Legal recourse and services available to women who are victims of domestic violence [BRB102420.E]

Legal recourse

A report submitted to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee by the Barbados government notes that the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act and the Sexual Offences Act, both passed in 1992, provide a legal framework to protect victims of domestic violence (25 Sept. 2006, Art. 161). The report also indicates that the Domestic Violence Act contains provisions for protection orders, and that this Act strives to offer prompt assistance in the Magistrate Court for victims of domestic violence (ibid., Art. 163). The Barbados report details the scope of a protection order, stating that

... [a] protection order may, inter alia, prohibit a spouse, partner, former spouse or former partner from assaulting or harassing the complainant, from going within a specified distance of the complainant and may even in some circumstances exclude the respondent from the residence where both parties ordinarily cohabit. By law the application should be heard within forty-eight hours of notification to the respondent. ...
Consequently, a complainant may be granted an interim protection order upon application to the Court. This offers protection for the period of the hearing until a final order may be made and provides for immediate assistance in desperate situations to ensure the safety of the complainant and her or his children. Breach of the interim order results in the taking of immediate action before the conclusion of the matter.
The penalty for breach of the Protection Order, whether final or interim, is a fine of BBD5,000.00 [Barbados dollars or approximately CAD3,007 ( 2 Feb. 2007)] or imprisonment for a period of one year or both. The perpetrator can also be arrested and taken back to Court. The identity of persons involved in cases relative to Protection Orders is protected under the legislation and cannot be published in the media. (Barbados 25 Sept. 2006, Art. 163-165; see also US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5)

In addition, the Barbados UN report notes that Barbadian legislation recognizes marital rape as a criminal offence in cases in which there have been one of the following:

(a) A decree nisi [provisional] of divorce;
(b) A Separation Order ... ;
(c) A separation agreement; and
(d) An order for the husband not to molest his wife or have sexual intercourse with her (Barbados 25 Sept. 2006, Art. 167; see also US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5)
If convicted, the offender "is liable ... to imprisonment for life" (Barbados 25 Sept. 2006, Art. 168).

Statistics provided by the Barbados Police Research and Development Department show that, in 2004, "the number of crimes reported, investigated and determined to be cases of domestic violence" was 489, which was a decrease from the 1,406 counted in 2002 (ibid., Tab. 9). However, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005 notes that even though Barbados has laws and programs designed to protect women, abuse and violence against women remain "significant social problems" in the country (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5; Freedom House 8 Sept. 2006).

In 26 January 2007 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Barbados Association of Non-governmental Organizations (BANGO), which is "a National Focal Point for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Barbados" (BANGO June 2006), provided information on the legal recourse available to women who are victims of domestic violence in Barbados. The Representative indicated that "the depth of the cultural rootedness of domestic violence sometimes eludes" the application of the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act and the Sexual Offences Act (ibid. 26 Jan. 2007). He added that the courts tend to be "lenient" when sentencing perpetrators of domestic violence and "very unsympathetic to the female victims" (ibid.). According to him, "a man ... against whom a restraining order was made, would still stalk, harass and physically abuse or violate his ... victim with impunity" (ibid.). In addition, the Representative noted that many women are reluctant to report incidents of domestic violence for fear of reprisal (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated by the Research Directorate among the sources consulted within the time constraints of this Response.

No further information on the application of the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act and the Sexual Offences Act or on the results of these measures in practice could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Support Services

According to the 2006 report submitted by the Barbados government to the UN,

[i]n 1999, the Barbados Government established a shelter for abused women ... . The shelter is funded by [the] Government and managed by an NGO, the Business and Professional Women's Club of Barbados.
A Victim Support Group was established by the Royal Barbados Police Force. It is a non-profitable voluntary organization. It was established in December 1998 to offer emotional and practical support to [those] who have suffered traumatic experiences as a result of various crimes such as robbery, sexual offences, burglary and domestic violence.
The services offered by the Victim Support Programme are free and informative. Any information exchanged between the Victim Support Officer and the victim, is treated with strict confidence. The Victim Support Programme also offers professional counselling and support services.
Training for the members of the Royal Barbados Police Force in domestic intervention is seen as a crucial aspect in the Government's strategy to reduce the incidence of domestic violence. As a result, all new police recruits are now trained in domestic violence intervention.
188. In 1986, the Business and Professional Women's Club of Barbados established a "Crisis Centre" offering counselling and support services to victims of abuse who contact them through the Centre's confidential hotline. The Crisis Centre has been able to place some of the women who call the hotline in "safe houses" for short periods. (Barbados 25 Sept. 2006, Art. 175 - 178, 188)

In his 26 January 2007 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Representative of BANGO indicated that the address of the shelter funded by the Barbados government and administered by the Business and Professional Women's Club of Barbados "is kept secret for the protection of the women in the shelter" (BANGO 26 Jan. 2007). According to the US Country Reports, the Office of Gender Affairs within the Ministry of Social Transformation also works to defend the rights of women (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

No information on the results of the measures taken by the government to protect women victims of domestic violence could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Barbados. 25 September 2006. United Nations Human Rights Committee. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 40 of the Covenant: Third Periodic Reports of States Parties Due on 11 April 1991 - Barbados. (CCPR/C/BRB/3).$FILE/G0644420.pdf [Accessed 1 Feb. 2007]

Barbados Association of Non-governmental Organizations (BANGO). 26 January 2007. Correspondence sent by a representative.

_____. June 2006. "Backround of BANGO - Profile." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2007]

Freedom House. 8 September 2006. "Barbados." Freedom in the World 2006. [Accessed 1 Feb. 2007]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Barbados." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 1 Feb. 2007] 2 February 2007. "Universal Currency Converter." [Accessed 2 Feb. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral Sources: The Bureau of Gender Affairs did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Carib World Radio, Caribbean Net News [Cayman Islands], Human Rights Watch (HRW), Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Women's Rights (CLADEM), Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT), Organization of American States (OAS).