Parity, protection, prosperity, peace and partnership.
These are the five P’s identified by the Honourable Madam Justice Jacqueline Cornelius as the things to which women continue to aspire. She noted this while pointing out that in spite of the significant strides made by women over the years, there are still some areas of inequality that must be addressed.
Her comments came as she delivered a lecture entitled “What More Do Women Want? Recent Legal Developments and Women’s Lives in Barbados,” in LT1 of the Roy Marshall Complex of the UWI on Friday evening, in recognition of International Women’s Day 2016.
During the lecture hosted by the Institute for Gender & Development Studies and CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, the judge ruled that while the wants of women are varied, it is really a question of what they deserve and are entitled to by the law and by Constitution. “And I can tell you too, that women will not be denied,” she assured.
The jurist cautioned the audience that these needs cannot be provided by law alone but will require a concerted effort from wider society.
She said that women want an end to violence, suggesting that a complete circle of protection is necessary and a more coordinated response to all forms of violence, not just domestic violence, is needed. “Such an approach must address law enforcement, health, judiciary, education, housing and community advocacy,” she said.
In addition to a call for sexual harassment legislation, she believes that a general anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, place of origin etc. by private citizens, as opposed to the Constitutional guarantees which are available against the State only, should be considered.
Additionally, she said the burden of child care needs to be shared more equitably between men and women, and made a call for the state to equip the judiciary and social services with the tools to do so, pointing to recent cuts in legal aid budget.
“The poorest women need state support in a meaningful way when neither parent has the financial ability to support their children. Poor women also need state support in the form of legal aid to access the justice. As the economy contracts, legal aid should be extended not, as has recently happened, severely contracted.”
“The legal aid budget has been reduced by almost 70 per cent in the last year. The lack of state financial support for both men and women seeking legal recourse to deal with the maintenance, care and custody of their children is an unscalable barrier to their access to justice.
She also encouraged all employers to consider the costs of child care in terms of money but also lost time and to consider the provision of childcare facilities at work.
Madam Justice Cornelius said women also want peace. “We want the deep hostility and venom that characterises every conversation about gender equality to cease. We want to reason with our brothers, fathers, spouses, sons, not curse, harangue and fight. We want men to recognise that women’s rights are not gained at the expense of their rights and the pain they feel is simply the release of centuries of privilege, which has shackled them as much as it has oppressed us.”
This peace she said also extends to women, where she said there must be partnership, not competition. “We want cooperation, not shaming and intolerance of different life choices.” (JH)