I feel like I did not say everything I needed to last issue regarding the upcoming Gender Equality Referendum. So I will try here to go through all the arguments I have heard against voting yes to the four Bills being considered and provide my thoughts on them.
“Women Already Have Rights”
We have female politicians, business leaders, and most of Abaco’s Department Heads are women. We’ve had a female Deputy Prime Minister and our Governor General is a woman. We recognize our Head of State, the Queen, who is a woman. The Bahamas is Top 10 in the entire world for proportion of women in management positions (44.4%).
So what more could they possibly want? Why are we meddling with our constitution when there appears to be no real barrier to women in our country?
Because with equal responsibilities should come equal rights. That is why. If, as a country, we accept women doing the same jobs as men then they should be entrusted with the same privileges as men.
“It’s All Political”
Some are still bitter about the 2002 Referendum which also dealt with gender. The government of the day was foolish to hold it so close to General Election. It became political and it failed, in no small part due to the political rhetoric of the, then Opposition, PLP. Many staunch FNM loyalists remember that and refuse to vote for what they see as a PLP referendum out of spite.
The current government has a short memory and is repeating the mistake of the 2002 FNM government. WHY are we holding this referendum so close to the generals?
But this is not political.
This is important for the progress of our country, so much so that the FNM supports this Referendum wholeheartedly. Sir Orville Turnquest GCMG, QC and Sir Arthur GCMG, two of the authors of our Constitution have come out in support of the Referendum.
So if the FNM and PLP both support the Referendum what reason is there to oppose?
“Can’t Trust the Politicians”
Many believe that voting yes to the Referendum amendments will somehow open the door for the politicians to do… something. No one is sure. But they’ll tell you, adamantly, that they are not voting because you can’t trust the politicians; they’ll weasel something out of it.
I understand this sentiment, but it is baseless. The amendments are in black and white. You can read them and see exactly what they say. They are straightforward. If the government were to do something nefarious why would they rely on a Constitutional Referendum? They’ll just do it: like with VAT, or NHI, or borrowing money.
Many Bahamians biggest worry, somehow, with the Referendum is…
“The Homosexual Agenda”
I know there are a lot of Bahamians who hate, shun or are otherwise against gay people. So as distasteful as I personally find this line of argument – it must be made to prevent the uglier side of our society overwhelming reason with fear of the gay boogeyman.
Many are more frightened of gay people than they are concerned with equal rights for women.
As it stands in the Constitution, right now, it is easier to make the jump allowing gay marriage because “sex” is not DEFINED in the Constitution. However the word “sex” IS in the Constitution and it would be up to a judge’s discretion to determine what “sex” means. Bill 4 actually makes it MORE difficult for gay rights because it closes that loophole and clearly defines “sex” as biological sex – at birth.
I’ve heard conversations, relying on fear, describing what will happen to The Bahamas if we allow gays to get married. How God will not shine his favour on us any longer. How it will be the impetus for our country’s personal apocalypse.
Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea and Syria criminalize and persecute homosexuality. Has God blessed these war-torn and starving countries for their piousness? And do we think things are going so well in our own country currently that respecting gay people would suddenly flood our streets with fire and brimstone?
Regardless, Bill 4 does not lead the country on the path to a gay wonderland – it simply means Parliament cannot create laws that discriminate based on our sex at birth.
Besides, same-sex marriage is voided by the Matrimonial Causes Act which is in turn constitutionally protected. Unless that particular part of the constitution is put to question (which it is not) then please, don’t continue to degrade our women under the guise of concern for our country’s morality.
“Women Should Not be Equal to Men because My Bible / Koran / Particular Brand of Dogma Says Otherwise.”
I have no argument against this. Sounds fine.
“The Bahamas is its Own Nation, Stop Following the U.S.”
If the rest of the world we’re jumping off a cliff should we do it too?
This is a shallow argument and detrimental to progress of any kind. Why put limits on ourselves if the results are beneficial?
“We Have an immigration Crisis, Why Add to It by Allowing Women to Grant Citizenship to their Foreign Husbands.”
Simply: because men already do so for their foreign wives. Also, Bill 2 does not AUTOMATICALLY grant citizenship for foreign husbands. It just opens it up so they can apply and go through the same grueling process.
“We Already Had a Referendum and the Government Did the Opposite”
I can appreciate this one. And, I’ll admit, is one hang-up I did have. But the Gaming Referendum was an Advisory Referendum and therefore non-binding. A Constitutional referendum, which this is, must be upheld and implemented.
So in conclusion most of the arguments against voting yes are logical fallacies.
Slippery Slope: “If you can’t discriminate based on sex than you can’t prevent gay marriage!”
Ad Hominem: “The government is a bunch of crooks, so you should do anything you can to oppose them!”
Straw Man: “They’re trying to slip something past you that you don’t want! Vote against this thing!”
Loaded Questions: “Do you support the PLP changing the Constitution?
Or Appeals to Emotion: “Think of your children, do you want them to grow up in a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah?”
Please read the amendments. Please think about them critically. And I ask that on June 7 you vote yes. For our sons. For our daughters. For our mothers. For our Fathers. For Our Country.