The government intends to advance legislation to allow Bahamian men and women to pass on citizenship in all circumstances by the end of the summer, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said yesterday.
Pinder previously foreshadowed changes to the citizenship law.
The attorney general was responding to Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Michela Barnett-Ellis, who, during her contribution to the budget debate yesterday, castigated the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for failing to address the issue of marital rape.
Pinder said, “The good senator spoke about our lack of commitment, and she said it rather affirmatively, for equality for all. The good senator knows otherwise.
“The minister of social services, who has responsibility for gender affairs, has made, in his contribution in that other place, a public proclamation that with respect with … what is termed marital rape [and] amendments to the Sexual Offenses Act, which have been drafted, that he is consulting with both the churches and the appropriate NGOs and then to the wider public with respect to the amendments to the Sexual Offenses Act.
“So, that has been clearly put forward in the public domain.”
Minister of Social Services Obie Wilchcombe said last week that he will meet with church leaders to discuss the way forward on the issue of marital rape.
Pinder continued, “I have likewise said on numerous occasions, and I’ll say it again, that we will advance, by the end of the summer, a piece of legislation regarding citizenship that in law will create equality between men and women when it comes to citizenship matters in this country.
“[That is] something that has been impossible to attain through referenda.
“… We have the strength and the bravery to do it through legislation and bring it to this honorable place, to bring the equality that the former FNM administration shied away from over and over and over again.”
In a 2016 referendum, voters rejected proposed changes to the constitution that sought to address the ability of Bahamians to pass on their citizenship to children and spouses.
A similar exercise in 2002 was also rejected.
Currently, a Bahamian woman married to a foreign spouse cannot automatically pass on citizenship to children born abroad.
Bahamian men who have children with foreign women out of wedlock cannot automatically pass on citizenship to their children, even if they are born in The Bahamas.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has said his government tried to permanently bring gender equality to citizenship in The Bahamas.
He said this attempt, which involved constitutional changes, was “the hard way” of bringing this change.
Ingraham said he is confident that Prime Minister Philip Davis will take “the easier way and just do it by legislation”.
Last year, the Court of Appeal upheld the 2020 ruling by Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder that every person born in The Bahamas shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at their date of birth if either parent, irrespective of their marital status, is a citizen of The Bahamas.
The government has appealed the ruling. Pinder said previously, the government will not discontinue the appeal.