“I have seen the media reports regarding the decision of the Supreme Court in a matter to do with the denial of access of a young child to education at a primary school because of her hairstyle.
Like many of you, I’m extremely concerned about the reports on the decision as reported and I have asked to see the written ruling when it becomes available. I have also requested that a team involving the Legal Officer in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport reviews the ruling and advise on the next steps.
The Jamaican Constitution, and I was in the House when we passed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, does not permit discrimination on the basis of religious or cultural practices or race. So I’m very interested to see on what grounds did the court make the ruling that is being reported.
I made the point in the Sectoral Debate just two weeks ago that “the wider society must also examine its approach to members of the Rastafarian community and pledge to end discrimination that is manifested in our actions, including the denial of school admission to children with locks.”
Two years ago, we passed a new law to bring closure to a painful chapter in history by recognising our heroes and freedom fighters for who they really were; restoring their dignity in the records; and contributing to the healing of their traumatised and wounded descendants.
In that same spirit, I commit to undertake, with the support of my colleagues, the necessary review and action to remove discriminatory policies and laws that still exist.
Work is already ongoing with government Ministries, Departments and Agencies to ensure that new guidance issued on grooming and appropriate appearance for work or school does not target specific hair textures and hair styles, race or religion. We must accelerate the finalisation of this new policy.
My Ministry has been charged by Cabinet to establish a Dress Code Commission which is advanced in its work.
A Dress Code Policy will be promulgated very soon to reflect the principles and values of independent Jamaica, promoting respect for our cultural identity and expression; inclusivity and diversity; and will also take into account our other realities, ranging from the economic to the climatic factors. The Policy will set the tone for other needed areas of reform, including changes in our legislation.”