Saint Lucia

Last Updated 12 August 2021

Saint Lucia is an island nation in the eastern Caribbean Sea which maintains a multi-party parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. A former French and, subsequently, British colony, Saint Lucia remains a member of the Commonwealth, and a member state of the Organization of American States.

Just over 90% of the population are Christian, with approximately two-thirds being Catholic. While just under 6% of the population are not affiliated with a religion (non-religious, atheist, agnostic).1https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/religious-beliefs-in-saint-lucia.html

The country maintains no official religion, however concerns about religious privileging do exist.

 
Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The Constitution2http://www.govt.lc/media.govt.lc/www/resources/legislation/ConstitutionOfSaintLucia.pdf does not establish any religion, but it begins by invoking “faith in the supremacy of the Almighty God”.

The constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association (Articles 9-11). These rights are generally respected in practice.

The Ministry of Equity, Social Justice, Empowerment, Youth Development, Sports, and Local Government is responsible for religious affairs. The law requires religious groups with more than 250 members to register. The government “incorporates” registered groups, which are eligible to receive associated benefits, while it treats unregistered groups as for-profit organizations for taxation purposes. Registration permits groups to apply for concessions, including duty-free import privileges, tax benefits, and exemption from some labor requirements. Such privileges are not extended to secular organizations. Formal government registration also allows registered religious groups to legally register marriages officiated by religious leaders.3https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-SAINT-LUCIA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

The Religious Advisory Committee – on which sit representatives of different religious communities, along with a nonvoting government official – develop regulatory and legal reforms for the consideration of the Cabinet of Ministers. It is unclear whether representatives of the non-religious community also sit on this committee.4https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-SAINT-LUCIA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

Education and children’s rights

The Constitution grants religious groups the right to establish and maintain schools and provide religious instruction, but prohibits religious instruction without consent in schools.5https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-SAINT-LUCIA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

Religious education is a non-compulsory subject in public schools. In these classes students are taught about core beliefs of world religions rather than being encouraged to adopt any particular faith.6https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-SAINT-LUCIA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

Several religious schools exist which are funded by the Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Anglican Churches. The government provides approximately 50% of the funding for these schools, but does not cover expenses for classes on religion. Schools are not permitted to discriminate in their selection of pupils on the basis of religious belief or lack thereof.7https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/240282-SAINT-LUCIA-2020-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT.pdf

Family, community and society

LGBTI+ rights

According to Article 132 of the 2004 Criminal Code of St. Lucia,8http://www.govt.lc/criminal-code any act of “gross indecency” committed by people of the same sex is punishable by 10 years in prison. The Article provides an exemption for any act “committed in private between an adult male person and an adult female person, both of whom consent,” but lacks protection for private acts between same-sex couples. Under Article 133 of the same code, a person who commits “buggery” with the consent of another person can be sentenced to five years in prison.

In November 2019, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality announced it planned to launch a legal challenge against the criminalization of private, consensual same-sex sexual activity.9https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2021/04/23/country-profiles-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity#st__lucia

While the provisions are said to be rarely enforced, the existence of such laws continues to have an impact on the LGBTI+ community. A study by Human Rights Watch found that members of the LGBTI+ community face the discrimination, violence, stigma, and prejudice.10https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/01/21/human-rights-watch-submission-universal-periodic-review-saint-lucia As well as harassment, LGBTI+ people have been denied or forced to leave rented accommodation and have been denied jobs or forced to leave work due to discrimination.11https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/SAINT-LUCIA-2018.pdf

Women’s rights

Abortion remains a criminal offence under Articles 164-168 of the Criminal Code, punishable by up to seven years in prison. Exemptions apply in the case of rape, incest or risk to the life or health of the mother.

Sexual assault is a problem in St Lucia, despite the Criminal Code stating that rape of men and women and ‘unlawful sexual connection’ is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. In a 2018 report, whilst police were willing to arrest offenders, the government only prosecuted crimes of violence against women when the victim pressed charges.12https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/SAINT-LUCIA-2018.pdf

Spousal rape is only punishable when a couple is divorced or separated or when there is a protection order from the Family Court.13https://www.refworld.org/docid/50bf2f292.html Monetary compensation to settle rape and sexual assault cases out of court is illegal, however is rarely prosecuted.14https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/SAINT-LUCIA-2018.pdf

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Article 314 of the Criminal Code includes merely exposing a person to “ridicule” as a matter of defamation, suggesting that any satire of a public figure could be liable to prosecution.15http://www.govt.lc/www/legislation/Criminal%20Code.pdf

Blasphemy

There are a number of anti-blasphemy or quasi blasphemy law provisions in place, though we have no record of their use.

Under the heading of “Public worship offences”, the Criminal Code criminalizes:

  • behaving “irreverently near any church, chapel, or other building for religious worship during divine service” (article 566);
  • anyone who “disturbs or molests any other person in any place of divine worship, whether during divine service or at any other time” as well as behaviour that is “riotous, indecent, disorderly, or insulting” at a place of worship at any time (article 567);
  • anyone who “disturbs or molests any minister of religion while celebrating any religious rite or office in any public way or public place, or any other person aiding, assisting, or attending at the celebration”.

Anyone convicted under these provisions is subject to “a fine of one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for one year”.

It is unclear if an act of blasphemy in and of itself (without some attendant abuse or harassment) would earn a prison term under these provisions, though it seems likely that some forms of legitimate protest, for example against a religious minister, might fall foul of these provisions.

When considering exemptions to the defamation law, for example on grounds of making a complaint against an official, or expressing an opinion in ‘good faith’,  the Criminal Code, article 318 (g), specifically excludes “blasphemous” matter from such exemptions, even though the material may otherwise needed to be shown in a court of law. Publications are privileged:

“if the matter published is in fact a fair report of anything said, done, or shown in a civil or criminal inquiry or proceeding before any Court, unless the Court prohibits the publication of anything said or shown before it, on the ground that it is seditious, immoral, or blasphemous;” [emphasis added]

Again, in the list of potential justifications for libel (a justification might include for example pleading that a statement was true, or that making it was in the public interest), the Criminal Code, under article 326 (6), again excludes “blasphemous” matter, stating:

“No plea of justification shall be pleaded to any indictment or count of a charge of seditious, blasphemous or obscene libel.”

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