Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from having at least one Eritrean parent, whether the person is born in the country or abroad. Registration of a birth within the first three months requires only a hospital certificate. After three months parents must present themselves to judicial authorities with their child and three witnesses. If not registered a child may not attend school but may receive medical treatment at hospitals. There were reported cases of local officials refusing to register the births of children who had a parent living abroad who did not pay the 2 percent tax on foreign earned income.
Education: Education through grade seven is compulsory and free of tuition, although students’ families were responsible for providing uniforms, supplies, and transportation. Education above grade seven required a nominal fee and was not compulsory. There was a shortage of schools and teachers at all levels. In rural areas parents did not enroll young girls as commonly in school as they did young boys, but the percentage of girls in school continued to increase.
The government requires all students who reach the final year of secondary school to attend grade 12 at the Sawa National Education and Training Center. Students who did not do so could not graduate and therefore could not pursue higher education, although they could attend vocational schools. Some persons who attempted to leave the country did so to avoid going to Sawa. According to the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, students at Sawa faced “various types of violations, some amounting to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, and corporal punishment.” The special rapporteur noted reports of students becoming sick and dying and of committing suicide.
On July 5, 700 of the 15,000 to 20,000 students expected to attend presented themselves to start their final year of high school at Sawa. Citizens and other observers considered this demonstrative of citizen resistance to having children attend the last year of schooling at Sawa.
Child Abuse: There are no laws against child abuse. Information on the extent of violence against or abuse of children was not available. Local social welfare teams investigated circumstances reported to be abusive and counseled families when child abuse was evident. The society generally accepted physical punishment of children, particularly in rural areas.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both men and women is 18, although religious entities may condone marriages at younger ages. Information on the marriage rate for girls and boys under age 18 was not available. Girls in rural areas were particularly at risk for early marriage. The government encouraged various semiofficial associations such as the NUEW and the National Eritrean Youth and Student Association to discuss the impact of early marriage and raise awareness among youth about its negative consequences. Female ministers spoke publicly on the dangers of early marriage and collaborated with UN agencies to educate the public regarding these dangers. Many neighborhood committees also were active in discouraging the practice.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. UNICEF stated the prevalence of FGM/C had declined over time. The 2010 Population and Health Survey reported that 83 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 had undergone FGM/C. The study found older cohorts had a higher prevalence of FGM/C than younger cohorts. The 2002 Demographic and Health Survey found 89 percent of girls and women had undergone FGM/C. The UNFPA worked with the government and other organizations, including the NUEW and the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students, on a variety of education programs to discourage the practice.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child prostitution, pornography, and sexual exploitation. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. Penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of children included imprisonment. Crimes were seldom reported and punishment rarely applied. Data on the extent of child prostitution were not available. Authorities instructed the citizen militia to report evidence of the sexual exploitation of children to facilitate the arrest of patrons and pimps.
Child Soldiers: The law prohibits the recruitment of children under 18 into the armed forces. Children under 18, however, were detained during round-ups and sent to Sawa National Training and Education Center, which is both an educational and military training school. Those who refused to attend and participate in military training either hid, fled the country, or were arrested.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.