Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. While the law allows wives to press charges against husbands for rape, it does not specifically criminalize spousal rape. Police and courts enforced laws to protect women against rape, but many victims were reluctant to report cases of rape or press charges due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence. The DPP continued to report that sexual assault cases were a growing problem but that in approximately one-third of reported sexual offenses, charges did not proceed due to the reluctance of victims to testify.
Domestic violence was also a significant problem. While police were willing to arrest offenders, the government prosecuted crimes of violence against women only when the victim pressed charges. Often victims were reluctant to press charges due to their reliance on financial assistance of the abuser. Shelters, a hotline, and police training were all used to deal with the problem, but the lack of financial security for the victim was one of the key impediments. The Saint Lucia Crisis Center, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) receiving government assistance, maintained a facility for battered women and their children. The only residential facility for victims of domestic abuse, the Women’s Support Center, received government funding.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services, and Gender Relations assisted victims. Authorities referred most of the cases to a counselor, and the police facilitated the issuance of court protection orders in some cases.
The Family Court heard cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children. The court can issue a protection order prohibiting an abuser from entering or remaining in the residence of a specified person.
Occupation and tenancy orders provide certain residential rights to victims of domestic violence, such as rental payments and protective orders. The Family Court employed full-time social workers who assisted victims of domestic violence.
The police’s Vulnerable Persons Unit handles cases involving violence against women and children. This unit works closely with the Family Court and the ministry’s Department of Gender Relations and Department of Human Services and Family Affairs.
The Department of Gender Relations also ran the Women’s Support Center, which provided shelter, counseling, residential services, a 24-hour hotline, and assistance in finding employment. Various NGOs, such as the Saint Lucia Crisis Center and the National Organization of Women, also provided counseling, referral, education, and empowerment services. The crisis center assisted in cases of physical violence, incest, nonpayment of child support, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, custody, and visitation rights.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): There is no law that prohibits Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, and the practice was virtually nonexistent in the country.
Sexual Harassment: The criminal code prohibits sexual harassment, but it remained a problem, as government enforcement was not an effective deterrent. The Department of Gender Relations continued an awareness program that provided training opportunities in workplaces and assisted establishments in creating policies and procedures on how to handle sexual harassment. As a result authorities handled most cases of sexual harassment in the workplace rather than prosecuted them under the labor code.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to 2010 World Health Organization statistics, skilled health personnel attended 99 percent of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Access to modern contraception was widely available, as was access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortions.
Discrimination: Women enjoyed equal rights under the law, including in economic, family, property, and judicial matters. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in the labor force, had higher levels of unemployment than men, and sometimes received lower pay (see section 7.d.). Women’s affairs were under the jurisdiction of the Department of Gender Relations, whose parent ministry was responsible for protecting women’s rights in domestic violence cases and preventing discrimination against women, including ensuring equal treatment in employment.