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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Domestic violence, including legislation and availability of state protection and services (2008-2009)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 4 November 2009
Citation / Document Symbol VCT103275.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Domestic violence, including legislation and availability of state protection and services (2008-2009), 4 November 2009, VCT103275.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b20f046c.html [accessed 23 July 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.

Freedom House and the United States (US) Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 indicate that domestic violence is a serious concern in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Freedom House 2009; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). Statistics regarding the number of domestic violence cases could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Legislation

In correspondence with the Research Directorate on 18 October 2009, a representative of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA) indicated that there has not been any new legislation initiated in the past few years to help combat domestic violence in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to information on the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines government website, The Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995 is still in effect (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3 Aug. 2009). Through this legislation, a spouse who is a victim of domestic violence can apply for an injunction, a Protection Order or an Occupation Order (ibid.).

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS n.d.), a regional organization whose mission is to contribute to the sustainable development of member states and to facilitate bilateral and multilateral cooperation (ibid. 13 Mar. 2009). A draft bill has been drawn up to address the issue of domestic violence in member states of the OECS (ibid.13 July 2009). The draft bill is part of the OECS Family Law and Domestic Violence Reform Project, an initiative aimed at harmonizing family law in member states (ibid.). In the draft bill, the definition of a "domestic relationship" includes one involving two persons who "are or were in an engagement, dating or visiting relationship which includes but is not limited to an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship of any duration" (OECS Dec. 2007, Part I, Sec. 2 (f)).

The draft bill defines domestic violence as including physical abuse, sexual abuse, threats, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, property damage and entry without consent into a victim's place of residence (ibid., Part I, Sec. 2 (a-i)). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a Consular and Political Affairs Officer at the High Commission for the Countries of the OECS stated that the OECS draft legislation was approved by the OECS, but has not yet been adopted by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (OECS 19 Oct. 2009). The SVGHRA representative asserted that the OECS draft legislation may need to be modified before being adopted by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVGHRA 18 Oct. 2009). However, information on whether Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will adopt this legislation could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Country Reports 2008 indicates that cases of domestic violence are charged under assault, battery and other similar laws rather than under laws which specifically criminalize domestic violence (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2008 also states that some courts impose fines on victims of domestic violence who do not follow through after filing charges (ibid.).

State Protection

The SVGHRA Representative stated that victims of domestic violence may obtain services from the Gender Affairs Department, the Family Services Department, the police and the courts (SVGHRA 18 Oct. 2009). Cases of domestic violence are reported to these agencies (ibid.). The Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, Gender Affairs, Non-Governmental Organizations Relations, Persons with Disabilities, Youth Affairs and Sports' website states that "[d]omestic violence is currently being given greater attention" (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3 Aug. 2009). The Ministry reports that a draft Action Plan on Domestic Violence has been launched, and police officers and social workers have received training (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2008, this Ministry provides information to domestic violence victims, such as education on the role of the police, family court and other legal matters pertaining to domestic violence, and refers victims to additional services offered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2008 also indicates that police received training on domestic violence, particularly on the importance of filing reports and initiating court proceedings if there is sufficient evidence (ibid.). SVGHRA, as cited by Country Reports 2008, states that police are often reluctant to follow up on cases of domestic violence because a number of victims do not press charges after complaining to the police (ibid.).

The SVGHRA Representative stated that as of October 2009, there were no shelters on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for victims of domestic abuse (SVGHRA 18 Oct. 2009). However, according to an article by National Broadcast Corporation (NBC) Radio, which was posted on the Saint Vincent and the Grenadine's government website (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 9 June 2009), the Ministry of Social Development has announced the planned development of a National Crisis Centre to "provide a place of refuge for victims of domestic violence" (NBC Radio 9 June 2009). The article indicates that the National Crisis Centre is a joint project of the National Committee of the Rights of the Child, the Ministry of Social Development, the National Council of Women and the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' Social Investment Fund (ibid.). The Centre is reportedly expected to open by mid-2010 (ibid.). Further details about the National Crisis Centre could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Support Services

The SVGHRA Representative stated that the SVGHRA provides counselling and legal aid to victims of domestic violence (SVGHRA 18 Oct. 2009). Marion House is another NGO which offers counselling to victims (ibid.; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5). According to the SVGHRA Representative, SVGHRA and Marion House also refer victims to the Family Court (SVGHRA 18 Oct. 2009). In addition, Country Reports 2008 indicates that the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) received funding by development banks for "a program on domestic violence prevention, training and intervention" in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5).

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

Freedom House. 2009. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Freedom in the World (2009). [Accessed 22 Sept. 2009]

National Broadcast Corporation (NBC) Radio [Kingstown]. 9 June 2009. "National Crisis Centre." [Accessed 7 Oct. 2009]

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). 19 October 2009. Telephone interview with Consular and Political Affairs Officer.
_____. 13 July 2009. "Family Law and Domestic Violence Reform Project." [Accessed 26 October 2009]
_____. 13 March 2009. "Mission and Objectives." [Accessed 26 Oct. 2009]
_____. December 2007. Legal Unit. Draft Domestic Violence Bill (Rev. III). [Accessed 22 Sept. 2008]
_____. N.d. "Member States." [Accessed 26 Oct. 2008]

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 3 August 2009. Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, Gender Affairs, Non-Governmental Organisations Relations, Persons with Disabilities, Youth Affairs and Sports. "Initiatives Relating to the Rights of Women and Gender." [Accessed 22 Sept. 2009]
_____. 9 June 2009. "National Crisis Center." [Accessed 22 Sept. 2009]

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA). 18 October 2009. Correspondence from a representative.

United States (US). 25 February 2009. Department of State. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 24 Sept. 2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral Sources: Attempts to reach officials at the Gender Affairs Division of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the National Council of Women, and the Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force were unsuccessful within time constraints. A representative of Marion House was unable to provide information.

Internet sources, including: Amnesty International (AI), Caribbean Net News, European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Factiva, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Legislationline, Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld, Organization of American States, Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), Stop Violence Against Women (StopVAW), UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), The Vincentian.

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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