Saint Kitts and Nevis: Availability of state protection for victims of domestic violence
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||24 September 2003|
|Citation / Document Symbol||KNA42003.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Kitts and Nevis: Availability of state protection for victims of domestic violence, 24 September 2003, KNA42003.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/403dd1fd10.html [accessed 19 April 2015]|
Further to KNA37167.E of 21 June 2001 and Section 5 of Country Reports 2002, both available at Regional Documentation Centres, a 22 January 2002 report submitted by the Government of Saint Kitts and Nevis to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reports the following:
St. Kitts and Nevis has an impressive list of statutory and institutional provisions for the protection of women and children. However the law enforcement agencies are generally handicapped by a number of traditional social practices and institutions, these include:
-an unwillingness of women to testify against their spouses/partners in cases of physical, sexual and other abuses;
-the persuasion of victims by family members, particularly in cases of incest and molestation, not to testify against the perpetrator, and'
-inadequate institutional protection for battered women and children (UN 22 Jan. 2002, 17).
The report states that training of law enforcement officers on domestic violence issues began in the 1980's but was discontinued, and had been reintroduced since May 1997 (ibid.). It states that measures have been taken to raise awareness among law enforcement officials of violence against women, particularly domestic violence, and adds that a special Police unit was established to deal with gender-based violence (ibid.). However, the report also states that
No place or shelter for women faced with violence within the family, exists in St. Kitts and Nevis. However, with the increased sensitization of the police service, more women are going to their nearest police station and receiving assistance. In Nevis, women go [to] the NGO operated Change Center which provides counseling and advice. In St. Kitts women, in addition to going to their nearest police station, call or visit the Ministry of Women's Affairs for assistance. Safe rooms are also available in various private establishments (ibid., 17-18).
Please find attached excerpts from a comprehensive study on the implementation of domestic violence legislation in four Caribbean countries, including Saint Kitts and Nevis, published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The study refers to the difficulties in obtaining accurate data on domestic violence, including guilt and shame that inhibit victims and perpetrators from self-identifying, as well as cultural acceptance of domestic violence and lack of training which keep officials from recording reports of domestic violence in official records (UN 23 Nov. 2001, 6). The report also cites as a problem the absence of protocols for data collection in the police and the courts, and concludes that when reports have resulted in criminal charges being laid, the cases are merged with other cases of assault, battery or other physical offences, and are difficult to identify (ibid.).
The report contains a section on child abuse, pointing out for Saint Kitts and Nevis that
Children in need of protection and care because of neglect, abandonment, abuse or homelessness are placed in the St. Christopher's Children Home. This institution is funded largely by government which not only provides annual grants but also health services, utilities and maintenance services. Children are placed at the home as a result of referrals from the Welfare Department, police or the hospital (ibid., 10-11).
In its overall appreciation of the implementation of domestic violence legislation, the report refers to all three countries stating that
Notably absent in all the legislation is any reference to persons in an intimate relationship who do not or have never resided together or shared a household, namely persons in a visiting relationship. The legislation leaves such persons without a domestic violence remedy at the magistrates court level (ibid., 18).
The attached excerpts refer to the implementation of legislation in regard to service of applications or orders, access to courts, and other procedural matters (pp. 35-40); pages 40-48 describe protection orders, "occupation orders," "tenancy orders" and other orders that can be applied for before the courts in cases of domestic violence, discussing their application and limitations.
Due to similarities in legislation and practice, the report discusses simultaneously the cases of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda; it includes discussion of "ex parte, interim protection orders," "reporting and monitoring," "standard of proof," "notice of consequences of violations," "enforcement of orders" and "penalties for violation" (ibid. 50-57). The report's final sections refer to "criminal jurisdiction," "social service provisions" and "police duties" (ibid., 58-64). Under "criminal jurisdiction," the report notes that:
The definition of domestic violence sufficient to ground a criminal complaint in St. Kitts and Nevis is more restrictive than that provided in relation to protection orders. A domestic violence offence is an offence committed against a spouse, child or dependant or a parent and encompasses any of the following acts:
Use of violence or threatening to use violence;
Causing physical or mental injury;
Arbitrary deprivation of liberty; and
An offence under Section 5 of the Juvenile Act
...Perhaps as a result of a drafting error, although a domestic violence offence is created in St. Kitts and Nevis legislation, no punishment is prescribed. Without amendment, it is unlikely that anyone could be penalized pursuant to a successful prosecution.
...Apart from the imposition of a sentence (albeit not prescribed), the Kittitian legislation creates the possibility of ordering a first time offender to undergo probation in a re-education or rehabilitation programme. The exploration of alternatives to custody merits further examination...The Kittitian legislation makes it clear that recidivist offenders are not to be the recipients of rehabilitation orders (ibid., 58-59).
In its conclusions, the report provides a general assessment of the limitations in law and in practice of the current domestic violence legislation, pointing out that "the legislative framework, whatever its limitations, represents a tremendous advance in giving women the right and the legitimate expectation to protection by the criminal justice system" (ibid., 67). In addition to the attachments, the full report can be consulted at the ECLAC Website cited below.
The information that follows was provided by a representative of The Change Centre, a non-governmental organization assisting victims of domestic violence in Nevis.
Both Nevis and St. Kitts are governed by the same legislation cited in the ECLAC report (The Change Centre 24 Sept. 2003).
There are no shelters on the island of Nevis to house victims of domestic violence. However, there are some legal measures in place; in practice, these consist of:
- Restraining orders to keep the perpetrator away from the victim;
- A possible prison term, if the restraining order is violated;
- Police intervention, which in extreme cases can involve removing the perpetrator from the matrimonial home (ibid.)
The source adds that the above "very simple and sometimes ineffective" procedures are the extent of state protection available for cases of domestic violence (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.
The Change Centre. 24 September 2003. Written communication from representative.
Untied Nations. 22 January 2002. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Combined Initial, Second, Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of States Parties: Saint Kitts and Nevis.
_____. 23 November 2001. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). An Evaluative Study of the Implementation of Domestic Violence Legislation: Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts/Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. (LC/CAR/G.659)
Untied Nations. 23 November 2001. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). An Evaluative Study of the Implementation of Domestic Violence Legislation: Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts/Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. (LC/CAR/G.659)
Additional Sources Consulted
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. 2003
Latin American Regional Report:Central America and the Caribbean [London]
Latinamerica Press [Lima]
The Change Centre, Nevis
UNIFEM Caribbean Regional Office, Barbados
Internet sites and search engines, including:
Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)
Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Network against Domestic andSexual Violence
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)