Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only when a couple is divorced or separated or when there is a protection order from the Family Court. Authorities generally enforced the law. Roungement – the practice of parents accepting monetary compensation to settle rape and sexual assault cases out of court – is prohibited by law but was commonly practiced and rarely prosecuted.
The law prohibits sexual assault; nevertheless, it was underreported and not always prosecuted. High-level government officials supported strengthening family-law legislation and avenues of recourse for victims of gender-based violence.
Domestic violence remained a significant problem. While police were willing to arrest offenders, the government prosecuted crimes of violence against women only when the victim pressed charges. In July the Department of Gender Relations, with the assistance of the UN Population Fund, adopted and implemented procedures for gender-based violence referrals to improve access to professional services, up-to-date information, and timely referrals in both emergency and nonemergency situations.
The law provides for five years to life of incarceration for those convicted of domestic violence, and the law was generally enforced. Shelters, a hotline, and detailed national policies for managing domestic violence were available, but victims lacking financial security were often reluctant to remove themselves from abusive environments. Police faced problems such as a lack of transportation that at times prevented them from responding to calls in a timely manner. The NGO Saint Lucia Crisis Center received monthly government funding. It maintained a facility for female victims of domestic violence and their children and a hotline for support. The center reported that it was unable to meet the needs of all victims seeking assistance and that donations and fundraising activities had declined due to the negative economic impact of COVID-19.
The Department of Gender Relations operated the Women’s Support Center, a small residential facility for victims of domestic abuse. The crisis center reported that persons requesting counseling services often lacked funds to access either physical or virtual services because they could not afford public transportation or internet services. The center received referrals from government, the prison, and school counselors but had limited resources to meet the needs of all persons in need of services.
The Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development assisted victims of domestic violence. Authorities referred most cases to a counselor, and police facilitated the issuance of court protection orders in several cases. The Department of Gender Relations operated several gender-based violence prevention programs in schools and through community-based groups.
The Family Court hears cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children. The court can issue a protection order prohibiting an abuser from entering or remaining in the residence of a specified person. The court remands perpetrators to an intervention program for rehabilitation. The court employed full-time social workers to assist victims of domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but sexual harassment remained a problem. Government enforcement was not an effective deterrent. Most cases of sexual harassment were handled in the workplace rather than prosecuted under the law.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Contraception, including emergency contraception, was widely available for those age 18 or older. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage.
The maternal death rate for 2017 was 117 deaths per 100,000 live births, which was the most recent available information. This rate, as with many suboptimal health outcomes, was due to broader problems in the health-care system.
Survivors of sexual violence could access services from any of the public hospitals and wellness centers and from the Saint Lucia Planned Parenthood Association. Various divisions of the government worked together to assist victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including through the Ministry of Health’s Department of Social Services, Ministry of Education’s Department of Gender Relations, and the police Special Victims Unit.
There were no apparent legal or social barriers related to menstrual health that impacted the ability of women and girls to participate equally in society or to access educational opportunities. Economic barriers existed, however, leading one NGO to continue its campaign to provide hygiene products to lower-income women and providing education beyond the “brief” discussion of menstruation in the national school curriculum.
Discrimination: The law generally provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in the labor force, had higher levels of unemployment than men, sometimes received lower pay, and sometimes faced additional informal hurdles to gaining access to credit. The law provides for the equal treatment of women with respect to family property, nationality, and inheritance. The foreign husband of a Saint Lucian woman does not automatically receive Saint Lucian citizenship, but the foreign wife of a Saint Lucian man does.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
There were no reports of systemic racial or ethnic violence and discrimination. The country is racially homogeneous; in the latest (2010) census, 96 percent of residents identified as being of full or partial African descent. Members of other communities, such as citizens of East Indian or Middle Eastern descent, had an equal role in society.
Birth Registration: Children receive citizenship by birth to a parent with citizenship. Authorities provided birth certificates without undue administrative delay.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits all forms of child abuse, but child abuse remained a problem. The Department of Human Services and Family Affairs handled cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological abuse.
Although the government condemned the practice, parents of sexually abused children sometimes declined to press sexual assault charges against the abuser in exchange for the abuser’s financial contributions toward the welfare of the victim. Nonetheless, courts heard some child sexual abuse cases, convicted offenders, and sentenced them.
The Human Services Division provided services to victims of child abuse, including providing homes for severely abused and neglected children, counseling, facilitating medical intervention, finding foster care, providing family support services, and supporting the child while the child was cooperating with police and attending court. The crisis center reported an increase in child abuse cases and behavioral problems among children. They also reported an increase in sexualization of children and an increase in depression and suicidal thoughts among children since COVID-19.
A local NGO reported that lack of counseling, a lack of proper rehabilitation and reintegration policies, poor processes and procedures, and a lack of clarity of the new juvenile justice law were the main human rights issues impacting minors.
An NGO reported that the Boys Training Center, the main juvenile detention facility, was ill-equipped and housed juvenile offenders together with juveniles under state care and protection. The NGO received reports that physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuses were frequently perpetrated by staff at the center. An NGO representative said the permanent secretary of social justice, who had direct jurisdiction and responsibility for the facility, and the government failed to carry out a comprehensive investigation and hold employees accountable for abuse of state wards. The representative also reported a lack of proper facilities and staff for juvenile offenders, including having no teachers at the Boys Training Center.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for men and women, but 16 with parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Laws on sexual offenses cover rape, unlawful sexual contact, and unlawful sexual intercourse with children younger than age 16. The age of consent is 16, but a consent defense may be cited if the victim is between ages 12 and 16. The law prohibits sex trafficking of children younger than 18. No law defines or specifically prohibits child pornography. The government did enforce laws on sexual offenses against children, including through a police team that focused solely on sexual crimes, including sexual crimes involving children. For example, in April a male relative was arrested for the sexual abuse of a child who was found chained in a house.
An NGO reported a lack of social protection systems to assist vulnerable children, while another NGO received frequent reports of child sexual and physical abuse, including reports of staff abusing juveniles in juvenile detention facilities.
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 was a small organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Government regulations require access for persons with disabilities to all public buildings, but only a few government buildings had access ramps. Persons with disabilities have the right to vote, but many polling stations were inaccessible for voters with impaired mobility.
The Ministry of Health operated a community-based rehabilitation program in residents’ homes.
Children with physical and visual disabilities were sometimes mainstreamed into the wider student population. There were schools available for persons with developmental disabilities and for children who were hard of hearing, deaf, blind, or visually impaired. Children with disabilities faced barriers in education, and there were few employment opportunities for adults with disabilities. NGOs reported they had no record, knowledge, or reports of children with disabilities being institutionalized in any of the state homes for juveniles.
While there were no reports of discrimination, civil society representatives reported difficulty obtaining data on discrimination.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
NGOs complained that government officials did not test persons held at state facilities, e.g., at the state psychiatric facility, for HIV. Civil society groups reported health-care workers occasionally did not maintain appropriate patient confidentiality with respect to HIV or AIDS status.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Civil society representatives reported widespread societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. Some openly LGBTQI+ persons faced verbal harassment and physical abuse, including a reported public attack on a gay man walking in the street. Civil society groups reported LGBTQI+ persons were forced to leave public buses, denied jobs, or left jobs due to a hostile work environment.
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual acts of “gross indecency” (defined as sexual acts other than intercourse) as well as “buggery” (consensual intercourse between men) with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Attempted consensual sexual intercourse between men is punishable by five years in prison. None of these laws was enforced in practice.
The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics, with one exception in the context of employment (see section 7). The government funded NGOs that provided services to LGBTQI+ persons. Major gaps existed on LGBTQI+ topics, such as a lack of training and understanding of important LGBTQI+ matters. A lack of inclusive policy guidance allowed individual health providers or other service providers to deny services to LGBTQI+ persons based on the providers’ personal beliefs.