Barbados develops draft Gender Equality Protocols for Magistrates and Judges

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A report from Jamaica’s Observer.

Barbados has become the first country within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to develop a draft Gender Equality Protocol for Magistrates and Judges.

The project was undertaken by the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) project, in collaboration with UN Women multi-country office and the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO), with funding from the government of Canada.

Regional Coordinator of the JURIST project, John Furlonge, told the handover ceremony on Wednesday that the document will support the judiciary in using gender analysis to ensure that both women and men have equal access to justice.

He said that the event not only marked a milestone for the island, but also represented trigger for a series of equally important activities in that area.

“”These draft Gender Equality Protocols will now be reviewed, circulated and ultimately finalised by or before the end of September 2017.  This is the undertaking of the Local Implementation Committee that has been established in Barbados and works closely with the JURIST Project,” Furlonge said.

According to him, the Implementation Committee is central to the organisation and participation of gender sensitisation training within the Judiciary and Magistracy of Barbados.

Head of Office at UN Women MCO, Caribbean, Tonni Broadber Hemans, said the Protocol seeks to raise awareness of judicial officers to Barbados’ international responsibilities towards the rights of women; assist the local judiciary in “understanding and exercising the full panoply of judicial powers found in Barbadian law in order to promote gender equality”; and assist the judiciary in identifying and effectively addressing unequal gender relations by providing concrete case examples and interpretive guides to international instruments on gender equality.

Chief Justice, Sir Marston Gibson, sought to give assurances that under the protocols, both men and women will receive equal access to justice.

“Gender equality should not lead us in the direction of favouring any one particular gender. Gender equality means that we must be impartial and we must look at the evidence, but we must be sensitive to the idea that what we do as judges will influence either gender equality or gender inequality if we’re not sensitive,” Gibson said.

Justice Adrian Saunders of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) welcomed the document, noting that gender stereotypes contribute to “one of the most insidious forms of partiality” within the justice system.

“If gender stereotypes are unconsciously held, if they are not the product of a deliberate intention to discriminate, how can we as judges avoid falling prey to them? This is where the establishment of this Protocol is so important.

“The Protocol provides an easy reference point for judges and magistrates to be guided on the standards and approaches that are expected of us when we deal with issues that are gender sensitive. One of the goals of the Protocol is to train the judicial mind in ways that promote impartial adjudication in the sphere of gender and gender relations,” Saunders said.

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