By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE country’s Sexual Offences Act was identified as “anti-women” by an international news agency over the lack of protection against spousal rape.
The Bahamas was named in a photo essay that highlighted countries with laws that were deemed “anti-women” by UK news site The Independent.
A picture of an island coast was used with an overlay of the words: “In The Bahamas, a man can rape his wife if she’s over 14.”
The piece was published on Friday, and has been shared more than 7,000 times across various social media platforms.
In the Sexual Offences Act, rape is defined as an act of any person not under 14 years of age having sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse without consent.
A spouse can only be found guilty of a sexual assault if the couple is separated, in the process of divorce, or if there is a restraining order in place.
The country’s legislative stance on spousal rape has repeatedly come under scrutiny from international groups, like Amnesty International and the US State Department.
A heated national debate was sparked after a Marital Rape Bill was introduced to Parliament by Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner in July 2009.
Mrs Butler-Turner, then minister of state for social development, said that the law was out-dated as spousal rape had long been outlawed in many other countries.
The 2009 amendment faced staunch opposition and the Ingraham administration shelved the bill.
Mrs Butler-Turner yesterday called spousal rape legislation a “moral right” that Bahamians did not buy into. In her opinion the amendment never progressed because of the “loud” voices that overshadowed what she considered a silent majority.
Mrs Butler-Turner said she felt the argument for the bill could have been strengthened if male legislators had been more emphatic about their support.
“I think that when you look at this holistically it was not just them (detractors). It was women who actually did not believe that it was possible for them to be raped by their husbands.”
“The majority of individuals from all the town meetings and sessions that I attended was that they didn’t see an issue with it.
“You cannot move a country beyond where it wants to go,” she said.
“I believe that if our administration had put more emphasis on it, from male legislators, that that would have strengthened the argument, but that didn’t happen.”
When asked whether she would lobby for the amendment again, Mrs Butler-Turner said: “I think we have bigger hurdles to overcome first and those are for women to appreciate their value. Women really need to appreciate their value in terms of gender equality, that will help us to have a more equitable society.”