Thompson: Baptists won’t support current Marital Rape Bill
The Minnis administration’s draft Marital Rape Bill is in open conflict with the law of God and tarnishes the sanctity of marriage, President of the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention Reverend Dr. William Thompson said yesterday.
Thompson, who spoke at the 83rd President’s Address at the William Thompson Auditorium on Jean Street, said the church cannot “give sanction to the bill” as it is.
“It is not my practice to comment on ongoing or developing legislation,” Thompson said. “However, the Marital Rape Bill is too important at this early stage of its development.
“Now, it must be acknowledged that this pending piece of legislation does have some merit when it comes to spousal abuse. However, when the law of the state is in open conflict with the law of God in our Bahamas, it is our duty as servants of the most high God to sound the alarm of impending destruction.
“We are in a country, according to our constitution, that is guided by Christian principles [and] must not do anything to damage or undermine the sanctity and the benefits of marriage.
“It seems to me that the proposed marital bill as it now stands invalidates, or rather, tarnishes the sanctity and benefits of a marriage.
“Let me make it emphatically clear: the Bible does not condone abuse in any form, shape or fashion. While the church supports the right of every person, it cannot give sanction to this bill as it is presented.
“It is my considered conviction that more intellectual and spiritual consideration be given before the final draft.
“I have asked all of my Baptist pastors, and now I am extending the invitation to all pastors and marriage officers in the country to make themselves available free of charge to counsel those persons who are unable to secure the services of professional counseling.”
The controversial issue of marital rape resurfaced after United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Simonovic said that The Bahamas is out of step with the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as it has failed to criminalize all forms of marital rape.
The Bahamas ratified the convention in October 1993.
When the attorney general appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland in January, he said that The Bahamas government intends to criminalize marital rape.
Since then a draft bill has been drawn up and circulated to stakeholders in the community.
The proposed bill seeks to amend the Sexual Offences Act “to strengthen the offense of sexual intercourse by procuration”.
Under the bill, a person who has sexual intercourse with “their” spouse without the consent of that spouse, or where the actions of the defendant spouse is of such a kind or in such a manner that, if the defendant spouse had used reasonable caution and observation, it would appear to the defendant spouse that there is no consent or that there would be great risk of there being no consent, he shall be presumed to have intended to have sexual intercourse without the consent of the other spouse, until it is shown that he reasonably believed that the other spouse gave consent, commits an offense and is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.
Consent shall not be deemed to exist where the apparent agreement to sexual intercourse is extorted by physical assault to the spouse or to a third person; obtained by the unlawful detention of the spouse; or obtained by a pattern of behavior that has the effect of coercing, controlling, exploiting or limiting the spouse’s or a dependant’s access to financial resources so as to ensure financial dependence.
Every complaint shall be made within one year after the cause of such complaint shall arise.
No prosecution of a defendant spouse shall be commenced for an offense without the consent of the attorney general.
Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander has said that the council has no position on marital rape at this time.
Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government has sought input from stakeholders on the bill, including the church.
The council has proposed that spouses found guilty of forcing their partners to have sex be liable to a prison term of up to life.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English