By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
ABACO had the highest number of reported cases of sexual violence, according to a US State Department report, which suggested rape and domestic violence cases are often stalled in the courts.
The department also pointed to allegations of rape brought against a juvenile watercraft operator in its 2018 Human Rights Report, adding violence against women continued to be a “serious, widespread problem”.
It again noted there were no protections against spousal rape.
“In September (2018) a woman alleged a Jet Ski operator raped her in Nassau,” the report noted. “Although she identified the accused (Jet Ski operator) in a line up, he was released on bail because he was a minor.
“There were no further developments in her case in the courts, a common occurrence in rape and domestic violence cases.”
The department reported on sex crime statistics from January to November 2018, obtained from the Royal Bahamas Police Force which showed that up to that point there had been 45 reported rapes, 12 attempted rapes, and 114 cases of unlawful sexual intercourse.
The year end statistics released by police in January this year showed variations. Police said there were 55 reported rapes in 2018, a six percent hike from 52 cases in 2017. It was also reported there were 11 attempted rapes in 2018, the same as in 2017, and 113 cases of unlawful sexual intercourse compared to 146 in 2017. It is unclear why these two latter categories decreased.
“Rape of men or women is illegal,” the US report read, “but the law does not protect against spousal rape unless the couple is separated or in the process of divorce, or there is a restraining order in place.
“The maximum penalty for an initial rape conviction is seven years. The maximum sentence for subsequent rape convictions is life imprisonment; however, the usual maximum was 14 years’ imprisonment.”
It added: “The RBPF reported Abaco had the highest number of reported cases of sexual violence.”
Abaco has a population of approximately 17,000, according to the 2010 census.
When contacted late last year about a rise in reported rapes, before the full 2018 statistics had been released, one local activist expressed concern.
Attorney Marion Bethel, pictured, who currently serves on the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW), said the statistics were troubling but not surprising.
“It’s not just a question of the police force doing its work, it’s an overall government social problem that needs to be addressed in a multi-sectorial level and the government is obligated under the CEDAW convention to prevent rape,” Ms Bethel told The Tribune in December.