By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
IN its 2016-2017 report on human rights in The Bahamas, Amnesty International has criticised The Bahamas for its “discriminatory” posture towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and for the country’s rejection of last year’s constitutional referendum on gender equality.
“Stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people continued,” the organisation said. “In April, activists founded the group Bahamas Transgender Intersex United. After its first press conference, members of the group reported receiving threats from members of the public.
In May, an MP suggested that transgender people be exiled to another island.”
Amnesty International was referring to Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller who, last May, denounced the transgender community, urging people to provide financing that would allow the community to be exiled to their own private island to ensure “they stay out of the way” of Bahamians.
“If you want to like man, that’s your damn business but don’t try to impose your will on other people,” Mr Miller said in an interview with The Tribune at the time.
“God should hurry up and come and get this over and done so we don’t have to worry about them,” he added.
With respect to last year’s constitutional referendum in which Bahamians rejected changes that would have allowed for greater equality between the sexes, Amnesty International said: “The proposed amendments – backed by the government – would have strengthened anti-discrimination protections based on sex. The result maintained inequality in Bahamian laws so that women and men pass on citizenship to their children and spouses in different ways. The result put at risk the citizenship rights of families, in particular the risk of separation of families with diverse nationalities or children born outside of the Bahamas to Bahamian parents.”
Amnesty International also highlighted concerns raised by organisations like Save the Bays (STB) with respect to privacy rights.
“Local human rights groups expressed fear regarding government surveillance online,” Amnesty said. “In August, the Supreme Court ruled that the Minister of Education (Jerome Fitzgerald) had breached the constitutional rights to privacy and to freedom of expression of members of an environmental group when he obtained and read their private email correspondence in Parliament. Ministers had alleged that the group was seeking to destabilise the government, and argued that parliamentary privilege allowed them to read out the confidential emails. The court held that parliamentary privilege was subject to the supremacy of the Constitution, and ordered the destruction of the correspondence. At the end of the year, it remained unclear how the government had obtained the emails.”
However, in an affidavit filed on January 24, Mr Fitzgerald claimed that the Save the Bays emails he read and tabled in Parliament were printed out and delivered to him in a “sealed envelope,” adding that he did not know how the documents were accessed. Mr Fitzgerald is appealing the ruling.
“In November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights granted precautionary measures to members of the environmental group who allegedly received threats against their lives and personal integrity because of their work as human rights defenders. The government, in response, said the allegations were misrepresented,” Amnesty International added.
Government officials have traditionally been dismissive of Amnesty’s annual report.
Last year, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell criticised the organisation for “uncritically” accepting allegations made by local organisations.