By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE Free National Movement and by extension the government does not condone any form of domestic violence, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday.
This follows intense backlash in the country with many criticising Dr Minnis for not taking a position on the matter and condemnation of MICAL MP Miriam Emmanuel, with calls for her to resign after she last week insinuated there was nothing wrong with a woman being "manhandled" by her husband who might decide to "slap," "shake," or "punch" her in the mouth for challenging him.
In his first public comments about the matter, the prime minister told The Tribune yesterday the fact that the first-time MP apologised to the nation mere hours after making the comments showed remorse and that the intent was never to offend anyone.
However, Bahamas Crisis Centre Deputy Director Donna Nicolls has called for her resignation, adding that the apology is not accepted.
Asked whether he has spoken to Mrs Emmanuel about her shocking remarks, Dr Minnis suggested the matter would come up during a parliamentary caucus meeting last night.
"You know the FNM, we never condone or endorse any form of violence and whatever she may have said she apologised immediately," Dr Minnis said yesterday.
"Obviously when an individual apologises, they obviously feel remorseful and it shows that offending anyone was not the intention of what they said."
When his attention was drawn to public criticism over the government's failure to strongly rebuke the situation, Dr Minnis said: "The party has said on numerous occasions we do not condone any form of violence and we believe in equality, equality for all regardless of religion, sex or otherwise.
"That has always been our party's position and that is what the torch represents."
On Thursday when he spoke in the Senate, Attorney General Carl Bethel said Mrs Emmanuel's comments were "ill advised," adding no form of domestic violence is tolerated by Bahamas law. He said The Bahamas was well beyond the days of patrimonial control of the family.
Senator Bethel said domestic violence is not to be joked about as was the case when the comments were initially made.
"As the leader of government business in this place and the attorney general for this great country," Mr Bethel said last week, "I have taken note of certain ill-advised comments that were made by a member of the other place yesterday (Wednesday) pertaining to an illusion or an equivocation of the Speaker exercising authority in the House and unfortunate domestic situations that often or may arise in the country.
"The speaker of those comments immediately and to her credit gave a full and unreserved apology for that. I do, however, feel the obligation as attorney general to state for the record that no form of domestic violence can be tolerated under our law or in any way in this Commonwealth of The Bahamas," Mr Bethel said.
"We are beyond those days of what they would call in the old days the patrimonial control of the family. That is over. The modern world would recognise the partnership and consensual based nature of marriage and would also affirm the absolute equality of women and men and the absolute integrity that must be given and accorded to every human being, which is a sacred thing not to be violated whether in the bonds of marriage or not to be joked about as occurred in the last Parliament."
He continued: "So I simply say on behalf of the government that we affirm our full commitment to the full equality and the full integrity of every human being male or female and under no circumstances can we condone or make light of domestic violence. That being said, the speaker who erred in that way has made a full and absolute apology and I do believe as a society we should accept that apology and let us now move on to a higher level of civil discourse in our society."
In the House last Wednesday, Mrs Emmanuel spoke during a moment when members of Parliament were giving words of support to Speaker Halson Moultrie over the disciplinary action he decided to take against Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin.
"I am the seventh of ten daughters and I recall as we began to mature and take on marriage and family, one of the things that my father often say to us as his daughters, if you want to remain a lady, if you want to remain treated as a lady, then you must behave like a lady," she said.
"And he said if there ever comes a time when you have to come back to this house and say to me as your father that your husband shook you, or give you a slap or punch you in your mouth, I will analyse while I listen to you. I will analyse the consequences that would have caused your husband to probably shake you, slap you or punch you in your mouth.
"And I said simply what my father was saying that we are to respect each other, have respect for your priest, your provider and your protector. So in this honourable House it's no exception from a marriage relationship if you as a woman want to come up in your husband's face and behave like you are a man, my father said then you will get manhandled," she continued.
A short while later, the MP "sincerely" apologised for the comments. She said her remarks were taken out of context and misunderstood, adding she did not condone domestic violence of any kind.