BARBADOS: National Laws

Summary: General overview of Barbados' national legal provisions on children's rights, including guidance on how to conduct further research.

National laws on children's rights

Status of the CRC in national law
International treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, must be incorporated into Barbadian law through further domestic legislation in order to create enforceable rights. The CRC has not been directly incorporated in this manner, and so does not prevail over national law.  Nonetheless, the CRC can be and has been cited for interpretive guidance by national and regional courts with jursidiction over Barbados.

Constitution: Chapter III of the Constitution of Barbados contains a number of rights provisions that apply to children as to any other person, but only one that specifically addresses children. There are a small number of other provisions throughout the Constitution that also make reference to children:

  • Ch. II: makes reference to children in several respects with regards to citizenship rights
  • Ch. III, s. 18(10)(a): allows for the exclusion of the public from legal proceedings involving persons under 18 years of age
  • Ch. VIII, Part 3, ss. 103 and 104: make reference to children with regards to pension rights

Legislation: There is no comprehensive or consolidated Children's Act in Barbadian law; rather, relevant legislation is found in a number of Acts including, but by no means limited to:

  • The Minors Act 1985 (Cap 215)
  • The Child Protection Act 1990 (Cap. 146A)
  • The Juvenile Offenders Act 1998 (Cap. 138)
  • The Sexual Offences Act 1992 (Cap. 154)
  • The Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act 1992 (Cap. 130A)
  • The Family Law Act 1982 (Cap. 214)
  • The Corporal Punishment Act 1899 (Cap. 125)
  • The Magistrates' Courts Act 2001 (Cap. 116A)
  • The Reformatory and Industrial Schools Act 1926 (Cap. 169)
  • The Education Act 1997 (Cap. 41)

Legal Research:
The Parliament of Barbados maintains an official website that publishes Bills and Resolutions currently before the Senate or House Assembly ( The World Law Guide makes a selection of Barbadian legislation available, including the Constitution (, as does the International Labour Organisation's NATLEX database ( In addition, the GlobaLex initiative at New York University has published a guide to legal research in the Caribbean (, and the U.S. Law Library of Congress ( and the World Legal Information Institute ( have assembled links to legal and governmental resources.

Case Law
CRC Jurisprudence
The Court of Appeal of Barbados cited the CRC in Scantlebury v. The Queen in the context of determining the constitutionality of indeterminate sentences under the control of the executive branch of government.

Case Law Research
The case law of the Barbados Court of Appeal and High Court are available through the website of the Supreme Court (, while the decisions of the Supreme Court of Barbados are available through the Commonwealth Legal Information Institute (  Judgements of the Caribbean Court of Justice are available through the Court's website (, and decisions of the Privy Council are published through the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (

Compliance with the CRC
Barbados has not submitted a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child since its initial report of 1997. At the time of this report, the Committee raised a number of inconsistencies between national law and the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly with regards to the definition of the child, the acceptability of certain forms of physical abuse, and juvenile justice. The Committee recommended that the State carry out its planned review of existing legislation under the National Committee for Monitoring the Rights of the Child and address the recommendations of that organisation.

In depth analysis
At the time of its 1999 Concluding Observations, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted a number of areas of national law that were incompatible with the Convention. Of particular concern was the juvenile justice system. The Committee was critical of the low minimum age of criminal responsibility (11 years), the lack of flexibility in sentencing juveniles and the potential to refer people to juvenile courts for behavioural offences that would not be criminal for adults, as well as the detention of children with adults and the limited criminal protections for children between the ages of 16 and 18. The Committee was also critical of the legality of flogging as a judicial penalty and disciplinary measure used against children in detention. It has been more than ten years since Barbados reported to the Committee, but research undertaken as part of CRIN's Inhuman Sentencing Campaign indicated that very limited reform has been made to this area. The minimum age of criminal responsibility is unchanged, flogging remains a legal penalty, and children between 16 and 18 still have lesser protection than other children (see CRIN's Inhuman Sentencing Campaign for more up to date information).

The Committee also raised a number of concerns with regards to the physical and sexual abuse of children. Particular concerns revolved around the narrowly drawn legislation that applies in the area, specifically the Sexual Offences Act and the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act. The Committee recommended that the State reassess its current measures to prevent abuse and ensure that the legal system does not serve to re-victimise children. The Committee was also critical of the legality of a "reasonable degree" of physical chastisement and the tolerance of corporal punishment in schools and in the home, and urged the State to eliminate corporal punishment as a means of combating child abuse more generally.

Concerns also arose from the 1999 Concluding Observations with regards to the definition of the child. While the Minors Act defined the age of majority at 18, the Sexual Offences Act provided no special protections to children over the age of 16, and limited protections to children between 14 and 16. Similarly, laws aimed at the prevention of cruelty to children contained limited protection for children over 16. The Committee recommended that the State "increase the level of protection accorded to all children under 18 years of age".

Current legal reform projects
Please contact CRIN if you are aware of any current legal reform projects.


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.