Combined second, third and fourth periodic reports
of States parties
The Committee considered the combined second, third
and fourth periodic reports of Jamaica (CEDAW/C/JAM/2-4)
at its 502nd and 503rd meetings, on 26 January 2001
(see CEDAW/C/SR.502 and 503).
(a) Introduction by the State party
In introducing the report, the representative of
Jamaica informed the Committee of some of the legal,
political, social and economic challenges facing
her country in the implementation of the Convention.
National and global developments were far-ranging,
and the situation of women had been influenced in
different ways by the many contemporary realities
that faced the population as a whole.
The representative recognized the importance of
national legislation and the protection of women's
rights, and noted that, with regard to the implementation
of those rights, her country's legal system operated
against a background of traditional attitudes to
women. To overcome existing stereotypes, redress
imbalances and inequalities and ensure harmonization
of laws with international norms and standards,
a comprehensive legislative review of laws affecting
women and children had been commissioned.
Despite the fact that many women had high academic
qualifications, they remained largely under-represented
in positions of influence, power and decision-making.
Although some women held important senior positions
in Government, equitable representation of women
in politics had yet to be achieved. Similarly, women
tended to be under-represented in decision-making
positions in the private sector. The representative
indicated that education was the primary tool for
reversing stereotypical attitudes towards gender
roles and that there had been an improvement in
the retention rates of women, particularly at the
tertiary level. However, women still encountered
difficulties in finding employment commensurate
with the level of their qualifications.
The representative described her Government's programmes
to address poverty, violence against women, prostitution
and the spread of HIV/AIDS, pointing out particular
progress in the areas of education and health. However,
all of those efforts were affected by structural
adjustment policies, globalization and a growing
debt burden. She contended that, to implement new
policies, the Government needed the support of civil
society, and she noted that an increased number
of non-governmental organizations, including the
National Women's Political Caucus, participated
in public life.
Noting that poverty continued to affect all aspects
of women's lives, the representative stated that
poverty eradication programmes were a national priority.
Several programmes on rural, inner-city women and
domestic workers, whom the representative described
as the most marginalized in the economy, had been
initiated by the Bureau of Women's Affairs. The
Government was seeking to ensure the wider integration
of women in the tourism field, although the negative
aspects associated with that sector, such as sex
tourism, prostitution and sexual exploitation of
young girls, would be monitored.
Within the health sector, there had been a significant
reduction in the rates of maternal and infant mortality
and the implementation of policies designed for
cancer prevention. Prevention of sexually transmitted
diseases had been integrated into family planning
services, and a helpline had been instituted to
provide counselling and support. The representative
noted that, despite the significant achievements
in the area of women's health, HIV/AIDS had become
an issue requiring urgent national attention. Women
were contracting the virus at a faster rate than
men, and young people were in the age group that
seemed to be at highest risk.
The representative explained that achievements had
been made in addressing the issues of domestic violence
and other forms of gender-based violence. She noted
that statistics indicated a close relationship between
the incidence of murder and domestic violence. Many
institutional measures had been implemented to counteract
domestic and other forms of gender-based violence,
including sexual abuse and incest, and the Government
had granted financial subventions to non-governmental
organizations providing services in that area. Public
education and awareness-raising were seen as vital
tools in combating violence, and several of the
existing laws and acts that targeted gender-based
violence were being reviewed. That legislation included
the Domestic Violence Act, the Offences Against
the Persons Act and the Incest Punishment Act. In
addition, a sexual harassment bill was under consideration.
In conclusion, the representative informed the Committee
that developments in the country continued to be
affected by structural adjustment programmes, globalization
and the increasing debt burden. The goals of justice
and equity faced challenges because of joblessness,
lack of growth and the feminization of poverty.
It was a priority for the Government to target the
most marginalized and poorest in the society, especially
women and children, to give them autonomy and choice.
She noted that Jamaica was in a transitional period
and was searching for new strategies to overcome
current challenges. She reaffirmed her Government's
commitment to live up to its obligations under the
Convention and emphasized its intention to ratify
the Optional Protocol.
(b) Concluding comments of the Committee
The Committee commends the Government of Jamaica
on its combined second, third and fourth periodic
reports which is in accordance with the Committee's
guidelines for the preparation of periodic reports.
It also commends the Government for the comprehensive
written replies to the questions of the Committee's
pre-sessional working group and the oral presentation
of the delegation, which sought to clarify the current
situation of women in Jamaica and provided additional
information on the implementation of the Convention.
The Committee expresses its appreciation of the
open dialogue that took place between the delegation
and the members of the Committee.
The Committee conveys its compliments to the Government
of Jamaica on its work with the United Nations and
regional and subregional organizations in defining
national and international plans of action on women.
It also welcomes the consistent political will of
Jamaica in regard to the implementation, at the
national and regional levels, of programmes to strengthen
action plans to improve the status of women.
The Committee commends the Government for its expressed
political will to implement the Convention. It welcomes
the Government's efforts to review and amend its
legislation to comply with its obligations under
The Committee congratulates the Government on its
intention to sign and ratify, as soon as possible,
the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
The Committee expresses its appreciation for the
withdrawal of the reservation to article 9, paragraph
2, of the Convention, which the Government had made
Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation
of the Convention
The Committee notes that the entrenched stereotypical
attitudes with regard to the role of women and men
and the persistence of gender-based violence within
the society constitute obstacles to the full implementation
of the Convention.
Principal areas of concern and recommendation
The Committee expresses its concern at the slowness
of legal reform relating to anti-discriminatory
legislation. The Committee also expresses its concern
that, although the Constitution provides for the
equality of all citizens, there are no constitutional
remedies available to women.
The Committee recommends that the Constitution be
amended to allow women to have access to constitutional
remedies of redress. The Committee urges the Government
to make the necessary legislative reforms to the
Constitution in order to create an appropriate legal
framework that would ensure that the law is consistent
with the provisions of the Convention. The Committee
urges the Government to reform existing legislation
and to create new legislation to protect the equal
rights of women and men in regard to labour, social,
family and property.
The Committee expresses its concern that Jamaica's
passport law provides that a married woman may keep
her maiden name on her passport only if she insists
or for professional reasons and that, in those cases,
a note would be entered in her passport with the
name of her husband and the fact of her marriage.
The Committee calls upon the Government to bring
the passport law into line with article 16 (g) of
The Committee expresses its concern that the Maternity
Leave with Pay Act of 1979 does not cover domestic
workers. It also expresses its concern with the
disparity of eligibility and benefits to domestic
workers under the National Insurance Scheme and
other female workers covered under the Maternity
Leave with Pay Act.
The Committee calls upon the State party to revise
the Maternity Leave with Pay Act 1979 so as to ensure
that, in accordance with international standards,
all mothers receive leave with pay. It also calls
upon the State party to review the Maternity Leave
with Pay Act and the National Insurance Scheme with
a view to removing any disparity as regards the
eligibility of domestic workers and other female
workers to benefits.
The Committee expresses its concern that stereotypical
attitudes and behavioural patterns about the roles
of women and men in the family and in society persist.
The Committee urges the Government to implement
awareness-raising campaigns to change stereotypical
and discriminatory attitudes concerning the roles
of women and girls.
The Committee expresses its concern that the Government
lacks a clear understanding of the full range of
the temporary special measures provided for article
4, paragraph 1, of the Convention.
The Committee urges the Government to implement
the full range of temporary special measures aimed
at increasing the number of women in decision-making
at all levels, as well as in the public and private
sectors. It recommends that the Government sensitize
the social partners about the importance of these
The Committee expresses its concern that the current
system of monitoring gender impact through focal
points is not effective and that the necessary structure
is not in place.
The Committee urges the Government to introduce
gender mainstreaming measures in all governmental
ministries, institutions and departments, and notes
that the responsibility should not fall exclusively
under the purview of the Bureau of Women's Affairs.
The Committee recommends that the Bureau of Women's
Affairs should have the role of monitoring gender
mainstreaming in all governmental activities. The
Committee requests that further information on the
gender monitoring checklist be provided in the next
The Committee expresses its concern about the high
rate of teenage pregnancies.
The Committee calls upon the State party to improve
its family planning and reproductive health policy
and programmes, including availability and accessibility
to affordable modern contraceptive means for both
women and men. It encourages the Government to promote
educational programmes on reproductive rights and
responsible sexual behaviour for both women and
men, particularly young people.
The Committee expresses its concern about the persistence
of gender-based violence and domestic violence,
including marital rape. The Committee also expresses
its concern about the high incidence of incest and
rape, and the lack of a holistic governmental strategy
to identify and eradicate gender-based violence.
The Committee urges the Government to place a high
priority on measures to address violence against
women in the family and in society, in accordance
with general recommendation 19 of the Committee
and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence
against Women. The Committee recommends that the
Government raise public awareness about violence
against women and urges the Government to strengthen
its activities and programmes to focus on sexual
violence, sexual crimes, incest and prostitution,
especially prostitution associated with tourism.
The Committee urges the Government to ratify the
Inter-American Convention for the Prevention, Punishment
and Eradication of Violence against Women in order
to strengthen the Government's programmes in that
The Committee expresses its concern at the high
incidence of poverty among various groups of women,
in particular in households headed by females. The
Committee recognizes that those households have
been negatively affected by structural adjustment
programmes and the changing global situation.
The Committee requests the Government to provide
additional information on programmes and projects
implemented to combat the negative impact of structural
adjustment programmes on women and to ensure that
the Government's policies to eradicate poverty are
continuous and do not further marginalize women.
The Committee expresses its concern about the working
conditions of female labourers in the free-trade
The Committee urges the Government to enact legislation
to protect the labour rights of workers in the free-trade
The Committee also urges the Government to sign
and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
It further urges the Government to deposit its instrument
of acceptance of the amendment to article 20, paragraph
1, of the Convention, concerning the meeting time
of the Committee.
The Committee requests that the Government provide
in its next report more detailed data, statistics
and information about all aspects of women in Jamaica
and respond to the concerns expressed in the present
concluding comments in its next periodic report
submitted under article 18 of the Convention.
The Committee requests the wide dissemination in
Jamaica of the present concluding comments in order
to make the people of Jamaica, in particular governmental
administrators and politicians, aware of the steps
that have been taken to ensure the de jure and de
facto equality of women and of the future steps
that are required in this regard. It requests the
Government to continue to disseminate widely, in
particular to women's and human rights organizations,
the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee's
general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration
and Platform for Action and the results of the twenty-third
special session of the General Assembly, entitled
"Women 2000: gender equality, development and
peace for the twenty-first century".