ST. GEORGE’S — Grenada, a Caribbean country consisting of one large island and several smaller surrounding islands, is home to nutmeg plantations and beautiful scenery. However, it is also home to human rights violations, and a series of wrongful arrests and detainments. Although elections have been deemed fair, other political machinations remain suspect, such as arrests for political purposes.
The most well-known case of this occurred in 1986, where the “Grenada 17” was convicted for murdering the Prime Minister under suspect conditions. Yet, while we have seen that there are indeed concerning human rights violations, the government is committed to improvement — the highest court in Grenada has heard their case, and they have been released.
In a U.S. State Department human rights report, the most significant human rights abuses in Grenada were poor prison conditions due to overcrowding, violence against women and children and laws that discriminate against LGBTI persons. The prison system in Grenada does not meet international standards, and most stark human rights abuses were committed in detention centers. In 2016 there were 465 prisoners in the nation’s only prison, which was designed for less than 200.
The Grenada Human Rights Organization stated that there are six to eight people per cell, while only three are allowed per United Nations recommendation. While overcrowding is a serious problem, there is a system in place that allows prisoners to file a complaint with their lawyer, or through a government committee – a good sign that the government is receptive to concerns.
In other areas, the government is very effective in handling human rights concerns in Grenada. Violence against women had been an issue for decades in Grenada, but the government was able to effectively pass legislation that criminalizes rape and spousal rape, with a punishment of flogging or up to thirty years in prison. As a result, more cases of domestic violence and sexual assault have been reported, jumping from 257 cases in 2014 to 696 in 2015.
This means that victims now feel that they can report their abusers and they will be punished. A shelter for abused women and their children was set up in northern Grenada, giving women more options to escape from human rights abuses in Grenada.
However, while the government is starting to become effective in helping women who are suffering abuse, treatment against LGBTI individuals is still unacceptable. Government legislation prohibits same-sex relationships between men, with the threat of prison. There are also no laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI persons, leading to intolerance and outright abuse.
Yet, there is a sign that attitudes are changing. Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell stated before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a hearing about anti-LGBTI laws “we waste our time condemning and attacking people because they differ from us.” While the government cannot be expected to reverse a history of discriminatory sentiment towards LGBTI persons, the first step would be to pass laws that ban discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.
This step would at least allow for punishment in the case that human rights violations occur.
Ultimately, while there are some pervasive human rights concerns in Grenada, the government has made great progress in improving the lives of their citizens. Awareness is key — and the government has proven to be aware of problems such as violence against women, poor prison conditions and discriminatory laws against LGBTI persons. Changing attitudes and approaches towards governing can be difficult, but Grenada is moving in the right direction.
– Rachael Blandau