Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country, and all are registered at birth and equally able to access public education and public services. Children born to citizen parents abroad can be registered by either of their parents.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a major problem. According to the government, neglect was the most common form of abuse, while physical abuse also remained prevalent. Sexual abuse and exploitation were problems and both awareness and reporting of cases increased during the year. Authorities received approximately 16 cases (11 girl victims, five boy victims) and convicted eight persons of sexual assaults against children as of October.
In child abuse cases, new legislation allows children to testify against their attackers using remote technologies such as Skype. Moreover, the Ministries of Social Services and Education collaborated on programs to curb child abuse, including modifying the primary school curriculum and designating a child abuse awareness month. The government also reinstated its Probation and Child Welfare Board to help deal with cases of child abuse during the year.
The government operated one children’s home for abused and neglected children. The government noted a rise in runaway teenage girls in St. Kitts, and some of the girls were placed in this children’s home. Since many of the girls had special circumstances, such as sexual abuse, they were often unable to obtain necessary assistance in the children’s home.
Government officials noted an uptick in gang violence cases involving youth in the courts, and tension related to gangs was also apparent in some high schools. The prevalence of girl gangs in St. Kitts increased. Many of the juvenile delinquents in the country were abused at home and considered “at risk.” Some teens were vulnerable to joining gangs through their associations of relatives or close friends who were gang members. During the year the country experienced a high rate of homicides that included youth victims allegedly involved in gang violence.
The government offered counseling for both adult and child victims of abuse. The government opened a youth rehabilitation center specifically for juveniles (see section 1. c.).
Forced and Early Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Underage marriage was rare, and the government did not keep statistics on it.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law sets the age of consent at 16. Under the statutory rape law, having sexual relations with children under age 16 is illegal, with penalties ranging from probation to life in prison. Child pornography is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
On April 19, the Social Services Department of the Nevis Administration and various partners held a rally in Charlestown, Nevis, against sexual abuse of children. Participants included women’s groups, school children, youth groups, faith-based organizations, and the general public. The rally attracted Nevisian media outlets and approximately 200 participants.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and passed the necessary implementing legislation. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at www.travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_4308.html.