THIS week sees the celebration of International Women’s Day – an opportunity to both celebrate women and, more pointedly, to continue removing barriers that hinder women.
On Saturday, members of Equality Bahamas and supporters held a march, speaking out over gender justice and climate justice. It was followed by an expo at the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts on a variety of topics.
Women’s rights were very much at the forefront of the event – and so it is timely indeed that a senior US official has spoken out on the matter too.
US Chargé d’Affaires Usha Pitts spoke at an event held by the International Black Women’s Public Policy Institute in Freeport – and she urged Bahamian women not to wait around for men to grant them equal rights under the constitution or outlaw marital rape.
She declared: “The fact is that nothing changes for women until we take political power.”
She noted the number of women elected in the last election – seven – but equally noted they were outnumbered four to one by men.
She said: “It showed that little by little Bahamian women are starting to take the political power they deserve. And that word is very important because no one gives political power, you got to take it.”
She added: “Do not wait for men to outlaw marital rape as I heard so may men say on Bahamian radio there is no rape in marriage. Do not wait for men to give women reproductive rights and control over the health of their own bodies – they won’t do it.”
So how do women take that power? Well, just like the event on Saturday, by marching. By protesting. By raising the issue over and over again. And when done walking in marches, then by running – for office, for leadership, for the power to make the changes that others drag their feet over.
When Social Services Minister Obie Wilchcombe has spoken about marital rape, it has been wrapped up in consultations.
He has said that he hoped that we would “have some of the things completed” by International Women’s Day on Wednesday, to coincide with a planned national women’s convention.
That deadline arrives the day after tomorrow. Will we see a decision on what marital rape legislation will be put forward?
The support for such legislation has been strong among leading women in our country – Ann Marie Davis was among those to declare that “no means no” and declare that marital rape should be decriminalised.
In December, the holder of the Office of the Spouse said: “Imagine, we are still living in a society where no does not mean no. How could that be? I tell you no and you think I mean yes. No, sir. Of course I’m talking about marital rape, right. No means no.”
She added: “I am happy that this conversation is taking place and when it is done, I hope that our marital laws are upgraded as to where they are supposed to be.”
Then there is the issue of equal rights in regard to citizenship – where women and men are not on an equal basis under the eyes of the law.
To borrow a phrase from Mrs Davis, how could that be?
What gives anyone the right to say this person can have more rights than that person, simply because one is a man and the other is a woman?
So this International Women’s Day, we must ask the question of whether we want next year’s celebration to come around without any meaningful change on such topics.
Because anyone saying that they honour the day without striving to bring such change does not truly recognise the day.
And if they find themselves running for office against a woman and losing because of it? That will indeed be women rising to the challenge put forward by Usha Pitts.
• The Tribune is seeking to celebrate Bahamian women this week, and is asking readers to name the women who are their heroes. You can put forward your suggestions on our website, www.tribune242.com, or you can email your suggestions to our managing editor, Stephen Hunt, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you are on social media, you can share your suggestion and use the hashtag #WomensDayHeroes. We will be delighted to publish as many of your nominations as possible.
Flyingfish 2 months, 3 weeks ago
Some of these liberating stances come with other agendas attached. We'll be making women so equal that a man can become one too. Yes, we need to review our citizenship and sexual assault laws, however I would bare caution leaping behind American policies. We see how "well" they do domestically when it comes to race and other social politics.
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