NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government’s compendium of amendments for the regulation of the country’s fisheries resources may be “discriminatory” to Bahamian women, warned East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest yesterday.
Turnquest made the comment at the top of the debate in Parliament on the Fisheries Bill, 2020.
The bill would repeal the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, 1977, and seeks to prevent individuals who are not citizens of The Bahamas from engaging in commercial fishing.
The debate also centered on the Immigration (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which seeks to ensure that work permits are not granted for commercial fishing.
The compendium of bills was passed unanimously shortly before 10.30pm.
Turnquest questioned whether the amendments would prohibit spousal permit holders and permanent residents from being able to fish.
“And if that is in fact the case, how do we square that with the Constitution and with general human rights?” he asked.
“I would think that any spouse of a Bahamian should have a right to help support their family in whatever their skill is.
“I think it’s a slippery slope. If you start with fishing, then is the hotel industry next?
“I just wonder how we square that and whether we’ve consulted with all the human rights organizations and representatives here to ensure that we do not continue to perpetuate a discriminatory policy against Bahamian women in particular because let’s face it, that’s what we are talking about.”
Turnquest noted that the Constitution already has some “built-in discriminatory clauses”.
“This seems to be further entrenching that discriminatory clause where we — males — are saying to these females that we don’t trust you to make a decision about your spouse and whether they are marrying you for love or for something else,” he continued.
“It also seems to me that it’s maybe admitting that the immigration department is not able to police these ‘marriages of convenience’ and thus we are punishing people who are actually having sustainable marriages.”
Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard, who led debate on the compendium of amendments, noted that both administrations have missed the opportunity to create parity in the constitution for men and women.
Pintard noted, however, there are some “carve-outs” that Bahamian citizens are entitled to in the Constitution.
He compared the exclusivity of the commercial fishing industry to Bahamian citizens being able to serve in government or serve as police officers.
“There are some carve-outs that we are entitled to as Bahamians and this is one of them,” Pintard said.
“We encourage persons to apply for citizenship and we also say to ourselves, ‘Let’s move faster to adjudicating these applications for citizenship.'”