In the Human Rights Report 2010 which was recently released by the United States of America, it is suggested that while there are laws in place for the protection and women against specific types of abuse, there are still some areas of vulnerability.
“Violence against women was a problem. The law criminalizes domestic violence, including emotional abuse, and provides penalties of up to EC$13,500 or six months in prison. Although many women were reluctant to file complaints or pursue them in the courts, the Ministry of Gender Affairs handled an annual average of 25 to 30 reports of domestic violence. The director believed that, due to the nature of the crime, many women did not feel comfortable reporting it or asking for a protection order. There were no prosecutions or convictions for domestic violence during the year.
“The law prohibits rape, but it does not address spousal rape. Penalties for rape range from two years’ imprisonment for incest between minors to life imprisonment for statutory rape or incest with someone under 16. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. Incest with a person 16 or older carries a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment. There were 15 rapes and 23 indecent assault cases reported during the year.”
The report indicated that counselling for victims of abuse was available and the responsible ministry “conducted training on domestic violence and gender violence for officials in the police and fire departments, nurses, school guidance counsellors, and other government employees.”
It further explained that while sexual harassment is not specifically addressed in the law, “it remained a problem”.
The report indicated that, owing to tradition and culture, some issues of inequality between men and women were evident.
“The role of women in society is not restricted by law but was circumscribed by culture and tradition; women did not occupy as many senior positions as men in society. The Ministry of Gender Affairs conducted programs addressing poverty and health and promoting institutional mechanisms to advance the status of women and attain leadership positions for women. Although no legislation requires equal pay for equal work, women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs.”
Regarding children, the report indicated that in St. Kitts Nevis, child abuse remained “a major problem”.
“Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country, and all are registered at birth and equally able to access public education and public services. Children born to citizen parents abroad can be registered by either of their parents. Child abuse remained a major problem. The law sets the age of consent at 16.
“Authorities received a number of reports of sexual assaults against children during the year and brought charges in cases involving alleged sexual activity with minors (indecent assault). Under the statutory rape law, sexual relations with anyone under 16 are illegal, with penalties ranging from probation to life in prison. Child pornography is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.”