Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but not spousal rape. Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape or incest) is 25 years’ imprisonment, the normal sentence was five to seven years. Police generally were not reluctant to arrest or prosecute offenders; whenever possible, female police officers handled rape cases. The Bureau of Gender Affairs collaborated with civil society organizations to assist victims of abuse.
Sexual violence and domestic violence cases were common, and the government recognized it as a problem. No information was available regarding prosecutions or convictions. The government held workshops and participated in public awareness and outreach programs during the United Nations’ 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Survivors of sexual and domestic violence were sometimes reluctant to speak out due to fear of retribution, stigma, or further violence, which suggested that the problem might have been significantly underreported. Although no specific laws criminalize spousal abuse, spouses were able to bring charges against their partners for battery. Strong emotional ties to abusers and a lack of financial independence often made survivors reluctant to press domestic violence charges, and there is no legislation allowing the government to bring charges on behalf of the victim for domestic abuse.
Lifeline, a civil society organization, trained victim supporters for adults and children who are survivors of gender-based violence. In previous years the Bureau of Gender Affairs provided temporary shelter to victims through collaboration with the Dominica National Council of Women, a civil society organization, but due to financial constraints, the bureau ceased providing temporary shelter in 2014. The bureau reported that the lack of temporary shelter made some victims reluctant to report domestic violence because they had no place of refuge.
The law allows abused persons to appear before a magistrate without an attorney and request a protective order. Although the country lacks a family court, magistrates may order the alleged perpetrator to be removed from the home to allow the victims, usually women and children, to remain in the home while the matter is investigated. Inadequate police resources made enforcement of these restraining orders difficult, and civil society groups reported there was slow police response to reports of abuse. Police cadets continued to receive training on domestic abuse.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs reported that male and female survivors sought assistance in dealing with domestic violence. There was a legal aid clinic, and the government’s legal department in the Ministry of Justice also offered assistance. The legal aid clinic was somewhat short-staffed, with only three lawyers. Counseling services were not provided to victims, but the clinic referred individuals to the appropriate government bureau.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it continued to be a serious and persistent problem. The Bureau of Gender Affairs reported that women, particularly young women, experienced sexual harassment while walking in public and in the workplace.
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.
Discrimination: The constitution provides women with the same legal rights as men, but property ownership continued to be deeded to heads of households, who were usually men. The inheritance law provides that intestate succession leaves the surviving spouse with only a life estate; however, the law accommodates the transfer of property between spouses, which boosted married women’s property ownership. Women in unrecognized common law partnerships frequently suffered reduced standards of living after such relationships ended. While the legal system does not overtly discriminate against women, legislation is often written without considering gender; consequently, its application could be discriminatory. The law establishes pay rates for civil service jobs without regard to gender. Although some women occupied managerial or high-level positions, women faced discrimination in employment opportunities. The Bureau of Gender Affairs observed that 40 percent of department and division heads in the government were women, and this percentage increased to 60 percent in departments with a teaching or caregiving focus.
Following 2015 tropical storm Erika’s devastation of communities and homes, Nongovernmental organization sources reported that government resettlement policies were not gender-sensitive, putting single women with children at a greater economic disadvantage.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth to a Dominican parent. Birth certificates were provided to parents on a timely basis.
Child Abuse: Child abuse continued to be a pervasive and growing problem. The law protects children against assault, mistreatment, neglect, harmful circumstances, domestic violence, and abandonment by parents or guardians. Corporal punishment is permitted in schools. Sexual abuse cases discovered by social workers and medical professionals were sometimes reported to the police. Insufficient staffing and resources hampered enforcement of children’s rights laws. Civil society representatives reported the process for reporting child abuse to the authorities was too complicated, too long, and not victim-centric.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women, but marriage is allowed at 16 years 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 purposes of prostitution, and related activity can 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 with a child by any adult, and increases the penalty to 25 years’ imprisonment, who employs, controls, or pays wages to the child. Additionally, the country has a series of local and national public policies preventing the commercial exploitation of children. No specific law deals with child pornography.
The maximum sentence for sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 14 years is 25 years in prison. When victims are between 14 and 16 years of age, the maximum sentence is 14 years. Maximum prison terms for incest are longer: 25 years if committed by an adult with a person under 14, and 10 years when victims are older than 14. Violators avoided prosecutions by paying monetary settlements out of court; that practice is not criminalized.
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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There is no organized Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports of discrimination or anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
There were no confirmed reports during the year that the country was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. There is no legal requirement mandating access to buildings for such persons. Although persons with disabilities have the right to vote, polling stations were often inaccessible; however, civil society reported that awareness and acceptance of persons with disabilities had become slightly greater. Civil society organizations stated that unemployment numbers were very high, in part because employers refused to hire persons with disabilities.
The government funded one segregated school for children with intellectual or mental disabilities. Children with physical disabilities and those with hearing and vision disabilities were integrated into mainstream schools. Under an Education Enhancement Project, the government worked to increase the human resource capacity at schools to provide further services to students with disabilities, such as providing the services of a clinical psychologist and speech and language therapist. Primary and secondary schools operated special education programs.
The Kalinago population was estimated at 3,000 persons, most of whom lived in the 3,782-acre Kalinago Territory. The government recognizes their special status, and their rights are protected in law and practice. They actively participated in decisions affecting them, their land, and their resources.
The Ministry of Kalinago Affairs was headed by a Kalinago. There were four preschools and two primary schools in the Kalinago Territory and two secondary schools in nearby communities attended by Kalinago children. This included Isulukati Special Needs School, which provided specialized curricula for students with intellectual or mental disabilities in the Kalinago Territory. Government support programs existed for Kalinago students in the areas of school feeding, transport, and transition into higher education.
The Ministry of Education covered tuition for Kalinago students at the Dominica State College and awarded scholarships to Kalinago students for study throughout the Caribbean. In addition, the students were eligible for scholarships provided by the Barbados government for indigenous students attending the University of the West Indies.
The Carib Act states that any child of a Kalinago is also Kalinago. Non-Kalinagos may become Kalinagos if they are invited to live in the Kalinago Territory and do so continuously for 12 years.
Kalinagos older than 18 who reside in the territory may vote for the chief and six members of the council of advisors. They also are eligible to vote in national elections. For the latter, persons registered in the district but resident outside it, either in another part of the country or abroad, may vote in Kalinago Territory elections.
Despite improvements, the Kalinago people, particularly women, continued to experience some societal discrimination. Unemployment in the territory was higher than in the rest of the country, and Kalinago mean income was below the national mean.
There were few jobs available in the territory because of the decline of the agricultural sector and the inability to obtain bank financing due to the lack of collateral in terms of privately owned land. The distance from Roseau, the capital, also contributed to unemployment. Since 2009 the government has implemented an 8.6 million East Caribbean Dollar (XCD) ($3.2 million) project to build roads, build houses, develop a Kalinago cultural education facility, and increase civil society capacity in the Kalinago Territory. Many Kalinagos who moved to the capital city of Roseau did not report any significant discrimination, and Kalinagos were not reported to be victims of violence at a higher rate than non-Kalinagos.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual activity for both sexes is illegal under indecency statutes. The law also prohibits anal intercourse between male partners. The government reported rare enforcement of both statutes, and there were no instances of the law being enforced through October. 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 10 years. No laws prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, education, or health care.
One LGBTI organization reported that a member was stabbed due to his sexual orientation, and anecdotal evidence suggested that strong societal and employment discrimination against persons due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity was common in the socially conservative society. Furthermore, civil society organizations reported that LGBTI victims of violence or harassment avoided notifying police of abuse because of social stigma. Stigma and fear of abuse and intimidation prevented LGBTI organizations from developing their membership or executing activities such as gay pride marches. There were very few openly gay men or lesbians.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Although no statistics were available, anecdotal evidence suggested that societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred. The government, the Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance, and the Dominica Planned Parenthood Association continued programs designed to discourage discrimination against HIV/AIDS-infected persons and those living with them.