Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country and from one’s parents. Child registration does not occur automatically at hospitals. Parents must register their child’s birth with a notary. The government conducts yearly campaigns to register children in the countryside, and the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Plan Guinea-Bissau conducts registration outreach in the Bafata and Gabu regions. The government also suspended collection of the fees for registration during the year in an effort to improve compliance. A UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) survey during the year estimated that 24 percent of children were registered before the age of five. Lack of registration resulted in the denial of education at schools at the secondary level, since school registration requires a birth certificate. However, this requirement was often waived for children in primary schools.
Child Abuse: Violence against children was widespread, but it was seldom reported to authorities. In March 2012 the Ministry of Justice signed a memorandum of agreement with the NGO Plan Guinea-Bissau to reinforce child protection and end violence against children. There were no further developments after the signing.
Forced and Early Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 17. The UNFPA reported in 2010 that 22 percent of women ages 20-24 were married or in union before age 18. Child marriage occurred among all ethnic groups. Girls who fled arranged marriages often were trafficked into commercial sex. The buying and selling of child brides also reportedly occurred. There were no government efforts to mitigate the problem. Organizations such as the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund worked to provide legal, social, medical, and educational services to fight child marriage and protect its victims in some locations. A total of 144 communities in 2012, working with the NGO Tostan, publically declared their abandonment of child marriage. Tostan continued to implement its Community Empowerment program, discussing child marriage among other harmful traditional practices, in partnership with the government, UNICEF, UNFPA, and local NGOs.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Among certain ethnic groups, especially the Fula and Mandinka, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) was performed on girls from as young as four months up to adolescence. According to a local NGO, more than 350,000 girls and women in the country were victims of FGM/C. UNICEF data from 2010 indicated 43.5 percent of girls and women age 15 to 19 were victimized.
In June 2012 the National Assembly passed a law prohibiting FGM/C, which calls for violators to be punished with a fine of up to five million CFA francs ($10,000) and five years in prison. The law went into effect in July 2012. In October 2012 a group of Muslim preachers and scholars passed a declaration calling for the eradication of FGM/C. The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on FGM/C worked with the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the dissemination and application of the law by building the capacities of officials responsible for its implementation. They also supported the Attorney General’s Office, police, and the Child Protection Service with bringing to trial four women who had practiced FGM/C in Bissau and the eastern part of the country.
In November 2012 Ne di Ture was charged with performing FGM/C on a three-year-old girl, and at year’s end Ne di Ture was awaiting trial. Fifty-four percent of public health facilities integrated FGM/C prevention into prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services. The Ministry of Health validated and disseminated the Manual for Norms, Procedure, and Protocols on Reproductive Health in connection with FGM/C and also integrated FGM/C into two other key documents, the Strategic Plan for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula and the Peer Educators’ Manual on Reproductive Health.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: There are no explicit penalties for child prostitution, but there is a statutory rape law prohibiting sex with a person less than 16 years old. The rape law carries a penalty of two to six years in prison. There is no law against child pornography. When pedophilia and sexual harassment were reported, police scolded victims. Many families hid sexual abuse by a family member to avoid the shame of the community knowing that their child had been disgraced by a father or uncle. It was common for parents to give their child away to other family members or acquaintances who could provide better conditions and education for the child. Children in such situations often became more vulnerable to rape, abuse, and exploitation.
Displaced Children: The Child Protection Office of the Bissau Police Department estimated that 1,000 children were living on the streets of Bissau, with a growing number of boys engaged in gangs and petty crime. The government provided no services to street children.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.