As I stated at the start of the new year, a referendum on gender equality as it pertains to citizenship was not going to be held when the Prime Minister said it would primarily because this government is not truly governing the country, therefore nothing is running the way it ought to. Different groups are expressing their disappointment in yet another delay. For my part I am okay with the delay, and here’s why: no work by way of national dialog has been done thus far to push against a plausible repeat of the decision against gender equality made by referendum voters back in 2002. The government has done nothing to concretely demonstrate that gender equality in this respect is a true goal of theirs that they truly want to have the country vote yes to. Unlike the national campaign for the numbers houses, this issue doesn’t appear to be their horse in the race, nor do they appear interested in having the race at all.
Persons upset with the delay say the delay is keeping women further back in the quest for equality. They are apparently assuming that if that vote was held in June as announced, the country would vote yes. That is not a certainty at all. The reality is that citizenship is a subject matter filled with anxieties, misinformation, xenophobia and ignorance in this country. When you mix that with the element of gender equality, then cultural sexism and misogyny adds shameful insult to the ignorance. The same ridiculous arguments we heard made when this matter went to referendum in 2002, will be the same ones made this time; playing on all those dynamics that helped to encourage Bahamians to vote against their own equality the last time.
As I stressed in a previous article – until the government is truly ready to handle this very serious matter seriously, it will do a great disservice to this country to put the matter to a national vote again. If the education level of Bahamians on this important subject is not appreciably improved, Bahamians are likely to go ahead and vote no all over again, whether a lot of us want to admit that or not. He or she who would lead a people must be honest with themselves about how their people think and reason on various subject matters, and then construct one’s approaches accordingly.
The referendum cannot and should not be held in June. The government isn’t focused on it and therefore will not give it the kind of attention it so critically deserves. The only legislative equality the government has clearly been focused on for the past nearly two years is that of making sure their special interests get equal payback for the money they have placed in the pockets of those now in power.
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