Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

Saint Lucia: Domestic violence and violence against women; legislation, family court, police services, statistics on gender-based violence and support services (2006 - July 2009)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 13 July 2009
Citation / Document Symbol LCA103195.E
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Lucia: Domestic violence and violence against women; legislation, family court, police services, statistics on gender-based violence and support services (2006 - July 2009), 13 July 2009, LCA103195.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a7040b93a.html [accessed 19 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.

Sources, including Freedom House, the United States (US) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008, and the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), indicate that domestic violence is a serious problem in Saint Lucia (Freedom House 2008; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; UN 2 June 2006, Para. 21). Saint Lucia's delegate to the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), as reported by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) in July 2006, describes domestic violence in Saint Lucia as a "crisis situation" and states that "at least" five women had been killed so far in 2006 due to domestic violence (CMC 12 July 2006). In 2 July 2009 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Director of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations indicated that domestic violence was "quite rampant" in Saint Lucia and reported two deaths resulting from domestic violence in 2006, one death in 2007, and three deaths in 2008 (Saint Lucia 2 July 2009). In 2009 the St. Lucia Star reported on cases where death and serious injury resulted from domestic violence: in one a case, a woman was allegedly "butchered" by the father of her children in public during daylight hours (16 June 2009); in the other case, a former senator and member of the United Worker Party was charged with "maiming" his girlfriend, who became paralyzed after being beaten (St. Lucia Star 29 June 2009).

Legislation

In December 2004, the government announced that an amended Criminal Code would take effect on 1 January 2005 (St Lucia 16 Dec. 2004). The new Code contains a number of provisions that address violence against women, including the introduction of "marital rape" as an offence, as well as provisions that address stalking and workplace sexual harassment (ibid.). Moreover, the revised Code "outlaws 'out of court' settlements aimed at compensating victims in cases of rape or sexual abuse" (ibid.). Under the amended Code, convicted rapists may face life imprisonment and "unlawful sexual connection can attract a penalty of fourteen years in prison" (ibid.). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a practising attorney in Saint Lucia verified that as of 9 July 2009 the amendments to the Code are still in effect and that there are no new laws in Saint Lucia regarding gender-based violence (Attorney 9 July 2009).

The Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act was passed in Saint Lucia in 1995 and allows victims of domestic abuse to seek protection, occupation and/or tenancy orders (Saint Lucia 1995, Parts I-III). According to the law, a protection order may prohibit the respondent (the person against whom an order is issued) from entering the applicant's household residence, place of work and/or place of education (ibid., Part I, Art. 4). An occupation order may grant the applicant "the right to occupy the household residence or any other premises forming part of the household residence" (ibid., Part II, Art. 7). A tenancy order may require the respondent to "continue to maintain and pay the whole or part of the rent" (ibid., Part III, Art.11). For more information, please refer to the attached Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995.

The Director of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations stated that protection, occupation and tenancy orders are issued by the magistrate at family court, and are usually issued the same day that the request is made (Saint Lucia 3 July 2009). The Attorney corroborated that the family court provides "immediate assistance" to victims (Attorney 9 July 2009). According to the Attorney, the police are empowered to arrest the offender if he or she does not comply with a protection order and the police take protection orders seriously (ibid.). However, a 2006 report published by the International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), an organization promoting recognition of women's human rights under the United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (IWRAW n.d.), reports delays in issuing the orders and providing protection because of understaffing in the police department (IWRAW Mar. 2006, 3). Further information about the implementation of protection, occupation and tenancy orders could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Family Court

Country Reports for 2008 notes that the family court tries cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). According to the Director of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations, 591 cases of domestic violence were lodged at the family court in 2006 and 441 cases in 2007 (Saint Lucia 2 July 2009). Sources report that the family court also employs full-time social workers to help victims of domestic violence (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; SLCC 29 June 2009) and offers group sessions and counselling (ibid.). There are two offices for the family court: one in Castries (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5) and one in Vieux Fort (ibid.; Saint Lucia 2 July 2009).

Police services

The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) launched the Vulnerable Persons Team (VPT) in December 2007 to handle all child abuse investigations and to oversee and provide advice for domestic abuse cases in Saint Lucia (RSLPF n.d.). The RSLPF website indicates that all domestic violence cases are reported to the VPT corporal to ensure that they are dealt with appropriately (ibid.). According to Country Reports for 2008, the VPT "increased police responsiveness" to cases involving violence against women and children, and, in the first half of 2008, there was a 24 percent increase in the number of sexual crimes reported to the police that were committed against women and children (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). The Director of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations stated that police response to domestic violence "improved significantly" in the last eight to nine years because of sensitization training provided by the Division of Gender Relations and that the improvement has become "even more noticeable" with the establishment of the VPT (Saint Lucia 2 July 2009).

In contrast, the Executive Director of the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre (SLCC), which offers counselling, referrals and outreach services to victims of domestic violence, did not think that the police were effective in combating domestic violence or that the formation of the VPT had improved the situation (SLCC 29 June 2009). In a 29 June 2009 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director stated that several clients of the Crisis Centre report not receiving an "appropriate response" from the police (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, the St. Lucia Star reports that prior to her death, one victim of domestic violence had filed several reports against her alleged abuser which "were never pursued"; details of why they were not pursued were not provided in the article (St. Lucia Star 16 June 2009). According to the Attorney, the police do not always take domestic violence cases seriously because many victims withdraw their cases (Attorney 9 July 2009).

Statistics on gender-based violence

Statistical information regarding the number of domestic abuse cases investigated and prosecuted in Saint Lucia could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, in an 11 May 2009 article, the St. Lucia Star reported on two counts of murder, which took place in 2006 and resulted from domestic violence. Another St. Lucia Star article reported on one count of manslaughter for an incident that took place in 2005 that resulted from domestic violence (18 Mar. 2009). In both cases, the perpetrators and victims were reported to have a history of domestic violence prior to the killings (St. Lucia Star 18 Mar. 2009; ibid. 11 May 2009).

Statistics from the RSLPF indicate that in 2006, there were 67 cases of rape reported to the police, 19 cases investigated, 21 men arrested, and one case addressed by the court (RSLPF 2006). In 2007, there were 77 cases of rape reported to the police, 18 cases investigated, 12 men arrested and no cases addressed by the court; for attempted rape there were 9 cases reported, one investigated, one man arrested and no cases addressed by the court (RSLPF 2007).

Support Services

The Women's Support Centre, which opened in 2001 and is funded by the Saint Lucia government, provides a shelter, counselling, crisis intervention, protection planning, children's programs, public education and other assistance to victims of domestic violence (Saint Lucia 2 July 2009; see also Saint Lucia 23 May 2006 and US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). The Woman's Support Centre also runs a 24-hour hotline which offers counselling and advice (Saint Lucia 20 Mar. 2007; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). According to the Director of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations, the shelter has space to accommodate a total of 25 people, including both women and children (Saint Lucia 2 July 2009). IWRAW and SLCC similarly report that the shelter has space for up to five women and their children (IWRAW Mar. 2006, 4; SLCC 29 June 2009). According to the Executive Director of SLCC, the number of spaces at the shelter is insufficient (ibid.). Sources indicate that it is the only women's shelter in Saint Lucia (SLCC 29 June 2009; Saint Lucia 2 July 2009; IWRAW Mar. 2006, 4). IWRAW reports that the shelter is available for a limited period (Mar. 2006, 4). The Director of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations indicates that no clients are forced to leave the shelter if they do not have safe alternative housing (Saint Lucia 2 July 2009).

The SLCC, which opened in 1988, is a non-profit, non-political organization in Castries which provides support to victims of rape, child abuse, domestic violence and other forms of sexual, physical and psychological abuse (SLCC n.d.). The Centre offers counselling, crisis intervention, referrals to family court and other services, skills training, educational sponsorship and has run public awareness campaigns in the community and media (SLCC 29 June 2009; see also SLCC n.d.). According to data provided by the Director of SLCC, the Centre assisted 39 victims of domestic violence in 2007 and 30 victims in 2008 (SLCC 29 June 2009).

According to the SLCC Executive Director and the Director of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations, the Division of Human Services also provides services for victims of domestic violence (ibid.; Saint Lucia 2 July 2009).

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 sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Attorney. 9 July 2009. Telephone interview with a practising attorney in Saint Lucia.

Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC). 12 July 2006. "Women's Group Condemns Latest Killing in St. Lucia." (Factiva/BBC Monitoring Americas)

Freedom House. 2008. "Saint Lucia." Freedom in the World (2008). [Accessed 25 June 2009]

International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW). March 2006. Flavia Cherry. "Shadow Report for St. Lucia on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)." [Accessed 29 June 2009]
_____. N.d. "Women Change the World." [Accessed 9 July 2009]

Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF). 2007. "Crime Statistics: Statistics for the Year Ending 1-12, 2007." [Accessed 26 June 2009]
_____. 2006. "Crime Statistics: Statistics for the Year 2006." [Accessed 26 June 2009]
_____. N.d. "Vulnerable Persons Units." [Accessed 26 June 2009]

Saint Lucia. 3 July 2009. Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations. Correspondence from Director.
_____. 2 July 2009. Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations. Correspondence from Director.
_____. 20 March 2007. "Domestic Violence Condemned." [Accessed 26 June 2009]
_____. 23 May 2006. Ministry of Health, Human Services, Family Affairs and Gender Relations. Lera Pascal. "Statement to the Thirty-Fifth Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women." [Accessed 25 June 2009]
_____. 16 December 2004."New Criminal Code Comes into Force on New Year's Day." [Accessed 8 July 2009]
_____. 20 April 1995. Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995 (Act No. 7 of 1995), 20 April 1995. Excerpts published by Berkman Center for Internet and Society by Harvard University. [Accessed 26 June 2009]

Saint Lucia Crisis Centre (SLCC). 29 June 2009. Telephone interview with Executive Director.
_____. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 25 June 2009]

St. Lucia Star. 29 June 2009. Christine St. Marie. "DPP Refutes Foster Statement in Maiming Case." [Accessed 9 July 2009]
_____. 16 June 2009. Alisha Ally. "Cutlass Attack at Rodney Bay." [Accessed 25 June 2009]
_____. 11 May 2009. Christine St. Marie. "Man Accused Killing Woman and Daughter Found Guilty." [Accessed 26 June 2009]
_____. 18 March 2009. Christine St. Marie. "Man Sentenced to Nine Years for Girlfriend's Murder." [Accessed 2 July 2009]

United Nations (UN). 2 June 2006. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). "Concluding Comments of the CEDAW." (CEDAW/C/LCA/CO/6) [Accessed 26 June 2009]

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Saint Lucia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 25 June 2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral Sources: The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) was not able to provide statistical information regarding the number of domestic abuse cases investigated and prosecuted in Saint Lucia.

Internet sources, including: Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld, Resource Center of the Americas, Stop Violence Against Women (StopVAW), U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Attachment

20 April 1995. Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995 (Act No. 7 of 1995), 20 April 1995. Excerpts published by Berkman Center for Internet and Society by Harvard University. [Accessed 26 June 2009]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld

Countries