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Population Size:

0.29 million.[1] 49.6% are male, 50.4% are female.

Number of People Experiencing Domestic Abuse Each Year:

2012: 9.6% of male and female respondents to the survey had experienced domestic violence.[2]

Cost of Domestic Abuse to the Economy Each Year:

No research.

Estimated % Change due to COVID-19:

No research.

Current Law and Policy:

Domestic abuse was addressed by the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act 1992. In 2016, Barbados passed amendments to the Act to extend the definition of ‘domestic violence’ and make greater provisions for both the safety of victims and accountability of perpetrators. However, since 2016, the law in Barbados has remained unchanged. The current focus seems to be on changing deep-rooted attitudes towards domestic abuse and improving existing services for victims.

Barbados relies on a range of legislation to protect women from domestic violence. This includes the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act 1992, the Sexual Offences Act 1992 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1868.

Despite this extensive framework, women in Barbados are still not adequately protected from domestic violence. Only family members, married individuals and those in common law relationships can rely on the legislation, leaving many in informal relationships (common throughout the Caribbean) exposed. Moreover, the legislation also fails to address both psychological and financial abuse. For these reasons, it was recommended at the Meeting of the Committee of Experts in 2017, that Barbados (as a party to the Belém do Pará Convention) “carry out an evaluation of the current legislation” that addresses gender-based violence in the country.

In April 2019, the Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, publicly condemned the level of domestic violence in Barbadian society. Speaking out after the murder of a mother of two, Forde referred to such abuse as a “societal problem” and called for “all hands on deck” as the country “must all come together to face this challenge head on”.[3] Domestic violence was no longer to be treated as a private matter dealt with only in the private sphere and Forde urged people not to turn a blind eye and offer help to those in need. She encouraged people to contact the police, social services and their local clergy, as well as to listen and provide support to victims. Interestingly, Forde also told the community to reach out to the abusers (“if you know this person is an abuser, intervene”) and reiterated that help is available for those with anger and substance issues. Forde signed off by pledging that the government would do all it could, both legislatively and in terms of enforcing existing laws, to help victims of domestic violence in Barbados but there is little evidence of further action being taken since.

In January 2020, the National Organisation for Women (‘NOW’) wrote a letter to the Chief Justice raising concerns over the handling of a recent domestic abuse case by the courts. The decision not to remand the accused in custody or grant the woman a protection order, as well as comments by the magistrate that he was not a suitable “candidate” for prison led to concern for the victim’s safety and public disbelief. The NOW described it as “problematic”, due to both the judicial system’s basic failure to protect a victim of domestic abuse and the fact that a woman attempting to flee an abusive relationship was not being taken seriously in court. As well as writing to the Chief Justice, NOW also wrote to the Attorney General about their concerns and are awaiting a response.

2015: The government funded one shelter in Barbados, however, the costs of such are unknown.