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Grenada: Procedure rules under the Domestic Violence Act; description and status of implementation (2004-2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 6 December 2005
Citation / Document Symbol GRD100710.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Grenada: Procedure rules under the Domestic Violence Act; description and status of implementation (2004-2005), 6 December 2005, GRD100710.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147f211.html [accessed 14 July 2014]
Comments Corrected version March 2007
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.

Although not referring specifically to the Domestic Violence Act, Country Reports 2004 stated that "[t]he law prohibits domestic violence and provides for penalties at the discretion of the presiding judge based on the severity of the offense. In practice, the court enforced the law" (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). As well, "[s]entences for assault against a spouse varied according to the severity of the incident" (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

A press release from the Grenada Government Information Service indicated that procedure rules under the Domestic Violence Act had been approved by Grenada's government Cabinet at the end of June 2005 (30 June 2005). The press release refers more precisely to the fact that forms used for the Court orders mandated by the Domestic Violence Act had not been passed as part of the legislation originally adopted in 2001 (Grenada 30 June 2005). A document released by the Grenada Ministry of Social Development mentioned that the procedure rules will "facilitat[e] court action by victims of domestic violence" (ibid. 30 July 2004). No other information on procedure rules under the Domestic Violence Act of 2001 were found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, following a June 2005 visit to Grenada, the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago produced a report on domestic violence in Grenada, in which the Domestic Violence Act was reviewed (Canada July 2005). The following information was taken from this report:

General

Domestic violence is a known problem in Grenada. A generally more accepting attitude towards perpetrators and the abuse of alcohol both contribute to a high incidence of abuse in domestic settings. Legislation in place is inadequate to properly deal with offenders and police response is slow and often insufficient. Given that Grenada is a small island, women often find it difficult to separate or remain hidden from an abuser. There are no psychologists in Grenada and counselling services are poor. There is only one known shelter for victims and it can only offer limited protection.

New legislation

The new domestic violence law came into force in 2001. Grenada was the last island in the region to pass legislation of this kind. As of 2003, no applications had been made as most lawyers and magistrates did not understand how to best utilize this legislative tool. Now, there is a very limited use of the law as compared to other islands. For example, in the year 2004 St. Lucia and Trinidad each saw about 100 applications whereas Grenada saw only approximately 20.

Applications of the domestic violence law are made primarily through an NGO [non-governmental organization] called the Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic (LACC). Victims of domestic violence have no legal aid entitlement and, as such, it is very rare that private lawyers are involved in cases of domestic abuse. LACC charges its clients reduced legal fees and provides free services if clients (especially victims of domestic violence) are unable to pay.

The 2001 domestic violence legislation is a civil, not a criminal law and the police lack the legislative authority they require to properly intervene. For each incident of abuse that is reported, the victim must make an official report and request that it be pursued in court. The police can not independently press charges and victims do not always know to request to do so.

Domestic violence legislation allows for three types of orders:

– Protection Order – This order bars the perpetrator of domestic violence from coming within a certain distance of the victim or from coming into the workplace, home or school of the victim.

– Occupation Order – This order gives the victim of domestic violence
the right to occupy a owned property that was formerly occupied by her and the perpetrator of the abuse.

– Tenancy Order – This order gives the victim the right to occupy a rented property formerly occupied by her and the perpetrator of the abuse.

It is important to note that while common-law partnerships are not recognized in Grenada, the domestic violence law provides protection for both married persons and those living in common-law unions.

Despite the new legislation, victims of domestic violence are often not adequately protected. There are serious problems with implementing the law. Orders are breeched frequently, and often without consequence as police response to violations of these civil orders are poor. Grenada has no criminal bail conditions attached to domestic violence cases and women can not, therefore, rely on bail conditions and monitoring by probation officers. Criminal law still narrowly defines rape as an act that occurs outside of marriage. As such, a man who sexually assaults his wife is not committing a criminal act and can not be arrested.

Furthermore, there are some specific flaws with the 2001 domestic violence law. For example, the law does not stipulate the length of orders and it is unclear if they run indefinitely or within a certain time period. Occupation orders conflict with property laws that fall under the jurisdiction of higher courts. Because of these flaws, magistrates often hesitate to [issue] or have trouble issuing orders altogether. Finally, the legislation does not outline implementation procedures and, as a result, orders imposed by the court are frequently not brought to the attention of the police.

Police

Police response to domestic violence is also generally acknowledged to be inadequate. Police tend not to understand or not to acknowledge the severity of abuse that occurs in domestic situations. Domestic violence is often not viewed by police as a matter of significance. There is generally a lack of professionalism, sensitivity and confidentiality in regards to situations of domestic violence and police response times tend to be slow. As a result of these problems, victims hesitate to seek police protection. Despite its problems, it appears that police response is often good once a victim decides to report an instance of abuse and files charges.

Over 80% of police officers receive some domestic violence training in their basic police training courses. In addition, one person in each police station is identified as a domestic violence expert. Nonetheless, police training is insufficient and the police have a limited ability to effectively respond to situations of domestic violence. In many instances the 'expert' in each police station has either only attended a short workshop, or has no special training at all. This person is often not able provide the proper support or is generally unavailable to deal with these issues.

[...]

In many incidents, police officers themselves are the perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual abuse of minors. In these cases, the victims are at higher risk and have very limited access to protection.

Government

In the last few years, the government of Grenada established a Domestic Violence Unit. While the mandate of this unit is not entirely clear to the public, it appears to be responsible for coordinating Grenada's response to domestic violence in general. It also appears to offer support for victims by taking reports and providing direction to 'Ced[a]rs' shelter. This unit is primarily comprised of one social worker, Ms Merle Walker.

[According to the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), the shelter was opened in 1999 in Madeys, St-Patrick and can house more than 30 people (23 November 1999).]

[...]

Conclusion

Grenada faces some serious challenges in the area of domestic violence. Women in situations of abuse are not, however, without resources. A woman can seek protection through her network of family and friends, the police, an NGO such as the LACC, government-run programs such as Cedars shelter, or with legal remedies such as pressing charges and seeking protection orders in court.

A smaller number of women fall into higher risk situations. If abuse is severe and an abuser is persistent, a woman may not be able to escape him by staying on the small island. If the perpetrator of abuse is a police officer, there are very few resources available that can offer a woman genuine and real protection from him. Finally a woman without access to a network of family or friends may find herself without the financial or social support she requires to escape an abusive situation.

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.

References

Canada. July 2005. High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago. Written communication sent to the Research Directorate by a Citizenship and Immigration official in Ottawa.

The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA). 23 November 1999. "News." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Grenada." United States Department of State. [Accessed 1st Nov. 2005]

Grenada. 30 June 2005. Government Information Service. "Cabinet Approves Domestic Violence Rules 2005." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2005]
_____. 30 July 2004. Ministry of Social Development. "Consultation on Summary Procedure Rules for the Domestic Violence Act, 2001." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), the Grenada National Council of Women (GNOW) and the Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic (LACC) did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Bayefsky.com, British Broadcasting Corporation, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Comité de América Latina y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM), Country Reports 2003, Factiva, Government of Grenada, Website of the United Nations Development Programme for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

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.

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