LGBT rights in the Bahamas

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LGBT rights in the Bahamas
The Bahamas
The Bahamas
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1991, [1] age of consent not equal.
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption -
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve
Discrimination protections None (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the Bahamas may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in the Bahamas, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Laws against homosexuality

Homosexual relations between consenting adults were legalised in The Bahamas in July 1991. The age of consent for gay men and lesbians is 18 - however for heterosexuals it is 16[2]. However, since 1991, no legislation has been passed to address the human rights of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people. There was a glimmer of hope in 2001 when the Employment Bill was proposed. The Bill sought to bar discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation but, after much debate, it was passed with that clause removed.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Same-sex marriage is not legal in the Bahamas. LGBT rights groups have not challenged the country's marriage laws, which assume that a couple is a man and woman. But despite the lack of government sanctioning, same-sex unions and commitment ceremonies have been privately performed by several pastors and Justices of the Peace for years [3]. However, they are now running the risk of being exposed.

On 18th March, 2007, a pastor who had written many articles against homosexuality in The Nassau Guardian daily newspaper held a “Save the Family Rally” in Freeport. The purpose of the rally was to oppose same-sex civil unions and marriages. Hundreds of people attended the event and signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages in The Bahamas [4]. Several cabinet ministers were also in attendance but they made no such constitutional motion in parliament.

Then on September 21, 2006, a lesbian complained to The Nassau Guardian after reportedly having paid an exorbitant fee to marry her long-term partner. The story got the attention of the president of The Bahamas Christian Council who warned that criminal charges would be brought against clergymen found performing same-sex marriages.[5][6].

Military service

There are no prohibitions on gays serving in the police and military forces.

Discrimination protections

Since the 1991 decriminalization of homosexuality, no legislation has been passed to enforce non-discrimination of LGBT people. In 2001, an Employment Bill was proposed which included a ban on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, but after much debate it was passed with that clause removed.

In addition, the Constitutional Reform Commission, which had been reviewing the country’s unamended 1973 Supreme Law for three years, presented a preliminary report to the previous Progressive Liberal Party government on March 21, 2006. The Commission indicated that equal treatment be afforded to citizens regardless of sex and gender. However, despite recommendations, it did not regard sexual orientation as an attribute deserving of any protection from discrimination.

The present Free National Movement government—voted in on May 2, 2007—does not have the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. It would have to include the Opposition, whose Constitutional Commission rejected LGBT discrimination protection. However, the FNM could enact anti-gay discrimination legislation if it wishes.

Living conditions

There is widespread homophobia in the country, and with the absence of anti-gay discrimination laws, gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals face social injustices as evidenced in the examples below:

  • In July 2004, church groups protested the arrival of Rosie O'Donnell's R Family Vacations cruise [7].
  • In September 2005, an 18-year-old beauty queen had her crown stripped after confirming rumors that she was a lesbian [8].
  • In March 2006, the Bahamas Films and Plays Control Board banned the American gay-themed movie, Brokeback Mountain [9].
  • In September 2007, the Bahamas Christian Council formed an anti-gay committee to fight against a gay group after it asked the local cable company to offer Logo, which caters to the LGBT community [10].
  • On Oct. 6, 2007, police raided a gay cruise party in downtown Nassau [11] but could not arrest anyone, as no crime was committed. Passengers demanded an apology from local police [12]. The Bahmanian Ministry of Tourism issued an apology to the cruise company [13]. This incident mirrors a public protest to a lesbian cruise which docked in Nassau on the 14th April 1998 [14].
  • On Oct 10, 2007, two anti-gay activists appeared on a conservative radio station (Gems 105.9 FM) and called for the re-criminalization of homosexuality. The most vocal activist, Clever Duncombe, said he would "kill" homosexuality wherever he finds it. On the same station, anti-gay Muslim guest Khalil Mustafa Khalfani said "the only good homosexual is a dead homosexual."
  • In a 2009 case, a jury acquitted a man charged with murdering a gay, HIV-positive male. The man used the so-called “gay panic defense”, claiming that the gay male attempted to rape him. However, the prosecution denied this and said the gay man - who was a shop owner and son of a politician - was robbed before he was killed. The prosecution also questioned why the man went to the gay man’s apartment around 11 p.m., charging that it was with the intent to commit a robbery. But the defense attorney said his client was “protecting his manhood” and the killing of the gay man was justified. The story sparked international outrage.[15][16][17]

Because of these strong anti-gay stances, most gay people in The Bahamas are afraid to live open, honest lives. The vast majority of the gay population is in the closet, and as such, don't expect to see any annual gay pride street parades or publicly noticeable signs of an organized gay community.

Gays and lesbians could be confronted with anti-gay remarks if they express themselves openly, i.e. coming out publicly or holding hands on a public street. Reports of violence against gays and lesbians are rare but religious-based verbal attacks are not.

In fact, any person disobeying established gender roles in dress and mannerisms could be subject to jeering. On the other hand, openly gay persons such as members of the gay-rights group, Rainbow Alliance of The Bahamas have been applauded on talk shows and in newspaper articles for speaking against discrimination.

The Bahamas has a tourist-based economy and the government targets a variety of markets, but not the growing LGBT tourism market. Individual and small groups of homosexual tourists are left alone for the most part but boatloads of gay visitors have been protested on three separate occasions—once on March 8, 1998, a month later on April 13, 1998 and again on July 16, 2004. However, the Rainbow Alliance held a counter protest during the 2004 demonstrations, welcoming the gay visitors.

Gay bars have existed in the Bahamas for at least four decades. Today, there are four gay-owned nightclubs in the capital, Nassau. The most famous club, which entertains heterosexual patrons on certain nights, is located near the Cable Beach resort area.

Gay nightlife in Freeport, Grand Bahama however, is not as vibrant. Gays in the less-populated northern city usually hang out in straight clubs.

See also


  1. Ottosson, Daniel (May 2009). State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Page 48. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Retrieved on 2009-05-19.
  3. Nassau Guardian - September 22, 2006
  4. Freeport News - March 19, 2007]
  5. Nassau Guardian - September 27, 2006
  6. Freeport News - September 27, 2006
  7. TTGapers - July 16, 2004
  8. - Nassau Guardian - September 8, 2005
  9. BBC News - March 31, 2006
  10. Nassau Guardian - September 29, 2007
  11. Nassau Guardian - October 09, 2007
  12. Nassau Guardian - October 11, 2007
  13. Nassau Guardian - October 16, 2007
  14. CNN April 14 1998
  16. On Top Magazine - February 03, 2009
  17. Nassau Guardian - February 6, 2009

External links


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