Rape and Domestic Violence: The law includes sentences of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for rape but does not address spousal rape. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Families of the victim and the perpetrator usually settled rape cases informally. Rape cases rarely were reported to law enforcement officials, and reliable statistics were not available.
Domestic violence against women was common, but few cases were reported. While the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, it prohibits “torture and barbaric acts” against a spouse and specifies penalties up to 20 years’ imprisonment for perpetrators. Families and clans, rather than courts, handled cases of violence against women. Police rarely intervened in domestic violence incidents, and the media reported only the most extreme cases, usually involving death of the victim.
The National Union of Djiboutian Women operated a walk-in counseling center (Cellule d’Ecoute) that provided services and referrals for men and women. Of the 1,575 persons assisted in 2012, approximately 8 percent were victims of domestic violence. The counseling center maintained similar stations in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl refugee camps.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment. Statistics were not available, but anecdotal information suggested such harassment was widespread, although seldom reported.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of citizens to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Clinics under the ministry of health operated freely in disseminating information on family planning. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, and a 2012 ministry of health report estimated that 22 percent of women of reproductive age used modern contraceptives. Misinformation about contraceptives, combined with a cultural preference for large families (between five and eight children), discouraged the use of contraceptives, especially in rural areas. Moreover, the lack of medical facilities outside Djibouti City meant that contraceptives were difficult to obtain.
The government provided childbirth services, and 71 percent of births were in a hospital or clinic, according to a 2012 study by the ministry of health. The same study reported that 88 percent of women received appropriate prenatal care, although there was a large disparity between women in the capital and in the rural areas; 53 percent of women received postpartum care. The UN Population Fund estimated the maternal mortality rate in 2011 at 300 deaths per 100,000 live births. The lack of facilities outside the capital and overall dearth of services contributed to poor maternal health outcomes.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal treatment of citizens without distinction regarding gender, but custom and traditional societal discrimination, including in education, resulted in a secondary role for women in public life and fewer employment opportunities in the formal sector. Women did not possess the same legal rights as men, and the law does not require equal pay for equal work. In accordance with Sharia, men inherit a larger proportion of estates than do women. Many women owned and ran small businesses, although mostly in the informal sector, where they did not receive the same benefits or access to credit available in the formal sector. The government continued to promote female leadership in the small business sector, including through expanded access to microcredit.
A presidential decree requires women to hold at least 20 percent of all high-level public service positions, and the government enforced the law. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning is responsible for promoting the rights of women and conducted awareness-raising events and workshops during the year to combat discrimination.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from a child’s parents. The government continued to encourage the immediate registration of births, and most births in Djibouti City were registered quickly. By contrast, births in rural areas often were registered late or not at all. The birth registration fee of 2,000 DJF ($11.30) deterred some parents from registering births. Lack of birth registration did not result in denial of public services, but lack of such documentation prevented adults from voting.
Education: Primary education was compulsory. Primary and middle school were tuition free, but other expenses could be prohibitive for poor families. Although the educational system did not discriminate against girls, societal attitudes resulted in lower school enrollment rates for girls.
Child Abuse: Child abuse existed but was not frequently reported or prosecuted.
Forced and Early Marriage: Although the law fixes the minimum legal age of marriage at 18 years, it provides that “marriage of minors who have not reached the legal age of majority is subject to the consent of their guardians.” Child marriage occasionally occurred in rural areas, where it was considered a traditional practice rather than a problem. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning worked with women’s groups throughout the country to protect the rights of girls, including the right to decide when and whom to marry.
Harmful Traditional Practices: According to a 2012 UN Children’s Fund estimate, 78 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 had undergone FGM/C; in 2006 the figure was 93 percent. Infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM/C, continued to be practiced, although with declining frequency. The law punishes FGM/C by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million DJF ($5,650), and NGOs could file charges on behalf of victims; however, the government had not convicted anyone under this statute. The law provides for up to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 DJF ($565) for anyone convicted of failing to report a completed or planned FGM/C to the proper authorities; however, the government has punished no one under this statute.
The government continued efforts to end FGM/C with a high-profile national publicity campaign, public support from the first lady and other prominent women, and outreach to Muslim religious leaders. The media featured frequent and prominent coverage of events organized to educate the public on the negative consequences of FGM/C. According to government ministries, NGOs, and informal conversations with women, efforts by the Union of Djiboutian Women and other groups to educate women were reportedly effective in lessening the incidence of FGM/C in the capital and changing perception of the practice.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for three years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million DJF ($5,650) for the commercial exploitation of children. The law does not specifically prohibit statutory rape, and there is no legal minimum age of consent. The sale, manufacture, or distribution of all pornography, including child pornography, is covered under laws prohibiting attacks on “good morals,” and violations are punishable with a year in prison and a fine of up to DJF 200,000 ($1,130).
Despite government efforts to keep at-risk children off the streets and warn businesses against permitting children to enter bars and clubs, there were credible reports of child prostitution on the streets and in brothels. Children were subject to commercial sexual exploitation after reaching Djibouti City or the Ethiopia‑Djibouti trucking corridor. Occasionally child prostitution occurred with the involvement of a third party, most frequently an older child or group of older children.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.