Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Prevalence of abuse against children, including sexual abuse; laws concerning abuse against children; availability of facilities for abused children
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||15 November 2007|
|Citation / Document Symbol||VCT102635.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Prevalence of abuse against children, including sexual abuse; laws concerning abuse against children; availability of facilities for abused children, 15 November 2007, VCT102635.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4784def41e.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
In 23 October 2007 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the following information was provided by the Director of Marion House, a non-profit social services agency in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines established in 1989. The Director stated that the situation "has not changed much over the past year" with regards to services and shelters that care for young victims of abuse. However, she also stated that the Family Court, while continuing to issue protection orders, has been involved in public education activities, including workshops, to raise awareness of domestic violence and child abuse. In addition, the Director noted that the Our Lady of Guadalupe Home for Girls, which provides services to "abused girls," has been opened by a local Catholic church.
In 31 October 2007 correspondence, the President of the Family Court of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines provided the following information. The President stated that two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) provide support to victims of child abuse: Marion House and Our Lady of Guadalupe Home for Girls. Documentation provided by the President on the Our Lady of Guadalupe Home for Girls indicates that it provides "a safe, caring and nurturing home for girls ages 11-17." Additionally, she indicated that support is also provided by the government through the Family Services Division of the Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, NGO Relations, Family, Gender Affairs and Persons with Disabilities. Documentation provided by the President shows that from January 2007 through October 2007 four children filed applications for a protection order with the Family Court, with one application in each of the months of February, April, July and October. Two applications were granted, one withdrawn and one "struck out." In addition, from January 2007 until October 2007, five cases involving juvenile victims of abuse were brought before the Court: one case of "cruelty to juvenile," where the suspect pleaded guilty and was convicted; two cases of "wounding," including one conviction; and two cases of "assault – bodily harm," which led to two convictions. According to statistics provided by the President of the Family Court, Marion House reported seven child abuse cases in 2006 and twenty-one child abuse cases through October in 2007.
Further, the President of the Family Court explained that
[c]riminal matters involving domestic violence and child abuse are solely within the province of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The offenders are arrested, charged and prosecuted by the police before the Family Court. The standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt. Civil applications for protection and occupation orders are filed and processed at the court office and evidence is elicited by either the Counsel for the litigants or by the Magistrate in Court.
According to the President, protection and occupation orders
are made on substantiated allegations of abuse and the Court may only make such orders if satisfied that the respondent: a) has used or threatened to use violence against or caused physical or mental injury to a prescribed person and is likely to do so again; or b) has committed or attempted to commit any sexual offence listed in Part VIII of the Criminal Code or has conducted himself in a manner which is sexually offensive and that the order is necessary for the protection of the prescribed person.
Both the Director and the President indicated that over the past year there have been no changes to the legislation with regards to child abuse in Saint Vincent (Marion House 23 Oct. 2007; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 31 Oct. 2007).
Additional information to that found in VCT 101994 of 31 October 2006 on "Prevalence of sexual abuse against children; laws concerning sexual abuse against children; availability of facilities for abused children," which is provided below, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Following a July 2006 visit to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an immigration officer with the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago produced a report on social conditions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The following two paragraphs on sexual abuse against children was taken from this report:
There have been a growing number of cases of adult men molesting and having sexual relations with young boys. This is particularly noted of persons in positions of authority or with something to offer, such as drugs or money.... [P]olice are not seen as sufficiently engaged in order to deter the continuation of this problem.
There is recognition that incest and abuse of children within the family unit is significant and perhaps growing. Police and current policies are not seen as sufficient to uncover and address the current problems. The majority of the community chooses to look away rather than confront the issue. (Canada 9 July 2006)
A report published by World Bank indicates that the number of reported incest cases involving girls had increased in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (July 2006, 7). The concluding observations of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in its consideration of a report submitted by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines note that cases of sexual abuse are frequent and that abuse perpetrated by family members "is often hidden" (13 June 2002; see also World Bank July 2006, 7). In addition, an earlier CRC report for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines indicates that children are involved in commercial sexual exploitation in order to supplement family income (UN 10 Oct. 2001, para. 384; World Bank 2006, 7). According to the same report, street children, boys in particular, are engaged in commercial sexual activity (UN 10 Oct. 2001, para. 384). A senior programme officer with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Eastern Caribbean Office noted in correspondence dated 16 October 2006 that "the situation has not changed significantly [in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines] since the issuance of the [CRC] report" on 10 October 2001 (see also World Bank July 2006....
The 10 October 2001 CRC report for St. Vincent and Grenadines indicates that:
– The Criminal Code makes it an offence to commit an act of gross indecency with a child under the age of 14 (Sec. 128)....
– The Criminal Code, cap. 124, establishes 15 as the minimum age for a girl to give consent to sexual intercourse. It is illegal for a man to have sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 15. There are however, two categories of offence:
– Sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 (Sec. 124);
– Sexual intercourse with a girl of or above 13 but below 15 (Sec. 125).
These two offences are marked by different punishments, that is, life and five years' imprisonment respectively. With regard to the offence under section 125, the law merely gives a man under 19 a defense pursuant to section 125 (2) if at the time of the sexual intercourse he believed the girl to be of or over the age of 15 and had reasonable cause for such belief. (UN 10 Oct. 2001, paras. 43 and 44).
Information on the application of Sections 124, 125 and 128 of the Criminal Code could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Concerning the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' legislation on child abuse, the report published by the World Bank in July 2006 points out some concerns, as follows:
– There are no laws addressing the issue of child pornography.
– The age of consent is only fifteen (15) and there is no protection of children between the ages of 15 and 18....
– The sentencing imposed on sex offenders often does not serve as a sufficient deterrent. Sexual intercourse with a girl between the ages of thirteen (13) and fifteen (15) can receive a maximum sentence of 5 years. Gross indecency with a child under age 14 is punishable by only one (1) year....
– Sexual intercourse is a material element of many sexual offences, including incest and rape. Sexual intercourse is limited to vaginal penetration by a penis and would therefore exclude other equally traumatic and invasive acts like penetration by an object or oral sex....
– The offence of sexual intercourse is defined as being with a girl under the age of fifteen (15), and excludes young male victims.
– The conduct of parents or guardians who encourage or condone sexual exploitation of their children whether female or male, is not criminalized....
– Rules of evidence and procedure are not sufficiently sensitized to the special needs of child witnesses and victims. Lengthy delays, intimidating cross examinations and strict rules of evidence are all features of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines's legal system. [These] compromise a child's right to participate comfortably and effectively in criminal justice proceedings.
– There is no legislation which specifically and exclusively addresses the care and protection of children who are abused. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' child protection mandate is found in its Juvenile Act which deals very extensively with children in conflict with the law. The child protection provisions of this legislation fail to provide for the essential components of a case involving abuse, such as reporting, investigation, removal, placement, recovery and follow-up.... (World Bank July 2006, 7-8)
Citing the 10 October 2001 CRC report, the World Bank report also indicates that "[t]he care and protection of children who are victims of sexual and other forms of abuse [is] woefully inadequate." (July 2006, 7). The World Bank report notes that the government does not run a facility specifically for "abandoned or abused children" (July 2006....
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Canada. 9 July 2006. Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain. Correspondence from an immigration officer.
Marion House. 23 October 2007. Correspondence from the Director.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 31 October 2007. Family Court. Correspondence from the President of the Family Court.
United Nations (UN). 16 October 2006. UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Eastern Caribbean Office. Correspondence from a senior programme officer.
_____. 13 June 2002. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention: Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. (CRC/C/15/Add.184)
_____. 10 October 2001. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 44 of the Convention: Initial Reports of States Parties Due in 1995 – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. (CRC/C/28/Add.18)
World Bank. July 2006. Jacqueline Sealy-Burke. "Protecting Children Affected by AIDS in the Caribbean: Recommendations for Legal Reform in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines."
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA), the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) and the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, NGO Relations, Family, Gender Affairs and Persons with Disabilities did not respond within the time constraints of this Response. The United Nations Children's Fund Office (UNICEF) for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean did not respond to an October 2007 request for information.
Internet sites, including : Amnesty International (AI), Caribbean Net News, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Organization of American States (OAS), United States Department of State.