Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and punishable by 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines. The law does not address spousal rape or the gender of rape victims. The government did not enforce the law effectively, in part due to reluctance of victims and their families to report rape. Even when victims reported rape, police and judicial officials were reluctant to act, particularly if alleged perpetrators were politically connected or members of the police or military.
Domestic violence is illegal. The penalty for conviction of assault ranges from one to 20 years’ imprisonment. Victims were reluctant to report cases, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Authorities generally treated domestic violence as a private matter to be resolved in the home. Police and the judiciary were reluctant to prosecute domestic violence cases. No statistics were publicly available on prosecutions, convictions, or punishments.
In July, two families in the remote island of Annobon accused soldiers stationed there of raping two underage girls. When the accusations became public, the minister of fisheries stated that the girls were not victims and questioned the lack of supervision by their parents. On July 30, the vice president sent a commission to the island to investigate the allegations. At year’s end authorities had made no arrests.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality mediated some domestic disputes but had no enforcement powers. Police, the Ministry of Interior, and civil society organizations organized several workshops on family violence.
The government-controlled media regularly broadcast public service announcements regarding domestic violence and trafficking in persons, including through commercials.
Sexual Harassment: Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, it continued to be a problem. The government made no effort to address the problem, and no statistics were publicly available.
Reproductive Rights: Heterosexual couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. LGBTI individuals, however, were generally not afforded these rights and protections.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including interviews and medical examinations at hospitals and clinics.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the maternal mortality rate was 301 per 100,000 live births in 2017. Major factors affecting maternal mortality included poverty, poor medical training, and limited access to health care, especially in rural areas. Prenatal and obstetric care was free in government clinics but limited primarily to the cities of Malabo and Bata. The WHO reported that 68 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel, but only 21 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied through modern methods. The birth rate was 176 per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: While the constitution provides for equality between men and women, the law discriminates against women in matters of nationality, real and personal property, and inheritance. The prevalence of negative stereotypes and adverse cultural norms and customs is believed to contribute to discrimination against women.
Custom confined women in rural areas largely to traditional roles. Women in urban areas experienced less overt discrimination but did not enjoy pay or access to employment and credit on an equal basis with men.
The government provided courses, seminars, conferences, and media programs to sensitize the population and government agencies to the needs and rights of women. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality held events around International Women’s Day to raise public awareness of these rights. The ministry also provided technical assistance and financial support to rural women.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from (at least) one citizen parent, whether born in the country or abroad, but not automatically from birth on the country’s territory. If both parents are foreigners, a person born in the country can claim nationality at age 18. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare requires parents to register all births and adjudicates them on a nondiscriminatory basis. Failure to register a child may result in denial of public services.
Education: Education is tuition free and compulsory until age 13, although all students are required to pay for registration, textbooks, and other materials. Most children attended school through the primary grades (sixth grade). Boys and girls generally completed secondary or vocational schooling. The Ministry of Education required teenage girls to take a pregnancy test, and those who tested positive were not allowed to attend school. Domestic work also limited girls’ access to secondary education, especially in rural areas. School enrollment was nearly identical in the elementary grades (50.1 percent for boys vs. 49.9 percent for girls). By high school (50.7 percent for boys vs. 49.3 percent for girls) the percentage of girls declined. Efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 resulted in smaller class sizes and additional school sessions. Critics noted this would leave many children outside the classroom due to a lack of space and staff.
Child Abuse: Abuse of minors is illegal, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Corporal punishment was a culturally accepted method of discipline, including in schools.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 14. UNICEF reported, using 2011 data, that 9 percent of women were married before age 15 and 30 percent before age 18. Forced marriage occurred, especially in rural areas, although no statistics were available. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality operated programs to deter child marriage but did not address forced marriage.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish community was small, likely fewer than 100 persons. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. New buildings must reportedly be accessible to persons with disabilities, but enforcement was unclear. Access to other state services such as health services, information, communications, transportation, and the judicial system are not explicitly provided by law. Persons with disabilities may vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, but lack of physical access to buildings posed a barrier to full participation. Inaccessible public buildings and schools were an obstacle for persons with disabilities, including some newly constructed government buildings that lacked such access. The government made some efforts to assist persons with disabilities, such as supporting an organization for the blind.
Children with disabilities attended primary, secondary, and higher education, although generally no accommodations were made for their disabilities. A small number of private schools for children with disabilities operated with a combination of public and private funding.
Authorities did not investigate incidents of violence or other abuses against persons with disabilities.
Societal discrimination, harassment by security forces, and political marginalization of minorities were problems (see section 1.d, Arbitrary Arrest, and section 3, Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups).
The predominant ethnic group, the Fang, dominated politics and the economy. Foreigners were often victimized. Documented and irregular immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Mali, Benin, Togo, Gabon, Ethiopia, and other African countries represented a significant portion of the labor force. There were also workers from the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The government continued efforts to require all immigrants have relevant documents, partly to address concerns regarding trafficking in persons. Attention to school attendance generally focused more on citizen children than on their foreign peers.
In public speeches President Obiang frequently referred to foreigners as a security and terrorist threat and warned of a renewal of colonialism.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws criminalize same-sex sexual conduct, but societal stigmatization of and discrimination against the LGBTI community was a problem. The government made no effort to combat this stigma and discrimination. The government and laws do not formally recognize or protect the existence of LGBTI persons or groups; no laws prohibit discrimination. The government’s position is that such sexual orientations and gender identities are inconsistent with cultural beliefs. LGBTI individuals were reportedly subjected to additional discrimination and violence by security forces. Authorities did not investigate these abuses.
LGBTI individuals often faced stigma from their families as well as from the government and employers. Families sometimes rejected children and forced them to leave home, often resulting in them quitting school as well. Some LGBTI individuals were removed from government jobs and academia because of their sexual orientation. School officials reportedly denied transgender children access to some educational facilities. There were persistent reports that family members raped LGBTI women in an effort to impregnate them and supposedly convert them to heterosexuality.
Despite frequent public statements and radio campaigns advocating nondiscrimination, including one by President Obiang, there remained stigma around persons with HIV or AIDS, and many individuals kept their illness hidden. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare estimated that less than half of persons with HIV sought treatment, and that some persons likely avoided the no-cost treatment because of associated social stigma.