Women and Human Rights

The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women

In the preamble of the founding Charter of the United Nations in 1945 members declared their faith "in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small ........

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979.

It is the first comprehensive code of women's rights in international law.

This convention was ratified by Jamaica in 1981. In 1985 Jamaica further committed itself to the struggle for women's equality by adopting the Forward Looking Strategies generated at the Third Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Convention:

bulletAffirms women's rights to full participation in the political and public life of the nation and guarantee women the rights to vote, to hold public office and to exercise public functions.
bulletAffirms women's right to non-discrimination in education, employment and economic and social activities.  
bulletAsserts the full equality of women in civil and business matters.  
bulletAsserts the equal rights and obligations of women and men with regard to choice of spouse, parenthood, personal rights and command over property.


Women have an equal right with men to educational opportunities. Pregnant school girls are allowed to sit examinations and to continue their education.


It is unlawful to exclude women from public, civil or judicial office because of their sex or marital status.

Women are entitled to equal pay for equal work; to protection against harassment; to a safe work environment and when pregnant to maternity leave.


Females 18 years of age and over and widows may marry without parental consent. Females under 18 but over 16 years of age need to have the consent of her father, mother or guardian.  If the consent is unreasonably withheld, a woman may take the matter to the Supreme Court for the order to permit the marriage.

There is no provision for polygamous marriages, Muslim or otherwise. On the death of one of the parties in a common-law union, who has not made a will, the other party is entitled to the same benefits as a married woman in that situation.

Dissolution of Marriage

A marriage can be dissolved on a single no-fault ground - 12 month's separation. The court recognizes foreign divorces.  The arrangements for children must be satisfactory before a marriage is dissolved. The court can make financial arrangements for the wife under a petition for dissolution of marriage.


Children born out of wedlock have equal status as children born in wedlock.   In guardian and custody proceedings, the welfare of the child is the paramount concern. Periodic payments can he ordered for monetary support of children.

A woman has an equal right of consent with the child's father for issuance of passports to her children.


Just as a woman acquires the citizenship of her husband, men who marry Jamaican women can acquire Jamaican citizenship by registration. An adopted child derives citizenship through his adopted mother or father.


Women, whether single or married, have the right to purchase, sell and own property in their own names.

They have an equal right with men to apply for a declaration for their interest in property where they have made a contribution towards its acquisition, directly or indirectly.


In case of actual or threatened domestic violence a woman can obtain protection and occupation orders in the Resident Magistrates Courts. If she is married, the Supreme Court can also grant an injunction for her personal protection so as to restrain her husband from entering the home or her work place.

Women are also protected from exploitation through trafficking and prostitution which are criminal offences.

The following are criminal offences:

bulletto assault, injure or wound a spouse or partner.
bulletto threaten and put a person in fear.  
bulletto rape and force a woman to have sexual relations against her will.  
bulletto destroy property

Institutions in Jamaica with responsibility for ensuring the equal rights of women with men

The Bureau of Women's Affairs:

·        established in 1975, monitors government policy on women.

The Association of Women's Organizations of Jamaica (A WOJA):

·        founded in 1987, umbrella organization to coordinate activities of women's organizations island wide.

Women's Crisis Centres:

·        Lauched in 1985, there are now Centres in both Kingston and Montego Bay

The Women's Political Caucus:

·        established in 1992, facilitates women's participation in representative politics.

The St. Peter Claver Women's Housing Cooperative:

·        commenced in 1980 as a self-help group to provide low-income housing for women.

The Women's Construction Collective:

·        trains women in construction skills and assists in obtaining employment.

Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS):

·        provides coordination and training for a variety of organizations, including special programmes for women.

The Sistren Theatre Collective:

·        started in 1997, use drama to mobilize women and community groups.

Centre for Gender and Development Studies:

·        established in 1983 of University of the West Indies.

Woman Inc:

·        operating since 1984, to promote the welfare of women, runs a Crisis Centre and shelter.

Jamaica Household Workers Association:

·        Set up in 1991 to represent the needs and interest of household workers.



Police Emergency                                119


Hot Line (Corporate Area)                   927-7778


Crime Stop                                            1-888-9914000


Family Court                                          922-0001/6183


Women's Bureau                                  929-7144-6


Women's Centre Inc.                            929-2997/9038


Women's Crisis Centre (Kgn)             929-2997


Women's Crisis Centre (M/Bay)         952-9533-4


Kingston Legal Aid Clinic                    922-7892


Norman Manley Law School Legal Aid Clinic  927-1007


Montego Bay Legal Aid Clinic            959-2183


Legal Aid Council                                 922-0080-9



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