Bahamas Social Services Minister heads group to United Nations

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Final Preparations - Representatives from several key government agencies met last week to go over final details for the Report to be given before the United Nations this week. Pictured (from left seated) are: Ms. Pat Francis, Ms. Christine Campbell, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie S. Griffin and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Community Development, Mrs. Barbara Burrows. Standing (from left) are: Ms. Jewel Major, Ms. Angelika Hilebrerdt, Mr. Kyle Chea and Ms. Shermaine Sinclair.

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie S. Griffin will head a Bahamian delegation to the United Nations in New York this week, where they will appear before the United Nations Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW).

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women consists of 23 experts on women’s rights from around the world.  According to the U.N. website, countries that have signed onto the convention (there are 185 of them) must submit country reports outlining how the rights of the convention are being implemented in areas such as education, employment, marriage and family relations, healthcare, politics, finance and law.  The Committee formulates general recommendations and suggestions.

Mrs. Griffin will be accompanied by Mrs. Barbara Burrows, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development in addition to other senior Social Services officials and those from the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health and Education, and the Bureau of Women’s Affairs.

“This meeting will allow The Bahamas to dialogue with the Committee regarding what policies and legislation we have put in place for the protection of women, in fact all persons, who experience domestic or family violence,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“The dialogue will also allow us to state all of the advancements/provisions we have put in place for the advancement and protection, not only for those persons experiencing domestic violence, but also what we have done in terms of education and awareness and other areas,” Mrs. Griffin added.

Mrs. Griffin said she is “absolutely satisfied” with the progress The Bahamas has made to address many of the issues that would be of concern to CEDAW – particularly at the legislative, governmental and business levels – even though there “is still much more to be done.”

“For example, in 2007, we would have passed the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders Act) which was a landmark piece of legislation that expanded domestic violence to encompass persons outside of the marriage.

“Before then, the wider population was outside of the benefits./protection of the law and so that was a strong piece of legislation. It also put in place Protection Orders that women/persons who are victims of domestic violence could access. These Protection Orders would have replaced the old Binding Over Orders which did not carry a power of arrest.”

Mrs. Griffin said the new orders also addressed stalking and financial abuse against a spouse or partner where one partner withholds money from the other as a form of discrimination/control/abuse.

She said another key area of the legislation was the amendment to the Sexual Offences Act that increased the punishment for rape, which she said, was extremely important.

“I am satisfied that in The Bahamas women have been able to reach the upper echelon of society in both the private and public sector. You will find that we have women at key levels at all strata of society be it in Government where we have had a woman serve as Deputy Prime Minister and Governor-General, and where many of the Permanent Secretaries and other key, senior officials are, or have been, females as has been the case in the Justice System,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“Many women are advancing up the corporate ladder across The Bahamas while many more have had many successes as entrepreneurs and have helped the country to make advances in culture, athletics, banking and finance, healthcare and academia, and so on.

“We know that there are a number of other areas in which we have to improve and which will be addressed, and so we expect to have an interesting dialogue this week,” Mrs. Griffin added.

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