[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES (Tier 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a potential source country for children trafficked internally for the purposes of sexual exploitation; it may also be a destination country for women trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Anecdotal reporting suggests the number of victims trafficked in, to, or through St. Vincent and the Grenadines is comparatively small. Information on the full extent of human trafficking in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, however, is lacking, as neither the government nor NGOs have conducted any related investigations, studies, or surveys. Reports indicate that a traditional practice of sending children away from home to live with another family is sometimes misused for the purpose of coercing children into commercial sexual exploitation. In these situations, care-givers force fostered children into sexual relationships in exchange for financial and in-kind compensation.

The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not provide evidence of vigorous law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking by investigating reports of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and of women who may be forced to engage in prostitution; therefore, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Develop and implement a comprehensive anti-trafficking law; investigate allegations of the commercial sexual exploitation of children; utilize existing legal statutes to prosecute cases of women or children forced into commercial sexual exploitation; and provide protective services to children rescued from commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines did not make adequate progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. It has no specific or comprehensive laws prohibiting trafficking in persons, although slavery and forced labor are both constitutionally prohibited. Trafficking offenders could be prosecuted under relevant provisions in immigration, prostitution, or labor laws, though there were no such reported efforts over the past year. Sufficiently stringent penalties for trafficking offenders under these laws, ranging from 10-15 years’ imprisonment, are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not receive reports of trafficking victims during the reporting period. St. Vincent and the Grenadines legal experts, in conjunction with IOM and nine other Caribbean countries, developed and published a counter-trafficking legislative model for the Caribbean and the accompanying explanatory guidelines.

In cooperation with local NGOs, the government ensures victims’ access to limited medical, psychological, legal, and social services. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association would provide legal services and other limited aid to identified trafficking victims, though it was not requested to do so during the year. Government officials did not proactively identify victims of trafficking for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. The government provided some funding to a local NGO which offers counseling and other victim care services that would be available to trafficking victims. Under current laws, the government did not encourage victims’ assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking or other crimes, nor did it provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. St. Vincent and the Grenadines had no law or official procedures in place to ensure that victims would not be inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for offenses committed solely as a direct result of being trafficked. The government has collaborated, however, with international organizations to provide specialized training in identifying and reaching out to potential victims.

The government made weak efforts to prevent trafficking and increase the public’s awareness of human trafficking in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The government conducted no anti-trafficking campaigns and made no efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.