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Referendum Aims To Bring Equal Rights For Women

By DANA SMITH

Tribune Staff Reporter

dsmith@tribunemedia.net

FOREIGN Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell announced plans of a referendum to grant Bahamian women the same rights as Bahamian men to pass citizenship on to their children.

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Fred Mitchell

Speaking in the House yesterday, Mr Mitchell said if passed, this will bring the country “in line” with other western societies and see the end of formal gender discrimination.

As it stands now, children born to a Bahamian woman and a foreign man outside of the country are not granted Bahamian citizenship and must apply like any other immigrant. By comparison, children with a Bahamian father are automatically Bahamian citizens, regardless of the nationality of the mother.

“The government is committed to removing the constitutional anomaly which exists with regard to women and the ability to pass on their citizenship to their children,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The government proposes to amend those provisions in the constitution with regard to discrimination against women, so that it is clear that gender cannot be a reason to discriminate against an individual.”

This means Article 26 to the constitution and the preamble to Article 15 of the constitution have to be altered and the matter put to the country in a referendum, Mr Mitchell explained.

Article 26 makes it illegal to afford different treatment to others “wholly or mainly” because of “race, place of origin political opinions colour or creed.” The Article also states: “No law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect.”

Article 15 is similar and explains every person in The Bahamas is “entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual.”

“We trust that the proposed changes when they come will receive the unanimous consent of the House,” Mr Mitchell continued.

“This will bring The Bahamas in line with other western countries and remove one of the last vestiges of formal discrimination against women.”

In response to his contribution, FNM Deputy Leader and Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner rose to commend the government for taking steps to ensure gender equality but also questioned when Bahamians will see such a referendum.

“I’m sure there would have been a lot of flack at the UN last week with regards to these hindrances to the equality of women in The Bahamas,” she said. “Can you say to us what the deadline would be with regards to such a referendum?”

Mr Mitchell explained that there is a process involving the constitutional commission and a presentation to the government about the matter before it can been seen in the House and subsequently go to a referendum. However, he said, Bahamians should see the referendum take place before the Christie administration leaves office in 2017.

“Once those formal steps are done then the matter will be presented to the House,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to be pinned down on a time frame except to say it will be before the end of this term and we expect that going into the next election, the constitution will have been amended.”

In another move, the Minister also announced in Parliament an amendment to Section 30 of the Immigration Act to extend the period for spousal permits.

“The law as it presently reads, which applies to the spouses of Bahamian citizens, will be amended to permit the Board to grant a spousal permit for an indefinite period instead of the present limitation of five years,” he said.

“Spouses will still be able to apply for permanent Residence with the right to work.

“The spouses of Bahamian men will still have their constitutional entitlement to apply for citizenship of The Bahamas, without having to renounce their citizenship of origin.”

This amendment fulfils a promise from the PLP’s Charter for Governance plan on the question of spousal permits, Mr Mitchell said. It should relieve “many” processing issues and delays that accompany spouses’ applications for legal status in The Bahamas in order to reside and work.

Later in his speech Mr Mitchell said: “In commending the draft amendment to the Immigration Act with regard to spouses, we hope that this is seen as a first step toward ensuring that spouses and women in particular have equality of opportunity in this country.”

Comments

oracleoctavia 7 years, 11 months ago

Lol...now its okay to present the 2002 referendum....Lord help us, a full decade to educate our WOMEN that they have rightss to and should support their OWN RIGHTS!! sad

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

Are these people serious? They were strongly against this in 2002

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

Tribune, do you have any archived articles from 2002 with PM Christie's campaign against the referendum?

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Arob 7 years, 11 months ago

The claim by both the PLP and the Church "the people need more time". Visit Fred Mitchell Uncensored 2002

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

Good looking out...I read Fred Mitchell's Referendum remarks dated 13th of Feb 2002...and he said which is on his own website and in his own words that there is no need to change anything on gender equality because it is a trick by Hubert Ingraham..... and now in 2012 he stands up in the house and said this exact thing needs to be amended....WOW!!! Fred, PM PC, Brave ETC....I got one thing to say to you all the digital age will be your downfall....Mr. Mitchell's website is still up and he now is contradicting himself....that must be why they got beef with CWC and Cable Bahamas they want internet gone cuz it will expose them....and you go ahead and try to delete your 2002 website, won't work buddy everything ever posted on the WWW is archived forever whether you delete the domain or not...the internet erases nothing it will turn back up. Make it easy speak the Truth from Day One

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

In some countries the Government filter the internet and the people see what they want them to see....is that your plan PM?

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welly 7 years, 11 months ago

While on the election campaign, back in 2002, Mr. Christie was very vocal about his opposition to the FNM's proposed referendum to the Constitution. The referendum would have eliminated the current discrimination affecting the spouses of Bahamian women. After the referendum was defeated at the polls, Mr. Christie promised, that if he were elected, he would immediately address the problem. He said he would appoint a "special" commission that would review the Constitution and propose the changes necessary, to ensure that our flawed constitution would be brought into compliance with a UN Convention on the non-discrimination against women, which the Bahamas signed way back in the early 1990's. Well, after the election, the PM did appoint the special commission, but it was comprised of political cronies and headed by the very man who installed the discriminatory verbiage in the original document. Needless to say, nothing has ever been done, and the discrimination continues to this day.

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pilgrimagerock 7 years, 11 months ago

The 2002 referendum was defeated by the PLP's. I have a feeling that this so-called new referendum on Bahamian women rights will be defeated by the Bahamian people, because nobody likes to be made a fool.

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concernedcitizen 7 years, 11 months ago

it has became crystal clear to me ,you don,t win an election here on facts , productivity ,or integrity .you win an election on xenophobia and emotion ..the PLPS main campaign from the 80 ,s on has been ,whitey bad ,whitey bad he ga trick us and take everthing from us ,but we are special even annointed special by God ..once you convince the less educated masses of this you can then rob them blind ....

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Arob 7 years, 11 months ago

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. “Under the present constitution, the way in which Bahamian citizenship is conferred on the spouses and children of Bahamian women, is, to say the least, irregular. The wives of Bahamian men are entitled to Bahamian citizenship; the husbands of Bahamian women are not granted any such entitlement and have to apply for citizenship like any other would-be immigrant. Similarly, the children of Bahamian men, whether born in the Bahamas or not, are Bahamians at birth; the children of Bahamian women have a far more complex fate. If a woman is unmarried, and has a child outside the Bahamas, her child is born Bahamian. But if she is married to a non-Bahamian, and gives birth outside the country, that child is merely entitled to apply for citizenship between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one, and may be refused. If offered citizenship, the child is then forced to renounce any other citizenship in order to receive Bahamian status.” Source: Nicolette Bethel , Engendering The Bahamas: A Gendered Examination of Bahamian Nation Making, or National Identity and Gender in the Bahamian Context, International Journal of Bahamian Studies

The Bahamas’ response to CEDAW: "The Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas does not consider itself bound by the provisions of article 2(a), ... article 9, paragraph 2, ... article 16(h), ... [and] article 29, paragraph 1, of the Convention." The sections contravene our constitution.

The Bahamas made three reports: 5 November 1994; 5 November 1998; and 5 November 2002 Source: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/

The referendum concerning the items was held in 27 February 2002. Question 1: The removal of gender discrimination from the constitution Vote: 34% for and 66% against.

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Arob 7 years, 11 months ago

THE BAHAMAS GOVERNMENT'S RESERVATIONS "The Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas does not consider itself bound by the provisions of article 2(a) States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end: (a) To embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein and to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle;

article 9, paragraph 2 2. States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.

article 16(h) States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration.

article 29, paragraph 1 .Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the present Convention which is not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months from the date of the request for arbitration the parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by request in conformity with the Statute of the Court.

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Arob 7 years, 11 months ago

http://tribune242.com/users/photos/20...">http://thetribune.media.clients.ellin..." alt="None">

by Arob

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

Here is quote from a 2002 Fred Mitchell speech in Fox Hill, which he posted the transcription of on his own website.....

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is important for you to turn up to your respective polling stations and to vote ‘NO’. You must vote ‘NO’ to all five questions. I am like the Honourable Arthur D. Hanna in that regard. I don’t need to know the facts. I just need to know where to vote ‘NO’. "

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

I would assume at this exact moment the crowd went wild and began uncontrollable chants of "PLP ALLLLL THE WAY!!! And A Fresh Wind is Blowing!!! Cuz the "New" PLP 2002 is here!!!"

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Arob 7 years, 11 months ago

And the people voted all the way!

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

Not to be confused with the New New PLP, PLP 2.0, nor PLP 2030....I miss any?

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concernedcitizen 7 years, 11 months ago

what a great way for fly away to quote A D Hanna ,i don,t need to know the facts .i just need to know where to vote no ....

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

Don't worry he ga pull a L. Miller and say he was takin out of context

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sansoucireader 7 years, 11 months ago

I am a Bahamian woman married 24 years to a non-Bahamian, with two daughters born here at Doctors Hospital. What annoys me most about this foolishness is why we females even have to go through this anyway. What were these writers of our constitution thinking when they decided it would be fine to treat future generations this way? Think is, so many of them have foreign wives and children with two passports. Also, reading this article, a non-Bahamian wife can keep her citizenship and become a Bahamian but no mention of the same thing for my husband. Do they even know what it means to be fair and equal??

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bahamianfemale 7 years, 11 months ago

I am so happy I wasn't the only one that noticed that. The Minister talks about eliminating one form of discrimination against females whilst in the same breath highlighting another with no indication to address it. Will the double standards ever end????

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concernedcitizen 7 years, 11 months ago

can u believe in 2012 there still pulling this nonsense ,and with people that live alternative life styles in there ranks they should be againts all forms of discimmination /////

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mayaEN 7 years, 8 months ago

Hi SansSouci, I came across your comment. I am with a women's rights organization in the US called Equality Now. We are very concerned about these sex discriminatory nationality provisions and have been studying the issue closely, and we would really like to be able to speak to someone such as yourself who has personally experienced the effects of this. If you would like to share your story so that we can use it to help illustrate the effects of these laws in our advocacy efforts to get these laws changed, it would be very helpful! You can email me at Mibars@equalitynow.org. Thanks!

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pfunkf 7 years, 11 months ago

IN the words of the DELIVERY BOY the grand duke"history will prove that i was right about the 2002 referendum" the greatest loosers of that day was and still is,is bahamian woman.then mel griffin,glenis hanna,allison maynard,and their plp women compadres all sat dumbstruct idly by and allowed paul adderley, bishop gomez,philipa russel,steve mckinie and the rest of the plp machinery to succeed in destroying what was a most oppertune moment in time for bahamian women.they all ought too hang their heads in public disgrace.the naked truth is that bahamian women have only themselves to blame.they were set back 10 years and still counting.where is the strong,commited,intelligent bahamian women that we hear so much bragging about? why do she surrender her advancement and intreast into the hands of fred mitchel,political prostitute extrodinere?are she admitting that he can speak for and achieve for her what she refuse too demand and posess by her own networking?. who is fooling who?

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pilgrimagerock 7 years, 11 months ago

Well said. Griffin, Hanna-Martin, Maynard-Gibson, Mother Pratt and many others should be ashamed of themselves today but seriously they have no shame and I have no respect for them. These PLP's women allowed sexist-racist men like Paul Adderley, Brady Roberts, Fred Mitchell, and the former Anglican bishop to demean and berate their gender by telling Bahamian women to keep your clothes on.

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mynameis 7 years, 11 months ago

This story alone should indicate to us that politicians lack integrity! Well, by damn! So in 2002 Bahamian women weren't being discriminated against by the Constitution, hey? I suppose this is what we the collective get when we fail to accept responsibility for ourselves and solely rely on politicians to guide and direct us!

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pilgrimagerock 7 years, 11 months ago

The moral lack of responsibility towards our leaders and the total hypocrisy of our Christians values continue to be setback for the Bahamian people. Whether it a health or social or civil or moral issues, we seek guidance and direction from unscrupulous politicians and religious leaders not from the Most High.

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concernedcitizen 7 years, 11 months ago

to my friend mynameis..papa put it to a vote ,we had the chance and the plp rattled that old schackles and chain rethoric and the people ran and voted to shackle themselves and their women again .........2002

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242 7 years, 11 months ago

Not one word from the infamous Tal Russel.......

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bahamasoapmama 7 years, 11 months ago

I find it odd that NONE of the daily papers are calling the PLP out about this referendum and making them explain why now and not 10 years ago.

Why are they not being confronted by our Press by words they said in 2002? Why are our papers allowing the government to bamboozle the people without question?

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