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Bethel Slams Comments By Archdeacon Palacious

Archdeacon James Palacious addresses supporters at the Majority Rule gospel concert on Tuesday, saying "We live in a society where the rich gets richer and the poor get children". Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune Staff

Archdeacon James Palacious addresses supporters at the Majority Rule gospel concert on Tuesday, saying "We live in a society where the rich gets richer and the poor get children". Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune Staff

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

TARGETING the “racist and misogynistic” statements made by Anglican Archbishop James Palacious last week,

Noted Bahamian attorney, author, and United Nations expert Marion Bethel called for the elevation of women’s voices and institutions to push back against the predominant misogynistic and discriminatory climate in the country.

Mrs Bethel cautioned community leaders against taking the easy route by using uninformed, inflammatory and offensive statements to garner sound bites as it is unproductive, leads to a real misunderstanding of their intentions, and hinders progress towards possible solutions.

She reacted to “inflammatory” statements made by public figures on the Majority Rule Day holiday, and reports that women have been denied the right to register to vote due to their attire, during an interview with The Tribune on Thursday.

To the reports of women being turned away at voter registration sites, she said: “It really has to just stop, period, end of story. I feel as though this is part of the result of the climate created during the (equality) referendum around women, our dignity, our bodies, the choices that we make, it’s part of the same continuum for me.

“I don’t think that we’ve really addressed it and I think more women’s voices need to be raised and women’s institutions need to speak to this violation of ourselves and our integrity. It’s not going to get any better until we actually stand up and say no more,” she said.

On Tuesday, Archdeacon Palacious admonished black and poor people for having children that they cannot afford as he underscored the need for Bahamians to take greater personal responsibility for social ills in the country, and its development.

Addressing a crowd of supporters at the end of a march to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Majority Rule, he declared that “black people breed too much,” and explained that “unless we can control our reproductive process we will always be recycling poverty.”

“I’m really offended by the words ‘black people breed too much,’” Mrs Bethel said. “It relegates me and black people in this country to animals and it echoes for me certain aspects of slavery when we’re talking about breeding people, which is totally disgusting and obscene.

“In this country, black, white, Asian, we all live in social institutions as human beings with human relations and social relations that are different. If we want to effect change of understanding of reproductive capacity, then I would call on the church, and I would call on the school, and other institutions that are really concerned about the issue.

“This is something that we as human beings need to address, young people and adults, we all need access to information about our reproductive health, about our sexual rights, so we can make informed decisions about our bodies and how many children we want and when we want them,” she added.

Father Palacious’ call to “control the reproductive process” follows comments made by Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn, who also attempted to broach the subject of family planning by suggesting mandatory and state-sponsored sterilisation of unwed mothers with more than two children as an anti-crime initiative. Mr Lightbourn made those comments during the Free National Movements convention last July, and faced strong backlash from many people, including Father Palacious, parliamentarians, and local advocacy groups.

At that time, the archdeacon condemned Mr Lightbourn’s proposal as “completely repulsive”, but acknowledged that the country needed to engage in a national family planning programme to prevent the “madness” of multiple children being reared in undesirable circumstances.

Archdeacon Palacious reiterated this point last Tuesday, telling crowds that while Mr Lightbourn’s comments were “most unfortunate,” he agreed with the principle of what the Montagu MP was trying to say.

“You have children on the lunch programme right now mothers,” Father Palacious said on Tuesday, “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.”

Father Palacious also said that he is “dismayed” that the 2016 gender equality referendum did not prevail, and disappointed that on the 50th anniversary of Majority Rule, that the majority of Bahamians still did not have some fundamental rights under the Constitution.

During Thursday’s interview, Mrs Bethel also highlighted disparaging statements made by Dame Joan Sawyer at the We March demonstration also staged on the holiday.

Dame Joan urged Bahamians to be more critical as citizens and consumers, and criticised several government initiatives like value added tax and Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival. She also zeroed in on the morality of the carnival event, which she described as a festival where women make themselves “exhibits”.

“You call that upward movement?” she asked.

“No way, no time, must we as a people forget what our foreparents struggled for. You do not climb to the top on your back, women.

Dame Joan said that women who engaged in such actions had no right to demand respect.

“It seems to me that whenever we’re talking about social mores it comes down to women,” Mrs Bethel said, “it doesn’t come down to men. It comes down to women being this way, or immoral, or lacking, it’s nothing else. It really is a climate right now where women are being scapegoated for all kinds of social ills.

“It’s women and men who are really downgrading women, and men are not subject to this type of analysis of morality. It’s always a woman’s morality that is the problem or issue. We have a lot of work to do in changing this kind of gender bias, that’s fundamentally what it is, the double standard of morality,” Mrs Bethel said.

“I’m not surprised there are women that support what Father Palacious has said, just like there are many people that supported what Richard Lightbourn was saying. It’s no matter whether you’re black or white, that doesn’t make it better, more accessible, or less racist. It’s entirely misogynistic.”

Mrs Bethel noted that while it was easy to give sound bites and lambaste the public, she personally desired leaders to be a part of the solution by using their platform to espouse productive, helpful and informed views. She added that according to officials from the Bahamas Association of Sexual Health and Rights, teenage pregnancy was trending down in 2016.

Mrs Bethel said: “I really want to see a primary and high school curriculum that speaks to these issues, and of gender stereotypes that may make young women feel that they should have children for esteem.

“This is a part of socialisation that we have made happen so we can change it. It’s not just about young women and our capacity to bear children but about a very comprehensive approach to the integrity of our bodies, the choices of our bodies.”

Mrs Bethel said: “The question is bigger and larger than what Father Palacious is putting forward, his view is not informed in my opinion and it’s not a helpful view. It doesn’t take us to the next stage of understanding the issue of reproduction, taking care of our children, being responsible citizens, these are larger issues than the way he is framing it.”

“You must not throw out words that are inflammatory, that are not productive, that lead to a real misunderstanding of what you’re saying. Don’t start off with that,” she added, “for me that shows what you really think, but as a leader you ought to be better informed about the issues.”

Mrs Bethel is among 11 experts elected to serve on the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

She is also the wife of Progressive Liberal Party leadership candidate and former Attorney General Alfred Sears.

Comments

Jonahbay 1 year, 9 months ago

Thank you Marion Bethel, in the Bahamas we are drowning in misogyny and finally an expert has drawn attention to this. Women are degraded in the Bahamas, not allowed to pass on their own citizenship as a man can. Told that they are less, written in law, than men. Judged more negatively than men if they choose to do what men do.

I remember growing up in a patriarchal house where the boys did not cook, they did not clean, they got the best piece of meat and had their food taken up first. My male relatives did whatever they wanted and they had a sense of entitlement that boggles the mind.

It seems that in The Bahamas as with the middle east, a lot of women are happy with their lot. Men are the head of the house and far be it from me to question him. Far be it from me to go against my religious leader who said that I am Adam's rib and I belong to Adam. This continuum that Ms Bethel so rightly speaks, is full of Bahamian women who do not question their lot in life. Who savor being less than as their expected place, who break down other woman who may decide to think otherwise. A curriculum that forces critical thinking about gender stereotypes would be a step in the right direction. We have a real problem here and pretending that we don't drives us deeper into this misogyny.

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banker 1 year, 9 months ago

So if Marion Bethel is a champion of women's rights and Bahamians, what is she doing being married to a PLP minister? Palacious is a PLP supporter. It is the PLP that created this socio-economic mess, and her husband is contaminated by the PLP criminality. This is typical hypocrisy and lack of cognitive dissonance that is shot throughout Bahamian society. Cannot this woman see that it is the party that her husband hopes to head, that has campaigned against equality for women the first time around???????????????? Sigh ... there is no hope for this country.

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 9 months ago

Call on the church ???? Is she crazy ? Those are the bastards that created this mess and continue to maintain it. Churches love a system that breeds ignorant slaves.

TheMadHatter

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bogart 1 year, 9 months ago

When the proposed Bill to protect rape against their wives the Bahamas Christian Council was against of course the good majority male Pastors closed their eyes to the wutless no good husbands with economic power sweetheartin den lil girls and all jungalists and going home and wanting the wife to agree to sex. Failure of the Church to Church itself and fail to teach outside the Church building the Christian values leads to many not heeding tou shall not kill, tief etc as evident today. Many wives submit to get a few dollars to pay the loan and food for the children. Majority of single mothers do not have any male for some reason to come forward and put the baby's name for the father. Of course when the majority of males in Parliament came to put for the Bill against husbands raping wives time had run out and the vacation started. Of course despite all the publicity of the Equal Rights for women this Bill too was defeated and of course an almost equal number of men in population it simply wasn't all the women plus some men who out voted the Bill and worrisome that if all the females voted for Equality then why was the Bill defeated in almost all areas except Montagu? The Church and the politicians seem to work hand in hand. Its time. Thank you Bethel for standing up.

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birdiestrachan 1 year, 9 months ago

The Priest has a point, Mr: Lightbourne had a point. It makes no sense for a woman who is single to have a whole bunch of children, sometimes for different men. how many children does MS: Marion Bethel have?

It is not easy bringing up children in todays world in the right way, It is a serious Responsibility, and it should be taken seriously,but at the same time the choice should be that of the individual,

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 9 months ago

Mrs Bethel should inquire at Customs how many..cases of Ramen Noodles are imported each year. Thats the salt in disguise that poor children have to eat.

TheMadHatter

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