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Barbados

Gender Equality at Work

More men above the legal age for receiving a pension have access to one compared to women- 66% of men compared to 61.5% of women (1). More men are unemployed than women, with 7.3% of women being unemployed compared to 9.5% of men (1). 45.9% of women are in management positions, with 43.2% in senior and middle management positions (1). 88% of unemployed people are receiving benefits (1).


Gender-Based Violence

There are no official statistics on violence against women in Barbados (2). However, 30% of women in Barbados have suffered abuse from a partner (4). Research done in neighbouring country St Vincent is helpful for reference- between 2000 and 2011, 60 women died of gender based violence, despite the fact that the island has a tiny population of 100,000 (3). Furthermore, in 2011, St Vincent was the 4th worst country worldwide for its rate of recorded rapes. The Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel said that it was a woman's responsibility to dress appropriately so that they do not tempt men (4). More than 4000 people from St Vincent have sought asylum in Canada- usually women fleeing from abuse and looking for better protections (3).


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” (8). 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 (9).


Health

In 2007, 49.7 children were born to women aged between 15 and 19 per 1000 women (1). 29.2% of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18 (1). In 2012, 69.9% of women had their family planning needs met (1). There are 27 deaths per 100,000 live births (1). Hospital services are strained, with 2.49 physicians available per 1000 people, and 6 hospital beds per 1000 people (6). 45.7% of disabled people are receiving a disability cash benefit (1). HIV and smoking rates are low, with only 1.1% of the population having HIV, and only 1.9% of women who say that they smoke (6). 23.1% of people are obese (6).


Gender Equality in Politics

Female representation in politics is varied- in 2021, only 20% of seats in parliament were held by women (1). 44% of the Senate is female, and the leading party BLP has only 26.7% of their seats filled by women (6). In 2013, 12 women ran for election and only 5 women won their seats (5). However, the first female director of public prosecutors was appointed in 2021, and many of the permanent female secretaries running ministries are female as of 2021 (2).


Education

99.6% of men and women can read and write, and only 2.5% of girls compared to 2.3% of boys are not in school (1). Girls attend schooling for an average amount of 17 years (6). In 2011, there were 331 girls who were not attending primary school (7). In the same year, there were 16 students per 15 teachers (7). In 2010, 89.5% of women had at least some high school education (7). In 2021, the ratio of girls to boys in tertiary education was 2.47 (7).


Frontline organisations

Operation Safe Space

One billion rising

La Maison Blue- St Vincent


Sources


Frontline Services:


 

Further Reading

[1] OEA and Mesecvi, “Barbados – Country Report – Third Round”, (2017), Fourteenth Meeting of the Committee of Experts regarding the Convention of Belém do Pará Follow-Up Mechanism.

[2] Loop News, “Minister: All Hands on Deck Needed to Stop Domestic Violence”, (loopnewsbarbados.com, 25 April 2019).

[3] Loop News, “NOW Sends Letter to Chief Justice about Recent Domestic Violence Cases”, (loopnewsbarbados.com, 9 January 2020).

[4] United States State Department, “Barbados – Human Rights Report”, (2018), Report.



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