Miles to go

In the poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ by Robert Frost, a traveler on a journey stops to take in the awe-striking scenery of a spot in the woods.

So beautiful are the woods filling up with snow, the traveler resolves, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

One interpretation of this stanza is while we are taken with admiration over the sight of wonderful things, admiration must not supplant duty, and we must redeem the time we have to fulfill our obligations and our purpose.

The Bahamas celebrated with Barbados which broke with the British monarchy to become the newest republic in CARICOM, and selected both a female president and a female national hero ahead of official ceremonies this week.

Many Bahamians also celebrated the designation this week of this country’s third female Acting Prime Minister – Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin – whose post follows in the footsteps of Dame Janet Bostwick and Cynthia Pratt.

Wonderful are these occasions and the prominence of females, therein, and, as we look admirably upon such moments of progress, the reality remains that The Bahamas, for all its advancements, still has miles to go to fulfill international obligations and its responsibility to all citizens, to do away with ongoing vestiges of gender discrimination.

The United Nations (UN) indicated last year that 25 countries “retained nationality laws that deny women the right to confer citizenship on their children on an equal basis with men”.

It noted further, that, “more than 50 countries have nationality laws with gender-discriminatory provisions, with most denying women the same right as men to pass nationality to a noncitizen spouse”.

The Bahamas is among that number.

Two referenda including the question of Bahamian women conferring citizenship on an equal basis as Bahamian men, and of Bahamian men automatically passing citizenship to their children born out of wedlock, were regrettably derailed by politics of the day, misogyny and xenophobia.

Soon after the 2017 general election, the Minnis administration promised to settle both questions of citizenship conference to the children of Bahamian parents by way of legislative amendments, but that promise was not fulfilled, and discriminatory provisions in this regard remain.

The Davis administration has prided itself thus far on expanding female empowerment, and stresses an intention to level the playing fields for all Bahamians.

It can add much weight to its boast by definitively addressing these aspects of gender discrimination in Bahamian law.

The administration should also indicate whether it will continue with the Minnis administration’s move to appeal to the Privy Council, the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling regarding the automatic Bahamian citizenship of children born out of wedlock to a Bahamian man and non-Bahamian woman.

The Bahamas is among approximately 30 countries that have not outlawed marital rape, in effect, continuing to hold on to historic ideas about rape in marriage.

UN Women Caribbean, in an article on gender-based violence laws in the Caribbean, heralded both Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana as “the model for the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean”, due to its sexual offenses statutes that, among other acts, removed all exemptions from marital rape prosecution.

Pointing out that, for many years, judges in the Caribbean ruled that husbands could not rape their wives, save for in exceptional circumstances, the article states, “In 1991, the English House of Lords in R v R ([1992] 1 A.C. 599) confirmed that this common law position had changed. Marriage was to be viewed as a partnership between husband and wife who were equals in the eyes of the law.

“The court said that it was anachronistic to assume that a woman had irrevocably given her consent to having sexual intercourse with her husband by virtue of being married. Where a statute speaks of the offense of rape, it must be interpreted to include non–consensual sex by a husband with his wife.”

Bahamians generally support the advancement of females in the public and private sector.

Let us now cut infinitesimally short the distance The Bahamas is to travel to make our laws on gender equality, affirm the admiration we have for occasions that exemplify gender equality.

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