Privy Council strengthens citizenship rights for children born in The Bahamas to unmarried parents

The Privy Council in Attorney General v Shannon Tyreck Rolle and 4 others [2023] UKPC 13 has confirmed that article 6 of the Constitution of The Bahamas confers citizenship on people born in The Bahamas regardless of the marital status of their parents.

Upholding the judgments of both the first instance judge, Winder J, and the Court of Appeal of The Bahamas, the Board rejected the reading of the Constitution which had previously prevailed, as reflected in the decision in K v Minister of Foreign Affairs [2007] 2 BHS No. 12. This had seen birthright citizenship denied to a person born in The Bahamas who is the child of (1) an unmarried woman not a citizen of The Bahamas and (2) a man who is – in effect restricting birthright citizenship to “legitimate” children of Bahamian parents. The Board found that this approach was “cumbersome and faintly absurd” as a matter of statutory construction, and would lead to a number of anomalous and undesirable results in practice.

The Board further noted that there could be no justification for introducing restrictions on entitlement to the “important and fundamental right [of citizenship]” by reference to “arbitrary and discriminatory considerations” which reflected values which had “long been rejected”.

The Privy Council’s decision paves the way for the Bahamian Government to introduce legislation that will strengthen the citizenship rights not only of the five appellants but of thousands of people born in The Bahamas.

Edward Fitzgerald KC and Daniella Waddoup were instructed by Parvais Jabbar of Simons Muirhead Burton, together with local counsel Damian Gomez and Bridget Ward, to act on behalf of the five respondents.

The judgment can be found here.

A press release by Simons Muirhead Burton, including a commentary by Parvais Jabbar, can be found here.

The Nassau Guardian’s reporting of the case can be found here.