Bahamas Prime Minister Dismisses Women’s Rights

Thursday 02nd, August 2012 / 10:28 Published by

Perry Christie has promised to hold a referendum to remove gender-based discrimination from the constitution before the end of its current term in office.

Perry Christie

Meanwhile, he also promises to hold a referendum to legalise the numbers industry by the end of the year.

Which referendum is more important to Mr Christie?  Giving equal rights to Bahamian women or satisfying the criminals who funded his election campaign?

Today’s Nassau Guardian tells the story of a Bahamian mother, married to a former Guyanese citizen, who said she felt like an “immigrant” when she returned home from the United States 17 years ago and was forced to apply for citizenship for her daughter.

Jennifer Mangra is a senior partner in the law firm of Mangra and Co..  She told the Guardian that it is unfair that Bahamian women married to foreign nationals are marginalized by law when being able to pass on citizenship to their children.

The current Bahamas constitution says that Bahamian women who marry foreign men cannot automatically pass their citizenship on to their children, but Bahamian men who marry foreign women can.

“When they come back home they have to apply for that child to be Bahamian and God forbid that the authority says ‘no’ we are not going to grant him or her citizenship,’ Mangra told The Guardian.

“Then the child ends up being in the same position as a person who comes here illegally and when their children are here they have to apply for citizenship after the age of 18, otherwise they are at the mercy of the government.”

This is an outrageous and untenable situation that has been allowed to exist for far too long.

It is not clear why Ms Mangra, who is an attorney, is not suing the government for gender-based discrimination, which is against the U.N. convention that The Bahamas signed over 15 years ago,  that prohibits discrimination against women.

Mr Christie’s promise to hold a referendum before his term expires is merely a stall tactic to get the United Nations off his back.  He has no intention of living up to that commitment, and his track record shows that he often makes promises he has no intention of keeping.

Even worse, Mr Christie and his PLP cronies feel no sense of urgency to remove gender-based discrimination against women.

How dare Christie hold a referendum to legalise numbers before holding one on the discrimination against women.

The Guardian article also refers to Arlene Nash-Ferguson, “a veteran educator and avid proponent of Bahamian culture”.

Ferguson said history reflects Bahamian women’s struggle for equal rights as far back as the 1800s.

“Few can deny that in more recent history Bahamian woman have made a tremendous contribution to national development in every sphere,” Nash-Ferguson said.

“This right is a logical progression in an enlightened time and I don’t believe people will oppose women being given equal rights as men in that regard,” she told the newspaper.

Yet, in 2002, the Ingraham administration addressed the issue in a referendum that was defeated by the Bahamian people.

Ms Mangra, the attorney, said apart from the politics that surrounded the last referendum on the issue, she questioned whether the majority of Bahamians understood it or were given the necessary information to make an informed decision.

What is there to understand?  It’s a very, very simple proposition.

Both Mangra and Nash-Ferguson encourage Bahamians to support the proposed referendum.

“Even if you’re a woman married to a Bahamian, at some point your daughter or granddaughter can end up in that position, so you have to vote for what’s right and for the future, and not just today,” Mangra said.

Meanwhile, Bahamas Crisis Centre Director Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson said the Crisis Centre will play a role in the education process to limit the “misunderstanding, misinformation or manipulation” this time around.

It was, indeed, misunderstanding, misinformation and manipulation that the PLP put forth, for their own selfish political objectives, that defeated the referendum in 2002.

Mr Christie and his PLP cronies should be ashamed of what they did back then.  They intentionally dismissed the rights of Bahamian women to satisfy their own selfish political goals.

Is that “putting Bahamians first”?

Ms Dean-Patterson said the proposed referendum is an important step forward as a country and commended the government for promising to putting the “long-overdue” issue to a referendum.

Instead, she should be condemning the PLP government for their hypocrisy and their lack of sincerity in getting this offensive situation reversed.

If Mr Christie were sincere about women’s rights, he would hold a referendum to correct the discrimination against women in our flawed consitution, BEFORE he holds a referendum on gambling.

If he doesn’t, the PLP government should be sued in an international court for violating the human rights of Bahamian women, and The Bahamas should be kicked out of the United Nations.

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