The Network of Caribbean Feminists released its statement–calling on CARICOM to support the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel) case at the International Court of Justice for measures to be taken against genocidal actions by Israel–on the ongoing genocide in Palestine on Monday, May 7. This post has excerpts from the statement.

“We affirm the humanity and dignity of the Palestinian people and we rebuke the violence enacted against them, including bombardment, starvation, sexual violence, ethnic cleansing, and the intentional destruction of educational, cultural, healthcare, political, and religious institutions. More than 35,000 Palestinian people have been killed since October 7, 2023. Most of them are women and children. More than 80,000 Palestinian people have been injured. Over 8,000 Palestinian people are missing. Almost 2 million Palestinians are currently displaced in Gaza, and 1.1 million are facing catastrophic food insecurity.”

“We reiterate the Human Rights Council resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination which “calls upon all States to ensure their obligations of non-recognition, non-aid or assistance with regard to the serious breaches of peremptory norms of international law by Israel.” We grieve the Nakba of 1948 and support Palestinians who reject the two-state solution. There can be no peace without justice.”

See and share the full statement at

It should not be surprising at this point. Another week, another idiotic statement in response to the call for the criminalization of marital rape. This week, when asked about movement on the marital rape bill, the prime minister made a number of disturbing comments. 

First, he said, “Drafts are given for consideration. So we have a draft that has been given for our consideration. We have not gotten around to it yet.”

The bill to amend the Sexual Offenses Act to criminalize marital rape has been in draft form since, if not before, 2022. We have had the bill for at least two years. This comes after four years of sitting on an inadequate bill drafted by the previous administration. This is not a new issue, and there are no new items for consideration. There is nothing complicated to think about or discuss. Just last week, he stated that rape is rape, and that he has difficulty with categories and descriptions of rape. The marital rape bill removes a category and ensures that rape that is perpetrated by a spouse is legally treated as rape, as it should.

Next, he said, “As you would recall, I am guided by my Blueprint for Change. That sets out the basis for which I asked people to vote for me and marital rape was not contained in that. Im not insensitive to it. I appreciate it and I know.” The Blueprint for Change mentions women only twice. On page 49, it states, “The PLP is committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that ensures quality education, life long learning opportunities, gender equality and empowerment for women and girls; quality water, sanitation, and access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.”

The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 with full support from all Member States, including The Bahamas. All of the 17 goals have targets, and those targets have indicators that facilitate monitoring and evaluation of progress toward the goals. 

Sustainable Development Goal 5, referenced in the Blueprint for Change, is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The first target is “End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.” The indicator for this target is “Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‑discrimination on the basis of sex.” The second target is “Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. The indicators of this target are “Proportion of ever-partnered women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by form of violence and by age” and “Proportion of women and girls aged 15 years and older subjected to sexual violence by persons other than an intimate partner in the previous 12 months, by age and place of occurrence.”

Gender equality requires an end to gender-based discrimination in law, policy, and practice. This, combined with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the recommendations made by the Committee, led to the government engaging UN Women to undertake a review of all laws to identify those that discriminate against women and girls. This is what led to the discriminatory law review forum where the draft was, in a less than ideal way, discussed. The final report has not yet been delivered and approved, but we know the laws that were identified. The Sexual Offenses Act was one of them and Section 3, which defines rape, was specifically identified as one that needs to be amended. Eliminating discrimination against women, which is required to achieve gender equality, necessitates the criminalization of marital rape. The Blueprint for Change, then, includes a commitment to criminalizing marital rape.

On page 52, the Blueprint for Change states, “The Progressive Liberal Party is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination against men and women in The Bahamas.” 

The Bahamas ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993. In 2018, it underwent its sixth periodic review. Marital rape was raised, again, raised as a pressing issue. In its Concluding Observations, the CEDAW Committee recommended that the Government of The Bahamas “Adopt, without delay, the amendments to the Sexual Offences Act expressly criminalizing marital rape, remove any temporal limitations to the right to file a complaint for marital rape in the draft amendment to the Sexual Offences Act and establish a sex offender register and registry.”

In her report following her visit to The Bahamas, the (then) Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women called on the Government of The Bahamas to “Revise or adopt new criminal law provisions to prohibit marital rape, including by ensuring that the definition of sexual crimes, including marital and acquaintance/date rape is based on the lack of freely given consent, and takes account of coercive circumstances, in line with general recommendation No. 35 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.”

These recommendations are connected to the aforementioned parts of the Blueprint for Change. Criminalizing marital rape is required to follow through on the commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals which include gender equality and to eliminate discrimination against men and women. We must not accept what the Prime Minister has said. This is the work that is required of his administration, and this is the work that is committed to carrying out in its own campaign document.

Finally, the prime minister said, “My thing is that any time a couple … in blissful marriage reaches a stage where they are going to report their husband for rape, it seems to me that that marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning they are no longer married even though it may not have been so pronounced by a court.”

The marriage is broken? Violence is destructive. Sexual violence destructive. Rape is destructive. The conversation about marital rape, contrary to popular belief, is not about marriage. It is about people. Specifically, it is about a person who is violated in a devastating, irreparable way by a perpetrator who is not only known to them, but in a legal arrangement that is supposedly rooted in love, but often turns out to be obsession and/or possession. At present, the law suggests that legal arrangement erases the humanity of the person who has been violated, and that they should endure that violence and have no legal recourse.

Here comes the prime minister. He says the rape means the marriage is broken, such that they are no longer married, regardless of what the law or courts say. This shifted the line of questioning to divorce. It must be made clear that divorce is not a remedy for rape. Whether the marriage is broken or a person in the marriage fails to see the other person as a human being with human rights, including the right to give and withhold consent, divorce should be readily available. It should be more than possible. It should be easy because those people should not be together and should not be forced, by the law, to operate, in any way, as a married people. The violent act of rape, however, requires different action. Any person who is raped must be able to report the rape and have access to justice. Divorce and rape charges are not the same, they are not interchangeable, and one does not replace the other. We need access to both. Everyone should be able to report acts of violence against them, have their reports taken, and see the justice system work for them. 

In December 2017, the prime minister said, I think we all accept…I know no right thinking Bahamian will accept that a person should be violated or in any form or fashion be abused.”

In February 2022, he said, “Ive given the attorney general the mandate to follow the recommendations that will flow from that conference[…] and well see what the recommendations are from there, and well move to enact what laws [are] recommended by them to the attorney general that is deemed appropriate by the Cabinet.”

In October 2022, he said, “Any assault on a woman, be it whether you call it rape, grievous harm or otherwise, the law should take its course. Report those incidents to the police.”

Help women who raped by their husbands to report those incident to the police. Make rape a crime, regardless of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim or survivor. Commitments have already been made. The bill has already been drafted. Stand in the shoes you so desperately wanted to wear.  Do what you claimed, in your Blueprint for Change, you would do. Move toward the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5 for gender equality and eliminate discrimination against women. Criminalize marital rape.


Yesterday was World Book Day, and Equality Bahamas shared a list of recommended books. One set of books were selected from the Feminist Book Club reads, and one set were written by Palestinian authors. Here are four books to consider buying or borrowing to read this month. 

How to Say Babylon by Safiya Sinclair

National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, a New York Times Notable Book, and winner of the 2024 OCM Bocas Prize for Fiction winner, this book is hard to put down. From the first page, Sinclair captures readers with the vivid depiction of her childhood and family life and her determination to get out and create a different life for herself. 

Evil Eye by Etaf Rum

Yara got married to break free from her conservative family. She went to university, got a job, and wants to teach full time. Her ability to participate in the work culture, which seems inextricably linked with upward mobility, is constrained by her domestic and care responsibilities. It does not help that colleagues obviously buy into stereotypes about Palestinian people, and this flattens her view of her own life into obligation and regret. She wants to prove that she isn’t the stereotypical Palestinian woman, and she wants to challenge, carefully, the norms that have been created in her own family so that she does not become her mother. 

What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo

This is one of those books that, once you have read it, you are bound to think everyone should read. It is memoir infused with research, bringing scientific context to the deeply personal story Foo shared. Foo survived a childhood rife with abuse and abandonment. Though it took a long time, she got the diagnosis of complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and soon realized that she could not just “rally” and move on. She put in significant work to understand the diagnosis and access the care she needed. The story is difficult in parts, yet full of hope. 

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

A queer Palestinian-American girl is trying to be and love herself. This book takes us back and forth between the U.S. to the Middle East, showing different parts of her life. She struggles to live in a space between cultures and beliefs, trying to keep her identity and sense of self stable and strong. What happens when a mother tells her girl child, “You exist too much?” She has to reject it. She has to accept herself.

The Prime Minister said, “Rape is rape!” Women’s rights advocates have been saying this for years. Rape is rape! Rape is rape! Wherever it happens, whoever is involved, rape is rape. There are no exceptions. 

The rest of what the Prime Minister said, however, is nonsense. The rest of what he said, in fact, was contradictory. The rest of what he said was irresponsible and misleading. The rest of what he said was what we, by now, have come to expect from him—unwillingness to state a clear position and a singular commitment to obfuscation.

“Why do you want to describe rape? Rape is rape.”

Well, for all who are as confused as the Prime Minister, the statement “Rape is rape” means that rape in all forms, by any person with or without any kind of relationship to the person violated, is rape. Rape of an underage person is rape. Rape on a hotel property is rape. Rape in the morning is rape. Rape by a spouse is rape. In the statement “Marital rape is rape,” we see that “marital” is used as an adjective, indicating that the rape being discussed is rape by a spouse. It is both more succinct and wholly accurate. The reason we use the term “marital rape” is not a suggestion that it is not rape, but an affirmation that it is, in fact, rape. It is not that we are creating a category of rape, but that we are calling attention the distinction that is made in the law—a distinction that dehumanizes married women, violates the right to bodily autonomy, violates the right to be free from violence, and violates the right to be seen and treated as person before the law. “Marital rape” is a necessary term within this context—the violent, misogynistic Bahamian context—where there is no recourse for a women who raped by her spouse.

Rape is, as the Prime Minister put it, divided into categories. This does, indeed, present a problem. Rape is rape! All forms of rape are wrong. Whether rape takes place in the morning or at night, perpetrated by a person known or unknown to the person violated, it is rape. Sexual intercourse without consent is, without question, rape. The Sexual Offenses Act, however, does not align with this fact. Not only are there several “categories” of sexual violence in the Act, the definition of rape in Section 3 has a marital exclusion, hence the term “marital rape” in the advocacy to amend the law. Because the Act creates this exclusion, we must be intentional in naming the exclusion.

The definition of rape in Section 3 of the Sexual Offenses Act says, “Rape is the act of any person not under fourteen years of age having sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse —[without consent].” The issue with the definition is that it provides an exception for people who are married to the people they rape. “Rape is rape,” the Prime Minister said, but the law does not say the same, and his administration has the power to change it. 

The definition of rape in the Sexual Offenses Act limits rape to non-consensual sexual intercourse that occurs outside of a marriage. The law, then, recognizes rape perpetrated by stranger, a parent, a sibling, a boyfriend, a teacher, an acquaintance, and a host of other people. It very specifically and deliberately does not recognize nonconsensual sexual intercourse, which is rape, that is perpetrated by a spouse. Again, this is an exception on the basis of marriage. It creates a “category” of rape that is permissible by the Sexual Offenses Act (while in contravention with international human rights standards and commitments that The Bahamas has made through its ratification of various conventions including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belém do Pará). 

Given this, it important to look at Section 15 on sexual assault by spouse. In this section, the drafters determined that there is a narrow set of circumstances under which nonconsensual sexual intercourse perpetrated by a spouse is a criminal offense. They decided that this nonconsensual sexual intercourse, which is understood to be rape in other cases, is going to be in a different category. Rather than rape, it is called “sexual assault by spouse.” This, then, is another “category” of rape.

Section 6 is the first that addresses indictable sexual offenses and states that “Any person who commits rape is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life, subject to, on a first conviction for the offence, a term of imprisonment of seven years and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction for the offence, a term of imprisonment of fourteen years.” Terms of imprisonment vary from one “category” to another. Again, note that women’s rights advocates have not created these categories. They exist in the law.

Section 15 states “Any person who has sexual intercourse with his spouse without the consent of the spouse —[where there is a decree nisi of divorce; a decree of judicial separation; (a separation agreement; or an order of a court for the person not to molest or co-habit with his spouse[…] is guilty of the offence of sexual assault by spouse and liable to imprisonment for a term of fifteen years. In addition, prosecution requires “consent of the Attorney-General.” It is clearly rape, though given another name and treated differently by the law, and putting up an additional barrier to reporting and accessing justice, again, privileging the rapist who is married to the person they sexually violate.

“Rape is rape, whether you’re married or unmarried and the challenge they are having is describing it,” the Prime Minister said.

Who is the “they” being referenced by the Prime Minister? Women’s rights advocates are not trying to “describe” rape. We are using appropriate language to specify that the rape of a person by their spouse is currently not considered, in Bahamian law, to be an act of sexual violence, and it ought to be. As the Prime Minister said, rape is rape! The most direct and clear way to discuss this issue is to use the succinct term “marital rape” until the necessary amendments are made to the Sexual Offenses Act to remove the words “who is not his spouse” from the definition of rape. Then we can talk about rape without the adjective “marital.”

The Prime Minister said, “We passed a bill… a bill against violence against persons[…] that covers any manner of degradation, or what I call behavior that’s not acceptable to society.”

This is, quite simply, incorrect. The “Protection Against Violence” Act is an embarrassment. It was rushed, bypassing consultation processes, in order to displace—and perhaps get people to forget about—the Gender-Based Violence bill. We have not forgotten the Gender-Based Violence bill which has been in draft since 2016. Equality Bahamas has been calling for the Gender-Based Violence bill to be updated and passed for several years, and this has been one of its demands during the Global 16 Days Campaign since 2020. The CEDAW Committee, in 2018, expressed its concern about “the lack of a comprehensive law addressing violence against women and the delay in finalizing and adopting the draft bill on gender-based violence and the draft national strategic plan to address gender-based violence.” The Committee called on the Government of The Bahamas to “accelerate the adoption of the comprehensive draft bill on gender-based violence and the draft national strategic plan to address gender-based violence, in line with the Committees general recommendation No. 35.”

Successive administrations have failed to act on the recommendations to move closer to compliance with CEDAW and other international human rights mechanisms. The “Protection Against Violence” Act does not meet the requirements. It is not a gender-based violence bill and it does not address gender-based violence. It absolutely does not “cover any manner of degradation” and certainly does not, as the Prime Minister seemed to suggest, address the issue of marital rape.

The so-called Protection Against Violence Act states as its purpose “to provide for a national strategy to prevent and respond to the occurrence of violence and to protect victims of violence by promoting a strong multi-disciplinary community and services for the comprehensive management of victims and offenders; a system of information gathering for the purpose of generating reliable statistics in instances where violence in domestic relationships results in death; compliance with regional and international human rights treaty obligations of The Bahamas.”

In summary, the “Protection Against Violence” Act is meant to provide a strategy to prevent and streamline responses to violence, collect data on death due to domestic violence, and meet international human rights obligations. The Act has sections on developing and implementing a national strategic plan (which, we must remember, was already published in 2015 and has been collecting dust instead of being implemented or, at this point, significantly and substantively updated), institutional strengthening, establishment of a foundation, establishment of a commission, establishment of a secretariat and appointment of a director, general rights of victims, procedure for handling complaints, care and support services (including housing and legal assistance) which apply only to victims of sexual abuse, protocol when violence results in death, establishment of a violence fatality review team, and administrative details related to the bodies to be established. 

The “Protection Against Violence” Act does not, in and of itself, propose prevention. It does not present a strategy. It does address marital rape at all. It focuses on the establishment of bodies and structures. It is not the kind of law that people imagine when they read or hear the title. The law that address sexual violence is the Sexual Offenses Act and it, as explained, does not acknowledge that rape is rape. The marital exception is cruel, violent, dehumanizing, and does not have to exist. 

All we need is a Prime Minister who cares. Members of Parliament who care. Who are not lazy. Who are not complicit. Who are not more concerned about reelection than addressing the pervasive issue of gender-based violence and, in particular, violence against women that is perpetrated by a spouse or intimate partner. We need legislators who know and understand the law. Who are prepared to work together to amend the law so that marital rape is, legally, rape. It only takes one Member of Parliament to take a bill to Parliament. Thus far, not a single member has cared enough to do it. What great evidence of where we are as a country, with our “representation” in the government and its priorities.


  1. Join the call to criminalize marital rape. Learn more about the #Strike5ive campaign by Equality Bahamas at 
  2. Read the Sexual Offenses Act. Pay attention the definition of rape, the forms of sexual violence that are included, and the differences in sentences.
  3. Read the “Protection Against Violence” Act. There was no consultation on the bill before it was rushed to be passed, bypassing the Gender-Based Violence bill which was mid-consultation and has been recommended by numerous bodies including the CEDAW Committee in 2018 and Member States of the United Nations at the Universal Periodic Review in 2023. Understand what is and is not in the Act. The misinformation being spouted by this administration is not accidental, and it is not hard to miss if you read the text yourself, looking for the changes it is expected to make.

The Bahamas, though it is a Small Island Developing State that is heavily reliant on tourism, continues to be classified as a “high-income country” and this comes with consequences. It is becoming more widely understood that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not only an inadequate measurement, but misleading and harmful. It is common knowledge that at least 80% of the money generated by the tourism industry leaves the country, and quickly. This money, however, is included in the GDP of this tourism-dependent country that does not truly own the tourism industry. According to the Inter-American Development Country Strategy for The Bahamas 2024-2028, From 2015–2019, tourism accounted for an average of about 41 percent of GDP (when counting the sectors direct and indirect contributions), about 48 percent of total employment, and about 78 percent of total exports.” 

This is a country where the income per capita, in the area of $31,000 in 2022, is a dream to many and barely manageable for the people at that income level who have to take care of anyone other than themselves. These considerations should be at the beginning and at the foundation of any conversations about planning, development, and assessments at the national level. The Bahamas is not a “developed” country based on the standards set by development organizations, including development banks, and this clear when ownership and control of resources is taken into consideration along with the destination of money generated here, particularly by the tourism industry. 

The tourism industry is a precarious one, and we have been directly warned by unpredictable events and shocks that economic diversification is critical. The sudden halt in travel immediately following 9/11 and the prolonged effects should have prompted a response that went beyond speeches. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the industry to a standstill close to twenty years later. Most people were affected by this in a direct and noticeable way. Many who are not directly employed in the tourism industry depend on those who are to support their businesses and, in many cases, their households. Given the nature of tourism and the amount of frontline service work it demands, in combination with the concentration of women in service jobs, women were severely impacted. 

Gender inequality affects every sphere of life. The evidence of it is everywhere. It affects our access to education, job opportunities, ability to advance in the workplace, access to public space, safety, social engagement, and home life. Gender-based violence is both interpersonal and structural, and this maintains the connection between issues that one may assume are completely separate, such as unemployment and domestic violence. The ability to work and receive appropriate compensation affects the ability of a woman to, for example, seek medical care, secure a safe place to live, keep her children in school, and leave an abusive relationship and household. The specific impact of a global shock like the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls includes household affairs—ability to physically leave the residence, ability to buy sufficient food and other necessities, access to mental health services, management of addiction, primary topics of conversation, and responses to frustration. Gender is a factor, among others, that determines both opportunities and outcomes. 

One of the cross-cutting themes noted in the Strategic Areas of the Country Strategy is gender and social inclusion. On the Global Gender Gap Index 2021, The Bahamas was ranked low in comparison to similar countries. It found that while women were 75% more likely to have completed education at the university level, they were twice as likely to be unemployed. When employed, women with university-level education received 68% of the income men received. An IDB survey revealed that, in 2020, more women lost their jobs than men. Contrary to popular belief, women were also less likely to hold managerial positions. The representation of women in frontline politics remains low at 18% (in Parliament). Gender inequality is a longstanding, systemic issue that requires a response that includes action to end gender-based violence.

In section 3.27 of the IDB Country Strategy, a Bahamas Women’s Health and Wellbeing Survey, administered under the Citizen Security and Justice Program, is referenced. The survey was the first on the national prevalence of gender-based violence, examining “lifetime and recent experiences of intimate and non-intimate partner violence and abuse.” Survey results indicate the one in every four women in The Bahamas has experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. One in every five women experience physical violence in an intimate relationship and just less than one in every ten women in The Bahamas experienced sexual violence in an intimate relationship. One in three women in The Bahamas experiences psychological or emotional violence by an intimate partner, and almost one in ten women experienced economic violence. The Country Strategy states that IDB will work with the Government of The Bahamas to use this data in the development of policy. 

One of the issues that is raised by development agencies, (potential) funders, consultants, and civil society organizations is the lack of data. This is true for The Bahamas, and it is true for other countries in the Caribbean. The situation appears to be different for Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados where there are University of the West Indies campuses. We have recently seen research being shared by departments and faculty at the University of The Bahamas, and it has been helpful for students, advocates, researchers, and policymakers to have access to the data and analysis. It is known that the government pays for research to be done, reports to be written, and policies to be drafted, and that this does not always mean we will ever see, much less benefit from, the product. This needs to change. Data collection is great; we can only use it if we have access to it. Analysis is great; we can only apply it if we have access to it. There is a waste of resources when people undertake work that has been done already with the failure of making it accessible. We need to have access to the Bahamas Women’s Health and Wellbeing Survey. The data shared in the Country Strategy is useful, and there is certainly more that we can delve into and put to good use. It starts with access.

Recommendations for National Poetry Month

  1. Participate in National Poetry Writing Month NaPoWriMo in April. This annual event is a spinoff from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which is every November. For NaNoWriMo, participants try to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 words per day. In NaPoWriMo, the goal is to write one poem every day for 30 days. Poets need their month of intentional daily writing too. 
  2. Read Poetry is Not a Luxury by Audre Lorde, Black lesbian feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, and poet. In it, she said, “For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
  3. Seek out the work of Bahamian poets. Buy Bougainvillea Ringplay by Marion Bethel. Pick up a beautiful handmade book by Sonia Farmer. Check out the open mic nights where people share their work. Challenge yourself to become a Bahamian poet if you do not see yourself as one already. 
  4. Attend the NaPoWriMo Kick-Off. Poinciana Paper Press is hosting a session of generative writing prompts and community building, in-person at 12 Parkgate Road on Saturday, March 30 from 10am to 1pm. Participants will come up with prompts for the month of April, get to know each other, and be invited to join the WhatsApp group where prompts will be shared and daily poems are welcome. Sometimes prompts are one word, sometimes they are phrases. We may even see prompts that do not include worlds. One of the prompts in 2023 was the (wo)man at the bottom of Nassau harbor.” Coffee and tea will be available, and participants are welcome to bring snacks and treats to share. Whether you have never written poetry or have several books of poetry, NaPoWriMo is a great time to create new work with the support of other writers.

In two days, it will be Women’s History Month, also known as International Women’s Month due to International Women’s Day being on the eighth. It is a time to not only acknowledge the work and achievements of women in the past, but to face the issues of the present in a way that can contribute to an equitable future.

We are still living in an inequitable, violent world that privileges men, boys, and the masculine and discriminates against women, girls, and the feminine. Misogyny and gender inequality are entrenched in the constitution, permeate our laws, and influence behaviour that is often conflated with culture and deemed unchangeable. Many people continue to ignore the existence of gender inequality and to insist that gender equality does not exist, while looking at and being a part of the evidence that it does, indeed, exist and is affecting all of us every day.

This week, I am participating in the World Conference on Stateless where people from all over the world are talking about stateless, the laws and conditions that lead to it, and the affect that it has on stateless people and broader society. In some of the sessions, the focus is on gender inequality in nationality rights, making it difficult or impossible for women to confer citizenship on their children and spouses.

Several people have made it a point to tell me that they did not know The Bahamas had this issue. They did not know that things were so bad in The Bahamas. I know that there are many Bahamians who would take great exception to this, feeling the need to defend The Bahamas and insist that it is not a bad place, or that its problems are not so terrible. This is easy to do when people do not face these problems themselves, and even moreso when they could not care less about the trials and tribulations of others —particularly those they already consider to be “other.” This, in fact, is evidence of the terrible state affairs. People do not even have the capacity to care about what is happening around them, to people around them, many of whom they depend on for various forms of labour.

Women’s History Month begins in two days, and I take this opportunity to share that my colleagues at Equality Bahamas and I have been requesting a meeting with the Minister of Social Services for months. In fact, we had been requesting a meeting with his predecessor for months as well.

It is unclear whether we have ministers who are incapable of meeting with feminist civil society organisations or ministries and departments that are staffed with people who are unwilling to do their jobs or see it as their duty to be the bottlenecks that frustrate so many into non-participation. Perhaps it is a combination of the two.

This is not only unfortunate, but to the detriment of the country which is struggling to present itself as doing all right, and a government desperate to hide its failures and sugarcoat its complete disinterest in meeting international human rights standards. Civil society organisations such as Equality Bahamas are advocating for women to have full access to our human rights by participating in and invoking international mechanisms, demanding legal reform, providing public education material, and engaging with community members. This often means its representatives provide written and oral accounts of what is taking place in The Bahamas, how the government is responding to issues, and how government officials engage with advocates and affected people. These reports, generally speaking, are not good. The failure of successive government administrations is colossal, embarrassing, and wholly unnecessary.

In 1993, the Government of The Bahamas ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and reserved on Articles 2(a) and 9(2) which obligate States to “embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein[…]” and to “grant women equal citizenship rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children”. The CEDAW Committee has, on more than one occasion, recommended that the Government of The Bahamas withdraw its reservations, stating that these Articles are integral to the intended effect of the Convention itself. In particular, to reserve on Article 2 is antithetical to CEDAW and the ratification of it. How can a government commit to eliminating discrimination against women, yet refuse to make the necessary changes in the law?

Does a government committed to gender equality have ministers with responsibility for the gender department who refuse to meet with women’s rights advocates? Does it employ people who refuse to coordinate meetings at the request of civil society organisations? Civil society in some countries, with much smaller civic space, often complain of being unable to engage with government except for when they meet in international spaces, particularly where reporting is done. This should not be the case in The Bahamas, especially when the government has told the Human Rights Council that it is unaware of hostility toward human rights defenders.

We have to demand more of the government. We barely get promises, much less action that moves us toward gender equality. Even ending gender-based violence is not a priority for this administration which has failed to pass the Gender-Based Violence bill and is pretending as though the marital rape bill has vanished into thin air.

It is not enough to make speeches in other parts of the world about its “commitment” to human rights, and it is unacceptable for it to overstate its plans and actions. Equality Bahamas invites members of the public — women and girls in particular — to join us in taking our feminist demands to the streets. Our International Women’s Day March and Expo is on Saturday, March 9. Meet us at the Eastern Parade at 8:45am for the march to The Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts on Mackey Street, then spend the day with us at the Expo with several none-governmental organisations and practitioners who will facilitate great sessions from Zumba and yoga to letterpress printing and an introduction to bush medicine. Learn more about the event at

Published in The Tribune on February 28, 2024.

This week, I am participating in the strike for Palestine, and I invite you to join for the remainder of the week if you are not already participating. This global strike week is about disrupting business as usual. Those who are able are withdrawing their labour from formal markets through January 28. Many have committed to not spending money this week, and in some cases this is with the exception of purchasing e-SIMs for people in Palestine to enable internet connectivity.

This week is a time, for those new to it, to build the habit of boycotting so that it becomes a lifestyle rather than a one-time event. On social media, most participants are only sharing content related to Palestine and the call for a ceasefire. The global strike week is also a time for educating ourselves and one another, mobilising, protesting, and donating to pro-Palestine causes.

Since October 7, 2023, more than 24,000 people have been killed in Gaza.

While Israel’s aggression against Palestine has been referred to as “war”, it is genocide.

This month, South Africa took Israel to the International Court of Justice and, in its application, noted “the acts and omissions by Israel[…] are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip”.

I have followed dozens of Palestinian reporters, activists, academics, authors, and educators on social media, viewing their posts, captions, and the comments. Like many others, when I realise more than the usual amount of time between posts has elapsed, I try not to think the worst, knowing that it is completely possible, in this reality that should be impossible.

Palestinian people struggle to find internet to share the ongoing reality on the ground. They show us how they are grinding animal fodder to make food for themselves and their families. They tell us about their daily routines. They show us the mixing of soil into a muddy paste, mixing It with hay, and layering it to build an oven. They show us the shaking bodies of children who have seen and lived through what no human being should experience. They show us people digging in the rubble, searching for the bodies of their loved ones. They show us the darkness they sit in as they hear the sounds of airstrikes throughout the night. They show us lighter moments of song and dance, reminding us that even the smallest feelings and acts of joy can be resistance.

One of the people I follow is Bisan Owda, a Palestinian journalist and filmmaker. In a recent post, she said: “I am not scared of death, but of being displaced, scared of losing my family or friends, scared of being wounded and can’t have my treatment because the health system is collapsed in Gaza, and to die in pain! I am not scared of the destruction… I lost my work place… my home and my family work place and source of income, I am terrified of being killed by an occupier, and to be forgotten, one oppressed Bisan of a whole occupied people.”

Bisan has called for a global strike and a call for ceasefire. “Strike, protest, stop the economic movements and make pressure on your countries to stand against this and stop it[…]”

In the midst of this, there are protests against crimes against humanity in Sudan. People are calling attention to human rights violations and exploitation in Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of these crises are taking place now, having escalated in recent months, and started long before they got our attention in this way. These crises are all deeply rooted in colonialism. The devastation of communities, killing of people, and degradation of environments are all connected to the extraction of resources and the exploitation and dehumanisation of people. These are struggles that are not unknown to us, except for the ways that they are manifesting themselves and, perhaps, their timelines. We, too, have been and continue to be impacted by colonization. Look at our laws and judicial system, look at taxation and spending on public goods and services, look at the most common religious, look at the uniforms and all that is considered professional, and investigate their origins. It does not take long to trace it all back to colonisation, and it certainly should not take very long to see how these do not serve as as they should.

It is easy to ignore what is taking place in other parts of world. It is easy to think of ourselves and our geographic locations as separate. We are not, however, immune to the effects of global events. Our rights, our economics, our social attitudes and behaviors are all connected in both simple and complicated ways. Our actions impact more than the people directly receiving them and the places they occur. The unnecessarily frequent replacement of smartphones, for example, drive demand up and contributes to the continued exploitation of children made to work in mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with devastating consequences for their lives and the environment.

Many may think these are not our issues to consider, much less act on. Many are afraid of feeling powerless, so refuse to activate the power they do have for whatever small affect it may have, ignoring that all of our efforts, however small, add up, especially when we take action together.

The Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement calls on us to end international support for the genocide of Palestinian people by pressuring Israel to comply with international law. Inspired by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, it is a form of non-violent pressure organised by 170 Palestinian organisations and members of civil society in 2005. The BDS website,, details which organizations we are called on to boycott, divest from, or sanction and why these actions are important and impactful. Some of the companies on the boycott list do have products available in The Bahamas and alternative options are available.

Participating in the global strike week is easy. We do not have to do everything. It is important that we do something. It is critical that we are consistent, that we talk to others about the genocides taking place, and that we pressure people in positions of power to take action and to support those, like South Africa, who are leading.

“It is easy to feel discouraged and simply let go… On the other hand, if we take a step back, reflecting on what is happening all over the world and the history of struggle, the history of solidarity movements, it becomes clear, sometimes even obvious, that seemingly indestructible forced can be, thanks to people’s willpower, sacrifices, and actions, easily broken.”

– Angela Davis

To learn more about what is happening in Palestine, visit

Published in The Tribune on January 24, 2024.

SUNDAY, December 10, was Human Rights Day, with the theme of Freedom, Equality, and Justice for All (with italics indicating the emphasis on “all”). It marked 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The most translated text in the world, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights consists of 30 articles and serves as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society[…] shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance[…]”

It is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states that we are all born free and equal in dignity in rights, that everyone, without distinction, is entitled to all of the human rights and freedoms outlined, that we all have the right to life, liberty, and security of person, and that no one is to be held in slavery or servitude among many other rights.

The Human Rights 75 Initiative was launched to bring attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a High-Level event was organised to promote universality and indivisibility, look to the next 25 years, and bolster the human rights ecosystem. At the event, the Attorney General delivered pledges on behalf of The Bahamas at the High-Level event to commemorate the 75th anniversary by contributing to “change and concrete progress on the ground on the promise of freedom, equality and justice and accountability[…]” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website describes the pledges made as:

(1) Strengthening and development of national human rights mechanisms and institutions in alignment with international standards, including the establishment of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, the Office of the Ombudsman and strengthening the National Reporting Cooperation Mechanism;

(2) Strengthening cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as host country for the proposed regional office of OHCHR for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM);

(3) Ensuring equality in nationality rights and

(4) Taking concrete measures to address the existential threat of climate change and its adverse effect on human rights.

These pledges are without much meaning when we consider the complete and decided inaction of the Government of The Bahamas to protect, promote, uphold, and guarantee access to human rights. In April 2023, mere weeks before the appearing before the Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review, the government passed a resolution in the House of Assembly to form a “Human Rights Committee.”

At the Universal Periodic Review, 17 Member States recommended that the Government of The Bahamas establish a national human rights institution (NHRI), many of them specifying that it be in line with the Paris Principles which outline specific responsibilities and modes of operation and gives a specific composition to guarantee independence.

A national human rights institution is not a committee, and it is certainly not a parliamentary committee. It is to have pluralist representation to include civil society and universities and qualified experts. It is to have funding and its own staff to support its independence from the government. It is expected to have a broad mandate including the promotion of the harmonization of legislation with international human rights instruments, encourage ratification and implementation of human rights instruments, contribute to reports to human rights mechanisms including treaty bodies, and to publicly advocate for and increase public education on human rights.

The Government of The Bahamas has not acted in alignment with its purported commitment to human rights. It readily participates in talk shops and makes statements and pledges in international spaces, but fails to follow through on commitments or even acknowledge that commitments have been made at the national level. It is inconsistent even in its international acknowledgement of commitments.

For example, The Bahamas noted (meaning rejected) the recommendation to “ensure the full applicability of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,” but supported (meaning accepted) the recommendation to “continue its efforts to harmonise its national legislation to match its international human rights obligations and commitments.” The 1993 ratification of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is, in fact, a human rights commitment. It does not make sense for The Bahamas to accept a recommendation to harmonise legislation with international human rights commitments while refusing to fully comply with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Several member states recommended that the government of The Bahamas take measures to ensure the equal participation of women in political and public life. The government of The Bahamas noted, rather than supported, all of the recommendations in this area that obligates it to take specific action. Its nonsensical and false responses were, “There are a very high percentage of women having leadership in public and political life,” and “Women in The Bahamas are already participating equally in public life with their male counterparts.” It is important to note that the second response conveniently excludes political life. The first response is especially concerning as it is absurd to suggest that less than 20 percent is high representation when women are more than 50 percent of the population.

The Government of The Bahamas is not only content with its own mediocrity, but is consistent in its attempts to mislead multilateral organisations and the general public with regard to its position on issues and progress (or stagnation). It continues to reference the human rights committee as though it meets international standards. It does not. It is not in line with the Paris Principles. It is not a national human rights institution. No amount of pomp and pageantry around it will make it any more substantial or bring it any closer to the international standard. That the same government would suggest that 18 percent of parliamentarians being women is a high percentage is cause for great concern. Either the people submitting responses to the recommendations received in the Universal Periodic Review do not have a basic understanding of mathematics and, in particular, proportions, fractions, and percentages, or they have no commitment to gender equality or women’s equal participation and have set a devastatingly low bar that it does not intend to raise.

It remains to be seen whether or not the government will follow through on its commitment to address the issue of gender inequality in nationality law. When asked about the persisting inequality which prevent women from conferring Bahamian citizenship to their children and spouses, the government said it would take action upon the decision from the Privy Council. That decision was delivered in May 2023, more than seven months ago. Just days ago, the pledge was made to ensure equality in nationality rights. The pledges made by The Bahamas are not concrete and have no timeline, making them difficult to measure which was likely the point. The Government of The Bahamas participates in international events and processes in this marginal way, and perhaps its peers fail to call it out. We need not fail it and ourselves in the same way.

Published in The Tribune on December 13, 2023.

THERE is always a crisis somewhere, and when there is a crisis anywhere, there is a crisis everywhere. This is the nature of the world, given the way that the global economy, geopolitic, and interpersonal relationships work on their own and are connected with each other. Crises, however discreet they may appear to be, are also interconnected. Discussed as though they are about one issue or another, armed conflicts are usually started to gain control of resources, destabilise economies, and/or oppress and subjugate people. The latter two are usually connected to the desire to steal, control, and profit from resources.

Some crises make it to the news while others are ignored, deemed less important, impactful, or relevant. Sometimes it is about the direct effect of crisis in one or two countries on the rest of the world and how much we depend on them for necessities. Sometimes it is about the people involved and how human the rest of the world considers them to be.

Everyone knows that there is a conflict in Ukraine, though everyone who is aware of it may not understand and discuss it as a war being waged by Russia.

We have seen footage of the violence against people and destruction of property. We have heard from the people who fled of the absence of choice and the will to survive which led to the separation of families. Ukrainian people have been forced to go to other countries that, thankfully, rightfully, accept them as refugees. They, in many ways, have to learn new ways of life, and they face the difficulty of deciding in which ways they should assimilate and in which ways they can and should maintain their culture. They balance the maintenance of their collective identity with living as comfortably in community with a receiving country. Language and food, of course, are integral to cultural identity, and are both the easiest and most difficult aspects to maintain when a minority in another country. Many have pointed to the targeted destruction of museums, galleries, and other cultural sites — clear attempts to wipe out every trace of Ukrainian cultural. This — all of it— is genocide. This is a war on people, on their culture, and on their history.

Everyone knows that there is conflict in Palestine, and particularly in Gaza, and there are different narratives about it, so not everyone acknowledges that it is genocide.

Some understand that Israel has inflicted violence upon the Palestinian people for decades, displacing them, trapping them in open-air prisons, and killing them. Some are unaware, and maybe uninterested, in the history of this crisis and the human rights violations by Israel against Palestine.

The same must be said here:

We have seen footage of the violence against people and destruction of property. We have heard from the people who fled of the absence of choice and the will to survive which led to the separation of families. Palestinian people have been forced to go to other countries that, thankfully, rightfully, accept them as refugees. They, in many ways, have to learn new ways of life, and they face the difficulty of deciding in which ways they should assimilate and in which ways they can and should maintain their culture. They balance the maintenance of their collective identity with living as comfortably in community with a receiving country. Language and food, of course, are integral to cultural identity and are both the easiest and most difficult aspects to maintain when a minority in another country. Many have pointed to the targeted destruction of museums, galleries, and other cultural sites — clear attempts to wipe out every trace of Palestinian culture. This — all of it — is genocide. This is a war on people, on their culture, and on their history.

What does the repeated use of these tactics tell us about these wars and the people waging them? What do they say about the intent of the people behind them? What about the common suggestion that it is “just about land”?

It is easy to throw our hands up. We can come up with countless excuses that amount to:

  • We are too far away.

  • We do not understand.

  • We are suffering too.

Whatever the excuses we can find to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for each other, within and across borders, global solidarity is critical. This has been rather difficult to build, but it is happening. One of the main gaps is the low capacity to care.

It is not always that people do not care. Sometimes people do not want to care, so they choose to ignore. Sometimes people do not know why they should care, and they actively work against the human instinct to be interested in the welfare of others. So many of us are tired, struggling, and tired of struggling. Moving from one day to the next can sometimes feel as though we ourselves are turning the massive, heavy hands of time, and that our running feet are what make this planet spin. The burden heavy, the pressure tall, we press on in our daily lives, concerning ourselves with what is immediately in front of us. Sometimes, being asked to care is taken as an affront. It is not that we should be blamed for these circumstances, considering that we are operating within a system that has been designed and maintained for this purpose — self-destructive individualism, hyper-focus on survival, perpetual exhaustion, and a seemingly necessary disinterest in what takes place outside of our own bubbles.

Our pushback against this system, while we are in it, has to be intentional, collective, and unrelenting. We have to choose to be attentive —watching, reading, and listening to the news. This on its own, of course, is not enough. We have to be media literate, assessing the credibility of our sources of information and being critical of the way the information is a delivered. Does the source have a clear position on this issue? What does the source want us to believe? Who has been quoted, and what other sources have been mentioned? What do the people behind this piece want us to do, and why?

One source is not enough for us to be able to make a decision on an issue. It is important to go to multiple sources, draw comparisons, note the contrasts, and verify the information. Are the stories firsthand, coming directly from people who have directly experienced the event? Is it a retelling of someone else’s story? Is there evidence to support the secondary data? What do the photos, video, and audio indicate? Could they have been manipulated in any way? Separate the facts from the opinions and apply the evidence.

After accessing and assessing the information for credibility, it can be helpful to discuss it with others. What do other people think about the news? Have others found other sources of information or completed assessments that we have not yet done? Do people tend to take one side over another? Why?

There is often one side that gets more support, and this does not necessarily mean that it is the right side. In many cases, the conservative viewpoints get more attention, both from media and from the people around us, because their talking points are generally the same and their positions are often so divisive that the media wants to run multiple stories over a long period of time, if only for the shock value that leads to more purchases and clicks. The people who call for human rights, dignity, peace, and equality are often left to play catch-up, responding to the hateful rhetoric and misinformation spread by other people. It is important to pay attention to what is being said on all sides and to identify the intent behind all of the messages. It is not sufficient to know the opinions people hold. Find out why they think, say, and do whatever it is they do. Assume less. Ask questions, challenge positions, and determine why you stand where you do.

Where are people being valued, championed, and protected? Where are systems and institutions being held up as more important than human life? Who is expressing concern and demonstrating care for the people most vulnerable to violence, destruction, oppression, and murder? Who is dehumanising people, using gender, race, socio-economic status, age, and other identity markers to “excuse” what is happening to them?

With information, opinions, and the intent behind them, we are better equipped to find our own positions on issues. Once we do, in order for it to mean anything, we have to take action. This does not mean we need to enter conflict zones or become participants in wars. Being relatively safe, we are able to speak up. We can talk to family members and friends about what is happening elsewhere and help them to understand who the victims are and how we can support them. We can make donations to organisations that are activated, especially on the ground and in receiving countries, to meet immediate needs, including food, water, and medical care. We can engage political leaders and other people of influence, sharing our positions and our expectations of them as they participate in conversations and decision-making processes with regard to the crisis. We can use our platforms, including social media, to share information and encourage others to act. Small acts matter. What is most important is that we take action based on our own capacity, and that we seek to increase that capacity by challenging ourselves and the systems that limit our ability and willingness to participate.

Interested in learning more about Palestine? Check out the list of 40 books at 

Published in The Tribune on November 15, 2023

FRIDAY, October 6, marked the 30th anniversary of The Bahamas ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It was marked by a proclamation, printed in both national newspapers, of October 6, 2023, as Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Day. The Prime Minister called on organisations, businesses, and families to recognise the importance of women’s rights and the elimination of discrimination against women with relevant activities and programmes.

Follow three decades of work by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. It came into force in 1981. Some may be familiar with CSW as it is a large annual event held at the United Nations in New York City, drawing not only Ministers with responsibility for gender and women’s affairs, but non-governmental organizations that advocate for the rights of women for two weeks of meetings.

In its official programming, CSW results in an outcome document that lays out the commitments made by member states. Side and parallel events give non-governmental organisations and individual advocates opportunities to share knowledge, network, and build solidarity across countries and regions, and they also present opportunities to meet with state representatives and international organisations. It was the cumulative outcome of many years of CSW meetings that made the case for the drafting of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, recognising discrimination against women as a specific issue that needed to be addressed.

Since April 2022, Equality Bahamas has been hosting the CEDAW (Convention) Speaker Series, inviting experts — mostly from the CEDAW Committee — to lead discussions on the Convention, one Article at a time. The series started with Swiss human rights lawyer and former CEDAW Committee member Patricia Schulz leading the discussion on Articles 1 and 2. Article 1 focuses on the definition of discrimination against women and Article 2 focuses on the policy measures that must be taken in order to come into compliance with CEDAW, so those two Articles are discussed together just as they are dealt with together in the constructive dialogue in Geneva. Article 3 on basic human rights and fundamental freedoms was presented by CEDAW Committee member Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia, and it was followed by Article 4 on special measures which was led by Bahamian human rights experts Gaynel Curry. The series continued this way, with one expert discussing one Article (or two when they are handled together by the Committee) each month, presenting the text of the Convention, the relevance of the Article to the rest of the Convention, and the application of the Article to the Bahamian context.

I facilitated the CEDAW Speaker Series sessions, and each one deepened my understanding of the individual Articles and the Convention. Each speaker took time to give context for the Article of discussion, grounding it in the purpose and overall content of the Convention. They also made clear connections to other Articles. We tend to understand almost all of the Articles of the Convention as specific to a thematic area, but the overlaps and the interdependent nature of the Articles became with each session, especially as we considered them within the context of the work we are doing at the national level. For example, Equality Bahamas is currently conducting research on parental leave, and while we considered Articles 11 on employment and 12 on health, we realised that we also need to integrate Article 16 on marriage and family life. Article 14 on rural women is particularly relevant and will feature prominently when, in our report, we delve into the specific experiences of women on the Family Islands and how their maternity leave is impacted by the requirement that they leave their home islands to give birth in a hospital.

I was on a radio talk show yesterday to talk about the 30th anniversary of the ratification of CEDAW by The Bahamas and a caller expressed his concern that women in Centreville and in Bain and Grants Towns do not know about CEDAW because they have a lot of children and would not understand what I was saying. My instinct was to respond to a number of implicit biases and incorrect assumptions. One is that women in townships or inner-city communities are all the same — more than the average number of children and less than the average education among other assumptions. This is, of course, not the case.

He also assumed that I am a “sophisticated” woman, whatever that means, who does not engage at the community level. Instead of responding to these assumptions, I listened to the rest of what he said. The point that he really seemed to want to make was that the people who are supposed to benefit from the international human rights mechanisms that the governments sign do not even know they exist, much less how to use them to their benefit. I can easily agree with that point, while making it clear that it is the responsibility of the government to educate the people, promote human rights, and meaningfully engage people on human rights, domestic law, and international law and obligations.

We have become accustomed to the government, with any administration at the helm, shirking its responsibility to the people. It has normalised and continued its withdrawal from social protection, refusing and/or failing to ensure that people’s basic needs are met. We continue to suffer the effects of structural adjustment programmes, even in the face of multiple crises in recent years.

Despite being urged to do so by advocates and the CEDAW Committee, the government has refused and/or failed to educate the public on human rights, the obligations of the government to promote and guarantee access to them, and the international mechanisms that monitor and hold the government accountable in addition to make clear recommendations that must be implemented. In its Concluding Observations following the sixth periodic review of The Bahamas, held in Geneva in 2018, the CEDAW Committee said it was “concerned that women in the State party, in particular those belonging to disadvantaged groups, are unaware of their rights under the Convention and thus lack the information necessary to claim them”. It called on the Government of The Bahamas to “enhance awareness among women and girls of their rights and the remedies available to them under the Convention, including through awareness – raising campaigns, in cooperation with civil society organisations and community-based women’s associations”.

That the general public, and that women and girls themselves, are not aware of and do not understand CEDAW and its implications for all of our lives is not a failure of the public, women and girls, non-governmental organizations, or advocates. It is not due to an inability to gain new knowledge or to understand the content and application of the Convention. It has been thirty years since The Bahamas ratified CEDAW. The government is well aware of what CEDAW is and what it means for women and girls in The Bahamas. It voluntarily ratified it and it has presented its reports to the CEDAW Committee, the most recent being in 2018 and one in progress now. It has decided that women and girls knowing their rights is either unimportant or disadvantageous to the government and the institutions and people who benefit from the oppression, marginalisation, discrimination, and violence against women and girls. Thirty years is far too long for any excuse to hold.

Equality Bahamas has, with limited resources, run a speaker series in the lead-up to the thirties anniversary of the ratification of CEDAW. The recordings of past sessions are available on its Youtube channel and can be accessed at The series will continue during the Global 16 Days Campaign which runs from November 25 to December 10. In those sessions, experts will lead discussion on General Recommendations which elaborate on the Convention and address issues that are not articulated in it.

If you are interested in learning more about CEDAW or you would like to organise a session for a group, contact the Equality Bahamas team at If you would like to see the government step up to the plate and do the promotion and education part of its job as it pertains to human rights, say so. Contact the Department of Gender and Family Affairs to find out what it is doing, and contact the Office of the Prime Minister to urge the Prime Minister to properly resource the Department and transition it to the Ministry so that it can function as a national gender machinery and to build a national human rights institute which would monitor human rights, receive complaints, make recommendations, and provide education on human rights to the public. These have already been recommended by the CEDAW Committee and by member states through the Universal Periodic Review, so it will not be news to them. What would be news, however, is that members of the public are paying attention and have the demand, if not the expectation, that human rights be fulfilled.

Published in The Tribune on October 11, 2023

Year after year, the rainy seasons meets us unprepared. There are inches of rain, roads flood, cars damaged and some people have difficulty leaving their homes. School drop-offs and the drive to work take much longer as traffic seems to crawl. Drivers move slowly through the water and try to control for the inevitable drops into holes that are only getting wider, deeper and more treacherous. People frantically switch from one radio station to another, listening for school closure notices and refresh emails hoping for notification that their places of work are closed or, at the very least, opening later in the day.

It is like a new experience every time. Somehow, though, we are supposed to be preparing — or already prepared — for hurricane season.

In studies and discussion on climate change, there is significant focus on two key strategies — mitigation and adaptation. Climate change mitigation refers to efforts that reduce or prevent the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG). These may include adoption of renewable energy such as solar and hydro, using more sustainable transportation methods such as robust and affordable public transportation services and electric vehicles, and better use of land. We can think of mitigation as risk reduction.

Adaptation refers to efforts, both reactive and anticipatory, to reduce the negative impact of climate change. It is preparation and adjustment, recognizing that, even with our interventions, there are effects of climate changes that require a response. Mitigation and adaptation strategies are complementary and require legislation, policies, programmes and services to implement, encourage, enforce and put them into practice.

In recent weeks, there have been several new stories focused on environmental degradation and, more specifically, the destruction of ecosystem-based adaptation, including mangroves and pine forests. This has had a negative effect, increasing flooding in many areas. We are not imagining the increase in flooding, or the increase in damage caused by rainfall. It is happening before our eyes, and our response needs to at least be commensurate with the impact.

Small island developing states (SIDS) are disproportionately impacted by climate change. We get the brunt of it through climate events such as hurricanes, and we are seeing now that our vulnerability is not even limited to hurricanes. While Ministers and advocates travel to large conferences to call for climate reparations, development assistance, commitments to lower emissions (and follow-through), there is work to be done at home.

We have to protect the environment that helps to protect us. We have to secure and insure our homes, make repairs, monitor changes in structures and infrastructure around us, and think about job security, food security and evacuation plans.

There is always talk about climate resilience. The Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, successor to the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change says: “Climate resilience is often associated with acute events — like heat waves, heavy downpours, hurricanes, or wildfires — that will become more frequent or intense as the climate changes. However, good resilience planning also accounts for chronic events, like rising sea levels, worsening air quality, and population migration.”

Climate resilience requires mitigation and adaptation measures, and the most impacted sectors, including agriculture, and people, including women, people in rural areas, and people with disabilities, to be centred and engaged.

It often seems that we, as individuals, are expected to take responsibility for our own resilience. We have to mitigate and adapt for ourselves and our households. If we have to get to work, sunshine, rain, or severe flooding, public transportation and low-cost vehicles are less of an option. We all need a “high off the ground” vehicle which, in many cases, have larger tanks, requiring more gas. This personal decision comes at a financial and environmental cost. If homeowners want to protect their houses, they need to get insurance, and they had better read all of the fine print and figure out what they need to add to the basic plan to ensure they are covered should there be damage by hurricane or flood. They have to be able to afford insurance and keep up with the payments to have this protection. Again, we are responsible for our own resilience – and resilience costs money.

Who can afford climate resilience? Picture that person. What is their salary? What is the difference between that salary and the salary of a person being paid minimum wage? How is the minimum wage worker going to build (buy) resilience? The rising cost of living, minimum wage, and lack of government and institutional support, from legislation and policy to programmes and services, do not add up to climate resilience. The living wage needs to be implemented immediately. Community-level climate resilience initiatives and national mechanisms — to support people who do not receive enough money to pay for any level of personal climate resilience — are needed now.

We do not have to wait for a hurricane to see how many people are barely getting by. We do not need to be in the midst of disaster to understand the importance of mitigation and adaptation. We do not need to see long lines of people at distribution sites to know most of the people in The Bahamas cannot prepare, nor can they recover. We do not need an academic study to prove there are some groups of people who have less, so they need more support.

The current administration increased its travel budget by $4.1m. The Prime Minister said the government does not know what travel will come up this year. He noted it is a budgeted amount that may not be used. We do know that climate change is here. We know there will be more hurricanes, there will be more devastation and there will be more cries for help.

We know that everyone will not be able to prepare in the same way for their health and wellbeing. If Ministers are travelling to talk about issues of national concern, at least the same amount of money should be spent addressing those issues here in The Bahamas, providing resources to researchers, experts and community organizations in addition to funding government initiatives that meet the needs of the people.

Climate change is not an individual problem and we will not be able to address it with neoliberal approaches. Climate events are happening at various levels, and we cannot afford to simply hope everyone has the money they need to survive, and then recover. We need better, more responsive budgets, stronger systems, and people-centred approaches in climate action.

Published in The Tribune on June 8, 2023