Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The Bahamian tourism industry continues to suffer from the global economic crisis that struck in late 2008. In 2013, the International Monetary Fund downgraded the economic growth projections for the Bahamas due to the slow global economy. Marijuana cultivation and trafficking by foreign nationals residing in the country have led the United States to keep the Bahamas on the list of major drug-producing and drug-transit countries.
In 2013, criminal activity targeting tourists in the Bahamas contributed to negative international press. This image problem was further compounded by reports of beatings by Bahamas security forces of refugees from Cuba.
Political Rights: 38 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12
The Bahamas is governed under a parliamentary system, and the governor general is appointed by the British monarch as head of state. The lower house of the bicameral Parliament, the 38-member House of Assembly, is directly elected for five-year terms. The 16 members of the upper house, the Senate, are appointed for five-year terms by the governor general based on recommendations made by the prime minister and the opposition leader. The head of the majority party or coalition in Parliament typically serves as prime minister.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) regained power in general elections held in May 2012, winning 29 seats, while the Free National Movement (FNM) took 9 seats. Following the elections, Perry Christie, who had been prime minister in the 2000s, resumed the post.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 16 / 16
Political parties can organize freely, although the PLP and FNM dominate politics in a two-party system. Power rotates regularly between these two parties.
C. Functioning of Government: 10 / 12
Corruption remains a problem at all levels of government. Top officials frequently face allegations of administrative graft, domestically and from abroad. Parliament passed a freedom of information bill in February 2012; while the government has pledged to enforce the law, it has not specified when it would come into effect. The Bahamas was ranked 22 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Civil Liberties: 58 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 16 / 16
The Bahamas has a well-developed tradition of respecting press freedom. The privately owned daily and weekly newspapers express a variety of views, as do the government-run radio station and four privately owned radio broadcasters. Strict and antiquated libel laws dating to British legal codes are seldom invoked. Access to the internet is unrestricted, and religious and academic freedoms are respected.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 12 / 12
Freedoms of assembly and association are generally protected. Constitutional guarantees of the right to form nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are generally respected, and human rights organizations have broad access to institutions and individuals. A proposed law, the Civil Society Organization Encouragement Act, will for the first time register civil society organizations separately instead of under the Companies Act. Labor, business, and professional organizations are generally free from government interference. Unions have the right to strike, and collective bargaining is prevalent.
F. Rule of Law: 15 / 16
The independent judicial system is headed by the Supreme Court and a court of appeals, with the additional right of appeal to the Privy Council in London under certain circumstances. The death penalty was last carried out in 2000, and it was ruled unconstitutional in 2006. However, in light of the rising crime rate, government representatives have issued calls for resuming capital punishment.
After a dramatic rise in the rates of murder, rape, and robbery in 2011, the government amended existing laws and introduced new legislation related to the functioning of the criminal justice system, including amendments to the Penal Code, the Dangerous Drugs Act, the Firearms Act, the Bail Act, the Sexual Offences Bill, and the Court of Appeal Act. Crime rates continued to fall somewhat in 2013, indicating that anticrime measures have achieved some success. However, some high-profile cases against tourists attracted the attention of the cruise ship industry and led to negative domestic and international press, damaging the country’s reputation. In 2013, the murder rate increased by 7 percent, from 111 cases in 2012 to 119 in 2013. There was a small decrease in armed robberies in 2013 to 1,022 cases, down from 1,106 in 2012.
NGOs have occasionally documented cases of prisoner abuse and arbitrary arrest. Overcrowding in the country’s prison remains a major problem, and juveniles are often housed with adults, increasing the risk of abuse. The correctional training institute established in 2005 has worked to segregate violent and nonviolent offenders. However, the institute continues to face problems of limited capacity, including inadequate space to segregate offenders and insufficient numbers of trained personnel.
The Bahamas remains a major transit point for migrants coming from other Caribbean islands, especially Cuba and Haiti, who are trying to reach the United States. Discrimination against Haitian immigrants persists, and at least 30,000 undocumented Haitians reside in the Bahamas. Strict citizenship requirements and a stringent work-permit system leave Haitians with few rights. Reports also emerged in 2013 of mistreatment of Cuban refugees by guards in a notorious detention center, which led to protests in Miami.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 15 / 16
Although the law does not protect against gender discrimination, criminal “quid pro quo” sexual harassment is prohibited. Violence against women, including domestic violence, is a serious problem. Despite laws against domestic violence, police are often reportedly reluctant to intervene in domestic disputes. Women hold only 12 percent of the seats in Parliament. Discrimination against same-sex relationships is not prohibited by the constitution, and efforts have been promoted to weave anti-LGBT clauses into existing marriage acts. Basic rights such as foreign travel, internal movement, emigration, and repatriation are constitutionally protected and respected in practice.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year