Categorized | National News

No Commitment On Marital Rape

Attorney General Carl Bethel says  “the government has no firm commitment to the issue  of Marital Rape.”  He sought to bring clarity to the proposed amendment to the Sexual Offences Act last night after calls for the government to criminalize marital rape.

Mr. Bethel said while the Bahamas is a signatory to a United Nation’s convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, it signed “with reservations.” He claimed that he does not represent some international organization, but the Bahamian people.

Mr. Bethel added the Government is trying to find a middle ground between two extremes on the hot button issue.

He said on one end there are those who make the very strong argument that marital rape should be outlawed, then there’s also the status quo view that holds that marriage is a sacrament ordained by God and that any criminalization of any sexual act is an attack on the family.

Mr. Bethel acknowledged that there are other issues that would have to be discussed like the term limit of one year, and as for the concern over the suggested consent of the Attorney General, Mr. Bethel said this was to simply ensure that there is not one set of eyes looking at a very complex issue.

Mr. Bethel was a featured panelist at a town meeting held at the Jones Communications Media Center.

The event, titled “Marital Rape – Is it a Blow to Family Life?” was the first in a series of “Speaker’s Corner” events put on by the Bahamas Press Club in association with Jones Communications.

Other panelists include: Barrington Brennen, Marriage and Family Therapist; Donna Nicolls, Bahamas Crisis Centre; Chauntez Dillet-Heastie, Organization for Responsible Governance; M’wale Rahming, Public Domain; and Pastor Mario Moxey, Bahamas Harvest Church.

Firing back at what he perceived as “misquoting” of his initial response to UN Special Rappoteur on Violence Against Women Dubravaka Simonovic’s plea for the criminalization of marital rape in The Bahamas, Mr. Bethel sought to set the record straight.

“When you quote me, quote everything I said I was asked whether the comments of Ms. Simonovic were on the government’s radar but I also said based on comments I see in the paper today there is grounds for us to look at a compromise.

“I did not outright dismiss the matter, I did not set out and say we are not interested in dealing with this matter.

“It is in the spirit of seeking to assist in a reasonable dialogue, that I engaged  in securing and asking the draftsperson in my ministry to find a bill that will criminalize the actions and bring better protection to the vulnerable.

“The draftspersons in my office were instructed to draw up an amendment to the existing law which treats sexual offences within the bonds of marriage as a species or type of what the existing laws characterizes as spousal sexual abuse.

“Let me make it clear,  since 1991 when the first sexual offences act was passed,  it was never considered that any form of sexual attack on a spouse was rape.

“The proposed amendment has been redrafted to add to the offences of sexual abuse in section 5 of the act and that offence will in effect criminalize all the elements of rape within a marriage as a variance of spousal abuse,” Mr. Bethel said.

Mwale Rahming, a representative the polling firm “Public Domain” presented  the results of a study did in 2014 where  persons were asked if they supported the  government’s consideration that the law be changed  so one partner could charge another partner with rape in the Bahamas.

The results showed that 58% of Bahamians voted to  change the law, however interestingly enough only 48% of men support this change  compared to 68% of women .

Written by Jones Bahamas

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