Gender equality, Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19

Dear Editor,

Last week marked two important anniversaries.

September 1, marked the first anniversary of Hurricane Dorian.

As we would have seen from all media, we, in The Bahamas, have come a long way, but we have a long road ahead to accomplish the goals that we committed to for Hurricane Dorian recovery.

September 4, 2020 was the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women. That meeting in Beijing produced the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”.

In marking the anniversary, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka reminded the world, “The continued relevance of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action cannot be overstated today… For success, we need to work together on these transformative actions… and the clear timelines, responsibilities and resources towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The Bahamas is also facing the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of these three crises can help policymakers understand that each affect legal and human rights, eradication of poverty, public health, education, socio-economic and other societal goals.

Working together to find solutions where these crises overlap can check the named “boxes” and others – get more bang for the buck.

There is at least one easy step, low hanging fruit, that The Bahamas can, and should, take to positively impact many Bahamians, including victims of Hurricane Dorian, those impacted by the COVID-19 fallout, honor the Beijing 25+ commitments and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) commitments.

That step is to bring to Parliament the legislation to enable spouses of Bahamian women to have the right to citizenship; to enable the children of all Bahamian women to become Bahamian citizens, irrespective of where the children are born; and to enable the children of unmarried Bahamian men (as proved by DNA tests) to become Bahamian citizens.

You may ask how can this legislation help Hurricane Dorian victims?

Think of the many non-Bahamian men in Abaco and Grand Bahama who are married to Bahamian women.

Granting those husbands citizenship will meet SDG5 (gender equality); SDG10 (reduced inequality) and many other SDGs.

Just think of how much easier it is, with a passport, to get a job and open a bank account.

Think of how many youth find it challenging to register for school or get a job. A passport removes those obstacles. Don’t we want the children of all Bahamian women to be able to easily get a job and go to school in The Bahamas?

And how does this legislation help COVID-19 victims?

Think of getting a job or interacting with government agencies. We all know that both, and many other things, are easier for Bahamians, someone with a Bahamian passport.

It should be obvious that this legislation is a step toward gender equality in that, by statute, it gives Bahamian women and men the same rights in relation to their spouses and children.

Clearly, the legislation does not remove the discriminatory provisions from the constitution. However, until, by referendum, Bahamians agree that all Bahamians should have equal rights under our constitution, this is a step in the right direction.

I believe that these bills would get support on both sides of the Parliament.

What a wonderful opportunity for the women in Parliament, following the example of the Bahamian Suffragettes, to join forces, so that Bahamian women and men, in relation to Bahamian citizenship, will be equal under the law.

Can you imagine the power and impact of all women in the House of Assembly and Senate demanding that this legislation be tabled?

Who can imagine any opposition from the leaders of the FNM and PLP?

Countless times, both have expressed their admiration of the many competencies of Bahamian women and the need to have women’s voices “at the table”.

Also, as indicated above, it checks many other boxes.

In a post-COVID-19 world, it is hope for a new Bahamas where all Bahamians will have equal rights.

If the bills are tabled when the House of Assembly reconvenes, they could be announced at the October 1 high level meeting that the president of the General Assembly has convened to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. There, member states will announce actions taken to honor their commitment toward a more gender-equal world.

It is my hope and prayer that our legislators seize the opportunity, in this meaningful manner, to move The Bahamas “Forward. Upward. Onward. Together.”

Allyson Maynard-Gibson

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