Bahamas (CEDAW 14-11-2018)
The Committee considered the sixth periodic report of the Bahamas (CEDAW/C/BHS/6) at its 1635th and 1636th meetings (see CEDAW/C/SR.1635 and CEDAW/C/SR.1636), held on 25 October 2018. The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/BHS/Q/6 and the responses of the State party are contained in CEDAW/C/BHS/Q/6/Add.1.
D. Principal areas of concern and recommendations
Constitutional and legislative protection of women from discrimination
- The Committee is concerned that the four constitution amendment bills aimed at achieving gender equality were rejected by voters in the referendum held in June 2016. The Committee remains concerned about the absence in the State party’s Constitution and national legislation of an explicit definition of discrimination against women and provisions on gender equality, in line with the Convention. The Committee is particularly concerned about the following:
(a) The fact that, in article 26 (1) of the Constitution, discrimination on the grounds of sex is not prohibited and women are not protected from discrimination;
(b) The lack of effective mechanisms, and the insufficient State-level budgetary allocations, to implement and monitor the laws relating to gender equality;
(c) The failure to eliminate discrimination, notably intersecting forms of discrimination, in particular against women of Haitian descent, migrant women, women with disabilities, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, intersex persons and women living in the Family Islands.
- The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/BHS/CO/1-5, para. 14) and recommends that the State party, in line with articles 1 and 2 of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 28 (2010) on the core obligations of States parties under article 2 of the Convention:
(a) Set a clear time frame for a constitutional reform, supported by a comprehensive educational and awareness-raising campaign and the inclusive participation of civil society organizations, to expand constitutional protection from discrimination under article 26 (1) to include at least the grounds of sex and gender;
(b) Ensure, without delay, that a comprehensive review of existing legislation is conducted, that a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women is put forward, in line with the Convention, and that the principle of gender equality is integrated into all national laws;
(c) Ensure the effective implementation of the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex and gender through appropriate enforcement mechanisms and sanctions;
(d) Adopt an action plan that includes adequate resources, a timeline and measurable targets requiring authorities to implement relevant laws to prevent and eliminate all forms of de facto discrimination against women and girls, in particular women of Haitian descent, migrant and asylum-seeking women, women with disabilities, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, intersex persons and women living in the Family Islands.
Gender-based violence against women
- The Committee welcomes the measures taken by the State party to combat gender-based violence against women and girls, such the establishment of the Domestic Violence and Counselling Unit, the appointment of the National Task Force for Gender-Based Violence and the development of a draft national strategic plan to address gender-based violence. It also welcomes the measures taken by the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the judiciary, such as the establishment of the Sexual Offences Unit in the Department of Public Prosecutions and the Swift Justice initiative to address delays in access to justice. It is concerned, however, about the following:
(a) The high prevalence of gender-based violence against women and girls, including domestic and sexual violence and rape, and the high reported incidence of hate crimes against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons, which remain culturally accepted and underreported;
(b) 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;
(c) The delay in the adoption of draft amendments to the Sexual Offences Act that are fully in line with general recommendation No. 35 (2017) on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation No. 19, and the proposed amendment that would limit the right to file a complaint for marital rape to one year from the time of the violation;
(d) The delay in, and the absence of a time frame for, the establishment of a sex offender register and registry;
(e) The prevalence of corporal punishment as a widely accepted means of disciplining children at school and at home;
(f) The significant backlog in the court system of cases of violence against women and girls;
(g) The limited number of State-run shelters for women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence and sexual violence;
(h) The lack of data on cases of violence against women and girls that have been investigated and lead to prosecution and on the sanctions imposed on perpetrators in the State party, disaggregated by age and relationship between victim and perpetrator.
- Recalling its general recommendation No. 35, and in line with target 5.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Develop and implement comprehensive measures for the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence against women and girls, in particular domestic and sexual violence and rape, assess the reported incidence of crimes against lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons and intensify efforts to change the social norms and cultural perceptions through which gender-based violence is tolerated as culturally acceptable;
(b) 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 Committee’s general recommendation No. 35;
(c) 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;
(d) Prohibit, in law and in practice, the corporal punishment of girls in schools and at home and strengthen awareness-raising programmes, in order to promote non-violent forms of child-rearing and discipline;
(e) Ensure that cases of gender-based violence against women and girls are effectively investigated and prosecuted and that penalties imposed on perpetrators are commensurate with the gravity of the crimes committed;
(f) Provide mandatory capacity-building programmes for judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers and other law enforcement officials on the strict application of legislation criminalizing gender-based violence against women and girls and on gender-sensitive methods and procedures to employ in interactions with women and girls who are victims of such violence;
(g) Provide adequate assistance, protection and rehabilitation to women and girls who are victims of violence, including by strengthening the capacity of existing shelters and enhancing cooperation with and promoting funding for non-governmental organizations that provide shelter and rehabilitation to victims;
(h) Collect statistical data on domestic, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence against women and girls, disaggregated by age and the relationship between victim and perpetrator.