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Nov 6 Set For Equal Rights Vote

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Tribune Staff Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

IN AN unexpected move yesterday, the Christie administration tabled four highly anticipated Bills in the House of Assembly that will amend the Constitution with a view to abolishing gender discrimination enshrined in the document.

The Bills, once passed in the lower chamber and agreed upon by the Senate, will enable the government to hold a referendum to alter the constitution. That referendum, Prime Minister Perry Christie told members of Parliament, is expected to take place on November 6, 2014.

Last October, Mr Christie announced that the constitutional bills would be brought to Parliament before the end of 2013 and passed by February 2014. At that time, he said the referendum would be held by June 2014. The referendum was initially expected in June 2013, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of independence, and was later put off until November 2013.

“It gives me great pleasure to foreshadow the introduction and first reading of four separate bills to amend the Constitution of the Bahamas,” Mr Christie said. These four bills, representing the first round of constitutional reform, are bound together by a common thread – the need to institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and, more broadly, to eliminate discrimination in the Bahamas based on sex.

“It is the government’s intention, subject to further consultations with the Opposition, to have the four constitutional bills debated and passed in both houses of Parliament in the shortest possible time so as to maximise the time available for discussion and dialogue throughout the country in advance of a national constitutional referendum.”

Opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis called on all Bahamians to make a bold effort to see the Constitution reformed to incorporate equality for all and stressed that the results of the vote will be binding.

He said: “The success of this effort will require a bold and unified multi-partisan and multi-sectoral effort on the part, not just of the political parties but of civil organisations, to offer advice and support to the Commission behind the scenes.

“Those persons who might feel some way discomfited by events which have followed a recent referendum should not be in anyway discouraged. This constitutional referendum will count. The results of this referendum will be important and binding. I therefore urge every Bahamian to play a meaningful role in listening to the Parliamentary debate on the bills, reading the bills, attending educational meetings which will shortly commence, carefully considering the proposals in a non-partisan and public spirited manner, and to vote your conscience.”

First, the Bahamas Constitution Bill 2014 seeks to achieve gender equality. It would enable a child born outside the Bahamas to a Bahamian woman to have automatic Bahamian citizenship at birth. Presently, only those born in another country to a Bahamian father are able to take automatically Bahamian status, but not if the father is non-Bahamian and the mother is Bahamian.

However, Mr Christie said the change will not operate retroactively. The government will grant Bahamian citizenship to all applicants born abroad after July 9, 1973  - and before the law changes – to a Bahamian-born mother and non-Bahamian father, subject to the exceptions and in accordance with procedures already prescribed by law.

The second bill enables 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 spouse. The Bill contains provisions designed to ensure foreigners, male or female, who enter into bogus marriages with Bahamian citizens, will not be assisted by this constitutional change.

A foreign spouse who wants to acquire Bahamian citizenship based on marriage to a Bahamian will not be eligible for the constitutional change if they are no longer married to a Bahamian, if they are married but have no intention of living with the Bahamian spouse, or if it can be shown that the foreign spouse only married the Bahamian to access Bahamian citizenship. In all these cases, Bahamian citizenship applications will be denied.

The third Bill seeks to remediate the one area of the Constitution that discriminates against men based on gender. Presently, an unmarried Bahamian father cannot pass his citizenship to a child born to a foreign woman. The Bill will 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. However, proof of paternity by one of the methods prescribed by law is required.

The final Bill will end discrimination based on sex. 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.

It makes clear that the existing exceptions will continue to apply. In particular same-sex marriages will remain unlawful as prescribed under the Matrimonial Causes Act.

Comments

Thinker 4 years, 9 months ago

Governments: Without them, we wouldn't have morals. We wouldn't be able to build our own roads. Or figure out our own electricity sources. I'm so thankful that they are always increasing taxes to make us better and happier people.

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Tommy77 4 years, 9 months ago

@Thinker... I agree 100%http://s04.flagcounter.com/mini/kfoW/..." style="display:none" />

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

Perry ................. even this show of support for women cant save your sorry ass "legacy" now

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 9 months ago

Interesting date .................... the day after Guy Fawkes Day????????? Perry must be gat a sixth sense about something................. LOL

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Hogfish 4 years, 9 months ago

perry the hypocritical penile implant.

when the fnm held the same referendum years ago he campaigned against it. remember the 'if ya don't know, vote no!' with more free t-shirts. knowing full well that 'his' voters wouldn't be bothered to educate themselves about what they were voting for. (if they can even read).

i'll give it to minnis the muppet though, at least he has the decency to support this one rather opposing just for the sake of it.

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asiseeit 4 years, 9 months ago

If Mr. Christie does not like the outcome of this referendum will it also all of a sudden become an opinion poll as well? This man has destroyed the democratic process in this country to repay his donation masters, the numbers man. The corruption is just so in your face with these guys it is disgusting.

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divacarmetia 4 years, 9 months ago

BAHAMIAN women need to get serious and more intelligent on the issues that affect them. The proposed bill for equality is just that and not the immature statement of calling it the "sweet heart Bill". This should b about the importance and equal rights of innocent children parented by Bahamian. All WOMEN and or men need to accept the cold hard reality that " you can not control your spouse sexual relation". Innocent children should not suffer because OF YOUR SELFISH IMMORAL ACTIONS. MOST IMPORTANT BAHAMIANS need to be more intellectual and rational, and realize that they are BAHAMIANS FIRST and not plp or fnm. When will we do things that are better for US AS A NATION and not which political party we voted for. Please Bahamians, if for respect only when we refer to our country leaders whether PLP,FNM, DNA OR ANY OTHER political members let's gave them the RESPECT they deserve. Please my Bahamian brothers and sisters, we are smart and kind people let that be reflected in our actions towards each other especially when the issue affects us a a whole. " May you always seek wisdom and compassion" .

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