Human rights must be at the core of the proposed National Gender Policy, Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Verna St Rose-Greaves has said. St Rose-Greaves was speaking at a stakeholder consultation on the policy at Cascadia Hotel, Port-of-Spain, on Wednesday. She referred to the issues of homosexuality and abortion as "elephants in the room" that needed to be discussed nationally. Disagreements over the two issues have prevented the policy from going to Cabinet for the past ten years, said St Rose-Greaves, who added that her ministry was dedicated to ensuring human rights. "Our approach is a rights-based approach," the minister said. "Whilst we may not agree on issues, let us be uppermost in our focus on the rights of citizens of this country...We must respect people's rights as citizens and all that comes with it." The National Gender Policy will go before Cabinet in June. St Rose-Greaves said there was a critical issue of "backstreet" abortions that needed to be addressed from a public health perspective. She made it clear that she was not advocating abortion, but the right to choose.
Some of the key areas of attention identified in the policy are:
• gender-based violence and human security;
• health and well-being;
• education and literacy;
• poverty alleviation;
• labour and employment; and
• agriculture and food security.
St Rose-Greaves also said there was an epidemic of gender-based violence, quoting statistics from the Police Crime and Problem Analysis Branch to support her observations. According to the statistics, homicides because of domestic violence were second only to gang murders. The draft policy was developed in conjunction with the University of the West Indies Institute for Gender and Development Studies.