Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and domestic violence, but both occurred frequently, and authorities rarely prosecuted perpetrators. The law does not address spousal rape. Rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison. The penalty increases to 20 years’ imprisonment if the rape is committed against a pregnant woman, a gun is used, an accomplice is involved, or the rape involves incest. According to a 2011 government study, 91 percent of women had experienced gender-based violence and 49 percent had experienced sexual assault. Victims reported less than 1 percent of these crimes to police due to custom, fear of stigmatization and reprisal, and lack of cooperation from investigating police or gendarmes. Studies indicated citizens also were reluctant to report crimes because they feared police would ask the victim to pay for the investigation. The police Office for Protection of Women, Children, and Morals (OPROGEM) referred 20 rape cases for investigation through June, including 17 of minors.
Violence against a woman that causes an injury is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 30,000 GNF ($3.30). If the injury causes mutilation, amputation, or other loss of body parts, it is punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment; if the victim dies, the crime is punishable by life imprisonment. The law does not directly address domestic violence, although authorities may file charges under general assault, which carries sentences of two to five years in prison and fines of 50,000 to 300,000 GNF ($5.50 to $33). Assault constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law, but police rarely intervened in domestic disputes, and courts rarely punished perpetrators.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the law prohibits FGM/C, the country had an extremely high prevalence rate. UNICEF reported 96 percent of women and girls in the country had undergone the procedure, which was practiced throughout the country and among all religious and ethnic groups. In two trial cases, the judges handed down only light suspended sentences to the perpetrators. There were two cases of death from FGM/C at excision camps in the Forest Region; in one case the perpetrator was still awaiting trial, and in the second local authorities reportedly misplaced or destroyed evidence and denied the crime ever happened, despite reports to the contrary.
Cutting was done primarily on girls between ages four and 17. Different ethnic groups practiced FGM/C at different ages. For example, 6 percent of Toma girls were cut before age five, compared to 39 percent of Malinke girls. According to a UNICEF study using 2011 data from the Demographic and Health Survey, 100 percent of women ages 45 to 49 had undergone FGM/C. According to UNICEF’s 2013 report on FGM/C, 96.6 percent of women had undergone FGM/C before age 15. The law provides for a penalty of up to life in prison or death if the victim dies within 40 days of the procedure. The child code provides for minimum imprisonment of three months to two years and fines from 300,000 to one million GNF ($33 to $110) for perpetrators who do not inflict severe injury or death. If a victim is severely injured or dies, the child code specifies imprisonment of five to 20 years and a fine of up to three million GNF ($330). The government was still in the process of harmonizing the child code with the penal code.
The most common form of FGM/C was excision, which involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (Type II, according to the World Health Organization’s classification). The Coordinating Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting Women’s and Children’s Health reported high rates of infant and maternal mortality due to FGM/C. Social pressure to adhere to FGM/C customs was intense, and many families believed the stigma and social consequences of not conforming were more harmful than the procedure.
The government increased its efforts to combat FGM/C with the support of religious leaders. A foreign embassy continued to assist the government in a National Campaign to Accelerate the Abandonment of FGM/C. In collaboration with UNICEF and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the campaign included NGOs, media, civil society networks, and several ministries. Police worked with campaign partners to implement the law, and the government made several declarations against the practice of FGM/C.
The government also cooperated with NGOs in their efforts to eradicate FGM/C and educate health workers, state employees, and citizens on the dangers of the practice. More than 60 health facilities had integrated FGM/C prevention into prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services. A trend for medically trained staff to perform FGM/C under more hygienic conditions continued. While the “medicalization” of the practice may have decreased some of the negative health consequences of the procedure, it did not eliminate all health risks; it also delayed the development of effective and long-term solutions for the abandonment of the practice. Urban, educated families increasingly opted to perform only a slight, symbolic incision on a girl’s genitals rather than the complete procedure.
Sexual Harassment: In 2014 the government adopted a new labor code that prohibits all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment; the constitution prohibits harassment based on sex, race, ethnicity, political opinions, or other grounds. Although urban women working in the formal sector complained of frequent sexual harassment, employers did not penalize perpetrators. As of September the Ministry of Labor had not documented any case of sexual harassment, despite its frequency.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but they often lacked the information and means to do so. Cultural norms and taboos reportedly dissuaded individuals from taking advantage of opportunities to learn about reproductive health or seek health services for sexually transmitted infections. The UN Population Division estimated 7.5 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015. According to WHO, the maternal mortality ratio was 679 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. The UNFPA reported that 44 percent of women ages 20-24 had given birth before the age of 18. Health care for pregnant women, including caesarian surgery, was free and included limited access to skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, essential obstetric care, and postpartum care. Patients, however, often had to offer medical staff between 500,000 GNF ($55) and 1,500,000 GNF ($165) to ensure services were effective. A government survey estimated 85 percent of girls and women of reproductive age received prenatal care, and 45 percent had a skilled birth attendant present during childbirth; only 40 percent of births occurred at a health facility or hospital.
Discrimination: The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as men, including in inheritance, property, employment, credit, and divorce. The labor code adopted in 2014 prohibits gender discrimination in hiring. Women nevertheless routinely experienced discrimination in employment, pay, and education. Traditional law discriminates against women and sometimes took precedence over formal law, particularly in rural areas.
The Ministry of Social Action and the Promotion of Women and Children worked to advance legal equality for women, who faced discrimination throughout society, but particularly in rural areas where opportunities were limited. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), women under traditional law are entitled to hold land only under an agreement basis, which authorizes them to work family-owned land and draw a wage but not to own it. Women had difficulty obtaining loans, according to the OECD.
Government officials acknowledged that polygyny was common. Divorce laws generally favor men in awarding custody and dividing communal assets. Legal testimony given by women carries less weight than testimony by men, in accordance with Islamic precepts and customary law.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country, marriage, naturalization, or parental heritage. According to UNICEF, authorities registered only 41 percent of rural births compared with 77 percent of urban births. Observers attributed the low registration rate to distances between registration offices, illiteracy, and the cost of birth certificates. Authorities did not permit children without birth certificates to attend school or access health care.
Education: Government policy provides for tuition-free, compulsory primary education for all children up to 16 years of age. While girls and boys had equal access to all levels of primary and secondary education, approximately 56 percent of girls attended primary school, compared with 66 percent of boys. Government figures indicated 11 percent of girls obtained a secondary education, compared with 21 percent of boys; a 2011 study from the International Labor Organization (ILO) confirmed this disparity. Sexual harassment, demand for girls’ labor at home, child marriage, and other factors lowered attendance of female students. Since the minimum age for work is 16, children ages 14 and 15 were particularly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor as they may have completed primary school but are not yet legally permitted to work.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a problem. OPROGEM investigated 29 cases of child abuse and seven cases of neglect during the year, but observers believed this number vastly understated the prevalence of the problem. Child abuse, which occurred openly on the street, rarely was reported. Families ignored most cases or addressed them at the community level. For example, in 2015 in Kindia, the local committee investigated a case of abuse, but for unknown reasons was not allowed to refer the case to the courts.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 21 for men and 17 for girls, but tradition permits marriage at age 14. Early marriage was a problem. According to the UNFPA, 63 percent of women ages 20 to 24 were married before age 18. Parents contracted marriages for girls as young as age 10 in Middle Guinea and the Forest Region. According to the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices, forced marriage of women and girls was common. There were no reported prosecutions related to child marriage during the year, although OPROGEM investigated one case of forced marriage.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls in women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prescribes penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment for all forms of child trafficking, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children, but it was a problem. The minimum age of consensual sex is 15. Punishment if convicted of sex with a child under age 15 is three to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to two million GNF ($220). The law also prohibits child pornography. These laws were not regularly enforced, and sexual assault of children, including rape, was a serious problem. Girls between ages 11 and 15 were most vulnerable and represented more than half of all rape victims. There were no reports of sex tourism.
Displaced Children: Although official statistics were unavailable, there was a large population of children living on the streets, particularly in urban areas. Children frequently begged in mosques, on the street, and in markets. OPROGEM reported 144 children went missing from January through August, although authorities recovered most of the children and returned them to their parents.
Institutionalized Children: The country had numerous registered and unregistered orphanages. According to the Ministry of Social Action and the Promotion of Women and Children, 49 registered orphanages cared for 4,822 children. While reports of abuse at orphanages sometimes appeared in the press, reliable statistics were not available. Authorities institutionalized some children after family members died from the Ebola virus.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community was 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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. In February 2015, however, the country adopted a new labor code that prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with disabilities. Although there were no official reports, most observers believed societal and governmental discrimination against such individuals was pervasive. The law does not mandate accessibility for persons with disabilities, and buildings and vehicles remained inaccessible. The Ministry of Social Action and the Promotion of Women and Children is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, but it was ineffective. The country had one school for blind students in N’Zerekore and a school for children with disabilities in Conakry. The government provided no support to mainstream such children in regular schools.
The population was diverse, with three main linguistic groups and several smaller ones identifying with specific regions. While the groups resided throughout the country’s four major regions, Middle Guinea was largely populated by Peuhl (Fulani), Upper Guinea by Malinke, and Coastal Guinea by Soussou. Conakry and other large urban areas such as Kankan were ethnically heterogeneous. The Forest Region had an estimated 24 distinct languages, some spoken by as few as 20,000 persons.
While the law prohibits racial or ethnic discrimination, discrimination by members of all major ethnic groups occurred in private sector hiring patterns, ethnic segregation of urban neighborhoods, and ethnically divisive rhetoric during political campaigns. Ethnically targeted violence occurred during the year.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable by three years in prison; however, there were no known prosecutions. In 2012 the government restructured OPROGEM to include a unit for investigating morals violations, including same-sex sexual conduct. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that authorities arrested cross-dressing men in nightclubs on public nuisance charges. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.
Deep religious and cultural taboos against consensual same-sex sexual conduct existed. There were no official or NGO reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although societal stigma likely prevented victims from reporting abuse or harassment. There were no active LGBTI organizations.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Laws to protect HIV-infected persons from stigmatization exist, but the government relied on donor efforts to combat discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Government efforts were limited to paying salaries for health-service providers. Most victims of stigmatization were women whose families abandoned them after their husbands died of AIDS. Doctors and other health workers routinely disregarded medical confidentiality standards, resulting in widespread distrust of testing.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Discrimination against persons with albinism occurred, particularly in the Forest Region. Speculation continued about albino sacrifice, although authorities did not receive any confirmed reports during the year. Albino rights NGOs continued to raise awareness of discrimination and violence against persons with albinism.
Survivors of Ebola continue to encounter nationwide discrimination at work and elsewhere within society.