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New Rules of Engagement in Gender Relations Needed

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Contact: Janelle Charles 

Monday, March 11, 2002 - One of St. Lucia’s prominent female figures has called for a new set of rules of engagement in ensuring partnership between men and women. The Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy, in a luncheon lecture to business and professional women last Friday which spoke to this year’s theme for the observation of international women’s day – Women and Men in Partnership Taking Responsibility - called for a balance in discussions and debates on gender issues.

Dame Pearlette says the theme for this year’s observance acknowledges that the sexes complement each other, but adds that gender issues continue to stir up so much passion “for some view this current approach with suspicion and cynicism”.

According to the Governor General, “They believe that women have come to the realisation that their aggressive exclusionary position has backfired and that they (the women) are simply attempting to salvage something from the impossible situation they have created. This talk of partnership some of the men regard as women’s olive branch, calling for a cessation of hostilities. They are willing to consider the offer but they are unwilling to make any more concessions.”

Dame Pearlette suggested the issue is complex and will only be resolved through a concerted, integrated, long-term and inclusive approach, “and we must be prepared to be in it for the long run”.

She told last Friday’s gathering that men and women need to remove unnecessary rhetoric and bombast from statements on gender issues, soften intransigence where it exists and agree on common rules of engagement. If men and women are to work together in partnership, the Governor General added, there needs to be a common frame of reference and an agreed upon set of principles to govern the relationship.

“Both men and women need to accept that there is not going to be a wholesale mass return to the pre-feminist era. Men, in particular, may wish for a return to the way we were but pragmatism will prevail. There will be individual decisions by women to return to or remain in the heart and in the home, and allow men to concentrate on the bread winning, but it is generally accepted that there will be persons on both sides of the gender divide who will cross the traditional professional and social boundaries,” she noted.

The Governor General told her audience that men and women must accept that they differ in all areas of their lives. Not only do they communicate differently, she said, but they think, feel and perceive, react, respond, love, need and appreciate differently.

“We need therefore to understand these differences to help us resolve much of the frustration in dealing with and trying to understand each other. We need to understand these differences to help us work as partners, and share responsibility. But difference is not synonymous with inequality,” she said.

Dame Pearlette says the rancour that attends initiatives aimed at the promotion of equal rights for women stems from a refusal and inability to understand that women are different but not unequal to men. She adds, when women clamour for equal rights and for the safeguarding of their fundamental freedoms in the enactment of laws and the ratification of conventions, this ought not to be construed as a call for sameness.

According to the Governor General the acceptance of the distinction between sameness and equality is fundamental to successful partnerships between men and women.


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