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PM: Citizenship law changes not a priority

Prime Minister Philip Davis said yesterday that bringing gender equality to citizenship laws is not a priority right now.

“I wouldn’t raise my expectations for that for the end of the year,” Davis said.

“Those things are under review, but they are not a priority right now. Priority for me is to relieve the suffering and the mental anguish that our people are going through right now.”

Last month, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said the government intended to advance legislation to allow Bahamians to pass on citizenship in all circumstances by the end of the summer.

He noted that this is something that has been “impossible” to achieve through referenda.

“… We have the strength and the bravery to do it through legislation and bring it to this honorable place, to bring the equality that the former FNM administration shied away from over and over and over again,” Pinder said in the Senate.

FNM Leader Michael Pintard said yesterday the difference in comments between Davis and Pinder is another example of “a definite pattern of disconnect between the prime minister and multiple ministers”.

He said bringing gender equality to citizenship laws in The Bahamas should be a priority for the Davis administration.

“I am aware of what the reluctance of the prime minister is in a sense to deal with this matter,” Pintard said.

“Both administrations have attempted to address this issue. Both have failed through referendum, but that should not prevent an administration, particularly at the beginning of its time in office, from confronting this issue.

“If there is a question on whether or not it could be executed short of a referendum, then they should lay out, as the attorney general seems to have found based on consultation, the legal basis on which they intend to move on this matter so that there can be a shared understanding of those legal provisions that would allow it.”

In a 2016 referendum, voters rejected proposed changes to the constitution that sought to address the ability of Bahamians to pass on their citizenship to children and spouses.

A similar exercise in 2002 was also rejected.

Currently, a Bahamian woman married to a foreign spouse cannot automatically pass on citizenship to children born abroad.

Bahamian men who have children with foreign women out of wedlock cannot automatically pass on citizenship to their children, even if they are born in The Bahamas.

Last year, the Court of Appeal upheld the 2020 ruling by Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder that every person born in The Bahamas shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at their date of birth if either parent, irrespective of their marital status, is a citizen of The Bahamas.

The matter is now before the Privy Council, so the status quo remains.

Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham previously noted that his government tried to permanently bring gender equality to citizenship in The Bahamas.

He said this attempt, which proposed constitutional changes, was “the hard way” of bringing this change.

Ingraham said he is confident that Davis will take “the easier way and just do it by legislation”.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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