– cites previous “responsible pregnancy” comments of Chief of StaffA recent advertisement by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) specifically inviting only suitable males to enlist in its officer training course has raised concerns about that institution possibly practising bias in its gender policy.In an interview with this publication, veteran social and women’s rights activist Nicole Cole expressed concern that the advertisement was in fact discriminatory in nature. According to Cole, a member of the Women and Gender Equality Commission, the act raises suspicions of implicit bias within the upper echelons ofWomen’s rights activist Nicole Colethe GDF.“It’s wholly discriminatory because it seeks suitable males only!” Cole stressed. “To place such an ad is a gross violation of the CEDAW Convention (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) which is enshrined in the Constitution.”“The Ad also violates women’s right to work without being discriminated against based on their sex, hence it also violates the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Convention as well as the Prevention of Discrimination Act of 1997.”Cole, moreover, pointed to remarks made by GDF Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West, at a Thanksgiving ceremony that marked the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Army Corps, on February 6.West was then quoted by an online media outfit as saying, “We want responsible behaviour, that it must be planned, we don’t want every year a female soldier to become pregnant. It adds to her own social burdens and it creates challenges for the Force and in the morale of the female ranks too.”West had also said at that ceremony that the “situation” of a pregnant female soldier could result in an “off spill of all the issues she’s having to other female(s).” At the same time, he then went on to say that he was not advocating the stopping of any pregnancy, but rather “responsible” pregnancies.Cole, however, reminded that family planning falls on the shoulders of both sexes.This publication made contact with Brigadier West on Saturday in an effort to ascertain the reasoning behind the policy. However, he declined to speak to theChief of Staff Brigadier Patrick Westmedia outside of the army’s Public Affairs Unit and the ambits of the working week. Efforts to contact head of that unit, Colonel Michael Shahoud, were unsuccessful.The lawThe laws of Guyana are clear on the illegality of discrimination. Part two of the Prevention of Discrimination Act of 1997 states thus: “For the purposes or this Act, a person discriminates against another person if the first mentioned person makes, on any or the grounds mentioned in subsection (2), any distinction, exclusion or preference, the intent or effect of which is to nullify or impair equality of opportunity or treatment in any employment or occupation.”It further specifies that discrimination can occur on the grounds of sex, race, religion, colour, ethnic origin, indigenous population, national extraction, social origin, economic status, political opinion, disability, family responsibilities, pregnancy, marital status or age, except for purposes of retirement and restrictions on work and employment of minors.The Act goes on to say that discrimination cannot occur based on any characteristic which “appertains generally, or is generally imputed to persons of aThe Advertisement in questionparticular race, sex, religion, colour, ethnic origin, indigenous population, national extraction, social origin, political opinion, disability, family responsibility, pregnant state, marital status, or age, except for the purpose of retirement and restriction on work and employment of minors.” According to the Act, any omission, practice or policy that directly or indirectly results in discrimination against a person on the grounds referred to in subsection (2) is an act of discrimination, regardless of whether the person responsible for the act or omission or the practice or policy had intended to discriminate.The Act does make a few exceptions for perceived bias. For instance, Part VII (19,1) “Nothing in Parts III and IV shall affect (a) a provision of a deed, will or other document, whether made before or after the coming into operation of this Act, that confers charitable benefits or enables charitable benefits to be conferred on persons on the basis of the grounds set out in subsection 4. (2) of this Act; or (b) an act that is done in other to give effect to such a provision.”The Act goes on to state that, on a religious basis, the Act exempts the ordination of priests, ministers of religion or members of that body; as well as the training or education of persons seeking ordination or appointment as priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order.