Attorney General Ryan Pinder said yesterday that the government is still open to feedback on its bill to criminalize martial rape.
The Davis administration drafted the bill and circulated it for consultation. The Department of Gender and Family Affairs recently held a one-day symposium at Breezes resort on the proposed law.
Pinder said the period for feedback is “open ended”.
“We don’t really want to slam the door on such an important issue,” he said.
“We want to keep it open and get some feedback. We’ve already received a few comments on the legislation from different parties to tweak it or provide certain different language that we are looking at.
“We don’t want to discourage anybody from providing the necessary input on such an important issue. So no decision has been made as a deadline for comment at this time.”
The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2022, will repeal section three of the current law by removing the words “who is not a spouse” from the definition of rape.
Under the draft bill, rape is defined as “the act of any person not under fourteen years of age having sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of that person where he knows that person does not consent or is reckless as to whether the person consents”.
Under the current law, rape is defined as “the act of any person not under fourteen years of age having sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse without the consent of that person …”
Pinder has said that the bill is not an attack on marriage.
“Just to be clear, this is in no means or fashion an attack on marriage,” he said.
“If you are sexually abusing your wife in the construct of a marriage then maybe you shouldn’t be married. That’s not fair treatment of citizens in the country.”
While The Bahamas has committed to criminalizing marital rape, at least three previous administrations have backed off from addressing the issue.
In 2009, the Ingraham administration tabled a bill that would have made spousal rape a crime with a possible life sentence.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham recently explained that he had to withdraw the bill because he did not have the support of some members of the Free National Movement or the Progressive Liberal Party.
There was also strong pushback from the church.
In 2013, then-Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that the Christie administration was considering criminalizing marital rape. It never did.
In 2018, the Minnis administration made a similar pledge and, likewise, never acted on the issue.
In 1993, The Bahamas ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The criminalization of marital rape is one of the commitments contained in the convention.
Five years ago, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Šimonović pointed out that The Bahamas has failed to live up to obligations under CEDAW as it has failed to criminalize all forms of marital rape.
Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis has remained non-committal on whether the government will criminalize it.