Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth or naturalization. In 2013 the government passed legislation which provides for equal rights for mothers and fathers automatically to transmit citizenship to their children. The law does not make birth declaration mandatory. Registering births required payment of a small fee and travel to a registration center, which was difficult for many residents of rural areas. For additional information, see Appendix C.
While children generally could attend primary school without a birth certificate, they need one to take national exams.
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. 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. In recent years, however, there has been significant progress in reducing gender disparity at the middle- and high-school level.
Child Abuse: Child abuse remained 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; some reportedly were as young as two.
According to Human Rights Watch, which on July 27 published the report “I Still See the Talibes Begging,” at least two talibes died as a result of abuse. In December 2016 one child in the Louga region died in a fire after being left chained in his daara, and in January the teacher was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in prison. In March a second child in the Diourbel region was beaten to death by his teacher; the teacher and another official from the boy’s daara were arrested and in November both were subsequently sentenced to five years in prison. The Human Rights Watch report also documented dozens of cases of talibes who suffered physical abuse by their Quranic teachers for failing to meet their begging quotas in the Saint-Louis and Dakar regions.
In February a 19-year-old teaching assistant known as a grand talibe was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old talibe. Research conducted at the daara revealed that several other talibes had been sexually abused, but no further investigations were conducted and the daara remained open.
In March a Quranic teacher in Pikine was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the rape of three talibes, all approximately 12 years old. The teacher had repeatedly raped all three boys over an extended period of time. He had fractured the skull of one of the boys for protesting the rape. In November, five individuals were arrested in Dakar for abusing talibes. Overall, government efforts to address the abuse of talibes remained weak.
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 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 to a man to marry a girl below the age of consent.
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. In November the government dissolved 12 child marriages in the region of Kolda. For additional information, see Appendix C.
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. 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 ($551 to $7,352). If the crime involves a victim younger than 13, the maximum penalty is applied. The law was not effectively enforced, but when cases were referred to law enforcement, authorities conducted follow-up investigations. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18.
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 ($551).
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 for tourists from France, Belgium, and Germany, among other countries.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide, usually due to poverty or embarrassment, continued to be a problem. In some cases, women’s families shamed them into killing their babies. 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. If police discovered the identity of the mother, she faced arrest and prosecution for infanticide. According to a 2015 UN report, approximately 16 percent of women in detention in 2013 were imprisoned for infanticide. Moreover, infanticide represented 64 percent of the grounds for imprisonment of girls ages 13 to 18, according to the UN report.
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.