Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law allows wives to press charges against husbands for rape, spousal rape is not specifically criminalized. Police and courts enforced laws to protect women against rape, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. Police were not reluctant to arrest or prosecute offenders, although many victims were reluctant to report cases of rape or press charges due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence. In 2012 authorities charged eight persons with rape and obtained two convictions. More recent information was not available. The DPP continued to report sexual assault cases were a growing problem but that in approximately one-third of 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, was also funded by the government.
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 Saint Lucia Crisis Center reported assisting 206 people as of August, compared with 267 in all of 2012. The Women’s Support Center took in 17 clients and children and received 53 telephone calls between January and July, compared with 48 clients and children and 73 calls in all of 2012.
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 other protective orders. The Family Court employed full-time social workers who assisted victims of domestic violence.
The police’s Vulnerable Persons Unit, designed to handle cases involving violence against women and children, increased police responsiveness to these cases. 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 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: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children. According to 2010 World Health Organization statistics, 99 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. Access to contraception was widely available.
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 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.