Jamaica

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Persistent violations
  • Child labour[1]
  • Violence against children[2]
  • Corporal punishment[3]
  • Sexual abuse and exploitation of children[4]
  • Use of, and conditions in, detention for children[5]
  • Low minimum age of criminal responsibility[6]
  • Inadequate education provision[7]
  • Inadequate reproductive health care and education[8]
  • Inadequate provision for health services for children[9]
  • Inadequate response to the prevalence of HIV and AIDS[10]
  • Inadequate provision for children with disabilities[11]
  • Discrimination against vulnerable children, including those with disabilities, HIV or AIDS[12]

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Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Universal Periodic Review
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Universal Periodic Review
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review
  8. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  9. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  10. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  11. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  12. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review



Introduction

Located in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica occupies the third largest island in the Greater Antilles Group, south of Cuba and West of Haiti. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1962, Jamaica has maintained a parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister who, along with the cabinet, appoints a Governor General to act as representative of the British monarch, still ceremonial head of state. Decades of uneven growth and inequality have held Jamaica back from stability and the full realisation of human rights, with the high levels of violent crime being matched by significant police abuses and a brutal criminal justice system, alongside the approval of widespread anti-LGBT prejudice in national law.

Geography

Jamaica is an island nation located in the Caribbean Sea, to the south of Cuba and the west of Haiti. The island has a largely mountainous terrain, with discontinuous coastal plains and a tropical climate. The capital city is Kingston.
Population and language

Jamaica has a very gradually growing population of 2.7 million people,[1] the vast majority of which are of black African descent (92 per cent). Jamaicans practice a wide range of religions, though over 60 per cent profess membership of a Christian denomination.[2]

English is almost universally spoken, alongside English patois.

History and politics

Europeans first landed on Jamaica during Columbus' 1494 voyage and claimed the island in the name of Spain. The island subsequently came under the control of the British in the 1650s and remained under British control until 1962, when Jamaica established itself as an independent State within the Commonwealth. Since independence, only the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have held power. The People's National Party have been the dominant political force in Jamaica, for most of the last two decades, and remained in power for 18 consecutive years from 1989, 14 of which under the leadership of Percival Patterson. Following a single term under the JLP, the PNP returned to power under the leadership of Portia Miller-Simpson in January 2012 with a sizeable majority in the Parliament.[3]

Despite occasional eruptions of violence during elections, Jamaican politics has remained largely stable since independence and election results have generally been accepted. This political stability, however, has not been matched by social stability. Criminal gangs have had a substantial presence in the country since the 1960s,[4] and in 2010, the government declared a state of emergency in relation to the Tivoli Gardens area of Kingston, as large scale violence erupted following an attempt to arrest a suspected drug kingpin and gang leader. Reports have indicated that violent crime has been falling since 2011, but Jamaica's annual murder rate of 41 per 100,000 people, remains among the highest in the world.[5]

Economy

Located just 90 minutes by air from the United States, on the route between that country and the Panama canal and with a shared language, Jamaica has the potential to achieve substantial growth, yet it has experienced the lowest average growth rate in the Americas since 2000.[6] Jamaica has experienced four decades without significant growth and, according to the World Bank, looks set to experience relatively low annual growth of 1 to 2 per cent in the medium term. Unemployment has fallen over in recent years, down to 11 per cent in 2009, but youth unemployment has remained high, at more than 30 per cent in 2011. National debt, too, presents a serious problem to the country, at a level nearly 140 per cent of GDP.[7] Tourism, mining, food processing and light manufacture are all important sources of economic activity in the country.

Media and civil society

Jamaica has a relatively strong record on media freedom, and is home to a varied press which is freely critical of politicians of all backgrounds. This generally strong record is occasionally marred by violence against journalists, and criminal provisions are still in place for defamation, but such violations are exceptional. Jamaican Ministers have also indicated that it intends to repeal the criminal defamation statute by the end of 2012.[8] Reporters Without Borders rated the country 16 out of 179 in its 2011/12 Press Freedom Index.[9]

Human rights and children's rights

High levels of violence in the country have given rise to serious human rights violations, particularly in relation to the criminal justice system. During the State of Emergency in 2010, a number of people were killed in situations that may constitute extra-judicial executions and at the time of writing, very limited investigations into alleged police wrongdoings had been conducted.[10] The inadequacy of the justice system also affects children, including those in detention with adults in what the UN Human Rights Committee has called “deplorable sanitary conditions”. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, too has highlighted human rights violations within the juvenile justice system with regards to what he found to be “a system of repression and regular corporal punishment” within the St Andrew Juvenile Remand Centre.[11]

Jamaica also has a poor record on LGBT rights and LGBT persons are vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and violence.[12] Jamaican criminal law also enshrines this discrimination and persecution in providing for a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment for the crime of buggery.[13]

  1. UNDESA, "Population statistics 2011"
  2. CARICOM Capacity Development Programme, "National Census Report: Jamaica" 2000
  3. The Gleaner, "Portia's vow" 5 January 2012
  4. See Amnesty International, "Jamaica: Poor communities held hostage to gang violence and governmental neglect" 1 April 2008 and "Jamaica: 'Let them kill each other'- Public security in Jamaica's inner cities" April 2008
  5. BBC, Jamaica divided on role of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke" 8 June 2012
  6. The Economist, [http://www.economist.com/node/21559348 "On your marks, get set ... oh: Half a century after Jamaica's independence from Britain, its economy is struggling to get out of the starting blocks" 21 July 2012
  7. The World Bank, "Jamaica Overview"
  8. International Press Institute, "Jamaica Ministers tell IPI that criminal defamation can be repealed this year" 23 June 2012
  9. Reporters Without Borders, "World report 2012: Jamaica"
  10. Amnesty International, "World Report 2012: The state of the world's human rights"
  11. See CRIN, "Jamaica: Persistent violations of children's rights" 20 August 2012
  12. Human Rights Watch, "Jamaica: Combat homophobia" 18 July 2012
  13. Jamaican Offences against the Person Act 1864, s. 76

Sources:


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