Dominica is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. The prime minister is the head of government. The House of Assembly elects the president, who serves as the head of state. In the 2019 election, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s Dominica Labour Party prevailed over the opposition United Workers Party by a margin of 18 seats to three. Election observers from the Organization of American States, United Nations, and Caribbean Community found the election generally free and fair.
The Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and National Security oversees the police, the country’s only security force. The Financial Intelligence Unit reports to the Ministry of Legal Affairs; some of its officers have arrest authority. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports of significant abuses by the security forces.
Significant human rights issues included: criminalization of libel and criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although there were no reported cases of enforcement during the year.
The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses, but some cases remained unresolved.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law. Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape or incest) is 25 years’ imprisonment, the usual sentence was five to seven years. Whenever possible, female police officers handled rape cases involving female victims. Women were reluctant to report domestic violence to police. The only shelter for victims of gender-based violence remained closed after suffering damage during Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Civil society reported that sexual and domestic violence were common. According to civil society groups, the general population did not acknowledge gender-based violence and domestic violence as problems but the government recognized these forms of violence as both problematic and prevalent. Although no specific laws criminalize spousal abuse, spouses may bring battery charges against their partner.
The law allows abused persons to appear before a magistrate without an attorney and request a protective order, and some persons requested protective orders.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment. Civil society groups reported it was a pervasive problem.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and had access to the information needed to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
The law criminalizes abortion, except to save the life of the mother. Under the law, intentionally and unlawfully causing abortion or miscarriage is punishable by imprisonment for life. The law can be applied to an act by the mother or any other person.
Contraception was widely available. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence through the Ministry of Health’s Welfare Division and the National Council of Women. Other government departments, including the Bureau of Gender Affairs, the Social Welfare Department, the Adult Education Division, and the Health Services and Housing Division, also assisted victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: The constitution provides women with the same legal rights as men. The government generally enforced the law effectively, but property deeds continued to be given to heads of households, who were usually men. The law requires equal pay for civil service positions. Women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or to a citizen parent. Parents received birth certificates on a timely basis. Failure to register births resulted in denial of access to public services except emergency care.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, but according to the government and civil society, it remained a pervasive problem. The government maintained a Child Abuse Prevention Unit responsible for protecting children from all forms of abuse. The unit supported victims by providing counseling, psychological assessments, and other services such as financial assistance to abused children and to family members.
Civil society representatives noted that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) children were at particular risk of abuse. They reported that additional support and reforms were needed to support victims of child abuse, including safe and secure reporting and rehabilitation spaces, more and better-trained welfare officers, and reforms to the justice system.
Underage children were often required to testify directly in court against their abusers, who were also physically present, instead of providing prerecorded testimony from more private and secure spaces. Additionally, cases sometimes wended through the court system for years, with children repeatedly being required to attend hearings. Publicly available lists of offenders did not exist. Advocates claimed that the justice system discouraged prosecution of child abuse, discouraged victims from seeking justice, and allowed repeat offenders to continue the cycle of abuse.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, but marriage is permitted at age 16 with parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent for sexual relations is 16. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children for prostitution, and related activity may be prosecuted under laws against prostitution or trafficking. The law protects all persons from “unlawful sexual connection,” rape, procurement for prostitution, and incest. It prohibits sexual intercourse between a child and an adult and increases the penalty to 25 years of imprisonment for an adult who rapes a child whom the adult employs or controls, or to whom the adult pays wages. The law criminalizes behaviors such as voyeurism.
The maximum sentence for sexual intercourse with a person younger than age 14 is 25 years in prison. When victims are between ages 14 and 16, the maximum sentence is 14 years.
No laws or regulations explicitly prohibit the use of children in pornography or pornographic performances.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
There is no organized Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports of discrimination or anti-Semitic acts.
There were no confirmed reports that the country was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.
The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. There were no reports of overt discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government provided partial financial support for a civil society organization focused on advocating for and improving the lives of persons with disabilities, although additional needs remained.
There is no legal requirement mandating access to buildings for persons with disabilities. Few buildings, including public buildings, provided access for persons with physical disabilities.
Children with physical disabilities and those with hearing and vision disabilities were integrated into mainstream schools. The government provided stipends to cover educational expenses in private special-education schools for children with intellectual or mental disabilities. Representatives of civil society organizations reported that accessibility problems existed in the physical environment of schools and with educational accommodations for persons with disabilities.
The population of the Kalinago (Carib) indigenous group was approximately 3,000, most of whom lived in the 3,782-acre Kalinago Territory. The government recognizes their special status, and the Kalinagos’ rights are protected in law and practice. The law establishes the Kalinago Territory and assigns management authority over the territory to the local council, including the exercise of veto power over new infrastructure projects within the territory. Some societal discrimination against the Kalinago existed, most notably against Kalinago children when they attended schools outside the territory. There was no secondary school inside the territory.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual conduct for both men and women is illegal under indecency statutes. The law also prohibits anal intercourse between males. The government reported it rarely enforced either statute, with no instances of the law being enforced through November. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison, and same-sex sexual conduct between consenting men carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of forced psychiatric confinement upon release.
No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics in employment, housing, education, or health care.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that strong societal and employment discrimination were common against persons due to their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics. Civil society representatives reported that LGBTI victims of violence or harassment avoided notifying police of abuse because of social stigma and fear of harassment. Representatives further reported that in cases where police were notified of attacks on LGBTI persons, police either rejected or poorly investigated some claims.
Civil society actors reported that some LGBTI individuals were denied access to housing, lost employment, were bullied in schools, and were denied educational and institutional support. Stigma and fear of abuse and intimidation prevented LGBTI organizations from developing their membership or conducting activities such as Pride marches. A representative of one prominent LGBTI organization noted that participation in a Pride celebration would be tantamount to “social suicide,” although the same representative noted that acceptance of LGBTI persons was slowly growing.
Reports from civil society indicated individuals with HIV feared job discrimination if their HIV status became public. This fear resulted in some patients not seeking medical treatment.