Rape is a very serious crime that has affected and continues to affect the lives of many persons living in St Vincent and the Grenadines (“SVG”). It can have a devastating physical, mental and/or emotional impact on victims. Many times, an atrocious story strikes headlines in the media where this gross and detestable act is highlighted in the life of yet another victim, and what usually follows is widespread outrage from various persons in society. Nevertheless, despite all the outrage and condemnation from the general public, can the actual laws in SVG effectively bring justice to victims of rape and especially male victims of rape?
Sections 122 – 148 outline a number of sexual offences under SVG’s Criminal Code. Section 123, the rape provision under SVG’s Criminal Code, states the following:
“(1) A man who rapes a woman is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.
(2) A man commits rape if—
(a) he has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman who at the time of intercourse did not consent to it; and
(b) at that time he knew that she did not consent to the intercourse or he was reckless as to whether she consented or not.
(3) If at a trial for a rape offence the court has to consider whether a man believed that a woman was consenting to sexual intercourse, the presence or absence of reasonable grounds for such belief is a matter to which the court is to have regard, in conjunction with any other relevant matters, in considering whether he so believed.
(4) In subsection (3), a “rape offence” means any of the following namely, rape, attempted rape, aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring rape or attempted rape, and incitement to rape.
(5) For the purpose of this section a woman is deemed not to have consented to sexual intercourse if her consent is obtained by threat or force, or by use of force, or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of bodily harm, or by means of false representations as to the nature of the act or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband.”
The above-mentioned section is extremely problematic. Like many of the sexual offences under SVG’s Criminal Code, it is not a gender-neutral provision. Perpetrators of rape are identified as being males and victims of rape are identified as being females. This is far from the truth. A person of the same sex can rape another person of the same sex. Moreover, a female can be a perpetrator of rape and a male can be a victim of rape.
However, based on a strict and literal interpretation of section 123 of SVG’s Criminal Code, it appears that male victims of rape are not included in the definition of rape under SVG’s Criminal Code, and therefore, strictly speaking, they cannot be raped in SVG! What a horrific reality for male victims of rape in SVG!
This horrendous deficiency in the law has created and continues to create gross injustice for male victims of rape under SVG’s legal system. Other laws under SVG’s Criminal Code such as the “Buggery” and “Indecent practices between persons of the same sex” provisions may be used to prosecute perpetrators for sexual crimes against males, but they do not adequately address the issue of male rape. Instead, these archaic and draconian laws which themselves need to be repealed, continue to mainly stigmatise, and criminalise same-sex intimacy, whether the parties to the act/s consented or not!
Today, I make an urgent plea to those entrusted with making laws for the peace, order, and good government of SVG to quickly review, create, enact better laws to protect male victims of rape and by extension all sexual crimes in SVG! Our boys and our men deserve equal protection under the law! Our boys and our men deserve better! Our boys and our men deserve justice!
Author: Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian Barrister-at-law and Solicitor. He is also the President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org