THE HONOURABLE ALLYSON MAYNARD GIBSON Q.C.
ATTORNEY- GENERAL AND MINISTER OF LEGAL AFFAIRS OF
THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS
International Federation of Women Lawyers
Freeport, Grand Bahama
28th February 2016
I am pleased to be in the company of such distinguished women who represent our country so well as members of the International Federation of Women Lawyers. I am honoured to have been invited to address you on this auspicious occasion. I congratulate Mrs. Aisha Stuart-Smith, the incoming President and the entire Team of Officers and Directors. Thank you also to Cassieta McIntosh – a phenomenal woman.
I have no doubt that Mrs. Stuart-Smith and her Team will set new records for The Bahamas and its involvement in FIDA. The Bahamas through Mrs. Jethlyn Burrows has set a milestone as President of FIDA international. I know that many more milestones will be set as I encourage you ladies to run your leg of the race with enthusiasm, vigour, courage and tenacity.
This year, The Bahamas will celebrate the 43rd anniversary of its Independence. The birth of our nation is intricately connected with the attainment of voting rights for women, who first voted in The Bahamas on November 26th, 1962. The Women’s Suffrage Movement led by Mary Ingraham, Georgiana Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart and Dames Doris Johnson and Bertha Isaacs also led to universal adult suffrage.
Similarly, the quest for justice led to the formation of the FIDA. The website fidafederation.org, speaking about the formation of FIDA says, “Linda Bates and Esther Talamantes were the founders of FIDA. In 1944 at the International Bar association Conference in Mexico City, Linda was a candidate for the board of the International Bar Association but as she was a woman she was not accepted. Disgusted at the discriminatory culture of the International Bar Association, the two of them made the decision to start a lawyer’s association only for women, and so founded the International Federation of Women Lawyers or FIDA.”
That site describes FIDA’s goals as:
“To enhance and promote the welfare of women and children, realizing that on the well-being of women and children depends the happiness of the home and the strength of society.
To promote the study of comparative law.
To promote the principles and the aims of the United Nations in their legal and social aspects.”
FIDA is a very important institution for women within the legal profession and outside of it. It is the FIDA’s focus on enhancing the lives of women and children through the pursuit of priorities like education, development and equality that frames its relevance. This mandate combined with the world influence and reach of FIDA and the installation of a visionary President and leadership Team, in Grand Bahama, Bahamas, presents untold opportunities for The Bahamas and the world.
As Attorney General, I thank FIDA for the support and encouragement that many of your members have given me in relation to Swift Justice. The issues that we together will continue to tackle affect your daily practice.
Today I want to talk about something that will impact your lives and change The Bahamas (and the world) – forever and that is; the gender equality referendum.
In the very near future, a Constitutional Referendum will be put to the Bahamian people for their vote.
4 issues are to be voted upon in Parliament and by the People:
Whether a married Bahamian woman should have the same right as a married Bahamian man to pass her citizenship on to her child
Whether the spouse of a Bahamian woman should have the same right as the spouse of a Bahamian man to become a Bahamian citizen
Whether an unmarried Bahamian man should have the same right as an unmarried Bahamian woman to pass his citizenship on to his child
That it should be clear in our Constitution that there will not be discrimination in The Bahamas on the basis of sex – being male and female.
On Wednesday 2nd March the House of Assembly will vote on these Bills and the Senate shortly thereafter. In the Parliament they must pass by three quarters of the members of each house. And when the questions are put to the people, they must pass by a simple majority.
Being a Constitutional Referendum, the outcome is binding – by law.
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.
I hope that the power, energy and sense of justice historically advocated by of the 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.
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.
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 to that they can obtain automatically Bahamian citizenship.
And the time is 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.
In 1944 Linda Bates and Esther Talamantes took a stand for the future. They were on the right side of history.
The stance taken by our Foremothers, joined by our Forefathers in the late 1950s led to women’s suffrage, universal adult suffrage, Majority Rule and Independence. They were on the right side of history.
Today, each of you has the opportunity, standing on the principles upon which FIDA was established and standing on the shoulders of our Suffragette Foremothers to change The Bahamas so that our sons and daughters will forever have equal rights and opportunity in The Bahamas. You have the opportunity to make history.
Madam President and your incoming executive, as I congratulate you, wish you every success and pledge my support and that of the Office of the Attorney General, I thank you in advance for FIDA continuing to be an important principled and historic voice in our beloved country – The Bahamas.
May God richly bless you, your tenure and The Bahamas!