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Germany

Executive Summary

Germany is a constitutional democracy. Citizens choose their representatives periodically in free and fair multiparty elections. The lower chamber of the federal parliament (Bundestag) elects the chancellor as head of the federal government. The second legislative chamber, the Federal Council (Bundesrat), represents the 16 states at the federal level and is composed of members of the state governments. The country’s 16 states exercise considerable autonomy, including for law enforcement and education. The elections for the Bundestag on September 26 were considered free and fair, as were federal elections in 2017.

Responsibility for internal and border security is shared by the police forces of the 16 states, the Federal Criminal Police Office, and the federal police. The states’ police forces report to their respective interior ministries; the federal police forces report to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the state offices for the protection of the constitution are responsible for gathering intelligence on threats to domestic order and other security functions. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution reports to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and the state offices for the same function report to their respective ministries of the interior. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed few abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: crimes involving violence motivated by anti-Semitism and crimes involving violence targeting members of ethnic or religious minority groups motivated by anti-Muslim hatred, xenophobia, or other forms of right-wing extremism.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials in the security services and elsewhere in government who committed human rights abuses or were accused of corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: In March the magazine Der Spiegel revealed that during the 2020 height of the COVID-19 pandemic, several members of the Bundestag and the Bavarian state parliament contacted the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of the Interior, and Bavarian state ministries on behalf of suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE). Some were accused of having received compensation in exchange for recommending certain PPE suppliers to government customers or lobbying ministries to procure from those suppliers. According to media reports, Bundestag members Georg Nuesslein of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Nikolaus Loebel of the Christian Democratic Union received 660,000 euros ($759,000) and 250,000 euros ($288,000), respectively, for such activities, and Alfred Sauter, a CSU member of the Bavarian state parliament, received 1.2 million euros ($1.38 million). In June the Federal Ministry of Health published a list of 40 members of the Bundestag who had contacted it on behalf of PPE suppliers; many stated they received no compensation and were acting on behalf of constituents. Anticorruption investigations continued as of September.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Several government bodies worked independently and effectively to protect human rights. The Bundestag has a Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid and a Committee for Petitions. The Petitions Committee fields complaints from the public, including human rights concerns. The German Institute for Human Rights has responsibility for monitoring the country’s implementation of its international human rights commitments, including treaties and conventions. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) is a semi-independent body that studies discrimination and assists victims of discrimination. The Office of the Federal Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has specific responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Justice Ministry’s commissioner for human rights oversees implementation of court rulings related to human rights protections.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, of men and women, and provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison. Without a court order, officials may temporarily deny access to their household to those accused of abuse, or they may impose a restraining order. In severe cases of rape and domestic violence, authorities can prosecute individuals for assault or rape and require them to pay damages. Penalties depend on the nature of the case. The government enforced the laws effectively.

The federal government, the states, and NGOs supported numerous projects to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence, including providing survivors with greater access to medical care and legal assistance. Approximately 350 women’s shelters operated throughout the country.

The NGO Central Information Agency of Autonomous Women’s Shelters (ZIF) reported accessibility problems, especially in bigger cities, because women who found refuge in a shelter tended to stay there longer due to a lack of available and affordable housing. ZIF also stated refugee women were particularly at risk, since they were required to maintain residence in a single district for three years and many resided in districts in which there were no women’s shelters.

The women’s shelter association Frauenhauskoordinierung e.V. complained that federal vaccination regulations did not prioritize residents and staff of women’s shelters for COVID-19 vaccination, in contrast to homeless shelters, refugee housing, and other group housing settings, threatening the homes’ ability to provide shelter in the event of an outbreak. Multiple NGOs expressed concern the COVID-19 lockdown constrained opportunities for women to escape violent domestic situations. ZIF called for additional government funding to place women and children in hotels if quarantine rendered its shelters inaccessible.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C of women and girls is a criminal offense punishable by one to 15 years in prison, even if performed abroad. Authorities can revoke the passports of individuals they suspect are traveling abroad to subject a girl or woman to FGM/C; however, authorities have not taken this step since the law took effect in 2017. During the year there were no reports FGM/C was performed in the country. A working group under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth collaborated with other federal government bodies and all 16 states to combat FGM/C.

In July the Federal Ministry for Women and Families published a “protection letter” for girls at risk of FGM/C, warning of the high criminal penalties for FGM/C in the country. The letter was intended to be carried when travelling abroad and shown to relatives or others who tried to subject girls to FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law criminalizes “honor killings” as murder and the government enforced the law effectively. During the year there were some reports of such killings in the country; for example, in December, Berlin prosecutors charged two men of Afghan descent with murdering their sister age 34 in July because she had divorced her abusive husband and begun a new relationship. No trial date had been set at year’s end. Although authorities estimated the number of such killings fluctuated between approximately three and 12 during any year, some observers questioned how many of these were “honor killings,” which media tended to attribute to immigrant communities, and how many were other manifestations of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of women was a recognized problem and prohibited by law. Penalties include fines and prison sentences of up to five years. Various disciplinary measures against harassment in the workplace are available, including dismissal of the perpetrator. The law requires employers to protect employees from sexual harassment. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment to be a breach of contract, and an affected employee has the right to paid leave until the employer rectifies the problem. Unions, churches, government agencies, and NGOs operated a variety of support programs for women who experienced sexual harassment and sponsored seminars and training to prevent it.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

There are no legal, social, or cultural barriers, nor government policies, that adversely affect access to contraception nor to attendance of skilled health personnel during pregnancy and childbirth. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution, including under family, labor, religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The country’s constitution states that no one shall be “favored or disfavored because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions.” Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity by public authorities as well as private actors such as employers, landlords and businesses, but there were reports of discrimination despite these laws.

Public incitement of hatred against an ethnic, racial, religious or other minority is a crime in the country, and authorities vigorously prosecuted violations of the law. Crimes motivated by such hatred also incur harsher sentences than similar crimes not motivated by such hatred, and judges regularly imposed these sentences.

The federal and state governments employed a wide range of measures to eliminate ethnic and racial basis. For example, the federal government operated FADA, which takes complaints and reports of discrimination and provides advice and support to victims. Some states also had similar offices. Observers noted FADA was underfunded and that both state and federal offices were not sufficiently independent. Members of minority groups were not always aware of these resources.

The federal and state governments also provided grants to civil society organizations working to combat racism and ethnic bias. For example, during the year the federal government program Demokratie Leben (Live Democracy) dispensed 150 million euros ($172.5 million) in grants to organizations promoting diversity and combating extremism.

Federal and state OPCs also monitored groups with racist or xenophobic ideologies. The annual FOPC report for 2020, released in June, recorded 22,357 politically motivated crimes committed by individuals with right-wing extremist backgrounds, 1,023 of which were violent. Of these, 746 were categorized as xenophobic. The 2020 FADA report detailed 2,101 complaints of racism, a 79 percent annual increase compared with 2019, and the agency reported 6,383 requests for consultations from possible victims of discrimination, compared with 3,200 in 2019. Persons with Asian features were often affected, according to official sources and multiple media reports (see also section 3, Participation of Womenand Members of Minority Groups, attacks on campaigns of minority group politicians).

In a survey by researchers at the University of Bochum on interactions with police published in November 2020, respondents who were members of ethnic minority groups or who had a migrant background reported being subjected to random police checks more often than white respondents without a migrant background. Ethnic minority respondents and those with a migrant background were more often advised against reporting incidents of police violence, and their attempts to do so were more frequently rejected than were those of white, nonmigrant respondents.

In May the NRW state government launched a campaign to attract more employees with immigrant backgrounds to join the civil service.

On August 18, the Erfurt public prosecutor charged nine men and one woman from the right-wing extremist scene with inflicting grave bodily harm for their attack on three Guineans in Erfurt, Thuringia. Two of the victims were injured during the August 2020 attack, one of them seriously. According to the prosecutor’s office, proceedings against seven other suspects were dropped due to lack of evidence. As of August a trial date had not been set.

On June 9, Frankfurt prosecutors began investigating 20 members of the Frankfurt police department’s elite special forces unit (SEK) for sharing racist, extremist content in a chat group. Hesse interior minister Peter Beuth then dissolved the Frankfurt SEK and announced a statewide reorganization of such units on August 26. Investigations against most of the officers were still ongoing as of October 1, while investigations of two senior officers for obstruction of justice have been closed.

In September 2020 the NRW Interior Ministry suspended 29 police officers for participating in a right-wing chat group in which they shared extremist propaganda. In July charges were filed in six cases, including five counts of spreading symbols of anticonstitutional organizations and sedition; the charges could lead to fines. Seven cases were closed with no charges filed, and investigations continued in 14 cases. In September the special representative examining right-wing extremist tendencies in the police force presented his report to the NRW state parliament. Although he found many examples of right-wing extremist, racist, sexist, and homophobic statements, he found no evidence of right-wing extremist networks in the police force or that police had been subverted by right-wing extremists. The report included an 18-item list of measures to combat extremism in the police force.

Persons of foreign origin sometimes faced difficulties with finding housing. FADA reported cases of landlords denying rental apartments to persons not of ethnic German origin, particularly of Turkish and African origin.

According to local media, internal documents and whistleblower testimonies suggested that Bremen’s city-owned housing association Brebau systematically discriminated against persons of color, Sinti and Roma, Bulgarians, and Romanians. Brebau staff were instructed to note applicants’ race in the company’s internal information technology system, as well as whether they wore a head scarf and if they were “integrated” into Western society. The reports stated this information was temporarily removed if applicants asked to review their application and later re-entered.

Harassment of members of racial minorities, such as Roma and Sinti, remained a problem throughout the country.

In May the Independent Commission on “Anti-Ziganism” presented its final report to the government. The report, commissioned by the government, concluded that anti-Roma racism was an “all-encompassing everyday experience for Sinti and Roma” that posed a “massive societal problem.” Harshly criticizing an ongoing “failure of German policy, German legislation and the application thereof,” it described discrimination in local government, law enforcement, education, and other areas. The genocide of the Roma and Sinti committed by the Nazis had a “deep and lasting impact,” the report said, and had only partly been addressed.

On August 5, a Sinti family was expelled from a campground in Bad Zwesten, Hesse. The head of the family reported that he was told Sinti were not welcome at the campground. Campground operator Camping Club Kassel (CCK) confirmed to local media it had a policy of not admitting minorities. Following public complaints, the CCK eventually apologized to the family and declared it had rescinded the discriminatory policy.

On September 23, four defendants in Erbach, Baden-Wuerttemberg were convicted of coercion in a 2019 attack in which they threw a burning torch at a vehicle in which a Romani family slept with their baby, age nine months. They were given suspended juvenile sentences and were ordered to visit a concentration camp memorial. The court found the defendants were motivated by racism and had hoped to drive the Roma out of Erbach, but the defendants did not intend to harm them. The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma welcomed the verdict.

Children

Birth Registration: In most cases individuals derive citizenship from their parents. The law allows individuals to obtain citizenship if they were born in the country and if one parent has been a resident for at least eight years or has had a permanent residence permit for at least three years. Parents or guardians are responsible for registering newborn children. Once government officials received birth registration applications, they generally processed them expeditiously. Parents who fail to register their child’s birth may be subject to a fine. Birth certificates are required to access some public services, such as education or day care.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse. Violence or cruelty towards minors, as well as malicious neglect, are punishable. Incidents of child abuse were reported. The Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women, and Youth sponsored programs throughout the year on the prevention of child abuse. The ministry sought to create networks among parents, youth services, schools, pediatricians, and courts and to support existing programs at the state and local level. Other programs provided therapy and support for adult and youth victims of sexual abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years.

The law nullifies existing marriages conducted in other countries in which at least one spouse was younger than age 16 at the time of the wedding, even if they were of legal age in the country where the marriage was performed. Individuals ages 16 or 17 can petition a judge on a case-by-case basis to recognize their foreign marriage if they face a specific hardship from not having their marriage legally recognized. Complete central statistics were unavailable on such cases. Child and forced marriage primarily affected girls of foreign nationality.

In June the NRW state government launched an awareness campaign against forced marriage headlined EXIT.NRWProtection UnitedNorth Rhine-Westphalia against Forced Marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, offering, or using children for commercial sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking, as well as practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14 years unless the older partner is older than 18 and is “exploiting a coercive situation” or offering compensation, and the younger partner is younger than 16. It is also illegal for a person who is 21 or older to have sex with a child younger than 16 if the older person “exploits the victim’s lack of capacity for sexual self-determination.”

Crime statistics for 2020, the latest available, indicated 14,594 cases of child sexual abuse occurred in 2020, an increase of 6.8 percent over 2019. The number of child pornography cases processed by police rose in 2020 to 18,761, a 53 percent increase over 2019.

The law enables undercover investigators to use artificially created videos of child sexual abuse to gain entry to internet forums. The government’s Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues provides an online help portal and an anonymous telephone helpline free of charge.

In January police conducted two large nationwide raids involving 1,000 law enforcement officers against persons suspected of possessing or distributing child pornography, following a similar series of raids in September 2020. The raids were part of investigations that began with the 2019 arrest of a Bergisch-Gladbach man for severe child abuse, including the production of child pornography. That case eventually evolved into a large-scale investigation involving 400 police detectives and a network of at least 30,000 suspects, several of whom were convicted and sentenced in 2020 to multiyear prison sentences, to be followed by preventative detention, for child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography. Investigations and court proceedings were ongoing.

In June 2020 police uncovered a child abuse ring in Muenster, NRW. The main suspect was a man, age 27, suspected of sexually abusing the son, age 10, of his partner; he also produced pornography of the abuse and sold it online and offered his foster son to others. By August more than 40 suspects had been identified, with approximately 30 in pretrial detention or custody; 30 children were believed to have been victims. In July a Muenster court handed down a 14-year sentence for the main suspect and ordered preventive detention after the sentence is complete; in October the main suspect’s partner was sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison for aiding and abetting the crime. Three other defendants received prison sentences of between 10 and 12 years, also with preventive detention after serving their sentences. In October the mother of the main suspect, who was tried as an accomplice, was also convicted of aiding and abetting the crime and sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison.

In 2019 an NRW parliamentary committee opened an investigation into possible failures and misconduct by the NRW state government in a case of multiple sexual abuse of children at a campground in Luegde. The investigation continued as of October, with sessions scheduled until December 17.

Displaced Children: According to the Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, 2,230 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the country in 2020, approximately half of whom came from three countries: Afghanistan, Guinea, and Syria. BAMF granted some form of asylum to unaccompanied minors in 58.7 percent of cases in 2020, compared with 94.5 percent in 2016. The NGO Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors observed that some unaccompanied minors might have become victims of human trafficking, since youth offices have no legal responsibility to locate them if they disappear from foster families. For more information see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

International Child Abductions: The country is 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

Observers estimated the country’s Jewish population to be almost 200,000, of whom an estimated 90 percent were from the former Soviet Union. There were approximately 107,000 registered Jewish community members.

Manifestations of anti-Semitism, including physical and verbal attacks, occurred at public demonstrations, sporting and social events, in schools, in the street, in certain media outlets, and online. Apart from anti-Semitic speech, desecration of cemeteries and Holocaust monuments represented the most widespread anti-Semitic acts. The federal government attributed most anti-Semitic acts to neo-Nazi or other right-wing extremist groups or persons, and such acts increased during the year. Jewish organizations also noted anti-Semitic attitudes and behavior among some Muslim youth and left-wing extremists. NGOs agreed right-wing extremists were responsible for most anti-Semitic acts but cautioned that federal statistics misattributed many acts committed by Muslims as right-wing acts.

In 2020 the Federal Ministry of Interior reported 2,351 crimes motivated by anti-Semitism, a 15.7 percent increase from the 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes in 2019. In presenting the FOPC’s annual report, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (Christian Social Union) stated right-wing extremists continued to pose the greatest threat to the country’s democracy. NGOs working to combat anti-Semitism cautioned the number of anti-Semitic attacks officially noted was likely misleading, because a significant number of cases may have been unreported.

The FOPC’s annual report stated the number of violent right-wing anti-Semitic incidents dropped from 56 in 2019 to 48 in 2020. The FOPC also identified 31 anti-Semitic incidents with a religious ideological motivation, including one violent incident and 36 with a foreign ideological motivation. Federal prosecutors brought charges against suspects and maintained permanent security measures around many synagogues.

In the year preceding March 17, the Department for Research and Information on Anti-Semitism registered anti-Semitic incidents at 324 separate demonstrations against restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, none of them violent. Incidents included positive references to Nazis, for example the use of anti-Semitic conspiracy myths, including the assertion that Jews were responsible for unleashing the corona virus.

In May the Research and Information Office on Anti-Semitism Bavaria reported 239 anti-Semitic incidents in 2020, an increase of 55 incidents over 2019. The incidents included one violent attack, 10 threats, 13 incidents of vandalism, 27 anti-Semitic mass mailings, and 188 cases of abusive behavior. Two weeks later, the Bavarian parliament passed a resolution against anti-Semitism. The resolution calls for better surveillance and screening of possible threats as well as physical protection measures for Jewish institutions and synagogues.

In December 2020 a court sentenced Stephen Balliet, the gunman who attacked a Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur in 2019 and killed two persons, to life imprisonment with subsequent preventative detention for murder, attempted murder, and incitement. The Saxony-Anhalt court cited Balliet’s lack of remorse and expressed desire to reoffend as reasons for issuing the maximum sentence. The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed the verdict for its clear condemnation of anti-Semitism. Balliet had testified to being motivated by xenophobia and anti-Semitism in court, repeating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and calling Muslim refugees in the country “conquerors.”

In May protesters burned Israeli flags in front of synagogues in Muenster and Bonn. The Muenster synagogue was not damaged, and authorities charged 13 men with violating the law of assemblies. In Bonn individuals threw stones at the synagogue’s front door, and authorities filed charges against three suspects.

Also in May a police cordon stopped an unregistered anti-Israel demonstration with approximately 180 attendees waving Palestinian, Turkish, and Tunisian flags at the Gelsenkirchen synagogue. In a video of the demonstration, anti-Semitic chants like “Jews out” could be heard. Police arrested a German-Lebanese man, age 26, and further investigations continued as of December.

On May 15, 3,500 persons participated in an anti-Semitic demonstration in the Neukoelln district of Berlin. Demonstrators chanted anti-Semitic slogans and displayed signs equating Israel with the Nazis. According to media reports, participants included members of Turkish extremist organizations such as the “Grey Wolves,” left-wing extremist groups, as well as families. After police attempted to end the demonstration due to noncompliance with COVID-19 restrictions, some demonstrators turned violent, throwing bottles, stones, and burning objects at police and journalists covering the event. Police were only able to restore order after several hours. In the disturbances 93 police officers were injured, and authorities arrested 59 persons for battery, assaulting police officers, and other charges. As of December police investigations continued. The same day, also in Berlin, unknown persons vandalized the memorial stone marking the site of a destroyed synagogue in the Hohenschoenhausen neighborhood. Berlin mayor Michael Mueller condemned the demonstration as “unacceptable.”

On June 5, a man, age 45, attempted to set fire to an Ulm synagogue, resulting in minor damage to the building. The suspect, a Turkish citizen, fled to Turkey after the attack. According to Baden-Wuerttemberg authorities, the Turkish government refused to extradite him. Following the attack, the Baden-Wuerttemberg state parliament passed a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism.

In August a Jewish resident, age 18, wearing a kippa was insulted and severely beaten by a group of young persons while sitting in a Cologne public park. The victim was hospitalized with broken bones in his face. Police identified two attackers via video cameras and arrested them. Police suspected the attack was motived by anti-Semitism but as of December investigations were ongoing.

In September a Halle police officer was suspended for repeatedly corresponding with Stephan Balliet, who had attacked the Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur 2019. The officer wrote Balliet at least 10 letters using a pseudonym and false address and was reported to have expressed sympathy for the attacker while minimizing his crimes in conversations with colleagues.

An attack in Hamburg on September 18 left a Jewish man, age 60, hospitalized with potentially lifelong injuries. According to Hamburg anti-Semitism commissioner Stefan Hensel, the perpetrator and his companions shouted, “free Palestine” and “f- Israel” at a pro-Israel vigil in central Hamburg. When the vigil participants asked them to stop, the attacker punched the Jewish man in the face and broke his nose and cheek bone. Hamburg police were searching for the unidentified assailant. Hamburg deputy mayor (equivalent to deputy governor) Katharina Fegebank strongly condemned the attack.

On October 8, a neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier from Oberhausen, NRW, was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Liebermann (1852-1934) in the country’s largest Protestant cemetery, located in Stahnsdorf, near Berlin. The burial, during which Liebermann’s headstone was covered by a black cloth quoting the Bible verse “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” was attended by prominent neo-Nazis and Citizens of the Empire, according to media reports. The Protestant Church of Germany Berlin-Brandenburg was investigating how the request for the grave was approved, as well as possible consequences. Police were also investigating.

On August 23, Baden-Wuerttemberg interior minister Thomas Strobl officially inaugurated country’s first two police rabbis, Moshe Flomenmann from Loerrach and Shneur Trebnik from Ulm, to serve as counselors and contact persons for prospective and existing police officers as well as community members.

Many prominent government officials repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism throughout the year, including Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. In 2018 the federal government created the position federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany and the fight against anti-Semitism. Since then, 15 of 16 states have also established state-level commissioners to combat anti-Semitism. In the one state not to have instituted a commissioner, the Bremen Jewish community told the state government it was not necessary to introduce such a position, and that they deemed alternative tools to combat anti-Semitism to be more efficient. The positions’ responsibilities vary by state but involve meeting with the Jewish community, collecting statistics on anti-Semitic acts, and designing education and prevention programs. A federal- and state-level Commission to Combat Anti-Semitism and Protect Jewish Life including all commissioners met twice a year to coordinate strategies.

In April, Hamburg launched a publicly funded independent reporting agency for anti-Semitism and other racist incidents.

In August the NRW state government established a reporting office for anti-Semitic assaults that do not rise to the level of criminal charges. The office was temporarily administered by the North Rhine State Association of Jewish Communities until a new organization could be established.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Federal and state laws require public authorities take measures to ensure persons with disabilities have equal access and treatment in education, health, public services, and transportation. These include the elimination of physical barriers in buildings and transportation; communication assistance; the elimination of barriers to applying for and accessing public services; the provision of public information in accessible formats; and ensuring access to the political process. These requirements were not always implemented. For example, most physicians’ offices often located in older buildings were not accessible to persons with disabilities, and there were too few health-care facilities able to address the specific health-care needs of persons with disabilities. Government information and communications were not always provided in accessible formats, especially at the local level.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law makes no specific mention of the rights of persons with sensory or intellectual disabilities, but their rights are considered included under the other headings. NGOs disagreed whether the government effectively enforced these provisions.

Persons with disabilities also faced hurdles in employment and housing. While discrimination based on a disability was illegal, the unemployment rate among persons of working age was much higher than in the general population. Not enough suitable employment opportunities were available for persons with disabilities, and despite requirements that private companies employ persons with disabilities, many chose to pay a fine instead of doing so. There was also a shortage of affordable, accessible, and barrier-free housing for persons with disabilities and older, privately owned residential and commercial buildings were often exempt from accessibility regulations.

An estimated 1.3 million adults were living under conservatorships in the country, many of them with a disability, whose rights were restricted to various degrees under conservatorship laws. In 2021, 85,000 persons with disabilities under conservatorship were permitted to vote in the federal elections for the first time, after the federal constitutional court ruled in 2019 that a ban on voting by persons with disabilities under was unconstitutional. In March the government extensively reformed conservatorship laws, effective 2023, to give persons under conservatorship more control over their own lives. NGOs such as the Institute for Human Rights stated that the reforms did not go far enough, for example because they still permitted involuntary medical treatment or sterilization in some cases.

State officials decide whether children with disabilities may attend mainstream or segregated schools. The law obliges all children to attend school, so those with disabilities do so at the same rate as children without disabilities. Approximately 43 percent of children with disabilities attended schools with their peers in public schools, while the remainder attended segregated schools, although inclusion levels varied significantly between the country’s different states. Somewhat more than half of the students with disabilities attending school with their peers successfully completed their secondary education, compared to more than one in four of those attending segregated schools.

According to FADA, many persons with disabilities believed they were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 measures, especially mask requirements, and were stigmatized as COVID-19 deniers when raising their concerns. The number of complaints to FADA by persons with disabilities tripled to 2,631 cases in 2020, 41 percent of the total, which declared more must be done to meet needs of the persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example by expanding outdoor retail or delivery options.

In March a Leipzig court convicted a Red Cross transportation service driver of the rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment of several children with disabilities and young adults whom he transported to education and care facilities. The court sentenced him to four years in prison.

Police in Wuerzburg arrested a speech therapist in March and charged him with the sexual abuse of children with disabilities under his treatment; a court convicted him of severe sexual abuse in May, sentencing him to 11 years in prison.

In April police arrested a caregiver at a Potsdam residential facility for persons with disabilities and charged her with killing three residents and wounding a fourth that same month. The trial continued as of November.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The NGO German AIDS Foundation and the NGO German AIDS Service Organization reported that societal discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS ranged from isolation and negative comments from acquaintances, family, and friends to bullying at work.

In September the NGO German AIDS Service Organization published a survey showing that that 56 percent of HIV-positive persons had experienced discrimination due to the HIV status in the previous year, with 16 percent being refused dental treatment and 8 percent experiencing such discrimination in health care. The impact of this discrimination was greater than that of the infection itself, respondents said.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists and community members complained of violent attacks and a growing atmosphere of hostility towards LGBTQI+ persons across the country, often directed at transgender individuals. Official crime statistics recorded 782 hate crimes against LGBTQI+ persons nationwide, 154 of which were violent and 144 of which involved battery. Community activists suspected true figures were much higher and counted three anti-LGBTQI+ killings in the country in 2020. The Berlin NGO Maneo identified 510 hostile incidents in Berlin alone in 2020, 119 of which involved battery or attempted battery.

On March 16, Frankfurt prosecutors charged with aggravated battery three individuals aged 16, 17, and 18 who had attacked a LGBTQI+ individual, age 20, in Frankfurt in November 2020 after he had spoken in a YouTube video regarding queer topics and hostility toward the LGBTQI+ community. They were expected to be tried in juvenile court.

On March 20, an unknown man attacked a trans woman in Frankfurt with verbal insults and several punches to her face, resulting in light injuries and hospitalization. Following the attack, trans rights activist Julia Monro praised the communications practices of Frankfurt police, especially for having explicitly named transphobia as the motive for the attack.

On May 21, the Dresden Higher Regional Court sentenced a Syrian refugee, age 20, and known Islamist to life imprisonment followed by a conditional security detention for attacking a gay couple in Dresden with a knife in October 2020, fatally injuring one of them. The state Ministry of the Interior and Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Saxony rejected a homophobic motive, focusing instead on the crime’s radical Islamist background. LGBTQI+ advocacy groups decried this as “unacceptable” and “disturbing.”

On June 24, the day of Berlin’s pride march, a group of unknown persons attacked a march participant from behind before punching him in the face; he required medical treatment for his injuries. Earlier that same evening, a group of persons punched and kicked three other marchers in a Berlin park while shouting anti-LGBTQI+ insults; all three were injured. Police arrested three suspects. The previous afternoon a man aged 18 assaulted a gay couple in the subway and the city’s plaque commemorating the gay liberation movement had been vandalized.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Under the law offering, advertising, or arranging treatments to convert homosexual or transgender minors by means of “conversion therapy” is a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. Penalties are also possible if persons of legal age have been coerced to undergo such “therapy.”

LGBTQI+ activists criticized the law’s requirement that transgender persons obtain two assessments by independent experts to receive legal gender recognition (including a legal name change), as expensive, time consuming, subjective, and intrusive.

In July the Cologne District Court fined a Polish theology professor and priest for inciting hatred by calling homosexuals in the Roman Catholic church a “cancer” and “colony of parasites,” in a January church periodical article. The publication was also fined; both defendants appealed the decision.

A professor previously convicted of defamation of LGBTQI+ persons won his appeal on March 2. In August 2020 a Kassel district court had found Kassel University biology professor Ulrich Kutschera guilty of defamation and fined him. In a 2017 interview, Kutschera had alleged that sexual abuse of children was likelier to occur among same-sex parents and called same-sex couples “asexual erotic duos without reproduction potential.” Kutschera appealed his conviction to the Kassel State Court, which overturned the lower court’s decision, ruling that his statements were covered by constitutional free speech protections.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution, federal legislation, and government regulations provide for the right of employees to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Wildcat strikes are not allowed. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and offers legal remedies to claim damages, including the reinstatement of unlawfully dismissed workers.

Some laws and regulations limit these labor rights. While civil servants are free to form or join unions, their wages and working conditions are determined by legislation, not by collective bargaining. All civil servants (including some teachers, postal workers, railroad employees, and police) and members of the armed forces are prohibited from striking.

Employers are generally free to decide whether to be a party to a collective bargaining agreement. Even if they decide not to be a party, companies must apply the provisions of a collective agreement if the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs declares a collective bargaining agreement generally binding for the whole sector. Employers not legally bound by collective bargaining agreements often used them to determine part or all their employees’ employment conditions. Employers may contest in court a strike’s proportionality and a trade union’s right to take strike actions. The law does not establish clear criteria on strikes, and courts often relied on case law and precedent.

The government enforced applicable laws effectively. Actions and measures by employers to limit or violate freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are considered unlawful and lead to fines. Penalties and remediation efforts were commensurate with those of equivalent laws denying civil rights.

Laws regulate cooperation between management and work councils (companies’ elected employee representation), including the right of the workers to be involved in management decisions that could affect them. Work councils are independent from labor unions but often have close ties to the sector’s labor movement. The penalty for employers who interfere in work councils’ elections and operations is up to one year in prison or a fine. Labor organizers complained a significant number of employers interfered with the election of work council members or tried to deter employees from organizing new work councils. This practice has been criticized by labor unions for a long time; they called for stronger legislation that shields employees seeking to exercise their rights under the law.

Between August 10 and September 9, the train engineers’ union GDL called three rail strikes as part of negotiations with the national rail company Deutsche Bahn (DB). DB challenged the third and final strike in a labor court. The Frankfurt Main Labor Court rejected DB’s request and upheld GDL’s right to strike.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution and federal law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties for forced labor range from six months to 10 years in prison and were generally commensurate with those of other serious crimes. The government effectively enforced the law when they found violations, but NGOs questioned the adequacy of resources to investigate and prosecute the crime. Some traffickers received light or suspended sentences that weakened deterrence and undercut efforts to hold traffickers accountable, but the language was generally consistent with the country’s sentencing practices.

There were reports of forced labor involving adults, mainly in the construction and food service industries. There were also reported cases in domestic households and industrial plants. In 2020 police completed 22 labor-trafficking investigations (up 57 percent from 2019) that identified 73 victims, nearly a third (21) of whom were from Romania.

In January the Federal Criminal Police announced it would lead a Europe-wide effort against Vietnamese human-trafficking networks. Since then, federal and state authorities conducted at least six operations, including an international effort with Slovakian authorities. From May 31 to June 6, the Customs Office’s Financial Control Illicit Work Unit, (FKS) conducted a joint investigation with state and federal police forces and Europol in Erfurt. The FKS investigated 125 suspects and 41 companies for smuggling persons and labor exploitation of Vietnamese nationals. At least three workers without legal resident status were identified, one of whom was working without pay. On June 28, more than 100 officers raided a Berlin construction company suspected of labor trafficking and identified 10 Vietnamese nationals working without legal residence status. Police issued “start-up certificates” to at least 13 potential victims, enabling them to establish legal residence, apply for asylum, and receive benefits.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment, including limitations on working hours and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 15 with a few exceptions: Children who are 13 or 14 may perform work on a family-run farm for up to three hours per day or perform services such as delivering magazines and leaflets, babysitting, and dog walking for up to two hours per day, if authorized by their custodial parent. Children younger than 15 may not work during school hours, before 8 a.m., after 6 p.m., or on Saturdays, Sundays, or public holidays. The type of work must not pose any risk to the security, health, or development of the child and must not prevent the child from obtaining schooling and training. Children are not allowed to work with hazardous materials, carry or handle items weighing more than 22 pounds, perform work requiring an unsuitable posture, or engage in work that exposes them to the risk of an accident. Children between the ages of three and 14 may take part in cultural performances, but there are strict limits on the kind of activity, number of hours, and time of day.

The government effectively enforced the applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those of other serious crimes. Isolated cases of child labor occurred in small, family-owned businesses, such as cafes, restaurants, family farms, and grocery stores. Inspections by the regional inspection agencies and the resources and remediation available to them were adequate to ensure broad compliance.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in all areas of occupation and employment, from recruitment, self-employment, and promotion to career advancement. Although origin and citizenship are not explicitly listed as grounds of discrimination in the law, victims of such discrimination have other means to assert legal claims. The law obliges employers to protect employees from discrimination at work.

The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations during the year. Employees who believe they are victims of discrimination have a right to file an official complaint and to have the complaint heard. If an employer fails to protect the employee effectively, employees may remove themselves from places and situations of discrimination without losing employment or pay. In cases of violations of the law, victims of discrimination are entitled to injunctions, removal, and material or nonmaterial damages set by court decision. Penalties were commensurate with those of other civil rights violations. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) reported that, of the 6,383 inquiries concerning discrimination or other requests for assistance it received in 2020 (the latest statistics available), at least 23 percent (approximately 1,468) concerned employment or the workplace.

FADA highlighted that applicants of foreign descent and with foreign names faced discrimination even when they had similar or better qualifications than others. In 2020, FADA received 2,101 complaints alleging discrimination in the workplace or when accessing services because of ethnic background. FADA reported racism experienced in connection with the pandemic particularly affected persons perceived as Asian, as well as Sinti and Roma.

The law provides for equal pay for equal work. In March the Federal Statistical Office found the gross hourly wages of women in 2020 were on average 18 percent lower than those of men. It attributed pay differences in the sectors and occupations in which women and men were employed, as well as unequal requirements for leadership experience and other qualifications as the principal reasons for the pay gap. Women were underrepresented in highly paid managerial positions and overrepresented in some lower-wage occupations. FADA reported women were also at a disadvantage regarding promotions, often due to career interruptions for child rearing. In 2020, 79 workers contacted FADA to report being professionally disadvantaged due to pregnancy. FADA also reported the COVID-19 pandemic particularly increased psychological and health burdens for women, who make up a large percentage of the health and retail sectors where they faced additional workload and greater risk of infection.

The law imposes a gender quota of 30 percent for supervisory boards of certain publicly traded corporations. It also requires approximately 3,500 companies to set and publish self-determined targets for increasing the share of women in leading positions (executive boards and management) and to report on their performance. Consequently, the share of women on the supervisory boards of those companies bound by the law increased from approximately 20 percent in 2015 to 35 percent in 2020.

There were reports of employment discrimination against persons with disabilities. The unemployment rate among persons with disabilities increased to 11.8 percent in 2020, remaining considerably higher than that of the general population (on average 5.9 percent for 2020). Employers with 20 or more employees must hire persons with significant disabilities to fill at least 5 percent of all positions; companies with 20 to 40 employees must fill one position with a person with disabilities, and companies with 40 to 60 employees must fill two positions. Each year companies file a mandatory form with the employment office verifying whether they meet the quota for employing persons with disabilities. Companies that fail to meet these quotas pay a monthly fine for each required position not filled by a person with disabilities. In 2019 nearly 105,000 employers did not employ enough persons with disabilities and paid fines.

The law provides for equal treatment of foreign workers, although foreign workers faced some wage discrimination. For example, employers, particularly in the construction sector, sometimes paid lower wages to seasonal workers from Eastern Europe.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The nationwide statutory minimum wage is below the internationally defined “at risk of poverty threshold” of two-thirds of the national median wage. The minimum wage does not apply to persons younger than 18, long-term unemployed persons during their first six months in a new job, or apprentices undergoing vocational training, regardless of age. Several sectors set their own higher minimum wages through collective bargaining.

The government effectively enforced the laws and monitored compliance with the statutory and sector-wide minimum wages and hours of work through the Customs Office’s Financial Control Illicit Work Unit, which conducted checks on nearly 45,000 companies in 2020. Focus areas included the meat industry and parcel services where alleged wage and hour violations are historically more common due to the practice of employing primarily migrant workers through subcontracting chains. The country partially ended this practice in the meat industry through a law governing the use of works contracts which entered force in January 2021. Employees may sue companies if employers fail to comply with the Minimum Wage Act, and courts may sentence employers who violate the provisions to pay a substantial fine. Penalties for wage and hour violations were commensurate with those of similar crimes.

Federal regulations set the standard workday at eight hours, with a maximum of 10 hours, and limit the average workweek to 48 hours. For the 54 percent of employees who are directly covered by collective bargaining agreements, the average agreed working week under existing agreements is 37.7 hours. The law requires a break after no more than six hours of work, stipulates regular breaks totaling at least 30 minutes, and sets a minimum of 24 days of paid annual leave in addition to official holidays. Provisions for overtime, holiday, and weekend pay varied, depending upon the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Such agreements or individual contracts prohibited excessive compulsory overtime and protected workers against arbitrary employer requests.

Occupational Safety and Health: Extensive laws and regulations govern occupational safety and health. A comprehensive system of worker insurance carriers enforced safety requirements in the workplace. Penalties for occupational safety and health violations were commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and its state-level counterparts monitored and enforced occupational safety and health standards through a network of government bodies, including the Federal Agency for Occupational Safety and Health. This differed from wage and hour inspections which were primarily overseen by the Customs Office’s Financial Control Illicit Work Unit. At the local level, professional and trade associations self-governing public corporations with delegates representing both employers and unions as well as works councils oversaw worker safety. The number of inspectors was sufficient to ensure compliance. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

The number of work accidents continued to decline among full-time employees, and 2020 saw workplace fatalities fall to 399 from 497 in 2019. Most accidents occurred in the construction, transportation, and postal logistics industries.

Various meat-processing facilities had very high rates of COVID-19 infection at a time when the country witnessed low overall infection rates. Local authorities often blamed these on plant working and housing conditions for the largely Eastern European and sometimes seasonal workforce. In December 2020, in response to such outbreaks, the Bundestag passed legislation limiting the use of independent contractors and subcontractors in the meat processing industry, mandating electronically monitored working hours, and improving worker housing. The legislation took effect January 1.

Informal Sector: The country includes some data on the informal economy in GDP calculations but does not publish separate official statistics. The informal economy accounts for approximately 10 percent of the country’s GDP. According to the 2019 Act to Combat Unlawful Employment and Benefit Fraud, part of the FKS’ mandate includes monitoring undeclared and illegal work. The FKS has approximately 7,500 personnel assigned to investigate employers and employees not fulfilling certain social security, tax, social benefit, or employment reporting obligations. In 2020 FKS inspections included meat-processing facilities, parcel-delivery services, nail salons, restaurants, and construction sites. An unspecified amount of undeclared work occurred through bogus self-employment. The law recognizes dependent self-employment and approximately 9.6 percent of the country’s working population was self-employed.

Hong Kong

Read A Section: Hong Kong

China | Macau | Tibet

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of the Special Administrative Region specified that, except in matters of defense and foreign affairs, Hong Kong would have a high degree of autonomy under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework. During the year, China continued to dismantle Hong Kong’s political freedoms and autonomy in violation of these international commitments. Amendments to the Basic Law fundamentally changed Hong Kong’s electoral system to allow Beijing effectively to block participation of political groups not approved by Beijing. The Hong Kong government arrested or disqualified opposition pan-democratic politicians, blocking their participation in upcoming elections. Pro-Beijing candidates won 89 of the 90 seats in the December Legislative Council election, which was widely regarded as fundamentally flawed. The turnout rate of 30.2 percent was a record low since Hong Kong’s handover to the People’s Republic of China in 1997.

The Hong Kong Police Force maintains internal security and reports to the Security Bureau. The Security Bureau continues to report to the chief executive; however, the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force, established by the National Security Law, operates under the supervision of the central government, and the National Security Law permits the embedding of mainland security personnel within the department. In addition, the National Security Law established a Committee on National Security in the Hong Kong government that reports to the central government, as well as an Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong that is staffed by members of mainland security agencies. Unaccountable under Hong Kong law, the Office allows mainland China security elements to operate openly, contradicting the spirit and practice of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the “One Country, Two Systems” framework. It is no longer clear if Hong Kong’s civilian authorities maintain effective autonomous control over the city’s security services. Hong Kong security forces have taken actions – to include arrests against nonviolent protesters, opposition politicians, activists, journalists, union members, and others deemed by local officials to be critical of the central and Special Administrative Region governments.

Beijing undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and eroded civil liberties and democratic institutions throughout the year. Hong Kong and Chinese authorities repeatedly threatened or arrested associations, groups, or individuals affiliated with the prodemocracy movement, undermining fundamental freedoms otherwise provided for under the Basic Law. Following accusations made by Beijing-controlled media organs, Hong Kong authorities investigated and cut government ties with these groups, in some cases freezing their assets and forcing them to cease operations. Even after threatened groups disbanded, authorities continued targeting key members for investigations and arrests. These procedures were applied to prodemocratic parties, trade unions, and professional associations, among others.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary arrests and detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals outside of Hong Kong; serious problems regarding the independence of the judiciary in certain areas; arbitrary interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and censorship; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; restrictions on the freedom of movement and on the right to leave the territory; the inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; trafficking in persons; and significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association, including coercive actions against independent trade unions and arrests of labor union activists.

The government took few steps to identify, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses. The government prosecuted at least one case of official corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were, however, reports of government corruption and a growing culture of impunity from prosecution for police and security sector officials.

Corruption: Opposition activists claimed that three senior government officials were treated leniently after attending a group dinner in violation of social distancing regulations in March. The Department of Justice cleared a senior police official in the National Security Department of illegal misconduct for visiting an unlicensed massage parlor where illegal sex services were reportedly being offered, although six women were arrested and four ultimately charged from the same police raid. The officer was subsequently reassigned to lead the police force personnel and training department.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups reported increasing government scrutiny, harassment, and restrictions, although some continued to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases. The SAR used the NSL to force organizations expressing criticism of the PRC to cease operations, to self-censor, or to change operational procedures to protect their staff. The forced disbandment of multiple trade unions and other organizations created a chilling effect on the remaining groups that were historically critical of the central government.

In October Amnesty International announced it would close its Hong Kong office, as well as its Hong Kong-based regional office, by the end of the year. The organization stated that the NSL made it “impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government.”

PRC and SAR officials repeatedly accused local and international NGOs that alleged human rights abuses in the SAR of “sowing discord.”

A SAR court denied bail to a media executive in November in apparent response to international condemnation of the executive’s arrest as an infringement on freedom of the press. The court cited a statement by the Media Freedom Coalition, signed by 21 governments, as well as a separate statement by the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, as evidence of a close association among Cheung Kim-hung, CEO of Apple Daily parent company Next Digital, and “foreign political groups.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is an Office of the Ombudsman and an Equal Opportunities Commission. The government recruits commissioners to represent both offices through a professional search committee, which solicits applications and vets candidates. Commissioners were independent. Both organizations operated without interference from the SAR government and published critical findings in their areas of responsibility. NGOs stated that the Equal Opportunities Commission had a narrow mandate that did not allow for deep investigations, and limited support from the SAR government.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against women, including spousal rape, but does not explicitly criminalize rape against men. Support organizations for sexual and domestic violence reported an increase in gender-based violence based on the larger volume of calls to their hotlines and requests for mental health-care assistance. Activists expressed concern that rape was underreported, especially within ethnic minority communities.

The law does not directly criminalize domestic violence, but the government regarded domestic violence against women as a serious concern. Abusers may be liable for criminal charges under laws on offenses against the person, sexual assault, and child mistreatment, depending on which act constituted domestic violence. The government effectively prosecuted violators under existing criminal violations.

The law allows survivors to seek a three-month injunction, extendable to six months, against an abuser. The ordinance covers abuse between spouses, heterosexual and homosexual cohabitants, former spouses or cohabitants, and immediate and extended family members. It protects victims younger than 18, allowing them to apply for an injunction in their own right, with the assistance of an adult guardian, against abuse by parents, siblings, and specified immediate and extended family members. The law also empowers courts to require that an abuser attend an antiviolence program. In cases in which the abuser caused bodily harm, the court may attach an arrest warrant to an existing injunction and extend the validity of both injunctions and arrest warrants to two years.

The government maintained programs provided intervention, counseling, and assistance to domestic violence survivors and abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex, marital status, and pregnancy. The law applies to both men and women, and police generally enforced it effectively. There were multiple reports, however, of sexual harassment in housing, the workplace, and universities.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The SAR’s sexual discrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sex or pregnancy status, and the law authorizes the Equal Opportunities Commission to work towards the elimination of discrimination and harassment as well as to promote equal opportunity for men and women. Although the government generally enforced these laws, women reportedly faced some discrimination in employment, salary, welfare, inheritance, and promotion.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Although ethnic Chinese account for most of the population, the SAR is a multiethnic society, with persons from multiple ethnic groups recognized as permanent residents with full rights by law. The law prohibits discrimination, and the Equal Opportunities Commission oversees implementation and enforcement of the law. The commission maintained a hotline for inquiries and complaints concerning racial discrimination. Although the SAR government took steps to reduce discrimination, there were frequent reports of discrimination against ethnic minorities; the law does not clearly cover racial discrimination occurring during law enforcement activity.

Advocates stated there were indications of racism in COVID-19 testing and quarantine measures. Returning South and Southeast Asian SAR minority group residents complained of poor quarantine facilities, wait times, and diet, and accused the SAR of discrimination.

Persons born in mainland China also experienced frequent discrimination. Nonpermanent residents did not receive SAR cash subsidies to help with the COVID-19 pandemic-related economic downturn until eight months after the pandemic spread to the SAR.

Children

Birth Registration: All Chinese nationals born in the SAR, on the mainland, or abroad to parents, of whom at least one is a Chinese national and Hong Kong permanent resident, acquire both Chinese citizenship and Hong Kong permanent residence. Children born in the SAR to non-Chinese parents, at least one of whom is a Hong Kong permanent resident, acquire SAR permanent residence and qualify to apply for naturalization as Chinese citizens. Authorities routinely registered all such statuses.

Child Abuse: The law mandates protection for survivors of child abuse (battery, assault, neglect, abandonment, and sexual exploitation), and the SAR government enforced the law. The law allows for the prosecution of certain sexual offenses, including those against minors, committed outside the territory of the SAR.

The government provided parent education programs through its maternal- and child-health centers, public education programs, clinical psychologists, and social workers. Police maintained a child abuse investigation unit and, in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department, operated a child witness support program.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 16 for both girls and boys; however, parents’ written consent is required for marriage before age 21.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is effectively 16. By law, a person having “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a person younger than 16 is subject to five years’ imprisonment, while unlawful sexual intercourse with a person younger than 13 carries a sentence of life imprisonment. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and procuring children for commercial sex. The law makes it an offense to possess, produce, copy, import, or export pornography involving a child or to publish or cause to be published any advertisement that conveys, or is likely to be understood as conveying, the message that a person has published, publishes, or intends to publish any child pornography. Authorities enforced the law. The penalty for creation, publication, or advertisement of child pornography is eight years’ imprisonment, while possession carries a penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

International Child Abductions: The SAR is 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The active Jewish community numbered approximately 2,500 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions. The government took action to investigate and punish those responsible for violence or abuses against persons with disabilities. The government generally implemented laws and programs to provide persons with disabilities access to education, employment, the judicial system, and health services. The law on disabilities states that children with separate educational needs must have equal opportunity in accessing education. Some human rights groups considered the SAR’s disability law too limited and that its implementation did not promote equal opportunities. The Social Welfare Department provided training and vocational rehabilitation services to assist persons with disabilities, offered subsidized resident-care services for persons deemed unable to live independently, offered preschool services to children with disabilities, and provided community support services for persons with mental disabilities, their families, and other residents interested in improving their mental health.

The government generally implemented laws and programs to provide persons with disabilities access to information, communications, and buildings, although there were reports of some restrictions. The law calls for improved building access and provides for sanctions against those who discriminate.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. While the SAR has laws that ban discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, disability, and family status, no law prohibits companies or individuals from discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are also no laws that specifically aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) community. Lawmakers expressed both strong support for, and strong opposition to, LGBTQI+ rights. LGBTQI+ activists reported that they considered the courts to be the primary avenue to secure LGBTQI+ rights and viewed the courts as impartial in decisions on LGBTQI+ issues.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for workers to form and join unions, but the SAR and PRC authorities took repeated actions that violated the principle of union independence. The law does not protect the right to collective bargaining or obligate employers to bargain. The law prohibits civil servants from bargaining collectively.

The law prohibits firing an employee for striking and voids any section of an employment contract that punishes a worker for striking. The commissioner of police has broad authority to control and direct public gatherings, including strikes, in the interest of national security or public safety.

By law an employer may not fire, penalize, or discriminate against an employee who exercises his or her union rights and may not prevent or deter the employee from exercising such rights. Penalties for violations of laws protecting union and related worker rights include fines as well as legal damages paid to workers. Penalties were commensurate with those under other laws involving the denial of civil rights.

The law was not effectively enforced, and the government repressed independent unions and their confederations. SAR and national authorities publicly claimed that strikes and other union-organized activities during the prodemocracy movement in 2019-20 were “anti-China” in nature, and pressure from officials and from PRC-supported media outlets led many unions to disband.

In August, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, the city’s largest professional trade union with approximately 95,000 members, decided to dissolve after facing pressure from PRC-supported media, which called the union a “poisonous tumor” to be eradicated, and the announcement hours later by the Hong Kong Education Bureau that it would cease working with the union.

On October 3, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions voted to dissolve. Founded in 1990, the confederation included more than 80 unions from a variety of trades and grew to more than 100,000 members. Chairman Wong Tik-yuen reported that union members received threats against their personal safety if union operations were to continue.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor, nor do laws specifically criminalize forced labor. Instead, the SAR uses its Employment and Theft Ordinances to prosecute forced labor and related offenses. Because these violations are typically civil offenses with fines, penalties for these offenses were not commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping, which violate the Crimes Ordinance and carry prison terms.

NGOs expressed concerns that some migrant workers, especially domestic workers in private homes, faced high levels of indebtedness assumed as part of the recruitment process, creating a risk they could be subjected to forced labor through debt-based coercion. Domestic workers in the SAR were mostly women and mainly came from the Philippines, Indonesia, and other Southeast and South Asian countries. The SAR allows for the collection of maximum placement fees of 10 percent of the first month’s wages, but some recruitment firms required large up-front fees in the country of origin that workers struggled to repay. Some locally licensed employment agencies were suspected of colluding with local money lenders and agencies overseas to profit from debt schemes, and some local agencies illegally withheld the passports and employment contracts of domestic workers until they repaid the debt.

SAR authorities stated they encouraged aggrieved workers to file complaints and make use of government conciliation services, and that they actively pursued reports of any labor violations (see section 7.e., Acceptable Conditions of Work).

See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. Regulations prohibit employment of children younger than 15 in any industrial establishment. Children younger than 13 are prohibited from taking up employment in all economic sectors. Children who are 13 or older may be employed in nonindustrial establishments, subject to certain requirements, such as parental written consent and proof the child has completed the required schooling.

The Labor Department effectively enforced these laws and regularly inspected workplaces to enforce compliance with the regulations. Penalties for child labor law violations include fines and legal damages and were not commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping, that violate the Crimes Ordinance and carry prison terms.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit employment discrimination based on race or ethnicity, disability, family status (marital status or pregnancy), or sex. The law stipulates employers must prove that proficiency in a particular language is a justifiable job requirement if they reject a candidate on those grounds. Regulations do not prohibit employment discrimination on the grounds of age, color, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status. The law authorizes the Equal Opportunities Commission to work towards the elimination of discrimination and harassment as well as to promote equal opportunity for men and women.

The government generally enforced these laws and regulations. In cases in which employment discrimination occurred, SAR courts had broad powers to levy penalties on those violating these laws and regulations. Although the government generally enforced these laws, women reportedly faced some discrimination in employment, salary, welfare, inheritance, and promotion.

Human rights activists and local scholars continued to raise concerns about job prospects for minority students, who were more likely to hold low-paying, low-skilled jobs and earn below-average wages.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The statutory minimum wage was below the poverty line for an average-sized household. The law does not regulate working hours, paid weekly rest, rest breaks, or compulsory overtime for most employees. Several labor groups reported that employers expected extremely long hours and called for legislation to address that concern.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law includes occupational safety and health standards for various industries. Workplace health and safety laws allow workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Employers are required to report any injuries sustained by their employees in work-related accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Branch of the Labor Department is responsible for safety and health promotion, identification of unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety management legislation, and policy formulation and implementation. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate investigations and prosecutions. For the first half of the year, the Labor Department reported 14,368 cases of occupational accidents.

The government effectively enforced the law, and the number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance except in the cases of nonpayment or underpayment of wages to, and working conditions of, domestic workers. There were many press reports regarding poor conditions faced by, and underpayment of wages to, domestic workers. Labor inspectors have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Penalties for violations of the minimum wage or occupational safety and health standards include fines, damages, and worker’s compensation payments. These penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. The Labor Tribunal adjudicated disputes involving nonpayment or underpayment of wages and wrongful dismissal.

Kenya

Executive Summary

Kenya is a republic with three branches of government: an executive branch, led by a directly elected president; a bicameral parliament consisting of the Senate and National Assembly; and a judiciary. In the 2017 general elections, the second under the 2010 constitution, citizens cast ballots for president, deputy president, and parliamentarians, as well as county governors and legislators. International and domestic observers judged the elections generally credible, although some civil society groups and the opposition alleged there were irregularities. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared Jubilee Coalition Party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta had won re-election as president over opposition candidate Raila Odinga. The Supreme Court subsequently annulled the results for president and deputy president, citing irregularities, and the court ordered a new vote for president and deputy president that the opposition boycotted. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared President Kenyatta winner of the new vote, and the Supreme Court upheld the results.

The National Police Service maintains internal security and reports to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. The National Intelligence Service collects intelligence both internally and externally and reports directly to the president. The Kenya Defense Forces report to the Ministry of Defense and are responsible for external security but have some domestic security responsibilities, including border security and supporting civilian organizations in the maintenance of order, including post disaster response. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or on behalf of the government and by the terrorist group al-Shabaab; forced disappearances by the government or on behalf of the government and by al-Shabaab; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary interference with privacy; restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists and censorship; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations and activists; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; and the existence and use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

Impunity at all levels of government continued to be a serious problem. The governmental Independent Policing Oversight Authority, established to provide civilian oversight of police, investigated numerous cases of misconduct. The government took limited and uneven steps to address cases of alleged unlawful killings by security force members, although the Independent Policing Oversight Authority continued to refer cases of police misconduct to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution. Impunity in cases of alleged corruption was also common.

Al-Shabaab staged deadly attacks on isolated communities along the border with Somalia, targeting both security forces and civilians. The government continued to prioritize investigations and prosecutions of terrorist activities. Human rights groups alleged security forces committed abuses, including extrajudicial killings, while conducting counterterrorism operations.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Officials frequently engaged in allegedly corrupt practices with impunity. Despite public progress in fighting corruption, the government continued to face hurdles in implementing relevant laws effectively. The slow processing of corruption cases was exacerbated by COVID-19 containment measures, with courts lacking sufficient technological capacity to hear cases remotely.

Corruption: The director of public prosecutions continued prosecutions of high-level cases involving six sitting county governors and dozens of national government and parastatal officials with ties to the ruling party and to the political opposition. A landmark ruling in 2019 bars county governors from accessing their offices until their corruption cases are concluded. Two governors were indicted and impeached by their county assemblies while their cases continued in the courts. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) also investigated high-level procurement irregularities at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency, a state agency with the sole mandate of procuring medications and equipment for government health centers. The investigations involved procurement of personal protective equipment at inflated costs and probed the alleged disappearance of personal protective equipment and other equipment donated to the country. These investigations and prosecutions continued at year’s end. In September the Anti-Corruption Court convicted two high-profile defendants, a former cabinet secretary and a former director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

The public continued to perceive corruption as a severe problem at all levels of government. Transparency International’s 2019 Global Corruption Barometer – Africa found 45 percent of respondents had paid a bribe, compared with 37 percent in the previous 2015 survey. Police and authorities issuing identification documents were cited the most for taking bribes. Corruption had increased according to 67 percent of respondents, and 71 percent believed the government was doing a poor job of combating corruption, unchanged from the results of Transparency’s 2015 Corruption Barometer.

In 2019 President Kenyatta appointed a new chief executive officer of the EACC, who introduced a new approach to tackling corruption that prioritized high-impact cases, systems reviews, assets recovery, and public communication. Officials from agencies tasked with fighting corruption, including the EACC, the ODPP, and judiciary, were also subjects of corruption allegations.

The EACC has the legal mandate to investigate official corruption allegations, develop and enforce a code of ethics for public officials, and engage in public outreach on corruption. The EACC, however, lacks prosecutorial authority and must refer cases to the ODPP to initiate prosecutions. Disagreements between the ODPP and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) regarding which office can initiate investigations and deliver files to court resulted in the delayed prosecution of the Kenya Ports Authority managing director on corruption allegations. In June 2020 the Kenyan Constitutional Court declared the DCI did not have power or authority to institute criminal proceedings before a court of law without consent from the ODPP. Following that ruling, the ODPP issued decision to charge guidelines to assist prosecutors in charging decisions.

The government took additional steps during the year to combat corruption, including increasing the number of investigations and prosecutions. The government made limited progress on other commitments, including adoption of international anticorruption standards and digitization of government records and processes. Because courts had significant case backlogs and relied heavily on trials (rather than settlements), cases could take years to resolve.

Police corruption remained a significant problem. Human rights NGOs reported police often stopped and arrested citizens to extort bribes. Police sometimes jailed citizens on trumped-up charges or beat those who could not pay the bribes. During police vetting conducted by the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) in recent years, many police officers were found to have the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in their bank accounts, far exceeding what would be possible to save from their salaries. Mobile money records showed some officers also transferred money to superior officers.

The judiciary and the National Police Service continued measures to reform the handling of traffic cases by police and courts, streamlining the management of traffic offenses to curb corruption. Despite this progress, no senior police official was convicted or jailed for corruption-related offenses during the year.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases, although some groups reported experiencing government harassment. Officials were sometimes cooperative and responsive to the queries of these groups, but the government did not implement recommendations by human rights groups if such recommendations were contrary to its policies. There were reports officials intimidated NGOs and threatened to disrupt their activities (see section 2.b.). Less-established NGOs, particularly in rural areas, reported harassment and threats by county officials as well as security forces. Human rights activists claimed security forces conducted surveillance of their activities, and some reported threats and intimidation.

There were also reports that officials and police officers threatened activists who sought justice for police killings and other serious abuses. The intimidation included threats of arrest, warnings not to post information about police brutality, home and office raids, and confiscation of laptops and other equipment.

In July the government began the process of reviewing host country agreements for 115 international governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations. Civil society activists expressed concern this process could be used to target organizations carrying out activities unaligned with government policy.

The Civil Society Reference Group condemned the July 15 killing of environmentalist Joannah Stutchbury at her home in Kiambu. According to the group’s statement, Stutchbury was killed because of her efforts to prevent individuals from excising parts of the Kiambu forest and wetlands. The group described her killing as evidence of a hostile and shrinking environment for human rights defenders. The Senate launched an inquiry into her killing, and a law enforcement investigation continued at year’s end.

In September the High Court ruled that four police officers and one civilian must stand trial for the 2016 triple homicide of International Justice Mission lawyer and investigator Willie Kimani, client Josphat Mwenda, and their driver Joseph Muiruri. The trial was underway at year’s end.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights reported security agencies continued to deny it full access to case-specific information and facilities to conduct investigations of human rights abuses as the constitution permits. The commission, however, noted improved access to detention facilities during the year.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights is an independent institution created by the constitution and established in 2011. Its mandate is to promote and protect human rights in the country. The body’s commissioners completed their terms in March 2020. In August the president officially announced the vacancies, and in September the government appointed a selection panel to interview and recommend nominees for formal appointment. The president nominated a new chairperson and four commissioners on December 29, but at year’s end they were awaiting parliamentary approval. The commission continued to function under the management of the CEO. Citing budget restrictions, the government again reduced the commission’s operating budget. The commission stated the budget was not sufficient to cover its expenses and fulfill its mandate. Its programmatic budget was entirely unfunded by the government, forcing the commission to secure funding from development partners.

The NPSC and IPOA, both government bodies, report to the National Assembly. The NPSC consists of six civilian commissioners, including two retired police officers, as well as the National Police Service inspector general and two deputies. The NPSC is responsible for recruiting, transferring, vetting, promoting, and disciplining National Police Service members.

The ODPP is empowered to direct the National Police Service inspector general to investigate any information or allegation of criminal conduct and to institute criminal proceedings in police abuse or corruption cases.

Police accountability mechanisms, including those of the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) and IPOA, maintained their capacity to investigate cases of police abuse. The IAU director reports directly to the National Police Service inspector general. The IAU did not hire any new officers or support staff during the year. It maintained 127 officers and 14 civilian support staff. Most investigators previously served in the Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police Service. The IAU conducts investigations into police misconduct, including criminal offenses not covered by IPOA. Between January and September, the IAU received approximately 715 complaints, down from 1,400 during the prior year. The EACC, an independent agency, investigates cases involving police corruption. IPOA also helps to train police officers on preventing abuses and other human rights issues but reported it did not conduct any human rights training during the year.

Between July 2020 and June 30, IPOA received 2,881 complaints, bringing the total since its inception in 2012 to 139,490 complaints. IPOA defines five categories of complaints. Category one complaints comprise the most serious crimes, such as murder, torture, rape, and serious injury, and result in an automatic investigation. In category two, serious crimes, such as assault without serious injury, are investigated on a case-by-case basis. Categories three to five, for less serious crimes, are generally not investigated, although during the year IPOA and the IAU entered regular dialogue about referring cases deemed less serious offenses for disciplinary action. If, after investigation, IPOA determines there is criminal liability in a case, it forwards the case to the ODPP. IPOA hired two new staff members between July 2020 and October and was in the process of replacing its CEO, who retired in August. IPOA’s budget for the financial year starting July 1 was reduced by approximately 1.6 percent due to economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and IPOA anticipated further budget reductions.

Although the law requires the NPSC to vet all serving police officers, it had not vetted any officers since the new commission took office in January 2019. Vetting required an assessment of each officer’s fitness to serve based on a review of documentation, including financial records, certificates of good conduct, and a questionnaire, as well as public input alleging abuse or misconduct. The NPSC reported it had vetted more than 15,000 officers since 2012.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of all persons, defilement (statutory rape), domestic violence, and sex tourism, but enforcement remained limited. The law’s definition of domestic violence includes sexual violence within marriage, early and forced marriage, FGM/C, forced wife “inheritance,” damage to property, defilement, economic abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, harassment, incest, intimidation, physical abuse, stalking, verbal abuse, or any other conduct against a person that harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person. The law does not explicitly criminalize spousal rape. Insulting the modesty of another person by intruding upon that person’s privacy or stripping them of clothing are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.

The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for rape when the survivor is older than 18, although sentences were at the discretion of the judge and usually no longer than the minimum of 10 years (see section 6, Children). Citizens frequently used traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms, including maslaha in Muslim communities, to address sexual offenses in rural areas, with village elders assessing financial compensation for the survivors or their families. They also used such mechanisms occasionally in urban areas.

The judiciary recorded 17,272 cases of gender-based violence filed in court between July 2019 and June 2020. The NGO Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya reported arrests and prosecutions of sexual violence cases remained low, even in cases in which survivors identified perpetrators, due to limited police resources to conduct investigations, insufficient evidence collection and handling mechanisms, and lengthy court proceedings, which made it difficult and expensive for survivors to pursue cases.

Although police no longer required physicians to examine survivors, physicians still had to complete official forms reporting rape. Rural areas generally had no police physician, and in Nairobi there were only three. NGOs reported police stations often but inconsistently accepted the examination report of clinical physicians who initially treated rape survivors. In October the National Police Service launched its “Policare” program, which sought to establish one-stop shops in every county to address and prevent gender-based violence. Police also launched an updated Integrated Response to Gender-Based Violence document, which standardized procedures and standards of care in these cases.

Authorities cited domestic violence as the leading cause of preventable, nonaccidental death for women. Except in cases of death, police officers generally refrained from investigating domestic violence, which they considered a private family matter.

NGOs expressed concerns regarding a rise in incidents of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and forced evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September Human Rights Watch released a report on the rise of gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report blamed the government for failing to protect and providing inadequate assistance to survivors.

A national helpline established by the Department of Gender Affairs received a total of 5,009 cases in 2020, an increase of 36 percent compared with the prior year. Survivors of sexual violence were unable to report crimes or seek medical treatment during curfew hours. The government established rescue centers for gender-based violence in West Pokot, Bungoma, Vihiga, Meru, and Mirgori Counties.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law makes it illegal to practice FGM/C, procure the services of someone who practices FGM/C, or send a person out of the country to undergo the procedure. The law also makes it illegal to make derogatory remarks about a woman who has not undergone FGM/C. In September the court dismissed a petition filed in 2017 to strike down the law banning FGM/C. The court ruled revoking the anti-FGM/C law would expose women to this harmful practice without sufficient legal protection. Government officials often participated in public-awareness programs to prevent the practice. Nevertheless, individuals practiced FGM/C widely, particularly in some rural areas. According to UNICEF, despite the legal prohibition of FGM/C and progress made by the government in eliminating the practice, myths supporting the practice remained deep rooted in some local cultures. UNICEF estimated 21 percent of adult women ages 15 to 49 had undergone the procedure some time in their lives, but the practice was heavily concentrated in a few communities, including the Maasai (78 percent), Samburu (86 percent), and Somali (94 percent).

As part of the government’s initiative to end FGM/C by 2022, the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs, and Special Programs continued work with county officials and nonstate actors to improve enforcement of the FGM/C law. This included education and advocacy efforts as well as prosecutions of those violating the law. NGOs and government officials reported a significant increase of FGM/C cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting school closures left girls more at risk. Many FGM/C rescue centers were closed partially or even totally due to the pandemic. Media reported arrests of perpetrators and parents who agreed to FGM/C, but parents in regions with a high prevalence of FGM/C frequently bribed police to allow the practice to continue. There were also reports FGM/C increasingly occurred in secret to avoid prosecution. County officials in areas with a high prevalence of FGM/C noted many cases targeted infants, with one recent government study finding an estimated 61 percent of girls younger than five in one county had undergone the procedure.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Certain communities practiced wife inheritance, in which a man inherits the widow of his brother or other close relative, regardless of her wishes. The practice was more likely in cases of poor women with limited access to education and living outside of major cities.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes prison time of at least three years or a fine of at least $880 or both for anyone found guilty of committing such crimes. Sexual harassment was often not reported, and survivors rarely filed charges.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Nonetheless, families of girls with disabilities sometimes colluded with medical professionals to sterilize them as a means of protecting them from sexual violence, according to a disability rights activist. See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.

The constitution recognizes the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Exercising this right, however, remained difficult due to the prohibitive costs of contraception for some persons, the limited information and services that were available, and cultural and religious norms in some areas that discouraged the use of modern contraceptives and gave men decision-making authority over women. Subsidized contraception options, including condoms, birth control pills, and long acting or permanent methods, were widely available to both men and women, although access was more difficult in rural areas.

A 2019 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that more than half of sexually active adolescent women between the ages of 15 and 19 who did not want to become pregnant had an unmet need for modern contraception and that almost two-thirds of pregnancies among this age group were unintended. The adolescent birth rate was 96 per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Access to sexual and reproductive health information by adolescents remained a problem due to lack of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, low coverage of youth-friendly services, and a lack of adequate stocks of contraceptives in public hospitals.

According to UNFPA, 56 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 made their own decisions regarding health care, contraception, and sex with their husbands or partners. NGOs reported that it was more difficult for marginalized groups, including LGBTQI+ persons, women with disabilities, displaced persons, and persons with HIV, to access reproductive health information and services.

Skilled obstetric, prenatal, and postpartum care was available in major hospitals, but many women could not access or afford these services. Skilled health-care personnel attended an estimated 62 percent of births, according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Maternity services were free of charge in all public health institutions in the country. The government’s Linda Mama program, a free health insurance plan that covers the pregnancy period and up to three months postdelivery, targeted women in rural and low-income areas and continued to operate during the year. NGOs reported that government measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a nationwide curfew and movement restrictions, led to an increase in maternal morbidity, a decrease in births attended by skilled health-care personnel, and a decrease in women receiving prenatal and postpartum care during the year.

Maternal deaths accounted for 51 percent of all deaths of women between the ages of 15 and 49, and the maternal mortality rate was 342 per 100,000 live births, according to the World Health Organization. Unsafe abortion, pregnancy, and birth complications limited access to health services, and harmful cultural practices were cited as among the main causes of maternal death and morbidity. UNFPA reported that maternal mortality in Mandera County was 3,795 deaths per 100,000 live births – the highest in the country – partially due to harmful cultural rites such as FGM/C and limited access to health services. In 2019 the High Court ruled that the director of medical services and the Ministry of Health had violated the rights of the country’s women by arbitrarily withdrawing standards and guidelines on reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortions.

The law provides pregnant girls the right to continue their education until and after giving birth, but NGOs reported schools often did not always respect this right (see section 6, Children). Human rights organizations reported teenage pregnancy often led girls to drop out of school without a safety net or plan for continued education after birth.

Discrimination: The constitution provides equal rights for men and women and specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language, or birth. Nevertheless, the justice system widely applied customary laws that discriminated against women, limiting their political and economic rights.

The constitution prohibits gender discrimination in relation to land and property ownership and gives women equal rights to inheritance and access to land. The constitution also provides for the enactment of legislation for the protection of wives’ rights to matrimonial property during and upon the termination of a marriage, and it affirms parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during the marriage, and at its dissolution. In September a judge presiding over a matrimonial property dispute ruled being a housewife should be considered a full-time job. The judge ruled it was unfair for courts to rule that housewives do not contribute to household financial wellbeing. According to civil society groups, women continued to face institutional and legal barriers that hindered their access to justice and a fair share of matrimonial property upon the dissolution of marriage. Additionally, the components of the law that stipulate how to apply for succession were little known, and thus many inheritances continued to pass from fathers to sons only.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Although the constitution declares the state shall not discriminate against any person based on race, societal discrimination against persons of different racial and ethnic groups was common. Enforcement of laws prohibiting discrimination was inadequate, according to human rights groups. The 2019 census recognized 45 ethnic groups in the country; none holds a majority. The Kikuyu and related groups dominated much of private commerce and industry and often purchased land outside their traditional home areas, which sometimes resulted in fierce resentment from other ethnic groups, especially in the coastal and Rift Valley areas. Competition for water and pasture was especially serious in the north and northeast.

There was frequent conflict, including banditry, fights over land, and cattle rustling, among the Somali, Turkana, Gabbra, Borana, Samburu, Rendille, and Pokot ethnic groups in arid northern, eastern, and Rift Valley areas that at times resulted in deaths. Disputes regarding county borders were also a source of ethnic tensions.

Media reported at least 18 persons died in July during tribal clashes regarding resources in Marsabit County along the border with Ethiopia. The government deployed security forces to stop the fighting, which had plagued the region for many years.

In September media reported at least eight persons died, and dozens of homes were burned in Laikipia County, as armed herders invaded privately run nature conservancies in search of water and grazing land for their livestock. In October the government deployed an interagency team to quell the violence after fighting broke out again.

Ethnic differences also caused several discriminatory employment practices (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from the citizenship of the parents, and either parent may transmit citizenship. Birth on the country’s territory does not convey citizenship. Birth registration is compulsory. An estimated 82 percent of births were officially registered in 2020, according to the Interior Ministry’s Civil Registration Services. Authorities attributed the increase in registered births to a rise in the number of women delivering in health centers. Lack of official birth certificates resulted in discrimination in delivery of public services. The Department of Civil Registration Services implements the Maternal Child Health Registration Strategy, which requires nurses administering immunizations to register the births of unregistered children.

Education: By law education is tuition free and compulsory until age 18, although public schools may impose fees for boarding, uniforms, and other expenses. The law also allows schools to charge tuition and other fees on children who are noncitizens of the country. Authorities did not enforce the mandatory attendance law uniformly. The government closed all schools in March 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but fully reopened all grades and schools in January 2021. Media reported widely on the negative impact of long-term school closures on students. In April a study found that 53 percent of students exhibited a decline in math proficiency. Civil society organizations highlighted a rise in teen pregnancy and drug use during the pandemic.

While the law provides pregnant girls the right to continue their education until and after giving birth, NGOs reported schools did not always respect this right (see section 6, Women). School executives sometimes expelled pregnant girls or transferred them to other schools. In recent years media outlets reported a significant number of girls failed to take their final secondary school examinations due to pregnancy. Final examinations were not held during the year due to the pandemic.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes several forms of violence that affect children, including early and forced marriage, FGM/C, incest, and physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. Violence against children, particularly in poor and rural communities, was common, and child abuse, including sexual abuse, occurred frequently. A recent Ministry of Labour report found nearly half of female children and more than half of male children experienced childhood violence. The study found emotional violence was also common.

According to IPOA, most police facilities did not have designated child protection units, and police usually requested the Department of Children Services to take custody of child survivors. Although all the police facilities that IPOA inspected during the year had at least one officer designated to handle children’s cases, only some of the officers had received training on handling these cases, and the police stations did not have sufficient resources to process the large number of cases involving child survivors. IPOA found the shortage of designated child protective units made it difficult for officers to record statements from child survivors due to the lack of privacy. According to IPOA, police also reported difficulties investigating cases such as child rape, since some communities defended the perpetrators and preferred to settle cases through traditional mechanisms.

The minimum sentence for conviction of statutory rape is life imprisonment if the survivor is younger than age 11; 20 years in prison if the survivor is between ages 11 and 15; and 10 years’ imprisonment if the survivor is 16 or 17. Although exact numbers were unavailable, during the year media reported several statutory rape convictions.

The government banned corporal punishment in schools, but there were reports corporal punishment occurred.

Although there were no reports the government recruited child soldiers, there were reports the al-Shabaab terrorist group recruited children in areas bordering Somalia.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 years for women and men. According to UNICEF, 25 percent of girls are married by 18. Media occasionally highlighted the problem of early and forced marriage common among some ethnic groups. Under the constitution the qadi courts retain jurisdiction over Muslim marriage and family law in cases where all parties profess the Muslim religion and agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts. NGOs reported an increase in child, early, and forced marriages during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting school closures left girls more vulnerable to the practice.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children, including prohibiting procurement of a child younger than age 18 for unlawful sexual relations. The law also prohibits domestic and international trafficking or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, transfer, or receipt of children up to age 18 to produce pornography or for pornographic performances. Provisions apply equally to girls and boys. The law has provisions regarding child trafficking, child sex tourism, child sexual exploitation, and child pornography. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. Nevertheless, according to human rights organizations, children were sexually exploited and victims of trafficking.

The DCI continued to expand its Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit, which is responsible for investigating cases of child sexual exploitation and abuse, providing guidance to police officers across the country on cases involving children, and liaising with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection’s Department of Children Services to identify and protect abused children.

NGOs, international organizations, and local officials expressed concerns with reports of rising number of pregnancies among teenage girls, resulting in part from increased sexual abuse and exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Displaced Children: Poverty and the spread of HIV and AIDS continued to intensify the problem of child homelessness. Street children faced harassment and physical and sexual abuse from police and others and within the juvenile justice system (see section 1.c.). The government operated programs to place street children in shelters and assisted NGOs in providing education, skills training, counseling, legal advice, and medical care to street children whom the commercial sex industry abused and exploited. According to UNHCR, 52 percent of refugees were younger than age 18 (see section 2.d.).

Children continued to face protection risks in urban areas, particularly unaccompanied and separated children. Alternative care arrangements, such as foster care placement, were in place for a limited number of children. Additionally, government child protection services and the children’s department often stepped in to provide protection to children at risk, particularly unaccompanied children.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community is small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities cannot access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. Several laws limit the rights of persons with disabilities. For example, the Marriage Act limits the rights of persons with mental disabilities to marry, and the Law of Succession limits the rights of persons with disabilities to inheritance. The constitution provides for legal representation of persons with disabilities in legislative and appointive bodies.

The Ministry for Devolution and Planning is the lead ministry for implementation of the law to protect persons with disabilities. The quasi-independent but government-funded parastatal National Council for Persons with Disabilities assisted the ministry. Neither entity received sufficient resources to address effectively problems related to persons with disabilities.

The constitution states every person has the right to education, yet NGOs reported persons with disabilities had limited opportunities to obtain education and job training at any level due to lack of accessibility of facilities and resistance by school officials and parents to devoting resources to students with disabilities. Obtaining employment was also difficult.

Persons with disabilities faced significant barriers to accessing health care. They had difficulty obtaining HIV testing and contraceptive services due to the perception they should not engage in sexual activity. According to the NGO Humanity & Inclusion, 36 percent of persons with disabilities reported facing difficulties in accessing health services; cost, distance to a health facility, and physical barriers were the main reasons cited.

The law provides that persons with disabilities should have access to public buildings, and some buildings in major cities had wheelchair ramps and modified elevators and restrooms. The government did not enforce the law, however, and new construction often did not include specific accommodations for persons with disabilities. Government buildings in rural areas generally were not accessible to persons with disabilities. According to NGOs, police stations remained largely inaccessible to persons with mobility and other physical disabilities. Most common forms of public transportation, all of which are privately operated, were difficult for persons with physical disabilities to use due accessibility challenges and crowding.

Few facilities provided interpreters or other accommodations to persons with hearing disabilities. The government assigned each region a sign language interpreter for court proceedings. Authorities often delayed or adjourned cases involving persons who had hearing disabilities due to a lack of standby interpreters, according to NGO reports.

According to a report by a coalition of disability advocate groups, persons with disabilities often did not receive the procedural or other accommodations they needed to participate equally in criminal justice processes as victims of crime.

Authorities received reports of killings of persons with disabilities as well as torture and abuse, and the government acted in some cases.

Persons with albinism have historically been targets of discrimination and human rights abuses. Human rights groups successfully lobbied to include a question on albinism in the 2019 national census, the first time that persons with albinism were counted. An NGO reported some persons with albinism experienced increased discrimination during the year due to unfounded fears they were more likely to carry the COVID-19 virus.

NGOs reported the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally impacted persons with disabilities. One survey found 92 percent of respondents said their daily lives had been affected by the pandemic, pinpointing factors such as limited transport; restricted movement; a lack of available necessities; lack of contact with others at school, church, and social functions; reduced income; and job or income loss. Of respondents, 39 percent reported experiencing discrimination due to their disability, including exclusion from vital services.

According to a 2017 NGO report to the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, persons with disabilities made up only 2.8 percent of the Senate and National Assembly, less than the 5 percent mandated by the constitution (see section 3, Elections and Political Participation).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government, along with international and NGO partners, made progress in creating an enabling environment to combat the social stigma of HIV and AIDS and to address the gap in access to HIV information and services. The government and NGOs expanded their staffing support at county levels for counseling and testing centers to ensure provision of free HIV and AIDS diagnosis. The government continued inclusion of diverse populations in provision of HIV services through 47 mobile clinics and medical camp safaris across the country. The government also supported programs to ensure nondiscrimination and undertook a community-led stigma index study.

Stigma nonetheless continued to hinder efforts to educate the public about HIV and AIDS and to provide testing and treatment services. The government continued to support the HIV and AIDS Tribunal to handle all legal matters related to stigma and discrimination. The tribunal, however, lacked sufficient funding to carry out its mandate across all 47 counties and thus still functioned only out of Nairobi.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which was interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual conduct and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted, and seven years for “attempting” said conduct. The law also criminalizes acts of “gross indecency” between men, whether in public or in private, with five years’ imprisonment. Police detained persons under these laws, particularly persons suspected of prostitution, but released them shortly afterward.

In 2016 LGBTQI+ activists filed two petitions challenging the constitutionality of these penal codes. In 2019 the High Court issued a unanimous ruling upholding the laws criminalizing homosexuality, citing insufficient evidence they violate LGBTQI+ rights and claiming repealing the law would contradict the constitution that stipulates marriage is between a man and woman. The LGBTQI+ community filed an appeal against this ruling and received favorable decisions on a handful of procedural matters but was awaiting a substantive hearing at year’s end. After filing this case, the LGBTQI+ community experienced increased ostracism and harassment, according to activist groups.

LGBTQI+ organizations reported police more frequently used public-order laws (for example, disturbing the peace) than same-sex legislation to arrest LGBTQI+ individuals. NGOs reported police frequently harassed, intimidated, or physically abused LGBTQI+ individuals in custody. They also reported police threatened homosexual men with forced anal examinations while in custody, which were outlawed in 2018.

Authorities permitted LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations to register and conduct activities.

The constitution does not explicitly protect LGBTQI+ persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals were widespread. LGBTQI+ rights organizations reported an increase in conversion therapy and practices. It attributed this increase to the fact many LGBTQI+ persons had returned to hostile home and community environments after losing their jobs because of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some LGBTQI+ groups also reported an increase in abuses cases against LGBTQI+ persons during the pandemic. They attributed this rise to increased scrutiny of LGBTQI+ persons’ lifestyles because of COVID-19-related lockdown and curfew orders. In May human rights defender and HAPA Kenya paralegal Joash Mosoti was allegedly tortured and killed at his home in Mombasa.

In September the Kenya Film Classification Board banned the film I am Samuel for attempting to “promote same-sex marriage agenda as an acceptable way of life.” The board claimed the film violated Article 165 of the penal code, which outlaws homosexuality, as well as provisions of the Films and Stage Plays Act.

Although the country grants refugee status to persons whose persecution is due to sexual orientation or gender expression, some LGBTQI+ refugees continued to face stigma and discrimination. They were often compelled to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity to protect themselves, especially among Somali refugee communities in Dadaab. National organizations working with LGBTQI+ persons offered support to refugees who were LGBTQI+, including access to safety networks and specialized health facilities.

There were approximately 1,000 LGBTQI+ refugees in the country, including approximately 300 in Kakuma, where there were reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQI+ refugees during the year. An arson attack by unknown perpetrators in March led to the death of one LGBTQI+ refugee in April. UNHCR and NGO partners provided medical and other assistance for LGBTQI+ refugees when necessary, but legal accountability for perpetrators was lacking. In March UNHCR released a statement outlining efforts in collaboration with police and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat to enhance security for LGBTQI+ refugees, including the relocation of some particularly vulnerable individuals.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers, including those in export processing zones, to form and join unions of their choice and to bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The Labour Relations Court can order reinstatement and damages in the form of back pay for employees wrongfully dismissed for union activities.

Legal restrictions limit worker rights to establish a union, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. For example, the Registrar of Trade Unions may refuse to register a union if a similar union already exists, and union membership is granted only to persons employed in the sector for which the trade union is registered. For a union to be recognized as a bargaining agent, it must represent a simple majority of the employees in a firm eligible to join the union. This provision extends to public- and private-sector employees. Members of the armed forces, prisons service, and police are not allowed to form or join trade unions.

The law permits the government to deny workers the right to strike under certain conditions. For example, the government prohibits members of the military, police, prison guards, and the National Youth Service from striking. Civil servants are permitted to strike following a seven-day notice period. A bureau of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection typically referred disputes to mediation, fact finding, or binding arbitration at the Employment and Labour Relations Court, a body of up to 21 judges that has exclusive jurisdiction to handle employment and labor matters and that operates in urban areas, including Nairobi, Mombasa, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Kericho. The Employment and Labour Relations Court also has subregistries in Meru, Bungoma, Eldoret, Malindi, Machakos, and Garissa.

By law workers who provide essential services, interpreted as “a service the interruption of which would probably endanger the life of a person or health of the population,” may not strike. Any trade dispute in a service listed as essential or declared an essential service may be adjudicated by the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

Strikes must concern terms of employment, and sympathy strikes are prohibited.

The law permits workers in collective bargaining disputes to strike if they have exhausted formal conciliation procedures and have given seven days’ notice to the government and the employer. Conciliation is not compulsory in individual employment matters. Security forces may not bargain collectively but have an internal board that reviews salaries. Informal workers may establish associations, or even unions, to negotiate wages and conditions matching the government’s minimum wage guidelines and advocate for better working conditions and representation in the Employment and Labour Relations Court. The bill of rights in the constitution allows trade unions to undertake their activities without government interference, and the government generally respected this right.

Labor laws apply to all groups of workers. Penalties for labor law violations were not commensurate with those for similar offenses.

The government enforced the decisions of the Labour Relations Court inconsistently. Many employers did not comply with reinstatement orders, and some workers accepted payment in lieu of reinstatement. In several cases employers successfully appealed the Labour Relations Court’s decisions to a branch of the High Court. The enforcement mechanisms of the Labour Relations Court remained weak, and its case backlog raised concerns regarding the long delays and lack of efficacy of the court.

The Labour Relations Court received many cases arising from the implementation of new labor laws. The parties filed most cases directly without referral to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection for conciliation. The court had a significant backlog.

The chief justice designated all county courts presided over by senior resident magistrates and higher-ranking judges as special courts to hear employment and labor cases. Providing adequate facilities outside of Nairobi was difficult, but observers cited the ability of workers to submit labor-related cases throughout the country as a positive step. The 2016 employment and labor relations (procedure) rules provide parties access to file pleadings directly in electronic form, pretrial procedures, and alternative dispute resolution. The rules also set a 30-day time limit for the court to submit a report on disagreements over collective bargaining agreements filed.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, although enforcement was inconsistent. The government expressed its support for union rights mandated in the constitution.

Migrant workers often lacked formal organization and consequently missed the benefits of collective bargaining. Similarly, domestic workers and others who operated in private settings were vulnerable to exclusion from legal protections, although domestic workers’ unions existed to protect their interests.

The government had labor attaches in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates to regulate and coordinate contracts of migrant workers from the country and promote overseas job opportunities. The National Employment Authority managed a website that provided information to prospective migrant workers on the procedures of becoming a migrant worker in the Gulf. The Ministry of East African Community and Regional Development also helped domestic workers understand the terms and conditions of their work agreements. The government had additional bilateral agreements with Qatar and United Arab Emirates. The ministry has a directorate to regulate the conduct of labor agents for local migrant workers, including requiring the posting of a performance-guarantee bond for each worker. Civil society organizations and trade unions, however, criticized the government for not doing enough to protect migrant workers’ rights and failing to repatriate citizens working overseas under what they described as abusive conditions.

The misuse of internships and other forms of transitional employment threatened the survival of trade unions, with employers often not hiring employees after an internship ends. State agencies increasingly outsourced jobs to the private sector, and in the private sector, casual workers were employed on short-term contracts.

This shift contributed to declining numbers in trade unions. NGOs and trade unionists reported replacement of permanent positions by casual or contract labor, especially in the export-processing zones, the Port of Mombasa, and in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. In some cases employers staffed permanent jobs with rotating contract workers. This practice occurred at the management level as well, where employers hired individuals as management trainees and kept them in these positions for the maximum permitted period of three years. Instead of converting such trainees to permanent staff, employers replaced them with new trainees at the end of three years.

The governmental Teachers Service Commission (TSC) reportedly contributed to weakening teacher trade unions through its dispute with the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) regarding alleged TSC delays in remitting members’ fees to KNUT, which crippled the capacity of the union to provide member services and reduced union membership. The University Academic Staff Union also expressed frustration over continued Ministry of Labour delays in implementing a collective bargaining agreement, pending since 2017, that would improve pay and terms of service of its 30,000 members.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The law allows, in some situations, up to 60 days of compulsory labor per year for the preservation of natural resources. The country made moderate advances to prevent or eliminate forced labor.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred, including forced child labor (see section 7.c.). Certain legal provisions, including the penal code and the Public Order Act, impose compulsory prison labor, including for political offenses. Resources, inspections, and remediation were not adequate to prevent forced labor, and penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable offenses. Forms of forced labor included debt bondage, exploitation of migrant workers, and compulsion of persons, including family members, to work as domestic servants. Traffickers exploited children through forced labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and begging (see section 7.c.). Nairobi-based labor recruiters maintained networks in Uganda and Ethiopia that recruited Burundian, Ethiopian, Rwandan, and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia. The country continued to serve as a transit point for migrants seeking work in South Africa, leaving these populations vulnerable to exploitation; traffickers exploited transient Ethiopians in forced labor and Burundian and Rwandan women in domestic servitude.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The government prohibits most, but not all, of the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for work (other than apprenticeships) is 16, and the minimum age for hazardous work is 18. The ministry published a list of specific jobs considered hazardous that constitute the worst forms of child labor. This list included but was not limited to scavenging, carrying stones and rocks, metalwork, working with machinery, mining, and stone crushing. The law explicitly prohibits forced labor, trafficking, and other practices like slavery; child soldiering (see section 6, Children); prostitution; the use, procuring, or offering of a child for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; and the use by an adult for illegal activities (such as drug trafficking) of any child up to age 18. The law applies equally to girls and boys. The International Labor Organization (ILO) identified gaps in the law with regards to children working as cadets at sea.

The law allows children ages 13 to 16 to engage in industrial undertakings when participating in apprenticeships. Industrial undertakings are defined under law to include work in mines, quarries, factories, construction, demolition, and transportation, which are legally categorized as hazardous work.

The law provides for penalties for any person who employs, engages, or uses a child in an industrial undertaking in violation of the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable offenses. Employment of children in the formal industrial wage sector in violation of the Employment Act was rare. The law does not prohibit child labor for children employed outside the scope of a contractual agreement. Child labor in the informal sector was widespread, but the government did not effectively monitor or control it.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection enforces child labor laws, but enforcement remained inconsistent. Supplementary programs, such as the ILO-initiated Community Child Labor monitoring program, helped provide additional resources to combat child labor. These programs identified children who were working illegally, removed them from hazardous work conditions, and referred them to appropriate service providers.

The government also worked closely with the Central Organization of Trade Unions and the Federation of Kenyan Employers to eliminate child labor.

In support of child protection, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection operated a national online database system. The Child Protection Information Management System collects, aggregates, and reports on child protection data that informs policy decisions and budgeting for orphans and vulnerable children. The web-based system allows for an aggregate format of data to be made available to all the child protection stakeholders. The government had seven child protection centers, which remove child laborers from the workplace, rehabilitate them, and provide counseling and life-skills training.

The government continued to implement the National Safety Net Program, which managed four cash transfer programs, including Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children. The cash transfer programs encountered irregularities in disbursement and corruption allegations.

Many children worked on family plots or in family units on tea, coffee, sugar, sisal, tobacco, and rice plantations, as well as in the production of khat. Children worked in mining, including in artisanal gold mines, small quarries, and sand mines. Children also worked in the fishing industry. In urban areas businesses employed children in hawking, scavenging, carrying loads, gathering and selling water, selling food, and forced begging. Children often worked long hours as domestic servants in private homes for little or no pay, and there were reports of physical and sexual abuse of child domestic servants. Parents sometimes initiated forced or compulsory child labor, such as in agricultural labor and domestic service, but also including commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

Traffickers exploited children through forced labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and begging (see section 7.b.).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, religion, and several other criteria, but it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Several regulatory statutes explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities; provide a legal framework for a requirement for the public and private sectors to reserve 5 percent of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities; provide tax relief and incentives for such persons and their organizations; and reserve 30 percent of public-procurement tenders for women, youth, and persons with disabilities.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for discrimination were not commensurate with those for comparable offenses. Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred, although the law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring. The average monthly income of women was approximately two-thirds that of men. Women had difficulty working in nontraditional fields, received slower promotions, and were more likely to be dismissed. According to a World Bank report, both men and women experienced sexual harassment in job recruitment, but it was more frequently experienced by women. Both men and women who tried to establish their own informal businesses were subjected to discrimination and harassment.

Many county governors continued to appoint and employ disproportionate numbers of the dominant tribe in their county, bypassing minority groups. These problems were aggravated by the devolution of fiscal and administrative responsibility to county governments. Observers also noted patterns of preferential hiring during police recruitment exercises.

In both private business and in the public sector, members of nearly all ethnic groups commonly discriminated in favor of other members of the same group.

The law provides protection for persons with disabilities against employment discrimination, although many employers discriminated against persons with disabilities during hiring processes (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). Due to societal discrimination, there were very limited employment opportunities for persons with albinism. There are no legal employment protections for LGBTQI+ persons, who remained vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage for all sectors of the economy, and the minimum wage for all occupations exceeded the World Bank poverty rate. Regulation of wages is part of the Labor Institutions Act, and the government established basic minimum wages by occupation and location, setting minimum standards for monthly, daily, and hourly work in each category.

The law limits the normal workweek to 52 hours (60 hours for night workers); some categories of workers had lower limits. It specifically excludes agricultural workers from such limitations. It entitles an employee in the nonagricultural sector to one rest day per week and 21 days of combined annual and sick leave. The law also requires total hours worked (regular time plus overtime) in any two-week period not exceed 120 hours (144 hours for night workers) and provides premium pay for overtime.

The Ministry of Labour is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. The government did not employ enough inspectors to surveil and enforce wage and hour laws. The same inspectors were responsible for occupational safety and health enforcement and have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The government did not effectively enforce wage and hour laws, and penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable offenses. Authorities reported some workweek and overtime violations, but workers in some enterprises, particularly in the export-processing zones and those in road construction, claimed employers were not penalized for forcing them to work extra hours without overtime pay to meet production targets. Hotel industry workers were usually paid the minimum statutory wage, but employees worked long hours without compensation. Additionally, employers often did not provide required nighttime transport, leaving workers vulnerable to assault, robbery, and sexual harassment.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law details environmental, health, and safety standards. The Ministry of Labour’s Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety Services has the authority to inspect factories and work sites but employed an insufficient number of labor inspectors to conduct regular inspections. The same inspectors were responsible for wage and hour enforcement. Fines generally were insufficient to deter violations.

The directorate’s health and safety inspectors can issue notices against employers for practices or activities that involve a risk of serious personal injury. Employers may appeal such notices to the Factories Appeals Court, a body of four members, one of whom must be a High Court judge. The law stipulates factories employing 20 or more persons have an internal health and safety committee with representation from workers. According to the government, many of the largest factories had health and safety committees.

Workers, including foreigners and immigrants, have the legal right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The Ministry of Labour did not effectively enforce these regulations, and workers were reluctant to remove themselves from working conditions that endangered their health or safety due to the risk of losing their jobs. The Kenya Federation of Employers provided training and auditing of workplaces for health and safety practices.

The law provides for labor inspections to prevent labor disputes, accidents, and conflicts and to protect workers from occupational hazards and disease by ensuring compliance with labor laws. The government paid low salaries to labor inspectors and did not provide vehicles, fuel, or other resources, making it very difficult for labor inspectors to do their work effectively and leaving them vulnerable to bribes and other forms of corruption. The State Department for Labor had yet to hire new inspectors after a large number retired in the previous two years.

Informal Sector: More than 80 percent of citizens worked in the informal sector, according to World Bank data. The Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics reported in 2020 that informal-sector operations cut across all sectors of the economy and sustain a majority of households, with predominant work sectors in order of prevalence including agriculture and livestock, wholesale and retail trade, repair of vehicles and motorcycles, small-scale and home-based manufacturing and production, and accommodation and food service activities.

The law provides social protections for workers employed in the formal and informal sectors. Informal workers organized into associations, cooperatives, and, in some cases, unions. All local employers, including those in the informal sector, are required to contribute to the National Hospital Insurance Fund and the National Social Security Fund; these provide health insurance and pensions, respectively. Most informal workers were not covered because they did not make the required contributions, either because they were self-employed, or their employers did not contribute. Informal workers worked long hours, with high mean weekly working hours of 60 hours. Although informal-sector workers are covered by wage and hour laws and occupational safety and health law, the government did not inspect or enforce violations in the informal sector. Local authorities often harassed home-based and microenterprises, which often operated without licenses due to a lack of business premises. Workers in these enterprises were unable or unlikely to receive help from local authorities to enforce workplace protections and were inhibited from making complaints due to fear of losing their sole livelihood.

New Zealand

Executive Summary

New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy. The Labour Party, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has an outright majority in parliament. Elections held in October 2020 were considered free and fair.

The New Zealand Police, under the minister of police, are responsible for internal security, and the armed forces, under the Ministry of Defence, are responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces did not commit any significant abuses.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

The government had effective mechanisms to identify and prosecute officials who commit human rights abuses; there were no reports of such abuses. The government generally implemented effectively laws criminalizing official corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. The Serious Fraud Office and police investigate corruption. Allegations of corruption can be reported anonymously, and the law protects employees who make a report relating to their employers. Agencies such as the Office of the Controller and Auditor General, and the Office of the Ombudsman independently report on and investigate state-sector activities, acting as watchdogs for public-sector corruption. Only parliament can remove individuals, who are known as officers of parliament, from these positions.

Several investigations into alleged irregularities within national and local politics were underway. In February the Serious Fraud Office brought charges of campaign finance breaches against two unnamed defendants in the New Zealand First Foundation, a funding organization for former deputy prime minister Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party; a trial is scheduled for June 2022. In April police referred the Maori Party to the Serious Fraud Office after it failed to declare financial donations to the Electoral Commission within the time required. One former independent member of parliament also faced election legislation-related charges.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice funded the Human Rights Commission, which operates as an independent agency without government interference. The commission had adequate staff and resources to perform its mission.

The Office of the Ombudsman, responsible to parliament but independent of the government, is charged with investigating complaints about administrative acts, decisions, recommendations, and omissions of national and local government agencies; inspecting prisons; and following up on prisoner complaints. The office enjoyed government cooperation, operated without government or party interference, had adequate resources, and was considered effective. The ombudsman produced a wide variety of reports for the government that were publicly available.

The law mandates that the Department of Internal Affairs provide administrative assistance to significant public and governmental inquiries into, among other items, human rights abuses. The only large-scale inquiry underway during the year was an investigation into abuse in care.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape. The government enforces this law. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment; however, preventive detention may occur in cases where the parole board, during its annual review, believes the prisoner poses a continuing threat to society.

Reported rates of violence against women remained at high levels, according to domestic and international observers. Ministry of Justice data for 2020-21 showed convictions for sexual offenses increased slightly from 2019-20. According to the ministry’s most recent annual Crime and Victims Survey (October 2019-September 2020) approximately 2 percent of adults had experienced sexual violence in the previous 12 months; this figure did not change significantly from previous years. The report, however, described “worryingly low levels” of reporting of sexual violence, noting that “94 percent of sexual assaults were not reported to Police.” Women were more than two times more likely than men to have experienced intimate partner violence and three times more likely to have experienced sexual violence.

Domestic violence is a criminal offense. Police were responsive to reports of domestic violence. The law provides victims with 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. The government partially funded women’s shelters, psychosocial services, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, family-violence victim support networks, and violence prevention services. Victim’s programs include: a crisis response plan for the 72 hours after a sexual assault; programs to reduce harmful sexual behavior, offending, and reoffending; programs focusing on adults who pose a risk to children; and services for male survivors of sexual abuse.

The law defines family violence to reflect how controlling behavior can be used over time to frighten victims and undermine their autonomy. It also names 10 government agencies and a range of social service practitioners as family violence agencies; provides principles to guide decision making and timely responses across agencies; and allows information sharing between agencies to increase victims’ safety.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, requires employers to ensure their workplace is free of behaviors that are unwelcome or offensive, and provides for civil proceedings in cases of workplace harassment. The government, through the Human Rights Commission, effectively enforced the law. Sexual contact induced by certain threats also carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The Human Rights Commission published a guide on making a complaint about sexual harassment. The guide includes access to the commission’s free, informal, and confidential service for questions or complaints about sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination. The commission also published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made regular sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments.

After media reports in June revealed incidents of alleged sexual harassment in the media industry, information released under the Official Information Act showed there had been numerous incidents of alleged sexual harassment at state broadcasters Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, as well as at several private broadcasters, in the last year. Two workers and one external contractor were asked to leave Television New Zealand due to sexual misconduct.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In 2020 the Human Rights Commission expressed concern about informed consent and the legal permissibility of nontherapeutic medical procedures including sterilization. Under the country’s Disability Action Plan 2019-2023, the Ministries of Health and of Social Development examined the legal framework that protects the bodily integrity of children and adults with disabilities for nontherapeutic medical procedures.

The government provides access to health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government effectively enforced the law. Although the law prohibits discrimination in employment and requires equal rates of pay for equal or similar work, in August Statistics New Zealand identified a gender pay gap of 9 percent between women and men. Academics and watchdog groups argued that the lack of pay transparency hindered pursuing pay discrimination claims.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Under the law violence and discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities is prohibited; the government enforced these laws effectively.

In its 2020 annual report, the Human Rights Commission stated that approximately 12 percent of complaints of alleged unlawful discrimination raised with the commission related to race, racial harassment, or racial disharmony.

Pacific Islanders were 8 percent of the population in the 2018 census. They experienced some societal discrimination and had higher-than-average rates of unemployment (7.8 percent in June) and among the lowest labor force participation (66 percent) of any ethnic group.

Several government ministries, including the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and the Ministry of Health, had programs to identify gaps in delivery of government services to Pacific Islanders and to promote their education, employment, entrepreneurship, culture, languages, and identity. After the country’s first Delta-variant COVID-19 outbreak in August, which disproportionately affected Pacific Island and Maori communities, some Pacific Islander and health practitioners criticized the government and media for inadequately addressing low vaccination rates in their communities.

In July the Ministry for Ethnic Communities was created to focus on promoting diversity and improving minority communities’ inclusion in the wider society and their economic outcomes.

Asians, who were 15 percent of the population, reported some societal discrimination. Advocacy groups noted a rise in bullying and harassment of persons of Asian, especially Chinese, descent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Human Rights Commission launched a website to help Asian persons understand their rights during the pandemic.

Indigenous Peoples

Approximately 16.5 percent of the population claimed descent from the indigenous Maori people. The government bestows specific recognition and rights, enshrined in law, custom, and practice, on Maori persons. These rights derive from the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the country’s founding document, which guarantees autonomy, self-determination, sovereignty, and self-government to Maori persons.

The law prohibits discrimination against the indigenous population, but there were disproportionately high numbers of Maori persons on unemployment and welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts, and in single-parent households. Maori persons have elevated infant mortality statistics. Maori persons experienced some societal discrimination and had higher rates of unemployment than non-Maori – 7.8 percent in June, above the country’s average of 3.9 percent – and a labor force participation rate of 68 percent, below the country’s average of 70 percent.

To redress historic violations by the government of the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Waitangi Tribunal, a standing commission of inquiry adjudicates claims by various Maori groups (iwi). The tribunal makes recommendations on claims brought by Maori relating to legislation, policies, actions, or omissions of the government that are alleged to breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi. The government continued active negotiations with almost all iwi that made claims.

As of June, Maori persons were 53 percent of the prison population and 46.5 percent of persons serving community-based sentences. In February several prisoners’ rights activists questioned the progress of Hokai Rangi, a five-year strategy launched in 2019 by the corrections minister aimed at reducing the number of Maori persons in prison.

Children

Birth Registration: Children born in the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen or legal permanent resident of the country. Children born outside the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen. The law requires notification of births by both parents as soon as “reasonably practicable,” deemed as being within two months of the child’s birth, and most births were registered within this period.

Child Abuse: The law defines and prohibits child abuse, and the government effectively enforced the law. The government promoted information sharing between the courts and health and child protection agencies to identify children at risk of abuse.

The law permits the Ministry for Children to act quickly to ensure the safety of newborn babies at immediate risk of serious harm, notably from parental substance abuse, family violence, or medical neglect. Admissions to Care and Protection Residences run by the ministry have declined over the past decade. A disproportionately high percentage of children (approximately 60 percent) entering children’s ministry homes were Maori. Children less than five years old made up 30 percent of all children entering into care.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, but persons between 16 and 18 may marry with family court approval. Marriages involving persons younger than 18 were rare. Watchdog groups believed that parents forced a small number of marriages of persons between the ages of 16 and 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that any person who engages in sexual conduct with a person younger than 16 – the minimum age for consensual sex – is liable to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Further, the law makes it an offense punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to assist a person younger than 18 in providing commercial sexual services; to receive earnings from commercial sexual services provided by a person younger than 18; or to contract for commercial sexual services from, or be a client of, a person younger than 18. While these statutes cover dealing in persons younger than 18 for sexual exploitation, the trafficking-in-persons statute requires a demonstration of deception or coercion to constitute a child sex-trafficking offense. The authorities may prosecute citizens who commit child sex offenses overseas, and they did so in cooperation with several foreign governments during the year.

Government statistics reported 363 convictions in 2020 for sexual offenses against children younger than age 16, down from more than 380 convictions during the previous year.

The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum 14 years’ imprisonment as well as heavy fines if a person produces, imports, supplies, distributes, possesses for supply, displays, or exhibits an objectionable publication. The Censorship Compliance Unit in the Department of Internal Affairs polices images of child sex abuse on the internet and prosecutes offenders.

Institutionalized Children: In March inspectors from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner heard “serious allegations” of staff bullying, excessive use of force, and inappropriate use of isolation while visiting Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residences. The commissioner’s report stated there was not enough evidence to prove the allegations, but neither could they show the allegations were false.

In July the ministry announced the closure of the Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residence in Christchurch; media reported “a number of serious issues involving staff,” including physical restraint of children, were investigated. In September the children’s minister accepted the findings of a ministerial advisory board that he had appointed earlier in the year to recommend ways to improve the ministry’s “disconnected” relationship with Maori communities.

International Child Abductions: The country is 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to the 2018 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 5,200. While anti-Semitic incidents remained relatively rare, in June the New Zealand Jewish Council expressed concern over the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the previous year. “2020 saw 33 anti-Semitic incidents recorded (including anti-Semitic comments online), the highest number since records began in 1990,” the council said.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities – whether physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental – unless such discrimination can be “demonstrably justified.” The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Most school-age children with disabilities attended either schools dedicated to children with disabilities or mainstream schools. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability in 2020 was 8 percent, twice that of persons without a disability. Unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability was the second most cited cause of complaints to the Human Rights Commission in 2020.

The Human Rights Commission and the Ministry for Disabled People, created in late October, worked to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. Both the Human Rights Commission and the Mental Health Commission addressed mental disabilities in their antidiscrimination efforts. Watchdog groups were concerned about compulsory assessments and treatments and the use of seclusion and restrictive practices in medical facilities, especially those involved with mental health services. Maori persons were significantly more likely to be subjected to these practices.

In August the ombudsman highlighted “serious and persistent” problems at mental health units, contrasting the results of simultaneous inspections at two colocated facilities, one where seclusion or restraint facilities were being used and one where no seclusion was used – described as “best practice in the treatment of those detained.” Several previous ombudsman reports recommended that such practices should stop.

Approximately 20 percent of eligible voters had a disability and potentially faced obstacles in exercising their voting rights. The Electoral Commission has a statutory obligation to administer the electoral system impartially and seeks to reduce barriers to participation by developing processes that enable citizens with disabilities to access electoral services fully.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults older than 16. The law prohibits abuse, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government enforced the law. According to the Ministry of Justice’s most recent Crime and Victims Survey (October 2019-September 2020), gay, lesbian, or bisexual adults had more than twice the average likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes, with some restrictions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. While the law does not require reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity, courts may order this at their discretion.

Police have the right to freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively, but sworn police officers (including all uniformed and plainclothes police but excluding clerical and support staff) do not have the right to strike or take any form of industrial action.

Contractors and self-employed persons are not covered by most employment-related laws (excluding health and safety laws) and cannot join unions, bargain collectively, or conduct strike action.

Workers may only strike while negotiating a collective bargaining agreement or over matters of health and safety. An employer may employ another person to perform the work of a striking employee under strict conditions. Strikes by providers of essential services are subject to certain procedural requirements, including mandatory notice of three to 28 days, depending on the service involved. The list of essential services was broader than international standards on the definition of essential services.

To bargain collectively, unions must be registered, independent, governed by democratic rules, and have a minimum of 15 members. Unions may not bargain collectively on social or political issues.

The government respected these rights and effectively enforced applicable laws without lengthy delays. Employment legislation places a statutory duty on both unions and employers to bargain in good faith and entitles both employees and employers to engage in economic sanctions (strikes and lockouts) to support their bargaining claims. The law provides penalties for violations of freedom of association or collective bargaining protections and includes fines commensurate with similar crimes. Cases were occasionally referred to the civil employment court.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced labor. The government’s efforts to enforce the law were not always effective. Penalties were commensurate with similar crimes. Fines can be imposed for labor violations that may be indicators of forced labor such as underpayment of wages and excessively long working hours. The government did not initiate any new labor trafficking prosecutions during the year.

In August the Court of Appeal rejected an appeal from Joseph Matamata, a horticultural contractor, who was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in 2020 on slavery and trafficking-in-persons charges. The court also dismissed a government counterclaim for a longer sentence but did agree that a minimum nonparole period of five years should be imposed.

In June media reported that the Employment Relations Authority, the government body tasked with resolving employment disputes, had a backlog of up to 12 months in hearing cases, due to COVID-related restrictions and staff shortages.

Recruitment agencies that recruit workers from abroad must utilize a licensed immigration adviser. The Immigration Advisers Authority, an independent body, promotes and protects the interests of individuals receiving immigration advice. It licenses individuals deemed fit and competent to give immigration advice; maintains standards and a code of conduct for immigration advisers; investigates individuals giving immigration advice without a license; and receives complaints from persons who believe they received poor immigration advice. Media reports during the year suggested migrant workers were vulnerable to forced labor in sectors including horticulture, retail, agriculture, construction, hospitality, and domestic service. Reports stated that some migrant workers from South and East Asia were charged excessive and escalating recruitment fees, experienced unjustified salary deductions, nonpayment or underpayment of wages, excessively long working hours, and restrictions on their movement. Some had their passports confiscated and contracts altered improperly. Victims were often deterred from filing complaints out of fear of jeopardizing their visa status.

In July, as part of broader government initiatives to combat migrant labor exploitation, a six-month visa to allow migrant workers to leave exploitative work situations quickly yet remain lawfully in the country came into force.

In August several labor rights advocates complained when the government stopped the emergency welfare and accommodation support provided to migrant workers since 2020 because COVID-19-related travel restrictions prevented many of them from returning home. The group argued the change made the workers more vulnerable to workplace exploitation and forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment, limitations on working hours, and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. By law children younger than 16 may not work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The law also states that children enrolled in school may not work, even outside school hours, if such employment would interfere with their education. The law bans employment of children younger than 15 in specific hazardous industries such as manufacturing, mining, and forestry.

Government inspectors effectively enforced these laws. The law outlines prison sentencing guidelines and fines for the most serious offenses. Penalties were commensurate with similar crimes.

Small numbers of children ages 16 to 18 worked in hazardous situations, such as in agriculture: the law requires them to be fully trained. Children younger than 15 cannot drive a tractor or large vehicle, except children working in agriculture if they are older than 12 and are fully trained or are being trained, or if they live on the property. The commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a problem, and the government convicted 363 perpetrators for sexual offenses against children younger than 16 (see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  for information on the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the grounds of age, sex (gender) or sexual orientation; marital or relationship status; religious or ethical beliefs; skin color, race, ethnicity, or country of origin; disability, impairment, or illness; political opinions; and employment status. The law prohibiting discrimination does not address refugee or stateless status. The government effectively enforced these prohibitions, and penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights.

The Human Rights Commission has an equal opportunity employment team that focuses on workplace gender-related problems. This team regularly surveyed pay scales, conducted a census of women in leadership roles, and engaged public and private employers to promote compensation equality. According to Business New Zealand in 2018, 82 percent of discrimination complaints were closed within three months and 97 percent were closed within 12 months. In July the new Ministry for Ethnic Communities took over the role of the Office of Ethnic Affairs in promoting ethnic diversity in employment.

According to the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU), Maori and Pacific Island persons – and Maori and Pacific Island women in particular –remained disadvantaged compared with the general population in terms of conditions of employment and wages. According to government body Statistics NZ, across all sectors the female-male gender pay imbalance in June was minus 9 percent for the entire population. Nonetheless, according to the NZCTU, Pacific Island women were paid between 22 and 25 percent less than non-Maori women. As of September, the Human Rights Commission was investigating “the persistent Pacific pay gap and lack of equal employment opportunities experienced by Pacific peoples.” According to Statistics NZ, in 2019 the public service reflected a gender pay gap of 10.5 percent based on occupational structure, gender segregation, and seniority.

Persons with disabilities faced employment discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace. The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities was twice the national average.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour: The minimum hourly wage was adjusted on an annual basis to be above the amount – 60 percent of the median household income – that researchers frequently used as an unofficial poverty level.

The law provides that work hours should be set in collective or individual agreements between employers and employees. Although a 40-hour workweek is traditional, employer and employees may contractually agree to a workweek of more than 40 hours. Overtime pay is negotiable. Labor regulations do not define an absolute maximum number of overtime hours.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government established appropriate occupational safety and health standards and proactively investigated labor conditions. Extensive laws and regulations govern health and safety issues. Employers are obliged to provide a safe and healthy work environment and have primary responsibility for individual’s health and safety at work. The government requires employers to provide health insurance for their seasonal workers. The law allows workers to refuse to perform work likely to cause serious harm and permits legal recourse if the worker believes an employer penalized them as a result.

In cases of noncompliance with labor law, inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and to shut down equipment, levy fines, require restitution of wages to workers, and revoke licenses of offenders. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment enforces laws governing working conditions, including wages and hours, through sub agencies such as the Labor Inspectorate and Employment NZ. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. In particular, employers who have breached minimum employment standards regarding vulnerable migrant workers face a set “stand-down” period where they lose the ability to support migrant visa applications for at least 12 months. As of September, 64 companies or employers were on the stand-down list.

Labor ministry inspectors effectively enforced wages, hours, safety, and health rules in all sectors including the informal economy. WorkSafe, the official occupational health and safety authority, reported that 75 percent of surveyed employers changed their workplace practices following inspections. Convictions for violations of the occupational health and safety law as well as for violations of the wages and hours law can result in fines, deportation of noncitizens, or imprisonment. These penalties are commensurate with similar violations.

Between July 2020 and June 2021, the country had 55 workplace-related fatalities (excluding occupational disease). The most dangerous sectors were categorized by WorkSafe as agriculture, construction, transport and warehousing, and forestry.

Papua New Guinea

Executive Summary

Papua New Guinea is a constitutional, federal, multiparty, parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary elections took place in 2017, and the People’s National Congress party, led by former prime minister Peter O’Neill, won a majority in the 111-seat unicameral parliament. In 2019 O’Neill resigned, and parliament elected James Marape prime minister. In some parts of the country, electoral contests involved widespread violence, fraud, bribery, voter intimidation, and undue political and tribal influence.

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary maintains internal security and reports to the Ministry of Police. The Defense Force is responsible for external security and reports to the Ministry of Defense, but it also has some domestic security responsibilities. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by police; torture by police and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police; the existence of criminal defamation laws; serious acts of government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men, although the law was not enforced; and extensive child labor, including the worst forms of child labor.

The government frequently failed to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Impunity was pervasive, including for official corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials; however, the government did not always implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. International civil society and human rights groups termed corruption “widespread” and “pervasive.” There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Corruption was so serious a problem in part due to weak public institutions and governance, lack of transparency, politicization of the bureaucracy, and the social pressure of traditional clan obligations. Corruption and conflicts of interest were of particular concern in extractive industries, particularly the logging sector, and in government procurement.

The Ombudsman Commission and Public Accounts Committee are key organizations responsible for combating government corruption. The Public Accounts Committee is a permanent parliamentary committee established by the constitution with a mandate to examine and report to parliament on public accounts and national property.

The Ombudsman Commission met with civil society and at times initiated action based on input received. Although civil society organizations engaged with individual members of the Public Accounts Committee, the committee was less receptive to public input and generally did not seek to engage with civil society. The committee generally operated independently of government influence, but a lack of trained staff hindered its effectiveness. Neither body had sufficient resources to carry out its mission.

Corruption: In October the National Curt acquitted former prime minister Peter O’Neill of abuse of office related to the 2014 purchase of two generators from Israel, ruling that the prosecutor failed to prove three of four criminal elements required for conviction and that O’Neill had acted “for a legitimate public purpose, to ease power shortage in Port Moresby and Lae.” In September Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil was suspended from office for alleged misappropriation of 150,000 kinas ($43,000) in 2015, but in December the Leadership Tribunal cleared him of the allegations of misconduct, citing the lack of evidence presented by the public prosecutor. In July, six officials at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Authority were suspended for alleged misappropriation of more than eight million kinas ($2.3 million) in 2020. On September 29, police arrested Madang provincial governor Peter Yama and two of his wives for alleged misuse of six million kinas ($1.7 million) from the Manam Resettlement Authority. Yama was also charged with abuse of office, breach of the Public Finances Management Act, conspiracy to defraud, misappropriation, and money laundering.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman Commission is responsible for investigating alleged misconduct and defective administration by governmental bodies, alleged discriminatory practices by any person or body, and alleged misconduct in office by leaders under the leadership code. Staffing constraints often caused delays in investigations and thus in the completion and release of reports.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by a sentence ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, gang rape, and intimate-partner violence, was a serious and widespread problem. Although the law also criminalizes family violence and imposes maximum penalties of two years’ imprisonment and monetary fines, it was seldom enforced. The law criminalizes intimate-partner violence as well, but it nonetheless persisted throughout the country and was generally committed with impunity.

Most informed observers believed that a substantial majority of women experienced rape or sexual assault during their lives. According to Amnesty International, approximately two-thirds of women had been beaten by their partners. Due to stigma, fear of retribution, and limited trust in authorities, most women did not report rape or domestic violence to authorities. Moreover, most communities viewed intimate-partner violence as a private matter, further discouraging survivors from reporting the crime or pressing charges.

In May the police minister told a special parliamentary inquiry into gender-based violence that although more than 15,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2020, only 250 individuals were prosecuted, and fewer than 100 were convicted, as many victims were reluctant to take their cases through the judicial process and the police force lacked the resources to ensure thorough investigations. The inquiry also determined that COVID-19 had exacerbated gender-based violence.

In July a woman in Lae, Morobe Province, was assaulted with rocks and bricks, sustaining a broken jaw and other injuries. Her domestic partner was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for grievous bodily harm, as she suffered a severe brain injury and scalp lacerations.

Those convicted of rape received prison sentences, but authorities apprehended and prosecuted few rapists. The legal system allows village chiefs to negotiate the payment of compensation to victims in lieu of trials for rapists. Anecdotal evidence suggested that victims and their families pursued tribal remedies, including compensation, in preference to procedures in official courts. Village and district courts often hesitated to escalate domestic matters. Village courts regularly ordered payment of compensation to an abused spouse’s family in cases of domestic abuse rather than issuing an order to detain and potentially charge the alleged offender.

Police committed sexual violence. In August a 46-year-old police constable in Port Moresby was sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for repeatedly raping an eight-year-old girl, the daughter of another policeman, since she was five.

There were family and sexual violence units in 18 of 22 provincial police headquarters across the country to provide victims with protection, assistance through the judicial process, and medical care. Police leadership in some provinces led to improved services for victims of gender-based violence. Nevertheless, comprehensive services for victims of domestic and sexual violence were lacking in most of the country. This lack of services, along with societal and family pressure, often forced women back into violent and abusive homes.

As of September, Port Moresby hosted eight shelters for abused women in the National Capital District and neighboring provinces. Outside the capital small community organizations or individuals with little access to funds and counseling resources maintained some shelters. Media reported that COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns and other health measures hurt operations at shelters across the country, as transportation restrictions, lack of personal protective equipment, and limited financial resources forced multiple shelters to close temporarily.

Violence committed against women by other women frequently stemmed from domestic disputes. In areas where polygyny was customary, authorities charged many women with murdering another of their husband’s wives. Independent observers indicated that approximately 90 percent of women in prison were convicted for attacking or killing their husband or another woman.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride price payments continued. This contributed to the perception by many communities that husbands owned their wives and could treat them as chattel. In addition to being purchased as brides, women sometimes were given as compensation to settle disputes between clans.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread and severe problem. Women frequently experienced harassment in public locations and the workplace (see section 7.d.). In Port Moresby the government and UN Women, the UN office that promotes gender equality, worked together to provide women-only public buses to reduce sexual harassment on public transportation.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Cultural barriers that impeded access to contraception included low educational and literacy levels among women; religious beliefs; risk of gender-based violence; the belief that younger women, women not in a union, or unmarried women who had not given birth to a child should not use contraceptives; lack of training among health-care workers; and community gossip and discrimination. There was limited or no access for vulnerable populations in the rural areas to health-care services. Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals indirectly prevented them from freely accessing health-care services. The National Department of Health worked to strengthen Family Support Centers that provided counseling and support to survivors of gender-based violence and their families; emergency contraception was provided to those victims who wanted it on a case-by-case basis following counseling services. Access to menstrual health care was constrained culturally in most rural areas and was a financial challenge to girls in urban centers. Families of pregnant secondary school-age girls discouraged them from continuing their education until they gave birth; afterward, to avoid social stigma and discrimination, the new mothers often did not return to school and pursued odd jobs to support their child.

According to the UN Fund for Population, the maternal mortality ratio in 2019 was 171 deaths per 100,000 live births due to factors including minimal access to maternal health services, the lack of health facilities and supplies, unmet needs for family planning and contraception, unsupervised deliveries, and sensitivities surrounding sexual and reproductive health. One-third of married women had an unmet need for family planning, seeking to stop or delay childbearing but not using any method of contraception. Only 32 percent of married women used modern contraceptive methods. The Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence reported to parliament in August on the government’s need to focus resources on family planning.

Discrimination: Although the law provides extensive rights for women dealing with family, marriage, and property disputes, gender discrimination existed at all levels. Women continued to face severe inequalities in all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political life.

Village courts tended to impose jail terms on women found guilty of adultery while penalizing men lightly or not at all. The law, however, requires district courts to endorse orders for imprisonment before the imposition of the sentence, and judges frequently annulled such village court sentences.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The laws provide for protection of members of racial and ethnic minority groups from discrimination; the government did not enforce them effectively.

The constitution provides that all persons are entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, regardless of their race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, color, creed, or sex.

In May, Prime Minister Marape considered calling a state of emergency to enable security forces to quell a surge in murder, tribal violence, and “raskol” (criminal street gang) activity. In February a man from Tari, Hela Province, was reportedly killed in Port Moresby by Goilala tribesmen from Central Province. The same week in Port Moresby’s Erima neighborhood, two men from Goilala District, Central Province, were murdered in revenge killings by men from Tari Pori District, Hela Province. In May a Goilala man was murdered by Tari men in the Koki section of Port Moresby. These ethnic killings led Moresby South member of parliament Justin Tkatchenko to call for a “mass-eviction” of Goilala settlers in his district who, he declared, were instigating ethnic violence in Port Moresby’s squatter settlements.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through birth to a citizen parent. Birth registration often did not occur immediately due to the remote locations in which many births took place. Failure to register did not generally affect access to public services such as education or health care.

Education: Education is subsidized but not compulsory. There were many complaints the government did not adequately fund education, leading to overcrowded classrooms and too few teachers. Some schools did not receive promised government education subsidies and reportedly closed as a result. Many schools charged fees despite the official free-education policy. Only one-third of children completed primary school. Primary and secondary education completion rates tended to be slightly higher for boys than for girls. Recent reports confirmed that girls were at high risk of sexual harassment in schools, which, in addition to girls’ generally high risk of sexual violence and harassment, commercial exploitation, and HIV infection, posed serious threats to their education.

Child Abuse: In 2019 the NGO Save the Children released the results of a small-scale study showing that an estimated 2.8 million children, or 75 percent of the child population, faced physical or emotional violence, and 50 percent faced sexual violence or family violence in the home. Child protection systems, especially in rural areas, were not adequate to meet the needs of children facing abuse. The NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres reported in 2019 that children made up 50 percent of sexual violence cases referred to clinics. Other studies found that only the most egregious forms of sexual and physical abuse of children were reported to police, because family violence is viewed as a domestic matter.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 for boys and 16 for girls. There are younger legal marriage ages (16 for boys and 14 for girls) with parental and court consent.

Customary and traditional practices allow marriage of children as young as age 12, and early marriage was common in many traditional, isolated rural communities. Child brides frequently were taken as additional wives or given as brides to pay family debts and often were used as domestic servants. Child brides were particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The maximum penalty for child rape is 25 years’ imprisonment or, if the victim is younger than age 12, life imprisonment. Making or possessing child pornography is illegal; penalties range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, but enforcement remained a problem. There were cases of sex trafficking of children in urban areas, including of minors working in bars and nightclubs. In August Port Moresby police rescued a 12-year-old girl who had been sold by her 20-year-old cousin to two men to provide sex. There were reports of exploitation of children in the production of pornography and of sex trafficking involving both local and foreign children. The law specifically prohibits using, procuring, and offering a child for pornographic performances. NGOs reported continued prevalence of child sex trafficking.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There is a very small Jewish community in Port Moresby. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Nevertheless, persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities faced discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, air travel and other transportation, and access to other state services. Most buildings and public infrastructure remained inaccessible for persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities experienced an underresourced educational system and attended school in disproportionately low numbers. Those with certain types of disabilities, such as amputees, attended school with children without disabilities, while those who were blind or deaf attended segregated schools. The government endorsed sign language as a national language for all government programs, although access to interpreters was limited. Public addresses by government officials had simultaneous sign language interpretation, as did all local broadcast news programs.

Through the National Board for the Disabled, the government granted funds to a number of NGOs that provided services to persons with disabilities. The government provided free medical consultations and treatment for persons with mental disabilities, but such services were rarely available outside major cities. Most persons with disabilities did not find training or work outside the family (see section 7.d.).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of government discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS; however, there was a strong societal stigma attached to HIV/AIDS infection, which prevented some persons from seeking HIV/AIDS-related services.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual relations and acts of “gross indecency” between men are illegal. The maximum penalty for same-sex sexual relations is 14 years’ imprisonment and for acts of gross indecency between male persons (a misdemeanor), three years’ imprisonment. There were no reports of prosecutions directed at gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex men under these provisions during the year. There were reports of societal violence against such persons, which police were disinclined to investigate, and discrimination against them. Their vulnerability to societal stigmatization or violent retaliation may have led to underreporting.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers in the public and private sectors to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The government has limited influence over trade union formation and registration. The law requires unions to register with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. An unregistered union has no legal standing and thus cannot operate effectively.

Although the law provides for the right to strike, the government may, and often did, intervene in labor disputes, forcing arbitration before workers could legally strike or refusing to grant permission for a secret ballot vote on strike action. Some union leaders complained that the Labor Department’s refusal to allow for votes on strike action constituted undue government influence. By law the government has discretionary power to intervene in collective bargaining by canceling arbitration awards or declaring wage agreements void when deemed contrary to government policy.

The law prohibits both retaliation against strikers and antiunion discrimination by employers against union leaders, members, and organizers. The law does not provide for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. In cases of retaliation or unlawful dismissal for union activity, the court may fine an employer and may order the reinstatement of the employee and reimbursement of any lost wages. If an employer fails to comply with such directives, the court may order imprisonment or fines until the employer complies. Judicial proceedings were subject to lengthy delays.

The Labor Department is responsible for enforcing the law but did not do so effectively. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous violations. With two labor inspectors per province and inadequate resources, inspectors usually monitored and enforced the law on an ad hoc basis. The Labor Department did not always act to prevent retaliation against strikers or protect workers from antiunion discrimination, which remained widespread in the logging sector and in state-owned enterprises. Observers attributed its ineffectiveness to insufficient manpower and resources.

Unions were generally independent of both the government and political parties, whose influence diminished from previous years. Employees of some government-owned enterprises went on strike on several occasions during the year, primarily to protest privatization policies, terminations, and appointments of managers or board members, or in pay disputes. In June, PNG Power Limited staff went on strike because management did not consult them on the rollout of internal changes that led to forced resignations of line workers while executive management positions were increased. In October, Air Niugini laid off several flight attendants for refusing vaccinations. The Air Niugini Workers Union filed an official complaint with the National Court. In most cases the strikes were brief due to temporary agreements reached between the government and workers.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Criminal penalties were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Logging and mining sites primarily operated in remote regions with negligible government oversight, and authorities did not make efforts to identify forced labor victims at them.

Foreign and local men and boys seeking work on fishing vessels went into debt to pay recruitment fees, which vessel owners and senior crew leveraged to compel them to continue working indefinitely. Officials may, with a court order, return foreign crewmembers to their fishing boats, which observers said could prevent them from escaping forced labor or other abuse.

There were reports that foreign and local women and children were subjected to forced labor in the tourism sector or as domestic servants, beggars, or street vendors (see section 7.c.). Foreign and local men were subjected to forced labor, including through debt bondage, in the logging, mining, and fishing sectors. There also were reports of foreign workers, particularly from China and other Pacific nations, who entered the country with fraudulent documents and were subjected to forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not prohibit all the worst forms of child labor. By law the minimum working age outside the home or family business is 16, although children ages 14 to 15 may be employed, including on ships, if the employer is satisfied that the child is no longer attending school, which is universal in policy but in practice is neither universal nor compulsory, with only 20 percent of school-age children attending secondary school. The minimum age for hazardous work is 16, but the government has no list of hazardous occupations. There are no provisions prohibiting children ages 16 to 18 from engaging in hazardous work. Children as young as age 11 may be employed in light work in a family business or enterprise, provided they have parental permission, medical clearance, and a work permit from a labor office. This type of employment was rare, except in subsistence agriculture. Work by children ages 11 to 16 must not interfere with school attendance. The law does not, however, define light work or set limits on work hours. The Labor Department is responsible for enforcing child labor law provisions.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and child labor was common across the country, including in hazardous occupations. Penalties were commensurate with those for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping, but were seldom applied.

Children worked mainly in subsistence agriculture, cash crop farming, and livestock herding. This included hazardous seasonal work on plantations (for coffee, tea, copra, and palm oil) in the formal and informal rural economies.

Many children also worked in the informal economy and were seen directing parking vehicles and selling cigarettes, food, and DVDs on the street and in grocery stores throughout the country, sometimes near mining and logging camps. There were reports of boys as young as 12 being exploited as “market taxis” in urban areas, carrying extremely heavy loads for low pay; some may have been victims of forced labor. There were also reports of children engaging in mining activities and of prospectors forcing children to work in alluvial gold mining.

Some children (primarily girls) worked long hours as domestic servants in private homes, often to repay a family debt to the “host” family, in situations that sometimes constituted forced labor. In some cases, the host was a relative who informally “adopted” the child.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution bars discrimination based on disability, and the law bans discrimination based on gender in employment and wages in the workplace. The law nonetheless explicitly precludes women from employment in certain occupations, allows the government to recruit either men or women for certain civil service positions, and discriminates by gender in eligibility for certain job-related allowances. No law prohibits discrimination regarding race, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations but were not applied in all sectors. Discrimination occurred against women and persons with disabilities in hiring and access to the workplace. Women had limited access to credit, loans, and land, especially in rural areas where traditional biases about women’s roles and lack of government oversight were prevalent. Migrant workers were vulnerable to discrimination; the International Labor Organization noted there were concerns regarding discrimination against certain ethnic groups, including Asian workers and entrepreneurs.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage was above the official estimate for the poverty income level. The law regulates minimum wage levels, allowances, rest periods, holiday leave, and overtime work. The law limits the workweek to 42 hours per week in urban areas and 44 hours per week in rural areas, and it provides for premium pay for overtime work. The government did not effectively enforce the minimum wage and overtime law; penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Labor Department is responsible for enforcing minimum wage, work hours, and occupational safety and health (OSH) laws. The government sets appropriate OSH standards and is required by law to inspect work sites on a regular basis. The law does not specify protection for employees who seek to remove themselves from conditions they deem hazardous. In the case of a second or subsequent violation of wage or safety and health law, the employer is liable to a fine for each day or part of each day for which the offense continued. When an employer fails to obey an order, direction, or requirement, the court may order imprisonment of the offender until the directive is obeyed.

The government did not effectively enforce OSH law. Inspectors have the right to make unannounced visits and levy sanctions, but the number of OSH and industrial relations inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations. Violations of wage, overtime, and OSH law and regulations were common in the logging, mining, agricultural, and construction sectors due to the government’s lack of enforcement capacity. The logging industry in particular was known for extremely low wages and poor working conditions, including cramped and unhygienic worker housing. Workers in the mining sector were also subjected to hazardous and exploitative conditions, including exposure to toxic metals such as mercury.

Informal Sector: An estimated 85 percent of the country’s workers labored in the unregulated informal sector, primarily in subsistence agriculture. Labor law does not apply to workers in the informal sector. Conditions in the informal sector were commonly in violation of the wage, hour, and safety provisions applicable to the formal sector. Working conditions for women working in the informal economy, mainly street vendors, were often unsafe and unhealthy. According to a 2021 Lowy Institute research paper, those with no formal schooling had lower participation rates in the informal sector than those who dropped out of school. The main activities in the informal economy included, in addition to agriculture, selling betel nut, cigars, basic groceries, arts and crafts, and garments.

Sri Lanka

Executive Summary

Sri Lanka is a constitutional, multiparty democratic republic with a freely elected government. Presidential elections were held in 2019, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidency. He appointed former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother, as prime minister. In 2020 Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa led the Sri Lankan People’s Freedom Alliance and small allied parties to secure a two-thirds supermajority, winning 150 of 225 seats in parliamentary elections. COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented international observers and limited domestic election observation. Domestic observers described the election as peaceful, technically well managed, and safe considering the COVID-19 pandemic but noted that unregulated campaign spending, abuse of state resources, and media bias affected the level playing field.

The Sri Lanka Police are responsible for maintaining internal security and are under the Ministry of Public Security, formed in November 2020. The military, under the Ministry of Defense (the president holds the defense portfolio), may be called upon to handle specifically delineated domestic security responsibilities, but generally without arrest authority. The 11,000-member paramilitary Special Task Force, a police entity that reports to the inspector general of police (IGP), coordinates internal security operations with the military. Civilian officials maintained control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces, primarily the police, committed numerous abuses.

Parliament passed the 20th Amendment to the constitution in October 2020. Opposition political leaders and civil society groups widely criticized the amendment for its broad expansion of executive authority that activists said would undermine the independence of the judiciary and independent state institutions, such as the Human Rights Commission and the Election Commission, by granting the president sole authority to make appointments to these bodies with parliament afforded only a consultative role.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in other countries; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary and unlawful interference with privacy; restrictions on free expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests and prosecutions of journalists, and censorship; restrictions on internet freedom; interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; restrictions on freedom of movement; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence and sexual violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence targeting members of national, racial, and ethnic minority groups; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, even if the laws were not enforced; and restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.

The government took minimal steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption, and there was impunity for both.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Corruption remained a significant and continuing problem, including at the highest levels of government. International companies frequently reported requests for bribes on matters ranging from customs clearances to government procurement.

On August 6, while delivering a judgement dismissing a case filed against two labor field officers for accepting a bribe of 15,000 rupees ($74), press reported a Colombo High Court judge stated that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) favored politicians by withdrawing cases against them based on technicalities but that CIABOC did not take the same approach to cases against the public, which the judge declared was clear discrimination. In its final report tabled in parliament on March 9, the PCoI appointed in January 2020 to investigate alleged political victimization during the tenure of the previous government recommended the withdrawal of nearly 40 cases of bribery and corruption pending in the courts, identifying them as incidents of political victimization. In her report for the 46th Session of the UNHRC, High Commissioner Bachelet noted that the PCoI had “undermined police investigations and court proceedings related to several high-profile human rights and corruption cases.”

Ahimsa Wickrematunge, daughter of slain journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, filed a complaint on January 8 with the UN Human Rights Committee regarding alleged government involvement in her father’s death 12 years earlier. The Center for Justice and Accountability, an international human rights NGO, supported the filing of Ahimsa’s complaint alleging that her father was killed by a military-linked hit squad while driving to work in 2009, days before he was to testify in a defamation case filed by then defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa regarding an article implicating him in a corruption scandal involving the purchase of MiG fighter planes.

On July 27, the Colombo High Court acquitted Avant-Garde Maritime Services chairman Nissanka Yapa Senadhipathi and retired major general Palitha Fernando of charges of soliciting and accepting 35.5 million rupees ($175,000) in bribes. The decision was pursuant to the AGD informing the court that the CIABOC would withdraw the case after the defendants filed a petition against the CIABOC for technical errors, as the CIABOC had failed to obtain the written approval of its three commissioners when filing the charges against the accused. This action concluded a long-standing corruption case filed by the CIABOC in 2015 related to a floating armory seized near Galle Fort. On May 20, the president appointed Fernando as one of the commissioners of the Office for Reparations, a key institution providing relief to families of the disappeared. On June 21, High Commissioner Bachelet said, “I am concerned that recent appointments to the Office on Missing Persons and Office for Reparations, and steps to discourage investigations into past crimes, are further undermining victims’ trust.”

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups investigated and published their findings on human rights cases. Government officials, however, were unreceptive to findings and employed bureaucratic obfuscation to inhibit the work of such organizations.

Numerous human rights defenders reported police and security services increased monitoring and surveillance of them through “burdensome and arbitrary” reporting requirements and harassment and intimidation during in-person home and office visits. These visits were often followed by additional visits, letters, or telephone calls, the frequency of these actions varying depending on the organization or individual’s mission or geographic location, with those in the north and east reporting the greatest number of follow-up actions. Individuals reported that the visits caused distress, anxiety, and other mental health problems for themselves and their families, as well as affected their work on advancing issues such as human rights, accountability, and transitional justice. See section 2.b. for additional examples.

The United Nations and Other International Bodies: On January 27, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report raising concerns regarding the “deteriorating human rights situation” and called on the international community to take robust action, including urging the UNHRC to ensure more monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in the country and to mandate the collection and preservation of evidence of gross human rights violations for future prosecutions.

On March 23, the UNHRC passed Resolution 46/1 to address justice, accountability, and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The resolution was cosponsored by 40 countries and included a mandate to establish a 12-person, $2.8 million OHCHR secretariat for the collection and analysis of information and evidence of gross human rights violations or serious violations of international humanitarian law. The government rejected the mandate and declared its provisions could not be implemented without the government’s consent.

During the year the government did not implement a mechanism to hold accountable military and security personnel accused of atrocities during the 1983-2009 civil war as called for in 2015 by UNHRC Resolution 30/1.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The HRCSL has jurisdiction to investigate human rights violations. The HRCSL consists of five commissioners and has divisions for investigations, education, monitoring and review, and administration and finance. The HRCSL accepts complaints from the public and may also self-initiate investigations. After an allegation is proven to the satisfaction of the commission, the HRCSL may recommend financial compensation for victims, refer the case for administrative disciplinary action or to the attorney general for prosecution, or both. If the government does not follow an HRCSL request for evidence, the HRCSL may summon witnesses from the government to explain its action. If the HRCSL finds the government has not complied with its request, the HRCSL may refer the case to the High Court for prosecution for contempt by the AGD, an offense punishable by imprisonment or fine. By statute the HRCSL has wide powers and resources and may not be called as a witness in any court of law or be sued for matters relating to its official duties. Since the passage of the 20th Amendment, rights groups assessed the HRCSL did not operate independent of and without interference from the government.

A memorandum of understanding between the United Nations, HRCSL, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Law and Order, finalized in 2018, determined the HRCSL is responsible for vetting military and police participants in peacekeeping operations.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and domestic violence, but enforcement of the law was inconsistent. The law does not criminalize rape of men but does criminalize “grave sexual abuse.” The prescribed penalties for rape are seven to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 200,000 rupees ($1,000). For domestic violence, a victim can obtain a protection order for one year and request a maintenance allowance. The law prohibits spousal rape only if the spouses are legally separated.

Women’s organizations reported police and judiciary responses to rape and domestic violence incidents and cases were inadequate. The police Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Women and Children conducted awareness programs in schools and at the grassroots level to encourage women to file complaints. Police continued to establish women’s units in police stations. Services to assist survivors of rape and domestic violence, such as crisis centers, legal aid, and counseling, were scarce nationwide due to a lack of support.

According to the local NGO Women’s Development Foundation, cybersex crimes against women and children increased 300 percent following the onset of COVID-19. Local organizations widely said the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic and government lockdowns contributed to the vulnerability of at-risk groups and resulted in an increase in cybersex crimes, including online sex trafficking. Some organizations attributed the steep increase to the return of urban workers to rural areas and the increase in social media and smart phone usage while at home. Reports of gender-based violence rose substantially during the pandemic, with reports of survivors often being trapped indoors with their perpetrators.

In April rural women facing exorbitant interest rates from unregulated lenders held protests calling for the abolition of microfinance loans. Several microfinance institutions were reported to have hired village watchdogs to recover loans, and reports of demands for sexual favors in exchange for repayment were common. According to the Asian Development Bank, the incidence of violence against women remained high in rural and estate sectors.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C for women and girls. Some of the country’s Muslims historically practiced FGM/C, but it was not a part of public discourse until recent years, when media articles drew attention to the practice. There were no recent statistics on the prevalence of FGM/C in the country, although it was not believed to be common. A 2018 Ministry of Health circular banned medical practitioners from carrying out FGM/C, but since the practice was usually carried out by traditional practitioners known as Ostha Maamis, activists said the prohibition had little effect. Several civil society groups led mostly by Muslim women continued to campaign against FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sexual harassment was common and was a particularly widespread problem in public transport.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health. They have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. No significant legal, social, or cultural barriers adversely affected access to skilled health care workers in attendance during pregnancy and childbirth or contraception. According to organizations working on reproductive rights, sexual and reproductive health services, in both the public and private sectors, were heavily curtailed during COVID-19 lockdowns except for deliveries and pregnancy-related services. Most pharmacies remained open during lockdowns and many contraceptives remained accessible.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence; however, NGOs reported police were often unaware of resources available, limiting referrals.

Discrimination: Women have equal rights to men under civil and criminal law, although societal discrimination existed throughout the country. Adjudication of questions related to family law, including marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, varied according to the customary law of each ethnic or religious group, resulting in discrimination. The National Police Commission increased the contribution of women in the police service by increasing the number of female officers at each post.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained that they suffered long-standing, systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, housing, health services, language laws, and procedures for naturalization of noncitizens. Throughout the country, but especially in the north and east, Tamils reported security forces regularly monitored and harassed members of their community, especially activists, journalists, and NGO staff and former or suspected former LTTE members.

According to an October Amnesty International report, the Muslim community has experienced consistent discrimination, harassment, and violence since 2013. The government failed to prosecute individuals and groups involved in vandalizing mosques, Muslim-owned businesses, and homes after the May 2019 riots that followed the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. As of October 14, according to civil society groups, more than 300 individuals (almost all Muslim) remained in detention in alleged connection with the Easter Sunday attacks (see section 1.d.).

On February 25, the government reversed the mandatory cremation policy for all COVID-19 victims, which had been in effect since March 2020. The policy violated Muslim religious tenants and the religious preferences of some Christians and Buddhists. International organizations reported the government used the COVID-19 pandemic to “stoke communal tensions” as well as to limit religious freedom. Some extremist Buddhist monks and other extremist groups continued to use hate speech on social media with impunity.

On October 26, President Rajapaksa appointed a 13-member presidential task force to implement his “One Country, One Law” campaign pledge and named general secretary of the Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena and Buddhist monk Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero as chairman. The presidential task force initially included four Muslims but no Tamils or Christians. On November 6, the president limited the mandate of the task force to presenting proposals for a framework of the “One Country, One Law” concept. He also appointed three Tamil members, replacing two of the original members (one Sinhalese and one Muslim) who had resigned. As of December 7, the task force had held public consultations in the northern and eastern provinces. Civil society, opposition politicians, and representatives of ethnic and religious minority groups criticized the announcement of the task force and the appointment of Gnanasara as chairman, noting fears that the task force would “eventually turn towards targeting minorities.”

See sections 1-5 for incidents affecting racial and ethnic minority groups, and section 2.c. for issues impacting religious minority groups.

Indigenous Peoples

The country’s indigenous people, known as Veddas, reportedly numbered fewer than 1,000. Some preferred to maintain their traditional way of life, and the law generally protected them, although some faced land encroachment issues. They freely participated in political and economic life without legal restrictions, but some did not have legal documents.

Children

Birth Registration: Children obtain citizenship from their parents.

Child Abuse: There was growing public concern regarding the high incidence of violence, including sexual violence, against children in the family and community, as well as incidents of online violence and bullying.

Despite successful efforts to reform the penal code, the basic criminal law, and other laws on child abuse, cruelty to children and their exploitation in trafficking and child labor persisted. Penalties vary based on the type and degree of child abuse, but trials tended to drag on for years.

Most child abuse complaints were received by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) via a toll-free 24-hour hotline. Teachers, school principals, and religious instructors reportedly sexually abused children. Civil society organizations working on children’s issues asserted children had insufficient mechanisms to report domestic violence or abuse safely. Although police stations were supposed to have an officer dedicated to handling abuse complaints from women and children, the government did not consistently implement this practice nationwide. The police’s Children and Women Bureau played a major role in investigating abuse cases, but depending on the severity of the case, some fall under the jurisdiction of the magistrates’ courts as outlined in the criminal procedure code. In these instances police file a formal complaint sheet and begin a judicial medical process. The attorney general files indictments for child abuse cases exclusively in high courts.

The NCPA reported no decrease in the number of child abuse cases throughout the pandemic and associated travel restrictions and lockdowns. The NCPA received nearly 4,000 complaints of child abuse and received information from 48,000 telephone calls from January to June 30. The Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to install video-recording units at hospitals throughout the nine provinces. The only evidence reporting unit for children was at the NCPA office in Colombo.

On February 12, the Supreme Court ruled that corporal punishment in schools was unlawful, after considering a petition filed by a 15-year-old who sustained permanent damage to his hearing when a teacher hit him across the ear in 2017. The court included both physical and mental harm in its definition of corporal punishment, which it deemed cruel and degrading, and referenced the country’s international commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the penal code and Education Ministry circulars in its decision, which was hailed as a landmark ruling by civil society.

See section 7.c. for other examples.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Civil law sets the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 for both men and women, although girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent. According to the penal code, sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 16, with or without her consent, amounts to statutory rape. The provision, however, does not apply to married Muslim girls older than 12. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, which applies only to Muslims, permits the marriage of girls as young as 12 with the consent of the bride’s father, other male relatives, or a quazi (a judge who interprets and administers Islamic law).

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child sex trafficking, and practices related to child pornography, but authorities did not always enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.

On June 7, police arrested a 35-year-old suspect for procuring and trafficking a 15-year-old girl in Mount Lavinia, a suburb south of Colombo. The suspect allegedly “sold” the child online to third parties for a period of three months, utilizing websites linked to a “cyber shack” in Mount Lavinia. By July 23, police had arrested more than 41 individuals, including the victim’s mother, on child sex trafficking, child abuse, statutory rape, and other charges. A few suspects were released on bail. Police arrested the owner of the website and, according to the local office of Save the Children, the NCPA was closely supporting the child victim, who was receiving professional medical care and academic tutoring.

Displaced Children: IDP welfare centers and relocation sites exposed children to the same difficult conditions as adult IDPs and returnees in these areas.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population was very small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Various laws forbid discrimination against any person with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel, other public transportation, and access to health care. In practice, however, discrimination occurred in employment, education, and provision of state services, including public transportation. Children with disabilities attended school at a lower rate than other persons. There were regulations on accessibility, but accommodation for access to buildings and public transportation for persons with disabilities was rare. Election assistance to persons with disabilities was limited in some instances due to conflicting COVID-19 social distancing regulations. Disability rights groups alleged the government had shown no interest in taking steps to implement further protections for persons with disabilities.

There are legal provisions for assisted voting of persons with disabilities. Anyone with a partial or full visual or physical disability may their ballot with the assistance of a person of their choice or the senior presiding officer if they are unable to be accompanied by an assistant. According to the Asian Network for Free Elections, most polling stations had steps for which wheelchair-bound voters required assistance.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons who provided HIV prevention services and groups at high risk of infection reportedly suffered discrimination. In addition, hospital officials reportedly publicized the HIV-positive status of their patients and occasionally refused to provide health care to HIV-positive persons.

The number of HIV-infected male patients between the ages of 19 and 25 appeared on the rise in the country, according to the National Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)/AIDS Control Program of the Ministry of Health. The ministry reported in March that there were 4,073 HIV-positive patients in the country, but only 2,000 HIV-positive patients were registered with the National STD/AIDS Control Program and were receiving antiretroviral treatment.

According to the National STD/AIDS Control Program, as of August the country vaccinated most of its HIV-positive population older than age 30 against COVID-19. The program reported a decrease in the number of those getting tested for HIV over the past year and that it introduced an online self-assessment process through its website.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Those convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual activity in private or public face 10 years’ imprisonment. Although prosecutions were rare, human rights organizations reported police used the threat of arrest to assault, harass, and sexually and monetarily extort lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. Antidiscrimination laws do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Transgender persons continued to face societal discrimination, including arbitrary detention, mistreatment, and discrimination accessing employment, housing, and health care.

On March 1, on United Nations “Zero Discrimination Day,” the president tweeted, “Today is #ZeroDiscriminationDay. As the president of Sri Lanka, I am determined to secure everybody’s right to live life with dignity regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, physical appearance, and beliefs.” The president’s message was welcomed by many on social media, even as some pointed to a section of the penal code that criminalizes same-sex relations. Some human rights activists thanked the president, indicating he became the first head of state in the country to openly acknowledge the rights of LGBTQI+ citizens. Other advocates said in March that the LGBTQI+ community faced discrimination daily due to the country’s legal landscape and social stigmas. Human rights activists noted a pervasive culture of impunity among police heightened the risk of abuse for all marginalized groups including the LGBTQI+ community.

On August 3, cabinet cospokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told press LGBTQI+ rights are not constitutionally recognized but discussions continued, and that he was not aware of police actions against LGBTQI+ persons.

The Colombo chief magistrate dismissed charges against three men for homosexuality after the AGD informed police it would not pursue the case. One of the men, a Swedish national, had filed a complaint with the HRCSL stating that police officers subjected him to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join unions of their choice. Exceptions include members of the armed forces, police officers, judicial officers, and prison officers. Workers in nonessential services industries, except for workers in public-service unions, have the legal right to bargain collectively. The law does not explicitly recognize the right to strike, but courts recognized an implied right to strike based on the Trade Unions Ordinance and the Industrial Disputes Act. Nonunion worker councils tended to represent labor in export-processing zone (EPZ) enterprises, although several unions operated in the zones. According to the Board of Investment, which operated the EPZs, if both a recognized trade union with bargaining power and a nonunion worker council exist in an enterprise, the trade union would have the power to represent the employees in collective bargaining.

Under emergency regulations of the public-security ordinance, the president has broad discretion to declare sectors “essential” to national security, the life of the community, or the preservation of public order and to revoke those workers’ rights to conduct legal strikes. In addition to the public-security ordinance, the law allows the president to declare services provided by government agencies as “essential” public services. The law prohibits retribution against striking workers in nonessential sectors. Seven workers may form a union, adopt a charter, elect leaders, and publicize their views, but a union must represent 40 percent of workers at a given enterprise before the law obligates the employer to bargain with the union. Unions that do not meet the 40 percent threshold can merge with others and operate as one. The International Trade Union Confederation reported that employers used the 40 percent threshold to refuse to bargain with unions. The law does not permit public-sector unions to form federations or represent workers from more than one branch or department of government. The Labor Ministry may cancel a union’s registration if it fails to submit an annual report for three years.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Labor laws do not cover domestic workers employed in the homes of others or informal-sector workers.

The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, but the government enforced the law unevenly. Violations for antiunion discrimination may result in a fine of 100,000 rupees ($500). The law requires an employer found guilty of antiunion discrimination to reinstate workers fired for union activities, but it may transfer them to different locations. These penalties were commensurate with those under other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Only the Labor Ministry has legal standing to pursue an unfair labor practice case, including for antiunion discrimination.

Only the Department of Labor may bring antiunion discrimination cases before a magistrate court, not victims of such discrimination. From 1999 to year’s end, the Labor Ministry filed 14 cases against companies for unfair labor practices under the Industrial Disputes Act. Citing routine government inaction on alleged violations of labor rights, some unions pressed for standing to sue for such practices, while some smaller unions did not want that ability because of the cost of filing cases. Workers brought some labor violations to court under the Termination of Employment and Workmen Act and the Payment of Gratuity Act. Lengthy delays hindered judicial procedures. The Industrial Dispute Act does not apply to the public sector, and public-sector unions had no formal dispute resolution mechanism. In addition, most large-scale private firms in the services sector, other than banks and tourist hotels, prohibited forming or joining a labor union within work premises and included it as a binding clause in the letter of appointment or contracts signed between the employee and the firm; this practice transgresses the country’s legal framework.

The government generally respected workers’ freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Public-sector unions staged numerous work stoppages on several issues, ranging from government moves to privatize state-owned enterprises to wage issues. The International Labor Organization expressed concern that EPZ enterprises refused to recognize the right of unions to bargain collectively.

In November 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, President Rajapaksa issued an “extraordinary gazette” order making port workers essential employees. Under the essential services act, any port employee not attending work faces “conviction after summary trial before a magistrate” and is “liable to rigorous imprisonment” of two to five years, a fine between 2,000 and 5,000 rupees ($10 and $25), or both. The essential service acts were previously used to break strikes and protests and negatively impacted workers deemed “essential.” When emergency laws are declared, essential service orders can be extended to the private sector as well.

While some unions in the public sector were politically independent, most large unions were affiliated with political parties and played a prominent role in the political process. Unions alleged that employers often indefinitely delayed recognition of unions to avoid collective bargaining, decrease support for unionization, or identify, terminate, and sometimes assault or threaten union activists. The Ministry of Labor requires labor commissioners to hold union certification elections within 30 working days of an application for registration if there was no objection or within 45 working days if there was an objection.

Seven unions representing EPZ employees made a series of proposals to the labor minister to protect their rights and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The labor unions that wrote the proposals were supported by 20 civil society organizations. Apparel unions also wrote open letters requesting the government do more to protect their workforce from the global pandemic, including expediting vaccination efforts among garment workers, increasing COVID-19 testing at factories, providing personal protective equipment, and including the industry in general COVID-related lockdowns. While the government took steps to implement a 5,000-rupee ($25) COVID-19 subsidy for EPZ employees, there were reports the subsidy was insufficient, with most workers out of work for months.

On July 7, police arrested former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna provincial councilors Samantha Vidyaratna and Mahinda Jayasinghe, All-Ceylon Farmers Federation national organizer Namal Karunaratne, Frontline Socialist Party member and Center for Labor Struggles coordinating secretary Duminda Nagamuwa for allegedly violating quarantine regulations. They were arrested for protesting on July 1 in Badulla against the government’s chemical fertilizer ban, protesting with the workers of the State Engineering Corporation of Sri Lanka demanding their salaries be paid on time, and protesting the destruction of the Muthurajawela wetlands north of Colombo. According to the police media spokesman, the suspects were released on bail on July 7.

The forced quarantine of trade union leaders including Ceylon Teachers’ Union general secretary Joseph Stalin, Frontline Socialist Party politburo member Duminda Nagamuwa, and several others following their arrest on July 7-8 for participating in an education-related protest elicited a strong backlash from the opposition and civil society. According to press reports, the Colombo Magistrate Court released all the protesters on bail after rejecting the police’s request to direct them into quarantine, something the courts were not authorized to do. On July 10, the public-health inspectors stated they did not recommend protesters be quarantined, as there were strict guidelines on who can be quarantined and on what grounds. Despite this, press reported police forcibly took the protesters to a government-run quarantine center in Mullaitivu in the northern province. Following pressure by trade unions across the country, lawsuits against the members’ detention, and public criticism at the forced quarantine as a violation of the union leaders’ civil liberties, the government released the members before the standard 14-day period on July 16.

On August 4, police arrested 44 teachers and principals after a protest outside the presidential secretariat in Colombo and detained them at the Harbor police station, releasing them a day later. Other activists and leaders, including leaders from the Progressive Women’s Collective and the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, were arrested for their involvement in protests in July and then later released on bail. The protesters were demanding a solution to salary anomalies and, according to the police spokesperson, were charged with unlawful assembly, obstruction of vehicular movement and main roads, as well as violating quarantine regulations.

According to trade union leaders and worker’s rights organizations, nearly 250,000 teachers participated in more than two months of strikes, and protests and strikes led by railway, postal, plantation, fishermen, and health workers were held throughout the year. Numerous protesters were arrested and charged with violating quarantine regulations, unlawful assembly, or both, while other demonstrators said they faced continued threats and reprisals for leading or participating in protests. Activists noted the quarantine regulations were selectively applied to movements criticizing the government and that the emergency regulations directly impacted workers’ and their ability to strike or protest without fear of reprisals.

On November 10, the prime minister agreed to a two-decade demand by teachers and principals for salary increases, including agreeing to their demand that the entire raise be provided in a single increment, ending months of union strikes and protests (see section 2.b.). Teachers ended their strike on October 25 and returned to teaching, but they refused to participate in nonacademic activities until the prime minister’s November 10 decision.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor, but penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The government did not effectively enforce the laws due to inadequate resources, inspections, and remediation efforts, as well as a lack of identification of forced labor cases. Labor Ministry inspections did not extend to domestic workers except in the event of a report of underage domestic workers. The government sporadically prosecuted labor agents who fraudulently recruited migrant workers yet appeared to sustain its monthly meetings to improve interministerial coordination.

Children between the ages of 16 and 18 and women working as live-in domestic workers in some homes were vulnerable to forced labor (see section 7.c.).

Traffickers exploited men, women, and children in forced labor. Traffickers recruited women from rural areas with promises of urban jobs in the hospitality sector, salons, spas, and domestic work but exploited some in forced labor. While conditions for most tea plantation workers on larger corporate tea estates met international certification standards, such as Fair Trade, some smaller tea estate owners exploited men and women in bonded labor. Some NGOs documented cases in which employers “sold” workers’ debts to another estate and forced the workers to move. The same reports stated that some tea estates illegally deducted more than 75 percent of workers’ daily earnings for miscellaneous fees and repayment of debts, including charging workers for the pay slip itself. Three international organizations reported that forced labor continued at approximately nine tea estates.

Police continued to arrest trafficking victims for vagrancy, prostitution, and immigration offenses. Police allegedly accepted bribes to permit commercial sexual exploitation, and NGOs reported that workers in government and private shelters for trafficking victims abused and exploited residents. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment was raised from 14 to 16 in January, although the law permits the employment of younger children by their parents or guardians in limited family agricultural work or technical training. The government increased the compulsory age of education from 14 to 16 in 2016. The law prohibits hazardous work for persons younger than 18. The law limits the working hours of children ages 16 and 17 to 10 hours per day. The government estimated less than 1 percent of children – approximately 40,000 – were working, although employment was often in hazardous occupations. The government classifies 71 activities as hazardous. Although the government did not effectively enforce all laws, existing penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The Labor Ministry made some progress in eliminating the worst forms of child labor. The government appointed district coordinators with responsibility for reducing child labor in all 25 districts and provided new guidelines for district officials. The Department of Labor continued its efforts to monitor workplaces on the list of hazardous work for children. The government reported there were 11 shelters for child victims of trafficking at the provincial level.

Children worked in the construction, manufacturing, mining, transport, street vending, and fishing industries and as cleaners and helpers, domestic workers, and street vendors. Children also worked in agriculture during harvest periods. Children displaced by the war were especially vulnerable to employment in hazardous labor.

The government amended the Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act to prohibit the employment of persons younger than 18 as domestic servants. Family enterprises, such as family farms, crafts, small trade establishments, restaurants, and repair shops, commonly employed children. Criminals reportedly exploited children, especially boys, for child sex trafficking in coastal areas catering to sex tourists (see section 6, Children).

On July 15, a domestic worker age 16 died at the home of former minister and leader of the Muslim political party All Ceylon Makkal Congress Rishad Bathiudeen. The girl reportedly died of self-inflicted burns, but a coroner’s postmortem revealed the victim had been sexually abused over a long period of time. A magistrate court ordered exhumation of the victim’s body for a second postmortem on July 30; announcement of the findings was pending as of December 12.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution prohibits discrimination, including with respect to employment and occupation, based on race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, or place of birth. The law does not prohibit employment or occupational discrimination based on color, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, HIV-positive status, or status regarding other communicable diseases.

Women have a range of workforce restrictions, including caps on overtime work and limits on nighttime shifts. Women are restricted from certain jobs. Women are prohibited from working in mines, except under certain circumstances, and are equated with young persons in laws prohibiting cleaning of transmission machinery while in motion. A previous effort to remove these prohibitions was unsuccessful in the face of opposition from many trade unions. The retirement age for women was raised in November to match that of men.

Employers are required to bear the full cost of providing maternity-leave benefits to their employees for 12 weeks. The labor market was characterized by high female unemployment and low female labor force participation. Unemployment rates for women younger than age 40 were much higher than they were for men, and this discrepancy was also connected to age. A woman between the age of 25 and 39 seeking employment was 3.8 times more likely to be unemployed than a man seeking employment in the same age cohort. An estimated 55 percent of employees in the public sector were men and 45 percent were women. In contrast, 70 percent of employees outside the public sector were men and only 30 percent were women. According to civil society, some groups in the north and east reported experiencing employment and occupation barriers.

The government did not always effectively enforce these laws, and discrimination based on the above categories occurred with respect to employment and occupation. Penalties were commensurate with those under laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. For example, some employers specified positions requiring male or female applicants, and women often earned less than men for equal work. The earnings gap between men and women was 15.9 percent. Companies also openly evaded paying legally mandated maternity benefits through hiring discrimination of young women. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs also described widespread social stigma and harassment and minimal child-care services. The Ministry of Women worked with the World Bank in 2019 to open career centers for women business owners to offer technical and vocational training for in-demand occupations. The ministry also expanded day-care centers across the country and offered tax incentives to cover the salaries for women on maternity leave in 2019, but these centers were not able to operate during the global coronavirus pandemic.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Parliament passed its first-ever national minimum wage law in 2015 and revised it during the year to include a daily minimum wage and raise the monthly minimum by 12.5 percent. The Department of Labor’s wage boards continued to set minimum wages and working conditions by sector and industry in consultation with unions and employers. The minimum private-sector and public-sector wages were above the government’s official poverty line.

The law prohibits most full-time workers from regularly working more than 45 hours per week (a five-and-one-half-day workweek). In addition, the law stipulates a rest period of one hour per day. Regulations limit the maximum overtime hours to 15 per week. Overtime pay is 1.5 times the basic wage and is paid for work beyond 45 hours per week and work on Sundays or holidays. The provision limiting basic work hours is not applicable to managers and executives in public institutions. The law provides for paid annual holidays.

Enforcement of minimum wage and overtime laws was insufficient. Under the Shop and Office Act, penalties for violating hours of work laws are a fine of 500 rupees ($2.50), six months’ imprisonment, or both. The law provides for a fine of 50 rupees ($0.25) per day if the offense continues after conviction. These penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. In 2018 amendments to the factory’s ordinance and the wages board ordinance increased fines for nonpayment of salaries to workers under the purview of the wages board to between 5,000 rupees ($25) and 10,000 rupees ($50), along with imprisonment not exceeding one year.

Labor Ministry inspectors verified whether employers fully paid employees and contributed to pension funds as required by law. Unions questioned, however, whether the ministry’s inspections were effective. The Labor Department used a computerized labor information system application designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of inspections, but officials and trade unions noted concerns that the system was not well maintained.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational health and safety standards. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous situations, but many workers had no knowledge of such rights or feared that they would lose their jobs if they did so. Authorities did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health standards in all sectors. Penalties for violations of occupational safety and health laws were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence. The Labor Ministry’s resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were insufficient. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient for the country’s workforce. Occupational health and safety standards in the rapidly growing construction sector, including infrastructure development projects such as port, airport, and road construction, as well as high-rise buildings, were insufficient. Employers, particularly those in the construction industry, increasingly used contract employment for work of a regular nature, and contract workers had fewer safeguards. Labor regulations apply whenever a company has at least one permanent employee, but seasonal workers are not necessarily covered.

When the government imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 20 due to COVID-19, employers in free-trade zones required workers to continue working until cases spread and workers protested. After one month, several large companies resumed work, putting workers in unsafe conditions amid rising COVID-19 infections. There were reports that wages were not paid or were delayed.

The Industrial Safety Division of the Department of Labor compiles annual information on workplace safety. During 2020, 71 fatal and 1,116 nonfatal workplace accidents were reported to the Department of Labor. Similar data for 2021 were not available at year’s end.

Informal Sector: According to the 2019 Labor Survey, approximately 62 percent of the country’s workforce was employed informally, and legal entitlements enjoyed by formal-sector workers such as Employees Provident Fund, Employees Trust Fund, paid leave, gratuity payments, and security of employment were not available to a large majority of the aggregate workforce in the country. Labor inspectors did not monitor wages or working conditions or provide programs or social protections for informal-sector workers. In November media reported most of those working in the informal economy were self-employed and that the informal sector accounted for 87.5 percent of the total employment in agriculture. Local media reported that employees in the informal sector lacked job protections.

Tanzania

Executive Summary

The United Republic of Tanzania is a multiparty republic consisting of the mainland region and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago, whose main islands are Unguja (Zanzibar Island) and Pemba. The union is headed by a president, who is also the head of government. Its unicameral legislative body is the National Assembly (parliament). Zanzibar, although part of the union, exercises considerable autonomy and has its own government with a president, court system, and legislature. In October 2020 the country held its sixth multiparty general election, resulting in the reelection of the union president, John Magufuli, with 85 percent of the vote, and the election of Hussein Mwinyi, with 76 percent of the vote for his first term as president of Zanzibar. International observers noted widespread irregularities and largely categorized the election as neither free nor fair. On March 19, two days after the announcement of Magufuli’s death, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as the country’s first female president.

Under the union’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the Tanzania Police Force has primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. The Field Force Unit, a special police division, has primary responsibility for controlling unlawful demonstrations and riots. The Tanzania People’s Defense Forces include the army, navy, air force, and National Services. The Defense Forces are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities and report to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of domestic security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: forced disappearance by the government or on behalf of the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence and threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operations of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom or other mistreatment of refugees that would constitute a separate human rights abuse; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national/racial/ethnic minorities, or indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of any of the worst forms of child labor.

In some cases the government took steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses or were involved in corruption, but impunity in police and other security forces and civilian branches of government was widespread.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year. President Hassan took several steps to signal a commitment to fighting corruption. These included surprise inspections of ministries, hospitals, and the port of Dar es Salaam, often followed by the immediate dismissal or suspension of officials.

Corruption: While efforts were being made to rein in corruption, it remained a problem. The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) reported that most corruption investigations concerned government involvement in mining, land, energy, and investments.

NGOs reported allegations of corruption involving the Tanzania Revenue Authority, local government officials, police, licensing authorities, hospital workers, and media. In March President Hassan ordered the PCCB to dismiss baseless cases, and on May 18, the PCCB dropped a substantial number of pending cases.

The PCCB’s mandate excludes Zanzibar. In September an official from the Zanzibar Anti-Corruption Authority stated the entity lacked the financial and human resources necessary to fulfil its obligations.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The overall climate for NGOs, however, shifted in the last few years. Some international organizations had delays in receiving work and residency permits, although progress was observed during the year. Some human rights NGOs continued to complain of a negative government reaction when they challenged government practice or policy.

To improve coordination between NGOs and the government at the district and regional level, the government appointed 26 regional assistant registrars (Community Development Officers) and 185 council assistant registrars. There remained concerns, however, regarding how the government could use this process to monitor or deregister organizations that are perceived to be antigovernment.

In August 2020 the government froze the bank accounts of the THRDC and arrested its director, Onesmo Olengurumwa, and actively sought to suspend or prevent the functioning of several others – including the NGO Inclusive Development for Change, and on Zanzibar, the Centre for Strategic Litigation (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). On April 20, the government unfroze THRDC bank accounts, allowing the organization to restart its programing.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with visits from UN representatives, such as special rapporteurs, as well as those from UN specialized agencies such as the International Labor Organization or other international organizations (but not including NGOs) that monitor human rights. UNHCR during the year reported increased bureaucratic hurdles to conducting work inside refugee camps (see section 2.f.).

Government Human Rights Bodies: The union parliamentary Committee for Constitutional, Legal, and Public Administration is responsible for reporting and making recommendations regarding human rights.

The CHRAGG operated on both the mainland and Zanzibar, but low funding levels and lack of leadership limited its effectiveness. The commission has no legal authority to prosecute cases but can make recommendations to other offices concerning remedies or call media attention to human rights abuses, violations, and other public complaints. It also has authority to issue interim orders preventing actions in order to preserve the status quo, pending an investigation. Human rights stakeholders expressed concerns that the government was censoring the human rights body, citing the failure of the CHRAGG to condemn human rights abuses.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law provides for life imprisonment for persons convicted of rape, including spousal rape during periods of legal separation. The law stipulates persons wishing to report a rape must do so at a police station, where they must receive a release form before seeking medical help. This process contributed to medical complications, incomplete forensic evidence, and failure to report rapes. Survivors often feared that cases reported to police would be made public.

The law prohibits assault but does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Domestic violence against women remained widespread, and police rarely investigated such cases.

Authorities rarely prosecuted persons who abused women. Persons close to the victims, such as relatives and friends, were most likely to be the perpetrators. Many defendants who appeared in court were set free because of corruption in the judicial system, lack of evidence, poor investigations, and poor evidence preservation.

There were some government efforts to combat gender-based violence. Police maintained gender and child desks in regions throughout the country to support survivors, address relevant crimes, and address mistrust between members of key populations and police. Their effectiveness, however, varied widely. Police validated a referral guide to improve the quality and consistency of responses to cases of gender-based violence. Despite government efforts, cases against women increased, particularly due to the tradition of resolving matters of this nature within the family unit or at the community level. The LHRC released a statement that condemned an increase in gender-based violence within the community during COVID-19 restrictions. In an effort to combat its incidence, the government introduced a campaign called “Tokomeza Ukatili Twende Pamoja” or “Let us Unite and Fight Against Violence,” which aimed to raise public awareness about the issue through special awareness raising events throughout the country.

In prisons the government also continued to coordinate policies, strategies, and guidelines in reference to gender matters. The government introduced gender desks within the prison department as a reporting mechanism for gender-based violence in prisons. The PCCB also had a gender desk to report sexual exploitation, although since 2015, just 31 cases were reported.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C from being performed on girls younger than age 18, but it does not provide for protection to women ages 18 or older.

Prosecutions were rare. Many police officers and communities were unaware of the law, victims were often reluctant to testify, and some witnesses feared reprisals from FGM/C supporters. Some villagers reportedly bribed local leaders not to enforce the law in order to carry out FGM/C on their daughters. In 2019 the Ministry of Health reported that approximately 10 percent of women had undergone FGM/C. The areas with the highest rates of FGM/C were Manyara (58 percent), Dodoma (47 percent), Arusha (41 percent), Mara (32 percent), and Singida (31 percent). In March the government launched a four-year national strategy to end FGM by 2030.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment of women in the workplace. There were reports women were asked for sexual favors in return for promotions or to secure employment. According to the Women’s Legal Aid Center, police rarely investigated reported cases. Those cases that were investigated were often dropped before they got to court – in some instances by the plaintiffs due to societal pressure and in others by prosecutors due to lack of evidence. There were reports women were sexually harassed when campaigning for office, and one MP said that female MPs were subjected to sexual harassment frequently.

The LHRC’s 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report found that the issue of sexual harassment was among the most pressing matters facing women in the business sector. Women reported having to use their bodies to obtain relief and privileges at work, an issue primarily observed in Mara, Mbeya, Shinyanga, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Dodoma Regions. The LHRC’s survey in Shinyanga also illustrated cases of sexual harassment against women in Chinese-owned mines, where women reported sexual harassment by Chinese workers and supervisors.

On June 1, Speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai ousted female Member of Parliament Condester Sichwale from a parliamentary session for allegedly dressing immodestly. Human rights stakeholders stated that these acts of humiliation discouraged women from appearing in large numbers within political leadership.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Less than one-third of married women used modern contraceptives. Nearly one in four women would like to prevent pregnancy but lacked access to family planning. Family planning, including contraceptives, are covered in the national health system. Reproductive conditions and levels of contraceptive use varied based on factors including education, income level, geographical area, and age. For instance, the fertility rate in rural areas was six children per woman and 3.8 children per woman in urban areas. Modern contraceptive use also varied geographically, from 51 percent of those currently married in the Southern Zone to 14 percent in Zanzibar. While 12 percent of adolescents started having sexual relations by age 15, and 60 percent by 18, only 8.6 percent of adolescent girls between ages 15 and 19 used modern contraceptive methods. One in four adolescent girls between ages 15 and 19 were already mothers or were pregnant with their first child. Of adolescents living in rural areas, 32 percent had a live birth or were pregnant, compared with 19 percent of those living in urban areas. Adolescence was associated with a high frequency of child marriage, insufficient knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, and restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services. Persons with disabilities (especially adolescents) had greater sexual and reproductive health needs than the general population due to lack of information and greater exposure to sexual abuse and rape, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and stigma. Access to sexual and reproductive health services was hindered by communication and environmental barriers, physical inaccessibility, and negative interaction with service providers including lack of confidentiality, mistreatment and disrespect, and inadequacy of service delivery.

Despite government efforts to improve the availability and quality of postabortion services, women and girls who suffered complications avoided seeking treatment due to being prosecuted, and many health-care providers were not aware they are legally allowed to provide treatment and that women have the right to such service.

Within the Reproductive and Child Health Unit in the Ministry of Health and implemented by the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, the government has national guidelines managing the health-sector response to and the prevention of gender-based violence. Health facilities trained on sex and gender-based violence and provided sexual and reproductive health information, as well as emergency contraceptive and prophylaxis to survivors of sexual violence, per standard operating procedures.

From 2007 to 2015, maternal mortality increased from 454 to 556 per 100,000 live births. Only 57 to 68 percent of pregnant women delivered with a skilled birth attendant. A recent study conducted in Lindi and Mtwara Regions in the southern part of the country found that traumatic and nontraumatic postpartum hemorrhage was the most common cause of maternal deaths: 51 percent of women died within 24 hours of delivery; 60 percent of those who died were ages 25 to 36; and 63 percent were lower-income rural inhabitants.

Many women had untreated obstructed fistula, a situation resulting in large part from deficiencies in the health system. Women attributed fistula development to negative experiences such as disrespectful maternity care. Multiple studies reported that women also perceived that their fistula resulted from prolonged wait times in the primary health-care facility due to nurses’ negligence and failure to make decisions to transfer them to a better prepared facility in a timely manner. Moreover, mothers reported persistent systematic barriers and dismissive institutional norms and practice, including poor communication, denial of husbands’ presence at birth, denial of mobility, denial of safe traditional practices, no respect for their preferred birth positions, and poor physical condition of facilities. Community stigma was another major factor that delayed women seeking obstetric fistula treatment.

Menstrual hygiene also remained a prohibitive factor for girls’ access to education, as most girls did not have access to feminine hygiene products and decided to remain home during their menstrual period. Schools did not provide comprehensive sexuality education, and students reported they did not have adequate information to prevent pregnancy. In addition many girls became pregnant as a result of rape. Under the Education and Training Policy launched by the government in 2015, pregnant girls may be reinstated in schools. In 2017, however, President Magufuli declared that girls would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth. Human rights NGOs criticized the policy as contrary to the country’s constitution and laws. This policy led to girls being excluded from educational opportunities, while the fathers of the babies were often their teachers or other older men who frequently did not suffer any consequences (see section 6, Children). On November 24, the government announced it would allow persons who had dropped out of school, including pregnant school-age girls and adolescent mothers, to return to the formal education system.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including in employment, housing, education, and health care, and the government generally enforced the law; however, the law also recognizes customary practices that often favor men.

While women faced discriminatory treatment in marriage, divorce, inheritance, and nationality, overt discrimination in education, credit, business ownership, and housing was uncommon. There are no legal restrictions on women’s employment in the same occupations, tasks, and working hours as men. Nevertheless, women, especially in rural areas, faced significant disadvantages due to cultural, historical, and educational factors.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

During the year there were no reports of systemic racial or ethnic violence or discrimination. There are no laws for the specific protection of racial or ethnic minorities.

Indigenous Peoples

The country does not recognize the rights of indigenous peoples or those who self-identify as indigenous. Indigenous persons may face forcible evictions from traditionally indigenous lands for conservation or development efforts.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or abroad if at least one parent is a citizen. Registration within three months of birth is free; parents who wait until later must pay a fee. Public services were not withheld from unregistered children. The Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency, in collaboration with the Tigo telecommunication company, facilitated birth registrations. The registration program continued, issuing 1.6 million birth certificates by year’s end in Shinyanga, Mbeya, Njombe, Mwanza, Iringa, Geita, and Temeke Regions.

Education: According to law, primary education is compulsory and universal on both the mainland and Zanzibar until age 13. Secondary school is tuition-free in Zanzibar but is not compulsory. The ruling CCM party manifesto includes a policy to provide fee-free education for primary and secondary students. Parents must still provide food, uniforms, and transportation.

Girls represented approximately one-half of all children enrolled in primary school but were absent more often than boys due to household duties and lack of sanitary facilities. At the secondary level, child, early, and forced marriage and pregnancy often caused girls to be expelled or otherwise prevented girls from finishing school (see section 6, Women, Reproductive Rights).

On June 22, the government announced its plans to direct its 54 Folk Development Colleges to act as an alternative education opportunity for secondary-school dropouts, including pregnant girls who had been expelled under Magufuli. President Hassan did not reverse the expulsion policy of her predecessor, but instead, amidst controversy, asserted that the government was providing an alternative education pathway. This announcement followed World Bank’s $500 million “Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project” loan to the country to improve access to quality education and retain children, especially young mothers, in secondary school. On November 24, the government announced that pregnant schoolgirls and adolescent mothers would be allowed to return to the formal education system. The change was part of a larger policy to promote the return of students who dropped out of school. In Zanzibar the Ministry of Education amended the Spinsters and Single Parents Protection Act of 2005 to allow pregnant school-age girls to return to school and continue their studies after delivery.

Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were major problems. Corporal punishment was employed in schools, and the law allows head teachers to cane students. The National Violence against Children Survey, conducted in 2009 (the most recent data available), found almost 75 percent of children experienced physical violence prior to age 18. There were no notable reports of government efforts to combat child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age for marriage at 18 for boys and 14 with parental consent for girls. The law makes it illegal to marry a primary or secondary school student. To circumvent these laws, individuals reportedly bribed police or paid a bride price to the family of the girl to avoid prosecution. According to Human Rights Watch, girls as young as age seven were married. Zanzibar has its own law on marriage, but it does not specifically address child, early, and forced marriage. The government provided secondary school-level education campaigns on gender-based violence, which included information on child, early, and forced marriage.

In 2019 the Court of Appeal rejected a government appeal to retain provisions in the law, which would have permitted girls as young as 14 to marry with parental consent, instead ruling that the act was unconstitutional and discriminatory towards girls. The government was supposed to set the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls to 18 and remove the parental consent exceptions provision for marriage before the age of 18 but as of year’s end had not amended the law.

The Women’s Legal Aid Center reported increasing patterns of early marriage within refugee camps, further complicated by laws of the child, which refer to children as under 18. The marriage law, however, allows girls to marry at age 14.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes commercial sexual exploitation of children, including prostitution, sexual exhibitions, and child pornography. During the year there were no reported prosecutions based on this law. The law provides that sexual intercourse with a child younger than 18 is rape unless within a legal marriage. The law was not always enforced because cases were not always reported or because girls, facing pressure, dropped charges. For example, there were accounts of statutory rapes of girls that went unreported in Zanzibar. There were unofficial reports that the number of cases of statutory rapes in Zanzibar increased, but there were no official statistics to substantiate those claims.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide continued, especially among poor rural mothers who believed themselves unable to afford to raise a child. Nationwide statistics were not available.

Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, large numbers of children were living and working on the street, especially in cities and near the borders. After data collection throughout 26 regions and 138 districts, the ministry reported 29,983 children were living in hazardous conditions during the year. These children had limited access to health and education services because they lacked a fixed address or money to purchase medicines, school uniforms, and books. They were also vulnerable to sexual abuse. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, during the year, 15,365 displaced children received necessities, including food, clothing, education, and health services, from a combination of government and private organizations.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities sometimes could not access education, health care, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law provides equality in status and prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government, however, did not effectively enforce these provisions. Few public buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. New public buildings, however, were built in compliance with the law to provide access. The law provides for access to information and communication, but not all persons with disabilities had such access.

According to the Annual Education Survey of 2020/21, the government expanded school infrastructure for children with disabilities as part of its National Strategy for Inclusive Education. The government procured equipment such as braille machines, magnifiers, large print books, audiometers, and specialized furniture. More than 340,000 learners with special needs remained out of school.

There were nine members of the union parliament with disabilities. Persons with disabilities held three appointed seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. The Prime Minister’s Office includes a ministerial position responsible for disabilities. Limits to the political participation of persons with disabilities included inaccessible polling stations, lack of accessible information, limited inclusion in political parties, the failure of the NEC to implement directives concerning disability, and prejudice toward persons with disabilities. During the year both the NEC and the Zanzibar Election Commission participated in meetings with NGOs focused on improving political and electoral participation for persons with disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The 2013 People Living with HIV Stigma Index Report indicated persons with HIV and AIDS experienced significant levels of stigma countrywide (39 percent), with stigma particularly high in Dar es Salaam (50 percent). The report highlighted that most common forms of stigma and discrimination were verbal insults and exclusion from social, family, and religious activities. Results also showed that more than one in five persons with HIV and AIDS experienced a forced change of residence or inability to rent accommodations. In Dar es Salaam nearly one in three of these persons experienced the loss of a job or other source of income.

During the year the country completed its second People Living with HIV Stigma Index Report to further assess levels of HIV and AIDS social stigma. At year’s end the government had not published the findings.

The law prohibits discrimination against any person “known or perceived” to be HIV-positive and establishes medical confidentiality standards to protect persons with HIV and AIDS. Police abuses of HIV-positive persons, particularly in three key populations (sex workers, drug users, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons), were not uncommon and included arbitrary arrest, extortion, and refusal to accept complaints from victims of crime. In the health sector, key populations experienced denial of services, verbal harassment and abuse, and violations of confidentiality.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized. The law on both the mainland and Zanzibar punishes “gross indecency” by up to five years in prison or a fine. The law punishes any person convicted of having “carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature or permits a man to have carnal knowledge of him against the order of nature” with a prison sentence on the mainland of 30 years to life and in Zanzibar of imprisonment up to 14 years. In Zanzibar the law provides for imprisonment up to five years or a fine for “acts of lesbianism.” In the past courts charged individuals suspected of same-sex sexual conduct with loitering or prostitution. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Police often harassed persons believed to be LGBTQI+ based on their dress or manners.

In March 2020 seven men were arrested for same-sex sexual conduct and were purportedly subjected to forced anal exams. In July the case was dismissed after the prosecution failed to summon the doctor to the court to provide medical evidence of same-sex sexual conduct.

In June the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Coalition Tanzania reported the death of a transgender woman, age 26, whose identity was uncovered. She was found dead in Kinondoni District, Dar es Salaam. Activists believed this person was killed due to their gender expression and identity.

LGBTQI+ persons were afraid to report violence and other crimes, including those committed by state agents, due to fear of arrest. LGBTQI+ persons faced societal discrimination that restricted their access to health care, including access to information regarding HIV, housing, and employment. There were no known government efforts to combat such discrimination (see section 2.f., Refoulement).

NGOs and civil society organizations serving LGBTQI+ persons and key populations continued to face occasional harassment. While there was continuing fear among these NGOs to operate freely and openly, they reported remaining relatively free from targeting and deregistration by authorities under President Hassan. There were no safe houses or shelters in Zanzibar for LGBTQI+ persons facing discrimination, violence, or abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. In 2017 authorities filed a case against two women in Mwanza who exchanged rings in an engagement ceremony that was recorded and posted on social media. The case was withdrawn without being heard in 2018 and then reopened as a new case in 2019. The case continued as of year’s end.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The mainland and Zanzibari governments have separate labor laws. The mainland’s law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, except for workers in the categories of “national service” and prison guards. The law prohibits some forms of antiunion discrimination but does not require employers to reinstate workers fired for trade union activity nor prevent retribution against workers taking part in legal strikes. Trade unions in the private sector must consist of more than 20 members and register with the government, while public-sector unions need a minimum of 30 members. Five organizations are required to form a federation. Trade union affiliation with nonunion organizations can be annulled by the Labor Court if it was obtained without government approval, or if the union is considered an organization whose remit is broader than employer-worker relations. A trade union or employers association must file for registration with the registrar of trade unions in the Ministry of Labor within six months of establishment. The law, however, does not provide for specific time limits within which the government must register an organization, and the registrar has the power to refuse registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds. The government prescribes the terms of office of trade union leaders. Failure to comply with government requirements is subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.

The law requires unions to submit financial records and a membership list to the registrar annually and to obtain government approval for association with international trade unions. The registrar can apply to the Labor Court to deregister or suspend unions if there is overlap within an enterprise or if it is determined the union violated the law or endangered public security.

Collective bargaining agreements must be registered with the Labor Commission. Public-service employees, except for limited exceptions, such as workers involved in “national service” and prison guards, may also engage in collective bargaining.

Employers have the right to initiate a lockout, provided they comply with certain legal requirements and procedures. For a strike to be declared legal, the law requires three separate notifications of intent, a waiting period of at least 92 days, and a union vote in the presence of a Ministry of Labor official that garners approval by at least 75 percent of the members voting. All parties to a dispute may be bound by an agreement to arbitrate, and neither party may then engage in a strike or a lockout until that process has been completed. Disputes regarding adjustments to or the terms of signed contracts must be addressed through arbitration and are not subject to strikes.

The law restricts the right to strike when a strike involves an “essential service” that could endanger the life and health of the population. Picketing in support of a strike or in opposition to a lawful lockout is prohibited. Workers in almost 50 percent of all service sectors were defined as “essential” (water, sanitation, electricity, health services, health laboratory services, firefighting, air traffic control, civil aviation, telecommunications, and any transport services required for these services); these employees may not strike without a preexisting agreement to maintain “minimum services.” Workers in other sectors may also be subject to this limitation as determined by the Essential Services Committee, a tripartite committee composed of employers, workers, and government representatives with the authority to deem which services are essential.

An employer may not legally terminate an employee for participating in a lawful strike or terminate an employee who accedes to the demands of an employer during a lockout.

Penalties for violations were not sufficient to deter violations. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for similar violations. Disputes concerning antiunion discrimination must be referred to the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration, a governmental department affiliated with the Ministry of Labor. There was no public information available regarding cases of antiunion discrimination.

There were no reports of sector-wide strikes or any other major strikes.

In Zanzibar the law requires any union with 50 or more members to be registered, a threshold few companies could meet. The law sets literacy standards for trade union officers. The law provides the registrar considerable powers to restrict union registration by setting criteria for determining whether an organization’s constitution protects its members’ interests. The law applies to both public- and private-sector workers and bans Zanzibari workers from joining labor unions on the mainland. The law prohibits a union’s use of its funds, directly or indirectly, to pay any fines or penalties incurred by trade union officials in the discharge of their official duties. In Zanzibar both government and private-sector workers have the right to strike, but the right to strike is strictly regulated, requiring a long prior notice and compulsory mediation. In addition workers in essential sectors may not strike, and picketing is prohibited. The law does not protect those taking part in legal strikes from retribution.

The law provides for collective bargaining in the private sector. Public-sector employees have the right to bargain collectively through the Trade Union of Government and Health Employees; however, members of the police force and prison service, and high-level public officials (for example, the head of an executive agency) are barred from joining a trade union. Zanzibar’s Dispute Handling Unit addresses labor disputes. In Zanzibar judges and all judicial officers, members of special departments, and employees of the House of Representatives are excluded from labor law protection. In Zanzibar the courts are the only venue in which labor disputes can be heard. Enforcement of labor law in Zanzibar was insufficient, especially on the island of Pemba. In Zanzibar managerial employees do not have the right to bargain collectively on salaries and other conditions of employment.

The government did not effectively enforce the law protecting the right to collective bargaining on the mainland or in Zanzibar. On both the mainland and in Zanzibar, private-sector employers adopted antiunion policies or tactics, although discriminatory activities by an employer against union members are illegal.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law allows exceptions consistent with International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29 of compulsory labor for prisoners, compulsory national service, civic obligations, and work in emergency situations. For example the law allows prisoners to work without pay on construction and agriculture projects within prisons. The law deems such work acceptable if a public authority ensures the work is not for the benefit of any private party. The law also allows work carried out as part of compulsory national service in certain limited circumstances. The constitution provides that no work shall be considered forced labor if such work forms part of compulsory national service in accordance with the law, or “the national endeavor at the mobilization of human resources for the enhancement of society and the national economy and to ensure development and national productivity.”

The law establishes criminal penalties for employers using forced labor. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for similar violations. The government did not adequately enforce the law. Neither the government nor the ILO provided statistics on government enforcement. The ILO reported unspecified instances of forced labor, including those involving children from the southern highlands forced into domestic service or labor on farms, in mines, and in the informal business sector. Forced child labor occurred (see section 7.c.). In late 2018 the government drafted a national child labor strategy, addressing elimination of forced child labor, which at year’s end had yet to be launched formally.

Fifteen percent of employees reported being forced to work outside normal working hours and on weekends and holidays, according to a large-scale survey of employees of small and medium-sized businesses conducted by the LHRC (see section 7.e.). Prisoners perform unpaid and nonvoluntary labor on projects outside of the prison, such as road repair, agriculture, and government construction projects. The minister of home affairs’ budget speech of 2020/21 included a statement regarding having prisoners produce their own food, stating that prisons would implement the 2020-2025 Agricultural Revolution Program, harvesting 4,720 tons of maize, 1,120 tons of rice, 298 tons of beans, and 43 tons of sunflower over 11,185 acres. In March, however, the government banned the use of cheap prison labor in government entities and to government officials. This was a result of the Prison Department’s uncoordinated arrangements for the use of prison labor for constructing residential houses and cultivating farms.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law on the mainland and in Zanzibar prohibits all the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment, including limitations on working hours and occupational safety and health restrictions for children. The minimum age of employment applies to children working in some sectors. By law the minimum age on the mainland for employment is 14; in Zanzibar the minimum age is 15. Neither the mainland nor Zanzibar’s minimum age laws, however, extend to children in domestic work, leaving such children vulnerable to exploitation. Children older than 14 but younger than 18 may be employed only to do nonhazardous work that is not likely to be harmful to the child’s health and development or attendance at school. The government published regulations to define hazardous work for children in several sectors, including in agriculture, fishery, mining, quarrying, construction, service, informal operations, and transport. The law limits working hours for children to six hours a day. Although legal penalties for violations of minimum age laws are likely sufficient to deter violations, there were few reported instances of authorities imposing penalties. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for similar violations.

The LHRC’s 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report illustrated that only 36 percent of businesses in the country confirmed having policies and regulations prohibiting the use of child labor or stipulating the minimum age of employment. The worst forms of child labor occurred, as children worked in hazardous and unsafe conditions in the mining and agricultural sectors in Manyara, Tabora, Singida, Mbeya, Geita, Shinyanga, and Dodoma Regions.

Both the mainland and Zanzibar labor inspectorates lacked sufficient human and financial resources to adequately enforce minimum age laws, and labor inspectors lacked authority to assess penalties for violations. Inadequate enforcement left children vulnerable to exploitation. Mainland officials arrested but were not able to obtain convictions for traffickers of children working in mining and domestic service. On September 5, police in Mbeya Region arrested two persons for allegedly abducting 11 children between 10 and 14 years of age and trafficking them as livestock keepers for profit. The two suspects were accused of selling them to local herders for approximately 20,000 shillings ($8.65) per child per month. Zanzibar’s police, Ministry of Labor, and Zanzibar Labor Commission did not take legal action related to the worst forms of child labor, such as child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Government measures to ameliorate child labor included verifying that children of school age attended school, imposing penalties on parents who did not enroll their children in school, and pressing employers in the formal sector not to employ children younger than 18. In 2018 the government developed a national strategy for elimination of child labor; however, the government had not yet launched the strategy.

On the mainland children worked as domestic workers, street vendors, and shopkeepers as well as in agriculture, family-based businesses, fishing, construction, and artisanal mining of gold and tanzanite. On Zanzibar children worked in fishing and agricultural sectors.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits workplace discrimination, directly or indirectly, against an employee based on skin color, nationality, tribe, place of origin, race, national extraction, social origin, political opinion, religion, sex, gender, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, disability, HIV and AIDS, age, or station in life. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, language, citizenship, or other communicable disease status. The law distinguishes between discrimination and an employer hiring or promoting based on affirmative action. The government in general did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for similar violations.

Women have the same status as men under labor law on the mainland. According to the LHRC 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report, however, gender-based discrimination was common at workplaces, although the law prohibits workplace discrimination and calls for promotion of equality and treatment in employment. The rule also categorizes harassment of an employee, whether sexual or otherwise, as a form of discrimination. Every employer is required to develop and publish a workplace plan to prevent discrimination and to promote equal opportunity in employment.

According to the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA), gender-based discrimination in terms of wages, promotions, and legal protections in employment continued to occur in the private sector. It was difficult to prove and often went unpunished. While employers in the formal sector were more attentive to laws against discrimination, problems were particularly acute in the informal sector, in which women were disproportionately employed. Women often were employed for low pay and in hazardous jobs, and they reported high levels of bullying, threats, and sexual harassment. A 2020 study by the LHRC found that women faced particular discrimination in the mining, steel, and transport industries (see section 6, Women). The LHRC 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report showed women still experienced discrimination based on pregnancy and maternity, as well as sexual harassment in the workplace. Female workers across all surveyed regions expressed concern regarding discrimination against female workers because of pregnancy, breastfeeding, or menstrual cycles, despite maternity leave being guaranteed under the law. Female workers noted that pregnancy was a means of discrimination in the workplace, reporting that most employers preferred to replace them rather than granting maternity leave and allowing them to return to work. Women in male-dominated professions were also targeted for insults and sexist jokes; for example, in August a government official questioned the “femininity” and gender of the country’s female soccer players at a sports ceremony.

Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred. They often faced difficulties when seeking documented employment outside of the informal sector. The law gives the labor commissioner authority to deny work permits if a citizen with the same skills is available. During the year foreign professionals, including senior management of international corporations, frequently faced difficulties obtaining or renewing work permits. Because refugees lived in camps and could not travel freely (see section 2.d.), few refugees worked in the formal sector.

Discrimination and inaccessible workplaces excluded persons with disabilities from the workplace and reduced the country’s GDP by $480 million each year, according to the Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation health services group. This group also noted that only 3.1 percent of persons with disabilities in the country received income from paid employment. While nongovernment and government actors made efforts to curb discrimination and violence against persons with albinism, the LHRC reported that this population continued to live in fear of their personal security and therefore could not fully participate in social, economic, and political activities.

Inspections conducted since the enactment of the law in 2015 revealed 779 foreign employees working without proper permits. Of these, 29 were repatriated and 77 were arraigned in court. Because legal refugees lived in camps and could not travel freely (see section 2.d.), few worked in the formal sector.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The government established minimum wage standards in 2015 for employees in both the public and private sectors on the mainland, and it divided those standards into nine employment sectors. The minimum wage was above the government poverty line, but in many industries, it was below World Bank standards for what constitutes extreme poverty. The government’s poverty line had not been updated since 2012. The law allows employers to apply to the Ministry of Labor for an exemption from paying the minimum wage. The labor laws cover all workers, including foreign and migrant workers and those in the informal sector. The minimum wage on Zanzibar was above the poverty line.

The standard workweek is 45 hours, with a maximum of nine hours per day or six days per week. Any work in excess of these limits should be compensated with overtime pay at one-and-a-half times the employee’s regular wage. Under most circumstances it is illegal to schedule pregnant or breastfeeding women for work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The law states employees with 12 months of employment are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave, and it requires employee compensation for national holidays. The law prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime, and it restricts required overtime to 50 hours in a four-week period or in accordance with previously negotiated work contracts. The law requires equal pay for equal work.

Human rights groups pointed out that some employees believed they were pressured to work longer than normal hours due to the risk of losing their jobs. Some employment contracts required employees to work 10 hours per day in violation of labor laws and standards. Employees on the mainland reported they were required to work until their employer told them to leave, even past normal working hours; in Mbeya and Geita workers reported being forced to work on weekends and holidays, according to a 2020/21 large scale survey conducted by the LHRC.

Minimum wage compliance is regulated through the Labour Administration and Inspection Services Department, which works under the Ministry of Labor and Employment. On the mainland, labor officers working in the Ministry of Labor monitor employment contracts, wages, and working time. The ILO noted that there were six labor officers in the Labor Administration and Inspection Section for the mainland to oversee the labor inspection system of 32 labor “area offices,” but the number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance among a population of 28 million workers. In Zanzibar the Labor Commission has direct responsibility over labor inspection matters. On both the mainland and Zanzibar, labor officers may issue a compliance order to require employers to comply with labor laws under penalty of fines, imprisonment of up to three days, or both. Employees can bring labor disputes including wage and hour claims to the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration. The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws. Most inspections were routine and planned ahead of time, although inspectors have authority to conduct unannounced inspections. Penalties for wage and overtime law violations were not commensurate with those for similar crimes. Violations occurred most frequently in the hospitality, transportation (bus and truck drivers), construction, and private-security sectors, according to the LHRC survey. All employees in the survey indicated they had worked overtime at some point, but only 38 percent received overtime pay.

Occupational Safety and Health: Several laws regulate occupational safety and health (OSH) standards in the workplace. According to TUCTA, OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries and enforcement of these standards has improved, but challenges remained in the private sector. OSH standards, however, were not effectively enforced in the informal economy. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority did not employ sufficient inspectors. Most inspections were routine and planned, although inspectors have authority under the law to conduct unannounced inspections. In the case of a violation, inspectors could issue improvement notices with a deadline, issue a stop work order, or prohibit the use of dangerous equipment. There is no sanction or fine, however, that labor inspectors can directly apply in the mainland or in Zanzibar. Going to court is the only option to deal with an uncooperative employer. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively enforce this protection.

Workers may sue an employer if their working conditions do not comply with the Ministry of Labor’s health and environmental standards. Disputes were generally resolved through the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration. There were no exceptions for foreign or migrant workers.

Many workers did not have employment contracts and lacked legal protections. The LHRC reported 41 percent of workers indicated they did not have written contracts, while 59 percent of workers said they did have written contracts, although even those who did were often not provided with written copies of their contract. Compared to the LHRC’s 2019 report, the number of workers with written employment contracts decreased by nearly 25 percent. Additionally, employers often kept copies of the contracts that differed from the versions given to the employees. Companies frequently used short-term contracts of six months or less to avoid hiring organized workers with labor protections.

In dangerous industries such as construction, employees often worked without protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, and harnesses. According to a 2008 Accident Notification Survey (the latest available), the sectors with the highest rates of fatal accidents were construction and building, transport, and mining and quarrying. Domestic workers suffered injuries after being abused by their employers; physical abuse of domestic workers occurred frequently.

Informal Sector: The government did not adequately enforce labor standards, particularly in the informal sector, where most workers were employed. No social protections were available to workers in the informal economy. The ILO reported that 76 percent of nonagricultural workers in the country were in the informal sector. According to the World Bank, the informal sector including small household enterprises was the fastest growing sector of the economy and drawing many workers away from low-productivity farming. Women and young persons were more likely to work in the informal economy, with women more likely to be self-employed in wholesale or retail trade; manufacturing, which included crafts; and services, including running small hotels or restaurants. A study during the year of informal work in Dar es Salaam found that domestic workers constituted up to 7 percent of all employees. Domestic workers suffered negative impacts during the COVID-19 epidemic, including more layoffs, salary reductions and unpaid wages, deteriorating working conditions, and food insecurity. Domestic workers are covered by some laws setting minimum wages and some terms of employment, but enforcement remained limited, according to the study.

Men were more likely to be involved in trade (with men having larger businesses with one or more employees), mining, construction, or transport activities. Most informal workers lived in urban and more populated areas close to potential customers. Informal work in rural areas consisted mostly of small-scale farming.

Uganda

Executive Summary

Uganda is a constitutional republic led since 1986 by President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement party. During the year voters re-elected Museveni to a sixth five-year term and returned a National Resistance Movement majority to the unicameral parliament. Allegations of arbitrary killings of opposition supporters, disenfranchisement and voter intimidation, harassment of the opposition, closure of social media websites, and lack of transparency and independence in the Electoral Commission marred the elections, which fell short of international standards. The periods before, during, and after the elections were marked by a closing of political space, disappearances of opposition supporters, intimidation of journalists, and reports of widespread use of torture by security agencies.

The national police maintain internal security, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs oversees police. The president detailed army officials to leadership roles within the police force and the executive, including government ministries. The law also allows the military to support police operations to maintain internal security. The Ministry of Defense oversees the army. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by government forces, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government agencies; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in a conflict, including unlawful civilian harm; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests or prosecution of journalists, censorship, and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; serious flaws with citizens’ ability to determine their government through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and child, early, and forced marriage; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.

The government was reluctant to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government, and impunity was a problem.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment and confiscation of the convicted persons’ property for official corruption. Nevertheless, transparency civil society organizations stated the government did not implement the law effectively, and there were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and many corruption cases remained pending for years.

Corruption:On September 1, parliament resolved that the auditor general carry out a forensic audit into four trillion shillings ($1.1 billion) of government expenditure to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 since the financial year 2019-20, after members of parliament and the auditor general found numerous cases of “unauthorized diversion of funds, irregular use of direct procurements, procurements without signed contracts, late delivery of goods, and payment before receiving goods.” A parliament select committee found that the Ministry of Health’s accounting for funds spent in the financial year 2019-20 was questionable because the ministry’s records showed its expenditure exceeded the amount it received by 7 percent. On March 11, the auditor general reported that an audit into financial year 2019-20 expenditure showed that 25 government agencies spent 144 billion shillings ($40.2 million) without adhering to procurement rules. The report added that 284 million shillings ($79,200) in other government expenditure remained unaccounted for, that the Office of the Prime Minister lacked sufficient evidence to prove it delivered 56 billion shillings ($15.6 million) worth of COVID-19 relief items, and that at least 18 percent of relief items distributed by the Office of the Prime Minister failed quality checks. The auditor general had not released details of the forensic audit by year’s end.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated with government restrictions. The president continued repeatedly to accuse civil society of accepting funding from foreign donors interested in destabilizing the country and directed the blockage of funding and suspension of activities for some prodemocracy and human rights organizations. Human rights activists reported that the government took measures to “decrease foreign participation and bleed civil society organizations” by lengthening the registration approval process and increasing the annual visa fees for expatriate workers to 10 times their previous amount. Human rights activists reported that local government authorities declined to respond to repeated requests for approval of license-renewal documents from the NGOs Chapter Four, Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy Uganda, and Western Ankole Civil Society Forum.

Environment and land rights conservationists reported that police harassed and arrested human rights defenders working to protect the environment and communities’ access to land. On January 31, conservationist William Amanzuru reported that police had summoned him for questioning and charged him with robbery after his community confiscated 11 million shillings worth ($3,070) of charcoal. On May 24, police dropped their charges against Amanzuru.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The UHRC is the constitutionally mandated institution with quasi-judicial powers authorized to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, direct the release of detainees, and award compensation to abuse victims. The president appoints its board, consisting of a chairperson and five commissioners.

The UHRC pursues suspected human rights abusers, including in the military and police forces. It visits and inspects places of detention and holds private conferences with detainees on their conditions in custody. It investigates reports of human rights abuses, reports to parliament its annual findings, and recommends measures to improve the executive’s respect of human rights. The executive did not always implement UHRC recommendations. On July 16, the president appointed a chairperson and four commissioners to the UHRC whose absence since the death of the previous chairperson in 2019 had prevented the UHRC from presenting its human rights findings to parliament. Nevertheless, the UHRC made public statements prior to and after the appointment of these commissioners, raising concerns regarding human rights abuses such as extra judicial killings of suspects by police officers, excessive use of force while implementing COVID-19 restrictions, and harassment of journalists.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, which is punishable by life imprisonment or death. The law does not address spousal rape. The law defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl without her consent.” Men accused of raping men are tried under a section of the law that prohibits “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” The law also criminalizes domestic violence and provides up to two years’ imprisonment for conviction.

Rape remained a common problem throughout the country, and the government did not effectively enforce the law. Local media reported numerous incidents of rape, often involving kidnapping and killings of women, but authorities were often unable to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable. Local media often reported that perpetrators of rape included persons in authority, such as religious leaders, local government officials, police and military officers, health-care workers, and academic staff. According to local media and human rights activists, many rape survivors lacked faith in government institutions to bring their abusers to justice and declined to report the crime, while others remained silent to avoid stigmatization. Human rights activists and local media reported that, even when women reported cases of rape to police, officers blamed the women for causing the rape by dressing indecently, took bribes from the alleged perpetrators to stop the investigation and to pressure the survivors into withdrawing the cases, or simply dismissed the accusations and refused to record them. According to human rights activists, police personnel lacked the required skills for collection, preservation, and management of forensic evidence in sexual violence cases. Human rights activists also reported that some police stations lacked female officers on the staff, which discouraged rape survivors from reporting their cases. On March 16, local media reported that police in Moroto District arrested one of its officers, Moses Steven Ebu, on allegations of rape. According to local media, the survivor sought refuge at Camp Swahili Police Post after she was unable to find public transport home before curfew. Ebu allegedly raped her at the police post. On March 18, local media reported that police had arraigned Ebu in court and charged him with rape. The trial continued at year’s end.

Human rights activists also noted that government restrictions on movement to combat COVID-19 made it difficult for survivors to report rape or access postexposure prophylaxis after rape. Local government officials, academics, and journalists reported that gender-based violence was common and worsened during restrictions to combat COVID-19. Human rights activists reported that the restrictions increased poverty for many households, which raised tensions and conflict in domestic settings, particularly violence against women. The activists also reported that during the June to July COVID-19 lockdown, some survivor support centers closed and rendered many survivors unable to access help. On September 1, local media reported that military officer Samuel Ojara shot and killed himself after he had shot and killed a 20-year-old woman identified as Sharon Okello in what the police stated was an attempted rape.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and establishes a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators, or life imprisonment if the victim dies; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. According to the 2016 Demographics and Health Survey, 0.3 percent of the female population younger than age 50 had undergone FGM/C. Local media and government officials, however, reported that the practice was common among some communities along the eastern border with Kenya. Government officials reported that some parents and cultural leaders in the Karamoja subregion used the school closures due to COVID-19 to force teenage girls to undergo FGM/C, which led many girls to flee into neighboring Kenya. Local government leaders also reported that some cultural leaders in Amudat District traveled to Kenya on the pretext of celebrating the end-of-year December-January holiday season and subjected girls to FGM/C. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that COVID-19 lockdowns exacerbated FGM/C incidents by enabling practitioners to carry out the practice in hiding. UNFPA also reported that the government had committed $55,000 to interventions against FGM/C in the Sebei subregion. The resident district commissioner in Amudat District announced on February 25 that the government had recruited a network of informers in communities throughout the district who would strengthen surveillance and enforcement efforts against FGM/C. UNICEF reported that it was working with 20 young men married to women who did not undergo FGM/C as social ambassadors to convince communities that FGM/C was unnecessary.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: According to local media and human rights activists, violence against widows was prevalent. The activists reported that widows in remote areas complained that their deceased husband’s families forced them to marry their brothers-in-law to compensate for the bride price paid to their families. The law does not explicitly provide widows with the opportunity to consent before marrying their brothers-in-law. Local media also reported that many widows in remote areas experienced sexual violence at the hands of their deceased husband’s family and lost their rights to property (see section 6, Discrimination).

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but authorities did not effectively enforce the law. Sexual harassment was a widespread problem in homes, schools, universities, workplaces, public transport, public spaces, media, and in the music and entertainment industry. Local media reported numerous incidents of senior executives, public servants in the legislature and judiciary, and music producers who demanded sexual favors from female subordinates in exchange for job retention, promotion, and nomination for official trips. On May 7, parliament called for the prosecution of philanthropist Bryan Kirumira, also known as Bryan White, after parliament’s Committee on Human Rights found that he sexually harassed women he employed in his charity, the Bryan White Foundation. The committee found that the military and police provided Kirumura with protection, which intimidated survivors and deterred them from seeking justice. The public prosecutor had not brought any charges against Kirumira by year’s end.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Human rights activists reported that although persons with disabilities had the right to access reproductive services, the absence of health workers with the ability to communicate with blind and deaf patients meant that many persons with disabilities did not receive all the information they needed regarding reproductive health services. LGBTQI+ activists reported that members of the community were able to provide informed consent before receiving reproductive health treatment. LGBTQI+ activists also reported that police officers carried out forced anal examinations against some members of the LGBTQI+ community (see section 1.c. and section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.)

Local media and human rights activists reported that cultural practices in some remote areas impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services. On May 21, local media reported that some women in Amudat District complained that their husbands prevented them from accessing reproductive health services because they wanted to have as many children as possible. Human rights activists reported the COVID-19 lockdown led to closure of some reproductive health service providers and prevented many women from accessing reproductive health services. The activists also reported that women in remote areas where there were few health-care providers found it difficult to access reproductive health information. LGBTQI+ activists reported that some public health officials declined to provide health services, including reproductive health services, to LGBTQI+ persons.

Human rights activists reported that some police Family and Child Protection units often ran out of postexposure prophylaxis for rape survivors and many public health-care facilities lacked emergency contraception medication.

Maternal mortality was 375 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and local civil society organizations. Media attributed the high rate to a lack of access to skilled medical care for pregnant women, a preference for traditional birth attendants over skilled medical workers, and unsafe abortions. Human rights activists reported that travel restrictions to combat COVID-19 prevented many women, especially in remote areas, from accessing neonatal and prenatal health care. According to the WHO, adolescent birth rates were high, at 111.4 per 1,000 girls for the period 2011 to 2020. According to human rights activists and the WHO, statutory rape, child sexual exploitation, a high rate of school dropouts that led to and was also caused by teenage pregnancies, limited knowledge of contraception among teenagers, and school closures due to COVID-19 countermeasures were among the causes.

There were social and cultural barriers related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene that impacted girls’ ability to participate equally in society including many limits on girls’ access to education. Local media reported many girls lacked access to menstrual hygiene materials, including sanitary towels. This caused many to suffer stigmatization and bullying, which led many to drop out of school. Local media and child rights activists reported that girls who became pregnant while in school almost always dropped out of school. According to child rights activists, public and private schools dismissed and declined to readmit girls who became pregnant while in school. On March 26, local media reported that the government had adopted a new policy directing that all girls who become pregnant while in school would undergo mandatory maternity leave at three months of the pregnancy and would return to school six months after delivery. The new policy also directed that a boy responsible for the pregnancy would simultaneously drop out of school until the girl returned. The government also advised that girls change school after giving birth to avoid stigmatization (see section 6, Children).

Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Human rights activists reported numerous cases of discrimination against women, including in divorce, employment, education, and owning or managing businesses and property. Many customary laws discriminate against women in adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Under customary laws in many areas, widowed women cannot own or inherit property or retain custody of their children. Traditional divorce law in many areas requires women to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men to prove adultery. In some ethnic groups, men can “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers. The law does not recognize cohabiting relationships, and women involved in such relationships had no judicial recourse to protect their rights.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law prohibits discrimination and violence on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, origin, social or economic standing, political opinion, and disability, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Opposition politicians and local media reported that security officers and vigilantes associated with the second deputy prime minister, General Moses Ali from the Madi ethnic community, continued harassing and evicting members of the Acholi community from disputed land in Apaa Village in the northern part of the country so he could establish a private game reserve. On August 11, local media reported that the military had arrested 48 individuals accused of attacking Acholi residents in Apaa with bows and arrows and machetes and burning Acholi homes, before releasing 31 and handing 17 over to police. On August 13, President Museveni announced that he had set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the land dispute, but the commission had not shared its findings by year’s end.

Indigenous Peoples

Some indigenous minorities continued to accuse the government of marginalization that excluded them from participating in decisions affecting their livelihood. Civil society organizations reported the government continued in its refusal to compensate the Batwa people, whom it displaced from lands it designated as forest reserves. On August 20, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government had “disadvantaged and marginalized” the Batwa community by evicting them from their native land without compensation. The Constitutional Court ordered a lower court to determine the Batwa community’s due compensation and ordered the government to recognize that the Batwa had a lawful claim to the land and to compensate them within 12 months. On September 11, local media reported that the government had appealed the Constitutional Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which had yet to hear the appeal by year’s end.

Children

Birth Registration: The law accords citizenship to children born inside or outside the country if at least one parent or grandparent is a citizen at the time of birth. Abandoned children younger than age 18 with no known parents are considered citizens, as are children younger than 18 adopted by citizens.

The law requires citizens to register a birth within three months. Lack of birth registration generally did not result in denial of public services, although some primary schools, especially those in urban centers, required birth certificates for enrollment. Enrollment in public secondary schools, universities, and other tertiary institutions required birth certificates.

Education: The law provides for compulsory education through the completion of primary school by age 13, and the government provided tuition-free education in select public primary and secondary schools (ages six to 18 years). Parents, however, were required to provide lunch and schooling materials for their children, and many parents could not afford such expenses. Local media and civil society organizations reported that child, early, and forced marriages and teenage pregnancy led to a higher rate of school dropouts for girls than for boys (see section 6, Women). Local media, private school proprietors, opposition politicians, and activists reported that government efforts to provide virtual learning to children during a school closure as part of measures to fight COVID-19, including providing lessons on broadcast media and printing classwork in the newspapers, denied children from poor backgrounds the opportunity to learn as their families could not afford radios or printed materials. Opposition politicians and child rights activists also reported that some schools switched to online classes during the closure, which denied learning opportunities to children whose parents could not afford internet connections.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits numerous forms of child abuse and provides monetary fines, five years’ imprisonment, or both for persons convicted of abusing children’s rights. Victims’ parents, however, often opted to settle cases out of court for a cash or in-kind payment. Corporal punishment in schools is illegal. The law also provides for protection of children from hazardous employment and harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and FGM/C. Despite the law, a pattern of child abuse existed in sexual assault, physical abuse, ritual killings, early marriage, FGM/C, child trafficking, infanticide, and child labor, among other abuses. Traditional healers (witch doctors) kidnapped and killed children to use their organs for ancestral worship. Child rights activists reported cases in which wealthy entrepreneurs and politicians paid traditional healers to sacrifice children to ensure their continued wealth and then bribed police officers to stop the investigations. Child rights activists reported that COVID-19-related school closures led to an increase in child abuse incidents in homes and communities, especially through the increased use of beatings as a disciplinary measure, child neglect, and child sexual exploitation. The government operated a tollfree helpline to which it encouraged survivors and witnesses of child abuse to call and report.

The Lord’s Resistance Army, an armed group of Ugandan origin operating in the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, continued to hold children against their will.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but authorities generally did not enforce this law. Child marriages were prevalent and became even more so during school closures introduced as a measure to address COVID-19. According to UNICEF in 2017, 40 percent of girls were married before age 18 and 10 percent were married before age 15. According to local media reports, local government officials blamed families and some community leaders for concealing child marriage cases, which they supported as a cultural practice. Numerous government officials in the central and local governments regularly joined efforts led by child rights activists and cultural leaders to speak out and sensitize communities against child marriages. District probation officers at local governments also supported efforts led by child rights activists to rescue children from forced marriages and keep them in shelters before their gradual reintegration into communities.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, the sale and procurement of sexual services, and practices related to child pornography. It sets the minimum age for consensual sex at 18 years. The law defines “statutory rape” as any sexual contact outside marriage with a child younger than 18, regardless of consent or age of the perpetrator. The government did not enforce the law effectively, however, and the problem was pervasive. Child rights activists reported that as many teenage students turned to online lessons after school closures, cases of online sexual exploitation increased. Local media and child rights activists also reported that despite bans on bars operating, some bar owners continued to operate clandestinely and exploited children in sex trafficking.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Local media reported that intersex children were at high risk of infanticide and that some parents of children with disabilities abandoned them in the bush or threw them in pit latrines to die. Local media also reported numerous incidents of killings of children for use in ancestral worship. The law criminalizes infanticide or infanticide of children with disabilities, but authorities sporadically enforced the law.

Displaced Children: Local civil society organizations and media reported that poverty and famine drove families in the remote northeast Karamoja region to send many children to Kampala to find work and beg on the streets. Civil society organizations reported that traffickers often manipulated families in Karamoja to sell their children to traffickers for 50,000 shillings ($13.90) with promises the children would obtain a good education or a profitable job. Instead, traffickers forced the children to beg on the streets of Kampala or other major cities and gave them almost none of what they earned. Kampala City authorities worked with civil society organizations to return Karamojong street children to their families, but often the families soon returned the children to the streets because families partly depended on the children’s collections to maintain their households. Local media and child rights activists also reported increased numbers of children living on the streets in other towns, such as Mbale, Lira, and Gulu, where a lack of rehabilitation facilities frustrated local government efforts to remove the children from the streets.

Institutionalized Children: Police announced on November 22 that they had shut down several children’s shelters where they rescued more than 90 children whom ISIS-DRC supporters were attempting to radicalize.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population had approximately 2,000 members centered in Mbale District, in the eastern part of the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking in-persons-report/.

Organ Harvesting

Police, local media, and activists reported that organized criminal groups carried out organ harvesting. Police reported that some workers who signed up with labor recruitment companies to work in the Middle East and Gulf State countries had their organs, especially kidneys and liver, harvested.

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could not access education and health services on an equal basis with others. According to disability rights activists, persons with disabilities lacked equitable access to public buildings and transportation. They reported that many public schools, hospitals, and courts of law, among other public buildings, lacked ramps to enable access for persons with disabilities. The law provides for access on an equal basis to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, and the judicial system for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. After criticism from persons with disabilities, the government’s information office, Uganda Media Centre, during the year employed a sign language interpreter whenever public officers used the office to make official communications.

Local media reported that some local government officials harassed persons with disabilities. On September 8, local media reported that local government officials at Rukungiri District evicted persons with disabilities from their land to build an industrial park and relocated them to a plot of land with hilly terrain, which they found difficult to access. The Rukungiri district chief administrative officer dismissed the claims and instead accused some persons with disabilities of trying to steal the contested land.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Local media and activists for persons with disabilities reported that persons with disabilities experienced social prejudice and discrimination in social service delivery and in access to public spaces. Disability rights activists reported government requirements for every person to wear a face mask as part of its public health regulations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 discriminated against deaf persons, who needed sign language – often accompanied by mouthing words – to communicate.

Local media reported that some local government officials in Masaka City demanded kickbacks from persons with disabilities in order to include them as beneficiaries of a livelihood fund. According to local media, in 2020 the government created a fund to provide five million shillings ($1,410) in seed capital grants to groups of persons with disabilities, but some government officials demanded as much as 70 percent of the total in kickbacks. The Masaka resident city commissioner instructed police to investigate the allegations, but police had not released their findings by year’s end.

According to the latest Ministry of Education statistics, 2 percent of elementary school students were children with disabilities while the rate in secondary schools was 0.6 percent. Local media reported some parents of children with disabilities hid them from the public out of shame, while some physically restrained their children by tethering them to tree trunks.

Local civil society organizations reported the government neither ran any support programming for persons with albinism nor tried to establish the number of those with albinism or their concerns. Local media also reported that persons with albinism complained that some government officials left out persons with albinism when selecting beneficiaries to receive farming inputs, such as seedlings and animals, as part of official agricultural subsidy programs.

While the law gives persons with disabilities the right to elect members of their community as local government and legislative representatives, some candidates reported that late delivery of voting materials as well as missing voter registers on polling day led to delays, which frustrated community members and discouraged them from voting.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, discrimination and stigma were common and inhibited these persons from obtaining treatment and support. Local civil society organizations reported the stigma resulted from limited public knowledge regarding the methods of HIV transmission as well as “the belief that living with HIV is shameful.” Civil society organizations reported that stigma pushed persons with HIV to exclude themselves from social services and employment opportunities, including care programs. Local media and civil society organizations reported numerous incidents of parents who abandoned children with HIV and of persons, particularly men, who abandoned spouses with HIV. Police, the prisons service, and the military regularly refused to recruit persons with HIV and AIDS, claiming their bodies would be too weak for the rigorous training and subsequent deployment. According to local media, most employers declined to employ persons with HIV as domestic workers.

In cooperation with the government, international and local NGOs sponsored public awareness campaigns to eliminate the stigma of HIV and AIDS. Government and HIV and AIDS counselors encouraged the population to test for and share information concerning HIV and AIDS with their partners and family. Persons with HIV and AIDS formed support groups to promote awareness in their communities.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

LGBTQI+ persons faced discrimination, legal restrictions, harassment, violence, and intimidation. Authorities incited, perpetrated, and tolerated violence against LGBTQI+ individuals and blocked some meetings organized by LGBTQI+ persons and activists. On May 31, police officers raided the Happy Family Youth Uganda LGBTQI+ shelter in Wakiso District outside Kampala and arrested 44 individuals – 36 men and 8 women – celebrating what was alleged to be a gay engagement ceremony. Amateur video footage recorded at the scene showed a plainclothes police officer verbally abusing and mocking the detainees. Police announced that it would charge the individuals with “a negligent act likely to spread an infectious disease” for disobeying COVID-19 restrictions. On June 1, however, a police doctor subjected some of the detainees to forced anal examinations. On June 7, a court released the detainees on bail, and the court dismissed the case in November.

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized according to a colonial-era law that criminalizes “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and provides for a penalty of up to life imprisonment. Attempts to “commit unnatural offences,” as laid out in the law, are punishable with seven years’ imprisonment. The government occasionally enforced the law.

Local media and LGBTQI+ organizations reported that some hospitals and religious institutions offered and subjected LGBTQI+ persons to conversion therapy. Local media also reported that intersex children were at a high risk of infanticide.

Although the law does not restrict freedoms of expression or peaceful assembly for those speaking out in support of the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons, the government severely restricted such rights.

The law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, or access to government services.

Local civil society organizations reported that public and private health-care services turned away LGBTQI+ persons who sought medication and some health-care providers led community members to beat LGBTQI+ persons who sought health care. Local civil society organizations reported that some LGBTQI+ persons needed to pay bribes to public health-care providers before they received treatment.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (Ministry of Labor) must register unions before they may engage in collective bargaining.

The law allows unions to conduct activities without interference, prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The law also empowers the minister of labor and labor officers to refer disputes to the Industrial Court if initial mediation and arbitration attempts fail. The law, however, gives government labor officers power to declare industrial actions illegal if a given officer has taken steps to resolve the labor dispute in question through conciliation. In July new legislation came into force, strengthening the powers of the Industrial Court to the level of the High Court and introducing measures including increasing the numbers of judges in the court and reducing the number of judges required to make a quorum. The NGO Platform for Labor Action (PLA) reported that the law was already being implemented with positive results, and cases were moving through the Industrial Court faster than before.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Civil society organizations stated the Ministry of Labor did not allocate sufficient funds to hire, train, and equip labor officers to enforce labor laws effectively. Employers who violated a worker’s right to form and join a trade union or bargain collectively faced penalties that were not commensurate with similar abuses. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. The National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) reported that there were several instances of violent confrontations in companies where employers laid off staff without severance benefits.

The government and employers generally did not respect the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Antiunion discrimination occurred, and labor activists accused several private companies of deterring employees from joining unions. NOTU reported that some companies that had previously allowed unionization used the economic conditions of COVID-19 to deny collective bargaining. In May medical interns under their umbrella body Federation for Uganda Medical Interns went on strike regarding low allowances, refusing to work for a week before the government agreed to review their request for increased allowances. During the strike, the Ministry of Health told interns to either continue with their internships as they waited for increased allowances or leave the program altogether.

NOTU and the PLA continued to report employers laying off workers during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The PLA reported that most cases it was handling during the year involved unpaid wages after termination of employment, while individuals also struggled to travel to the PLA to report their cases due to transport restrictions and the curfew.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, but does not prohibit prison labor. The law states that prison labor constitutes forced labor only if a worker is “hired out to, or placed at the disposal of, a private individual, company, or association.” The government did not effectively enforce the law. Human rights activists reported that it lacked the means to inspect places of concern through a limited number of labor inspectors and inadequate financing for their operations. Those convicted of using forced labor are subject to minor penalties that were not commensurate with those for similar abuses.

Local civil society organizations and media reported that many citizens working overseas, particularly in the Gulf States, became victims of forced labor. Civil society organizations reported that traffickers and legitimate recruitment companies continued to send mainly female jobseekers to Persian Gulf countries where many employers treated workers as indentured servants, withheld pay and travel documents, and subjected them to other harsh conditions indicative of forced labor. With borders and the international airport reopened from October 2020 after a five-month closure, media and local NGOs reported large numbers of young citizens – especially women – traveling to Gulf states for work.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Although the law purports to prohibit the worst forms of child labor, it allows children as young as 12 years of age to do some types of hazardous work under adult supervision. Children are required to attend school until age 13. This standard makes children ages 13 to 15 vulnerable to child labor because they are not required to attend school but are not legally permitted to do most types of work. The law bans the employment of children between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and provides for occupational safety and health restrictions for children. The government did not effectively enforce the law, particularly in the informal sector where most children worked. Penalties were small and not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as kidnapping. The government prosecuted 33 cases of child labor during the year. Most employers did not keep required registries of child workers or comply with the requirement for regular medical exams of child workers. Laws against child labor were not enforced in the informal sector, where most children worked.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics reported in April that child labor rates increased due to widespread job loss, restrictions on movement during lockdowns, and the majority of 15 million school-going children being out of school since the March 2020 closure of schools. The government child helpline, media, and NGOs continued to report cases of child trafficking, including for labor and child sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

Research by Human Rights Watch and the country’s Initiative for Social and Economic Rights found that during the pandemic children were injured by debris and sharp objects as they performed hazardous work in stone quarries and sugarcane fields, with many responding that they worked so they could help their families buy food following a loss of income.

Local civil society organizations reported that children worked in fishing, gold and sand mining, cattle herding, grasshopper collecting, truck loading, street vending, begging, scrap collecting, street hawking, stone quarrying, brick making, road construction and repair, car washing, domestic services, service work (restaurants, bars, shops), cross-border smuggling, and commercial farming (including the production of cocoa, coffee, corn, tea, tobacco, rice, sugarcane, vanilla, and rice). Local civil society organizations and media reported poverty led children to drop out of school to work on commercial farms, while some parents took their children along to work in artisanal mines to supplement family incomes. These organizations also reported that some children who had started working during the lockdown did not return to school when schools briefly reopened. Local civil society organizations reported that orphaned children sought work due to the absence of parental authority.

Local NGOs reported that children who worked as artisanal gold miners were exposed to mercury, and many were unaware of the medium- to long-term effects of the exposure. They believed they were compelled to continue working due to poverty and a lack of employment alternatives. Children also suffered injuries in poorly dug mine shafts that often collapsed.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/ . 

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, refugee or stateless status, disability, age, language, and HIV or communicable disease status, but it does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar abuses and were seldom applied. LGBTQI+ persons faced social and legal discrimination in hiring and employment. Women’s salaries lagged those of men, and women faced discrimination in employment and hiring, and broad economic discrimination (see section 6, Women). Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law technically provides for a national minimum wage much lower than the government’s official poverty income level. This minimum wage standard was never implemented, and the level had not changed since 1984. In 2019 parliament passed a law that created mechanisms for determining and reviewing the minimum wage per sector, but parliament reported in 2019 that the president had declined to sign the bill, arguing that the existing law was sufficient.

The maximum legal workweek is 48 hours, and the maximum workday is 10 hours. The law provides that the workweek may be extended to 56 hours per week, including overtime, with the employee’s consent. An employee may work more than 10 hours in a single day if the average number of hours over a period of three weeks does not exceed 10 hours per day or 56 hours per week. For employees who work beyond 48 hours in a single week, the law requires employers to pay a minimum of 1.5 times the employee’s normal hourly rate for the overtime hours, and twice the employee’s normal hourly rate for work on public holidays. For every four months of continuous employment, an employee is entitled to seven days of paid annual leave.

The Ministry of Labor and local government labor offices are responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Inspection was insufficient to enforce compliance. In addition to inspectors, the country has labor officers who have the mandate to conduct inspections of worksites, focusing on standards of employment and workers’ rights more broadly. Labor officers have the authority to make unannounced inspections, initiate sanctions, instigate prosecutions of repeat offenders through the Industrial Court, and close worksites. With 135 labor officers covering more than 130 districts, the number of labor officers combined with the 21 labor inspectors was insufficient for the size of the country’s workforce, which included more than 15 million workers. Labor officers often depended on complainants and local civil society organizations to pay for their travel to inspection sites. This travel was impacted by COVID-19 lockdown travel restrictions. The PLA reported that many of the labor officers were dual-hatted as social workers and did labor-related work only when a complainant reported an abuse.

Authorities did not effectively enforce labor laws on wages and hours, and penalties were not commensurate with those for similar abuses. The legal minimum wage was never implemented, and civil society organizations reported that most domestic employees worked all year without leave. Wage arrears were common in both the public and private sectors. The PLA reported that abuses of standard wages and overtime pay were common in the manufacturing, education, private security, and transport sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes appropriate occupational safety and health standards and regulations for all workers. The law authorizes labor inspectors under the Ministry of Labor’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health to access and examine any workplace unannounced, issue fines, and mediate some labor disputes. While the law allows workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, legal protection for such workers was ineffective. According to the PLA and NOTU, most workers were unaware of their employers’ responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, and many did not challenge unsafe working conditions, due to fear of losing their jobs. In June, during a peak in reported COVID-19 cases in which health workers were particularly at risk, staff in one health facility participated in a week-long strike until hospital administrators supplied them with personal protective equipment.

Inspections for occupational safety and health were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as wage and hours. Authorities did not effectively enforce labor laws on occupational safety and health, and penalties were not commensurate with those for similar abuses. Workers in the mining, construction, and textile sectors faced hazardous and exploitive working conditions. The PLA reported that abuses of safety and health standards were common in the manufacturing, education, private security, and transport sectors.

Informal Sector: According to 2017 government statistics, which were the most recent available, the informal sector employed up to 85 percent of the labor force primarily in agriculture, domestic work, construction, and transport. Labor officials reported that labor laws did not protect workers in the informal economy, including many domestic and agricultural workers. Live-in domestic workers were at increased risk of poor working conditions, forced to work longer hours without compensation in homes during lockdown periods, often not provided with medical care, and subject to reduced wages. The president declined to sign amendments to the employment law passed in April that would expand protections for domestic workers and other informal-sector workers and require employers to establish measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.