Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth or naturalization, but only the father can automatically transmit nationality to legitimate children; the mother can do so only if her husband is stateless. Legitimate children born to Senegalese women with foreign husbands have the option to acquire citizenship between ages 18 and 25. Illegitimate children usually acquire the citizenship of the mother. The law does not make birth declaration mandatory. While birth certificates are required for enrolling children in school and obtaining other civil documents, children generally were allowed to attend elementary school without a birth certificate. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), only 55 percent of births were registered. Registering births required payment of a small fee and travel to a registration center, which was difficult for many residents of rural areas. A program initiated by Swiss NGO Aid and Action allowed village chiefs in some areas to register births by text messaging.
While children generally could attend primary school without a birth certificate, they needed one to take national exams. In a June 3 press conference, the director of the civil registry at the Ministry of Local Governance in Dakar stated 180,000 primary school students in the regions of Kolda, Tambacounda, Ziguinchor, and Diourbel had not been registered at birth and lacked birth certificates required to apply for national exams. Authorities conducted judicial mass hearings in these regions to issue birth certificates, and all 180,000 students received certificates in the ensuing weeks.
Education: The law provides for tuition-free, compulsory education for children between ages six and 16, although many children did not attend school due to lack of resources or available facilities. Students often had to pay for their own books, uniforms, and other school supplies.
Girls encountered greater difficulties in continuing in school beyond the elementary level. When families could not afford tuition for all children, parents tended to remove daughters from school, and dropout rates were higher among girls. Sexual harassment by school staff and early pregnancy also caused the departure of girls from school. Many parents opted to keep their middle- and high-school-aged daughters home to work or to marry rather than sending them to school, where predatory teachers could ruin their reputations and future marriage prospects. The UN Children’s Fund reported schools enrolled 28 percent of boys in secondary education, compared with 22 percent of girls.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was common, particularly among “talibes,” students who were sent by their parents to study in Quranic schools, or “daaras.” At some daaras, Quranic instructors exploited, physically abused, and forced children to beg on the street. A 2014 daara-mapping study found an estimated 54,800 talibes in the Dakar region alone. Of this number an estimated 30,000 were forced to beg up to five hours per day. A similar mapping during the year in Saint Louis found 14,000 talibes, with more than 9,000 forced to beg, according to Human Rights Watch. Most talibes appeared to be ages five to 10, although some reportedly were as young as two. According to Human Rights Watch, which on July 28 published the report Senegal: New Steps to Protect Talibes, Street Children, at least five talibes were killed by their instructors during the first half of the year. Many talibes were chained, regularly beaten, or forced to live in deplorable conditions. Others were ill due to lack of hygiene, nutrition, and medical care. The courts only prosecuted a small number of cases involving death or extreme abuse.
In April police arrested a Quranic instructor after he falsified a death certificate in March to bury a talibe illegally in Dakar’s Thiaroye cemetery. The talibe’s father had reported his suspicions about his son’s death to authorities, and the prosecutor subsequently ordered the body be exhumed and autopsied. Authorities arrested the instructor and the gravedigger, and the case was pending at year’s end.
In June police in Touba arrested Oumar Kante, a Quranic instructor accused of beating to death a 13-year-old student in the Dakar suburb of Parcelles Assaines and then attempting to bury the boy’s body in Touba. Kante remained in custody awaiting trial at year’s end.
In its July report, Human Rights Watch included a January case in which a man in Diourbel allegedly lured four talibes to his home and raped them, the February beating death of a nine-year-old talibe in Louga, and the June discovery of a 12-year-old talibe chained to a wall by police in Saint Louis. In several cases, authorities released Quranic instructors and dropped charges. The majority of reported incidents took place in and around Dakar and Saint Louis.
At the end of June, the president announced a campaign to remove children from the streets, including those forced to beg by their Quranic teachers. Human Rights Watch and the Platform for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, a coalition of 40 children’s rights organizations, characterized the campaign as “an important step in reforming a deeply entrenched system of exploitation.” The groups urged authorities to sustain the momentum with investigations and prosecutions of teachers and others who committed serious violations against children.
Early and Forced Marriage: By law women have the right to choose when and whom they marry, but traditional practices restricted a woman’s choice. The law prohibits the marriage of girls younger than age 16, but this law generally was not enforced in most communities where marriages were arranged. Under certain conditions a judge may grant a special dispensation for marriage to a person below the age of consent. According to UNFPA, 33 percent of women between ages 20 and 24 were married before age 18, based on surveys completed between 2000 and 2011.
According to women’s rights groups and officials from the Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood, child marriage was a significant problem, particularly in the more rural areas in the south, east, and northeast. The ministry conducted educational campaigns to address the problem.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under age 18 in women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that convicted sexual abusers of children receive five to 10 years’ imprisonment. If the offender is a family member, the maximum is applied. Any offense against the decency of a child is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and up to 10 years in certain aggravated cases. Procuring a minor for prostitution is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and a fine of 300,000 to four million CFA francs ($500 to $6,800). If the crime involves a victim younger than 13, the maximum penalty is applied. The law was not effectively enforced.
The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Due to social pressures and fear of embarrassment, incest remained taboo and often went unreported and unpunished.
Pornography is prohibited, and pornography involving children under age 16 is considered pedophilia and punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 CFA francs ($500).
Exploitation of women and girls in prostitution was a problem, particularly in the southeast gold-mining region of Kedougou. Although there were no reports of child sex tourism during the year, the country was considered a destination for child sex tourism.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide, usually due to poverty or embarrassment, continued to be a problem. Domestic workers and rural women working in cities sometimes killed their newborns if they could not care for them. Others, married to men working outside the country, killed their infants out of shame. According to the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, infanticide also occurred when a woman became pregnant with the child of a man from a prohibited occupational caste. In some cases the families of the women shamed them into killing their babies. If police discovered the identity of the mother, she faced arrest and prosecution.
Displaced Children: Many children displaced by the Casamance conflict lived with extended family members, neighbors, in children’s homes, or on the streets. According to NGOs in the Casamance, displaced children suffered from the psychological effects of conflict, malnutrition, and poor health.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.