NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamas Crisis Center Director Donna Nicholls said yesterday that community buy-in is needed to fuel the fight for equality of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) community and to end discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation in The Bahamas.
But she acknowledged that the road ahead is long with a select few coming to the fore to stand up for these minority communities in the country.
The Bahamas’ lack of anti-discrimination protections of LGBTQI was among the issues the United States (U.S.) Department of State highlighted in its 2018 Human Rights Report released earlier this month.
“We have been talking about this for the last 30 years,” Nichols said when contacted for comment.
“There has been some progress; there are no two ways about that.
“But, until the community at large, the community, all of us understand that these are important issues; that if it affects one part of our community it affects all of us; then we can put pressure on the government.
“The government works on the things that gives them votes so they are going to point on issues that it thinks is important [and] going to give them votes
“With an issue like this, that’s an important issue, if we don’t have the buy-in of the community at large, we are not going to get anywhere.
“We are not reactionary. We understand exactly what you’re saying is the truth.
“But we talk about it. Every time we open our mouth we talk about all form of discrimination; all these things.
The U.S. Department of State report read, “The law does not provide anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBT) individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression of sex characteristics.
“Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults is legal.
“The law defines the age of consent for same-sex individuals as 18, compared with 16 for heterosexual individuals.
“Non-governmental organizations reported LGBTI individuals faced social stigma and discrimination.”
Last January, Attorney General Carl Bethel said The Bahamas has a history of tolerance and minor legal protection for the LGBTQI community.
The legal protection he was referring to was the decriminalizing of buggery.
The Bahamas decriminalized the act in 1991.
The country has received a number of recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council member countries related to the discrimination of individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender equality.
Addressing the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review Working Group in Geneva, Switzerland, Bethel said, “Although sexual orientation and gender identity is not included as prohibited ground of discrimination in the constitution, and there is no legislation which prohibits discrimination in specific areas, such as employment, the government continues to assert that there have not been any instances recorded of any legal discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity”.
He said there were no formal reports lodged of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to authorities, including the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Bahamas Labour Board, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.