Government seeks discrimination feedback

The government wants to hear from women who feel they are being discriminated against or facing inequality in the workplace or elsewhere.

The ministry responsible for gender affairs is trying to quantify those issues, among others, as it gathers information which eventually may lead to legislation being changed to offer more protection against discrimination to the female population of the Cayman Islands.

The ministry has issued a questionnaire as part of a public consultation, following Cayman’s first National Conference on Women on March 28.

“We view this public consultation exercise as the second step following the groundwork that began at the conference,” said senior policy officer at the Gender Affairs Unit, Tammy Ebanks.

“The qualitative data that is gathered will be used to identify any additional issues that may not have emerged from the conference, as well as it may serve to further support the concerns that are identified in the conference report,” Ms. Ebanks added.

Some of the key issues that emerged from the conference, as outlined in a report of the conference released this month, include lack of maternity benefits, participation in sports being seen as “masculine,” sexual harassment, and the exclusion of domestic helpers from the legal right to have a pension.

“I have a keen interest in advocating for the continued advancement of women on an equal basis with men,” Gender Affairs Minister Tara Rivers said in the conference report.

To further promote gender equality in the Cayman Islands, Ms. Rivers said it is government’s goal to sign on to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, known as CEDAW.

“CEDAW is a core international human rights treaty to which the Cayman Islands has yet to sign on and that greater gender equality is directly linked with many economic and social benefits. It is not just my personal desire, but also the goal of this administration to have CEDAW extended to the Cayman Islands,” Ms. Rivers said in the report.

In 2013, the Cayman Islands government submitted a request through Governor Helen Kilpatrick to have CEDAW extended to Cayman. That request is still under review at the United Kingdom’s Government Equalities Office.

Cayman earlier applied to have CEDAW extended to the territory in 2004, but first was required by the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office to put enabling legislation in place. A Gender Equality Law was enacted in 2011, and a review of local laws in 2012 showed that the legislation in place was compliant with the convention, although there were some areas that could be improved upon, according to the conference report. The report did not specify what those areas were.

The information gathered from the public consultation process will be offered to individuals, employers, NGOs and other members of the community seeking to understand the mechanisms of discrimination against girls and women and to help develop strategies to promote gender equality.

“We owe it to ourselves and to our children to ensure that the future for our girls is bright, safe, rewarding and valued as equally as our boys,” said Ms. Rivers.

The deadline for written comments is June 30. The National Conference on Women report, public consultation questionnaire and additional information and guidance are available online or in hard copy from the Government Administration Building.

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  1. What is the Ministry of Education, Employment Gender Affairs doing for the men and boys within our society who feel that they are being discriminated against or facing inequality in the workplace or elsewhere?
    The use of government resources in the manner outlined by the ministry is in itself a form of discrimination. Quite honestly, the ministry seems to care very little about the men and boys within our society and should at a minimum change the name of the ministry to more closely reflect their true vision and purpose.
    ‘Ministry of Education, Employment Women’s Affairs’

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