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Report updated February 2013

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Child population
60,000 (UNICEF, 2010)

Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition

Prohibition is still to be achieved in the home, schools, penal system and alternative care settings.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act confirms “the right of any parent, teacher or other person having the lawful control or charge of a child to administer punishment to such child” (article 4). This provision should be repealed, and the law should clearly state that all forms of corporal punishment and other cruel and degrading treatment are unacceptable, including by parents and others with parental authority.

All authorisations for the use of corporal punishment in schools and the penal system, including provisions in the Education Act, the Education Regulations, the Juvenile Offenders Act, the Corporal Punishment Act, the Magistrates Jurisdiction and Procedure Act, the Magistrate’s Court Act, the Prisons Act and the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act, should be repealed and replaced with explicit prohibition of all corporal punishment. Explicit prohibition should also be enacted in legislation applicable to all alternative care settings, including public and private day care, residential institutions, foster care, etc.

Current legality of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment is lawful in the home. Article 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904 states: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to take away or affect the right of any parent, teacher or other person having the lawful control or charge of a child to administer punishment to such child.” Provisions against violence and abuse in the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act 1994, the Protection of Children Act 1990, the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1977 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1994 are not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment in childrearing.

In 2008, the Government rejected recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment made during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Barbados (16 March 2009, A/HRC/10/73/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, paras. 21 and 22). In its report to the second UPR in 2013, the Government referred to public support for the retention of corporal punishment particularly in homes and schools (5 December 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/15/BRB/1, National report to the UPR, paras. 85 and 86). The Government is yet to respond to recommendations to prohibit made during this second review.

Schools

Corporal punishment is lawful in schools under the Education Regulations pursuant to article 59 of the Education Act 1983, and article 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act. Education Regulation 18(j) authorises principals to inflict corporal punishment and to delegate the authority to do so to the deputy principal and senior teachers. Ministerial “Guidelines for the Administration of Corporal Punishment” state that corporal punishment should be “a last resort”, “moderate and reasonable” and “administered with a proper instrument”; where possible, a female should administer it on female students, and all corporal punishment must be recorded in the punishment book; it “shall not be administered to a child whose parents or legal guardian has upon the day of enrolment of the pupil filed with the principal of the school a statement from a medical doctor saying that it is detrimental to the child’s mental or emotional stability”.

In 2006, the Government delegation stated that “the Government and people of Barbados did not view corporal punishment as torture, or inhumane or degrading in itself” and there were no plans to review its legality (25 September 2006, CCPR/C/BRB/3, Third state party report to the Human Rights Committee, para. 244). During the Universal Periodic Review of Barbados in 2008, the Government noted that the Minister of Education had publicly advocated for abolition of corporal punishment in schools but that this was not currently the official position, though “it may move in that direction in future” (16 March 2009, A/HRC/10/73/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, para. 23). In reporting to the second UPR in 2013, the Government stated that alternatives to corporal punishment were being encouraged but support for corporal punishment remained strong (5 December 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/15/BRB/1, National report to the UPR, paras. 85 and 86). However, the Education Act and Regulations are being reviewed and the Code of Discipline in schools will be examined in relation to human rights (para. 86).

Penal system

Corporal punishment is lawful as a sentence for crime for males. The Magistrate’s Courts Act 2001 provides for boys aged 8-15 to be “privately whipped” at a police station, up to 12 strokes with a “tamarind or other similar rod”, in place of or in addition to any other punishment (article 71). The Juvenile Offenders Act 1932 includes “ordering the offender to be whipped” among the list of available sanctions for children and young people (article 16(f)). The Act also provides for a court to order a boy aged 12-15 to be “privately whipped” in lieu of or in addition to any other punishment (article 9). The Corporal Punishment Act 1899 states that whipping or flogging should be administered on a single occasion, up to 12 strokes for persons under 16 or 24 for older persons (article 2). Corporal punishment may be carried out only after medical examination and under the supervision of a prison official.

Corporal punishment is lawful as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions. On conviction of an offence, children and young people may be sent to a Reformatory and Industrial School (Juvenile Offenders Act, article 16). The Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act 1926 authorises the infliction of corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure on boys (article 31), and allows a magistrate to order whipping as a punishment for attempted escape (article 34). Young people aged 16 and above are tried as adults and may be sentenced to imprisonment. The Prisons Act 1964 allows the use of force for purposes of maintaining discipline (article 20) and provides for corporal punishment for specific disciplinary offences, up to 12 strokes for persons below the age of 21 (article 40).

Alternative care

Corporal punishment is reportedly prohibited in state-arranged foster care and in pre-school settings, and the Child Care Board Regulations 1985 prohibit the use of corporal punishment for any child in a day care centre or a residential children’s home run by the Board. Corporal punishment is lawful in private foster care and article 4 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act (see above) applies.

Prevalence research

In 2005, a study by UNICEF in association with the Governments of Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, involving a survey of more than 2,300 households, interviews with key informants and discussion groups with adults and children, found that younger children were more likely than older children to experience corporal punishment such as being spanked, slapped or hit with a hand or an object. (UNICEF Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in association with the Governments of Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines (2006), A study of child vulnerability in Barbados, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines, Christ Church, Barbados: UNICEF Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean)

Recommendations by human rights treaty bodies

Committee on the Rights of the Child

“The Committee is concerned about legislation and policies that allow the use of flogging of children as a disciplinary measure in prisons and its use as a judicial sentence. In this respect, the Committee welcomes the commitment of the State party to give prompt consideration to the possibility of ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee encourages the State party to conduct a public awareness-raising campaign and to review its legislation and policies in order to eliminate flogging as a judicial sentence and as a disciplinary measure in the prison system.

“The Committee is seriously concerned about the high proportion of children who appear to be victims of physical abuse, in most instances accompanied by psychological and emotional abuse. The Committee is highly concerned about the subjective element involved in legislation that permits a ‘reasonable degree’ of physical chastisement as a disciplinary method. The Committee is concerned that the tolerance of corporal punishment in schools will make it extremely difficult to educate parents about alternative forms of discipline, and wishes to point out that there is usually a connection between the social and legal acceptability of corporal punishment and the high level of child abuse which is of serious concern. The Committee encourages the State party to review its policies and legislation in order to eliminate corporal punishment as a method of discipline and to implement fully the provisions of articles 19 and 39 of the Convention; it recommends that the State party increase its efforts to educate the public about the negative impact of corporal punishment on the development of the child and on the effort to prevent child abuse; finally, the Committee encourages the State party to seek international assistance and advice on successful examples of how to overcome traditional social attitudes regarding corporal punishment.”
(24 June 1999, CRC/C/15/Add.103, Concluding observations on initial report, paras.19 and 22)

Human Rights Committee

“The Committee is concerned that corporal punishment is still available as part of judicial sentences and is permitted within the penal and education systems. (arts. 7 and 24)

The State party should take immediate measures to eliminate corporal punishment as a legitimate sanction in its law and to discourage its use in schools. The State party should also take all necessary measures towards the eventual total abolition of corporal punishment.”
(26 March 2007, CCPR/C/BRB/CO/3/CRP.1, Unedited version, Concluding observations on third report, para. 12)

Universal Periodic Review

Barbados was reviewed in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2008 (session 3). The following recommendations were made (9 January 2009, A/HRC/10/73, Report of the working group, para. 77(14)):

“Eliminate all forms of corporal punishment from its legislation (Chile); abolish corporal punishment for children (Germany); address the concerns raised by the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child on corporal punishment (Turkey); take measures to eliminate corporal punishment as a legitimate sanction in the law and to discourage its use in schools with a view to its eventual and total abolition; conduct public awareness initiatives to change peoples’ attitudes to corporal punishment (Slovenia)”

The Government rejected the recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment, stating that the laws of Barbados protect children from abuse and that corporal punishment in schools and prisons must be administered in compliance respectively with the Code of Discipline promulgated under the Education Act and the Prison Rules Act (16 March 2009, A/HRC/10/73/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, paras. 21 and 22). The Government also noted during the review that the Minister for Education’s public advocacy of prohibition of corporal punishment in schools was not the official position, though “it may move in that direction in future” (9 January 2009, A/HRC/10/73, Report of the working group, para. 49). However, the Government accepted the recommendation regarding public awareness initiatives to change people’s attitudes to corporal punishment (16 March 2009, A/HRC/10/73/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, para. 23).

The following recommendations were also made, and were accepted by the Government (9 January 2009, A/HRC/10/73, Report of the working group, para. 77(2)):

“Give consideration to all international obligations in the field of human rights provisions in revision of the Constitution (Mexico); take and strengthen necessary legislative measures required to incorporate in its domestic law the provisions contained in international human rights instruments to which it is a party (Algeria); adopt further measures to ensure the incorporation of its international human right obligations into national legislation (Czech Republic); consolidate the process of updating its national legislation in accordance with its international commitments (Cuba)”

In accepting these recommendations, the Government confirmed that it was “actively looking at further revising the Constitution and updating its legislation to conform to its treaty obligations” (16 March 2009, A/HRC/10/73/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, para. 3).

The second cycle review took place in 2013 (session 15). In its national report, the Government noted that it is “cognisant of the call for the total abolition of corporal punishment” but that “there continues to be strong support for the retention of corporal punishment particularly within the school and home settings” and that while alternative disciplinary methods are being encouraged in schools “there is still a mammoth task of changing the national mindset in relation to corporal punishment” (5 December 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/15/BRB/1, National report to the UPR, paras. 85 and 86). During the review, the Government stated that “greater public acceptance seems to be needed for Government to comfortably introduce this change into its legislation” (29 January 2013, A/HRC/WG.6/15/L.9 Unedited Version, Draft report of the working group, para. 39).

The following recommendations were made (29 January 2013, A/HRC/WG.6/15/L.9 Unedited Version, Draft report of the working group, paras. 102(80), 102(81), 102(82), 102(83), 102(84), 102(85) and 102(86)):

“Prohibit the practice of corporal punishment (Norway);

“Explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in family and school (Italy);

“Adopt measures to eliminate corporal punishment (Slovenia);

“Repeal the provisions allowing for corporal punishment in public schools and strengthen national legislation to protect children against all forms of violence or ill-treatment (France);

“Abolish corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure for children in all areas (Germany);

“Adopt immediate measures to abolish corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure, and intensify efforts to educate the population on the negative effects of corporal punishment on the development of the child (Uruguay);

“Continue to request international assistance and advice on successful examples on ways to change traditional social attitudes that accept corporal punishment (Uruguay)”

The Government’s response is due by June 2013.

This analysis has been compiled from information from governmental and non-governmental sources, including reports on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every effort is made to maintain its accuracy. Please send us updating information and details of sources for missing information: info@endcorporalpunishment.org.

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