Montserrat is a small Caribbean island in the British West Indies. Montserrat is not an independent nation; rather, it operates as a British Overseas Territory. While Montserrat has its own government structure and constitution, the U.K. government is responsible for external affairs, security and defense. In addition, the U.K. government is responsible for ensuring that British Overseas Territories observe human rights standards. However, this does not necessarily mean that concerns about human rights in Montserrat are the same as concerns in the British Isles.
In fact, there are seemingly very few concerns with the state of human rights in Montserrat. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch list no major human rights violations on the island. The U.S. State Department’s 2016 Country Report on Human Rights for the U.K. only mentioned Montserrat once. This mention was related to same-sex age of consent varying across Overseas Territories.
One of the few concerns regarding human rights in Montserrat relates to children’s rights. The U.S. Department of Labor’s 2015 Child Labor and Forced Labor Report for Montserrat found no evidence of forced labor and multiple protections against child labor and trafficking. However, the Department did note a lack advancement in efforts to reform a legislative gap prohibiting the use of children in illicit activities. According to the report, this could leave children vulnerable to the worst kinds of forced labor.
During the past legislative year, children’s rights have been a primary focus in Montserrat. This was addressed in September 2016 with Montserrat’s 2016 throne speech. This speech set out the government’s policy agenda for 2016/2017. The speech acknowledged growing concerns regarding child abuse on the island while stating that children must be protected from this treatment. The Children (Care and Adoption) Bill was also briefly laid out as an example of multiple bills that would work to protect children and families in Montserrat. This specific bill will establish protections for children on the island, including preventative measures and safe spaces for protection, nurturing and counseling. With this area of concern being addressed, human rights in Montserrat should be well cared for in the future.
– Erik Beck