Saint Kitts and Nevis
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These two Caribbean islands, situated on the hurricane belt, are separated by a two-mile channel. Historically colonies of different imperial powers over the centuries, the islands gained full independence in 1983. The economy has since moved away from relying on the traditional sugar trade and has expanded into other industries. Juvenile justice is still a serious challenge to children’s rights and corporal punishment remains a lawful criminal sentence for children.
St Kitts and Nevis are twin Islands separated from each other by a two mile channel, and are part of the northern Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. The Islands have a tropical climate, though they are vulnerable to severe storms as they are located on the hurricane belt. Basseterre, on St Kitts, is the country's capital city.
Population and language
The islands are home to around 53,000 people, a figure that has grown substantially since the mid 1990s and continues to rise annually at a rate between 1 and 1.5 per cent. English is the most widely spoken language on the islands but St Kitts Creole English, an English dialect, is also widely spoken.
History and politics
The islands were first discovered by Europeans on the second voyage of Christopher Columbus, in which he named the larger island after his patron saint (St Christopher). It was another 130 years before English and French colonists began to arrive on the islands and massacred the indigenous Crib people before jointly holding the islands until 1713. Hostilities between the nationalities erupted at numerous points throughout the 18th century, but the territories were finally awarded to Britain in 1783. Until 1956, the islands were part of the colony of the Leeward Islands, and later the West Indies Federation before they became a self-governing State in 1967 and gained full independence in 1983. Kennedy Simmonds became the first Prime Minister upon independence.
The St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) has been the governing party since 1995, and is largest in the country's unicameral parliament, currently holding six of the eleven elected seats in the Assembly. The People's Action Movement and the Concerned Citizens' Movement both hold two seats and the National Reformation Party holds the remaining seat. Denzil Douglas of the SKNLP has been Prime Minister of the country since 1995, and is only the second person to hold the office since independence. Queen Elizabeth is the titular head of state, though she is represented by the Governor-General, Sir Cuthbert Montraville Sebastian.
Nevis has its own Assembly in which the National Reform Party is the dominant party. Current Premier of Nevis, Joseph Parry took office in 2006 defeating former Premier Vance Amory, who had held an unsuccessful referendum during his tenure to secede from St Kitts.
The sugar industry was historically important to the islands of St Kitts and Nevis, but its economy has diversified into tourism, financial services and light manufacturing. The global financial crisis damaged the economy through its impact on tourism figures in 2009, decreasing the incoming foreign revenue generated by the industry. As a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the islands share a common currency and judiciary with the other six members and two associate members, and as a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), it will be part of the single market when it is established. The country's major trading partners are the other CARICOM nations and the U.S.A.
Media and civil society
There are government operated national television and radio networks on the islands as well as several private radio stations. Multi-channel cable TV also carries local and international TV stations. Opposition press is free to criticise the government.
Human rights and children's rights
Many of the more serious challenges to children's rights in St Kitts and Nevis relate to juvenile justice. Corporal punishment remains a lawful sentence for children, and the law explicitly prohibits neither life imprisonment nor the death penalty in relation to offences committed by persons under the age of 18. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has also criticised the State for the practice of detaining children with adults.
- UNDESA, "Population Statistics 2011"
- CRIN, "Saint Kitts and Nevis: Inhuman sentencing of children" 2 November 2010
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations, June 1999
- OHCHR, "Saint Kitts and Nevis Homepage"
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations, June 1999 and State Report , May 1997
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Saint Kitts and Nevis Country Profile"
- BBC, "St Kitts and Nevis Country Profile" and "Time Line"
- CRIN, "St Kitts and Nevis: Inhuman sentencing of children" 2 November 2010