Independent Senator John Watson wants the legal definition of a child to be changed, so that all persons under 18 years of age in Barbados are considered minors.
Contributing to the debate in the Senate yesterday, he also called for the age limit for compulsory schooling be moved from 14 to 18, while arguing that the introduction of “mandatory schooling until age 18” would help to ensure that children who are not academically inclined receive vocational skills training, as opposed to them being able to drop out of school at age 14, and be lured into criminal activity.
Speaking during debate on the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Bill 2016, Watson noted that the Bill describes children as persons under age 18, complaining, “We have a situation where there are several different ways that we have described a child.
“We need to protect our children as much as we can, whether they are smuggled, or trafficked, or whether they are just our children,” the independent Senator said, contending that “we should define a child in Barbados as under 18”.
“I see no reason why a child should be able to give consent at 15 or 16, but can vote only when you’re 18, or can sign any legal document only after the age of 18,” Watson said.
He called fellow legislators to “seriously look, in the not too distant future, at considering all the international treaties and protocols that we might be party to, [and] that we redefine what a child is in Barbados.
“We could change the way our citizens are being nurtured now by such [new] legislation.”
Noting that the learning capacity of children changes as they grow older, Watson said that there are advantages in mandatory education until age 18.
“If we are able to get our children socialized correctly up to age 18, I think that we would have a citizenship that is much better than we have now.”
He spoke of 15 and 16 year olds having children and living in households where “what we would normally call a grandmother . . . is actually 33 years old, and they are indulging in the same activities as the 15 or 16-year-old persons”.