UPR of St Vincent and the Grenadines: no decriminalisation of same-sex relationships

Published: May 13, 2011

On 10 May 2011, the Working Group on the UPR examined the human rights situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The small delegation was headed by Mr Camillo M. Gonsalves (Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York) who responded to the questions and comments raised by States.
 
The majority of comments and questions revolved around the retention in law of the death penalty, criminalisation of same-sex relations in domestic legislation, violence against women, delayed submission of reports to treaty bodies, children’s rights, and prison conditions. To this end, States made the following comments and recommendations:

•Consider ratifying the international conventions to which it is not yet a party i.e. the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and its second optional protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
 •Adhere to its reporting obligations to treaty bodies and, if necessary, seek technical assistance to support it in meeting these obligations.
 •Extend a standing invitation to all the UN special procedure mandate holders.
 •Establish an independent national human rights institution (NHRI) in compliance with the Paris Principles.
 •While welcoming the de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty, call upon the State to abolish capital punishment in law.
 •Repeal existing legislation that criminalises same-sex relations.
 •Adopt legal and educational measures to combat violence against women, particularly domestic violence.
 •Referring to concerns expressed in a UNICEF report from 2010 that the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) were not sufficiently and explicitly enshrined in domestic legislation, States called for national legislation to be brought into conformity with international law i.e. to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility, to halt corporal punishment, to combat discrimination against children belonging to low-income minority groups, and to provide a safe and secure environment for juveniles in detention centres.
 •Referring to a UNICEF survey from 2006, that over half of children in the country suffer from malnutrition,States urged that adequate measures be taken to ensure food security for children.
 •Improve prison conditions by reducing over-crowding, and providing adequate education and health services to detainees.
 •Align domestic legislation with the ‘Bangkok Rules’ for the treatment of female prisoners, particularly with regards to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
 •Urging the State to investigate complaints made by citizens regarding assaults by the police, and to provide human rights education and training for police officials.
 •Seek international cooperation and assistance in the fight against poverty and in the areas of development and capacity building.

Thirty-four States took the floor during the review. While addressing all issues in quite a comprehensive manner, the head of the delegation nevertheless adopted a somewhat defensive tone.For example, regarding the repeated calls for abolishing death penalty and de-criminalising same-sex relations, Mr Gonsalves responded that there is currently no mood for these changes, as these laws are widely accepted in society. He also mentioned that the particularities of small States should be taken into account when approaching such matters. In response to the concern expressed by several States over the severity of child malnutrition, Mr Gonsalves maintained that the information that was presented is inaccurate and outdated. Finally, regarding numerous calls to extend a standing invitation to UN special procedures, he replied that while the will to receive visits does exist, the State was unable to support the additional fiscal burden that such visits would bring with them.
 
At the adoption of the report, the delegation accepted 49 out of the 92 recommendations made, including investments in housing, the rule of law, and the protection of women. They stated that they would be unable to accept recommendations to decriminalise same-sex relations and to abolish the death penalty in law (noting that in any case they had not executed anyone in the last 15 years). The delegation also rejected claims that children of minority groups face discrimination and suggested that statistical errors could explain the apparent overcrowding of prisons. The rejection of these recommendations and position on all other outstanding recommendations will be notified to the 18th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2011.

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