fact that their villages of origin
are isolated politically, economically and socially from the rest of the country, indeed
many of these villages are based on subsistence economies and paid work is extremely
limited. Furthermore these villages have been and still are characterized by high levels of
patronage from the church, politicians, and `do-gooders' which historically has led to a
situation of sending their young people out of the village for education and
unemployment. Given these conditions it is still common to send young girls to the coast
in the hope of a `brighter future'.
Only a small number of respondents mentioned cases of women and girls being taken
overseas, namely to Barbados (n=3), Suriname (n=2), Brazil (n=2) and Trinidad (n=2).
In both overseas and domestic cases respondents stated that the girls and women were
kept in the industry by use of verbal and physical threats and actual abuse, being kept in
debt bondage, delay or denial of payment and by having their movements restricted. The
boxes below illustrate these kinds of situations in terms of both local and overseas
Box 2
Yes. People are encouraged to go to other communities to work, when they get there they
have no where to stay and have to come back. Miners take men and women away to work
and don't pay them. Women are taken to the interior to work as cooks then told they have
to do prostitution; some decide to stay, others don't. Most rum shops on the coast have
Amerindian girls as young as 14 recruited as waitresses but are then told they have to
offer other services including sex. I know one proprietor who has sex with all the girls
working with him; they are afraid of being fired if they refuse. They can only go out if he
agrees. Clients have to pay in advance and the boss takes part of the money. Three or 4
girls live in a little shack, 10'x15', with mattresses on the floor, with free meals and
lodging. Since their pay is small they have no means of getting back home; others don't
go home because they think there is nothing in their communities for them.
Male respondent, over 40 years, married, secondary education, self-employed, Essequibo
coast. Q. 008
Box 3
In the interior, the girls are place to live in Caimoos or tents. They are somewhat exposed
and unprotected. Sometimes they don't know who their clients are. Some of the clients if
you don't do what they want, they would beat you or throw you overboard. I know of
cases where some girls were killed.
Female respondent, single, 26-40 years, secondary education, self-employed, Essequibo.
Box 4
Four girls in their 20s from Pouderoyen, were taken to Suriname to work in a business
place (Supermarket) but when they get there it was for prostitution. They eventually came
back, they got away and made a report to the station and the police made arrangements to
get others back.
Male respondent, over 40 years, common law, advanced studies, government worker,
Corriverton, Corentyne Q.012
Box 5
A cousin was taken to Trinidad by a friend to do nursing with a private firm Medical
International but when she arrived they took her passport and had her working long
hours. They didn't pay her, they told her she would get all her money when she was ready
to leave.
Male respondent, over 40 years, common law, secondary education, government worker,
Georgetown. Q.032
Box 6
In one case two sisters in their mid twenties were recruited by a friend of their uncle to go
to Barbados as waitresses. After showing them around for two days they were then told
they had to do sex work. Their passports were held and they were subjected to threats and
verbal abuse.
Female respondent, aged between 26-40 years, single, secondary education, self -
employed, Georgetown Q.001
The previous section on migration reveals that it is widespread, especially migration by
Guyanese overseas. Answers from participants in the purposive sample also reveal
however that TIPs is not commonly perceived as being associated with migration
overseas and is most commonly seen as an internal issue. It is moreover mostly perceived
as involving females. In this section we discuss respondents' knowledge of TIPs to reveal
how more specific questions might reveal a more nuanced picture. We begin by
examining what kinds of exploitation respondents think TIPs is associated with.
On whether trafficking in persons in Guyana is linked to sex tourism 20
out of 34 (59%) said they didn't know or weren't sure, while 8 said “to a great
extent”, and 4 said to a lesser degree they were connected.
On a link to the drug trade, 16 (50%) said they didn't know or were not
sure and 16 said yes and 2 said they didn't want to answer.
On a link to the demand for cheap domestic labour, 23 (68%) said yes, 9
said they did not know, and one said no.
No one attitude to women coming in or being brought in for prostitution or
the entertainment industry prevailed among respondents with responses being
characterized by polarised views. Fourteen said it was bad, but 20 expressed
neutral views.
NB. We feel the high number of responses of `do not know' in relation to sex tourism
relate to the virtual absence of this activity in Guyana. Obviously sex tourism is only one
element of the sex trade and the latter is well in evidence in Guyana. Answers to the
question about the drug trade seemed born of fear of reprisal or at least caution, hence the
relatively high number of respondents unwilling to answer the question or saying `don't
know'. This we feel is suggestive of the visibility of organised crime in Guyana and its
involvement in the drug trade. Also, answers to the question on domestic service do not
strongly relate the use of domestic labour to trafficking. Participants tended to talk about
the abuse of domestic workers who are made to work for a pittance. Hence, the extent to
which participants associate these activities with TIPs is uncertain.
i. Sex tourism.
Previous work by Red Thread (2000) on the sex trade in Guyana, part of a Caribbean
wide study that investigated the links of the sex trade, made no links between sex tourism
and the sex trade in Guyana. Given that Guyana does not fit the stereotypical notions of
an island paradise with white sand beaches and blue seas it has never had a substantial
tourism trade. The majority of `tourists' to Guyana are themselves Guyanese visiting
family members. There is also a nascent eco-tourist trade but it is unknown whether this
has any links to the sex trade. In relation to trafficking links to sex tourism one
respondent made specific mention of girls from overseas being brought to Guyana to
work as exotic dancers in bars and clubs (a practice that Red Thread believes to be
increasing), but no mention was made of Guyanese women being sent overseas to work
as exotic dancers.
ii. Drug trade.
The link of TIPS to the drugs trade was mostly unclear with comments such as `rich
people use poor people to make money from them'. The comments made most
specifically in relation to TIPs involved men, women, boys and girls working as
`mules'(see Box 7 below). Given that Guyana is well known as a transshipment point for
cocaine from South America to points in the Caribbean and North America we would
have expected more respondents to have spoken about these links, although our above
caveat about fear of reprisals could well explain the low response rate.
Box 7
Shop owners in Bartica will come and say they want girls to work and then take them to
transport drugs. If they refuse they might be threatened or even killed.
Female respondent, aged 26-40 years, single, secondary education, self employed,
Essequibo. Q. 025
iii. Domestic labour.
In relation to domestic work no examples were given of women being taken overseas.
Most commonly stories were told of young Amerindian women being made to work for
very low wages (see Boxes 8 and 9 below).
Box 8
Because of the economic situation, people on the coast go into riverain areas, recruit the
young inexperienced Amerindian girls preferably without children and bring them out to
work as domestics. Pay them $1,000.00 per week. They give them free food,
accommodation and clothes that are not fashionable. Domestics who live in are always on
An Afro-Guyanese woman in her 50s was lured into the interior (Region 8, Mahdia) as a
cook. She expected to work from 8am-4pm. Instead she had to wake at 3am to prepare
breakfast, stop at 7 or 8 am, prepare lunch from 10am - 4pm, dinner from 6pm-9pm. If
the food was finished earlier than expected she had to prepare more. She was paid
G$1000 a day with free meals and lodging. She also had to wash the dishes and
sometimes sell. In the interior $1000 is like $100. She had to pay back money that was
spent to take her up. She seldom bought anything and saved the rest of her money
including TIPs; after 8 months she paid her passage back home. Her daughter went to St
Lucia as a cook and experienced a similar situation.
Male respondent, aged over 40, married, secondary education, self employed, Essequibo
Box 9
A large percentage of people moving from one area to the next to do what ever work most
people refuse to do in that area. They work 12 or 14 hrs e.g. 7am-10pm, they are paid
little or no money, stay in the same home with the owners. Money deducted for meals and
lodging. They can't go back home. There are threats of not getting their jobs back. They
have nothing to do at home, they are in mental bondage.
Male respondent, aged 26-40, married, secondary education, NGO, Port Mourant,
(iv) Sex trade
Views of women who were trafficked within Guyana to work in the entertainment or sex
industry were mixed ranging from those who said they were 'wicked' or `bad'; they spread
STDs and other diseases; they end up in the drugs trade and should be jailed/stopped
from coming, to those who pitied them because they did not realize they were being
exploited. Although a number of the responses were very moralistic about prostitution,
claiming it was a criminal activity and that this trafficking should be stopped it was
unclear whether this view was extended to the women engaged in the sex trade. Others
were less equivocal claiming that the women were simply earning a living and probably
could not do better; that circumstances of poverty meant this was all they could do for
survival and their children's sake; they do not know they are being exploited. A few
participants claimed it should be the woman's choice about how to make a living; that
they should not be judged; and that some of them enjoy it.
Respondents were also mixed in their views as to whether the women and girls knew
what they were being recruited for, saying that some would be and others would not be
(n=21); ten said no they were not aware and only two said yes, they were all aware.
Reasons for this included not being fully aware of the degree of pressure that their boss
would put on them to engage in sex work; because the circumstances they left were so
dire they had not thought that worse could lie ahead; because they had never been
exposed to this situation before they had no idea what to expect (although some would be
`smart' enough to figure out what was going to happen). Box 10 below illustrates this
Box 10
A girl aged 17, was recruited to be an accountant at G$30,000 [monthly] but had to do
prostitution and striptease dancing. She refused and was thrown out on the street with
nothing. She was rescued by her father's friend. He went into the area to work and saw
her at the road corner crying and went to help her not realising that it was his friend's
daughter until he took her home.
Male respondent, married, over 56 years, advanced studies, government worker,
Asked about their awareness of forced prostitution, forced labour or
domestic servitude (or none of the above) in Guyana, the responses (multiple
answers)) were: forced prostitution (n=24) and nude dancing (n=1); forced labour
(n=13); domestic servitude (n=7); and none of these (n=6).
Re. trafficking for forced prostitution or sex work, of the 24 people who
knew of specific cases only 2 reported cases involving transporting young women
and (in one case) young men overseas (Barbados and Trinidad). All other cases
related to women engaged in sex work in Guyana.
Re. trafficking for forced labour, answers were less full and fewer
respondents answered (n=12 knew of specific cases). All cases related to
trafficking within Guyana. Methods of recruitment and of control were the same
as for forced prostitution: low wages and debt bondage with restricted movements
along with verbal and physical abuse. Information on living/working conditions
pertained to long hours, commonly up to 18 hours a day.
Re. trafficking for domestic servitude there were 8 answers overall and all
related to trafficking in Guyana. Given the responses on the characteristics of
migrants within Guyana we would have expected a higher response. We assume
that this lower response is because respondents were attempting to make the link
between domestic servitude and trafficking instead of just between domestic
servitude and exploitation and also because most respondents classify migration
that is supposedly for domestic work, but tends up as sex work, as trafficking for
forced prostitution.
i. Sex trade
Responses from participants indicate that their perception is that trafficking takes place
primarily in response to the demand from the sex trade. It is unclear however to what
extent `trafficking' overseas is involved. While participants were aware of a few cases in
which women have been tricked into traveling overseas to other countries the majority of
cases appear to be of Guyanese women working in Guyana. Red Thread (1999) is aware
however that an increasing demand from the local entertainment industry has given rise
to the recruitment of women from Brazil, Trinidad and elsewhere in the Caribbean as go-
go dancers, lap dancers and exotic dancers in bars and at private shows along the coast.
Respondents indicate that the majority of girls come from the NW area of Guyana and the
Pomeroon, a fairly isolated part of the country. These cases involve young girls (from
early teens to early twenties) who live in riverain or interior areas who are deceived into
leaving their communities to work as waitresses in small establishments on the coast.
After a period of often only a few days they are told they have to engage in sex work and
through various forms of control they are prevented from leaving. The method most
commonly used by recruiters was to make friends with people in a community and then
get them to recruit girls. Methods of control involved debt bondage, restricted movement
(including being locked up); withholding of pay or insufficient pay; and threats
(including death threats) and physical violence from the employer and clients. In terms of
their living conditions there were several cases of women living in a room (sleeping on
mattresses, make shift beds, or a single bed for which they paid), or of living in a room in
the owner's house or of sleeping in a former pig pen. Specific examples are outlined in
Boxes 11 to 18 below.
Box 11
A female Guyanese took 3 girls aged 19, 21 & 25 (1 Mixed, 2 Afro) to Barbados to work
as domestics. On arrival they were told they had to repay their airfares and all other
expenses and that they had to go nude on stage and dance. They were locked up in a dark
room, their clothes taken away and allowed out only to dance or for clients. Someone
watched them. Rescued by a stolen phone call from one of the girls to cousin. Police and
Embassy came in & they were freed. The girls weren't paid while they were working.
Other girls are still with the woman who is also still recruiting.
Female respondent, aged 41-55, married, secondary education, government employee,
Essequibo Q.007
Box 12
I am a church person who was called many times to rescue people. People are taking men
to Trinidad to work in Gay clubs. 14-15 year old boys and girls are also being recruited.
Also young women who are just out of school or school drop outs. They are mainly Indo
and Blacks, some are taken into mining districts. It's not only Amerindian girls. The
highest amount of trafficking is among young Indian girls. There are more Indo business
men who are doing it. Victims are controlled by violence physical, sexual and verbal.
Trafficking is also done under religious pretence. Know of a man who told me that he got
a plane ticket to take people to Trinidad, took them, handed them over to the person over
there and they were taken to a hotel and were left there. They didn't know that they were
trafficked, just a bunch of innocent boys and girls. Some of the men are controlled by
violence. I know of one teenage boy who was handcuffed. A lot of the young girls want to
get out of this poverty situation and want to go overseas, So they take the chance to seize
the opportunity. Also know of a young boy from a single parent household who was
sexually molested by a Catholic Priest, he was taken by the priest to his home with the
intention of helping out the financial situation in the boy's home. He was 12 yrs at the
time, he didn't refuse because the man was older than he was and was also supporting
him financially. Boy couldn't understand why this was happening, he wasn't the only one
there were other boys. Priest is now deceased, boy is willing to help young people not to
let the same thing happen to them.
Male respondent aged 41-55, married, advanced studies, government employee,
Georgetown Q.034
Box 13
Rich business women go into interior communities and recruit girls aged 13 to 20
promising them domestic jobs and a brighter future. They are forced to work in
restaurants and bars and as prostitutes. They are not allowed to leave the restaurants
except once a week accompanied or to go home. Families are allowed only a brief visit
on holidays. Their wage is low and they have to repay passage, meals and
accommodation. They have room attached to the back of the restaurant which is used as
living quarters, with make shift beds.
Male respondent aged 41-55, separated, secondary education, self-employed,
Box 14
Young girls 11-15 yrs of all races, business people go to rural communities, talk to
parents, and pay them large sums of money as advance to bring the girls out. Are told
they are going to work as domestics but forced into prostitution. Movements are
restricted, they have to obey employer, can't interact with people except male clients.
They're not paid. Everything they need is provided but they must repay. Boss decides
what they should or shouldn't do, and they are threatened by boss. Know of male boss
who has sex with the girls before they go with anybody else. People don't tell Police of
incidences because the Police go back to the proprietors and tell them what they were
told and from whom. People are afraid of being killed so they don't report. Police get
money from the proprietors.
Male respondent aged 65 plus, married, secondary education, local government,
Corriverton, Corentyne. Q.013
Box 15
Bar owners on the Corentyne are paying people to bring young girls from rural
communities. They trick the girls into coming, fool them that they are going to
Georgetown to work as salesclerks and domestics and their salary would be big. Parents
are given advances and are told girls would be well taken care of. Girls are taken to
Corentyne and are handed over to business people who then tell them the kind of work
they have to do. In 2 business places I know of - Crimson Light and Embassy Club - the
proprietors work these girls like slaves. Movements are restricted, no interaction with
others but clients, no pay, work from one morning to another, given rooms attached to the
back of the house with bed. Girls are padlocked in those rooms after work, they get free
foods and are taken to market by boss to buy clothing, if sick boss pays bills. These girls
are abused verbally and physically by their bosses. Sometimes the owner of Crimson
Light goes to Charity and brings girls, some for her business and some to sell to other
Female respondent aged 41-55,divorced, primary education, self-employed, Corriverton,
Corentyne. Q.015
Box 16
Young Amerindian girls as young as 10 yrs old, brought from Essequibo by a man from
Georgetown to work as maids and waitresses, he told them he was taking them on the
East Coast but sold them to a woman who took them to the Corentyne. They realised
what happened when they were at Rosignol and refused to go any further . The woman
had a police friend and threatened them that they would get locked up if they didn't go
with her, promised them that they work as domestics and go to school so they went. She
handed them over to a man who owns Embassy bar (Chowmein from Crabwood Creek)
who placed them to work in a bar in revealing clothing. They sleep on mattresses on
tables in the bar. Not allowed to go any where nor have friends. Part of their TIPs are
taken away, they only get money to buy clothes. Abused verbally and sexually by
proprietor. Work from 8 am to 3 am.
Female respondent aged 26-40, single, advanced studies, government employee,
Corriverton, Corentyne. Q.021
Box 17
Club owners have contacts with people in the rural communities who would recruit
young girls and bring them out to a certain point on the coast with permission from their
parents. They are promised a good salary and parents are given a large advance. Most
recruiters hire a car or bus to transport the girls. They are well treated on their way and
also for the first two days. This makes them feel that they would have a better life. The
first two days they sleep in the owner's home. After then they are placed in rooms
attached to the back of the house or business. Some of them sleep on mattresses on the
floor in the shop after business is closed. They work in the business from 10 am - 11 pm
week days and from 10 am -2 or 3 am on weekends But they work in the boss' home
starts earlier than 10 am. They do all the household chores, serve in the bars and do
prostitution. When they get business, the boss collects the money, gives them a small
portion. They don't get paid for the other work they do. They are told that they are getting
free lodging and meals. They can't go out without the boss, not allowed to have friends or
interact with anyone excepts clients. If anyone goes into the shop and talks with them, the
boss would clap his hands and the girls know that they have to move away. Can only talk
to clients, don't know if they are controlled by violence or what happens if they are ill.
But they are controlled by threats, if they run away, they or a family member would be
killed. Not allowed to go home for holidays. Family don't know where they are, can't
Male respondent aged 41-55, married, secondary education, self-employed, Essequibo.
Box 18
Young females 18-24, not only Amerindians but mainly them were recruited men from
village to come to Georgetown to work as sales clerks and domestics with permission
from their parents. They were primary school dropouts . They were taken to Bars to work
as waitresses and prostitutes. They are encouraged to sit and drink with men but at the
same time have to remember how many drinks were bought. Sometimes they get drunk
and can't remember and would be beaten and made to pay back money by Boss. No
visitors are allowed, movements are restricted, they are under paid, and owner buys
clothes for them and takes them back when he gets vexed. Can't go back home. Some
want to leave but are stopped due to debts. If they insist on leaving owner promotes them
to make them stay. Then he would raise an alarm that he lost money and call in the
Male respondent aged 41-55, common-law, secondary education, government employee,
Georgetown. Q.032
In addition we present two outlines of the situations of two other women interviewed by
Red Thread in the course of this research, both of whom are women involved in
trafficking who were made contact with through the research (see Boxes 19 and 20).
Box 19
`Mary', 25 year old Afro Guyanese woman
`Mary' is a dancer at a club on Sheriff Street, Georgetown, Guyana, who was recruited
with two other women in July 2004 to serve tables in a club in Barbados. The recruiter
was a mature Guyanese woman who lives some of the time in Barbados with the
Barbadian club owner, Mr. A. Her children live in Barbados. The recruiter arranged travel
documents for Mary and paid her airfare to Barbados. The agreement was that Mary
would work in the club for three weeks and would repay a total of Barbados $200 out of
her earnings. She was told that the club owner had organized a house which the three
women would share, and they would be responsible for their own meals.
On arrival in Barbados, her travel document was taken by the club owner and she was
told that she would have to repay Bds$600. Mary was also told that she would lodge with
a friend of the club owner (with whom she would have to have sex), and that the job was
prostitution not waitressing. He said he could not pay her to dance. Mary left the club and
located a relative in Barbados who took her to another club that was prepared to pay her
to dance. Her employer, who has connections to Barbados immigration caused Mr. A to
return Mary's travel document. She paid Mr. A, saved some money and returned to
Guyana towards the end of August.
Mary met three other Afro Guyanese women in Barbados with recruitment experiences
similar to hers. One of the women she met, she estimates to be between 16 and 17 years
old; this woman has been in Barbados for over a year and sells lesbian sex. The regular
customers at the clubs Mary visited are Barbadian men. She met a number of male
Guyanese construction workers who were not being paid for their work, although she
thinks they are in possession of their travel documents. Mary's experience of recruiters at
the Georgetown clubs is that they usually make individual approaches, and most of the
time their first choice would be Indo Guyanese girls.
In Guyana, Mary has met Brazilian women working as prostitutes at Germans Club.
These women were brought here to dance, and she was told by one of them that though
they had repaid the recruiter his expenses, they continued to pay a percentage of their
prostitution fees to him.
Box 20
Samantha's Case Study about traffickers.
Some people are from the islands, some from Suriname. They are in the discos and
looking for the young girls night time, and they pay your passage for you and them dem
to go out of the country, and when you reach to Suriname with them, they tell you dey
gon get a job for you and they gon book a room and put you in the room and say you got
to make your heights on you own, you got to go with different men and you got to pay
them back, and if you don't pay them back they take advantage of you, and if you don't
pay them back they come and take away your money, abuse you, rowing and going on.
My sister-in-law told me that she was taking me with her to Suriname to sell clothes, she
pay my transportation and buy what I need on the way. When we reached to Suriname
she booked a room and put me in and said that I must make my heights. I asked her what
she meant and she said.
Forced labour. Nine of the 12 examples given of forced labour either referred to sex
work or domestic work or a combination of the two (see Box 21 below).
Box 21
Women in clubs and bars are forced to work as waitresses and sex workers for long
hours, e.g. 8 am to 12 am; if clients come in later they have to accommodate them and
still report for work at 8am. They have to clean up the business area for the same money.
They face sexual harassment from clients and customers with little protection from
Male respondent aged 41-55, separated, secondary education, self-employed, Essequibo
The other 3 cases of forced labour all referred to the specific situation of Amerindian
peoples (see Boxes 22 and 23 below).
Box 22
Amerindian women and men are taken out to work on grants in the Pomeroon river - The
men in the farm and the women in the owner's yard digging coconuts. Women work from
very early in the morning until evening. The women have to do 1000 or more coconuts
for $350. - $400. They are not paid any money. The owners have shops and the people are
allowed limited amount of credit per week; they always end up owing. They cant afford
proper meals or clothes. They can't leave to go home because they owe their boss and
there is nothing to go home to. They can't go out of the area without boss' permission.
Logies are built at the back of the owners' yard for workers to live in.
Female respondent aged 26-40, married, primary education, government employee,
Essequibo Q. 010
Box 23
Six Amerindian boys aged 14-20 yrs old were brought out from village to work with this
business man. These boys have to do all the fetching and packing of things, clean yard,
wash concrete, clean shop. This man works these boys like slaves, they have to do all the
dirty work . Meals are provided, they live in a tent at the back of the yard. They are not
being paid so they can't go back home. These boys don't have clothes, they can't mix with
other people because they are very untidy. They don't have clean clothes. These boys are
being beaten by the man's 17 yr old son and abused verbally. He would curse them and
tell them they are lazy. He would hardly give them food. When they have the chance they
would steal biscuits from the shop to eat. One of them got caught and he was badly
beaten. Lack of education has a lot to do with this situation.
Female employee aged 41-55, married, primary education, government employee,
Essequibo Q.031
Domestic servitude. In all the 8 cases cited by respondents young girls were taken from
their place of residence and were either trafficked to work as domestics or domestic
labour was also expected of them was well as sex work (see Boxes 24 to 26 below).
Methods of control are coercive including withholding of wages, threats of loss of
employment and restriction of movements. Living/working conditions are basic with
domestic workers often having to share rooms with others and sleep on the floor or a
mattress on the floor and with no control over their working hours.
Box 24
The woman who works as a live in domestic at a couple's home starts work at 5.30am
and finishes whenever the family retires. She also has to wake at nights to look after the 2
year old. She is not allowed visitors or phone calls or to go out by herself. She was told
she would be paid $1200 a week but hasn't received any money.
Female respondent, single, aged 26 -40 , secondary education, self employed,
Georgetown Q.001
Box 25
Most bar owners don't employ maids. Girls who work in the bar have to be the cleaners,
cooks and laundresses.
Female respondent, divorced, aged 41-55, primary education , self employed,
Corriverton, Corentyne Q.015
Box 26
Amerindian women from Orealla come out to look for work and are under paid, because
they are living in they have to do everything, babysitting, cooking, cleaning, washing,
selling and sometimes even shopping for the one money. They are allowed to go home on
holidays e.g. Christmas. If they want to go home on weekends, they are threatened that
they would lose their jobs. They have no exact working hours. They are given a room in
the boss' home to live.
Female respondent aged 26-40, single, advanced studies, government employee,
Corriverton, Corentyne 021
(some of this needs going into summary of findings) [Author ID1: at Thu Sep 9 10:57:00
2004 ]
The majority of cases of TIP in Guyana reportedly involve women and girls in the age
ranges of early teens to late twenties either for sex work or domestic labour. Men and
boys were trafficked far less, especially for sex work. The majority of cases of men being
trafficked relates to cases within Guyana for forced labour in the interior. Hence many
cases involve Amerindian men.
In terms of men and boys, 14 respondents said that men are trafficked; 9 said they weren't
sure or didn't know; and 9 said no. Of those respondents who knew one respondent told
how men are taken from communities by grant owners to work on farms and live in
logies [old plantation shacks] on grants, sometimes without beds. They are not paid but
given credit at the grant owners' shop and forced into debt bondage. They are unable to
return home since they have no money and no job in the community. In other cases
sawmill owners bring Amerindian men to work for them. They work very long hours and
are paid with food rations and then they have no money to get back home. In another case
men were reported to being taken in to remote areas in the bush to work and as they did
not know where they were they could not leave. One knew of boys as young as 7 who
were sent by their families to work as labourers in sawmills, markets, in the backdam and
stellings (ports) although commonly respondents mentioned boys in between the ages of
10-13. Only one respondent knew of boys/men being used for sex purposes; boys from as
young as ten years old who were being tricked into sex work.
In terms of overseas examples one respondent mentioned men being taken to Barbados as
skilled workers -carpenters and mechanics - who were then forced to do more work for
less money than at home. Another respondent knew of girls and boys who were taken
overseas to engage in sex work.
We discuss impact in relation to 2 issues; health care and being able to tell people of their
a.Health care.
In relation to health care concerns we found it difficult to get specific
information. The main issues surrounding health care are to do with
HIV/AIDS and pregnancy. Previous research with sex workers (Red Thread
1999) has revealed that women engaged in sex work often have little
opportunity to use condoms because many male customers refuse to use them.
Some participants reported that when girls and women got pregnant they were
simply sent away to fend for themselves. Given that abortion is also the main
method of birth control among women in Guyana it may be that girls and
women had abortions or used abortifacients to promote miscarriage (Red
Thread 2000).
In terms of HIV/AIDS, Guyana has one of the highest level of AIDS in the Caribbean.
Again, previous research by Red Thread (1999) has revealed a high level of HIV
infection among sex workers. KAREN PUT IN MORE DETAIL
b.Ability to tell people of their plight.
When asked if they were aware of victims of trafficking telling someone of
their plight, of the 58 respondents, 30 said yes, 23 said no and 5 did not reply.
Of the 21 replying (with multiple answers) affirmatively they said victims have told the
following: 15 said friends, 8 said family, 5 said neighbours 2 said law enforcement
people, 4 said a government agency, 2 each said an NGO, law enforcement agencies, or
their clients and one each said a hotel owner and a counsellor. Obviously informal
networks of friends and family are much more likely to be turned to than formal
channels. There was some indication in responses that individuals in formal agencies
were suspected of being involved in trafficking themselves or of being more beholdent to
traffickers' interests than in upholding the law. This may help to explain why a number of
victims had not told anyone of their ordeal.
Respondents claimed the following reasons explained why victims did not tell anyone (of
the 58 respondents 27 responded). Multiple answers resulted in 15 saying this was
because they would be too ashamed to do so because of the social stigma attached to
being a victim of trafficking; one said they would be afraid of victimization from the law.
Other responses indicated not knowing where to go (n=5) not knowing that the incident is
a crime (n=5); a lack of trust of officials (n=2) or knowing that many other cases are
reported yet nothing happens (n=1). There were also responses indicating fear of reprisal,
either to themselves (n= 7) or their family (n=1).
Responses to questions about the beneficiaries of trafficking were striking in their
similarity in the fact that they had only one story to tell: the respondents were all in
agreement that it was business people working with go-betweens in communities who
were benefiting by exploiting poor people. Either business people - both women and men
- would directly go into communities and recruit young girls (and in fewer cases young
boys) or they would have an intermediary in the village who would tell them who to
contact. Boxes 27 to 29 illustrate typical responses to this question.
Box 27
Because of the economic situation there are a lot of poor communities. Business people
seize the opportunity to recruit young girls in those areas. For the want of a better life for
self and family, parents and girls take the chance to go with them.
Male respondent aged 41-55, common-law, secondary education, government employee,
Georgetown Q.032
Box 28
Most time business owners know someone in communities who would recruit the girls or
point them to the families they should go to. Families are given advances of about
$40,000.00 before taking the girls, just to make families feel that everything would be
OK, not realising that the child/children would be indebted to them. The business persons
and the contact persons are the ones who are benefiting from this.
Male respondent aged 41-55, married, secondary education, self-employed, Essequibo
Box 29
The business people are targeting the communities that are very depressed. They know
that the people there are vulnerable so they seize the opportunity to present a bright future
for these girls, trapping them into exploitation. The business persons are the ones who are
benefiting from this.
Male respondent aged 41-55, separated, secondary education, self-employed, Essequibo
When asked if they were aware of any cases where someone has been accused of
trafficking, of the 58 respondents, 15 said yes, 24 said no, and 19 gave no response.
Of the respondents replying affirmatively all were talking about the same two cases, one
of a 13 year old girl who was `rescued' by the Ministry of Human Services in August
2004 from a bar where she was being held. One business man called `Chowmein' was
arrested and put on bail, although two of the respondents claim he is now back in
business, still recruiting under age girls under false pretences. One respondent who
knows the wife of Chowmein stated:
Chowmein and his wife took two girls who work with them to the riverain areas in
Pomeroon to recruit other girls. They left on Sunday, August 22th 2004 and returned on
Tuesday August 24th 2004 with six other Amerindian girls. Some of them look as young as
14yrs old or younger. Only one of the girl looks as though she is in her 20s and she is
from Hackney Canal Pomeroon River or at least that is what she said in a very brief
conversation. Chowmein's wife had a book in which she was writing down the names and
date of birth of those girls. According to what was written, some of the girls were born in
1986 and 1988 but I don't think that the information of the girl's date of birth is true. I
think that the information is written down in case there is a raid by police, to show that
the girls are of age to do what they want to do. Of the 6 girls who were recruited, 4 were
sent to Crab Wood Creek where Chowmein's son now runs a business and the other 2
stay at the Embassy Club in the business that Chowmein and his wife are running.
The police are waiting on advice from the DPP as to whether he should be charged
because they don't have enough evidence against him. The other case involved a
businessman called `Chiny' taking girls to Suriname. He and two women who were
responsible for recruiting the girls were arrested. The investigation is continuing.
We turn now to an analysis of the four newspapers looked at in the course of this research
as well as other sources. They all serve to corroborate the data given in the interviews
with research participants.
There was no media coverage of TIPs prior to the GoG campaign which began in April
2004, although articles appearing since the campaign began make it clear that some
elements of the media had knowledge that it existed. Among 5 newspaper reports of
alleged cases of trafficking between April 23 and August 30, 2004, 3 were cases of actual
trafficking and one of these (the first, in Stabroek News 07/01/04) was written like
fictionalized fact and may be a composite based on existing information (see Boxes 30 to
Box 30
Case 1: 18-year-old “Susan” was recruited 2 years ago from the NWD (WHERE?) by the
owners of a liquor restaurant in Mahaicony and hired with 3 other girls to work there. She
was told that she would sell at the counter, but the owner and his son had sex with her
and told her to allow men visiting the restaurant to have sex with her as she would make
extra money. However, the owners collect the money and give her a “small piece” from
it. Susan does not know if her parents, who are poor, were paid money. The report added
that “there are reports that some girls, mostly virgins, are traded for as much as
G$200,000” ( Stabroek News 07/01/04, Berbice Special)
Box 31
Case 2: A proprietor of a Corentyne restaurant and 4 females (referred to as “women”),
including a 13-year-old girl were arrested on July 9, 2004. All the females were from the
Essequibo and the interior and were allegedly taken to the Corentyne by the proprietor.
The police said that they believe that the Corentyne business is used to lure women who
are then pressured into activities including prostitution in Brazil and Suriname. (Kaiteur
News 0711/04). This story was carried in several newspapers across several days.
Stabroek News of 07/11/04 added the information that the 13-year-old had been taken
from her home under the impression that she would be a domestic in the man's home but
was made to work in a bar and provide sex for clients with the clients paying the owner.
The report added that the 3 other females reportedly were made to sign 6 month contracts
with the owner which prevented them from leaving the location.
Box 32
Case 3: Local police were reportedly hunting for a man who lured 5 Amerindian girls to
Suriname for prostitution after promising them work in a restaurant in that country. The
girls were taken from Georgetown to Corriverton where they spent the night in a hotel
and then put in a boat in the company of a woman whose name was given as Brenda
Griffith. After the girls discovered on route that they would be employed as prostitutes
and objected to this, the woman told them when they reached Suriname that she had paid
US$300 for them and held on to their bags. After arguments she allowed two of the girls
to leave (Kaiteur News 07/26/04).
An analysis of these three cases yields the following information:
Routes: the three routes were North West District to Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara;
Essequibo and the interior to the Corentyne; and the interior to Georgetown to
Corriverton (on the Guyana - Suriname border) to Suriname.
Forms of TIPS: all three are cases of forced prostitution.
Characteristics of victims: Case 1 involved 4 girls, one of them 18 (other ages not stated),
by inference Amerindian (they were recruited in the NWD); Case 2, four females, one of
them aged 13 (other ages not stated), by inference Amerindian (they were from Essequibo
and the interior); and Case 3, five girls, no ages stated, all Amerindian.
Method of recruitment: the method in all three cases was deception and in some cases
payment to family members to `purchase' the victims.
Method of control: the method in the first two cases was denial of payment, with the
second case also involving restricted movement for 3 of the victims. In the third case the
girls argued their way out of being held before their intended work as prostitutes could
Characteristics of the recruiters: in Case 1 the recruiters were the owners of a liquor
restaurant in Mahaicony and in Case 2 the recruiter was the proprietor of a restaurant on
the Corentyne; the recruiter in case 3 was referred to simply as “a man” who handed the
victims over to a named woman who said she had paid US $300 for the girls.
The following information (see Boxes 33 to 35) was also taken from newspaper reports
and further substantiates the information given above.
Box 33
Trafficking in Amerindian girls is not new (actual title)
“In a report on the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region published over six years ago, evidence
was produced to show that proprietors of rum shops, discos and hotels were recruiting
girls as young as 14 years from Akawini, Moruka, St. Monica's and elsewhere as
`waitresses'. These innocents were turned into sex slaves and forced by their
unscrupulous employers to provide unprotected, and sometimes gratuitous sexual
services to their customers.
Girls were paid low wages, lived in substandard accommodation, and were simply sent
back to their settlements when they became pregnant or too sick to work. The evidence
suggests, too, that young women were taken to timber grants and mining camps and
abused in a similar manner” (Editorial, Stabroek News 06/15/04).
Box 34
The exploitation must be addressed (actual title)
“The exploitation and abuse of Amerindian women and young girls by some
unscrupulous businessmen has been going on for years, seemingly without any major
intervention by the authorities to curb the practice.
Young Amerindian women and girls - many of school age - have been lured by the
owners of restaurants, hotels, bars and other places to the city and coast with promises of
gorgeous lifestyles and high salaries.
However, on arrival they find themselves as virtual slaves of their employers, working in
some instances as sex slaves under the guise of being domestics or employed as
waitresses at hotels and bars to attract main customers.
Far from the gorgeous lifestyles and lucrative salaries promised them, most end up as
drunks and prostitutes because of the environmental and societal conditions under which
they exist.
In the process they are subjected to all forms of abuse and human degradation, including
rape and other forms of physical abuse.
The slightest show of dissent most times results in harsh measures by their employers,
including being thrown out on the streets in the wee hours of the morning” (GC Editorial:
The third major reference was made not in an article but in a “Person in the Street”
feature: the public was asked by the Berbice Special of Stabroek News to comment on
the issue of TIPs. Four of 8 respondents spoke with knowledge of TIPs, demonstrating a
level of public awareness pre-dating the government campaign.
Box 35
The Exploitation of Amerindian girls (actual title)
i. “Community worker” spoke of shop owners in West Berbice using girls to attract
customers and underpaying them, the girls having been tricked into coming out of the
interior; he used the word “trafficking”.
ii. “Store owner” said that trafficking had long been a feature throughout Guyana
especially in Berbice where people go to Amerindian areas, trick the girls into coming to
work and then threaten the girls into complying with what they demand.
iii. “Owner” said that his business is under “one of these shops”. He spoke of Amerindian
girls being lured by promise of jobs with good pay and then being taken advantage of,
using them for prostitution.
iv. “Disk jockey” spoke of businessmen going into Amerindian areas and taking
Amerindian females out to make money off of them, paying them little or nothing. He
also spoke of one Amerindian girl who told him that if she is paid $1000 for sex she has
to give the owner $700 and she is paid $2000 to work as a waitress. The girl said that
men take advantage of them and treat them cruelly. (reported in SN 07/31/04)
(i) Red Thread
In the course of conducting a participatory needs assessment into female CSWs in 2001,
Red Thread was informed of several cases of girls being lured by deception into
prostitution and conditions amounting to domestic servitude, but in many of the cases the
victims remained in the situation because they saw no alternative (see Box 36). However,
the following cases met the conditions for trafficking.
Box 36
Case 1: In Corriverton, Terri, the female owner of a hotel and bar, (Crimson Lights), was
said not to be a trafficker herself but to take girls who had been trafficked by Chowmein,
the male owner of a bar in the same area (he also had a business in Crabwood Creek).
Red Thread spoke separately to a teenager from the first bar/hotel who was taken there by
someone who asked the woman to house her and find work for her, and the woman made
her do sex work, sell in the bar and kept her in debt bondage (reported on November 29,
Case 2: A female bar proprietor reported that in some places they keep the women's
money so they aren't free to move on. It had “come to her attention” that two Amerindian
girls were being kept at Santa Rosa in Rosehall and were trying to leave. They smuggled
out a note which she heard about, but when she went to the club there were no women
there. She went back with her Amerindian mother who demanded to see “her family” and
the girls were allowed to come to the fence but not speak (reported on Nov 29, 2001).
Case 3: Chandra Mangru, the female proprietor of a bar in Albion (Santa Rosa), told Red
Thread that she recruits in Essequibo or the North West District and that because she feels
responsible for the girls working for her she doesn't allow them to go out of the bar.
However, one of the women whom the proprietor reported had been with her a long time
asked a woman from G+, an organization of people living with HIV/AIDS which was
collaborating with Red Thread on the research, to come back and get her out of there,
adding that the proprietor owed her G$47,000. Red Thread reported “There was a sense
of real tension and fear in the place…” (reported on November 30, 2001). The same
report cited one of the girls who said she and others had been recruited from the West
Coast Demerara near Parika. She said that they had been brought to the NWD to work in
a bar there and when they wanted to leave the proprietor seized all their clothes and said
they owed her G$25,000; they had to work to pay her back. Subsequently one Red
Thread woman reported orally that in order for Red Thread to speak to the girls at the
Santa Rosa bar they had to go to the washroom and signal the girls to follow, then climb
up on the toilet and talk over the wall. The building has a grill gate that is always locked
when there is no business unless there's a client (reported orally on August 12, 2004).
Case 4: Simone, a girl at the “Rits” in Skeldon, reported that girls there are not allowed to
keep their earnings - the proprietor or agent keeps the money, and if they want to go out
they have to leave $2000 and they have a curfew to get back in (reported on November
29, 2001).
Case 5: The male proprietor from Borderline bar, Chowmein, told Red Thread that he
recruits girls from the Essequibo, Supenaam or Charity; he goes to the parents to arrange
for the girls to work (reported on November 30, 2001). Another report (undated) said that
the women at Borderline, Chowmein's place (2 Amerindians aged 20 and 22) said they
can only go out with their boyfriends with the boss' permission but not go out alone, that
they all stay in one room and when the business closes in the night they are locked in
with a big padlock.
In `Givin' Lil Bit Fuh Lil Bit': Women and Sex Work in Guyana, the publication arising
out of the needs assessment, Red Thread said: “There appears to be an organized ring
involved in procuring young Amerindian women seeking employment … While there is
widespread knowledge on the coast of this state of affairs, very little is done to protect the
women (26-27).
(ii) GHRA
GHRA reported being informed of the case of 14-year old and 16-year old schoolgirls
from Georgetown travelling to Springlands and going “back-track” to Nickerie, with the
14-year old being encouraged into prostitution in Paramaribo and hospitalized after
serious beating and sexual assault by a businessman from Suriname. (GHRA Concerns
over Vulnerability of Minors at Corriverton Border, Press Release, Feb 8, 2000)
(iii) Amerindian People's Association
An article dated July 2004 and entitled “Trafficking in Persons: the Case of Young
Amerindian Girls” by Jean La Rose, (Programme Administrator APA) included the
following information on trafficking of Amerindian girls; the article cites one actual case
but includes observations on methods of recruitment, routes, and methods of control.
Victims and Methods of recruitment, especially of young Amerindian girls from the
coastal communities. Recruiting methods include someone, usually a non-Amerindian
female, going into communities to seek young Amerindian girls to work as maids or
domestic servants in homes or to work in restaurants as waitresses, promising good
wages and healthy living conditions. In other cases, young Amerindian girls similarly
recruited are being used by their employers as recruiters to entice other girls to join them
in working away from home. “Buck nights” where girls are taken to parties and sexually
abused are reportedly held, and many girls end up in mining camps where the incidence
of “kayamoos” is increasing steadily with girls under eighteen, especially virgins
Routes: Many of the girls enticed in this way come from the Amerindian communities on
the Pomeroon or Moruca rivers and end up working in Indian and Chinese restaurants on
the Essequibo Coast, in Georgetown, Parika and even in Mahdia.
Methods of control: The girls are controlled by a range of methods including denial of
payment. Some are paid a minimum of the money they earn engaging in prostitution for
their “bosses”, while many others are left unpaid and without a job once they have served
out their usefulness. Employers virtually hold the girls in debt bondage. For many of the
girls returning home is not seen to be an option as there is a stigma attached once a
person has been engaged in prostitution.
(iv) Reports on implementation of Conventions to which Guyana is signatory
The NGO Report to the Committee on theRights of the Child, 2003 cited a lack of job
opportunities available to young Amerindian girls in their communities, together with
limited formal education, as making them vulnerable to being lured out of their
communities by non-Amerindians to work as domestics, waitresses and bar attendants. It
also cited Guyana Review 1998 re “numerous reports of the abuse of Amerindian
domestic workers in coastal households where young girls are paid wages below the
minimum wage even while being made to work long hours into the night. They are also
frequently denied freedom of movement or expression by their employers.”. (CRC NGO
Report, 26)
The Report of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana under Article 18 of the Convention on
the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women 1998-2002 referred to “the practice of
employment of young hinterland Amerindian girls in coastal locations, particularly in
urban centres, many of whom have no documentation to verify their age. Many of the
girls are subject to abuse from employers and their clients and have little recourse in
environments to which they are often unaccustomed. (CEDAW Report, 28).
(v) International agency sources
The Report Guyana - The Situation of Children in the Worst Forms of Child Labour
prepared by George K. Danns for ILO and dated October 2002 reported that:
“big women” who own shops in the interior actively recruit young girls in
Bartica to take them into the interior to work as prostitutes, “bush whores” or
“piraii” (named after the flesh-eating piranhanna). (ILO, 46).
Madams sustain child prostitution sex trade by actively recruiting “girls of
all ages, sizes and descriptions” to take to interior hot spots for sexual exploitation
(ILO, 47).
Voices of Children: Experiences with Violence written by Dr. Christie cabral in
collaboration with UNICEF, Red Thread and the Ministry of Labour, Human Services
and Social Security and dated June 2004 reported as follows:
Reports were received from health workers, teachers and some older children in certain
areas of Region 2 and region 3 of internal trafficking of girls, particularly Amerindian
girls, for prostitution. All the accounts were second-hand….however, the secondary
accounts all described similar circumstances.
Individuals went into remote rural villages, where the population was primarily
Amerindian, and offered work for young girls as domestic workers in homes or as
waitress (sic) or cleaners in restaurants. These girls would go with the person to take up
these jobs but would subsequently find themselves drawn into prostitution. Some
remained in shops around the built up areas along the coast and some were subsequently
taken to mining camps in remote hinterland locations.” (Cabral 28-9).
In its comments on the first State Party report of the Government of Guyana to the
Committee on the Rights of the Child, 8 October 2003, UNICEF remarked under “11.
Special Protection Measures” - Issues for recommendation: - c)” that “[S]exual
exploitation and trafficking of particularly Amerindian girls is recognized as a concern.
However, little actions are on the ground for protection and prevention. This area needs
urgent attention.” (11)
A number of factors that contribute to TIPs in Guyana can be identified from the
preceding analysis of all data sources. The level of poverty and the high number of
people living in poverty has an impact on the opportunities available and the sense of
opportunities available to people. The paucity or non existence of economic opportunities
in the places where people live has led to the equation of betterment with movement
away. Given the entrenchment of migration into Guyanese ways of living, both for
employment and for family betterment (for example, child shifting), and its acceptance as
a norm there has been very little questioning of movement associated with trafficking.
This situation is even more prevalent in areas that are geographically isolated from the
coast. In addition the prevalence of child labour and its general acceptance further
contributes to TIPs. Moreover, the ambivalence towards prostitution works against any
attempts to help women who want to leave this occupation. Finally, lack of awareness of
the problem (until recently) by both the government and within civil society has allowed
TIPs to proliferate.
This latter point is further exacerbated by a lack of an institutional and legal framework
to combat TIPs and by peoples' lack of knowledge as to what exists. For example, when
asked if Guyana has laws that address practices such as forced labour, forced prostitution
of child labour, of the 58 respondents, although 53% said yes, the other 50% were split
evenly between not knowing or saying no. Of the 16 who replied affirmatively, 10 said
they were not familiar with specific laws while the remaining mentioned child labour
laws (citing that children under the age of 18 were not meant to be employed), laws
regarding forced prostitution and laws about forced labour, (citing that people should not
be paid below the minimum wage). Only one mentioned the Convention of the Rights of
the Child and one other that Guyana had ratified the ILO. No other specific laws were
Further evidence of lack of awareness of activities and procedures aiming to prevent TIPs
is evident in answers to questions about what government and NGO bodies are doing to
address trafficking in Guyana. Of the 58 respondents 36 offered responses;
In terms of NGOS who are doing something, 8 said Red Thread; 3 said the Amerindian
Peoples Association; 3 said Guyana Human Rights Association;2 said the St. Francis
Club; one said Camal's Home (a shelter for battered women); one said East Berbice Life
Savers; one said church organizations; and one said Parent teachers associations.
In terms of government, 22 said the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social
Services (but only recently); one said Ministry of Amerindian Affairs; one said the
Ministry of Labour; one said the National Democratic Council (local government); one
said the Region 6 Committee for the Rights of the Child; and 3 said the police.
In terms of multinational organizations one said UNICEF.
In terms of what was being done by these agencies multiple responses resulted in the
following types of activities:
a) Prevention: Research; advocacy; sensitizing the public; information seminars;
television programmes; job provision; skills training.
b) Protection of victims: Shelter; Counseling; Advocacy returning victims home or
closing down the business they were working in.
c) Prosecution: Legal assistance; Law enforcement training; Policy legislation.
When asked how well are these responses working, of the 58 respondents, 29 (51%) gave
no response. Only 3 said these measures were working well, 15 said they were not
working well, and 4 felt these measures were too recent to be able to give a response in
terms of their effectiveness. Those who thought they were not working well thought this
was because of lack of financial support; gaps between what its reported and the help
offered; not enough social services available; and that the response to trafficking was still
in its infancy stages.
Prior to assessing what this analysis yields for recommendations for combatting TIPs, we
assess both government and civil society's capacity to address TIPs.
Before April 2004 TIP was not on the government's agenda. As an institution which
addresses the effects of social problems more than their root cause, the MLHSSS would
have dealt with individual victims as they emerged without distinguishing them from
victims of other social problems. Thus in assessing the government's capacity to address
TIPs we are assessing what the government has been or has not been able to put in place
since it launched a campaign against it.
The GoG campaign against TIPs was announced by the Cabinet Secretary on April 22,
2004, and this announcement was carried in the press on April 23 (SN, April 23, “Plan to
combat people trafficking). The MLHSSS was identified as the lead agency. A newspaper
article on June 17, 2004 also reported that “President Jagdeo had summoned a meeting on
the issue (TIPs) in April this year which included US Ambassador Roland Bullen,
relevant Ministries and stakeholder non-governmental organizations” (Kaiteur News,
06/17/04: “Minister dubs US State Dept. report unfair”).
The awareness component of the campaign was launched on May 12 with a seminar on
Guyana's plan for dealing with TIPs, held in Georgetown, with participation from several
government Ministries, NGOs and other agencies. Participants included persons from
rural and interior areas. According to the NPoA, publicity surrounding the event
immediately aroused “broad-based interest in the subject” (8).
By (date) the Ministry team had visited the following communities: Moruka, Mabaruma,
Port Kaituma in Region 1, Charity, Huis-t-Dieren, Hogg Island and Anna Regina in
Region 2, Vreed-en-hoop and Uitvlugt in Region 3, Fort Wellington, Region 5, Orealla,
Port Mourant, New Amsterdam and Corriverton in Region 6, Bartica, Region 7, Mahdia
(a township), Princeville, Micobie, El Paso, Tumatumari and Campbelltown in Region 8,
Lethem, St. Ignatius and Annai in Region 9, Linden, Region 10. The Campaign in Region
4 and started with Paradise (ECD) and the plan is for the next trip to be to Region 8
starting on 02/09/04 at Paramakatoi then on to Kato. (Doc centre email, 31/08/04)
The Minister of LHSSS has also met the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, Geology and Mines Commission, Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana
(CIOG), a representative of the Hindu community, leaders of the Catholic and Anglican
communities, and the Inter-religious Organization.
The assessment of the MLHSSS is that the campaign is working well because of the
responses they have been receiving: calls have been coming in; people are now being
made aware of what has been happening (Interview with Ministry officials, 08/25/04). It
is certainly true that the campaign has put TIPs in Guyana on the map, given the level of
media coverage it has garnered. Unfortunately, the intensity of the campaign has fuelled
skepticism that it is externally-driven. The following box shows the views expressed in
the Editorial column of a prominent newspaper which is by no means hostile to the US:.
Box 37
The TIPs campaign as following a US agenda
“The present Guyanese attention to people-trafficking…seems not to have been activated
by the long-standing local Amerindian problem but by the growing US interest in the
security implications of the international scourge in the wake of the recent Anglo-
American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of internally-displaced
people, many left homeless after bombing, have been on the move creating problems for
their neighbours and the developed countries. Trafficking in people, especially women
and children, has therefore now become a major issue for the USA and its allies”
(Stabroek News Editorial, 06/15/04).
Elsewhere the same newspaper referred - again in an Editorial - to “the merry-go-round
that the US has precipitated over the so-called Trafficking in Persons…” (SN 08/23/04).
Statements made during the campaign revealed continued but decreasing confusion
among officials on what precisely constitutes trafficking. There remained a tendency
among some to confuse trafficking with prostitution or child labour, even when other
conditions were not present. This is not surprising given the report of the IOM
representative that the Caribbean, including Guyana was in one of the world's regions
with the least understanding of the issues of trafficking (SN 06/22). However, during the
interview with Ministry officials on August 15, 2004, they gave the following definition
of TIPs: Persons being forced, tricked or coerced into a situation against their will and
forced into prostitution or any work activity against their will. A great part of TIP, it was
added, is exploitation.
While responses from the 58 respondents in the survey indicated a high level of
awareness of the existence TIP in Guyana, a similar level of acknowledgement did not
emerge in the interview with officials of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and
social Security on August 25, 2004. One response was that what they have found during
the campaign is a high degree of voluntary prostitution and that while there is some
degree of trafficking not all of it would meet the standards for prosecution. The view was
also expressed that there are very few cases of TIP in Guyana, that there should not be
any cause for alarm and that the country should not have been placed in Tier 3. As among
the general public, there is a strong feeling in the Ministry, as expressed in the interview,
that many people enter voluntarily into situations that are now being defined as TIP.
Although there are examples of government officials at various levels, including in the
MLHSSS, acknowledging the existence of TIP in Guyana, overall, statements by the
GoG seem designed to refute what is generally considered unfair in the US State
Department's Trafficking in Persons Report June 2004.
Notwithstanding this view, the imperative of being removed from Teir 3 has at least
accelerated the drafting of relevant legislation. Bill No 12 of 2004 - “Combatting
Trafficking in Persons Bill 2004” - was taken to Parliament at its last sitting before the
annual recess. However, it cannot be enacted until October 2004. The Bill proposes
among other elements witness protection, measures to accommodate child witnesses in
criminal prosecutions, and support for victims including counseling, medical assistance,
employment, education and training.
An article headlined “GHRA hails human trafficking bill” (Stabroek News 08/24/04)
reported that the GHRA had called the bill “a legislative breakthrough for the protection
of the country's vulnerable groups, adding that in a press statement issued on 08/23/04 the
group had said “For the first time Guyanese legislation in this area incorporates concerns
about the victims of crime and other modern concepts in straightforward language (while)
[P]revious legislation (had) addressed specific acts which were to attract (UNCLEAR)
criminal penalties, but did not focus on effective strategies for monitoring or eliminating
the offending behaviour”.
A National Plan of Action on Trafficking in Persons in Guyana - subtitled “Protecting the
Exploited” - has been developed by the MLHSSS. The document, dated April 2004,
identifies nine areas of operation: public awareness programmes focusing on the issues
and dangers involved such as HIV/AIDS; identification of victims, perpetrators, sites,
centres, locations and critical areas of activities; education of victims and the general
public; mobilization of all stakeholders and relevant organizations and the promotion of
networks; dialogue or other appropriate means of contact with alleged perpetrators;
strategic monitoring and the surveillance of activities; appropriate legislative and law
enforcement system; development of the capacity of key agencies to execute the planned
programmes; and identification and training of personnel.
A steering committee has been established including representatives of the MLHSSS,
NGOs, the GGMC, the police and the media.
In the August 25, 2004 interview Ministry officials reported that in addition to the first
activity, that of public awareness programmes the MLHSSS has begun work towards the
following areas of operation:
Training: more than 300 persons from the 10 regions will be trained in a
training of trainers exercise to recognise cases of trafficking and exploitation. The
process will start with about 50 persons.
Shelter: A building has reportedly been identified and negotiations are in
It has been reported that the President has committed funds for a national action plan for
TIP and that USAID has pledged financial and technical assistance including an expert on
public awareness programming to assist in the dissemination of information, especially in
the “far-flung” areas of the interior (Kaiteur News 06/17/04). Specifically, USAID has
approved funding of training of 300 people to identify problems in relation to TIP.
There is serious concern about the readiness of institutions to deal with trafficking.
The GHRA, in the context of hailing the bill, pointed out the inadequacy of resources to
implement the policies, that the staff at the relevant Ministries is increasingly depleted,
and that there is insufficient capacity in the Ministries for monitoring.
The NGO Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2003 is expansive on the
subject of how unready institutions are to carry out the tasks needed to protect children,
pointing out that “[W]hile children are guaranteed access to care in law, the government
has not invested enough resources to ensure that they enjoy such access in practice” (10).
Table 5 shows the relationship between the number of available social workers in 2003
against the child population: while figures for the latter are from the last census in 1991
they would not have changed much since birth rates and attrition rates are similar:
Table 5
Number of Social Workers who
could intervene for children
Child Population
(0 - 14 years)
Region 2, Essequibo 1 17, 042
Region 3, West Demerara 1 31, 867
Region 4, Soesdyke - Georgetown -
18 (6 of whom work in
administrative functions) 98,833
Region 5, West Coast Berbice 1 19,187
Region 6, New Amsterdam-
Corentyne 6 45,601
Region 10, Upper Demerara 1 17,042
Total 28 229,572
CRC NGO Report
The same report makes three further points: (a) the need to provide “realistically
adequate” staff and infrastructure, especially in welfare and probation services and in the
MLHSSS to monitor children at risk, investigate reports of abuse, counsel children and
parents who need it, and arrange for practical assistance including money (5-6). (b) the
need for immediate changes in the procedures, practices and rules of evidence governing
the Guyana legal system and the delivery of justice (8); although this is especially a
problem for child victims of sexual offences it is a problem for all vulnerable witnesses;
(c) the need to address the limits on institutional care in terms of both the number of
places and the capacity of the services, and the inadequacy of monitoring and oversight
of the residential services in spite of the recent establishment of an oversight committee
for institutions providing shelter to children (10).
The police and judicial services are also in no position to deal adequately with a new area
of work. During the MLHSSS meeting with the GCCI on July 6, 2004 , one member
remarked that “Guyana practices seasonal law enforcement” and according to the report,
added that “the police operated in spurts to address various crimes - one time clamping
down on a certain activity then slacking up at another” (Kaiteur News 07/07/04). Efforts
to implement the new TIPs legislation will be stymied by weaknesses not only in the
police services but in the judicial services, where there is a shortage of magistrates and
judges and a massive back-log of cases.
The organizations we are aware of which have shown public awareness of trafficking in
persons in Guyana or taken any action against it are Amerindian organizations, the human
rights organization GHRA and Red Thread. Since the general understanding in Guyana is
that TIP is an Amerindian problem, other ethnic organizations have never seen it as an
issue to take up until recently (Catholic Standard 08/0204) when several of them made a
public statement condemning it as exploitation of Amerindian girls. As a sector, civil
society in Guyana has not developed as an autonomous or strong force. Some elements
function as arms of political parties. In terms of numbers, its NGO component is made up
largely of single-issue NGOs (often HIV/AIDS) which have arisen or shaped themselves
in response to donors' agendas and do little advocacy even in relation to those issues. The
local business sector remains relatively weak. Given these factors, the model of state
reduction with civil society taking up the slack of providing services is unworkable. For
example, while groups such as Help and Shelter are able to provide counseling what it
has been unable to do is sustain large scale projects such as shelters. The Amerindian
organizations summarise what civil society has been able to do: advocacy; investigation;
research; acting as an advocate/go-between for victims with authorities. As the MDGR
points out: “The responsibility to reverse the growing trend of (economic, social and
environmental) vulnerability belongs to the government….a major challenge will be
resolving conflicting advice and requirements regarding the role of government and its
corresponding size and structure” (10). In these circumstances, while we would expect
that those organizations which have previously shown concern about TIP will continue to
do so, a major part of the responsibility for coordinating TIP will rest with the
When asked what they thought should be done to combat trafficking all 58 respondents
replied. Responses were extensive with no shortage of suggestions and most respondents
giving a multiple number of activities. These are listed below:
a) Legal responses: Establishing laws against trafficking (n=16); Enforcing current laws
(n=38); People had to be brought to justice (n=8); Make the police more involved (n=2);
stern penalties for traffickers (n=1); better border security (n=1).
b) Economic responses: Jobs and training opportunities had to be provided so people
were not so economically desperate (n=15); Address poverty (n=2); mechanisms to assist
victims to return home (n=2).
c) Community based responses: Educate people (n=23); Work with community leaders to
create economic projects (n=1); Form youth groups (n=2); Get everyone involved (n=)1;
Red Thread should be able to defend cases (n=1).
d) Educational responses: counseling (n=1); visits to communities by officials about
trafficking (n=1); involve religious bodies and youth groups (n=1;) programs in schools
e) General: Government should work with NGOs to bring about a resolution (n=1);
Monitor business places every month (n=1); Research (n=1); provide more financial
resources (n=1); increase agency capacity (n=1); have a national strategy (n=2).
The boxes (38 - 40) below indicate the richness of the replies given.
Box 38
People from outside the Amerindian community should not be allowed to go in and bring
out people to work. Amerindians should be empowered to stand up for themselves, more
jobs should be made available.
Female respondent aged 26-40, single, advanced studies, government employee,
Corriverton, Corentyne Q.023
Box 39
Government should get people to look into the interests of the victims. Place people in
the community to stop this from happening. There should be laws to deal with trafficking.
Female respondent aged 56-65, single, primary education, government employee,
Essequibo Q.024
Box 40
Traffickers should be dealt with according to the law, people who are leaving the
community to work should leave home with money so that they can be able to return
home when they want. Traffickers should compensate victims. Trafficker should be dealt
Male respondent aged 26-40, married, secondary education, government employee,
Capooey, Essequibo Q. 028
Below we outline the recommendations that Red Thread feel have resulted from this
research project.
A. There is a need for Guyana's actions by both government and NGOs to be (a)
internally driven, and (b) aimed at addressing the issue of the abuse of power (financial,
race, gender, age) and not the issue of prostitution as a “moral” issue: when they are not
trafficked into forced prostitution, most women and girls become prostitutes because it
provides them with a better income than the other options for those who are poor and
without much formal education: domestic work, work as security guards, etc .
Marginalisation of sex workers and the illegality of their work make it very difficult for
them to seek protection from physically abusive clients, pimps and guest-house owners,
and where women are ostensibly being hired as waitresses, cleaners and domestics the
research has shown that they may be reluctant, fearful or ashamed to disclose the actual
nature of their work.
B. Active efforts must be made to identify victims and to provide them with protection
without criminalizing them.
C. The role of the media in publicizing available services/protections etc. should be
increased. Given the fact that (a) victims are generally unaware of any official channels to
get assistance and are unsure of their rights and (b) that trafficking within the country is
so pervasive and has a long history (hence our title, “You talking ‘bout everyday story”),
it is vital that the media plays a prominent role in advertising the steps the government is
taking to eradicate/ reduce trafficking and to punish traffickers. Without knowledge that
victims have recourse to the law people who have been trafficked are unlikely to make
any attempt to change the situation they find themselves in.
D. In addition to advertising what steps the government is talking there also need for
educational campaigns to be conducted in communities from where victims originate in
order to convince people of the determination of the government and police and other
state agencies involved to help them. Levels of trust in these organisations need to be
built up. Hence, educational campaigns also need to be conducted with members of these
various state agencies to explore ways in which trafficked peoples can increase their
levels of trust in them and be ensured that the aim of the police and the courts is in
protecting victims and interdicting and prosecuting traffickers.
E. The public also need to be educated about increasing their preparedness to intervene,
rescue and support victims of TIPs.
F. The institutional capacity to protect and assist victims needs to be built up.
G. Given the high level of poverty in the country the protections necessary re. trafficking
are not totally different from the laws already in place for domestic violence, child abuse,
child labour etc. There is a need to recognise that not everything that encompasses TIPs
can be covered in one piece of legislation, and to guard against establishing new systems
and agencies to deal with trafficking separately form already existing agencies.
H. The absence of regulation in the sex trade industry in Guyana combines with an
apparently growing demand for commercial sexual services to create exploitative
working conditions for sex workers with no avenue for redress. Hence, unless there is an
attempt to regulate the sex trade girls and women who are trafficked to work in it will
continue to be opened to abuse.
I. Laws against child labour need to be enforced.
I. Educational work on youth sexualities. Unless young girls are encouraged – both
through school and community based activities - to explore and talk about their
sexualities and to recognize that they have the right to take control over their own bodies
exploitation is virtually inevitable.
J. In addition, the GoG should take advantage of the smallness of the number of victims
in absolute terms to provide victims with alternative sources of income. This would also
necessitate providing alternative economic opportunities for their communities. Without
the provision of other sources of employment within their own communities young girls
will continue to leave rural areas for employment on the coast. Hence, economic
development opportunities in the interior are essential.
K. Red Thread is opposed to a focus on the movement of people between countries
except where this involves their exploitation by backtracking or trafficking industries of
any country: we support the free movement of labour (people).
CIOG Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana
CRC Convention on the Rights of the Child
EU European Union
ECD East Coast Demerara
ERP Economic Recovery Programme
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GGMC Guyana Geology and Mines Commission
GHRA Guyana Human Rights Association
GoG Government of Guyana
HIPC Highly Indebted Poor Country
ICT Information and Communication Technologies
IDA International Development Agency
ILO International Labour Organisation
IOM International Organisation for Migration
KN Kaiteur News
MDGR Millennium Development Goals Report
MLHSSS Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security
MOH Ministry of Health
NGO Non Government Organisation
NWD North West District
PRSP Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
ROC Rights of the Child group
SN Stabroek News
TIPs Trafficking in Persons
UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund
WAB Women's Affairs Bureau
SAPS Structural Adjustment Programmes
VSO Voluntary Services Overseas
MNC Multi-National Corporation
STDS Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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... Such attention for the sex trade in the region is not new. Concern, in 2005 in Guyana, rested heavily on ideas about Amerindian women sexually servicing miners in the interior of the country (Marcus et al. 2004), and in Antigua, Belize, Barbados, Dominica and Surinam it was based on ideas about migrant women working in undocumented status in bars, hotels and night clubs as prostitutes (Kempadoo et al. 2010). "The demand," as a review of OAS research on human trafficking in the Latin American and Caribbean region established in 2005, "is mainly for prostitution and pornography" (Langberg 2005, 134). ...
This article considers the attention paid to human trafficking in the Caribbean by governments of the region. It first examines how countries in the region have been positioned in the annual US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report from 2001 to 2016, discussing the shortcomings of hegemonic discourses to trafficking such as problems with definitions, statistics and evidence, the political underpinnings of the TIP report, and contradictions in indices of 'development' in the region. It then turns to examine Caribbean government responses. It is argued that the tension, identified in earlier state responses, between an increase in anti-trafficking policies and a growing refusal to accept the definitions and information produced by the US State Department has intensified, and that the 'collateral damage' of anti-trafficking interventions continuesto affect some of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in the region. Building from counter hegemonic discourses, the article also suggests ways to address the subject that support human rights.
... Such attention for the sex trade in the region is not new. Concern, in 2005 in Guyana, rested heavily on ideas about Amerindian women sexually servicing miners in the interior of the country (Marcus et al. 2004), and in Antigua, Belize, Barbados, Dominica and Surinam it was based on ideas about migrant women working in undocumented status in bars, hotels and night clubs as 21 prostitutes (Kempadoo et al. 2010). " The demand, " as a review of OAS research on human trafficking in the Latin American and Caribbean region established in 2005, " is mainly for prostitution and pornography " (Langberg 2005, 134). ...
Full-text available
We analyze the expansion of the anti-trafficking discourse in Puerto Rico and its application to Dominican immigrants. Based on interviews with social service providers, we argue that Dominican women are invisible in current discourses of human trafficking for several reasons: their racialization in a xenophobic context, their intimate labour trajectory, and the national and international frameworks for understanding human trafficking that exclude them from the category of “trafficking” victim and predetermine their classification as “illegal aliens.” We contend that their racialization in conjunction with their omnipresence in intimate, frequently ill-regulated spaces of sexualized labour (bars, cafes, domestic and care-giving spaces) dominicanas are invisible subjects for social recognition, rendered unworthy of social protection and support.
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