By Allyson Maynard-Gibson
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King III
Last week I quoted the late Congressman John Lewis, who said that “democracy is not a state; it is an act” and I urged that the time is right for us to act.
One of the four “actions” that I, again, call for is “the tabling in Parliament and passing of the already drafted legislation to confer on Bahamian women the right for their spouses and children, wherever they are born, to become citizens of The Bahamas”. I also pointed out that the four “actions” would be taken in fulfillment of The Bahamas’ obligations under various U.N. Treaties (including CEDAW) and to accomplish the U.N. Agenda 2030.
During the week, I had the privilege to appear on a radio talk show and, separately, to communicate with many people, some of whom pointed out that women in The Bahamas have achieved much. For example, we have had two women governors-general, a woman as acting prime minister, and so forth.
Yes, thank God, Bahamian women have achieved much. The fact is, not one of those accomplished women has the same legal right as any man in The Bahamas to pass her citizenship on to her spouse and children.
Men and women celebrate their achievements, many of them historic, of these and other women. The issue at hand is not that women in The Bahamas have not risen to the highest heights; the issue, plain and simple, is that in The Bahamas, women are not equal to men, as it relates to the right to pass citizenship to their spouses and children. On this matter, The Bahamas’ Constitution discriminates against women. The already drafted legislation would enable a Bahamian woman to pass her citizenship on to her spouse and children. It also addresses the current plight of a single Bahamian man who is legally unable to pass his citizenship on to his child.
Most of us know someone adversely impacted by these injustices. They continue to cause pain and suffering in families. We know of Bahamian women who have left The Bahamas or have not returned to The Bahamas because it was almost impossible for their spouse, not being a citizen, to get a job. We know children of single Bahamian men who, unable to obtain citizenship, are unable, fully and without fetter, to contribute to our society. There are many more examples of these kinds of stresses on family life. Why should we allow them to continue knowing that strong families are the foundation of strong societies? As well, The Bahamas loses the talents of people who, because of this discrimination, are not fully contributing to national development.
I congratulate the government on its indication that the legislation will be tabled and eagerly anticipate its passage.
Parliament has the power to eliminate this pain and suffering. I call on Parliament to act.
“… democracy is an act.”