Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but not spousal rape. Police and courts enforced laws to protect women against rape, which is punishable by 14 years to life imprisonment. The police were not reluctant to arrest or prosecute offenders, although many victims were reluctant to report cases of rape or to press charges due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence. No data were available about the number of rapes reported, charges brought, or convictions obtained. The DPP reported that sexual assault cases were a growing problem but that most cases were not prosecuted due to the reluctance of victims to press charges.
Domestic violence was also a significant human rights 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, hotlines, and improved police training were all used to deal with the problem, but the lack of financial security for the victim was the key impediment. Shelters were operated in private homes, in order to preserve the privacy of the victims, but the location of a shelter was hard to keep secret. The family courts heard cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services, and Gender Relations assisted victims. Most of the cases were referred to a counselor, and the police facilitated the issuance of court protection orders in some cases. Police arrested and charged perpetrators in a number of domestic violence cases.
The police’s Vulnerable Persons Unit, designed to handle cases involving violence against women and children, increased police responsiveness to these cases. As a result the police reported an increase in the reporting of sexual crimes against women and children over previous years. This unit worked 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 nongovernmental organizations, 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.
The Family 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 other protective orders. The Family Court employed full-time social workers who assisted victims of domestic violence.
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 through which it 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 being prosecuted under the criminal code.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care was widely available -- in 2008 UN data put it at 98 percent of live births. Access to contraception was widely available. Incidence of maternal mortality was not available. Testing for sexually transmitted diseases was nondiscriminatory and also widely available.
Discrimination: Women enjoyed equal rights under the law, including in economic, family, property, and judicial matters. However, in practice women were still underrepresented in the labor force, had higher levels of unemployment than men, and sometimes received unequal and lower pay. 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.