Governor comments on incident during lecture
Government minister Osbourne Bodden’s tirade at his chief officer was an “unfortunate incident that no one would condone,” Governor Helen Kilpatrick has said.
The governor, who had not previously commented on the issue, was put on the spot during a question and answer session following a lecture in Grand Court last week.
Asked if the incident had implications for Cayman’s efforts to address gender inequality issues, she said everyone should have protection against “verbal assaults and swearing.”
“It’s better to think of it in a more gender neutral way,” she said.
“That happened to be a man and a woman and was obviously an unfortunate incident that nobody would condone, but there will be other incidents where it might be two men. Everybody should have equal protection in the law against serious cases of abuse.”
Ms. Kilpatrick spoke in more general terms about the progress Cayman has made in gender equality legislation during the lecture at the Grand Court – the second in a series organized by the students of the Truman Bodden Law School.
She said the islands have a strong legislative framework but like many other countries, have yet to see that translate into real equality.
“Legislation alone can’t deliver an equal society and despite the comprehensive legal framework, I challenge anyone in this room to argue that Cayman Islands has achieved true gender equality,” the governor said.
Citing the fact that the gender equality tribunal had handled only two cases in three years of operation, she suggested women need more encouragement to come forward when they face discrimination.
“We know women in the Cayman Islands continue to be dismissed [from their job] for being pregnant, but very few seek redress in the tribunal,” she said.
Aubrey Bodden, secretary to the tribunal, who appeared alongside the governor for the question and answer session, said there needs to be more awareness of the legislation and support for women who speak out.
“A lot of people aren’t willing to rock the boat and make things worse for themselves. We need to support people who do seek to stand up for their rights,” she said.
During her lecture, the governor referred to census data which shows women are still paid less than men in almost every job category. She said women were also comparatively under-represented in the Legislative Assembly but dismissed a suggestion that political parties could introduce women-only short lists, as some parties in Europe have done.
“I think for somewhere where the franchise is as small as the Cayman islands and the parliament consists of such few people, having quotas in terms of parliamentary representation is technically and socially a much more difficult thing to do than somewhere with a larger pool of opportunities for people to go through.
I think there is some success from quotas, but I don’t think you could do it here,” she added.
Ms. Kilpatrick recapped some of the legislative steps taken toward gender equality over the past decade, and said the Cayman Islands has committed to sign on to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.