Saint Lucia: Sexual violence against women, including legislation, state protection and support services available to victims (2009-October 2012)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||15 November 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||LCA104229.E|
|Related Document||Sainte-Lucie : information sur la violence sexuelle contre les femmes, y compris les lois, la protection offerte par l'État et les services offerts aux victimes (2009-octobre 2012)|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Lucia: Sexual violence against women, including legislation, state protection and support services available to victims (2009-October 2012), 15 November 2012, LCA104229.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50bf2f292.html [accessed 21 April 2014]|
Sources indicate that sexual violence against women is a problem in Saint Lucia (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012; US 24 May 2012, 8; Dathorne and Lawrence 11 June 2012). The Regional Programme Director of the UN Women's Caribbean's Office described the Caribbean region in general as "an unsafe space for women" and noted that all Caribbean countries "have higher than global averages of sexual violence" (qtd. in St. Lucia Star 27 July 2011). While the global average is reportedly 10 rapes per 100,000 people per year (St. Lucia Star 27 July 2011), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), based on police statistics from the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, reports that Saint Lucia's rate of rape was approximately 38 per 100,000 people in 2009 and 41 per 100,000 people in 2010 (UN 2012, 26). There were reportedly 587 cases of rape reported to the police in Saint Lucia between the years 2000 and 2010 (St. Lucia Star 27 July 2011).
A 2010 UN Development Programme (UNDP) survey on citizen security, in which over 11,000 male and female adults were interviewed in seven Caribbean countries, including Saint Lucia, found that 11 percent of those surveyed had experienced "violent sexual victimization, including rape and sexual assault" (UN 2012, 31, 226). The survey also found that specific to Saint Lucia, 12.2 percent of respondents feared being sexually assaulted "all of the time" or "most of the time" (ibid., 40).
Sources indicate that rape cases are underreported (St. Lucia Star 31 May 2012; Saint Lucia 13 Nov. 2012; US 24 May 2012, 8). According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, many victims were hesitant to report rape or press charges "due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence" (ibid.). Similarly, a counsellor at the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre, as reported by the local media source St. Lucia Star, stated that some of their clients who were raped did not report the violence to the police due to fear or shame, or because they felt they might be subject to stigma or discrimination, or that people would not believe them (31 May 2012). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, Saint Lucia's Director of the Division of Gender Relations of the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services, and Gender Relations explained that sexual violence is underreported "due to the slow response of the justice system, and the lack of appropriate victim support" (St. Lucia 13 Nov. 2012).
The Director indicated that "[c]ultural beliefs that perpetuate gender stereotyping" are a factor contributing to violence against women in Saint Lucia (ibid.).
2. State Protection
Saint Lucia's Criminal Code prohibits rape and prescribes a punishment of a prison sentence ranging from 14 years to life imprisonment (US 24 May 2012, 8; Saint Lucia 2005, Sec. 123). The law also prohibits "unlawful sexual connection" with a punishment of 14 years to life and "indecent assault" with a punishment of 3 or 7 years if committed against a person 16 years of age or older (ibid., Sec. 124, 130). For further details about these crimes, see Sections 122 to 130 of the 2005 Criminal Code, which is attached to this Response.
The law defines spousal rape as a crime in the following instances:
(3) A husband commits the offence of rape where he has sexual intercourse with his wife without her consent by force, fear or the use of a drug or thing with intent to stupefy or overpower her, where there is in existence in relation to them-
- decree nisi of divorce or nullity granted under the Divorce Act;
- decree of judicial separation granted under the Civil Code;
- a separation agreement or where the parties are in fact separated; or
- a peace binding order or an order for the husband not to molest his wife or have sexual intercourse with her including a protection order from the Family Court. (ibid., Sec. 123)
According to Country Reports 2011, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force was "not reluctant" to arrest alleged rape offenders (US 24 May 2012, 8).
The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) crime statistics for 2009 indicate the following:
|Crime||Cases reported||Cases accepted||Cases detected||Arrests|
|Unlawful Sexual Connection||23||23||1||2|
(Saint Lucia 2009)
In addition, RSLPF statistics for 2010, which were provided by the Director of the Division of Gender Relations, indicates that there were 66 cases of rape, 61 cases of indecent assault, and 19 cases of unlawful sexual connection (Saint Lucia 13 Nov. 2012). Crime statistics for the years 2011-2012 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Sources indicate that sexual violence against women is handled by a separate unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012; Saint Lucia 13 Nov. 2012; US 24 May 2012, 9), known as the Vulnerable Persons Unit (ibid.) or Vulnerable Persons Team (Saint Lucia 13 Nov. 2012). The Director of the Division of Gender Relations explained that the unit was established in December 2007, and responds specifically to crimes of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence (ibid.). She further noted that all police recruits receive training on handling cases of sexual violence, and that the Division of Gender Relations provided additional training to officers in the Vulnerable Persons Team in the beginning of 2012 (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2011, the unit "increased police responsiveness" to cases of violence against women and children, and there were more cases of this nature reported to the unit (US 24 May 2012, 9).
According to the 2010 UNDP Citizen Security Survey, 48.8 percent of women in Saint Lucia who reported "violent crime" to the police were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the action taken by the police, which was higher than the Caribbean regional average of 29.7 percent (UN 2012, 109).
The Director of Gender Relations noted that less than half of sexual crimes reported to the police are detected, with the exception of cases of sexual intercourse with a minor under 12 (Saint Lucia 13 Nov. 2012). She stated that "[t]he low detection rate is a significant factor as to why sexual offences persist in the country" (ibid.).
Sources indicate that cases of sexual violence can be addressed through closed hearings (NCDF n.d.; Saint Lucia 2005, Sec. 136).
The lawyer expressed the opinion that it "can be difficult to meet the legal requirements to prosecute cases of rape and other sexual violence due to a lack of corroboration" (24 Oct. 2012). According to Country Reports 2011, cases of violence against women are only prosecuted if the victim presses charges (US 24 May 2012, 8).
Statistics about the number of cases of sexual violence prosecuted, the number of convictions, and the punishments prescribed could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, an article in the St. Lucia Star from October 2010 indicates that there were 36 cases of sexual offences scheduled for hearing at the Criminal High Court at that time, including 10 rape cases (11 Oct. 2010).
A counsellor at the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre, as reported by the St. Lucia Star, expressed the opinion that Saint Lucia needs "stiffer penalties" for rape (31 May 2012). The Director of the Division of Gender Relations characterized the response of the justice system to violence against women in Saint Lucia as "slow" and "inadequate" (Saint Lucia 13 Nov. 2012).
3. Support Services
According to the Director of Gender Relations, Saint Lucia completed a National Plan for Action to End Gender-Based Violence in November 2011, but it is awaiting approval by the Cabinet (Saint Lucia 13 Nov. 2012). She noted that unavailable or inadequate data on gender-based violence poses challenges to Saint Lucia in developing programmes and policies to address violence against women (ibid.) She also indicated that Saint Lucia needs to increase support services to victims of gender-based violence, including the need for a rape crisis centre (ibid.).
According to Country Reports 2011, the Division of Gender Relations of the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services, and Gender Relations "ran a Women's Support Center, which provided shelter, counselling, residential services, a 24-hour hotline, and assistance in finding employment" (US 24 May 2012, 9).
In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a Saint Lucia-based lawyer stated that victims of sexual violence can go to the women's shelter (24 Oct. 2012). For further information on the women's shelter, see Response to Information Request LCA103195 of 13 July 2009.
The Saint Lucia Crisis Centre reportedly provides counselling to rape victims and sometimes receives referrals of rape victims from the police (St. Lucia Star 31 May 2012). They reportedly operate a hotline service on weekends and holidays (NCDF n.d.). Their mission statement reportedly says:
'The Crisis Centre is a non-governmental organisation which strives for the elimination of all forms of abuse in the society, by providing psychological support through counselling, education, specific referral and networking with agencies that have similar objectives.' (ibid.)
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.
Dathorne, Souyenne and Velika Lawrence. 11 June 2012. "Surviving Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean--Not Your Fault." Published in St. Lucia Star.
Lawyer, Saint Lucia. 24 October 2012. Telephone interview.
NGO Caribbean Development Foundation (NCDF). N.d. Caribbean NGO Database. "St. Lucia Crisis Centre."
Saint Lucia. 13 November 2012. Division of Gender Relations, Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services, and Gender Relations. Correspondence from the Director.
_____. 2009. Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF). "Crime Statistics 2009." Document sent to the Research Directorate by an inspector of the RSLPF.
_____. 2005. Criminal Code. Document sent to the Research Directorate by a Lawyer on 24 October 2012.
_____. N.d. "Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services, and Gender Relations."
St. Lucia Star. 31 May 2012. Kayra Williams. "Is There any Truth Behind Serial Rapist Reports?"
_____. 27 July 2011. "The Time to Act is Now!"
_____. 11 October 2010. Alisha Ally. "Sexual Offenses Dominate Assizes!"
United Nations (UN). 2012. UN Development Programme (UNDP). Caribbean Human Development Report 2012: Human Development and the Shift to Better Citizen Security.
United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Saint Lucia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, Family Court. A representative of the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre was unable to provide information.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Caribbean News Agency; ecoi.net; Factiva; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States; Saint Lucia — Department of Gender Relations, Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services, and Gender Relations, Royal Saint Lucia Police Force; UN — Refworld, UN Development Program, Women Watch; University of the West Indies.
Saint Lucia. 2005. Criminal Code. Document sent to the Research Directorate by a Lawyer on 24 October 2012.