Irrational fear

The Bahamas, though young as a nation, continues to be out of step with the ideals of much of the developing world on matters that eschew inclusion and acceptance in our society.

For example, to our utter and unending shame, The Bahamas has yet to criminalize marital rape.

The issue, having been raised and attempted to be addressed by the previous two administrations, has drawn such vitriolic reactions that the political will to address it appears to have evaporated.

The great objection seemed to center around the question: what if a wife falsely accuses her husband?

Meantime, no sensible person takes issue with the fact that women are free to accuse men they are not married to of rape.

Some men are convicted; some are acquitted once the cases are vetted.

That is what courts are for.

That the opposition to this issue was undergirded by religious leaders, who should know better, perpetuating the ridiculous idea that a man somehow cannot rape a wife because the two are joined in marriage, was most unfortunate.

We have likewise trailed on the issue of abortion rights for women.

The reluctance to allow women the right to choose if they wish to carry a pregnancy to term is supported by no sound medical evidence, solely religious opposition.

Studies show that sexual education, family planning and the provision of safe, legal abortions actually make women safer.

Yet, whenever the matter is raised, advocates are painted as godless baby killers.

Adding to our shame, The Bahamian electorate has twice rejected efforts by separate administrations to constitutionally enshrine that Bahamian mothers and fathers have equal rights to transfer their nationality to their children, and that Bahamian women have the same rights as Bahamian men to confer their nationality to their non-Bahamian spouses.

The movement against the first gender equality referendum was spearheaded by a misguided opposition Progressive Liberal Party that did an about-face on the critical questions put to voters.

The opposition to the second referendum was spearheaded by members of the church who bewilderingly, and falsely, linked the granting of equal rights for men and women to the ushering in of gay marriage.

Now, in light of comments attributed to Roman Catholic Pope Francis that gay people in same-sex relationships should have legal protection, members of the religious community are voicing their opposition to any such move in The Bahamas.

Attitudes toward gay people in much of the world have shifted dramatically in the last half-century.

That there are still prominent voices who express abhorrence at the thought that those in homosexual relationships dare to dream they could have the same legal protections as those in heterosexual relationships signals how far we have to go.

Homosexuality is not the novel coronavirus; it is not contagious.

What harm will be done to society by accepting that gay people also want families and rights in unions under the law?

Giving men and women equal rights to transfer citizenship under the constitution would not lead to a wave of gay marriages that will eternally alter the moral fabric of Bahamian society; it would make right a generational wrong that should have been corrected long ago.

Allowing homosexuals to enter into civil unions would not turn your children gay; it would protect a minority population offered precious little protection in our society.

Allowing women access to legal abortions would not result in mountains of dead fetuses; it would protect women who needlessly place their lives in danger seeking to illegally terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Giving married women the right to file a rape complaint against an abusive husband would not result in a flood of innocent husbands being jailed because of spiteful, untruthful spouses; it would protect married women in sexually violent relationships.

The flames of fear fanned around these topics are irrational and immature.

It is time we grew up. 

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