Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth or naturalization. Only the father can automatically transmit nationality to legitimate children; a woman can do so 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. Senegalese law does not make birth declaration mandatory, but birth certificates are required for enrolling children in school and obtaining other civil documents. UNICEF estimated that, in rural areas, parents registered only 44 percent of births between 2000 and 2010. Registering births required travel to a registration center and payment of a small fee, although a program initiated by Swiss NGO Aid and Action allowed village chiefs in some areas to register births by text messaging.
Education: The law provides for tuition-free, compulsory education for children between the ages of six and 16; however, many children did not attend school due to lack of resources or available facilities. Students often had to pay for their own books, uniforms, and other school supplies. The historical gap favoring boys over girls in elementary education enrollment levels has closed, and during the year more girls than boys were enrolled in elementary school.
Girls encountered greater difficulties in continuing in school beyond the elementary level. 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. UNICEF reported that 28 percent of boys were enrolled in secondary education compared with 22 percent of girls.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was common, particularly among children sent by their parents to study the Quran with an unscrupulous Quranic teacher. These children were exploited, suffered physical abuse, and were forced to beg on street corners. Since they begged full time, they devoted almost no time to Quranic studies. A report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2010 estimated there were at least 50,000 child beggars in the country who were forced to beg long hours, seven days a week. Most were approximately 10 years old, although some as young as two were reported.
Child Marriage: 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 the 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 UN Population Fund (UNFPA) data, 33 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18, based on surveys completed between 2000 and 2011.
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, and they undertook educational campaigns to address it.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Almost all girls in the northern Fouta Region were female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) victims, as were 60 to 70 percent of girls in the South and Southeast. Sealing, one of the most extreme and dangerous forms of FGM/C, was sometimes practiced by the Toucouleur, Mandinka, Soninke, Peul, and Bambara ethnic groups, particularly in rural and some urban areas. According to the NGO German Society for International Cooperation, excision, type II, was the form of FGM/C most frequently practiced. According to a survey on health and demographics by the National Institute for Statistics, the percentage of girls who were victims of FGM/C decreased slightly from 28 percent in 2005 to slightly less than 26 percent in 2011.
The government collaborated with the NGO Tostan and other groups to educate persons about FGM/C’s inherent dangers. According to a 2011 UNFPA report on FGM/C, a course on FGM/C was being integrated into the curriculum of high schools and colleges.
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 CFA francs ($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.
The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Due to social pressures and fear of embarrassment, incest remained taboo and often went unreported and unpunished. Pornography is prohibited. Pornography involving children under the age of 16 is considered pedophilia and is punishable by up to two years imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 CFA francs ($600). Although prostitution is legal, there were no reports of child sex tourism.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: 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. According to the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), infanticides often occurred when a woman became pregnant with the child of a man from a prohibited occupational caste. 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. 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.