US Govt.: Violence against women in The Bahamas a “serious, widespread problem”

Human Rights report claims jet ski operator accused of rape was a minor

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Violence against women in The Bahamas continued to be a “serious, widespread problem” in 2018, according to the United States government.

The U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Human Rights Report, which was released yesterday, pointed to the increased number of reported cases of sexual violence in The Bahamas.

“The RBPF (Royal Bahamas Police Force) reported that from January to November there were 45 reported rapes, 12 attempted rapes, and 114 cases of unlawful sexual intercourse,” the report read.

“The RBPF reported Abaco had the highest number of reported cases of sexual violence.

“In September, a woman alleged a jet ski operator raped her in Nassau.

“Although she identified the accused in a line-up, he was released on bail because he was a minor.

“There were no further developments in her case in the courts, a common occurrence in rape and domestic violence cases.

“Violence against women continued to be a serious, widespread problem.”

In a March 2018 advisory, the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council warned Americans visiting The Bahamas during ‘Spring Break’ to avoid jet ski operators, saying they “continue to commit sexual assaults and other crimes against tourists”.

It instructed U.S. Embassy personnel not to use jet ski rentals on New Providence, including Cabbage Beach or Cable Beach.

In an updated advisory last month, the U.S. Department of State said that jet ski operators have been “known to commit sexual assaults against tourists”, and cautioned Americans visiting The Bahamas to exercise “increased caution”.

Adopting a softer tone on its Facebook page Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau advised that while a jet ski ride for cruise ship passengers while in port may seem like an adventure, “there are risks”.

“A spontaneous jet ski ride during one of your cruise ship stops may sound like the perfect adventure, but there are risks,” the “travel tip” read.

“Make sure you’re booking with a reputable company that adheres to appropriate safety standards.”

Bahamian officials have pointed to increased regulations and greater oversight and policing of the sector in recent years.

According to crime statistics, incidents of rape nationwide increased six per cent last year — from 52 in 2017 to 55 in 2018.

Those statistics provided by the police force did not collate the data by gender, however.

As it relates to sexual violence, the U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report report noted, “The law recognizes domestic violence as a crime separate from assault and battery, and the government generally enforced the law, although women’s rights groups cited some reluctance on the part of law enforcement authorities to intervene in domestic disputes.

“The Bahamas Crisis Center provided a counselor referral service and operated a toll-free hotline.

“The authorities, in partnership with a private organization, operated a safe house.”

In a recent interview, Bahamas Crisis Centre Director Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson said rape in The Bahamas is an epidemic, adding that many victims to not follow through with the complaints process because they have lost faith in the criminal justice system.

During the opening of the Legal Year, Acting Chief Justice Vera Watkins called for the establishment of a sexual offenses court, noting that victims of these crimes frequently withdraw their official complaints as a result of delays in the court system.

On workplace equality, the U.S. report stated that women in The Bahamas were generally free of economic discrimination; the law provides for equal pay for equal work and the same legal status and right for women as for men.

However, it said women have reported it was more difficult for them to qualify for credit and to own a business.

The report did not provide any specific example of this.

As it relates to sexual harassment, the report said there were no official reports of workplace sexual harassment last year.

It underscored that the law prohibits criminal quid pro quo sexual harassment and authorizes penalties of up to $5,000 and a maximum term of imprisonment of two years.

The U.S. Department of State’s report also pointed out that the law does not prohibit discrimination based on gender, noting that women with foreign-born spouses do not have the same right as men to transmit citizenship to their spouses or children.

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