Saturday, June 22, 2013

The marital rape question in The Bahamas

AG remained ‘consistent’ on marital rape issue

Guardian Senior Reporter

Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said she has always been consistent on the issue of marital rape.

Maynard-Gibson added that the Christie administration is committed to consultation with the community before making any decisions on whether to make it a crime.

Her comments came when asked to respond to criticism from former Minister of State for Social Development Loretta Butler-Turner.

Last week, Butler-Turner suggested that the government is being hypocritical on the issue because it failed to support the Ingraham administration’s effort to make marital rape a crime four years ago.

In 2009, Butler-Turner tabled a bill that would have criminalized marital rape with a possible life sentence.

“It never moved beyond the position of tabling because we went into the summer recess at that time where we had many town meetings and discourse,” Butler-Turner said.

“At that time, we did not get the support of the current government, the PLP, the sitting minister or the minister that is now reporting to the Human Rights commission in Geneva.”

But Maynard-Gibson said on Thursday, “I have been consistent on this matter from day one.

“If you look at what I said then and what I am saying now there is no difference.

“Laws are effective when people buy into them and see them as just. The family is a very important unit in our society and when we are doing things that affect the family it just makes sense that we consult and then we bring our people along with us.”

Two weeks ago, she told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that the government is considering criminalizing marital rape.

“People have to be sensitized to the issues and if laws are to be effective, if they are brought forward, then they have to be laws that people buy into,” she told The Nassau Guardian. “What I said was we are prepared to continue the consultative process with all of our people.”

Whether the government brings a marital rape bill to Parliament in this term depends on the government’s consultative process, Maynard-Gibson said.

She said government officials are meeting with religious leaders and other stakeholders to give information and statistics on domestic violence while gleaning if there is widespread support for the issue.

Last week, Bahamas Christian Council President Dr. Ranford Patterson said his organization would support criminalizing marital rape.

Patterson said while there needs to be an exact legal definition, the council would support any legislation that protects the “stability of the family unit”.

That position on marital rape is in contrast to the council’s previous position after the contentious Marital Rape Bill was tabled in the House of Assembly four years ago.

June 22, 2013