Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday the government will not likely move forward with the Martial Rape Bill until next year.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Bethel indicated that the priority for the legislature will be laws relating to the financial services industry.
“In terms of the legislative priorities, there is only a certain amount of time in any given week and or month that the legislature meets and that always poses problems in terms of prioritization,” he said.
“Right now, the priority between now and December will be all of the matters that are necessary to save our financial services sector and position The Bahamas in terms of WTO (World Trade Organization) and then anything that is really, really urgent from a law enforcement or whatever point of view.
“Coming into the new year, I think we will have a little more flexibility, one hopes, to really deal with some of the agenda legislation, meaning laws that reflect more clearly the policy commitments that the governing party was elected on.”
When asked about the issue of marital rape, he said, “That would be something that perhaps we will have time for next year as well.
“That bill is basically finished. It’s finalized. It’s been consulted upon. It [has been] met with, we think, a broad consensus across the civil and religious society. I only heard one voice recently [and] that was an outgoing voice; I wouldn’t go into any more detail than that.
“I think basically there is a broad consensus on the bill as drafted.
“We are looking at some point to get the political consensus necessary to move it forward.”
In May, President of the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention Rev. Dr. William Thompson said the draft of the Marital Rape Bill is in open conflict with the law of God and tarnishes the sanctity of marriage.
He noted, however, that the bill does have some merit when it comes to spousal abuse.
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 The Bahamian 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”.
Bethel said the government has sought input from stakeholders on the bill, including the church.
The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) 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