Jamaica has led Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries in how effectively children can use the law to challenge violations of their rights.
In the first-ever global study on children’s access to justice undertaken by the London-based Child Rights International network (CRIN) showed that Belgium topped the 179 countries surveyed with 213 points out of a maximum 261 while Equatorial Guinea placed last with a score of 30.
“When we think of children and justice, the first image that comes to mind is usually one of children breaking the law. Rarely do we consider children and their right to use the legal system to protect their human rights or to seek redress when their rights have been violated,” said CRIN’s director Veronica Yates.
“Access to justice is about challenging the perception of children as just victims or somehow less worthy of justice than adults. It is about recognising that children, like adults, have human rights and that when these rights are infringed they should be able to trust and use the legal system to get justice.”
Jamaica is the highest placed CARICOM country at 65, with a score of 154.5 followed by Grenada at position 90 with a score of 137.
Trinidad and Tobago is the next highest ranked Caribbean country at 92 with a score of 136.5 followed by Barbados at 99 with a score of 133.
Guyana is the next at 100 with a score of 132 while St Lucia is next at 110 with a score of123.5, closely followed by Belize at 111 2ith a score of 122.
The Bahamas leads the lower half of the 14 CARICOM countries surveyed, coming in at number eight with global placing 111 with an identical score followed by Antigua and Barbuda at 129 with a score of 107.5.
Haiti, the only French-speaking CARICOM country and considered one of the poorest in the hemisphere is at 10 on the CARICOM ranking with a world 103.5 to be placed at 138 followed by Dominica at 145 with a score of 93.5.
The Dutch-speaking country, Suriname, with a score of 91.5 is the next highest CARICOM country placing 163 on the global chart, followed by St. Vincent and the Grenadines at 173 with a score of 82.5.
St Kitts-Nevis it the CARICOM occupying the cellar position with of 79 and placing 178 on the global rankings.
The research takes into account whether children can bring lawsuits when their rights are violated, the legal resources available to them, the practical considerations for taking legal action, and whether judges apply international law on children’s rights in their rulings.
The report also offers a model of what access to justice should look like for children.
‘Eutopia’ was created by collecting examples from around the world. While many come from countries at the higher end of the ranking, others were found in countries such as Angola, Montenegro, Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines or Eritrea.
CRIN said it wants this report to help provide new ideas and tools for those working to prevent violations of children’s rights and to demonstrate new avenues of legal redress, whether in the struggle for citizenship rights or securing access to education without fees.
“Country rankings are not just there to highlight who is doing well and who is doing poorly but more importantly they have the ability to stir States to action, prompting them to improve and claim a spot higher on the ranking ladder,” said the chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Benyam Dawit Mezmur.
“The Committee welcomes this research and already envisages its concrete contribution to its various engagements with States,” she added.
Follow this story and more with Jamaica Observer.