Rape and Domestic Violence: The law classifies sexual violence, rape, and incest as serious offenses, protects victims of domestic violence, and establishes penalties for perpetrators. The government enforced the law. The law prohibits rape of women but does not address spousal rape. The law utilizes an “unnatural offenses” statute to address male rape. Penalties for rape range from two years’ imprisonment for incest between minors to life imprisonment. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. There is no statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual offenses.
Court cases and anecdotal evidence suggested that rape, including spousal rape, was a problem. On July 7, on Saint Kitts and Nevis Information Service’s television program Working for You, members of the Special Victims Unit of the police force discussed issues related to domestic violence and abuse affecting individuals across the country. The head of the unit indicated there was no increase in rape cases, compared with the previous period of COVID-19 restrictions. In July the constable in charge of investigations at the unit publicly noted men who were being abused struggled to disclose abuse due to a perceived stigma.
Violence against women was a serious and underreported problem. The law criminalizes domestic violence, including emotional abuse, and provides for a fine or six months in prison. The government enforced the law. Advocates indicated they believed the true number of incidences was likely higher than reported but that many victims were reluctant to file reports due to the belief that they would not be protected or that their abusers would not be prosecuted. In July the prime minister publicly committed to provide additional resources to the Ministry of Social Development to help prevent abuse and give victims a greater sense of empowerment and independence.
In March the Department of Gender Affairs announced the development of a UNESCO-funded National Gender Equality Policy and Action Plan to assist the government in facilitating gender equality and empowerment.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment cases are instead prosecuted under the Protection of Employment Act. The press reported that sexual harassment occurred in the workplace.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Contraception was widely available. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage. Survivors of sexual violence could access services from any public hospital. Emergency contraception was available with a doctor’s prescription as part of clinical management of rape.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status and nationality laws, as well as in property, inheritance, employment, and owning or managing a business. In the labor sector, women are legally restricted from working in some industries, including mining, construction, factories, energy, and water. No law prohibits gender-based discrimination in access to credit. The law requires equal remuneration, and women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs. The government effectively enforced the law.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The constitution expressly prohibits discrimination based on race, place of origin, birth out of wedlock, political opinions or affiliations, color, and sex or creed.
There were no reports of governmental or societal violence or discrimination against members of racial, ethnic, or national minorities during the year. There were no reports of disproportionate access to education.
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country, and all children are registered at birth. Children born abroad to citizen parents may be registered by either parent.
Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal but was a problem. According to the government, neglect was the most common form of abuse, while physical abuse, including sexual molestation, occurred. The Special Victims Unit investigated allegations of physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, juvenile abuse, and crimes against children. The unit worked closely with the Department of Probation and Child Protection Services when there were juvenile-related matters and the Department of Gender Affairs when there were cases of domestic violence. 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 protect victims. The Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Education regularly collaborated on programs to curb child abuse.
The St. Christopher Children’s Home served abused and neglected children; it received funding and logistical support from the government.
The government offered counseling for both adult and child victims of abuse.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Underage marriage was rare.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and it was generally enforced. Child pornography is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. NGO representatives reported that sexual exploitation and molestation of children were problems. NGO representatives also reported that adolescent transactional sex was an occasional problem. The age of consent for sexual relations is 16. Having sexual relations with children younger than age 16 is illegal.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
There was no organized Jewish community, and members of the Jewish faith reported there were no anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
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.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination, particularly with access to buildings and public transportation. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but it was not consistently enforced. Children with disabilities attended school, although some parents of students with disabilities preferred to have their child stay at home. There was a segregated school for students with disabilities. Many local schools accommodated students with physical disabilities. In July the prime minister announced the government would provide a stipend to households with disabled children through the end of the year. As of the end of August, 118 applications were approved for assistance through the disability support initiative.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination based on a person’s HIV status; however, societal discrimination occurred against persons with HIV or AIDS. The Ministry of Labor enforced a specific antidiscrimination policy covering HIV and AIDS in the workplace. In February the national HIV/AIDS and Program coordinator and other health officials publicly advocated for decriminalizing homosexuality as “critical to combatting HIV/AIDS” and noted that a person’s HIV status is categorized as personal medical information and deserves the right to be kept private and confidential at all times.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct among men under an “unnatural offenses” statute that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. There were no reports the government enforced the law in recent years.
No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity in matters regarding essential goods and services and access to government services, such as health care.
The government stated it received no reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation, but some observers suggested there was underreporting due to negative societal attitudes.