As countries around the world celebrated Human Rights Day on December 10, a local human rights lawyer has called on the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to improve its data collection methods and update legislation for the benefit of vulnerable groups.
President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc, and 2022/2023 Fellow at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Jeshua Bardoo, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT said while the steps government is taking on the Draft Disability Bill are commendable, “a bill is not enforceable”.
Back in May of this year, the Ministry of National Mobilization held consultations with relevant stakeholders and members of the public to inform various aspects of the Act.
He noted the passing of this into legislation would “greatly promote and protect human rights” and there are areas where the disabled community are being disadvantaged.
Bardoo also pointed to a “gap in the country”; the issue of a lack of data on issues affecting vulnerable groups in SVG, noting it is difficult to implement policies and laws without proper qualitative and quantitative data.
“When it comes to data collection and reports …data is definitely lacking. We need data so we can know how many people are being impacted and their experiences. I hope that as time goes by that more work will be done on that because having proper data, proper surveys and reports helps to inform our policies and legislation and how we can effectively tackle the issues that vulnerable populations face.”
Speaking against the backdrop of the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, which precedes World Human Rights Day, Bardoo said there are areas of concerns in the SVG Criminal Code which he believes should be updated “as a matter of urgency”.
Buggery, and the legal definition of rape are two areas he highlighted.
“Rape in SVG is defined as a man raping a woman but males also get raped. Legally we can’t call it rape because, according to our sexual offences laws, male rape does not exist,” noting also that the existing buggery laws do not properly address the issue of male rape.
In relation to the offence of buggery which, under the Criminal Code, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Bardoo said these laws have a “detrimental effect” on the LGBT community and encourages stigma, as people use these laws to justify their prejudice against that community.