Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Situation and treatment of homosexuals; legislation; availability of state protection and support services (2007 - September 2009)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||8 October 2009|
|Citation / Document Symbol||VCT103276.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Situation and treatment of homosexuals; legislation; availability of state protection and support services (2007 - September 2009), 8 October 2009, VCT103276.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b20f0422.html [accessed 24 September 2017]|
|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.|
Sources indicate that consensual homosexual acts are illegal in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (ILGA May 2009; Freedom House 2009; CMC 28 June 2007; CVC 23 Sept. 2009; UN 24 Apr. 2008). According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Section 146 of the 1990 Criminal Code stipulates:
Any person who –
(a) commits buggery with any other person;
(b) commits buggery with an animal; or
(c) permits any person to commit buggery with him or her;
is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for ten years. (ILGA May 2009, 35)
Section 148 of the Criminal Code states, "Any person, who in public or private, commits an act of gross indecency with another person of the same sex, or procures or attempts to procure another person of the same sex to commit an act of gross indecency with him or her, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for five years" (ILGA May 2009, 36). In 23 September 2009 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC), a coalition of community leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which provides services for people vulnerable to HIV infection (CVC n.d.a), stated that as of September 2009 these laws are still in effect and are enforced. The Representative was aware of cases in which men were prosecuted for committing homosexual acts (CVC 23 Sept. 2009). He affirmed that sexual acts between lesbians are also prohibited as gross indecency, but was not aware of any cases where lesbians were prosecuted (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Sources report that homosexuals in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines face discrimination (ibid.; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; CVC n.d.b). The United States (US) Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 states that there are no laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). According to the CVC Representative, homosexuals are subject to "scorn" and are discriminated against in the workplace without any legal recourse (CVC 23 Sept. 2009). He explained that the way homosexuals are treated depends, in part, on their position in society; someone well placed in society might face gossip but not be abused, while those in the lower class might be openly ridiculed (ibid.). The CVC Representative asserted that "most gay men are in the closet and get married to avoid suspicion" (ibid.). Similarly, the President of the Human Rights Organization of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was quoted in an article by Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) as saying that societal attitudes towards homosexuality were causing a "'closet' lifestyle," and that many homosexuals get married to hide their sexual identity (CMC 5 July 2007).
The CVC Representative indicated that homosexuals in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines do not encounter regular physical violence or mob violence (CVC 23 Sept. 2009). He maintained that many homosexuals encounter verbal abuse, which sometimes escalates into physical fights between the two parties (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Information about police protection for homosexuals in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. The CVC Representative was aware of cases where the police "humiliated" homosexuals in their custody (ibid.). In an example that the Representative provided, two gay men, who were apprehended for committing homosexual acts, were taken to the police station and left in their holding cell naked; they were forbidden to get dressed and subjected to verbal abuse (ibid.). The Representative believed that the police would not be helpful if a gay man reported harassment, but that if he experienced physical violence, he could file a police report and handle it "through the usual legal channels" (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
In January 2007, the Associated Press (AP) reported that at a Caribbean Summit on HIV-AIDS, Douglas Slater, the Health Minister for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, characterized society as "very homophobic" and indicated that it is "something we are going to have to overcome" (AP 21 Jan. 2007).
In June 2007, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace reportedly voiced opposition to decriminalizing homosexual acts (CMC 28 June 2007). According to CMC, Gonsalves was reluctant to change the law, and stated, "I have nothing against [homosexuals] as children of God" (ibid.).
In November 2007, CMC reported that the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had banned gay cruise ships from docking on their islands (CMC 20 Nov. 2007). The Toronto Star reports that Saint Vincent citizens protested gay cruises in 2006 (The Toronto Star 28 Nov. 2007).
Information about support services available for homosexuals in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the CVC Representative, there are no groups in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines which publicly advocate for gay and lesbian rights (CVC 23 Sept. 2009). He was aware of only a few HIV support groups with some gay members (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.
Associated Press (AP). 21 January 2007. Mat Probasco. "Caribbean Officials Say Fight Against HIV/AIDS Undermined by Ignorance." (Factiva)
Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC). 20 November 2007. "Gay Cruise Ships Ignite Debate in Grenada." (BBC Monitoring Americas 21 Nov. 2007/Factiva)
_____. 5 July 2007. "St. Vincent Rights Group to Campaign Over Death Penalty, Homosexuality." (BBC Monitoring Americas 6 July 2007/Factiva)
_____. 28 June 2007. "St. Vincent Premier, Opposition Leader Agree on Death Penalty." (BBC Monitoring Americas/Factiva)
Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC). 23 September 2009. Correspondence with a representative.
_____. N.d.a. "About CVC."
_____. N.d.b. "MSM."
Freedom House. 2009. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Freedom in the World (2009).
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). May 2009. Daniel Ottosson. State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws Prohibiting Same Sex Activity Between Consenting Adults.
The Toronto Star. 28 November 2007. John Goddard. "Grenada Considering Ban on Gay Cruises, Reports Say." (Factiva)
United Nations (UN). 24 April 2008. Human Rights Committee. "Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee. St. Vincent and the Grenadines." (CCPR/C/VCT/CO/2)
United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: Attempts to reach a sociologist at St. George's University in Grenada were unsuccessful within time constraints.
Internet sources, including: Amnesty International (AI), Caribbean Net News, European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Globalgayz, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Legislationline, Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Government, Sodomy Laws, World Laws Guide.