Categorized | National News

Gender Equality Debate Gets Underway

The much anticipated debate on amendments to the Constitution that seek to institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and also eliminate discrimination based on sex got underway in the House of Assembly Wednesday with bi-partisan support to the amendment bills.

Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin moved the debate and noted the amendments’ significance to erasing decades-long discrimination against women that has existed in the constitution.

The passage of the amendments with a three-quarters majority in both houses of Parliament will set the way for the amendments to be taken to the wider Bahamian community via a Constitutional Referendum which is scheduled for November 6.

Mrs. Hanna-Martin reminded that the results of this referendum unlike recent ones, will be binding.

“We will rely very soon on the collective wisdom of our Bahamian people. It is my hope and prayer that they will accept the basic and fundamental principle of equality between Bahamian men and Bahamian women and their children,” Mrs. Hanna-Martin said.

The first amendment bill seeks to achieve gender equality through the transfer of citizenship. It seeks to give a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born mother and non-Bahamian father the same automatic right to Bahamian citizenship that the Constitution already affords to a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born father and non-Bahamian mother.

The second amendment bill enables a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the Constitution in relation to his foreign spouse.

The third amendment bill addresses an area in the Constitution that discriminates against men. It will give an unwed Bahamian father the same right to pass citizenship to his child that a Bahamian woman has always had in relation to a child born to her out of wedlock.

“The amending provisions prohibit fraud by the purported purchase of fraudulent facilitation of the sacred status of Bahamian citizenship through what might be called a marriage of convenience,” Mrs. Hanna-Martin said. “This will apply to spouses of both Bahamian men and Bahamian women and while this extends the scope of the article to include the spouses of Bahamian women, it also tightens up the longstanding provision relative to Bahamian men married to foreign women putting in place provisions in each case to avoid fraud which hereto forth has not existed in our Constitution.”

The fourth amendment bill addresses ending discrimination based on sex. It calls for the insertion of the word “sex” in Article 26 of the Constitution therefore making it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.

This particular amendment has become highly controversial as some observers have suggested that this may be an attempt to allow for same sex marriages. However, Mrs. Hanna-Martin assured that this amendment simply seeks to erase discrimination against women on the basis of gender.

She reiterated that marriage in The Bahamas continues to be defined by the Marriage Act.

“A marriage should be void on any of the following grounds – a) that it is not a valid marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Marriage Act. B) that at the time of the marriage either party was already lawfully married. C) that the parties are not respectively male and female,” the minister said.
Seconding the bills was Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin who echoed similar sentiments as to the importance of these bills.
Parliamentarians resume debate on August 13.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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