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.


Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women and impunity for perpetrators continued to be a serious problem. The UNAH Violence Observatory reported 222 violent deaths of women in the first six months of the year, compared with 478 violent deaths of women during 2015.

Rape was a serious and pervasive societal problem. The law criminalizes all forms of rape, including spousal rape. The government considers rape a crime of public concern, and the state prosecutes rapists even if victims do not press charges. Prosecutors treat accusations of spousal rape somewhat differently, however, and evaluate such charges on a case-by-case basis. The penalties for rape range from three to nine years’ imprisonment, and the courts enforced these penalties. Rape continued to be underreported, however, due to fear of stigma, retribution, and further violence. The Center for Women’s Rights (CDM) reported that 2,774 women and girls reported sexual crimes to the Public Ministry in 2015. As of October the Public Ministry’s Office of Crimes Against Women had received 1,172 formal complaints of domestic violence and provided 2,989 legal consultations. The CDM also reported that the Public Ministry’s General Directorate for Forensic Medicine conducted 3,022 examinations of sexual violence survivors in 2015, a 40 percent increase over 2014. According to reports from victims, 73 percent of attackers were family members or other individuals the victims knew.

Violence between domestic and intimate partners continued to be widespread. The law provides penalties of up to four years in prison for domestic violence; however, if a victim’s physical injuries do not reach the severity required to categorize the violence as a criminal act, the only legal penalty for a first offense is a sentence of one to three months of community service. Female victims of domestic violence are entitled to certain protective measures. Abusers caught in the act may be detained for up to 24 hours as a preventive measure. The law provides a maximum sentence of three years in prison for disobeying a restraining order connected with the crime of intra-familial violence. In many cases victims were reluctant to press charges against their abusers because of economic dependence on their male partners, their roles in caring for children, and a lack of domestic violence shelters. The CDM reported that 18,070 women filed complaints of domestic violence in special domestic violence courts in 2015.

The government provided services to victims of domestic violence in hospitals and health centers. The national government provided space through September for an NGO in Tegucigalpa to run a shelter, and provided police protection. Local governments, in cooperation with NGOs, operated domestic violence shelters in San Pedro Sula, Choluteca, La Ceiba, and Juticalpa; they also had an office in Comayagua. NGOs operated their own small shelters in Santa Rosa de Copan and Comayagua. The government did not provide enough financial and other resources for these facilities to operate effectively.

In cooperation with the UN Development Program, the government operated consolidated reporting centers in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula where women could report crimes, seek medical and psychological attention, and receive other services. These reporting centers were in addition to the 298 government-operated women’s offices–one in each municipality–that provided a wide array of services to women, focusing on education, personal finance, health, social and political participation, environmental stewardship, and prevention of gender-based violence. The quantity and quality of services that these offices provided was uneven. CONADEH reported that in 2015, 37 percent of the 3,372 complaints it received for violations of women’s rights were for domestic violence, 22 percent were for lack of access to justice and due process, and 41 percent were for alleged violations of economic, social, and cultural rights.

In March 2015 the UN special rapporteur on violence against women expressed concern that most women in the country remained marginalized, discriminated against, and at high risk of being subjected to human rights violations, including violence and violations of their sexual and reproductive rights. UN Women reported in 2015 that violent deaths of women and girls, domestic violence, and sexual violence in all forms increased steadily from 2005 to 2014, but UNAH’s Violence Observatory reported a drop in violent deaths of women between 2013 (636 deaths) and the first six months of the year (222 deaths).

Sexual Harassment: Both the penal and labor codes criminalize various forms of sexual harassment. Violators face penalties of one to three years in prison and possible suspension of their professional licenses, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Sexual harassment was a serious societal problem but was underreported because of fear of stigma and reprisal. The CDM reported that 94 women filed complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace in 2015. The Supreme Court reported receiving only two cases of sexual harassment in 2015 and none in the first six months of the year. In that time one case was brought to trial, four cases were dismissed, two provisionally dismissed, and one case resolved through mediation.

Reproductive Rights: Generally, couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. According to UN estimates, maternal mortality was approximately 129 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was 1 in 300. Although 83 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that there were significant gaps in emergency obstetric care.

The Ministry of Health also worked to expand the provision of family planning services in rural and low-income areas. UNFPA estimated in 2015 that 64 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern contraceptive method, and 11 percent of women had an unmet family planning need. Family planning supplies continued to be limited by shortages and insufficient funding.

There were reports of forced sterilizations of women with HIV, according to the International AIDS Society.

NGOs criticized a 2009 prohibition on emergency contraception medication, which they claimed abridged a woman’s right to make family planning decisions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, selling, distributing, or using emergency contraception carried the same punishments as performing or obtaining abortion, for which the Center for Reproductive Rights reported that women can be sentenced to three to six years in prison; no cases of enforcement were known to be reported.

Discrimination: Although the law accords women and men the same legal rights and status, including property rights in divorce cases, many women did not fully enjoy such rights. On July 11, the CESCR expressed concern that women living in rural areas, indigenous women, and women of African descent continued to be victims of multiple and cross-sectoral forms of discrimination, as reflected in their high rates of poverty. Most women in the workforce engaged in lower-status and lower-paying informal occupations, such as domestic service, without the benefit of legal protections. Women participated in small numbers in most professions, but cultural attitudes limited their career opportunities. Women participated in the formal labor force at approximately one-half the rate of men. By law women have equal access to educational opportunities. The law requires that employers pay women equal wages for equal work, but often classified women’s jobs as less demanding than those of men to justify women’s lower salaries. Job seekers older than age 30, particularly women, faced age discrimination.


Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth in the country, from the citizenship of their parents, or by naturalization. Although birth registration was widely available in 2015, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that, according to the National Population and Housing Census of 2013, an estimated 65,000 children did not have birth registration documents. The largest numbers of unregistered children were in indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities. UNICEF assisted the government in extending civil registries to indigenous and remote communities, and, as of 2015, the government had 217 automated registration offices. Only seven registration offices lacked automation, all of them located in isolated areas that lacked electricity.

Education: Education is free, compulsory, and universal through the 12th grade, although high school students had to pay fees. There was a shortage of middle schools and adequately prepared teachers. According to 2013 census data, girls generally attended at a higher rate than boys did, a gap that widened after age 12. By age 15 there were 6 percent fewer boys in school than girls.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious problem. The UNAH Violence Observatory reported 412 cases of mistreatment and abandonment of children in 2015. The law establishes prison sentences of up to three years for child abuse.

The Violence Observatory reported the homicides of 570 children–88 girls and 482 boys–in 2015, a 9 percent decrease from 2014. NGOs stated that these figures probably underestimated the number of crimes against children. As of July the children’s rights organization, Casa Alianza, reported the homicides and violent deaths of 147 children; there were no arrests in 80 percent of these cases. The Violence Observatory reported 117 such homicides, a more than 50 percent decrease from 2015. Casa Alianza said the homicides often involved torture, strangulation, and dumping bodies in remote areas. While there were some improvements in the overall security situation, there were reports that police committed acts of violence against poor youths. Human rights groups continued to allege that private citizens and individual members of the security forces used unwarranted lethal force against youths.

Because the country’s antigang legislation specifies lower penalties for minors, gangs continued to employ underage youth in their operations. Children from eight to 12 years old frequently worked as lookouts and collected “war taxes” (that is, extortion payments). Consequently, rival gangs often disputed recruiting areas around schools.

Five street children between the ages of 13 and 16, who were working without authorization to collect and recycle garbage, were killed on February 11 in Tegucigalpa. Media reported that gang members were presumed responsible for the deaths.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 21, although with parental consent boys may marry at 18 and girls at 16. According to government statistics, 10 percent of women marry before age 15 and 37 percent before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The commercial sexual exploitation of children, especially in prostitution, continued to be a problem. The country was a destination for child sex tourism. The legal age of consent is 18. There is no statutory rape law, but the penalty for rape of a minor under age 12 is 15 to 20 years in prison. The penalty is nine to 13 years in prison if the victim is age 13 or older. Penalties for facilitating child prostitution are 10 to 15 years in prison, with fines ranging from one million to 2.5 million lempiras ($44,000 to $110,000). The law prohibits the use of children under 18 for exhibitions or performances of a sexual nature or in the production of pornography.

Displaced Children: Many children lived on the streets. Casa Alianza estimated there were more than 8,800 street children in major cities. Between September 2015 and August, Casa Alianza assisted 256 street children, 38 more than in the previous 12 months. During the same period, the organization assisted 400 children in its shelters and helped 75 children reintegrate with their families.

Polling indicated that lack of economic and educational opportunities, fear of violence, and the desire for family reunification motivated children to seek to emigrate. One civil society organization reported that common causes of forced displacement for youth included death threats for failure to pay extortion, attempted recruitment by gangs, witnessing criminal activity by gangs or organized crime, domestic violence, attempted kidnappings, family members’ involvement in drug dealing, victimization by traffickers, discrimination based on sexual orientation, sexual harassment, and discrimination for having a chronic illness. Casa Alianza reported that as of July 4, the Belen migrant attention center in San Pedro Sula had processed 417 youths deported from Mexico. Casa Alianza identified 261 of these youths as persons displaced by violence.

Institutionalized Children: Between January 2015 and September 2016, at least 10 juveniles were killed while in detention in government facilities, nine of them in the Renaciendo center. CONAPREV reported four incidents at Renaciendo as of August, including violence between members of MS-18 and another gang, Los Chirizos, resulting in the deaths of two minors affiliated with Los Chirizos and injuries to 11 other detainees.

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


The Jewish community, located primarily in San Pedro Sula, numbered several hundred. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, access to the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. Enforcement in the area of employment is the responsibility of the Secretariat of State for Labor and Social Security (STSS), but was not effective due to the STSS’s limited resources and its focus on workplace safety and pay. The Public Ministry is responsible for prosecuting violations. The law requires that persons with disabilities have access to buildings, but few buildings were accessible, and the national government did not effectively implement laws or programs to provide such access.

The law includes provisions for inclusive education of students with disabilities. In June the Ministry of Education reported that there were 63,148 students with disabilities in the school system. Also in June the National Federation of Parents of Individuals with Disabilities in Honduras signed an agreement with the ministry to work together to monitor and evaluate the ministry’s Institutional Management Plan for Universal Access to Educational Facilities. The ministry agreed to devote one-third of new teaching positions to facilities that have children with disabilities. In July the ministry announced that more than 6,000 educational centers had conducted analyses of access for children with disabilities and that it would use these analyses to assign necessary staff in 2017. An additional 1,725 educational centers in seven departments had conducted accessibility studies and created accessibility plans. On August 26, the ministry announced it had filled 349 staff positions, including more than 200 new technical assistant positions, in schools having children with disabilities and in indigenous communities. Some parents filed complaints against schools that allegedly refused to register students with disabilities. In 2014 CONADEH estimated that 27 percent of economically active individuals with disabilities had no education and 56 percent had only a primary education.

The government continued to struggle to implement its policy on persons with disabilities. The government had a disabilities unit in the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In the 2013 census, approximately 8.5 percent of the population identified themselves as members of indigenous communities, but other estimates were higher. Indigenous groups including the Miskito, Tawahkas, Pech, Tolupans, Lencas, Maya-Chortis, Nahual, Bay Islanders, and Garifunas had limited representation in the national government and consequently little direct input into decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation of natural resources.

According to government data, 89 percent of indigenous and Afro-descendent children lived in poverty, 78 percent of them in extreme poverty. In 2014 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns about persistent poverty among indigenous peoples and Afro-descendent communities, as well as their social exclusion. It noted in particular that women in Afro-Honduran and indigenous communities faced multiple forms of discrimination in all aspects of social, political, and economic life. On April 11, the government adopted a Policy against Racism and Racial Discrimination for the Comprehensive Development of the Indigenous and African-Honduran Populations.

The 2013 census reported that 15 percent of male and 17.5 percent of female indigenous persons 10 years and older had no education. The National Institute of Statistics estimated in 2015 that 21 percent of the general population was illiterate, with an illiteracy rate of 36 percent among those ages 60 and over. Illiteracy rates were more than double that in rural areas. Sixty percent of indigenous respondents above the age of 10 reported having a sixth-grade education or less. The Directorate General for Intercultural Multilingual Education began operating in 2013 with a mission to expand educational opportunities in both Spanish and local languages. In 2015 the Ministry of Education increased by 48,000, to 119,000, the number of students educated in bilingual schools that teach in both Spanish and a local language.

Indigenous People

On July 21, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples categorized the situation of the indigenous peoples of the country as critical. She stated that their rights over their lands, territories, and natural resources were not protected, that they faced acts of violence when claiming their rights in a general environment of violence and impunity, and that they lacked access to justice. Additionally, they suffered from inequality, poverty, and a lack of basic social services such as education and healthcare.

On March 3, indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Caceres was killed in her home. At the time of her death, Caceres was leading opposition to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in Intibuca Department. She was granted protective measures from the IACHR and some protective services from the government. In May the government arrested four individuals for involvement in her death. Subsequently, authorities arrested two additional suspects. As of December 20, all six remained in custody pending trial following initial evidentiary hearings. As of December human rights groups, indigenous groups, and members of the Caceres family continued to press authorities to identify and arrest those that ordered her murder, whom they suspected were still at large.

Two of those arrested had links to Desarrollos Energeticos, SA (DESA), the company constructing the dam. Some local community members, including Caceres, opposed the project and claimed that the government had failed to consult appropriately with the indigenous Lenca community as required under International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169; they also criticized DESA for failing to consult with the indigenous community. Other community members, however, supported the project as a source of local employment and development. Although the country has no law defining how to implement ILO 169, in August the Public Ministry began criminal proceedings against the former vice minister of the environment who awarded the concession for the project and against the mayor of the town where it was set to be built. The Public Ministry accused them of abuse of authority and failure to abide by the international obligations of ILO 169. In November a judge ordered another former vice minister of the environment held without bail pending trial for abuse of authority and failure to abide by the international obligations of ILO 169 when authorizing changes to the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project.

Other indigenous and environmental rights activists also reported threats and acts of violence against them. Ana Mirian Romero of the Indigenous Lenca Movement of La Paz reported receiving death threats and said someone burned her house down. Caceres’ organization, COPINH, reported threats and violence against other members as well. The government took some steps to investigate and arrest those responsible for the violence.

As of September the government was in discussions with indigenous communities over a bill that would regulate prior consultation under ILO 169. As of early November, COPINH and Garifuna indigenous organization OFRANEH decided not to participate in the discussions and instead supported a separate bill presented in Congress earlier in the year. On July 11, CESCR expressed concerns about reports that the government had failed to respect indigenous peoples’ right to prior consultation. CESCR insisted that such consultations were necessary to obtain these communities’ input on decisions that could affect them, including when negotiating concessions for the exploitation of natural resources or other development projects.

Communal ownership was the norm for most indigenous land, providing land-use rights for individual members of the community. Documents dating to the mid-19th century defined indigenous land titles poorly. The government continued its efforts to recognize indigenous titles. Lack of clear land titles provoked land use conflicts with nonindigenous agricultural laborers, businesses, and government entities interested in developing coastlines, forests, areas rich in mineral resources, and other lands that indigenous and other ethnic minority communities traditionally occupied or used. Indigenous communities criticized the government’s alleged complicity in the exploitation of timber and other natural resources on these lands. Indigenous leaders continued to allege that indigenous and nonindigenous groups smuggled drugs and other contraband through their lands and illegally appropriated vast areas of their communal lands.

In October 2015 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of two Garifuna communities that had accused the government of violating their rights by failing to protect their communities’ land from exploitation. As of December, the government was working to create a mechanism to address the ramifications of these rulings.

The government formally recognized nine indigenous and Afro-descendent communities and continued efforts to address indigenous land rights problems. In April the government completed the transfer of land titles to the 12 Miskito territorial councils, including two titles to land in the Rio Platano biosphere. Since 2012 the territorial councils received titles to more than 5,400 square miles, 12 percent of the country’s territory. NGOs helped indigenous communities negotiate with the government and establish their juridical identities.

Persons from indigenous and Afro-descendent communities continued to experience discrimination in employment, education, housing, and health services.

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

The law states that sexual orientation and gender identity characteristics merit special protection from discrimination and includes these characteristics in a hate crimes amendment to the penal code. Nevertheless, social discrimination against LGBTI persons was widespread. As of October the special prosecutor for human rights was investigating nine formal complaints of discrimination by members of the LGBTI community in previous years. Representatives of NGOs that focused on the right to sexual diversity alleged that the PMOP and other elements of the security forces harassed and abused members of the community. As of August the NGO Colectivo Color Rosa reported 11 violent deaths of LGBTI persons, similar to levels in previous years. In October the Public Ministry reported records of 218 cases of violent deaths of LGBTI individuals since 2009, of which 14 cases had resulted in convictions and 171 were still under investigation. NGOs also documented multiple instances of assaults and discrimination against members of the LGBTI community.

On June 2, prominent LGBTI activist and community leader Rene Martinez was killed. Martinez was an activist in the ruling National Party, the president of an LGBTI association in San Pedro Sula, the leader of a local community council, and a volunteer with a community-based violence prevention program. As of early August, the VCTF continued to investigate the case. It was uncertain whether his death was related to his LGBTI status or political activities.

LGBTI rights groups asserted that government agencies and private employers engaged in discriminatory hiring practices. LGBTI groups continued working with the VCTF, the Ministry of Security, and the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights to address concerns about intimidation, fear of reprisals, and police corruption.

In April the HNP assigned 30 new agents to the VCTF, bringing the total to 41 VCTF investigators. As of September the new investigators were going through a training and mentorship phase, after which the HNP would assign them either in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula. As of September the VCTF was investigating 17 homicides of members of the LGBTI community. The VCTF arrested two suspects from cases initiated during the year and one suspect from a case initiated in 2015.

The HNP took steps to educate personnel to respond more effectively to cases of gender-based violence and violence against LGBTI persons. The Criminal Investigations School (EIC) designed two new police education modules, one on gender-based violence awareness and the other on LGBTI violence reduction. These modules were included in all EIC courses for recruits beginning on August 22.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Access to employment, educational opportunities, and health services continued to be major challenges for persons with HIV/AIDS. One civil society organization reported that three members of the LGBTI community died of gunshot wounds after medical personnel refused to treat them because they would not submit to HIV tests. Community members reported that transgender women were particularly vulnerable to discrimination, and that many could find employment only as sex workers.


Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, except spousal rape when the woman is over the age of 15. Punishment ranges from prison terms of two years to life in prison, a fine of 20,418 rupees ($306), or both. Official statistics pointed to rape as the country’s fastest growing crime, prompted by the increasing willingness of victims to report rapes, although observers believed the number of rapes remained underreported. Law enforcement and legal recourse for rape victims was inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the problem effectively. Police officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. NGO Lawyers Collective noted the length of trials, lack of victim support, and inadequate protection of witnesses and victims remained major concerns. Doctors continued to carry out the invasive “two-finger test” to speculate sexual history, despite the Supreme Court holding that that the test violates a victim’s right to privacy. In 2015 the government introduced new guidelines for health professionals for medical examinations of victims of sexual violence. It included provisions regarding consent of the victim during various stages of examination, which some NGOs claimed was an improvement to recording incidents. Some sources maintained that despite these directions, many medical professionals remained unaware of state guidelines for treating survivors of sexual violence.

Women in conflict areas, such as in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, as well as vulnerable Dalit or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. National crime statistics indicated Dalit women were disproportionately victimized compared with other caste affiliations.

The law provides for protection against some forms of abuse against women in the home, including verbal, emotional, and economic abuse, as well as the threat of abuse. The law recognizes the right of a woman to reside in a shared household with her spouse or partner while a dispute continues, although a woman may seek accommodations at the partner’s expense. Although the law also provides women with the right to police assistance, legal aid, shelter, and medical care, domestic abuse remained a serious problem. Lack of law enforcement safeguards and pervasive corruption limited the effectiveness of the law.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development promulgated guidelines for the establishment of social services for women, but due to lack of funding, personnel, and proper training, services were primarily available only in metropolitan areas. Some police officials, especially in smaller towns, were reluctant to register cases of crimes against women, especially against persons of influence.

On May 17, the Ministry of Women and Child Development unveiled the “National Policy for Women 2016,” a roadmap on women’s issues for government action over the next 15 to 20 years. Drafted after consultations with NGOs and civil society, the policy addresses cybercrime, maternity leave, nutrition, education, and a review of the criminalization of marital rape among other issues.

Domestic violence continued to be a problem, and the National Family Health Survey revealed more than 50 percent of women reported experiencing some form of violence in their home. Advocates reported many women refrained from reporting domestic abuses due to social pressures. According to some NGOs, the lack of consolidated data was a disadvantage in framing policies and taking appropriate action. Attitudes of law enforcement officials treating domestic violence as a “private matter” also remained a concern for NGOs.

Gender-based violence remained one of the key issues facing women in Jammu and Kashmir. According to the state’s Commission for Women, the number of incidents of crime against women registered an increase of about 11 percent in 2016 compared with 2015.

Crimes against women, including kidnapping, rape, dowry deaths, and domestic abuse, remained a significant problem. The NCRB noted underreporting of such crimes was likely. The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women to be 19.6 percent. Acid attacks against women caused death and permanent disfigurement. According to the NCRB, the number of acid attack victims increased from 241 in 2014 to 305 in 2015, an increase of 27 percent.

Acid, commonly used as a household cleaner, was available at local markets. Despite a 2013 Supreme Court order regulating the sale of acid across the country, media reports indicated acid was easily available. In June 2015, pursuant to the Supreme Court directive, the Karnataka State Commission for Women increased compensation for acid and kerosene attack victims from 200,000 rupees ($3,000) to 300,000 rupees ($4,500). The sum awarded is irrespective of the degree of harm sustained. In April 2015 the Supreme Court directed all private hospitals to provide medical assistance to victims of acid attacks. During the year implementation of the policy began in Chennai.

In the first conviction for an acid attack in the country, on September 9, a special court convicted Ankur Panwar for a fatal acid attack of 23-year-old Preeti Rathi at a railway station in Mumbai in 2013. In July the central government launched a revised Central Victim Compensation Fund scheme to reduce disparities in compensation for victims of crime including rape, acid attacks, crime against children, and human trafficking across India. Started with a one-time grant of two billion rupees ($300 million) under the Nirbhaya Fund, the scheme will provide a minimum compensation of 300,000 rupees ($4,500) for acid attack victims. Compensation increases by 50 percent if the victim is less than 14.

Media reported rioters raped at least 10 women traveling on a national highway through Haryana on February 22. The alleged rapes occurred during a series of protests organized across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Delhi by the Jat community demanding reservations in government jobs. After initially denying the allegations, the Haryana government acknowledged to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in August that state police investigations indicated rapes appeared to have occurred. Although the report of the government-appointed Special Investigating Team was presented to the court, the government counsel claimed no witnesses came forward to file complaints. He also informed the court the investigation continued and that five persons had been arrested in connection to the case.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups and media reports, between 70 and 90 percent of Dawoodi Bohras, a population of approximately one million concentrated in Maharashtra and Gujarat, practiced various forms of FGM/C. On June 4, the Bohra spiritual head, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, for the first time spoke publicly about the practice of FGM/C as an “act of religious purity,” and a religious obligation for all women and girls in the community. Prior to this statement, local congregations had issued directives calling on their members to refrain from practicing FGM/C where the procedure is legally banned. On May 7, a rival claimant for the sect’s leadership, Syedna Taher Fakhruddin, issued a public statement condemning FGM/C as “an un-Islamic and horrific practice” that should only be allowed after a girl attained adulthood and of her free volition.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law forbids the provision or acceptance of a dowry, but families continued to offer and accept dowries, and dowry disputes remained a serious problem. The law also bans harassment in the form of dowry demands and empowers magistrates to issue protection orders. NCRB data showed authorities arrested 19,973 persons for dowry deaths in 2015.

“Sumangali schemes” affected an estimated 120,000 young women. These plans, named after the Tamil word for “happily married woman,” are a form of bonded labor in which young women or girls work to earn money for a dowry to be able to marry. The promised lump-sum compensation ranged from 80,000 to 100,000 rupees ($1,200 to $1,500), which was withheld until the end of three to five years of employment. Compensation, however, sometimes went partially or entirely unpaid. While in bonded labor, employers reportedly subjected women to serious workplace abuses, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and murder. The majority of sumangali-bonded laborers came from the Scheduled Castes, and of those, employers subjected Dalits, the lowest-ranking Arunthathiyars, and migrants from northern India, to particular abuse. Authorities did not allow trade unions in sumangali factories, and some sumangali workers reportedly did not report abuses due to fear of retribution. A 2014 case study by NGO Vaan Muhil described health problems among workers and working conditions reportedly involving physical and sexual exploitation. In July the Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu government to evaluate the legality of sumangali schemes.

Most states employed dowry prohibition officers, with the exception of Mizoram and Nagaland, states that do not have a tradition of dowry. The Dowry Prohibition Act does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling makes it mandatory for all trial courts to charge defendants in dowry-death cases with murder.

So-called honor killings remained a problem, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. These states also had low female birth ratios due to gender-selective abortions. Some killings resulted from extrajudicial decisions by traditional community elders, such as “khap panchayats,” unelected caste-based village assemblies that have no legal standing. The NGO Center for Social Research conducted extensive awareness campaigns in several districts in Haryana and noted that khap panchayats had not publicly deliberated on the issue of honor killings during the year. In December Junior Home Minister Hansraj Ahir told lawmakers that police registered 251 cases of honor killing in 2015, compared with 28 in 2014 when the country began counting them separately from murder. The most common justification for the killings cited by the accused or by their relatives was that the victim married against her family’s wishes. Statistics for honor killings remained difficult to verify since many killings were either unreported or reported as natural deaths or suicides by family members.

There were reports women and girls in the “devadasi” system of symbolic marriages to Hindu deities were victims of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons–a form of sex trafficking. NGOs suggested families forced some SC girls into prostitution in temples to mitigate household financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. Some states have laws to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. Enforcement of these laws remained lax, and the problem was widespread. Some observers estimated more than 450,000 women and girls engaged in temple-related prostitution.

There was no federal law addressing accusations of witchcraft; however, authorities can use provisions under the penal code as an alternative for a victim accused of witchcraft. Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Assam, and Jharkhand have laws criminalizing those who accuse others of witchcraft. In August 2015 the Assam state legislature unanimously passed a law making “witch-hunting” a criminal offense. Most reports stated villagers and local council usually banned the accused from the village. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry think tank reported many accusations and related violence have roots in property disputes and local politics.

According to a Partners for Law in Development on Contemporary Practices of Witch Hunting 2015 study, special laws against witch hunting were rarely, if at all, invoked in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Jharkhand, where the fieldwork for the study was undertaken. The study claimed action was more likely under the penal code when violence escalated and preventive action was unlikely.

More than a year after Rajasthan passed its 2015 Prevention of Witch Hunting Bill, victims were still awaiting justice. While official figures showed approximately 20 women were accused of witchcraft in Bhilwara, NGOs stated there were 61 cases of witch hunting between 1998 and 2016. Women were killed in three cases, and the accused were in jail briefly before they were granted bail. The NHRC issued a notice to the Rajasthan government regarding the plight of women accused of witchcraft in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara District.

Discrimination against widows occurred throughout the country. According to some cultural traditions, widows were inauspicious and sometimes cast out by their own families. Many widows became destitute and resorted to begging for survival.

Sexual Harassment: Authorities required all state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees to operate committees to prevent and address sexual harassment, often referred to as “Eve teasing.” By law sexual harassment includes one or more unwelcome acts or behavior, such as physical contact, a request for sexual favors, making sexually suggestive remarks, or showing pornography. Employers who fail to establish complaint committees faced fines of up to 50,000 rupees ($750). The law also includes penalties for false or malicious charges.

Reproductive Rights: Lack of access to quality reproductive and maternal health care services, skilled attendants at birth, contraception to space pregnancies, and unsafe abortion continued to contribute to high rates of maternal mortality. According to UN estimates, the maternal mortality ratio was 174 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 220, and 45,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth. The 2010-12 Sample Registration Report of the registrar general, released in 2013, showed during three years Assam’s maternal mortality rate was the highest in the country at 300, followed by Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand at 285. Kerala at 66, Maharashtra at 68, and Tamil Nadu at 79 had the lowest rates. Maternal mortality rates were difficult to calculate in many northeast states, which suffered from inadequate infrastructure and insufficiently trained medical staff.

According to the law, contraceptive information and services must be available, accessible, acceptable, and of reliable quality. Official policy promotes the right of a woman to access contraceptive information and services; however, there were often limited resources available. UN research in 2015 indicated 13 percent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 did not wish to have additional children or wished to space births but could not access contraception.

Some women reportedly were pressured to have tubal ligations, hysterectomies, or other forms of sterilization because of the payment structures for health workers and insurance payments for private facilities. This pressure appeared to affect disproportionately poor and lower-caste women. In September the Supreme Court ordered the closure of all sterilization camps within three years, citing concerns regarding unsafe and unsanitary conditions that resulted in high rates of illness and mortality.

Although the government achieved a significant increase in institutional births, there were reports health facilities continued to be overburdened, underequipped, and undersupplied, in addition to demonstrating substandard regard for hygiene and patient dignity.

In community health centers, 70 percent of gynecologist positions remained unfilled, according to a 2012 report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on rural health statistics. Only 13 percent of the centers had the requisite number of specialists. Poor health infrastructure disproportionately affected marginalized women, including homeless, Dalit and tribal women, those working on tea estates or in the informal labor sector, and women with disabilities.

The government permitted health clinics and local NGOs to operate freely in disseminating information about family planning. The country continued nevertheless to have unmet needs for contraception, deaths related to unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, and coercive family planning practices, including coerced or unethical sterilization and policies restricting access to entitlements for women with more than two children. Policies and guideline initiatives penalizing families with more than two children remained in place in seven states, but some authorities did not enforce them. Certain states maintained government reservations for government jobs and subsidies for adults with no more than two children and reduced subsidies and access to health care for those who have more than two.

Rajasthan, one of 11 states to adopt a two-child limit for elected officials at the local level, was the first to adopt the law in 1992. Despite efforts at the state level to reverse or amend the law, it remained unchanged during the year. Originally seen as a targeted way to reduce family size, a 2015 study by Ideas for India indicated the law resulted in reduced birthrates but had a negative impact on the male to female sex ratio.

Government efforts to reduce the fertility rate were occasionally coercive during the year. Authorities in some areas paid health workers and facilities in some areas a fixed amount for each sterilization procedure and reviewed them against quotas for female sterilizations. In some states authorities threatened health workers with pay cuts or dismissal for failing to meet quotas. Some reports described a “sterilization season,” in which health-care workers pressed to reach quotas for sterilizations before the end of the fiscal year on March 31. Some doctors reportedly withheld health services unless a woman agreed to sterilization.

Women reportedly were more likely to be sterilized after they had given birth to at least one son.

Although national health officials noted the central government did not have the authority to regulate state decisions on population issues, the central government creates guidelines and funds state level reproductive health programs. A 2005 Supreme Court decision deemed the national government responsible for providing quality care for sterilization services at the state level. Almost all states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter sex selection, some of which required a certificate of sterilization for the parents to collect benefits. Administrative hurdles and high demands for documentation reportedly made these schemes inaccessible to many marginalized families.

According to a 2013 National Health Survey, health workers had sterilized more than one in three women between the ages of 15 and 45. One in two women over the age of 35 was sterilized. Most sterilizations were performed on women when they were between the ages of 20 and 35, but one out of every hundred teenage girls was also sterilized. According to the same survey, on average three women died every week from botched sterilizations. The government has aggressively promoted female sterilization as a form of family planning for decades and, as a result, female sterilization comprised 63 percent of all contraceptive use in the country. The HRLN filed more than a dozen complaints regarding the government’s failure to provide counseling and information on the Family Planning Indemnity Scheme on behalf of women who received failed sterilizations or died in the government health camps.

There were no formal restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, but the government sometimes promoted permanent female sterilization to the exclusion of alternate forms of contraception. Repeated studies by the government and NGOs suggested most women had little familiarity with nonpermanent forms of contraceptives offered through the public health system, such as birth control pills, intrauterine devices, and condoms. The highest unmet need for contraceptives reportedly was among women with one child who wanted to delay a second pregnancy. Reports from NGOs claimed pharmacists across the country, especially in Maharashtra, limited women’s access to legal over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills and to legal medical termination prescription drugs.

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace and requires equal pay for equal work, but employers sometimes paid women less than men for the same job, discriminated against women in employment and credit applications, and promoted women less frequently than men.

Many tribal land systems, including in Bihar, deny tribal women the right to own land. Muslim personal law traditionally governs land inheritance for Muslim women, allotting them less than allotted to men. Other laws relating to the ownership of assets and land accord women little control over land use, retention, or sale. Several exceptions existed, such as in Kerala, Ladakh District, Meghalaya, and Himachal Pradesh, where women control family property and have inheritance rights.

In January the Bihar government approved a 35 percent quota for women in state government jobs at all levels.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the latest census (2011), the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 1,000 to 943. In 2011 the national child sex ratio, covering children between ages zero and six, was 1,000 boys to 918 girls. The state of Kerala had the lowest male-female sex ratio at birth at 1,000 to 1,084, and the state of Haryana had the highest ratio, at 1,000 to 877. A 2002 law prohibits prenatal sex selection, but authorities rarely enforced it. When state governments obtained convictions, doctors did not always lose their professional license, although the Medical Council in 2015 canceled the license to practice medicine of six doctors from Maharashtra convicted under the law.

In October 2015 the Delhi government issued “show-cause” notices to 89 hospitals and diagnostic centers with sex ratios at birth significantly lower than the state average. The average sex ratio in Delhi is 896 females for every 1,000 males. Based on the results of a survey conducted by the Delhi Health Ministry, these 89 institutions exposed sex ratios ranged from 285 to 788 live female births for every 1,000 male births.

Numerous NGOs throughout the country and some states attempted to increase awareness of the problem of prenatal sex selection, promote female births, and prevent female infanticide and abandonment.


Birth Registration: The law establishes state government procedures for birth registration. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated authorities registered 58 percent of national births each year. Children lacking citizenship or registration may not be able to access public services, enroll in school, or obtain identification documents later in life.

Education: The constitution provides for free education for all children from ages six to 14, but the government did not always comply with this requirement. The NGO Pratham’s 2013 Annual Survey of Education claimed only 70 percent of girls enrolled in primary school actually attended classes in 2013. The same report noted in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Manipur, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh, attendance was less than 60 percent. Girls between ages 11 and 14 were most frequently not enrolled.

There were numerous reports of schools refusing admission to underprivileged students.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, but it does not recognize physical abuse by caregivers, neglect, or psychological abuse as punishable offenses. All types of abuse remained common, including in school and institutional settings. The government often failed to educate the public adequately against child abuse or to enforce the law. Although banned, teachers often used corporal punishment.

According to the NGO Global Perspectives’ August 2015 report, the number of abused children in the country was 200,000. In a 2014 study published by the Journal of Anxiety Disorders on 702 adolescents from Jammu and Kashmir between the ages of 13 to 17 years, boys reported a higher rate of sexual abuse than dido girls (57 percent compared with 35 percent).

The government sponsored a toll-free 24-hour helpline for children in distress working with 640 partners in 402 locations. A network of NGOs staffed the “Childline 1098 Service” number, accessible by either a child or an adult to request immediate assistance, including medical care, shelter, restoration, rescue, sponsorship, and counseling.

On August 26, the Ministry of Women and Child Development launched an “e-box” for online and confidential registration of child sexual abuse complaints. The Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi stated victims generally do not report offenses since the offenders are often family members, relatives, or acquaintances. The e-box is hosted on the home page of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age of marriage for women at 18 and men at 21, and it empowers courts to annul child marriages. It also sets penalties for persons who perform, arrange, or participate in such marriages. NGOs assess that reporting of early and forced marriage remains low. Authorities did not consistently enforce the law nor address rape of girls forced into marriage. Some religiously based personal laws allow marriages at an age earlier than the general law. The law does not characterize a marriage between a girl below age 18 and a boy below age 21 as “illegal,” but it recognizes such unions as voidable, providing grounds for challenging them in court. Only the party who was a minor at the time of marriage may seek nullification. If the party is still a minor, his or her guardian must file a petition for nullification. A party may also file upon becoming an adult but must do so within two years. According to international and local NGOs, these limitations effectively left married minors with no legal remedy in most situations.

The law establishes a full-time child-marriage prohibition officer in every state to prevent and police child marriage. These individuals have the power to intervene when a child marriage is taking place, document violations of the law, file charges against parents, remove children from dangerous situations, and deliver them to local child-protection authorities.

UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016 report noted between 2008 and 2014, 47 percent of girls married before age 18, and 18 percent were married before the age of 15. According to the report, women married as children contributed to the country’s high infant and maternal mortality rates, and observers estimated early motherhood contributed to the deaths of 6,000 adolescent mothers each year. The most recent National Family Health Survey, conducted in 2005-2006, showed one in six girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had become pregnant at least once.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information in the women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography and sets the legal age of consent at 18. It is illegal to pay for sex with a minor, to induce a minor into prostitution or any form of “illicit sexual intercourse,” or to sell or buy a minor for the purposes of prostitution. Violators are subject to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine.

NGOs reported children under age 18 forced into prostitution in red-light districts in major cities. Child trafficking for sexual exploitation frequently occurred in urban and rural areas. The Ministry of Home Affairs stated criminals subjected significant numbers of missing children to trafficking after the children ran away from home.

Special Courts to try child sexual abuse cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 existed in all six Delhi courts. Civil society groups observed, however, that large caseloads severely limited judges’ abilities to take on cases in a timely manner. Hearings were regularly adjourned with long delays between hearing dates, sometimes as long as nine months.

In March NGO Gopabandhu Seva Parishad, which worked in an urban slum in Puri, Odisha, stated that child sex tourism continued to flourish in tourist areas. They claimed boys between eight and 13 years of age were more vulnerable to sexual abuse than girls. The NGO recorded 106 cases of abuse during their interaction with the local community between 2013 and 2015.

On November 5, the Maharashtra state government shut down a government-run residential school for tribal children in Buldhana District after media reported at least two girls were raped at the school. The government suspended the school’s entire teaching and administrative staff, and police arrested 15 persons including school officials, teachers, and a former village council chief.

Child Soldiers: No information was available on how many persons under age 18 were serving in the armed forces. NGO estimated there were at least 2,500 children associated with insurgent armed groups in Maoist-affected areas. There were allegations government-supported, anti-Maoist village defense forces recruited children. Armed insurgent groups, including Maoists in the northeast states and Islamist groups in Jammu and Kashmir reportedly used children (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: Displaced children, including refugees, IDPs, and street children, faced restrictions on access to government services (see also section 2.d.) and were often unable to obtain medical care, education, proper nutrition, or shelter. Employers often abused such children physically and sexually and forced them to work in hazardous jobs, such as rag picking (sorting garbage for recyclables).

Institutionalized Children: Lax law enforcement and a lack of safeguards encouraged an atmosphere of impunity in a number of group homes and orphanages. NGOs alleged many such homes for children operated without government oversight or approval. Only 14 states had commissions for the protection of child rights, as mandated by law. On April 15, video footage from closed circuit cameras installed in a government-run childcare center in Karimnagar, Telangana, showed two women caretakers branding three children with a hot spoon as punishment for not eating food. District authorities suspended three caretakers, and police later arrested the two main accused. The children were relocated to another home for medical treatment and care.

The Calcutta Research Group reported police separated families detained at the India-Bangladesh border in the state of West Bengal by institutionalizing children in Juvenile Justice Homes with limited and restricted access to their families.

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


Jewish groups from the 4,650-member Jewish community cited no reports of anti-Semitic acts during the year. In May Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told members of parliament the central government did not have a timeline for declaring Jews as a minority community. In June Maharashtra became the second state in the country to grant minority status to the Jewish community, which ensures Jews are separately counted by the census.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution does not explicitly mention disability as a prohibited ground for discrimination. The Persons with Disabilities Act provides equal rights for persons with a variety of disabilities, including blindness, hearing disability, Hansen’s disease (leprosy), mobility disability, developmental disability, and mental disability. The law links implementation of programs to the “economic capacity and development” of the government. The act encourages governmental authorities to promote access, but it includes no specific enforcement provisions or sanctions for noncompliance.

According to the director of the National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, the law regards persons with disabilities as requiring social protection and medical care, rather than as possessing inherent rights as persons with disabilities.

Discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care was more pervasive in rural areas. The Kolkata High Court passed an order in 2013 mandating the state government to provide accessibility to roads and buildings. Despite legislation that all public buildings and transport be accessible to persons with disabilities, there was limited accessibility. A Public Interest File was pending in the Supreme Court on accessibility to buildings and roads.

A Department of School Education and Literacy program provided special educators and resource centers for students with disabilities. There was no data available on whether these students remained within the education system or if the system denied any individualized supports needed for their education. The law allows mainstream schools to admit children with disabilities, but mainstream schools remained inadequately equipped with teachers trained in inclusive education, resource material, and appropriate curricula.

In April, 11 residents with disabilities, including at least seven children, died at a government-run rehabilitation institute near Jaipur, Rajasthan, allegedly after drinking contaminated water. The NHRC issued notices to the Rajasthan government for failure to maintain the facility.

The law also reserves 3 percent of all educational places for persons with disabilities, although students with disabilities comprised only an estimated 1 percent of all students, according to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Some schools continued to segregate children with disabilities or deny them enrollment due to lack of infrastructure, equipment, and trained staff. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment continued to offer scholarships to persons with disabilities to pursue higher education. University enrollment of students with disabilities remained low for several reasons, including inaccessible infrastructure, limited resources, nonimplementation of the 3 percent job reservation, and harassment.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare estimated 6 to 7 percent of the population experienced a mental or psychosocial disability. Of the individuals with mental disabilities, 25 percent were homeless, and many in rural areas did not have access to modern mental health-care facilities. Disability rights activists estimated there were 40 to 90 million persons with disabilities. There were three mental-health institutions run by the federal government and 40 state-operated mental hospitals. According to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities’ 2016 annual report and 2011 Census data, 49.5 percent of persons with disabilities were issued disability certificates until August 2015.

Patients in some mental-health institutions faced food shortages, inadequate sanitary conditions, and lack of adequate medical care. Human Rights Watch reported women and girls with disabilities occasionally were forced into mental hospitals against their will.

On August 18, the NHRC issued notice to the government of West Bengal over alleged hazardous conditions of 430 residents at the Berhampore Mental Hospital. The commission took into account an NGO’s report that men and women with mental disabilities had not bathed or shaved for months and were lying without clothing on unsanitary floors. The NHRC sought a status report on all mental hospitals run by the state from the special rapporteur and chief secretary.

Most persons with mental disabilities depended on public health-care facilities, and fewer than half who required treatment or community support services received such assistance.

Persons with disabilities reported cases of discrimination by the Central Industrial Security Forces in airports despite framed guidelines providing for no discrimination based on disability in air travel.

The law reserves 3 percent of public-sector jobs for persons with physical, hearing, or vision disabilities. On June 30, the Supreme Court decided the implementation of policies granting rights to persons with disabilities remained inadequate and overruled the central government’s prior orders restricting reservation of jobs for persons with disabilities to the higher echelons of government service. The court directed the government to extend the 3 percent reservation to all government posts. In August Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Minister of State Jitendra Singh informed members of parliament that a special government recruitment drive for persons with disabilities was launched in May 2015, resulting in the recruitment of 12,377 positions for 15,831 identified vacancies. Data on representation of persons with disabilities in different departments and ministries indicated an increase from 7,368 employees across 78 departments of the central government in January 2012 to 20,520 employees in 58 departments and ministries in January 2015.

The government continued to allocate funds to programs and NGO partners to increase the number of jobs filled. Private-sector employment of persons with disabilities remained low, despite governmental incentives that private companies establish a workforce of more than 5 percent with persons with disabilities.

In February advocacy groups organized a protest in Chennai against the inclusion of the term “destitute” in Tamil Nadu’s “Destitute Differently Abled Pension Scheme” and demanded less stringent conditions for pension eligibility. According to civil society, hundreds of protesters, including many with physical disabilities, were taken into custody on February 17 and held in a stadium that lacked accessible facilities. Police released the protesters, but hundreds chose to remain. On February 22, the Tamil Nadu Social Welfare and Nutritious Meal Program Department changed the eligibility criteria and removed “destitute” from the act’s name.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The national census categorized the population by language spoken, not by racial or ethnic groups. Traditionally, large segments of society are organized into castes or clans. Caste is a complex social hierarchy system that traditionally determines ritual purity and occupation. The constitution in 1949 prohibits caste discrimination. The registration of castes and tribes continued for the purpose of affirmative action programs, as the government implemented programs to empower members of the low castes. The law gives the president authority to identify disadvantaged castes and tribes for special quotas and benefits. Discrimination based on caste remained prevalent particularly in rural areas. According to a 2014 survey by the Indian National Council of Applied Economic Research and the University of Maryland, 27 percent of Indian households practice caste-based untouchability, with the highest untouchability practices found in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.

The term “Dalit,” derived from the Sanskrit for “oppressed” or “crushed,” refers to members of what society regarded as the lowest Hindu castes, the Scheduled Castes (SC). Many SC members continued to face impediments to the means of social advancement, including education, jobs, access to justice, freedom of movement, and access to institutions and services. According to the 2011 census, SC members constituted 17 percent (approximately 200 million persons) of the population.

Although the law protects Dalits, there were numerous reports of violence and significant discrimination in access to services, such as health care, education, temple attendance, and marriage. Many Dalits were malnourished. Most bonded laborers were Dalits. Dalits who asserted their rights were often victims of attacks, especially in rural areas. As agricultural laborers for higher-caste landowners, Dalits reportedly often worked without monetary remuneration. Reports from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described systematic abuse of Dalits, including extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against Dalit women. Crimes committed against Dalits reportedly often went unpunished, either because authorities failed to prosecute perpetrators or because victims did not report crimes due to fear of retaliation.

NGOs reported widespread discrimination, including prohibiting Dalits from walking on public pathways, wearing footwear, accessing water from public taps in upper-caste neighborhoods, participating in some temple festivals, bathing in public pools, or using certain cremation grounds. In Gujarat, for example, Dalits were reportedly denied entry to temples and denied educational and employment opportunities. In Odisha, on June 3, a mob of upper-caste individuals allegedly burned 11 Dalit homes. A human rights NGO stated in a report that the arson occurred due to a dispute in February over the alleged caricaturing of Dalits by upper-caste villagers in a play. The NGO alleged the Dalit families faced a boycott and were denied access to shops and sources of potable water. Police lodged an FIR against 19 persons under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, but no arrests were made.

NGOs reported that Dalit students were sometimes denied admission to certain schools because of their caste or were required to present caste certification prior to admission. There were reports that school officials barred Dalit children from morning prayers, asked Dalit children to sit in the back of the class, or forced them to clean school toilets while denying them access to the same facilities. There were also reports that teachers refused to correct the homework of Dalit children, refused to provide midday meals to Dalit children, and asked Dalit children to sit separately from children of upper-caste families. In April Social Justice and Empowerment Minister of State Vijay Sampla told members of parliament the government did not have data regarding atrocities against Dalits in educational institutions.

On January 17, a University of Hyderabad doctoral Dalit student Rohith Vemula committed suicide after he and four others were suspended for allegedly beating another student. Vemula’s suicide sparked nationwide protests by students and activists calling for reforms in higher education to bar caste-based discrimination. The Human Resource Development ministry constituted a fact-finding committee, which acknowledged “the feeling of deprivation and discrimination among students from the socially and economically weaker sections” on the campus.

The federal and state governments continued to implement programs for SC members to provide better-quality housing, reserved seats in schools, government jobs, and access to subsidized foods, but critics claimed many of these programs suffered from poor implementation and/or corruption.

Manual scavenging–the removal of animal or human waste by Dalits–continued in spite of its legal prohibition. NGO activists claimed elected village councils employed a majority of manual scavengers that belonged to Other Backward Classes and Dalit populations. Media regularly published articles and pictures of persons cleaning manholes and sewers without protective gear. According to a March report from the UN special rapporteur on minority issues, local governments and municipalities continue to employ manual scavengers despite a legislative prohibition. Officials countered the special rapporteur had exceeded her mandate, which was to promote the human rights of persons belonging to “national, or ethnic, religious minorities,” and therefore inapplicable to caste groups.

Human Rights Watch reported that children of manual scavengers faced discrimination, humiliation, and segregation at village schools. Their occupation often exposed manual scavengers to infections that affected their skin, eyes, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. Health practitioners suggested children exposed to such bacteria were often unable to maintain a healthy body weight and suffered from stunted growth.

The law prohibits the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (nonflush) latrines, and penalties range from imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of 2,000 rupees ($30), or both. Nonetheless, Indian Railways acknowledged that it fitted approximately 30,000 passenger coaches with open-discharge toilets, “forcing” the railways to employ manual scavengers to clean the tracks. The railways proposed to install sealed toilet systems but without a fixed timeline for implementation.

In March media reported hundreds of Dalit bonded laborers protested caste discrimination outside the Uttarakhand Assembly and State Human Rights Commission. The protesters had reportedly fled their homes after decades of alleged oppression. The protesters petitioned the commission to take punitive action against state revenue police for alleged harassment and failure to register their complaints.

There were more than 50,000 Indian citizens of African descent, or “Siddis,” mostly descendants of Bantu people from East Africa brought to India as slaves from the eighth to nineteenth centuries. Residing primarily in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Gujarat, Siddis were classified as “Scheduled Tribes” in 2003, but remained one of the poorest, most isolated, and economically disadvantaged groups in the country according to NGOs, which observe that Siddis continued to face widespread racial discrimination outside their communities.

Incidents of attacks against African nationals were reported during the year. On January 31, a Sudanese national allegedly drove his car over a 35-year-old Indian woman, killing her. A neighborhood mob set the car on fire as the suspect fled. The mob then pulled a Tanzanian woman from her car as she and two other students drove by the scene. She was chased, stripped, and sexually assaulted. The Tanzanian High Commission registered a complaint prompting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Karnataka Chief Minister K. Siddaramaiah to launch an investigation. The Ministries of External Affairs and of Home Affairs launched racism sensitization programs in neighborhoods focused on neighborhoods where people of African origin reside.

Indigenous People

The constitution provides for the social, economic, and political rights of disadvantaged groups of indigenous people. The law provides special status for indigenous people, but authorities often denied them their rights. There were more than 700 Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the country, and the 2011 census revealed the population of ST members as 84.3 million, approximately 8 percent of the total population. In 2011 a pilot survey to identify households below the poverty line found that ST and SC members constituted half the total of poor households. There were 75 particularly vulnerable tribal groups, characterized by primitive technology, stagnant or declining population, extremely low literacy, and a subsistence-level economy.

In most of the northeastern states, where indigenous groups constituted the majority of the states’ populations, laws provide for tribal rights, although some local authorities disregarded these provisions. The laws prohibit any nontribal person, including citizens from other states, from crossing a government-established inner boundary without a valid permit. No one can remove rubber, wax, ivory, or other forest products from protected areas without authorization. Tribal authorities must approve the sale of land to nontribal persons.

There were reports that tribal women employed as domestic workers often were neither properly paid nor protected from sexual exploitation. Encroachment on tribal lands continued in almost every state, despite efforts to combat the practice, since businesses and private parties continued to exert political pressure against local governments. Those displaced by the encroachments typically did not receive appropriate compensation.

Tribal movements demanded the protection of tribal land and property. Local activists claimed that authorities continued to ignore the rights of tribal and rural groups under the Forest Act. Weak enforcement of the act often circumvented the free and informed consent of tribal and rural groups prior to development.

Local villagers, many of whom are members of STs and oppose iron ore mining in insurgency-hit Kanker District in southern Chattisgarh, said there was an increased presence of paramilitary personnel from the Border Security Force. Villagers who protested the use of forest land for mining complained of arbitrary detentions, arrests, and false charges of linkages with Maoist (Naxalite) insurgents.

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

The law criminalizes homosexual sex. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced physical attacks, rape, and blackmail. Some police committed crimes against LGBTI persons and used the threat of arrest to coerce victims not to report the incidents. Several states, with the aid of NGOs, offered education and sensitivity training to police.

LGBTI groups reported they faced widespread societal discrimination and violence, particularly in rural areas. Activists reported that transgender persons, who were HIV positive, continued to face difficulty obtaining medical treatment. Advocacy organizations, such as the Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment, documented workplace discrimination against LGBTI persons, including slurs and unjustified dismissals. In June NGO MINGLE released results of its survey of LGBTI employees from the information technology, banking, and manufacturing sectors on workplace climate, which showed that 40 percent of LGBTI persons faced some form of harassment.

In January 2015 a high court dismissed petitions challenging the 2013 Supreme Court judgment reinstating a colonial-era penal code provision criminalizing homosexual sex. The Supreme Court ruled that only parliament may change Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the law that bans consensual same-sex sexual activity. Media, activists, prominent individuals, and some government officials strongly criticized the ruling. In June the Supreme Court refused to hear a petition challenging Section 377, and petitioners were asked to apply to the chief justice of India, who was hearing a separate case to strike down the ban.

In March 2015 Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board rejected K. Prathika Yashini’s application because her name did not match her birth name, “K. Pradeep Kumar.” Yashini previously changed her name with all government agencies after undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Yashini successfully sued in Madras High Court for permission to take a written examination for the police force. Yashini received appointment orders in February. Media reported that Tamil Nadu police offered positions to 21 other transgender persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The number of new HIV cases decreased by 57 percent over the past decade. Of the estimated 2.09 million citizens infected with HIV, 39 percent were women and 7 percent were children under 15 years. Despite significant progress over the past 10 years, the epidemic persisted among the most vulnerable populations: high-risk groups, which include female sex workers; men who have sex with men; transgender persons; and persons who inject drugs.

The country has punitive laws criminalizing sex work. While the government focused on high-risk groups, civil society organizations committed to HIV work raised concern when the Supreme Court failed to overturn a section of the penal code that criminalizes same-gender sex acts. Additionally, antiretroviral drug stock outages in a few states led to treatment interruption.

The National AIDS Control Program prioritized HIV prevention, care, and treatment interventions for high-risk groups and rights of People Living with HIV. The program addressed stigma and discrimination by training health workers; mainstreaming the HIV response across the government; and promoting campaigns in health, work, and community settings to inform people with HIV/AIDS and high-risk groups of their rights and available services and to engage them in planning, monitoring, and evaluating HIV programs.

HIV/AIDS infection rates for women were highest in urban communities, while care was reportedly least available in rural areas. Early marriage, limited access to information and education, and limited access to health services, continued to leave women especially vulnerable to infection. The National AIDS Control Organization worked actively with NGOs to train women’s HIV/AIDS self-help groups.

Police engaged in programs to strengthen their role in protecting communities vulnerable to human rights violations and HIV. Similarly, social protection initiatives integrated with an AIDS response showed risk reduction and improved health-seeking behavior, including uptake of and adherence to HIV treatment.

On June 24, a child rights activist complained to district officials in Kendrapara, Odisha that a central government-run residential school did not allow a 13-year-old girl suffering from HIV/AIDS to stay in the school hostel after objections from the parents of other students. The activist contended that although the school eventually permitted her to continue with her education, the principal’s action violated the student’s right to privacy and dignity.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Societal violence based on religion and caste and by religiously associated groups continued to be a concern.

According to media reports, on July 11, seven Dalit men were reportedly stripped and publicly beaten by a Hindu mob for skinning dead cows. Police arrested 35 persons for the attack and suspended four police officers for negligence. Similarly, on July 26, a video uploaded by an eyewitness purportedly showed cow protection vigilantes beating two Muslim women outside a railway station in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, as police watched from a distance. The police reportedly later arrested the women for beef possession. Although the meat was later determined to be buffalo, a local court charged the women with unlawful possession of meat and released them on bail on June 27. Police later arrested the two men accused of assaulting the women.

Ministry of Home Affairs data showed 751 incidents of communal violence took place, which killed 97 persons and injured 2,264.

On July 30, members of a right-wing Hindu group were charged with trespassing at the St. Thomas Aided Higher Primary School near Mangaluru and disrupting an Arabic class. The individuals reportedly accused the teacher of spreading extremism and seized textbooks from the children. The school suspended Urdu and Arabic classes after threats of further protests.

On June 28, Madurai-based NGO Evidence reported that some police personnel harassed and threatened its staff after the organization agreed to support the marriage of an inter-caste couple.

Civil society activists continued to express concern concerning the Gujarat government’s failure to hold accountable those responsible for the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim.

On July 27, the Gujarat High court sentenced seven individuals to life imprisonment for killing three Muslims near a railway crossing in Viramgam, during the 2002 Gujarat communal violence. Life terms were also upheld for two persons previously convicted. The trial court previously found four guilty of lesser offenses and acquitted three of the accused.

On August 4, the Gujarat High Court sentenced to life imprisonment 11 of the 27 accused of burning a father and his daughter to death in Mehsana in 2002, during the communal riots. The Mehsana Fast Track Court had previously acquitted all 27 accused in 2005. The defense lawyer for the convicted stated that four of the 11 were still missing when the court ordered them to surrender within 10 weeks.


Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, defilement, and sex tourism; enforcement remained limited, and civil society groups indicated victims did not report as much as 92 percent of sexual offenses to police. The 2015 Protection against Domestic Violence Act criminalizes abuses that include early and forced marriage, FGM/C, forced wife “inheritance,” and sexual violence within marriage. The act’s definition of violence also includes damage to property, defilement, economic abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, harassment, incest, intimidation, physical abuse, stalking, verbal abuse, or any other conduct against a person that harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person.

Under the Security Laws Amendment Act, insulting the modesty of another person by intruding upon that person’s privacy or stripping them of clothing are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.

The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for rape, although sentences were at the discretion of the judge and usually no longer than the minimum of 10 years.

Citizens frequently used traditional dispute resolution mechanisms to address sexual offenses in rural areas, with village elders assessing financial compensation for the victims or their families. They also used such mechanisms occasionally in urban areas. NGOs reported difficulties obtaining evidence and the unwillingness of witnesses to testify in sexual assault cases in areas where citizens employed traditional dispute resolution mechanisms.

A study released in 2014 by the Usalama Reform Forum estimated that victims reported only 40 percent of rape cases to police. A 2014 study by the NGO Peace Initiative Kenya identified 383 cases of rape reported in media between January and May, noting a 15 percent increase from the same period in 2012. The study stated that the Women’s Hospital of Nairobi reported receiving an average of 18 cases of rape and incest daily. The Coalition on Violence against Women estimated 16,500 rapes occurred per year.

Although police no longer required physicians to examine victims, physicians still had to complete official forms reporting rape. Rural areas generally had no police physician, and in Nairobi there were only two. NGOs reported police physicians often but inconsistently accepted the examination report of clinical physicians who initially treated rape victims.

Other factors explaining the low reporting and prosecution rates for rape included a cultural inhibition against publicly discussing sex, particularly sexual violence; stigma attached to rape survivors; survivors’ fear of retribution; police reluctance to intervene, especially in cases where the victim accused family members, friends, or acquaintances of committing the rape; and poor training of prosecutors. Reporting also remained low due to traditional attitudes toward sexual violence, and courts dismissed many cases due to lack of evidence.

Domestic violence against women was widespread. Police officers generally refrained from investigating domestic violence, which they considered a private family matter. NGOs, including the Law Society of Kenya and the Federation of Women Lawyers, provided free legal assistance to some victims of domestic violence.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law makes it illegal to practice FGM/C, procure the services of someone who practices FGM/C, or send a person out of the country to undergo the procedure. The law also makes it illegal to make derogatory remarks about a woman who has not undergone FGM/C. Nevertheless, individuals practiced FGM/C widely, particularly in some rural areas.

FGM/C was usually performed on victims at an early age. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in February, 21 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 had undergone FGM/C. Of the 42 ethnic groups, only four (the Luo, Luhya, Teso, and Turkana, who together constitute approximately 25 percent of the population) did not traditionally practice FGM/C. Approximately 98 percent of ethnic Somali girls and women ages 15-49 in the country had undergone FGM/C. Government officials often participated in public awareness programs to prevent the practice.

Media reported growing numbers of female students refused to participate in FGM/C ceremonies, traditionally performed during the August and December school holidays. Some churches and NGOs provided shelter to girls who fled their homes to avoid FGM/C, but community elders frequently interfered with attempts to stop the practice. Various communities and NGOs instituted “no cut” initiation rites for girls as an alternative to FGM/C, but in some communities this effort was unsuccessful. Media reported arrests of perpetrators and parents who agreed to FGM/C, but parents in regions with a high prevalence of FGM/C frequently bribed police to allow the practice to continue. There were also reports the practice of FGM/C increasingly occurred underground to avoid prosecution by authorities.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Certain communities commonly practiced wife inheritance, in which a man inherits the widow of his brother or other close relative, regardless of her wishes. Such inheritance was more likely in cases of economically disadvantaged women with limited access to education living outside of major cities. Other forced marriages were also common. In 2014 parliament passed legislation that codified the right of men to enter into consensual marriage with additional women without securing the consent of any existing wife.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment was often not reported, and victims rarely filed charges. IPOA investigated one reported case of police officer promotions resulting from sexual favors.

Reproductive Rights: The constitution recognizes the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Subsidized contraception options, including condoms, birth control pills, and long-acting or permanent methods, were widely available to both men and women throughout the country, although access was more difficult in rural areas. In 2014 the UN Population Fund estimated that 46 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. Skilled obstetric, prenatal, and postpartum care were available in major hospitals, but many women could not access or afford these services. Skilled health-care personnel attended an estimated 44 percent of births in 2014. Observers estimated 20 percent of maternal deaths to be AIDS related. In 2014 First Lady Margaret Kenyatta launched the Beyond Zero Campaign, a government effort to improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality. This program continued during the year.

Discrimination: The constitution provides equal rights for men and women and specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language, or birth. Women held only 6 percent of land titles, of which the majority were joint titles, and accessed only 7 percent of formal financial credit awarded in the country. The justice system and widely applied customary laws often discriminated against women, limiting their political and economic rights.

The constitution prohibits gender discrimination in relation to land and property ownership and gives women equal rights to inheritance and access to land. The constitution also provides for the enactment of legislation for the protection of wives’ rights to matrimonial property during and upon the termination of a marriage, and it affirms that parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during the marriage, and at its dissolution.

In 2014 the National Assembly adopted the Marriage Act, which included provisions to strengthen property rights for wives. The act retains a man’s right to enter into multiple marriages and does not require consultation with or the consent of the existing spouse(s). The act contains a provision protecting the entitlements and interest of the first wife in matrimonial property. The bill received presidential assent and went into force during the year. A separate Matrimonial Property Act went into force in 2013 under which ownership of jointly held property depends upon how much each spouse can prove he or she contributed monetarily to that property. Many women’s rights groups and female members of parliament asserted the act was discriminatory and regressive.


Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from the citizenship of the parents, and either parent may transmit citizenship. Birth registration is compulsory. Parents in rural areas, where tradition considered community elders rather than official entities the legitimate authorities in family matters, often did not register births. An estimated 63 percent of births were officially registered. Lack of official birth certificates resulted in discrimination in delivery of public services. The Department of Civil Registration Services began implementing the Maternal Child Health Registration Strategy requiring nurses administering immunizations to register the births of unregistered children.

The law requires citizens to obtain identity cards when they turn 18 years of age; it requires identity cards for citizens to obtain public services and to vote. The law requires that at least one parent’s identification document be produced for a child to obtain an identify card. Some sources reported, however, that children born out of wedlock and children born of married mothers who retained their maiden names had difficulty obtaining identity cards, unless they could produce identification of a male relative.

Education: Education is tuition free and compulsory through age 13. According to a 2016 report by international regional education initiative Uwezo Kenya, 90 percent of children ages six to 13 were enrolled in school. Authorities limited secondary enrollment to students who obtained relatively high scores on standardized examinations for students completing primary education. Authorities did not enforce the mandatory attendance law uniformly.

According to a 2014 study by NGO Plan Kenya, 47.6 percent of girls and 52.4 percent of boys enrolled in secondary education.

While the law provides pregnant girls the right to continue their education until after giving birth, NGOs reported that schools often did not respect this right. Schoolmasters sometimes expelled pregnant girls or transferred them to other schools.

In 2014 the NGO The Cradle estimated that 41 percent of children between ages 10 and 14 worked rather than attend school.

Child Abuse: Violence against children, particularly in poor and rural communities, was common, and child abuse, including sexual abuse, occurred frequently. A 2010 government survey found that 32 percent of female respondents and 18 percent of male respondents between ages 18 and 24 had experienced sexual violence before age 18. Perpetrators of physical, sexual, and emotional violence were rarely strangers to the child. Romantic partners of students were the most common perpetrators of sexual violence, followed by neighbors, while parents and teachers were the most common perpetrators of physical and emotional violence. According to NGOs, lack of awareness of how to report child abuse and aversion to involvement in a lengthy legal process were major obstacles to doctors, teachers, and other nonfamily figures reporting child abuse. The Protection against Domestic Violence Act enacted in May criminalizes several forms of violence that affect children, including early and forced marriage, FGM/C, incest, and physical, verbal, and sexual abuse.

The minimum sentence for conviction of defilement is life imprisonment if the victim is less than 11 years old, 20 years in prison if the victim is between ages 11 and 16, and 10 years’ imprisonment if the child is age 16 or 17.

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

Early and Forced Marriage: The Marriage Act of 2014 introduced a minimum age for marriage of 18 years for both women and men and voided marriages that violated this rule. Media occasionally highlighted the problem of early and forced marriage, which some ethnic groups commonly practiced. UNICEF’s 2016 The State of the World’s Children Report stated that 4 percent of children were married by age 15, and 23 percent by age 18; the Northeast and coastal regions had the highest prevalence. There was a strong correlation between poverty and early and forced marriage. Under the constitution the qadi courts retained jurisdiction over Muslim marriage and family law.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under 18 in women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: According to human rights organizations, children were sexually exploited and victims of trafficking. The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children, including prohibiting procurement of a girl under age 18 for unlawful sexual relations. The law also prohibits domestic and international trafficking, or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, transfer, or receipt of children up to the age of 18 for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances. Provisions apply equally to girls and boys. The Sexual Offenses Act has specific sections on child trafficking, child sex tourism, child prostitution, and child pornography.

The prostitution of children under age 18 remained a problem due to poverty, lack of law enforcement, internal displacement, and foreign and domestic tourists seeking sex with underage girls and boys. Political leaders expressed concern that minors were leaving school and being lured into prostitution to address their basic needs. According to the NGO The Cradle, child prostitution was prevalent in Nairobi, particularly in informal settlements, and in Kisumu, Eldoret, Nyeri, and the coastal areas. The same source indicated that criminals trafficked a significant number of children to urban and coastal areas from the north and west to engage in prostitution. UNICEF, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the World Tourism Organization, and NGOs continued to work with the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers to increase their awareness of child prostitution and sex tourism. The association encouraged hospitality-sector businesses to adopt and implement the code of conduct developed by the NGO End Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. The Tourism Regulatory Authority oversees hotels, rental villas, and cottages to monitor adherence to the code of conduct.

Child Soldiers: Although there were no reports the government recruited child soldiers, there were reports that the al-Shabaab terrorist group recruited children.

Displaced Children: Poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS continued to intensify the problem of child homelessness. Street children faced harassment and physical and sexual abuse from police and others and within the juvenile justice system. The government operated programs to place street children in shelters and assisted NGOs in providing education, skills training, counseling, legal advice, and medical care to street children that the commercial sex industry abused and exploited.

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


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

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions. A number of laws limit the rights of persons with disabilities. The Marriage Act limits the rights of persons with mental disabilities to get married; the penal code criminalizes “rape of an imbecile”; the Law of Succession limits the rights of persons with disabilities to inheritance; and the Mental Health Act allows guardians to make all decisions for persons “of unsound mind.” The constitution provides legal safeguards for the representation of persons with disabilities in legislative and appointive bodies. The law provides that persons with disabilities should have access to public buildings, and some buildings in major cities had wheelchair ramps and modified elevators and restrooms. The government did not enforce the law, however, and new construction often did not include accommodations for persons with disabilities. Government buildings in rural areas generally were not accessible for persons with disabilities. According to NGOs, police stations remained largely inaccessible to those with mobility disabilities. According to the State Department of Public Works (the Department), the Department and the Joint Committee on National Cohesion and Equal Opportunities agreed on March 8 that the Department would form a committee to review construction standards for accessibility for persons with disabilities and regulation enforcement.

There was limited societal awareness of persons with disabilities and significant stigma attached to disability. Learning and other disabilities not readily apparent were not widely recognized. NGOs reported that persons with disabilities had limited opportunities to obtain education and job training at all levels due to lack of accessibility of facilities and resistance on the part of school officials and parents to devoting resources to students with disabilities. A survey published by NGO Twaweza ni Sisi on July 20 stated 73 percent of citizens did not believe children with disabilities in their communities should be enrolled in secondary school. The KNCHR estimated that 67 percent of persons with disabilities had a primary education, 19 percent attained secondary education, and 2 percent reached university level, while 7 percent of persons with disabilities reported that authorities denied them all access to education because of their disability.

According to a 2014 survey by the NGO Handicap International on the rights of persons with disabilities in the country, 85 percent of persons with disabilities experienced verbal abuse related to their disability and 17 percent experienced gender-based violence. Of those who reported abuse, 47 percent neither reported the incident to police or other authorities nor sought medical help or counseling. They cited fear of reprisal or of being misunderstood as their reasons. Of those who reported abuse to some authority, the majority reported the incident to community elders rather than police.

Authorities received reports of killings of persons with disabilities as well as torture and abuse, and the government took action in some cases. For example, the Nation newspaper reported on March 3 that a woman was arrested and would be prosecuted in Nairobi after 11 disabled children were found in poor living conditions, locked up, and malnourished in her home.

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

Few facilities provided interpreters or other accommodations to persons with hearing disabilities. The government assigned each region a sign language interpreter for court proceedings. Nevertheless, authorities often delayed or adjourned cases involving persons who had hearing disabilities due to a lack of standby interpreters, according to an official with the NGO Deaf Outreach Program. According to the KNCHR, 10 secondary schools in the country could accommodate the needs of persons with hearing limitations.

The Ministry for Devolution and Planning is the lead ministry for implementation of the law to protect persons with disabilities. The quasi-independent but government-funded parastatal National Council for Persons with Disabilities assisted the ministry. Neither entity received sufficient resources to address effectively problems related to persons with disabilities. The Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya carried out advocacy campaigns on behalf of persons with disabilities, distributed wheelchairs, and worked with public institutions to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The KNCHR noted that awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities increased as a result in some counties, but it faulted the government for not ensuring equal protection of the rights of persons with disabilities throughout the country.

Nominated and elected parliamentarians with disabilities formed the Kenya Disability Parliamentary Caucus in 2013 and issued a strategy statement focusing on improving economic empowerment and physical access for persons with disabilities as well as integrating disability rights into county government policies.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are 42 ethnic groups in the country; none holds a majority. The 2009 census identified eight major ethnic communities: Kikuyu, 6.6 million persons; Luhya, 5.3 million; Kalenjin, five million; Luo, four million; Kamba, 3.9 million; Kenyan Somali, 2.3 million; Kisii, 2.2 million; and Mijikenda, 1.9 million. The Kikuyu and related groups dominated much of private commerce and industry and often purchased land outside their traditional home areas, which sometimes resulted in fierce resentment from other ethnic groups, especially in the coastal and Rift Valley areas.

Many factors contributed to interethnic conflicts: long-standing grievances regarding land-tenure policies and competition for scarce agricultural land; the proliferation of illegal guns; cattle rustling; the growth of a modern warrior/bandit culture (distinct from traditional culture); ineffective local political leadership; diminished economic prospects for groups affected by regional droughts; political rivalries; and the struggle of security forces to quell violence. Conflict between landowners and squatters was particularly severe in the Rift Valley and coastal regions, while competition for water and pasture was especially serious in the north and northeast. Between February and May, at least five persons were killed and scores injured in a clash to control the government-run Agricultural Development Corporation farm in the Rift Valley, which multiple ethnic communities claimed to own.

There was frequent conflict, including banditry, fights over land, and cattle rustling, among the Somali, Turkana, Gabbra, Borana, Samburu, Rendille, and Pokot ethnic groups in arid northern, eastern, and Rift Valley areas that at times resulted in deaths. Disputes over county borders were also a source of ethnic tensions. For example, three persons were killed in January when the Samburu and Ndorobo communities clashed over grazing areas in Leparua on the border of Isiolo and Laikipia Counties; media reported that 60 stolen cows were recovered through joint efforts by the public and police. Intercommunal and resource-based violence also occurred in Baringo, Merua, Marsabit, and Wajir Counties.

Ethnic differences also caused a number of discriminatory employment practices.

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

The constitution does not explicitly protect LGBTI persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which was interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity, and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted. A separate statute specifically criminalizes sex between men and specifies a maximum penalty of 21 years’ imprisonment if convicted. Police detained persons under these laws, particularly persons suspected of prostitution, but released them shortly afterward. In April the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) filed Petition 150 of 2016 challenging the constitutionality of these penal codes. In May a coalition of human rights organizations filed a petition challenging the constitutionality of the same penal code provisions based on violence, the fear of violence, and documented human rights violations against citizens.

LGBTI organizations reported police more frequently used public-order laws (for example, disturbing the peace) than same-sex legislation to arrest LGBTI individuals. Police frequently harassed, intimidated, or physically abused LGBTI individuals in custody. In September 2015 the NGLHRC legally challenged on behalf of two individuals from Kwale County the constitutionality of court-ordered nonconsensual anal examination, HIV testing, and hepatitis B testing as a means of proving same-sex conduct. On June 16, the Mombasa High Court dismissed their case, ruling that medical examination is a legal means to obtain evidence of crime.

Authorities permitted LGBTI advocacy organizations to register and conduct activities. There were reports, however, that some organizations registered under modified platforms to avoid denial of registration by the government.

Violence and discrimination against LGBTI individuals was widespread. According to a 2015 HRW and Persons Marginalized and Aggrieved report, LGBTI individuals were especially vulnerable to blackmail and rape by police officers. Human rights and LGBTI rights organizations noted victims were extremely reluctant to report abuse or seek redress due to fear of violence against them or arrest.

In 2015 the High Court ruled in favor of the NGLHRC in a case challenging the government’s refusal to register LGBTI advocacy and welfare organizations. The NGLHRC sought court intervention after unsuccessfully trying since 2012 to register under the Nongovernmental Organizations Coordination Act. The court ruled that refusing to register the organization was an infringement on constitutionally protected freedom of association. The government’s appeal remained pending as of October 25. The Court of Appeal ruled on May 20 that the High Court’s judgment stood in the interim.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

In partnership with key stakeholders, the National AIDS Control Council conducted a National HIV and AIDS Stigma and Discrimination Study in 2014 that produced a composite stigma rating for Kenya of 45.16 (High), with regional variations.

The government, along with international and NGO partners, made progress in creating an enabling environment to combat the social stigma of HIV and AIDS and to address the gap in access to HIV information and services. For example, the government launched treatment guidelines for sex workers and injected drug users in collaboration with key stakeholders. The government and NGOs supported a network of at least 5,488 counseling and testing centers providing free HIV/AIDS diagnosis. Diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections was available through hospitals and clinics throughout the country. Because of social stigma, many citizens avoided testing for HIV/AIDS. According to its website, the First Lady’s Beyond Zero Campaign to stop new HIV infections led to the opening of 46 mobile clinics across the country.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence and vigilante action were common and resulted in numerous deaths. Many incidents of mob violence in informal settlements went unreported. Many victims were persons suspected of criminal activities, including theft, robbery, killings, cattle rustling, and of having membership in criminal or terrorist groups.

Human rights observers attributed vigilante violence to a lack of public confidence in police and the criminal justice system. The social acceptability of mob violence also provided cover for acts of personal vengeance. Police frequently failed to act to stop mob violence.

The Senate approved in June a petition to establish a joint parliamentary select committee to investigate occurrences of police brutality and mob violence. The committee’s report was pending as of September.

Mobs also attacked persons suspected of witchcraft or participation in ritual killings. For example, according to media reports, on June 14, a mob attacked and set on fire a woman accused of witchcraft in Mombasa.

Societal discrimination continued against persons with albinism, many of whom left their home villages due to fear of abuse and moved to urban areas where they believed they were safer. Individuals attacked persons with albinism for their body parts that some believed would confer magical powers and that could be sold for significant sums. On June 13, persons with albinism marched in Nairobi to mark International Albinism Awareness Day.

The National Council of Persons with Disabilities and the Kenya Albino Child Support Program, in partnership with the government, continued an awareness campaign to combat discrimination. Employment discrimination against persons with albinism also occurred.


Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Stalking is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. According to national police statistics, through June, there were 741 reported cases of rape. NGOs estimated that the actual number of rapes was much higher because women often were unwilling to report incidents due to social stigma. During the same period, police concluded 278 possible rape cases and forwarded them to prosecutors for indictment, and they forwarded another 36 to family courts (for underage offenders) for indictment.

While courts may sentence a person convicted of domestic violence to a maximum of five years in prison, most of those found guilty received suspended sentences. The law permits authorities to place restraining orders without prior approval from a court on spouses to protect against abuse, but police do not have the authority to issue immediate restraining orders at the scene of an incident.

During the first half of the year, police identified 7,178 cases of domestic violence. During the same period, police concluded 4,767 investigations and forwarded them to prosecutors for indictment. Through June police registered 36,855 “blue card procedures,” meaning either a police officer intervened in a domestic violence situation or a police officer on duty interviewed a potential victim of domestic violence.

According to some women’s organizations, the statistics understated the number of women affected by domestic violence, particularly in small towns and villages. The Women’s Rights Center reported that police were occasionally reluctant to intervene in domestic violence incidents if the perpetrator was a police officer or if victims were unwilling to cooperate. In his report the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe stated, “Women victims of domestic violence and gender-based violence are still confronted with gender bias on the part of medical staff, police, prosecutors, and judges.”

The law requires every municipality in the country to set up an interagency team of experts to deal with domestic violence. According to some NGOs, this requirement might actually worsen the situation because the interagency teams focused on resolving the “family problem” rather than initially treating claims of domestic violence as criminal matters. The NGOs also believed the additional work required by the procedures discouraged police from classifying cases as domestic violence and might have contributed to a possible reduction in reported cases during the year.

Centers for victims of domestic violence operated throughout the country. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics were available, local governments provided victims and their families with legal and psychological assistance and operated 220 crisis intervention centers and 13 shelters for pregnant women and mothers with small children. In addition local governments operated 35 specialized centers funded by the government’s National Program for Combating Domestic Violence. The centers provided social, medical, psychological, and legal assistance to victims; training for personnel who worked with victims; and “corrective education” programs for abusers.

The government supports 35 specialized centers for victims of domestic abuse and corrective education programs for abusers and training for social workers, police officers, and specialists who were the first responders for victims of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations carry penalties of up to three years in prison. The law defines sexual harassment as discriminatory behavior in the workplace, including physical, verbal, and nonverbal acts violating an employee’s dignity.

According to the Women’s Rights Center, sexual harassment continued to be a serious and underreported problem. Many victims did not report abuse or withdrew harassment claims in the course of police investigations due to shame or fear of losing their job. Through June police reported 47 cases of sexual harassment, compared with 29 cases during the first six months of 2015.

Reproductive Rights: The government generally recognized the basic rights of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. While there were no restrictions on the right to obtain contraceptives, some NGOs believed their use was limited because the government excluded prescription contraceptives from its list of subsidized medicines, which made them less affordable. Some NGOs also believed that religious factors, such as the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church, affected the use of contraceptives. The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner stated that, in addition, the law’s clause of conscientious objection, invoked by some doctors who refused to prescribe and some pharmacists who refused to deliver contraceptive devices, hindered women’s access to contraception. NGOs reported that refusals of reproductive health-care services continued to be very frequent and that women were often unable to find a health-care provider willing to deliver these services. The law does not permit voluntary sterilization. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, sexuality-related counseling services for young persons were not available.

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women and prohibits discrimination against women, although few laws exist to implement the provision. The constitution requires equal pay for equal work, but discrimination against women in employment existed (see section 7.d.).

The plenipotentiary for civil society and equal treatment has a mandate to counter discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all.


Birth Registration: A child acquires citizenship at birth if at least one parent is a citizen, regardless of where the birth took place. Children born or found in the country whose parents were unknown or stateless are also citizens. The government has a system of universal birth registration immediately after birth.

Child Abuse: There were reports of child abuse, but convictions were rare. A government ombudsman for children’s rights issued periodic reports on problems affecting children, such as the need for improved medical care for children with chronic diseases. The ombudsman’s office also operated a 24-hour free hotline for abused children. In 2015 the ombudsman received 49,674 complaints of infringements of children’s rights. Of those complaints, approximately 50 percent concerned the right to be brought up in a family (citing factors such as limitation of parental rights through divorce and the need for better material support for foster families), 17 percent concerned the right to education, 12 percent concerned the right to life and protection of health, 10 percent concerned the right to protection against abuse, 7 percent concerned the right to adequate social conditions, and 4 percent concerned other problems. The government operated several huge advertising campaigns, including the “You can help–React! Report!” campaign aimed at preventing sexual abuse of children and “Beating. Time to stop it” campaign aimed at preventing physical violence against children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The country’s legal minimum age of marriage is 18, although the guardianship court may grant permission for girls as young as age 16 to marry under certain circumstances.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual intercourse with children younger than 15. The penalty for statutory rape ranges from two to 12 years’ imprisonment. According to the Ministry of Justice, in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics were available, courts convicted 610 persons of sexual intercourse with persons under age 15 and 12 persons of pimping minors.

Child pornography is also illegal. The production, possession, storage, or importation of child pornography involving children younger than 15 is punishable by imprisonment for a period of three months to 10 years. During the year police conducted several nationwide operations against child pornography and pedophiles. Information from authorities in other countries was usually the basis for nationwide operations. Successful prosecution of child pornography remained a challenge due to both the international nature of computer-based crimes and the difficulty of identifying perpetrators.

According to the government and the Children Empowerment Foundation, a leading NGO dealing with trafficking in children, trafficking in children for sexual exploitation remained a problem.

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


The Union of Jewish Communities estimated the Jewish population at approximately 20,000. Anti-Semitic incidents continued to occur, often involving desecration of significant property, including synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. Hate speech remained a problem, as in July when Ryszard Petru, the non-Jewish leader of the Nowoczesna (Modern) political party received an anti-Semitic death threat.

In July comments by Minister of Education Anna Zalewska appeared to deny Polish responsibility for the 1942 Jedwabne and 1946 Kielce pogroms. Government officials described her remarks as unfortunate and misunderstood, stating Minister Zalewska in a subsequent print media interview acknowledged Poles had committed both atrocities. Nevertheless, critics argued the minister’s comments reflected government actions that politicized a period of Polish history that demands an accurate and objective reckoning.

On February 17, a Radio Maryja commentator made anti-Semitic comments during a broadcast. On July 7, the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council sent a letter to the head of the Redemptorist Order in Warsaw criticizing Radio Maryja for broadcasting anti-Semitic remarks and requesting the radio station not promote anti-Semitic and discriminatory content.

Xenophobic behavior and demonstrations sometimes occurred during sporting events. On August 19, 50 Lodz Widzew sports club soccer fans held a banner over a bridge that read, “19.08., today the Jews got a name. Let them burn,” followed by an obscenity. The fans then burned three effigies representing Jews. By the end of September, authorities were investigating but had taken no action against any of the fans involved.

On September 28, the Wroclaw local court began a trial of a man who burned an effigy of an Orthodox Jew during a November 2015 anti-immigrant march in Wroclaw. On November 21, the court sentenced the man to 10-months’ imprisonment for public incitement to hatred on religious grounds, despite the prosecutor’s request for 10-months’ community service. At year’s end, the sentence was under appeal.

In April, two individuals who destroyed 24 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in the town of Bielsko-Biala in November 2015 pleaded guilty.

In January, Holocaust survivors, politicians, and religious leaders gathered to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and commemorate the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In July, President Andrzej Duda spoke at the 70th anniversary commemoration of a massacre of Jews in Kielce.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other government services. While the government effectively enforced these provisions, there were reports of some societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government restricted the right of persons with certain mental disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs.

The law states that buildings should be accessible for persons with disabilities, and at least three laws require retrofitting of existing buildings to provide accessibility. Many buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities, because regulations do not specify what constitutes an accessible building. Public buildings and transportation generally were accessible, although older trains and vehicles were often less accessible to persons with disabilities, and many train stations were not fully accessible.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

A number of xenophobic and racist incidents occurred during the year. The NGOs Never Again and Open Republic reported a noticeable increase in the total number of hate crimes, pointing out that, although perpetrators mainly used hate speech in the past, during 2015 there were also violent attacks. On November 7, the National Prosecutor’s Office reported hate crimes investigated by the National Prosecutor’s office had risen 13 percent in the first six months of the year.

Prosecutors investigated 1,548 cases of hate crimes, including hate speech, in 2015, compared with 1,365 in 2014. Of these, 793 cases involved the internet, 160 cases were racist graffiti on walls or buildings, monuments and graves, 118 referred to making verbal threats to other persons, 86 cases were related to the use of violence against other persons, 44 involved bodily injury, 39 occurred at demonstrations or assemblies, 31 involved beating by more than one person, 29 involved sports fans or athletes, 25 involved offensive, harmful or embarrassing physical contact, 15 involved press and book publications, eight concerned television and radio programs, and two involved arson. Information on the remaining 198 hate crimes was unavailable.

On February 29, a Poznan local court sentenced two men to prison terms of three months and two years for beating a Syrian national in November 2015. On July 26, the court sentenced a third man to two years of community work for inciting the other two men to beat the Syrian. The court declared that the beating was a purely racist attack.

On June 23, Lodz prosecutors charged a 37-year-old man with racism, discrimination, and causing bodily harm to a 25-year old Algerian female student whom he verbally and physically attacked in the city of Lodz.

On September 8, a man physically attacked a university professor because he was speaking German while riding on a Warsaw tram. The attacker demanded the professor stop speaking German in his presence. When the professor refused, the man hit him in the face and fled the scene. On October 10, police arrested the suspected attacker and placed him in pretrial detention for three months.

Societal discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem. The 2011 national census recorded 16,723 Roma, although an official government report on the Romani community estimated that 20,000-25,000 Roma resided in the country. Romani community representatives estimated that 30,000-35,000 Roma resided in the country.

On April 21, unknown perpetrators destroyed a monument in memory of Roma shot by Nazis during World War II in Borzecin. The perpetrators split the wooden monument into pieces with an axe. By the end of September, no police investigation details were available.

In February, Czchow municipal authorities protested the resettlement of Romani community members after municipal authorities from neighboring Limanowa purchased and renovated property in Czchow to resettle three Romani families living in a dilapidated building in Limanowa. Czchow municipal authorities argued they had no experience or resources for integrating Roma, and the families remained in their Limanowa residence.

Romani leaders complained of widespread discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, the media, and education.

On January 25, a Romanian Romani group sued Poland in the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the government violated the European Convention on Human Rights by dismantling their illegal settlement in Wroclaw in July 2015. Wroclaw city authorities destroyed the illegal settlement present in the city since 2009 without advance notification to the inhabitants who lost personal belongings when the buildings were destroyed. At year’s end, the case was pending before the court.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, 2,360 Romani children between ages six and 16 attended school. During the year the government allocated 10 million zloty ($2.5 million) for programs to support Roma, including for educational programs. In addition the Ministry of Education allocated 700,000 zloty ($178,000) for school equipment for Romani children. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration provided 540,000 zloty ($140,000) in school grants for Romani high school and university students, postgraduate studies on Romani culture and history in Krakow, and Romani-related cultural and religious events.

While at the national level approximately 80 percent of Roma were unemployed, levels of unemployment in some regions reached nearly 100 percent.

There were isolated incidents of racially motivated violence, including verbal and physical abuse, directed at persons of African, Asian, or Arab descent. On September 10, a man verbally attacked two Asian women on a metro train in Warsaw shouting, “Poland is only for Poles” and telling them to leave the country. Police detained the perpetrator.

The Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities continued to experience petty harassment and discrimination. On June 26, approximately 20 individuals tried to disrupt the religious procession of Greek Catholic and Orthodox Church members who were marching from the local cathedral to the military cemetery to commemorate the Ukrainian soldiers who fought for Poland in 1918-1920. On June 27, police charged nine persons with violating the right to public religious practices, which carries a punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment. On December 19, the Przemysl prosecutor’s office indicted 19 individuals for malicious disruption of a religious procession, which carries a possible penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment.

Extremist groups, while small in number, maintained a public presence in high-profile marches and on the internet, and disrupted lectures or debates on issues they opposed. Red Watch, a webpage run by the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honor, listed by name “traitors of the race,” politicians, activists, and representatives of left-wing organizations. The entries often included the home addresses and telephone numbers of the persons listed. Authorities stated they could not do anything, since the site’s servers were located outside the country.

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

While the constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the specific grounds of sexual orientation, it prohibits discrimination “for any reason whatsoever.” The laws on discrimination in employment cover sexual orientation and gender identity, but hate crime and incitement laws do not. Persons who want to change their gender must sue their parents. The prime minister’s plenipotentiary for civil society and equal treatment monitors LGBTI problems.

NGOs and politicians reported increasing acceptance of LGBTI persons by society but also stated that discrimination was still common in schools, workplaces, hospitals, and clinics. There were some reports of skinhead violence and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons, but NGOs maintained that most cases went unreported.

Unknown perpetrators vandalized the offices of two LGBTI organizations. In February perpetrators attempted to break into Lambda’s Warsaw office and painted offensive words on the office door. In April unknown perpetrators smashed office windows of Campaign against Homophobia after unsuccessfully trying to force entry into the building. The government’s plenipotentiary for civil society and equal treatment condemned the attacks. Police investigated but could not identify the perpetrators.

In July the Lodz local court imposed a 200-zloty ($51) fine on an employee of a printing house who refused services to the LGBT Business Forum foundation, arguing he would not contribute to the promotion of LGBTI movements. The court administratively ruled the refusal of services a misdemeanor. On July 27, the justice minister/prosecutor general declared the court’s conviction a violation of the freedom of conscience, economic freedom, and common sense. The printer appealed the court decision, and the case remained pending at year’s end.

According to a survey by the Campaign against Homophobia in August, almost 30 percent of LGBTI persons reported having been the victims of physical or psychological violence during the last five years. The report stated LGBTI individuals were two times more likely than the rest of society to be victims of crimes, and transgender persons were at the greatest risk with as many as half of transgender persons reporting they were victims of crime.

The police advisor for equal treatment and the human rights defender cooperated to publish a special handbook for police that promoted officers’ tolerance and understanding of diversity and counseled police officers on how to work with victims of various minorities, including LGBTI individuals.

On February 25, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples could be classified as cohabitants. Under the criminal law, a person closest to the accused may refuse to testify and is entitled to other legal protection. The Supreme Court ruled that legal protection could not differentiate with respect to gender.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government’s AIDS center received no complaints of discrimination from HIV-positive persons during the first six months of the year.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

During the first months of the year, various groups organized anti-immigrant marches in several towns and cities including Bialystok, Gora Kalwaria, Biala Podlaska, Warsaw, and Lodz.

On February 18, the Lublin local court sentenced a 30-year-old woman to two months’ imprisonment (suspended for two years) and 800-zloty ($203) fine for posting hateful comments regarding Syrian refugees on her Facebook page. The court ruled that she was guilty of inciting hatred on racial and national grounds and public offense of persons of Syrian origin.

On June 28, a Poznan local court sentenced a soccer fan to seven months’ community work and a 3,000-zloty ($760) fine for inciting fans to shout anti-Islamic slogans during a September 2015 soccer match in the city of Poznan.

Human Rights Reports
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future