Tuesday, April 1, 2014 – 4:53pm [GIS]
All Children born within the Virgin Islands are now entitled to equal status under the law with the passage of the Status of Children Act, 2014. The Act was passed during the Fifth Sitting of the Third Session of the Second House of Assembly held March 27.
The new law repeals the Legitimacy Act, which dates back to 1929, and brings the Territory into compliance with its international obligations under the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Chapter of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was ratified by the United Kingdom in 1991 and extended to the Virgin Islands in 1994. Article 2(1) of the CRC states that Parties to the Convention must respect and ensure the rights set forth in the Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind.
Section 26 of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 also provides for protection against discrimination, which is defined as affording different treatment to different persons on any grounds including family relations, birth or other status; subject to certain exceptions.
According to the Development Planning Unit, 58 percent of the 905 children born between 1995 and 1997 were born out of wedlock; and 63 percent of the 810 born between 2008 and 2010 were also born out of wedlock.
Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton said that the Act seeks to remove the legal distinction between the status of children born in and out of wedlock; abolish the distinctions ‘legitimacy’ and ‘illegitimacy’ and equalise the inheritance and other rights of children.
“The Bill also seeks to grant to the natural or biological father of a child born out of wedlock the same parental rights and responsibilities in respect of that child as the mother of such child,” he explained.
Minister Skelton also added that the implementation of the Bill will continue the process of ending discriminatory practices against our children and seek to protect future generations of Virgin Islanders.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development will launch a series of education tools to inform the public on the provisions of the Act.