PEOPLE would do well to pay attention to the words of Bishop Simeon Hall today.
It is refreshing to see a prominent leader – either in the church or in the world of politics – speak so plainly about what should be a simple topic to support: stopping sexual abuse.
Particular of note are his comments on sexual abuse within married relationships, a matter that has gone too long unresolved in The Bahamas.
“Churches need to talk more openly and honestly about the gift of sex and boldly decry instances of sexual abuse, including among family members and between married couples,” he said.
Again, you would think these would be words that would be obvious – that support for those victimized even within their relationships should be essential. Sadly, we know all too well this has not always been the case.
Infamously, there was former DNA leader Branville McCartney, who said he did not think that spousal rape should be illegal before backtracking and saying that he would put the matter to the people.
Since then, we have had then Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Lanisha Rolle who said “in relation to marital rape, I’ve always said it is an issue that is private”. It’s no doubt a good thing that a reshuffle took her away from the social services department that offers support to the victims of such incidents.
Her replacement, Frankie Campbell, said that the government can no longer ignore calls for legislation on the matter of marital rape. The trouble is, he said that in January and here we are on the verge of May with nothing further done.
In July last year, Attorney General Carl Bethel said it was unlikely a Marital Rape Bill would be brought forward until sometime this year. There’s certainly no sign of any rush.
It is all the more galling because in December 2017, a representative from the UN, Dubravka Šimonovi, called marital rape the most pressing gender-based issue facing our country.
Not the second-most. Not somewhere down the list. The top of the list. Yet nothing has been done about it since.
Think of the victims who have heard someone at the top level acknowledge the urgency of their situation yet that voice is ignored.
Think of all those who have become victims since yet know nothing has changed to help them in their plight.
Think of the abusers who know the law does not take their victims seriously, and how that might empower them to hurt people further.
Ms Šimonovi was told at the time by the Attorney General that revisions to the law were “under consideration”.
How long must our women wait? How long must their voices cry out for the end of abuse?
We thank Bishop Hall for lending them his voice in support – and to every church, to every politician, we challenge them to take up his call.
Show us all that you stand up for our women, or we shall know that you stand for none of us.