Human Rights in Saint Lucia

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SEATTLE — Saint Lucia is an island-country in the Caribbean home to just more than 160,000 people. The island was initially colonized by the French and later the British, who maintained control over the island from 1814 until Saint Lucia gained its independence in 1979. The people of Saint Lucia are governed as a parliamentary democracy. Human rights in Saint Lucia need to be more staunchly protected. According to the 2016 U.S. Department of State’s 2016 country report, a few of the most egregious human rights violations taking place in Saint Lucia are issues involving the police and incidents of discrimination.

One of the most prevalent human rights violations in Saint Lucia involving the police is physical abuse. The nation’s constitution prohibits such behavior, but it does not seem to make much of a difference. Over a one-year period from 2015 to 2016, 118 civilian complaints were filed against the Saint Lucia police. The majority of these complaints were a result of abuse of authority.

Arrest procedures and treatment of detainees are another frequent issue of human rights issues in Saint Lucia. According to Saint Lucia’s constitution, a court hearing must occur within three days of detention and detainees are entitled to access to both legal counsel and their families. Despite the laws in place, prolonged pretrial detention has proven to be an enduring problem in Saint Lucia as many people spent anywhere from six months to six years in pretrial detention.

The 2016 U.S. Department of State’s report on human rights in Saint Lucia states that discrimination against gender and sexual minorities is ubiquitous. Consensual same-sex relations are illegal and there are no laws protecting people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gender and sexual minorities must constantly deal with verbal harassment and hate crimes occasionally go as far as homicide. Kenita Placide is an activist from Saint Lucia who knows all too well the struggles this community faces. Three of Placide’s friends have been murdered for being a part of this community. Placide is representative of the kind of adversity that people in Saint Lucia face as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Human rights in Saint Lucia are neither well nor widely protected. The nation must act fast to right these wrongs.

Adam Braunstein
Photo: Flickr

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