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 but often underreported due to victims’ fear of stigma, retribution, further violence, or lack of confidence in the authorities. Reporting increased significantly, however, with the reestablishment of the Special Victims Unit. Penalties for rape range from two years’ imprisonment for incest between minors to life imprisonment for statutory rape or incest with someone under 16. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. There were 50 sexual offense cases, which includes rape and indecent assault, reported during the year. In practice, 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 EC$13,500 ($5,000) or six months in prison. The police reported 84 cases of domestic abuse throughout the year.
The ministry offered counseling for victims of abuse and conducted training on domestic and gender violence for officials in the police and fire departments, nurses, school guidance counselors, and other government employees. The ministry also worked with men’s organizations to conduct training focused on sexual violence and conducted training in the prisons for perpetrators of violence against women. The ministry maintained a hotline for domestic violence victims and worked through the churches, workplaces, radio programs, and other civil society groups to spread its campaign against sexual violence.
Sexual Harassment: According to the Labor Ministry, sexual harassment falls within the purview of the Protection of Employment Act. Anecdotal evidence suggested that sexual harassment remained a problem in the workplace, although the Ministry of Labor reported only four cases during the year and said each of them was resolved.
Reproductive rights: Reproductive rights were generally protected; couples and individuals had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children. The National Family Planning Office provided information on contraception and support for reproductive rights on a nondiscriminatory basis. Skilled attendance at delivery and postpartum care were widely available. A 2008 report by the UN Children’s Fund indicated that skilled attendance at birth was 100 percent. Incidence of maternal mortality was not available.
Discrimination: The role of women in society is not restricted by law but was circumscribed by culture and tradition. Despite this, the status of women has improved, particularly in the public sector. The Ministry of Gender Affairs reported that 62 percent of women in the civil service occupied public sector leadership positions. The ministry carried out programs addressing poverty, health, and the promotion of institutional mechanisms to advance the status of women and attain leadership positions for them. During the year Parliament passed legislation that requires equal remuneration, and women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs.