By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Attorney General Allyson Maynard Gibson believes that public officials have the political will to actually make changes to sexual offences legislation.
She agreed with Senate President LaShell Adderley’s statement last week that rape is rape. Speaking on the issue yesterday, Mrs Maynard Gibson added the importance of everybody giving their contribution in discussing new legislation.
“I noted what she said, and I do agree with what she said. I think what’s important is what I previously said and that is that as the government or agencies that are responsible for bringing about new legislation, engage with the public, it is extremely important for all members of the public to participate. This is how we celebrate our democracy,” she told reporters.
“Democracy is most meaningful when people participate in it. So as the consultations go out on the draft legislation, I hope that men and women get involved and make their contributions.”
Currently, there is a proposed draft amendment to the Sexual Offences Act. The draft legislation repeals Section 3 of the current act that defines rape, adding a new definition of rape that recognises the act within a marriage, and amends Section 2 to redefine what consent and indecent assault is.
There have been varied opinions on the changes with some in the religious community opposed to them.
When asked if the church’s opinion should be weighed heavily, Mrs Maynard Gibson said she thinks that everybody’s opinion should be taken into account.
The University of The Bahamas’ board of trustees chairwoman added: “I think it is extremely important that we acknowledge women in particular. We are the bearers of children, participate, as this is a family matter and it is strong families that build strong communities and a strong world, a peaceful world.”
The university had a study on the frequency of marital rape and sexual abuse which found that one in 12, or an estimated 4,000 married women, have been raped by their husbands. The study suggested that around 6,000 wives claimed being victims of sexual abuse.
Mrs Maynard Gibson commented that a study like that will just show the “tip of the iceberg”.
“I know that other studies have shown and when I was the attorney general it was very clear that incidents like this that are actually reported are just the tip of the iceberg. So the more that we bring this out into the public, the more that we create safe spaces for discussions and research and discussing the research and discussing what we would like to see our community be like.”
As for if public officials have the political will to actually make these changes, she answered: “Absolutely. There’s no question in my mind about it. And I would just point to in these 16 days of activism we are also talking about what the suffragettes did. Look what they did, they came together across all boundaries, across all political boundaries, religious and other boundaries as well.
“And so it’s the same thing we have to do today, not just in respect of rape, which is a very important matter, but citizenship. How are we going to have women truly be equal in our country? These are very important issues that have to be discussed that have to be aired, and we have to create safe spaces for them to be discussed. Your generation is very important.”
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