Birth Registration: Citizenship is conferred through one’s parents and not by birth in the country. At least one parent must be a citizen to transmit citizenship. Registration of all births is mandatory, and children without birth certificates may not attend school or participate in most government-sponsored programs.
Many mothers could not obtain birth certificates for their children due to isolation in remote areas of the country or lack of understanding of the law. In partnership with the government, an NGO helped 200 such children obtain birth certificates during the year.
Education: Although education is compulsory until the age of 16 years and tuition-free through completion of high school, it often was unavailable after sixth grade in rural areas. Students were required to pay for their supplies, including school uniforms. The country had a shortage of classrooms and teachers.
Child Abuse: Child abuse occurred, but most cases were not reported, particularly if the abuse occurred within the family. When reports of abuse surfaced, police generally arrested the accused abusers, but an inefficient judicial system resulted in long delays in adjudication. A 2013 study by Samba Mwanas, a local NGO, reported abuse was common.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for consensual sex and marriage is 15 years for girls and 18 years for boys. It was rare for girls under 18 years old to marry but common for them to be in relationships with men outside of marriage.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: The law prohibits FGM/C. FGM/C, however, was believed to occur in noncitizen communities of West African origin.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Ritual killings, of children as well as adults, in which limbs, genitals, or other organs were amputated, occurred and often were unpunished. The practice was driven by the belief that certain body parts enhanced certain strengths. Blood was also used in rituals. Persons with albinism were not targeted.
The local NGO Association to Fight Ritual Crimes (ALCR) reported 20 victims of ritual killings from January to October. The actual number of victims was probably higher, according to the ALCR, which noted many ritual killings were not reported or were incorrectly characterized. During the year authorities arrested ritual killing suspects. In June a court found Jacques Bitsi guilty of murder in a ritual crime-related case. The court sentenced Bitsi to 22 years’ imprisonment and fined him 50 million CFA francs ($94,700) for killing Lena Marcelle and mutilating her by removing her heart and lungs.
During the year an opposition politician accused government officials of being behind the phenomenon of ritual crimes. Prime Minister Daniel Ona Ondo responded that the government would organize a special criminal session to try pending ritual crime-related murder cases. The ALCR organized a workshop that produced recommendations to the government on how to combat ritual crimes. These recommendations included adding the term “ritual crime” to the penal code, the establishment of a specialized ritual crimes response unit, and training for judges on how to handle ritual crimes cases. The newly established Ministry of Human Rights participated in the workshop.
In 2012 a court convicted Aristide Pambo Moussounda of the murder of Beverly Bilemba Mouenguela, a 12-year-old girl believed to have been the victim of a ritual killing, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Moussounda claimed he killed the young girl at the request of former senator Gabriel Eyeghe Ekomie. In June 2013 authorities arrested Ekomie for failure to appear before a judge after he received a court order to respond to questions about his alleged involvement in the girl’s killing. Ekomie was held until March 1, when the court released him due to lack of evidence. He died later in the year of natural causes.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. If convicted of procuring a child for prostitution or a child pornography-related offense, perpetrators may be sentenced to between two and five years’ imprisonment.
Some children were exploited in prostitution, but the problem was reportedly not widespread. The country was not known to be a destination for child sex tourism.
The law prohibits lewd pictures and photographs deemed “against the morals of society.” The penalty for possession of pornography includes possible imprisonment from six months to one year and a fine of up to 222,000 CFA francs ($420).
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_4308.html.