Too many children in Barbados are being abused.
That was the view from Minister of People Empowerment and Elderly Affairs, Kirk Humphrey who tabled the Child Protection Bill, 2023, in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.
Humphrey disclosed that between 2019-2020 there were 611 reported cases of child abuse. For the period 2020-2021 there were 544 reported cases. Between 2021-2022, the total was 667 reported cases and, up to January 2023, 556 cases were reported. In his eyes “it is a trajectory that says this year’s total will be close to or at our highest number of reported cases.”
The Minister believes that last year’s decision to observe child abuse awareness month in April has led to an increase in reports as Barbadians became more informed on what constitutes child abuse. However, the fact that the numbers roughly equate to a reported case twice a day, is far too many, in his opinion, saying “at the end of the day there are too many children in this country who are being abused. Too many.“
He continued, “I hold the view that what we have as reported cases is not even the beginning of the real number of cases. These statistics should scare all of us because it means there is a propensity for some people in this country to fulfil their own lustful desires in many cases or other desires and plant them on children.”
One solution to this comes in the form of the Child Protection Bill 2023. If passed, the Act will ensure the local child protection laws conform with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Act will apply the following principles in all actions and decisions in relation to the child:
The safety and welfare of a child shall be given paramount consideration
The safety and welfare of a children who has been removed from his parent shall be paramount consideration
The safety and welfare of a child who has been removed from his parent shall be paramount to the rights of the parent; where a child is able to form their own views on a matter concerning his safety or welfare
(i) he shall be afforded an opportunity to freely express his views; and
(ii) his views are to be given due weight in accordance with his developmental capacity and the circumstances;
the least intrusive intervention in the life of a child and his family shall be taken in order to
(i) protect the child from harm; and
(ii) promote the development of the child;
Offences have been identified as unattended/unsupervised children, cruelty to children, personation of an official associated with the Authority and obstruction.
The punishments for those offences if found guilty after an investigation are:
Unattended/unsupervised children – a fine of $25 000 or imprisonment for a term of 5 years or to both.
Cruelty to Children: a fine of $25 000 or imprisonment for a term of 5 years or to both
Personation of an official- a fine of $10 000 or imprisonment for a term of 2 years or to both.
Obstruction – a fine of $25 000 or imprisonment for a term of 5 years or to both. (JC)
abuses or exposes a child to abuse;
(b) exposes a child to danger;
(c) fails to protect a child from abuse;
(d) abandons or deserts a child;
(e) neglects a child;
(f) mistreats a child; or
(g) causes, whether by act or omission, a child to be in need of protec