Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander said yesterday that the council is re-evaluating its stance on the criminalization of marital rape following recent comments by Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe.
Fernander said yesterday that while the BCC agrees with Prime Minister Philip Davis’ recent assertion that “rape is rape”, the council wants to preserve the “sanctity of marriage”.
“We want to preserve the sanctity of marriage and we want to protect those who might be raped, because it is true that rape is rape,” Fernander said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“And so, it is a difficult walk, because we have the church and that is holy and sacred to us, and we do have a divided body on the matter.”
Last week, Munroe said that if the goal is to get convictions, the offense should be called “something other than rape”.
“The council has taken into consideration the remarks made by the minister of national security,” Fernander said.
“Our legal team has advised us that he is a Queen’s Counsel and has a body of work in this area that should be taken into consideration and really taken as a strong position.”
Fernander said the matter is something the BCC will consider, noting that the intention is to invite Munroe to the discussion.
“We will invite the minister of national security and others that have the same mindset or can think of other ways that this can be done and consider it all and come up with a position that represents the church, because we do want to preserve the sanctity of marriage, but we also want to protect parties, whether married or unmarried.
“So, he has opened a view that our lawyers say should not just be dismissed and so we will begin the dialogue afresh and have those presented and have our legal team advise us on what can be done to protect those that are in a marriage and being raped and the sanctity of marriage.”
In 2018, then-Attorney General Carl Bethel stated before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, that The Bahamas government intended to criminalize marital rape. While draft legislation was circulated, it was never tabled in Parliament and the issue fell away.
Fernander said yesterday that the BCC’s previous position on the matter did not take into consideration that there might be other options to deal with the controversial issue.
He said the council’s position will likely change and that he wants to come up with viable solutions.
“It’s going to change with what has been said by the minister of national security,” he said.
Last September, Davis said the issue won’t be a priority item for his government.
However, he has since suggested that the legislation could be forthcoming.
Yesterday, Attorney General Ryan Pinder told reporters that his office has compiled a suite of recommended legislation needed to meet The Bahamas’ international human rights obligations.
Pinder said legislation to criminalize marital rape is included in that suite.