Birth Registration: Every person born in the country after August 5, 1962, is entitled to citizenship. Persons outside the country born to or adopted by one or more Jamaican parents, as well as those married to Jamaican spouses, are entitled to citizenship. There is universal birth registration, either in the hospital at the time of birth or at a local registrar’s office if the child is not born in a hospital.
Child Abuse: Child abuse, including sexual abuse, was substantial and widespread. NGOs reported that gang leaders, sometimes including fathers, initiated sex with young girls as a “right,” and missing children often were fleeing violent situations and sexual abuse. During the year the JCF implemented a “Child Interaction Policy.” The Office of Children’s Registry (OCR) receives, records, processes, and stores data relating to the mistreatment and abuse of children. The law requires anyone who knows of or suspects child abuse to make a report to the OCR, with a penalty of up to 500,000 JMD ($3,900) and/or six months’ imprisonment for failure to do so.
The Child Development Agency (CDA) under the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information provides housing and day-to-day care for orphans, destitute children, and those with unsuitable parents, and administers the foster care and adoption programs.
The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) has broad responsibilities for reviewing laws, policies, practices, and government services affecting children, as well as providing legal services to protect the best interests of children. The OCA has an investigative function that gives it concurrent jurisdiction with the police whenever a child is the victim or complainant. The OCA also has the power to investigate government agencies and officials and to institute legal proceedings against agents of government. Through September the OCA received 253 complaints directly from individuals and an additional 350 referrals from the OCR. It conducted preliminary investigations in some cases and referred other cases to appropriate government institutions.
Corporal punishment is illegal in early childhood centers and for all children in state care, but it remained legal elsewhere, including in schools.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but children may marry at 16 with parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual intercourse with a person less than 16 years old, the minimum age for consensual sex. Sexual relations by an adult with a child under the age of 16 is punishable by up to life imprisonment. The law provides for a Sex Offenders Registry, which the Department of Corrections administers and police enforce. In 2015 the number of cases of persons reported to police for sexual intercourse with a minor was 769, a 13 percent decrease from the prior year. In 2016 through October 9, there were 306 reported cases.
The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and applies to the protection, possession, importation, exportation, and distribution of child pornography. It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 JMD ($3,900). There were reports of children being involved in commercial sexual exploitation. The OCA investigated sex crimes when the victim was below 18 years of age. Depending on the case, the complaint was lodged directly with the OCA or referred to the OCA from the Office of Children’s Registry for investigation.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.