TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: Child Rights References in the Universal Periodic Review

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Summary: A compilation of extracts featuring child-rights issues from the reports submitted to the Universal Periodic Review. There are extracts from the 'National Report', the 'Compilation of UN Information' and the 'Summary of Stakeholder's Information'. Also included is the final report and the list of accepted and rejected recommendations.

Trinidad and Tobago - 12th Session - 2011
5th October, 9am to 12pm

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National Report
UN Compilation
Stakeholder Compilation
Accepted and Rejected Recommendations

National Report

12. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is currently engaged in seeking to stem the incidence of violent crime, which has steadily increased over the past decade. This parallels the increase in the vulnerability of country as a trans-shipment point for narco-trafficking given its location along the transit route between the producing South and the consuming North. The current coalition Government has taken drastic steps to reduce the impact of violent crimes in Trinidad and Tobago by the introduction of various pieces of legislation such as; the Anti-Gang Act, 2011 designed to suppress associations for unlawful activities and better preserve public safety, as well as the Trafficking in Persons Act, 2011 which not only criminalizes the offence of Human Trafficking for the first time in Trinidad and Tobago but creates very specific protection for women and children who are victims.

25. Trinidad and Tobago is party to, inter alia, the following international and regional human rights instruments:

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC);

Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;

United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; and

45. The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service is guided by the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Female prisoners are kept at the Women's Prison which is separate from male prisoners. Persons awaiting court hearings are kept at the Remand Prison. Convicted prisoners are housed at the Maximum Security Prison and the Port of Spain Prison, while male convicts beneath the age of 18 years are held at the Youth Training Centre. Young females are housed separately from adult female prisoners in a secluded area of the Female Prison.

62. A National AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC) was established in 2004. The Government is currently in the process of putting in place the relevant institutional arrangements for the constitution of this Committee into a Statutory Body for the coordination, implementation, monitoring and review of all policies related to HIV and AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago. Government policy is one of universal access to care and treatment for HIV and AIDS, and consequently, Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy drugs are available cost-free to all infected persons. Considerable progress has been made in reducing the incidence of Mother-to-Child transmission of the HIV virus with a 100% success rate on the island of Tobago and a reduction to 3% in Trinidad as of 2010. A Human Rights Desk has also been established to deal with issues related to stigma and discrimination.

65. Cognizant of the fact that the right to education is not only a human right in itself, but is also essential for the exercise of other human rights, the Government is committed to ensuring that every child and youth within the 5–16 year age range, has the opportunity to access education, and therefore provides free pre-school, primary and secondary public education. A Children's Bill is currently before the Parliament, among other things, seeking to amend the compulsory school age from 6–12 years to 5–16 years.

66. The Government-funded Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme has been expanded with the construction of over 50 ECCE centres throughout the country.

67. The State also invests heavily in the provision of social support services, especially beneficial to less fortunate students. These include a school feeding programme in which each day 44,190 breakfasts and 97,831 lunches are served to students enrolled in 822 pre, primary, secondary and special schools. Other services include a school transportation service for all students in school uniform, a school book rental programme which provides main textbooks for all subject areas for both primary and secondary schools, and a school uniform grant. In order to stem the problem of violence and indiscipline in schools, a Violence Prevention Programme has been adopted at both primary and secondary levels.

68. A radical new innovation is the provision of laptops to all students entering secondary school as part of the "e-Connect and Learn" School Computerisation/ICT in Education Programme.

69. While Trinidad and Tobago has achieved gender parity in education, it is now faced with the converse problem of the lower enrolment and success rate among boys. This is a cause for concern and the Government is working with various stakeholders to address this issue.

87. Trinidad and Tobago has been proactive in taking a number of measures to protect its children from all forms of discrimination and abuse. In this regard, the Education Act, 1996, prohibits the denial of any child from entry into a public school on any grounds and the Equal Opportunity Act, 2000 guarantees equal access by all children to all school benefits, facilities and programmes. It should be noted that Trinidad and Tobago has achieved Millennium Development Goal 2 (MDG2) of Universal Primary Education and target 3 of MDG3 on Eliminating Gender Disparity in Primary and Secondary Education. The Government intends to bring legislation to extend the mandatory age of school enrolment from 6 to 12 years to 5 to 16 years.

88. In order to strengthen the legal framework for the safety and security of children, in response to child abuse in the society, the Government brought to Parliament in the year 2000, the Children's Authority Act, 2000 which proposed the establishment of the Children's Authority of Trinidad and Tobago as the guardian of the children of the country. The Government also developed legislation for the licensing and regulation of nurseries and community residences. The Government recently launched a renewed campaign to improve the legal and operational framework for child protection including provisions for tougher penalties for child abuse and negligence.

89. Acting swiftly, the Government has now fully constituted the 9-member Children's Authority under the chairmanship of a retired senior female Judge of the High Court. In the year 2008, Parliament passed the International Child Abduction Act, 2008 incorporating into domestic law, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which facilitates the return of children illegally removed from the jurisdiction to that of any Contracting State.

90. Trinidad and Tobago has no policy of offering its children for international adoption and in accordance with relevant ILO Conventions, strictly prohibits the use of child labour in any form. It should also be noted that corporal punishment has long been abolished from the education system.

91. In 2011, Parliament assented to the Trafficking in Persons Act to give effect to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

92. In order to bring relief to children requiring expensive specialised medical treatment not available in Trinidad and Tobago, the Government, on the personal initiative of the Prime Minister established the Children's Life Fund through the Children's Life Fund Act, 2010, with a target capitalization of TT$100 million. As a show of leadership, the Cabinet accepted a 5% cut in their remuneration with the proceeds allocated to the Fund. The Fund is open to contribution from all individuals, civil society organisations and philanthropic societies at home and abroad. Between May 2010 and April 2011, a total of 23 children ranging in age from 2 months to 14 years have become beneficiaries of life-saving surgery or treatment overseas to the extent of TT$6.4 million.

95. In a Commonwealth survey published in 2011, entitled "Because you are a girl; growing up in the Commonwealth", Trinidad and Tobago ranked third out of 54 Commonwealth Members as the best place for raising a female child.

102. Universal Primary and Secondary Education

Trinidad and Tobago has achieved universal primary and secondary education in fulfilment of the UNESCO mandate of "Education for All";

Trinidad and Tobago has achieved Millennium Development Goal 2 (MDG2) of Universal Primary Education and target 3 of MDG3 on Eliminating Gender Disparity in Primary and Secondary Education;

Strategic policy was enacted by the Government beginning in 2011 to provide all incoming secondary school students with a laptop computer as part of its "eConnect and Learn" School Computerisation/ICT in Education Programme;

Provision of social support services to students:

Each day 44,190 breakfast and 97,831 lunches are served to students enrolled in 822 pre, primary, secondary and special schools as part of a school feeding programme;

School transportation service for all students in school uniform;

School book rental programme to provide main textbooks for all subject areas for both primary and secondary schools; and School uniform grant.

104. Public Health

Establishment by Government in 2010 of a registered charitable organisation constituting the Children's Life Fund to finance specialised medical treatment for children that is not available in Trinidad and Tobago;

Establishment of the School Health Programme for mandatory audio-visual testing of all children entering all public and private primary schools in Trinidad and Tobago;

107. Discrimination against Women

In a Commonwealth survey published in 2011, entitled "Because you are a girl; growing up in the Commonwealth", Trinidad and Tobago ranked third out of 54 Commonwealth members as the best place for raising a female child.

108. While Trinidad and Tobago has achieved gender parity in education, it is now faced with the converse problem of the lower enrolment and success rate among boys. This is a cause for concern and the Government is working with various stakeholders to address this issue.

109. The policy of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is guided by the following Seven Interconnected Pillars for Sustainable Development which were developed in accordance with efforts towards achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):

Pillar 1: People-Centered Development

Following consultations with civil society, a panel of NGOs focused on women's rights, recommended that child care facilities in the work place should be mandated across all organizations. A panel of NGOs on the rights of the child also recommended the establishment of a child abuse register and a strategy to address the problem of lower enrolment and success rate among boys. These recommendations are receiving the consideration of the Government.

UN Information

3. In 2006, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recommended that Trinidad and Tobago ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

10. In 2006, CRC was concerned that the domestic legal order of Trinidad and Tobago contains a number of different minimum ages and definitions of the child according to purpose, sex and religion. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago proclaim as a matter of priority the amendment to the Age of Majority Act of 2000, and make the necessary efforts to harmonize the various minimum ages and definitions of the child in its legal order to recognize that all persons below 18 are entitled to special protection measures and specific rights as enshrined in the Convention.

11. In 2011, the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (ILO Committee of Experts) stated that the Children Bill, introduced in Parliament in January 2010, contained provisions prohibiting the trafficking of children and defined a child as a person under 18 years of age. The ILO Committee of Experts, however, noted with regret that the Children Bill had lapsed as of 10 April 2010, following the dissolution of the Parliament session and that it had yet to be reintroduced. The Committee of Experts urged Trinidad and Tobago to take the necessary measures to ensure that the legislation prohibiting the sale and trafficking of persons under 18 was adopted. In 2006, CRC noted that there were no laws specifically addressing trafficking in persons.

13. As of 1 July 2011, Trinidad and Tobago did not have a national human rights institution accredited by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC). In 2006, CRC encouraged Trinidad and Tobago to establish an independent and effective mechanism – either within the existing Ombudsman Office or as a separate entity, taking into account the Committee's general comment on human rights institutions and the Paris Principles –, to monitor the implementation of the Convention and deal with complaints from children or their representatives in a child-sensitive and expeditious manner.

14. In 2011, the ILO Committee of Experts noted the establishment of the National Steering Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour, a body responsible for the coordination of national efforts addressing the problem of child labour, which was tasked with developing the National Policy and Plan of Action against Child Labour. The Committee of Experts encouraged the Government to continue its efforts to develop this policy.

15. CRC noted that numerous ministries and bodies play a role in matters relating to the implementation of the Convention. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago establish a clear and well-structured coordination among all relevant bodies.

21. In 2006, CRC was concerned about the high prevalence of mental and physical disabilities among children in Trinidad and Tobago. CRC also noted with concern that service provisions for children with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago were heavily reliant on non-governmental organizations. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago allocate adequate resources to strengthen services for children with disabilities, support their families, train professionals in the field and encourage the inclusion of children with disabilities into the regular educational system and their integration into society. CESCR was also concerned about the lack of facilities for persons with disabilities.

28. In 2006, CRC was seriously concerned about the very high incidence of domestic violence and neglect in Trinidad and Tobago, including sexual violence and incest; and the lack of adequate and effective complaint mechanisms for child victims of abuse and neglect.i CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago take the necessary measures to prevent child abuse and neglect by, inter alia, carrying out public education campaigns, introducing legislation making reporting mandatory for suspected cases of abuse and neglect, establishing effective mechanisms to receive and investigate complaints and ensure proper prosecution of perpetrators, and providing services for the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration.

30. Also in 2011, the ILO Committee of Experts also referred to the Defence Act under which persons below the age of 18 years might be enlisted with the consent of their parents or of the person in whose care they might be. The Committee of Experts requested Trinidad and Tobago to give consideration to amending this provision, either by setting the legal minimum age of enlistment at 18, or allowing persons enlisted below the age of 18 to leave the service by their own decision upon attaining the age of 18, so as to ensure conformity with the ILO Forced Labour Convention (No. 29).

31. In 2011, the ILO Committee of Experts noted that, pursuant to the Education Act of 1966, the compulsory school age was defined as between the ages of 6 and 12 years, while the minimum age for employment was 16 years. The Committee of Experts expressed the view that compulsory education was one of the most effective means of combating child labour and emphasised the necessity of linking the age of admission to employment to the age limit for compulsory education and expressed the hope that the age of compulsory education would be raised from 12 to 16 years.

32. While welcoming the amendment to the Children Act prohibiting the use of corporal punishment as a penal sanction for persons under 18 years of age, CRC remained concerned that corporal punishment is lawful in the home and in institutions, and is widely practised. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago expressly prohibit by law corporal punishment in all settings, and ensure the implementation of the law. CESCR made a similar recommendation.

33. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago take effective measures to ensure that street children are provided with adequate protection.

36. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago review its legislation and policies to ensure the full implementation of juvenile justice standards, raise the age of criminal responsibility to an internationally acceptable standard, ensure that the sentence of life imprisonment is never rendered to persons below the age of 18, ensure that detained children are always separated from adults, and that deprivation of liberty is used only as a last resort, for the shortest appropriate time and in appropriate conditions, and in cases where deprivation of liberty is unavoidable and used as a last resort, improve procedures of arrest and conditions of detention and establish special units within the police for the handling of cases of children in conflict with the law.

37. In 2004, the Special Rapporteur on racism noted that Trinidad and Tobago's legislation recognized the different forms of marriage of the various communities and that these are accorded equal recognition. In 2002, CEDAW was concerned that child marriages are sanctioned under several of the legal regimes regulating marriage. It urged Trinidad and Tobago to ensure that all its laws on the minimum age for marriage and other programmes to prevent early marriage are in line with the obligations of the Convention.

48. Regarding the social security system, CRC was concerned that female-headed households and new applicants may be excluded due to restrictive eligibility requirements. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago revise and/or establish a social security policy along with a clear and coherent family policy in the framework of poverty reduction strategy, paying particular attention to marginalized groups including female-headed households.

49. CRC was also concerned about high maternal mortality rates and recommended that Trinidad and Tobago strengthen efforts to ensure adequate provision of prenatal and post-natal care.

50. Additionally, CRC was concerned about the high infant mortality rates and disproportionately high number of infants born underweight.ii UNICEF indicated that the children under-five mortality rate per 1,000 live births had increased from 34 in 1990 to 35 in 2009.

52. CRC was concerned about the high incidence of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases and the high number of unsafe and clandestine abortions undergone by teenage girls. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago formulate adolescent health policies and programmes, with the participation of adolescents, with particular focus on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, especially through reproductive health education and child-sensitive counselling services; take measures to incorporate sexual and reproductive health education in school curricula; and consider means of providing particular support to pregnant teenagers. CEDAW expressed similar concerns.

53. CRC welcomed the efforts made by Trinidad and Tobago to prevent and control HIV/AIDS. CRC, however, remained concerned about the high incidence of the infection, in particular mother-to-child transmission and its wide prevalence. CESCR had also noted with concern the continuing high rate of HIV/AIDS, especially among young women.

54. CRC remained concerned at the growing incidence of substance abuse by children, and recommended that Trinidad and Tobago continue its efforts to combat drug and alcohol abuse by children, including through public education awareness campaigns.

55. CRC was also concerned about the lack of sufficient resources allocated to the health service sector. It recommended that Trinidad and Tobago increase and strengthen measures to improve the health infrastructure, including through international cooperation.

56. In 2011, UNESCO indicated that the Education Act of 1966 enshrines compulsory, free education for all children aged 6 to 12 in public schools. It noted that this Act is currently being revised.

57. A 2011 UNESCO report noted that attendance rates in pre-school programmes in Trinidad and Tobago varied from 65 per cent of children in the poorest 20 per cent of households to 89 per cent in the wealthiest 20 per cent.

58. While welcoming the introduction of free education at primary and secondary levels, CRC was concerned about inadequate educational infrastructure, including overcrowding, material shortages in schools and reports of classroom violence; the hidden costs of education; the fact that approximately one third of the school-age population do not attend secondary school; the unsatisfactory length of compulsory schooling; the significant number of pregnant teenagers who do not continue their education. CRC recommended that Trinidad and Tobago take further measures to facilitate accessibility to education for children from all groups; take measures to increase school attendance and reduce the dropout and repetition rates; address the educational needs of pregnant students and teenage mothers.

Stakeholders' Information

3. Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIEACPC) reported that, as at January 2011, the Children (Amendment) Act 2000 was not in force.

12. AI indicated that gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, were widespread and provided figures on gender violence indicating that it was increasing. AI indicated that it was believed that domestic crimes went under-reported mainly because the police was not adequately trained in how to deal with cases of violence against women.

13. GIEACPC reported that corporal punishment of children was lawful in the home, in public and private schools, in the penal system and in alternative care settings.

14. GIEACPC stated that corporal punishment is lawful in the home and that the Children Act (1925) confirms "the right of any parent, teacher, or other person having the lawful control or charge of a child or young person to administer reasonable punishment to such child or young person".iii GIEACPC also indicated that corporal punishment of children is lawful in public and private schools under the same article of the Children Act. It is prohibited in the Children (Amendment) Act 2000, but as of January 2011 this act had not come into force. The Education Act 1996 makes no reference to corporal punishment.

15. GIEACPC added that within the penal system, corporal punishment had not yet been completely abolished as a sentence for crimes. The Miscellaneous Provisions (Children) Act (2000) prohibited corporal punishment as a sentence for persons under 18, but did not repeal all laws which allow persons under 18 to be sentenced to corporal punishment. Additionally, the Children Act provides for a child or young person found guilty of an offence to be ordered to be whipped. This provision is also be repealed by the Children (Amendment) Act 2000 (article 24), but, as stated, as of January 2011 this Act was not in force. Furthermore, the Larceny Act 1919 provides for boys under 16 to be liable to corporal punishment.

16. Furthermore, GIEACPC indicated that corporal punishment was lawful as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions. The Young Offenders (Male) Detention Regulations, pursuant to the Young Offenders Detention Act (1926), authorise corporal punishment with a rod to be ordered in detention institutions by the Inspector, Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner of Prisons, up to 18 strokes, 14 strokes and 9 strokes respectively.

17. It was also noted that under the Children Act, children convicted of offences may be sent to a certified industrial school or a certified orphanage, where corporal punishment is lawful under article 22 of the Children Act. Corporal punishment is lawful in alternative care settings under the Children Act. GIEACPC expressed the hope that the Review will highlight the importance of prohibiting all corporal punishment of children in all settings, including in the home and all forms of alternative care, and urged the Government to enact legislation to achieve this as a matter of priority.

21. AI recommended that Trinidad and Tobago: establish specialized rape and sexual offences units within the police stations and to train police officers in adequately dealing with complaints of domestic violence; ensure satisfactory investigation and prosecution of cases of gender-based violence; increase the number - as well as strengthen the capacities and effectiveness - of shelters for victims of gender-based violence and their children.

24. JS2 reported that child marriage remained legal in specific religious traditions: marriages of minor girls as young as 12 years and boys as young as 16 were legitimized by the Muslim Marriage & Divorce Act (1961), as were those of minor girls as young as 14 by the Hindu Marriage Act (1945) and 16 (the age of consent) by the Orisa Marriage Act (1999).

30. JS2 mentioned that the Trinidad and Tobago's Minister of Education announced in Parliament in January 2011 that in the past four years seven primary school girls had to leave school because of their pregnancies.

31. JS2 reported that Trinidad and Tobago had no clear strategy or designated approach for school-based health and family life education (HFLE), which had been formally introduced in only nine of 198 secondary schools and in five of 544 primary schools.

Accepted and Rejected Recommendations


The following recommendations were accepted:

A - 87.2. Undertake every effort to fully implement the Children’s Authority Act (Hungary);

A - 87.6. Intensify efforts to combat practices and beliefs that undermine human rights, including the rights of women and children (Indonesia);

A - 87.11. Undertake more effective measures to address the problems of sexual abuse and violence against women and girls, including through strengthening of law enforcement and the judicial system and intensive media and education programmes aimed at increasing public awareness and sensitivity on the rights of women and girls (Malaysia);

A - 87.16. Introduce further measures to raise public awareness about violence against women and children, and strengthen its activities and programs to focus on sexual violence and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation (Canada);

A - 87.17. Continue to develop and implement measures aimed at protecting the rights of all children, particularly those in vulnerable situations (Singapore);

A - 87.18. Step up measures to curb the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse by children including through intensive public education awareness campaigns (Malaysia);

A - 87.20. Establish a modern Juvenile Justice System to consolidate the protection of the rights of children (Maldives);

A - 87.21. Ensure that life imprisonment sentences cease to be administered to minors and juveniles (Slovakia);

A - 87.22. Provide for a separation of juvenile offenders from adult inmates (Slovakia);

A - 87.27. Allocate adequate resources to strengthen services for children with disabilities, support their families, train professionals in the field and encourage the inclusion of children with disabilities into the regular educational system and their integration into society (Israel);

A - 87.30. Finalize reforms of the educational system, notably by establishing mandatory schooling for children between 6 and 15 years of age (Algeria);


The following recommendations were rejected:

No relevant rejected recommendations.

 

The following recommendations were left pending:

P - 88.7. Ratify CED, CAT and OP-CAT, CRPD and OP-CRPD, as well as the two optional protocols to CRC (Uruguay);

P - 88.19. Ratify the optional protocols to CRC, as requested by CRC, ICRMW and CAT (Guatemala);

P - 88.20. Accede to the two Optional Protocols under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Maldives);

P - 88.24. Amend national legislation to ensure the minimum age for marriage is in line with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Israel);

P - 88.37. Legislation be introduced to ensure that the age of marriage is the same for males as for females (New Zealand);

P - 88.39. Prohibit all corporal punishment of children in all settings and enact legislation to achieve this (Slovenia);

P - 88.40. Prohibit all forms of corporal punishment of children in any context (including in the home) (Uruguay); 

P - 88.41. Adopt a legal definition of the crime of corporal punishment of children in all circumstances and places (Uruguay);

P - 88.42. As a matter of priority, review its criminal law provisions and enact legislation prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment of children in all settings (Hungary); 

P - 88.43. Adopt legislation to prohibit corporal punishment in public and private schools (Costa Rica);

P - 88.44. Forbid the corporal punishment of children through the abolition of the laws that permit its use in the home, schools and detention centres for minors (Spain);

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