Tuesday, April 23, 2024

State ‘living up to promise’

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The Employment Sexual Harassment Employment Act, which was proclaimed last month, is the state’s promise to end discrimination against both men and women in the workplace.

So says Madame Justice Jacqueline Cornelius, who was addressing the Rotary Club of Barbados luncheon recently at Hilton Barbados.

“The state is adhering to its promises in acceding to this convention. The state Barbados has already said we will remove discrimination, we will set up structures, we will change legislation, and so when we see legislation, including legislation dealing with sexual harassment . . . .  what we really are looking at is the promise of the state to you the citizen,” she explained. 

Justice Cornelius said Barbados had set out on a determined track of removing discrimination in all spheres of public life. Referring to the convention on the elimination on all forms of discrimination against women, which was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly, she said this set up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

“By accepting this convention, Barbados has committed itself to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including incorporating the principle of equality of men and women in the legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws, and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women,” she said.

The High Court judge in outlining the difference between gender equality and sex, stated that while gender equality implied the interests, needs and priorities of both men and women are taken into consideration, recognising the diversity of different groups of women and men, sex merely referred to the biological make of a person.

“We often say that women have reached the pinnacle of success in every sphere . . . . No sphere of activity is closed . . . . Still a lot more needs to be done,” she stressed.

She added that while there was a belief that Caribbean women had made such advances in the labour force, this was not the reality.

While acknowledging that women had made great strides in education advancement, she suggested research showed this achievement did not bring financial rewards or occupational prestige.

“Access and participation to the workplace, and high labour force participation, conceal facts which demonstrate the broader and equal status of women in the workforce. Often times when there is a recession you will see, and sometimes before, that unemployment rates for women exceed those for men, and that is throughout the Caribbean,” she said. (RA) 

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