Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only when a couple is divorced, separated, or there is a protection order from the Family Court. The penalty for a husband or wife who commits the offense of rape upon the other is imprisonment for 14 years. 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 addition, “roungement”--the practice of parents accepting monetary compensation to settle rape and sexual assault cases out of court--was commonly practiced. High unemployment rates among female heads of households are an incentivizing factor to accept a payout in these cases. Roungement is prohibited by law, but it was rarely prosecuted.
Sexual assault remained a problem, but often charges did not proceed due to the reluctance of victims to testify or participate in a trial. The government held a National Dialogue on Violence Against Women and Children, which included a four-part televised series to spread awareness about preventing rape, legal response to rape, and services and resources for victim assistance. The dialogue also identified gaps and produced recommendations to improve the government’s ability to investigate and prosecute rape.
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, police training, and a national protocol 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 faced 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 and a hotline for support. The only residential facility for victims of domestic abuse, the Women’s Support Center, also received government funding. The Women’s Support Center employed a full-time counselor who also counseled nonresident victims through the Department of Gender Relations.
The Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development 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 Department of Gender Relations ran a number of gender-based violence prevention programs in the schools and community-based groups.
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. The court employed full-time social workers to assist victims of domestic violence.
Occupation and tenancy orders provide certain residential rights to victims of domestic violence, including required rental payments by the respondent and protective orders.
The police had two vulnerable persons units to handle cases involving violence against women and children. These units worked closely with the Family Court and the Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development Ministry’s Department of Gender Relations and Department of Human Services and Family Affairs.
The Department of Gender Relations 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: 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: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. 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, or faced additional informal hurdles gaining access to credit. Women’s affairs come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Gender Relations, whose parent ministry is responsible for protecting women’s rights in domestic violence cases and preventing discrimination against women, including ensuring equal treatment in employment.