Last Updated on February 17, 2023 2:42 am by Editor
Less than two years after a call for the resignation of the board members of the Child Care Board and less than two months after the repeal of Section 12 of the Sexual Offenses Act CAP 154 (re. offenses against minors) the Barbados Government is in the process of passing the new Child Protection Act, 2023.
In passing and for the record, it should be noted that the Supreme Court has not as yet offered a WRITTEN explanation for its December 12, 2022 oral judgment on Section 12. In the meantime, we like the Attorney General, await the pleasure of Madame Justice Michelle Weekes, the court official who made the oral ruling.
People like to blame “the government” for EVERYTHING. Such an approach may act as a soother for the indolent (of which there are too many in our society) preventing them from investigating and digging into matters for themselves. This writer’s policy is, “Give Jack his jacket”.
Therefore, for the record, let it be noised abroad that it was not “the government” (meaning an act or decision of parliament) that Section 12 was struck down.
The “take down” was a judicial decision arising from a case brought before the Barbados Supreme Court by several litigants including René Holder-McLean Ramirez and Raven Gill who is reported to be the founder of Butterfly Barbados. You can read a news media report on the ruling here.
Despite our supposedly high level of education, it is surprising how many citizens do not understand the concept of the judicial independence (independence of the judiciary) in our system of governance.
The above sounds like a failure in our Social Studies curriculum but perhaps, the reader can find some help with the concept here.
Matter in Hand
This bill in question, the Child Protection Act 2023 – which is still in the Lower House – should be of interest to all Barbadians. First is the fact that this bill will create a new statutory corporation called the Child Protection Authority.
This new act repeals not only the Child Care Board Act but those listed in Exhibit 2. The Child Care Board will then become defunct and be superseded by the Child Protection Authority.
Trade unions and others involved in industrial relations would want to understand the specifics of the transfer of employment rights etcetera from the Child Care Board to the Child Protection Authority.
Second, while the overall intention and efficiency of the piece of legislation are laudable, parents and any adult having anything to do with children – in particular teachers into whose care children are placed for a significant part of the week – need to pay close attention to the content of this Act.
A key point of commendation is the number of “abuses” from which the Act attempts to provide protection: child labour, cyber-abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and verbal abuse.
However, in an effort to make this a “catchall” bill, one particular type of abuse should provide more than passing cause for concern for adults. The Act defines the term “verbal abuse” as follows:
It would seem that psychologists and psychiatrists will now be able to profit immensely from their services because investigating such abuses will now call for their “expert” opinion. But that is the not the most important of our concerns.
This definition of verbal abuse and the procedures enshrined in the Act will now provide ample room for parents, teachers and other adults to be accused of a range of abusive behaviours for which there are no real measures.
For example, what is “shouting”? At and above what decibel level is an individual guilty of shouting? A decibel is a measure of sound pressure or loudness. Are we going to have the equivalent to the breathalyzer test to measure shouting?
And just how is verbal abuse “communicated by silence? (See Exhibit 3 above). Some of us adults consider being silent to be a sign of emotional strength which many children would do well to learn. Are we to understand that a parent or teacher who uses silence as means of communicating a point is going to be subject to potential prosecution?
This Government’s foray into such gray areas of adult-child relations is not surprising because the preamble to the Act lets us know, inter alia, that its purpose is to ensure:
(i) compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;
(ii) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
(iii) all other international instruments to which Barbados is a party
Child Protection Act, 2023 Page 16
Why does this seem so familiar? Is it not the same United Nations, more specifically, UNESCO that gave us CSE (Comprehensive Sexual Education) which this government has stubbornly adopted much to the irritation of parents?
And how soon after this legislation is passed will a parent or teacher be litigated for “misgendering” a child. If you think this is just funny or something to be brushed off, click on the image to read the whole story.
Barbadians need to pay much more attention to the legislation being passed through the two houses of parliament. Too many laws are being passed, without any objection whatsoever. Especially from the Senate, where there are supposedly independent members.
Perhaps Mr. Edmund Hinkson may want to begin objecting to some of the legislation because so far we see no reason why he should have an increase in stipend. Conceivably he can argue the case again when he has built up a sizeable tally of the number of objections to legislation he has raised in the Lower House.
As a result of the objection-free flow of legislation, “No amendments were found” is almost without fail, the footnote found at the end of each bill in its passage through our House of Assembly.
Given the mindless, spineless groupthink in the Lower House, one does not expect that there will be any objection to the bill under discussion here.
However, it would be redeeming of the Upper House (Senate), if for once, it sent this legislation back to Lower House for a change given that the legislation contains too many vague, immeasurable and potentially “unprovable” offenses.
One hopes that this period of 2018 to the next election is burnt into the memory of Barbadians as a period where our fledgling democracy was sold out for a mess of pottage and irrational fear of death. Perhaps there might be some things worse than death after all?
Article by Dr. Aldon D. Tull, Retired Educator