Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. There are legal protections against spousal rape for women holding a court-issued divorce decree, separation order, or nonmolestation order. Rape was underreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and societal stigma. In addition, sources reported survivors were at times reluctant to report crimes to police because of perceived ineffectiveness of the police and delays in investigating complaints.
Violence and abuse against women continued to be significant social problems. The law prohibits domestic violence and provides protection to all members of the family, including men and children. The law applies equally to marriages and to common-law relationships. Amendments to the law provide for easier issuance of protective orders and mandatory investigation into any claims. The new amendments empower police to make an arrest after receiving a complaint, visiting the premises, and having some assurance that a crime was committed.
Penalties depend on the severity of the charges and range from a fine for first-time offenders (unless the injury is serious) up to the death penalty for cases resulting in death of a victim. Victims may request restraining orders, which the courts often issued. The courts may sentence an offender to jail for breaching such an order. The police have a Victim Support Unit, consisting of civilian volunteers, that offers assistance primarily to female victims of violent crimes, but reports indicated the services provided were inadequate. There is also a Family Conflict Unit. Victims reporting a sexual assault were subject to lengthy waits at the police station and for examinations at the hospital, staffed primarily by male doctors.
There were public and private counseling services for victims of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse. The Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, and Community Development maintained a Partnership for Peace program, a psychosocial rehabilitation program for perpetrators of domestic abuse. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Business and Professional Women’s Club of Barbados (BPW) operated a crisis center staffed by trained counselors and provided advocacy, crisis and police intervention, and referral services to community resources including legal, medical, addiction, and substance abuse. The BPW also operated a walk-in crisis center to provide psychological, social, and legal services, and to serve as a conduit for other responders to gender-based violence. The government provided funding for a shelter, also operated by the BPW, for women who had faced violence. The shelter offered the services of trained psychological counselors to survivors of domestic violence and other crisis intervention services. The shelter also served victims of human trafficking and others forms of gender-based violence.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs cited a lack of specific information and inadequate mechanisms for collecting and evaluating data on incidents of domestic violence as major impediments to dealing with gender-based violence. Human rights activists noted a decrease in the number of reported cases of rape in those cases where the victim did not know the perpetrator. They also praised the bureau’s programs, including the victim shelter and the public awareness campaign, and noted a marked improvement in societal attitudes and efforts to improve reporting.
Sexual Harassment: No law contains penalties specifically for sexual harassment. Common law, however, may be used to provide remedies to persons who are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace by reliance on the relevant law of torts. Human rights activists reported that sexual harassment continued to be of serious concern.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women actively participated in all aspects of national life and were well represented at all levels of the public and private sectors, although some discrimination persisted. The law does not mandate equal pay for equal work, and reports indicated that women earned significantly less than men for comparable work. Under nationality laws Barbadian women not born in Barbados do not transfer citizenship to their children.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained by birth in the country, from a citizen father or from a citizen mother if she was born in Barbados. There was universal birth registration.
Child Abuse: Violence and abuse against children remained serious problems and appeared to be on the rise. As reasons for the increase, NGOs cited a heightened social awareness of child abuse and encouragement to report cases, rather than a rise in the incidence of abuse.
The Child Care Board has a mandate for the care and protection of children, which involved investigating daycare centers and allegations of child abuse or child labor, as well as providing counseling services, residential placement, and foster care. The Welfare Department also offered counseling on a broad range of family-related issues. The Child Care Board advocated stricter regulations to protect children; however, a grave shortfall of staffing and finances impeded the board’s efforts to respond appropriately to each report.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The government does not have a policy framework to combat the sexual exploitation of children. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. The Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports, and Youth acknowledged child prostitution occurred; however, there were no official statistics to document the problem. Newspaper reports suggested the number of young teenage girls engaged in transactional sex was increasing. Pornography, including child pornography, is illegal.
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.
The Jewish community was very small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
Other than constitutional provisions asserting equality for all, no laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or the provision of other state services. Legislation to implement obligations arising from 2013 ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had yet to be enacted.
Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination. Although the Ministry of Social Care operated a National Disabilities Unit to address these concerns, the Barbados Council for the Disabled stated that without legislation the impact of the unit was limited. The government and the council offered free bus services for children with disabilities; nonetheless, transportation difficulties at public schools continued to be a serious concern. The Ministry of Labor, Social Security, and Human Resource Development conducted workshops to address discrimination in hiring. Although persons with disabilities continued to face social stigma, attitudes continued to evolve with positive developments noted in hiring practices and general awareness. Individual government agencies were reportedly working on regulations to include persons with disabilities.
The Barbados Council for the Disabled, the Barbados National Organization for the Disabled, and other NGOs indicated that transportation remained the primary challenge facing persons with disabilities. Although many public areas lacked the necessary ramps, railings, parking, and bathroom adjustments to accommodate persons with disabilities, the council implemented the Fully Accessible Barbados initiative, which had some success in improving accessibility. Affordable, reliable transportation remained elusive; private transportation providers addressed some transportation concerns.
While no legislation mandates provision of accessibility to public thoroughfares or public or private buildings, the Town and Country Planning Department set provisions for all public buildings to include accessibility for persons with disabilities. As a result most new buildings had ramps, reserved parking, and accessible bathrooms for persons with disabilities. The council and other NGOs conducted sensitization and accessibility programs designed to improve inclusion and services for persons with disabilities.
The disabilities unit and NGOs continued numerous programs for persons with disabilities, including Call-a-Ride and Dial-a-Ride public transportation programs, sensitization workshops for public transportation operators, inspections of public transportation vehicles, sign language education programs, integrated summer camps, and accessibility programs.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, with penalties up to life imprisonment, but there were no reports of the law being enforced during the year. The law does not prohibit discrimination against a person based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, education, or health care. Activists reported that stigma against LGBTI persons persisted.
Activists reported few violent incidents based on sexual orientation or gender identity but suggested that social stigma and fear of retribution or reprisal led LGBTI persons to underreport the problem. Anecdotal evidence suggested that LGBTI persons faced discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. Activists claimed that while many individuals lived open LGBTI lifestyles, disapprobation by police officers and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons occurred. Anecdotal evidence indicated that LGBTI persons were vulnerable to crime, specifically destruction of property, and that LGBTI persons received threats.
Activists reported that many LGBTI persons were homeless, as families often were not accepting of LGBTI children, some of whom became involved in the commercial sex trade.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The government continued a countrywide media campaign to discourage discrimination against HIV/AIDS-infected persons and others living with them, and it reported that the campaign had decreased social stigma against HIV/AIDS. While there was no systematic discrimination, HIV/AIDS-infected persons did not commonly disclose the condition due to lack of social acceptance.