Country still struggling with issues affecting women
WHILE Jamaica was able to point to strides made in advancing women in positions of leadership, Minister With Responsibility for Information Sandrea Falconer conceded that the country was still struggling to deal with issues such violence against women and girls, the trafficking in and sexual exploitation of women, and the sexual harassment of women both in the workplace and within the general society.
In a statement presented at the 52nd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) earlier this month, Falconer told the UN Committee in New York that while there has been considerable advancement in women's rights, the global economic and financial crises were creating new challenges for the government.
The financial challenges being faced by some women was, for example, cited as one of the reasons for the growing problem of trafficking in persons, which involves the sexual exploitation of women and girls.
"A major challenge is that increased levels of poverty heighten the vulnerability of women and girls to human trafficking and sexual exploitation. This in turn increases their risks of HIV infection and violence," she said.
She noted that the government has established an inter-ministerial committee of the cabinet to oversee measures geared towards reducing incidences of trafficking in persons. She also pointed out that the government intends to intensify the delivery of public education programmes, provide protection to victims, and place greater emphasis on providing support that would ensure the successful prosecution of perpetrators.
Given the continued sexual exploitation of women and girls, Falconer said the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), has been strengthened and expanded to facilitate better reporting and investigation of these cases. Work has also started on the Sexual Harassment Policy to address the issue of sexual harassment of women in the workplace and in the general society.
"The government recognises that the victims of sexual offences are often women from the lowest economic quintiles. This group has historically had poor access to justice," she said.
Other areas covered during Falconer's presentation to the UN Committee included the educational gains being made by women, legal reforms to promote gender equality, the plan for vision 2030, health care, as well as issues surrounding household workers and rural women. In addition to Falconer, the Jamaican contingent to New York included Ambassador of Jamaica to the United Nations, Raymond Wolfe; Chief Technical Director in the Office of the Prime Minister Colette Roberts-Risden; Executive Director of the Bureau of Women's Affairs, Faith Webster; O'Neil Francis from the Attorney General's Chambers, Gender Expert Dr Glenda Simms, and Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the United Nations, New York, Andrea Wilson. Also present were representatives from local non-government agencies such as Woman Inc's Dundeen Ferguson.