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Sexual offences

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The Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Revised Edition (1990) list the following as sexual offences: rape, indecent assault, incest by a man or woman, buggery, intercourse with a child under thirteen and under fifteen, among others.

The statistics that the police compiled between 1990 and 2004 show rape, indecent assault, buggery and incest to be the most common sexual offences committed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with rape having the highest number recorded. In 1990, there were 91 reported cases.{{more}} The figures increased to 102 the next year. After this, there was a steady decline with the lowest of 34 recorded in 1997. It climbed again and reached 66 in 2004. Indecent assault is the next most frequent offence after rape. The data fluctuates with 68 cases reported to the police in 1993, 25 in 2002 and 98 in 2004. Buggery shows an average of 6 per year.

Rape is a sexual offence punishable under the laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Pursuant to Section 123 of the Criminal Code, “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, (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.”

Our laws are based on the 1956 Act in Britain which makes it an offence for “a man to rape a woman”.

England has since instituted the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 which extends the definition of rape to include rape of a man by a man. It also has the Sexual Offence Act of 2003 which makes it illegal for man to penetrate his penis into the vagina, anus or mouth of another person.

Pursuant to the laws of our country, it is not important whether the sexual act by a man against a woman is completed or whether there is “an emission of seed”; the act is accomplished if there is a penetration of the female vagina by the male penis and the law recognizes the slightest penetration. Touching the female genital may amount to indecent assault but not rape.

Consent is a crucial element in a rape charge and for the charge to succeed there must be reasonable grounds to show that consent was absent. Where the court has to consider whether a man believed the woman was giving consent it has to look at “the presence or absence of reasonable grounds”. If the consent was obtained by threats of bodily harm or force it is deemed not to be consent.

Section 124 specifically deals with the sexual offences committed against a girl under the age of 13 years. In this the issue of consent is not considered. In other words a child at the age of thirteen or under is not capable of giving consent to sexual intercourse. It states that “any one who has sexual intercourse with a child is guilty of an offence and is liable to life imprisonment.” This type of sexual offence is commonly referred to as statutory rape.

It may be concluded that if a child under the age of 13 years becomes pregnant the person who impregnates her would be guilty of a crime. Finding the culprit may be the difficult task and especially if the victim refuses to speak.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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