If I were Minister of Women’s Affairs I’d begin my contribution by seeing to it that The Bahamas immediately become a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This convention was adopted back in 1979 by the UN General Assembly. I was sixteen years old then, and am now 45 years old, and still The Bahamas is not a signatory to this convention.
I’d raise holy hell on the House Floor and demand that our country sign the treaty immediately. I’d cry shame on all the government and opposition members of all sexes who passed through the halls of Parliament since 1979 who never had the vision or the courage to achieve this for the sake of bettering the lives of Bahamian women.
I mean, for Christ’s wife sake, Afghanistan signed this treaty in 1980, and so did Cuba. Haiti and Jamaica have signed. Egypt is a signatory, North Korea has signed CEDAW, even Saudi Arabia has signed. China has signed it. I don’t think any of these countries have good human rights records, and yet they have signed and we have not.
How can it possibly be that our country is in the same woman-hating camp as other non-signatory nations like Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Kenya, Lebanon, Yemen , Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Bosnia, Croatia and Brunei . And yes, our Caribbean brethren in Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda have also failed to make this progression. This is unacceptable.
The Conventiuon defines discriminatuon against women as "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effet or phrpose of impairing or nulifying the recognition, enjoymentor exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
"By accepting the convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including
"to incorporate the principle of equality of men in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women,
"to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination and
"to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organisations or enterprises."
The United Nation also states that "countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also commited to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with the treaty obligations."
It would appear that it will take a lot of real, hard work on our government's part to protect us if it signs CEDAW. When will they come forward at last, the MPs we demand and deserve who are up for the job of leading us into a new era of real equality for Bahamian women? Let it be now.
If I were Bahamian Minister of Women’s Affairs for a time I would make sure that we signed the CEDAW convention at last.