Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. However, children born to refugees from Sudan were not considered citizens and generally not provided birth certificates. Children born to refugees from the CAR also generally were not considered citizens but were provided birth certificates. The government did not register all births immediately, and children without birth certificates could only be enrolled in school provisionally and were required to subsequently obtain a birth certificate. Schools could call on witnesses to verify the age of the child.
Education: By law education is universal and tuition-free, and primary education is compulsory between the ages of six and 11. However, parents often were required to pay tuition to public schools beyond the primary level. Parents also were required to pay for textbooks, except in some rural areas. Parent-teacher associations hired and paid approximately half of the teaching faculty, without government reimbursement. Schools did not exist in many locations. According to the World Bank Development Indicators Database, only six girls attended primary school for every 10 boys. Most children did not attend secondary school, where the enrollment rate of girls was also lower than that of boys.
Several human rights organizations reported on the problem of the mouhadjirin, migrant children who attended certain Islamic schools and whose teachers forced them to beg for food and money. Parents often sent children with discipline problems to these schools, in the hope that the harsh conditions there would ameliorate behavioral problems. There was no reliable estimate of the number of mouhadjirin.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem, but no data was available on its extent. The Ministry of Social Action and Family, which is responsible for the protection of children, conducted public awareness campaigns on child abuse during the year.
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that armed bandits kidnapped children to obtain ransom in the Mayo-Kebbi Ouest Region (see section 1.b.).
Child Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, although traditional law allows children to marry at 13 and 14. In practice families arranged marriages for girls as young as 12 or 13, with 11 being the minimum age for engagement. The law prohibits forced marriages of anyone younger than 18 and provides for imprisonment of six months to two years and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA ($100 to $1,000).
Forced marriage of girls was a serious problem, including among refugees. According to the UNICEF data collected between 2000 and 2009, approximately 72 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18. The custom of buying and selling child brides was widespread. Girls who objected to being forcibly married often were physically assaulted by their family members and husbands. Many young wives were forced to work long hours for their husbands in the fields or at home.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The law prohibits female genital mutilation/cutting. However, the practice was widespread, particularly in rural areas. The UN Population Fund reported that 44 percent of women and girls had undergone excision, with rates as high as 90 to 100 percent in some regions. The practice was prevalent, especially among ethnic groups in the east and south. All three types of FGM/C were practiced. The least common but most dangerous and severe type, infibulation, was confined largely to the region on the eastern border with Sudan. FGM/C usually was performed prior to puberty as a rite of passage.
FGM/C could be prosecuted as a form of assault under the penal code, and charges could be brought against the parents of victims, medical practitioners, or others involved in the action. However, prosecution was hindered by the lack of specific penalty provisions in the penal code. There were no reports that any such suits were brought during the year.
The Ministry of Social Action and Family was responsible for coordinating activities to combat FGM/C. The government, with assistance from the UN, continued to conduct public awareness campaigns to discourage the practice and highlight its dangers as part of its efforts to combat gender-based violence. The campaign encouraged persons to speak out against FGM and other forms of abuse against women and girls.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although the law prohibits sexual relations with a girl younger than age 14, even if she is married, the ban was rarely enforced.
Child Soldiers: While the law prohibits the use of child soldiers, joint government-UNICEF inspections conducted during the year revealed the presence of child soldiers in ANT and rebel units. The first joint inspection, conducted from June 9 to June 14 in the Guera and Salamat regions, resulted in the identification of 24 possible cases of underage recruitment by the ANT in Mongo, of which only seven were verified as child soldiers. The government issued a warning to all officers against recruiting child soldiers and conducted a second inspection on October 6 of all newly recruited army units, which identified an additional 20 child soldiers. A separate joint government-UNICEF inspection of surrendered forces of ex-rebel leader Baba Ladde in October found 26 child soldiers. Child soldiers identified in the three inspections were turned over to the Ministry of Social Action, reunited with their families, and provided with vocational training through UNICEF funding. At year’s end there was no evidence of child soldiers in the ranks.
The government continued to implement a comprehensive child soldiers’ action plan signed with the UN in June 2011. The plan included commitments on demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers; prevention, awareness raising, and capacity building; legal procedures and discipline for offenders; and access to military sites for detection and investigation of the use of child soldiers. In addition to conducting joint inspections with UNICEF, the government appointed points of contact at the Ministries of Defense and Social Action, as called for under the action plan.
According to UNICEF, 1,087 child soldiers were returned to civilian life between 2007 and November. The significant improvement of the security environment in the east since 2010 facilitated family tracing and reunification in previously inaccessible areas. The government cooperated with international efforts to provide rehabilitation services.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.