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Hazel defends Coudray on gender policy statements
Hazel Brown, head of the Network of Non-governmental Organisations for the Advancement of Women, is stoutly defending Gender Minister Marlene Coudray who, despite popular belief, says the proposed gender policy does not protect a person from discrimination based on his or her sexual orientation.
After maintaining a lengthy and stony silence on the controversial matter, Coudray, Minister of Gender, Child and Youth Development, made the announcement on Wednesday after she was questioned by the media. She said: “This policy really is addressing discrimination at the workplace.
“Those were the issues the committee was concerned with in terms of government departments and ministries, and to end any form of discrimination. “You have the HIV and others. People are focusing on some of the issues that really are not relevant to this particular case.”
Asked whether discrimination based on sexual orientation was included in the policy, she replied: “Not as far as I am aware. And I really do not want to preclude anything the cabinet committee would decide, and it is still before the committee.” This flies in the face of a disclosure by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in a letter to gay rights activist, Lance Price, in August last year.
The PM told Price, after he wrote her expressing concern about T&T’s discriminatory laws, that in the coming gender policy there would be an end to discrimination against the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities. Brown was a part a committee appointed by Cabinet in December 2012 to work on the gender policy.
Asked if what Coudray said was true, she responded a little angrily. “The minister is right. There are 14 issues in the gender policy on which I worked and none deal with sexual orientation.” Turning the heat on the media for singling this out, she said: “That’s what the media wants to focus on.
“There’s a section that deals with labour and employment that says a person should not be discriminated against in this area because of his sexual orientation.” Referring to the document that she said was used in the last round of consultations in April last year and which was sent to Cabinet, Brown said it dealt with all issues that affect women, and men.
“These include health, education, family life, everything that matters to women and men,” she said. An educational pamphlet written to explain the policy asks: “What does the national gender policy have to offer me?” The answer was: “Plenty, no matter who you are! “A national gender policy is not for women only.
“The point of the policy is to achieve fairness for every single person, whether they are grandparents, fathers, teens, boys, girls, secretaries, construction workers, teachers, homemakers, or vendors.” Using education as an example, it continued: “Women who are illiterate have a lower chance of getting a job than illiterate men. On the other hand, certain social factors make boys less likely than girls to finish their secondary education.
“A national gender policy can help us develop an education system that caters to both boys and girls, and distributes educational resources equally. “At the end of the day, the national gender policy will affect how the State treats people, regardless of their gender and other differences.”
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