Women’s rights in Barbados have come a long way since the early 20th century when women’s organizations first began advocating for gender equality in the country. Today, women in Barbados enjoy legal protections against domestic violence and discrimination and have made significant gains in areas such as education and political representation.
One major milestone in the history of women’s rights in Barbados was the granting of suffrage to women in 1950. Since then, women have been able to participate in elections and hold political office, including the position of Prime Minister. Mia Mottley held the position of Prime Minister in Barbados from 2018 to 2022 and was the first woman to hold the title. However, women still face underrepresenting in political and economic leadership positions and gender-based violence remains a persistent issue in the country.
To address these challenges, the Barbadian government has established and signed a number of initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. These include the Beijing Platform for Action, which outlines goals and objectives for achieving gender equality and women’s rights in Barbados. As a result of signing this document, Barbados has made significant positive progress towards freedom and equality for women such as eliminating the direct discrimination and violence against women in public spheres and activities. Barbados is also in compliance with the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, the only binding and legal document against gender-based violence and upholds women’s physical, sexual and psychological integrity.
Barbados strengthened these impacts by passing the Domestic Violence Protections Order Amendment Act 2016, one of the strongest Protection Orders in the region that gives emergency protection orders to police and focuses on best practices to combat gender-based violence.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs is another important institution, responsible for promoting women’s rights in Barbados and ensuring that a gender perspective is integrated into all governmental plans and policies.
In 2022 the World Bank compared 190 countries’ economies across eight different categories. The results show that Barbados scored a perfect score in four areas analyzed: workplace, marriage, assets and pension. Barbados has many laws securing a woman’s position in the workplace and ensuring that there are policies against workplace discrimination and harassment, they even ensure the possibility to file a lawsuit when there is harassment against women in the workplace. When it comes to marriage, women have secured rights regarding divorce and remarrying, making sure that women’s relationships with men uphold women’s rights in Barbados.
While these scores are encouraging, Barbados did not score well in the categories of mobility, pay, parenthood and entrepreneurship. Women in Barbados do not receive adequate paid maternity leave when compared to males and they are also unable to receive the same credit benefits in their businesses as men do. This made Barbados’ overall score 80 out of 100, lower than the average score in Latin America and the Caribbean. There are still many laws that do not protect women in Barbados. For example, approximately 30% of women from ages 20-24 were married before 18, women hold only 20% of seats in parliament and there is an adolescent birth rate of 49.7%.
Despite challenges, women in Barbados have made significant strides in a number of areas. Women now outnumber men in tertiary education and there is a growing awareness of the importance of gender equality in the country and governmental leaders are working to implement policies that address inequalities. As Barbados looks to the future, it will be important to build on these achievements and continue working towards a more equitable and just society for all. Many are still calling for a National Gender Policy, which the government of Barbados has stated is currently in progress.
– Kellyjohana Ahumada