NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While underscoring their support for a “comprehensive violence bill” for The Bahamas, a number of women’s rights groups sought to clarify their recent meeting with Minister of Social Services Obie Wilchcombe.
In a press release, Women’s United confirmed that a meeting took place between its representatives and the Minister of Social Services, where concerns regarding the current state of the bill were discussed.
“We emphasized the importance of critical information that was missing that would render the bill accessible and supportive for all members of society,” the group wrote.
“It is clear from the meeting that the Government is committed to passing the Protection Against Violence bill instead of the Gender-Based Violence bill. We are therefore constrained to working within the parameters of the new Protection Against Violence bill and must focus our efforts on securing amendments that will bring it in line with some of the fundamental elements of the Gender-Based Violence bill.”
Prodesta Moore, President of Women United and a representative from the women’s groups said: “Our intention is to ensure that the legislation is not only useful but also embodies the spirit of the Gender-Based Violence bill which we had been working on for over 10 years now.”
The press release indicated that a meeting has been scheduled at 9:30 am on August 14 in an effort to refine the existing bill in line with the proposed amendments.
“We remain optimistic about the prospect of meaningful changes and are hopeful that the Minister’s commitment to amend the bill will result in a more comprehensive and effective piece of legislation,” the statement continued.
“We also note and appreciate that despite the numerous representations during the debate in the House of Assembly to the contrary the Attorney General admitted that the new bill ‘is a shift from the 2016 bill’. We seek to clarify with him and the Minister why we feel changes need to be made to the Protection Against Violence bill.
“However, we must be clear that the introduction of the ‘Protection Against Violence Bill’ was not made readily available for review by many women’s groups nor were they consulted as multiple government representatives have expressed. Since we raised our voices we have learned that there was very limited consultation and inadequate distribution of the bill, with inaccurate versions circulating when requested,” Women United stated.
“Furthermore, the educational efforts surrounding the new bill were limited in scope, focusing solely on Nassau and excluding other islands, we feel inaccurately noted by the Prime Minister in response to our request to delay the debate.”
The groups stressed that the legislation creation process should be non-political and transparent, especially when it comes to protecting women and children.
“We firmly believe that the well-being of women, who constitute over 50% of our society, should transcend political boundaries,” emphasized Charlene Paul from CIWIL, Caribbean Women in Leadership (CIWiL). “Transparency, inclusivity, and a duty of care must be at the core of the presentation of any legislation aimed at safeguarding our women.”
Moving forward, the group said it will request a meeting with the Prime Minister and Attorney General on upcoming legislation related to citizenship rights and the protection of married women.
“We encourage all women’s groups, all concerned advocates and the women of The Bahamas to support our efforts to ensure that we create the best bills and legislation for women in our country,” implored Women’s United.
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