24-HOUR HOTLINE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS IN ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA TO BECOME OPERATIONAL NEXT MONTH, REPRESENTATIVE SAYS19970716 Reports to Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee On 'Comprehensive Programme on Domestic Violence' in Antigua and Barbuda
A 24-hour crisis hotline to assist victims of domestic violence in Antigua and Barbuda would become operational on 1 August, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was told this morning, as it continued its consideration of that country's compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, Aqeelah Akbar, said her country's comprehensive programme on domestic violence also included support services and an education and awareness component. A legal reform group reviewed existing legislation and worked to inform women of their rights, while a team of legal experts offered free legal advice to victims.
Also addressing the Committee was Antigua and Barbuda's Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Women's Affairs, Gwendolyn Tonge. The delegation was responding to questions which had been raised by the Committee's expert members regarding the country's initial, second and third periodic reports on its compliance with the Convention.
The 23-member Committee, as monitoring body for the Convention, reviews reports of States parties submitted in accordance with its article 18. That article requires States to submit such reports within one year after accession and thereafter at least every four years, focusing on legislative, judicial and administrative measures adopted to give effect to the Convention.
Following the country's comments, Committee Chairperson Salma Khan of Bangladesh expressed the hope that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda would take effective measures to address the issues of power-sharing and gender equality. She said the country's five-year development plan should be broadened to include gender mainstreaming. The Government was urged to adopt proposals to deal with violence against women and to effectively enforce regulations to protect women and their rights.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to hear answers to its questions on the initial report of Armenia.
Response by Antigua and Barbuda
Speaking on the subject of stereotyping of women in her country, Ms. Akbar said the content of Calypso songs often included language derogatory to women. In a 1995 parliamentary discussion, a call had been made the Minister of Culture to use the art form to promote respect for women rather than to degrade them. In addition, the socializing of boys and girls within the society led to girls being socialized to fulfil the role of care-givers, while boys were socialized to be outward-looking.
She said the Government would carry out studies to determine why there were more women in housekeeping and front-desk positions in the tourism industry when educational data suggested that more women should be reaching higher levels in that sector. To another question, she said the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with the World Food Programme (WFP), provided free lunches for children. The WFP also provided technical assistance and training to private and government day-care centres.
Responding to questions about women in trade unions, she said Antigua and Barbuda was a signatory to the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention that gave workers, including women, the right to organize. Women made up 65 per cent of the organized workforce in the country, and the General Secretary of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union was a woman.
She said the issue of teenage pregnancy was a significant problem on which views were divided. A planning committee had been established early this year to develop a policy on teenagers continuing their education after pregnancy. The activities of that body were being supported by such international organizations as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Planned Parenthood Association. The country's Directorate of Women's Affairs had a programme which offered pregnant teenagers and young mothers training in skills relating to literacy, parenting, family planning and HIV/AIDS education.
On health care issues, Ms. Akbar said there was a view which held that the inclusion of HIV/AIDS patients to the country's medical benefits scheme would drastically increase contributors' costs. However, there had been an increase in the number of female HIV/AIDS patients, and her Government would welcome the Committee's suggestions on the subject.
She said that drugs were provided free of costs to patients diagnosed with diseases covered by the country's medical scheme. Victims of domestic violence could also be treated free of charge under the scheme. In addition, early detection and treatment was available for cancer patients, and pap smears and mammograms were provided without charge.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 3 - Press Release WOM/988 348th Meeting (AM) 16 July 1997
Parliamentary Secretary Gwendolyn Tonge reviewed priority areas of the Directorate of Women's Affairs, which included domestic violence, education, poverty, health and decision-making. The Directorate was not a legislative body, but it worked closely with the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs to initiate legislation supportive of women. Its total budget for 1997 was around 321,085 East Caribbean dollars, most of which went towards salaries and operating costs. The Directorate depended heavily on outside agencies for funding to implement its programmes, she said.
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