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Title: Barbados Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


Barbados, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, is a constitutional 
democracy with a multiparty, parliamentary form of government.  The 
Queen is Head of State and is represented by an appointed Governor 
General.  Prime Minister Owen Arthur is the Head of Government and 
governs with an appointed Cabinet.

The Royal Barbados Police Force is charged with maintaining public 
order.  The small volunteer Barbados Defence Force (BDF), responsible 
for national security, can be employed to maintain public order in times 
of crisis, emergency, or other specific need.  The BDF continues to 
assist the police by patrolling certain tourist areas in response to an 
increase of crime.  On the whole, the police respected constitutional 
and legal provisions protecting human rights, but there continued to be 
infrequent reports of incidents of use of excessive force by police.

The economy is based on tourism, services, light manufacturing, and 
agriculture, which makes it vulnerable to external economic 
developments.  Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) exceeds $5,000 
per year.  In order to stimulate demand and reverse a 3-year decline in 
GDP and employment, the Government decided in May 1993 to abandon 
attempts to meet economic targets set in consultation with the 
International Monetary Fund.  Barbados experienced a very moderate 
recovery in 1995.

Citizens enjoy a wide range of rights and freedoms, and the Government 
respects constitutional provisions regarding human rights.  Principal 
human rights problems continued to be societal violence against women 
and children and occasional instances of excessive use of force by 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 

The Constitution specifically prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or 
degrading treatment or punishment.  However, the Caribbean Human Rights 
Network and the local press reported numerous allegations of coerced 
confessions.  There continued to be credible reports that law 
enforcement officials sometimes used force during detention to extract 
confessions from detainees.

Police procedures provide that the police may question suspects and 
other persons they hold only at a police station, except when expressly 
permitted by a senior divisional officer.  An officer must visit 
detainees at least once every 3 hours to inquire about the detainees' 
condition.  After 24 hours, the detaining authority must submit a 
written report to the deputy commissioner.  The authorities must approve 
and record all movements of detainees between stations.  The Caribbean 
Human Rights Network is satisfied that the authorities generally adhere 
to these basic principles, although officials occasionally used 
excessive force.

Barbados is in the forefront of an initiative to standardize police 
procedures throughout the English-speaking Caribbean region.  The 
authorities issued firearms to special units and some foot patrols in 
high-crime areas in response to the 1993 shooting death of a policeman 
and a rise in gun- and drug-related crime.  Aside from this, the police 
force is still mainly unarmed, in keeping with its British traditions.

The only prison is overcrowded, with over 700 prisoners in a structure 
built for 350 inmates, and has very antiquated equipment.  There is no 
separation of violent from nonviolent offenders.  Although discipline 
and security are generally strict, there were allegations that guards 
ignored the brutal gang-rape of a young prisoner by other convicts.  The 
Government has not investigated this case.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and 
requires detainees to be brought before a court of law within 72 hours 
of arrest.  The Government generally respects these provisions in 
practice.  Criminal defendants have the right to counsel, and attorneys 
have ready access to their clients.  The authorities do not use exile as 
a punishment or means of political control.

There is no formal government policy toward refugee or asylum requests.  
There were no reports of forced expulsion of anyone having a valid claim 
to refugee status; however, government practice remains undefined.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides that persons charged with criminal offenses be 
given a fair public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent 
and impartial court, and the Government respects this in practice.  The 
judicial system provides for the right of due process at each level.  
The law presumes defendants innocent until proven guilty.  The 
Government provides free legal aid to the indigent.  The judiciary acts 
independently and is free of intervention from other branches of 
government.  Criticizing the Government is not a political offense.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary entry, search, or seizure, and the 
law requires warrants to be issued before privately owned property may 
be entered and searched.

The Government does not routinely interfere in the private lives of its 
citizens.  Nonetheless, there continued to be credible reports that, in 
response to increased drug-related crime, the police resorted to 
searches of homes in certain neighborhoods, sometimes without warrants.  
The Government neither censors mail nor restricts the receipt of foreign 
correspondence or publications.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
authorities respect these rights in practice.  There are two independent 
daily newspapers, both of which present opposition political views.  The 
Government regularly comes under attack in the newspapers and on daily 
call-in radio programs.  There are five radio stations, two of which are 
owned by the Government.  The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) 
television service (the only television source, excluding direct 
satellite reception) is government owned.  Though CBC is a state 
enterprise, it regularly reported views opposing government policies.  
Although critics allege that the Government sometimes uses its influence 
to discourage media reporting on sensitive issues, the press remained 
vigorously critical of the Government on a broad span of issues.

The Government does not restrict academic freedom.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government observes the constitutional provisions for peaceful 
assembly and private association in practice.  Political parties, trade 
unions, and private organizations function and hold meetings and rallies 
without hindrance.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens and legal residents move freely within Barbados and leave and 
enter the country without restriction.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

Citizens have this right in law and exercise it in practice.  Political 
parties freely compete in fair elections by secret ballot at least every 
5 years.  In the most recent election in September 1994, the Barbados 
Labour Party won a decisive victory, gaining a 19-to-8 majority over the 
Democratic Labour Party.  The New Democratic Party won one seat, its 
first ever in Parliament.  There are no impediments to participation in 
the political process, and all citizens over age 18 may vote.  The Prime 
Minister exercises executive power along with the Cabinet of Ministers 
he appoints, balanced by the bicameral Parliament and the judicial 

Women are well represented at all levels of government and politics, 
including the Head of State, Governor General Dame Nita Barrow.  After 
the September 1994 elections, Prime Minister Arthur appointed women to 
several cabinet-level portfolios.  For the first time, the Deputy Prime 
Minister is a woman (she also serves concurrently as Foreign Minister).  
The Ministries of Health and Education are also headed by women.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Local groups involved with human rights matters operate freely and 
without Government hindrance.  The Caribbean Human Rights Network, a 
Caribbean-wide human rights organization which has its headquarters and 
a small staff in Barbados, investigates and reports on allegations of 
human rights violations throughout the region.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status

The Constitution provides for equal treatment under the law, regardless 
of race, religion, or sex.  The Government respects these rights in 


Women actively participate in all aspects of national life and are well-
represented at all levels of both the public and private sectors.  They 
form a large percentage of heads of household and are not discriminated 
against in public housing or other social welfare programs.  However, 
violence against women and children continued to be a significant social 
problem.  Women's rights groups reported that the incidence of sexual 
assaults, domestic violence, incest, and rape increased, despite the 
fact that there is still some reluctance on the part of victims to 
report such incidents.  There are public and private counseling services 
for domestic violence, rape, suicide, and child abuse.

The 1992 domestic violence law specifies the appropriate police response 
to domestic violence, intended to protect all members of the family, 
including men and children.  It applies equally to marriages and to 
common law relationships.  Criminal penalties for violent crimes are the 
same, regardless of the sex of the offender or the victim.  The courts 
heard a number of cases of domestic violence against women involving 
assault or wounding.  Victims may request restraining orders, which the 
courts often issue.  The courts can sentence an offender to jail for 
breaching such an order.  Human rights monitors continued to criticize 
the inconsistency in sentencing for rape, incest, and statutory rape, 
which is often left to the discretion of the judge.  They noted that the 
lack of sentencing guidelines resulted in longer sentences being handed 
down for persons accused of petty theft than for incest; and lesser 
sentences for incest than for rape or sexual assault of nonfamily 


The Government is committed to children's human rights and welfare, 
although violence against children remains a serious problem.  The Child 
Care Board is the key agency responsible for monitoring and responding 
to the critical welfare needs, interests, and rights of children.

  People With Disabilities

The law does not prohibit discrimination against the physically disabled 
in employment, education, or the provision of other state services.  The 
Labour Department, which is responsible for finding jobs for the 
disabled, unsuccessfully advocated the introduction of such legislation 
in the 1980's.  Similarly, there is no legislation mandating provision 
of accessibility to public thoroughfares or public or private buildings.  
Interest groups have lobbied for this type of legislation from time to 
time, but without success.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

Workers freely exercise their right to form and belong to trade unions 
and to strike.  There are two major unions and several smaller ones, 
representing various sectors of labor.  The civil service union, the 
National Union of Public Workers, is completely independent of any 
political party or the Government.  The largest union, the Barbados 
Workers' Union, was historically closely associated with the opposition 
Democratic Labour Party.

The law accords full protection to trade unionists' personal and 
property rights.  Another law prohibits strikes against public 
utilities.  All other private and public sector employees are permitted 
to strike.  There were no major strikes or long-term work stoppages, 
although there were two minor industrial actions.  Transport workers 
called a 2-day wildcat mini-bus strike to protest operating fee 
increases included in the 1995 budget.  Barbados Light and Power workers 
worked slowly for a couple of days until the Prime Minister stepped in 
to negotiate  restructuring and salary issues.

Trade unions are free to form federations and are in fact affiliated 
with a variety of regional and international labor organizations.  The 
Caribbean Congress of Labor (CCL) has its headquarters in Barbados.  On 
August 11, a new umbrella Congress of Trade Unions and Staff 
Associations was inaugurated.  All unions belong to this organization.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively, and 
authorities respected it in practice.  Recent losses of jobs in the 
economy resulted in a reduction in union membership to about 20 percent 
of the working population.  Normally, wages and working conditions are 
negotiated through the collective bargaining process, but a tripartite 
wage policy accord signed in the summer of 1993 established a 2-year 
wage freeze.  During the year, unions bargained for wage and benefit 
increases to be incorporated into a replacement wage and price policy 
accord for 1995-97, which Parliament approved on January 16, 1996.  
Unions representing public sector workers had yet to agree to it, 
however, by the end of that month.

Employers have no legal obligation to recognize unions under the Trade 
Union Act of 1964, but most do so when a majority of their employees 
signify a desire to be represented by a registered union.  While there 
is no specific law prohibiting antiunion discrimination, the courts 
provide a method of redress for employees alleging unfair dismissal.  
The courts commonly award monetary compensation but rarely order 

There are no manufacturing or special areas where collective bargaining 
rights are legally or administratively impaired.  There are no export 
processing zones.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there were no 
reports of its use.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum working age of 16 is generally observed. Compulsory 
primary and secondary education policies, which require school 
attendance until age 16, reinforce minimum age requirements.  
Occasionally, especially among migrant worker families, children assist 
in agricultural production during peak season.  The Labour Department 
has a small cadre of labor inspectors who conduct spot investigations of 
enterprises and check records to verify compliance with the law.  These 
inspectors may take legal action against an employer who is found to 
have underage workers.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law sets and the authorities establish minimum wages for specified 
categories of workers.  Only two categories of workers have a formally 
regulated minimum wage--household domestics and shop assistants (entry 
level commercial workers).  Household domestics receive a minimum wage 
of about $32.50 (bds $65.00) per week, although in actual labor market 
conditions, the prevailing wage is almost double that amount.  There are 
two age-related minimum wage categories for shop assistants.  The adult 
minimum wage for shop assistants is $1.87 (bds $3.75) per hour; the 
juvenile minimum wage for shop assistants is $1.62 (bds $3.25) per hour.  
Agricultural workers (for example, sugar plantation workers) receive a 
minimum wage as a matter of practice but not of law.

The minimum wage for shop assistants is marginally sufficient to meet 
minimum living standards; most employees earn more.  In 1992 an 
International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts (COE) cited 
Barbados for not adhering to the ILO convention on equal remuneration in 
its wage differentials in the sugar industry.  The COE admonished the 
Government to ensure the application of the principle of equal 
remuneration for work of equal value to male and female workers in the 
sugar industry or to provide further information on job descriptions 
which might justify such wage distinction.  This case was not resolved 
by year's end.

The standard legal workweek is 40 hours in 5 days, and the law requires 
overtime payment for hours worked in excess.  Barbados accepts ILO 
conventions, standards, and other sectoral conventions regarding maximum 
hours of work.  However, there is no general legislation that covers all 
occupations.  Employers must provide workers a minimum of 3 weeks' 
annual leave.  Unemployment benefits and national insurance (social 
security) cover all workers.  A comprehensive, government-sponsored 
health program offers subsidized treatment and medication.

Under the Factories Act of 1983, which sets out the officially 
recognized occupational safety and health standards, the Labour 
Department enforces health and safety standards and follows up to ensure 
that problems cited are corrected by management.  Workers have a limited 
right to remove themselves from dangerous or hazardous job situations 
without jeopardizing their continued employment.  The Factories Act 
requires that in certain sectors firms employing more than 50 workers 
set up a safety committee.  This committee can challenge the decisions 
of management concerning the occupational safety and health environment.  
Trade unions have called on the Government to increase the number of 
factory inspectors in order to enforce existing and proposed safety and 
health legislation more effectively, and to follow up to ensure that 
problems cited are corrected by management.  Government-operated 
corporations in particular were accused of doing a "poor job" in health 
and safety.  The Government has promised to undertake inspections of 
government-operated corporations and manufacturing plants as a priority.


[end of document]


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