Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. The law allows wives to press charges against husbands for rape, although 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 or press charges due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence.
In mid-August the director of public prosecutions drew public attention to a practice where parents of young rape victims choose to settle cases out of court rather than pursuing prosecution. DPP Director Victoria Charles Clarke acknowledged this as a problem since “the law has a responsibility to protect minors.” The next day, the minister of gender relations and human services issued a similar public statement, speaking out against “roungement”--the practice of accepting monetary compensation to settle cases out of court. The minister acknowledged high unemployment rates among female heads of households as an incentivizing factor for these women to accept a payout, but stressed that ultimately the state was responsible for the welfare of the child and called for communities to get involved. Legislation exists that criminalizes roungement, but it is rarely prosecuted.
The DPP reported that sexual assault remained a 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 financial dependence on 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 maximum amount of child support that the court can award a woman is $250 XCD ($93) per month per child. Police also face resource challenges such as a lack of transportation, which can prevent them from responding to a call in a timely manner. 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, also 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 hears 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. The court remands perpetrators to a batterers’ intervention program for rehabilitation.
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 two vulnerable persons units handle cases involving violence against women and children. These units work 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 reopened 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.
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 most cases of sexual harassment were handled in the workplace rather than prosecuted under the labor code.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely 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, and violence.
Discrimination: Women enjoyed equal legal rights, 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.