Sterilization proposal highlights risk of the failed referendum
By Citizens for Constitutional Equality (CCE)
Citizens for Constitutional Equality (CCE) condemns the recent statement by Member of Parliament Richard Lightbourn, who proposed a policy of sterilization in response to his economic anxiety and concerns about unwed mothers and perceived over population.
Remarkably, Mr Lightbourn is proposing state enforced violence against women, which is a perverse violation of human rights. This brings to the forefront the immensity of the failure to enshrine the principle of nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in our constitution as the most recent referendum initiative sought to do. The failure of the referendum now puts all citizens at risk of these types of proposals from policy makers for state violations. It is so unfortunate that we missed this opportunity to enshrine formal gender equality within our constitution.
What Mr Lightbourn clearly does not seem to understand is that violence against women is at the core of gender inequality, an issue that the CCE seeks to address in its promotion of constitutional equality and substantive gender equality.
To execute such a policy requires a coercive and discriminatory approach against a certain set of women in our society by the State. This compounds the reality that many women in the Bahamas become pregnant because of coercion, rape, inclusive of marital rape, incest and other forms of violations of their human rights, such as poverty. Mr Lightbourn’s proposal displays an utter lack of understanding and awareness of what gender equality, women’s empowerment, agency and human rights really means.
No matter how difficult our challenges may be as a society, our actions must always uphold the view that women’s rights are human’s rights; irrespective of our diversity as women, human rights principles must be applied equally to all. Bahamians need to be reassured that this is a fundamental belief of all our political leaders, and this reassurance cannot simply be in their utterances but by their actions; actions to promote women’s empowerment, gender equality and human rights.
Implicit in Mr Lightbourn’s proposal is a policy to target young, black, poor women in order to reduce the number of children being born; reduce the number of children in the schools and reduce the number of people seeking employment. This policy proposal of sterilization is frighteningly reminiscent of the policies used against black South Africans under apartheid and African Americans in Mississippi and Alabama, as recently as the 1960s. This is not who we are as a people.
What we need in the Bahamas is an opportunity society that respects the rights of women and the human rights of all. And though the most recent constitutional referendum failed, we must continue to insist on non-discrimination in the constitution and in practice by the Government, its agents and all social institutions.