During a joint sitting of the House of Assembly, Senate President Lashell Adderley yesterday called for the criminalization of rape in all forms.
“Our long walk to freedom has not yet ended when the marital bed has become a violent mattress. Rape is rape; notwithstanding the context,” said Adderley.
“The Bible reminds us that men ought to love their wives in the way that Christ loves the church and died for it. This love is defined in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 as being patient, kind, not delighting in evil. Freedom and justice demands legislation which outlaws spousal rape.”
Adderley made the call during a joint sitting that brought MPs and senators together in the House of Assembly, for the first time in a decade, to highlight contributions women have made to The Bahamas’ development over the years.
While the Davis administration has committed to criminalizing marital rape, having drafted the Sexual Offences (Amendments) Bill, 2022, in September, at least three previous
administrations have backed off from addressing the issue.
In addition to the matter of rape, Adderley also called for a gender-based violence act.
“Our long walk to freedom is not yet ended when women are indiscriminately victims of gender-based violence and there is no domestic violence legislation for their protection. Freedom, justice and equality demands a gender-based violence act now,” she said.
This is not the first time that the Senate president has pushed for legislation against gender-based violence.
Back in February, Adderley urged legislators to take immediate action and adopt a “zero-tolerance approach” to addressing gender-based violence in The Bahamas.
She noted at the time that she was pleased that Minister of State for Social Services Lisa Rahming indicated that there was a draft domestic violence bill. However, eight months later, that bill has not been tabled.
In her communication, Adderley outlined further disparities that women face in The Bahamas.
“Our long walk to freedom has not yet ended when we have an inordinate amount of Bahamian women being diagnosed and subsequently dying from breast cancer,” she said.
“This country is in dire need of preventive measures and cancer research. Freedom demands priority is given to the health and wellness of women.
“Our long walk to freedom has not yet ended when Bahamian women are discriminated against. We do not receive the same salary compensation, promotion and benefits as our male counterparts for the same work. Our walk to freedom demands pay equity and economic empowerment.
“We need increased representation of women in the House of Assembly. The Bahamas Parliament is the third oldest Parliament in the British Commonwealth after Westminster. It is my belief that parliamentary age should equally reflect this maturity with advancement in human rights, diversity, inclusivity, and gender equality. I hereby recommend the launch of a focused audit that will review barriers to representation and participation and make recommendations for greater diversity and inclusion.”
Among those in attendance for the sitting were Dame Janet Bostwick, the first woman elected to serve in the House of Assembly; Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt, the first woman to serve as deputy prime minister; Rome Italia Johnson, the first female speaker of the House of Assembly; and former Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, among others. The wives of the former prime ministers were also in the gallery.