Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and carries maximum sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. The government was unable to provide the number of persons prosecuted for unlawful sexual intercourse, but anecdotal evidence suggested it was a pervasive problem. An investigation commences once the crime is reported, and legislation enacted in August identifies certain government employees as mandatory reporters. Police immediately refer reported rapes to the Serious Crime Unit, and a female police officer and often a caseworker from the Directorate of Gender Affairs accompany the victim for questioning, medical examinations, treatment, and court appearances, if necessary. In situations where the victim did not know her assailant, the case could take years to come to trial. The Directorate of Gender Affairs, part of the Ministry of Education, Gender, Sports, and Youth Affairs, publicized a crisis hotline for victims and witnesses to sexual assault and managed a sexual assault center that coordinates responses to sexual assault. The Directorate of Gender Affairs reported the number of rape survivors coming forward increased as a result of the crisis hotline and the directorate’s awareness campaign.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem. The law prohibits and provides penalties for domestic violence, but some women were reluctant to testify against their abusers due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence. The Domestic Violence Bill of 2015, which repealed the Domestic Violence Act of 1999, took effect on September 1. The new legislation targets perpetrators of domestic violence and sets forth the process required for victims to obtain an order of protection. The Directorate of Gender Affairs operated several domestic violence programs that provided training for law enforcement officers, health-care professionals, counselors, social workers, immigration officers, and army officers. The directorate also worked with NGOs, individuals, and businesses to provide safe havens for abused women and children. Services for victims of domestic violence included counseling and an advocacy caseworker who accompanied the victim to the hospital, police station, and court, if necessary.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not specifically defined in law. The country is, however, party to the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (the Convention of Belem do Para), which recognizes sexual harassment as a form of violence against women. According to the Ministry of Labor, there was a high incidence of sexual harassment in the private and public sectors, but no cases were formally reported during the year, and the lack of reporting was believed to result from concerns about retaliation. The labor court requires a safe working environment for all persons; thus, the court could address harassment cases, although no such cases were filed during the year.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide 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, or violence. The rate of maternal mortality was not available.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Legislation requires equal pay for equal work. The labor code provides that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of his or her gender. Women continued to work mainly as homeworkers and domestics, but there was a trend for more women to work in the private and public sectors.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth in the country, and the government registers all children at birth. Children born to citizen parents abroad can be registered by either of their parents.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious problem. Neglect was the most common form of child abuse, followed by physical abuse, although according to the press, rape and sexual abuse of children also occurred. Adult men having sexual relations with girls as young as eight years of age was also a problem. In extreme cases of abuse, the government removes the children from their home and puts them in foster care or into a government or private children’s home.
The government held public outreach events about detection and prevention of child abuse and also offered training for foster parents regarding how to detect child abuse and how to work with abused children. The government’s welfare office also provided counseling services for children and parents and often referred parents to the National Parent Counseling Center. A family court handled child abuse cases, providing faster prosecution and more general handling of family and welfare cases. The Child Care and Adoption Bill institutes procedures for international adoptions and governs the investigation and assessment of child abuse cases. It also includes provisions on orders of care and child-care services.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women. Children between 15 and 18 could marry with parental consent; however, underage marriage was rare, and the government did not keep statistics on it.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. Authorities brought charges against few offenders. The Citizens Welfare Division reported that the process of prosecuting offenders was lengthy. Child pornography is illegal and subject to fines of up to $250,000 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD) ($92,600) and 10 years in prison.
International Child Abductions: The government is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, although the government is party to the Inter-American Convention for the International Return of Children. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community was very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution contains antidiscrimination provisions, but no specific laws prohibit discrimination against or mandate accessibility for persons with disabilities. There were anecdotal cases of children with disabilities who were unable to take themselves to the restroom and thus were denied entry to school, or who could not attend school as a result of inadequate transportation and classroom facilities. Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggested support for persons with mental disabilities was lacking. It was alleged that those affected were often left homeless, as there were few alternatives to the one overcrowded and poorly maintained outpatient mental health facility. In other cases persons with disabilities lived in bad conditions because their families could not provide for their needs. Public areas, including government buildings, often lacked wheelchair accessibility.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual activity for males is illegal under indecency statutes; however, the law was not strictly enforced. The law also prohibits anal intercourse. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adult men carries a maximum penalty of 15 years. No antidiscrimination laws exist that specifically protect LGBTI persons.
Societal attitudes somewhat impeded operation and free association of LGBTI organizations, but there were a few organized groups. There were limited reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in a variety of settings. There were no reports of violence committed against LGBTI persons due to their real or perceived sexual orientation.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Some persons claimed that fear, stigma, and discrimination impaired the willingness of HIV-positive persons to obtain treatment, and HIV-positive persons reported several incidents of discrimination from health-care professionals and police. Anecdotal evidence also suggested employers dismissed and discriminated against employees with HIV/AIDS.
The Ministry of Health supported local NGO efforts to register human rights complaints and seek assistance related to cases of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. The ministry also trained a number of health-care professionals and police officers in antidiscriminatory practices. The Ministry of Labor encouraged employers to be more sensitive to employees with HIV/AIDS, and the ministry conducted sensitivity training for employers who requested it. The ministry reported that stigmatization of HIV-positive persons, while still a significant problem, had decreased, especially among police forces.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Rastafarians complained of discrimination, especially in hiring and in schools, but the government took no specific action to address such complaints.