Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and provides for prison terms of five to 20 years for perpetrators. The law does not specifically penalize spousal rape. A life sentence can be imposed in cases of gang rape if the rapists are related to or hold positions of authority over the victim, or if the victim is younger than age 15. The government did not provide information on the percentage of rape cases tried as rape versus the lesser charge of indecent assault, which carries a prison term of six months to five years. Media and NGOs reported rape of schoolgirls by teachers was a problem, but few perpetrators had charges filed against them.
The government made some efforts to enforce the law, but local and international human rights groups reported rape remained widespread. A local NGO that aims to protect the rights of persons with disabilities reported a man who raped and ultimately killed a pregnant handicapped woman in April was sentenced to a 20-year jail term.
Relatives, police, and traditional leaders often discouraged rape survivors from pursuing criminal cases, with their families often accepting payment for compensation. Rape victims were no longer required to obtain a medical certificate, which could cost up to 50,000 CFA francs ($850), to move a legal complaint forward. There was no information on how many cases moved forward without the certificate; it often served as a victim’s primary form of evidence.
The law does not specifically outlaw domestic violence, which was a serious and widespread problem. Victims seldom reported domestic violence due to cultural barriers and because police often ignored women who reported rape or domestic violence. Survivors stressed that although sexual and gender-based violence was an “everyday reality,” deeply ingrained taboos discouraged them from speaking out. Survivors were ostracized and advocates for survivors reported being threatened. Fear of challenging male authority figures silenced most victims.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law specifically forbids FGM/C and provides penalties for practitioners of up to five years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to two million CFA francs ($610 to $3,400). Double penalties apply to medical practitioners, including doctors, nurses, and medical technicians. Nevertheless, FGM/C remained a serious problem.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Societal violence against women included traditional practices, such as dowry deaths (the killing of brides over dowry disputes), levirate (forcing a widow to marry her dead husband’s brother), and sororate (forcing a woman to marry her dead sister’s husband). The government did not provide information about the prevalence or rate of prosecution for such violence or forced activity during the year.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes penalties of between one and three years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($610 to $1,700). Nevertheless, the government rarely, if ever, enforced the law, and harassment was widespread and routinely tolerated.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in labor law. A law passed in July establishes the right for women to inherit upon the deaths of their husbands as much as the deceased’s children can. Nevertheless, NGOs reported women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. Human rights organizations reported many religious and traditional authorities rejected laws intended to reduce gender-related inequality in household decision-making processes.
Birth Registration: The law confers citizenship at birth on the basis of at least one parent having been a citizen at the time of the child’s birth. The law provides parents a three-month period to register their child’s birth for only the cost of an official stamp. In some parts of the country, the three-month window conflicts with important cultural practices around the naming of children, making birth registration difficult for many families. For births registered after the first three months, families pay 5,000 CFA francs ($8.50) or more. For older children, authorities may require a doctor’s age assessment and other documents. To continue to secondary school, children must pass an exam for which identity documents are required. As a result, children without documents could not continue their studies after primary school. The government, with UNICEF, in 2017 launched a special operation to complete the civil registration of 1.2 million school children at a reduced cost to the families. By the end of the program during the year 63,000 children had been registered.
Education: Primary schooling is obligatory, free, and open to all. Education was thus ostensibly free and compulsory for children ages six to 16, but families generally reported being asked to pay school fees, either to receive their children’s records or pay for school supplies. Parents of children not in compliance with the law were reportedly subject to fines up to 500,000 CFA francs ($850) or jail time of two to six months, but this was seldom, if ever, enforced, and many children did not attend or have access to school. In principle students do not have to pay for books or fees, but families usually paid because the government did not often cover these expenses. Schools expected parents to contribute to the teachers’ salaries and living stipends, particularly in rural areas.
Educational participation of girls was lower than that of boys, particularly in rural areas. Although girls enrolled at a higher rate, their participation rates dropped below that of boys because of the tendency to keep girls at home to do domestic work or care for younger siblings and due to widespread sexual harassment of female students by teachers and other staff. In April a new gender unit within the Ministry of National Education was created to focus on improving education and training for girls and women.
Child Abuse: The penalty for statutory rape or attempted rape of a child younger than age 16 is a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($610 to $1,700). Nevertheless, children were victims of physical and sexual violence and abuse. Media reported rapes of girls as young as age three during the year. Authorities often reclassified claims of child rape as indecent assault, which increased the likelihood of a timely trial and conviction, although penalties were less severe. Judges exercised discretion in deciding whether to reclassify a claim from child rape to indecent assault, and they may only do so when there is no clear medical proof or testimony to support rape charges. The government did not provide information about the rate of prosecution or conviction during the year. To assist child victims of violence and abuse, the government cooperated with UNICEF to strengthen the child protection network.
Although the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training; the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights; the Ministry of Women, Families, and Children; the Ministry for Solidarity, Social Cohesion, and the Fight against Poverty; and the Ministry of National Education were responsible for combating child abuse, international organizations and civil society groups reported they were ineffective due to lack of coordination among the ministries.
Early and Forced Marriage: A law passed in July equalizes the age of majority for women and men to get married at age 18. The law prohibits the marriage of men and women younger than age 18 without parental consent. The law specifically penalizes anyone who forces a minor younger than age 18 to enter a religious or customary matrimonial union. Nevertheless, reports of traditional marriages involving at least one minor spouse persisted.
In 2017 according to UNICEF, 27 percent of girls were married by age 18 and 7 percent by age 15.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. The law prohibits the use, recruitment, or offering of children for commercial sex or pornographic films, pictures, or events. Violators can receive prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years and fines of five million to 50 million CFA francs ($8,500 to $85,000). Statutory rape of a minor carries a punishment of one to three years in prison and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($610 to $1,700).
In November 2018 armed gendarmes abducted a 14-year-old girl from an NGO in Abidjan that shelters child victims of human trafficking and abuse. There was no further information on the status of the case.
The country is a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to trafficking in persons, including sex trafficking. During the year the antitrafficking unit of the National Police investigated several cases of suspected child sex trafficking.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Displaced Children: Human rights organizations reported thousands of children countrywide lived on the streets and that they were frequently subject to law enforcement activity. The government reportedly implemented a program to reduce the numbers of homeless minors, but there was no information on the number of minors affected. Officials in the Ministry of Youth reportedly opened several centers in a few cities where at-risk youth could live and receive training, and the government announced a pilot resocialization program to offer civic education to 160 youth as part of efforts to address juvenile delinquency.
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.
The country’s Jewish community numbered fewer than 100 persons, including both expatriates and Ivoirians who converted. 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 requires the government to educate and train persons with physical, mental, visual, auditory, and cerebral motor disabilities; hire them or help them find jobs; design houses and public facilities for wheelchair access; and adapt machines, tools, and work spaces for access and use by persons with disabilities as well as to provide them access to the judicial system. The law prohibits acts of violence against persons with disabilities and the abandonment of such persons. The constitution contains protections for persons with disabilities, but these laws were not effectively enforced. Vision- and hearing-impaired persons were also discriminated against in civic participation, since political campaigns did not include provisions for them, either in braille or sign language. A human rights organization brought this to the attention of the CEI but received no substantive response.
Persons with disabilities reportedly encountered serious discrimination in employment and education. Prisons and detention centers provided no accommodations for persons with disabilities. Although the law requires measures to ensure persons with disabilities’ access to transportation and buildings and designated parking spots, human rights organizations reported these were lacking around the country.
The government financially supported some separate schools, training programs, associations, and artisans’ cooperatives for persons with disabilities, located primarily in Abidjan, but human rights organizations reported these schools functioned more as literacy centers that did not offer the same educational materials and programs as other schools. Many persons with disabilities begged on urban streets and in commercial zones for lack of other economic opportunities. It was difficult for children with disabilities to obtain an adequate education if their families did not have sufficient resources. Although public schools did not bar persons with disabilities from attending, such schools lacked the resources to accommodate students with disabilities. Homelessness among persons with mental disabilities was reportedly common.
The country has more than 60 ethnic groups; human rights organizations reported ethnic discrimination was a problem. Authorities considered approximately 25 percent of the population foreign, although many within this category were second- or third-generation residents. Land ownership laws remained unclear and unimplemented, resulting in conflicts between native populations and other groups.
The law prohibits xenophobia, racism, and tribalism and makes these forms of intolerance punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. There were reports of police abuse and harassment of non-Ivoirian Africans residing in the country, based in part on the belief that foreigners were responsible for high crime rates and identity card fraud.
In May intercommunal violence erupted between members of the Baoule and Malinke communities after a traffic accident between a Malinke bus driver and a Baoule taxi driver. Although authorities implemented a curfew, the violence lasted for days, leaving at least 14 persons dead and 120 injured.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Same-sex sexual activity is subject to conviction as a form of public indecency that carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, which is the same penalty prescribed for heterosexual acts performed in public. In July the government made minor changes to Article 360 of the criminal law, but human rights organizations reported the changes did not prevent tacit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Human rights organizations reported the LGBTI community continued to face discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as acts of violence against members of that community. Law enforcement authorities were at times slow and ineffective in their response to societal violence targeting the LGBTI community. Reports continued that LGBTI community members were evicted from their homes by landlords or their families. Security forces sometimes tried to humiliate members of the transgender community by forcing them to undress in public.
Members of the LGBTI community reported discrimination in access to health care, including instances in which doctors refused to give treatment and pharmacists told them to follow religion and learn to change.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were no credible reports of official discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status. The law expressly condemns all forms of discrimination against persons with HIV and provides for their access to care and treatment. The law also prescribes fines for refusal of care or discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status. An NGO reported discrimination cases amongst families relating to a family member’s HIV/AIDS status, such as when an HIV-positive woman was thrown out of her in-laws’ home after the death of her husband or when the wife of an HIV-positive man was forced to leave her small cocoa farm after the death of her husband by his family. The NGO reported these cases were resolved with help from the village or township’s social center.
The Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene managed a program within the National AIDS Control Program to assist vulnerable populations at high risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS (including but not limited to men who have sex with men, sex workers, persons who inject drugs, prisoners, and migrants). The Ministry of Women, Families, and Child Protection oversaw a program that directed educational, psychosocial, nutritional, and economic support to orphans and other vulnerable children, including those infected or affected by HIV.