JIS News

Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson has announced that his office has re-established a gender advisory committee, which would, among other things, develop an appropriate strategy for incorporating gender issues in all of government’s developmental plans.
Dr. Robertson, who has responsibility for Gender Affairs, was speaking at a function to mark International Women’s Day Celebrations 2004, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel yesterday (March 8).The Minister also noted that the formation of a national gender policy would be a priority for the committee.
He pointed out that the body’s membership was broad-based, representing stakeholders from the public and private sectors, the Opposition, entrepreneurs, the legal profession, academic institutions, rural women and non-governmental organizations.
The membership of the committee and its terms of reference would be tabled in the House of Representatives today (March 9), the Minister said. Dr. Robertson said that as part of his commitment to bring about greater gender equality, emphasis would be placed on the much needed legal reforms to address imbalances and irregularities in legislation affecting women.
He informed that based on a thorough legal review of 42 pieces of legislation carried out on behalf of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, six had been identified as priority and the Ministry would work with the Minister of Justice and all relevant ministries and agencies to have these tabled in the House in the next legislative year.
These laws include the Maintenance Act, which Dr. Robertson termed the “other side” of the Property Rights of Spouses Act. This would provide for an amendment to make the obligation to maintain children the responsibility of both parents.
The others include, the Charter of Rights Bill to provide for an amendment of the Constitution to include protection against discrimination on the basis of gender; and the Domestic Violence Act, to provide for an amendment to expand the definition of child to any person under the age of 18 years, and to extend the provisions of the Act to persons in visiting relationships.
There are also the Offences Against the Person Act, to provide for an amendment to, among other things, broaden the definition of rape and to provide for the recognition of marital rape; and the Incest Punishment Act, to provide for an amendment to create a single gender-neutral offence by persons aged 16 years and over, as well as to broaden the categories of prohibited relations to include uncle, nephew, niece and step-parents.
In addition, Dr. Robertson said work would begin on legislation in relation to sexual harassment at the workplace, places of accommodation, and educational institutions, among others.
He said that while women continued to contribute to national development, the nation must also be reminded that too many women continued to experience obstacles that prevented them from achieving their potential.
“Let us salute our teachers, our nurses, our household workers, our grandmothers, our mothers, our social workers, our female farmers, our female volunteers, all of whom work tirelessly and whose work are sometimes undervalued, underestimated and unrecognized,” Dr. Robertson declared. “Today we recognize and celebrate the invaluable contribution of these women who continue to provide stability and consistency to our society,” the Minister added.
Patron of the function, Her Excellency, the Most Hon. Lady Cooke said she was particularly heartened by the sterling contributions of rural women.
She noted that these individuals were representative of the strength of the island’s rural folks.An award was made to the Trelawny Parish Advisory Committee in recognition of its work on women’s affairs in their community, and an individual award was given to Zelma Simms, a successful bammy producer from St. Elizabeth.
The day’s activities, hosted by the Bureau of Women’s Affairs supported by the United Nations Development Programme, and corporate sponsors Jamaica National, and Red Stripe, were held under the theme: ‘Woman Celebrates.Voices of the Unsung’.