I think the laws [criminalizing consensual gay sex] create a system of homophobia. I am hoping that one day the buggery [law] can be lifted, to be free.
— Andrew Williams (pseudonym), a 28-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, January 11, 2023
People feel they can harass us because of the laws. If people are having an argument, that’s [their] justification for homophobia. They say it’s the laws, that it’s illegal.
— Samuel Sayers (pseudonym), a 25-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, October 25, 2022
Significant legal changes are afoot in the Caribbean. In 2022, courts in three countries in the region—Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Saint Kitts and Nevis—struck down laws that criminalized consensual same-sex conduct. These three island nations joined neighboring Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, whose courts overturned their own versions of these discriminatory laws in 2016 and 2018, respectively. While some could still be appealed, the rulings represent a watershed moment for sexual and gender minorities in the region.
This progress has been slow and incremental, spearheaded by civil society efforts in the region to abolish laws that criminalize gay sex. These laws reinforce societal prejudices, effectively giving tacit legal sanction for stigma, discrimination, and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. They date back to the 19th century when British colonial rulers imposed them on the region; however, post-independence governments have embraced the laws and been loath to repeal them. Today, six of the twelve Anglophone countries in the Caribbean region continue to criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy.
The island country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is one of them. Though it gained full independence from the United Kingdom in 1979, its criminal code retains colonial-era laws. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines penalizes “buggery,” or anal sex, with up to ten years’ imprisonment and “gross indecency with another person of the same sex,” with up to five years’ imprisonment. Both crimes are widely understood through legal history and precedent to denote same-sex intimacy. The laws are vaguely worded, have broad latitude, and single out consensual gay sex in the “sexual offenses” section of the criminal code that is otherwise reserved for crimes like rape, incest, and sexual assault.
There have been no recent convictions on the basis of these criminal provisions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but the laws continue to stigmatize LGBT people and contribute to an environment in which violence and discrimination against these populations are commonplace and represent an obstacle to full equality.
In July 2019, two gay men from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines living abroad filed a case challenging the constitutionality of these discriminatory provisions in the criminal code. They claimed that they had to flee their home country due to the draconian and damaging effects of these laws. In November 2019, the High Court permitted ten churches, collectively known as the “Christian Coalition,” to join the litigation as interested parties. The group held a rally that month in opposition to declaring the laws unconstitutional. At the time of writing, the constitutional case was still pending before a national court of first instance.
The continued existence of such laws in the island nations of the Caribbean stands in stark contrast to the much more substantial progress that has been made in the larger Americas region on the rights of and protections for sexual and gender minorities in recent decades. Along with Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia—the other five countries in the Caribbean that criminalize gay sex—Saint Vincent and the Grenadines continues to be an outlier in a hemisphere that has eschewed the criminalization of consensual gay sex. The country’s parliament should take note of these advances in the region, as well as recent rulings in the Caribbean, uphold international human rights law, and repeal these abusive laws.
Based on interviews with LGBT people and activists between September 2022 and February 2023, documentary evidence, legal analysis, and a range of secondary sources, this report exposes the physical and verbal abuse, sexual violence, and discriminatory treatment that sexual and gender minorities too often experience in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The abuses documented by Human Rights Watch occurred in public spaces, from the street to the beach; at home, work, and school; in police stations—in virtually all areas of life. Perpetrators included passersby on the street, family members, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, teachers, and police officers. Some interviewees attributed the discrimination they experience, and/or their reluctance to seek help and support, to the laws criminalizing same-sex conduct.
Every LGBT person interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they wished to leave the country immediately or had envisioned their future abroad due, in part, to the homophobic or transphobic violence and discrimination in the country.
Nearly all LGBT interviewees reported at least one recent incident of physical or verbal abuse, threats, sexual violence, or harassment. For some, this is part of everyday life. Some interviewees appealed to the police for assistance, but in most instances, the authorities were unhelpful; they were even openly discriminatory toward some interviewees. Some interviewees reported experiencing trauma or other mental health conditions because of these experiences.
Violence occurs not only on the street, but also in the home. Most of the LGBT interviewees said their family members physically and verbally abused them. For many, this domestic violence deprived them of family support, sometimes leading to socioeconomic precarity, including homelessness. Some interviewees noted that family rejection was often couched in moralistic terms, echoing the homophobic rhetoric preached in some churches, which are a cornerstone of social life and shape social attitudes. For nearly all interviewees, domestic violence left big emotional scars.
For LGBT jobseekers, employment discrimination is common. While unemployment is generally high in the country, LGBT people face additional barriers. Many interviewees said they were not hired or they had been fired explicitly because of their sexual orientation. Some lesbian and bisexual women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they faced sexual harassment in the workplace, which was often related to their sexual orientation, gender, or both. Only a few interviewees said they had a safe work environment, including two who worked for their families; half of these interviewees said they feared ever needing to look for another job given the widespread discrimination in the employment market.
At school, most interviewees experienced stigma and discrimination from teachers and fellow students. Most interviewees also endured physical and verbal bullying, which led some interviewees to leave school at an early age. For some female interviewees, bullying was often accompanied by sexual harassment and violence. In most cases, teachers were not helpful, so interviewees did not feel comfortable asking them for protection. No interviewee received sexuality education that was inclusive of sexual and gender diversity.
These human rights abuses and the continued criminalization of gay sex in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines contravene international human rights law. Under international human rights law, matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, including consensual sexual relations, are protected under the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to privacy, and the right to protection of the law against arbitrary and unlawful interference with, or attacks on, one’s private and family life and honor. Accordingly, international human rights treaty bodies have repeatedly called for the decriminalization of consensual same-sex conduct.
Furthermore, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has undertaken international human rights law obligations to protect the rights of everyone, including LGBT people, to life and security, freedom from ill-treatment, housing, work, and education. By failing to protect these rights of LGBT people, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is in violation of its international human rights treaty obligations.
To address these abuses, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should urgently repeal the buggery and gross indecency provisions in the criminal code that penalize consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex. The House of Assembly should also pass comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits discrimination, including on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation, and that includes effective measures to identify, prevent, and respond to such discrimination.
The National Prosecution Service and the Ministry of National Security should implement public policies to ensure prompt, thorough, and independent investigations into crimes and discrimination against LGBT people and hold those responsible accountable, including law enforcement officers. Other ministries, including those responsible for labor laws and education, should launch public campaigns to educate employers, educators, and the general public on the rights of LGBT people in their respective sectors.
In less than a decade, five Caribbean countries have decriminalized gay sex, bringing the Western Hemisphere closer to being completely free of these discriminatory laws. The government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should join its neighbors in shaking off this painful legacy of colonial rule. Decriminalization may also facilitate the government’s ability to further address homophobic and transphobic discrimination in various sectors, such as work and education. These steps will not only create a more equal society for LGBT people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but it will strengthen the rule of law for everyone living there.
Human Rights Watch conducted most of the research for this report between September 2022 and February 2023, including interviews with 30 people and the review of documentary evidence, legal analysis, and a range of secondary sources. Twenty-one interviews were with LGBT people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and we have used pseudonyms for them here to protect against reprisals. We also interviewed six staff of civil society organizations, one lawyer, one diplomatic mission, and one LGBT ally.
Most interviews were conducted during a research trip to Saint Vincent in October 2022. Four interviews with LGBT people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were conducted remotely in January 2023. The organizations Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. (ERAO SVG), RedRoot SVG, and VinchyChap SVG, all of which provide social services to women and LGBT people across the country, assisted Human Rights Watch by identifying LGBT interviewees within their networks. Interviewees included gay men, lesbian women, bisexual men and women, and one transgender woman. No transgender men were located for this report. Interviewees included people of diverse socioeconomic background, including people who were homeless.
Human Rights Watch researchers obtained verbal informed consent from all interviewees and explained to them how their stories would be used and that they could decline to answer questions or stop the interview at any time. Human Rights Watch reimbursed public transportation fares for interviewees who traveled to meet the researchers and provided a snack or meal when interviews occurred during a mealtime. No compensation was paid to interviewees.
Human Rights Watch informed the following government ministries of its preliminary findings and requested a response: the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions – National Prosecution Service; the Ministry of National Security; the Ministry of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Youth, Housing and Informal Human Settlement; the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour; the Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation. It also asked the ministries for specific statistical information on human rights violations and any additional information they wanted to share. None of the ministries provided a response.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island country in the Eastern Caribbean with a population of about 110,000. Its territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the northern part of the Grenadines, a chain of smaller islands. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines achieved full independence from the United Kingdom in 1979.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has severe economic problems and high levels of poverty. In 2020, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ GDP shrunk by a dramatic 5.3 percent, only to return to a sluggish growth of 0.5 percent in 2021. In 2021, eruptions from La Soufrière, a volcano on Saint Vincent, displaced roughly 20 percent of the island’s population, and weakened the country’s two largest economic sectors, agriculture and tourism, the latter of which was already suffering substantial losses related to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2022, the war in Ukraine also spiked import prices, compounding the economic tumult.
Job numbers reflect the economic challenges: in 2021, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had an unemployment rate of 20.4 percent, the highest of any Caribbean country and one of the highest in the world.
The country has long struggled with challenges such as exposure to natural disasters, limited land, a narrow production and export base, weak business competitiveness, and limited physical and human capital. These problems, paired with the accelerating threat of climate change, had already placed Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in a precarious economic position even before the more recent crises.
These fundamental challenges translate to everyday struggles for people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. A UNICEF report found that in 2016, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had higher than average poverty rates in the Eastern Caribbean region: 30 percent of all residents, 38 percent of all children (ages 0 to 17), and 37 percent of adolescents (ages 10 to 19) were living in poverty. While current poverty data is limited, recent macroeconomic trends outlined above suggest financial hardship remains a significant issue.
The government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has tried to address economic problems by expanding social assistance programs to reduce poverty, expanding vocational and technical training to improve job growth, and investing in large-scale infrastructure projects to stimulate economic growth and diversification. The World Bank forecasts a 6 percent real GDP growth rate for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 2023.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ economic challenges have affected its human rights monitoring and enforcement capabilities. According to government representatives consulted by the United Nations Sub-regional Team for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, resource and capacity constraints have impeded the country’s ability to establish a national human rights institution. The absence of human rights institutions is concerning in light of the country’s high levels of violence.
In 2016, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had the eighth-highest murder rate in the world. In 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that violence in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was extremely high, particularly against women and children, and noted that civil society organizations were reporting a high incidence of rape.
While murders have steadily decreased in recent years, 2022 saw a significant uptick in cases. Up-to-date national data on rape and gender-based violence (GBV) remains limited, but local advocates interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported widespread levels of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of GBV.
Furthermore, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ criminal code and judicial systems fail to adequately provide justice for survivors of GBV or other forms of discrimination. The Human Rights Committee has expressed concern about the underreporting of GBV in the country due to concern about the criminal code’s narrow definitions of rape and incest, the absence of statutory prohibitions against marital rape and sexual harassment, a lack of a comprehensive definition of GBV, and a lack of trust between law enforcement and survivors of GBV. The Saint Vincent Planned Parenthood Association has noted significant barriers to accessing justice for women and girls due to a lack of resources and significant gaps in government officials’ understanding of GBV.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has undertaken some GBV-related reforms, such as the Domestic Violence Act of 2015, and the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence of 2015. While positive steps, the reforms have not addressed the full range of legal gaps related to sexual violence needed to bring the country’s laws and policies in compliance with international human rights standards. As highlighted above, the country still requires, for example, criminal code and law enforcement reforms to bring it into compliance with international standards.
Economic challenges and relatively high levels of violence have historically been considered “push” factors that prompt individuals to leave the country. While up-to-date migration data is sparse, according to the CIA World Factbook, 6.11 of every 1,000 Vincentians emigrates, the 22nd highest net emigration rate among the 231 countries included in the data.
The Rights of LGBT People
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines retains colonial-era laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. Human Rights Watch found no evidence that the relevant laws are enforced today, but their existence, and awareness of their existence, helps create a context in which ostracism, hostility, and violence against LGBT people is legitimized.
The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Criminal Code penalizes consensual same-sex conduct under two provisions. Section 146 outlaws anal sex by punishing anyone who “commits buggery with any other person” or “permits any person to commit buggery with him or her” with up to ten years’ imprisonment. “Buggery” first appeared as a legal term for sodomy in a 1533 English statute. The term is not defined in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Criminal Code. Other countries in the Eastern Caribbean, such as Dominica, also a former British colony, define “buggery” as “sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person.”
Section 148 punishes anyone who, “whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person of the same sex, or procures or attempts to procure another person of the same sex to commit an act of gross indecency with him or her” with up to five years’ imprisonment. The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Criminal Code does not define “gross indecency.” For context, British law introduced the “gross indecency” provision in 1885 to cover all acts of sexual intimacy between men except anal intercourse. This provision became colloquially known as “The Blackmailers Charter,” because the law is vaguely worded, broad in scope, and liable for abuse. Saint Lucia, another country in the Eastern Caribbean and a former British colony, defines gross or serious indecency as “an act other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural) by a person involving the use of the genital organs for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.”
Buggery Laws and Gross Indecency Laws in the “Commonwealth Caribbean”
by Westmin R. A. James
Anti-sodomy laws were a colonial import imposed on the colonies by the British rulers as there was no pre-existing culture or tradition in the Caribbean that required the punishment of consensual same-sex sexual conduct. The first recorded mentions of “sodomy” in English law date back to two medieval treatises called Fleta and Britton. The texts prescribed that sodomites, together with sorcerers, Jews and renegades, should be burnt alive. In the 16th century, a statute of 1533 provided for the crime of sodomy punishable by death. Although this statute was repealed during the reign of Mary I, it was re-enacted by Parliament in the reign of Elizabeth I in 1563, and the statutory offence, so expressed, survived in England in substance until 1861. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 included the offence of “buggery,” dropping the death penalty for a prison term of 10 years to life.
The movement for codification of the criminal law, particularly in the British colonies, gathered pace in the early 19th century when Thomas Macaulay was given the mandate to devise law for the Indian colony. The Indian Penal Code was the first comprehensive codified criminal law produced anywhere in the British Empire. In 1870, R.S. Wright, an English barrister, was asked by the Colonial Office to draft a criminal code for Jamaica, which could serve as a model for all of the colonies. Wright’s Code was not adopted by Jamaica, but it was brought into force in Belize (at the time, British Honduras), and later Tobago. Thereafter the buggery law was instituted by the British colonial administration in Jamaica and other Caribbean states in the British Commonwealth in a manner similar to the 1861 British Offences Against the Persons Act.
“Homosexuality” is not a crime in the Caribbean, but laws criminalize same-sex conduct. Even though colonies in the Caribbean adopted British laws outlawing same-sex intimacy, they vary in language, the types of acts prohibited, and the punishments imposed. Whatever the various incarnations, they are often referred to as “sodomy” or “buggery” laws. Many times, buggery and sodomy are used interchangeably. 
The buggery and gross indecency provisions do not distinguish between non-consensual and consensual sex, meaning that these provisions criminalize consensual same-sex intimacy. Moreover, the Criminal Code defines rape as an act done by a man to a woman. This means that non-consensual sex between people of the same sex, while criminal, does not meet the legal definition of rape. At least one person accused of raping an underage boy was sentenced to three and half years’ imprisonment for attempted buggery in 2023.
In 2021, the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines noted that it was undergoing a review of sexual offences within the criminal code, which is expected to include some reform of the definitions of rape. A bill had not been introduced in the legislature at the time of writing.
Legal and Policy Developments in LGBT Rights
In 2022, high courts in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Saint Kitts and Nevis struck down laws that criminalized consensual same-sex conduct. These three island countries joined Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, whose courts repealed their own versions of these colonial-era discriminatory laws in 2016 and 2018, respectively. At the time of writing, the rulings from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados were still subject to appeal. Six countries in the English-speaking Caribbean—Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia, in addition to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines—continue to criminalize gay sex.
Despite the criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, authorities have affirmed the rights of LGBT people in some situations. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who has been in office since 2001, condemned anti-LGBT violence on at least one occasion. In 2018, after a group of people publicly attacked two gender non-conforming individuals presumed to be gay in Calliaqua town, Gonsalves stated: “Just let them be. Why are you beating them? You have no right to do it … [and] irrational homophobia is entirely unacceptable.” He suggested that while a national conversation regarding same-sex relationships is needed, other stakeholders, like churches and not politicians, should lead this discussion. Gonsalves made similar comments in 2014.
In 2019, two gay men living abroad filed a case challenging the “buggery” and “gross indecency” provisions of the Criminal Code. They are being represented by local and United Kingdom-based lawyers. Shortly after the filing, Prime Minister Gonsalves, who also fills the role of minister of justice, observed, “People should have their day in court and the matter be ventilated and the court must pronounce.” The case was still pending at the time of writing.
While the Gonsalves administration has not endorsed efforts to decriminalize same-sex relations, it has shown support for some anti-discrimination measures. In 2019, the Gender Affairs Division within the Ministry of National Mobilization conducted a two-day workshop for government workers—including law enforcement officers, educators, social workers, and health care providers—on the importance of respecting LGBT people’s rights and expanding their access to public services.
The judicial challenge to the country’s laws criminalizing same-sex conduct sparked counter mobilization against LGBT people, including from faith leaders. In November 2019, a group of 10 churches on the island calling themselves the Christian Coalition organized an anti-LGBT march in downtown Kingstown (the capital and commercial center) to protest the potential decriminalization of consensual same-sex conduct. Local press reported that thousands joined the march. Speakers portrayed LGBT people as immoral, dangerous, and anti-family. That same month, the Christian Coalition joined the suit as an interested party, giving it the ability to file written submissions, provide oral arguments, and submit affidavits. The court case was still pending at time of writing.
In 2021, the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines stated during its Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council that its constitution protects against all forms of discrimination, including based on sexual orientation. However, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines still lacks legislation that explicitly protects individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Every single LGBT person interviewed by Human Rights Watch for this report said they wished to leave the country immediately or had envisioned their future abroad due, in part, to the violence and discrimination in the country.
Right to Life and Security
Nothing would come from going to the police. Because of the laws, same-sex [relations] are illegal. They [the police] would ask, ‘what triggered him?’ ‘Me being gay.’ ‘Okay, then he has the right.’
— Melissa Ashton (pseudonym), a 28-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, October 28, 2022
Human Rights Watch research suggests that discrimination is a part of everyday life for many LGBT people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Nearly everyone we interviewed reported having at least one recent incident or encounter that made them feel unsafe, such as street harassment or acts of intimidation. Some also reported physical assaults and sexual violence.
Some interviewees said they had appealed to the police for assistance, but the authorities were unhelpful to most interviewees; according to some interviewees, the authorities were openly discriminatory toward them. Most interviewees said they generally did not think to ask the police for help as they expected to experience discrimination. Some interviewees believed that the laws criminalizing same-sex conduct contributed to their experiences of violence, insecurity, and lack of support from the police.
Some LGBT people interviewed by Human Rights Watch were physically attacked. Randolph Morgan, a 22-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, said he feels unsafe on a daily basis due to homophobia in his village:
I don’t feel safe [in the village] because I’m afraid of homophobic attacks. Every time I go to the village, my neighbors say, ‘Your kind is not welcome.’ This happens every day, it happens because I’m gay. People throw bottles and rocks and stuff at me pretty much every day. I try not to look because violence is everywhere.
Morgan said that in 2019, he was attacked in his neighborhood, and he believed the attack could have been motivated by his sexual orientation since many people there know that he is gay. When he reported the incident to the police, they mocked him because they perceived him as gay. Ultimately, he could not identify the perpetrators:
Two men tried to stab me. These were random people. It happened while I was walking home. It was nighttime, around 9 p.m., and there were no witnesses. After it happened, I ran to the police station. At first, [the police] laughed at me, then they went on the scene, and didn’t see anything. They asked me to identify [the perpetrators], but I couldn’t.
Morgan said he regularly gets online death threats and intimidating messages from people he believes live in the same community. Human Rights Watch reviewed six threats that he received on February 9, February 19, and December 28, 2020 from four separate men via Facebook. These posts and private messages included explicit murder threats, images of guns, references to the street where he lived, and references to times that he sought help from the police. Morgan did not report these threats to the police.
Maxwell Smith, a 20-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, said he experienced homophobic violence on at least two occasions. He reported being attacked by a group of people in September 2021 on his way home from partying at a bar in Kingstown. Smith thinks the assailants, who were not attacking anyone else, targeted him because they know him form the neighborhood and know that he is a gay man:
It was early morning, I was walking by myself. They took [and stole] my phone and smashed me in the face. And I knew [some of] the people, who they were, they were townspeople. They knew I was gay.
Smith went to the Kingstown police station and gave a statement, but he never heard back from the police. He did not follow up with them, partly because he felt they are not always helpful. “If I know the [policeman], then I go and tell him,” he said. “But sometimes they discriminate, depends on who is working.” Human Rights Watch reviewed a photograph of Smith showing bandages around his head and right hand.
In 2020, Smith was attacked by men hurling homophobic insults in Calliaqua, Saint Vincent, while walking with five friends:
My friends and I were chilling, we walked up to the village. A guy started yelling ‘bullerman.’ He hit me in the head with a bottle, he said because I am gay. The bottle didn’t cut my head. There was more than one attacker, around 10 people.
Smith reported the attack to police but does not know if anyone was charged as a result.
Alfred Henry, a 58-year-old bisexual man from Saint Vincent, said that in March 2009, he suffered a homophobic attack that caused permanent damage to his speech, vision, motor functions, memory, and balance:
After dancing, I was with people, and we decided to get something to eat. I waited outside, and a man came out of nowhere and started yelling at me. Started calling me names, called me a bullerman, gay, faggot. He got a bottle of water inside from the local restaurant and came out and wacked me with the [bottle]. He broke my skull. I fell on the floor…The whole of my right side was paralyzed, like a stroke. I couldn’t move.
When I looked up, it looked all white. Then they took me to the hospital. The next thing I know, I was on the floor in the hospital. The following day, I was out. They said I was in a coma because of the injury. They told me I was a miracle man, they don’t know how I survived this. The beating happened because I was known in the public as a gay person.
Henry went to the police about one month later. Some of the police laughed at him and called him homophobic slurs. One officer recommended that he kill his assailant to exact his own justice. Henry described two other attacks, one in 2013 and 2022, that may have been motivated by his sexual orientation, though he is not certain. He said whenever something happened, he went to the police, but he eventually stopped because they were unhelpful every time and “are very homophobic.” Henry also said that people on the street have yelled out homophobic utterances to him on various occasions, including “being gay is illegal.”
Verbal Abuse and Intimidation
Most of the LGBT people interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had been verbally intimidated, often just when walking down the street. For some interviewees, such harassment is part of daily life, and they live in fear of a situation escalating and being physically attacked. Human Rights Watch documented experiences of verbal abuse and intimidation in public spaces based on sexual orientation and/or gender expression. Some instances of childhood abuse affected a few interviewees through adulthood.
On the Street and in Other Public Spaces
Some interviewees reported being verbally harassed with homophobic statements in public.
For Andrew Williams, a 28-year-old gay man from the main island of Saint Vincent, “the verbal attacks on the street hurt more than the physical attacks.” He told Human Rights Watch what these attacks are like for him and why he thinks they are common:
It can happen if there is a group of young people around. Sometimes it’s a group, sometimes one [person]. Three months ago, it happened. It was in my own village. I was just walking down the street in the evening. It was a group, calling me ‘battyman’ and other slurs. I just held my head and kept walking. In my lifetime, it’s happened definitely over 100 times. Often, it’s the same people, but not always. I think the laws [criminalizing consensual gay sex] create a system of homophobia. I am hoping that one day the buggery [law] can be lifted, to be free.
Kyle Wilson, a 19-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, expressed feeling a constant, daily sense of insecurity due to violence he believes was motivated by homophobia. He has had items thrown at him while walking. He told us:
There are some people that just see you and hate you. A couple of times at parties at Heritage Square [in Kingstown], me and my friends have had to leave. You can’t enjoy the vibes because people are harassing you, causing a fight with you, just because of what you look like, just because you are different.
James Campbell, a 29-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, described a similar sense of insecurity while walking down the street:
Sometimes people pass saying ‘battyboy.’ I may not know the person. It happens in the streets of Kingstown, in public. Sometimes I feel in danger. Sometimes they do it in front of other people. Last week [in October 2022], it happened every other day.
Ruth Daniels, a 24-year-old non-binary person from St. Vincent who uses female pronouns, recounted an incident in 2019 when a stranger verbally harassed her and her friends on the beach, as well as about the subsequent fear she felt:
I was swimming, goofing, having fun with friends. Then a random guy started spewing lesbophobic slurs. It escalated into a fight on the beach. I didn’t feel safe. He started hating on my friends because of their association with me, being very rude. I stood there in shock. No one knew who the man was. After the incident, I felt very on edge, like I wanted to be put in a box and go back into myself. I feel like I can’t be safe. I stopped going to parties. Everything became hard.
People living on other islands gave similar accounts of threats and harassment. While Shane Hathaway, a 43-year-old gay man from Bequia, never experienced a physical altercation, people have called him “battyman” and thrown sticks in his direction. “Everyone feels like they can say anything,” he said.
Derrick Bowens, a 21-year-old pansexual man from Union Island, explained that name-calling on the streets happens constantly:
When I am going out, names are being called at me. It happens every day. Verbally attacking a person is a way of ostracizing them. That led me to become a hermit. I didn’t want to go anywhere, I felt that everyone was out to get me. Today, I was walking to get my lunch, and someone called me ‘battyboy.’ It’s the same people. Nobody tries to stop them.
Due to Gender Expression
Some LGBT people believed the clothes they wore triggered mistreatment.
Jasmine Rose, a 27-year-old transgender woman from Saint Vincent, told Human Rights Watch she was attacked in October 2022 because of the way she dressed and looked:
I came into town. I had a crop top on. Someone threw a bottle at me and said, ‘fire upon you.’ The bottle didn’t hit me. It’s very hard. Being trans, you have to try to be straight. People can kill you. People throw stones and bottles.
Kyle Wilson said, “If you look different, people say, ‘battyman,’ ‘bullerman,’ or ‘you’re not a woman.’ Just because of how your dress, you can get stoned, you can get yourself killed.” One day in Kingstown in October 2022, a man he did not know threw a stone at him. Wilson believed he was attacked for wearing high heels.
For men, perceived femininity may lead to harassment. Samuel Sayers, a 25-year-old bisexual man from Saint Vincent, had felt particularly vulnerable when he was younger and more “effeminate,” which contributed to him becoming more “masculine” as a defense mechanism:
I am more masculine passing now than before, than when [I was] growing up. My teenage years and early 20s were hard. Because of puberty, I changed, but I also changed because you want to be under the radar. A bit of this is deliberate. Even if you are comfortable with who you are, people still point out like, ‘You’re being feminine. Why is your voice so high?’
However, this strategy is not foolproof. Sayers explained that harassment is common, recounting a frightening experience he and his cousin had in January 2019:
I was walking with my cousin. There was a group of people on the side of the road, maybe five of them, and they started laughing, saying, ‘Which is the man? Which is the woman?’ We were walking to catch a bus. We crossed to the other side of the road. I felt in danger … because you don’t know when they will act or get physical. You fear because you hear about violence against other people, getting beaten up. There is always fear.
Sayers said the constant verbal harassment gave him anxiety and even panic attacks:
Walking down the street, people would say [homophobic] stuff to you. I have really bad anxiety, so it leads to many panic attacks. If they think you’re walking with [other] queers, you are subjected to much verbal harassment.
Samuel Sayers also noted that he believes some of this violence is related to laws that criminalize same-sex conduct in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:
I think about the laws heavily. I think people feel they can harass us because of the laws. If people are having an argument, that’s what they jump to, that’s the justification for homophobia, they say it’s the laws, that it’s illegal, and because of the scriptures. People have said that to me in arguments, and I have seen [such] arguments on Facebook.
Violence Against Lesbians and Bisexual Women
Many lesbian and bisexual women described experiencing sexual violence and sexual harassment, along with other forms of violence often related to their sexual orientation, gender, or both.
Mary Lewis, a 26-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, recounted experiencing sexual harassment multiple times from men who know she is a lesbian. She described one incident that took place about three years before Human Rights Watch interviewed her in 2022; she had fallen asleep at a party and woke up as a man was trying to touch her without her consent. She said:
I resisted. I asked, ‘Why are you touching me?’ He said that I should calm down. I said, ‘This isn’t right, I don’t like this kind of stuff.’ Then we started to fight, and his friends joined in. It was a huge fight, me against seven or eight guys. He knew I was a lesbian. Even though he knows that I am gay, most men don’t respect if a woman is gay. If you have boobs and a vagina, that is all they care about.
Lewis said she did not go to the police because she defended herself and “took care of it.” She added that, given the small size of Saint Vincent, she has since seen the man who assaulted her but pretends everything is “normal.” Lewis described the general insecurity she experiences around men who do not respect her sexual orientation:
Some men I meet say [they] like how I walk and dress, carry myself, not in a sexual way, they compliment me. But some say that I need to change. A lot of them are extremely masculine, have a huge male ego, and say, ‘Oh, you need to take some dick.’ It often happens, almost every day that I step out of the house and someone sees me. Every time I step outside the house, someone has to say something.
Melissa Ashton, a 28-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, has also been physically and verbally harassed by men. In 2019, Ashton was at a club where she believes she was targeted for her sexual orientation:
A girl was dancing on me. It was kind of crowded and kind of dark. I felt my shirt pulled back and felt ice down my back. The person [who did this] shoved me. When I looked back, there were so many people there, I couldn’t tell who it was. I felt a bit scared and threatened because when I looked back, everyone was looking at me and they didn’t tell me who it was.
Ashton also experienced harassment from men who do not respect her sexual orientation. In April 2022, she was at a local festival and a young man harassed her in a homophobic manner:
He said he liked my face. I was deflecting his attention. Then he said [in an angry tone], ‘I am talking to you.’ He said he can get any girl he wants, that he could change any lesbian girl, and that I didn’t get the right dick yet.
Ashton recounted how men often said they wanted to “convert” her and she has received similar comments about 30 times since she was 16 years old. She believes she is particularly exposed to such harassment because men guess her sexual orientation from her more “masculine” way of dressing. For this reason, she avoids contact with people, particularly men, she does not know. “I don’t go outside much,” she said.
Sharon Nichols, a 29-year-old bisexual woman in Saint Vincent, experienced similar harassment from men, specifically describing the role of fetishization:
The fetishization of queer women leads to more violence. Men will say, ‘Why are you gay? I can turn you back.’ I do feel uncomfortable and a little threatened when I hear this, but I shut down and act tough. People think bisexual is a threesome, or say, ‘Are you sure you like women?’
According to Nichols, “There is more violence against masculine[-presenting] women because they look like men.”
Renée King, a 21-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, reported experiencing harassment and intimidation repeatedly, particularly while walking in the street in Saint Vincent with female partners. Among the incidents she described, two experiences in 2020 raised serious concerns for her and her girlfriend’s safety:
In February 2020, I was walking with my girlfriend. She’s more masculine-presenting. We weren’t even holding hands, and people [in cars] just started honking. I felt endangered because it feels like they’re going to sexually harass you.
[Later] in 2020, I was taking a [public transportation] van home with a girl. The driver broke a bottle on a wall and tried to fight my girlfriend. She was openly gay, [but] we didn’t show any PDA [public displays of affection]. She was able to run away.
Anti-LGBT Discrimination by Law Enforcement
Some LGBT people interviewed by Human Rights Watch described negative experiences with the police and a consequent mistrust of them. This type of treatment occurred when LGBT people reported crimes of all kinds, including ones that did not appear to be homophobic incidents. Such discriminatory behavior perpetuates impunity for anti-LGBT crimes.
Kyle Wilson, the 19-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent mentioned above, tried to file complaints at the Kingston police station about five times, all related to harassment in public spaces, but said he gave up when police appeared unwilling to help. He told us:
You can’t walk in peace, people harass you. But I don’t feel like I can trust the police. They see me and they know I am gay, they don’t let us [gays] in the station. That isn’t right. If the police officer knows you’re gay, they will call you ‘bullerman’ or say, ‘How [come] your mother didn’t kill you, you’re a disgrace.’ They like to torment you. They talk in a way that you feel bad. They are supposed to protect, but they talk this kind of [language].
According to Wilson, there was one police officer at the main station in Kingstown who was “a good person” and took complaints from him and other LGBT people. However, he said she stopped working there during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jasmine Rose, the 27-year-old trans woman from Saint Vincent mentioned above, described similar negative experiences with the police, including jeering and other verbal abuse:
The police don’t care about gays. I tried to file a complaint multiple times. They shout at us, make jokes [at our expense], laugh at us. That’s why people [are] beating us. I’ve tried to file more than 10 times. A couple times, they took my statement because [certain officers] may know me, but sometimes [those officers] are not on shift. The complaints have never led to anything.
Maxwell Smith, a 20-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, said treatment “depends on who is working.” If he sees an officer he knows and has treated him decently before, he only goes to that person because he is unsure how the other officers might treat him.
Police officers mocked Derrick Bowens, the 21-year-old pansexual man from Union Island, on various occasions, including in January 2021, when they insinuated that he was a woman. Bowens recounted the incident:
It was New Year’s Day. I had just finished work at 4 a.m. and I had to stop to pee by a bush. The police came in a car and slowed down and put a flashlight on me. They said, ‘You’re not supposed to be doing that.’ One of them said, ‘You’re supposed to be stooping [squatting] down to pee.’
For Melissa Ashton, the 28-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, laws criminalizing same-sex conduct make her hesitant to go to the police for help related to homophobic violence: “Nothing would come from going to the police. Because of the laws, same-sex [relations] are illegal. They would ask, ‘What triggered him?’ ‘Me being gay.’ ‘Okay, then he has the right.’”
LGBT people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also reported harassment by police when reporting other crimes. Jonathan Morris, a 25-year-old non-binary person from Saint Vincent, said that in March 2022, he went to the police station after someone tried to burn down the building in which he lives as part of a dispute with the downstairs neighbors, not with Morris. A police officer used homophobic slurs to refer to Morris. When Morris told a more senior officer how the junior officer was behaving, the senior officer made his colleague apologize to Morris. This was the only time an interviewee told Human Rights Watch that police responded to police misconduct with a measure of accountability, albeit a minor one.
Family Violence and the Right to Housing
If gay sex were decriminalized, it would mean feeling safer. My family says being gay is illegal and it is a sin. They say you can’t get married, you can’t have kids, you don’t want to have a stable life, you don’t want men to provide for you.
— Renée King (pseudonym), a 21-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, October 29, 2022
In addition to the generalized violence and discrimination that LGBT people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines experience in public spaces, many endure mistreatment and abuse by their families. Most of the LGBT people interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported such problems in the home. For nearly all interviewees, family violence left big emotional scars.
For many, family violence had long-term consequences: it deprived them of family support that, in some cases, led to socioeconomic precarity, including being homeless or having otherwise unstable housing arrangements. Some interviewees noted that family rejection was often couched in moralistic terms, echoing the homophobic rhetoric preached in some local churches, which are a cornerstone of social life and help shape social attitudes.
Mary Lewis, a 26-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, told Human Rights Watch that she experienced verbal abuse and other forms of discrimination from both her mother and extended family due to her sexual orientation:
All the time I am told that I should change. Family members say that I need to take some dick to change. I take everything very seriously, but I don’t show it. My mother used to kick me out a lot, get in fights with me a lot, intentionally. She called me ‘street dog,’ all kinds of stuff. My mom kicked me out of the house. I was 19. [A friend] was generous enough to let me stay at her home for a couple of months. My mom got pregnant and called me to come help with my baby sister. I went back, and then I got kicked out again. She kicked me out because of my sexual orientation. I live at home now again, but any time she can come and kick me out again.
This led to instability in Lewis’ home life. Her housing situation was in flux again during the 2021 eruption of La Soufrière volcano, when she was evacuated from her home and went to stay with her uncles. There, she said she experienced “the most” discrimination:
The first week wasn’t too bad, but the second week [my uncle] started acting weird. He didn’t want me to use the stove, for example. My uncle and I got into a huge fight. He said I was in a lesbian cult and called me names. It got physical. I threatened to go to the police, but my other uncle begged me not to. He said my other uncle would lose his job. He paid me to keep my mouth shut.
Renée King, a 21-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, said her family, particularly her mother and grandmother, are “extremely homophobic.” “If my mom sees gay people in TV shows, she says ‘we have to kill them,’” King explained. When King was 16 years old, a girl who had a crush on her told her mother that King was sleeping with multiple girls. Though the girl’s claim was not true, it triggered long-lasting discriminatory treatment and other difficulties for King at home:
My mother sat me down, and told me I have to stop, ‘you can never do this again,’ and then she told me I had to go get tested for STDs. My mother took me to church [after this incident]. She has been incredibly cold towards me since. It was scary. I contemplated suicide because of this.
My mother says I’m the one who gives her the most stress, but it’s just because I’m gay. My mother treats my siblings better than me. I had to pay for my own [driver’s] license and training, and my siblings are allowed to use the vehicle, but I’m not. My mother is extremely strict on me. Every time she comes home, she’s yelling. My mother constantly threatens to kick me out. Multiple times, I wanted to leave home.
Jonathan Morris, a 25-year-old non-binary person from Saint Vincent who uses he/him pronouns, said he “grew up in an abusive home.” He explained:
My father was homophobic … He would say homophobic comments. When I was 12 or 13, during summer vacation, I went to him for money, he called me a ‘buller,’ and so on. He asked me to go have sex with a man for money.
Religion as a Justification for Abuse
Ruth Daniels, a 24-year-old non-binary person from Saint Vincent, said religious beliefs play a role in her family’s justification for overt homophobia. Daniels considered fleeing her family at least once as a teenager due to such discrimination:
I grew up in a Christian household going to church. My family always knew something was off. I grew up acting like a boy. I had to wear a dress in church even though I dressed like a boy otherwise. I went to New York City in the summers to visit family there. One day, in New York with my mother, we ended up at the Pride parade by accident. My mom made a negative comment about the gay men. I thought about running away and staying in New York. I was 14.
Religion was also a justification for the homophobia in the family of Derrick Bowens, the 21-year-old Union Island. His family “expressed no acceptance” for his sexual orientation while he was growing up, which Bowens attributes in part to his family members’ Christian beliefs:
I was hit at home. There have been countless situations where I experienced verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. Beaten, taunted, all that. My uncles, my grandmother, my mother, they would say things like, ‘Maybe if you started acting like a man, people won’t call you a girl.’ Having all these things against me, I didn’t want to go home.
Sharon Nichols, a 29-year-old bisexual woman, said her mother recently became more tolerant and is mainly “concerned about what others would think” and about homophobic violence against Nichols. Nichols was much more worried about her extended family since some of them were “at the front of the Christian Council march” protesting the case to decriminalize same-sex conduct in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. She said that in 2019, she heard one relative support the march by presenting arguments such as “think of the children,” “you don’t want to get your kids exposed,” and “[homosexuals are] deviants.”
For some interviewees, especially gay men and trans women, constant verbal or physical abuse from their family members made staying home untenable. James Campbell, a 29-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, said his brother kicked him out of the house because he was gay, which resulted in him becoming homeless:
My mom and dad died when I was seven years old. My aunt supported me [financially]. I was living with my brother and my aunt. Last October , my brother kicked me out of the house.… I am living on the street right now. It is hard to find a place to live. I don’t have any money to rent a place. Many people live with their family, I can’t. When I see them [my family] on the street, they don’t speak to me.
Kyle Wilson, a 19-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, faced rejection from his family that led him to live in insecure and unstable conditions and to fear for his safety:
My grandmother threw me out of the family house when I was 15 years old. I had experienced abuse from my family [until then], for my lifestyle. Once my father came back from Canada and I got abuse from him. He said, ‘Your lifestyle ain’t right.’ I then slept on the street. Once the owner of a place where I slept pulled a gun on me. Now I live in a house with [a man]. He’s something like me [gay]. I live upstairs, he lives downstairs. But [the man] is harassing me. When I am bathing, I have to make sure he’s not peeping. I stay there because I have no other place to stay.
Jasmine Rose, a 27-year-old trans woman, had a similar experience of family rejection and subsequent homelessness. After several years, her mother invited her to return home:
I had to leave home when I was 15 because of discrimination. [I was not allowed] to eat from the same bowl, from the same spoon [as others]. When I left, people used to come to throw stones [at me] in the place where I was sleeping, in an abandoned house. The street was getting very hard. I was on the street for seven years. Then my mother came for me, gave a room for me. If I had stayed in street, I would’ve died. [My mom] saw my life was bad. She said I can come home now. There are times that I cry. It’s a struggle living with my [transphobic] father [again].
Maxwell Smith, a 20-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, also left home at age 15 due to homophobia and lived on the street for around five years. “I used to sleep in an old, abandoned school, I survived by begging,” he said. He moved back in April 2022 after his adopted father, who never wanted him in the home, died. He now lives there with his older sister and a cousin (his mother died in childbirth), though they do not fully accept him due to his sexuality.
Randolph Morgan, a 22-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, faced homophobia from his uncle and grandmother when he lived with them. Morgan became depressed and attempted suicide after being permanently thrown out in 2010:
[My uncle and grandmother] used to beat me a lot to change, especially when I would wear dresses. They threw me on the road because I was homosexual. I never looked back. This sent me to depression. I took a knife and started to cut my wrists and tried to take my life. This happened while I was living on the street for a year and some. I slept in an abandoned house in Kingstown, near a water pipe where I got water.
A lady found Morgan on the street and took him in. He lived with her for nine years, but her son’s treatment made him leave. “Her son doesn’t like me because I’m a homosexual,” Morgan said. “He bullied me so much that I had to leave.”
Since then, Morgan found a house where he now lives alone, though he remains exposed to constant violence from members of his community.
Concealing Identity at Home for Fear of Abuse
While some LGBT people interviewed by Human Rights Watch did not experience overt homophobia from their family members, all interviewees said they had attempted to conceal their sexuality from their families out of fear.
Samuel Sayers, a 25-year-old bisexual man from Saint Vincent, said that part of the reason he does not broach the subject with his parents is that they go to a church where homophobic views are expressed and that influences their views on sexuality. Sayers attributes their homophobia to their church’s teachings:
Church is the root of homophobia. It is preached in our churches. They cite the laws [that criminalize same-sex conduct] and the scripture to justify homophobia.
Michelle Edwards, a 23-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, lives with her family but conceals her sexuality for fear of homophobia and abuse, which has occurred in her community:
I live with my family. I don’t feel comfortable saying I am bisexual because my family is religious. I went to my aunt’s church, and they said gay sex is an abomination. I don’t feel comfortable saying I’m bisexual because I have a friend who came out as bisexual, and afterward her father would [physically] restrain her.
Only one interviewee, Melissa Ashton, a 28-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, reported having a family that was tolerant of her sexual orientation. Ashton said that when she was 18 years old, her father asked her about her sexuality, she answered truthfully, and he was accepting. Her mother is a Christian “but understands.” Ashton added, “I don’t think she likes it, she sometimes says, ‘hopefully you will find a nice guy,’ but she understands that it’s my life, and she wants to be in my life.”
Right to Work
It’s hard to get a job. When they see who the person is, they don’t give it to you. They will turn me down. I must pay [rent], but they will turn me down just because I’m gay.
– Kyle Wilson (pseudonym), a 19-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, October 24, 2022
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and the highest in the Caribbean. In a context of limited employment opportunities for everyone, LGBT people face additional hurdles to gain employment in the formal economy. Some interviewees said employers explicitly declined to hire them on account of their sexual orientation. Some lesbian and bisexual women interviewees said that they faced sexual harassment in the workplace due to their sexual orientation, gender, or both. Such barriers to employment are especially detrimental for LGBT people who do not have a social or familial safety net upon which to rely.
Discrimination in Hiring and the Workplace
Kyle Wilson, a 19-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, recounted how he repeatedly tried to secure formal employment but could not due to discrimination. In July 2022, he sought a job at a supermarket. He told us, “The person responsible [for hiring] said, ‘What would the customers say?’” Wilson understood this as a reference to his sexuality and effeminate manner. Previously, Wilson held a janitorial job at a dentist’s office between December 2021 and October 2022, until his boss told him he “must stop working because ‘the customers are talking, why do they have a gay cleaning?’” Wilson described struggling with his frustration and staying positive:
I am trying to get a job. I don’t want to give up. It’s hard for me. Sometimes at night, you have to go hungry. Sometimes I beg, I go to sleep hungry. I am the happiest person, I don’t want to complain to nobody, but sometimes I am so hungry. I have a family that don’t like me, that don’t accept me. It is hard for me as a gay in this country. Discrimination is bad, but I always try to keep smiling.
James Campbell, a 29-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, got a job helping at another supermarket in 2021. While it was “not too bad at first,” Campbell said his supervisor often talked negatively about gay people. When she fired him in June 2021, after only two months, “she told me that it was because I was gay.” Today, Campbell does not have a job and begs for money on the street.
Maxwell Smith, a 20-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, also currently begs on the street for money because he never gets callbacks, including from clothing stores where he has tried to get a job as a store clerk. “Some [employers] just tell me ‘no,’ others say ‘go and come back,’ and then I go back and then they say, ‘Someone has already taken the job’ or they can’t hire someone ‘like me,’” Smith said.
Jasmine Rose, a 27-year-old trans woman from Saint Vincent, shared similar experiences, noting that it is “very hard to get a job,” especially during the pandemic. Despite spending a lot of time submitting many applications, she never gets callbacks. “I even call [the employers], but nothing. More than one time, they have told me that they can’t hire someone ‘like me.’ When they see me, they say, ‘I will lose customers,’” she explained. Rose recounted her experience trying to secure a job as a security guard at a store in February 2022:
I went for a security job, but the hirer told me, ‘You have to do a background check.’ I really wanted the job. He then said that he can’t hire me because of ‘my background,’ but my police record [which he had] is clean. He was judging me because I’m ‘gay’, because of my feminine walk and talk. I just decided to give up, there’s no job for me.
Before this experience, Rose had a cleaning job until December 2021, when she was let go because she dressed in a way that is feminine-presenting. She recounted:
I was told by the woman that I was cleaning for that the construction workers in the building didn’t want me to clean. I was dressed like I like to dress.… the first time she told me, and it was okay, but then the next time she told me that the men would not accept me, so I was let go.
Rose is currently unemployed. While she sometimes makes money from doing people’s make-up, nails, and hair, she still begs for money on the street to make ends meet.
Randolph Morgan, a 22-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, said that in January 2022, he tried to get a job at a supermarket and the person responsible for hiring told him, “The [other] workers will not be pleased” about having “his kind,” referring to his sexuality, “working there.”
Jonathan Morris, the 25-year-old non-binary person, works as a nurse. He said he has experienced discrimination from his coworkers, particularly in early 2022 when he started the job, even with patients present:
My coworkers make discriminatory comments. In the ambulance, there are three seats in the front. In the back, we put the patients. We are not required to sit with the patient once they are in the ambulance, and the back is really only for relatives. When I started working, I noticed it was very common that a lot of male attendants weren’t comfortable riding in the front with me because they probably have preconceived notion that I was gay because of the way I dress and my hair, so they sat in the back.
Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Experiences in the Workplace
Most lesbian and bisexual women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they faced specific challenges in the workplace, particularly sexual harassment, on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, or both.
At the international beverage company where Michelle Edwards, a 23-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, is employed, a few of her colleagues, most of whom are men, know her sexual orientation. While she is not directly discriminated against, her coworkers regularly use slurs and other homophobic language, which makes her uncomfortable:
My coworkers make gay jokes. It’s supposed to be friendly banter. Usually, the joke is antagonistic and degrading. They say to other men, ‘oh, you’re a batty man.’ It’s an international company and there is someone you can email [human resources], but sometimes you feel uncomfortable saying anything because it’s like a family and you feel like you’re overreacting.
Edwards endures the gay jokes on top of a generally “misogynistic environment” in the workplace, the latter of which makes her additionally uncomfortable and unwilling to complain or “have a deeper conversation” about her male colleagues’ behavior:
People pull my hair, sometimes they touch my shoulder, or they generally just want to be [physically] close to you in some way. Once there was a video going around [on social media] of a girl being raped, and the guys were laughing at it.
Melissa Ashton, a 28-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, recounted how a supervisor fired her after one year of employment:
He used to dabble [sexually] with his employees. He was interested in a female coworker, but she was [romantically] interested in me. One time [the supervisor] asked me if I wanted all the women in the company [sexually]. It was a very toxic environment. In June , he had his manager fire me, and they came up with a bullshit excuse [about my performance], but in the end everyone in the company knew that that it was about the other female colleague.
She believes that she would not have been fired if she were a man and so thinks that her sexual orientation and gender played a role in this experience.
Two bisexual women from Saint Vincent, whom Human Rights Watch interviewed separately, currently work in their respective families’ businesses, but they expressed fears of discrimination if they ever needed to find another job. Renée King, 21, said:
I work for myself and my mom. I’m afraid in the future, if I work for someone else, I will face discrimination. I’m afraid of sexual harassment in the workplace if they would ever find out that I am gay.
Sharon Nichols, a 29-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, said:
I work at a minimart where I have to interact with customers. I don’t experience problems because my family owns the business. But if I had to work in a corporate environment where I have to dress more feminine, that might be a problem. It’s part of the reason I avoid those jobs because I don’t want to dress that way.
Four other interviewees, all of whom were male, told Human Rights Watch that they experienced no discrimination in the workplace. Samuel Sayers, 25, attributed this to working at a large international telecommunications company, which has internal anti-discrimination policies. Derrick Bowens, the 21-year-old from Union Island, believed his work environment was safe because his employer “is well-travelled, has seen things, and knows gay people.” Bowens expressed fears of ever needing another job because there is a “high possibility of discrimination” elsewhere.  Shane Hathaway, a 43-year-old gay man from Bequia, said his employer is foreign and “very open,” so there “is no discrimination at work.” Ryan Brown, a 22-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, has worked since 2018 at a supermarket where his boss has a rule that Brown characterized as “No discrimination. What matters is that the job is done.” While Brown is treated well, he never talks about his personal life or reveals his sexuality, even though he would like to be more open.
Right to Education
Teachers don’t talk to you at all about sexuality. You’re supposed to deal with that yourself. [If they talked about same-sex relations] they would be teaching a crime.
—Michelle Edwards (pseudonym), a 23-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, October 26, 2022
Stigma and discrimination from teachers and fellow students interfered with the schooling of many LGBT people we interviewed, leading some to drop out of school at an early age. Most interviewees experienced verbal and physical bullying. For one female interviewee, the bullying was often accompanied by sexual harassment and violence. According to most interviewees, teachers were not helpful, so interviewees did not feel that they could ask them for protection. Some interviewees described how these experiences were deeply traumatic both then and now. Moreover, no interviewee received sexuality education that was inclusive of sexual and gender diversity.
Derrick Bowens, a 21-year-old pansexual man from Union Island, detailed the daily bullying he received from students or teachers:
Verbal homophobic attacks thrown on me, it was a daily thing. You would think it was just the students, but also four or five of the teachers making snide remarks suggesting my sexuality. Paper was thrown at me [in the classroom], but it was mostly slurs like ‘battyman.’ Students would make fake profiles on social media, pose as men, and ask if I was gay. There were several attempts like this. Students would not interact with me in the classroom, as if I didn’t exist, even after teachers told them to, like with [group] projects.
Some interviewees reported developing specific defense mechanisms to deal with homophobic bullying at school. Kyle Wilson, a 19-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, stuck up for himself and developed a reputation for being tough in primary and secondary school, so bullies did not “come after” him. However, as a result of a lack of family support due to his sexuality, he dropped out of school when he was 15 years old.
Ruth Daniels, a 24-year-old non-binary person (who uses female pronouns) from Saint Vincent, said she tried to be “normal” by dating boys at her Catholic secondary school. After she started disclosing her sexual orientation at about the age of 14, she had girlfriends in school, but she hid those relationships for fear of homophobic teasing or bullying, partly because of the laws criminalizing same-sex conduct. “Because of the law, it is technically illegal to be out in school,” Daniels said.
People who left school a decade or more ago described the lasting impact of bullying and harassment. Jasmine Rose, a 27-year-old trans woman from Saint Vincent, recounted how she experienced a lot of bullying in school, particularly from boys. “That’s why I left school,” she explained. “I was bullied by teachers, security [guards], and the children.” Rose dropped out of secondary school at about the age of 14.
Samuel Sayers, a 25-year-old bisexual man from Saint Vincent, said that fellow students “don’t need concrete evidence [of your sexual orientation] to start teasing you.” When Sayers was 15 years old and in secondary school, he recalled having one “very homophobic” schoolmate. “If anyone of us [gays] was around, he used to batter you with slurs, until you felt embarrassment and you had to leave,” Sayers remembered. While he never got into physical altercations with schoolmates, at about that same age, someone threw a glass bottle at Sayers in school in an attempt to injure him.
Sayers did not ask for help from adults at the school because he felt that they would not be supportive based on his friends’ experiences:
I didn’t ask them for help. They would just say that you need to ‘man up’ because the teachers had inherent bias. They suspected that the students who were being teased were queer. I had friends who complained to teachers, and they ignored it.
It changes the way you communicate with people. I am reserved because of this. I don’t communicate with most people beyond what I need to. I’m not open to making friends and meeting new people because of this. I practice a lot of detachment, which is not healthy, but it’s to protect myself, to avoid homophobia.
Randolph Morgan, a 22-year-old gay man from Saint Vincent, said bullying, including actual or attempted physical violence, in school was an everyday occurrence. “My classmates threw desks, pencils, and stools at me, and would say, ‘your kind are not welcome here,’” Morgan recounted. When he was 17 years old, a group of Morgan’s classmates beat him and broke his arm. He shared the ordeal, which he found particularly scarring:
I came out for lunch and classmates took apart a bench and started to beat me with it. The beating happened outside the gates of the school. Seven of them were attacking me. My arm was fractured as a result. I wore a cast for a month and a half.
Morgan did not feel supported by school staff when he reported the incident to the police, which is partly why he decided to drop out of school after this incident:
I went to the police station to report it. The police laughed at me; there were 10 of them. I went to the hospital, and they treated me well. One of the police [officers] came to school later that day, but the principal gave him a hard time [about investigating], so he left. Nothing came of the investigation. I never went back to school after this. [The teachers and principal] never reached out to me after I left. After this I thought, ‘Why am I on this earth?’ and it made me want to kill myself.
For Jonathan Morris, a 25-year-old non-binary person from Saint Vincent, a lot of the school violence happened in primary school, where students often “made discriminatory comments and would hit [him] in the head.” Morris said that “once or twice a teacher stepped in to stop it, but some of them didn’t even care.” Despite the difficulties in school, Morris saw education as a way to gain opportunities and shield himself from some of the homophobia that is common in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. He said: “If you want to survive when they know about your sexuality, education is key, instead of allowing whatever I went through to affect me negatively.”
Sexual Harassment and Violence
Mary Lewis, a 26-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, said she experienced bullying throughout her schooling, including by being called “lesbian” before she knew the meaning of the word. Most of that bullying came from boys who sexually harassed her:
Mostly it was from guys that came onto me too strong, that tried to force me to kiss [them], that touched my boobs, my vagina. There was name-calling. It was sexual harassment. It happened in the open, it’s a normal thing. The teachers didn’t help.
Lewis said the sexual harassment was particularly acute when she was around 13 years old. She recounted one especially traumatizing experience during that time, which may have been motivated by her sexual orientation:
My friends set me up. A girl and I, we went into a room [at school] together. And then she left the room, and I tried to get the door open but couldn’t. Then a boy came in the room. The boy tried to rape me. I kept screaming. My friends came to the door and opened the door.
I reported the matter to a teacher. The principal and the police got involved. The boy got expelled from school. Sometimes the boy would pop up at the school, and I was scared. I got him thrown out. It wasn’t my fault, but I was scared because you don’t know what he could do [in retaliation].
Lack of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)
Michelle Edwards, a 23-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, did not feel that her school curriculum or teachers addressed issues that might have helped her and her fellow students develop a healthy understanding of sex and sexuality. She explained:
I had sex ed at ages 9, 10, and 11. [Teachers] just talk about reproduction. They don’t talk about sex or pornography properly. They don’t talk to you at all about [gay, lesbian, or bisexual] sexuality. They would be teaching a crime. You’re supposed to deal with that yourself. Teachers were chill, but if you bring up something like sexuality, they may not be well equipped to handle this because they still have this religious thing, which tells them that it’s wrong. You’re kind of left to your own devices.
Renée King, a 21-year-old bisexual woman from Saint Vincent, said that, while she was never bullied in school, other female schoolmates did not want to be around her because they thought King “wanted to have sex with them or attack them.” King partly attributed their attitudes to the lack of information on homosexual or bisexual sexuality in her school: “Sexual education [in biology class] didn’t cover anything gay.”
Derrick Bowens, the 21-year-old from Union Island, resorted to the internet to find information because there was no school instruction on sexuality:
In sex ed, they talked about STIs [sexually transmitted infections] and contraceptives. But absolutely no information on sexuality. Without the internet and talking to LGBT people online, it would’ve been a disaster. You have to ask Google your questions.
He added that he would have benefited from learning information about sexuality during sex ed instead of independently searching for answers.
Sharon Nichols, a 29-year-old bisexual woman, said that in school, she heard “casual homophobia,” like the use of homophobic slurs. “There needs to be more education to improve LGBT people’s lives,” Nichols said, adding that she thought little had changed since she attended school. “I think a lot of people still hold onto this archaic speech. Queer kids and adults don’t have the tools to understand that it’s not okay.”
Like the others, Melissa Ashton, a 28-year-old lesbian from Saint Vincent, did not receive adequate information in school about sexuality. She believes that providing such information may be just as important as decriminalizing consensual same-sex conduct to reduce anti-LGBT discrimination in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:
They need to reevaluate the laws. But there is ignorance here. People don’t know better, so they can’t do better. Informing people from a young age is important. Sex ed? We don’t have that, we had science class only. So, I think more education on the topic is necessary, from someone who has knowledge about the topic.
International Legal Obligations
The violence and discrimination that LGBT people face in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines amount to violations of several international legal norms, including the rights to non-discrimination, privacy, life and security, freedom from ill-treatment, housing, work, and education. The continued criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct represents an obstacle to addressing these violations given penalties that LGBT people could face if, for example, they reveal their sexual history while seeking support from authorities on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is party to the following international human rights treaties relevant to the human rights of LGBT people: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not a party to the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR).
Decriminalization of Consensual Same-Sex Conduct
Non-discrimination, including equal protection of the law, are fundamental principles of international human rights law. In addition, matters of sexual orientation, including consensual sexual relations, are protected under the right to privacy, which is the right to protection of the law against arbitrary and unlawful interference with, or attacks on, one’s privacy, family, reputation, and honor.
In Toonen v. Australia, the Human Rights Committee, which can consider individual complaints regarding violations of the ICCPR, concluded that laws in Tasmania outlawing adult consensual same-sex sexual activity violated the ICCPR’s guarantee to the right to privacy and to non-discrimination. In Flamer-Caldera v. Sri Lanka, the CEDAW Committee, which can hear complaints regarding violations of CEDAW, found that Sri Lanka’s legislation criminalizing adult consensual same-sex conduct between women as “gross indecency” violated, among others, the right to non-discrimination, including in matters relating to marriage and family relations, and to participate in political and public life. It also found that decriminalization is essential to preventing and protecting against violence, discrimination, and harmful gender stereotypes.
The Yogyakarta Principles—expert guidance on the application of international human rights law to issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics—call on states to ensure all human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including by repealing laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. The Yogyakarta Principles plus 10 (YP+10) further call on states to ensure the right to freedom from criminalization and any form of sanctions.
Right to Life and Security
The ICCPR guarantees the rights to life and security of person. These rights are also protected in the constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines regardless of “race, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed or sex.”
The UN Human Rights Committee, which provides authoritative interpretations of the ICCPR has concluded that:
States parties must also ensure the right to life and exercise due diligence to protect the lives of individuals against deprivations caused by persons or entities whose conduct is not attributable to the State. The obligation of States parties to respect and ensure the right to life extends to reasonably foreseeable threats and life-threatening situations that can result in loss of life … even if such threats and situations do not result in loss of life.”
As such, States parties should “adopt any appropriate laws or other measures in order to protect life from all reasonably foreseeable threats, including from threats emanating from private persons and entities.” States should respect the right to life without discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
With respect to the right to security, the committee has determined:
The right to personal security also obliges States parties to take appropriate measures in response to death threats against persons in the public sphere, and more generally to protect individuals from foreseeable threats to life or bodily integrity proceeding from any governmental or private actors.
The committee has specifically called on states to appropriately respond to violence against women, including family violence, and violence against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Right to Freedom from Ill-Treatment
The ICCPR and the Convention against Torture prohibit all forms of ill-treatment. In similar terms, The constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines states that “no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment.”
The Convention against Torture details what states should do to enforce the prohibition, including their duty to investigate, prosecute, and provide effective remedies when violations occur. The Human Rights Committee has made clear that the duty to protect people against inhuman treatment extends not only to acts by government officials, but also to acts by people in a private capacity, including domestic violence.
Right to Housing
The ICESCR guarantees the right to adequate housing. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), which provides authoritative interpretations of the ICESCR, has noted that discrimination often occurs in the private sphere, including in the private housing sector. As the committee observes:
[A]ctors in the private housing sector (e.g. private landlords, credit providers and public housing providers) may directly or indirectly deny access to housing or mortgages on the basis of … sexual orientation.… States parties must therefore adopt measures, which should include legislation, to ensure that individuals and entities in the private sphere do not discriminate on prohibited grounds.
Yogyakarta Principle 12 specifically calls on states to ensure the right to housing, including protection from eviction, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In line with this principle, states should establish support and other social programs to address family violence and family rejection.
Right to Work
The ICESCR protects the right to work, “which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts” and requires states to “take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.”
The CESCR has concluded that equality in the workplace “applies to all workers without distinction based on … sexual orientation, gender identity,” among other grounds. The committee also affirmed that “[a]ll workers should be free from physical and mental harassment, including sexual harassment” and that “[l]egislation, such as anti-discrimination laws, the penal code and labour legislation, should define harassment broadly, with explicit reference to sexual and other forms of harassment, such as on the basis of sex, disability, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.” The committee emphasized that States parties should “adopt measures, which should include legislation, to ensure that individuals and entities in the private sphere do not discriminate on prohibited grounds,” including in the workplace.
Yogyakarta Principle 12 specifically calls on states to ensure the right to work, including protection against unemployment, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including in recruiting and dismissing workers.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Protection of Employment Act, 2003 states that “an employer shall not terminate the services of an employee on any of the following grounds: race, colour, sex, marital status, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origin.” The act does not explicitly protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Right to Education
The ICESCR and the CRC guarantee the right to education. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ Education Act 2006 states that “subject to available resources … all persons in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are entitled to receive an education appropriate to their needs” and that “a student shall not be refused admission on any discriminatory ground relating to that student or a parent of that student.”
A state violates the right to education when it fails to adopt effective measures to prevent bullying, isolation, or discrimination, all of which may result in persistent stress or mental health issues that make it difficult for students, including LGBT youth, to remain in school and focus on learning. According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which interprets the CRC, governments should take steps to protect children from bullying, harassment, and other forms of violence. These include challenging discriminatory attitudes that allow intolerance and violence to flourish and disseminating information about child protection through public campaigns and school education.
The right to education encompasses the right to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). The UN special rapporteur on the right to education has described sexual education as “both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights, such as the right to health, the right to information and sexual and reproductive rights.”
The special rapporteur also noted that CSE “must be free of prejudices and stereotypes that could be used to justify discrimination and violence against any group” and “must pay special attention to diversity, since everyone has the right to deal with his or her own sexuality without being discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Where curricula do not meet international human rights standards, the Committee on the Rights of the Child said the right to education requires “the fundamental reworking of curricula to include the various aims of education and the systematic revision of textbooks and other teaching materials and technologies, as well as school policies.”
To the Office of the Prime Minister
- Publicly oppose the criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct and propose legislation to repeal the buggery and gross indecency provisions in the criminal code.
- Propose comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, in all areas of life governed by law.
To the House of Assembly
- Repeal the buggery and gross indecency provisions in the criminal code that penalize consensual sexual activity among persons of the same sex.
- Pass laws defining the crime of rape in a gender-neutral way so that non-consensual sex between men or between women is included in the definition and subject to equal punishment.
- Pass comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits discrimination, including on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation, and includes effective measures to identify, prevent, and respond to such discrimination.
- Establish a national human rights institution, where LGBT and other vulnerable people can report abuses, publicize how individuals can report abuse without fear of reprisal, and investigate all such reports.
To the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions – National Prosecution Service
- Conduct prompt, thorough, and independent investigations into crimes against LGBT people and hold those responsible accountable.
- Conduct monitoring and evaluation of existing systems to track bias-motivated crimes.
- Ensure that all authorities who receive complaints of violence against LGBT people receive training on sexual orientation and gender identity to assist them in identifying bias-motivated crimes, and that they systematically ask complainants to indicate whether they (or the victim) may have been victimized on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
To the Ministry of National Security
- In collaboration with LGBT civil society organizations, train Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force officers and other ministry personnel on their obligations to uphold and protect the rights of LGBT people.
- Issue a regulation clearly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and hold accountable law enforcement officers who engage in such discrimination.
- Work with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions – National Prosecution Service to implement a system to track crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity and ensure that all officials who receive complaints of violence against LGBT people receive training on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to assist them in identifying such crimes, and that they systematically ask complainants to indicate whether they (or the victim) may have been victimized on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
To the Ministry of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Youth, Housing and Informal Human Settlement
- Establish support services for young people, including both children and young adults, who are expelled from their homes for reasons related to their sexual orientation or gender identity, including shelter, counseling services, and educational services.
- Conduct awareness-raising campaigns for families and the general public that promote tolerance and respect for diversity, including gender identity and sexual orientation.
To the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour
- Launch a public campaign to educate employers on the rights of LGBT people in order to prevent discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The campaign should also inform LGBT people about their right to be free from discrimination in the application of their right to work.
To the Ministry of Education and National Reconciliation
- Adopt an anti-discrimination policy that requires all schools, public and private, not to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Adopt an anti-bullying policy that requires all schools to take measures to prevent and respond to instances of bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Ensure that all curricula, including comprehensive sexuality education curricula, include and reinforce acceptance of sexual and gender diversity.
- Provide students who have dropped out before completing high school, including LGBT people, with opportunities to complete their secondary education, and reach out to LGBT organizations to ensure that LGBT young adults are aware of such opportunities.
This report was researched and written by Cristian González Cabrera, researcher in the LGBT Rights program at Human Rights Watch, and Yasemin Smallens, coordinator in the LGBT Rights program, with research support from Aisling Reidy, senior legal advisor. Luis Barrueto, intern in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, conducted desk research in support of the report.
The report was reviewed by Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch; Mauricio Albarracín Caballero, deputy director of the LGBT Rights Program; Joseph Saunders, deputy director of the Program Office; Juan Pappier, acting deputy director of the Americas Division; Macarena Sáez, director of the Women’s Rights Division; Regina Tamés, deputy director of Women’s Rights Division; Victoria Strang, policy advocate with faith communities; and Michael Bochenek, senior legal advisor.
Andrés Burgos and Yasemin Smallens, coordinators in the LGBT Rights program at Human Rights Watch, provided editorial and production coordination and formatted the report. Additional production assistance was provided by Travis Carr, publications officer, and Fitzroy Hepkins, senior administrative manager.
Human Rights Watch would like to thank the organizations and individuals who contributed to the research and advocacy that went into this report, especially Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. (ERAO SVG), RedRoot SVG Inc., VincyChap SVG, and the LGBT people who shared their testimony with us, despite the extremely difficult circumstances that many of them live through.