The Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, Department of Gender and Family Affairs partnered with the University of The Bahamas to host the “Marital Rape” discussion on the proposed Amendment to the Sexual Offences Act (1991) at the University on Thursday, March 16, 2023.
A panel of presenters each gave views on the proposed amendment and answered questions. The panel comprised: Dr. Nicolette Bethel, Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, University of The Bahamas; Cedric Moss, Senior Pastor of Kingdom Life Church; Carol Misiewicz, Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court (retired); Charlene Paul, Chair, Caribbean Women in Leadership (Bah); Dr. Anthony Hamilton, President/Civil Society; and Senator the Hon. Maxine Seymour, representing the Bahamas Government Official Opposition.
Mrs. Ann Marie Davis, of the Office of the Spouse of the Prime Minister, was in attendance.
Minister of State for the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Lisa Rahming said. “This space provides an opportunity for persons to express their views on the proposed Amendments to the Sexual Offences Act (1991).”
The Minister of State said the more voices that are heard on this topic will assist in the advancing of this discussion. “When we remain silent that means we agree in accepting that nothing needs to be changed.”
Dr. Bethel said the majority of Bahamians are descended from a people that were brought to this country against their will, where they were deprived of their rights over their bodies, forced to labour for the benefit of others and given no scope for determination.
She said, “We continue to live in a society that does not recognize the right of individual Bahamians to self-determination whether it be enslavement in the past, colonialism also in the past, and today — dependence on external forces.”
Dr. Bethel added that we also live in a patriarchal society that does not recognize the rights of individual women to self-determination as citizens and as wives.
“So we are living with the legacy of the past and so in order for us to have this debate, we cannot forget that. We have inherited a world where it is fine for some people to be owned or possessed or controlled by other people.”
Mrs. Misiewicz explained that some persons argue that the position of the church should not matter when it comes human rights or for Bahamians to take the necessary steps for criminalizing marital rape.
“There are sound, reasonable and academic arguments why this position could be taken but in practical local and everyday terms, I think we could approach the argument about whether or how to criminalize marital rape from the angle that we call ourselves a Christian nation.”
Mrs. Misiewicz used examples of Jesus who never forced the church to submit to his desires. Instead, he willingly sacrificed himself to save everyone, and lovingly beckons believers to obedience for their own benefit.
By LLONELLA GILBERT/Bahamas Information Services