The Privy Council in London has maintained a judgement by Bahamas Chief Justice Ian Winder that children born out of wedlock to Bahamian men are citizens at birth regardless of their mother’s nationality.
Previously, the constitution was understood as not automatically awarding such citizenship until they turned 18 and applied for citizenship.
The landmark ruling by Chief Justice Winder, according to Prime Minister Phillip Davis, paves the way for the government to amend the Bahamas Nationality Act to further equalize access to citizenship, an objective the government said it would pursue once the Privy Council rendered its decision on the narrower citizenship issue.
The judgement by the country’s top court, the Privy Council, followed a case from 2020 in which the complainant, Shannon Rolle, 24, became a citizen following the standard application process.
“In light of the Privy Council’s recent decision to uphold the landmark judgement made by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ian Winder in 2020…I would like to express my support and commitment to ensuring that our country’s laws and policies are fair and just for all Bahamians,” Prime Minister Davis said in a statement.
“This decision confirms that children born out of wedlock in The Bahamas to biological Bahamian fathers and foreign mothers are citizens of The Bahamas at birth and do not have to wait until they reach the age of 18 to apply for citizenship,” Davis added.
He also said the decision of the Privy Council is an important step toward ensuring equal citizenship rights for all children, regardless of their parents’ marital status. “It is expected to have a good impact on the lives of many people in our country.”
“As Prime Minister, I am committed to making the Bahamas more inclusive and equitable. My government will work hard to put the Privy Council’s ruling into effect and to revise current citizenship legislation to reflect this new development.”
He added: “Together, let us strive to create a Bahamas that embraces the principles of equality, justice, and unity, and where each person’s rights are respected and protected under the law.”
COMMITTED TO ADDRESSING ALL CITIZENSHIP ISSUES
In a separate statement, Attorney General Ryan Pinder, KC, said he accepts the Privy Council’s decision to support the judgment.
He described the decision as a significant step toward securing equal citizenship rights for all children, regardless of their parents’ marital status, while noting that it is expected to have a positive impact on the lives of many people in our country.
Pinder said the Attorney General’s Office will work hard to ensure that the Privy Council’s decision is followed and that existing citizenship legislation is reviewed in light of this new development.
“We also want to take this opportunity to remind the public that the government is still committed to addressing other citizenship issues, such as granting automatic citizenship to children born abroad to married Bahamian women and their foreign husbands. The government will continue to work to create a fair and just citizenship framework for all Bahamians,” said the Attorney General.