Birth Registration: Citizenship is conferred through one’s parents and not by birth in the country. At least one parent must be a citizen to transmit citizenship. Registration of all births is mandatory, and children without birth certificates cannot attend school or participate in most government-sponsored programs. Many mothers could not obtain birth certificates for their children due to isolation, poverty, or lack of understanding of the law. In September 2011 the Ministry of Social Affairs, in partnership with local NGOs and UNICEF, launched a month-long registration campaign, registering the births of 3,347 children of all ages.
Education: Education is compulsory and tuition-free until age 16. Students were required to pay for their supplies, including school uniforms. The country had a shortage of classrooms and teachers, and education often was unavailable after sixth grade in rural areas.
Child Abuse: Child abuse occurred, but most cases were not reported, particularly if the abuse occurred within the family. When reports of abuse surfaced, the accused abusers generally were arrested, but an inefficient judicial system resulted in long delays in adjudication. While there were no data or estimates from any source, local NGOs believed abuse occurred with some frequency.
Child Marriage: The minimum age for consensual sex and marriage is 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Child marriage was rare.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Although illegal, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) was believed to occur among the resident population of noncitizen Africans. Ritual killings, primarily of children, in which limbs, genitals, or other organs were amputated, occurred and often went unpunished. The practice was driven by the belief that certain body parts enhanced certain strengths. Blood was also used in rituals. Albinos were not targeted.
The local NGO Association to Fight Ritual Crimes (ALCR) reported 55 victims of ritual killings during the first half of the year. The actual number of victims was probably higher, according to the ALCR, which noted many ritual killings were not reported or were incorrectly characterized. There were prosecutions of ritual killings as murder cases.
Government authorities and religious leaders condemned the killings. The president and prime minister publicly called on the Ministry of Justice to push for prosecution of such cases. The president also encouraged the public to refrain from such inhumane cultural practices.
In June a Senate committee was formed to consider whether to remove the immunity of Senator Gabriel Eyeghe Ekomie after a man implicated him in the murder of a 12-year-old girl who was believed to have been the victim of a ritual killing. On December 24, the Senate lifted Ekomie’s immunity. No further action had been taken against the former senator by year’s end. Aristide Pambo Moussounda was convicted of the murder of Beverly Bilemba Mouenguela and received a life sentence. During his court hearing, he claimed he murdered the young girl at the request of Senator Ekomie.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children. If convicted, perpetrators can be sentenced to between two and five years’ imprisonment.
Some children participated in prostitution for economic reasons, but the problem was not widespread. Third-party involvement was rare.
The law prohibits lewd pictures and photographs “against the morals of society.” The penalty for possession of pornography includes possible imprisonment for six months to one year and/or fines up to 222,000 CFA francs ($448).
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.