Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
13 June 2002
563rd Meeting (AM)

Committee Concludes Consideration
Of Country's Report on Implementation
of Anti-Discrimination Convention

Women’s political participation, traditional attitudes and efforts to overcome violence against women in Saint Kitts and Nevis were the focus of attention at the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning, as it continued its consideration of that country’s initial, second, third and fourth reports.

The 23-member Committee –- charged with monitoring implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -– heard the delegation’s responses to questions posed by the experts last week. (For initial discussion and background information, see press release WOM/1340 of
5 June.)

Country representatives described the country’s gender equality machinery and legal measures to improve the situation of women. On women’s political representation, they said that although women were actively engaged in political parties, they were still reluctant to become electoral candidates themselves. Training was needed in the area of governance, democracy and constitutional matters. It was hardly likely that quotas would be formulated in the country to increase women’s political participation, however.

Regarding violence against women, they said that the Government and members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) had collaborated in the formulation of the OECS Educational Reform Bill, which addressed a number of key issues, including school violence, which was seen as the precursor to adult violence. The new policy would also address the issue of life skills, anger management, handling peer pressure and conflict resolution. Although anyone could report incidents of violence to the police, there was no mandatory reporting of violence against women. Efforts were being made to change the attitudes of men and boys.

“An unwritten code of loyalty within the family” was among the reasons that prevented women from filing complaints regarding domestic violence, members of the delegation further said. Other reasons included economic and emotional dependency on a spouse or mate and fear of reprisals. Nevertheless, there was an increase in the number of women reporting domestic violence, which could be attributed to the awareness campaigns by the Ministry of Social Development, Community and Gender Affairs. There was also a link between the use of alcohol and violence. The national counselling and substance abuse centre was providing services to both victims and perpetrators.

Commenting on the country’s responses, the experts expressed appreciation for their high quality, praising the Government’s political will to advance the cause of gender equality. Only through increased women’s participation was it possible to change prevailing attitudes towards women, an expert said. Among the country’s main achievements, the speakers noted a new bill regarding equal pay for equal work and the country’s efforts to make foreign investors adhere to a code of ethics. Aware of the difficulties that the country faced, including natural disasters and hurricanes, they still expressed hope that future reports would testify to even more impressive progress there.

Among the remaining points of concern, the experts mentioned low representation of women in politics and the diplomatic service. In that connection, the Government was urged to contemplate applying special temporary measures to increase women’s participation. Experts would also like to see more efforts to change stereotypical attitudes towards women, especially in the areas of violence, family planning, home responsibilities, and employment. One of the speakers expressed hope that the number of female-headed households in Saint Kitts and Nevis would be lower in the future.

Presenting the country’s responses were its Director of Gender Affairs, Ingrid Charles Gumbs, and Administrative Assistant at the Ministry of Social Development, Community and Gender Affairs, Jovil Martin. Also part of the delegation of Saint Kitts and Nevis were: Nyian Farrell; Administrative Assistant Bonnie Edward; Counsellors Alex Woorley, Carlisle Richardson, and Euphrosyne Southwell Stevens; and the country’s Permanent Representative, Joseph E. Christmas.

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