Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, but it does not address spousal rape. Anecdotal evidence suggested rape was a serious and pervasive problem in society. Despite the re-establishment of a Special Victims Unit in the police force, rape often was underreported due to survivors’ fear of stigma, retribution, further violence, or lack of confidence in the authorities. Penalties for rape range from two years’ imprisonment for incest between minors to life imprisonment for statutory rape or incest with someone under 16 years of age. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. Those arrested and prosecuted for rape and indecent assault received strict sentences.
Violence against women was also a serious and pervasive problem. The law criminalizes domestic violence, including emotional abuse, and provides penalties of up to $13,500 Eastern Caribbean dollars (XCD) ($5,000) or six months in prison. The Department of Gender Affairs reported many victims were hesitant to take action against their abuser, such as obtaining a restraining order, because of their dependence upon the abuser.
Victims reported either to the Department of Gender Affairs or the police, but there was no crisis hotline. The department advocated for a more effective method of reporting domestic violence and sexual assault, including establishing a complaints and response protocol.
The Department of Gender Affairs has field officers who maintained contact with civil society organizations, prisons, and schools. Counseling coordinated by the department was available for survivors of abuse. The National Council of Women was the lead civil society organization on women’s rights.
Sexual Harassment: According to the Labor Ministry, sexual harassment falls within the purview of the Protection of Employment Act, but the law does not explicitly address sexual harassment. Anecdotal evidence suggested that sexual harassment was a problem in the workplace, although the Ministry of Community Development, Culture, and Gender Affairs did not receive any cases during the year.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights as men, including family, labor, property, and inheritance laws. The law requires equal remuneration, and women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs. Women did not experience discrimination in areas such as obtaining credit or owning or managing businesses.