Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, but it does not address spousal rape. Anecdotal evidence suggested that rape–including spousal rape–was a serious and pervasive problem. Despite the re-establishment of a Special Victims Unit in the police force, rape often was underreported due to survivors’ fear of stigma, retribution, further violence, or lack of confidence in the authorities. Penalties for rape range from two years’ imprisonment for incest between minors to life imprisonment for statutory rape or incest with someone under 16 years of age. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. Those arrested and prosecuted for rape and indecent assault received strict sentences.
Violence against women continued to be a serious and pervasive problem. The law criminalizes domestic violence, including emotional abuse, and provides penalties of up to $13,500 XCD ($5,000) or six months in prison. The Department of Gender Affairs reported many victims were hesitant to take action against their abuser, such as obtaining a restraining order, because of their economic dependence upon the abuser. Local NGOs also reported that most victims of domestic violence did not report the abuse or charge the offender.
Victims reported either to the Department of Gender Affairs or the police, but there was no crisis hotline. The department advocated for a more effective method of reporting domestic violence and sexual assault, including establishing a complaints and response protocol.
The Department of Gender Affairs has field officers who maintained contact with civil society organizations, prisons, and schools. The department reported that the government established a safe house for victims of abuse and began piloting gender sensitivity training for men. Counseling coordinated by the department was available for survivors of abuse. The National Council of Women was the lead civil society organization on women’s rights.
Sexual Harassment: According to the Labor Ministry, sexual harassment falls within the purview of the Protection of Employment Act, but there is no law that explicitly addresses sexual harassment. Anecdotal evidence suggested that sexual harassment was a problem in the workplace, although the Ministry of Community Development, Culture, and Gender Affairs did not receive any cases under the Protection of Employment Act 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.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men, and the government effectively enforced the laws. The law requires equal remuneration, and women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs.
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country, and all children are registered at birth. Children born to citizen parents abroad can be registered by either of their parents.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a major problem. According to the government, neglect was the most common form of abuse, while physical abuse including sexual molestation also remained prevalent and widespread. In many instances cases originally reported as neglect revealed other types of abuse upon further investigation. Sexual abuse and exploitation were problems, although the government believed that awareness increased.
In child abuse cases, the law allows children to testify against their alleged attackers using remote technologies such as Skype. Other solutions, such as placing a physical barrier in the courtroom, were also employed to assist victims. Moreover, the Ministries of Social Services and Education collaborated on programs to curb child abuse, including modifying the primary school curriculum and designating a child abuse awareness month in November. The Probation and Child Welfare Board was disbanded after the government change in 2015, and as of October, it had been reorganized with new members appointed during the year.
One home, the St. Christopher Children’s Home, was in operation for abused and neglected children. The home was managed by a private board that received quarterly funding and logistical support from the government. The government noted a rise in runaway teenage girls in St. Kitts, some of whom were placed in this home.
The government offered counseling for both adult and child victims of abuse. Additionally, the government maintained a diversion program to provide youth and their families with life skills, counseling, parenting skills, and mentorship. At-risk youth could participate in camps that provided opportunities for instruction in the creative arts, such as music and dance.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women. Underage marriage was rare, and the government did not keep statistics on it.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: NGOs reported that sexual exploitation and molestation of children remained a major problem. The law sets the age of consent at 16 years. Under the statutory rape law, having sexual relations with children under age 16 is illegal, with penalties ranging from probation to life in prison, but no cases were prosecuted during the year. In cases of pregnancy where the mother was under the age of consent, the mother often refused to name the father due to fear that if the father faced prosecution, she would have no financial support for herself and the child. Child pornography is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
International Child Abductions: The country is 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 was no organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
While there were no confirmed reports during the year that St. Kitts and Nevis was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking, human rights activists alleged that some sex workers were victims of trafficking, and in 2015 there was a credible allegation of labor trafficking.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, air travel, transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other services, and persons with disabilities experienced discrimination, particularly in regard to accessibility. The building code mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but the code was not always followed or enforced. Children with disabilities attended school, although some parents of students with disabilities preferred to have their child stay at home due to the perception that public schools lacked adequate resources for students with disabilities. There was a separate school for students with disabilities, although many local schools were able to accommodate students with physical disabilities. The Special Education Unit organized information drives to educate the public about resources available for students with disabilities.
The law allows authorities to declare persons with mental disabilities who commit crimes a menace to society and incarcerate them for life; 32 such persons were reportedly incarcerated as of 2013. Ministry of Health nurses in the various district health centers provided support services to persons with mental disabilities, and the general hospital had a wing dedicated to caring for patients with mental disabilities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between men, which carries a penalty up to 10 years in prison, but there were no reports of the law being enforced. The law does not prohibit sexual activity between women. No laws prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Negative societal attitudes towards the LGBTI community impeded the operation of LGBTI organizations and the free association of LGBTI persons. The government asserted it received no reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, unofficial reports indicated that violence and discrimination was a problem. Anecdotal evidence suggested that LGBTI persons were reluctant to report incidents of violence or abuse for fear of retribution or reprisal due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI activists reported an increase in threats of blackmail and fear of discrimination.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Although no statistics were available, anecdotal evidence suggested that societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred. The Labor Ministry enforced a specific antidiscrimination policy covering HIV/AIDS in the workplace.