Barbados Children's Rights

Barbados’ New Child Justice Bill

Barbados’ New Child Justice Bill

Protecting Children Under Barbados’ New Child Justice Bill

The Ministries in Barbados have been actively working towards strengthening the power of the youth population, which is estimated to be around 18% for ages 0-14. 

Youth Reformation and Rehabilitation in Barbados

Since February of 2022, there has been a renewed commitment to fighting against child abuse in Barbados, through actions led by the government and local citizens. Two recent pieces of legislation, the Child Protection Bill and the Child Justice Bill 2023, have been brought to the forefront of this discussion.

Both of these bills are set to address prior issues in juvenile detention and home affairs and will create better environments for children to become outstanding citizens.

New provisions to this bill, include, but are not limited to:

 

  1. Children will be sent to a childcare facility by a judge to address their needs rather than face the court system
  2. Community-based sentencing rather than spending large periods of time in a juvenile detention center
  3. Reintegration post-sentencing back into school and family life

 

Additionally, this will also improve the language of prior bills passed, to decrease ambiguity when determining court sentences. In the Juvenile Offenders Act, the wording can lead to misinterpretation when determining punishment for child offenders, leading to unfair or unreasonable judging in a court of law.

According to Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams, it creates further problems when utilizing age as a determinant factor of committing the crime. 

 “That poses an issue arguing as to what really is the appropriate age for criminal responsibility. Is it an age based on a combination of a number, maturity, and IQ? Clause five now states a child under the age of 12 is not capable of committing a criminal offense.” 

Child Protection Act 2023 and Access to Safe Houses

Along with these new additions to the bill, it also covers and addresses different types of abuse to ensure that children are free and can thrive in a safe environment.

Below, an excerpt of the bill clarifies the different forms of abuse that are prohibited with this act:

“Abuse” includes :

(a) child labor

(b) cyber-abuse

(c) emotional abuse

(d) financial abuse

 

Other types are mentioned further into the act that are not already present above. This comprehensive list also sets to open discussion about what typifies abuse and to mend broken child-parent dynamics that have been deemed normal.

Children who have also experienced domestic or judicial abuse will now be allowed to stay in safe houses, another new aspect of the bill.

The Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey explains that there are some children who can not stay in the system but need a place to stay in the meantime, where they will be secure.

“We have children who need a different type of intervention because they have broken no law.  They have committed no crime, so they shouldn’t be in the justice system.”

Education and Areas of Success for Youth 

While addressing the challenges of child abuse in the country, the efforts the country has made in terms of providing universal access to education, with full accessibility of education at the primary and secondary levels.

The current Education Act, amended in 1992, provides compulsory education for every child in Barbados at these levels. For those who attend government schools, the tertiary level is provided free of cost as well.

Along with providing universal access to education to Barbadian citizens, the country has also granted access to primary education to all CARICOM nationals who are currently residing in Barbados, under the age of 16. While students still have to pay the fees that Barbadians pay for educational expenses, they will not be required to obtain a student visa in order to study.

As of 2015, all but one of the CARICOM Member States achieved universal access to primary education. Many are also close to achieving universal access to secondary education and are developing new opportunities to expand tertiary education.

Along with education, the country has worked towards drafting key legislation to protect the rights of adolescents. The National Youth Policy of Barbados was created by the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Community Development in order to firmly establish legal proceedings they have under this document.

Below are the goals of the potential implementation of this policy:

Respect for Rights and Rule of Law: ensuring that all human and civil rights are acknowledged, respected, and protected as well as the tenets of Barbados’ Constitution, inclusive of the laws governing the Republic.

Equity, Equality, and Inclusion: ensuring that all young people have equal, fair and meaningful access to all essential services and opportunities critical to their survival, growth and development, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, faith, class, cultural and educational background, ability, sex, gender or sexual orientation. Given the varying needs of diverse groups of youth, equity, in all of its dimensions, will be upheld.

Criteria for the Implementation of the BNYP Image Credit: The Barbados National Youth Policy.

 

Nutrition and Improvements for the Future

Barbados has taken great strides in improving the nutrition of its youth in order to prevent non-communicable diseases or NCDs. One way they are doing this is by the confirmed implementation of the National Nutrition Policy.

This combined effort established in April between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Education, Vocational, and Technical Training developed school lunch meals, which provide the proper nutrients and vitamins needed for children to excel.

Sugary drinks, otherwise known as SSBs are to be prohibited for sale in the cafeteria. Instead, they will have access to water, coconut water, milk, 100% fruit juice, and other more beneficial options.

With this, teachers will also be monitoring packed lunches to ensure that they are receiving the minerals needed to prevent obesity, heart disease, and other NCDs.

The head of the Pan American Health Organization Dr. Jarbas Barbosa urges that countries around the region do the same, in order to encourage healthy habits at a young age. Rather than strict enforcement, “a good combination of information and engagement to tell them why they need to eat in a healthier way is much better.”

Menu changes are set to take place prior to the beginning of the school year in September.

 

Public School Lunch Menu for The Barbados School System Image Credit: Ministry of Education.

 

 


Gabby Boyd | Latin American Correspondent

My name is Gabby Boyd, and I am a first-year master’s candidate at Georgetown University studying Latin American Studies with a concentration in Political Economy and Development. My interest in this region of the world stems from a love of culture and politics, and an innate curiosity to learn more about Latin America through my educational and work experiences. During my time at Latina Republic, I am working as a Latin American Correspondent, with a focus on the Andean Cone countries and Caribbean Islands. I am interested in women’s rights, sustainability, and the environment, and promoting the rights of children through advocacy. It is incredibly important that these topics are discussed in the realm of Latin America, as the voices of both women and children are crucial to understanding and improving the region on all levels.