Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents, and only one parent must be a citizen to transmit nationality to a child. Children born in the country to one citizen and one noncitizen parent are citizens at birth.
The law also grants eligibility for automatic citizenship to children born in the country to resident noncitizen parents provided one parent requests citizenship for the child at the time the birth is registered. According to the government, 99 percent of such newborns received automatic citizenship during the year, compared with only 52 percent between July 2011 and October 2013, when new legislation provided for automatic citizenship in such cases. The 2013 legislation also simplified the process by which minor children of noncitizens may claim citizenship. The total number of noncitizen children remained significant. In January there were 7,846 such children, including 6,130 younger than age 15.
Child Abuse: Violence against children was a problem. The law provides definitions of physical and emotional violence against a child. It also specifies minimum qualifications for teachers and other professionals who work with children. Statutory rape is illegal and punishable by four years’ imprisonment, or six years if the victim is particularly young. State police can initiate proceedings against a sexual abuser without receiving a complaint if the victim is a minor (younger than age 16). Police effectively enforced laws against child abuse, although NGOs observed that coordination among agencies involved in the protection of children’s rights was weak.
During a nationwide, one-week, hotline campaign in October, the State Inspectorate for Children’s Rights provided 648 consultations in response to inquiries about cases of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of children. Approximately 34 of the calls were about the sexual abuse of children, 20 about physical violence, and 44 about emotional violence (the remaining calls involved psychological consultations). During the year the inspectorate investigated 228 cases of alleged violations of children’s rights.
As of October, according to the Ministry of Interior, authorities received 59 reports of child sexual abuse and sent 20 of them to prosecutors, who brought them to trial. The courts convicted eight defendants during the first 10 months of the year. The ombudsman received four complaints of violation of children’s rights. The Ministry of Welfare, which is responsible for the rehabilitation of abused children, provided rehabilitation-related services to 1,739 children during the first nine months of the year.
NGOs and other observers criticized light sentences handed down by courts in some child-abuse cases. In July the Liepaja City Court sentenced two men (a father and son) to community service for long-term sexual abuse of a minor. The case stirred controversy throughout the country, as many believed the sentence was too lenient. In October the Kurzeme Regional Court reversed the verdict based on a finding that certain regulations were not followed and returned the case to the Liepaja City Court, where it was pending at year’s end. The State Inspectorate for Children’s Rights criticized the Liepaja orphanage court for poor representation of the abused minor’s interests.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years. Persons younger than age 18 may legally marry only with parental permission and if one party is at least 16 and the other is at least 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child pornography is illegal. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The purchase, display, reproduction, or distribution of child pornography is punishable by up to three years in prison. Involving a minor in the production of pornography is punishable by up to 12 years in prison, depending on the age of the child.
A special police unit in Riga worked to prevent the sexual abuse of minors and to eradicate child sex tourism through aggressive prosecution of pedophiles and other child abusers. The unit publicized the potential dangers posed to minors by internet chat rooms and worked closely with local social networking sites to identify potential internet predator cases.
Court proceedings took place during the year against a man arrested in 2013 and charged with raping several underage girls. Authorities also charged him with recording pornographic scenes with underage girls and with grooming approximately 200 underage girls through social networking web sites over a 10-year period. In December the Riga Vidzeme District Court sentenced the man to 17 years in prison.
Institutionalized Children: The ombudsman and several NGOs raised concerns about the continued use of orphanages despite the provision in the law providing that “every child has the inalienable right to grow up in a family.” Approximately 1,800 children remained in orphanages, compared with 1,500 in 2014. Nearly 6,200 children lived in foster families and other forms of family environment.
In the first nine months of the year, the State Inspectorate for Children’s Rights reported 11 cases of peer-on-peer physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in government-run orphanages and boarding schools for children with special needs. The inspectorate considered that the true figure was much higher, but cases were underreported due to heavy caseloads and limited opportunities for observation.
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 country-specific information at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/country/latvia.html.