By Orville Williams
The Directorate of Gender Affairs (DoGA) has acknowledged and welcomed recent recommendations from the UK government for a national gender policy to address issues including the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV).
The recommendations came in a statement last Monday at the 39th Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights, where the human rights conditions of all UN member states are assessed.
In the statement, the UK encouraged Antigua and Barbuda to “develop, adopt and implement, in a consultative manner, a national gender policy with measures for the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence against all women, girls, men and boys regardless of legal or migratory status, nationality, gender identity or sexual orientation”.
The DoGA received that advice very well, telling Observer that it “welcomes these recommendations from the UK government as we continue to work towards creating meaningful change and achieving gender equality in Antigua and Barbuda”.
The response continued, reading, “The Directorate views the development of a national gender policy as a priority and is currently collaborating with international partners on developing a national gender policy that will address all forms of gender-based violence (GBV)”.
It noted too that a strategic action plan is also being developed to “end GBV nationally”.
Now, this advice is definitely timely but certainly not new, as a similar recommendation was shared by the UK to Antigua and Barbuda back in May 2016 at the 25th Session of the UPR.
That was the second of three reviews done on the twin island state and in its statement then, the UK urged the government to “promote a culture of tolerance to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people”.
The UK is clearly looking for a bit more impetus from the twin island nation, moving from advice to “promote a culture of tolerance” in 2016, to “develop and implement a national policy” in 2021.
And the strengthened recommendation comes at a time when several Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda to some extent, are having to address the issue of violence against women and children in some form.
The DoGA is the agency largely tasked with leading the charge to confront these issues, whether through public awareness and education programmes, or partnering with other social agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to build capacity.
Just last month it participated in a legislative workshop hosted by the Antigua and Barbuda Network of Women Parliamentarians (Parliament Gender Caucus) and non-profit, Women Against Rape (WAR), providing feedback on proposed legislative amendments and recommending avenues of support for the Antigua and Barbuda Support And Referral Centre.