Grenada: Protection, services and recourse to the law available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2005 - Oct. 2007)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||5 November 2007|
|Citation / Document Symbol||GRD102642.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Grenada: Protection, services and recourse to the law available to women who are victims of domestic violence (2005 - Oct. 2007), 5 November 2007, GRD102642.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4784def51e.html [accessed 21 December 2014]|
Violence against women is a "serious problem" in Grenada, according to women's rights groups (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5; Executive Director 18 Oct. 2007; Director 18 Oct. 2007; see also Freedom House 2007). A joint report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank states that violence against women is "endemic in Caribbean countries" (UN/World Bank Mar. 2007, 13). The same report states that no studies using a comparable methodology have been done in Caribbean countries to gather data on domestic violence in the region, although there are some national surveys from the 1990s (ibid.). No information regarding a recent national survey of domestic violence in Grenada could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
In an 18 October 2007 interview with the Research Directorate, the Director of the Legal Aid and Counselling Centre (LACC), based in St. George's, commented on domestic violence at length. The LACC provides legal services to women who are victims of domestic violence (Director 18 Oct. 2007) and is a run as part of a program of a non-governmental governmental organization (NGO), the Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA) (Executive Director 18 Oct. 2007), which exists to support the "development of Grenada's rural communities" (GRENCODA n.d).
The Director of the LACC provided the information in the following paragraph in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate on 18 October 2007.
There is a lack of data to describe the prevalence of domestic violence in Grenada; in general data collection has been poor in the Caribbean region. However, there are regional studies that suggest that one in three women experience domestic violence. The LACC deals with about 1,000 legal cases a year; at least half of these are directly or indirectly related to domestic violence. The clinic has dealt with an increased number of domestic violence cases since 2004. According to the Director, the use of weapons in domestic violence is "prevalent" in Grenada, although guns are not often used because they are not readily available in Grenada. Rather, the Director said that men use a machete, known as a cutlass in Grenada, and hit women with the flat side of the weapon. The slang term for hitting someone this way is to "planasse" them.
The Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2001 (Director 18 Oct. 2007). The Director of the LACC clarified that the Act is civil legislation that provides for protection orders, such as a restraining order (ibid.). Violence of any kind (including domestic violence) is addressed by the Criminal Code (ibid.). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 states that rape, including spousal rape, is criminalized (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec. 5). However, in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of GRENCODA stated that marital rape is not considered by most Grenadians to be a crime and that the issue "is not debated or discussed" (18 Oct. 2007). Neither a copy of the Criminal Code nor a copy of the Domestic Violence Act could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Grenada is party to several United Nations (UN) conventions and covenants that address the rights of women and girls, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (HRI 1999).
The LACC Director indicated that access to legal services is difficult for most women – most cannot afford the legal fees (18 Oct. 2007). However, the LACC will waive legal fees for women who cannot afford them if they require legal assistance to obtain a protection order or to address a life-threatening situation (Director 18 Oct. 2007). Most of the cases for protection orders in Grenada are dealt with by the LACC (ibid.).
The earning capacity of women is low, according to the Director; most women earn about the equivalent of 300 Canadian dollars per month (Director 18 Oct. 2007). Freedom House reports that women in Grenada earn less than men for equal work (2007). The Director further stated that, for most women, leaving an abusive relationship means choosing to live in poverty (Director 18 Oct. 2007).
The LACC Director provided the information in the following two paragraphs in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate on 18 October 2007.
According to the Director, the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act is weak. If a man breaches the protection order, the police are supposed to arrest him, without a warrant, for a criminal proceeding. However, the Director indicated that there is a high incidence of men breaching protection orders with no subsequent police response. There was some police training regarding domestic violence that took place around 2000 and it had a minimal effect for a short-time. However, the Director indicates that the effect is "non-existent" now.
The Director of the LACC indicated that problems with implementation of the Act can be attributed to limited police resources as well as to the attitude of police officers, who may believe that domestic violence is a private matter. Officers may also have little understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence. For example, if a woman in a situation of domestic violence calls the police, but then subsequently reconciles with her partner, the police may choose not to enforce the law if she contacts them again. Because of limited resources, even the deployment of a vehicle can be a problem. The Director stated that a woman may call the police about a breach of a protection order and be told that there is no transportation available for a police officer to go to the scene.
The Executive Director of GRENCODA provided further information in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate on 18 October 2007. She corroborated information from the Director of LACC regarding the attitude of police officers towards domestic violence (Executive Director 18 Oct. 2007). For example, she noted that although there is legislation against domestic violence, the mind-set of law enforcement agencies is that domestic violence is a family affair and that they should not be involved (ibid.) The Executive Director indicated that if a woman goes to the police, the officers are likely to send her home (ibid.).
However, Country Reports 2006 states that "police and judicial authorities usually acted promptly in cases of domestic violence" (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec....
The LACC Director stated that there are no special units within the police force to deal with domestic violence (18 Oct. 2007). There is also no officer assigned exclusively to dealing with domestic violence (Director 18 Oct. 2007). The officers responsible for domestic violence do other police work as well (ibid.). The Director indicated that, in her estimation, eight out of ten times, an officer responsible for domestic violence will not be available when a woman calls to report domestic violence (ibid.). This information could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Freedom House reports that most cases of domestic violence are not reported to the police or are settled out of court (2007). The Director of the LACC commented that it is uncommon for a man to be jailed for domestic violence unless he has a record of repeat offences, or unless the violence has escalated (Director 18 Oct. 2007). The most common sentence that is issued for domestic violence is 90 days, she said (ibid.). Moreover, there are no bail conditions in Grenada, so in domestic violence cases, if a man posts bail, no legal provision prevents him from returning to the family home or from seeing his partner (ibid.).
Country Reports 2006 reports that "sentences for assault against a spouse vary according the severity of the incident" and that in 2006 three men accused of killing their wives were sentenced to life in prison (US 6 Mar. 2007 Sec....
According to the LACC Director, there are rehabilitation programs in the prison system (18 Oct. 2007). However, the LACC runs a battering intervention program called "man to man" for men referred by the courts who are not sentenced to jail (Director 18 Oct. 2007). The man-to-man program is not used in the prisons (ibid.).
Services for victims
The information in this paragraph was provided by the LACC Director in an18 October 2007 interview. There is one women's shelter in the country, which is run by the Ministry of Social Development. This shelter was damaged in 2004 during Hurricane Ivan. The Director described conditions for shelter residents following the hurricane as "deplorable." For example, the roof leaked and there was a period when there was no electricity. Although the Director had not seen the shelter since repairs have begun, she had heard that they had started. According to the Director, the shelter provides a physical space, but it is not "a very rehabilitative type of place." There is little programming although a counsellor visits once a week.
In contrast, Country Reports 2006 states that the shelter, which can house approximately 20 women and their children, is staffed by "medical and psychological counselling personnel" (US 6 Mar. 2007, Sec....
The LACC Director further said the legal clinic runs a 10-week group education program, which focuses on empowerment, for women who are victims of violence (18 Oct. 2007).
According to the Director of the LACC, domestic violence is not taboo in Grenada (Director 18 Oct. 2007). The Director said there is a level of social tolerance for domestic violence that undermines women's safety (ibid.). How families react to a woman leaving a situation of domestic violence varies, depending on the dynamics of the particular family (ibid.). The Director knew of several cases where family members blamed the victim and expected her to accept her situation (ibid.). However, she also knew of cases where families were more supportive (ibid.). According to the Director, family support is important because there is no social safety net in Grenada (ibid.).
Grenada Today reports that Education and Labour Minister Claris Charles said that Grenada's development is being hampered because violence against women, including domestic violence, is accepted in spite of laws that prohibit such violence (13 Oct. 2007). Charles stated that more education is needed to convey that domestic violence, among other forms of abuse, is wrong (Grenada Today 13 Oct. 2007).
Possibility of relocating within the country to escape violence
The LACC Director observed that Grenada is a very small island and everyone knows everyone (18 Oct. 2007). She stated that it is "virtually impossible" to become invisible in the country. One client she had moved four times to escape her abusive husband, but he found her every time (Director 18 Oct. 2007). The Executive Director of GRENCODA corroborated that relocation to another part of the island may not ensure a woman's safety (18 Oct. 2007). She was also aware of a case of a man who found out where the women's shelter was even though its location is supposed to be kept a secret (Executive Director 18 Oct. 2007). He threatened his partner, who was there (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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Director, Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic, St. John's, Grenada. 18 October 2007. Telephone interview.
Executive Director, Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA), St. George's, Grenada. 18 October 2007. Telephone interview.
Freedom House. 2007. "Grenada." Freedom in the World 2007.
Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA). N.d. "Welcome to our Website."
Grenada Today. 13 October 2007. "Combatting Sexual Harassment."
Human Rights Internet (HRI). 1999. "Grenada – Treaties: Ratifications and Reservations."
United Nations (UN) / World Bank. March 2007. UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank. Crime, Violence and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean.
United States (US). 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Grenada." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006.
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency, Caribbean Association for Feminist Research (CAFRA), Caribbean Net News, Natlex, Population Reference Bureau, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitaran Affairs (OCHA), World Health Organization (WHO).