Bahamas rejects UN Human Rights proposals due to ‘Christian values’

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.


Tribune Staff Reporter


THE Bahamas, in its United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) review last January, strongly rejected proposals to address discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity as they were seen as being against the country’s respect for Christian values.

In a report submitted by the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group session on the Bahamas, observers noted the Bahamian delegation led by Attorney General Senator Carl Bethel opposed dozens of the 141 recommendations put forth by the group.

The report noted: “Many delegations recommended that the Bahamas strengthen its efforts to end discrimination against women and on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to promote gender equality amongst others by ascending to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”

The report also indicated that several states recommended amending the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act and criminalising marital rape and the introduction of laws that provide for redress to people subject to discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It was at this point Senator Bethel committed the country to major legislative benchmarks on the issue of marital rape and migrant rights as he defended the country’s performance on human rights obligations.

However, he rejected calls for more stringent handling of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the body, Mr Bethel went to great lengths to highlight the progress the Bahamas has made since the last UPR in 2013.

The group said Mr Bethel emphasised the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the upcoming ratification of Convention against Torture, successful cooperation with United Nations special procedures and the creation of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI).

The report added that Mr Bethel reassured the audience the Bahamas’ constitution guarantees freedom of expression and opinions, and human rights defenders are accorded full respect with any restrictions.

The report also highlighted the delegation’s rejection of recommendations to establish a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

During debate on the issue, the report said most delegations in attendance called for a moratorium that would have immediately halted all sentences and executions, with a view towards abolition of the death penalty, as well as ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Commenting states also recommended the government carry out a broad awareness campaign, disseminating different alternatives to the death penalty.

Several of these states reportedly also expressed concern with regard to cases of torture and recommended ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

In response, the report said Mr Bethel asserted the Bahamas would have to maintain its principled position on the retention of the death penalty and continue to recognise the lawfulness of the death penalty as a punishment for the crimes of murder and treason.

Additionally, the UPR’s working group recommended changes be made to the use of corporal punishment, which it noted was still allowed in elementary, secondary and senior schools.

The Bahamas was one of 14 countries reviewed during UNHRC’s UPR Working Group session in Geneva.

The review marked the third time in ten years the Bahamas was examined by the organisation.

On the rights of migrants and refugees, the report added: “Several delegations recommended strengthening the national framework for the protection of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, with appropriate assistance from the international community.”

To that end, the report claimed some of the states in attendance recommended that the Bahamas adopt a national action plan focused on victims of trafficking.

Lastly, the report said several delegations recommended the Bahamas enhance its efforts to strengthen the effective implementation and enforcement of the country’s labour laws, and ratify and implement the ILO’s Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention 1930.


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