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Gov’t Considering Amendments to Constitution to Protect Women’s Rights

The government is considering several critical amendments to the Constitution of The Bahamas to fulfil its commitment to the promotion and protection of the human rights of women.

Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin made the announcement during the United Nations (UN) Women’s Forum last Monday.

“Once approved by both Houses, the amendments will open the way for a referendum by the people to remove the last vestiges of discrimination against women and bring about equality for women and men under the law,” she said.

While addressing the 59th Session of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Mrs. Griffin said the government “has aggressively undertaken” a number of initiatives in order to meet some of the international obligations included in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Mrs. Griffin said the initiatives have been undertaken with the support of local Civil Society Organizations as well as international partners such as UN Women, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund, formerly known as the United Nations Fund for Population Activities) and ECLAC (The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean).

ECLAC is one of five United Nations Regional Commissions responsible for assisting with, and promoting economic and social development in major regions of the world.

Minister Griffin told CSW delegates that while the Secretary-General’s Report, which outlined the five priority areas to accelerate implementation of the Platform for Action – confirms that in spite of significant advances achieved since Beijing countries are lagging behind, and in some cases, many have regressed, The Bahamas has achieved success in a number of critical areas of the Platform for Action, “despite being a relatively young nation.”

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 and reaffirms the fundamental principal that the rights of women and girls are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.

The Bahamas was represented at that session by former Cabinet Minister Janet Bostwick (head of delegation) who joined Mrs. Griffin in New York for the historic 20th anniversary.

Mrs. Griffin highlighted a number of initiatives undertaken by the government to address some of the critical areas included in the Platform for Action.

The initiatives include the introduction of the first phase of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme, a Social Safety Net Reform Initiative in November 2014 that is designed to modify human behaviour and break the cycle of poverty in households, the majority of which are headed by females.

In addition, the establishment of a Domestic Violence Unit in the Department of Social Services, ongoing campaigns to raise awareness of violence perpetrated against young girls, the ongoing facilitation of workshops and seminars to encourage the participation of women in politics with the support of former and current female parliamentarians and the appointment of a task force by the Cabinet with a view to ending gender-based violence.

“Concomitant with this is a National Implementation Plan to address gender-based violence, sponsored by UN Women,” Mrs. Griffin added.

The Bahamas was represented at the CSW by a sixty-member delegation, headed by Minister Griffin.

The delegation represented a cross-section of women’s civil society organizations, women representatives from the various political parties and two men, and included former Cabinet ministers.

Minister Griffin said despite many successes in The Bahamas, challenges still exist in the areas of poverty, violence against women, and power in decision-making.

“Cognizant of this fact, we have aggressively undertaken a number of measures and initiatives with the support of local civil society organizations, as well as with partners such as UN Women, UNFPA and ECLAC, to meet these challenges,” she said.

Mrs. Griffin told the commission that The Bahamas is about to embark on a new Post-2015 Development Agenda.

“The task ahead of us is challenging, but we remain committed to achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls,” she said.

“As stated by Mrs. Bostwick 20 years ago in Beijing with respect to women, “our cry for change has been long and loud, our pain intense. It is a cry, which was as long and loud then, as it is now. The women and girls of the world are depending on us, policy-makers, to provide the means of implementation by which they can transform their lives. It is the hope of The Bahamas’ delegation that this session would not only result in a commemoration of Beijing+20, but spur renewed commitments, action and results for women and girls throughout the world. We have the blueprint – the Beijing Platform for Action. Now is the time to build the future we want.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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