Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he was unable to criminalize marital rape because he did not have the support of parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle.
“… My minister brought a bill to the House of Assembly to outlaw marital rape, to outlaw it, to make it illegal in The Bahamas,” Ingraham said on Friday.
“You could also find out that I eventually announced to the public that I did not have the support of the members of the FNM (Free National Movement) or the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) in the House to pass the bill and I was, therefore, going to withdraw the bill. So, my efforts did not succeed.”
Ingraham said a leader can only do “what you have the support for”.
“I assume that Mr. Davis will make a judgement as to whether or not he has the support of his members to pass it,” he said.
“You know, many persons who you see parade around here as an ordinary, decent human being do not believe that marital rape ought to be a criminal offense and, in private, they have their views.”
“So, as members of the press, you can grill them, quiz them, put them on the record for the personal, private positions and see how many duck you and how many give you and honest answer.”
When The Bahamas ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1993, Ingraham was prime minister. The criminalization of marital rape is one of the tenets of the convention.
Five years ago, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Šimonović pointed out that The Bahamas has failed to live up to obligations under CEDAW as it has failed to criminalize all forms of marital rape.
Prime Minister Philip Davis has remained non-committal on whether the government will criminalize it.
But Minister of Social Services Obie Wilchcombe insists that while it is not a “top priority” for the Davis administration, addressing the issue is still a priority.
He is expected to discuss the issue with church leaders on Thursday.
“We’ve become signatories of CEDAW and other organizations,” Wilchcombe said.
“It’s imperative that we have the discussion. Now, what happens subsequent will be the tell story because we will have to determine where we move – whether or not we move with the legislation. But I’m very impressed with the drafting of the legislation that we’re looking at now.”
Wilchcombe said the government hopes to get feedback on the legislation from “all sides”, so it can make strides in the right direction.
He said the draft legislation criminalizes rape and defines what rape is.
“Of course, rape can then occur in any circumstance,” Wilchcombe said.
When asked if that includes a marriage, he replied, “Including a marriage.”
Section 3 of The Bahamas’ Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act (1991) states: “Rape is the act of any person not under fourteen years of age having sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse — (a) without the consent of that other person; (b) without consent which has been extorted by threats or fear of bodily harm; (c) with consent obtained by personating the spouse of that other person; (d) with consent obtained by false and fraudulent representations as to the nature and quality of the act.”