Domestic cases could soon be heard in a “hybrid” court says Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
She says come next financial year, which begins on April 1, 2019, her administration would be putting forward plans for a “hybrid family law court” to be established.
Addressing the opening of the Transformational Leadership for Gender Equality in the Caribbean: Regional Strategies and Partnership forum at the Radisson Resort on Monday, Mottley said there was still too much discrimination in Barbados when it came to issues involving women.
In fact, drawing a comparison between how single women and married women who go before the law courts were treated, Mottley said the time had come for some tough decisions to be taken, and the choice would be made through Parliament.
“Choice will determine whether this government, that I lead, will spend money to create a single hybrid family law court that precludes the discrimination that exists now where single mothers must go and stand up outside of a magistrates’ court and wait their turn to be called in – as if you were taking an audit of stock that was not human – to be able to determine whether you will have access to funds or not, but if you are married you go and sit down in the air-conditioned High Court and wait for a judge to talk to you in the privacy of chambers. It cannot be right as we move to enter the third decade of the 21st century that we perpetuate that kind of discrimination through our system,” said Mottley.
“When I say therefore, that Government is about choice it is the choice that we will make to put on the front burner in the next financial year, the establishment of a hybrid family law court that does not in any way perpetuate the worse aspects of our colonial system,” she promised.
Mottley, who is the first female prime minister of Barbados, insisted that the country would not achieve its development goals if the progress of women was impeded.
“There can be no sustainable development that is premised on discrimination. There can be no sustainable development that precludes opportunity,” she added.
Pointing to the decision by her government to restore the payment of tuition fees for Barbadians at the tertiary level, Mottley said she believed education was perhaps the most liberating thing for humans and especially for women.
“It is about ridding ourselves of discriminatory practices wherever they find themselves. If we can’t master that conversation at 52 years old, as we will be next week, then we have serious problems,” she said.
“We have to master the difficult conversations because life has never been about black or white. More often than not it is about grey and how we use the values we have instilled in us to make the judgments and decisions that will add value to the quality of the human experience,” she added.
She reminded the audience that in order to break down some barriers that still exist, her four-month-old government had set a few goals, which she intended to pursue, including that by 2030 every Barbadian child should have the opportunity to learn a second language, be able to swim, be exposed to artistic and sporting disciplines, and exposed to entrepreneurship.
Acknowledging that she did not have children of her own but nieces and nephews whom she wanted the best for, Mottley said she was aware that the journey ahead would not be an easy one.
She urged participants in the two-day gender equality seminar not to be afraid of having the “difficult” conversations. She explained that this would require “that we speak to people who don’t like us, and we speak to people who don’t want to talk us and we speak to people who don’t look like us, and we speak to people who don’t speak the same language”.