Safety arrangements for children in the Caribbean Netherlands improved

The safety of children is always paramount, especially within a family. This should always be absolutely clear, both in the European Netherlands and in the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, also referred to as the BES islands). For that reason, a section has been added to the BES Civil Code stating that parents are responsible for the safety of their child and that no mental or physical violence should be used in raising children. Treating a child in a humiliating manner is also forbidden. This had already been included in the Dutch Civil Code for the European Netherlands. The legislative proposal regulating this for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba was submitted to the House of Representatives today by the Minister for Legal Protection, Sander Dekker, and the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, Paul Blokhuis. This is in line with the Administrative Agreement on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in the Caribbean Netherlands 2021-2024 (Bestuursakkoord aanpak huiselijk geweld en kindermishandeling Caribisch Nederland 2021-2024) between the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the BES island governments.

The law makes it clear that all forms of violence in parenting are prohibited, including striking a child in a ‘corrective’ manner, using violent or threatening words and physical or mental neglect. Gripping a child firmly to prevent danger, for example to pull them away from a dangerous situation, is permitted. This change in the law may initiate discourse on how parents can raise children without resorting to violence. It may also create the opportunity to discuss this with relatives, friends and other parents, or with emergency services and care services staff. The legislative proposal should thus contribute to the prevention of child abuse. Child abuse was already punishable in the Caribbean Netherlands according to the BES Criminal Code.

The rules in the BES Civil Code, however, not only apply to parents but also to others caring for and raising a child, such as a guardian or foster parents, but also grandparents, aunts and uncles who are actually caring for and raising a child. The care for a child elsewhere than at home remains the responsibility of the parents. If parents notice that their children are being mistreated or abused by others, they must take action to end this.

In addition, the renunciation of violence in parenting is in keeping with the pedagogical vision that the Caribbean Netherlands governments are establishing with local organisations. The islands therefore support this being legislated.