Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women is illegal, but the law does not protect against spousal rape unless the couple is separated or in the process of divorce, or 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. The RBPF reported that from January to November there were 45 reported rapes, 12 attempted rapes, and 114 cases of unlawful sexual intercourse. The RBPF reported Abaco had the highest number of reported cases of sexual violence. In September a woman alleged a jet ski operator raped her in Nassau. Although she identified the accused in a line up, he was released on bail because he was a minor. There were no further developments in her case in the courts, a common occurrence in rape and domestic violence cases.
Violence against women continued to be a serious, widespread problem.
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 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 and a maximum of two years’ imprisonment. There were no official reports of workplace sexual harassment during the year.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
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 spouses 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 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.
In January the case of Jean Rony Jean-Charles, who asserted he was born in the country to Haitian parents and thus was unlawfully repatriated to Haiti, went before the Supreme Court. In September 2017 Jean-Charles was unable to provide officials with identification proving his lawful presence in the country. Immigration officials subsequently deported Jean-Charles to Haiti although he was never issued a deportation or a detention order and had never traveled outside The Bahamas. The Supreme Court judge ruled that Jean-Charles was unlawfully expelled from The Bahamas and ordered the government to immediately issue a travel document for his return at the government’s expense. The ruling also granted him legal status no later than 60 days after his return. The judge noted that Jean-Charles was deprived of his personal liberty, unlawfully arrested and detained, and falsely imprisoned. The judge also ordered the government to pay Jean-Charles damages. In October the Court of Appeal, the highest court in the country, overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling following an appeal by the government.
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 the victim was older than age 16, provided the accused was younger than 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 Bahamas Crisis Center.
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 age 10 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/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.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, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, public buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. The government did not enforce these provisions effectively. 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. Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at a significantly lower rate than other children, and they attended school with nondisabled peers or in segregated schools, depending on local resources.
On September 18, the Court of Appeal upheld the wrongful dismissal claim of a woman who was fired from her job as a restaurant manager at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort because she suffered a “serious nerve injury” that left her unable to carry out her duties. The court ruled that the Atlantis Resort did not make reasonable efforts to accommodate the worker in another position. The judge noted the Employment Act fails to set out how companies should accommodate workers with disabilities.
According to unofficial estimates, between 30,000 and 60,000 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.
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.
The government announced a comprehensive plan to dismantle the country’s shantytowns. Plans were halted by a Supreme Court injunction in August pending judicial review of the lawfulness of the plans to seize and demolish Haitian residences.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not provide antidiscrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults is legal. The law defines the age of consent for same-sex individuals as 18, compared with 16 for heterosexual individuals. NGOs reported LGBTI individuals faced 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 with HIV/AIDS.