“The government should consider a new referendum.”

The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG), which monitored the general elections in the Bahamas last September, said in its final report released yesterday that, after the necessary consultations, there was no new evidence of potential constitutional amendments to the provisions of the Bahamas constitution. We recommend that a referendum be held. does not currently prohibit discrimination based on gender.

This recommendation was made in the context of valuing women’s political participation and commitment as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), to which the Bahamas signed in 1993.

The general recommendation of CEDAW, referenced in the COG report, is that States parties to the Convention take all appropriate steps to eliminate discrimination against women in national political and public life. I am looking for

CEDAW believes that in order to achieve broad representation in the public sphere, women must be fully equal in the exercise of political and economic power and be fully and equally involved in decision-making at all levels. says it won’t.

The Commonwealth Observer Group, chaired by former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, said that after necessary consultations, a new referendum on possible constitutional amendments to Article 26(3) of the Constitution should be held. and the political parties will campaign as follows: [civil society organizations] and human rights groups that support this change.”

According to CEDAW, 30-35% female participation is recommended to have a real impact on the content of political decisions.

The Commonwealth Observer Group notes that while some progress has been made in recent years to improve women’s political representation and participation, there remains a pressing need to address shortcomings in this regard. did.

He also noted that of the 225 candidates who ran in last September’s election, 72 were women, representing 32%. A woman contested her 33 of her 39 constituencies, or 85 percent of her total.

“Within the party hierarchy, women remain underrepresented in leadership and senior decision-making positions,” the group observed.

The total number of female candidates for all political parties may be within the CEDAW recommended target range of 30-35%, but historically this has not been reflected in the election of the accompanying number of women. Stated.

Seven women won seats in the 2021 election, bringing the percentage of women in the House of Representatives to 18%.

The COG said, “The group was pleased to note that among the successful female candidates, five of the total 22 cabinet ministers (22%) were female, compared to 1 in 19 before the election. There were only three women ministers,” the COG said.

“While still falling short of CEDAW targets, this is a significant improvement by the incoming government and should be applauded.”

The group said from some stakeholders it met that cyberbullying against female candidates is of a nature and frequency that male candidates are not exposed to, and that this negatively impacts the number of women willing to campaign for office. He said he was told that it was affecting .

“There is no easy solution to this problem,” the observer group added.

“The Bahamian Constitution protects freedom of speech and expression and does not include gender in its definition of discrimination.

“The Bahamas currently does not have a single law against hate crimes (including hate speech) or cyberbullying (beyond the Computer Misuse Act of 2003).

“Strengthening existing laws or introducing new laws may help rectify the problem to some extent, but it is essential that such reforms ensure that basic democratic rights are not unduly violated.”

The COG also said it was aware of the 2016 referendum on gender equality. In the referendum, citizens voted against constitutional amendments that would give women equal rights in a number of ways.

“Most relevant to the group’s focus is ‘Bill #4,’ as it is known,” the COG said.

‗The bill would amend Article 26(3) of the Constitution so that the definition of discrimination no longer includes sex, sex or sexual orientation and was deemed in need of urgent remediation by the Constitutional Commission. It is a flaw that is justified.

“The current constitution violates the Bahamas’ international commitments under CEDAW.”

The COG noted that Equality Bahamas’ shadow report to CEDAW provides views on the role of politicians in the national discourse on the issue. But they rarely dare to make changes within their systems. “

“While the group allows citizens to vote democratically in this referendum, it is important to educate citizens about the expanded rights granted to women by CEDAW and the benefits this will bring to women’s lives. and especially those related to democratic and civic participation,” the group said.

“There is an urgent need for politicians to take the lead on this issue. Governments need to ensure that their messages on women’s rights are consistent with CEDAW.

“In addition, governments and political parties need to be meaningfully engaged. [civil society organizations]human rights groups and the media have stepped up efforts to educate the public about CEDAW provisions and women’s political representation in particular, and seek to change public attitudes and behavior accordingly.

“The government should strongly consider the announcement of a new referendum on this constitutional amendment, and the country’s major political parties are urged to provide bipartisan support for this amendment.”

The group acknowledged that the Bahamas is not the only country facing these challenges, and further acknowledged that cultural shifts in such attitudes “will undoubtedly be gradual.”

The group said, “This process may be facilitated by the increasing visibility of women in leadership positions in government and parliament.

“At present, no Temporary Special Measures (TSM), such as allocation of seats or allocation of ministers, have been implemented. [civil society organizations] and political parties.

“The group recommends that the federal secretariat be prepared to support such efforts.”

The Observer Group noted that political parties and responsible authorities “encourage, promote and support women’s participation in representative politics, political leadership and public administration through measures, including but not limited to TSM, such as parliamentary seats and cabinet allocations.” I encourage you to make every effort to

The COG said civil society organizations and human rights groups should be meaningfully consulted as part of this process.

The group also recommends that all political parties make greater efforts to ensure that women are given leadership and decision-making positions in the party hierarchy, including the constitutionally mandated minimum percentage of female participation. doing.

Observing the 2017 general election, the Commonwealth Observer Group also recommended that the Free National Movement achieve a historic election and promote women’s political participation.

“Overall, we recommend that you consider the introduction of special measures to achieve gender balance in decision-making structures and processes, in order to increase the representation of women in political and public life”.

This recommendation was not adopted.

The 2017 Observer Group also stated: “

A newly released report on the 2021 elections noted that the recommendation had been “partially” adopted.

“Some political parties have unveiled internal policies aimed at increasing the number of female candidates and increasing the role of women in party hierarchies and decision-making processes, but the majority of parties ( (including the two largest political parties) in this respect,” the group said. “The government should consider a new referendum.”

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