Barbados has taken a major step towards ensuring gender equality in the judicial system, through the development of a draft gender equality protocol for magistrates and judges.
The document, the first of its kind within the Caribbean Community, will support the judiciary in using gender analysis to ensure that both women and men have equal access to justice.
It was handed over Wednesday to United Nations (UN) officials and members of the judiciary, including Justice Adrian Saunders of the Caribbean Court of Justice and Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, by the drafters, UN Women, the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) and the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO).
JURIST Regional Coordinator John Furlonge told the ceremony at UN House at Marine Gardens, Hastings, Christ Church that gender equality was one of four judicial reform initiatives being undertaken by the agency.
“These draft gender equality protocols will now be reviewed, circulated and ultimately finalized 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.
Meantime, Sir Marston sought to give assurances that under the protocols, both men and women would 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,” Sir Marston said.
Justice Saunders welcomed the document, noting that gender stereotypes contributed 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.