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Domestic Violence Act 1996

Domestic Violence Act 1996

The Domestic Violence Act of Guyana was passed in December, 1996 in order to give legal protection to persons who have suffered abuse or are at risk of suffering domestic abuse. The explanation given here was originally presented in the leaflet "The Domestic Violence Act : How can it help you or a friend" published by the UNDP, Guyana. c 1997


Who gets protection under the Act?

Any person who is suffering domestic abuse is automatically eligible to be protected by the Act. Any abused person, adult or child can get protection from:

  • A spouse, fiance(e) or reputed spouse, or partner with whom they live
  • Anyone who lives in the household today or has lived in the past, but not tenants or employees unless there were sexual relations with them
  • A relative
  • Any person with whom the victim has had a sexual relationship

What is abuse?

The words that are used to describe abuse are ill treatment, violation, molestation, seduction and betrayal. It need not be only physical violence. 
Abuse can also be "Psychological Abuse" This means any activity which persistently humiliates the victim, dishonours her or him, or lowers their self esteem like :

  • Not allowing them to handle their own things or property
  • Blackmailing
  • Watching over them in a way which is threatening
  • Not allowing the victim to eat or sleep well
  • Manipulating the children
  • Causing the victim emotional agony



In order to qualify for protection under the Domestic Violence Act,  the person has to have suffered abuse or harassment.

What is harassment?

Harassment is when someone threatens or intimidates another person by:

  • Verbal abuse - "cussing up", screaming, humiliating
  • Threatening with physical harm or violence
  • Breaking things or damaging things which are important to the victim
  • Making the victim scared or afraid of physical or psychological harm
  • Threatening the victim
  • Hiding things belonging to the victim
  • Watching over the house, work place, school or anywhere the victim goes for daily business
  • Making unwelcome advances
  • Using abusive language



About the Orders

What is a Protection Order?

A protection order is a document which the Court issues which prevents the abuser from harming the victim. It is meant to restrain the abuser. If the abuser harms the victim in spite of the order, the abuser can be arrested without a warrant. The Protection Order is meant to guarantee's the victim's safety, well being and health. 

How can a Protection order do that? What does it really do?

The Protection order prevents the abuser from entering the home or workplace of the victim, or from going anywhere the victim goes like friends and relatives houses. 
It prevents the abuser from going into certain localities. 
It restrains the abuser from harming or harassing the victim or the children 
It can make the abuser provide the victim with money for the upkeep of the victim or the children 
It prevents the abuser from moving the victim's property 
It can also make the abuser go into a counseling program 

Who can file for a Protection Order?

The victim can do it. The court has forms that have to be used to fill up the form. The staff at the court could also assist with filling up the form. 
A qualified social worker or a police officer can also file the application on behalf of the victim. 
If the victim is a child under 16 or is mentally disabled, the parents or guardian, or the person with whom the victim lives, or a qualified social worker or a police officer will have to file the application. 

What is an Occupation Order?

When the court makes a Protection Order, it can also make an Occupation Order. This order entitles the victim to continue to live in the her or his home, even if the home belongs to the abuser. This means that the abuser cannot throw the victim out, but the abuser will have no legal right to occupy the house while the order is in force! However, the is does not mean that the ownership of  the house is transferred to the victim. It means that the victim can live in the house even though it belongs to the abuser. 

What is a Tenancy Order?

If the victim and abuser are tenants of the house they live in, the court gives the victim the right to be the only tenant. The abuser will have no legal right to live in the house. 

How long are the orders valid? What can the abuser do legally?

The orders are valid for a specific period. The abuser can make an application for the discharge of the order as soon as it is passed. This will call for another hearing and the victim, or person filing the application for the order on behalf of the victim, can argue that the orders must continue. The courts will consider first the danger to the victim, and to any children of the victim. 

How soon are the orders passed?

If the victim is in immediate danger and the situation is like an emergency, the order can be passed as soon as the application is filed. Otherwise, a hearing will be fixed within seven days after the application is filed. All of the persons have to be present at the hearing. The magistrate will have to make sure that the case is genuine. The magistrate has to be convinced that such an order is needed for the safety, well being and health of the victim or of the children involved. The magistrate also has to be convinced that the victim needs a place to live before granting an Occupation or Tenancy Order..

The Act says that all hearings will be held without an audience. The newspapers and media cannot report on these cases unless the magistrate allows them to do so. The persons affected by the application can request reporters or other people to leave the court room during the hearing. 

The Role of the Police.

Under the Domestic Violence Act, the police officers have a crucial role to play in ensuring the safety of victims or any other persons in danger. 
They can file an application in the court on behalf of the victim. 
They can arrest an abuser without a warrant if he violates the court orders 
They have a duty to assist the victim by ensuring that the victim is taken to hospital and gets medical attention if they are injured as a result of domestic violence.

The police has to ensure that any person who is afraid of domestic violence and feels unsafe is moved to a safe place. 

For further information about the Domestic Violence Act, please contact us