Happy International Women's Day
When my first Laws of Eve article, titled 'Marriage, your name and your child's name', was published on August 8, 2005, it was intended to provide women with information about some basic legal rights that were not known to most women.
Although the scope of the column has broadened since then to include information about laws as they affect all persons, the majority of the questions and comments I receive still come from women.
When International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8, 2015, the United Nations will adopt the theme 'Empowering Women - Empowering Humanity: Picture It!' and reflect on the 20-year-old Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that set 12 agenda items for realising women's rights.
Each of the 12 agenda items is set out below, as well as one of its main objectives:
• Poverty. To ensure women's equal rights to economic resources.
• Education and Training. To ensure equal access to education.
• Health. To increase access to appropriate, affordable and quality health care.
• Violence. Take measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women.
• Armed conflict. To enhance the role of women in conflict resolution and protect them in situations of armed conflict.
• The Economy. To promote women's economic rights and independence.
• Power and decision-making. To increase women's capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership
• Institutional mechanism for their advancement. To integrate gender perspectives in legislation, public policies, programmes and projects.
• Human rights. To promote and protect the human rights of women.
• The media. To increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making through media.
• The environment. To involve women in environmental decision-making.
• Discrimination against the girl-child.
To eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl-child.
According to Jamaica's 2009 report, efforts were well under way to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. At that time, the Charter of Rights that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex was not yet enacted. It became law in 2011. However, some of the principal acts designed to address gender violence, namely The Offences Against the Person Act, The Domestic Violence Act and The Incest (Punishment of) Act are still under review. Also, The Sexual Harassment Bill is yet to become law.
I am firmly of the view that having effective laws is one critical step towards empowering women. However, women who are not aware of the existence of those laws will not be able to grasp the opportunity to rely on them. Through my articles, I, therefore, contribute to that effort, so that there can be empowerment through knowledge; and I encourage other persons (both men and women) to identify an opportunity to realise what Mahatma Gandhi must have envisioned in the following statement:
Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity ...
If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior ...
If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women.