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‘CITIZENSHIP FIGHT WAS FOR EVERYONE’: Privy Council upholds ruling on birthright

Shannon Tyreck Rolle, represented by the now-Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe, was the applicant in the court action which has brought about a significant ruling on children born out of wedlock to a foreign spouse.

Shannon Tyreck Rolle, represented by the now-Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe, was the applicant in the court action which has brought about a significant ruling on children born out of wedlock to a foreign spouse.

MORE ON PRIVY COUNCIL RULING:

• ‘Citizenship fight was for everyone’full story here

• Women react to privy council ruling on citizenship for children born out of wedlockfull story here

• How to prove paternity is next as govt to grapple with citizenship questionsfull story here


By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune News Editor

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Privy Council affirmed yesterday that children born out of wedlock to Bahamian men are citizens at birth regardless of their mother’s nationality, a consequential ruling that transforms how citizenship is attained in The Bahamas.

The constitution was long interpreted as requiring people born out of wedlock to Bahamian men and foreign women to apply for citizenship at 18, a reality that impeded some in their efforts to travel and do basic activities like open a bank account. Some Bahamian men even adopted their children just to pass on citizenship.

The Davis administration acknowledged yesterday’s ruling and said it would amend legislation to remedy other discriminatory citizenship policies like the inability of Bahamian women with foreign husbands to pass their nationality to children born abroad. Collectively, the Privy Council’s ruling and the government’s promised amendments could achieve what the referendums of 2002 and 2016 failed to do: equalize access to citizenship for children.

Shannon Tyreck Rolle, represented by the now-Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe, was the applicant in the court action. Chief Justice Ian Winder ruled in his favour in 2020, breaking with a previous ruling by former Chief Justice Sir Burton Hall. In a three-to-two decision in 2021, the Court of Appeal affirmed CJ Winder’s ruling.

 The case hinged on whether a reference to “father” in Article 14 (1) of the constitution applies when interpreting Article 6 of the document.

 Article 6 says: “Every person born in the Bahamas after 9th July 1973 shall become a citizen of the Bahamas at the date of his birth if at that date either of his parents is a citizen of the Bahamas.”

Article 14 (1) says: “Any reference in this chapter to the father of a person shall, in relation to any person born out of wedlock other than a person legitimated before 10th July 1973, be construed as a reference to the mother of that person.”

 The Office of the Attorney General argued that the reference to “father” in Article 14(1) should apply when interpreting “parents” in Article 6, such that only children of Bahamian women born out of wedlock would automatically be a citizen.

 However, the Privy Council rejected the OAG’s interpretation of Article 6, finding it convoluted, cumbersome and “faintly absurd.” It said Article 14(1) only applies in strict circumstances where the word “father” is used in a clause and should not be used to qualify “parents.”

 The Privy Council said that if a discriminatory approach was intended, the framers of the constitution would have used easier and clearer ways to indicate this.

 The appellate court also said it found no reason to interpret the clause in a discriminatory way.

 “As has been shown, there is no requirement to adopt such a discriminatory reading of the provision,” the Board said in Lord Lloyd-Jones’ written ruling. “Moreover, the Board can see no possible justification for reading into the constitution such an approach reflecting, as it does, values which have long been rejected.

 “Bahamian citizenship is an important and fundamental right and the provisions governing entitlement to citizenship are rightly entrenched in the constitution. In particular, Bahamian citizenship confers freedom of movement and access to The Bahamas. In the Board’s view, there can be no justification for introducing restrictions on entitlement to this right of citizenship by reference to such arbitrary and discriminatory considerations when there is no requirement to do so.

 “For all these reasons, the Board concludes that the reference to ‘parents’ in article 6 is a reference to biological parents and that article 14(1) does not import a requirement of legitimacy into article 6.”

 Following the ruling, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, who is in London to attend King Charles III’s coronation, said he is committed “to ensuring that the country’s laws and policies are fair and just for all Bahamians.”

 “As Prime Minister, I am dedicated to building a more inclusive and equitable Bahamas,” he said in a statement.

 Attorney General Ryan Pinder said the ruling is an “important step towards ensuring equal citizenship rights for all children, irrespective of their parent’s marital status.”

 “It is expected to impact the lives of many individuals in our country positively,” he said. “The Attorney General’s Office will work diligently to ensure the implementation of the Privy Council’s decision and to review the existing citizenship legislation in light of this new development.”

Comments

ExposedU2C 1 year, 2 months ago

Unbelievable! Over night privy council increases number of Bahamian citizens by at least 100,000. And now Bahamian women both in and out of wedlock will start squawking that they should have the same rights to increase the number of Bahamians by yet another 100,000+ children they have carried in their wombs for foreign men. The newly minted Bahamians will be flooding into The Bahamas from countries like Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti, with most of them wanting to live on an already overcrowed New Providence Island.

DEDDIE 1 year, 2 months ago

Gross exaggeration. Very few Bahamian men travel to the countries you mentioned. The newly minted Bahamians are already living in the Bahamas.

JokeyJack 1 year, 2 months ago

So basically the ruling in simple layman's terms says "If you drop your pants or skirt, you win !"

bobby2 1 year, 2 months ago

Born out of Wedlock? That may be about half the population?

birdiestrachan 1 year, 2 months ago

Work hard, do the right things put God first and make your country the Bahamas proud

stillwaters 1 year, 2 months ago

Once the majority of them get Bahamian passports, they are gone .....to the USA and won't return.

DillyTree 1 year, 2 months ago

When will we cease to be a backward patriarchal society?

As a Bahamian woman, I should have the right to pass on my Bahamian citizenship to my child. This should not have to be applied for, but a birthright. Marital status should be irrelevant.

Let's get out of the dark ages, Bahamas. 50 years of independence and we're still in the grip of pre-civilised society. Let equal right means equal rights.

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