Women from the Americas travelled to Havana, Cuba in 1928 to demand they be allowed to participate in the sixth International Conference of American States, and that the members of the conference ratify an Equal Rights Treaty, the Minister of State for Social Development the Hon. Loretta Butler-Turner said.

Although the Treaty for Equal Rights was not ratified, the decision was taken to create the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) and to charge it with conducting a study of the legal status of women in the Americas, which would be presented to the next International Conference of American States, the Minister of State for Social Development explained.

Mrs. Butler-Turner was speaking at the opening of an exhibition in the Foyer of the East Street Post Office, East Hill Street Monday commemorating the 80th Anniversary of CIM.

CIM is the principal forum for generating hemispheric policy to advance women’s rights and gender equality. It was the first official intergovernmental agency in the world created expressly to ensure recognition of the civil and political rights of women.

Mrs. Butler-Turner said over the years CIM has adopted several plans of action, however, its comprehensive strategic plan to promote the advancement of women in the Americas was significant.

The plan’s implementation was to span from 1995 to 2000 and four areas of priority were to be addressed within the first five years.

Mrs. Butler-Turner said these areas were the participation of women in the structures of power and decision-making, education, the elimination of violence, and the eradication of poverty. She noted that while a degree of progress has been made, work continues as some challenges still exist for many women.

“Amidst these challenges, we are now faced with the view held by some that the progress of women has come at the expense of our men,” she said. “Simply, they feel that women are ‘taking over’.

“We must dispel this belief that progress for women means regression for men. Men and women have both contributed to the development of this nation and women should therefore have a reasonable expectation to hold any position they desire.”

She said the Inter-American Commission of Women was also at the fore in bringing into force the Convention Belem do Para, the Organization of American States Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.

“This Convention has been a most powerful tool in our region. It recognises that violence against women is not limited to physical abuse but that it also includes sexual and psychological abuse.”

She said it also recognises other acts that may bring about violence such as trafficking in persons. “The Convention Belem do Para has spurred many countries to introduce legislative measures to counteract violence against women.”

Further, Mrs. Butler-Turner said challenges emanating from domestic violence are being addressed in The Bahamas.

“As early as 1991 and prior to the introduction of the Convention Belem do Para, The Bahamas passed the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act,” she said.

“This Act was considered landmark legislation at that time, however, as the community evolved it was discovered that additional legislation would be required to address the realities of the present day.”

Therefore, she said, the Domestic Violence Protection Orders was drafted and subsequently passed in 2007.

Mrs. Butler-Turner noted that the exhibition showcases the rich history of CIM and it highlights some of the programmes undertaken by The Bahamas with the support of the organisation.

She explained that The Bahamas and several other member states took part in a regional assessment on trafficking in persons which was carried out by the International Organization for Migration.

“Since this project, the Bureau of Women’s Affairs has been among other government agencies that continue to educate the public and raise awareness on this growing concern which has been describes as “modern day slavery”.

Additionally, she said CIM has funded several local projects in the past; among them town meetings held throughout the country to discuss the revision of the inheritance legislation.