Ministry begins consultations on gender policy

The Ministry of Social Protection has started consultations aimed at developing a national gender policy.

The first of a planned series of consultations was held on Thursday with the ministry’s senior staff to derive a framework for the policy, a statement released by the ministry stated.

Consultant and women’s rights activist Hazel Halley-Burnett will be leading the consultations. The next consultation will be conducted among other public sector partners, including other government ministries, ahead of a national conference later this month.

According to the statement, the government is committed to a gender policy and gender budgeting system will be developed and implemented through a participatory process as key transformative measures for guaranteeing and resourcing greater equality and gender and social justice.

Towards this end, Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence was reported as saying that the policy and similar initiatives under the new administration will seek to create a socio-economic, political and legal environment that is free of discrimination, reduce disparities, and promote gender equality and social justice through the promotion of sustainable behavioural change.

Lawrence was reported as saying that mechanisms in the public sector and the capacity of personnel will be boosted to ensure improved delivery of such high level services.

Further, she urged that the special considerations in article IV of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) be taken into account.

Article 4 of CEDAW states, “Adoption by States Parties of temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women shall not be considered discrimination as defined in the present Convention, but shall in no way entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate standards; these measures shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved.”

Further, it adds, “Adoption by States Parties of special measures, including those measures contained in the present Convention, aimed at protecting maternity shall not be considered discriminatory.”

Standing orders applied by the city constabulary and the police force to dismiss pregnant ranks have this week come under scrutiny for being discriminatory under current laws and prompted calls for their repeal.

The ministry said Lawrence also urged those crafting the policy to ensure that the finished product is one that is beneficial to all of society, especially so that vulnerable groups could find it useful in improving their lives.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary Lorene Baird noted that the ministry hopes the policy will improve coordination among stakeholders when addressing gender issues and reduce duplication of efforts, thereby preventing the waste of limited resources.

According to Halley-Burnett, the ministry will partner with technical assistance agencies to bring the policy to fruition and to aid its implementation, including the United Nations Population Fund.

UNFPA Country representative Patrice La Fleur welcomed the initiative and urged that the critical dimensions of gender be taken into account in the drafting of the document, including the peculiarities of women, such as pregnancy and child caring, culture and attitudes and behaviour.

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