NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Nearly 90 percent of Bahamians support the granting of equal rights to Bahamian men and women and equal rights in passing on citizenship, a recent survey has revealed.
The Voice of the People Survey conducted by Bahamian information and research company Intel Cay had more than 4,300 respondents.
Queswell Ferguson, who heads the firm along with Keiran Chase, told Eyewitness News the company is looking to provide insight and relevant data on a wide range of issues in the country.
“We want to create a more empowered society by collecting, analyzing and sharing meaningful data that closes the gap between Bahamians and organizations. Every quarter, we intend to introduce a new study on relevant issues in the country,” said Ferguson.
On the citizenship question, 88.69 percent of respondents supported the notion that Bahamian men and women should have the ability to pass on citizenship to their children, while 11.31 percent disagreed. Similarly, 89.77 percent of respondents supported equal rights for Bahamian men and women while 10.23 percent disagreed.
During a June 7 constitutional referendum, voters were asked whether they approved of four separate constitutional amendments, however, all four proposals were rejected. That referendum had asked voters whether they would approve changing the Constitution to allow a child to become a Bahamian citizen at birth, if the child’s mother or father is a citizen of The Bahamas by birth.
The most controversial of the questions, however, asked voters whether they agreed the Constitution should be amended to make it unlawful to discriminate based on sex, with sex being defined as being male or female. Some who opposed the referendum fiercely argued that it would open the door to same-sex marriages in The Bahamas.
Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson said last month the government is seeking to wrap up the revised draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018.
“We are working hard to complete that process so that women are able to pass on their citizenship,” he said.
The proposed legislation puts forth sweeping changes to the country’s immigration laws by seeking to address long-standing issues surrounding statelessness and the right to pass on citizenship.
Johnson noted that on the issue of statelessness in the country, many “persons don’t want what they have”.
“On a number of occasions, persons have come to me and said to me that they are stateless only to find that you have a designation, but you don’t want that designation, you really want Bahamian citizenship,” said Johnson.
Under the first draft of the bill, anyone who is born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973, to non-Bahamian parents and does not apply for citizenship before by their 19th birthday, would lose that right to apply for citizenship.
Additionally, the bill would have given individuals who fall under that category six months after the law takes effect to apply for some form of status or risk being deported.
Provisions under the new legislation would also establish a “right of abode” in The Bahamas, for anyone born in the country to foreign parents while they are a minor. It also outlines provisions for asylum in the country.
The bill was drafted by the Law Reform Commission, headed by Dame Anita Allen and would repeal the Bahamas Nationality Act and the Immigration Act.