Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Separate legislation addresses male rape. There are legal protections against spousal rape for women holding a court-issued divorce decree, separation order, or non-molestation order.
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. The law empowers 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.
Violence and abuse against women continued to be significant social problems. Police have a victim support unit, but reports indicated the services provided were inadequate.
There were public and private counseling services for victims of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse. The government provided funding for a shelter, for women who had faced violence. 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 Human rights activists noted a decrease in the number of reported cases of rape in which the victim did not know the perpetrator. They also praised the government’s programs and noted a marked improvement in societal attitudes and efforts to improve reporting.
Sexual Harassment: No law contains penalties specifically for sexual harassment except in the workplace. Human rights activists reported sexual harassment continued to be a serious concern.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, except that Barbadian women not born in Barbados do not transfer citizenship to their children. 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.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained by birth in the country or to a person born outside the country to Barbadian parents. There was universal birth registration.
Child Abuse: The law does not prohibit violence or abuse against children, and such abuses appeared to be on the rise. Government officials participated in a UNICEF-sponsored campaign to sensitize the community about child sexual abuse. A telephone hotline was available to report child 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.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years. Persons between the ages of 16 to 18 can be married with parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse and makes child pornography illegal. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. The Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, and Community Development 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.
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, and 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
The 2017 Employment (Prevention of Discrimination) Act provides for nondiscrimination of all persons. The legislation prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, but it does not extend to education or the provision of other state services. A separate law provides for employers to ensure the safety and health of persons with disabilities.
The government and council offered free bus services for children with disabilities; nonetheless, transportation difficulties at public schools continued to be a serious concern.
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. 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.
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.
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, police disapproval and societal discrimination made LGBTI persons more vulnerable to threats, crime, and destruction of property. NGOs claimed that LGBTI women were particularly vulnerable to discrimination and unequal protection under the law.
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.