Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth or naturalization. Only the father can automatically transmit nationality to legitimate children; a woman can if her husband is stateless. Legitimate children born to Senegalese women with foreign husbands have the option to acquire citizenship between the ages of 18 and 25. Illegitimate children acquire the citizenship of the first-known parent at birth Children are not registered at birth unless a parent requests it be done, but failure to do so does not result in the denial of public service. In many rural areas parents seldom registered births. The process of registering births only required a local judge to make a ruling based on oral testimonies.
Education: The law provides for tuition-free education through the compulsory ages of six to 16; however, many children did not attend school due to lack of resources or available facilities. Students must pay for their own books, uniforms, and other school supplies. The historical gap in enrollment levels between boys and girls has been closed, and during the year there were more girls than boys enrolled in elementary education.
Girls encountered greater difficulties in continuing in school, however. When families could not afford for all their children to attend school, parents tended to remove daughters rather than sons from school. Sexual harassment by school staff and early pregnancy also caused the departure of girls from school. According to the most recent UNICEF data, 45 percent of girls and women ages 15-24 were literate, compared with 58 percent of boys and men of the same ages. While roughly equal numbers of boys and girls were enrolled in primary education, UNICEF reported that 28 percent of boys were enrolled in secondary education compared with 22 percent of girls.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was common. Poorly dressed, barefoot young boys, known as talibes, begged on street corners for food or money for themselves and their Qur’anic teachers, known as marabouts. Many of these children were exploited by their teachers and exposed to dangers. Physical abuse of talibes was widely reported. A 2008 joint study by UNICEF, the International Labor Organization (ILO), the World Bank, and the NGO Partnership for the Withdrawal and Reinsertion of Street Children identified an estimated 7,800 child beggars in the Dakar area. A report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in April 2010 estimated 50,000 child beggars in the country. Most were approximately 10 years old, although some as young as two years old were reported. In general they were undernourished and prone to sickness. Since they begged full time, they devoted almost no time to Qur’anic studies. They were forced to give the proceeds of their begging to their teachers. Each child was expected to collect an average of 400 francs CFA ($0.80) per day.
Child Marriage: Officials from the Ministry of Women, Family, Social Development, and Women’s Entrepreneurship and women’s rights groups stated that child marriage was a significant problem in parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, although it is against the law. Girls, sometimes as young as nine, were married to older men.
Under national law women have the right to choose when and whom they marry, but traditional practices restricted a woman’s choice. The law prohibits marriage of girls younger than 16, but this law was generally not enforced in most communities where marriages were arranged. Under certain conditions a judge may grant a special dispensation for marriage to a person below the age of consent. According to UNICEF data, 39 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Almost all girls in the country’s northern Fouta Region were FGM victims before adulthood, as were 60 to 70 percent of girls in the South and Southeast. Sealing, one of the most extreme and dangerous forms of FGM, was sometimes practiced by the Toucouleur, Mandinka, Soninke, Peul, and Bambara ethnic groups, particularly in rural and some urban areas. According to a survey on health and demographics by the National Institute for Statistics, the practice of FGM decreased slightly from 28 percent in 2005 to almost 26 percent in 2011.
The government collaborated with the NGO Tostan and other groups to educate persons about FGM’s inherent dangers. Tostan reported no real improvement over 2010 with 817 communities still practicing FGM. Tostan worked with 522 villages.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that convicted sexual abusers of children receive five to 10 years’ imprisonment. If the offender is a family member the maximum is applied. Any offense against the decency of a child is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and in certain aggravated cases up to 10 years. Procuring a minor for prostitution is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and a fine of 300,000 to four million francs CFA ($600 to $8,000). If the crime involves a victim younger than 13, the maximum penalty is applied. However, the law was not effectively enforced.
Rape of children remained a problem. The director charged with protection of children’s rights reported an estimated 400 cases of rape between 2008 and 2009; however, this figure likely greatly underestimated the reality. No more recent data was available.
On May 9, Jean Delhoune, a 72-year-old French citizen, was arrested in Mbour on charges of pedophilia after having been caught assaulting three underage girls in a villa. The media reported that Delhoune had been caught in the course of a larger investigation into an underage prostitution network.
On May 17, media reported that Oumar Gallo Ba, a leader in the youth wing of the ruling party, was arrested in the eastern city of Tambacounda for the rape and subsequent pregnancy of an underage female student. After his arrest, Ba agreed to marry the girl after she gave birth and pay her a monthly stipend. The prosecutor recommended the case proceed to trial, and the case was pending at year’s end.
Due to social pressures and fear of embarrassment, incest remained taboo and often went unreported and unpunished.
While prostitution is legal procuring a minor for prostitution is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and a fine of 300,000 to four million francs CFA ($600 to $8,000).
Pornography is prohibited and pornography involving children under the age of 16 is considered pedophilia.
Infanticide: Women’s rights groups highlighted infanticide, usually due to poverty or embarrassment, as a continuing problem. Domestic workers or women from villages working in cities who became pregnant sometimes killed their babies since they could not care for them. Others, who were married to men working outside the country, killed their infants out of shame. In some cases the families of the women shamed them into killing their own babies. If the identity of the mother was discovered, police arrested and prosecuted her.
Displaced Children: Many children displaced by the Casamance conflict often lived with extended family members, neighbors, in children’s homes, or on the streets. The government failed to support these children effectively. According to NGOs in Casamance, displaced children suffered from the psychological effects of conflict, malnutrition, and poor health.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.