Bahamas Coalition Joins Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights

The new Bahamas-based Citizens for Constitutional Equality (CCE) is now a coalition member of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, an international initiative that advocates for the removal of provisions that discriminate on the basis of sex from all nationality laws. CCE, which held its official launch at a March 26 public event at Anglican Holy Church Hall in Nassau, seeks to mobilize Bahamians to pass the pending constitutional referendum that would ban discrimination based on sex and guarantee equal nationality rights for men and women.

During CCE’s launch, Former Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes gave an impassioned speech in support of the referendum, stating, “Both the call of history and the demands of justice require an end to this discrimination and the granting of access to the full fruits of freedom and equality for all.”

Roughly 60 countries across the globe currently deny women equal nationality rights with men, in breach of international human rights law. However, The Bahamas is one of only two countries in the Western Hemisphere that continues to maintain laws that discriminate against women in their ability to pass nationality to their children. Other countries that maintain this type of discrimination include Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Nepal.

As a signatory of the international treaty the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), The Bahamas committed to reform all laws that discriminate on the basis of sex in 1993. Article 9 of the CEDAW Convention specifically mandates that women and men have equal nationality rights.

After a series of delays by the government – with 4 delays since June 2013 – the referendum is slated to be held in 2015, though a specific date remains to be determined. CCE and other human rights activists are calling for immediate action to ensure that the referendum is held in 2015, as promised by the government. At its recent launch, CCE called on the government to demonstrate its stated support for the referendum by doing three things: 1) Passing the referendum bills through Parliament without delay; 2) Setting a firm date for the referendum to be held before the end of the year; and 3) Allowing sufficient time (at least 4 to 6 months) from the date of the announcement for intense preparation for the referendum.

If the referendum is held in 2015, The Bahamas is poised to be the first country to enact reforms for women’s equal nationality rights since the launch of the Global Campaign.

The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights joins CCE and human rights activists across the world in calling for immediate action to eradicate discrimination from the Constitution of The Bahamas, stating no one should have to wait for equality. Launched in 2014, the Global Campaign is led by an international coalition of non-governmental organizations and UN agencies.