Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country, and all children are registered at birth. 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 including sexual molestation also remained prevalent and widespread. In many instances cases originally reported as neglect revealed other types of abuse upon further investigation. Sexual abuse and exploitation were problems, although the government believed that awareness increased.
In child abuse cases, the law allows children to testify against their alleged attackers using remote technologies such as Skype. Other solutions, such as placing a physical barrier in the courtroom, were also employed to assist victims. 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 in November. The Probation and Child Welfare Board was disbanded after the government change in 2015, and as of October, it had been reorganized with new members appointed during the year.
One home, the St. Christopher Children’s Home, was in operation for abused and neglected children. The home was managed by a private board that received quarterly funding and logistical support from the government. The government noted a rise in runaway teenage girls in St. Kitts, some of whom were placed in this home.
The government offered counseling for both adult and child victims of abuse. Additionally, the government maintained a diversion program to provide youth and their families with life skills, counseling, parenting skills, and mentorship. At-risk youth could participate in camps that provided opportunities for instruction in the creative arts, such as music and dance.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women. Underage marriage was rare, and the government did not keep statistics on it.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: NGOs reported that sexual exploitation and molestation of children remained a major problem. The law sets the age of consent at 16 years. Under the statutory rape law, having sexual relations with children under age 16 is illegal, with penalties ranging from probation to life in prison, but no cases were prosecuted during the year. In cases of pregnancy where the mother was under the age of consent, the mother often refused to name the father due to fear that if the father faced prosecution, she would have no financial support for herself and the child. Child pornography is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
International Child Abductions: The country is 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.