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Cayman Islands Government

Gender Equality Advances

This Friday, 18 December, the Cayman Islands Government will release the draft Prevention of Gender Discrimination Bill (2010) for public consultation.

The release will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). On 18 December 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted CEDAW, the international human rights treaty which is exclusively devoted to gender equality.

CEDAW is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Comprising a preamble and 30 articles, it defines discrimination against women and establishes an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

Deputy Premier and Gender Affairs Minister, Juliana O'Connor-Connolly stated that the passage of local legislation will allow the extension of CEDAW to the Cayman Islands through the United Kingdom.

"Women's rights have progressed considerably during the past three decades, but there are still major obstacles that prevent gender equality from being achieved.

"Given the far-reaching effects that this important piece of legislation will have on employees, employers and other bodies, I encourage the public to review the draft Bill and provide their comments to the Ministry," Mrs. O'Connor-Connolly said.

Senior Policy Advisor for Gender Affairs Tammy Ebanks-Bishop was also pleased by the draft Bill's release and commented, "Acceptance of this Bill will be a positive step towards ensuring the extension of CEDAW to the Cayman Islands; that will be yet another gain for women's and girls' rights on a practical, everyday level."

She noted that despite recent local advances, much remains to be done before reaching the point where principles of gender equality become national standards.

"Positive steps to date are the new Constitution Order with its Bill of Rights and the use of gender- inclusive language; the creation of the draft Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill (2009) and the Prevention of Gender Discrimination Bill (2010).

"However, serious human rights violations against women still occur daily, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and workplace discrimination due to maternity status or unequal pay for the same work as males," Ms. Ebanks- Bishop said.

She further pointed out that social progress in gender equality is not automatic. "It requires considerable work, awareness and commitment in order to make the necessary societal changes that lead to increased gender equity. This CEDAW anniversary provides an international platform for increasing awareness," she said.

Ms. Ebanks- Bishop explained that since 186 countries have ratified CEDAW, the anniversary presents an opportunity for the global community to celebrate its near-universal ratification. She added that many countries have scheduled a variety of events to acknowledge this essential tool for achieving women's human rights.

"In Argentina, a workshop is being held on CEDAW's application to the Latin America and Caribbean region. Cameroon is organizing a vast media campaign to sensitize and inform the public on CEDAW.

"Also, in Japan, the Minister for Gender Equality will host a gathering of female governors and mayors in order to publicize the importance of female participation in national decision-making," the Senior Policy Advisor said.

For more information or to provide feedback on the draft Prevention of Gender Discrimination Bill, please visit www.gov.ky. The public has until 31 January 2010 to submit their comments.

More on CEDAW

  • Over 90% of the 190 UN members are party to CEDAW. The cornerstone of CEDAW is the principle of equality between men and women and the prohibition of discrimination against the rights of men and women.
  • CEDAW is often described as an international bill of rights for women. It is simply a human rights instrument that provides a framework to identify what constitutes discrimination against women, and which sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.
  • The Convention defines discrimination against women as "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
  • Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They also commit to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. By accepting the Convention, they commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:
  • incorporating the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolishing all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
  • establishing tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
  • ensuring elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.