Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin addressed the judiciary this morning at the Radisson Hotel. The CJ was among several notable speakers at the gathering on gender equality protocol which is part of a larger initiative through the JURIST project to ensure that gender equality is practiced in the courts. Canada is funding the project which is being implemented by the Caribbean Court of Justice. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
A five-year regional judicial reform initiative, known as JURIST, is working with court systems across the Caribbean to support efforts to improve administration and bolster the ability of the judiciary to dispense with cases efficiently and fairly. Part of that project is the launch of the Gender Equality Protocol for judicial officers.
Kenneth Benjamin, Chief Justice of Belize
“A good starting point is a discussion on gender equality. We should first start with the first preamble that appears in our constitution and it affirms the dignity of the human person and the equal and unalienable rights with which all persons in the human family are endowed by their creator. That of course is the kernel of equality for all human beings.”
Whereas it exists in the introductory explanation of the Laws of Belize, the preamble goes on to require policies of state to do away with economic and social privileges and lack of equality among Belizeans.
“Most relevantly, it states that the state is to ensure that there is gender equality. Those words actually appear in our constitution. Accordingly, in as much as gender equality is about women’s rights, it doesn’t stop there. It also encompasses the rights accorded to every individual in the society as prescribed by that preamble.”
For the established procedures to be most effective, there has to be synchronicity between the judiciary and the Ministry of Human Development. Judith Alpuche is the Chief Executive Officer.
Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development
“I believe that these protocols will even bring us closer together between the ministry and the judiciary. There’s a lot of common ground and a lot of common goals and objectives, but now it’s almost like a fashioning of a hymn sheet in a way where we are speaking the same language and can better understand the other points of view. This will help insofar as the roles of our social workers in the various roles that we perform within the judiciary.”
But what is the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening Project and how does gender equality factor in?
Gloria Richards-Johnson, Project Director, JURIST Project
“Gender equality is a cross-cutting theme in the JURIST Project. This means that every initiative we consider must be viewed through a gender lens. We have made great strides thus far. To date the project has completed several initiatives which include the guidelines of sexual offence cases, disaster recovery business continuity planning, training and court administration and adjudication that is gender responsive and customer focused, re-engineering of business processes in selective courts to identify backlogs and introduce technology to eliminate backlogs. Funded under a nineteen million dollar arrangement with Global Affairs Canada, this multi-year project is being implemented by the Caribbean Court of Justice on behalf of the Conference of Heads of Judiciary of CARICOM. The C.C.J. and other regional partners are also contributing approximately four million Canadian dollars to the project.”