Legislative reform needed to protect women, girls

written by BVC May 3, 2023

****Source- Barbados Today, First Published on April 7, 2023

Two civil society organizations (CSOs) presented their concerns and recommendations on the human rights situation in Barbados during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Pre-Sessions 43 held from the 3rd – 6th April in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UPR is a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council that reviews the human rights records of all UN member states every five years.

One of the CSO panellists for Barbados included Alian Ollivierre-Skeete, Executive Director of I Am A Girl NGO. In her remarks on Thursday, she highlighted the progress made by Barbados in advancing human rights since the last review in 2017, with varying legislative reforms and the promotion of gender equality.

However, Ollivierre-Skeete also raised concerns about the persistent challenges faced by certain groups, such as women, children, and especially girls, as they are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence and abuse.

I Am A Girl NGO presented a range of recommendations to the Barbadian government, including the need to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, a further review of legislation like the Sexual Offences Act, address violence against women and girls, especially related to incest, improve access to justice for marginalized groups, and increase the participation of civil society and the girls we serve in human rights policymaking and implementation.

During the proceedings, other CSOs from states like Israel supported the concerns of Barbados, especially in line with the legislative and procedural gaps surrounding domestic violence. Recommendations also included the increase in penalties for domestic violence, especially incest, the establishment of a separate court structure only focused on domestic violence to combat cases taking over ten years to be tried, and adequate counselling and training for all involved.

Ambassador Matthew Wilson, the Permanent Representative for the Permanent Mission of Barbados to the United Nations Office and Other International Organisations in Geneva, was present to hear these recommendations from the Barbados government.

The CSO delegation responded to the recommendations and called for a collaborative approach between the government and civil society to advance human rights in the country.

I Am A Girl’s participation in the UPR pre-session demonstrates their commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in Barbados and engaging the international human rights system. They have committed to continuing to monitor the human rights situation in the country and advocate for the implementation of the UPR recommendations.

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