Symposium Opens on Gender Equality and the Law in The Bahamas
Authored by: Kathryn Campbell
Source: Bahamas Information Services
Date: September 2, 2014


Symposium delegates, from left: Christine Campbell, First Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Women's Affairs; Dr. Ramona Biholar, Law Lecturer, Faculty of Law, UWI, Mona Campus; Gabrielle Henderson, Programme Specialist, UN Women; the Hon. Melanie Griffin, Minister of Social Services & Community Development; Justice Roxane George, Puisne Judge, High Court of the Supreme Court, Guyana; Mrs. Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt, Chief Magistrate; Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson, Director, Bahamas Crisis Centre; Ms. Cleopatra Christie, Legal Advisor, Office of the Attorney General.


NASSAU, The Bahamas - Members of the judiciary, representatives from the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development and NGOs gathered at SuperClubs Breezes, September 1, for the start of a symposium on Gender Equality and the Law in The Bahamas.


The two-day event aims to explore the role the magistracy plays in promoting gender equality; explore the social, psychological and cultural dimensions of domestic violence; explore gender stereotypes in the law and practice and clarify the application of domestic violence and sexual offences legislation.


Delegates are expected to reflect on topics that include Socio-psychological Perspectives on Gender-based Violence, Gender Equality and International Human Rights Standards, Gender Equality and the Law, Balancing Justice in a Gendered Society, The Provision and Application of the Domestic Violence Act and Sexual Offences Act.


Session leaders are: Justice Roxane George, judge, High Court of the Supreme Court in Guyana; Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson, director of the Bahamas Crisis Centre; Gabrielle Henderson, programme specialist, United Nations Women; Dr. Ramona Biholar, of the University of the West Indies; and Cleopatra Christie, legal advisor, Office of the Attorney General.


Addressing the opening ceremony, Melanie Griffin, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, outlined some of the Government's initiatives to promote gender equality and eliminate violence against women. They include the appointment of the National Task Force to end gender-based violence, workshops and training sessions of the UN Women Project Strengthening State Accountability and Community Action, ongoing "Domestic Violence is Everybody's Business" community-based forums, health sessions with stakeholders on the "Boy Child" and the "Girl Child" in partnership with the Crisis Centre along with other workshops and summits.


The Minister noted four bills currently under consideration by Parliament, which, once passed, are expected to pave the way for the necessary referendum, which will seek to provide equality for men and women in the Constitution.


She thanked United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) for their support at both the technical and ministerial levels.


Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt described domestic violence as a most "vexing" and "pertinent" problem in both the courts and Bahamian society.


Although 20 years have passed since The Bahamas ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Chief Magistrate opined that The Bahamas still has much to do to fully educate all aspects of the society on this Convention.


Similarly, she said the Convention of Belem do Para, another agreement signed by The Bahamas, promotes the punishment and eradication of all violence against women. "I trust we will all be the more knowledgeable on these two international agreements and see how they fit into the domestic laws of The Bahamas," she said.


The Chief Magistrate noted that she "fully" supports opportunities for magistrates to gain more knowledge and experience that would assist in the execution of their daily duties and responsibilities. "Far too often we become so subsumed in the technical aspects of adjudication, which no doubt is our primary focus, however, we do not provide enough emphasis on the socio-psycho and cultural context in which we are called upon to serve," she added.


The symposium is sponsored by the Bureau of Women's Affairs of the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development in partnership with UN Women.


A similar symposium for judges is expected be held later in the year.

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