Mrs. Allyson Maynard-Gibson was one of the eminent speakers at The Bain & Grants Town Advancements Association town meeting last night, hosted by the Rev. C.B Moss at St. Agnes Church Parish Hall. The topic was the impending and controversial Sexual Offences Amendment Bill being promoted by The Hubert Ingraham Government.
Bahamas Press brings to our readers the full text of Mrs. Maynard-Gibson’s speech.
Rape must be condemned and punished whenever and wherever it occurs.
In the mid 1980s I joined Hon. Janet Bostwick in organizing “The March Against Rape”– then one of the largest marches ever in The Bahamas. At that time rape figures varied between 121 in 1980; 92 in 1981; 83 in 1982; 93 in 1983 and 84 in 1984.
Rightly so, citizens then had had enough. We all felt that rape incidents were far too many (though less than they are now). We wanted the punishment of the Cat O Nine Tails (flogging) for Rape. I still feel that it should be open to the Courts to order the sentence of flogging for rape.
Crime Statistics for rape and attempted rape continue to steadily rise.
2009 to June 14th , 2009 – 69. In less than 6 months we have has more than the total number of rapes and attempted rapes reported for 2008.
The United Nations in its Report entitled “Crime, Violence, and Development Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean”, issued in March 2007 shows that The Bahamas has the highest “Rape Rate in Caribbean and Comparison Countries”.
It reports the reported rape incidents of rape per 100,000 as:
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 112
Trinidad and Tobago 18
Worldwide Average 15
Saudi Arabia 0
The Chart below shows Rapes and Attempted Rapes reported in The Bahamas from 1990 to 2004 and 2008. It should be noted that even though requested from the Police, up to speech time, the figures for 2005, 2006 and 2007 have not been supplied.
Those that passed and amended the Bill (which came after a great deal of lobbying) recognized that the entire matter was sensitive
o The existing Act does recognize and condemns forced sexual relations with a spouse
It is important for us to focus on areas upon which most of us agree. For example, most Bahamians today agree that:
1. God created men and women different and equal
2. A man and a woman are equal partners in a marriage
3. Marriage and family life are to be protected, nurtured and supported
4. A woman is not a man’s property
History shows that society did not always agree with the 4 points mentioned above.
Where else do we find agreement? I believe that in certain circumstances Bahamians would without hesitation say that a man raped his wife:
o Tying her up to have sex
o Breaking into her mother’s house where she is staying (they not being legally separated) to have sex
o Doping or drugging her to have sex
o Threatening her at gunpoint to have sex
o Beating her to have sex
If my premise if correct, Bahamians today do believe that a man can rape his wife.
These are so called “black and white” or clearly defined areas about which there is little or no disagreement. Concerns arise when we are confronted with the tremendous grey areas that inevitably exist in the context of a marriage:
o Was the wife really saying no
o Was the husband forcing his wife or was he trying to convince his wife
o What is the wife’s motive for making the allegation of rape against her husband
o What about the children
o Who will support the family (including emotionally and financially) if the husband is sent to jail?
I believe that there are many problems with this amendment, including:
o We do not know why it was brought at this time. What percentage of the rape statistics represents rape in a marriage?
o There was no wide consultation before it was brought
o It was brought in such a manner as to possibly create a political football and to cause unnecessary strife in marriages and in society, especially between men and women
o There has been no explanation, supported by statistics or otherwise, demonstrating why s.15 needs to be repealed or that s.15 no longer serves society well
o It was bought in such a way that it could be suggested that it trivializes marriage, THE institution which is the foundation of strong families, communities and countries
o There is no overall plan for a proper system to abate domestic violence, punish perpetrators, support victims, counsel perpetrators and victims, compensate victims, adjudicate domestic matters etc.
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Today I was not able to get the complete set of amendments to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Act. The recently published updated disc does not have the updated Act and the Act together with all amendments are not available at the government publications department. If citizens cannot obtain the Act together with all amendments, how can they make informed decisions?
Many other questions rest upon the hearts and in the minds of our law abiding, citizens and husbands and wives who are working hard to build and nurture their marriages.
These questions include but are not limited to:
a. In changing legislation, should we be guided by the Constitution on The Bahamas, or should we be guided by UN Resolutions
b. Are the criminal courts the proper place to adjudicate or deal with these matters involving husband and wife
c. Do husband and wife need professional counseling and support for their marriage and themselves
d. Do the children need professional counseling and support?
There are no easy answers
Bahamian patriots support the preamble of our Constitution, which sets our focus on Christian Values and the Rule of Law:
• AND WHEREAS the People of this Family of Islands recognise that the preservation of their Freedom will be guaranteed by a national commitment to Self-discipline, Industry, Loyalty, Unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the Rule of Law;
Most of us agree that:
• Marriage is a Sacrament AND a legal institution
• The relationship of the husband and wife exists not only between themselves, it also exists between them and God and them and the State (all other people)
• Marriage must be supported and nurtured and protected
• Victims of rape must be supported and nurtured and protected (including possible monetary compensation by the perpetrator)
• Persons falsely accused of rape must be supported and nurtured and protected (including proper punishment for false accusations of rape)
• We must find ways to abate domestic violence.
I also think that we should not demonize people who say “Christian men cannot rape their wives”. What I hear them to be saying is “Christian men every day try to love their wives, just as Christ loved the church, loving their wives as they love themselves”. And I hear the women to be saying, “I respect my husband. I do not want him to be treated like a criminal”.
There is a big picture. We do ourselves and victims of rape a grave injustice when we trivialize these issues.
I suggest the following:
• Withdraw the amendment
• Engage in wide consultation about domestic violence including rape in a marriage
• Engage in wide consultation about how as a matter of national policy we support, nurture and protect marriage and family life
• The consultation be removed from the political arena and be conducted by nationally and internationally respected experts (religious, psycho/social, legal etc.)
• The establishment of a Hybrid Family Court system as proposed by the Bahamas Family Court System Committee, Chaired by Madam Justice Rubie Nottage
• The establishment of this hybrid system will enable several procedural tracks to be established within the unified Supreme Court. It will also enable matters of domestic violence, including rape, where appropriate, to be dealt with and resolved in the Family Court System rather than in the criminal courts.
After the consultation, we should pass the legislation necessary to implement the proposals the result of the consultation and properly fund the institutions necessary for the legislation to be effective.
A debate in this context enables a full and complete discussion of the problems and the solutions in relation to domestic violence specifically and support of the family generally.
I believe that most people are concerned about the significant and unacceptable increase in rape and the inordinate amount of time that it takes for these matters to be prosecuted (e.g. 6 years)
There are some things that can immediately be implemented and enforced:
o ALL rapes should be prosecuted by way of VBI
o Allocate a specific judge to hear rape matters (until the outcome of the hybrid family court system consultation)
o Properly fund and train investigating officers so that evidence is properly gathered and expeditiously processed
o Properly fund the office of the Bailiff so that the Jury Pool can be large enough to have many trials at once; information is available to enable prosecution and defence counsel to make informed choices when challenging jurors; and, society does not facilitate “professional jurors”
o Properly equip and lay out a court to hear rape matters so that victim need not be in close proximity to the accused and his family during the trial.
I also support proper steps being taken so that persons who falsely and or maliciously make accusations of rape be severely punished. I propose this measure, in addition to those above, in order that all can know that in this critical matter, rape, we are ensuring there be adequate deterrents in place to prevent false accusations that so gravely mar the lives of men and women.
Significant progress can be made in addressing domestic violence and rape by pursing these non controversial proposals, to which I invite the country’s serious consideration.
I thank Rev. C.B. Moss for convening this meeting. I hope that we can remove this discussion from the political arena and ask the experts to convene the national discussion and prayerful deliberation about these issues.