Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Situation and treatment of sexual minorities, including societal attitudes; availability of state protection and support services (2014-November 2015)
According to sources, same-sex sexual activity [referred to as buggery] is illegal in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (US 25 June 2015, 11; Freedom House 2015; CAFE 26 Feb. 2014). Sources indicate that same-sex sexual activity is illegal for both male and female same-sex couples (ILGA May 2015, 91; Equality Network n.d.b; Human Dignity Trust n.d.a).
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), same-sex activity is addressed in Sections 146 and 148 of the 1990 Criminal Code of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as follows:
Any person who -
Commits buggery with other person;
Commits buggery with an animal; or
Permits any person to commit buggery with him or her; is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for ten years.
Any person, who in public or private, commits an act of gross indecency with another person of the same sex, or procures or attempts to procure another person of the same sex to commit an act of gross indecency with him or her, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for five years. (ILGA May 2015, 91-92)
According to Equality Network, a Scottish NGO that "aims to bring about equality and improve the human rights situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Scotland" (Equality Network n.d.a), St. Vincent and the Grenadines rejected the 2008 recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee to repeal laws that criminalize same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults (Equality Network n.d.b). According to a 2011 UN Human Rights Committee report, authorities from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines indicated that "[i]n the context of the moral, societal and cultural make-up of the State, there was currently no desire to revisit" existing legislation on the criminalization of LGBT sexual activity (UN 23 Sept. 2011, para. 29).
Sources indicate that laws against same-sex conduct are "rarely enforced" in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (US 25 June 2015, 11; Pink News 16 Aug. 2013; Equality Network n.d.b). According to a 2010 report by the Caribbean HIV & AIDS Alliance (CHAA), an NGO based in Trinidad and Tobago whose mandate is to "mobilize communities to carry out HIV prevention, AIDS care, and educational activities" (CHAA n.d.), it is "not clear whether or under what conditions these laws are enforced" (CHAA 2010, 23).
2. Societal Attitudes
According to GlobalGayz, a charitable organization that reports on LGBT life in countries around the world, same sex relationships in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are "stigmatized" and "not tolerated well by the locals" (Global Gayz 28 Sept. 2012). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 states that "[a]necdotal evidence suggested that there was social discrimination against LGBT persons in the deeply conservative society, although local observers believed such attitudes of intolerance were slowly improving" (US 25 June 2015, 11). The 2010 CHAA report further indicates that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' religious background and culture fosters "stigmatisation and homophobia that results in ostracism and discrimination" of LGBT people (CHAA 2010, 22). The same report notes that a culture of "masculinity" promotes heterosexual activity and contributes to the stigmatization of gay men (ibid.).
The 2010 CHAA report states that the number of men in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines who are openly gay is "small" and most same-sex relations occur "underground" (ibid.). The same source states that even if a gay man is accepted within his family, many of them publicly conceal their sexual orientation due to fears of stigmatization (ibid.). A 2014 letter to the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from the Director of the Caribbean Alliance for Equality (CAFE), a pan-Caribbean NGO that seeks to "create a safe, just, all-inclusive society in the Caribbean for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning individuals" (CAFE n.d.), similarly indicates that "[m]ost LGBT Vincentians are closeted and are not afforded the universal right to publically live freely without fear of recrimination" (CAFE 26 Feb. 2014). According to CHAA, "[c]ommonly, a gay or bisexual man will not say hello in public to another gay man that they know for fear of being associated with him" and thus "establishing or maintaining a romantic or ongoing relationship beyond sex with another man … is very difficult" (CHAA 2010, 23). Sources indicate that many LGBT Vincentians marry members of the opposite sex to hide their sexual orientation (CAFE 26 Feb. 2014; GlobalGayz 28 Sept. 2012). According to Country Reports 2014, members of professional and business classes were more likely to conceal their sexual orientation (US 25 June 2015, 11).
According to CHAA, there are no specific places for MSMs [men who have sex with men] to meet and socialize (CHAA 2010, 23). The same source states that gay men have reported some parts of the islands to be more tolerant than others, but that fear of public backlash prevents any businesses from branding themselves as "gay social venues" (ibid.). CHAA quotes the testimony of a gay man in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as stating that there are no street demonstrations or LGBT pride parades in the country (ibid., 22). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
3. Discrimination and Violence
In 2014, the Director of CAFE reported that LGBT Vincentians "are subjected to harassment and discrimination in the workplace, on the street, in housing, and public accommodations" (CAFE 26 Feb. 2014). Equality Network indicates that there are no statistics available, but "anecdotal evidence suggests there is social discrimination" against LGBT people (Equality Network n.d.). According to Human Dignity Trust, a British legal charity that offers support to "those who want to challenge anti-gay laws wherever they exist in the world" (Human Dignity Trust n.d.b), "reports of persecution and discrimination are small" due to the "lack of dedicated LGBTI organizations operating in Saint Vincent" (Human Dignity Trust n.d.a). CAFE cites a member of the LGBT community in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as stating that he or she was bullied in school and physically attacked, including an incident of stoning (CAFE 26 Feb. 2014). The Washington Blade, America's largest gay news source, reports that anti-LGBT violence is "pervasive" throughout the Caribbean (The Washington Blade 24 Sept. 2014).
According to sources, the president of the Scout's Association of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines stated that LGBT scout leaders "will not be tolerated" (Equality Network n.d.; Searchlight 4 Feb. 2013; iWitness News 30 Jan. 2014). Reporting in January 2014, iWitness News, a news source of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (iWitness News n.d.), quotes the president of the Scout's Association of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as stating that the scouting movement had been affected by "'the spectre of homosexuality'" and that all scout leaders rumored to be involved in homosexual activity "were asked to leave" (ibid.).
4. State Protection and Treatment by Authorities
According to the CAFE director, "[there] are reported cases of the police humiliating homosexuals in their custody, which deters LGBT Vincentians from approaching the police when they need protection" (CAFE 26 Feb. 2014). The same source states that "it is doubtful that the police would be helpful" if LGBT people reported cases of harassment to them (ibid.). Further and corroborating information on police treatment of LGBT people could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Country Reports 2014 notes that "[n]o laws prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity" (US 25 June 2015, 11). The Director of CAFE similarly stated that there is "no legal protection or recourse" to address discrimination of LGBT individuals in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (CAFE 26 Feb. 2014).
5. Support Services
GlobalGayz indicated that there is "no dedicated place for LGBT citizens to go for support" and "[t]here are no LGBT groups or public activists in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines that publically advocate for gay and lesbian rights other than the 'quiet agenda' of some HIV health outreach personnel" (GlobalGayz 28 Sept. 2012). Equality Network similarly reports that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines does not have an LGBTI organization that can act as a reference point for advocacy or social services (Equality Network n.d.b). However, GlobalGayz notes that CHAA in Saint Vincent indirectly attempts "to bridge the gap between HIV prevention and social support services for at risk groups such as MSMs" (GlobalGayz 28 Sept. 2012).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Caribbean Alliance for Equality (CAFE). 26 February 2014. "Email to Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines." <http://caribbeanallianceforequality.org/email-to-prime-minister-of-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
_____. N.d. "About." <http://caribbeanallianceforequality.org/about/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
Caribbean HIV and AIDS Alliance (CHAA). 2010. Understanding Populations at Risk for HIV Infection in St. Vincent and the Grenadines: an HIV and AIDS Situational Assessment. <http://caribbeanhivaidsalliance.org/uploaded/pdf/St_Vincent_Rapid_ Assessment_Report_final.pdf> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
_____. N.d. "Vision, Mission, and Overview." <http://www.caribbeanhivaidsalliance.org/article.php?id=14> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
Equality Network. N.d.a. "Our Aims." <http://www.equality-network.org/about/our-aims/> [Accessed 5 Nov. 2015]
_____. N.d.b. Caribbean and Americas. <http://www.equality-network.org/caribbean-and-americas/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
Freedom House. 2015. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Freedom in the World 2015. <https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2013/st-vincent-and-grenadines> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
GlobalGayz. 28 September 2012. "Gay Life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines." <http://www.globalgayz.com/gay-life-in-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines/> [Accessed 30 Oct. 2015]
Human Dignity Trust. N.d.a. "Criminalization of Homosexuality: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." <http://www.humandignitytrust.org/uploaded/Map/Commonwealth_ Country_Reports/Saint_Vincent_and_the_Grenadines.pdf> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
_____. N.d.b. "The Human Dignity Trust: Legally Challenging the illegality of Homosexuality." <http://www.humandignitytrust.org/pages/ABOUT%20US> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). May 2015. Aengus Carroll and Lucas Paoli Itaborahy. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." State-Sponsored Homophobia. A World Survey of Laws: Criminalisation, Protection and Recognition of Same-Sex Love. 10th Edition. <http://old.ilga.org/Statehomophobia/ILGA_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_2015.pdf> [Accessed 27 Nov. 2015]
iWitness News. 30 January 2014. "Zero Tolerance for Gay, Lesbian Scout Leaders." <http://www.iwnsvg.com/2014/01/30/zero-tolerance-for-gay-lesbian-scout-leaders/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
_____. N.d. "About iWintess News." <http://www.iwnsvg.com/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
Pink News. 16 August 2013. Daniel Carter. "The Queen: Monarch of 11 Countries Where Being Gay Can Land You in Prison." <http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/08/16/the-queen-monarch-of-12-countries-where-being-gay-can-land-you-in-prison/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
Searchlight. 4 February 2013. "Scouts' Ban on Gays, Lesbians Represents a Bigoted Attitude." <http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:w4RrjFPHKxIJ:searchlight.vc/scouts-ban-on-gays-lesbians-represents-a-bigoted-attitude-p48597-88.htm&hl=en&gl=ca&strip=1&vwsrc=0> [Accessed 9 Nov. 2015]
United Nations (UN). 23 September 2011. Human Rights Committee. 11th Universal Periodic Review Session Report. <http://arc-international.net/global-advocacy/universal-periodic-review/s/saint-vincent-and-the-grenadines/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
United States (US). 25 June 2015. Department of State. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014. <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/236928.pdf> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
The Washington Blade. 24 September 2014. "Exclusive: Travel Industry Representatives Meet with Caribbean LGBT Advocates." <http://www.washingtonblade.com/2014/09/24/exclusive-travel-industry-representatives-meet-caribbean-lgbt-advocates/> [Accessed 4 Nov. 2015]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Caribbean Alliance for Equality; Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities; Caribbean HIV and Aids Alliance; Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition; Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Persons with Disabilities, and Youth, Office of the Attorney General; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association; United and Strong (LGBTQI St. Lucia).
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Al Jazeera; BBC; Caribbean Community; Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities; Council on Hemispheric Affairs; CNN; Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere; Factiva; Human Rights Watch; Jamaica Observer; The New York Times; The Organization of American States; Pentecostal Assembly of the West Indies; United States – Central Intelligence Agency; The Vincentian; The Washington Post.