A compilation of extracts featuring child-rights issues from the reports submitted to the second Universal Periodic Review. There are extracts from the ‘National Report’, the ‘Compilation of UN Information’ and the ‘Summary of Stakeholders’ Information’. Also included is the list of accepted and rejected recommendations.
Bahamas – 15th Session – 2012
Wednesday 23rd January 2013 – 2.30 p.m. – 6.00 p.m
21. The Parliament of The Bahamas enacts legislation to enhance the social and economic wellbeing of the Bahamian people and to strengthen respect for the dignity of the individual. Examples of such legislation enacted include:
Capital Punishment (Procedure) Act, Ch. 94; Child Protection Act ; Court of Appeal Act, Ch. 52; Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act, Ch. 105; Criminal Law (Measures) Act, Ch. 101; Criminal Procedure Code, Ch. 91; Education Act, Ch. 46; Emergency Powers Act, Ch. 34; Emergency Relief Guarantee Fund Act, Ch. 35; Employment Act, Ch. 321A; Evidence Act, Ch. 65 ; Execution of Documents (Handicapped Persons) Act, Ch. 67; Extradition Act, Ch. 96; Geneva Conventions (Supplementary) Act, Ch. 95; Genocide Act, Ch.85; Guardianship and Custody of Infants Act, Ch.132; Habeas Corpus Act, Ch. 63; Health and Safety at Work Act, Ch. 321C; Immigration Act, Ch. 191; Industrial Property Act, Ch. 324; Industrial Relations Act, Ch. 321; Inheritance Act, Ch. 116; International Child Abduction Act, Ch. 137 ; Maintenance of Emigrants Children Act, Ch. 128; Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act, Ch.127; Matrimonial Causes Act; Status of Children Act, Ch. 130; Supreme Court Act, Ch. 53, the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act), the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2008, the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act, 2007.
22. The Bahamas is an independent democratic State and has been a responsible member of the international community since attaining independence in 1973. The Government of The Bahamas is a State party to, inter alia, the following international human rights instruments:
The International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide; Convention on the Nationality of Married Women; The Slavery Convention; Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institution and practices Similar to Slavery; International Agreement for the Suppression of White Slave Traffic; Convention on the Political Rights of Women; International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid; International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports; The Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees; Hague Convention of 25th October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction; Amendment to Article 8 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and Inter American Convention on the Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women ‘Convention of Belem do Para.’ United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto (The Protocol to prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, the Protocol Against The Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; and the Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition); ILO Convention 5, Minimum Wage; ILO Convention 7, Minimum Age (Sea); ILO Convention 11, Right of Association (Agriculture); ILO Convention 19, Equality of Treatment (Accident compensation); ILO Convention 26, Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery; ILO Convention 50, Recruiting of Indigenous Workers; ILO Convention 64, Contracts of Employment (Indigenous Workers); ILO Convention 95, Protection of Wages; ILO Convention 105, Abolition of Forced Labour; ILO Convention 11, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation; ILO Convention 117, Social Policy.
26. In early July 2012, The Bahamas was represented at the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in Saint Lucia, where Heads of Government and Government Representatives “emphasised the need for concerted action, at all levels, to address the increasing challenge of child abuse, in particular, sexual abuse” and “noted the need for a holistic approach to the issue, including parenting education, public sensitisation, and legislative reform to better protect children and to deal appropriately, not only with perpetrators but also with those who support abuse”.
27. These concerns were further discussed at the 23rd Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) of CARICOM, held 10 – 11 July, 2012 in Guyana, where emphasis was placed on violence against children, including sexual abuse.
28. The Government keeps under review the reform and enhancement of existing legislation and the enactment of new laws so as to remain in the forefront of countries advocating for the advancement of human rights practices internationally. The Government has under active review legislation to improve the provisions of law relating to: the administration of justice, protection and guardianship of children, education, national health insurance, improved protection for the handicapped, emergency relief assistance, land and estate administration, industrial relations, and immigration.
32. The participation of civil society in the political life of The Bahamas dates back to 1950 and the creation of the Citizens’ Committee to combat racial discrimination. Since that time, civic organizations and NGOs have been established to address a wide array of social and developmental issues from disabilities and addictions to social assistance and environmental conservation. The following provide a cross section of such organisations:
Abilities Unlimited, Alcoholics Anonymous, Amnesty International, Bahamas Alliance for Blind & Visually Impaired, Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH), The Bahamas Historical Society, The Bahamas National Network for Positive Living, The Bahamas National Trust, Bahamas Red Cross, Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, Nazareth Centre Training Centre for the Disabled, The Nature Conservancy, Prison Fellowship International, ReEarth Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Fund (BREEF), Salvation Army Institute for the Blind, and Young Women’s Christian Association.
38. Recently, the Government has sought to institutionalise certain human rights specific Policies. Consultation on The Bahamas’ draft National Gender Policy is on-going by Government Agencies, NGOs and private stakeholders. Similarly, a draft Policy on Inclusive Education is under review by the Office of the Attorney General.
43. The Office of The Attorney-General and the Ministry of Legal Affairs is presently engaged in consultations that will lead to a Family Court system. In 2008 a Family Court System Committee was appointed with the mandate:
“to explore and propose immediate practical solutions for family matters as they are presently administrated by the court system and also to consider the extent to which limitations of space and insufficiency of appropriately trained support staff adversely affects the disposition of family members.”
This Committee was also called to address the creation of special procedural tracks within a family court system so that, while a matter would be required to be initiated in a proper court, as prescribed by the Rules Committee …that matter or any part of it may be referred by the presiding judge to the court at another level along the track without the parties having to initiate a new application. These tracks would remain open in either direction until the matter is finally disposed of. The need for the creation of these special procedural tracks arises from an acute awareness that within the family court system there are ancillary matters in which parties find that the several issues in the same dispute require the intervention of different courts. It has been found expensive and inconvenient for parties to have to initiate claims in different courts for jurisdictional and procedural reasons.
44. The principal aim of a family court system seeks to fill the gaps and inadequacies of the legal system as it relates to ‘family law’ matters. Such a system would recognize within its jurisdictional limits the needs of the local family, and, would seek to develop an indigenous jurisprudence that is reflective of those needs.
45. Given this policy directive, such a court system would have an obvious multi-disciplinary approach, seeking to incorporate both legal and social services into its daily operations, with its main objective being the prevention of the breakdown of the family unit and the protection of the welfare of the members of the family, especially children.
46. Another important feature of this specialised court is that it houses an Alternative Dispute Resolution Support Services component, through Mediation and Counseling Services, which creates a multi-door court system singularly located in the same building. This new improvement caters to the unique needs of our archipelagic nation. Additionally, the premises will enable easy access by all parties; the Court will sit so as to promote mediation rather than an adversarial approach. Counselling rooms will be available as will a “child friendly” space in the Court.
47. A Task Force will be appointed to review over twenty (20) pieces of legislation, and the Rules promulgated thereunder, that relate to family matters, with a mandate to streamline and treat family matters as matters of urgency.
48. In November 2011, amendments to the Evidence Act provided for the use of live television links to receive evidence from persons who are unable to be physically present at court proceedings, and further provided for the admissibility of video recordings of testimony from child witnesses or other vulnerable persons such as the elderly, under certain circumstances.
54. The Children and Young Persons (Administration of Justice) Act, was repealed and replaced by the more comprehensive Child Protection Act enacted in October 2009. This legislation was specifically guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Section 4 (c) of the Act states that the child has the right “to exercise, in addition to all the rights stated in this Act, all the rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child subject to any reservations that apply to The Bahamas and with appropriate modifications to suit the circumstances that exist in The Bahamas with due regard to its laws.”
55. In addition, the Child Protection Act increased the age of criminal responsibility for children from seven (7) years of age to ten (10) years of age.
56. A National Committee for Families and Children has been appointed by the Ministry of Social Services to ensure that all provisions of the Child Protection Act are fully implemented. Provisions which have been identified as priority include proper housing and the establishment of educational, psychological and other relevant programmes for children residents of the Simpson Penn Centre for Boys and the WillaMae Pratt Centre for Girls, as well as the use of Minor Advocates.
57. In November 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affair conducted a series of media broadcasts to promote awareness of the Hague Convention, its application and how eligible persons could apply for redress through the Ministry. As the National Authority for the Hague Convention, the Ministry is also reviewing the adoption of the Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention).
58. Under The Bahamas Urban Renewal 2.0 programme, which seeks, among other things to focus on youth, fight against crime, and build stronger communities, the Prime Minister has directly called on the Citizens Advisory Committee to identify all disabled children in communities to appropriately address their specific needs.
59. Within the national education framework, the Student Services Section of the Ministry of Education has developed relevant courses which speak to themes that include: self identity, independence and cooperation, compassion, cultural heritage, loyalty, citizenship, national pride, self discipline and respect.
60. In an effort to develop a strong sense of self worth and identity in students as well as to promote tolerance and acceptance for others, this section also strives to develop a greater sense of caring and love for self and others through all of its programmes. Cognizant of these underlying principles, the Student Services Section, in conjunction with Agencies such as the Bahamas National Pride Association and the Guidance and Counseling Association, stage events which are held during school and after school hours. Events include: World AIDS Day, Universal Children’s Day, Debates, Youth Parliament, World Food Day, Commonwealth Day and Bahamian History Month.
61. The Family Life and Health Education (FLHE) Curriculum and the Civics Curriculum promote teaching and learning experiences that focus on the rights and privileges of individuals and groups in society as members of the family, community and citizenry.
62. The Primary HFLE Curriculum is based on the CARICOM HFLE Regional Framework and is divided into four themes: Self and Interpersonal Relationships, Sexuality and Sexual Health, Nutrition and Physical Activity and Managing the Environment. Similar themes are explored in the Civics and Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum in our Junior High and Secondary Schools.
64. Protection of fundamental human rights enshrined in The Bahamas Constitution apply equally to men and women. However, separate Constitutional Provisions concerned with the transfer of nationality from parent to children and to the award of nationality to foreign born spouses of Bahamian citizens accord privileges to Bahamian men that are not afforded to Bahamian women.
65. Successive Governments have developed and implemented gender-neutral policies relative to professional access to education, health, and social services and to employment. Women are prominently evidenced in all professions in The Bahamas. A woman has served as President of the Chamber of Commerce and several Bahamian women have served as heads of international and governmental financial institutions operating in and from The Bahamas. The posts of Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal have both been filled by a female jurist and several women now serve as Supreme Court Justices and senior public officers.
69. Under the 2008 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act punitive measures for sexual offences were substantially increased. Rape is now punishable by life imprisonment, while voyeurism, sexual harassment and pornography have become criminal offences. The Bahamas has also removed the law of primogenitor with regard to inheritance.
70. According to Section 6 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1979: “If a husband shall be convicted summarily or otherwise of an aggravated assault upon his wife, the court or magistrate before whom he shall be so convicted may, if satisfied that the future safety of the wife is in peril, and with the consent of the wife order that the wife shall be no longer bound to cohabit with her husband [and] shall have the force and effect in all respects of a judicial separation on the ground of cruelty and such order may further make provision in respect to: the maintenance of the wife [and] the maintenance and custody of any children of the family”
71. In addition, the Government, through the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, has created several initiatives to combat violence against women. These include:
The Domestic Violence Act (Protection Orders) Act, and empowers the courts to mandate intervention with batterers;
A 24hr. hotline operated by The Bahamas Crisis Centre;
Workshops, Seminars and Speak Outs on gender related issues;
The establishment of Steering Committee for The Bahamas National Gender Policy;
Review of the Health and Family Life Education curriculum with a view to incorporate gender sensitisation;
The establishment of a RBPF Sexual Offences Unit and Domestic Violence Unit with relevant training for Officers in these Units;
Legal clinics sponsored by Sorority groups to educate women on their rights;
Extensive use of the media to promote awareness and education of gender based issues;
The establishment of a cariMAN branch in the Bahamas , a regional NGO spearheaded by men working with women organizations to end gender based violence;
A draft 2012 – 2017 Strategic Plan for the Management, Prevention and Elimination of Family Violence.
74. The Government remains committed to addressing the needs of all persons in The Bahamas, and is especially cognizant of the need to supply provisions for disabled persons. As such, the Ministry of Social Services, through Disability Affairs provides the following:
Financial assistance to parents of children with disabilities under 16 to help with disability-related needs such special medication/medical and/or assistive/adaptive equipment.
Monetary travel assistance for surgery abroad.
Financial assistance to persons with prosthetic needs.
Monetary grants to disability-related non-governmental organizations.
Financial assistance wheelchairs, and other assistive/adaptive equipment to enable independence.
Disalility-related educational seminars and brochures.
78. The Bahamas has maintained a policy of detention and repatriation of illegal migrants found in The Bahamas. This policy applies to all illegal migrants found in The Bahamas, irrespective of their race, colour or place of origin. All persons living in The Bahamas have free access to education, health and social services without regard to their immigration status.
85. The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention and Suppression) Act 2008, adopts the broad definition of “Trafficking in Persons” as set out in the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Girls, supplementing the United Nations Convention on Transnational Crime. This Act specifically prohibits trafficking in persons in all aspects, and is applicable to men, women and children.
101. The Government recognises the need to bring awareness to human rights issues specifically catered to The Bahamas’ historical, cultural and socio-economic context and feels strongly that education is a fundamental forum for such promotion.
102. Education receives the largest percentage of the national budget on an annual basis. Sections 12, 13 and 14 of the Education Act state that the Minister responsible for education and training has a duty, within the limits of his/her resources, to ensure efficient primary and secondary education to all Bahamians. All children resident in The Bahamas are granted free access to education from kindergarten to grade 12. The children of illegal immigrants are not discriminated against in this regard.
103. Guidance counselors proactively schedule programmes in schools to sensitize students to human rights education, particularly in terms of discrimination based on gender and race. Programmes such as ‘Super Me” in the primary and preschools and “Boyz to Men” and “Character Counts” in the high contribute to sensitizing students on anger management, conflict resolution, peer pressure, effective communication, individual differences and relationships. These programmes seek to instill the fundamental values and socialisation in students necessary to promote respect and dignity.
104. Programmes through the guidance and counseling department of schools are ongoing and seek to cultivate tolerance and respect in our students. Underlying all of these programmes is a strong social instruction geared towards human rights education.
105. The Ministry of Education partners with the following agencies and organization to realize its objective of educating and exposing students to the fundamental rights of others. The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), the Crisis Centre, CARIman, Churches, the OAS, the National Council for Disability, Resources and Education for Autism and related Challenges (REACH) and the Bahamas Association for Disability.
106. In the Teacher Education Programme at the College of The Bahamas (COB), students preparing to become teachers are exposed to human rights education in several of their core courses. Topics surrounding the following areas are presented and discussed: diversity in the classroom, rights of students and teachers, the teaching of immigrants and respecting individual differences in the classroom.
107. Students training to be teachers at the COB are also mandated to take two levels of a foreign language, which provide access to the mother tongue of foreign nationals present in schools. Second language course options are: Spanish, French, Mandarin and Creole. Reflecting the high density of students who may be first or second generation Nationals of Haiti, study in Creole is particularly encouraged. Students studying to become teachers are also required to take Social Sciences courses, which introduce young teachers to an extensive human rights education.
108. The Ministry of Education has a mentoring programme for all first year teachers entering the system. The programme sets out as one of its goals the improvement of the teaching profession through the exposure of best practices. The Mentoring Programme has as its backdrop principles from the Commonwealth of Learning’s Teacher Protocol and Eligibility.
109. A component within this programme specifically emphasises the human rights of students and the activities and implications surrounding it. Teachers are presented with the legislation, namely the Education Act, Ministry of Education policy documents and other relevant literature that outline the rights, regulations and policies relative to the educational system in The Bahamas. For existing teachers in the system there are similar events that occur across districts and are put on by district offices.
5. UNHCR noted that although the Bahamas has ratified the CRC, the Constitution fails to make provision for the grant of Bahamian nationality to foundlings on its territory, and therefore recommended the amendment of provisions of the Constitution. UNHCR reported that the Bahamas officially appointed the 13-member commission that will look into amending the Constitution, including the need to end gender-based discrimination against women consistent with UN Conventions and recommended the amendment of those discriminatory provisions, to allow women to pass their nationality to their children or to their spouses of foreign nationality on an equal basis with men.
9. The ILO Committee of Experts hoped that a national policy on child labour will be elaborated soon.
12. UNHCR and CEDAW were concerned that Bahamas did not see itself bound by the provisions of article 9, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Convention, based on a Constitutional Referendum vote against the withdrawal of the provision preventing women from passing their nationality to their children or to their spouses of foreign nationality. UNHCR noted that, under the Constitution, children born abroad to Bahamian mothers cannot acquire nationality at birth; only children born of Bahamian fathers can do so which may lead to statelessness of children, while only men have the right to confer their citizenship on their foreign spouses, whereas Bahamian women do not have an equivalent right. CEDAW recommended raising awareness among the population on the equal rights of women and men with regard to transmission of nationality; amending its Constitution and relevant domestic laws to grant Bahamian women equal rights with men in this regard; and withdraw its reservation to article 9, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
17. CEDAW was concerned about high prevalence of violence, including rape, and persistence of domestic violence. It urged the Bahamas to adopt a comprehensive law, plan and strategy addressing violence against women and girls; raise awareness on marital rape; amend the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act to criminalize marital rape; ensure speedy access to justice of gender-based violence victims; and provide them with assistance and protection.
18. UNHCR acknowledged efforts made by the Government of the Bahamas to curb human trafficking. It noted that by the end of 2010, the director of public prosecutions established a special cadre of prosecutors to prosecute trafficking cases. These prosecutors investigated officials for misconduct, but the Government did not report on the findings of the investigations or prosecutions of such officials. CEDAW remained concerned about the absence of effective implementation of the Trafficking in Persons Act and cases brought before the court since the Act came into force. It recommended ensuring its effective enforcement as also highlighted by UNHCR. UNHCR also encouraged the Bahamas to thoroughly and transparently investigate suspected traffickers, develop standardized procedures to identify trafficking victims, and allocate resources to victims, in need of international protection, who should be given the opportunity to seek asylum. CEDAW remained concerned about the absence of policies and programmes for victims of trafficking and recommended Bahamas to finalize the draft national Plan of Action; strengthen mechanisms for the investigation, prosecution and punishment of trafficking offenders; develop policies and programmes addressing prevention, protection, assistance and legal support; take measures to eliminate child pornography and raise awareness among the tourism industry; and review its prostitution policy and relevant legislation, particularly the Sexual Offences Domestic Violence Act (1991).
19. In its 2009 direct request, the ILO Committee of Experts noted that girls aged 12 were sexually exploited through prostitution and that schoolgirls posed nude for photographs in exchange for money and food. The Committee noted there was no legislative or institutional mandate for a systemic review of the national child labour situation.
20. The ILO Committee of Experts requested the Government to provide the text of any legislation prohibiting the sale and trafficking of children under 18 for labour exploitation or indicate progress made towards the adoption of such legislation. It also requested the Government to adopt appropriate penalties for such human rights violations. The Committee requested the Government to take immediate and effective measures to prohibit the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs, and to adopt appropriate sanctions.
29. The ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations noted the adoption of the Child Protection Act (2007). It noted section 7(1) of the Act and hoped necessary measures will soon be taken to establish the minimum age for admission to hazardous work at 18 years and adopt legal provisions determining the types of hazardous work to be prohibited to people less than 18 years of age.
30. A 2012 United Nations Statistics Division source indicated that the children under-five mortality rate per 1,000 live births was 16 in 2010.
31. CEDAW called on Bahamas to ensure women’s access to adequate health facilities and services, contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health services and mental health services, including in the Family Islands; promote education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including by, inter alia, awareness-raising on early pregnancy and contraceptive use for family planning and sexually transmitted disease prevention; combat HIV/AIDS and give assistance to women and girls infected with HIV/AIDS; prevent breast cancer; and broaden the conditions under which abortion can be legally available including in instances of rape and incest.
32. A 2012 United Nations Statistics Division source indicated that the net enrolment ratio in primary education increased from 97.2 per cent in 2009 to 97.8 in 2010.
33. CEDAW remained concerned about some barriers that women face regarding the right to education. Therefore, it recommended eliminating these barriers that prevent women from attending adult education and literacy classes; ensuring that the curriculum content is gender sensitive, gender responsive and addresses the equality between women and men principle; and reviewing the educational textbooks and the family life and health education (FLHE) curriculum to eliminate remaining gender stereotypes.
34. The ILO Committee of Experts noted that, according to the 2008 EFA UNESCO Report, the Bahamas is at risk of not achieving the EFA goal by 2015. It strongly encouraged the Government to improve the education system and requested it to increase school enrolment rates at both primary and secondary school levels.
37. UNHCR and CEDAW were concerned about the penalization of asylum seekers for illegal entry and stay in Bahamas and the inadequate detention conditions, particularly for women and children. They recommended ensuring that they are not penalized; using detention as a last resort where necessary and for a short period; implementing safeguards against refoulement; and improving the detention conditions for women asylum seekers, in accordance with international standards. UNHCR recommended considering alternatives to their detention.
1. Amnesty International (AI) noted that on 23 December 2008 the Bahamas ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. On 16 December 2008, the Bahamas signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; however, it has yet to ratify this instrument and its Optional Protocol and bring them into force. The Bahamas has accepted to consider the possibility of acceding to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on Migrant Workers, and the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (on children in armed conflict and on the sale of children). AI recommended ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention for the Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearance; the First and Second Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
3. Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIECPC) noted that corporal punishment appears to be lawful as a sentence for crime in the penal system, but the law is unclear. In 1984, Act No. 12 repealed the corporal punishment provisions in the Penal Code and inserted article 118 which states: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this, or any other law, no form of corporal punishment shall be imposed as a penalty under any law in respect to the commission of a criminal or disciplinary offence.” In 1991, the Criminal Law (Measures) Act reintroduced corporal punishment for certain offences. It may be inflicted on males only: for a child (under 14) or young person (aged 14-17) it takes the form of whipping up to 12 strokes on the buttocks with a light cane in the presence of a parent or guardian or other approved person (articles 4 and 5).
However, the 1991 Act did not repeal article 118 of the Penal Code, and the two laws are in conflict. Case law in the Privy Council and the Supreme Court has ruled that judicial corporal punishment as reintroduced is constitutional and lawful only for offences for which the law had previously and explicitly prescribed corporal punishment, and is unconstitutional for offences which were not previously punished in this way (sexual offences).
AI noted that although the Bahamas in its first UPR did not support recommendations to amend national legislation to outlaw marital rape, in July 2009, a bill was introduced into Parliament to amend the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act to criminalize rape within marriage. However, more than three years later the bill has never been debated in Parliament and appears to have fallen off the legislative agenda.
14. AI continued to be concerned by the high incidence of violence against women, including domestic violence and sexual assault. Although penalties for rape have increased, AI reported that women’s organizations believe that low conviction rates in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence breed a climate of impunity. These low conviction rates are closely linked to the slowness of the judicial system, with backlogs meaning that most cases take several years to reach court. AI recommended to amend the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act to criminalize marital rape; to ensure that there is a process of effective consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations, in the development of the proposed strategic plan to address sexual violence; and to ensure that the proposed strategic plan includes elements of prevention, investigation and punishment of acts of violence, also service provision and redress for victims, awareness raising, education and training, and systematic data collection and research.
15. GIECPC noted that the Government rejected recommendations to eliminate corporal punishment from the Bahamas legislation and to continue, as a matter of priority, efforts to prohibit corporal punishment, of children as well as of adults, and to put an end to corporal punishment in schools and at home, and to revise article 1.10 of the Criminal Code. However, GIECPC highlighted that the Bahamas accepted to consider the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, specifically with regard to the prevention of physical abuse of children, and to prevent child abuse and neglect by making a distinction between corporal punishment and child abuse, which it did not condone. Moreover, GIECPC acknowledged that the Government stated its intention to repeal corporal punishment as a sentence of the courts, though it was unclear whether this was in relation to all persons or only for adults.
16. GIECPC noted that corporal punishment of children is lawful in the Bahamas, despite recommendations to prohibit it by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and during the initial UPR review in 2008. GIECPC noted that recent law reform – the enactment of the Child Protection Act (2006) which came into force in 2009 – failed to prohibit corporal punishment in any setting, and there has been no change in its legality since the initial UPR in 2008 as it is lawful in the home, schools, penal system and most care settings.
17. GIECPC indicated that under provisions for “justifiable force”, article 110 of the Penal Code (1873) allows a parent or guardian to “correct his or her legitimate or illegitimate child for misconduct or disobedience to any lawful command” and states that “no correction can be justified which is unreasonable in kind or in degree”. The Child Protection Act (2006) recognises children’s right “to exercise, in addition to all the rights stated in this Act, all the rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child”, but this is “subject to any reservations that apply to The Bahamas and with appropriate modifications to suit the circumstances that exist in The Bahamas with due regard to its laws” (article 4c). The Act does not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment and does not repeal article 110 of the Penal Code; its provisions against violence and abuse are not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment in childrearing. In a research published in 2010, 77% of adults reported that children in their homes were spanked as a means to “discipline” them. GIECPC also noted that, under article 110 of the Penal Code Corporal, punishment is also lawful in schools. It may be inflicted by a principal, vice-principal, or senior master/mistress, following guidelines set out by the Department of Education.
18. GIECPC hoped that States will raise the issue during the review in 2013 and recommend to the Bahamas that legislation is enacted to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment of children in the home as a matter of priority.
As featured on crin.org.