Nassau, The Bahamas – Equal rights for Bahamian women to transfer dual citizenship rights to their children could be the source for legitimising gender inequality in The Bahamas.
“There are some very important, fundamental things we haven’t done, and as long as we continue to sit on it, we will continue to remain where we are,” said Loretta Butler Turner, Minister of State of Social Services.
“We allowed politics to stop us from allowing women to be able to pass on citizenship to their children, if they are married to a foreign spouse and the baby is had outside of the country. But our husbands are allowed to do it. They could marry anyone in the world and that child’s Bahamian.”
On February 17, the Bureau of Women’s Affairs attracted 50 women to its monthly forum with non-governmental women’s organisations and interested women to meet at the Rehabilitative & Welfare Services Conference Room on Thompson Boulevard.
“There are some things that are very controversial that nobody wants to talk about. There are controversial things that divide us,” said Mrs. Turner.
“For example, what happened with the legislation with regards to rape and marriage? Do you know how many women we have talked to who don’t even agree with us on this, but yet they want to be a part of the women’s empowerment? They just don’t get it.”
Concerned community activists discussed solutions for adding weight to the social imbalance evident throughout the country, unconsciously created by cultural gender conditioning in early childhood development.
“We have got to make sure we have a more equitable society, rather than get all caught up with who is going to do this election or that election,” said Mrs. Turner.
“We have bigger pictures to look at. We have a bigger fight on our hands.”
Extending freedom to women to make legal decisions without a man’s consent, such as transferring citizenship, land and inheritances, would indicate an evolution of national maturity as well as an increase in emotional security among Bahamian men.
“I am not a feminist, but I do believe in equality. I am happily married. I have a wonderful husband and two biological children and one adopted child. I am very happy in my own skin and thank God I have a husband who truly understands and appreciates me”, said Mrs. Turner.
“He is also a very grounded, very self-assured man, so he doesn’t mind. Communication is key.”
By creating laws that recognise women’s empowerment needs, the move would elevate the individual worth of Bahamian women, whom represent 51 percent of the population. It would also give disabled women more rights and protection under the law.
“If we are 51 percent of the population, why are we not making up 51 percent of the House of Parliament? We are the majority and I’m not saying that everyone is going to be interested in politics but you are going to have daughters, granddaughters, and you will have sons as well, but let us encourage them,” said Mrs. Turner.
“One of the things we are very good at is discouraging each other. We have to make sure our women are not just promoted, but they are profitable. They could go into banks without someone asking you,’ Oh where’s your husband?’ Why do we have to have concurrence over our lives with another male?”
Minister Turner and the Bureau’s chairman encouraged women to work together to resolve the issues that divide women and place them at a disadvantage to men.
“Are we positioning ourselves to be leaders and not followers? Are we truly getting to the point, ladies, where we are going to support each other or are we going to continue to pull each other down because of our differences,” said Mrs. Butler Turner. “There’s so much more that binds us together then what separates us. Why is it that we continue to allow the boys to say ‘it’s still a man’s world’? What are we doing to make the next generation greater?”
“We’ve been having these discussions about what we can have to bring us together. All of the groups here are doing fantastic things in the community, but we need one thing to bring us to work under one umbrella, so we can break out and still have the same goal,” said Gwen Knowles, Women’s Bureau chairman.
By Gena Gibbs
BAHAMAS INFORMATION SERVICES