(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
In 1991, the Bahamas decriminalised consensual same-sex relations. However, legal protections for LGBTI persons in the Bahamas remain weak.
The US Department of State’s 2010 Human Rights Report on the Bahamas notes that there is no legislation to address the human rights of LGBTI populations specifically, and that the 2006 Constitutional Review Commission found that ‘sexual orientation did not deserve protection against discrimination.’ As such, under Art 26(3) of the Bahamas Constitution that provides protection from discrimination, sexual orientation is not included as a category.
A number of laws provide for differential legal treatment and protection of heterosexual and homosexual couples, including the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act which puts the age of consent for sexual relations at 16 for heterosexual couples and 18 for homosexual couples. Article 2 of the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act fails to provide same-sex couples with the protection against domestic violence afforded to heterosexual couples by defining ‘partner’ as ‘a party to a common relationship between a man and a woman.’
However, the most concerning legislation for LGBTI rights is Article 107(4) of the Penal Code. This Article allows for a person to use force ‘extending, in the case of extreme necessity, even to killing’ in order to defend his or herself from a ‘forcible unnatural crime’. Amnesty International argue that this wording ‘allows this provision to be used to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons’ (please see below).
There have been a number of cases where men have been acquitted of murder on the basis of the so-called ‘gay panic defense’ (based on Article 107(4) of the Penal Code) whereby the defendant ‘claims he panicked and killed because the gay man made an unwanted sexual advance upon him’. In 2009 Frederick Green-Neely was acquitted for the murder of Dale Williams on the basis that Williams had expressed that he was sexually attracted to Green-Neely, and had made an advance on him. In 2010, a similar defence was used in the murder trial of Latherio Jones, who was sentenced to just three years probation for the murder of Trevor Wilson in 2004. The President of the Court of Appeal in the latter case was quoted as saying that ‘one is entitled to use whatever force is necessary to prevent one's self being the victim of a homosexual act’. In early 2013, Amnesty International expressed that they were ‘extremely concerned’ about these judgements, and the way in which Article 107(4) of the Penal Code had been used to justify discrimination and attack on LGBTI persons. They also note that ‘courts often use the likelihood that the victim intended to commit an “unnatural crime” as grounds to justify the defendant’s self defence’.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
Whilst the Bahamas have recently supported a number of recommendations put forward by the Human Rights Council to combat discrimination and persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation, Amnesty International have argued that the Government of the Bahamas has ‘failed to translate these into concrete policies at the national level’. It notes that a discriminatory legal framework and a paucity of government initiatives addressing anti-homosexuality have resulted in little positive gain in societal attitudes towards homosexuality at a local level.
Freedom House has argued that the lack of initiatives and reform can be explained by the fact that the Government of the Bahamas remains ‘strongly opposed’ to homosexuality. This can be demonstrated by their banning of films such as Brokeback Mountain in 2006, and their censorship of NGOs that try to raise awareness to LGBTI issues.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
We do not currently list any NGOs that support LGBTI communities in the Bahamas, but welcome suggestions.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We do not currently list any specialists on LGBTI issues in the Bahamas, but welcome suggestions.
Researched by: Kate Schofield
email: katealexschofieldgmail [dot] com