Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory, regardless of the nationality of the parents. Citizenship may also be acquired by descent if at least one parent is a citizen of the country. The standard provision is for births to be registered no later than a week after birth; registration after a month is considered late and includes a minimal fine. The Vital Statistical Office and the Ministry of Health have an agreement to offer bedside registration in hospitals shortly after birth.
Education: Primary education is free, and education is compulsory between the ages of six and 14; however, primary schools may incorporate other fees, and parents may be required to pay for textbooks, uniforms, and meals.
Through monthly payments the government assisted families of needy children at the primary school level and, to a limited extent, the secondary school level. The Ministry of Education continued to assist secondary school students in the two southern districts with a grant of BZ$300 ($150) for two years of high school. Students in other parts of the country had to apply to qualify for the subsidy.
Child Abuse: Abuse of children occurred, and as of the end of October, 1,217 cases were reported to authorities.
Sexual intercourse with a girl under age 14 is an offense punishable by 12 years to life imprisonment. Unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl ages 14-16 is an offense punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment.
In September, David Taylor was convicted of committing extreme acts of pornographic exploitation of three boys in 2012. After three years in trial, Taylor pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault.
In July the commander of the Gang Suppression Unit, Mark Flowers, was placed on interdiction after a minor reported that Flowers had unlawful sexual intercourse with her on two occasions. The minor, who was 14 years old, was five months pregnant when she made the report. The matter awaited trial at year’s end.
The law allows authorities to remove a child from an abusive home environment and requires parents to maintain and support children until the age of 18. There were publicized cases of underage girls’ being victims of sexual abuse and mistreatment, in most cases in their own home or in the home of a relative.
The Family Services Division in the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation is the government office with the lead responsibility for children’s problems. The division coordinated programs for children who were victims of domestic violence, advocated remedies in specific cases before the Family Court, conducted public education campaigns, investigated cases of trafficking in children, and worked with local and international NGOs and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to promote children’s welfare.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age to marry is 18, but persons between ages 16 and 18 may marry with the consent of parents, legal guardians, or judicial authority. According to UNICEF 26 percent of women ages 20 to 24 were married or cohabitating before age 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law establishes penalties for child prostitution, child pornography, child sexual exploitation, and indecent exhibition of a child. It defines a “child” as anyone under age 18. The law stipulates that the offense of child prostitution does not apply to persons exploiting 16- and 17-year-old children in sexual activity in exchange for remuneration, gifts, goods, food, or other benefits. NGOs expressed concern that this specific clause in the law could render children vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, due to the common practice of parents’ pushing their children to provide sexual favors to older men in exchange for remuneration. The legal age for consensual sex is 16, but prostitution is not legal under 18.
There were anecdotal reports that boys and girls were exploited in child prostitution, including the “sugar daddy” syndrome whereby older men provided money to young women and/or their families for sexual relations. Similarly, there were reports of increasing exploitation of minors, often to meet the demand of foreign sex tourists in tourist-populated areas or where there were transient and seasonal workers. The law criminalizes the procurement or attempted procurement of “a person” under age 18 to engage in prostitution; an offender is liable to eight years’ imprisonment. The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting child sex trafficking.
The law establishes a penalty of two years’ imprisonment for persons convicted of publishing or offering for sale any obscene book, writing, or representation.
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 Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.