Engendering The Bahamas: A Gendered Examination of Bahamian Nation Making, or National Identity and Gender in the Bahamian Context

Nicolette Bethel


Referendum 2002: gender and the Bahamian citizenry.
On February 27, 2002 Bahamians voted in a referendum to amend the country's constitution. There were several issues to be decided, but the one that caused the most debate was the question of citizenship. Under the present constitution, the way in which Bahamian citizenship is conferred on the spouses and children of Bahamian women, is, to say the least, irregular. The wives of Bahamian men are entitled to Bahamian citizenship; the husbands of Bahamian women are not granted any such entitlement and have to apply for citizenship like any other would-be immigrant. Similarly, the children of Bahamian men, whether born in the Bahamas or not, are Bahamians at birth; the children of Bahamian women have a far more complex fate. If a woman is unmarried, and has a child outside the Bahamas, her child is born Bahamian. But if she is married to a non-Bahamian, and gives birth outside the country, that child is merely entitled to apply for citizenship between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one, and may be refused. If offered citizenship, the child is then forced to renounce any other citizenship inorder to receive Bahamian status.

The recent referendum has generated plenty of political hay and I have no intention of adding straw to the pile. What interests me about this state of affairs is what is suggests about the way in which gender figures in the imagination of the Bahamian nation, and as such, I shall use it as a case study to test the ideas I raise in my discussion.


Bahamian culture

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15362/ijbs.v12i0.54

Copyright (c) 2003 N. Bethel