An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Read A Section: The Area Administered By Turkish Cypriots

Republic of Cyprus

The government of the Republic of Cyprus is the only internationally recognized government on the island, but since 1974 the northern third of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots.  This area proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” in 1983.  The United States does not recognize the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” nor does any country other than Turkey.  A substantial number of Turkish troops remain on the island.  A buffer zone, or “Green Line,” patrolled by a UN Peacekeeping Force, separates the two sides.  This report is divided into two parts:  the Republic of Cyprus, and the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The northern part of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots since 1974 and proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” in 1983. The United States does not recognize the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” nor does any country other than Turkey. In 2020 Ersin Tatar was elected “president” and leader of the Turkish Cypriot community in elections widely seen as influenced by pro-Tatar interference from Turkey. In 2018 voters elected 50 “members of parliament” in free and fair elections. The “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” “constitution” is the basis for the “laws” that govern the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.

Police are responsible for enforcement of the “law.” The “chief of police” is nominally under the supervision of the “Prime Ministry.” Police and Turkish Cypriot security forces, however, are ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish armed forces, as provided by the “constitution,” which entrusts responsibility for public security and defense to Turkey. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: serious restrictions on free expression and media, including criminal libel “laws”; refoulement of asylum seekers; serious acts of “government” corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national minorities.

Authorities took steps to investigate officials following allegations of human rights abuses and corruption. There was evidence, however, of impunity.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The “law” provides criminal penalties for corruption by “officials.” Authorities, however, did not implement the “law” effectively, and “officials” sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of “government” corruption during the year. Observers generally perceived corruption, cronyism, and lack of transparency to be serious problems in the legislative and executive branches.

Corruption: In July a civil servant working as a cashier at the “tax department” was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for embezzling one million Turkish lira ($108,700 as of mid-October) in driver’s license fees from 2016 to 2020. The “court” ordered a freeze on the cashier’s assets.

In September, six individuals, including a north Nicosia Police Station officer and an information technology (IT) specialist, were arrested for bribery and forging digital vaccine certificates. According to press reports, an unvaccinated police officer from Nicosia paid 650 Turkish lira ($70 as of mid-October) to the IT specialist to create a fake electronic vaccination certificate. The allegations arose after the IT specialist offered to create another fake vaccination certificate for another officer at the Kyrenia police station. Five of the suspects were released pending charges. The investigation continued at year’s end.

In 2019 local press outlets reported that former National Unity Party leader and then “prime minister” Huseyin Ozgurgun inaccurately declared his assets, according to an “attorney general” investigation. Ozgurgun was charged with failing to accurately declare wealth and for abusing public office for private gain. The “parliament” subsequently voted to remove Ozgurgun’s immunity. No trial has yet been held, as Ozgurgun has been living in Turkey since 2019. The “attorney general’s office” reported three lawsuits were pending against Ozgurgun at the Nicosia District Court at year’s end.

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

A limited number of domestic human rights organizations operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Authorities were rarely cooperative or responsive to their views and requests. NGOs promoted awareness of domestic violence; women’s rights; rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants; trafficking in persons; police abuse; and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. These NGOs had little effect on changes to “legislation” to improve the protection of human rights. Local NGOs liaised with the United Nations, UNHCR, foreign diplomatic missions, representatives of the European Union, and international NGOs on human rights matters.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is an “ombudsman,” whose portfolio includes human rights issues. The “ombudsman” investigates and reports on institutions that exercise administrative and executive powers and ensures that “legislation” and “court” decisions are properly implemented. The “ombudsman” can initiate investigations in response to media reports, complaints from individuals and organizations, or on its own initiative. The “ombudsman” was not always effective due to the lack of an enforcement mechanism.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The “law” criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Authorities and police did not enforce the “law” effectively. No “laws” specifically address domestic violence. The “law” prohibits domestic violence under various assault and violence or battery clauses, with a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a major problem. The Nicosia Turkish Municipality operated a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and there were local NGOs that supported rape and domestic violence victims. Turkish Cypriot authorities also reported establishing gender focal points at relevant “ministries” to respond to complaints of violence against women.

In March there were multiple reports of violence against women. One man was arrested in north Nicosia for beating his wife with a stick, another man was arrested for breaking a woman’s finger after a dispute concerning a divorce case at the “court” in Famagusta, and three persons (including a relative) were arrested for repeatedly raping a 17-year-old girl. The girl was seven-and-a-half months pregnant.

According to a survey of local women conducted by the Nicosia Turkish Municipality’s Side by Side Against Violence Project in February 2020, 60 percent of women were subjected to psychological violence, and 40 percent of women were subjected to physical violence. Survey results also showed that one out of every four women had been exposed to sexual violence and one out of every four women had been exposed to economic violence – defined by the project as the manipulation of economic resources or money as a means of sanction, intimidation, or control over women. Two out of every 10 women had been threatened with physical violence.

Nicosia district police in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots operated the specialized Combating Violence against Women Unit to respond to complaints of domestic violence, including calls to a dedicated hotline.

According to the Combatting Violence against Women Unit, 871 women filed complaints to the unit’s hotline seeking help between January-October. In 2020 a total of 1,063 women called the hotline and filed complaints or sought help.

In October the Coordination Center for Combating Domestic Violence, a joint effort of the “government,” the Nicosia Turkish Municipality Shelter House, police, and the SOS Children’s orphanage held a special training session on domestic violence for 100 police officers from the Combating Violence against Women Unit.

In November, Meral Akinci, Chair of the Association for Women who Support Living (KAYAD) reported that according to KAYAD’s research, one in every five women surveyed suffered from domestic violence. Akinci added that the survey indicated one in five women suffered from economic abuse in the form of spouses either seizing their salary or applying for a bank loan in their name without their consent.

Sexual Harassment: The “criminal code” prohibits sexual harassment and considers it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment, an unspecified fine, or both. According to NGOs, sexual harassment went largely unreported. The NGO Voice of International Students in Cyprus (VOIS) reported widespread sexual harassment of female international students and noted that police routinely dismissed complaints of sexual harassment from international students. The organization reported in March that an international student was raped by her landlord’s friend. The perpetrator allegedly tried to bribe the victim to keep her from reporting the incident to police. Although the victim sought help from local NGOs, as of year’s end, police had not opened an investigation.

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

Authorities did not provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. No publicly funded services were available to survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was not available as part of clinical management of rape.

Some doctors in the private and public sectors required women to have their husband’s consent to proceed with sterilization, although the law does not require such consent.

According to KAYAD, women living in northern Cyprus did not have free access to contraception, one out of every four women was under pressure from their spouse not to use contraception, and abortion services were not provided at public hospitals upon request.

Discrimination: The “law” provides the same “legal” status and rights for women and men, but authorities did not enforce the “law” effectively. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. For example, female teachers were reportedly instructed to schedule their pregnancies in order to deliver during summer break. Some female teachers working at private schools were dismissed from their duties for being pregnant during or at the beginning of the school year.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The “TRNC Constitution” prohibits discrimination. According to the “constitution,” “Every person shall be equal before the ‘constitution’ and the law without any discrimination. No privileges shall be granted to any individual, family, group, or class. The organs and the administrative authorities of the ‘State’ are under an obligation to act in conformity with the principle of equality before the law and not to make any discrimination in their actions.”

Despite the “law,” authorities rarely acted on incidents regarding racial or ethnic discrimination. According to human rights contacts, most of these incidents went unreported in part because victims did not expect authorities to open an investigation.

The “law” prohibits discrimination, and the 1975 Vienna III Agreement remains the legal source of authority regarding the treatment of the 310 Greek Cypriot and 62 Maronite residents in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.

There is discrimination against Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. They could take possession of some of their properties in that area but were unable to leave their properties to heirs residing in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area. Maronites living in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area could use their properties in the north only if those properties were not under the control of the Turkish military or had not been allocated to Turkish Cypriots.

Foreign domestic workers faced discrimination and, at times, violence.

As in previous years, the Turkish Cypriot Public Sector Workers Union (KTAMS) reported that many foreign workers receive salaries below minimum wage.

There were reports of social and job discrimination against Kurds in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, as well as allegations that police closely monitored Kurdish activities.

Some of the approximately 10,000 African students reportedly studying at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities reported racial discrimination in housing, employment, and interactions with authorities. Thirty to forty thousand foreign students, excluding Turkish students, study at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. The NGO VOIS stated authorities excluded foreign students from receiving food packages that were distributed to citizens during the pandemic. VOIS claimed that authorities ignored foreign students and deprived them of medical and other support during the lockdown and pandemic. VOIS also reported that measures and restrictions, as well as digital vaccine passes were initially only available in Turkish and that dormitories for students who tested COVID-19 were in poor condition, unhygienic, and lacked food services. VOIS stated obtaining support in anything but Turkish at the pandemic hospital, quarantine centers, and COVID-19 hotline was “nearly impossible.”

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive “citizenship” from their parents, and there was universal registration at birth, including of children born to migrants.

Child Abuse: The “law” does not explicitly prohibit child abuse, but it does prohibit sexual abuse of children, which carries a penalty of up to six years imprisonment. There were reports of child abuse. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seeking legal remedies for such problems.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage for girls and boys is 18. A “court” may allow marriages of minors who are 16 or 17 if they receive parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “law” prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and authorities generally enforced the prohibition. The age of consent is 16. Statutory rape or attempted statutory rape of a minor younger than 16 is a felony, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If the offender is younger than 18 and less than two years apart in age from the victim, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison, an unspecified fine, or both. A cybercrime “law” enacted in July 2020 makes possession or production of child pornography punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 150 persons in the Jewish community, which primarily consisted of nonresident businesspersons. 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

In July police opened an investigation at two private hospitals after receiving information that a young woman had sold her ovaries. Police arrested six persons, including three doctors, a lab technician, and two donors. Police also confiscated documents, computers, and records from the hospitals. According to police reports, two donors sold their ovaries for 3,500 Turkish lira ($380 as of mid-October) each. One of the donors reported the transaction to police after experiencing health concerns. An investigation continued at year’s end.

Persons with Disabilities

The “law” protects the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to social benefits, and prohibits discrimination against them. Authorities did not effectively enforce all parts of the “law.” Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. For example, advocates complained of the absence of accessible infrastructure in public areas, including lack of sidewalks, blocked sidewalks, and inaccessible public transportation.

The Turkish Cypriot Orthopedic Disabled Persons Association reported many buildings, sidewalks, and public bathrooms were not accessible to persons with disabilities. The association claimed the “government” had failed to meet the requirement in “law” that 4 percent of public-sector positions be filled by persons with disabilities. In a press statement in May, the chair of the Cyprus Turkish Federation of the Disabled, Dervis Yuceturk, reported there were 660 disabled individuals living in the “TRNC” who were “waiting for employment and support.” Yuceturk stated 800 disabled individuals had been employed under the “Protection, Rehabilitation and Employment Law for the Disabled” and that more than 5,000 disabled individuals have received cash assistance. Yuceturk stated, “We regret that we still have not reached the point we want in terms of employment or assistance. We regret to see that we are still far behind in our fight for a humane life, and that we are far below European standards.”

Children with disabilities attend specific schools that are “state” funded.

Authorities reported that as of August, 260 persons with disabilities worked in the “government.” Authorities also reported that as of August, 5,035 persons with disabilities received financial aid from the “government.”

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

The “law” prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, nationality laws and access to government services. According to the “criminal code,” it is a minor offense for a civil servant employee to discriminate against any person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Authorities did not effectively enforce the “law.”

While there were no reported cases of official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, members of the LGBTQI+ community noted an overwhelming majority of LGBTQI+ persons concealed their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid potential discrimination.

The Queer Cyprus Association reported LGBTQI+ persons often could not access legal remedies to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity because authorities declined to enforce them.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The “law” protects the rights of workers, except members of police and other Turkish Cypriot security forces, to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. The “law” allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for their right to strike, with the provision that a union notify authorities in writing if members planned to strike for longer than 24 hours. The “law” does not permit “judges,” members of the police force, or other Turkish Cypriot security forces to strike. The “council of ministers” has the power to prohibit a strike in any individual sector twice a year for up to 60 days if it affects the general health, security, or public order, or if it prevents the provision of essential services. There is no list of what constitutes essential services.

The “law” provides for collective bargaining. The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” reported that employers could not condition employment on membership or non-membership in a union or participation in strikes. The “law” does not provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activities.

The “government” did not effectively enforce applicable “laws.” Despite having freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining, very few private-sector workers were unionized, according to labor union representatives. A union representative stated that if private-sector workers affected business operations while exercising their rights, employers would likely dismiss them. Some companies pressured workers to join unions that the company led or approved. Officials of independent unions claimed authorities created public-sector unions as rivals to compete with and weaken independent unions.

KTAMS reported that 35 percent of public sector and 0.5 percent of private sector workers were members of labor unions. According to KTAMS approximately 28 percent of the workforce in Turkish Cypriot administered areas was unionized.

Labor authorities did not effectively enforce the “law.” Penalties for employers convicted of violating the “law” were not commensurate with those for violating other “laws” involving the denial of civil rights and were sporadically enforced.

Public and semipublic employees benefited from collective bargaining agreements. Semipublic employees worked for companies run jointly by public and private enterprises where, for example, the “government” handled administration while the company’s budget came from private sources.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The “law” prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the “government” did not effectively enforce it. Penalties for violations of the “law” were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes.

Authorities reported they did not receive any complaints regarding forced labor during the year. NGOs and unions stated there were reports of forced labor during the year, primarily in agriculture, construction, and the industrial sector. A labor union representative reported migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages, nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threats of deportation. Another labor union reported that some foreign workers, mainly in the construction and industrial sectors, were forced to work long periods up to 12 hours without additional compensation or pay. The union also reported that some foreign workers were paid less than the minimum wage.

A researcher reported that universities were used to smuggle or traffic large numbers of Africans and South Asians. Some foreign students who could not pay their tuition after arriving in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots became vulnerable to exploitation, including forced labor, and victims of labor and human trafficking.

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. The minimum age for restricted employment is 15, the last year at which education is compulsory. Employers may hire children between the ages of 15 and 18 in apprentice positions under a special status. Children older than 15 are restricted to no more than six hours of work per day and 30 hours per week. The “law” prohibits children between the ages of 15 and 18 from working during mealtimes, at night, in heavy physical labor, and under dangerous conditions. The “law” also states that every six months the employer must prove, with medical certification, that the physical work done by a child is suitable for children. Written parental consent is also required, and children are entitled to the hourly wage of a full-time employee.

Authorities reported they received three complaints to the child labor hotline in 2020 but that subsequent inspections did not reveal any children working onsite.

The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing child labor “laws” and policies. Inspections were not sufficient and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those of other serious crimes.

Authorities did not always effectively enforce the “laws,” and NGOs reported that primarily children of Turkish immigrants often worked alongside their families in the agricultural, manufacturing, automotive, and construction sectors. NGOs reported that some children worked in dangerous conditions, such as on construction sites, and were subjected to heavy physical work despite “legal” prohibitions.

Child labor in the urban informal economy was also a problem, but to a lesser extent than in agriculture and manufacturing. In family-run businesses, it was common for children to work after school in shops and for young children to work on family farms.

In July the Turkish Cyprus Pediatric Institution reported there was lack of inspection and supervision at workplaces and inadequate laws to protect against child labor in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots. The institution also reported the death of a 15-year-old boy who died in July while working at a car mechanic’s garage in the Morphou region. The “Ministry of Labor” announced an investigation into the incident. The investigation continued at year’s end.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The “law” generally prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, and social status. The “law” does not specifically address discrimination with respect to religion, political opinion, or HIV-positive status, which were addressed by general “regulations.” Authorities did not effectively enforce the “law,” and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for violating other “laws” related to civil rights. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, disability, and gender.

Authorities reported there were more than 38,340 registered foreign workers (24,711 Turkish citizens and 13,629 from other countries) in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriot authorities. These workers were mainly from Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. Foreign migrant workers faced societal discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, and religious belief. Although it was uncommon for Greek Cypriots to seek employment in northern Cyprus, they faced social and employment discrimination when they did.

Women faced sexual harassment in the workplace, but most instances of sexual harassment went unreported. Women held far fewer managerial positions than men.

LGBTQI+ individuals often concealed their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace to avoid discrimination. Persons with disabilities routinely found it physically difficult to access workplaces.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The “government” increased the minimum wage during the year, but it remained below the poverty level for a family of four, as inflation and the cost of living outpaced the increase. The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage, but it did not effectively do so. The number of inspectors was not sufficient for enforcement. The penalties for noncompliance were not commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

As of September the minimum monthly wage in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots was 4,324 Turkish lira ($470 as of mid-October). According to labor unions, this is below the poverty line. As of September KTAMS reported the poverty line for family of four was 4,470 Turkish lira ($485 as of mid-October).

According to a labor union, per capita income fell from $12,649 to $10,055, a level not seen since 2005.

There was premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Premium pay for overtime is also required in the private sector, but it is frequently not paid. The “law” prohibits compulsory overtime and provides for paid annual holidays.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were insufficient. Authorities did not effectively enforce safety and health standards, and the number of inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Multinational companies reportedly met health and safety standards. Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Authorities could conduct unannounced inspections or initiate sanctions, but according to unions and associations, inspections were not adequately or routinely carried out. Authorities commonly deported migrant workers who reported violations. Authorities did not penalize violators, and inspections were not adequate to protect worker rights. Accommodations for migrant workers, either as part of their compensation or for those made to pay, were substandard.

Authorities reported there were 143 major industrial accidents during the year that caused five deaths.

In April, six public sector worker unions filed a case at the “Constitutional Court” to obtain an interim order to stop a “government” statutory decree from freezing cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for four months. Public sector worker unions, including KTAMS, KAMUSEN, KAMU-IS, GUC-SEN, VERGI-SEN, and the Nurses Union, claimed the COLA freeze was illegal. In June the “Constitutional Court” decided in favor of the unions and cancelled the decree.

Informal Sector: The “government” has not established social protections for workers in the informal economy.

Colombia

Executive Summary

Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty republic. Presidential and legislative elections were held in 2018. Voters elected Ivan Duque Marquez president in a second round of elections that observers considered free and fair and the most peaceful in decades.

The Colombian National Police force is responsible for internal law enforcement and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense. The Migration Directorate, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the immigration authority. The Colombian National Police shares law enforcement investigatory duties with the Attorney General’s Corps of Technical Investigators. In addition to its responsibility to defend the country against external threats, the army shares limited responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. For example, military units sometimes provided logistical support and security for criminal investigators to collect evidence in high-conflict or remote areas. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; torture and arbitrary detention by government security forces and armed groups; rape and abuse of women and children, as well as unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups; criminalization of libel; widespread government corruption; violence against and forced displacement of Afro-Colombian and indigenous persons; violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; killings and other violence against trade unionists; and child labor.

The government generally took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, although some cases continued to experience long delays. The government generally implemented effectively laws criminalizing official corruption. The government was implementing police reforms focused on enhancing community-police relations, accountability, and human rights.

Armed groups, including dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, National Liberation Army, and drug-trafficking gangs, continued to operate. Armed groups, as well as narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of human rights abuses and violent crimes and committed acts of extrajudicial and unlawful killings, extortion, and other abuses, such as kidnapping, torture, human trafficking, bombings, restriction on freedom of movement, sexual violence, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and threats of violence against journalists, women, and human rights defenders. The government investigated these actions and prosecuted those responsible to the extent possible.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively, although officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices without punishment. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, particularly at the local level. Revenues from transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking, exacerbated corruption.

Corruption: Through July 31, the Attorney General’s Office registered 8,414 allegations related to corruption and 51 active investigations. In August press reports alleged government contractors embezzled a $17 million advance from the Ministry of Technology and Communications in connection with a project to connect rural schools to the internet. The contractors allegedly failed to comply with the commitments in the contract, and the Inspector General’s Office opened an investigation.

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. Government officials were typically cooperative and willing to listen to local human rights groups’ concerns.

Several NGOs reported receiving threats in the form of email, mail, telephone calls, false obituaries, and objects related to death, such as coffins and funeral bouquets. The government condemned the threats and called on the Attorney General’s Office to investigate them. Some activists claimed the government did not take the threats seriously.

The government announced advances in the investigations into attacks and killings of human rights defenders and assigned priority resources to these cases. The Attorney General’s Office reported that as of August 10, it had convicted and sentenced 89 persons for the homicides of human rights defenders.

Through July the Attorney General’s Office reported 961 active investigations into threats against human rights defenders. There were three convictions in cases of threats against human rights defenders during the year.

As of July the NPU’s protection program provided protection to more than 8,000 individuals. Among the protected persons were 4,000 human rights defenders and social leaders.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman is independent, submits an annual report to the House of Representatives, and has responsibility for providing for the promotion and exercise of human rights. According to human rights groups, underfunding of the Ombudsman’s Office limited its ability to monitor violations effectively. The ombudsman, as well as members of his regional offices, reported threats from armed groups issued through pamphlets, email, and violent actions.

The National System for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law – led by a commission of 21 senior government officials, including the vice president – designs, implements, and evaluates the government’s policies on human rights and international humanitarian law. The Office of the Presidential Advisor for Human Rights coordinates national human rights policy and actions taken by government entities to promote or protect human rights.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have human rights committees that served as forums for discussion of human rights problems.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape of men or women, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. The law provides for sentences ranging from eight to 30 years’ imprisonment for violent sexual assault. For acts of spousal sexual violence, the law mandates prison sentences of six months to two years. By law femicide is punishable with penalties of 21 to 50 years in prison, longer than the minimum sentence of 13 years for homicide.

Violence against women, as well as impunity for perpetrators, continued to be a problem. Members of armed groups continued to rape and abuse women and children sexually.

The government continued to employ the elite Sexual Assault Investigative Unit interagency unit in Bogota, which was dedicated to the investigation of sexual assault cases. From January through July, the Attorney General’s Office opened 63,000 investigations into domestic violence, with women identified as the victim in 50,000 of those investigations.

The law requires the government to provide victims of domestic violence immediate protection from further physical or psychological abuse.

The Ministry of Defense continued implementing its protocol for managing cases of sexual violence and harassment involving members of the military. The District Secretariat of Women in Bogota and the Ombudsman’s Office offered free legal aid for victims of gender violence and organized courses to teach officials how to treat survivors of gender violence respectfully.

The law augments both imprisonment and fines if a crime causes “transitory or permanent physical disfigurement,” such as acid attacks, which have a penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but isolated incidents were reported in several indigenous communities in different parts of the country. Two-thirds of women from the Embera community had undergone FGM/C, according to the UN Population Fund.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides measures to deter and punish harassment in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, verbal abuse or derision, aggression, and discrimination, which carries a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment. Nonetheless, NGOs reported sexual harassment remained a pervasive and underreported problem in workplaces and in public.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The law, however, allows the involuntary surgical sterilization of children with cognitive and psychosocial disabilities in certain cases.

Contraception was widely available. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive services and emergency contraception was available for survivors of sexual violence, including survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Discrimination: Although women have the same legal rights as men, discrimination against women persisted. There is no law prohibiting access to credit based on gender. The Office of the Advisor for the Equality of Women has primary responsibility for combating discrimination against women, but advocacy groups reported that the office remained seriously underfunded. The government continued its national public policy for gender equity.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

According to the 2018 national census, approximately 9.3 percent of the country’s population described themselves as being of African descent. A 2011 UN report estimated Afro-Colombians made up 15 to 20 percent of the population, while human rights groups and Afro-Colombian organizations estimated the proportion to be 20 to 25 percent.

Afro-Colombians are entitled to all constitutional rights and protections, but they faced significant economic and social discrimination. According to a 2016 UN report, 32 percent of the country’s population lived below the poverty line, but in Choco, the department with the highest percentage of Afro-Colombian residents, 79 percent of residents lived below the poverty line. NGOs and the OHCHR reported that Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities continued to be disproportionately affected by illicit economic activities in rural territories that lacked sufficient state presence.

The government continued a policy to promote equal opportunity for Black, Afro-Colombian, Palenquera, and Raizal populations. (Palenquera populations inhabit some parts of the Caribbean coast, Raizal populations live in the San Andres Archipelago, and Blacks and Afro-Colombians are Colombians of African descent who self-identify slightly differently based on their unique linguistic and cultural heritages.) The Ministry of Interior provided technical advice and funding for social projects presented by Afro-Colombian communities.

The National Autonomous Congress of Afro-Colombian Community Councils and Ethnic Organizations for Blacks, Afro-Colombians, Raizals, and Palenqueras, consisting of 108 representatives, met with government representatives on problems that affected their communities.

Indigenous Peoples

The law gives special recognition to the fundamental rights of indigenous persons, who make up approximately 4.4 percent of the population, and requires the government to consult beforehand with indigenous groups regarding governmental actions that could affect them.

The law accords indigenous groups perpetual rights to their ancestral lands, but indigenous groups, neighboring landowners, and the government often disputed the demarcation of those lands. Traditional indigenous groups operated 842 reservations, accounting for approximately 28 percent of the country’s territory. Armed groups often violently contested indigenous land ownership and recruited indigenous children to join their ranks.

The law provides for special criminal and civil jurisdictions within indigenous territories based on traditional community laws. Legal proceedings in these jurisdictions were subject to manipulation and often rendered punishments more lenient than those imposed by civilian state courts.

Some indigenous groups continued to assert they were not able to participate adequately in decisions affecting their lands. The constitution provides for a “prior consultation” mechanism for indigenous communities, but it does not require the government to obtain the consent of those communities in all cases. Indigenous communities participated in the April-June nationwide protest to draw attention to violence in rural territories and to press for increased government attention to the 2016 peace accord implementation.

The government stated that for security reasons, it could not provide advance notice of most military operations, especially when in pursuit of enemy combatants, and added that it consulted with indigenous leaders when possible before entering land held by their communities.

Despite special legal protections and government assistance programs, indigenous persons continued to suffer discrimination and often lived on the margins of society. They belonged to the country’s poorest population and had the highest age-specific mortality rates.

Killings of members and leaders of indigenous groups continued. According to INDEPAZ, since the signing of the peace accord, 343 indigenous leaders had been killed. In April unidentified armed men kidnapped and killed Governor Sandra Liliana Pena Chocue, an indigenous person. In her role as governor, Pena worked to clear the indigenous reserve of illicit crops.

Despite precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, ethnic Wayuu children continued to die of malnutrition. According to a 2015 government survey, 77 percent of indigenous households in the department of La Guajira, where the largest number of Wayuu lived, were food insecure. The OHCHR’s February report noted disproportionately high COVID-19 mortality rates among rural indigenous communities that lacked access to health-care facilities.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory in most cases. Most births were registered immediately. If a birth is not registered within one month, parents may be fined and denied public services.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a serious problem. The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) reported that between January and July 31, there were approximately 8,500 cases of sexual abuse of a minor. The ICBF provided psychosocial, legal, and medical care to victims.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Marriage is legal at the age of 18. Boys older than 14 and girls older than 12 may marry with the consent of their parents. According to UNICEF, 5 percent of girls were married before age 15 and 23 percent before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children remained a problem. The law prohibits sexual exploitation of a minor or facilitating the sexual exploitation of a minor and stipulates a penalty of 14 to 25 years in prison, with aggravated penalties for perpetrators who are family members of the victim and for cases of sexual tourism, forced marriage, or sexual exploitation by armed groups. The law prohibits pornography using children younger than 18 and stipulates a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine for violations. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The penalty for sexual activity with a child younger than 14 ranges from nine to 13 years in prison. The government generally enforced the law.

On July 30, police dismantled a sex-trafficking ring operating in three cities, arresting five persons. The criminal organization behind the sex-trafficking ring deceived women with false job advertisements to lure them to China for sexual exploitation. Human traffickers recruited vulnerable women and girls in dire economic circumstances, mostly Colombians and displaced Venezuelans, into “webcam modeling.” In some cases traffickers drugged victims using fear and coercion through debt and extortion to force them to perform live-streaming sex acts. Government officials and civil society organizations expressed concern regarding the burgeoning webcam industry and its ties to sex trafficking. According to media reports, the economic fallout from COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in “webcam modeling.”

Displaced Children: The NGO Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement estimated in 2016 that 31 percent of persons registered as displaced since 1985 were minors at the time they were displaced (see also section 2.e.).

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

The Jewish community, with an estimated 5,000 members, continued to report instances of anti-Israeli rhetoric connected to events in the Middle East, accompanied by anti-Semitic graffiti near synagogues, as well as demonstrations in front of the Israeli embassy that were sometimes accompanied by anti-Semitic comments on social media. The Colombian Confederation of Jewish Communities expressed concern over the presence of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Colombia, which promotes the boycott of Israeli products and travel.

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 punishes those who arbitrarily restrict the full exercise of the rights of persons with disabilities or harass persons with disabilities, but enforcement was rare. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities but does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with sensory or intellectual disabilities. No law mandates access to information and telecommunications for persons with disabilities. Law 1996, adopted in 2019, recognizes that persons with disabilities older than 18 have full legal capacity.

The Office of the Presidential Advisor for Human Rights under the high counselor for postconflict, public security, and human rights, along with the Human Rights Directorate at the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. According to Somos Defensores and other NGOs, the law was seldom enforced.

Although children with disabilities attended school at all levels, advocates noted most teachers and schools were neither trained nor equipped to educate children with disabilities successfully. Advocacy groups also stated children with disabilities entered the education system later than children without disabilities and dropped out at higher rates. Persons with disabilities were unemployed at a much higher rate than the general population.

In 2013 the State Council ordered all public offices to make facilities accessible to persons with disabilities and asked public officials to include requirements for accessibility when granting licenses for construction and occupancy. The State Council also asked every municipality to enforce rules that would make all public offices accessible to persons with disabilities “in a short amount of time.” The government reported progress during the year at both the national and municipal level, including accessibility adaptations at ports, airports, and other mass transport terminals.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were confirmed reports of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS. In its most recent demographic and health survey (2015), the government reported the responses of 78 percent of those surveyed indicated discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV and AIDS, reflecting low levels of social acceptance throughout the country.

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

There were allegations of police violence based on sexual orientation. There were no reports of official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education; however, there were reports of discrimination with respect to access to health care. The government’s national action plan guarantees lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) rights for the 2019-22 period. In August 2020 the constitutional court determined that medical insurance companies must bear the costs of gender affirmation and reassignment surgeries.

Despite government measures to increase the rights and protection of LGBTQI+ persons, there were reports of societal abuse and discrimination as well as sexual assault. NGOs claimed transgender individuals, particularly transgender men, were often sexually assaulted in so-called corrective rape. The NGO Colombia Diversa reported between January 1 and August 18, there were 39 homicides of LGBTQI+ persons, including 26 transgender individuals. The primary forms of abuse were physical, sexual, and psychological aggression, in addition to economic discrimination.

The Attorney General’s Office reported investigating 185 killings of LGBTQI+ persons from 2008 through July 31. Most of the victims were transgender women. In June, Luciana Moscoso Moreno, a transgender woman and member of the Trans Community Network, was killed in her apartment after receiving threats and hate messages. As of August the Attorney General’s Office reported five open investigations into excessive use of force by military or police against LGBTQI+ persons.

Transgender individuals cited barriers to public services when health-care providers or police officers refused to accept their government-issued identification. Some transgender individuals stated it was difficult to change their gender designation on national identity documents and that transgender individuals whose identity cards listed them as male were required to show proof they had performed mandatory military service or obtained the necessary waivers from that service.

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, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes, and it prohibits antiunion discrimination. Members of associated workers’ cooperatives are not allowed to form unions, since the law recognizes members of a cooperative as owners. The law prohibits members of the armed forces and police from forming or joining unions. The law provides for automatic recognition of unions that obtain 25 signatures from potential members and that comply with a registration process. Public-sector employees have the right to bargain collectively. The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and collective bargaining in practice.

The law permits associated workers’ cooperatives (CTAs), collective pacts, and union contracts. Under collective pacts employers may negotiate accords on pay and labor conditions with workers in workplaces where no union is present or where a union represents less than one-third of employees. Law and regulations prohibit the use of CTAs and collective pacts to undermine the right to organize and bargain collectively, including by extending better conditions to nonunion workers through such pacts. Through a union contract, a company may contract a union, at times formed explicitly for this purpose, for a specific job or work; the union then in essence serves as an employer for its members. Workers who belong to a union that has a union contract with a company do not have a direct employment relationship with either the company or the union. Labor disputes for workers under a union contract may be decided through an arbitration panel versus labor courts if both parties agree.

The law does not permit members of the armed forces, police, and persons performing “essential public services” to strike. Before conducting a strike, unions must follow prescribed legal procedures, including entering a conversation period with the employer, presenting a list of demands, and gaining majority approval in the union for a strike. The law limits strikes to periods of contract negotiations or collective bargaining and allows employers to fire trade unionists who participate in strikes or work stoppages ruled illegal by the courts.

The government has the authority to fine labor rights violators. The law stipulates that offenders repeatedly misusing CTAs or other labor relationships shall receive the maximum penalty and may be subject to losing their legal status to operate. Employers who engage in antiunion practices may also be imprisoned for up to five years, although government officials acknowledged a fine was more likely than imprisonment. Prohibited practices include impeding workers’ right to strike, meet, or otherwise associate, and extending better conditions to members of collective pacts than to union members. The penalties under the law, which are commensurate with those prescribed for other violations regarding denials of civil rights, such as discrimination, would be sufficient to deter violations but were not levied consistently.

Government enforcement of applicable laws was inconsistent. Despite steps by the Ministry of Labor to strengthen its labor law inspection system, the government did not establish a consistent, robust national strategy to protect the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The government did not fully implement, but continued to pilot test, a new system to replace traditional fine collection to ensure timely and regular collection of fines related to these protections. Structural challenges adversely affected prosecutions, which resulted in a continued high rate of impunity for violators of these rights, including in cases of threats and violence against unionists.

The Ministry of Labor’s Special Investigations Unit, which is part of the labor inspectorate, has the authority to investigate and impose sanctions in any jurisdiction. Under normal circumstances the vice minister of labor relations and inspections decides on a case-by-case basis whether to assign the unit or the regional inspectors to investigate a particular worksite or review a particular case. The unit was reportedly overburdened with cases, resulting in delays in union requests for review.

As part of its commitments under the 2011 labor action plan, the government continued to take steps to protect internationally recognized labor rights. Inspections by the Ministry of Labor for abusive subcontracting in the five priority sectors of palm oil, sugar, ports, mines, and cut flowers were, however, infrequent. Critics claimed inspections lacked necessary rigor, assessed fines were not collected, and abusive subcontracting continued. It was unclear whether there were any new fines assessed for abusive subcontracting or for abuse of freedom of association in any of the five priority sectors. The government continued to engage in regular meetings with unions and civil society groups on these and related issues.

The Ministry of Labor, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO), continued to train labor inspectors through a virtual training campus to prepare labor inspectors to identify abusive subcontracting and antiunion conduct, among other violations. It also implemented methods, including contract and process maps, as strategic planning tools to prioritize interventions. The ministry continued to employ a telephone- and internet-based complaint mechanism to report alleged labor violations. Union members complained that the systems did not allow citizens to register anonymous complaints and noted that complaints registered through the telephone and internet systems did not result in action.

The Ministry of Labor leads a tripartite Interinstitutional Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Human Rights of Workers, with participation by the government, organized labor groups, and the business community. As of July the commission met once during the year in a virtual session.

Judicial police, the Technical Investigation Body, and prosecutors investigating criminal cases of threats and killings are required to determine during the initial phase of an investigation whether a victim is an active or retired union member or is actively engaged in union formation and organization, but it was unclear whether they did so. It could take several months to transfer cases from regional field offices of the Attorney General’s Office to the Attorney General’s Human Rights Directorate, and cases are transferred only with the approval of the attorney general in response to direct requests, instead of automatically.

The government continued to include in its protection program labor activists engaged in efforts to form a union, as well as former unionists under threat because of their past activities. As of July the NPU was providing protection to 290 trade union leaders or members. The NPU reported it did not maintain information on the budget dedicated to unionist protections. Between January 1 and June 30, the NPU processed 174 risk assessments of union leaders or members; 91 of those individuals were assessed as facing an “extraordinary threat,” and the NPU provided them protection measures. The NPU reported that the average time needed to implement protection measures upon completion of a risk analysis was 60 days in regular cases or five days for emergency cases. NGOs complained that this length of time left threatened unionists in jeopardy.

The protection and relocation of teachers falls under the Ministry of National Education and the departmental education secretaries, but the NPU retains some responsibilities for the risk analysis and protection of family members. According to the Attorney General’s Office, through July 31, four teachers were registered as victims of homicide.

In cases of unionist killings from previous years, the pace of investigations and convictions remained slow, and high rates of impunity continued, although progress was made in the rate of case resolution. The Attorney General’s Office reported receiving 232 cases of homicides of unionists between January 2011 and January 2021. The Attorney General’s Office reported advancements in 43 percent of these cases: 65 sentences against defendants had been handed down in 43 cases; 38 cases had reached the trial phase; seven cases had charges filed; and nine cases had warrants for arrest, while 116 cases remained under preliminary investigation. Labor groups stated more needed to be done to address impunity for perpetrators of violence against trade unionists and the large number of threat cases.

The Attorney General’s Office reported the killing of five trade unionists through July. In 2020 the Attorney General’s Office reported 14 trade unionists killed, down from 19 in 2019. The National Union School (ENS), a labor rights NGO and think tank, reported six trade unionists were killed through August. The ENS and other labor groups stated that focusing on killings alone masked the true nature and scope of the violence against labor activists. Labor groups noted that in some regions, nonlethal violations continued to increase. Through August the ENS reported 51 death threats, three nonlethal attacks, two cases of forced displacement, and 25 cases of harassment.

Violence, threats, harassment, and other practices against trade unionists continued to affect the exercise of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Unions cited multiple instances in which companies fired employees who formed or sought to form new unions. Some employers continued to use temporary contracts, service agencies, and other forms of subcontracting, including cooperatives, to limit worker rights and protections. Fines assessed by the government did little to dissuade violators because fines were often not collected. The government continued to reach formalization agreements with firms engaged in abusive subcontracting or that had labor conflict during the year. Through June 30, the Vice Ministry of Labor Relations and Inspections reported 130 workers benefited from eight formalization agreements that the Ministry of Labor reached with employers in key sectors, including commerce, agriculture, health, and transport. During this time, however, there was only one formalization agreement reached in the labor action plan’s five priority sectors. Labor rights groups expressed concern that previously signed formalization agreements were not sufficiently monitored by the ministry.

Labor confederations and NGOs reported that business owners in several sectors used “simplified stock corporations” (SAS), union contracts, foundations, or temporary-service agencies in attempts to circumvent legal restrictions on cooperatives. While in theory SAS workers may exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively with SAS management, it appeared that in some cases the SAS had little or no control over the conditions of employment. The Ministry of Labor stated that a SAS, like any corporate structure, may be fined for labor violations. Labor confederations and NGOs reported these enforcement actions did not address the scope of abusive subcontracting and illegal labor intermediation in the country.

The port workers’ labor union reported Buenaventura port operators engaged in abusive subcontracting through SAS and that Ministry of Labor inspections and adjudication of cases at the Buenaventura port were ineffective in safeguarding the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law in all cases, and there were reports that such practices occurred. The law prescribes punishments sufficient to deter violations. The ILO noted the law permits military conscripts to be compelled to undertake work beyond that of a military nature, such as activities designed to protect the environment or natural resources.

There were reports ELN guerrillas, FARC dissidents, and organized-crime gangs used forced labor, including forced child labor, in coca cultivation and illegal mining in areas outside government control as well as forced criminality, such as extortion, in urban areas. The ICBF indicated that between November 16, 1999, and June 30, 2021, a total of 7,023 children and adolescents had demobilized from armed groups, of whom 12 percent were indigenous and 8 percent Afro-Colombian.

Forced labor in other sectors, including organized panhandling, mining, agriculture (especially near the coffee belt), cattle herding, crop harvesting, forced recruitment by armed actors, and domestic service, remained a serious problem. Afro-Colombians, indigenous persons, Venezuelan migrants, and inhabitants of marginalized urban areas were at the highest risk of forced labor, domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced recruitment. Authorities did not make efforts to investigate cases or increase inspections of forced labor. In July the Ministry of Labor and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime published a manual and protocol to help labor inspectors identify and refer possible cases of labor trafficking in the formal economy to judicial authorities for criminal investigation and prosecution. Impunity nevertheless remained for forced labor, and unidentified victims remained without protection in critical sectors, such as floriculture, coffee production, and extractive industries.

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 sets the minimum age for employment at 15 and for hazardous work at 18. Children ages 15 and 16 years may work no more than 30 hours per week, and children age 17 may work no more than 40 hours per week. Children younger than 15 may work in arts, sports, or recreational or cultural activities for a maximum of 14 hours per week. In all these cases, working children and adolescents must have signed documentation filed by their parents and be approved by a labor inspector or other local authority.

The law prohibits child workers from working at night or where there is a risk of bodily harm or exposure to excessive heat, cold, or noise. The law authorizes inspectors to issue fines that would be sufficient to deter violations, but the government did not enforce the law effectively in all cases. A violation deemed to endanger a child’s life or threaten moral values may be punished by temporary or permanent closure of the establishment. Nationwide, labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing child labor laws and supervising the formal sector through periodic inspections. An estimated 80 percent of all child labor, however, occurred in the informal sector of the economy. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law effectively.

Government agencies carried out several activities to eradicate and prevent exploitative child labor. Through June 30, the Ministry of Labor conducted 86 worksite inspections to ensure that adolescent workers were employed with proper authorization and received proper protections. Through these inspections, 10 authorizations were revoked for noncompliance. During this time the ministry granted 179 permits for adolescent work. With ILO assistance the government continued to improve cooperation among national, regional, and municipal governments on child labor problems. It also updated an information system to register working children that permits public and private entities to provide information. The government also sought to reduce demand for child labor through public awareness and training efforts, often working with international and civil society organizations.

The government, through the Ministry of Labor, followed the National Policy to Prevent and Eliminate Child Labor and Protect the Young Worker. It also continued its roundtable discussion group, which included government representatives, members of the three largest labor confederations, and civil society.

The government, including through a cooperative agreement between the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the ICBF, continued to combat illegal mining and formalize artisanal mining production, with goals including the elimination of child labor and forced labor. Regional ICBF offices led efforts to combat child labor in mining at the local level, working with the Ministry of Labor and other government agencies to coordinate responses. The Department for Social Prosperity continued to implement the More Families in Action Program to combat poverty through conditional cash transfers, which included a specific focus on addressing child labor. In interagency child labor meetings, the Ministry of Labor reported that whichever government presence was available in the area – whether police, the ICBF, teachers, or the Administrative Department for Social Prosperity – attended to children found working in illegal mining operations. While all agencies had directives on how to handle and report child labor cases, it was unclear whether all cases were referred to the ICBF.

The ICBF continued to implement several initiatives aimed at preventing child labor, including producing an extensive section of its website designed specifically for young audiences to educate children on child labor, their rights, and how to report child labor. The Ministry of Labor continued its work with the Network against Child Labor in which the ministry operated alongside member businesses that pledged to work within the network to prevent and eradicate child labor.

Child labor remained a problem in the informal and illicit sectors. The National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) collected and published information on the economic activities of children between the ages of five and 17 through a module in its Comprehensive Household Economic Survey during the fourth quarter of each calendar year. According to DANE’s survey published in April, 4.9 percent of children were working, with 44 percent of those engaged in agriculture, livestock raising, fishing, and hunting, and 32 percent in commerce, hotels, and restaurant work. To a lesser extent, children were engaged in the manufacturing and transport sectors. Children also routinely performed domestic work, where they cared for children, prepared meals, tended gardens, and carried out shopping duties. DANE reported that 45 percent of children who were engaged in an employment relationship did not receive remuneration.

Significant rates of child labor occurred in the production of clay bricks, coal, coffee, emeralds, gold, grapes, coca, pome and stone fruits, pornography, and sugarcane. Forced child labor was prevalent in the production of coca. Children were also engaged in street vending, domestic work, begging, and garbage scavenging. There were reports that children engaged in child labor in agriculture, including coffee production and small family production centers in the unrefined brown sugar market. Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred (see section 6, Children). Penalties for crimes related to the worst forms of child labor were commensurate with penalties in law for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Prohibitions against children working in mining and construction were reportedly largely ignored. Some educational institutions modify schedules during harvest seasons so that children may help on the family farm. Children worked in the artisanal mining of coal, clay, emeralds, and gold under dangerous conditions and in many instances with the approval or insistence of their parents. The government’s efforts to assist children working in illegal mining focused on the departments of Amazonas, Antioquia, Bolivar, Boyaca, Caldas, Cauca, Cesar, Choco, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, La Guajira, Narino, Norte de Santander, and Valle del Cauca.

There continued to be instances of child trafficking with the purpose of forced labor in informal mines and quarries, and in private homes. According to government officials and international organizations, illegal drug traders and other illicit actors recruited children, sometimes forcibly, to work in their illegal activities. The ELN and organized crime gangs forced children into sexual servitude or criminality to serve as combatants or to harvest coca (see section 1.g.). Children working in the informal sector, including as street vendors, were also vulnerable to forced labor. The ICBF identified children and adolescents who qualified for and received social services.

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 with respect to employment or occupation based on race, ethnicity, sex, religion, political preference, national origin or citizenship, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or infection with other communicable diseases, or social status. Complaints of quid pro quo sexual harassment are filed not with the Ministry of Labor but with the criminal courts. There are legal restrictions against women being in employed in the construction sector. The government did not effectively enforce the law in all cases. Penalties were not commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Unemployment disproportionately affected women, who faced hiring discrimination and received salaries that generally were not commensurate with their education and experience. Media reported that on average women earned 12 percent less than men for the same work. In a previous year, a senior government official estimated that 85 percent of persons with disabilities were unemployed. Afro-Colombian labor unions reported discrimination in the port sector.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The legal minimum monthly wage is approximately twice the amount of the poverty line; however, almost one-half of the total workforce earned less than the minimum wage.

The law provides for a regular workweek of 48 hours and a minimum rest period of eight hours within the week. Exceptions to this may be granted by the Ministry of Labor and were frequently granted in the mining sector. The law stipulates that workers receive premium compensation for nighttime work, hours worked in excess of 48 per week, and work performed on Sundays. The law permits compulsory overtime only in exceptional cases where the work is considered essential for the company’s functioning.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for workers’ occupational safety and health (OSH) in the formal sector. The legal standards were generally up to date and appropriate for the main formal industries. The government did not effectively enforce OSH laws in all cases. The law does not cover informal-sector workers, including many mining and agricultural workers. In general the law protects workers’ rights to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, although some violations of this right were reported during the year. In cases of formal grievances, authorities generally protected employees in this situation.

The Ministry of Labor is required to enforce labor laws in the formal sector, including OSH regulations, through periodic inspections by labor inspectors. Inspectors have the authority to perform unannounced inspections and may also initiate sanction procedures, including after opening investigations. The number of inspectors during the year was approximately the same as in 2020 and was insufficient to enforce the law effectively. The Ministry of Labor reported that as of March, more than one-fourth (227) of the inspectors were in provisional status. Individual labor violations can result in penalties insufficient to deter violations. Unionists stated that more fines needed to be collected to impact occupational safety and health problems.

Nonunion workers, particularly those in the agricultural and port sectors, reportedly worked under hazardous conditions because they feared losing their jobs through subcontracting mechanisms or informal arrangements if they reported abuses. Some unionized workers who alleged they suffered on-the-job injuries complained that companies illegally fired them in retaliation for filing workers compensation claims. Only the courts may order reinstatement, and workers complained the courts were backlogged, slow, and corrupt. The Ministry of Labor may sanction a company found to have broken the law in this way, but it may offer no other guarantees to workers.

According to the National Mining Agency, through July 16, a total of 87 workers died as a result of accidents in the mines, the majority due to explosions, poisoned atmosphere, cave-ins, and floods. The National Mining Agency reported this number was on par with deaths as of this date in 2020.

Security forces reported that armed actors, including FARC dissidents, the ELN, and organized-crime groups, engaged in illegal mining of gold, coal, coltan, nickel, copper, and other minerals. Illegal mines, which lacked safety precautions, were particularly common in the departments of Antioquia, Boyaca, Choco, Cundinamarca, and Valle del Cauca.

Informal Sector: While the government’s labor inspectors undertook administrative actions to enforce the minimum wage in the formal sector, the government did not effectively enforce the law in the informal sector. The government continued to promote formal employment generation. Eligibility to enroll and pay into the traditional social security system, which includes health and pension plans, is conditioned on earning the legal minimum monthly wage. The government developed plans to implement National Development Plan provisions that allow those who earn less than the legal minimum monthly wage, often because of part-time, informal, or own-account work, to contribute to a new, parallel “social protection floor” system that includes a subsidized health plan and retirement savings plan. As of August these provisions were under legal review by the Constitutional Court. While employer abuse of this new system is prohibited, labor unions complained it opens the door for employers to move full-time workers into part-time positions to take advantage of the new system.

DANE reported that for the second trimester, 50.3 percent of workers employed in 13 principal cities and metropolitan areas were paying into the pension system. The proportion of informal workers in 23 cities and metropolitan areas surveyed was 48.5 percent, according to DANE. In June, DANE reported the national unemployment rate was 14.4 percent, down from 21.4 percent at the height of the economic impact from COVID-19 in May 2019. The government continued to support complementary social security programs to increase the employability of extremely poor individuals, displaced persons, and the elderly.

The Ministry of Labor reported continued problems addressing high numbers of labor complaints related to the labor and employment impacts of COVID-19. Labor unions, NGOs, and workers’ organizations alleged a range of labor abuses related to the fulfillment of labor contracts during the pandemic, including employers forcing workers to sign unpaid leaves of absence in lieu of authorized furloughs, dismissals without severance pay, salary reductions under threats of dismissal, and the imposition of part-time, temporary, or hourly work with negative consequences for workers’ entitlement to social security benefits.

Cyprus

Read A Section: Republic Of Cyprus

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

The government of the Republic of Cyprus is the only internationally recognized government on the island, but since 1974 the northern third of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots.  This area proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” in 1983.  The United States does not recognize the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” nor does any country other than Turkey.  A substantial number of Turkish troops remain on the island.  A buffer zone, or “Green Line,” patrolled by a UN Peacekeeping Force, separates the two sides.  This report is divided into two parts:  the Republic of Cyprus, and the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Republic of Cyprus is a constitutional republic and multiparty presidential democracy. On May 30, voters elected 56 representatives to the 80-seat Vouli Antiprosopon (House of Representatives) in free and fair elections. The remaining seats are designated for Turkish Cypriots and are left vacant. In 2018 voters re-elected President Nicos Anastasiades in free and fair elections.

Police enforce the law. Police report to the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. The president appoints the chief of police. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: substantial interference with the freedom of association of nongovernmental organizations; refoulement of asylum seekers; mistreatment of asylum seekers, including extended arbitrary detention and harsh detention conditions; serious acts of government corruption; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national and ethnic minority groups.

The government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses and acts 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 numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: In October 2020 al-Jazeera broadcast an expose, The Cyprus Papers – Undercover, in which undercover reporters captured extensive evidence of government corruption related to the Citizenship by Investment program (CBI). In the video, the president of the House of Representatives, Demetris Syllouris, House of Representatives member Christakis Giovani, and CBI facilitators indicated their willingness to assist a fictitious Chinese CBI applicant whom they were told had been convicted of money laundering and corruption. After the broadcast, the government announced it was terminating the CBI program, effective November 2020, and Attorney General George Savvides ordered an investigation into any possible criminal offenses arising from the al-Jazeera report. Syllouris and Giovani later resigned from the House of Representatives. In December 2020 the government released a heavily redacted report prepared by the three-member “Kalogirou Committee,” appointed by the attorney general to probe the CBI program. The committee found serious shortcomings that enabled individuals with criminal backgrounds to acquire citizenship and bypass anti-money-laundering safeguards. In May the attorney general filed the first criminal case against five companies and four individuals based on the committee’s findings.

On August 11, the attorney general instructed police to open a new investigation following an August 10 al-Jazeera expose showing British “fixers,” who claimed use of Cypriot passports acquired through the CBI program aided international laundering of money through British soccer clubs. An investigation continued at year’s end.

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

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction and were able to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases without interference. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

KISA reported that its deregistration as an NGO in December 2020 (see 2.b., Freedom of Association) and the subsequent blocking of its bank account by the government significantly limited its ability to operate. All of its applications to open a new organizational bank account were rejected by local banks. The organization was unable to complete previously awarded EU-funded projects due to its inability to access the funds in its bank account. Projects funded by the EU account for a majority of KISA’s operating budget, and the revocation of its formal NGO status restricted its ability to apply for new EU-funded projects. As a result of its deregistration, KISA was prevented from engaging with government agencies, participating in government-funded training, or applying for funding. Citing its removal from the associations’ registry, the Asylum Service denied KISA permission to visit migrant reception centers on September 24 and 30.

On September 20, Minister of Interior Nouris refused to appear before the House of Representatives Human Rights Committee meeting to which KISA was invited, citing the presence of a deregistered organization. The committee meeting addressed the treatment of a pregnant Syrian asylum seeker and her family on board a migrant boat authorities pushed back to Lebanon. Separately, the Cyprus Roma Association, the only civil society organization representing the Cypriot Romani community, reported that it did not have the resources to prepare the extensive financial documentation required to maintain its NGO registration and was therefore deregistered.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is a government ombudsman, whose portfolio includes human rights, and a legislative Committee on Human Rights.

During her independent investigations, the ombudsman generally enjoyed good cooperation with other government bodies. NGOs complained, however, that the Office of the Ombudsman routinely refused to investigate their complaints on the grounds that similar complaints had been investigated in the past.

The legislative Committee on Human Rights, which most local NGOs considered effective, consists of nine members of the House of Representatives who are elected for a five-year term. The committee discussed a wide range of human rights problems, including trafficking in persons, treatment of asylum seekers, gender-based violence, including sexual abuse of women and children, prison conditions, and the rights of foreign workers. The executive branch does not exercise control over the committee.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum sentence of life in prison. The law also criminalizes domestic violence, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although many cases continued to go unreported. From January to September, police investigated 36 cases of rape and eight cases of sexual assault.

The law establishes clear mechanisms for reporting and prosecuting family violence. A court can issue a same-day restraining order against suspected or convicted domestic violence offenders. The number of reported cases of domestic violence increased sharply, as it did in 2020. Police claimed the increase was due to more effective domestic violence policies, citing the establishment of specialized domestic violence units in all police divisions, more intensive police training, and increased public awareness. In the first eight months of the year, 2,179 cases of domestic violence were reported to police, 300 more than in 2020 and significantly higher than in 2019 when 519 cases were reported to police. As of December police had completed investigations for 780 of the cases and filed 611 cases in court. The NGO Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family (SPAVO) attributed the significant increase in domestic abuse cases, in part, to the government-imposed COVID-19 mitigation lockdowns. Of the reported survivors in 2020, 76 percent were women. SPAVO received a total of 2,854 messages concerning domestic violence cases on its hotline, live chat, and SMS text service, compared to 2,147 messages in 2020. As in previous years, SPAVO stated domestic violence survivors often faced significant family and social pressure not to report abuse and to withdraw complaints filed with police.

Media outlets and NGOs criticized the Social Welfare Services for providing insufficient support to survivors of domestic violence. In one example a man in Ergates village stabbed to death his wife and his son. A second son witnessed the killings and escaped. At the time of the killing, the family had been under the care of the Social Welfare Services due to a history of psychological and financial problems. According to media reports, relatives and neighbors had reported frequent incidents of violence against the woman and her children. Police and the Social Welfare Service denied reports that they received any official complaints from the victims. The man’s trial was pending at year’s end.

There were three shelters for survivors of domestic violence, each funded primarily by the government and operated by SPAVO, which provided shelter to a total of 661 women and children during the year. In December 2020 the government opened the “Women’s Home,” a one-stop facility in Nicosia where female survivors of violence and sexual assault and their children are provided with medical, legal, and psychological services while also having the opportunity to provide testimony to police. The Women’s Home served 404 female victims of violence during the year. It was funded by the government and operated by SPAVO.

Police conducted detailed educational programs for officers on the proper handling of domestic violence, including training focused on child abuse. NGOs reported, however, that some police officers continued to dismiss claims of domestic abuse by foreign women and children.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace with a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a monetary fine, or both. A code of conduct outlines the prevention and handling of sexual harassment and harassment in the public service. NGOs and foreign domestic worker associations reported that authorities did not adequately investigate sexual harassment complaints submitted by foreign domestic workers.

Unlike in previous years when complaints were rare, several women reported sexual harassment to police following a high-profile case in Greece involving a female athlete, widely covered in local media. From January to September, police opened investigations into seven sexual harassment complaints and filed five cases in court. Two of the most prominent cases covered by media outlets involved a senior member of the Church of Cyprus, former metropolitan of Kitium, Chrysostomos, who was accused of rape, and a high-profile politician, who was facing charges of sexual assault. In the Chrysostomos case, the Larnaca-Famagusta Criminal Court ruled on October 22 that the complainant’s testimony was inconsistent, contradictory, and untruthful and cleared the former metropolitan of charges.

NGOs reported cases of sexual harassment of foreign female domestic workers remained a widespread but underreported problem. NGOs reported permissive social attitudes, fear of reprisals, and lack of family support for victims discouraged victims from reporting instances of sexual harassment. From January through October, the Department of Labor reported receiving three sexual harassment complaints, including one from a foreign domestic worker and one from an asylum seeker. The complaints were under investigation. The ombudsman continued to receive and examine complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. In 2019 the country’s major labor unions – the Confederation of Cypriot Workers and the Pancyprian Labor Federation – agreed with the Employers and Industrialists Federation on a code of conduct for how to treat cases of harassment and sexual harassment at the workplace. The ombudsman’s office and the Academy of Public Administration delivered online training and seminars on sexual harassment and gender mainstreaming for the public sector during the year.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. An NGO reported that some doctors in the private and public sectors required married women to have their husband’s consent in order to proceed with sterilization, although the law does not require such consent.

The government funded an NGO that provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The government generally enforced the law, but women experienced discrimination in employment and pay in the private sector. Although reporting by Eurostat showed pay parity between the genders in the public sector, NGOs reported that vertical and occupational segregation remained a challenge.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law protects members of racial or ethnic groups from violence and discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, community, language, color, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and political or other beliefs. The ombudsman’s office, acting as the Equality Authority and Antidiscrimination Body, has jurisdiction to investigate discrimination complaints in the public and private sector. The government generally enforced the law, but according to NGOs, many incidents of discrimination against members of racial, national, or ethnic minority groups were not reported to authorities.

NGOs and media reported an incidence of racially motivated violence in late March when a Greek Cypriot neighbor fired 14 bullets into the Limassol home of a Nigerian and Greek Cypriot family. The perpetrator pled guilty to “attempted threat” and at year’s end awaited sentencing. Human rights activists and NGOs reported migrants, particularly Muslims, were frequently presented negatively in media and associated with problems such as rising unemployment and criminality. A parliamentary election campaign video released in early April by the ruling Democratic Rally party linked irregular migration to a threat to public safety. Critics in media called the ad “racist and xenophobic” and “the last refuge of the incompetent and desperate.”

In June media outlets reported two incidents of discrimination by a Larnaca high school headmaster against teenage students of African descent. The headmaster reportedly told one student on June 8 that he would “blacken” the school class graduation photograph. On June 26, media outlets reported the same headmaster told a 14-year-old student of African descent that she would not be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony because of her hair braids. The mayor of Larnaca, Andreas Vyras, intervened, and the girl attended graduation. Minister of Education Prodromos Prodromou defended the headmaster and attributed the complaints to partisan politics. Prodromou stated no official complaints had been filed against the headmaster and that anonymous complaints submitted in the past were investigated and found to be fabricated.

In 2018 a European Commission Roma Civil Monitor pilot project report stated that Cypriot Roma continued to face discrimination in housing, employment, and education. The report asserted government actions to promote the inclusion of Roma were insufficient.

The ombudsman continued to receive complaints that the government delayed or denied approval of citizenship for the children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens, and who reside in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots (see section 6, Children). The ombudsman again reported that the government did not make progress towards implementing her past recommendations to ensure such applications were processed within a reasonable time and applicants are promptly informed in writing when their application does not meet stated criteria. The government reported granting citizenship to 50 such children in 2019.

A member of the Turkish Cypriot community submitted a complaint to the ombudsman regarding the nonuse of the Turkish language by a government authority. Turkish is an official language of the Republic of Cyprus. The ombudsman was investigating the complaint at year’s end.

The government provided destitute persons and families legally residing in the country with a minimum guaranteed income (GMI) to cover basic needs. Republic of Cyprus and EU citizens, long-term legal residents, recognized refugees, and victims of trafficking are eligible for GMI payments. In addition, Social Welfare Services provided a wide range of benefits, calculated on the basis of individual and family needs, through public assistance benefits programs. These included family, unemployment, disability, housing, and child benefits.

The Ministry of Education has a code of conduct against racism that provided schools and teachers with a detailed plan on handling, preventing, and reporting racist incidents.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents, and there was universal registration at the time of birth. Citizenship is denied, however, when either of the parents entered or resided in the country illegally. The government considers as illegal settlers those Turkish citizens who entered and resided in the area under Turkish-Cypriot administration. Childrenborn to a Turkish-Cypriot parent are not automatically granted citizenship if one or both of their parents were a Turkish national who entered and resided in the country illegally. Their applications for citizenship are reviewed by the Council of Ministers, which has the right to override this provision of the law and grant them citizenship, provided the applicants meet a set of criteria adopted by the Council of Ministers.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes child abuse. The maximum penalty for child abuse is one year imprisonment, a monetary fine, or both. From January to August, police investigated 208 cases of child abuse involving 235 children. As of December, 78 of those cases were filed in court. In 2020 police established a new subdirectorate under the Crime Combating Department that specialized in domestic violence and child abuse and created a special investigation unit for cases of child sexual abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18, but persons ages 16 and 17 may marry, provided there are serious reasons justifying the marriage and their legal guardians provide written consent. A district court can also allow the marriage of persons ages 16 and 17 if the parents unjustifiably refuse consent, or in the absence of legal guardians.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, offering or using a child for commercial sexual exploitation, and engaging in or promoting a child in any form of sexual activity. The maximum penalty for sexual abuse and exploitation of a child between the ages of 13 and 17 is 25 years in prison. The penalty for sexual abuse and exploitation of a child younger than 13 is up to life in prison. Possession of child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment. Authorities enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sex is 17.

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

There were approximately 6,500 persons in the Jewish community, which consisted of a very small number of native Jewish Cypriots and a greater number of expatriate Jews, primarily from Israel, the United Kingdom, and Russia.

In November the Jewish community reported that it received three or four complaints of verbal attacks against members of their community. The complaints were not reported to police.

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 protects the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities and prohibits discrimination against them. The government generally enforced these provisions.

Children with disabilities attended mainstream schools. The government provided a personal assistant to children with disabilities attending public schools but not to children with disabilities attending private schools. The ombudsman did not report substantive progress on its September 2020 report noting that the law requires private secondary education schools provide personal assistants for children with disabilities.

Problems facing persons with disabilities included limited access to natural and constructed environments, transportation, information, and communications. The Cyprus Paraplegics Organization reported that many open public spaces, including paved areas and cultural sites, and several public buildings were still not accessible to wheelchair users. During the year the ombudsman examined several complaints from persons with disabilities regarding accessibility concerns and discrimination. In January 2020 the ombudsman reported that, in violation of relevant legislation, television broadcasters failed to provide audiovisual services accessible to persons with hearing disabilities. At the ombudsman’s recommendation, the Cyprus Radio-Television Authority (CRA) requested all broadcasters comply with their legal obligations. All broadcasters submitted accessibility action plans to the CRA, which was evaluating their implementation. The ombudsman reported that as of December 2020, state broadcaster Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) translated into sign language all emergency events and announcements, including information on COVID-19. Since August 2020 CyBC provided sign language interpretation for all main news bulletins and other daily news programs.

In February 2020 three nurses at the public Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital reported appalling physical conditions, serious overcrowding, and personnel and medication shortages to the Cyprus Mail newspaper. The nurses reported that the building’s poor condition led to injuries of patients and staff. The ombudsman issued two reports in March and September 2020 that confirmed a shortage of nurses, the lack of a permanent pharmacist, and the failure of prior attempted building improvements to create a suitable environment for patients. The ombudsman reported that there was no progress towards implementing her 2020 recommendations and that only minor improvements were made to the patients’ living quarters during the year.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance’s Service for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The ombudsman acts as the Independent Mechanism for the Promotion, Protection and Monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

A University of Nicosia study presented in September showed that HIV-positive persons continued to face discrimination in employment, housing, education, and health care and that they faced social stigma and exclusion from society and from their own families. Activists complained that raising public awareness of the problem was not a government priority and reported that even medical staff at hospitals were prejudiced and reluctant to examine HIV-positive individuals. On September 23, the president of the HIV-Positive Persons Support Center, Stella Michaelidou, reported that a private clinic in Limassol refused to treat an HIV-positive person who required emergency treatment after an accident. The patient was transferred and treated at another clinic in a different city.

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

Antidiscrimination laws prohibit direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Antidiscrimination laws cover employment and the following activities in the public and private domain: social protection, social insurance, social benefits, health care, education, participation in unions and professional organizations, and access to goods and services. The law also criminalizes incitement to hatred or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The government did not always enforce laws against discrimination, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals faced significant societal discrimination, particularly in rural areas. As a result many LGBTQI+ persons were not open concerning their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor did they report homophobic violence or discrimination.

There were reports of employment discrimination against LGBTQI+ applicants (see section 7.d.).

As in previous years, ACCEPT representatives reported that transgender persons undergoing hormone replacement therapy experienced discrimination accessing health care following the introduction of a new national universal health insurance system in 2019. The NGO also reported that transgender persons faced increased difficulties accessing hormone treatment due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

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, strike, and bargain collectively with employers. Both antiunion discrimination and dismissal for union activity are illegal.

The law requires labor unions to register with the registrar of labor unions within 30 days of their establishment. Persons with prior convictions for fraud-related and immoral offenses are not allowed to serve as union officials. Union accounts and member registers can be inspected at any time by the registrar. An agreement among the government, labor unions, and employers’ organizations established the procedure for dispute resolution for essential services personnel.

The government generally enforced applicable labor laws, and investigations were adequate in the formal sector. Administrative procedures were efficient and immediate, but judicial procedures were subject to delays due to a case backlog. Penalties for violations, which occurred primarily in the informal sector, were not commensurate with those for other similar civil rights violations. Violations rarely occurred in the formal sector.

The government generally protected the right of unions to conduct their activities without interference, and employers generally respected the right of workers to form and join independent unions and to bargain collectively. Although collective agreements are not legally binding, they are governed by a voluntary agreement between the government and employer organizations. Unions, employers, and employees effectively observed the terms of collective bargaining agreements. Workers covered by such agreements were employed predominantly in larger sectors of the economy, including construction, tourism, health care, and manufacturing.

There were isolated reports of private-sector employers that were able to discourage union activity due to the government’s sporadic enforcement of labor regulations prohibiting antiunion discrimination and employers’ implicit threat of arbitrary dismissal for union activities.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and forced labor occurred. Inspections of the agricultural and domestic service sectors remained inadequate.

Forced labor occurred primarily in agriculture and in domestic work. Foreign migrant workers, children, and asylum seekers were particularly vulnerable, according to NGOs. Employers reportedly forced foreign workers, primarily from Eastern Europe and East and South Asia, to work up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, for very low wages and in unsuitable living conditions. During the year, police identified five victims of labor trafficking. Some employers reportedly retained a portion of agriculture workers’ salaries as payment for accommodations, in violation of the law. In one example police arrested a retired police officer in July after videos posted on social media recorded by his foreign domestic worker indicated that he had physically assaulted and terrorized her. Police charged him with trafficking in persons, labor exploitation, insult based on race, and other serious offenses. He was initially released on bail and then rearrested two weeks later after police uncovered additional evidence against him. The domestic worker was identified as a victim of trafficking and transferred to the government shelter. A trial began on December 6.

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 employment of children, defined as persons younger than 15, except in specified circumstances, such as combined work-training programs for children who are at least 14, or employment in cultural, artistic, sports, or advertising activities, subject to rules limiting work hours. The law prohibits night work and street trading by children. The law permits the employment of adolescents, defined as persons ages 15 through 17, subject to rules limiting hours of employment and provided the work is not harmful or dangerous. The law prohibits employment of adolescents between midnight and 4 a.m. The minimum age for employment in industrial work is 16. The government effectively enforced the law, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other serious crimes.

Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance inspectors were responsible for enforcing child labor laws and did so effectively. Social Welfare Services and the commissioner for the rights of the child also have investigative authority for suspected cases of exploitation of children at work.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits direct or indirect discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, national origin or citizenship, sex, religion, political opinion, gender, age, disability, and sexual orientation. The government did not effectively enforce these laws or regulations and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other civil rights laws. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and HIV-positive status.

Despite a strong legal framework, the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance ineffectively enforced the law governing employment and labor matters with respect to women. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women experienced discrimination in areas such as hiring, career advancement, employment conditions, and pay. European Institute for Gender Equality data indicated the average pay gap between men and women was 13.7 percent in 2017. NGOs reported the relatively small overall gender pay gap masked significant vertical and occupational gender segregation. The ombudsman reported receiving complaints related to gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Discrimination against Turkish Cypriots and Romani migrant workers occurred.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Although there is no national minimum wage, there are minimum wages for groups deemed vulnerable to exploitation. The minimum wages for shop assistants, clerks, assistant baby and child minders, health-care workers, security guards, cleaners of business premises, and nursery assistants were above the poverty line. The Ministry of Interior, however, established a minimum wage for foreign domestic workers that was well below the poverty line.

Collective bargaining agreements covered workers in most occupations, including unskilled labor. The wages set in these agreements were significantly higher than the poverty level.

Foreign workers were able to claim pensions, and some bilateral agreements allowed workers to claim credit in their home countries. The Migration Service was responsible for enforcing the minimum wage for foreign workers but did not effectively do so.

The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, including overtime. The law does not require premium pay for overtime or mandatory rest periods. The law stipulates that foreign and local workers receive equal treatment. The Department of Labor Relations within the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance is responsible for enforcing these laws. The penalty for violating the law was commensurate with those for similar crimes, but laws for wages and hours were not adequately enforced. Labor unions reported enforcement problems in sectors not covered by collective agreements, such as small businesses and foreign domestic workers. They also reported that certain employers, mainly in construction and agriculture, exploited undocumented foreign workers by paying them very low wages.

The law protects foreign domestic workers who file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance from deportation until their cases have been adjudicated. The Department of Labor Relations reported that from January 1 to June 30, it received 198 complaints from migrant workers against their employers. Of those, 166 complaints were examined by October.

In addition to completing its own investigation, the Department of Labor made recommendations to the ombudsman concerning complaints submitted by foreign domestic workers against their employers concerning the conditions of their employment. During the year the Council of Ministers assigned oversight of these cases to the ombudsman as one of the measures to address issues arising from the ombudsman’s 2019 report evaluating the government’s policies on foreign domestic workers. The report highlighted that domestic workers’ high dependence on their employers, combined with the lack of consequences for employers who violate the terms of the employment contract or who physically abuse the employee, discouraged domestic workers from filing complaints. Domestic workers also feared deportation. A domestic worker’s residence permit can be cancelled at the employer’s request in the event the employer files a complaint with police regarding theft, regardless of whether the alleged crime was investigated or substantiated.

Some domestic workers complained their employers or employment agencies withheld their passports. The ombudsman’s report also noted that the lack of action by authorities to impose consequences on employers and employment agencies who illegally held domestic workers’ passports enabled the practice to continue with impunity. NGOs reported a decline in foreign domestic workers reporting contract violations by their employers due to labor shortages and a higher demand for domestic workers. NGOs noted, however, that Department of Labor and police skepticism of domestic workers’ allegations of sexual harassment and violence discouraged them from submitting complaints.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the main industries, and the responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with safety and health experts. The Department of Labor Inspection in the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance is responsible for enforcing health and safety laws. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardizing their employment, but authorities did not provide adequate protections for employees in these situations. Authorities enforced health and safety laws satisfactorily in the formal sector. The penalties for failing to comply with work safety and health laws were commensurate with those of other similar crimes.

The Ministry of Labor employed an insufficient number of inspectors to effectively enforce labor laws in the agricultural sector and in the informal economy, in which the majority of employees were migrant workers and undocumented workers. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions in most industries but were not allowed to inspect the working conditions of domestic workers in private households without a court warrant. Five major industrial accidents occurred during the year that caused death or serious injury of workers.

NGOs reported the lack of social protections raised serious questions concerning the potential deterioration of working conditions, particularly in hazardous sectors and for vulnerable groups. In July one of the largest forest fires in the country’s history occurred, devastating rural communities and forcing residents to evacuate. During the crisis approximately 100 migrant workers in the Troodos Mountains continued to work as they were left behind by evacuating employers and residents. Four of the migrant workers were picking tomatoes as the fire approached and were killed while trying to flee. Due to the loss of life, multiple human-rights organizations and labor unions, such as the Pancyprian Federation of Labor, urged the Ministry of Labor to investigate the individuals’ employment status and working conditions. In the meantime the government announced plans to provide financial payments and scholarships to the workers’ families.

Informal Sector: The informal sector included approximately 12.7 percent of the workforce, including migrant and undocumented workers. Authorities did not enforce labor laws satisfactorily in this sector.

Greece

Executive Summary

Greece is a constitutional republic and multiparty parliamentary democracy. Legislative authority is vested in a unicameral parliament, which approves a government headed by a prime minister. In 2019 the country held parliamentary elections that observers considered free and fair. A government formed by the New Democracy Party headed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis leads the country.

Police are responsible for law enforcement, border security, and the maintenance of order. They are under the authority of the Ministry of Citizen Protection, which is also responsible for prison facilities. The Coast Guard, responsible for law and border enforcement in territorial waters, reports to the Ministry of Shipping Affairs and Island Policy. The armed forces are under the authority of the Ministry of National Defense. Police and the armed forces share law enforcement duties in certain border areas. Border protection is coordinated by a deputy minister for national defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police, Coast Guard, and armed forces, and the government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse. Members of security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of criminal suspects by police and against migrants and asylum seekers by authorities; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including criminal libel and slander laws; forced returns of asylum seekers; crimes involving violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

The government regularly took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. There were, however, reports and complaints from nongovernmental organizations and international organizations regarding government failure to effectively investigate and punish police abuse and the lack of independent investigation of and accountability for widespread credible allegations of forced returns of asylum seekers.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for officials convicted of corruption by officials, but the government did not always implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: On July 14, parliament ordered the prosecution of former minister of digital policy, telecommunications, and media Nikos Pappas on charges of “repeated and continuous breach of duty” for manipulating and orchestrating the auction of a television channel license to a businessman in return for favorable media coverage.

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 often cooperative and responsive to their views. COVID-19 pandemic mitigation restrictions, however, impeded access to reception and detention facilities for migrants on the islands and, in certain circumstances, to official camps on the mainland.

NGOs that reported on forcible returns to Turkey stated they faced potential intimidation by authorities. For example, 24 volunteers with the NGO Emergency Response Center International were arrested on charges of espionage and conducting a smuggling ring. According to UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor, human rights defenders were falsely accused of serious crimes and faced bureaucratic harassment for trying to help asylum seekers and refugees.

As of September 4, legislation tightened procedures for NGOs to conduct search and rescue operations in areas under Coast Guard jurisdiction. The law requires such NGOs to register, follow port authorities’ instructions, and act only when the Coast Guard is unable to intervene. Persons convicted of violating law are subject to one to three years’ imprisonment, substantial fines, or both. Human rights activists claimed the law aimed at intimidating and preventing NGOs from witnessing and recording pushbacks of asylum seekers at sea. Several NGOs, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, and opposition political parties opposed the law.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman, a state body considered independent and effective, investigated complaints of human rights abuses by individuals. Five deputy ombudsmen dealt with human rights, children’s rights, citizen-state relations, health and social welfare, and quality of life problems, respectively. The office received adequate resources to perform its functions. In its 2020 annual report, the office reported receiving 18,491 complaints, of which 81 percent were satisfactorily resolved.

The autonomous, state-funded National Commission for Human Rights advised the government on protection of human rights. It was considered independent, effective, and adequately resourced.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction of rape, including spousal rape, and attempted rape is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment, and up to life imprisonment in cases of gang rape, multiple rapes by the same perpetrator, or if the rape results in death. Charges may be pressed without the need of a survivor complaint. If the survivor does not wish to seek prosecution, the prosecutor may decide to drop charges. The law applies equally to all survivors, regardless of gender.

Penalties for domestic violence range from one to three years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violence. The court may impose longer prison sentences for crimes against pregnant or minor survivors. Authorities generally enforced the law effectively when the crimes were reported; however, some NGOs stated law enforcement authorities did not respond appropriately to survivors reporting domestic violence. As of December 15, police recorded 17 homicides of women by existing or former husbands or male partners. In one case a neighbor claimed to have called police to report violence 19 days before the fatal incident, but police who came to the scene left immediately without intervening.

On January 14, Olympic sailing medalist Sofia Bekatorou revealed that an official in the National Sailing Federation sexually abused her more than 20 years previously, marking the first time a prominent woman made a public revelation and sparking the country’s version of the global “Me Too” movement. Government officials expressed solidarity with Bekatorou, and prominent newspapers and broadcasters reported on the topic, which generally had been taboo in mainstream media. The Supreme Court encouraged prosecutors to prioritize responding to such claims and the government launched the metoogreece.gr website that urged survivors of gender-based violence to follow Bekatorou’s example. In response, other women, primarily from the sports, entertainment, and business arenas, shared similar experiences. Prosecutors launched investigations against alleged perpetrators, some of whom were well-known actors and directors.

Sexual Harassment: Penalties for conviction of sexual harassment are up to three years’ imprisonment and may include longer terms for perpetrators who used positions of authority or the survivor’s need for employment. In November 2020 the NGO ActionAid reported that 85 percent of women were subjected to sexual harassment. The research was based on a sample of 1,001 women from across the country and an additional 376 women working in tourism and catering. Based on the same research, only 6 percent officially denounced the incidents.

During the year parliament passed several laws that addressed sexual harassment. On June 19, parliament adopted into law the International Labor Organization Convention on Violence and Harassment. The law includes provisions that require employers to investigate and report cases of workplace harassment.

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

Some pregnant women and mothers with newborns, particularly those residing in the five reception and identification centers for asylum seekers in the Aegean islands during the COVID-19 pandemic, faced obstacles in accessing proper health care and hygiene products.

There were no legal, social, and cultural barriers to access to contraceptives. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The government effectively enforced the laws promoting gender equality, although discrimination occurred, especially in the private sector. With the notarized consent of concerned parties, Muslim minority persons in Thrace may request the use of sharia for family and inheritance matters.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination against members of minority groups, Roma and members of other minority groups faced discrimination. There were government programs to mitigate poverty, unemployment, and societal, racial, or ethnic biases, but these programs often lacked consistency and effectiveness.

According to the NGO Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN), the pandemic contributed to a public perception of migrants and refugees as a threat to public health. In 2020 the RVRN reported 74 attacks against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers on grounds of ethnic origin, religion, or skin color. Authorities reported 222 incidents motivated by hatred on various grounds, of which 166 were linked to nationality, ethnicity, race, and skin color; eight incidents specifically targeted Romani persons.

Local media and NGOs continued to report attacks, both verbal and physical, on migrants and individuals perceived as foreigners. For example, on August 11, seven Greek nationals reportedly used knives and crowbars to beat, rob, and shoot 15 Pakistanis in their homes in the Crete village of Agios Georgios. Five of the survivors were seriously injured. Police arrested the alleged attackers, who were charged with robbery, causing bodily harm, damaging property, and violating the law on the use of weapons. The Pakistanis received official protection as victims of racist violence. The mayor of Agios Georgios denounced the incident, noting that it caused sorrow and horror in the area. The alleged attackers were in pretrial detention at year’s end.

On June 30, the Supreme Court affirmed previous rulings that denied the registration of the Thrace-based “Turkish Union of Xanthi,” on “natural security and public order grounds.” Government officials and courts also routinely deny requests by Slavic groups to use the term Macedonian, claiming the term creates confusion because more than two million ethnically (and linguistically) Greek citizens also identify as from the region of Macedonia.

Roma continued to face widespread governmental and societal discrimination, social exclusion, and harassment, including ethnic profiling by police, alleged abuse while in police custody, discrimination in employment, limited access to education, and segregated schooling.

On October 25, police shot and killed a 20-year-old Romani man, following a car chase in Perama, in western Athens. In addition a 15-year-old Roma was injured. Seven police officers were arrested in connection with the death. Initial findings showed that police knew the perpetrators were Roma. Human rights activists criticized the officers for abusing their authority and using disproportionate measures. The incident prompted the government to announce a series of new policing measures, including the introduction of body-mounted cameras, protocols for police emergency response, a 10-month training program for frontline officers, the digitization of the Police Operations Center, and the addition of 20 dispatchers to coordinate active incidents (see section 1.c., Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment).

The 2020 ombudsman report stated noninclusion of the Roma into municipal registries persisted and that there were reports of municipal authorities refusing to issue certificates attesting that the municipal taxes had been paid that Roma required to purchase property. There were reports of authorities sometimes denying registration as citizens to Roma born in the country to unregistered parents. The ombudsman stated Roma often lacked documentation necessary to meet eligibility requirements.

On April 22, the government issued a ministerial decree that opposition MPs criticized for setting income, Greek language proficiency, knowledge of Greek history and culture, and length of residency requirements to obtain naturalized citizenship that were too stringent.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents at birth; a single parent may confer citizenship on a child. Parents are obliged to register their children within 10 days of birth. The law allows delayed birth registration but imposes a fine in such cases. In February 2020 the government passed legislation allowing the birth registration process to be completed electronically to increase transparency and facilitate the cross-checking of documents and data.

Education: Education was free, compulsory, and universal through the secondary level; however, children of asylum seekers, residing mostly in RICs, generally had no access to formal education and only partial access to informal education programs. Local officials often excluded Romani pupils from schools or sent them to Roma-only segregated schools. Some members of the Muslim minority in Thrace complained the quality of minority school education was inferior, including the absence of bilingual (Greek-Turkish) middle and high schools.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits corporal punishment and child abuse, but government enforcement was generally ineffective, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Violence against children, particularly migrant, refugee, homeless, and Romani children, remained a problem. From January to June, the NGO Smile of the Child reported an 82 percent increase in the number of calls regarding abused children in need of psychological support.

The government provided treatment, prevention programs, and foster care or accommodation in shelters for abused and neglected children. Government-run institutions were understaffed, and NGOs reported insufficient space to cover all needs.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, although a court may authorize minors who are 16 and 17 to marry. While official statistics were unavailable, NGOs reported illegal child marriage was common in Romani communities, with Romani girls often marrying between the ages of 15 and 17, or even younger, and male Roma often marrying between the ages of 15 and 20.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The legal age of consent is 15. The law criminalizes sex with children younger than 15. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, offering, or procuring of children for commercial sexual exploitation and practices related to child pornography. Authorities generally enforced the law. On February 9, authorities reported receiving 300 cases of child pornography and sexual abuse of children in 2020. There were media reports of child pornography-related arrests and sexual abuse of minors by close relatives.

Displaced Children: According to National Center statistics, as of December 31, 2,225 refugee and migrant unaccompanied and separated children resided in the country. Local NGOs reported cases of minors living in unsafe accommodations who were not properly registered, lacked legal guardians, and were vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation. The government continued efforts to reduce their number, including by relocating them to other EU member states. In April the NGO METAdrasi opened the country’s first homeless shelter for minors. During the year police ended the practice of holding minors in detention centers. There were reports of the sexual abuse of minors in migrant shelters.

Institutionalized Children: Media reported that on December 23, Deputy Labor Minister Domna Michailidou announced an investigation into a complaint of sexual abuse involving five boys ages seven to 11 in an Athens orphanage. Female workers at the orphanage allegedly forced children to engage in sexual acts that they filmed. Michailidou stated authorities had removed the children from the facility, suspended government funding to the orphanage, and referred the matter for possible prosecution. The deputy minister added that the orphanage’s management board had failed to act on a complaint of abuse it received three months earlier.

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

Anti-Semitism

Local Jewish leaders estimated the Jewish population in the country consisted of approximately 5,000 individuals. Anti-Semitic rhetoric remained a problem, particularly in the extremist press, social networking sites, and certain blogs. There were at least three incidents of graffiti and vandalism.

KIS continued to express concern regarding political cartoons and images using Jewish sacred symbols and making Holocaust comparisons. On January 18, KIS issued a statement protesting a sketch of the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in a political cartoon used regarding opposition to a university education bill referring to it as “a hideous and vulgar instrumentalization of the Holocaust for political purposes.” On March 9, KIS issued a statement denouncing columnist Elena Akrita for comparing life in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp to life in contemporary Greece because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. KIS stated that Greek Jews “will never stop denouncing any attempt to denigrate and instrumentalize the Holocaust, which leads to the oblivion and distortion of history.”

Reports of anti-Semitic incidents of vandalism included damage to a mural honoring Holocaust victims at the Thessaloniki New Train Station and desecration of graves in the Ioannina Jewish cemetery in Epirus.

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 were unable to access education, health services, public buildings, or transportation on an equal basis with others, despite a law that prohibits discrimination. Government information and communication is not always provided in accessible formats. The government did not enforce nondiscrimination provisions effectively or with consistency, according to NGOs and organizations for disability rights.

Most children with disabilities had the choice to attend either mainstream or specialized schools for specific disabilities through secondary education, including schools for the deaf.

Persons with disabilities continued to have poor access to public buildings, transportation, and public areas, although such access is required by law. Access to buildings, ramps for sidewalks, and accessible public transportation vehicles were among the most serious deficiencies. Ramps were often too steep or uneven, and ramps on public transportation were often out of order.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

While the law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment of individuals with HIV, societal discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS remained a concern. Persons with HIV or AIDS were exempt on medical grounds from serving in the armed forces. A presidential decree authorizes the dismissal of professional military staff members if a member diagnosed with AIDS does not respond to treatment, but there were no reports of dismissals under this provision.

On May 13, main opposition party MPs criticized a decision by the National Organization for Public Health to allow the transfer to an unrelated management post of the only gynecologist-obstetrician working in a public hospital with expertise in the treatment of HIV-positive pregnant women. The 35 MPs argued that the transfer in effect eliminated the only available unit throughout the country dedicated to births of healthy infants from HIV positive mothers.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons in housing, employment, and government services such as education and health care. The government enforced antidiscrimination laws, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, as aggravating circumstances in hate crimes. Offices combatting race crimes and hate crimes include in their mandates prosecuting crimes targeting LGBTQI+ individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Societal discrimination and harassment against LGBTQI+ individuals, including LGBTQI+ refugees and migrants, remained a concern. Some violent incidents targeting LGBTQI+ individuals were reported. LGBTQI+ community members reported they continued facing hardships and domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown because they were forced to spend long periods at home with families who were not always accepting of their gender identity.

In 2020 the RVRN recorded 14 attacks based on sexual orientation, 12 based on gender identity, and four on mixed grounds. The attacks because of sexual orientation included verbal and physical assaults. In three cases the survivors were minors. Two of the survivors were targeted for a second time. The gender identity attacks included verbal insults or threats and harassment, and at times violence. The RVRN stated the incidents were unprovoked and based solely on the external appearance and features of the survivors. The RVRN also underscored the increasing number of cyberbullying attacks against LGBTQI+ students because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift from in-person to virtual classes. According to information communicated to the RVRN, police recorded 24 incidents in 2020 related to sexual orientation and eight to gender identity.

On June 27, media in Thessaloniki reported that a refugee member of the local LGBTQI+ community, received hospital treatment after a group of approximately 10 individuals physically attacked him and his friends inside a university campus. The perpetrators made homophobic and racist comments and hit them with bottles, punches, and kicks.

Members of the LGBTQI+ community continued to advocate for the right to adopt children by same-sex couples and the legal recognition of children born and raised in same-sex families. On June 28, the NGO Transgender Support Association (SYD) hailed the government’s decision to include transgender individuals as vulnerable and eligible for state budget employment subsidies. On March 16, SYD issued a statement criticizing police and the national defense general staff for barring transgender individuals from joining police academies and the armed forces. Unmarried transgender individuals older than 15 may update documents to reflect their gender identity without undergoing sex reassignment surgery. A judge must validate the change based on the individual’s external appearance. According to SYD, the hearing process does not always have the necessary privacy and dignity for the applicant.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers, except members of the military services, to form and join independent unions, conduct labor activities without interference, and strike. Armed forces personnel have the right to form unions but not to strike. Police have the right to organize and demonstrate but not to strike.

For a trade union to be formally established, the law requires a minimum of 20 founding members. The law generally protects the right to bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Legislation also prohibits the recruitment of strikebreakers throughout the duration of a lawful strike and lockouts. The law allows company-level agreements to take precedence over sector-level collective agreements in the private sector, but in all cases, regular monthly salaries and full-time wages may not be below the statutory minimum salary wage.

Only trade unions may call strikes. Any such decision should be made by at least one-half of the union’s active registered members. On June 19, a law was passed that provides for trade unions to convene meetings in person, digitally, or both. Effective January 1, 2022, the law requires that a decision to strike may not be made if members of a union are not provided with the means digitally to take part in the discussion and vote. A strike may be considered unlawful if certain conditions and procedures are not observed, for example based on the proportionality principle, which enables courts to decide in each case whether the anticipated benefit from the strike is greater than the economic damage to the employer.

There are legal restrictions on strikes. Laws which took effect in June established a mandatory four-day notification requirement for public-utility and transportation workers and a 24-hour notification requirement for private-sector workers. The law mandates minimum staff levels during strikes affecting critical public services such as hospitals, mass transportation, and the collection of garbage. The law defines minimum staff levels as one-third of the personnel, which should be provided to the employer prior to the strike’s launching. The obligation for a skeleton staff applies to both public and private sectors. By law the union that calls for a strike “is obliged to defend the right of the employees who do not take part in the strike so they can arrive at work and depart freely without hindrance and without facing corporal or psychological violence. If this clause is violated, the strike may be suspended.”

The law gives authorities the right to commandeer services in national emergencies through civil mobilization orders. Anyone receiving a civil mobilization order is obliged to comply or face a prison sentence of at least three months. The law exempts individuals with a documented physical or mental disability from civil mobilization. The law explicitly prohibits the issuance of civil mobilization orders as a means of countering strike actions before or after their proclamation.

The government generally protected the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining and effectively enforced the law. Penalties for conviction of violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining laws were commensurate to those of other laws related to civil rights. Courts may declare a strike illegal for reasons such as a failure to respect internal authorization processes or to secure minimum staff levels, failure to give adequate advance notice of the strike, and introduction of additional demands during the strike. Administrative and judicial procedures to resolve labor problems were generally subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

There were no reports of antiunion discrimination. Union members protested the law that took effect June 19, arguing that it weakened the right to strike and expressing concerns that the skeleton staff requirement was too high.

On December 14, media reported that the Federation of Bank Employee Unions, the Center of Athens Labor Unions, and the Association of ACS/Postal Services Employees appealed a June 19 law requiring unions of employees and employers to be on a national register or face sanctions, including suspension of funding. Filed with the Council of State (the highest administrative court), the appeal stated the law contravened the constitution and the EU General Data Protection Regulation prohibiting unnecessary inclusion of personal data in archives.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and provides additional protections for children, limiting their work hours and their work under certain conditions. Several government entities, including the Police Antitrafficking Unit, worked to prevent and eliminate labor trafficking. There were reports of forced labor, mostly in the agricultural sector, and involving migrant workers. Forced begging mostly occurred, albeit limited due to the pandemic and the lockdown, in metropolitan areas and populous islands, focusing on popular metro stations, squares, and meeting places. The government did not always enforce effectively laws related to forced labor. Penalties for conviction of violations were commensurate to those of other serious crimes, such as kidnapping, but victims seldom reported violations.

On March 12, parliament approved legislation amending provisions for employers to invite foreign, non-EU nationals for seasonal farm industry work. Requests were filled through an electronic platform, increasing transparency, data collection, and targeted inspections. The law provides that the invited farm workers should not be above age 60, should have a minimum 30-day contract extendable to up to 90 days, should work in designated places, and should be housed properly. If charged for their accommodation by the employer, the rent should be reasonable, in accordance with the workers’ wages, based on a contract or other valid document and not automatically deductible from their wages. Alternatively, the employer is required to establish that workers have a suitable place to reside on their own means.

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 most of the worst forms of child labor. A presidential decree permits children 15 or older to engage in hazardous work in certain circumstances, such as when it is necessary as part of vocational or professional training. In such cases workers should be monitored by a safety technician or a medical doctor. Hazardous work includes work that exposes workers to toxic and cancer-producing elements, radiation, and similar conditions. The minimum age for employment, including in the industrial sector, is 15, with higher limits for some activities. The minimum age does not apply to occasional and short-term light work in family-run agricultural, forestry and livestock activities, provided that such activities are carried out during the day. Following authorization by the Labor Inspectorate services, children, above age three, are allowed to work in cultural and related activities upon conditions mostly related with maintaining their health (physical and mental) unimpacted.

The Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, with penalties for conviction ranging from fines to imprisonment. The government did not always enforce effectively laws related to child labor. Penalties for violations were commensurate with other serious crimes such as kidnapping.

Younger family members often assisted families in agriculture, food service, and merchandising on at least a part-time basis. Family members compelled some children to beg, pick pockets, or sell merchandise on the street. The government and NGOs reported most offenders were indigenous Roma, Bulgarian, Romanian, or Albanian Roma. The pandemic caused fewer street children to “work” during the lockdown periods. On June 9, the NGO Association for the Support of Youth reported that 137 children were working in the streets of Thessaloniki in 2020 and during the year. There were reports unaccompanied migrant children were particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation and worked mainly in the agricultural and, to a lesser extent, manufacturing sectors.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, skin color, sex (including pregnancy), ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV or AIDS status, or refugee or stateless status.

The government did not always effectively enforce these laws and regulations. Penalties for conviction violations were commensurate with other laws related to denials of civil rights such as electoral interference. According to reports by the ombudsman and organizations such as the NGOs National Confederation of Disabled People in Greece and the Transgender Support Association, discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, sex (including pregnancy), disability, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity occurred.

The law provides for social and welfare benefits to be granted to surrogate mothers, including protection from dismissal during pregnancy and after childbirth. Women who adopt children are entitled to the same leave and benefits. In his 2020 report on equal treatment, the ombudsman reiterated previous findings regarding pregnancy and maternity being treated by the employers as problems, at times resulting in dismissals from work. According to the ombudsman, pregnant women and mothers of newborns, working in the private sector, continued being subjected to dismissal or a downgrading of their positions after they returned to work. Female civil servants continued reporting instances of sexual harassment and sexist behavior by male colleagues. There were also reports citing indirect discrimination of women interested in joining the Fire Brigade and the armed forces by requirements such as a minimum height or minimum level of professional experience. A study by the NGO ActionAid released in 2020 revealed that 85 percent of 1,300 women surveyed responded they had been subjected to sexual harassment (see section 6, Discrimination and Societal Abuses). In addition the ombudsman reported cases of interventions with employers in the state and private sectors in support of employees who faced discrimination on grounds of disability and age. The ombudsman reported that cases of age limits arbitrarily set in open calls for candidate staff at the Bank of Greece and the National School of Judges had prompted his intervention. The ombudsman also reported a successful intervention in which he prevented a private company having job applicants include their religious affiliation on the application forms.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: By ministerial decree the government sets the national minimum salary for employees in the private sector and for unspecialized workers. These wages were above the poverty income level. On July 26, the government announced its decision to increase the minimum wage by 2 percent, effective January 1, 2022.

The maximum legal workweek is 40 hours. The law provides for at least one 24-hour rest period per week, mandates paid vacation of one month per year, and sets limits on the amount of overtime work which, based on conditions, may exceed eight hours in a week. The law regarding overtime work requires premium pay, and employers must submit information to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs for authorization. Premium pay ranged from an additional 20 to 100 percent of the daily wage, based on the total number of extra hours and the day (Sundays, holidays, etc.), and whether it was night service. The first five hours worked after a 40-hour work week are not considered overtime, but employers are required in such cases to pay an additional 20 percent of the hourly wage. The law also requires that for every hour of unlawful overtime work, the employer pays an additional 120 percent of the daily wage. Employers also provided compensatory time off. These provisions were not effectively enforced in all sectors, particularly in tourism, catering services, retail businesses, agriculture, the informal economy, or for domestic or migrant workers. In June the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, institutionalized a digital work card allowing authorities to monitor work and leave in real time. The same law provides fines for the offending employers of 10,500 euros ($12,100) per employee for any nonapplication of the measure and a suspension of business operation in case of recurrence.

The government also introduced amendments to law, regarding telework in both the public and private sector, including for the employees’ right to disconnect, and special leave for parents and caregivers (see also section 6, Women).

As part of the revised labor law, the Labor Inspectorate was elevated to an independent authority with no supervision by ministries, including the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcement of all labor laws, including those related to wages and hours, as well as preserving its competencies and jurisdictions. The number of inspectors increased, but COVID-19 pandemic restriction measures reduced their ability to conduct physical checks to enforce compliance. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The government did not always enforce wage and overtime laws effectively. Penalties for violations were commensurate with other similar violations such as fraud.

Unions and media alleged some private businesses forced their employees to return in cash part of their wages and mandatory seasonal bonuses after depositing them in the bank. On September 13, a court in Chania, Crete, convicted an employer of threatening his employees with dismissal or removal if they did not return, in cash, part of their salary and sentenced him to 40 months in prison. Unions and media also alleged that some employers forced employees to unlawfully work while their contracts were suspended due to the pandemic and while they were receiving subsidy allowances by the state instead of salaries paid by employers. Some employees were officially registered as part-time employees but worked additional hours without being paid. Overtime work was not always registered officially or paid accordingly. In other cases employees were paid after months of delay and oftentimes with coupons, not cash. Such violations were noted mostly in the tourism, agriculture, and housekeeping sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides minimum standards of occupational health and safety in the main industries, placing the responsibility for identifying unsafe situations on occupational safety and health experts and not the workers. Workers have the right to file a confidential complaint with the labor inspectorate regarding hazardous working conditions and to remove themselves from such situations without jeopardizing their employment. Owners who repeatedly violate the law concerning undeclared work or safety standards could face temporary closure of their businesses. Under the same law, employers are obliged to declare in advance and digitally register their employees’ overtime work or changes in their work schedules. Courts are required to examine complaints filed by employees against their employers for delayed payment within two months of their filing, and to issue decisions within 30 days after the hearing.

The Labor Inspectorate is also responsible for all concerns regarding occupational safety and health at the national level. The Labor Inspectorate is the principal authority overseeing labor conditions in both the private and public sectors, except for mining and marine shipping (which fall under the Ministry of Environment and Energy and its Mines Inspectorate, and the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy). Labor experts characterized health and safety laws as satisfactory but stated that enforcement by the Labor Inspectorate was inadequate. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws. Penalties for conviction of violations were commensurate to those of similar crimes.

Authorities may temporarily close businesses that hire undeclared employees and may permanently close businesses that repeatedly violate the law. Nonetheless, trade unions and media reiterated that enforcement of labor standards was inadequate in the shipping, tourism, and agriculture sectors. Enforcement was also lacking among enterprises employing 10 or fewer persons.

Media reported at least 13 workers were killed due to work accidents, six of the deaths were attributed to electrocution. Media outlets also reported at least 11 injuries of workers throughout the year. On October 25, a man was killed at the Piraeus Port container terminal after he was hit by a bridge crane. Several media reported the accident occurred after the end of the work shift when the worker returned to pick up personal items. The local union of port workers and seamen claimed the accident happened during working hours, accusing the employer of gaps in labor safety rules and procedures. The fatal accident prompted public reaction and a number of strikes called by the victim’s coworkers. On June 17, the Supreme Court ordered compensation of 300,000 euros ($345,000) to the family members of a male worker who was killed while demolishing a roof. The court found that the employer failed to provide information to the victim regarding work preceding the demolition as well as proper protection which would have saved the victim’s life.

Informal Sector: The informal sector comprised approximately 30 percent of the economy. Informal workers were not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections.

Oman

Executive Summary

The Sultanate of Oman is a hereditary monarchy ruled since January 2020 by Sultan Haitham bin Tarik Al Said. The sultan has sole authority to enact laws through royal decree, although ministries and the bicameral Majlis Oman (parliament) can draft laws on non-security-related matters, and citizens may provide input through their elected representatives. The Majlis Oman is composed of the Majlis al-Dawla (upper house or State Council), whose 85 members are appointed by the sultan, and the elected 86-member Majlis al-Shura (lower house or Consultative Council). In 2019 nearly 350,000 citizens participated in the Majlis al-Shura elections for the Consultative Council; there were no significant claims of improper government interference.

The Royal Office, Royal Oman Police Internal Security Service, and Ministry of Defense comprise the security apparatus. The Royal Office is responsible for matters of foreign intelligence and security. The Royal Oman Police, which includes Civil Defense, Immigration, Customs, and the Coast Guard, performs regular police duties as well as many administrative functions similar to a Ministry of Interior in other countries. An inspector general serves as the head of the Royal Oman Police, which is a ministerial-level position that reports directly to the sultan. An official with ministerial-level rank heads the Internal Security Service, which investigates matters related to domestic security. Sultan Haitham’s brother – Shihab bin Tarik Al Said – serves as deputy prime minister for defense affairs, although the sultan remains the supreme commander of the armed forces. The sultan, as well as the senior civilian and military authorities who reported to him, maintained effective control over the security forces.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary arrest or detention; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship and criminal libel laws; serious restrictions on the internet, including site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious restrictions on political participation; criminalization of consensual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex conduct; and labor exploitation of foreign migrants.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses, and authorities generally held security personnel and other government officials accountable for their actions.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively. The Financial and Administrative State Audit Institution (FASAI) submitted an annual report to the sultan and the Majlis Oman. The Majlis al-Shura had the authority to summon and question ministers.

Corruption: There were reports of government corruption, including in the police, ministries, and state-owned companies. In September a citizen was reportedly arrested after he made accusations of corruption on social media. He alleged government officials sought bribes from him to approve an investment project. In October social media users accused the Minister of Education of corruption after a July 2020 court decision convicted 18 officials in the Ministry of Education. The minister remained in her post.

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

No independent, officially sanctioned human rights organizations existed in the country. There were civil society groups that advocated for persons protected under human rights conventions, particularly women and persons with disabilities. These groups were required to register with the Ministry of Social Development.

The law permits domestic and international actors to request permission to engage in human rights work, but none did because they believed the government was not likely to grant permission.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The OHRC, a government-funded commission made up of members from the public, private, and academic sectors, reported on human rights to the sultan via the State Council. The OHRC also published an annual report summarizing the types of complaints it received and how it handled those complaints. OHRC functions semi-independently with moderate effectiveness in protecting human rights in the country, based on limited public information.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 15 years in prison. The law does not criminalize spousal rape explicitly, but it does criminalize all “sex without consent.” According to diplomatic observers, police investigations resulted in few rape convictions. Foreign nationals working as domestic employees occasionally reported that their sponsors had sexually assaulted them.

The law does not specifically address domestic violence, and judicial protection orders prohibiting domestic violence do not exist. Charges could be brought, however, under existing statutes outlawing assault, battery, and aggravated assault, which can carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Allegations of spousal abuse in civil courts handling family law cases reportedly were common. Victims of domestic violence may file a complaint with police, and reports suggested that police responded promptly and professionally. The government operated a hotline for reporting incidents of domestic violence and a shelter for victims.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits health practitioners from conducting “traditional practices,” including FGM/C, that are harmful to a child’s health. The 2019 Executive Regulations for the Child Law include “disfiguring female genital organs” as one of these harmful practices. There are no national statistics on the prevalence of FGM/C, although anecdotal reports indicated some ongoing practice of FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: Harassing a woman by word or conduct is punishable by imprisonment up to a year.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Married couples have access to family planning and information, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Health clinics disseminated information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. Some forms of birth control, including condoms, were available at pharmacies and supermarkets, although medically prescribed contraceptives were generally not available for unmarried women. Menstrual healthcare was available for citizens and menstrual care products were readily available in pharmacies and grocery stores. The government provided free childbirth services to citizens within the framework of universal health care. Prenatal and postnatal care was readily available and used. While survivors of sexual violence could seek medical treatment at public healthcare facilities, the government did not provide emergency contraception or dedicated sexual and reproductive health services to survivors.

Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based discrimination against citizens, but the government did not appear to enforce the law effectively. Local interpretations of Islamic law and practice of cultural traditions in social and legal institutions discriminated against women. In some personal status cases, such as divorce, a woman’s testimony is equal to half that of a man. The law favors male heirs in adjudicating inheritance.

The Ministry of Interior requires both male and female citizens to obtain permission to marry foreigners, except nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, whom citizens may marry without restriction; authorities do not automatically grant permission, which is particularly difficult for women to obtain. Citizen marriage to a foreigner abroad without ministry approval may result in denial of entry for the foreign spouse at the border and preclude children from claiming citizenship and residency rights. It also may result in a bar from government employment.

Despite legal protections for women from forced marriage, deeply embedded tribal practices ultimately compel most citizen women towards or away from a choice of spouse.

The law provides for transmission of citizenship at birth if the father is a citizen, if the mother is a citizen and the father is unknown, or if a child of unknown parents is found in the country. Women married to noncitizens may not transmit citizenship to their children (who are thereby at risk of statelessness) and cannot sponsor their noncitizen husband’s or children’s presence in the country.

The law provides that any adult, male or female, may become a citizen by applying for citizenship and subsequently residing legally in the country for 20 years or 10 years for a woman if married to a male citizen. Women citizens cannot confer expedited citizenship to their foreign male spouses in the same manner. The approval or rejection of the citizenship application is subject to the Ministry of Interior’s final decision.

Government policy provided women with equal opportunities for education, and this policy effectively eliminated the gender gap in educational attainment. Although some educated women held positions of authority in government, business, and media, many women faced job discrimination based on cultural norms. The law entitles women to paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. The government, the largest employer of women, observed such regulations, as did many private sector employers.

The Ministry of Social Development is the umbrella organization for women’s concerns. The ministry provided support for women’s economic development through the Oman Women’s Association and local community development centers.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law states that all citizens are equal and prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, language, religion, sect, domicile, or social status. The law equally protects Omanis and foreigners present in Oman.

The country is an ethnically diverse society. There were no reports of racial or ethnic violence. The government’s “Omanization” policy favors Omani citizens over foreigners for employment in some sectors of the economy, and some expatriate workers reported that Omanis were favored in the workplace.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from the father. Women married to noncitizens may not transmit citizenship to their children. Children of unknown parents are automatically eligible for citizenship. Government employees raised abandoned children in an orphanage. Such children receive free education through the university level and a job following graduation. Citizen marriage to a foreigner abroad without ministry approval may preclude children from claiming citizenship rights.

Child Abuse: According to the law, any concerned citizen must report child abuse, and each governorate had an interagency committee that would meet to discuss the allegations and possibly take the child out of the parent’s custody until the allegations were investigated. The government operated a child abuse hotline.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The age of legal marriage for men and women is 18, although a judge may permit a person to marry younger when the judge or family deemed the marriage is in the minor’s interest. Child marriage occurred in rural communities as a traditional practice.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography are punishable by no fewer than five years’ imprisonment. The penal code stipulates a punishment of life imprisonment for rape of a child younger than 15 years. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. All sex outside of marriage is illegal, but sex with a minor younger than 15 carries a heavier penalty (up to 15 years’ imprisonment). Authorities do not charge minors. There were no known reports of children in commercial sex; soliciting a child for commercial sex is prohibited.

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 was no indigenous Jewish population. One Arabic-language newspaper featured multiple cartoons critical of the Israeli government in which a man representing stereotypical anti-Semitic tropes of Jews along with wearing the Star of David represented the state of Israel.

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 provides persons with disabilities the same rights as other citizens in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other state services. Persons with disabilities, however, continued to face discrimination. The law mandates access to public transportation and buildings for persons with disabilities, but many older buildings, including government buildings and schools, did not conform to the law.

The government provided alternative education opportunities for citizen children with disabilities, including overseas schooling when appropriate.

Additionally, the Ministry of Education supported schools and education programs for intellectually disabled students. These services accommodated students with motor, sight, hearing, and mental disabilities. The Ministry of Education operated a program to integrate students with disabilities into primary schools. The ministers of education and of health supervised a broad-based, prioritized strategy for various ministries to coordinate the problem of child autism in the country, including early autism diagnosis and intervention. The Ministry of Education also coordinated with UNICEF to improve its alternative education systems.

The Ministry of Social Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Directorate General of Disabled Affairs within the Ministry of Social Development creates and implements programs for persons with disabilities in coordination with relevant authorities. The directorate was authorized further to supervise the ministry’s rehabilitation and treatment centers for persons with disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Foreigners seeking residency in the country are tested for HIV/AIDS. If foreigners test positive, residency permission is denied, and foreigners must leave the country, but there were no known occurrences of this during the year.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct and consensual heterosexual sex outside of marriage with a jail term of six months to three years, but it requires a spouse or guardian complaint to initiate prosecution, independent of gender. The government did not actively enforce this provision, and there were no public records of potential prosecutions.

The law identifies “crossdressing” (defined as males dressing in female clothing) as a criminal act punishable by up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine of 100 to 300 rial (approximately $260 to $780), or both.

Public discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity remained a social taboo. There were no known lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) organizations active in the country, although regional human rights organizations focused on the human rights of LGBTQI+ citizens. Authorities took steps to block LGBTQI+-related internet content as well as international films that featured LGBTQI+ characters.

Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no government efforts to address discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons.

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, as well as conduct legal strikes and bargain collectively, but with significant restrictions. The law provides for one general federation, to which all unions must affiliate, and which represents unions in regional and international fora. The law requires a minimum of 25 workers to form a union, regardless of company size. The law requires an absolute majority of an enterprise’s employees to approve a strike, and notice must be given to employers three weeks in advance of the intended strike date. The law allows for collective bargaining; regulations require employers to engage in collective bargaining on the terms and conditions of employment, including wages and hours of work. Where there is no trade union, collective bargaining may take place between the employer and five representatives selected by workers. The employer may not reject any of the representatives selected. While negotiation is underway, the employer may not act on decisions related to problems under discussion. The law prohibits employers from firing or imposing other penalties on employees for union activity, although it does not require reinstatement for workers fired for union activity.

No independent organized labor unions existed. Worker rights continued to be administered and directed by the General Federation of Oman Workers (GFOW).

The GFOW responded to reports of labor rights violations, some precipitated by the COVID-19-related economic downturn. During the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the GFOW received and adjudicated complaints that employers reduced or failed to pay wages, forced workers to take unpaid leave, and deducted time in quarantine from workers’ leave banks.

Government-approved unions are open to all legal workers regardless of nationality, though the law prohibits members of the armed forces, other public security institutions, government employees, domestic workers, as well as individuals convicted of criminal activity or acts against the security of the country or national unity from forming or joining such unions. In addition, labor laws apply only to workers who perform work under a formal employment agreement and excludes domestic workers.

The law prohibits unions from accepting grants or financial assistance from any source without the Ministry of Labor’s prior approval. All unions are subject to the regulations of the government federation and may be shut down or have their boards dismissed by the federation.

The government generally enforced applicable laws effectively and respected the rights to collectively bargain and conduct strikes, although strikes in the oil and gas industries are forbidden. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. The government provided an alternative dispute resolution mechanism through the Ministry of Labor, which acted as mediator between the employer and employee for minor disputes such as disagreement over wages. If not resolved to the employee’s satisfaction, the employee could, and often did, resort to the courts for relief. The country lacked dedicated labor courts, and observers noted the mandatory grievance procedures were confusing to many workers, especially foreign workers. The Ministry of Labor had sufficient resources to act in dispute resolution.

Freedom of association in union matters and the right to collective bargaining existed, but the threat of a strike can prompt company action or government intervention. Strikes rarely occurred and were generally resolved quickly, sometimes through government mediation.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forced or compulsory labor but explicitly excludes domestic workers. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

By law all expatriate workers, who constituted approximately 80 percent of the workforce, must be sponsored by a citizen employer or accredited diplomatic mission. Some migrant workers employed as domestic workers or as low-skilled workers in the construction, agriculture, and service sectors, faced working conditions indicative of forced labor, including withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, usurious recruitment fees, nonpayment of wages, long working hours without food or rest, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. These situations were generally considered civil or contract matters by authorities, who encouraged dispute resolution rather than criminal action. Authorities generally relied on victims to identify themselves and report abuses, rather than proactively investigating trafficking among vulnerable populations. In 2020 the government created and disseminated a formal screening questionnaire for officials to use in identifying potential trafficking victims among those arrested for alleged labor violations and fleeing their employer. Police officials underwent training on how to identify victims of trafficking and cases of forced or compulsory labor. Training was temporarily paused during the pandemic but resumed by the end of the year.

Employer-based, visa sponsorship known as kafala left foreign workers vulnerable to exploitative and abusive conditions and made it difficult for them to change employers (see section 2.d.). Some sponsors allow their employees to work for other employers, sometimes in return for a fee. This practice is illegal, but enforcement was weak, and such arrangements diminished workers’ agency and increased their vulnerability. Some employers of domestic workers, contrary to law, withheld passports and other documents, complicating workers’ release from unfavorable contracts and preventing workers’ departure after their work contracts expired. The ROP issued a decision in May 2020 that all expatriates will no longer require a “no objection certificate” (NOC) from their employers to secure new work upon completion or termination of their employment contracts, which went into effect January 1. The implementation of this decision is ambiguous. Before the ROP removed the NOC requirement, some employers exploited it to demand exorbitant release fees before permitting workers to change employers. There were reports that sponsors were reluctant to provide NOCs, which would result in loss of the foreign labor certificate for that position.

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 is 16, or 18 for certain hazardous occupations. Employees younger than 18 may work only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and are prohibited from working for more than six hours per day, on weekends, or on holidays. The law allows exceptions to the age requirement in agricultural works, fishing, industrial works, handicrafts, sales, and administrative jobs, under the conditions that it is a one-family business and does not hinder the juvenile’s education or affect health or growth.

The Ministry of Labor and ROP are responsible for enforcing laws with respect to child labor. The law provides for fines for minor violations and imprisonment for repeat violations. Employers are given time to correct practices that may be deemed child labor. The government does not publish information on the enforcement of child labor laws; no information was available to determine whether penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

In 2020 the country made a moderate advance in eliminating the worst forms of child labor, and there is evidence that small numbers of children in the country engaged in child labor, including in fishing and selling items in kiosks.

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

Labor laws and regulations do not address discrimination based on race, sex, gender, nationality, political views, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, or social status. It is unclear, therefore, whether any penalties existed for violations that were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. While labor laws generally do not allow women to work in jobs deemed hazardous or arduous, there no industry-specific occupations were closed to women.

Discrimination occurred based on gender, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, and gender identity. Foreign workers were required to take HIV/AIDS tests and could only obtain or renew work visas if the results were negative. This practice was suspended during COVID-19, according to local sources.

Although some educated women held positions of authority in government, business, and media, many women faced job discrimination based on cultural norms. The law entitles women to paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. The government, the largest employer of women, observed such regulations, as did many private sector employers. The percentage of women working in the government sector increased from 41 percent of the total number of workers in 2014 to 59 percent in 2018, according to official government statistics.

The law provides persons with disabilities the same rights as other citizens in employment, and the provision of other state services. Persons with disabilities, however, continued to face discrimination. The law mandates access to public transportation and buildings for persons with disabilities, but many older buildings, including government buildings and schools, did not conform to the law. The law also requires government agencies and private enterprises employing more than 50 persons to reserve a certain percentage of positions for persons with disabilities. This percentage was 2 percent for the private sector; the Civil Service Council was responsible for determining the percentage for the public sector, which was set at 5 percent. Authorities did not systematically enforce this regulation.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The country has a minimum monthly wage for citizens that does not apply to noncitizens in any occupation. Minimum wage regulations do not apply to a variety of occupations and businesses, including small businesses employing fewer than five persons, dependent family members working for a family firm, or some categories of manual laborers. Most citizens who lived in poverty were engaged in traditional subsistence agriculture, herding, or fishing, and generally did not benefit from the minimum wage. The private sector workweek is 45 hours and includes a two-day rest period following five consecutive days of work. Government workers have a 35-hour workweek. The law mandates paid overtime for hours of more than 45 per week.

The Ministry of Labor effectively enforced the minimum wage for citizens. In wage cases the Ministry of Labor processed complaints and acted as mediator. In most cases the plaintiff prevailed, gaining compensation, the opportunity to seek alternative employment, or return to their country of origin in the case of foreign laborers. The ministry was generally effective in cases regarding minor labor disputes. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational health and safety standards. Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate for the main industries in the country. There were reports that the government did not enforce them for poor foreign workers according to an International Organization for Migration representative. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker based on hazards inherent to the nature of work. The law states an employee may leave dangerous work conditions without jeopardy to employment if the employer was aware of the danger and did not implement corrective measures. Employees covered under the labor law may receive compensation for job-related injury or illness through employer-provided medical insurance. Neither wage and hour nor occupational safety and health regulations apply to domestic workers.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws, and it employed inspectors in Muscat and around the country. It generally enforced the law effectively with respect to citizens; however, it did not always effectively enforce regulations regarding hours of employment and working conditions for foreign workers. Penalties for violations of occupational, safety, and health laws were commensurate with those for similar crimes like negligence.

Labor inspectors performed random checks of worksites to verify compliance with all labor laws. Inspectors from the Department of Health and Safety of the Labor Care Directorate are responsible for enforcement of health and safety codes. Limited inspections of private sector worksites are required by law to deter or redress unsafe working conditions in the most dangerous sectors.

Informal Sector: The law does not provide for occupational health and safety standards for workers in the informal economy. Foreign workers were vulnerable to poor, dangerous, or exploitative working conditions. There were reports that migrant laborers in some firms and households worked more than 12 hours a day without a day off for below-market wages. Employers often cancelled the employment contracts of seriously sick or injured foreign workers, forcing them to return to their countries of origin or remain in the country illegally. Some labor inspections focused on enforcing visa violations and deporting those in an irregular work visa status rather than verifying safe and adequate work conditions.

Employers have a great deal of control over these workers, particularly domestic workers who are not covered by existing labor laws. The country’s visa-sponsorship system (kafala) ties migrant workers to their employers, who can have a worker’s visa canceled arbitrarily. Workers who leave their jobs without the consent of their employer can be punished with fines, deportation, or reentry bans. As of January 1, expatriates were no longer required to obtain a “no-objection certificate” to secure new work upon completion or termination of their employment contracts. There are no maximum workhour limits for domestic workers nor any mandatory rest periods, although the contract between the employer and worker can specify such requirements. There were some reports that domestic workers were forced to work with inadequate rest periods. Separate domestic employment regulations obligate the employer to provide domestic workers with free local medical treatment throughout the contract period. Penalties for noncompliance with health regulations were insufficient to deter violations. Some domestic workers were subjected to abusive conditions.

There was no data available on workplace fatalities or safety.

Peru

Executive Summary

Peru is a constitutional, multiparty republic. President Pedro Castillo assumed the presidency in July, succeeding President Francisco Sagasti, after winning the June 6 presidential runoff, in elections that observers characterized as free and fair. Legislative elections took place concurrently to elect the 130-member, single-chamber parliament.

The Peruvian National Police report to the Ministry of Interior and maintain internal security. The Peruvian Armed Forces, reporting to the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security in addition to some domestic security responsibilities in designated emergency areas and in exceptional circumstances. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of serious government corruption at all levels, including in the judiciary; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; and sex and labor trafficking.

The government took steps to investigate and, in some cases, prosecute or otherwise punish public officials accused of abuses and corruption, including high-level officials. Nonetheless, corruption and a perception of impunity remained prevalent and were major public concerns.

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. There were numerous reports of corruption by government officials during the year. Citizens continued to view corruption as a pervasive problem in all branches of national, regional, and local governments.

Corruption: Several high-profile political figures remained under investigation for corruption, particularly in relation to the well publicized Odebrecht corruption scandal. There were widespread allegations of corruption in public procurement and in public-private partnerships. Large transportation and energy infrastructure contracts frequently generated high-ranking political interference and corruption, including by former presidents and regional governors. Companies also reported midlevel government officials skewed tender specifications to favor bidders who paid bribes. The COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent public procurement of medical supplies exacerbated the incidence of corruption.

There was evidence of widespread corruption in the judicial system. Prosecutors continued an investigation launched following 2018 media reports of a judicial scandal involving allegations of influence peddling and graft by judges at multiple levels. Corruption was frequent at all levels of the PNP. Observers said the 2019 creation of the National Justice Commission, an independent body in charge of hiring and disciplining prosecutors and judges, was a step toward increased transparency and accountability. The commission had removed more than 100 officials for corruption as of September, including judges and prosecutors.

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 somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and in particular the Vice Ministry of Human Rights and Access to Justice, oversaw human rights policies and issues at the national level. The Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, and Ministry of Labor and Employment Promotion also had significant human rights roles. These government bodies were generally considered effective. The independent Ombudsman’s Office operated without government or party interference. NGOs, civil society organizations, and the public considered the Ombudsman’s Office effective.

Congressional committees overseeing human rights included Justice and Human Rights; Women and the Family; Labor and Social Security; Andean, Amazonian, Afro-Peruvian Peoples, and Environment and Ecology; Health and Population; and Social Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape. Penalties are a minimum of 14 years and a maximum of life in prison. Enforcement of sexual and domestic violence laws was inadequate, often at the discretion of the relevant authorities, according to gender-based violence experts. Undue dismissals of charges were allegedly also common. Nevertheless, emblematic sentences occurred, such as the November conviction of five men to 20-year prison sentences for the 2020 rape of a 21-year-old woman in Lima.

The law defines femicide as the crime of killing of a woman or girl based on expectations, assumptions, or factors distinctive to her gender. The minimum sentence for femicide is generally 20 years, or 30 years when the crime includes aggravating circumstances (e.g., crimes against minor, elderly, or pregnant victims). Police action to enforce the law was weak and slow, and prosecution of cases was often lengthy and ineffective. In August a man killed a 15-year-old girl in Jicamarca as revenge for accusing him of kidnapping her. The killer had been released in June from 15 months of preventive detention based on the kidnapping charges.

The law prohibits domestic violence; penalties generally range from one month to six years in prison. The law authorizes judges and prosecutors to prevent a convicted spouse or parent from returning to the family home. The law also authorizes the victim’s relatives and unrelated persons living in the home to file complaints of domestic violence. The law requires a police investigation of domestic violence to take place within five days of a complaint and obliges authorities to extend protection to female victims of domestic violence. Enforcement of the law was lax, according to NGOs specialized in combatting gender-based violence.

Violence against women and girls, including sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, was a serious, underreported national problem. A government health survey from 2020, published in May, stated 55 percent of women ages 15 to 49 had suffered physical (27 percent), psychological (50 percent), or sexual (6 percent) violence in the previous 12 months. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations reported more than 57,000 cases of violence against women between January and July, including 92 femicides and 79 femicide attempts; 46 percent of reported cases included physical violence, 56 percent included psychological violence, 46 percent included physical violence, and 15 percent included sexual violence. In most cases of femicide, the killer was the victim’s partner or former partner. The Ombudsman’s Office and the vice minister of women both expressed concern because the reported yearly figures represented a 16 percent increase over the same period in 2020.

The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations operated 449 service centers for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and other crimes including sex trafficking and their accompanying children. Some of these emergency centers provided basic short-term shelter as well as legal, psychological, and social services. NGO representatives expressed concerns regarding the quality and quantity of the program’s services, particularly in rural areas. The ministry operated a toll-free hotline and implemented projects to sensitize government employees and citizens to the problem of domestic violence. The Public Ministry operated emergency accommodation that women and children survivors of domestic violence and other crimes, such as human trafficking, could use for short-term accommodation. The government made efforts to expand temporary shelters, but NGO representatives and members of Congress stated there were not enough.

Provincial prosecutorial offices are required by law to incorporate victims of sexual violence into the national Victims and Witness Assistance Program or to request required protection measures from the court; however, one NGO reported 15 percent of criminal prosecutors did not make these requests.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a serious problem. The law defines sexual harassment as comments, touching, or actions of a sexual nature that are unsolicited and unwanted by the victim. The penalty for sexual harassment is up to eight years in prison. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also a labor rights violation subject to administrative penalties. Government enforcement of the law was minimal, according to experts on gender-based violence.

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

Access to menstrual health remained a problem, particularly in rural and poor areas, due to lack of water and sanitation, high price of menstrual hygiene products, and a lack of information and awareness by teachers and employers.

Of births nationwide, 94 percent occurred in institutional facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and health centers. This figure dropped to 84 percent in rural areas. Civil society organizations reported that women in rural areas, especially Quechua-speaking women, were distrustful of health-care providers, who sometimes imposed fines on indigenous women who gave birth at home. Civil society organizations that focused on sexual and reproductive health reported health-care staff at times threatened to withhold birth certificates, and indigenous women in rural areas experienced “verbal aggressions, mistreatment, the imposition of institutionalized and horizontal childbirth, and ignorance of their language and customs,” when seeking reproductive health services. Other factors, such as lack of sexual education, location of health centers, religious and social customs, and economic hardships, also contributed to the mistrust of the state health-care system among certain populations.

The law requires public health centers to provide free access to emergency contraception, which was also available at a cost in commercial pharmacies. Postsexual assault kits included emergency contraception. There were complaints of unnecessary delays in processing the kits. Health officials reported they provided a total of 1,325 kits to victims in 2020, an increase from 335 in 2019.

Both public and private health centers provided care for postabortion obstetric emergencies. Experts noted, however, that because nonaccidental abortion is criminalized, there was a risk of public health centers filing charges against the patient following the procedure. This was less of a concern at private health centers, leading to socioeconomic disparities regarding the legal implications of abortion.

Early motherhood continued to be a risk to adolescent health. The 2020 data from the Demographic and Family Health Survey reported 8 percent of female adolescents ages 15-19 had been pregnant at least once (12 percent in rural areas).

Discrimination: The law provides for equality between men and women. It prohibits gender-based discrimination between partners regarding marriage, pregnancy, pay, and property rights. Despite this, the law obliges only women to wait 300 days after widowhood or divorce to remarry. The government did not always enforce the law effectively, according to specialized NGOs.

Arbitrary dismissal of pregnant women and workplace discrimination against women were common. The law stipulates women should receive equal pay for equal work, but women often were paid less than men for the same jobs.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous persons remained politically, economically, and socially disadvantaged. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon region faced threats from land grabbers, narcotics traffickers, illegal miners, illegal loggers, and extractive industries that operated near or within indigenous land holdings. Indigenous persons were particularly at risk for both sex and labor trafficking. Many indigenous persons who lived in rural communities had limited access to justice, protection, or abuse prevention activities. Indigenous leaders claimed the national and regional governments did not adequately protect indigenous peoples and their property interests.

NGOs, fellow activists, the United Nations, and various government actors expressed concern regarding the increase in killings of environmental activists in the last two years (see section 1.a.). Activists claimed the slow, ineffective process for punishing harassers and killers effectively supported impunity.

Regulatory measures and protection responses were insufficient to deter threats posed to environmental rights defenders. Experts cited a need for public policy changes to provide effective protection, including a system in line with the Escazu Agreement, which deepens the linkage between human rights and environmental justice. They criticized Congress for refusing to ratify the Escazu Agreement in 2020, without further action as of November.

While the constitution recognizes that indigenous peoples have the right to own land communally, indigenous groups often lacked legal title to demarcate the boundaries of their land. Amazonian indigenous peoples continued to accuse the national government of delaying the issuance of land titles. By law indigenous communities retain the right of nonassignability, which is designed to prevent the title to indigenous lands from being reassigned to a nonindigenous person. Some indigenous community members, however, sold land to outsiders without the majority consent of their community.

The national government retains subsurface mineral rights for land nationwide. This led to disputes between local indigenous communities, the national government, regional governments, and various extractive industry interests. The law requires the government to consult with indigenous communities on proposed extractive projects or on changes to current extractive projects. The law also requires the government to produce a detailed implementation plan to facilitate government and private-sector compliance. Implementation of this law was considered by observers as somewhat effective.

The law requires the Ministry of Culture to establish a database of indigenous communities entitled to consultation. The ministry recognized 55 indigenous peoples entitled to “prior consultation” and confirmed the existence of another 14 indigenous “peoples in voluntary isolation” with very limited or no contact with the rest of the country, all of them in the Amazon rainforest. The government recognized 48 indigenous languages, including four Andean and 44 Amazonian languages. Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language, with 14 percent of citizens (4.4 million individuals) claiming it as their first language. Quechua is the co-official national language with Spanish, and access to essential public services and government action in Quechua should be available, but enforcement of this remained weak at the national level. Other significant indigenous languages include Aymara, Ashaninka, Awajun, and Shipibo.

From 2014 to 2019, the government initiated 24 prior consultations with various indigenous communities, which generated 487 agreements. Of the 24 prior consultations, 10 were concluded and 14 continued at year’s end.

NGOs, legal experts, and the Ombudsman’s Office expressed concern that indigenous communities did not have sufficient training to engage effectively in consultations with the government and extractive industries.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived either by birth within the country’s territory or from either of the parents. The state grants a national identification card and number upon birth, which is essential to access most public and many private services. More than 98 percent of resident citizens had a valid national identification card, but rural Amazonian areas had the lowest coverage, at 96 percent. Government and NGO representatives assessed that undocumented individuals were particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation, human trafficking, and other crimes.

Child Abuse: The law requires all government authorities, courts, and social service institutions to use the “best interests of the child” standard in decisions affecting abused children. The law imposes prison sentences ranging between six years and lifetime for crimes listed in the criminal code as “child abuse,” including sexual exploitation of children, abusing minors, and child trafficking, but these crimes were sometimes confused with one another by prosecutors. Police did not always collect the evidence to meet the prosecutor’s evidentiary burden, and judges regularly applied a higher evidentiary threshold than required, resulting in courts applying lesser, easier-to-prove charges, particularly in trafficking cases.

Violence against children, including sexual abuse, was a serious problem. The 2020 National Health Survey reported 9 percent of parents hit their children to punish them. At-risk children may be placed with guardians or in specialized residential facilities for different kinds of victims. Not all shelters provided psychological care, although the law requires it. In most regions residential shelters operated by provincial or district authorities were supplemented by shelters operated by schools, churches, and NGOs. As of November the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations operated six specialized shelters for female child trafficking victims that provided psychosocial, medical, and legal support.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The law allows a civil judge to authorize minors older than 16 to marry. According to the 2017 census, there were 55,000 married teenagers, 80 percent of them girls.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography and stipulates a penalty of six to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The law prohibits child sex trafficking, with prescribed penalties of 12 to 20 years in prison if the victim is 14 to 17, and at least 25 years if the victim is 13 or younger. Government officials and NGOs identified numerous cases of child sex trafficking during the year, although officials continued to classify many child sex trafficking crimes as sexual exploitation, which provides fewer protections to victims. While the COVID-19 pandemic brought most tourism to a halt following its onset in 2020, the country remained a destination for child sex tourism, and NGO representatives reported an increase in online sexual exploitation of children during the pandemic.

Although the country has strong laws to protect children, it frequently had serious problems with enforcement. Media reported on the sex and labor trafficking of minor girls and women in the illicit gold-mining sites of the remote Amazonian Madre de Dios region. Law enforcement operations against illegal mining sites were not effective in identifying victims and removing them from exploitation.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. A conviction for rape of a child younger than 14 by an adult carries a sentence of life imprisonment. The law also prohibits adults from using deceit, abuse of power, or taking advantage of a child in a vulnerable situation to have sex with a person younger than 18.

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

Estimates of the Jewish population ranged from 3,000 to 4,000 persons. Jewish community leaders said some individuals engaged occasionally in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on social media. The government and both private and government-run media generally did not engage in this activity.

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, defined as individuals with a physical, sensory, or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. The law establishes infractions and punishments for noncompliance. It provides for the protection, care, rehabilitation, security, and social inclusion of persons with disabilities, and it mandates that public spaces and government internet sites be accessible to them. It requires the inclusion of sign language or subtitles in all educational and cultural programs on public television and in media available in public libraries. The government did not always effectively enforce the law.

The law requires companies to have job selection processes that give persons with disabilities the opportunity to apply for jobs on equal terms with persons without disabilities. The law also requires employers to provide employees up to 56 hours of leave per year to accompany their relatives with disabilities to medical appointments.

The government failed to enforce laws protecting the rights of persons with mental disabilities. NGO representatives and government officials reported an insufficient number of medical personnel providing services in psychiatric institutions. Nevertheless, awareness of mental health issues was growing, including through public messaging from the Ministry of Health and in public remarks by the president of the council of ministers in October.

Accessibility in public transportation and streets and highways varied widely according to locality, and while accessible infrastructure exists, it was not always reliable. Local government regulations and construction licenses require public spaces and buildings to be accessible for persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, problems facing persons with disabilities continued, due to frequently inaccessible or suboptimal infrastructure. They also faced hurdles in their access to education, insufficient employment opportunities, and employment discrimination, according to government and civil society leaders. The Ombudsman’s Office reported that approximately 87 percent of children with disabilities did not attend school before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that 76 percent of persons with disabilities did not work. One government survey reported that 70 percent of employers stated they would not hire a person with a disability.

Electoral authorities took measures for accessibility in the 2021 presidential and congressional elections, including making accessible voting booths available and offering braille voting materials, among others.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV and AIDS faced widespread discrimination and harassment with respect to employment, housing, and social inclusion. The Ministry of Health implemented policies to combat such discrimination. HIV and AIDS affected transgender women and girls disproportionately, and many transgender women could not obtain health care because they lacked national identification cards reflecting their gender and appearance.

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

Discrimination, harassment, and abuse of transgender individuals, including by police and other authorities, was a serious problem. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons were particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and largely lacked access to comprehensive protective services.

The constitution includes a broad prohibition against discrimination, and individuals may file legal claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Few national laws, however, mention sexual orientation and gender identity as explicit categories for protection from discrimination, which left room for interpretations that overlook rights for LGBTQI+ persons. Some regions and municipalities, including Piura, La Libertad, Loreto, and San Martin, had regulations that explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons and provide administrative relief but not criminal sanctions.

The law does not provide transgender persons the right to update their national identity documents to reflect their gender identity, instead requiring a long, expensive legal challenge process with unpredictable results. Transgender persons, therefore, often did not have valid national identification cards, which limited their access to government services. In September Dania Calderon became the country’s first transgender woman to change her gender marker. The case was atypical, because Calderon changed the gender on her national identity document without gender-reassignment surgery. In 2020 courts ordered the National Identity and Civil Status Registry to allow citizens to change their gender, name, and picture to reflect their current identity, but the registry had allowed only for name changes and would approve changing one’s gender on the document only after receiving proof of completed gender-reassignment surgery.

Government officials, NGO representatives, journalists, and civil society leaders reported official and societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in employment, housing, education, law enforcement, and health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. NGO representatives reported law enforcement authorities repeatedly failed to protect and, on occasion, violated the rights of LGBTQI+ citizens.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

With certain limitations, labor laws and regulations provide for freedom of association, the right to strike, and collective bargaining. The law prohibits intimidation by employers and other forms of antiunion discrimination. It requires reinstatement or compensation of workers fired for union activity. The law allows workers to form unions without seeking prior authorization. By law at least 20 workers must join to form an enterprise-level union, and 50 workers to form a sector-wide union or federation. Some labor activists viewed this requirement as prohibitively high, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, which represented 96.5 percent of all businesses.

Long-term employment under short-term contract schemes was widespread, including in the public sector. The use of unlimited consecutive short-term contracts made the exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining difficult. In March Congress approved the progressive elimination of “administrative service contracts,” a hiring method of short-term contracts with diminished rights widely used in the public sector, even for de facto permanent positions.

Private-sector labor law sets out nine categories of short-term employment contracts that companies may use. The law sets time limits on contracts in each category and has a five-year overall limit on the consecutive use of short-term contracts. A sector-specific law covering parts of the textile and apparel sectors exempts employers from this five-year limit and allows employers to hire workers indefinitely on short-term contracts. Following the November-December 2020 protests against an additional exceptional arrangement to the agricultural labor law, Congress passed a revised agricultural promotion law that allows for hiring through consecutive short-term contracts, compensation, and paid-leave benefits for agricultural workers through 2031. The new law sets mechanisms to compensate ceased workers, gradually raises workers’ participation in revenue sharing (from current 5 percent to 10 percent in 2027), and sets explicit requirements for the provision of transportation, meals, sanitation services, and emergency health care. It also forbids child labor, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Street-cleaning union leader Isabel Cortez was elected to Congress in April, representing Lima with the Together for Peru party, the first time a leader from this union was elected to Congress. In 2020 Cortez filed a criminal complaint of physical aggression by unidentified persons who threatened her, allegedly due to her public demands for better labor conditions. The case remained under investigation. In August Cortez was selected to chair the labor commission in Congress.

The law allows unions to declare a strike in accordance with their governing documents, with prior notice of five days for the private sector, 10 days for the public sector, and 15 days for emergency services. Essential services must also receive the approval of the Ministry of Labor to strike and provide enough workers during a strike to maintain operations. Neither private-sector nor public-sector institutions may legally dismiss workers who strike.

NGOs that specialize in labor affirmed the government did not effectively enforce the law on freedom of association, collective bargaining, or other labor laws. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Workers faced prolonged judicial processes and lack of enforcement following dismissals for trade union activity.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the government did not always enforce it effectively. The law prescribes penalties of eight to 15 years’ imprisonment for labor trafficking crimes committed against adults and six to 12 years’ imprisonment for exploitation crimes classified as forced labor. The government had a separate commission, interministerial protocol, and national plan for combating forced labor and child labor. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping.

Forced labor crimes continued to occur in domestic service, agriculture, forestry, gold mining and related services, factories, brick making, and organized street begging, as well as in illegal activities such as counterfeit operations. Illegal logging affected many indigenous communities, who found themselves trapped in forced labor. The self-styled drug-trafficking organization Militarized Communist Party of Peru, which authorities considered the successor of the terrorist organization Shining Path, used force and coercion to recruit children to serve as combatants or guards in the VRAEM. It also used force and coercion to subject children and adults to forced labor in agriculture, cultivation or transportation of illicit narcotics, and domestic servitude, as well as to carry out terrorist activities. In July the government approved the National Policy against Trafficking in Persons 2021-2030, which replaced the previous plan for 2017-21.

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 all the worst forms of child labor. The legal minimum age for employment varies from 12 to 18 depending on the type of job, the job conditions, and the hours per day. Employment must not affect school attendance. A permit from the Labor Ministry is required for persons younger than 18 to work legally. Parents must apply for the permit, and employers must have a permit on file to hire a minor. The law forbids children younger than 18 to work in domestic service.

The Ministry of Labor and the National Labor Inspectorate are responsible for enforcing child labor laws – in coordination with police and prosecutors when forced child labor crimes are involved – but enforcement was not effective, especially in the informal sector where most child labor occurred. Labor law enforcement agencies lacked sufficient inspectors and training to adequately combat child labor, and the government did not provide complete information on labor or criminal enforcement efforts against the worst forms of child labor. Penalties were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes.

A government report found the prevalence of child labor was 22 percent in 2018; however, 59 percent of households in extreme poverty had a child laborer. In addition there were four times more child laborers in rural areas than in urban areas. Among the population of working children, 57 percent worked in agriculture, and 21 percent worked in small-scale or street retail.

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 employment discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, social origin, disability, age, language, or social status. Nonetheless, NGOs working on labor and discrimination issues reported employment discrimination on race, skin color, national origin, social origin, disability, language, and social status continued. The law does not specifically identify discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity occurred. The law establishes the following employment quotas for persons with disabilities: 3 percent for private businesses with more than 50 employees and 5 percent for public-sector organizations. The law prohibits discrimination against domestic workers and prohibits any requirement by employers for their domestic workers to wear uniforms in public places. The National Council for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities oversees compliance with employment quotas for persons with disabilities. Compliance with quotas varied.

The government did not effectively enforce the law on discrimination. Penalties were not commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. NGO representatives and labor rights advocates noted discrimination cases often went unreported.

The most recent Ombudsman’s Office report, issued in 2017, found that 28 percent of working-age women were not performing paid labor, instead performing unpaid domestic work such as childcare, compared with 10 percent of working-age men. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the gap, with a study by the Peruvian Economy Institute showing that women’s paid employment, which fell by 17 percent compared with a 10 percent drop for men’s paid employment during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, had as of July recovered only by 37 percent, compared with a 100 percent recovery of men’s paid employment.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage, which was above the official estimate for the poverty income level. The government did not effectively enforce wage laws, and penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

The law provides for a 48-hour workweek and one day of rest for workers in the formal sector. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, nor does the law limit the amount of overtime that a worker may work. The law stipulates 30 calendar days of paid annual vacation. In 2020 Congress approved legislation that aligns the labor rights of domestic workers with the rights of regular, formal-sector workers. The new law replaces previous laws that granted diminished rights to domestic workers, such as less vacation time and smaller yearly bonuses, and elevates the minimum age to perform domestic service jobs to 18.

Noncompliance with the law is punishable by fines. According to a labor NGO and labor experts, many fines went uncollected, in part because the government lacked an efficient tracking system and at times lacked political will. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law has fines and criminal sanctions for occupational safety and health (OSH) violations. The government did not effectively enforce OSH laws, and penalties for these violations were not commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes such as negligence. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Criminal penalties are limited to cases where employers deliberately violated OSH laws, and where labor authorities had previously and repeatedly notified employers who subsequently did not adopt corrective measures. The law requires workers to prove an employer’s culpability before they can obtain compensation for work-related injuries.

Informal Sector: Many workers in the informal economy, approximately 70 percent of the total labor force, received less than the minimum wage. Most informal workers were self-employed. Nearly 90 percent of Venezuelan migrant workers were in the informal sector, most of them in suboptimal conditions and earning less than the minimum wage due to their lack of proper documentation and inability to validate their academic credentials. Workers in the informal economy were at increased risk of exploitation in sex or labor trafficking.

Portugal

Executive Summary

Portugal, which includes the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, is a constitutional semipresidential representative democracy with a president, prime minister, and parliament elected in multiparty elections. Observers considered the presidential elections in January and national legislative elections in 2019 to be free and fair.

The Ministries of Internal Administration and Justice have primary responsibility for internal security. The Ministry of Internal Administration oversees the Foreigners and Borders Service, Public Security Police, and Republican National Guard. The Foreigners and Borders Service has jurisdiction over immigration and border issues, the Public Security Police has jurisdiction in cities, and the Republican National Guard has jurisdiction in rural areas. The Judiciary Police is responsible for criminal investigations and reports to the Ministry of Justice. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included criminal libel laws and credible reports of crimes involving threats of violence targeting members of racial/ethnic minority groups.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses and 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 corruption in the executive and legislative branches of the central government during the year.

Corruption: Media outlets reported corruption involving central and local government officials.

On November 8, the Judiciary Police executed 100 search warrants and raided scores of addresses across the country in an investigation into allegations that Portuguese troops stationed with a UN peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic used military planes to smuggle diamonds, drugs, and gold into Europe. Ten persons were arrested in the operation. The criminal network with international connections was dedicated to obtaining illicit profits through diamond and gold smuggling, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, and passing counterfeit currency. Police were also looking into allegations of computer fraud and money laundering.

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

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country has an independent human rights ombudsman appointed by parliament who is responsible for defending the human rights, freedom, and legal rights of all citizens. The Ombudsman’s Office operated independently and with the cooperation of the government.

The ombudsman had adequate resources and published mandatory annual reports, as well as special reports on problems such as women’s rights, prisons, health, and the rights of children and senior citizens.

Parliament’s First Committee for Constitutional Issues, Rights, Liberties, and Privileges oversees human rights problems. It drafts and submits bills and petitions for parliamentary approval.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law makes rape, including spousal rape, illegal, with a penalty of three to 10 years’ imprisonment for violations. The government generally enforced the law when the victim chose to press charges and if the cases were not settled out of court through mediation. The law provides for criminal penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment in cases of domestic violence by a spouse or by a person other than the spouse. The judicial system prosecuted persons accused of committing gender-based violence, including violence towards women.

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, continued to be a problem. According to preliminary data from NGOs and media reports, in the first six months of the year, there were 14 deaths related to domestic violence.

The law allows third parties to file domestic violence reports. The government encouraged survivors of violence to file complaints with the appropriate authorities and offered the victim protection against the abuser. The government’s Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights operated 39 safe houses and 28 emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence and maintained an around-the-clock telephone service. Safe-house services included food, shelter, health assistance, and legal assistance. The government-sponsored Mission against Domestic Violence conducted an awareness campaign, trained health professionals, proposed legislation to improve legal assistance to survivors, and negotiated protocols with local authorities to assist survivors.

In March the government began a new training program for Public Administration workers on domestic violence to improve coordination among officials in different areas, such as health, law enforcement, and justice. The training courses were scheduled to continue through June 2023.

In June the government announced a new plan to reinforce the prevention and fight against domestic violence. Since then, the government launched social alert mechanisms and support to victims of domestic violence through an awareness campaign #EuSobrevivi (#ISurvived), an advice pamphlet, and information on local assistance contacts. Campaign materials were broadcast in the media and posted in police stations, hospitals, courts, citizens services shops, public transportation, gas stations, among other public locations.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a crime punishable under the law. The State Secretariat for Citizenship and Equality reported that some immigrant communities practiced FGM/C on young girls, particularly among Bissau-Guinean immigrants. According to the government’s Healthy Practices Project to prevent and combat FGM/C, the country flagged 101 cases of possible FGM/C in 2020, down from 129 in 2019. Since authorities began collecting FGM/C statistics in 2014, there have been only three confirmed cases of FGM/C performed in the country. The remaining cases were performed in the immigrants’ countries of origin.

On October 1, the government allocated 60,000 euros ($69,000) to nine civil society organizations for new projects to prevent and combat FGM/C. The projects focus on encouraging girls and women to act against female genital mutilation.

On January 8, a Sintra court sentenced Rugui Djalo, a 21-year-old Bissau-Guinean citizen residing in the country, to three years in prison for the crime of genital mutilation of her then 18-month-old daughter. Djalo was the first person to be brought to trial in the country for the crime of FGM/C. In July the court of appeals suspended the sentence for a period of four years on the grounds that taking the mother away from the child would punish the daughter a second time and that the censure of the practice of FGM/C and the threat of imprisonment already achieved the objective of deterring the practice. The court concluded that the mother travelled to Guinea-Bissau and requested the procedure but did not actually perform FGM/C herself.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime, with penalties ranging from one to eight years in prison. If perpetrated by a superior in the workplace, the penalty is up to two years in prison, or more in cases of “aggravated coercion.”

The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment, composed of representatives of the government, employers’ organizations, and labor unions, examines but does not adjudicate complaints of sexual harassment. From January to April, the Inspectorate General of Finance received 28 reports of sexual harassment, and the Working Conditions Authority registered seven infractions during the same period.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities (see Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), above, for additional information).

Vulnerable populations had the ability to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including for sterilization.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence; emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The constitution and the law provide women full legal equality with men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property, and the government enforced the law.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution bans discrimination and provides legal protection against discriminatory acts and practices. This protection covers discrimination on the grounds of ancestry, sex, race, age, disability, language, territory of origin, religion, political or ideological convictions, education, economic situation, social condition or sexual orientation, and any other reason. The scope of the country’s law against discrimination is wider than EU law. There is a law against hate crimes, including murder and assault motivated by racial or religious hatred, genocide, racial and religious discrimination and related intolerance, insults on grounds of religion and profanation of cemeteries.

On March 24, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, released a memorandum to address “the increasing level of racism and the persistence of related discrimination” in the country. In the memorandum the commissioner noted a number of assaults during 2020 “on people of African descent and other persons perceived as foreigners, as well as against antiracist and other civil society activists” in the country. According to the memorandum, the incidents culminated in July 2020 with the murder of Bruno Cande, a Portuguese citizen of African descent, who was shot and killed in Lisbon. His killer reportedly shouted racist slurs before killing Cande. On June 29, a Lisbon court convicted Evaristo Marinho, 76, of homicide aggravated by racial hatred and sentenced him to 22 years and nine months in prison for killing Cande. Marinho, a veteran who served during the country’s colonial war in Angola between 1963 and 1974, confessed to the murder at the trial.

In her March 24 memorandum, Commissioner Mijatovic noted that, in the same period, “racist slurs and swastikas appeared on the walls of several public buildings, including schools, and on the walls of premises of certain NGOs, in particular SOS Racismo” and that the organization’s president, together with other persons belonging to civil society organizations, received death threats and warnings to leave the country within 48 hours in response to their public stance and work against racism. The threats reportedly also targeted trade unions and three members of the country’s parliament, and in August, a “Ku Klux Klan-style” demonstration took place in front of the SOS Racismo premises.

The government estimated the Romani population to be between 40,000 and 50,000 persons. Many Roma continued to live in encampments consisting of barracks, shacks, or tents. Many settlements were in areas isolated from the rest of the population and often lacked basic infrastructure, such as access to drinking water, electricity, or waste-disposal facilities. Some localities constructed walls around Romani settlements. Media reports of police harassment, misconduct, and abuses against Roma continued.

The March 24 Mijatovic memorandum also stated that “Roma have long been targeted by racist hate speech and continue to be routinely confronted with discriminatory practices, such as service denials, throughout Portugal” and that “widespread hostility has at times resulted in incidents of mob violence against Roma communities.” The memorandum noted, as an example, a series of incidents in 2017 that included threats, arson, and attacks against property targeting the Roma community that had occurred in a locality in the south of the country.

In some localities the government provided integration and access to services for the Roma, including vaccination campaigns, monitoring of prenatal care, scholarship programs, assistance in finding employment, and a mediation program staffed by ethnic Romani mediators in the Office of the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue.

The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR) is the dedicated body to combat racial discrimination. Its mission under law is to prevent and prohibit racial discrimination and to penalize actions that result in the violation of fundamental rights or in the refusal or constraint of the exercise of economic, social, or cultural rights by any person based on race, ethnic origin, color, nationality, ancestry, or territory of origin. According to its annual report, CICDR received 655 complaints of discrimination in 2020, an increase of 50.2 percent from 2019, the vast majority related to alleged discrimination on social media (319 complaints, or 48.7 percent). CICDR explained that the increase might reflect greater social awareness of the problem of racial and ethnic discrimination as well as a growing knowledge and confidence in the commission and in the mechanisms available for the exercise of rights.

In June the government released its new national action plan to combat racism and discrimination. The plan outlined 10 areas of action, including information and knowledge for a nondiscriminatory society; education; higher education; work and employment; housing; health and social action; justice and security; participation and representation; sports; and media and digital.

The media reported that a UN working group on Peoples of African Ancestry was “surprised and shocked” by reports on police brutality in the country. The group arrived in the country in late November at the invitation of the government to gather data on racial discrimination towards persons of African descent. During a press conference on December 6, the delegation said it was surprised by the amount of police intervention in African communities and by the prevalence of racial insults in public places. The group stated that what it observed “does not align with the rules of a country that claims to be open and progressive.”

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Birth registration is free and mandatory and was not denied or provided on a discriminatory basis.

Child Abuse: The constitution provides for basic rights of the child, and laws protect children against, among others, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and physical and emotional neglect, and the government generally enforced the law. The Association for Victim Support reported 1,816 crimes against children younger than 18 in 2020. According to the 2018 Annual Internal Security Report (but not in the 2019 report), Romani parents exploited minor children in labor trafficking through forced street begging. A child-abuse database was accessible to law enforcement and child protection services. The government prohibits convicted child abusers from work or volunteer activities involving contact with children. It also carried out awareness campaigns against child abuse and sexual exploitation.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and men, but both sexes may marry at 16 with the consent of both parents exercising parental authority, or a guardian, or, in default of the latter, a court decision.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Statutory rape is a crime with penalties ranging up to 10 years in prison, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for legal consensual sex is 16. The law prohibits child pornography. Penalties range up to eight years in prison.

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

Estimates placed the Jewish population at 3,000 to 4,000 persons.

In January a contestant in the country’s version of the “Big Brother” reality show was expelled for repeatedly making Nazi salutes in front of his housemates. Helder Teixeira, 39, made the gesture and was repeatedly told to stop by the other contestants. Teixeira laughed and proceeded to mimic the Nazi march with his arm raised in the air, repeating the gesture days later. Following these episodes, the “Big Brother” host called all house members together and played a video of a Holocaust survivor talking about the Nazi persecution minorities faced during World War II, including Jews, Roma, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community. After telling Teixeira that joking about the Holocaust risks downplaying or trivializing the subject and that the gesture symbolized “millions of deaths,” the host expelled Teixeira from the show.

On February 7, Rodrigo Sousa Castro, one of the military generals who led the country’s 1974 revolution, posted an anti-Semitic tweet suggesting that Jewish financial domination facilitated Israel’s success in vaccinating for COVID-19. Castro tweeted that “the Jews, as they dominate global finance, bought and have all the vaccines they wanted. It’s historical revenge of sorts. And I won’t say anything more or the Zionist bulldogs will jump.” In response, Israel’s ambassador to Portugal tweeted, “As a proud Zionist bulldog, I can promise that if Israel develops a cure for COVID-19, Colonel Sousa e Castro will have access to it if needed.” Sousa Castro came under immediate fire by numerous public authorities, including the Lisbon and Porto Israeli Communities, the Portuguesa Association for Israel, and the Social Democratic Party who adopted a draft resolution in parliament on February 9 that stated, “Portugal is seeing the propagation of anti-Semitic discourse with serious insinuations.” To be an advocate of the 1974 revolution, it added, “means to honor its values.” Sousa Castro later removed the tweet, stating he had committed an “error” by engaging in a “generalization” that was not “correct” and was “abusive,” adding that “many will have the right to have been offended.”

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced the law effectively. The law mandates access to public and private buildings, information, and communication for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. There are laws requiring such access, however, access is not always available. The Portuguese Association for the Disabled (APD) reported receiving daily complaints about lack of accessibility for the disabled, such as buildings without ramps, excessively narrow and uneven sidewalks, transportation without elevator access, and public buses without wheelchair lifts. Urban public transport buses are equipped with lift platforms for seats, but these are not always operational. During election periods, the APD receives complaints about polling stations that are inaccessible to the disabled. The head of the APD told media in September that some progress has been made in recent years, but that improvements happen at a very slow pace.

Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at the same rate as other children, together with their nondisabled peers.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including with respect to essential goods and services such as housing, employment, and access to government services such as health care. The government generally enforced such laws effectively. The law allows transgender adults to update their names and gender markers in the civil registry to reflect their gender identities without having to submit a medical certificate. Transgender minors who are 16 or 17 can also update their names and gender markers in the civil registry to reflect their gender identities, but they must present a clinical report.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government generally respected these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The government effectively enforced applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denial of civil rights, such as discrimination.

While the law provides for freedom of association and collective bargaining, several restrictions limit these rights. The rights of police officers and members of the armed forces are limited. The Judiciary Police, the Foreigners and Borders Service, and prison guards may strike; the Public Security Police and the Republican National Guard may not. If a long strike occurs in a sector deemed essential, such as justice, health, energy, or transportation, the government may order strikers back to work for a specified period. Unions considered the list of essential sectors to be overly broad. Unions reported that compulsory conciliation and arbitration as prerequisites to strikes, restrictions on the scope of strikes, and restrictions on the types of strike actions permitted could limit the effectiveness of strikes.

The law requires unions to represent at least 50 percent of workers in a sector for collective bargaining units to be extended beyond the enterprise level. Public-sector employee unions have the right to discuss and consult with their employers on conditions of work, but they do not have the right to negotiate binding contracts. There remained a lack of clarity regarding criteria for union representation in the Permanent Commission for Social Partnerships, a tripartite advisory body. The law names specific unions, rather than giving participation rights to the most representative unions.

The government was generally effective in enforcing these laws. Resources, including inspections and remediation, were adequate. Penalties for violations range from fines to imprisonment and were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays or appeals.

Authorities generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Worker organizations could generally operate free from government interference. Requirements for enterprise-level bargaining by work councils sometimes prevented local union representatives from bargaining directly on behalf of workers. There were instances of employers undermining strikes using last-minute minimum-service requirements. According to labor union representatives, some workers received threats that union participation would result in negative performance reviews. In 2019 cabin crew members at Ryanair airline went on strike to protest exploitation through low wages and job insecurity, and the company threatened workers with a freeze of career prospects. The government decreed that minimum services were required during the stoppage, which the union considered an attempt to eliminate the right to strike.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law, but penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. The law places responsibility for complying with legal provisions on temporary employment agencies and employers of temporary workers. It provides that the contractor and the developer, company, or farm, as well as the respective managers, administrators, or directors, and companies with which they are connected are jointly liable for violations of the legal provisions relating to the health and safety of temporary workers and are responsible for entitlements, social security contributions, and the payment of the respective fines. Civil society, however, noted a need to strengthen monitoring and regulation of temporary employment and recruitment agencies, especially those employing and recruiting workers for agriculture, construction, and domestic service. The government did not report investigating or prosecuting any labor recruitment agencies for fraudulent recruitment or trafficking. Most victims were from India, Moldova, Pakistan, and Romania, but victims also originated from West Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Brazil.

Government resources dedicated to prevention of forced labor, including inspections and remediation, and enforcement of the law remained inadequate. Penalties ranging from three to 15 years’ imprisonment were sufficient to deter violations, but convictions remained few. Convicted offenders frequently avoided imprisonment, undercutting enforcement efforts and victim protections, according to NGOs and media. Government efforts to prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year included a countrywide awareness campaign and training security forces to identify, flag, and direct victims to assistance services. In 2020 courts convicted and sentenced 24 traffickers, compared with 26 convictions in 2019.

According to the Portuguese Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings, foreign labor trafficking victims were exploited in agriculture, construction, and domestic service, while Portuguese victims were exploited in restaurants, agriculture, and domestic service.

In May media outlets reported alleged cases of illegal immigration networks and slave labor in the Alentejo town of Odemira. The majority of the 9,600 legal immigrants living in Odemira were from Nepal and India, with several hundred additional from Bulgaria, Thailand, and Germany, according to data from the SEF. The SEF reported 32 investigations underway into human trafficking, hiring of illegal labor, document falsification, and fraudulent relations to obtain document legalization in Alentejo against 17 farm owners. In addition the Odemira Public Prosecutor’s Office claimed it was conducting more than a dozen investigations into alleged aid for illegal immigration for exploiting labor. Since 2018 authorities arrested 11 suspects in connection to labor exploitation and identified 134 victims of human trafficking in the Alentejo, according to the SEF.

Traffickers subjected children to forced labor (see section 7.c.).

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at 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. The statutory minimum age for employment is 16. The law prohibits the employment of persons younger than 18 at night, for overtime work, or in sectors considered hazardous. The Working Conditions Authority (ACT) in the Ministry of Solidarity, Employment, and Social Security has primary responsibility for enforcement of the minimum age law and enforced it effectively in major industries and the service sector. The government effectively enforced the applicable laws and penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Resources and inspections were adequate.

Child labor occurred in very limited cases. Children of Romani descent were subjected to labor trafficking through forced begging and forced criminality by coercing them to commit property crimes (also see section 6, Children). Sub-Saharan trafficking networks increasingly used the country as a route into the Schengen area to exploit children in sex trafficking and forced labor.

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

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation, and the government effectively enforced these laws. Penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

The law requires equal pay for equal work. According to the Ministry of Solidarity, Employment, and Social Security, however, women’s average salaries were approximately 14.4 percent lower than those of men. On January 16, the government announced the Equality Platform and Standard, a government project to combat inequalities between women and men in the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage covers full-time workers, rural workers, and domestic employees who are at least 18 years of age and is above the poverty income level.

The legal workday may not exceed 10 hours, and the maximum workweek is 40 hours. The public sector has a 35-hour workweek. The maximum is two hours of paid overtime per day and 200 hours of overtime per year, with a minimum of 12 hours’ rest between workdays. Premium pay for overtime worked on a rest day or public holiday is 100 percent; overtime performed on a normal working day is paid at a premium of 50 percent for the first hour and 75 percent for subsequent time worked. Unions raised concerns regarding working hour provisions on flexibility schemes and time banking, which the government noted were designed to make working hours more flexible and increase productivity.

ACT was responsible for enforcement of minimum wage, which was above the poverty level, and for hours of work and safety standards in the formal sector. ACT effectively enforced these measures. Resources, inspections, and remediation were adequate. Penalties ranged from fines to prison sentences, were commensurate with those for similar crimes, and were sufficient to deter violations and to enforce compliance. Inspectors had authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions and did not face moratoriums on inspections during the year.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards set by ACT were current and appropriate.

The government effectively enforced occupational safety and health (OSH) laws, and penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence. ACT reported 37 deaths from work-related accidents in the first five months of the year, with the construction sector being the most affected (15 cases), followed by the manufacturing sector (10 cases). Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

Workers have the right to lodge confidential grievances with ACT regarding hazardous conditions or circumstances they believe endanger their health. Inspectors have the right to conduct inspections at any private or public company at any time without warning, and they may shut down a workplace or a business permanently or temporarily if there is imminent danger to the workers’ health or safety. Workers are registered with social security services, whose funds cover their mandatory insurance for occupational diseases and work-related accidents. ACT conducts studies on labor accidents, salaries, and working conditions. It may impose administrative penalties and file lawsuits against employers. It has the right to access company records, files, and archives, and it may provide mediation services to resolve individual or group labor disputes. Labor enforcement tended to be less rigorous in sectors such as construction and agriculture, where there were many small or family businesses and where most immigrant workers were employed, according to NGOs.

Informal Sector: Information on enforcement of the law in the small informal economy was not available.

Romania

Executive Summary

Romania is a constitutional republic with a democratic, multiparty parliamentary system. The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, both elected by popular vote. Observers considered the 2019 presidential election and December 2020 parliamentary elections to have been generally free and fair.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police, the gendarmerie, border police, the General Directorate for Internal Protection, and the Directorate General for Anticorruption. The General Directorate for Internal Protection is responsible for intelligence gathering, counterintelligence, and preventing and combatting vulnerabilities and risks that could seriously disrupt public order or target Ministry of Internal Affairs operations. The directorate reports to the minister of interior. The Romanian Intelligence Service, the domestic security agency, investigates terrorism and national security threats. The service reports to the Supreme Council of National Defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the intelligence service and the security agencies that reported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; widespread serious official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence and sexual violence; and abuses targeting institutionalized persons with disabilities.

The judiciary took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, but authorities did not have effective mechanisms to do so and delayed proceedings involving alleged police abuse and corruption, with the result that many of the cases ended in acquittals. Impunity for perpetrators of some human rights abuses was a continuing problem.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. Nevertheless, corrupt practices remained widespread despite several high-profile prosecutions. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, sometimes with impunity.

Corruption: Corruption and misuse of public funds were widespread. For example, on October 13, investigative journalists at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published a report alleging that the sitting mayor of Bucharest Section 3, Robert Negoita, had between 2012 and 2014 funneled 83 million euros ($95.5 million) in public funds to a network of offshore companies linked to his family. In November former Social Democratic Party senator and minister of transportation Dan Sova received a four-year prison sentence from the Bucharest Court of Appeal for influence peddling. According to the National Anticorruption Directorate, between October 2011 and July 2014, the former minister received 100,000 euros ($115,000) from a law firm in exchange for using his influence over the director of a public company to conclude several legal counseling contracts with that law firm. Investigators alleged that this arrangement resulted in the public company paying more than 1.3 million lei ($307,000) to the law firm.

Bribery was common in the public sector, especially in health care. Individual executive agencies were slow in enforcing sanctions, and agencies’ own inspection bodies were generally inactive. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Anticorruption Directorate launched several investigations into procurement fraud related to purchasing personal protective equipment and ventilators. These investigations were ongoing. On September 21, the National Anticorruption Directorate also launched an investigation of the potential misuse of public funds for the government’s decision to purchase 120 million doses of COVID vaccine for an adult population of approximately 14 million persons. The investigation was ongoing and did not name any specific individuals.

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 generally met with human rights NGOs and were cooperative and sometimes responsive to their views.

The Center for Legal Resources, an NGO that regularly visits centers for persons with disabilities and reports on alleged abuses observed during the visits, reported that directors of centers for persons with disabilities refused to grant the center’s staff access to documents on the medical, legal, and sociopsychological status of the centers’ residents despite an agreement with the Ministry of Labor granting the center the right to access such documents.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsperson has limited power and no authority to protect citizens’ constitutional rights in cases requiring judicial action. The ombudsperson is the national preventive mechanism implementing the optional protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. This gives the ombudsperson the power to conduct monitoring visits to places where individuals are deprived of their liberty, including prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and asylum centers.

The Office of the Children’s Ombudsperson is empowered to examine human rights complaints made by children or their legal representatives. The Council for Monitoring the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was authorized to make unannounced visits in centers and hospitals for persons with disabilities to check if the rights of these persons were respected, issue recommendations, and submit criminal complaints. Observers reported the council’s recommendations and reports were inaccurate and noted that conditions had not improved significantly since the council’s establishment in 2016. Human rights activists and media regarded the institution as ineffective and believed that the inspectors who drafted the reports lacked the necessary human rights expertise.

Each chamber of parliament has a human rights committee tasked with drafting reports on bills pertaining to human rights.

The National Council for Combating Discrimination is the government agency responsible for applying domestic and EU antidiscrimination laws. The National Council reports to parliament. It operated with the government’s cooperation and, for the most part, without government interference. Observers generally regarded the National Council as effective, but some criticized it for a lack of efficiency and political independence.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, of both women and men, is illegal. The law provides for five to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape and two to seven years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. If there are no aggravating circumstances and the attack did not lead to death, police and prosecutors may not pursue a case on their own, but they require a survivor’s complaint, even if there is independent physical evidence. In some cases the government did not enforce the law on rape and domestic violence.

Several human rights activists reported that some police officers tried to dissuade survivors of rape or domestic violence from pressing charges against their aggressors and, in some cases, refused to register criminal complaints submitted by victims. In some instances, police delayed action against sexual abusers. According to media reports, after being notified regarding cases of domestic violence, some members of police ignored the problem or tried to mediate between the victims and their aggressors.

The law classifies family violence as a separate offense and stipulates that when murder, battery, or other serious violence is committed against a family member, the penalty is increased. The law also states that, if the parties reconcile, criminal liability is removed. The law on equal opportunities for men and women includes cyberviolence among the forms of domestic violence and defines it as the occurrence of online harassment, online messages that incite hate based on gender criteria, or the nonconsensual publication of private graphic content that aims to humiliate, scare, threaten, or reduce victims to silence. The FILIA Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development – an NGO that aims to promote gender equality – stated that there were no regulations to implement these amendments.

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, continued to be a serious problem that the government did not effectively address. The law provides for the issuance of provisional restraining orders by police for a maximum of five days and restraining orders by a court for a maximum of six months upon the survivor’s request or at the request of a prosecutor, the state representative in charge of protecting survivors of family violence, or, if the survivor agrees, a social service provider. Violation of a restraining order is punishable by imprisonment for six months to five years, but the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development stated that some judges may issue lesser sentences because of overlapping legislation. The court may also order an abuser to undergo psychological counseling. The center stated that police lacked procedures for the implementation and monitoring of restraining orders. A law that entered into force in May established an electronic monitoring system for individuals under a restraining order. The law directs police and the National Administration for Penitentiaries to procure the necessary hardware and make the monitoring system operational by March 2022.

Courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic violence. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when the alleged survivors dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abuser.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: According to reports by media and NGOs, bride kidnapping occurred in some communities and was underreported. On August 22, Buzau County police started a criminal investigation for illegal deprivation of liberty against several persons who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl with the intention of forcing her to marry a 19-year-old man. On July 2, the Constanta Court issued a nonfinal ruling sentencing three persons to three and four years’ imprisonment for illegal deprivation of liberty after they attempted to kidnap a 16-year-old girl to force her into marriage. According to media reports, the girl’s family had promised to arrange a marriage between her and one of the kidnappers’ sons, but the girl refused the arrangement.

Sexual Harassment: Criminal law prohibits sexual harassment, which it defines as repeatedly asking for sexual favors in a work or similar relationship. A victim’s complaint is necessary to initiate a criminal investigation. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment of three months to one year. The law on equal opportunities for women and men defines sexual harassment as the occurrence of unwanted behavior with a sexual connotation, which can be expressed physically, verbally, or nonverbally and has the effect or result of damaging a person’s dignity and, in particular the creation of a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment. The government did not enforce the law effectively. According to reports by NGOs, police often mocked victims of sexual harassment or tried to discourage them from pressing charges.

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

According to several NGOs and observers, there were infrastructure and information barriers to an individual’s ability to maintain his or her reproductive health, including the lack of community health care and age-appropriate sex education for adolescents. Some women, especially those from poor, rural, or Romani communities, had difficulty accessing reproductive health services due to a lack of information, ethnic discrimination, and poverty. According to the NGO Mothers for Mothers, 25 percent of pregnant women consulted a physician for the first time only after the onset of labor.

Access to government-funded contraception and family planning services was limited because of insufficient funding and training for health professionals. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2020, 71.8 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied by modern methods of contraception. According to a report released by Save the Children Romania in February, of the 199,720 births in 2019, 17,933 occurred among mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, while 749 occurred among mothers younger than 15. NGOs, health professionals, and social workers identified underreported child sex abuse and limited access to information regarding reproductive health and contraception as the leading factors contributing to high teenage pregnancy rates. Several NGOs reported that the school curriculum lacked sufficient lessons on reproductive health. Parent and religious associations regularly thwarted attempts to introduce such lessons into the curriculum.

Observers reported that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some maternity hospitals were open only for patients infected with COVID-19, making access to reproductive and prenatal care more difficult. Although home birth is not prohibited by law, regulations forbid health professionals from providing home birth services. According to UNICEF, skilled health personnel attended 94.8 percent of deliveries in 2018.

The government provided access to some sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence, but some women had difficulties accessing these services. Emergency contraceptives were available in pharmacies without a prescription, but according to the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development, they were not affordable for all women.

Discrimination: Under the law women and men have equal rights. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. Segregation by profession existed, with women overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. There were reports of discrimination in employment. Women experienced discrimination in access to pension benefits and retirement (see section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Under the law discrimination and harassment based on ethnic or racial criteria is punishable by a civil fine unless criminal legal provisions are applicable. According to the criminal code, public incitement to hatred or discrimination against a category of persons is punishable by imprisonment or a criminal fine. Special laws criminalize the spread of anti-Semitic or anti-Roma ideas and symbols, as well as ideas and symbols related to fascist, racist, and xenophobic ideologies. Committing any crime on basis of the victim’s ethnicity or race represents an aggravating circumstance, which carries a higher penalty. Prosecutions based on discrimination and violence against racial or ethnic minorities were rare.

Romani groups complained that there were instances of police harassment and brutality, including beatings. On May 3, according to the RomaJust Association of Roma Lawyers, police detained two Romani persons and took them to the police precinct in Baia village, Tulcea County. At the precinct, police officers severely beat and humiliated the two Roma for hours and used racial slurs against them. According to RomaJust, the victims suffered multiple injuries that took two months to heal. RomaJust reported that prosecutors started an investigation against police, which revealed that police officers from the area had a habit of beating Roma suspected of committing crimes.

Discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem. NGOs reported Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, some public places. Roma also experienced poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, and inadequate health care. According to a report released by the ADHR-HC in December 2020, Roma faced discrimination in the criminal justice system. Some lawyers refused to defend Romani persons, while police, prosecutors, and judges held negative stereotypes of Roma.

A lack of identity documents excluded many Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. According to the Ministry of Interior, as of October, 63,777 persons older than 14 residing in the country did not have valid identity documents. Romani rights activists reported that most of these persons were Roma who could not acquire legal identity documents because they resided in informal settlements and housing. Roma had a higher unemployment rate and a lower life expectancy than non-Roma. Negative stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread.

Despite an order by the Ministry of Education forbidding segregation of Romani students, several NGOs, including the Center for Advocacy and Human Rights, continued to report that segregation along ethnic lines persisted in schools. The Center for Legal Resources reported that some teachers used discriminatory language against Romani students. Media and NGOs reported that on June 3, a sixth-grade student of Romani ethnicity threw himself out of a second-floor window of his school following repeated discrimination by his teacher and classmates.

Researchers and activists reported a significant number of the remaining Romani Holocaust survivors who applied for a pension were denied because of unreasonable administrative barriers raised by the pension offices, problematic standards, lack of knowledge regarding the Holocaust and Roma, and burdensome requirements. According to researchers, despite historical evidence, in hundreds of cases, authorities considered that Roma were resettled and not deported, and consequently granted them smaller pensions.

Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related mainly to the use of the Hungarian language. Ethnic Hungarians reported that the government did not enforce the law that states that ethnic minorities are entitled to interact with local governments in their native language in localities where a minority constitutes at least 20 percent of the population. There were continued reports that local authorities did not enforce the law requiring localities with at least a 20 percent minority population to have bilingual road signs. On July 19, media reported that a doctor in the Satu Mare County Emergency Hospital berated an elderly ethnic-Hungarian woman for speaking Hungarian while at the hospital. The patient, who spoke poor Romanian, was struggling to explain her symptoms to the doctor. According to the results of the most recent census, 37.6 percent of the population in Satu Mare County was ethnic Hungarian. The management of the Satu Mare County Emergency Hospital initiated disciplinary proceedings against the doctor.

In February unknown persons vandalized the Hungarian writing on a welcome sign located in the city of Cluj-Napoca and painted the Romanian flag on the Monument of Szekler Martyrs in the city of Targu Mures that commemorates several Hungarian revolutionaries. During a rally on March 29 in the city of Pitesti by the Alliance for the Unity of Romania Party, several hundred participants chanted, “Hungarians out of the country!” The Miko Imre Association for Minority Rights stated that government authorities have not provided forms and information related to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Hungarian.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth from at least one citizen parent. Although birth registration is mandatory by law, it was not universal, and authorities denied some children public services as a result. Most unregistered children had access to schools, and authorities assisted in obtaining birth documents for unregistered children, but the education of unregistered children depended on the decision of school authorities. The law provides simplified birth registration for children whose mothers do not have proper documentation to register their children.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits violence against children, but this has not been interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment. Child abuse, including emotional, physical, and psychological violence and neglect, continued to be serious problems. Media outlets reported several severe cases of abuse or neglect in family homes, foster care, and child-welfare institutions. In January media outlets carried a video recording showing an educator employed by a residential center for minors in Rosiorii de Vede, Teleorman County, humiliating, hitting, and inappropriately touching several institutionalized children. According to a report by the NGO Save the Children Romania, parents widely use corporal punishment to discipline children. The government has not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for both men and women, but the law permits minors as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was reportedly common in certain social groups, particularly among some Romani communities. NGOs reported cases of Roma girls as young as 11 being sold into marriage by their families. Child protection authorities and police did not always intervene in such cases. There were no public policies to discourage child marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides one- to 12-year prison sentences for persons convicted of sexual acts with minors, depending on the circumstances and the child’s age. Sexual intercourse with a minor who is 14 to 16 years of age is punishable by a one- to five-year prison sentence. Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 14 is punishable by a two- to nine-year prison sentence and deprivation of some rights. The law also criminalizes sexual corruption of minors (which includes subjecting minors to sexual acts other than intercourse or forcing minors to perform such acts), luring minors for sexual purposes or commercial sex, and trafficking of minors. Pimping and pandering that involve minors is an aggravated circumstance and increases sentences by 50 percent. The law allows authorities to maintain a registry of individuals who committed sexual offenses against or exploited adults and children. Child pornography is a separate offense and carries a sentence, depending on the circumstances, of up to seven years’ imprisonment. The maximum sentence is increased to nine years if the perpetrator was a family member or guardian or if the child’s life was endangered.

In July the Judicial Inspectorate, an autonomous disciplinary unit within the Superior Council of Magistrates, released a report on the way the justice system handled cases of child sex abuse. According to the findings, prosecutorial offices and courts had different opinions on the age of consent, and consequently, in some cases, sexual intercourse with minors as young as 12 was treated as the lesser crime of sexual acts with minors instead of rape. Child-protection NGOs noted that some judges lacked awareness of the issue and showed bias against victims, who often come from socially disadvantaged groups. Investigators found it hard to prove sexual coercion of minors because of a lack of infrastructure, such as child-friendly interview rooms and the use of widely recognized methodologies developed by child psychologists to conduct forensic interviews with underage victims.

Institutionalized Children: During the year there were several media reports of abuses in centers for institutionalized children, including sexual abuse, physical violence and degrading treatment by colleagues or staff, and trafficking in persons. Numerous reports noted a lack of adequate food, clothing, medical treatment, and counselling services. Lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, insufficient food, and lack of physical therapy was a problem in many residential centers for children with disabilities.

On January 5, the president of the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoption (ANDPDCA) released a video showing employees of a placement center in the town of Voluntari physically abusing a child and threatening him with psychiatric detention. The ANDPDCA president stated that staff in centers for residential institutions frequently threatened children with calling an ambulance to take them to psychiatric facilities where they would receive psychotropic drugs. According to several NGOs, including the Center for Legal Resources, psychiatrists administered psychotropic drugs to thousands of children in residential institutions or in foster care, including to those with disruptive behavior and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

By law unaccompanied migrant children are held in placement centers, where they have access to education and benefits other children receive. The detention of families with children is allowed by law, with preservation of family unity used as justification. Several such cases were recorded during the year.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to the 2011 census, the Jewish population numbered 3,271. Representatives of the Jewish community stated that the Jewish population numbered approximately 7,000. Acts of anti-Semitism occurred during the year.

On September 12, media outlets reported that unknown persons vandalized a memorial located in the northern city of Bistrita, dedicated to the Jews who were deported to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Several of the victims’ names written on the memorial were covered with paint or scratched.

On March 3, National Liberal Party member of parliament Daniel Gheorghe delivered remarks in parliament glorifying Mircea Vulcanescu. Mircea Vulcanescu was a convicted war criminal who, according to the Wiesel Institute, supported anti-Semitic policies as a cabinet member in the government of WWII leader Ion Antonescu. During a March 8 Senate session, Alliance for the Unity of Romanians senator Sorin Lavric made anti-Semitic statements referring to a conspiracy theory that Jews initiated and promoted communism. Lavric’s statements were made in response to Jewish member of parliament Silviu Vexler’s criticism of statements made by some members of parliament, including Lavric, that glorified Holocaust-era war criminals and members of the Legionnaire movement. The Alliance for the Unity of Romanians posted Lavric’s speech on its official Facebook page and described it as part of the fight for the country’s history and the nation’s soul.

On March 18, the director of the Jewish State Theater, Maia Morgenstern, stated on social media that during a meeting with representatives of public theaters and cultural institutions, one of the participants used anti-Semitic slurs. On March 27, Morgenstern received via email a letter that included anti-Semitic slurs and death threats against her children, as well as threats to set fire to the Jewish State Theater. On March 29, police announced that they had identified the author of the threats, placed him under judicial supervision, and initiated a criminal investigation. In a declaration adopted on March 31, the parliament stated that anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise and condemned attempts to glorify Holocaust-era war criminals and the threats received by Morgenstern.

Streets, organizations, schools, or libraries continued to be named after persons convicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity, according to the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania. For example, Radu Gyr was a commander and anti-Semitic ideologist of the fascist Legionnaire movement convicted of war crimes. The Wiesel Institute requested the renaming of Radu Gyr Street in Cluj-Napoca. As of October the local government had not changed the name of the street.

Material promoting anti-Semitic views and glorifying the Legionnaire movement appeared on the internet. According to a study released by the Wiesel Institute in April, several articles published online claimed that Jews or the state of Israel were profiting from the COVID-19 health crisis and manufacturing harmful vaccines. According to the same study, most anti-Semitic hate speech on social media included Jewish conspiracy theories.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Laws and regulations mandate that buildings and public transportation be accessible for persons with disabilities. The government did not fully implement the law, and discrimination against persons with disabilities remained a problem. Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Streets, buildings, and public transportation remained largely inaccessible to persons with disabilities.

Discrimination against children with disabilities in education was a widespread problem due to lack of adequate teacher training on inclusion of children with disabilities and lack of investment to make schools accessible. According to official data, 40 percent of children with disabilities were either placed in segregated schools or not placed in school at all. According to a report drafted by the World Bank for the National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoption, which was released in December 2020, only 21 percent of middle schools had appropriate access ramps, while 64 percent of schools needed an elevator to ensure access for students with locomotive disabilities.

Limited access to justice for persons with disabilities continued to be a problem. According to a World Bank report released in December 2020, persons with disabilities faced several obstacles in the justice system, including inaccessible buildings, lack of access to information or communication, bias by employees of the justice system, legal procedures that were not adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities, and higher fees and costs related to legal services. In 2020 the Constitutional Court deemed legislation that allowed conservatorship unconstitutional because it did not include safeguards to ensure respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, had no possibility of periodic review, and did not differentiate the degree of incapacitation. Persons with disabilities placed under conservatorship did not have the right to liberty or the rights to work, vote, or consent to medical procedures. The NGO Center for Legal Resources reported that despite the Constitutional Court’s decision, as of October conservatorship for persons with disabilities had not been lifted.

The Center for Legal Resources identified a series of problems in centers for persons with disabilities or psychiatric hospitals, including verbal and physical abuse of children and adults, sedation, excessive use of physical restraints, lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, and lack of adequate medical care. According to media and Center for Legal Resources reports, on August 1, an employee of a government-managed center for persons with disabilities in Calinesti, Prahova County, gathered approximately 30 residents in the institution’s courtyard to discipline them. The employee then hit two of the residents several times. On August 4, the center’s medical staff called an ambulance to take one of the assaulted residents to the hospital. On August 5, the resident died after being released from the hospital. The Center for Legal Resources investigated the incident and found that residents did not have access to means of communication to notify authorities of the physical punishments and abuses. According to the center, between August 1 and August 4, its employees did not notify authorities regarding the violent episode and did not request a medical examination for the injured resident. Authorities arrested the suspect, and as of November a criminal investigation was ongoing.

In February 2020 the Center for Legal Resources released the conclusions of a visit made at a residential center for persons with disabilities located in the city of Husi, Vaslui County. There were reasonable suspicions that the residents of the center were subjected to physical punishment and verbal abuse. The NGO also discovered unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, and lack of basic personal hygiene products. As of November the prosecutor’s office attached to the Huși First Instance Court was conducting a criminal investigation for illegal deprivation of liberty.

The National Authority for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Children, and Adoptions under the Labor Ministry coordinated services for persons with disabilities and drafted policies, strategies, and standards in the field of disabilities rights.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS impeded their access to routine medical and dental care because in some cases medical staff refused to treat persons with HIV or AIDS.

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

The LGBTQI+ rights NGO ACCEPT reported that as of October a criminal investigation was pending against several police officers who allegedly abused a transgender woman. According to ACCEPT, in December 2020 several members of the Bucharest police forcefully removed the woman from a bus following a verbal argument she had with passengers who harassed her. Police restrained her, threw her on the ground, handcuffed her, and forced her into their car. The victim stated that while in custody, police made transphobic and homophobic remarks, used physical violence, threatened to intern her in a psychiatric hospital, and took pictures while humiliating her.

According to ACCEPT, hate crimes were severely underreported and authorities have not initiated prosecution in any reported LGBTQI+ hate crime case since 2006.

A survey of LGBTQI+ persons carried out by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency in 2020 revealed that 15 percent of respondents had experienced a physical or sexual attack motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity during the previous five years. Of the respondents who described the most recent physical or sexual attacks, only 4 percent reported the incidents to authorities due to fear of discrimination. As many as 28 percent of respondents indicated fear of a homophobic reaction, transphobic reaction, or both from police as the reason for not reporting a physical or sexual attack.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. NGOs reported that societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons was common but severely underreported. The legal provisions governing legal gender recognition for transgender persons were vague and incomplete. In some cases authorities refused legal gender recognition unless an individual had first undergone sex reassignment surgery.

In January the ECHR ruled on a case involving two transgender persons who, between 2013 and 2017, requested the courts to recognize their gender identity. The ECHR noted that the government’s refusal to legally recognize the applicants’ gender reassignment in the absence of sex reassignment surgery amounted to unjustified interference with their right to respect for their private life.

Access to adequate psychological and health services was also limited because some psychologists refused to accept transgender patients and medical staff discriminated against them. Intersex individuals faced several challenges, including extreme social stigma and frequent distrust of doctors, that deterred them from seeking medical treatment. In September the mayor of the city of Iasi tried to cancel a pride march organized by the LGBTQI+ rights NGOs ACCEPT and Rise Out by withholding final approval of the event and citing religious reasons and public opposition. Eventually, the march took place on October 1, as planned by the organizers.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent labor unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Unions can affiliate with regional, national, or EU union federations, but they may affiliate with only one national organization. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and allows workers fired for union activity to challenge their dismissal in court for reinstatement. The law provides for protection of freedom of association and collective bargaining, but unions complained there was little enforcement to protect against violations of these rights.

Civil servants generally have the right to establish and join unions. Employees of the Ministry of National Defense, certain categories of civilian employees of the Ministries of Interior and Justice, judges, prosecutors, intelligence personnel, and senior public servants, including the president, parliamentarians, mayors, prime minister, ministers, employees involved in security-related activities, and the president of the Supreme Court, however, do not have the right to unionize. Unions complained regarding the requirement to submit lists of union members with their registration application. Since employers also had access to the list, union officials feared this could lead to reprisals against individual unionized employees, particularly dismissals, and hinder the formation of new unions.

The law requires employers with more than 21 employees to negotiate a collective labor agreement but provides no basis for national collective labor agreements. Employers refusing to initiate negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement can receive fines. The law permits, but does not impose, collective labor agreements for groups of employers or sectors of activity. The law requires employers to consult with unions on such topics as imposing leave without pay or reducing the workweek due to economic reasons.

Unions may strike only if they give employers 48 hours’ notice, and employers may challenge the right in court, effectively suspending a strike for months. Although not compulsory, unions and employers may seek arbitration and mediation from the Labor Ministry’s Office for Mediation and Arbitration. Unions criticized the Labor Ministry for failing to intervene effectively in cases involving arbitration and mediation efforts.

Companies may claim damages from strike organizers if a court deems a strike illegal. The law permits strikes only in defense of workers’ economic, social, and professional interests and not for the modification or change of a law. As a result workers may not challenge any condition of work established by law, such as salaries for public servants, limiting the effectiveness of unions in the public sector.

Unions complained that the legal requirement for representativeness, which states that the right to collective bargaining and to strike can be asserted only by a union that represents 50 percent plus one of the workers in an enterprise, was overly burdensome and limited the rights of workers to participate in collective bargaining and to strike. In the absence of this clear majority, an employer may appoint a worker representative of its choosing to negotiate agreements. It is common for companies to create separate legal entities to which they then transfer employees, thereby preventing them from reaching the necessary threshold for representation.

Unions complained regarding the government’s general prohibition on union engagement in political activities, intended to prevent unofficial agreements to support political parties, due to past abuses by union officials.

Official reports of incidents of antiunion discrimination remained minimal. It is difficult to prove legally that employers laid off employees in retaliation for union activities. The government did not effectively enforce the law; however, penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations when enforcement was successful. The National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) fines employers for antiunion discrimination, although it lacks the power to order reinstatement or other penalties, and employees usually must seek a court order to obtain reinstatement. The law prohibits public authorities, employers, or organizations from interfering, limiting, or preventing unions from organizing, developing internal regulations, and selecting representatives.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Nevertheless, there were reports that such practices continued to occur, often involving Romani, persons with disabilities, and children. The government did not effectively enforce the law and took limited measures to prevent forced or compulsory labor. The law criminalizes forced labor, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those of other serious crimes, such as kidnapping, but were not evenly applied in all sectors.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 16 percent of human-trafficking victims officially identified in 2020 were exploited specifically for labor purposes. In 2019 organized-crime investigators detained five individuals on charges of modern slavery. The individuals were accused of having kidnapped and detained several persons with a vulnerable background or mental-health problems; the victims were used for agricultural work without pay, starved, and forced to live in inadequate farm annexes. This case remained pending as of December.

Men, women, and children were subjected to labor trafficking in agriculture, construction, domestic service, hotels, and manufacturing. Organized rings, often involving family members, forced persons, including significant numbers of Romani women and children, to engage in begging and petty theft (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for most forms of employment is 16. Children may work with the consent of parents or guardians at the age of 15 if the activities do not endanger their health, morality, or safety. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working in hazardous conditions, includes a list of dangerous jobs, and specifies penalties for offenders. Some examples of hazardous jobs for children include those posing a high risk of accident or damage to health, exposure to psychological or sexual risk, night shifts, exposure to harmful temperatures, and those requiring use of hazardous equipment. Parents whose children carry out hazardous activities are required to attend parental education programs or counseling and may be fined if they fail to do so.

Minors who work have the right to continue their education, and the law obliges employers to assist in this regard. Minors between the ages of 15 and 18 may work a maximum of six hours per day and no more than 30 hours per week, provided their school attendance is not affected. Businesses that impose tasks incommensurate with minors’ physical abilities or fail to respect restrictions on minors’ working hours can face fines. Many minors reportedly did not attend school while working. Minors have the right to an additional three days of annual leave.

The law requires schools to notify social services immediately if children miss class to work, but schools often did not comply. Social welfare services have the responsibility to reintegrate such children into the educational system.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection may impose fines and close businesses where it finds exploitation of child labor. The National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and Adoption (ANDPDCA) in the Labor Ministry has responsibility for investigating reports of child labor abuse, but enforcement of child labor laws tended to be lax, especially in rural areas with many agricultural households and where social welfare services lacked personnel and capacity to address child labor violations. The ANDPDCA is responsible for monitoring and coordinating all programs for the prevention and elimination of child labor.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Resources were inadequate, but penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes like kidnapping. Government efforts focused on reacting to reported cases, and ANPDCA dedicated limited resources to prevention programs. According to ANPDCA, 220 children were subject to child labor in 2020, and 35 children were subject to child labor between January and March.

Incidents of child labor were widely believed to be much higher than official statistics. Child labor, including begging, selling trinkets on the street, and washing windshields, remained widespread in Romani communities, especially in urban areas. Children as young as five frequently engaged in such activities, but instances were frequently underreported because official statistics were limited to cases documented by police. Children whose parents worked abroad remained vulnerable to neglect and abuse. During the year the Labor Inspectorate identified four employers who exploited seasonally employed minors in the hospitality industry along the Black Sea coast, although media reports indicated additional, unreported cases. Of the 220 documented cases of child labor in 2020, authorities prosecuted alleged perpetrators in 13 cases, while an additional 103 cases remained under investigation at the end of 2020. Between January and March, 35 child labor abuse cases were investigated; of these, three were closed, 32 were still in progress, and no new criminal investigations were opened.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation because of race, sex, gender, age, religion, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive or other communicable disease status, social status, or refugee or stateless status. The government did not enforce these laws effectively, reacting to claims of discrimination rather than adequately engaging in programs to prevent discrimination. Penalties for violations were in general commensurate with those for other types of discrimination, but they were insufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, and HIV status. Discrimination against Romani and migrant workers also occurred. The CNCD investigated employment discrimination cases in both the public and private sectors. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, media reported several cases of medical staff being discriminated against by neighbors and denied access to local shops. Following media reports, there was a wave of public support for the medical staff in question.

The law mandates equal remuneration for work of equal value. Eurostat reports the pay gap between men and women in the country was 3.3 percent in 2019. While the law provides female employees reentering the workforce after maternity leave the right to return to their previous or a similar job, pregnant women and other women of childbearing age still suffered unacknowledged discrimination in the labor market.

There was no systemic integration of persons with disabilities into the workforce, and public bias against persons with disabilities persisted. While NGOs worked to change attitudes and assist persons with disabilities in gaining skills and employment, the government lacked adequate programs to prevent discrimination. The law requires companies or institutions with more than 50 employees to employ workers with disabilities for at least 4 percent of their workforce or pay a fine for lack of compliance, which many companies chose to do. In November 2020 the government re-established “sheltered” or “protected units,” enterprises that employ at least three persons with disabilities who represent at least 30 percent of the overall staff and contribute at least 50 percent of the cumulated full-time work hours. Local labor offices had limited success in facilitating employment for persons with disabilities.

NGOs reported that patients suffering from cancer and tuberculosis faced discrimination in the workplace. In 2019 almost one-third of employees with cancer reported they postponed informing their employer of their illness until after treatment, and 17 percent reported a substantial reduction in job duties and responsibilities upon returning to work. The law supports tuberculosis patients by providing monthly food allowances, medical leave, and psychological support but does not contain measures to protect patients from workplace discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage that is greater than the official estimate for the poverty income level and has nearly tripled in nominal terms since 2012. Approximately one in three employees earned the minimum wage according to the labor ministry. Despite minimum wage increases, 14.9 percent of employed Romanians remained at risk of poverty. During the year the country’s courts ruled in favor of female clothing-factory workers who reported unjustified 50 percent wage cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving public pressure to investigate the allegations, officials confirmed inaccurate shift reporting, unpaid mandatory social insurance contributions, unpaid overtime wages, and worker harassment and intimidation.

The law provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours or five days. Workers are entitled to overtime pay for weekend or holiday work or work of more than 40 hours. An employee’s workweek may not exceed 48 hours per week on average over a four-month reference period, although exceptions are allowed for certain sectors or professions. The law requires a 48-hour rest period in the workweek, although most workers received two days off per week. During reductions in workplace activity for economic or technical reasons, the law allows employers to shorten an employee’s workweek and reduce the associated salary.

In response to COVID-19 restrictions, the government extended the category of eligible furlough (technical unemployment) benefits to independently registered businesspersons, lawyers, and individuals with income deriving from copyright and sports activities. The government adopted a flexible work plan modeled after Germany’s Kurzarbeit (flexible work) program with the aim of retaining employees on payrolls with joint government and employer contributions. The plan required employers to cover half of full-time wages and the Romanian government to pay 75 percent of the difference between the gross wage and the basic wage paid to the employee, based on the number of hours worked. Kurzarbeit and technical unemployment support was extended in July and was expected to remain in effect through the pandemic state of emergency.

Excessive overtime may lead to fines for employers if workers file a complaint, but complaints were rare. The law prohibits compulsory overtime. Starting during the year, the law allows for one of two caretakers of children to receive paid days off for periods when schools are closed; the income is capped at maximum 75 percent of the average economy wage.

In July, 13 members of the Cartel Alfa trade union led a protest caravan from Bucharest to Brussels regarding low wages and poor working conditions in Romania. The protest highlighted the concerns of more than four million Romanians seeking work in other EU countries due to limited opportunities in Romania who were often vulnerable to labor exploitation as migrant workers.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, through the Labor Inspectorate, is responsible for enforcing the law on working conditions, hours, and minimum wage rates, but it did not effectively enforce all aspects consistently. Penalties for violations of these laws were commensurate with those for other similar crimes but were not consistently applied. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and initiate sanctions, but the number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance in all sectors.

According to trade union reports, many employers paid supplemental salaries under the table to reduce tax burdens for employees and employers alike. Additionally, the Labor Inspectorate collaborated with the National Authority for Fiscal Administration to conduct joint operations to check employers in sectors prone to underreported labor, including the textile, construction, security, cleaning, food-preparation, transportation, and storage industries. These investigations often focused on underpayment of taxes rather than workers’ rights.

The government did not effectively enforce overtime standards. Union leaders complained that overtime violations were the main problem facing their members, since employers often required employees to work longer than the legal maximum without receiving mandatory overtime compensation. This practice was especially prevalent in the textile, banking and finance, and construction sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate for the main industries, but compliance and enforcement remained weak. Workers can remove themselves from situations they deemed dangerous to their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The labor inspectorate also had authority over occupational safety and health laws; however, not all workplace accidents were investigated by labor inspectors. Companies investigated minor incidents, while labor inspectors investigated more severe ones, typically those that resulted in fatalities or serious injuries. If appropriate, incidents may be referred for criminal investigation. Union leaders often claimed labor inspectors only superficially investigated workplace accidents, including ones involving fatalities, and that inspectors often wrongly concluded that the victims were at fault in most fatal accidents. In 2019 the country reported three deaths per 100,000 employees resulting from accidents at work.

The construction, agriculture, and small manufacturers sectors were particularly problematic sectors for both labor underreporting and neglecting health and safety standards. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws. Penalties for violations of these laws were commensurate with those for other similar crimes but were not consistently applied. In November 2021, four persons died at the Babeni Mechanical Factory after explosive products were handled poorly. In August 2021, two workers died and four were hurt on a construction site in Bucharest city center, after a deep ditch collapsed.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional risk bonuses were awarded to healthcare staff caring for COVID-19 patients or for those involved in pandemic response. Peaks in the number of critical cases of COVID-19 added pressure on hospital infrastructure, particularly in intensive care units. Medical staff and patients were hurt and killed in several hospital fire incidents over the year.

Informal Sector: Informal employment continued to affect employees in the agriculture, retail, hospitality, and construction sectors. In 2013 undeclared work represented 18.9 percent of total labor output in the private sector. In 2019 some 25 percent of Romanians admitted they had engaged in undeclared work and 44 percent knew someone who had engaged in undeclared labor.

The prevalence of the minimum wage, a tight labor market, and labor taxation exemptions for vulnerable sectors have made undeclared work less attractive. As a result of a mass outflow of unskilled and skilled labor, the country has experienced a tight labor market. Over the past decade, some 2.7 million Romanians of working age (20 to 64) have moved to other EU countries seeking employment. The construction sector has a higher minimum gross wage (3,000 lei or $728) and is exempt from income tax and health and pension mandatory contributions.

The law provides for temporary and seasonal work and sets penalties for undeclared labor. In accordance with EU regulations, the maximum duration of a temporary contract is 36 months. Workers in the informal sector were not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws, and inspections.

Switzerland

Executive Summary

The Swiss Confederation is a constitutional republic with a federal structure. Legislative authority resides in a bicameral parliament (Federal Assembly) consisting of the 46-member Council of States and the 200-member National Council. Federal Assembly elections were last held in 2019 and were considered free and fair. Parliament elects the executive leadership (the seven-member Federal Council) every four years and did so in 2019. Four political parties are represented on the Federal Council.

The federal police maintain internal security. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. Police report to the Federal Department of Justice and Police, while the army reports to the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection, and Sport. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that the Federal Department of Justice and Police, the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection, and Sport, or civilian authorities committed abuses.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses, engage in corruption, or both.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. No cases of official corruption were reported during the year.

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 generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The SCHR consists of a network of universities and human rights experts responsible for strengthening and supporting human rights capacities and bridging gaps between federal and cantonal authorities on human rights concerns. During the year the center published reports on human rights themes, such as on the rights of prisoners, asylum seekers, women in the judicial system, persons with disabilities, children, and members of the Roma and Sinti ethnic groups.

Thirteen cantons had ombudsman offices or municipal ombudsmen that assessed cases of misconduct by government agencies.  Some of the bigger cities (Basel, Bern, Luzern, Rapperswil-Jona, St. Gallen, Winterthur, and Zurich) had an ombudsman.  There was no federal ombudsman.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, are statutory offenses for which penalties for conviction range from one to 10 years in prison. The rape of a man is considered “sexual assault.” As with the rape of women, the courts may hand down maximum prison sentences of up to 10 years against those convicted of sexual abuse of men, but a minimum sentence of 12 months is only applicable in cases of conviction of rape against women. The law penalizes domestic violence and stalking. A court may order an abusive spouse to leave the family home temporarily for up to 20 days. The government effectively enforced the law and prosecuted individuals accused of such crimes.

In 2020 police registered 20,123 domestic violence offenses. Sixty-one of the reported offenses involved attempted homicide, a 22 percent increase from 2019, and 38 offenses were killings. Women’s shelters for survivors of gender-based violence and other abuse reported being at maximum capacity in the second half of 2020.

Specialized government agencies, numerous NGOs, including 17 women’s shelters, and nearly a dozen private or government-sponsored hotlines provided help, counseling, and legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence. During the year a countrywide 24/7 emergency telephone service was established for survivors of rape and domestic violence to contact for assistance. Most cantonal police forces included specially trained domestic violence units.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment of women and men and facilitates legal remedies for those claiming discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Special legal protection against the dismissal of a claimant expires after six months. Employers failing to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment are liable for damages up to the equivalent of six months’ salary.

In October 2020 media outlets reported allegations of sexual harassment of female and male employees at the French language public television and radio network by several managers. The allegations were reportedly ignored.

Zurich city police maintained a counseling center on offenses against sexual integrity. Lausanne city officials operated an online platform for survivors to record instances of sexual harassment and provided extra training to police officers and teachers on the matter. The Federal Office for Gender Equality and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs distributed flyers and maintained websites for survivors with information on their rights and options to address abuses.

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

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

Discrimination: The constitution and law require equality for women and men, including providing for the same legal status and rights for women as for men under laws concerning family, religion, marital status, nationality, employment and equal pay, credit, and owning or managing a business or property. Authorities generally enforced the law effectively but did not sufficiently address employment discrimination and pay disparities affecting women. There was no legislation prohibition gender-based discrimination in access to credit.

Wage discrimination was the most common basis for complaints filed with courts. The majority of discrimination cases were in the health and education professions. The World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report noted stagnation in women’s economic participation of women, with only 33.5 percent of executive positions in the labor market occupied by women (see section 7.d.).

In April the Federal Council adopted the 2030 Gender Equality Strategy, the government’s first national strategy specifically aimed at promoting gender equality. The strategy is focused on promoting equality in the workplace, improving work-life balance, preventing gender-based violence, and ending gender discrimination.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The prohibition of discrimination enshrined in the criminal law prohibits public racially discriminatory incitement, defamation, and statements contrary to human dignity based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. Refusing to provide a publicly offered service to a person because of his or her race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation is a criminal offense. Authorities generally enforced the law effectively. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 32 percent of the population reported having experienced discrimination; 12 percent reported experiencing official discrimination; and 10 percent reported police discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents; either parent may convey citizenship. Authorities registered births immediately.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents from using corporal punishment to discipline their children, and the constitution states that all children have the right to special protection of their integrity. The law provides penalties for conviction of child abuse of up to three years’ imprisonment.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The law prohibits forced marriage and provides penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment for conviction of violations.

The federal government supported the NGO Center for Competence against Forced Marriage’s prevention activities, including a website where at-risk individuals could declare their unwillingness to be married while on foreign travel. The website enabled authorities either to stop vulnerable individuals from leaving the country or to pronounce the marriages as invalid upon their return. The NGO reported it advised 361 young persons in 2020 who were married as children. Approximately 81 percent of those seeking counsel were women.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking, child pornography, and the sale, grooming, offering, or use of children for commercial sexual exploitation. Conviction of the production, possession, distribution, or downloading of pornography that involves children is punishable by fines or a maximum sentence of one year in prison. Conviction of child sex trafficking is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities enforced the law.

With few exceptions, the law designates 16 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The maximum penalty for conviction of statutory rape is 10 years’ imprisonment.

Media outlets reported that police in larger cantons were overwhelmed with the flood of notifications of alleged online child exploitation coming in from abroad and their inability to launch investigations of chat rooms and internet forums. The latest internal analysis of the Federal Police from 2019 found that in 18 of the 26 cantons, only 15 percent of full-time staff were directed towards the fight against child pornography. In the five smallest cantons having less than 50,000 inhabitants, police units reportedly did not have specialists to address internet crimes.

The NGO Child Protection Switzerland criticized the absence of a hotline to report child pornography. The NGO considered the federal police registration procedure to be inadequate. Both the NGO and police noted a significant increase of sexual abuse of children on the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 World Jewish Congress, approximately 17,500 Jewish individuals resided in the country.

The 2020 Anti-SemitismReport, produced jointly by the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism, cited 47 anti-Semitic incidents in 2020. Eleven were cases of verbal abuse, 15 involved offensive graffiti, and one involved property damage. SIG also registered 485 online incidents, primarily concerning social media and newspaper commentaries. The majority of the online incidents cited anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (249), while others centered on general anti-Semitism (196 incidents), Holocaust denial or trivialization (25), or anti-Semitism related to Israel (62). Forty-five percent of all anti-Semitic conspiracy theories concerned the COVID-19 pandemic. Media outlets reported that anonymously posted videos of Hitler speeches surfaced after a Jewish studies course at the University of Basel shifted to online classes. Media outlets also reported that a similar anti-Semitic “Zoom-bombing” targeted Zurich’s liberal Jewish community.

SIG’s anti-Semitism report described a shift from online incidents on Twitter or Facebook (90 percent in 2019 to 65 percent in 2020) to group chats on the Telegram online messaging system. So-called Corona rebels disseminated anti-Semitic theories, statements, and images 143 times on seven such channels.

In the German-speaking region, a Jewish soldier withdrew from recruit school because of anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi memes being shared among soldiers. According to a media report, an expert determined the cause not to be actual anti-Semitism but rather a desire to “overstep boundaries.” The army issued a formal apology, and military justice authorities opened an investigation because of potential racial discrimination.

In 2020 the Geneva-based Intercommunity Center for Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation (CICAD) reported 147 anti-Semitic incidents in the French-speaking region, of which half were cases of online anti-Semitic hate speech, including insults and Holocaust denials on social media sites such as YouTube. Approximately 36 percent were related to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. CIDAD stated three cases were serious and three were considered grave, including a person shouting “Heil Hitler” in front of a synagogue, a child being called a “fat Jewish cow” in school and several occasions of pig slaughter waste being thrown into the garden of a Jewish family. The report found continued positive progress due to increased monitoring of comment sections on media platforms social networks.

SIG and CICAD did not report any cases of physical assaults against Jews or damage to Jewish property in 2020.

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 and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, or other state services.

The law provides for persons with disabilities to have access to public buildings and transport facilities and education and training in order to be independent of third-party assistance. The law also provides for the elimination of disadvantages in services, including the right to use state and online services. Persons with disabilities did not, however, always have access to education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The umbrella organization for disability NGOs, Inclusion Handicap, stated the Federal Supreme Court maintained a “very narrow interpretation” of discrimination, which required plaintiffs to prove malicious intent in discrimination complaints, resulting in insufficient legal protection for persons with disabilities.

The Federal Equal Opportunity Office for Persons with Disabilities promoted awareness of the law and respect for the rights of individuals with disabilities through counseling and financial support for projects to facilitate their integration in society and the labor market. On January 1, a law came into force to further develop social insurance for persons with disabilities, including increases in compensation for intensive care for the payment of care givers.

The canton of Geneva abolished all restrictions on voting and electoral rights for persons with mental disabilities or psychological illnesses. In September the Assembly of Delegates of NGO Inclusion Handicap called for legal changes, noting that contrary to the constitutional prohibition of discrimination due to disability, persons with court-appointed custodians by law may not vote. The NGO also noted that only the cantons of Geneva, Valais, and Basel-City grant persons with disabilities full rights to sue for denial of accessibility needs, such as sign language interpreters, documents in simple language, or verbal explanations.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

According to AIDS Relief Switzerland, the federal reporting office for discrimination and HIV or AIDS violations, there were 93 reports of discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS. To combat harassment and unfair behavior, the Swiss Federation against AIDS conducted multiple campaigns to sensitize the public. Most discrimination cases involved private data violations, insurance discrimination, and discrimination in the public health sector. In most cases the legal aid section of the Swiss Federation against AIDS was able to successfully intervene. The law does not contain an antidiscrimination provision that covers HIV and AIDS, however.

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

The criminal code lists sexual orientation as one of the protected areas covered by the antidiscrimination law. Police are obligated to report and pursue offenses and offenders. Police and government agents did not incite, perpetrate, condone, or tolerate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals or those reporting on such abuse.

Based on a September 26 referendum in which two-thirds of the country’s voters favored legalizing same-sex civil marriage and the right to adopt children or the use of donor sperm by same-sex couples, Minister of Justice Keller-Sutter stated that these provisions are scheduled to enter into force on July 1, 2022.

The Hate Crime Report published in May by the NGO Pink Cross reported 61 cases of hate crimes against LGBTQI+ persons, 18 percent of which involved physical violence and 85 percent involved insults. Of the reported cases, only 20 percent were reported to police. Pink Cross noted that police responses were usually appropriate and relevant.

According to the NGO QueerAmnesty, since the government does not compile hate-crime statistics, it is difficult to estimate how widespread hate crimes committed against LGBTQI+ individuals are in the country. Only six cantons and the city of Zurich compiled data on hate crimes.

A study by the University of Zurich revealed 81 percent of LGBTQI+ individuals surveyed in 2020 had experienced inappropriate jokes, 50.8 percent believed they were not being taken seriously, 33.4 percent experienced social exclusion, 30.1 percent had been bullied, 37.2 percent faced sexual harassment by men, 8.2 percent experienced physical violence and 9.3 percent reported sexual harassment by women.

According to Pink Cross, unemployment, especially for transgender persons, remained much higher than for the general society. The NGO has called for a national action plan with measures to prevent violence and sensitize the public.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The freedom of association for employers and employees, explicitly including the right to strike and the right to hold lockouts, is provided under Article 28 of the federal constitution. This provides for the right of all workers, including foreigners, public-sector officials, domestic workers, and agricultural workers, to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The constitution also foresees collective agreements between workers and employers and provides for the right to conduct legal strikes, and the government protected these rights. Strikes must be linked to industrial relations, however, and the government may curtail the right of federal public servants to strike for reasons of national security or to safeguard foreign policy interests. Local laws prohibit public servants in some cantons and municipalities from striking. The law protects employees from termination because they are trade union members or carrying out trade union activities in a lawful manner. Collective agreements commit the social partners to maintain labor peace, thereby limiting the right to strike for the duration of an agreement, which generally lasts several years. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs maintained a list of collective agreements that have been declared binding in various regions and sectors of the economy.

No law defines minimum or maximum penalties for violations of the freedoms of association or collective bargaining. The trade union United We Are Strong confirmed the practice followed the guidance of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which states that unjustified dismissals for workers involved in trade union activity may result in compensation of up to six months’ wages.

The government respected the freedoms of association and collective bargaining, but there have been cases when employers dismissed trade unionists or have used the legal system to limit legitimate trade union activities. Trade unions continued to report discriminatory behavior against their members.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor. Penalties for conviction of forced labor violations were up to 20 years’ imprisonment or a fine. The law criminalizes sex trafficking and labor trafficking, and conviction provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment or a fine; the penalties included prison sentences of no less than one year for conviction of offenses involving a child survivor and those where the trafficker acted for commercial gain. NGOs commented that fines for labor trafficking were often very low because authorities treated indications of forced labor as relatively minor labor violations; in addition, they reported that inspectors often regarded foreign victims of labor trafficking as criminals working illegally in the country. The government conducted several training programs for relevant authorities on labor trafficking aimed at raising awareness and reducing such exploitation, but the training was significantly reduced due to COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures. The annual roundtable for officials working against trafficking was canceled to comply with COVID-19 pandemic mitigation restrictions.

As part of its National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights in Switzerland for 202023, the government committed itself to taking measures to support the fight against child and forced labor in the supply chains.

According to antitrafficking NGOs that provided services to victims, incidents of forced labor occurred primarily in the domestic-service, catering, agriculture, tourism, hospitality, construction, and nursing industries. Labor trafficking in the forms of forced begging, stealing, and financial scams occurred in several cantons.

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. The minimum age for full-time employment is 15. Children who are ages 13 or 14 may engage in light work for no more than nine hours per week during the school year and 15 hours at other times. Children younger than 15 may, under special circumstances, work at sports or cultural events with the approval of cantonal authorities. Children younger than 16 are not allowed to serve guests. Employment of youths between ages 15 and 18 is also restricted. Children who have not completed compulsory education may not work on Sundays, while children younger than 18 are prohibited from working under hazardous conditions or at night. Minors need parental oral or written approval to work. The government effectively enforced laws and policies to protect children from exploitation in the workplace. The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research monitored the implementation of child labor laws and policies, and cantonal labor inspectors effectively inspected companies to determine whether there were violations of child labor laws. Cantonal inspectors strictly enforced these provisions. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on national origin, race, gender, age, language, social position, lifestyle, religion, beliefs, or political convictions, or based on physical, mental, or psychological disability. The constitution specifically states that men and women have equal rights, including at work, and that women have the right to equal pay for work of equal value. The criminal code prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, religion, or sexual orientation, but it does not contain provisions specifically on personnel operations such as hiring or firing.

In April the government adopted its first national strategy specifically aimed at promoting gender equality. The strategy focuses on four central objectives: promoting equality in the workplace; improving work-life balance; preventing violence; and fighting discrimination.

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment based on gender (including pregnancy). Violations of the law may result in the award of compensation equal to a maximum of three months’ salary for a prospective employee and a maximum of six months’ salary for a dismissed or sexually harassed employee. The government did not consistently enforce this provision, reportedly because the provisions are still not well known nor properly implemented.

In contrast to women, men are obligated to complete one year of military or one and a half years of civil service. If they fail to do so, they must pay 3 percent of their yearly taxable income until age 37. If a husband or divorced husband of a retired woman dies, she receives a widow’s pension until her death. If the same happens to a retired man, he receives a widower’s pension but only until the youngest child turns 18. The retirement age for men is 65 and 64 for women.

Although discrimination against women in the workplace is illegal, the government acknowledges that full gender equality was not yet a reality. A disproportionate share of women held jobs with lower levels of responsibility. Employers promoted women less frequently than men, and women were less likely to own or manage businesses. According to a 2021 study by the University of St. Gallen, men and women are equally represented in nonmanagement positions, but the proportion of women decreases at each successive level of management from 31 percent in lower management, to 23 percent in middle management, and to only 17 percent of top managers. Beginning in January larger publicly listed companies headquartered in the country were slated to fill at least 30 percent of corporate board positions, and 20 percent of corporate management positions in enterprises with women. The nonbinding policy requires businesses that fail to reach the targets within five years to submit a written justification to the government and an outline of planned remediation measures.

Although the constitution entitles women and men to equal pay for equal work, this was not enforced effectively. According to the Federal Statistical Office, there was an 11.5 percent gender wage gap across both the public and private sectors in 2018, the most recent year for which data were available. The Statistics Office also noted that the wage gap increased with higher levels of responsibility. In upper management women earned 18.6 percent less than men in 2018.

According to Inclusion Handicap, problems remained in integrating individuals with disabilities, especially young persons with mental and cognitive handicaps, into the labor market. The NGO noted discrimination against persons with disabilities was particularly problematic in the private sector (also see section 6, Persons with Disabilities).

The NGOs Pink Cross and Transgender Network noted LGBTQI+ persons experienced workplace discrimination. According to Transgender Network Switzerland, 20 percent of transgender persons in the country were unemployed – nearly five times the rate of the general population.

Older persons also faced discrimination at the workplace. According to the NGO Avenir50Plus, unemployed persons older than age 50 took much longer to find a stable job, and often at a lower wage, after becoming unemployed. Nearly 30 percent of the workforce above age 50 was unemployed in 2019, up from 24 percent in 2010, according to the Job Market Monitor for Eastern Switzerland, Aargau, Zug, and Zurich. Older persons in the information and communications services, manufacturing, and the finance and insurance sectors were disproportionately affected by age discrimination.

There were reports of labor discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS. In 2020 AIDS Relief Switzerland registered 93 cases of discrimination and information privacy breaches regarding individuals with HIV, down from 105 in 2019. Of the complaints, eight concerned employment discrimination or other discrimination in the workplace. Examples of workplace discrimination included a restaurant owner who fired a cook due to fear of losing customers if they knew of the cook’s HIV status.

According to the labor union Syna, migrant workers in low-wage jobs were more likely than other workers to face exploitative labor practices and poor working conditions. The NGO Advocacy and Support Organization for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking stated that women were particularly vulnerable.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The country has no national minimum wage, but five of the 26 cantons (Basel-City, Geneva, Jura, Neuenberg, and Ticino) have minimum wage laws. Collective agreements on working conditions, including sectoral minimum wages, cover approximately 50 percent of the country’s workforce. Average wages for workers and employees covered by these contracts, particularly in the hospitality, crafts, machinery, production, and retail industries, however, remain relatively low. Minimum wages in the agreements exceeded the poverty income level for a single person but often did not exceed the poverty level for families with two adults and two children. For example, in July workers of Marvinpac, a cosmetics and food packaging subcontractor for companies such as Valmont, Nespresso, and Starbucks, protested for higher salaries than their existing hourly wage of 14.45 Swiss francs ($15.60).

The labor unions and employers’ associations concluding the collective agreement must jointly enforce its provisions, including applying sanctions in case of violations. In industries without a collective bargaining agreement, tripartite commissions at federal and cantonal level are responsible for inspections and sanctions. Authorities effectively enforced these collective agreements, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Labor law sets a maximum 45-hour workweek for blue- and white-collar workers in industry, services, and retail trades, and a 50-hour workweek for all other workers. The effective implementation and control of the maximum hour workweek is subject to loopholes. Cantonal labor inspectorates are not always independent since they are directly reporting to the cantonal Department of Economy. As a result, public institutions were not always controlled. Penalties were commensurate with similar violations such as forgery of documents.

Occupational Safety and Health: To protect worker health and safety, the law contains extensive provisions that are appropriate for the main industries. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research and cantonal labor inspectorates effectively enforced laws relating to hours of work and occupational safety and health across all sectors including the informal economy. The department also oversees collective bargaining agreements. In general labor inspectorates do not have enough personnel to conduct extensive and randomized inspections as suggested by the ILO. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Labor Inspectorate was unable to conduct the usual system audits and practice monitoring of the cantonal labor inspectorates. The main task of the cantonal labor inspectorates in 2020 was to check the implementation of the COVID-19 mitigation measures to protect against infection in the workplace. Only a fraction of the regular inspections took place. Where applicable courts determined fines according to the personal and economic situation of the perpetrator. Penalties were commensurate with those for conviction of similar crimes, such as fraud.

According to the labor inspectorate, approximately 100 persons died each year in the country from occupational accidents, which equates to 2.3 fatalities per 100,000 fulltime employees.

Migrant workers in low-wage jobs were more likely to experience exploitative labor practices, although the criminal code forbids human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation. In addition several local NGOs expressed concerns that during the COVID-19 pandemic, migrant workers lost their source of income because they could not shift to home office.

Immigrant workers have the same rights as other workers. There are no special provisions or requirements for noncitizen workers apart from having legal immigration status and a valid work permit. The government did not allow individuals without legal status or work permits to work. Individuals who obtained legal status could request a work permit. Asylum seekers are usually not allowed to work until they are assigned to a canton and receive a work permit from cantonal authorities.

Informal Sector: Workers in the informal sector are covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. The government provided social protections for workers in the informal economy.

Taiwan

Executive Summary

Taiwan is a democracy led by a president and parliament selected in multiparty elections. In 2020 voters re-elected President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party to a second four-year term in an election considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. The National Police Agency, under the Ministry of Interior, maintains internal security. Police, military services, Agency of Corrections, and Coast Guard Administration report to the premier, who is appointed by the president. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included the existence of criminal libel laws.

Authorities enforced laws prohibiting human rights abuses and criminalizing official corruption and prosecuted officials who committed them. There were no reports of impunity.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and authorities generally implemented the law effectively. There were reports of official corruption during the year. In the year to May, 13 high-ranking officials, 79 mid-level, 93 low-level, and 18 elected officials were indicted for corruption.

Corruption: The Ministry of Justice and its Agency against Corruption oversee combating official corruption. The ministry received sufficient resources and collaborated with civil society within the scope of the law. Some legal scholars and politicians said the Ministry of Justice was insufficiently independent and conducted politically motivated investigations of politicians. The Control Yuan, an independent investigative and auditing agency, is responsible for impeaching officials in cases of wrongdoing.

On January 18 and April 7, the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Yuan referred six officials to the Control Yuan for criminal investigation, including former minister of justice Tseng Yung-fu, former prosecutor general Wu Ying-chao, and two others for investigation of noncriminal misconduct, including Supreme Administrative Court judge Cheng Hsiao-kang and Prosecutor General Lo Jung-chien. On January 19, the Judicial Yuan referred six former judges to the Control Yuan for investigation of noncriminal misconduct. On September 14, the Control Yuan impeached Cheng; the other criminal and noncriminal misconduct investigations were ongoing as of October. These actions followed the Control Yuan’s August 2020 impeachment of former Supreme Court judge Shih Mu-chin, who retired as head of an administrative tribunal charged with sanctioning official misconduct, for failing to recuse himself from cases involving a businessperson with whom he maintained a social relationship and inappropriate contact during litigation; the Ministry of Justice investigated 77 other incumbent and former judicial and law enforcement officials implicated in similar behavior with the same businessperson.

In July a senior investigator of the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau was indicted for corruption for allegedly profiting from the sale of narcotics worth more than 168 million New Taiwan dollars ($5.6 million) seized in law enforcement investigations over eight years.

On September 17, the mayor and the council speaker of Pingtung City were convicted of corruption and sentenced to seven and four years in prison, respectively, for colluding with a private contractor to misappropriate 2.4 million New Taiwan dollars ($80,000) in public funds over three years.

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 restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Authorities were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and provides protection for rape survivors. Rape trials are not open to the public unless the victim consents. The law allows experts to assist in questioning and appear in court as witnesses when rape victims are minors or have mental disabilities, and it authorizes the use of one-way mirrors, video conferencing, or other practices to protect victims during questioning and at trial. The law permits a charge of rape even if the victim chooses not to press charges and allows prosecutors to investigate complaints of domestic violence even if the victim has not filed a formal complaint.

The law establishes the punishment for rape as a minimum of five years’ imprisonment, and courts usually sentenced individuals convicted of rape to five to 10 years in prison. Courts typically sentenced individuals convicted in domestic violence cases to less than six months in prison.

Many victims did not report the crime for fear of social stigmatization, and NGOs and academic studies estimated the total number of sexual assaults was seven to 10 times higher than the number reported to police. Some abused women chose not to report incidents to police due to social pressure not to disgrace their families.

The law requires all cities and counties to establish violence prevention and control centers to address domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment (see section 7.d.). In most cases perpetrators were required to attend classes on gender equality and counseling sessions, and when the victims agreed, to apologize to the victims. In 2020 a total of 322 fines were issued, down from 408 fines in 2019.

Reports of workplace sexual harassment increased in recent years. According to the Modern Women’s Foundation, workplace sexual harassment accounted for 54 percent of all sexual harassment cases in 2020, a substantial increase from the 17 percent accounted for by workplace sexual harassment in 2017, which the foundation attributed to an increased willingness to report by victims.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of official authorities. The law required women concerned about the effect of pregnancy or childbirth on their mental health or family life to secure spousal consent before receiving induced abortion or tubal ligation health services. Fertility treatments are limited by law to married opposite-sex couples with a medical diagnosis of infertility or a major hereditary disease, and when the wife is medically capable of carrying the pregnancy to term.

Authorities provided access to sexual and reproductive-health services including emergency contraception for survivors of sexual violence. Staff members at designated hospitals are trained to collect evidence and perform necessary medical examinations.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. Women experienced some discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.).

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The law prohibits sex selection and sex-selective abortion, except for diagnoses of sex-linked heritable disorders. Even for embryos created via assisted reproductive technology, the fetal sex may not be revealed in any form unless medically required. According to National Health Administration statistics, the ratio of boys-to-girls for a first child born in 2020 was 1.069. Authorities worked with local health bureaus to monitor the sex ratio at birth and continued to promote gender equality.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Article 7 of the constitution protects members of racial or ethnic minorities from violence and discrimination, and authorities enforced this effectively.

Spouses born in Southeast Asian countries and the PRC accounted for more than 2.3 percent of the overall population.

The law allows non-PRC-born foreign spouses of Taiwan passport holders to apply for Taiwan residency after three years, while PRC-born spouses must wait six years. Unlike non-PRC spouses, however, PRC-born spouses may work in Taiwan immediately on arrival.

Indigenous Peoples

Authorities officially recognize 16 indigenous tribes, accounting for approximately 2.3 percent of the population. The law provides indigenous people equal civil and political rights and stipulates authorities should provide resources to help indigenous groups develop a system of self-governance, formulate policies to protect their basic rights, and promote the preservation and development of their languages and cultures.

Although the law allows for the delineation of traditional indigenous territories owned by authorities, some indigenous rights advocates argued a large amount of indigenous land was seized and privatized decades ago, depriving indigenous communities of the right to participate in the development of these traditional territories.

Existing law stipulates that authorities and the private sector should consult with indigenous people and obtain their consent to or participation in, as well as share with them the benefits of, land development, resource utilization, ecology conservation, and academic research in indigenous areas. There are, however, no regulations in place for obtaining this consent with respect to private land.

Indigenous people participated in decisions affecting their land through the political process. The law sets aside six of the 113 seats in the legislature for indigenous tribal representatives elected by indigenous voters.

On April 23, the Forestry Bureau publicly apologized to an Atayal tribe whose traditional territory was occupied in 1963 to build a logging road and a monument to workers killed during the road’s construction. President Tsai and the Forestry Bureau participated in a traditional reconciliation ceremony with representatives of the tribe. Indigenous groups had launched a public protest since 2016 appealing for recognition of tribal sovereignty over the land and demolition of the monument.

On May 7, a Constitutional Court ruling eased permitting requirements for traditional hunting by indigenous peoples.

On September 16, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld a 2019 ruling invalidating the 2018 renewal of Asia Cement Corporation’s mining permit based on the lack of consultation with or consent by the local indigenous Truku tribe as required by the law. Indigenous, human rights, and environmental groups appealed for an immediate suspension of the mining operations and strengthened protections for the traditional rights of indigenous peoples. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, however, insisted the mine continue to operate while the company’s permit application remained “pending.”

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from that of either parent. Births must be registered within 60 days; failure to do so results in the denial of national health care and education benefits. Registration is not denied on a discriminatory basis.

Child Abuse: The law stipulates persons learning of child abuse or neglect must notify police or welfare authorities. An official 24-hour hotline accepted complaints and offered counseling. Courts are required to appoint guardians for children of parents deemed unfit. Childcare center owners and teachers who physically abuse or sexually harass children may be fined, and the names of perpetrators and their institutions will be made public. Owners who fail to verify the qualifications of teachers and other employees may be fined.

Children’s rights advocates called on medical professionals to pay attention to infants and young children sent to hospitals with unusual injuries and to take the initiative to report suspected abuse to law enforcement while treating these children. Advocates also called attention to bullying, violence, and sexual assault cases at correctional institutions, while pointing out these facilities were often understaffed and that their personnel were inadequately trained to counsel and manage teenage inmates.

Central and local authorities coordinated with private organizations to identify and assist high-risk children and families and to increase public awareness of child abuse and domestic violence.

According to official statistics, the number of reported cases of child abuse increased from 73,973 to 83,108 from 2019 to 2020.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 years for men and 16 for girls.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Under the law a perpetrator who films an underage person engaging in sexual intercourse or obscene acts or produces pictures, photographs, films, videotapes, compact discs, electronic signals, or other objects that show an underage person engaging in sexual intercourse or obscene acts is subject to imprisonment for between one and seven years and could face a substantial fine.

The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16. Persons who engage in sex with children younger than age 14 face sentences of three to 10 years in prison. Those who engage in sex with minors between 14 and 16 receive a prison sentence of three to seven years. Solicitors of sex with minors older than 16 but younger than 18 face a maximum of one year in prison or hard labor or a substantial fine.

While authorities generally enforced the law domestically, elements of the law that treat possession of child pornography as a misdemeanor rather than a felony hampered enforcement in some cases. Authorities reported concluding one investigation of child sexual exploitation committed by citizens while traveling abroad without charges in August 2020.

The Control Yuan reported in August that its analysis of official statistics from 2005-20 showed the number of male victims of child sexual exploitation was increasing and that male and female minors of indigenous heritage were targeted at higher rates than those of other ethnic groups.

The Taiwan High Prosecutor’s Office reported a rise in child sexual exploitation cases in 2018, 2019, and 2020, with 1,060, 1,211, and 1,691 indictments, respectively.

NGOs raised concerns about the online sexual exploitation of children and reported sex offenders increasingly used cell phones, web cameras, live streaming, apps, and other new technologies to deceive and coerce underage girls and boys into sexual activity; the NGOs called for increased prosecutions and heavier penalties.

There were reports of minors in prostitution.

International Child Abductions: Due to its unique political status, Taiwan is not eligible to become 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 was very small, estimated at 1,000 individuals, predominately foreign residents. 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 stipulates authorities must provide certain services and programs to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have the right to vote and participate in civic affairs.

Authorities made efforts to implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. Official websites and digital information platforms conform to accessibility guidelines and all public facilities were required to install facilities or equipment that enable barrier-free access for persons with disabilities to public services and official information. NGOs contended the lack of barrier-free spaces and accessible transportation systems continued to limit civic engagement by persons with disabilities, particularly outside Taipei. The Accessible Living Environment Supervisory Task Force under the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for monitoring efforts by local governments to improve the accessibility of public buildings. Authorities release an annual assessment on accessibility in public buildings and areas that serves as a reference for budgeting.

Most children with disabilities attended mainstream schools, but separate primary, secondary, and vocational schools were also available for students with disabilities. NGOs asserted services for students with disabilities remained largely inadequate.

On August 27, the Ministry of Health and Welfare ordered the De Fang House of Correction, a Miaoli-based privately operated residential institution for adults with physical or mental disabilities, to suspend operations and relocate 11 residents after two staffers were accused of beating a 28-year-old autistic resident to death on July 29. The private foundation operating the institution was fined 300,000 New Taiwan dollars ($10,000); the resident’s death remained under criminal investigation by prosecutors as of October.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits employers from requesting health examination reports from job candidates to prove they do not have HIV or other communicable diseases. There was reported discrimination, including employment discrimination, against persons with HIV or AIDS (see section 7.d.).

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

The law stipulates employers cannot discriminate against job seekers or workers based on gender or sexual orientation and prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on their gender, gender traits, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Reported instances of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals were extremely rare, and police response was adequate.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, conduct strikes, and bargain collectively. The law prohibits discrimination, dismissal, or other unfair treatment of workers for union-related activities and requires reinstatement of workers fired for legal trade union activity. Employees hired through dispatching agencies (i.e., temporary workers) do not have the right to organize and bargain collectively in the enterprises where they work. Authorities effectively enforced the law. Penalties are commensurate with those for similar laws.

The Labor Incident Act, which entered into force in 2020, establishes special labor courts to handle all labor cases, including collective disputes involving a union. As of January, the average length of legal proceedings for labor incidents had been reduced to 84 days, eight days shorter than prior to passage of the act.

According to the law, there are three types of unions: enterprise unions, industrial unions, and professional unions. Enterprise unions must have 30 members to form and there may only be one union per enterprise. Enterprise unions are responsible for negotiating the working conditions and entitlements of enterprise-level collective agreements. More than 80 percent of workers were employed in companies with fewer than 30 workers where they may only join a professional or industrial union. Industrial and professional unions do not have the right to collectively bargain enterprise level working conditions but may advocate for sector-wide benefits.

The right to strike remained highly restricted. Teachers, civil servants, and defense industry employees do not have the right to strike. Workers in industries such as utilities, hospital services, and telecommunication-service providers are allowed to strike only if they maintain basic services during the strike. Authorities may prohibit, limit, or break up a strike during a disaster. Workers are allowed to strike only in “adjustment” disputes such as compensation and working schedules. The law forbids strikes related to rights guaranteed under the law, which in principle should be resolved through the judicial system.

The law requires mediation of labor disputes when authorities deem them sufficiently serious or involving unfair practices. Mediation usually resolved most cases within 20 days. Legally binding arbitration generally took between 45 and 79 working days. The law prohibits strikes or other acts of protest during conciliation or arbitration proceedings. Labor organizations stated this prohibition impeded workers’ ability to exercise their right to strike.

The Ministry of Labor oversees implementation and enforcement of labor laws in coordination with local labor affairs authorities. Authorities effectively enforced laws providing for freedom of association and collective bargaining. Ministry arbitration committees reviewed cases of antiunion activities, and authorities subjected violators to fines or restoration of employee’s duties. Such fines were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights.

Large enterprises frequently made it difficult for employees to organize an enterprise union through methods such as blacklisting union organizers from promotion or relocating them to other work divisions. These methods were particularly common in the technology sector. For example there was only one enterprise union among the 520 companies in Hsinchu Science Park, where more than 150,000 employees worked.

Between May and August, the Miramar Golf and Country Club Enterprise Union conducted the longest strike in Taiwan’s history to protest the termination and mandatory transfer of 44 workers to other employers. The Miramar conglomerate restructured its operations at the golf course in Linkou, Taoyuan, on May 8 under the Business Mergers and Acquisitions Act. The union alleged that the company split the existing employees between three smaller subsidiaries and a fourth outside company employing less than 30 workers to effectively eliminate the union. After 12 rounds of negotiation, including Ministry of Labor and municipal authorities, the conglomerate agreed to revoke the restructuring and return all workers to their previous employment status.

Authorities provided financial incentives through cash awards of up to 498,000 New Taiwan dollars ($16,600) to enterprise unions to encourage negotiation of “collective agreements” with employers.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law prescribes penalties for forced labor, and authorities effectively enforced the law, but courts delivered light sentences or fines in most forced labor convictions. Such penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Authorities can terminate brokers’ business operations but there is no legal prohibition against reopening a business through a proxy that registers as a new company.

Authorities continued public-awareness campaigns, including disseminating worker-education pamphlets, operating foreign-worker hotlines, and offering Ministry of Education programs on labor trafficking as part of the broader human rights curriculum. Forced labor occurred primarily in sectors reliant on migrant workers, including domestic service, fishing, farming, manufacturing, meat processing, and construction. Some labor brokers charged foreign workers exorbitant recruitment fees and used debts incurred from these fees in the source country as tools of coercion to subject the workers to debt bondage (see section 7.e.).

Migrant fishermen reported abuses by senior crewmembers, including beatings, withholding of food and water, retention of identity documents, wage deductions, and noncontractual compulsory sharing of vessel operational costs to retain their labor. These abuses were particularly prevalent in Taiwan’s large distant-waters fishing fleet, which operated without adequate oversight (see section 7.e.). Greenpeace issued reports during the year and in 2019 alleging indicators of forced labor in the operations of two Taiwan-owned, foreign-flagged fishing vessels, Chin Chun No.12 and Da Wang, including physical violence, excessive overtime, and withholding of wages. The Control Yuan in May issued an investigation report ordering the National Immigration Agency, Ocean Affairs Council, and Fisheries Agency to take corrective measures.

The law requires labor brokers to report mistreatment such as withholding identification documents, restrictions on access to dorms or residences, and excessive work hours violating the general work conditions of foreign workers to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours. Penalties for not doing so include small fines. The law prohibits brokers from specific acts against migrant workers, including sexual assault, human trafficking, or forced labor, with penalties including modest fines and possible criminal charges.

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 legal minimum age for employment is 15, but an exception allows children younger than 15 to work if they have completed junior high school and appropriate authorities have determined the work will not harm the child’s mental and physical health. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from doing heavy or hazardous work. Working hours for children are limited to eight hours per day, and children may not work overtime or on night shifts. The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor.

County and city labor bureaus effectively enforced minimum age laws by ensuring the implementation of compulsory education. Employers who violate minimum age laws face a prison sentence, fines, or both, which were not commensurate with those of analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, and sexual orientation. The law prohibits potential employers from requesting medical reports from job candidates to prove they do not have HIV or other communicable diseases. The law forbids termination of employment because of pregnancy or marriage. The law does not restrict women’s working hours, occupations, or tasks. Authorities effectively enforced the law and penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

Workers who encounter discrimination can file complaints with two independent committees composed of scholars, experts, and officials in city and county departments of labor affairs. Local labor affairs bureaus are empowered to intervene and investigate complaints of employment discrimination. Authorities enforced decisions made by those committees. Employers can appeal rulings to the Ministry of Labor and administrative courts.

A March survey by the Standard Chartered Bank and local media company Womany showed that 43.3 percent of employees were dissatisfied with gender equality practices in hiring and in the workplace, including in promotion policies and the division of work. According to official statistics, the median monthly income for women in 2019 was on average 87.7 percent of the amount their male counterparts earned. In September Taipei City awarded Taiwan’s first gender-equality certifications to 12 enterprises that met the stated standards on LGBTQI+ rights, work-life balance, women’s empowerment, and wage equality.

The law requires 3 percent of the workforce in the public sector and 1 percent of the workforce in the private sector to be persons with disabilities. In 2020, 3.7 percent of the public-sector workforce consisted of persons with disabilities; the private sector continued to fall short of the target. Companies with more than 67 employees failing to meet the target are potentially liable for small fines.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The Ministry of Labor’s Basic Wage Committee sets a minimum wage that is regularly adjusted. The minimum wage law does not cover workers in certain categories, such as management employees, medical doctors and other healthcare workers, gardeners, bodyguards, self-employed lawyers, civil servants, contractors for local authorities, and domestic workers. The minimum wage is above the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s poverty level, although foreign fishermen on vessels operating outside Taiwan’s territorial seas earned significantly below the national minimum wage. Foreign domestic workers are required to be paid a minimum monthly salary of 17,000 New Taiwan dollars ($5,700); NGOs reported that due to the absence of regulations on their working hours, in practice their remuneration routinely fell well below the national minimum wage. The Labor Incident Act places the burden of proof on employers, not workers, in wage and hour disputes.

In 2020, reportedly due to COVID-19-related economic pressures, the Ministry of Labor reported that the number of workers involved in labor dispute cases, particularly in wage and improper dismissal cases, increased by 41.3 percent.

Regular working hours are eight hours per day and 40 hours per week, with overtime limited to 54 hours per month. The law requires a mandatory rest interval for shift work of eight hours or longer in certain sectors and limits the number of working days to 12 days in a two-week period. Employees in “authorized special categories” approved by the Ministry of Labor are exempt from regular working hours stipulated in the law. These include security guards, flight attendants, insurance salespersons, real estate agents, journalists, public transport drivers, domestic workers, and caregivers.

To allow foreign caregivers and household workers to attend religious services on a certain day of the week, a publicly funded “respite care service” provides substitutes on a per-day basis.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for occupational safety and health standards that are appropriate for the main industries in the economy. The law makes enterprise and dispatching agencies responsible for occupational injuries to temporary workers. Workers can remove themselves from a situation that endangers their health and safety and report to their supervisor without jeopardizing their employment. Employers, however, can terminate the employment contract if they can prove the worker abused the right to suspend work and the competent authority has affirmed the employer was in compliance.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws as well as occupational safety and health standards in conjunction with the labor agencies of local authorities. The ministry effectively enforced the minimum wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health laws. Penalties were commensurate with similar crimes such as fraud or negligence. Employers are subject to civil but not criminal charges when their employees are involved in fatal accidents due to unsafe working conditions.

Authorities recruited an additional 177 labor inspectors in 2020, bringing the number of inspectors to a total of 1,033, just short of the ILO’s standard for industrial market economies.

Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections. Authorities can fine employers and revoke their hiring privileges for violations of the law, and the law mandates publicizing the names of offending companies. Employers found to be in violation of labor laws during an inspection are not eligible for certain tax reductions or grants.

Of the 33,092 inspections conducted in 2020, 19.2 percent identified violations, primarily related to regulations on regular working hours and overtime work, concentrated in sectors including wholesale and retail, logistics and transportation, accommodation, and food services. Six percent of inspections identified workplace safety violations. The freight and passenger transportation industries saw higher than average accident rates among drivers working overtime.

More than 700,000 foreign workers were employed, primarily from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand; most were recruited through a labor broker. The Ministry of Labor is required to inspect and oversee the brokerage companies to ensure compliance with the law. The ministry also operates a Foreign Worker Direct Hire Service Center and an online platform to allow employers to hire foreign workers without using a broker. Foreign workers may change employers in cases of exploitation or abuse.

The Ministry of Labor maintained a 24-hour toll-free “1955” hotline service in six languages (Mandarin, English, Indonesian, Thai, Tagalog, and Vietnamese) where foreign workers can obtain free legal advice, request urgent relocation and protection, report abuse by employers, file complaints about delayed salary payments, and make other inquiries. All reported cases are registered in a centralized database for law enforcement to track and intervene if necessary. Among the 209,641 calls in 2020, the hotline helped 2,985 foreign workers transfer to a new employer and 4,227 to reclaim a total of 116 million New Taiwan dollars ($3.87 million) in salary payments.

Foreign workers’ associations maintained that despite the existence of the hotline and authorities’ effective response record, foreign workers were often reluctant to report employer abuses for fear the employer would terminate their contract, subjecting them to possible deportation and leaving them unable to pay off debts to recruiters.

Foreign workers generally faced exploitation and incurred significant debt burdens during the recruitment process due to excessive brokerage fees, guarantee deposits, and higher charges for flights and accommodations. Brokerage agencies often required workers to take out loans for “training” and other fees at local branches of Taiwan banks in their home countries at high interest rates, leaving them vulnerable to debt bondage. NGOs suggested authorities should seek further international cooperation with labor-sending countries, particularly on oversight of transnational labor brokers.

In several instances during the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign workers in factories were prohibited from leaving their dormitories except to travel to and from work; such restrictions did not apply to local employees or the general population.

Foreign fishermen were commonly subjected to mistreatment and poor working conditions. Domestic labor laws only apply to fishermen working on vessels operating within Taiwan’s territorial waters. Fishermen working on Taiwan-flagged vessels operating beyond Taiwan’s territorial waters (the distant-waters fishing fleet) were not afforded the same labor rights, wages, insurance, and pensions as those recruited to work within Taiwan’s territorial waters. For example regulations only require a minimum monthly wage for foreign fishermen in the distant water fleet significantly below the domestic minimum wage. NGOs reported that foreign fishing crews in the distant-waters fishing fleet generally received wages below the required minimum because of dubious deductions for administrative fees and deposits. Several NGOs, including Greenpeace and the Taiwan International Workers Association, advocated for the abolition of this separate employment system, in which an estimated 20,000 migrant workers were employed. Most of these fishermen were recruited from Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Fisheries Agency has officers in American Samoa, Mauritius, Fiji, Palau, South Africa, and the Marshall Islands and inspectors in some domestic ports to monitor and inspect docked Taiwan-flagged long-haul fishing vessels. These officials used a multilingual questionnaire to interview foreign fishermen and examine labor conditions on board. The Fisheries Agency acknowledged the need for more inspectors; they conducted labor inspections of only approximately 400 of the more than 1,100 vessels in the distant waters fishing fleet.

Informal Sector: Authorities estimated that more than 53,000 migrant workers had lost touch with their legal employers and likely remained informally employed elsewhere in Taiwan. Studies suggested that employment of such undocumented migrant workers were concentrated in the domestic work and manufacturing sectors. NGOs reported that some migrant workers legally employed as domestic workers were in fact informally employed outside the home, predominantly in small, family-owned businesses in the food and beverage and retail sectors, where they did not enjoy applicable labor protections.

Uruguay

Executive Summary

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is a constitutional republic with a democratically elected president and a bicameral legislature. In the 2019 national elections, Luis Lacalle Pou won a five-year presidential term in a free and fair election. No political party won a majority in parliament, but the ruling party formed a coalition to pass legislation.

Under the Ministry of Interior, the National Police maintains internal security, and the National Directorate for Migration is responsible for migration and border enforcement. The armed forces, under the Ministry of National Defense, are responsible for external security and have some domestic responsibilities, including perimeter security for six prisons and border security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights abuses included credible reports of harsh and potentially life-threatening conditions in some prisons.

The government took steps to identify and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in official corruption, and there were no reports of impunity. The judiciary continued to investigate human rights violations committed during the 1973-85 military dictatorship, which the law classifies as crimes against humanity.

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, and the government addressed them with appropriate legal action. Authorities sometimes lacked sufficient enforcement resources and mechanisms to identify and address acts of administrative misconduct.

Corruption: In May former vice president Raul Sendic was sentenced to 18 months in prison for abuse of authority and embezzlement while he was president of the state-owned oil company ANCAP. Sendic was also fined and received a four-year disqualification from working in public positions of trust. The judge granted Sendic the benefit of conditional suspension of the sentence, which enables the elimination of criminal records if he does not reoffend in the next year.

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 often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The INDDHH is an autonomous agency with quasi-jurisdictional powers that reports to parliament. It is composed of five board members proposed by civil society organizations and approved by a two-thirds vote in parliament for five-year terms that can be renewed once. The INDDHH is tasked with the defense, promotion, and protection of human rights guaranteed by the constitution and international law. The INDDHH has six thematic reference teams to cover human rights issues on gender, children’s issues, historical human rights abuses, race or ethnicity, environment, and migrants. The INDDHH receives, investigates, and issues recommendations regarding formal complaints of human rights abuse. The NPM functions within the INDDHH, conducting regular monitoring of detention facilities and issuing reports and recommendations. The institution is also responsible for examining human rights violations that occurred between June 1968 and March 1985 under the responsibility or with the acquiescence of the State. The INDDHH was effective in achieving its human rights objectives.

Parliament’s special rapporteur on the prison system advises lawmakers on compliance with domestic legislation and international conventions. The special rapporteur oversees the work of the institutions that run the country’s prisons and the social reintegration of former inmates. The special rapporteur provided in-depth, independent analysis of the prison situation and carried out the role effectively and constructively.

The Secretariat for Human Rights of the Office of the President is the lead agency for the human rights components of public policy within the executive. The secretariat is led by a governing board composed of the secretary of the Office of the President of the Republic, who acts as chair, and the ministers for foreign affairs, education and culture, interior, and social development.

The Honorary Committee against Racism, Xenophobia, and All Other Forms of Discrimination under the Ministry of Education and Culture analyzes matters of racism and discrimination. The committee includes government, religious, and civil society representatives. It had not been allocated a budget since 2010 but received economic support from the government for some activities.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The law allows for sentences of three to 16 years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of rape, and authorities effectively enforced the law. The law criminalizes domestic violence and allows sentences of six months’ to two years’ imprisonment for committing an act of domestic violence or making continued threats of violence. Civil courts decided most domestic cases, and judges in these cases often issued restraining orders, which were sometimes difficult to enforce.

The government further implemented the gender-based violence law, which builds on existing legislation on domestic violence. The law includes abuse that is physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, based on prejudice for sexual orientation, economic, related to assets, symbolic, obstetric, labor-related, educational, political, or related to media presence. It also includes street sexual harassment and femicide. The law aims to create an institutional response system and establishes specialized courts. It sets minimum standards of support and assistance to be provided by the government, to include shelters for the victims and immediate family members. The law attempts to avoid revictimization in social and legal procedures and seeks to make the judicial process more agile. According to civil society representatives, the law was not being fully implemented due in part to lack of resources. For example, specialized courts provided by the gender law were not established; however, civil society representatives recognized that judges in nonspecialized courts applied criminal definitions included in the new law. NGO representatives underlined the need for more expert training and for inclusion of gender-based violence in the university curriculum, especially in the health sector.

The 2017 criminal procedure code introduced changes to victims’ rights, including guarantees and services during criminal proceedings, and the creation of a Victims and Witnesses Unit in the Prosecutor General’s Office. Since its establishment, the unit focused more than 50 percent of its work on victims of gender-based violence. Civil society representatives saw this as a significant improvement for victims, who received support and guidance during criminal proceedings.

A separate femicide law modifies aggravating circumstances for a homicide to include whether the crime “caused the death of a female due to hatred or contempt motivated by the fact of being a female.” The law’s explanatory statement describes gender-based violence as all violent acts against women, in both the private and public spheres, arising from structural inequalities between women and men.

The government maintained a Gender-Based Violence Observatory to monitor, collect, register, and analyze data on gender-based violence. The government trained officials on aspects of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

The Ministry of Social Development, some police stations in the interior, the National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs (INAU), and NGOs operated shelters where women and children victims of domestic violence could seek temporary refuge. Civil society reported shelters for victims were of good quality but that capacity was insufficient. In August and September, the Ministry of Social Development opened two new shelters for women with children, providing an additional 260 spaces for victims to receive government services. The ministry also funded the lodging of victims in hotels. The Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Housing operated a program that funded two-year leases for approximately 100 victims, pending more permanent housing solutions. The Ministry of Social Development also operated housing programs that offered users access to housing solutions through agreements with the Ministry of Housing and the Housing Agency, as well as through universal housing solutions available to the general population, while they continued to receive support and follow-up from experts from the Ministry of Social Development. According to NGO representatives, immediate and first-response services focused more on providing advice than on offering close and daily support to victims, mainly due to a lack of staffing. Services for victims in the interior of the country were scarcer and more difficult to access, especially for women in isolated, rural areas. The Ministry for Social Development and the state-owned telephone company Antel maintained a free nationwide hotline operated by trained NGO employees for victims of domestic violence. In July authorities extended the service, making it available 24/7, and victims could also file a report online or at a police station.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has a specialized gender unit that incorporated greater awareness of gender as it relates to matters of justice, promoted respect for women’s rights, combated violence, and enhanced interagency coordination.

There is also a National Gender Council headed by the Women’s Institute of the Ministry of Social Development and with representatives from 26 government and nongovernmental bodies, including the 12 ministries, the judicial branch, health administration, INDDHH, academia, civil society, and other sectors. The aim of the council is to incorporate a gender perspective into the design, assessment, and implementation of policies.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and punishes it by fines or dismissal. The law establishes guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as in student-professor relations, and provides damages for victims. The Ministry of Labor received reports of sexual harassment, its inspectors investigated claims of sexual harassment, and the ministry issued fines as necessary.

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

The country recognized, protected, and promoted sexual and reproductive rights without discrimination. Problems remained, however, in the full implementation of these policies, especially in the interior of the country and for marginalized populations. Adolescents; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; persons with disabilities; and Afro-Uruguayans suffered discrimination in fully accessing contraception and reproductive medical care.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women, however, faced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, housing, and business ownership. According to the United Nations, women’s employment was concentrated in a relatively small number of specific occupations and sectors, including services, sales, unskilled labor, domestic work, social services, health services, and education. There are restrictions on women working in factories. A study conducted in July by Acrux Partners showed that women had less access to credit, and usually for smaller amounts, than men.

During the year the Ministry of Labor’s Tripartite Equal Employment Opportunities Commission promoted the inclusion of gender equality clauses in the negotiations conducted by the wage boards, emphasizing equal pay for equal work, equal access to quality jobs and training, elimination of discrimination in selection and promotion processes, and guarantees and protections for maternity and responsibility sharing.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and government made efforts to enforce the law. Nonetheless, the country’s Afro-Uruguayan minority continued to face societal discrimination, high levels of poverty, and lower levels of education. According to a 2020 World Bank report, Afro-Uruguayans had almost twice the likelihood of residing in informal settlements with the worst socioeconomic indicators, compared with the general population. The report also stated that although Afro-Uruguayans had access to health care, they were more dependent on the public health provider ASSE than the rest of the population. While 30 percent of the population used public health services, the number for Afro-Uruguayans amounted to almost 48 percent. While 63 percent of the population sought prepaid health care from collective medical care institutions, approximately 46 percent of Afro-descendants used these services. Afro-descendants had lower levels of education in general, but the gap was considerably wider for secondary and higher education. NGOs reported structural racism in society and noted the percentage of Afro-Uruguayans working as unskilled laborers was much higher than for other groups.

Afro-Uruguayans were underrepresented in government. Two Afro-Uruguayan representatives served in the 130-seat parliament after the October 2019 elections, including the first Afro-Uruguayan to be elected to the Senate. The law grants 8 percent of state jobs to Afro-Uruguayan minority candidates who comply with constitutional and legal requirements, although the required percentage had not been reached. The National Employment Agency is required to include Afro-Uruguayans in its training courses. The law requires all scholarship and student support programs to include a quota for Afro-Uruguayans, and it grants financial benefits to companies that hire them. Nonetheless, the United Nations reported it was difficult to ensure the ethnoracial perspective was included in all scholarship programs to meet the quotas.

The National Police Academy, National School for Peacekeeping Operations of Uruguay, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ School of Diplomacy included discrimination-awareness training as part of their curricula. The Ministry of Interior organized workshops to review police protocols and procedures involving ethnicity issues for police around the country. The Ministry of Social Development and the interagency antidiscrimination committee held awareness-raising workshops for their staff.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or from one’s parents. The government immediately registered all births.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse, and penalties vary according to the type of abuse. Penalties for sexual abuse of minors vary between two and 16 years in prison, depending on the gravity of the case. Penalties for the crime of assault range from three months to eight years in prison, and the penalty for domestic violence is from six months to two years in prison. INAU provided a free, nationwide hotline. INAU’s System for the Protection of Children and Adolescents against Violence (SIPIAV), together with NGOs, implemented awareness campaigns, and SIPIAV coordinated interagency efforts on the protection of children’s rights.

The Ministry of Education coordinated efforts to provide child victims of domestic violence with tools to report abuses using their One Laptop per Child program computers.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 16, but the law requires parental consent through age 18. The law defines forced marriage as a form of exploitation.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Authorities enforced the law. In March a 54-year-old man was convicted of sexual abuse of two minors ages 12 and 13 and was sentenced to serve a total of four years, two years of prison and two years of probation. In June the Special Crimes Department of the General Directorate for the Fight Against Organized Crime and Interpol arrested a man for attracting minors through social media to perform sexual or erotic jobs in exchange for money. He was sentenced “for a crime of retribution or promise of retribution to minors or persons incapable of carrying out sexual or erotic acts of any kind” to a total of two years – one year in prison and one year of probation. The Special Crimes Department continued a program focused on crimes of child pornography. In total 10 persons were arrested and sentenced for this crime.

The human trafficking law defines the use, recruitment, or offering of children and adolescents for sexual exploitation as a form of trafficking. The law establishes the minimum age for consensual sex as 12. When a sexual union takes place between an adult (older than age 18) and a minor younger than age 15, violence is presumed and the statutory rape law, which carries a penalty of two to 12 years in prison, may be applied. Penalties for sex trafficking range from four to 16 years in prison; penalties were increased by one-third to one-half if the trafficking offense involved a child victim. The penalty for child pornography ranges from one to six years in prison, and the law was effectively enforced. The National Committee for the Eradication of the Commercial and Noncommercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents continued to implement its national action plan for 2016-21.

In September the Ministry of Tourism, INAU, and UNICEF, with the support of the Uruguayan International Cooperation Agency, signed a memorandum of understanding for the prevention, detection, and remedy of sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in the context of tourism. The Prosecutor General’s Office maintained a special hotline to receive reports of sexual exploitation of minors from victims.

Institutionalized Children: The NPM reported on violations in centers for minors and adolescents with mental health disabilities, including physical and verbal mistreatment in three centers. Some centers prioritized security, order, and control, and some lacked proper channels to report abuses.

The NPM also reported violations of rights in the temporary processing centers where children or adolescents separated from their families were initially sent for first response, diagnosis, and evaluation. Violations included prolonged stays, overcrowding, stressful confinement conditions, lack of required support staff, and mistreatment.

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

The Central Jewish Committee reported that the Jewish community had an estimated population of 12,000 to 18,000.

Jewish leaders reported acts of anti-Semitism, including verbal harassment and aggressive behavior toward Jewish individuals. In May a local council member of the Department of Rocha for the Frente Amplio Party posted the following comment in Facebook in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict: “Every day I ask myself whether Hitler was so wrong.” He was strongly criticized by other council members, who demanded his resignation, and fellow party members, who submitted the case to the political conduct tribunal of the party and demanded he take a leave of absence. He later resigned from his position.

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 did not have access to education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law requires such access, as well as communication and information in accessible formats, but it was not enforced. The law provides for the protection of the rights and prohibits abuse of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. According to the INDDHH, persons with disabilities continued to experience human rights abuses. Persons with disabilities living in both private and government-run facilities were unprotected and vulnerable due to lack of effective mechanisms for supervision. According to a 2020 World Bank report on social inclusion, persons with disabilities faced barriers to participation in numerous sectors, especially in the labor market, education, and access to public spaces. According to the study, only 450 of 1,500 buses in Montevideo were accessible to persons with disabilities, and they operated with limited frequency and in limited areas of the city, significantly restricting mobility of persons with disabilities. The report also emphasized the lack of adequate data to analyze this problem and therefore adequately address the needs of the disability community.

The government did not always effectively enforce provisions for persons with disabilities. Civil society representatives stated there was a general lack of services for persons with disabilities in the country’s interior. The Ministry of Social Development administered several programs that provided assistive devices, temporary housing support, care-giving services, legal assistance, access to transportation, education, vocational training, and employment services, but the ministry lacked the capacity to reach all persons with disabilities.

Children with disabilities attended school at all levels at significantly lower rates than children without disabilities. While the national rate of persons who completed only primary education or less was 40 percent, among persons with disabilities it reached 57 percent, and among persons with severe disabilities it was 72 percent. The law grants children with disabilities the right to attend school (primary, secondary, and higher education). NGOs reported some public schools built after enactment of the law protecting persons with disabilities did not comply with accessibility requirements and usually did not have resources to meet the specific needs of students with disabilities. An international organization reported segregated “special schools” existed for children with disabilities, resulting in a de facto segregation for these children. An international organization also reported there were very few adolescents with disabilities in secondary education. Ramps built at public elementary and high schools facilitated access, but some government buildings, commercial sites, movie theaters, and other cultural venues as well as many public sidewalks lacked access ramps. NGO representatives reported hospitals and medical services were not always accessible to patients with disabilities. Medical staff often lacked training to deliver primary care and attention to these patients. The government-sponsored Plan Ceibal, also known as the one laptop per child program, continued to offer adapted laptops to children with disabilities. Open television channels are required by law to have simultaneous sign-language interpretation or subtitles on informational and some other programs, which were included.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were isolated reports of societal discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS.

In August a local NGO reported that a hospital in the department of Paysandu did not allow a gay man to donate blood. The report was filed with health authorities and the National Human Rights Institution and gave rise to several similar complaints by other persons. Hospital officials apologized and stated it was due to lack of knowledge of a December 2020 change in regulation. The transfusion regulations in force since 1999, which did not allow men who had had sex with other men to donate blood, was repealed, and sexual orientation was no longer considered as a determining factor in who can donate blood.

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

Leaders of civil society organizations reported that despite the legal advancement of LGBTQI+ issues, societal discrimination remained high. NGOs also reported that although the law establishes the right of transgender persons to hormone therapies and sex reassignment surgery, there were reports some health providers did not offer these options to patients, without any consequence for their lack of compliance with the law. Furthermore, civil society reported that sex reassignment surgery was available only for transgender women (male to female). NGOs reported the commission in charge of name changes was overwhelmed, which resulted in delays. The Ministry of Social Development informed that as of September the commission had received 148 applications for name changes, of which 47 had been granted.

Authorities generally protected the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. According to Amnesty International, however, the country did not have any comprehensive, antidiscrimination policy that protected LGBTQI+ citizens from violence in schools and public spaces or provided for their access to health services.

The Latin America and Caribbean Transgender Persons Network (REDLACTRANS) presented a study in 2018 showing that human rights violations against transgender women included discrimination, violence and aggression, theft, violation of the right to access justice, harassment, and homicide, among others. Discrimination toward transgender women was typically worse in the interior of the country, which tended to be more conservative and had smaller populations. REDLACTRANS reported most transgender persons did not finish high school and that most transgender women worked in the informal sector, where their social benefits were not always guaranteed. They tended to be more vulnerable to dangerous and uncomfortable situations in sexual work and were less likely to report threats or attacks. In 2016, the latest figures available, the government reported that 30 percent of transgender persons were unemployed. Among the employed, only 25 percent worked in the formal sector, 70 percent were sex workers, and the majority had low levels of education. Civil society reported it was less frequent for transgender men to be expelled from their home but that there was a high rate of depression and suicide attempts among this population. Observers also noted that, because they did not complete their education, transgender men usually had unskilled and low-paying jobs.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and the law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, protect the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in practice. Civil servants, employees of state-run enterprises, private-enterprise workers, and legal foreign workers may join unions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and requires employers to reinstate workers, including migrant workers, fired for union activities and pay them an indemnity. Workers in the informal sector are excluded from these protections.

An omnibus reform bill passed in July 2020 introduced changes that affected the right to strike. The law establishes that strikers may not occupy places of work and prevent nonstrikers and management staff from entering the building. In addition, the law states that the obstruction of free circulation of persons, goods, or services in public spaces or private spaces for public use are not allowed. Unions had been vocal in their assertion that this is a limitation to the right to protest. The Unions Association and the opposition party Frente Amplio collected enough signatures to call for a referendum to revoke this and other articles of the omnibus reform bill. Observers believed the vote was likely to take place in early 2022.

The government effectively enforced applicable labor laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

Worker organizations operated free of government and political intervention. Labor union leaders were strong advocates for public policies and even foreign policy issues and remained very active in the political and economic life of the country. In 2019 the International Labor Organization selected the country to be analyzed by its Committee on Application of Standards, due to noncompliance with Convention 98 on collective bargaining. According to the committee, tripartite bodies can negotiate only wages, while terms and conditions of work should be negotiated bilaterally between employers and workers organizations. The convention states collective bargaining should be voluntary; however, in practice it was mandatory. During the international labor conference in 2019, the committee called on the government to review and change the country’s legislation on collective bargaining.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law establishes penalties of four to 16 years in prison for forced labor crimes. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Information on the effectiveness of inspections and governmental remedies was not available. Foreign workers, particularly from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela, were vulnerable to forced labor in agriculture, construction, domestic service, cleaning services, elder care, wholesale stores, textile industries, agriculture, fishing, and lumber processing. Cuban nationals working in the country may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Domestic workers employed in the less-monitored interior of the country were at greater risk of trafficking. Migrant women were the most vulnerable as they were often exposed to commercial sexual exploitation. Foreign workers aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels docked at the Montevideo port and in Uruguay’s waters may have been subjected to abuses indicative of forced labor, including unpaid wages, confiscated identification, a complete absence of medical and dental care, and physical abuse. According to official figures, from 2018 to 2020, 17 crewmember deaths were associated with foreign-flagged fishing vessels docked at the Montevideo port and in the country’s waters, several due to poor medical care.

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. The law sets the minimum age for employment at age 15 but does not apply to all sectors, such as hazardous work. INAU may issue work permits for children ages 13 to 15 under exceptional circumstances specified by law. Minors ages 15 to 17 must undergo physical exams prior to beginning work and renew the exams yearly to confirm that the work does not exceed the physical capacity of the minor. Children ages 15 to 17 may not work more than six hours per day within a 36-hour workweek and may not work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18, and the government maintains a list of hazardous or fatiguing work that minors should not perform and for which it does not grant permits.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for overall compliance with labor regulations, but INAU is responsible for enforcing child labor laws. Due to a lack of dedicated resources, enforcement was mixed and particularly poor in the informal economy, where most child labor occurred. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping, or even harsher. Violations of child labor laws by companies and individuals are punishable by fines determined by an adjustable government index. Parents of minors involved in illegal child labor may receive a sentence of three months to four years in prison, according to the penal code. These penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The main child labor activities reported in the interior of the country were work on small farms, maintenance work, animal feeding, fishing, cleaning milking yards, cattle roundup, beauty shops, work at summer resorts, and as kitchen aids. In Montevideo the main labor activities were in the food industry, including supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, and bakeries, and in the service sector, such as gas stations, customer service, delivery services, cleaning, and kitchen-aid activities. Informal-sector child labor continued to be reported in activities such as begging, domestic service, street vending, garbage collection and recycling, construction, and in agriculture and forestry sectors, which were generally less strictly regulated and where children often worked with their families.

INAU worked with the Ministry of Labor and the state-owned insurance company BSE to investigate child labor complaints and worked with the Prosecutor General’s Office to prosecute cases. According to INAU, there were an estimated 60,000 children and adolescents working in informal and illegal activities. INAU and ministry authorities stated the child labor situation was likely worsened by the effects of the pandemic and announced measures to address this problem, including hiring more inspectors dedicated to detecting child labor, from seven to 12, and updating statistics on the issue, as the latest figures dated back to 2010.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV status, or other communicable diseases. In general the government enforced applicable law and regulations, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The Labor and Social Security Inspection Division of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security investigates discrimination and workplace abuse claims filed by union members.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred mostly with respect to sex, race, disability, gender identity, and nationality. According to UN Women, the number of gainfully employed women decreased as they have more children, which did not happen to men. Women earned lower wages than their male counterparts, an average 25 percent less in similar circumstances, and only an estimated 20 percent of companies claimed to have women in leadership positions. According to a study published by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and UN Women in 2020, 10 years after having their first child, women’s monthly salaries averaged 42 percent lower than women in similar circumstances who did not have children.

According to a 2020 World Bank report on social exclusion, Afro-Uruguayans earned 20 percent less than the rest of the population for the same work. Afro-Uruguayan women had the highest unemployment rate, amounting to 14 percent, compared with 8 percent for the general population. The law requires that 8 percent of government positions be filled with Afro-Uruguayans. The National Office of the Civil Service oversees compliance with the Afro-Uruguayan (and other) employment quota requirements and submits reports to parliament. The office stated that in 2019 the percentage of vacancy announcements for positions calling for Afro-Uruguayan applicants had reached the 8 percent required by the law for the first time ever. The office reported that in 2020, fewer than 0.7 percent of positions were filled with Afro-Uruguayans.

The 2020 World Bank report also stated that 59 percent of persons with disabilities participated in the labor market, compared with 76 percent for persons who did not report disabilities. The law requires a 4 percent quota for hires in the public and private sectors. According to reports of the National Office of the Civil Service, only 0.4 percent of civil service hires during 2020 were persons with a disability. Furthermore, the report showed that transgender persons, especially transgender men, had the worst employment indicators in the entire population. Only 66 percent of the transgender population was employed; the unemployment rate among transgender women was 30 percent and 43 percent among transgender men. Among those employed, approximately one-third were sex workers. A law for transgender persons sets an employment quota for transgender persons in the public sector at 1 percent, but the National Office of the Civil Service reported that only 0.016 percent of civil service hires in 2020 corresponded to transgender persons. In 2020 the Ministry of Social Development implemented an employment program to offer short-term employment to unemployed persons, and of the 3,106 beneficiaries, 61 (2 percent) were transgender.

Foreign workers, regardless of their national origin or citizenship status, were not always welcome and continued to face obstacles when seeking employment. The International Organization for Migration reported that several foreign workers were removed from positions with face-to-face customer interaction due to complaints by customers about their foreign accents. The government took steps to prevent and eliminate discrimination (see sections 5 and 6).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a national minimum wage, and the monthly minimum wage for all workers was above the poverty line. The government effectively enforced wage laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. Formal-sector workers, including domestic and migrant workers and workers in the agricultural sector, are covered by laws on minimum wage and hours of work.

The law stipulates that a person cannot work more than eight hours a day, and the standard workweek for those in the industrial and retail sectors may not exceed 44 or 48 hours, with daily breaks of 30 minutes to two and one-half hours. The law requires that workers receive premium pay for work more than regular work-schedule hours. The law entitles all workers to 20 days of paid vacation after one year of employment and to paid annual holidays, and it prohibits compulsory overtime beyond a maximum 50-hour workweek. Employers in the industrial sector are required to give workers either Sunday off or one day off every six days of work (variable workweek). Workers in the retail sector are entitled to a 36-hour block of free time each week. Workers in the rural sector cannot work more than 48 hours in a period of six days.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing the minimum monthly wage for both public- and private-sector employees and for enforcing legislation regulating health and safety conditions. The ministry had 120 labor inspectors throughout the country, which was sufficient to enforce compliance. The number of penalties imposed for labor violations was unavailable.

The government monitors wages and other benefits, such as social security and health insurance, through the Social Security Fund and the Internal Revenue Service. The Ministry of Public Health’s Bureau of Environment and Occupational Work is responsible for developing policies to detect, analyze, prevent, and control risk factors that may affect workers’ health.

The Labor Ministry’s Social Security Fund monitors domestic work and may obtain judicial authorization to conduct home inspections, some unannounced, to investigate potential labor law violations and initiate sanctions if necessary. Conditions for domestic workers include labor rights, social security benefits, wage increases, and insurance benefits.

Occupational Safety and Health: By law workers may not be exposed to situations that endanger their health or safety and may remove themselves from such situations without jeopardy to their employment. Government authorities and unions protected employees who removed themselves from such activities. The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for carrying out safety and health (OSH) inspections in the agricultural sector.

The Ministry of Labor sets OSH standards, and the standards were current and appropriate for the main industries in the country. The government effectively enforced OSH laws. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes, such as negligence.

In some cases workers were not informed of specific hazards or employers did not adequately enforce labor safety measures.

Informal Sector: Minimum wage laws do not cover workers in the informal sector, who accounted for 24 percent of the workforce. Workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were more vulnerable to labor rights violations. In general authorities effectively enforced minimum wage standards in the formal sector but less so in the informal sector. Although an estimated 39 percent of domestic workers were employed in the informal sector, it was half the percentage it was 10 years ago. Lack of awareness of their rights by informal workers coupled with their low visibility to the state led to lower protections provided to them.