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Regional Forum Aims To Strengthen Cedaw Implementation

Gender equality advocates and policy makers returned from a multi- country forum last month to discuss ways of effectively implementing national commitments to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The government has less than a year to comply with requirements issued by the Committee of CEDAW Experts before it makes its interim report next year. The Committee assessed the Bahamas’ performance in July 2012 when the government submitted a full status report. Its next full report is due in 2016. Three Caribbean countries - the Bahamas, Guyana and Jamaica - reported to the CEDAW Committee during the 52nd Session in July 2012.

“Having participated in previous CEDAW training and observing the process of the state reporting to the CEDAW Committee, the government/NGO dialogue was very useful as it forced us to sit together to acknowledge how important the application of the principles of the CEDAW is to our national development and also the urgency of working towards the implementation of the principles. The first task will be to begin a national conversation on the principles of CEDAW and then to advocate for the implementation of the articles that pertain to the needs of the women in the Bahamas,” said Donna Nicolls, who represented the Crisis Centre.

“I encourage as many women as possible to download the booklet ‘CEDAW made Easy’, and begin to familiarize yourselves on this particular convention that exists to protect women and the state’s obligation to pursue by all means necessary and without delay a policy to end all forms of discrimination against women,” said Ms Nicolls, one of the author’s of the Crisis Centre’s shadow report on the government’s performance.

IWRAW sponsored the forum to bring the non-governmental sector and government officials together in dialogue. The forum took place in Kingston, Jamaica, under the theme: “Towards Effective Implementation of The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”

The objectives of the dialogue were: To examine the status of CEDAW implementation in Jamaica, Guyana and Bahamas through exchange of strategies by the states, including on reporting obligations and implementation of CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations by the States (identification of challenges to its implementation by the government at the national level; To create a platform for the state to engage in a positive manner with civil society organizations who are invested in the promotion and realization of women’s human rights as enshrined in CEDAW; To examine the role played by women’s organisations in promoting the CEDAW implementation in the context of challenges and barriers women face towards realization of their rights, with a particular focus on common themes such as violence against women; To develop a strategic plan towards the advancement and implementation of CEDAW by analyzing entry points, strengthening existing and exploring new opportunities of Government-NGO partnerships; and to discuss the ratification and adoption of the CEDAW Optional Protocol.

“The immediate outcomes were: Shared understanding of the status of CEDAW implementation at the national level, including the obligations of the states and role of women’s groups, with a special focus on violence against women and legal reform in compliance with CEDAW. The development of action plans to promote state implementation of CEDAW at the national and regional level, which may include collaboration with various stakeholders at regional and international levels. A plan to develop strategies for the ratification of CEDAW Optional Protocol,” said Ms Nicolls.

Christine Campbell, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in the Ministry of Social Services & Community Development represented the government, along with Rubie Nottage, chairperson of the National Steering Committee to Combat Gender Based Violence.

Representatives for the Crisis Centre included Salomie Gibson, advocate and volunteer counsellor and Ms Nicolls, an advocate, volunteer counsellor and trainer.

The Convention was ratified by the government on October 6, 1993. Through its ratification, the government “affirmed its intention to develop an inclusive social order in the country which recognizes the need to improve the legal status of women in all aspects of daily life, and to enable greater participation of women in the development of the Bahamas.”

The convention includes an obligation for states to condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake: to embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation; to establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination; to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women, among other obligations.

The government did not consider itself bound by several provisions of convention, including articles 2(a); article 9, paragraph 2; article 16(h); and article 29, paragraph 1. Reservation for article 16 (1) (h) was later withdrawn.

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