More criticism for Bahamas legislator on proposal to sterilise unwed women

Citizens for Constitutional Equality (CCE) has joined in condemning opposition legislator Richard Lightbourn, who last week proposed a policy of sterilisation for unwed mothers after they have given birth to two children.

“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 non-discrimination 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 policymakers for State violations. It is so unfortunate that we missed this opportunity to enshrine formal gender equality within our constitution,” the CCE said in a statement.

Last week, three female government ministers condemned the statement, saying they were “shocked and disgusted to hear the offensive suggestion” by Lightbourn.

“While these kinds of outrageous comments have come to typify the positioning of Mr Lightbourn, his comments last night show that he is unfit for public office and he should immediately apologise to all Bahamian women,” said Melanie Griffin (Social Services), Glenys Hanna-Martin (Transport and Aviation) and Hope Strachan (Financial Services and Local Government) in a joint statement.

Speaking at the convention of the main opposition Free National Movement (FNM) last Thursday night,

Lightbourn proposed that unwed mothers with more than two children should have their “tubes tied” in an effort to curtail the country’s social ills.

Lightbourn said children born in unstable family situations often grow up to participate in criminal activities.

“It is also necessary for us to consider, as a nation, adopting the lead of several countries in the world which result in unwed mother having her tubes tied after having more than two children,” he said.

“By adopting such measures, there will be less classrooms needed in the future, less out of school every year seeking employment and would also result in the mother of these children being able to live a better life, not having to bring up so many children.”

But in its statement, the CCE said that “what Mr Lightbourn clearly does not seem to understand is that violence against women is at the core of gender inequality”, warning “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,” the CCE said.

It said that “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.”

Jamaica Observer