By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE group Bahamas Trans Intersex United has suggested Attorney General Carl Bethel overstated the work the government has done to accommodate the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community when he addressed an international body recently.
Last week, Mr Bethel told those gathered for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group that the Bahamas has a history of extending minor legal protections and tolerance for LGBTI members. While in Geneva, Switzerland, he pinpointed the country’s act of decriminalising buggery in 1991.
However, according to lead spokesperson of BTIU Alexus D’Marco, this is “laughable”.
Human rights advocate Erin Greene yesterday added that while the government is LGBTI positive at first glance, it does not mean LGBTI Bahamians have full access to police services, medical and mental health services, education and social services, among other things.
“The Bahamas Trans Intersex United (BTIU) thanks Attorney General Carl Bethel for his leadership in recognising the contribution and representation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community in the Bahamas,” Ms D’Marco said in a recent statement. “We, however, note the lack of awareness and sensitisation on the part of the authorities. The LGBTI citizens of Bahamas are thankful for the ‘buggery law’ being expunged in 1991.
“The Bahamas continues to receive recommendations to improve its human rights record on the protection afforded to all of its citizens, including LGBTI citizens. The Bahamas Trans Intersex United and The DMARCO Organisation will continue to monitor, record and engage as watchdogs on the ground to hold government to account to meet its obligations. We are all citizens and family to someone. The Constitution exists to protect citizens, and allows for amendments if any loopholes are found.
“Although we can be happy with Bethel for referencing the work and representation of the community, we kindly ask that he has a sit-down with the community. This is necessary in order to better understand the issues we face and what discrimination may hinder persons from accessing and reporting violations to state actors.
“When reporting to international bodies, representatives of the government have a tendency to overstate the work they have done, and ignore shortcomings known to key populations. Reference to the decriminalisation of buggery in 1991 is laughable when almost 30 years later, the mere mention of sex or gender causes national panic,” she said.
Ms D’Marco called on the Attorney General’s Office to show its support at the national level for all citizens.
Regarding this issue, Ms Greene accused the Christie administration of conspiring with the church and other social actors in the gender equality referendum to make intersex and non-gender conforming Bahamians invisible by defining biological gender as male or female only.
She said: “In fact, in 2016, the Bahamian government conspired with the church and other social actors in the gender equality referendum to ‘invisibilise’ intersex and gender non-conforming Bahamians by defining biological sex as ‘male or female only’. Governments have an inherent obligation to create or to provide the resources for the creation of an environment (country) in which all citizens can live free of violence.
“What governments should not do is use minority and vulnerable groups as tools for negotiating political power, whether locally or internationally. Women, the LGBTI community, the church and people of faith are not tools and assets to be used to gain political favours.”