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'Don't Let Equality Become A Political Football'

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMAS Crisis Centre Director Dr Sandra Dean Patterson yesterday urged opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis not to turn the upcoming constitutional referendum into a political football.

Her comments came shortly after Dr Minnis spoke in the House of Assembly and said the Free National Movement could not support the four constitutional amendment bills as they are, in spite of an earlier pledge that his party supported the referendum process.

Dr Patterson suggested that the referendum be delayed if misinformation over the intended changes cannot be resolved, adding that she was disappointed with the negative statements made by younger parliamentarians.

She spoke at a press conference hosted by a coalition of women’s rights advocates and equality education ambassadors, who demonstrated support for the proposed bills outside of the House of Assembly.

She underscored the critical need for factual public education in a bid to combat cultural fears and confusion over two taboo areas of Bahamian society: homosexuality and nationality.

She warned that the democratic exercise was in danger of meeting the same fate of the 2002 referendum after learning that Dr Minnis had backtracked on his initial pledge that the FNM would wholly support the proposed amendments.

“For us in the trenches at the Crisis Centre,” she said, “where we see the silent victims who suffer as a consequence of gender based discrimination and inequality, this is a time for us to make a difference.

“This is a time for us not to be distracted by the naysayers and not to be distracted by the calls about same sex marriage.

“This is about men and women as equal and working together on having the same opportunities to pass citizenship onto their children, the same opportunity to live lives free from violence,” she added.

She charged both Prime Minister Perry Christie and Dr Minnis to “hold fast to the helm”, and not to be distracted or deterred by politics.

“I would challenge Dr Minnis not to lose the momentum he had when this bill was first mentioned (three) weeks ago,” Dr Patterson said.

“It’s very important for the opposition and the government to come together and speak out in one voice. We cannot allow this to become a political football, that’s what happened the last time and we’re walking that same road.

Noelle Nicolls, coalition spokesperson, said concerns about gay marriage as a result of the amendments were a “distraction” from the real issue.

“The Constitution was not a perfect document, it was created so that it wasn’t static, it created a mechanism for change because it recognised that over time culture changes and culture evolves.

“We’re here to say that in 2014 we stand for a Bahamas, we believe in a Bahamas that believes in equal rights for men and women and we believe that the referendum right now is the opportunity for us to affirm that belief. We are here as foot soldiers to continue the fight until we have equality for all women and men in the Bahamas.”

Debate on the four bills to amend the Constitution resumed yesterday with several parliamentarians stating that they would not support select bills unless further changes are made.

Earlier this week, Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Dr Bernard Nottage confirmed that the questions have been simplified, and further consideration is being given to the wording of the amendments.

At that time, Dr Nottage maintained that the government would not move forward with the referendum if there was not unanimous support.

The first bill would enable a child born outside the Bahamas to a Bahamian woman to have automatic Bahamian citizenship at birth. However, the government does not plan to have the clause operate retroactively.

Other bills include allowing a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the Constitution in relation to his foreign wife.

The third bill would give an unwed Bahamian father the same right to pass citizenship to his child that a Bahamian woman has always had under the Constitution in relation to a child born to her out of wedlock. Presently, an unmarried Bahamian father cannot pass his citizenship to a child born to a foreign woman.

The fourth bill, which seeks to end discrimination based on sex, remains contentious as speculation continues over whether the amendment could one day lead to gay marriage.

This involves the insertion of the word “sex” in Article 26 of the Constitution to make it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.

Comments

birdiestrachan 5 years, 7 months ago

I may be wrong, But I believe this constitutional referendum will fail the same as the 2002 .I do not care what they call me. I am voting NO, to all four. Women rights?? Bahamian men are falling so far behind in the Country. they really need to step up and take their right full place..

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mangogirl01 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, it will fail and like you, I will be voting no to all four also. I don't know what all the noise is about regarding women's right but I was bought up to believe that the man is head of the home, we, women take his surname in marriage and I still believe that. We have some good men out there and thank God I have one and I give him his due respect and he gives me mine in all aspects of our marriage and daily lives.

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vision101 5 years, 7 months ago

Regarding the comment by birdiestrachan, please tell me why it is you feel Bahamian women should be punished because Bahamian men are falling behind? Why are those men falling behind, especially when they are offered the same opportunities and in some cases more opportunities and rights as Bahamian women? Don't punish one gender for the faults of another. Bahamian men need to get educated, stop chasing every gown tail that walks by, creating multiple illegitimate children and not supporting them, looking for a quick easy buck, having crimanalistic minds and stand up strong to make the difficult choices and sacrifices that makes a REAL man and not one who thinks he is a man because he was born with a male part. Real men make the sacrifices and realize that if they build themselves up, they also build up the Bahamian women and Bahamian families. DON'T PUNISH A WOMEN BECAUSE MEN ARE FAILING AT THEIR JOBS AND WOMEN ARE HAVING TO BE BOTH WOMAN AND MAN.

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DEDDIE 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually as a man, I don't think they need my vote to passed any amendment to the constitution with regards to women equality. There are enough women voters to passed any equal rights legislation they could envision. If the women don't want it, why should I care. By the way the PLP can't be trusted with carrying out the results of a referendums. They have lost all credibility when it comes to referendums.

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vision101 5 years, 7 months ago

Bahamian people please get educated and stop indulging in ignorance. Equality of rights between men and women are essential in our changing world. The proposal for a Bahamian woman marrying a foreign spouse to have the same rights as a Bahamian man does not change traditional gender roles (if that is your preferred view), that man, although a foriegner can still hold a leadership role. There are Bahamian men marrying foreign women who come to the country and have to seek employment; therefore this idea of a man fully supporting a woman once he marries her is an archaic view and one that is almost impossible in the society we live in as far as economics. BOTH the man and woman are having to work to keep the family financially afloat. Why is it right for a Bahamian man to have these human rights but Bahamian women not be afforded the same rights?

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vision101 5 years, 7 months ago

Regarding the comment by birdiestrachan, please tell me why it is you feel Bahamian women should be punished because Bahamian men are falling behind? Why are those men falling behind, especially when they are offered the same opportunities and in some cases more opportunities and rights as Bahamian women? Don't punish one gender for the faults of another. Bahamian men need to get educated, stop chasing every gown tail that walks by, creating multiple illegitimate children and not supporting them, looking for a quick easy buck, having crimanalistic minds and stand up strong to make the difficult choices and sacrifices that makes a REAL man and not one who thinks he is a man because he was born with a male part. Real men make the sacrifices and realize that if they build themselves up, they also build up the Bahamian women and Bahamian families. DON'T PUNISH A WOMEN BECAUSE MEN ARE FAILING AT THEIR JOBS AND WOMEN ARE HAVING TO BE BOTH WOMAN AND MAN.

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