JURIST Project highlights
Most CARICOM countries have enshrined gender equality in their constitutions, eliminated discriminatory laws and policies and prohibited gender as a basis of discrimination. However, gender inequality persists in the culture and practices of both state and non-state actors. Women continue to experience inequality in the labour market, with high unemployment levels despite educational advancements; suffer pay inequity; are segmented in the lowest paying jobs; have very limited participation in elective parliamentary processes; carry the disproportionate burden of care for children; and experience high levels of gender-based violence.
Gender disparities, even when not caused by exclusion or discriminatory treatment, can also be harmful for men and boys as dominant notions of masculinity can contribute to higher levels of educational under-achievement, vulnerability to involvement in the informal and illegal economy and criminal or counter-culture activity. The persistence of gender inequality is manifested in all components of the legal system, the substantive law, and the administration of justice and in the culture of use of the legal processes. In most Caribbean countries, expressions of inequality such as unequal pay, forms of labour exploitation, sexual harassment, rape within marriage, evidentiary rules related to sexual offences, lack of full autonomy and control of reproductive and sexual health matters remain inadequately addressed by legislation.
The administration of justice is hampered by delay and inefficiencies which have a negative impact, particularly on those who come to the court system with a life experience of social exclusion or inequality. The need for improvement is most pronounced at the magisterial court level, which hears the majority of cases and acts as adjudicator, mediator and social worker. In several sociological and anthropological studies undertaken on courts in the Caribbean, deficits such as unpredictability in the application of legal principles, delay and unresponsiveness to the social realities of litigants before the court have been highlighted. Studies on domestic violence and family law (in particular child support), have determined that those challenges are nuanced by gender in causative or contributing factors and outcomes. Gender stereotypes about women’s and men’s roles influence judicial decision-making and perpetuate women’s marginalisation and constraining gender roles for men even where this may not be consciously understood by the judicial decision maker. The focus of the JURIST Project therefore is to strengthen regional judiciaries to be more responsive to the needs of men, women, business and the poor.
Inherent in the terminology of gender equality is the idea that men and women enjoy the same status in all matters of society and that they are given equal opportunity to realize their full human rights and potential.
In an effort to achieve this outcome, the Project will ensure that all activities collect baseline data disaggregated by sex and will measure and report on participation rates and distribution of benefits between women, men, girls and boys. The Project will report on how its activities have contributed to the reduction of gender inequalities as perceived and experienced in the judicial system.