Why does the political scene in The Bahamas seem to be a boys club, with a mere 17.95% of Members of Parliament (MPs) being women? Often, women candidates are less likely to run or, more importantly, be elected. Why might you ask? This is primarily due to the perception of women and their roles in society. In an article for the Tribune, “Is the Bahamas ready for a female prime minister?” Cara Hunt highlighted the strides made for women in politics. Most notably, the article mentioned the historic appointment of Cynthia “Mother” Pratt as the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security in 2002 and eventually the first woman acting Prime Minister.
Although the article recognized The Bahamas is not quite ready for women to take on more leadership roles like Prime Minister. Current women leaders in The Bahamas undoubtedly experience harassment and “name calling” at a higher rate than men. A former member of the House of Assembly, Loretta Butler-Turner, regarded the country as “weak” in having an equal number of women in office as men. Turner noted that the idea that “men are the only ones able to hold such positions” is mainly responsible for the gender gap in Parliament.
Outside the realm of women in politics, women still do not have the right to pass citizenship onto their children. The Bahamas is one of twenty-seven countries globally (one of two in the Western Hemisphere) that does not allow mothers the right to pass on their nationality to their children. Lest we forget, there is still no law against marital rape.
Since the 9th of February 1961 decision to enact women’s right to vote, the sentiment that women are second-class citizens has faded into the back of Bahamians’ minds. The Bahamas continued its efforts by joining the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women on the 6th of October, 1962. Although at the time, the country did not adopt all the articles under the UN’s mandate, which included “Article 2(a) which obligated it to’ embody the principle of the equality of men and women’ in our Constitution; Article 9 which obligated it to grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality, and Article 16(h) which conferred the same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, etc, of property.”
For many who were not witnesses of the successes of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the UN ratification, women’s rights in The Bahamas seem to have reached its climax. Despite the achievements of these movements, have we even begun to fight the stereotypes that influence the discrimination against women in The Bahamas? Has there ever been any significant 2023 recognition of the International Day of the Girl Child? Do you know what the International Day of the Girl Child is?
Written by: Chanarae Turnquest