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Justice

Non-consensual anal intercourse is still not considered rape in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, despite the stiffer penalties for sex crimes that Parliament approved on April 4.

In presenting the revised penalties to Parliament for approval, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said right-thinking members of the public had been asking for the penalties to be increased.

A second concern in the public domain has been in addition to amending penalties, to look at an overall review of sexual offences,” the prime minister further stated.

He noted the view among some members of the public that the definition of rape — which does not include non-consensual anal intercourse — should be amended.

“… the only way under the law it can be committed, … [is] vaginal intercourse without consent. And the penalty for that is life,” Gonsalves said of rape.

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He, however, noted that non-consensual anal sex is classified as buggery and the maximum penalty was seven years imprisonment.

So, that’s one example. There are others,” he said, adding that the government has been doing a review of the laws.

“… but it appears that the consultant who was engaged in the review — and I had a conversation with all the relevant parties sometime last year — that it was clear that the consultants had certain perspectives — some may even say agendas — beyond what this Parliament will accommodate,” Gonsalves told lawmakers.

He said there is increased discussion in the region and globally about the legal status of homosexual activity.

“And there are many persons who are in favour of decriminalising buggery among consenting adults, decriminalising homosexual activity, not just with between males but females also — lesbianism — and there are other issues touching and concerning definitions of gender — self-definitions,” Gonsalves said.

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is opposed to decriminalising same-sex intimacy among consenting adults.

In February, the High Court ruled to uphold the country’s gross indecency laws, which criminalise consensual same-sex intimacy among adults in private, saying they were not unconstitutional.  

Gonsalves said that in light of the discussions locally, regionally and globally about decriminalising same-sex intimacy and expanding definitions of gender, “one has to be careful when one is having consultants that they do not come with perspectives, which are not necessarily aligned to what the public would consider matters to be addressed”.

He announced that the claimants have appealed the ruling of the High Court that the country’s gross indecency laws are not unconstitutional.

I put that as part of the context in respect of if you’re having a wider review of chapter eight, the criminal code in relation to sexual offences. That’s not what is happening today,” the prime minister said.

“And before that, while the review takes place — and that has to be a review with all the implications, which the public, I’m sure, will exercise their view, their opinions, and that this Parliament has been representative of the public though that the parliamentarians are not delegates, we have our mind, but you listen to the public in making your representations,” Gonsalves said.

“And those discussions may be for some time else and the review may cover other things, which are short of what most persons in this country overwhelmingly will consider not appropriate for touching.”

He said that the review of the law earlier this month focused on “the narrow issue of addressing penalties”