A Mandatory Reporting Protocol is being developed for Barbados to track all cases of child abuse.
Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite, made this disclosure on Wednesday as he addressed the closing ceremony for a Child Rights seminar hosted by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Office of the Ombudsman at United Nations House.
Stating that “our children must and should be protected”, Mr. Brathwaite noted that the 5,151 cases affecting 7,097 children reported to the Child Care Board between 2006 and March 2012 did not represent true numbers, as there were still many unreported cases.
He explained that the reporting protocol was one of the measures being adopted by Barbados to bring the country into full alignment with requirements set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Barbados is signatory.
“Based on discussions held with the committee, and our own review of laws to ensure compliance with our obligations under the CRC, some further legislative initiatives are being contemplated,” he revealed.
Such initiatives, he said, included the Mandatory Reporting Protocol, as the Convention required countries to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents, legal guardians or any other person who has care of the child”.
Mr. Brathwaite added that it also called for protective measures to be implemented through the establishment of social programmes to provide the necessary support for the child and caregivers.
“I am sure that at the appropriate time the relevant Ministry will set out in clear terms the requirements of the Mandatory Reporting Protocol,” he assured.
The Home Affairs Minister added that a Family Law Court was also introduced to hear all matters, at the magisterial and high court levels, related to family arrangements without regard to the structure of the family.
“Custody will be determined by what’s in the best interest of the child. It is hoped to address inequalities of a father gaining custody since the requirement to prove unfitness of the mother will be removed,” he explained.
In addition, in cases where paternity is being questioned, DNA testing will become mandatory, with the State making funding available in cases where necessary. The new measures would also see a more efficient system to collect maintenance.
The Attorney General also disclosed that the draft Juvenile Justice Bill was expected to go before Parliament in another two months. That Bill is expected to remove the mandatory minimum sentence to reform school of three years; place greater emphasis on restorative justice; abolish status offences; and ensure mandatory legal representation for children.
Mr. Brathwaite added that being signatory to the CRC also required the country to remove corporal punishment from the statute books in relation to schools, detention centres and other public institutions.