Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women is illegal, but the law does not protect against spousal rape, except if the couple is separated or in the process of divorce, or if there is a restraining order in place. The maximum penalty for an initial rape conviction is seven years. The maximum sentence for subsequent rape convictions is life imprisonment; however, the usual maximum was 14 years’ imprisonment.
Violence against women continued to be a serious, widespread problem. The 2015 Strategic Plan to Address Gender-Based Violencereported a total of 2,390 incidences of sexual offenses, including rape, attempted rape, unlawful sexual intercourse, incest, and other sexual offenses, between 2003 and 2013.
The law recognizes domestic violence as a crime separate from assault and battery, and the government generally enforced the law, although women’s rights groups cited some reluctance on the part of law enforcement authorities to intervene in domestic disputes. The Bahamas Crisis Center (BCC) provided a counselor referral service and operated a toll-free hotline. The authorities in partnership with a private organization, operated a safe house.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits criminal “quid pro quo” sexual harassment and authorizes penalties of up to B$5,000 ($5,000) and a maximum of two years’ imprisonment. There were no official reports of workplace sexual harassment during the year. Civil rights advocates complained that criminal prohibitions were not enforced effectively.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The law does not prohibit discrimination based on gender. Women with foreign-born spouses do not have the same right as men to transmit citizenship to their spouse or children (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons).
Women were generally free of economic discrimination, and the law provides for equal pay for equal work. The law also provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men; however, women reported that it was more difficult for them to qualify for credit and to own a business.
Birth Registration: Children born in the country to married parents, one of whom is Bahamian, acquire citizenship at birth. In the case of unwed parents, the child takes the citizenship of the mother. All children born in the country may apply for citizenship upon reaching their 18th birthday. There is universal birth registration, and all births must be registered within 21 days of delivery.
Child Abuse: The law provides severe penalties for child abuse and requires all persons having contact with a child they believe has been physically or sexually abused to report their suspicions to police; nonetheless, child abuse and neglect remained serious problems.
The penalties for rape of a minor are the same as those for rape of an adult. While a victim’s consent is insufficient defense against allegations of statutory rape, it is sufficient defense if the accused had “reasonable cause to believe that the victim was above 16 years of age,” provided the accused was under age 18.
The Ministry of Social Services provided services to abused and neglected children through a public-private center for children, the public hospital family-violence program, and the BCC.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, although minors may marry at 15 with parental permission.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law considers any association or exposure of a child to prostitution or a prostitution house as cruelty, neglect, or mistreatment of a child. Additionally, the offense of having sex with a minor carries a penalty of life imprisonment. Child pornography is against the law. A person who produces it is liable to life imprisonment; dissemination or possession of it calls for a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.
Institutionalized Children: A child as young as 10 years old may be charged as an adult or a juvenile before a criminal court. First-time juvenile offenders charged with nonviolent or lesser offenses faced detention and custodial sentences at the Simpson Penn School for Boys, Willie Mae Pratt Center for Girls, or the BDOC facility.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The local Jewish community numbered approximately 300 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law affords equal access for students, but only as resources permit, with this decision made by individual schools. On less-populated islands, children with learning disabilities often sat disengaged in the back of classrooms because resources were not available.
A mix of government and private residential and nonresidential institutions provided education, training, counseling, and job placement services for adults and children with disabilities.
According to unofficial estimates, between 40,000 and 80,000 residents were Haitians or persons of Haitian descent, making them the largest ethnic minority. Many persons of Haitian origin lived in shantytowns with limited sewage and garbage services, law enforcement, or other infrastructure. Authorities generally granted Haitian children access to education and social services, but interethnic tensions and inequities persisted. Haitians generally had difficulty securing citizenship, residence, or work permits, in part due to a lack of capacity in relevant agencies.
Members of the Haitian community complained of discrimination in the job market, specifically that identity and work-permit documents were controlled by employers seeking advantage by threat of deportation (see section 7.b.).
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law provides no protection from discrimination. against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. Sexual activity between same-sex consenting adults is legal. The law defines the age of consent for same-sex couples as 18, compared with 16 for heterosexual couples. NGOs reported LGBTI individuals continued to face social stigma and discrimination.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination in employment based on HIV/AIDS status. Children with HIV/AIDS also faced discrimination, and authorities often did not tell teachers that a child was HIV positive due to fear of verbal abuse from both educators and peers. The government maintained a home for orphaned children infected with HIV/AIDS.