By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ACTIVIST Terneille Burrows yesterday said while The Bahamas “needs to do a better job” at providing access to sex education programmes and institutions, certain “pastors” and “politicians” should not give an opinion on the topic unless willing to “prove that they’re worth their salt” by actively working to remedy the issues.
She was contacted for comment a day after Anglican Archdeacon James Palacious, during the end of a march to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Majority Rule on Tuesday, said “black people breed too much” and that Bahamians “should stop having babies” they cannot afford.
Ms Burrows, in an interview with The Tribune, said although she concedes that “reproductive health and reproductive rights are important and we shouldn’t be irresponsible with them”, she is not going to allow “prominent figures” to “soapbox and then feel like they gave a good speech” about preventing unwanted and unplanned births without implementing “some sort of programme towards facilitating this happening.”
Ms Burrows said if they do that, then “I could take them seriously believe that they’re worth their salt in terms of actually stepping up to the plate and doing something about it.”
However, she said, “more often than not the burden of responsibility seems to fall at the feet of mothers for whatever reason,” when the “burden” of sexual responsibility should be placed equally on both men and women.
She also called on persons from all levels of civil society to be responsible about “how we mention (reproductive rights) in public.”
On Tuesday, the archdeacon said while Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn’s July 2016 proposal for state-sponsored sterilisation of women was “most unfortunate,” he agrees with the principle of what Mr Lightbourn was trying to say. Archdeacon Palacious said unless “we find a way to control out reproductive processes” The Bahamas will be stuck recycling poverty.
Regarding women specifically, the archdeacon said: “You have children on the lunch programme right now mothers, and you going having some more, come on man. Give me a break, give yourself a break. God didn’t put you here as any baby machine, he put you here to be a productive citizen of this country. That is what we need.”
In response, however, Ms Burrows said: “I don’t want them to just say these things standing up, soapbox and then feel like they gave a good speech, him or Richard Lightbourn. I want to know if they’re going to team up and get together and help to create awareness on these issues and provide better access to contraception.
“I take note that he specifically mentioned mothers versus fathers. So I take slight with that component that mothers were singled out. But generally reproductive rights are important, they’re human rights, they should be respected.
“I’m not going to allow the people that say these things to get off and just say these things without calling for them now to either work with existing institutions like what used to be called the Bahamas Family Planning Centre,” she added. “If I see a partnership between those agencies, this pastor, that politician, or anybody else, any other man who feels like this is something they want to speak on, then I could take them seriously and I could believe that they’re worth their salt in terms of actually stepping up to the plate and doing something about it.”
She added: “More often than not the burden of responsibility seems to fall at the feet of mothers for whatever reason. And clearly the mother will carry the child to birth, and that means that the mother is directly responsible from before that point onward, because the mother would have had that incubation period. But where does the responsibility lie with fathers in our society?
“Have we just accepted that because the rate of single parent homes which are usually single mothers are so high and has been since the ‘70s, that that’s just fine and the mothers are where we should place the brunt of the blame?”
She added that the country needed to place more emphasis on education on reproductive health.
“And Bahamians need to actively seek out contraceptives and things like that, those that believe in usage of that stuff. It’s not like we don’t have these things available, sometimes we don’t know where to go.”
Last year, Mr Lightbourn proposed that the country adopt legislation that mandates unwed mothers with more than two children have their “tubes tied” in an effort to curtail the country’s social ills.
Mr Lightbourn’s comments drew the ire of many people, with some parliamentarians, local advocacy groups, and Archdeacon Palacious himself swiftly condemning him for his statements. Mr Lighbourn has since apologised for his remarks.