by Rakesh Rampertab

Throughout history, the people most rooted to the earth, or the people commonly regarded as “native” or “aboriginal,” have always had to put up with flak from the rest of society. This has been the case of the Native Indians and Amerindians of the USA and Canada respectively, the Aboriginal people of Australia, the Native Indians of Central and South America (e.g., the Indians of Chiapas in Mexico) and of course, the Amerindians of the West Indies.

In Guyana, no one race has felt the blade of brutality more than the Amerindian, and no one race can claim to have benefitted least from the land, or social administration; that is, government. Today, the plight of the Amerindian continues in abhorrent fashions—regardless of whatever little modernity has reached the self-sufficient Amerindian way of life. And, among the disrespect spread over the conscience of the Amerindian, none is more prevalent and destructive as the abuse of the Amerindian woman or girl.

Of course, this had been happening for centuries—from the time Christopher Columbus and his three flag-staffed ships disembarked, hands have been groping and raping the women of the region’s native peoples. Fast-forwarding almost six centuries onwards, the abuse continues through times of imperialism and colonialism. Today, in independent Guyana, the Amerindian woman remains a target for physical violence and sexual abuse, and a subject of socio-national neglect.

In our mining communities, establishments that have existed for more than a hundred years, the miner or pork-knocker has always found ways to lure the Amerindian female to his sexual whims, often with a promise of marriage and an opportunity to be taken to the city. Over the years, the abused often found little redress, if at all, for numerous reasons; first, most of these women are not prepared socially to seek legal advice and social counseling—if any is readily available in their communities. Secondly, reports to the police often lead to no arrest because in many cases, the abusing miner is either a friend of the local police, or offers cash “drawbacks.” Thirdly, there is a feeling among both miners and police that these women who end up in the company of miners and are abused, must blame themselves.

Abuses against the Amerindian woman have not reduced, despite the presence of more vocal feminist organs and social welfare groups in the nation. In fact, abuse has adopted a stronger form by proliferating in the city. These women and girls, some who are of mere school age, are taken by business people with the age-old promises of jobs in the city—in bars, restaurants, and hotels (to primarily attract male clients). The trick is that entrepreneurs promise to provide domestic employment—but instead, these unscrupulous patrons use their workers for financial ends by forcing many to prostitute themselves. Where domestic jobs are actually given, the salaries are meager and worker’s rights almost non-existent, because the Amerindian is still regarded as being inferior. Anyone who retaliates is thrown out on the street.

In the strange city and without any family network, the Amerindian female is left at the mercy of anyone who will take her in or use her in exchange of cash. Naturally, sexual service becomes a means to survive. Many of these women are raped, physically abused continuously, and become addicted to both alcohol and drug, as a deviant lifestyle becomes the only way of life. As in the case in the interior, they are still reluctant to seek medical assistance for issues such as AIDS, veneral diseases, or drug-alcohol addiction. It is an unreality to find an Amerindian woman taking a man to court for raping her.

Thus far, the government had done very little to arrest this kind of smuggling of human labor from within the Amerindian community, or to curb the lawlessness that sprawls around in our mining communities where both woman and land are being savagely exploited. Those governmental departments of Amerindian Affairs, Human Services, and Home Affairs ought to take a much more serious stance in ridding Guyana of this kind of sexism and racism. Those who indulge in this kind of human traffic ought to be prosecuted and their business licenses revoked.

But again, in Guyana, such things do not happen—not to the extend that law is supposed to prosecute. The crooked entrepreneur is often the financial supporter of the government. In fact, it is quite possible that some minister of government, or key figure of the judicial system, have received sexual favors from an Amerindian woman or child under the roof of such a discreditable businessperson. I do not claim to know of any such case in fact; but I would not deny that such has occurred or is happening. Nevertheless, in a country where calls are being made to respect and protect the Guyanese woman (especially from the criminal), no appeal would be just if it does not begin where our sexual abuse first began—with the Amerindian female.<< Page X                                                                        Page X>>>         

Aug 20 , 2002
© 2001