Children of St Vincent
Realizing Children’s Rights in St Vincent
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a Caribbean country composed of a dozen islands. Its fragile economic situation hinders the well-being of its children and the main problems affecting children need to be resolved.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index: 7,5 /10
Life expectancy: 72,5 years
Main problems faced by children in St Vincent:
Children make up more than a third of the population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Among them, 50% live in poverty.
The 12 natural disasters recorded since 1970 have contributed to the weakening of every sector of the country’s economy. This economic situation has a negative impact on the well-being and security of the children.
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, health care is free for children under 17.
But special care and surgery are extremely expensive, and the poorest families cannot afford either.
Elementary education is free but not compulsory.
Elementary school is only available for children over 5 years old. Below this age, only 5% of children are enrolled in preschool or kindergarten. The more disadvantaged families have a difficult time accessing these childcare services, as they require payment.
94% of children attend elementary school. Among them, 25% never finish because they must work to help their families.
With a 62% enrollment rate, even fewer children attend secondary school.
Although education is free, parents are required to purchase textbooks, their children’s food, transportation etc. and these aspects collectively place serious strain on the ability of the poorest families to send their children to school.
Abuse, incest and violence are widespread problems in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Often families will allow their young girls to be taken advantage of by older men in exchange for money.
Corporal punishment of children is allowed in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In fact, the belief that “beatings” are vital in disciplining children is widespread.
The laws protecting children are not well adapted. In 2012 the nation passed a law requiring that the child abuse be reported. This law has not been effective, as the modality of its execution is still being developed.
Displacement of children
Many families in this country are single-parent families with a female as the head of the household.
18% to 28% of children from low income families as well as those from families where one or both parents have emigrated in search of work are sent to live with friends or other members of the family for an extended period of time. This phenomenon of child displacement often leads to neglect or violence towards the child.
Labor legislation provides very little protection for children. These children notably work in rural areas.
The legal working age is 16, while a social security card cannot be obtained by a person under 18 years of age. As a result, minors between the ages of 16 and 17 years who are engaged in work, do so without social protection.
It is first necessary to evaluate the scope of this phenomenon (insufficient data is available at the moment) in order to resolve this child labor problem.
Detention of minors
While in custody, children are often victims of abuse by police officers.
Children are detained alongside adults accused of crimes as there are no facilities for the detention of minors only.
The state does not provide legal assistance for children from disadvantaged families. There are no juvenile courts and as a result children are judged as adults.