Antigua and Barbuda: Children's Rights References in the Universal Periodic Review

A compilation of extracts featuring child-rights issues from the reports submitted to the second Universal Periodic Review. There are extracts from the 'National Report', the 'Compilation of UN Information' and the 'Summary of Stakeholder's Information'. Also included is the final report and the list of accepted and rejected recommendations.


Antigua and Barbuda - Twenty Fifth Session - 2016
 9 May 2016 - 14:30 - 18:00

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National Report

Compilation of UN Information 

Stakeholder Information 

Accepted and Rejected Recommendations 


National Report

I. Country background    

7. Residents and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda can access the Magistrates Court for redress in a variety of matters to include matters, financial limit, domestic violence, maintenance and access to children, liquor licensing etc. The vast majority if all criminal case commence in the Magistrates Court. Magistrates are trained lawyers appointed by the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission. Magistrates now have security of tenure and are now governed under the auspices of the Chief Justice who is head of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission and are no longer under the authority of Attorney-General. 

II. Promotion and protection of human rights in Antigua and Barbuda

A. International human rights instruments 

10. The major human rights instruments which Antigua and Barbuda is a party to are: the International Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention against Torture and other cruel forms of treatment or punishment, Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nation Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). 

III. Achievement, best practices, challenges and complaints    

F. Her Majesty’s  Prison

18. The prison was designed to hold approximately 150 prisoners. The prison is overcrowded, the prison population currently stands at about 386 prisoners of which 18 are female. The prison population includes convicted person and those awaiting trial including juveniles who have committed serious crimes. The passage of the Child Justice Bill (which is discussed later) will change this situation as the Government is required to place juveniles in secure accommodation instead of prison. 

G. Persons with disabilities    

23. The Government policy for the education of children with disability is grounded in the   practice   of   “inclusive   education”.   Children   with   visual   disability   are   main-streamed from Preschool, while children who are deaf and those with intellectual disability are served through special programs with a goal towards main streaming. ABAPD and persons with disabilities receives support and assistance from several Government departments and divisions namely, the Ministry of Health, Social Transformation and Department of National Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabilities gives help to eligible disabled persons and young adults who are disabled can access vocational training conducted by the centre for disabilities. 

H. The lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered community (LBGT)

25. Persons from the LBGT are generally not discriminated against in Antigua and Barbuda and there are several well known personalities from the LBGT community who live freely and in peace like any citizen. Buggery between two consenting adults is illegal under the Provisions of the Sexual Offence Act 1993; consenting adults are not prosecuted however if the act is committed against juveniles or without consent it will be prosecuted.

I. Rights of children

26. The Education Act (Cap 145) provides that children are required to attend school from age 5 of 16. The Government provides free education; there are many primary and secondary school provided by the State. Vocational and technical training is also provided by the Government for secondary school children who wish to acquire practical skills.

27. There are several private institutions which provide education for a fee, whilst those schools are not under the direct control of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Education does have a supervisory role over private schools and can close them if they fall below the required standard.

28. There is an Early Childhood Development division in the Ministry of Education which is responsible for the daycare and pre-school facilities in the island, and has supervisory powers over these facilities.

29. A suite of laws relating to children and families was recently passed in the Houses of Parliament in November 2015, namely:

  1. (a)  The Child Justice Bill 2015;

  2. (b)  The Children (Care and Adoption) Bill 2015;

  3. (c)  The Status of Children Bill 2015;

  4. (d)  The Domestic Violence Bill 2015 (dealt with under Gender issues).

The Child Justice Bill

30. The objective of the Child Justice Bill 2015 is to prevent the criminalization of young people to and prevent them from being stigmatized at a young age because of the negative impact and consequences of being caught up in the criminal system. The Act establishes a criminal justice procedure for children to assist children to be dealt with outside of the traditional criminal justice process. There will be more emphasis on assisting and assessing the individual child with a view to helping the child keep out of the criminal justice system. The Act uses the principles of restorative justice when dealing with children, the aim is to prevent them from getting in further conflict with the law. The Act also institutes procedures for the diversion of cases away from formal court procedures to establish assessment of children with a view to making decisions that will deal with the issues presented by the child.

31. A Child Justice Board comprising a member of the clergy, social workers and a magistrate will be established, child would appear before the board, instead of going straight to court, for an assessment of the situation. The child will be given the opportunity to explain their side of the incident. A decision will be made by the board as to the way forward in the best interest of the child, taking all the circumstances into consideration.

32. The immediate safety and welfare and well being of the child and other children in the home of the child will be of paramount importance in deciding when the appropriate steps to assist and response to protect the child from risk of serious harm. Children can be removed if it is deemed that they are in need of protection and their health or safety is in immediate jeopardy.

33. The Act abolishes corporal punishment as a sentencing option and provides for detention in secure accommodation for children as an alternative to placing them in prison.

The Children (Care and Adoption) Act 2015

34. The Act is designed to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and to provide that   in   all   actions   and   decisions   that   concern   a   child,   the   child’s   safety,   welfare   and   well   being are of paramount consideration, and the same principle applies where a child is removed from this parent. Every action that is taken has to be in the best interest of the child and other children in the family where applicable.


35. The Act seeks to reform the current law relating to adoption and provides for greater supervision of adoption procedures for the protection and welfare of the child to be adopted. There are also provisions for the protection of children to be adopted by persons living outside of Antigua and Barbuda. The Act provides for the establishment of an Adoption Committee to give more Governmental control over the adoption process.

The Status of Children Act 2015

36. The Act provides for the equal status of children. There is no longer any stigma or difference between children who were born in or out of wedlock; all distinctions that existed as a result of the marital status of the parent of a child is abolished. This has serious implications for succession rights and intestacy as on the death a parent all children will have an equal right to inherit. 

J. Poverty alleviation    

39. The Government has a School Meals Programme for children in State owned schools; meals are provided at a cost of $1 EC per day. The project provides hot nutritious meals for all primary school children who take part in the initiative. The project is not means tested and is heavily subsidized by the Government.

40. The Government has implemented the School Uniform Grant Programme which is available to all citizens, and is not means-tested and all citizens who have children at school whether it is a private or State school can benefit from the programme. 

The GARD Centre

46. The Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development Centre (GARD) is a leading training facility providing positive entrepreneurial and employment alternatives. The facility is targeted at helping youth and women.

47. The centre is a rural development and training centre, which has offered agricultural and enterprise training to youth between the ages of 16 and 30 since 1993. The training which the centre provides is focused on life skills and entrepreneurial skills with a specific emphasis in the use of natural resources in agriculture and other forms of rural enterprises. The programmes and courses offered at the centre targets youth and women in an effort to improve their welfare and standard of living and to address and ensure their continued development and sustainability. 

L. Gender issues    

57. The DOGA works closely with other Government ministries including the Youth Development, Ministries of Health, Labour, Agriculture, the AIDS Secretariat, the Welfare Division, the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda: to promote gender awareness and lobbies for reform in areas that may discriminate against women. 

59. The DOGA has embarked on public campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women with a view to changing the attitude of society. The department has been very active in dealing with issues involving women and children.

60. The DOGA in conjunction with another agency operates a Crisis Line for person who are being abused, the service is open to all males and females. Generally the practices of the Government and other public institutions do not discriminate against women. The laws do not discriminate against women, as the constitution clearly and boldly states that persons should not be discriminated against based on their sex, religion, class. However, in practice this may not always be the case, for example young girls who become pregnant at school often have to leave school and that often leads to them not completing their education. Often this is due to cultural norms, practices and finances rather than the legal reasons. The reality is that the law provides education is compulsory from age 3-16 years, but the reality is that teen mothers are disenfranchised from continuing their education. 


Compilation of UN Information 

I. Background and framework    

B. Constitutional and legislative framework

4. The subregional team indicated that Antigua and Barbuda had participated in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Family Law and Domestic Violence Legal and Judicial Reform Project and that the Government had reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child that it intended to introduce legislation designed as part of that project. The proposed legislation would cover childcare and protection, adoption, juvenile justice, domestic violence and the institution of a family court. However, there was no pending legislation on those issues before parliament.

7. The subregional team noted that small islamd developing States such as Antigua Barbuda had limited capacities and resources to prepare and submit treaty body reports in a timely fashion. As such, the country struggled with meeting its reporting obligations to the treaty bodies. It added that the United Nations  Children’s  Fund  (UNICEF) had supported the Government in its submission of the combined second to fourth periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and that the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) was supporting the State party in the completion of its overdue report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The subregional team recommended that the Government continue to work with UNICEF and UN-Women in the preparation of treaty body reports for those two committees.  

III. Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international
humanitarian law

A. Equality and non-discrimination 

10. The subregional team considered that there remained many gender-based obstacles facing women, which resulted in systemic institutional, sociocultural, political and economic inequalities. Statistics revealed near gender parity in the attendance of males and females in schools at the primary and secondary levels. Although females had a much higher level of educational attainment at the tertiary level, graduating from college and university had not  resulted  in  a  major  shift  in  women’s  access  to  work,  higher  incomes,  or   leadership and decision-making positions, nor had it translated into women gaining a foothold in economic sectors that were more productive and targeted for development. Poverty was more prevalent among women who were without a partner.

16. The subregional team noted that about one in four respondents to the 2014 Antigua Social Survey on Violence stated that they knew of a child who had been a victim of sexual abuse. However, there was no comprehensive national strategy or policy against child sexual abuse. The team considered that the legal framework relating to child abuse required a general overhaul.

17. The subregional team reported that corporal punishment remained legal in the home and in schools. It added that the Social Survey on Violence indicated that there was still popular support for maintaining corporal punishment in schools and in homes.

18. UNESCO recalled that, during its first universal periodic review, Antigua and Barbuda had not accepted recommendations related to corporal punishment. It stated that the Government should be encouraged to prohibit all forms of corporal punishment in all settings and could be encouraged to further address the issue of abuse and neglect of children.

C. Administration of justice and the rule of law    

22. The subregional team reported that the effective age of criminal responsibility was 8 years old and juveniles were tried in the same courts as adults. Furthermore, aside from probation, there were no alternatives to sentencing and no restorative justice options. However, in October 2015 the Government had indicated that it would start pre-sentencing diversion training to look at steps that could be taken to avoid putting juveniles in prison. Also, a family court which handles child maintenance matters and domestic violence cases had been established in 2012.

23. The subregional team indicated that there were no juvenile detention facilities for girls, while the  Boy’s  Training  School  housed  boys between 10 and 18 years of age who had been referred by the courts for  “care  and  protection  and  minor  infractions  with the law.”   The school had been criticized for inadvertently preparing abandoned and abused boys for lives of crime by housing offenders and non-offenders together in the same facility. The team added that the Government had recently passed an act that allowed for the expunging of convictions committed under the age of 21 once the person had been “on the straight and narrow” for a minimum of seven years. 

F. Right to social security and to an adequate standard of living

30. The subregional team reported that poverty affected 18.4 per cent of the population, of which 3.7 per cent were indigent or extremely poor. Women comprised 52.8 per cent of the poor, while 35.5 per cent of the poor were children less than 14 years old. Antigua and Barbuda had the third-highest prevalence of undernourished people in the Caribbean, at 13.9 per cent of the population. 

G. Right to health    

34. The team noted that abortions were illegal but were allowed in cases in which the pregnancy involved a risk to the life of the pregnant woman. However, abortion remained illegal in cases that would result in grave permanent injury of a physical or mental health nature to the pregnant woman and in cases of rape or incest. The subregional team added that Antigua and Barbuda had the second-highest rate of pregnancy among adolescents (ages 15-19) within the Eastern Caribbean States, at 67 per 1,000 girls. It added that the State party was a member of the Caribbean Community Council for Human and Social Development, which had approved a strategy to reduce the number of pregnancies among adolescents in each country of the English-and Dutch-speaking Caribbean by at least 20 percent over the 2014-2019 period.

35. Regarding HIV, the subregional team reported that estimates of overall HIV prevalence had steadily increased over the past six years, from 0.8 percent in 2005 to roughly 1.4 percent in 2011. Data suggested that the majority of cases reported were among persons between 15 and 49 years of age and that young people, men who had sex with men, and female sex workers were most at risk of contracting HIV.

H. Right to education

36. UNESCO noted that the right to education was recognized in the Education Act of 2008 but not in the 1981 Constitution. 

J. Persons with disabilities    

39. UNESCO noted that the Government might be encouraged to continue its efforts regarding special education. 

K. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

40. UNHCR reported that Antigua and Barbuda faced a complex phenomenon of mixed migratory movements, and encouraged the Government to strengthen its capacity to appropriately manage those movements, taking into consideration the fundamental rights and needs of persons in need of international protection, as well as the profiles of specific groups who required differentiated treatment, such as women and children.


Stakeholder Information 

II. Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international humanitarian law 

A. Equality and non-discrimination

1. ADF International (ADF) considered important to encourage children and adolescents an appreciation for the equality of men and women via educational programs. ADF also estimated necessary empowering the family to be the starting point for true gender equality and appreciation for the equal rights of women and men.2

B. Right to life, liberty and security of the person

2. Child Rights International Network (CRIN) noted with concern that life imprisonment, including detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure, and corporal punishment were both lawful penalties for offences committed while under the age of 18.3

3. CRIN regretted that persons convicted of offences committed while they were under 18 could be sentenced to life imprisonment. The Treason Act specified life imprisonment as a punishment for treason and the Government had interpreted that this applied to any person, including someone under the age of 18. Also, in prohibiting the death penalty for persons convicted of murder committed while under the age of 18, article 3 of the Offences against the Person Act prescribes in lieu detention “during Her Majesty’s pleasure”. There were no limits placed on the duration of detention and the Government had interpreted that this allowed for the possibility of life imprisonment for children.

4. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIEACPC) recalled that, during the first UPR review of Antigua and Barbuda, in 2011, the Government rejected recommendations to prohibit all corporal punishment of children.5 GIEACPEC indicated that Antigua and Barbuda received recommendations from CRC as well to prohibit corporal punishment.

5. CRIN reported that corporal punishment was lawful as a sentence under the criminal law. A number of laws allowed whipping as part of, or as an alternative to, punishment only if the offenders under the age of 16, including the Offences Against the Person Act (for child stealing and making or possessing gunpowder with intent to commit a crime), the Railway Offences Act 1927 (e.g. or obstructing a railway), and the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure (for unspecified offences). The Juvenile Act, referring to the Magistrate’s Court Act, also allows for persons under 18 at the time of the offence to be sentenced to whipping.

6. CRIN added that, according to the Corporal Punishment Act, as amended in 1967, a juvenile may be sentenced by a High Court or a Magistrate’s Court to be whipped with up to 12 strokes. Persons under 18 can be whipped but not flogged, using a tamarind rod applied to the buttocks. Women cannot be sentenced to whipping or flogging. The Act states that corporal punishment may be ordered in addition to other punishment on any person convicted of certain offences of grievous bodily harm, being armed, robbery and assault.

7. GIEACPC noted that corporal punishment of children in Antigua and Barbuda was not only lawful as a sentence for crimes but also in all other settings – the home, alternative care, day care, schools and penal institutions. Thus, to achieve prohibition would require the enactment of legislation clearly prohibiting corporal punishment in all of these settings.

8. CRIN stated that it had been unable to obtain statistical information relating to the sentencing of children to life imprisonment, detention “during Her Majesty’s pleasure” or corporal punishment in Antigua and Barbuda. However, it manifested that, in 2013, the Government stated that no whipping of juveniles had been carried out in the last three decades at least, though it remained a possible punishment prescribed in law. There were several reports of children being whipped in the mid to late 1990s.

9. In light of the clear international human rights consensus against the imposition of life imprisonment and corporal punishment of children and the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture recognising that life imprisonment and lengthy sentences of children are grossly disproportionate and amount to a form of cruel and inhuman punishment, CRIN recommended that the Government enact and enforce legislation explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment and life imprisonment, including detention during Her Majesty’s pleasure, as a penalty for any offence committed while under the age of 18; and immediately review the sentence of any person sentenced to life imprisonment for an offence committed while under the age of 18 to ensure that no one serves a life sentence for an offence committed while a child. GIEACPC recommended that Antigua and Barbuda clearly prohibit all corporal punishment of children in all settings including the home and as a sentence for crime, and explicitly repeal the right “to administer reasonable punishment” in the Juvenile Act 1951.

10. ADF considered that pervasive violence was a serious concern in Antigua and Barbuda and that child abuse was a major issue. More than 200 cases of domestic violence were reported annually (in a total population of approximately 91,000). Moreover, ADF recalled that the insensitive attitudes of police were highlighted in the Government’s 2013 Status of Women report to UN Women.

11. ADF stated that the Government should take measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (1999) and the Sexual Offences Act (1995), and send clear signals to perpetrators of violence that all crimes would be prosecuted. ADF regretted that the Sexual Offences Act did not acknowledge marital rape, except for instances of separation. ADF added that a zero tolerance policy for child abuse and child pornography, in addition to scaled-up efforts to stop trafficking, were imperative.

12. ADF recommended that Antigua and Barbuda increase efforts to ensure accurate and timely data collection on domestic violence, and other crucial public safety issues; and combat crime and human rights violations in the country to improve the safety and wellbeing of the population, with a focus on women and children.

C. Administration of justice and the rule of law

13. CRIN reported that the main laws governing juvenile justice were the Magistrate’s Code of Procedure Act 1892, the Juvenile Act 1951, the Juvenile Court Act 1948 and the Corporal Punishment Act 1949. The Juvenile Act defines a child as under 14, a juvenile as under 16 and a young person as 14 or 15. The Magistrate’s Code of Procedure Act, as amended in 2004, defines a child as under 14 for criminal matters and under 18 for quasi- criminal and civil matters. Persons aged between 14 and 18 are designated young persons. CRIN added that children could be held criminally responsible from the age of 8.

14. CRIN indicated that a model Child Justice Bill was drafted in 2007 by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and had been seen by the Ministry of Social Transformation and the Ministry of Legal Affairs. The Bill defines a child as a person under 18 and sets the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 12. The Bill does not include corporal or capital punishment among permitted sentences, though nor does it explicitly prohibit such sentences. The Bill would explicitly prohibit life imprisonment. CRIN stated that the Bill was circulated to relevant agencies for review but this review was put on hold. GIEACPC noted that, as at June 2015, the Child Justice Bill was ready for its first reading in Parliament and added that, in reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2013, the Government had stated its intention to adopt the draft legislation designed under the OECS framework and that this that this would harmonise legislation with the CRC and CEDAW.

15. CRIN recommended that Government raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

D. Right to health

16. ADF recommended that the Government dedicate resources to advances in healthcare services, infrastructure, and education to improve maternal health.

17. ADF stated that the high adolescent birth rate (49.3 in 2012) was a significant issue of concern in Antigua and Barbuda. ADF considered that education on responsible sexual behaviour in conjunction with parents, in addition to community and religious leaders, was of vital importance and that women should have access to information that emphasizes knowledge-based education about their bodies and facilitates full informed consent, healthy behaviours, and responsible decision-making. ADF reported that, according to the Antiguan Ministry of Gender Affairs, Pap smears and other critical medical tests were not provided free of charge, making them difficult to access for poor women. ADF observed that increased resources dedicated to women’s health and a focus on high quality maternal healthcare were necessary to ensure respect for the rule of law and lasting health for women and children in Antigua and Barbuda. 


Accepted and Rejected Recommendations 

The recommendations listed below  enjoy the support of Antigua and Barbuda:

76.7 Maintain its efforts for the incorporation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in its national legislation and public policies (Ecuador);

76.8 Continue to promote and protect rights of children (Pakistan);

76.24 Implement recent legislation on the rights of the child and strengthen efforts to prevent and combat all forms of discrimination and violence against children and other vulnerable groups, including through awareness-raising campaigns, dedicated training of law-enforcement personnel and adequate support to victims of violence (Italy);

76.25 Develop a strategy and public policies against child neglect and abuse (Panama);

76.27 Ensure effective implementation of the legislation against trafficking of human beings and enhance support to the victims of trafficking, especially women and children (Italy);

The recommendations listed below  do not enjoy the support of Antigua and Barbuda:

77.6 Ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (Guatemala);

77.19 Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (Uruguay);

77.20 Ratify the ILO fundamental conventions on labour rights and social security and the UNESCO ones relating to corporal punishment (Paraguay);

77.27 Encourage the legislative measures and policies necessary to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of boys and girls, in following up the recommendations received during the previous review cycle (Mexico);

77.68 Strengthen the national legal framework to protect children from all forms of violence (Algeria);

77.69 Prohibit and criminalize the corporal punishment of children (Honduras);

77.70 Prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings, as previously recommended (Slovenia);

77.72 Raise the age of criminal responsibility as proposed in the model Child Justice Bill of the OECS from 2007 (Germany);

77.73 Build enough housing facilities so offenders under the age of 18 are housed separately from the general prison population (United States of America);

77.77 Ensure comprehensive sexuality education with a view to preventing teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, in particular HIV (Slovenia);

77.78 Establish measures and policies to encourage greater participation of girls in the higher education systems (Sierra Leone).


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