Saint Lucia: Prevalence and forms of child abuse, including legislation, state protection, and availability of child protection services (2009-October 2012)
|Publisher||Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA)|
|Publication Date||9 November 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||LCA104228.E|
|Related Document||Sainte-Lucie : information sur la fréquence et les formes de violence faite aux enfants, y compris les lois, la protection offerte par l'État et la disponibilité des services de protection de l'enfance (2009-octobre 2012)|
|Cite as||Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA), Saint Lucia: Prevalence and forms of child abuse, including legislation, state protection, and availability of child protection services (2009-October 2012), 9 November 2012, LCA104228.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50b4a7c62.html [accessed 19 September 2014]|
Several sources indicate that child abuse in Saint Lucia is a problem (RISE St. Lucia 25 Oct. 2012; Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012; US 24 May 2012, 10). A Saint Lucia-based lawyer, in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, noted that Saint Lucia has particularly "high levels" of incest and sexual abuse of children (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012). In another telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the manager of RISE St. Lucia, an advocacy organization that promotes the rights of children in Saint Lucia, stated that all types of abuse against children, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, are a "major" problem (RISE 25 Oct. 2012). According to the UNICEF Office for Eastern Caribbean, many children in the region "are exposed to various kinds of abuse and exploitation, including sexual abuse; neglect and abandonment; physical abuse as a means of discipline; child labour; and child trafficking" (UN n.d.). UNICEF reported in 2009 that a major concern in Saint Lucia was "the increasing reports of child abuse and neglect since 1999, particularly in reported cases of child sexual abuse" (UN Nov. 2009, 35).
In 1 November 2012 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Director of the Division of Human Services of the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, which is the government agency responsible for child care protection, provided the following statistics on child abuse cases in Saint Lucia:
|Year||Male victims||Female victims||Total|
Many cases of child abuse go unreported (RISE 25 Oct. 2012; Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012). The RISE Manager stated that in many cases the child is afraid to speak of the abuse due to threats made by the abuser, such as threatening to kill the child or the child's mother (RISE 25 Oct. 2012). Similarly, another source stated that the main reasons why children didn't report abuse was the threat of corporal punishment or further abuse (RTG Sept. 2011, 26).
1.1 Sexual Abuse of Children
Road to Geneva (RTG), a research and advocacy project that included a youth coalition along with six Saint Lucian NGOs--RISE St. Lucia, Aids Action Foundation, National Youth Council, St. Lucia Planned Parenthood Association, National Council of/for Persons with Disabilities and the St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association--carried out research between September 2009 and December 2011 and submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2011 (RTG Sept. 2011, 4). According to a peer survey conducted by Saint Lucian youth as part of RTG's study, in response to the statement "I am safe from sexual abuse," out of 580 youths aged between 11 and 17, 10 percent of youths answered "Never," while 62.1 percent answered "Always," 8.6 percent "Sometimes," 2.4 percent "Rarely," 16.2 percent stated they did not know, and 0.7 did not answer (RTG Sept. 2011, 25, 40-41). According to the report, the most common type of sexual abuse occurs between a male relative and a young girl, but youth have also been subject to sexual abuse by teachers, priests, and others in authority (ibid., 25-26).
UNICEF commissioned a survey in 2009 on child sexual abuse in the Eastern Caribbean, in which more than 1,400 people participated (UN Sept. 2009, 8-9). Although there were no respondents from Saint Lucia, the 6 other Caribbean countries were "collectively considered representative of the region" (UN Sept. 2009, 8-9). Although approximately 76 percent of the respondents stated that sexual activity between adults and children is "never acceptable," 70.2 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that "'women sometimes turn a blind eye when their partners have sex with children in their families'" (ibid., 9). Reasons for why this might happen, according to the survey, include poverty, patriarchal attitudes, "gender socialization and norms," cyclical abuse (in which those who were sexually abused as children become abusers) and "predatory behaviour" among some men (ibid.).
1.2 Corporal Punishment
Sources indicate that corporal punishment is lawful in St. Lucia; the Children and Young Persons Act of 1972 grants "the right of any parent, teacher or other person having lawful control or charge of a child to administer reasonable punishment to him" (UN 10 Nov. 2010, para. 4; RTG Sept. 2011, 14). According to RTG, corporal punishment is legal in homes, schools, alternative care settings and as a form of discipline in penal institutions (ibid.).
2. State Protection
According to the RTG, Saint Lucia's Criminal Code was amended in 2007 to address the mandatory reporting of child abuse (Sept. 2011, 8). RTG also notes that the Saint Lucia Civil Code does not recognize age 18 as the age of majority, with the consequence that youth aged 16 and 17 are not offered the same protection and services as those under the age of 16 (Sept. 2011, 8). Saint Lucia's Children and Young Persons Act of 1972, defines children as under the age of twelve, and "young persons" as over 12 years of age and under the age of sixteen (Saint Lucia 1972, Sec. 2).
The following articles of Saint Lucia's Criminal Code address sexual intercourse with minors:
126. Sexual intercourse with a person under 12
- A person who has sexual intercourse with another who is under the age of 12 years, whether or not the other person consented and whether or not the first-mentioned person believes that the other person is 12 years of age or more, commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life.
- If a marriage is declared invalid by a Court of competent jurisdiction the invalidity does not make a person guilty of an offence under this section because that person has sexual intercourse with a person who he or she believes to be his or her spouse, and has reasonable cause for the belief.
127. Sexual intercourse with a person between 12 and 16
- A person who has sexual intercourse with another person who-
- is not the spouse of the first-mentioned person; and
- is 12 years of age or more but has not attained the age of 16 years,
commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for 15 years.
- It is a defence to a charge under this section if the person charged proves that-
- the other person consented; and
- the person charged-
- was not more than 21 years of age at the time of the commission of the offence and has not been previously charged with the same or similar offence, and
- had reasonable cause to believe and did believe that the other person was 16 years of age or more.
- Subsection (2) shall not apply if it is proved that the consent was obtained by false or fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act.
- Except as provided in subsection (2), it is no defence to a charge under this section that the person consented or that the person charged believed that the person was 16 years of age or more.
- If a marriage is declared invalid by a Court of competent jurisdiction the invalidity does not make a person guilty of an offence under this section because that person has sexual intercourse with a person who he or she or she believes to be his or her or her spouse, and has reasonable cause for the belief.
128. Sexual intercourse with an adopted minor, etc.
- An adult commits an offence if the adult has sexual intercourse with a minor who-
- is the adult's adopted child, step-child, foster child, ward or dependant; or
- not being the adult's adopted child, step-child, foster child, ward or dependant is at the time of the intercourse living with the adult as a member of the family or is under the adult's care or protection.
- It is immaterial that the sexual intercourse referred to under subsection (1) occurred with the consent of the minor.
- A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) is liable on conviction-
- if the minor is under the age of 12 years to imprisonment for life; or
- if the minor is 12 years of age or more to imprisonment for 25 years.
- An adult is not guilty of an offence under subsection (1) if the minor is the spouse of the adult.
- If a marriage is declared invalid by a Court of competent jurisdiction the invalidity does not make a person guilty of an offence under this section because that person has sexual intercourse with a person who he or she believes to be his or her spouse, and has reasonable cause for the belief. (Saint Lucia 2005)
The following Article addresses indecent assault against minors:
130. Indecent assault
- Any person who indecently assaults another commits an offence and is liable on conviction-
- on indictment to imprisonment for 15 years, if committed on a person under the age of 12 or on summary conviction to imprisonment for 5 years;
- on indictment to imprisonment for 10 years, if committed on a person of 12 years of age or more but who has not yet attained the age of 16 years or on summary conviction to imprisonment for 5 years; or
- on indictment to imprisonment for 7 years, if committed on a person who is 16 years of age or more or on summary conviction to imprisonment for 3 years.
- A person under the age of 16 years cannot in law give any consent which would prevent an act being an assault for the purposes of this section.
- In this section "indecent assault" means an assault accompanied by words or circumstances indicating an indecent intention. (ibid.)
Section 5 of the 1972 Children and Young Persons Act addresses child abuse as follows:
5. (1) Every person who having the custody, charge or care of any juvenile wilfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or exposes such juvenile, or causes, or procures him to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed, in a manner likely to cause that juvenile unnecessary suffering or injury to health (including injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement) shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable--
- on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or to imprisonment with hard labour for any term not exceeding two years, or to both such fine and imprisonment;
- on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty dollars or to imprisonment with hard labour for any term not exceeding one year, or to both such fine and imprisonment. (Saint Lucia 1972, Sec. 5)
Sources indicate that the police have a special unit that handles child abuse cases (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012; RISE 25 Oct. 2012; St. Lucia 12 Nov. 2010, para. 33). According to Saint Lucia's report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, the special unit was established to provide "child-friendly services" in the investigation and management of child abuse cases and has led to "significant improvement" in police investigations as well as "improved inter-agency collaboration between the police and the Division of Human Services and Family Affairs" (Saint Lucia 12 Nov. 2010, para. 33). The Director of the Division of Human Services explained that their division reports cases of child abuse to the Vulnerable Person Unit of the police for investigation, and that the police, in turn, report their cases of child abuse to the Division (ibid. 1 Nov. 2012).
However, the lawyer noted that despite the establishment of the unit, there are still many investigations that are "not handled with the level of sensitivity required for such issues" (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012). According to the RISE manager, the unit is "still not very effective" due to the high level of rotation among officers, so that many are not there to see the cases through (RISE 25 Oct. 2012). She also said that even though the police receive training, they are frequently replaced with others who haven't received training (ibid.).
Sources indicate that sometimes perpetrators of child abuse, sexual abuse, and incest are punished by law (RISE 25 Oct. 2012; Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012). According to the RISE manager, most of the cases that result in convictions relate to sexual abuse as opposed to physical abuse (RISE 25 Oct. 2012). Depending on the charges, she stated that the punishment is typically a prison sentence of 9 months to 3 years (ibid.).
However, the RISE manager indicated that sometimes the mother intervenes to have the case dropped because the family is economically dependent on the abuser (RISE 25 Oct. 2012). Other sources indicate that the perpetrator sometimes pays the parents of the victim to drop the charges (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012; HTS 18 Jan. 2012a; US 24 May 2012, 10) or from reporting the incident to the police (RTG Sept. 2011, 25). The lawyer explained that even though such an arrangement is illegal, it still happens (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012). According to HTS, in January 2012, the Director of Public Prosecutions expressed alarm at the number of cases being withdrawn from the court, particularly in cases involving minors, and said that her office would take a "firm stand" against guardians who accept compensation in exchange for withdrawing the case from court (HTS 18 Jan. 2012a).
Saint Lucian authorities report that victims of child abuse have the option of testifying outside the courtroom by video link (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012; ibid. 12 Nov. 2010, para. 34). The 2010 report to the Human Rights Council states the following:
The Evidence Act (2002) secures and guarantees the effective testimony of children in legal proceedings. The introduction of video link technology under the Act, has proven essential in protecting children who have been victims of sexual abuse. A child under the age of twelve years who is a complainant in a sexual offence case can be afforded treatment as a vulnerable witness. In such cases the child may be allowed to testify while being screened off from the defendant, or testify from a location outside the court room. (ibid.)
According to the RTG, youth in Saint Lucia expressed reluctance to report sexual violence due to the "insensitive and under-equipped justice system" and fears that bringing the case forward would undermine their privacy and self esteem (RTG Sept. 2011, 26).
3. Government Oversight and Support Services
Sources indicate that child protection services are overseen by the Division of Human Services of the government (Saint Lucia 12 Nov. 2010, para. 27; RISE 25 Oct. 2012; US 24 May 2012, 10). According to the US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, the division conducts community outreach and provides child abuse victims with a number of services including "counselling, facilitating medical intervention, finding foster care, providing family support services, and supporting the child while working with the police and attending court" (ibid.). The Director of the Division of Human Services stated that they provide counselling at primary and secondary schools (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012).
The Division of Human Services maintains a section for Foster Care and Adoption (ibid.). The section consists of one family caseworker and one clerk (ibid.). As of October 2012, there were reportedly 164 children in foster care, with ages ranging from birth to 18 years (ibid.). The Director noted that foster care arrangements are made by first applying to the Family Court for a Care and Protection/Fit Person Order (ibid.). Foster care families are assessed and approved by the foster care caseworker and reportedly receive a monthly stipend of $300 East Caribbean dollars [C$111 (XE 2 Nov. 2012)] (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012). Some sources note that few families are willing to foster children in need (US 24 May 2012, 10, 11; Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012; RISE 25 Oct. 2012). According to the RISE manager, it is particularly difficult to find foster care for teenagers (25 Oct. 2012).
Sources report that in January 2011, the government opened New Beginnings Transit Home, a shelter for abused and neglected children (HTS 18 Jan. 2012b; RTG Sept. 2011, 6). The facility can reportedly accommodate 22 children (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012; HTS 18 Jan. 2012b) and allows boys between the ages of birth and 10 years and girls between the ages of birth and 18 years (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012). According to an article by the Saint Lucian media source Helen Television System (HTS), the Transit Home provided help to 35 children in its first year of operation; children are referred to the home by the Division of Human Services or "concerned individuals" (18 Jan. 2012b). The Director of the Division of Human Services stated that 23 employees work at the facility, including a clinical psychologist (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012). Sources indicate that prior to its opening, the facility had a waiting list of 49 children (UN Sept. 2009, 11; Saint Lucia 18 Mar. 2009).
The Boys Training Centre (BTC) provides shelter to boys in need of care as well as to boys in conflict with the law (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012; Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012; RTG Sept. 2011, 14). The RISE manager explained that both groups of boys are housed together rather than in separate spaces at this facility, causing problems when younger boys who experienced abuse at home are placed with older boys who committed crimes (RISE 25 Oct. 2012). According to RTG, the BTC can accommodate boys up to the age of 16 years, and, in several instances, 16 and 17 year old boys ended up living on the streets after being discharged from state care without proper investigation of their living situation (RTG Sept. 2011, 12). However, the Director of the Division of Human Services stated that the BTC houses, as of November 2012, 64 boys ranging in age from 12 to 18 years (Saint Lucia 1 Nov. 2012).
UNICEF expressed the opinion that Saint Lucia has "poor interagency collaboration" between agencies that address child abuse and neglect (UN Nov. 2009, 35).
The lawyer stated that it is "very difficult for abandoned, neglected and abused children to find alternative shelter" (Lawyer 24 Oct. 2012). She explained that sometimes informal arrangements are made with relatives or an "adopted" mother, and that sometimes teachers or community members find temporary arrangements for youth in need (ibid.).
For her part, the RISE manager noted that although children can get protection orders from the Family Court, they are often not enforced, and it is particularly problematic if the child has nowhere else to live (RISE 25 Oct. 2012). She explained that it is difficult to escape an abuser in Saint Lucia due to its very small size and the fact that "everyone knows everyone else" (ibid.). She provided an example of a case in which children who had been abused by their father and were granted a protection order eventually ended up back with their abusive father because they had nowhere else to live (ibid.). The Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act of 1995 contains the legislation governing the issuance of protection orders (Saint Lucia 1995).
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.
Helen Television System (HTS) Channel 4. 18 January 2012a. Lovely St. Aime Joseph. "DPP Makes the Case."
_____. 18 January 2012b. Sant Justin. "Transit Home Anniversary."
Lawyer, Saint Lucia. 24 October 2012. Telephone interview.
RISE St. Lucia. 25 October 2012. Telephone interview with the Manager.
Road to Geneva (RTG) Child Rights Research and Advocacy Project Team. September 2011. St. Lucia's 1st Un CRC NGO Report to United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on the State of Human Rights of Children and Youth in Response to June 2010 Combined 2nd, 3rd, and 4th State Report.
Saint Lucia. 1 November 2012. Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations. Correspondence from the Director of the Divison of Human Services to the Research Directorate.
_____. 12 November 2010. National Report Submitted in Accordance with Paragraph 15(a) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1. Saint Lucia.
_____. 18 March 2009. "New Beginnings Transit Home on Path to Full Completion."
_____. 2005. Criminal Code. Document sent to the Research Directorate by a Lawyer on 24 October 2012.
_____. 1995. Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995 (Act No. 7 of 1995), 20 April 1995.
_____. 1972. Children and Young Persons Act.
United Nations (UN). 10 November 2010. Human Rights Council. Summary Prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Accordance with Paragraph 15(c) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1: Saint Lucia.
_____. November 2009. Children's Fund (UNICEF). Children in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Child Rights - The Unfinished Agenda.
_____. September 2009. Children's Fund (UNICEF). Children In Focus. Unmasking Child Sexual Abuse.
_____. N.d. Children's Fund (UNICEF). "Eastern Caribbean. Overview."
United States (US). 24 May 2012. Department of State. "Saint Lucia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011.
XE. 2 November 2012. "Currency Converter Widget." http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert/?Amount=300&From=XCD&To=CAD> [Accessed 2 Nov. 2012]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, and the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Caribbean News Agency; Children Rights International Network; ecoi.net; Factiva; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States; Saint Lucia — Division of Human Services and Family Affairs, Royal Saint Lucia Police Force; United Nations — Refworld, United Nations Development Program, Women Watch; University of the West Indies.