The effects of the 2009 coup and the significant deterioration in the rule of law have continued to make children particularly vulnerable to poverty, abuse, and exploitation. Poverty has disproportionally affected children. According to the NGO Comite des Droits de l’Enfant, 84.5 percent of children under five years old lived in poverty, and half of children in that same age group suffered from a delayed growth rate due to chronic malnutrition. According to the World Bank, 77 percent of the population lived in poverty and 57 percent were extremely poor. The growing poverty rate led to a decrease in school registration and fuelled child labor, which remained prominent. The worst forms of child labor persisted, primarily in the agricultural, mining, and sex trade sectors. Early forced marriage remained a problem in several communities.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents, although children born to a citizen mother and a foreign father must declare their desire for citizenship by age 18 years old. The country has no uniformly enforced birth registration system, and unregistered children have historically not been eligible to attend school or obtain health care services. UNICEF worked with the government to provide birth certificates for both newborn children and those who did not receive a certificate at birth. According to a 2010 UNICEF study, 80 percent of children in the country under the age of five years old had their births registered. During the year the percentage of children without birth certificates was reportedly reduced to 10 percent, due to efforts by the Ministry of Interior, supported by UNICEF. However, UNICEF did not undertake a formal audit to confirm these figures.
Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free public education for all citizen children and makes primary education until 14 years old compulsory. At the beginning of the school year, some schools asked parents to advance registration fees with the intent that government subsidies would reimburse these. At year’s end only some parents were reimbursed. According to a UNICEF study on school registration and completion rates during the year, only 73.4 percent of children between six and 10 years old were enrolled in school. Fewer than half of those enrolled (44 percent) actually completed primary school.
Child Abuse: Child rape is against the law, although the penal code does not set any minimum age for consensual sex. Rape of a minor under 15 years old carries a penalty of forced labor or forced labor for life, if the perpetrator was in a relation of trust with the victim (for example, a relative, teacher, religious leader, or civil servant). Child abuse continued to be a problem. According to the media, cases of child rape increased, with some of the victims as young as three years old. From September 2011 to August, the Union of Social Workers reported 763 cases of child abuse in Antananarivo. The victims were between three months and 18 years old. During the same period, among cases reported at the maternity hospital of Befelatanana in Antananarivo, there were 123 cases of sexual abuse involving children 10 years old and younger and 395 cases involving children between 10 and18 years old. Authorities rarely intervened in cases of child abuse.
There were developments in two high-profile cases from 2011. On March 2, the appeals court of Mahajanga ordered the release on bail of Jao Jean, a member of the de facto parliament arrested in November 2011 on charges of kidnapping and raping a 16-year-old girl. He was temporarily released in March and had not been tried by year’s end. Authorities also arrested Didier Amar, an accomplice of Patrick Nicaud, who was accused in May 2011 of raping underage girls in the port city of Toamasina. Amar was rumored to have been released on bail, but this information could not be confirmed. Authorities had not prosecuted Nicaud by year’s end.
Child Marriage: The legal age for marriage without parental consent was 18 years old for both boys and girls. As confirmed by the UN special rapporteur on modern forms of slavery during her mission to the country in December, early forced marriage remained a concern in many communities where girls as young as 10 years old were forced to marry. She noted that “victims of such arrangements are likely to be also victims of domestic servitude and sexual slavery.” An estimated 48 percent of women between 20 and 24 years old were married before age 18, and 14 percent were married before 15 years old, according to UNICEF data collected in 2000-09.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: In general recruitment and incitement to prostitution carries a penalty of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 10 million ariary ($4,410). Recruitment and incitement of prostitution involving a child under 15 years old--as well as sexual exploitation, sex tourism, incest involving a child under 15 years old, and commercial exploitation of a child under 18 years old--all carry a penalty of forced labor. Media reports and NGOs indicated that the commercial sexual exploitation of children, mainly of teenage girls, had increased since 2009. Both the penal code and antitrafficking in persons legislation address pornography, specifying penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and up to a fine of 10 million ariary ($4,410). However, authorities rarely enforced the provisions.
Children increasingly engaged in prostitution for survival with or without the involvement of third parties--including, at times, their own parents. According to a NGO Groupe Developpement/ECPAT Madagascar study during the year, most child prostitutes in the coastal cities of Mahajanga and Nosy Be were initiated into sexual activity between the ages of 13 and 15. In 40 percent of the cases, these children had their first sexual encounter as sex workers and, in many cases, their parents were aware of their activities.
The phenomenon was also widespread in the capital, Antananarivo. Young rural girls working as housekeepers in the capital often suffered from abuse and rape at the hands of their employers. If they left their employers, they typically were not paid. Rather than return empty-handed to their families and villages, they often remained in the cities as prostitutes.
The Ministry of Population and Social Affairs, in collaboration with UNICEF, operated more than 450 multisector networks throughout the country to protect children from abuse and exploitation and ensure access to adequate medical and psychosocial services for child victims. Several ministries and specialized training schools and institutions worked with UNICEF to develop training manuals and carry out training sessions on child rights and safeguards for officials working in child protection networks.
A child sex tourism problem exists in coastal cities, including Tamatave, Nosy Be, Diego Suarez, and Majunga, as well as in Antananarivo.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: A traditional taboo in the southeast against giving birth to twins led some parents in the region to abandon one or both of their twin children, who sometimes were left to die.
Displaced Children: Although child abandonment is against the law, it remained a significant problem. There were few safe shelters for street children, and governmental agencies generally tried to place abandoned children with parents or other relatives first. The Felana Maintso center in Antananarivo reported that it received more than three times as many children between January and April as in the same period in 2011.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.