Former Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson.
ATTORNEY General Allyson Maynard-Gibson has urged women to get involved in the gender equality referendum campaign and vote yes “for our sons and daughters.”
Speaking at an installation luncheon for the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) on Sunday, Mrs Maynard-Gibson stressed the importance of having the constitutional changes come into effect.
“The aim of equality for our sons and daughters fits squarely within the goals of FIDA – strong families and societies, comparative law and UN principles,” she said in her speech.
“I hope that the power, energy and sense of justice historically advocated by FIDA’s voices will be heard in this debate especially advocating for equality for our sons and daughters.
“Today I ask you to get involved in the campaign to vote yes for our sons and daughters.”
On Wednesday, the House of Assembly will vote on four Constitutional Amendment Bills that, if passed by three quarters of Parliament, will pave the way for the referendum.
If the referendum is successful, it would allow a married Bahamian woman to have the same rights as a married Bahamian man to pass her citizenship on to her child; give the foreign spouse of a Bahamian woman the same rights as the spouse of a Bahamian man to become a Bahamian citizen; give an unmarried Bahamian man the same rights as an unmarried Bahamian woman to pass his citizenship on to his child and remove discrimination from the Constitution on the basis of sex - being male and female.
“We all know families that have been torn apart because the husband of a Bahamian woman could not live and work here as a citizen of the Bahamas,” Mrs Maynard-Gibson added.
“We know married Bahamian mothers who have lived, and continue to live, on pins and needles because their children have no automatic right to Bahamian citizenship because they were born outside of the Bahamas.
“Let’s put behind us days when a Bahamian woman will delay marrying the father of her children (so) that they can obtain automatic Bahamian citizenship.
“And the time is (for) now single Bahamian men to have the right to pass their citizenship on to their children.
“FIDA’s goals focus on building strong communities and strong nations. I’m sure that it is not lost on you that FIDA’s first goal focuses on women and children – family. That is what this referendum is about – our sons and daughters.”
The Constitutional Amendment Bills have been languishing in the committee stage of the House of Assembly since 2014.
The gender equality referendum has been delayed four times.
It was first expected in the summer of 2013, to coincide with the country’s 40th anniversary of independence.
The vote was later put off until November 2013 but that did not happen.
Prime Minister Perry Christie later announced that the relevant bills would be brought to Parliament before the end of 2013 and passed by February 2014, adding that the referendum would be held by June 2014.
The vote was later delayed to November 2014 and the relevant bills were tabled in the House of Assembly.
After significant push back over the wording of some of the bills, the government again delayed the vote.
Earlier this month, Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage, who has responsibility for the referendum, said the vote will be held by July.