Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 21:11 GMT

Saint Lucia: Domestic violence, including police responses to complaints (2001 to April 2003)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 25 April 2003
Citation / Document Symbol LCA41520.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Lucia: Domestic violence, including police responses to complaints (2001 to April 2003), 25 April 2003, LCA41520.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3f7d4dc32a.html [accessed 23 September 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.

The following information was provided on 17 April 2003 during a telephone interview with the past president and current board member of the executive committee of the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre in Castries (17 April 2003a).

The past president stated that most complaints of domestic violence received by the police were "not taken very seriously" and were "placed on the backburner." The prevailing attitudes of the police and the population in general are that "the man of the household is the chief" and that he can impose discipline in the home by violent means. While the problem of sexual violence is widespread in Saint Lucia, few cases make it to the courts and those that do often result in out-of-court settlements that produce lenient punishments for the perpetrators. According to the past president, the entire justice system needs to be modernized to reflect the seriousness of domestic violence.

The government recently established a shelter for victims of domestic violence called the Women's Support Centre, but there is still no legal aid clinic in the country despite years of promises. The Saint Lucia Crisis Centre provides counselling services to victims of domestic violence, lobbies government to modify laws and sensitizes school children about social issues related to rape, incest and sexual violence in general. In addition, when the centre has received funding in the past, it has organized workshops and lectures.

Annual statistics for 2002 on the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre, sent to the Research Directorate on 17 April 2003 by the past president, indicate that 56 of the 213 new cases reported to the centre in 2002 were cases of spouse abuse, representing 26.3 per cent of the centre's intake of new cases. Six cases of sexual violence (four cases of alleged rape and two cases of incest) were reported for the same year (Saint Lucia Crisis Centre 17 Apr. 2003b). The correspondence sent by the past president does not indicate the outcome of these cases of spousal abuse and sexual violence (ibid.).

The following information was provided by a gender relations officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations, in Castries, during a 17 April 2003 telephone interview.

In contrast to statements made by the past president of the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre, the gender relations officer stated that, though complaints of domestic violence had not previously been taken too seriously by the police, there had been a positive shift in the attitudes of police officers. This shift can be attributed in part to the ongoing gender sensitivity training provided by the Department of Gender Relations, which establishes protocols of behaviour and offers information for officers on how to deal with cases of domestic violence. Police will encourage women to file a complaint, but many women abandon their case as they proceed through the judicial system, and many do not present themselves in court when it is time to testify against their aggressors.

The gender relations officer corroborated the information provided by the past president of the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre relating to the Women's Support Centre and the legal aid clinic, and added that the government established the Women's Support Centre two years ago for women who are victims of domestic violence and their children. The centre not only provides a physical space for victims, it also offers counselling and employment orientation services.

In 22 April 2003 correspondence, the gender relations officer also provided statistical information on protection measures issued by the Family Court in 2001. From January to December 2001, the Family Court issued 107 removal orders from households (called occupation orders) and 290 restraining orders (called protection orders) to perpetrators of domestic violence (Saint Lucia 22 Apr. 2003).

The following information was provided by the manager of the Women's Support Centre during telephone interviews held on 23 and 24 April 2003. The centre provides temporary shelter and counselling to victims of domestic violence who are referred primarily by the Family Court or the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre. It also provides assistance to victims on how to access social services, such as welfare and job placements.

The centre maintains strong links with fractions of the police force. Two months ago, a female police officer was appointed as the domestic violence liaison officer within the police force. In the future, there is hope that a domestic violence unit will be established to serve as a centralized body dealing with domestic violence cases.

From the perspective of the Women's Support Centre, there is cooperation and assistance from the police when there is a need for an officer to accompany centre staff in evacuating children from a home in which violence has taken place or in obtaining the belongings of a victim. Although police response to complaints of domestic violence is generally positive, there are times when, owing to a lack of staff or resources, the centre has to wait for its calls for help to be met. The centre has also received testimony from some clients indicating that their complaints to police were ignored or were met with "unprofessionalism." According to the manager, some police officers have stated that they have been frustrated with working on domestic violence cases only to have a case later retracted by the victim.

With regards to the effectiveness of the judicial system, the manager stated that the Family Court has been diligent in issuing protection orders and has processed requests for them quickly. Violation of these protection orders can lead to the arrest of the perpetrator and the Family Court has jurisdiction in prosecuting violators. The Family Court can also recommend counselling for both the aggressor and victim.

The clients of the Women's Support Centre remain at the centre for the period during which their protection orders are being processed. This period is extended based on the situation and the needs of the clients.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that Saint Lucia has yet to submit its report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was due on 7 November 1999 (UN n.d.).

Country Reports for 2002 states that the Saint Lucian government did not prosecute any crimes related to violence against women unless the women themselves brought charges against their aggressors (31 Mar. 2003, Sec. 5). The same source reports that the police carried out training for officers investigating domestic and sexual violence cases, and that a unit within the police force was established in late 2002 to treat domestic violence cases. (Country Reports for 2002 31 Mar. 2003, Sec. 5). Although the justice system enforced laws related to violence against women, few women pressed charges against perpetrators and the police "were hesistant to intervene in domestic disputes" (ibid.).

During a rally in February 2003 in Saint Lucia to protest the lack of progress in the investigation of the rape and murder of a young girl, the president of the Saint Lucia National Organization of Women (NOW) demanded that a policy be implemented that would allow the "routine screening of suspected cases [of violence against women] by health care workers" (The St. Lucia Mirror 21 Feb. 2003). The president stated that domestic violence against women and girls is "a silent epidemic," while other speakers at the march called the problem "a deep-rooted scourge, that would not be easy to eradicate" (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 to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Country Reports for Human Rights Practices 2002. 31 March 2003. United States Department of State, Washington, DC. [Accessed 10 Apr. 2004]

Saint Lucia. 17 April 2003. Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations, Castries. Telephone interview with a gender relations officer.

_____. 22 April 2003. Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations, Castries. Correspondence sent by a gender relations officer.

Saint Lucia Crisis Centre, Castries. 17 April 2003a. Telephone interview with the past president and current board member of the executive committee.

_____. 17 April 2003b. Correspondence sent by the past president and current board member of the executive committee.

The St. Lucia Mirror [Castries]. 21 February 2003. David Vitalis. "March for Verlinda." [Accessed 15 Apr. 2003]

United Nations. n.d. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. "Reporting Status: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Saint Lucia's Reporting Round: 5." [Accessed 14 Apr. 2003]

Women's Support Centre, Castries. 23 and 24 April 2003. Telephone interviews with the manager.

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

LEXIS/NEXIS

World News Connection

Internet sites, including:

Human Rights Internet (HRI)

Isis Internacional

Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM)

MADRE

Panamerican Health Organization (PAHO)

St. Lucia Online [Castries]. Search engine

Women Watch

Search engine:

Google

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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