The Constitution of St Lucia protects all individuals from violations of their personal security, freedom of expression, family life, privacy and deprivation of property (Article 1). Protection from discrimination (Article 13) does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected characteristics.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal according to the Criminal Code of St Lucia. According to Section 132, ‘Gross Indecency’ is a criminal offence, punishable by a prison sentence of up to ten years. Gross indecency is defined as a sexual act other than intercourse, excluding acts conducted by a man and a woman in a private place. Section 133 states that ‘Buggery’ is punishable by a prison sentence to up to ten years, or life if practiced without consent. A 2010 report authored by a range of Caribbean LGBTI organisations, states that same-sex activity between consenting adults has not been prosecuted in the region ‘in recent time’, but these laws nevertheless create an environment in which human rights violations against LGBTI communities occur.
Article 131 of the Labour Code, enacted in 2006, bans ‘unfair dismissal’ based on sexual orientation, however there is evidence that this law does not prevent discrimination in the workplace (see below, Public Attitudes to LGBTI Groups).
In 2011, Saint Lucia signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but it remains one of 29 states that have not ratified the Covenant. Article 17 of the ICCPR protects individual privacy, including private consensual sexual activity between adults.
Following the UN’s 2015 Universal Periodic Review of St Lucia, the Human Rights Council made a number of recommendations regarding LGBTI rights and protection on the island. These included repealing all legislation criminalising same-sex sexual relations and implementing legal and practical measures to eliminate discrimination against LGBTI persons. St Lucia accepted the recommendation to combat discrimination but rejected calls to repeal legislation, stating: ‘Though Saint Lucia has become a more tolerant state as evidenced by the Labour Code, it cannot commit to holistic legislative change at the moment.’ As noted by ILGA’s 2016 Report on State-Sponsored Homophobia, between the first and second Universal Periodic Review cycle, there have been advancements and developments among the LGBTI community in Saint Lucia, especially regarding advocacy and capacity building.
In December 2008, Saint Lucia was the only UN member in the Americas to formally oppose the Declaration to the General Assembly that affirmed international human rights protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and condemned rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Altenor v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration), 2008, F.C.T. 570
- Application for judicial review allowed.
- Female applicant (bi-sexual), sexual orientation claim, fear of persecution.
- Beaten by boyfriend and mother, police refused to help.
Christopher v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship & Immigration), 2004, F.C.T. 1128
- Appeal dismissed, due to lack of credibility.
- Female applicant (bi-sexual), sexual orientation claim.
- Board had concluded that in St. Lucia there is a credible judicial system, a ‘live and let live’ attitude toward homosexuality despite its illegality, as well as various support groups and NGO’s to assist the gay community.
- Claimant said she cannot return to St. Lucia because homosexuality is a crime and the police are corrupt and ignore complaints about violence against women.
- Despite fear, claimant did not file for 2-3 years.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE’S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
The impact of domestic legislation
A 2014 Inter-American Commission for Human Rights report states that the criminalisation of same-sex activity in 11 American countries, including St. Lucia, impacts the defense of individual’s human rights, restricting access to justice and fueling intolerance. LGBTI advocates are viewed as ‘self-avowed criminals.’
According to a 2013 report by the same body, legislation that criminalizes LGBTI persons legitimizes social prejudices and sends a social message that discrimination and violence is tolerated. The report argues that criminalisation exacerbates the lack of accurate official statistics in St Lucia. Many victims will not report crimes out of the fear that they themselves will be prosecuted, while state agencies in charge of investigations often identify crimes against LGTBI persons a priori as ‘crimes of passion’ or blame the victims’ lifestyle for attacks.
UNAIDS reports that Caribbean laws criminalising homosexuality inhibit efforts to control the spread of HIV, by discouraging men from accessing HIV treatment, counselling or education services. ‘In most of the countries in the Caribbean that don’t have repressive laws, HIV prevalence is between 1% and 8% among men who have sex with men,’ said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. ‘This contrasts sharply with a range of between 20% and 32% in countries which outlaw sex between men.’
Public attitudes to LGBTI groups
The 2015 US Department of State country report on human rights practices in St Lucia finds widespread social discrimination against LGBTI persons. According to the report, there are few openly LGBTI persons in the country, and those that publicly express their sexuality face daily verbal harassment. In spite of the 2006 Labour Code, evidence shows that LGBTI persons are denied jobs or forced to leave jobs due to a hostile work environment. Sources state that individuals are denied access to, or forced to leave, rental homes. There were few documented incidents of violence or abuse during the year, potentially reflecting fears of reprisal. However, the killing during the year of 18-year-old Marvin Anthony Augustin of Grand Riviere, Gros-Islet, may have been a hate crime against a gay male. The police investigation into the incident is described as ‘very slow’.
In March 2011, three American tourists were attacked while in St Lucia. The victims described the incident as motivated by anti-gay sentiment.
The Joint UN Programme on HIV/Aids progress report of 2008 identifies widespread discrimination towards homosexuals and people living with HIV. Public opinion is that to be gay is to be promiscuous. These attitudes are promoted by institutions such as the media, and the church, which is seen as the major culprit. The attitude of the police is especially discriminatory. People report being denied employment, facing harassment at work and being refused treatment by doctors on account of their sexual orientation or HIV status.
United and Strong (U&S) is St Lucia’s foremost LGBTI rights organisation, which campaigns for human rights, awareness of LGBTI issues and legislative change. In May 2012, United & Strong organised a demonstration at the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister of Education around the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). In partnership with AIDS Free World and CariFLAGS, United and Strong produced human rights violation documentation training for human rights defenders in the Eastern Caribbean. In August 2013, United & Strong hosted an LGBTI sensitivity training for police officers. The training was repeated in 2015 and is featured on the United and Strong website.
Conservative groups such as the Caribbean Centre for Family and Human Rights (CARIFAM) attempt to block these efforts to further the rights of LGBTI people in St Lucia. In July 2013, CARIFAM published a letter in The Voice, the national newspaper of St Lucia, outlining ten reasons why the government should not decriminalise sexual activity between men. For more information, see the Equality Network.
Two recent academic studies have investigated homophobia in St Lucia. Homophobia in St. Lucian Schools A Perspective from a Select Group of Teachers, Dolor, U. 2008 finds that homophobia is expressed through taunts, jokes, and physical abuse, and encourages gay students to stay ‘in the closet’ with negative psychological consequences. The study stresses the role of the Roman Catholic Church, which exerts a powerful influence on the education system.
Exploring the Constructions of Masculine Identities among St. Lucian Men, Davis, T., Thomas, A., Sewalish, C., 2006 documents a series of interviews with St Lucian men. Interview subjects articulate a masculine identity intertwined with responsibility and independence, aversion to gay men, gender-related role tension, and the powerful influence of parents and teachers on gender role expectations.
The state’s capacity to protect
The 2015 UN Universal Periodic Review for St Lucia notes that LGBTI individuals remain vulnerable to persecution and harassment on a daily basis. The document also acknowledges the reports of activists that serious violent crimes against LGBTI individuals have not been properly investigated, and such investigations as have occurred have not led to prosecutions.
In March 2012, Kenita Placide, the Co-Executive Director United and Strong, was featured in the St. Lucia Star. In the article, Ms Placide states that there is no formal protection for homosexuals in St. Lucia. Going to the police for help exposes you to potential arrest, so people do not report incidents of violence and homophobia. The police do not properly investigate cases of violence against LGBTI people – she identifies the violent murders of four gay men whose cases remained unresolved at the time of publication. The office of United and Strong was burnt down a week after it opened. A police investigation concluded that the fire was sparked by an electrical fault, and was not a hate crime.
A 2009 research report by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada into state protection for homosexuals in St Lucia also concludes that the police do not adequately investigate cases of violence against the LGBTI community. Victims face ridicule in police stations. The research identifies two cases of violence against homosexuals, including one man hung from a tree because he was gay. No one was convicted for either murder. The report quotes a senior official of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), who states that discrimination is driving the activities of gay men underground.
In 2005, researchers from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada conducted an interview with the official in charge of police services in Saint Lucia (documented in this report). The official stated that most homosexuals are ‘in the closet’ and would not openly come out as being gay. The official identified a male cross-dresser who does go out publicly dressed as a female, and as a result was attacked by three other men, sexually assaulted, and had to seek medical treatment. However, in spite of documented reports of violence against LGBTI persons and the Saint Lucian police’s failure to properly investigate such crimes, the official said that attacks on homosexuals are ‘not that big a problem’.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
United and Strong
email: email@example.com (Contact person: Adaryl Williams)
UnitedandStrong is an NGO which aims to provide an enabling environment for the advancement of human rights for the LGBTI community in Saint Lucia. U&S is a member organization of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Partnership — a network of groups focused on LGBT and other marginalized communities in the OECS islands, with the vision of equality and human rights for all, working to eliminate stigma, discrimination, reduce inequality, and protect human rights and lives.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We have no specialist on LGBTI for St Lucia, but we welcome suggestions.
Researched by: Michael Boyle