Family Law Reform in the Caribbean by wyf14327

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									                             VOL 15                                                                          No. 1 of 2002



Family Law Reform in                                                                                             INSIDE
                                                                                                       Interview with with Chief Justice

the Caribbean                                                                                          of the OCES Supreme Court
                                                                                                       Sir Charles.M.D.Byron.................3

As he climbs into his                                                                                  Is Law Reform Really Needed?.....5
father’s arms – David (not
his real name) turns and                                                                               Facts About the OECS law
waves goodbye to his                                                                                   Reform Project........................... 7
mother. He is off to
spend several hours with                                                                               Are Journalists Violating
his father and his other                                                                               Children’s Rights? .......................8
half siblings who live in
a different parish. David,                                                                             News from the Area................9-11
like most Caribbean
children, does not live in
the traditional nuclear                                                                              However, recognition of unions other
family. His parents were                                                                             than marriage in OECS countries is still
never married and he
                                                                                                     limited to the protection offered to
lives in a single parent
home headed by his                                                                                   women in common law unions under the
mother.                                                                                              domestic violence legislation.
                             “It is estimated that between 31-59% of Caribbean children from birth




T
     he above scenario to 14, live in homes headed by women                                          Ending Discrimination of
     represents the reality of many           to 14, live in homes headed by women
     Caribbean families. Many children,                                                              Children born outside of
                                              and even though some children may live
     because of divorce or being born out     in homes with two adults, they do not nec-             Wedlock
of wedlock are raised primarily in a          essarily live with both biological parents.            A further reality of Caribbean society, is
female-headed single parent household.        Sometimes even when children live with                 that many children are born outside
                                              both biological parents, these parents are             of wedlock and taking note of this,
This trend is not unique to the Caribbean
                                              not married. In light of these realities,              countries in the region have established
and the reality of Caribbean family
                                              some Caribbean countries, in keeping                   laws to end discrimination against these
structures is only one of the reasons why
                                              with international trends, have begun                  children. Several countries now have a
many countries have begun review and
                                              recognising unions other than marriage.                Status of Children Act, which gives
reform of legislation dealing with family
                                              Barbados was the first of the non-OECS                 children born to unmarried couples, the
matters. Another reason is that countries
                                              Caribbean countries to introduce the con-              same rights as those born to married
have begun taking human rights seriously:
                                              cept of a "union other than marriage" into             couples.
More specifically, they are taking seriously
the rights of women and children. Finally,    its family laws. This refers to a man and a
                                              woman living together continuously for 5               Taking Human Rights
law revision and reform have taken place
in an attempt to help create amicable         years, and those who fall under this cate-             Seriously
relationships among parents after family      gory have the same rights as married cou-              Another major reason for review
breakdown.                                    ples, as far as property, maintenance and              and reform of legalisation, is that
                                              custody of children are concerned.                     countries have begun to take the rights of
Recognising realities                         Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana have also                children and woman very seriously. All
It is estimated that between 31 and 59        made important advances in this                        countries have ratified the Convention
percent of Caribbean children from birth      respect.                                               on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the
                                                                                                     0000                       Continued p.4
Launch of Global Movement
for Children
in St. Kitts & Nevis

                                                                                                    Children wearing GMC T-shirts were accompanied by teachers during
                                                                                                    the rally.




Joseph Mason from the Special Education Unit gives a rendition of a spiritual song. In the back-
ground (l–r) Sharain Weaver, Washington Archibald High School; Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister
of St. Kitts & Nevis; Aboubacar Saibou, Representative, UNICEF/CAO (partly hidden); Hon. Rupert
E. Herbert, Minister of Social Development, Community & Gender Affairs; and Shantelle Liburd,       The children of the Pilgrim Holiness Pre-school delighted the audience with
Youth Parlimentarian.                                                                               a well choreographed dance.


Readers are invited to contribute their views and items of news of human interest. Please send correspondence to one of the following addresses.

UNICEF CARIBBEAN AREA OFFICE                                 UNICEF GUYANA
P.O. Box 1232                                                72 Brickdam
Bridgetown,                                                  Georgetown
BARBADOS                                                     GUYANA
Tel: (246) 436-2119/2810/2811                                Tel: 592-67083
Website: www.unicef-cao.bb                                   Telex: 2201 UNDP
email:unicef@caribsurf.com




           “Children in Focus” is a quarterly newsletter of the UNICEF Caribbean
           Area office (UNICEF/CAO) covering Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, British
           Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, St.
           Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad
           and Tobago and Turks and Caicos Islands. It is intended as a channel for the
           exchange of information between this office and the field on issues related to
           child development and protection in the Caribbean. Opinions expressed in this
           publication do not necessarily reflect the views of UNICEF. Articles may be
           reproduced provided credit is given to “Children in Focus”.



           Editorial Committee:
           Aboubacar Saibou; Marashetty Seenapa; Sreelaskshmi Gururaja; Heather Stewart;
           Lisa McClean-Trotman; Diedre Thain.



                                                                                                                                 Printed by Cot Caribbean Graphics, Barbados
                                                  Editorial
Twelve years ago, the United Nations                                                        of children must also be revisited. Again,
General Assembly adopted the                                                                while some countries have moved to
Convention on the Rights of the Child                                                       reform legislation in this area, far too
(CRC), which has become the most                                                            many still have legislation that imposes
widely ratified human rights convention.                                                    monetary limits for maintenance. Where
Earlier, the Convention on the                                                              attachment of earnings and garnishment
Elimination      of  All     forms    of                                                    have been introduced for obtaining
Discrimination      Against     Women                                                       monies from defaulting fathers, greater
(CEDAW) was also adopted and later, the                                                     efficiency is required for this collection
Inter-American Convention on the                                                            system. In the cases of the sexual abuse
Prevention, Punishment and Eradication                                                      of children, a lack of clarity still exists in
of Violence Against Women, more                                                             some countries between the offence of
commonly known as the Convention of                                                         unlawful carnal knowledge of girls under
Belem do Para all sought to address                                                         the age of 14 years, and the offence of
prevailing concerns of some of societies                                                    indecent assault for those between
most vulnerable groups – women and                           Heather Stewart
                                                                                            14 and 16 years. The reason for the
children.                                                                                   distinction between these two offences
                                              fact conform to human rights. It has          is unclear. More recent legislation
The need for International Human              wrought changes, not so much in the           has moved towards simplifying the law
Rights instruments did not come about         outcome of the majority of the cases, but     by removing old categories and titles and
until the atrocities of the Second World      there can be no doubt that the process of     takes a gender-neutral approach to
War dawned on the international               thought and language of the Courts more       sexual offences. But this trend must be
community, and against marked                 reflect the rights of individuals brought     accelerated! These are but a few of the
fluctuations in the long-term trend of        before them. In the field of family law,      outdated areas of legislation which the
human rights abuses. The rates of             the United Kingdom is considered to be        Children, Family & Domestic Violence
almost all types of interpersonal physical    largely compliant with the relevant           Law & Social Reform Project in the
violence have decreased since the late        Articles, in particular the Children Act      OECS seeks to remedy.
middle ages.                                  1989 which was drafted with an eye on
The source of Commonwealth Caribbean          the CRC. In the words of the Rt. Hon.         The CRC sets high standards for
law flowed from European countries,           Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss, DBE, the         guaranteeing that children are not
namely, England, France, Spain and The        Human Rights Act has, however                 disadvantaged in any aspect of their
Netherlands. As a result, contemporary        "illuminated some dusty corners, and          lives. Earlier, while emphasising the
regional legislation has been largely         there are issues that are now emerging,       rights of women, the CEDAW had,
modelled after English legislation and        particularly in public family law, that       generally, endorsed equal rights for all
decisions of the English Court are            require reconsideration", especially with     family members.. The Belem do Para
persuasive in regional courts. With the       regard to the right to respect for privacy    specifically addresses the issue of
advent     of    the     aforementioned       and family life.                              violence against women. Together,
Conventions, there has been a genuine                                                       these Conventions require participating
                                              Some of these same issues are
effort worldwide to rethink, reorganise                                                     states to not only ensure that the black
                                              particularly relevant to many of our
and reform legal rules which are intended                                                   letter law is established, but that
                                              Caribbean countries. For instances,
to provide guidance for families and                                                        adequate social services, care facilities
                                              Article 8 of the CRC makes no distinc-
society in respect of the treatment of                                                      and national procedures are made
                                              tion between the "legitimate" and "illegit-
women and children.                                                                         available to guarantee the efficient
                                              imate" family. Such a distinction would
                                                                                            enforcement of these laws. Social
In October 2000, the Human Rights Act         not be consonant with the word "every-
                                                                                            justice for all, must be a paramount
1998 came into force in England and           one" in Article 8 itself, and this is con-
                                                                                            developmental goal for our societies in
Wales, having come into force earlier in      firmed by Article 2 which prohibits dis-
                                                                                            this millennium and UNICEF is a ready
Scotland and Northern Ireland. This Act       crimination of any form and on any
                                                                                            partner for all countries, in this process.
had the effect of allowing specific           basis. Some Commonwealth Caribbean
Convention rights to be directly enforce-     countries have enacted Status of
able by individuals in the English Court,     Children legislation aimed at equalising
and impacted on English domestic law.         the status of all children. But there         Heather Stewart
Judges and advocates are duty-bound to        are others yet to embrace this                Project Officer, Child Rights
deliberate whether existing practices do in   basic human right. Issues related to          UNICEF/CAO
                                              maintenance
                                                                   2
                Human Rights Conference
O
    n September 11 2001, over 100             The conference also attracted some top     cultural implications of Human Rights
    overseas presenters and delegates         international legal experts, among them    Legislation; the Rights of the Family,
    joined more than 150 representa-          Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss a high-pro-    Women & Children; Developing Human
    tives from a cross-section of             file British Judge and President of the    Rights Curricula, the Media and Human
Caymanian society at a four-day meeting       Family Division of the UK Royal Courts     Rights; the Right to Life vs. the Death
to debate human rights issues affecting       of Justice; Mr. Justice Banda, the Chief   Penalty; Rights of persons in Custody &
the Caribbean region.                         Justice of Malawi and President of         Rights to a fair trial; Applications before
                                              the Commonwealth Magistrates and           International Human Rights Tribunal;
Some of the Caribbean’s most senior           Judges’ Association; and London            Human Rights and Business; the role of
political and legal figures attending the     University’s Mr. Richard Bourne, Chair     the Judiciary and the Bar in maintaining
conference were: Chief Justice of the         of the Trustees’ Committee of              a vibrant Human Rights Environment
Jamaican Supreme Court, Lensley               the Commonwealth Legal Education           and Human Rights as Promoted by
Wolfe; Guyana’s Chancellor Desiree            Association.                               Government Agencies.
Bernard, and Turks & Caicos Chief
Justice Richard Ground were among the         The meeting agenda addressed the main      The contrasts between countries formed
senior figures from the Caribbean             human rights concerns of the territories   the starting point for productive dialogue
region who attended the conference.           and was designed to stimulate discussion   as they learned from each other’s
UNICEF/CAO Project Officer for Child          among the nations represented. The         experiences.
Rights, Heather Stewart, was a panellist      topics covered at the conference were
in the session on the rights of the family,   as follows: Protection of Human Rights     To learn more about the conference, visit
women and children.                           by International and Domestic law;         the website www.humanrightstoday.ky.
                                              00000


          Students Benefit From Youth
           information Support Centre
W
      ith the assistance of UNICEF Caribbean Area
      Office, a Youth Information & Support Centre
      formed part of the 10th International
      Conference on People Living with HIV/AIDS
held in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago from 27 -
31 October 2001.
The objectives of the Centre included sensitising over
600 conference delegates and approximately 400
students and 30 teachers from 20 schools by provid-
ing information and messages on ‘non-discrimina-
tion’, ‘positive living’ ‘better nutrition’ ‘positive behav-
iours’, ‘pregnancy and HIV’. Attendees also viewed
10 basic slides on HIV, learned about counselling ser-
vices as well as the benefits and limitations of ‘anti-
retroviral drugs’. While Glaxo-Smith Kline displayed
sample drugs and supplied information on treatment,
three non-governmental organisations (The Rapport,
The TOCO Foundation, and the Society of Futurists)
provided support through drama and discussion                       UNICEF Exhibition in the Youth Information Support Centre.
groups. Visiting students were provided with internet
facilities and selected websites on HIV/AIDS. The communica-            very beneficial to them and for some of them it would make
tion Division of the UNICEF CAO conducted a focus group with            them more careful when engaging in sex. Executive Director
children who visited the display and they indicated that the infor-     of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, visited the centre and addressed the
mation was very                beneficial                               students.

                                                                11
                      News From The Area
September 27, in front of the                  Participants included school principals,
Government’s Headquarters. The launch          students, teachers, and guidance                       TRINIDAD
was organised by the Ministry of Social        counselors.
Development, Community & Gender                                                                     & TOBAGO
Affairs in collaboration with UNICEF and
was one of several activities held to cele-                                                   Sensitising
brate Child Rights Week. Invitees includ-              S T. L U C I A                         Media on
ed members of the Diplomatic Corp,                                                            Children’s
Ministers of Government and Permanent          The early Childhood Education
                                               Services Unit was the force                    Issues
Secretaries, affiliates of non-govern-
mental organisa sector, the religious          behind two children’s ral-
                                                                                              Caribbean
community and the media.                       lies in the Southern part
                                                                                              Association
                                               of the island - one in
                                                                                              for Feminist
The programme featured perform-                the town of Vieux
                                                                                              Research and
mances by children from primary,               Fort, and the other in
                                                                                              Action (CAFRA) of Trinidad & Tobago
secondary and pre-schools and the              Soufriere. The theme
                                                                                              held a 5-day media workshop from 29
special education unit. There was also a       used to celebrate
                                                                                              October to 2 November as part of its
member of the Youth Parliament who             St. Lucia’s children on the
                                                                                              Project Gender and the Rights of the Child
spoke on the theme ‘Change the world           November 20th rallies, was “Shaping the
                                                                                              Media Sensitisation. The objective was to
with Children’. Brief remarks were made        Future with Early Childhood Education”.
                                                                                              train media workers in the use of the
by the Minister for Social Develop-
                                               Also taking place on November 20th, was        Convention on the Rights of the Child and
ment, Community & Gender Affairs,
                                               a special children’s programme entitled        in gender sensitivity.
the Honourable Rupert Herbert;
                                               “Out of the Mouths of Babes”, which
and     UNICEF        Caribbean    Area
                                               was aired during a live weekly call-in radio   Events to Mark Universal
Representative, Mr. Aboubacar Saibou.
                                               show. The          panel comprised a
The Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas,
                                               pre-schooler, a primary school child, a
                                                                                              Children’s Day
delivered the keynote address.
                                               secondary school student, and a student        The National Family Services Division
The official launch was followed by a rally    from a vocational/primary school. The          of the Ministry of Community
with the school children, who wore GMC         children discussed their perspectives of the   Empowerment, Sport & Consumer
T-shirts and ribbons stating the 10 points     world in which they live.                      Affairs in collaboration with relevant
of the GMC.                                                                                   divisions of the various ministries
                                                                                              and non-governmental organisations,
Seminar for Students and                              SURINAME                                staged a number of events to mark
Educators                                                                                     Universal Children’s Day on 20
As part of the activities to celebrate Child   A Child Rights                                 November.
Rights Week, the Ministry of Social            Committee                                      Workshops, media events, a news
Development, Community & Gender                was recently                                   paper supplement on the Convention
Affairs, in collaboration with UNICEF,         established                                    on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a
organised a seminar on the topic:              within the                                     training programme for adolescent
Tackling Sexual Abuse and Sexual               Faculty of Law of                              mothers, and a one-day seminar were
Exploitation of Children – A Time to Act       the University of                              some of the activities that took place
is Now". The Panellists were: Karen            Suriname. The main                             during the week of celebrations.
Hughes who spoke on "Legislation:              objective of the Committee is to
Understanding our laws in relation to          promote the Convention on the Rights           The aim of these events was continue to
Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of        of the Child (CRC) and to create               inform and educate the national
Children"; Dr. Patrick Martin whose topic      public awareness of the CRC. The               community - specifically children,
was "Sexual Abuse and Sexual                   Committee works closely with the               parents, community leaders and teach-
Exploitation of Children: A medical            Bureau of Child Rights and is regularly        ers - on the CRC, with the issue of
Perspective"; Michelle Blake who dealt         consulted on legal issues related to           responsibility being a key feature.
with "Child Sexual Exploitation and            the CRC. The Committee is interested           Information and education was placed
Abuse: Psychological and Emotional             in setting up a CRC documentation              in the context of culture of peace,
Effects"; and Calvin Fahie who spoke on        and information centre with the                children’s obligation to accept responsi-
"Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: Dealing        Faculty, for teaching and research             bility for themselves and their actions, as
with the Perpetrator".                         purposes.                                      well as their social responsibility.

                                                                   10
                                                   Up Close...
  BIO: The Honourable Chief
  Justice of the Eastern Caribbean
  Supreme Court, Sir Charles
  Michael Dennis Byron, is a
  native of St. Kitts & Nevis.                                                                       Q: What do you foresee as some of
  Sir Dennis was called to the                                                                       the problems with implementing law
  Bar in 1965 at the Hon. Society                                                                    reform?
  of Inner Temple as Barrister-at-
                                                                                                     A: I prefer to view what you are calling
  Law of the High Court of Justice
  in England. In 1966 he entered
                                                                                                     problems, as challenges. The challenges
  private practice as a Barrister-                                                                   are no different from those associated with
  at-Law throughout the Leeward                                                                      changes in general. Certainly the judiciary
  Islands with Chambers, in                                                                          with rich traditions may very well be one
  St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla.                                                                     of the last institutions to accept change
  In 1982 he was appointed a                                                                         easily. However, I do not think that there
  High Court Judge of the Eastern                                                                    will be any significant resistance to
  Caribbean Supreme Court, a post                                                                    implementing reform. In fact I must say
  which he held until 1990.
                                                                                                     that we have made some significant
  During 1986 on Secondment from
  the Eastern Caribbean Supreme
                                                                                                     advances already and the support
  Supreme Court, Sir Dennis served                                                                   from government agencies, the legal
  as Acting Chief Justice of the                                                                     community and the general public has
  Supreme Court of Grenada. From                                                                     been encouraging.
  1990 until 1996 he served as Court                  The Honourable Chief Justice of the
                                                                                                     Despite this, I am mindful of the fact that
  of Appeal Judge of the Eastern                       Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court,
  Caribbean Supreme Court and                                Sir C.M. Dennis Byron.                  people are generally skeptical about
  from 1996 to 1999 he was Acting                                                                    changes. As a practice, people are
  Chief Justice of the Eastern                     to a changing society. Additionally, there        comfortable with what they know and
  Caribbean Supreme Court. From                    are areas of our legal system that cry out        have become accustomed to. Overcoming
  1999 until the present time he has               for change because those structures that          such skepticism may very well be one such
  held the post of Chief Justice of the            were in place may have very well outlived         challenge. And we hope to do this through
  Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.                                                                   mass public education. Another challenge
                                                   their usefulness. Thus, as legal changes take
  Since 1996 Sir Dennis has served                                                                   may very well be financing reform. Our
  as Chairman on the Judicial                      place, the judiciary cannot remain stagnant.
                                                                                                     countries do not have a lot of money so
  and Legal Services Commission. He
  was Knighted by H.R.H. Queen                     Q: What prompted you to get                       that may slow down our reform effort.
  Elizabeth II in the year 2000.                   involved in this project?                         All of our jurisdiction however, has
                                                                                                     made tremendous financial sacrifices in
                                                   A: As a member of the judiciary since
Q: Why the need for law reform in                                                                    advancing what we have done so far. And
                                                   1982, I have seen how the laws evolve and
the OECS countries?                                                                                  there is no indication that they will not
                                                   more importantly how our judiciary
A: The countries of the OECS were                                                                    continue to do so, but funding is definitely
                                                   functions. It is innate in human develop-
colonies of Britain. Six of these countries                                                          a challenge for us.
                                                   ment to aspire to improve upon what is
are now independent and three are                  there. As the judiciary faces new challenges      Q: What do you think needs to
dependent territories. However all control         due to a changing world it must be                happen for this project to be a
their internal affairs. This resulted in           prepared to respond to these new needs.           success?
significant advances in the political,             There has been significant advancement            A: I think that the reform project will be
economic and social spheres. However,              in our political, economic and social             successful as long as there are clearly
very little changes had occurred in the            structures. If the judiciary is left behind the   defined goals, that all of the stakeholders
judicial and legal systems. The reform in          full benefit of the other areas cannot            can identify the benefit; that a process of
OECS is not only long overdue but is               be realized. Of significance is economic          broad consultation is followed. I must tell
necessary if we are to be able to respond          development. Economic growth takes                you that the factors mentioned are in place
to the needs of a developing society.              place where there is a judiciary that can         and I am confident that as the pillars of
It goes without saying that an important           respond to the inevitable disputes that           how we operate that the project will be a
requirement of economic development is             arise out of commercial activities. We must       success. That is not to say that the project
an efficient judiciary where disputes can be       therefore be prepared as the arbiter of           will not have its detractors. Moreover, we
resolved promptly, efficiently and fairly.         disputes to respond to these events.              have a policy of listening intently to the
Of equal importance is the ability of the          The motivation then flows from a                  detractors and making them a part of the
judiciary to respond to issues that are            personal commitment to see excellence in          consultation process. I am satisfied that
likely to arise as a result of globalization. As   our judiciary and to ensure that the people       success stands a better chance when all
the OECS ventures on the international             served by our judiciary are satisfied that they   voices with interest in the project are
stage we must be concerned that we are             can get justice in our Courts. The reform         heard. And those with divergent ideas are
equipped to deliver quality judicial services      project therefore is to achieve these ends.       allowed to participate fully.
                                                                                                                               Continued on p.6
                                                                         3
Family Law Reform...                                               continued from page 1
Convention on Eradication All forms of     is variable, but it is almost certain that   Acts of 1948 establishes that the moral
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)       children will become increasingly the        quality and conduct of the husband
and Belem Do Para.                         centre of concern in family law.Two          and wife are decisive in matrimonial
                                           ways in which the laws have been             matters.
In recent years, laws dealing with
                                           seeking to create amicable relation-
property and financial settlements in
                                           ships after family breakdown are as
divorce have been revised to respond to
                                           follows: (1) the removal of fault in         Introducingalternative
economic disadvantages created by                                                       Dispute resolution
                                           divorce, and (2) the introduction of
gender roles and hierarchies. However,
                                           alternative ways of settling disputes.       In most of the OECS countries and
in many countries, there is still gender
                                                                                        Barbados, efforts are made to
inequity and discrimination in property
                                                                                        encourage partners seeking divorce to
and financial settlements against          Less Emphasis on Judging                     consider reconciliation and to undergo
unmarried women. Regarding property        Behaviour in Divorce                         marriage counselling. For example,
                                           Settlements                                  Antigua & Barbuda has introduced the
                                           In family law, there has been a              concept of mediation in divorce matters
      “none of the                         significant movement away from               on issues relating to custody of children
                                           judging the behaviour of family              and property. In addition, some
  OECS countries have                      members in settlements and a focus           countries have introduced a social
                                           more on the family’s needs and in            service component to help in address-
     adequate laws                                                                      ing family matters and others have
                                           cultivating harmonious relations among
      to deal with                         family members.                              introduced family courts, outside of the
                                                                                        magistrates courts, to deal with family
    persons who are                                                                     disputes.
       unmarried”
                                              “some countries like
settlement, none of the OECS                                                                  “some countries
                                                 Barbados have
countries have adequate laws to deal                                                          have introduced
with persons who are unmarried.                  introduced the
Montserrat and St. Kitts have no                                                               a social service
legislation to deal with equitable                 concept of
distribution of property and financial                                                          component to
                                               no-fault divorce”.
matters either for women who are                                                                 help address
married or unmarried. In Grenada and
Dominica, there is no legislation                                                              family matters
dealing with matrimonial matters such
as divorce, matrimonial property and       In keeping with this trend, some                       and place”
financial provision on divorce             countries like Barbados have intro-
and maintenance in the High Court.         duced the concept of ‘no fault’
These are just some of the variations      divorces. However, in the OECS
that exist from country to country.        countries, there is only a moderate          Need for Harmonisation
                                           acknowledgement of this development          In almost all of the OECS countries,
                                           and most of them have moved on to a          family law revision and reform have
Creating Amicable                          system in which fault still has some role    taken place to address the realities of
Relationships after Family                 to play in matrimonial matters. In           Caribbean family structures, to comply
Breakdown                                  Antigua & Barbuda, for example, the          with human rights conventions and
In an effort to properly protect           1997 Divorce Act creates a mixed fault       in an effort to create amicable
and provide for children and prevent       system. It introduces twelve months          relationships in post-relations phases.
hostility between parents in a post-       of separation as a basis for proving         The revision has been slower in some
relationship phase, almost every aspect    breakdown of marriage, similar to            countries than others and the absence
of family law, including domestic          Barbados which has no-fault divorce,         of certain legislation can directly or
violence, divorce, property and            but adds the fault facts of adultery and     indirectly impact on children and
financial matters, seeks to put            cruelty as evidence of breakdown as          women and they point to the need for
children’s interests first. In the         well. In both St. Kitts & Nevis and          a greater harmony within family laws
Caribbean, recognition of this principle   Montserrat, the Matrimonial Causes           throughout the eastern Caribbean.
                                           0000
                                                               4
                         News From The Area
                                             hopes to target the entire secondary
       ANTIGUA                               school body of students with                         G U YA N A
                                             the introduction of its HIV/
     & BARBUDA                               AIDS Prevention Peer Educators            First Draft of
                                             Programme. During the September to        Chidren’s Bill
Rotaract                                     December 2001 term, fourth formers        is Ready... Guyana
Launches                                     will be trained as peer educators by
                                                                                       In March 1993, the
HIV/AIDS                                     way of five Peer Educators Workshops.
                                                                                       National Commission for the
                                             From the second term January
Campaign                                     to March 2002, 11 HIV/AIDS
                                                                                       Survival, Protection and
                                                                                       development of Children was
The Rotaract Club of                         Prevention Workshops will be held
                                                                                       appointed in Guyana to
Antigua has launched                         for first and third formers. Sixteen
                                                                                       prepare the Guyana National
a new HIV/AIDS                               facilitators who were trained in August
                                                                                       Plan of Action for children in
awareness       cam-                         2001 will introduce the programme
                                                                                       the 21st Century.
paign.Entitled                               to schools and to groups in various
"HIV/AIDS… 20 Years                          communities.                              The commission agreed on six
Later", the project aims to eliminate com-                                             programme areas that constituted the
placency among the youth and make                                                      starting point for addressing the major
them more aware of facts relating to                                                   problems affecting children in Guyana, as
HIV/AIDS.                                                                              they relate to: Family, Health & Nutrition,
                                                    DOMINICA                           Water 7 Sanitation, Basic Education &
Ms. Felicity Aymer of the AIDS Secretariat                                             Literacy, Children in Especially difficult
welcomed the involvement of the              Summer                                    Circumstances, and legal & Constitutional
Rotaracts. She noted that in Antigua the     Environmental                             Provision.
"environment is not conducive to
discouraging early sexual activity… and it
                                             Appreciation                              The kind of fundamental changes in atti-
                                             Programme                                 tudes to Children’s Rights which is
                                             Camp                                      required must be underpinned by the
      BARBADOS                                                                         entrenchment of those rights in both law
                                             With     support   from                   and constitution, in terms of legislation.
Children                                     UNICEF/CAO, the Small                     This includes the completion of the task of
Illustrate                                   Project Assistance Team                   bringing all the laws concerning children
Peaceful                                     Limited (SPAT), in collaboration          together on statue and giving real powers
Communities                                  with the Movement for Cultural            and responsibilities to institutions charged
                                             Awareness, conducted the annual           with protecting children’s rights. It
During a ceremony
                                             two-week Summer Environmental             was required therefore that justifiable
at the Offices of the
                                             Appreciation Programme (SENAP)            provisions on the Rights of Child included
Ministry of Education,
                                             Camp in the villages of Grand Fond        on the constitution reforms that Guyana is
the Director of the
                                             and Petite Savanne, from July 26 -        undergoing. The first draft of the
Division of Youth Affairs,
                                             August 9. Thirty children between         Children’s Bill is ready for consultation by
presented winners of a poster competi-
                                             10 and 15 years, benefitted from          the concerned parties in Guyana.
tion competition with prizes of educa-
                                             exposure to a variety of life skills
tional and art supplies. Entitled "A
                                             training, including Environmental
Peaceful Community without Violence",
                                             Health/Personal Hygiene; Health and
                                                                                               S T. K I T T S
the children created colourful represen-
                                             Family Life Education and Disaster
tations of an ideal peaceful community.
                                             preparedness/management.
                                                                                                & NEVIS
The Ministry thanked UNICEF
Caribbean Area Office for funding the        Participants typically come from          Launch of
reproduction of the six prize-winning        communities in Dominica where SPAT        Global
posters as book covers, which were           is implementing its Community             Movement
distributed to all public and private        Animation Programme, as well as from      for Children
primary schools in the island.               other Caribbean countries. This project
                                             was sponsored as part of the Eastern      The Global
HIV/AIDS Prevention Peer                     Caribbean/UNICEF        support     for   Movement for Children
Educators Programme                          integrated community development in       (GMC) was officially launched in
Through its Youth Links, the Red Cross       selected disadvantaged communities.       St. Kitts & Nevis on Thursday

                                                                9
                              The Media and Children
                                              A View from Trinidad & Tobago


     Are Journalists Violating the Rights of Children?
    T
"      o be or not to be" was never the question. The question                  giving instructions to charge anybody with a violation of that
       always was: "when?" So they waited with trembling fingers,               law? In any case, if the Attorney–General wanted to protect
       their pulses racing, their faces flushed in anticipation of just         children in that way, surely he would have provided for an
       the right moment, although they knew that no moment                      increase in the penalty among all the amendments to the
    would, or could be right. The consequences had been weighed                 Children Act he brought to Parliament last year.
    and the risks were well worth the taking. There were "no spurs
                                                                                Could the Police have protected the Child?
    to prick the sides of their intent". After all, what is a fine of
    $400.00 to TV6, TTT, Newsday, or the Guardian?                              What of the Police? Could they have protected the child from
    Chicken feed? That was more expensive these days.                           public view? Surely we recall the ridiculous lengths they went to
                                                                                sometime ago to prevent the media from obtaining a photo
    At the Expense of a Minor                                                   opportunity when one of their colleagues was charged before
    So out came the cameras and they began to click away. Away                  the Court? I recall a former Chief Magistrate, Beecham
    with section 87(5) of the Children Act! What does it say again?             Maharaj, being stern with the media on the issue. What is the
    "No person shall publish the name, address, school,                         stance of the present Chief Magistrate?
    photograph, or anything likely to lead to the identification of             So, I wrote about the violation of this particular law in May 1999
    the child or young person before the Court, save with the                   and the dailies and the weeklies carried my letter. The violations
    permission of the Court or insofar as is required by this Act.              stopped for a while, but the temptation was too great and
    Any person who contravenes this sub-section is liable on                    they’ve succumbed. Should I pray: "Father, forgive them for
    summary conviction to a fine of Four Hundred Dollars."                      they know not what they do?" No way, José! Father Hezekiah,
                                                                                over to you, but spare the Express and the Mirror. They’ve tried
    A Child has the Right to Privacy?
                                                                                their best to keep the faith, for at least they didn’t use a photo.
    Forget the Convention on the Rights of the Child! What do we
    know of Article 40 (2) (b) (vii) of the CRC? "Every child alleged
    as or accused of having infringed the penal law is guaranteed the                The preceding article was submitted by Ms. Hazel
    right to have his or her privacy fully respected at all stages of the            Thompson-Ahye as a letter to the Editor in the Trinidad
    proceedings."                                                                    Guardian and reprinted with her permission. Ms.
                                                                                     Thompson-Ahye, Attorney-at-Law and Mediator is the
    A child has rights to privacy? You must be joking! After all, the                Director of the Legal Aid Clinic, Council of Legal
    public wanted to see the 15 year-old child charged with                          Education, Hugh Wooding Law School, St.Augustine in
    murder.                                                                          the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. She is also the
                                                                                     Director of the Hugh Wooding Law School Legal Aid
    But what of Article 4 of the CRC which states? "States Parties                   Clinic Mediation Centre, and Board Member of the Legal
    shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and                 Aid and Advisory Authority, the Police Complaints
    other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized                   Authority and the St. Dominic's Children's Home as well
    in the present Convention." implementation of the rights                         as the Deputy Co-coordinator of the Women and
                                                                                     Development Studies Group, the University of the West
    recognized in the present Convention." In other jurisdictions,
                                                                                     Indies, St. Augustine. She is also a member of the
    violations of children’s rights can be taken before international                International Bar Association, the Association of Family
    and regional courts. The European Court of Human Rights                          and Conciliation Courts, the International Society of
    adjudicates on many violations of children’s rights, which                       Family Law, the Association for Conflict Resolution and
    fall within the European Convention on Human Rights.                             the National Association of Counsel for Children. She is
    The African Charter on the Rights of the Child also allows for                   a tireless advocate for women’s and children's rights, for
                                                                                     penal reform and legal aid. She has given presentations
    both State reporting and complaints from individuals.
                                                                                     in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the
    We have the legislative measure, even though it is a small                       Netherlands, South Africa and the Caribbean in her
    slap on the wrist, but what about its implementation? Who                        special areas of interest.
    ever heard about the DPP [Director of Public Prosecution]
    00000

          We welcome your letters, as you seek to create awareness in the public domain of children’s issues.


                                                                            8
            Is Law Reform Really Needed?
In an attempt to encourage paticipation from our partners in the newsletter’s content, Children In Focus solicited
          the views from Child Protection Officers on this issue of Legal Reform in the OECS countries.
                              The following are responses received from St. Lucia:

Yes. While the Child and Young Persons Act provides a                  Yes. law reform is needed. To afford better protection
framework by which Child Care Providers can be guided,                 to children and their families through blocking existing
there are grey areas which are left to the discretion of               loopholes, seeking equity, sensitisation of rights, ensuring or
individuals. This can be detrimental to the very children whom         requiring accountability of persons in child protection, stiffer
we seek to serve. By reforming those laws and others, for              penalties for offenders, appointment of guardian ad litem,
example those which govern juvenile institutions, there will be        Magistracy with a knowledge of and a sensitisation on child
a more comprehensive structure by which our children can be            welfare matters.
protected. The interpretation of the law also should be less           Reform is required in the following areas:
ambiguous so that its implementation by Child Care Providers
could be more consistent.                                              (a) Child abuse: criminal code, stiffer penalties, statute of
                                                                           limitation (1 year) needs review; holding parents
Reform needs to take place in areas such as:
                                                                           responsible for certain categories of crimes; charging
(a) adult responsibility towards children;                                 parents who conspire with offenders; charging parents
(b) fines and terms of sentence;                                           for ‘arrangements’ in sexual abuse matters;
(c) more clearly defined parameters by which juveniles are             (b) Mandatory counselling/ rehabilitation for offenders;
dealt with;                                                            (c) affiliation – remove distinction for children;
(d) child custody and maintenance.                                     (d) Adoption.

Reform will benefit our children by providing them with more           Law reform will benefit children in the following ways:
protection. It will improve the areas of weakness which cur-           (a) Reduce discrimination against children born out of
rently exist allowing workers to have clearly defined structures           wedlock, e.g. ceiling of $200.00 for maintenance as
and support systems.                                                       opposed to what obtains for children born within a
                                      Ms. Beverly Povotte                  marriage;
                          Counsellor II, Boys’ Training Centre         (b) Married mother should be able to claim maintenance
                                                                           from the father of her children, if he is not her husband;
                                                                       (c) Status of limitation during which time a mother can take
Yes. Existing legislation is outdated. The main piece of                   a father to court should not be limited to first year only;
legislation pertaining to children was passed almost thirty            (d) Facilitate achievement of CRC for all children.
years ago with no amendments. Social environment has
changed tremendously, legislation therefore needs to be                                         Ms. Victoria Francis-Nathaniel
updated if it is to be effective.                                                                              Family Case Worker
                                                                                                       Division of Human Services
The areas in need of change are:
- Definition of child. Legislation is not consistent with
  definition proposed by the United Nations Convention on              Yes. Existing legislation does not provide for adequate care
  the Rights of the Child;                                             and protection of children, neither does it sufficiently enforce
- Maintenance. Legislation makes it difficult for married              family responsibility to do so. Existing legislation does not
  women to pursue maintenance;                                         reflect changes in child welfare philosophy and practices,
- Harsher penalties required for persons found guilty of               hence legal framework does not always serve best interest of
  abusing children.                                                    children.
- Provision for rehabilitation of juvenile offenders and for           The areas in need of reform are: child abuse, adoption,
  mandatory services to families is required.                          maintenance and custody, juvenile justice.
  Law reform will benefit children by putting in place
                                                                       Reform will ensure that state mechanisms are effected to
  measures to protect them and to help them grow up in
                                                                       provide adequate protection of children.
  more stable environments.
                             Ms. Karen John-Matthews                                          Ms. Constance Ann Paul-Akuffo
                                          Family Case Worker                                                  Family Case Worker
                                  Division of Human Services                                          Division of Human Services


                                                                   5
Up Close... continued from page 3
Q: Can you give some non-                      every state. Let’s take for example            biological parent. Neither can custody
specific examples of cases where               Dominica. In Dominica a parent of an ille-     be awarded.
children have been affected                    gitimate child can get an Order of
                                                                                              Q: How will children in the OECS
negatively as a result of certain              Affiliation only in the Magistrates’ Court.
                                                                                              countries benefit from law
laws being archaic?                            Child support in such a case is also
                                                                                              reform?
                                               restricted to that Court. Since the
A: Generally, it is not prudent to discuss                                                    A: Certainly, our entire society will
                                               Magistrates’ Court has limited jurisdiction,
potential issues that may be brought                                                          benefit from law reform. Laws relating
                                               the amount that can be awarded - irre-
before the Court. Then again, there are a                                                     to children which include support,
                                               spective of the means of the other parent
whole host of issues that potentially can                                                     guardianship, custody, affiliation orders
                                               - is limited. On the other hand, a legiti-
come before a Court yet not necessarily                                                       and inheritance, if reformed can only
                                               mate child seeking support can get it in
need to be avoided. There are a number                                                        benefit them. Our laws coming out of a
                                               the High Court where there is no jurisdic-
of legislation on the books that are indeed                                                   period whose standards, norms, values
                                               tional limitation on what can be awarded.
archaic and have a negative effect on                                                         and mores are no longer prevalent
children. You must bear in mind however,       Another instance can be seen in                cannot continue to serve their initial goals.
that I cannot paint the OECS with a broad      guardianship laws. A child growing up in       Recognition that the needs of children
brush… we have six independent states          a family unit where only one parent is         must be addressed consistent with
and three dependent territories. Invariably,   their biological parent could very well be     contemporary democratic society’s norms
these states may be at different levels of     taken from that unit if his/her parent         cannot be ignored. Law reform is one of
their law revision project. Consequently,      becomes deceased without leaving a             the most effective ways to address these
my examples may not be applicable in           testamentary guardianship with the non-        concerns.
every                                          biological


  Facts about the OECS Family Law & Domestic
    Violence Legal & Judicial Reform Project
When Did the Project Begin?                    (OECS), in collaboration with the United       restructured social services that support the
The project began in January 2001 after        Nations Economic Commission for Latin          full implementation of the reform
agreement with the partners involved and       America and the Caribbean (UN ECLAC),          legislation; and public support for the
after the establishment of National            UNICEF Caribbean Area Office, and              recommended changes through their
Committees in each country.                    NCH, a British based children's charity        participation at the public consultative ses-
                                               with Offices in the Eastern Caribbean, and     sions.
Why The Need for Reform?
                                               includes representatives from the coun-
Even though countries have amended                                                            What is the Time frame for the
                                               tries of St. Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda and
various aspects of their legislation from                                                     Project?
                                               St. Kitts & Nevis.
time to time, much more still needs to be                                                     It is expected that the project will take
done to bring legislation in line with         Who are the Participating                      3 years:
the provisions of the United Nations           Countries?                                     Phase I: Research into domestic
Convention on the Rights of the Child          Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, British           violence and existing legislation was
(CRC), the Convention on the Elimination       Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada,             concluded in July 2001. The first draft
of All Forms of Discrimination Against         Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia,      of the legislation, is expected to be
Women (CEDAW), an the Inter-American           St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and            completed by December;
Convention      on     the    Prevention,      Turks & Caicos Islands.                        Phase II: 2002: Drafting of the
Punishment & Eradication of Violence           What are the objectives of the                 legislation.This is expected to be completed
Against Women also known as the                Project?                                       by June 2002. It is also expected that adop-
"Convention of Belem do Para" and to           The outcomes of this project include:          tion of the legislation will be finished by the
improve the conditions under which             harmonised and reformed legislation            end of 2002;
children and their families must live.         approved by Caribbean governments on           Phase III: 2003. There will be strategic
Who are the Partners?                          children, family law and domestic              analysis on the impact on social services
Project management and coordination is         violence; the implementation of this           infrastructure, national consultation and
being being implemented through the            legislation which is owned by                  agreement on recommendations on impact
Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court                governmentsas a result of their direct         assessment, training of relevant profession-
(ECSC) and the Secretariat of the              participation in the reform process;           al groups. Monitoring and evaluation will
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States       harmonised and restructured social service     take place from December and onwards.

                                                                    6
                                               In Focus...
      NCH Action for Children in the Caribbean

O
      ne of the partners in the OECS         Government of Jamaica requested
      Family Law & Domestic Violence         assistance in the establishment of a
      Legal Reform Project is NCH            children’s home and later, a school for
      ActionforChildren.Formerly             mentally challenged children. In 1979
known as the National Children’s             at the invitation of the Barbados Child
Home, this organisation is a charitable      Care Board, NCH Action for Children
child-care agency headquartered in the       began its involvement in Barbados.
United Kingdom. Established in 1896,         Projects were subsequently undertaken
it is now one of the UK’s largest child-     in St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, St.
care agencies helping thousands of           Vincent and Belize. With the exception    The general aim of NCH Action for
vulnerable children, young persons and       of St. Lucia and St. Vincent, NCH         Children in the Caribbean is to enable
their families by means of more              Action for Children now maintains an      and support the work of government
than 300 projects.                           Office in each of the aforementioned      departments and non-governmental
                                             countries. The work in St. Vincent is     organisations as well as to develop
NCH Action for Children first came           administered through the Barbados         specific services and programmes
to the Caribbean in 1969 when the            Office.                                   for children.
00000




                                         OECS Secretariat

T
    he Organisation of Eastern               established. The WISA Secretariat         grouping comprising Antigua &
    Caribbean States (OECS) is one of        became the Central Secretariat of the     Barbuda,      Commonwealth       of
    the main partners in the Family          OECS and the ECCM, the Economic           Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat,
    Law & Domestic Legal Reform              Affairs Secretariat.                      St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia and
Project. It came into being on 18 June                                                 St. Vincent/Grenadines.     Anguilla
1981 when seven East Caribbean               In mid-1977 as a result of the            and the British Virgin Islands
countries signed a treaty agreeing           restructuring of the Organisation, the    are Associate Members of the OECS.
to cooperate with each other and             Economic Affairs Secretariat was
promote unity and solidarity among the       merged and became a Division of           The functions of the Organisation are
Members. The Treaty became known             0000                                      set out in the Treaty of Basseterre and
as the Treaty of Basseterre, so named                                                  coordinated by the Secretariat under
in honour of the capital city of St. Kitts                                             the direction and management of the
& Nevis where it was signed.                                                           Director General. In carrying out its
                                                                                       mission, the OECS works along with
Following the collapse of the West                                                     a number of sub-regional and
Indies Federation, and prior to the                                                    regional agencies and institutions.
signing of the Treaty of Basseterre,                                                   These include the Eastern Caribbean
caretaker bodies were created: the                                                     Central Bank (ECCB), the Caribbean
West Indies Association States Council                                                 Community (CARICOM) Secretariat;
of Ministers (WISA) in 1966 and the                                                    the CARICOM Regional Negotiating
Eastern Caribbean Common Market                                                        Machinery (RNM) and the Caribbean
(ECCM) in 1968. As the islands gained                                                  Development Bank (CDB).
their independence from Britain,
it became evident that there was need
for a more formal arrangement
to assist with their development efforts.    the OECS Secretariat in St. Lucia.
So it was that the OECS was                  The OECS is now a nine member
0000                                         0000
                                                               7

								
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