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Republic of Korea

Executive Summary

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is a constitutional democracy governed by a president and a unicameral legislature. Observers considered the presidential election in May and legislative elections in 2016 free and fair. Moon Jae-in was elected president in an early election following the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: government interpretation and application of the National Security Law, libel laws, and other laws that limited freedom of expression and restricted internet access; corruption; domestic violence; and the military’s prosecution of male soldiers for homosexual activities, although the new government discontinued such action.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses. A degree of impunity for corruption charges was a concern.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and domestic violence. The police generally respond promptly and appropriately to reported incidents, and the judicial system effectively enforced the law. However, domestic violence was a significant, yet underreported problem. Both government and NGO surveys indicated that it occurs in about approximately 50 percent of households.

Although no specific statute defines spousal rape as illegal, the Supreme Court acknowledged marital rape as illegal. The penalty for rape ranges from a minimum of three years’ to life imprisonment depending on the specific circumstances. Authorities effectively investigated and prosecuted rape, although in some cases victims dropped charges against perpetrators after reaching a financial settlement with the alleged perpetrator.

Multiple NGOs reported that sexual assault was a serious and underreported problem in the military.

The law defines domestic violence as a serious crime and authorizes authorities to order offenders to stay away from victims for up to six months. This order may be extended up to two years. Offenders may be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and fined up to seven million won ($6,030) for domestic violence offenses. Noncompliance with domestic violence restraining orders may result in a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of up to 20 million won ($17,230). Authorities may also place offenders on probation or order them to see court-designated counselors.

When there is a danger of domestic violence recurring and an immediate need for protection, the law allows a provisional order to be issued ex officio or at the victim’s request. This may restrict the subject of the order from living in the same home, approaching within 109 yards of the victim, or contacting the victim through telecommunication devices.

Domestic violence occurred in 45.6 percent of all families, according to 2015 statistics (the most recent available) from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The Women’s Human Rights Commission reported a higher 53.3 percent. According to an August report by the Women’s Human Rights Commission of Korea, the number of domestic violence cases reported to the emergency hotline for violence against women in 2015 increased by 15.6 percent from the same period in 2014. The number of cases of reported violence in nonmarital relationships increased by 31.7 percent.

Footage of a man hitting and kicking his former girlfriend before chasing her down a street in central Seoul with a truck in July triggered a police 100-day action campaign to combat violence against women. The Korean Institute of Criminology stated that the assault in broad daylight in the capital, while extreme, was not an isolated incident of abuse. The Institute conducted a study, based on responses from 2,000 men, which found that 80 percent had physically or psychologically abused a girlfriend while they were dating.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family funded 38 integrated support centers and 104 smaller counseling centers nationwide for victims of sexual violence called “sunflower centers,” providing counseling, medical care and therapy, case investigations, and legal assistance.

The law allows judges or a Ministry of Justice committee to sentence repeat sex offenders to chemical castration. In the first half of the year, 14 chemical castrations were performed.

The 2015 agreement with Japan on World War II “comfort women” (women trafficked for sexual purposes) remained controversial with some domestic and foreign civil society and survivor groups. In July, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha instructed a civilian task force to review the 2015 comfort women agreement between South Korea and Japan. The independent task force’s nonbinding report, released December 27, raised concerns about the contents of the 2015 agreement and the process by which it was negotiated, particularly the lack of “adequate efforts” to include the views of the comfort women victims.

Sexual Harassment: The law obligates companies and organizations to take preventive measures against sexual harassment, and the government generally enforced the law effectively (see section 7.d.). The KNPA classifies sexual harassment as “indecent acts by compulsion.” There were numerous cases of sexual harassment reported in the media throughout the year.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights under the constitution as men. The law provides for equal pay for equal work, but the latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed the gender pay gap was 37.2 percent in 2015 (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship requires one parent be a citizen at the time of birth. Authorities also grant citizenship in circumstances where parentage is unclear or if the child would otherwise be stateless. The law requires that all children be registered in family registries and prohibits adoption of children for the first week after birth.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes serious injury and repeated abuse of children, and provides prison terms of between five years and life. In 2016 the Ministry for Health and Welfare reported a 59 percent increase in confirmed child abuses cases compared to 2015, attributing this to a public education campaign and expanded reporting requirements. The Ministry for Health and Welfare operated 60 child protection agencies and 63 shelters to treat and protect victims of child abuse and ran programs for families designed to prevent reoccurrence. The government maintains a 24-hour online counseling center for victims of child abuse.

Several cases of severe child abuse were reported in the media during the year.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for men and women to marry is 18. There were no reported cases of forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is 13. It is illegal to deceive or pressure anyone under 19 into having sexual intercourse. Children, however, were vulnerable to sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation through online recruitment or recruitment of runaway girls.

The penalty for rape of a minor under age 13 ranges from 10 years to life in prison; the penalty for rape of a minor age 13 to 19 is five years to life. Other penalties include electronic monitoring of offenders, public release of their personal information, and reversible hormonal treatment (chemical castration).

The law prohibits child pornography. Offenders who produce or possess it for the purpose of selling, renting, or distributing it for profit are subject to a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment. In addition, any possessor of child pornography may be fined up to 20 million won ($17,230).

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country has a small Jewish population consisting almost entirely of expatriates. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law covering rights and support for the developmentally disabled created a special task force of prosecutors and police trained to work with persons with disabilities and their families in police investigations. The government implemented laws and programs to facilitate access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. Many local government ordinances and regulations still directly discriminate against persons with disabilities, especially those with intellectual and mental disabilities, according to media reports and NGOs. The National Human Rights Commission reported it had received multiple reports of discrimination against persons with disabilities.

The law establishes penalties for deliberate discrimination of up to three years in prison and a fine of 30 million won ($25,840). The Ministry of Health and Welfare continued to implement a comprehensive set of policies that included encouraging public and private buildings and facilities to provide barrier-free access, providing part time employment, and employing a task force to introduce a long-term care system. The government operated rehabilitation hospitals in six regions and a national rehabilitation research center to increase opportunities and access for persons with disabilities.

The government provided a pension system for registered adults and children with disabilities, an allowance for children with disabilities under age 18 whose household income was below or near the National Basic Livelihood Security Standard, and a disability allowance for low-income persons age 18 and older with mild disabilities.

Children with disabilities qualified as special education beneficiaries and there was a separate system of public special education schools for children from age three to 17. Children with more significant disabilities may receive hospitalized education. All public and private schools, childcare centers, educational facilities, and training institutions must provide equipment and other resources to accommodate students with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

As of November, more than 2.1 million foreigners (including an estimated 250,000 undocumented migrants) lived in the country, which otherwise had a racially homogeneous population of approximately 50.9 million. The country lacks a comprehensive antidiscrimination law, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism called for legislation to curb racism and xenophobia.

Societal discrimination against ethnic and racial minorities was common but underreported. The NHRC stated that most of the cases with foreign workers involved enforced eviction or mistreatment when detained in protection centers for foreign workers on charges of violating immigration laws.

Some children of immigrants suffered from discrimination and lack of access to social resources. Some children of non-Korean ethnicity or multiple ethnicities also experienced bullying because of their physical appearance.

In response to the steady growth of ethnic minorities due largely to the increasing number of migrant workers and foreign brides, the Ministries of Gender Equality and Family and of Employment and Labor continued programs to increase public awareness of cultural diversity and to assist foreign workers, wives, and multicultural families to adjust to life in the country.

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

The Ministry of Justice reported the constitution’s equality principles apply to LGBTI persons. The law that established the NHRC prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and authorizes the NHRC to review cases of such discrimination, but the law does not specify discrimination based on gender identity. The Military Criminal Act’s “disgraceful conduct” clause criminalizes consensual sodomy between men in the military with up to two years’ imprisonment; in July the Constitutional Court ruled that the clause was constitutional.

In May the General Military Court sentenced a gay soldier to six months in prison and a one year suspended sentence for having consensual same-sex intercourse with another soldier. He was among 40-50 soldiers investigated in an effort to target gay soldiers in the army by the army chief of staff.

No laws either specify punishment for persons found to discriminate against LGBTI persons or provide for remedies to victims of discrimination or violence. During the first half of the year, the NHRC reported two cases of such alleged discrimination.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law protects the right to confidentiality of persons with HIV/AIDS and prohibits discrimination against them. However, observers claimed persons with HIV/AIDS continued to suffer from societal discrimination and social stigma.

Seychelles

Executive Summary

Seychelles is a multiparty republic governed by a president, Council of Ministers, and National Assembly. In 2015 voters narrowly re-elected president James Michel of Parti Lepep in an election that international observers criticized for voter intimidation and vote buying. In September 2016 President Michel resigned and appointed his vice president, Danny Faure, president of the republic, as per constitutional provisions. President Faure was the Parti Lepep vice-presidential candidate, and after assuming the presidency, he declared he would not stand for the leadership of his party. On October 16, a year after he assumed office, Faure withdrew from Parti Lepep, marking the first time since independence that the head of state was not the head of a political party. Faure is serving the remaining four years of Michel’s mandate and has never stood as a presidential candidate. In September 2016 the opposition coalition Seychellois Democratic Union won the majority of seats in legislative assembly elections, which international and domestic observers called fair but not free due to lack of credibility of the election management body. This was the Seychellois Democratic Union’s first majority since the establishment of a multiparty system, and since then the government has been in a state of “cohabitation.”

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: prolonged pretrial detention; corruption; ineffective government enforcement of regulations concerning domestic violence against women and children; and forced labor.

The government took steps to punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, but impunity existed.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, spousal rape, and domestic abuse are criminal offenses for which conviction is punishable by a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. Nevertheless, rape was a problem, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Most victims did not report rape due to fear of reprisal or social stigma.

Domestic violence against women was a widespread problem. Police rarely responded to domestic disputes, although media continued to draw attention to the problem. Police maintained a specialized unit, the Family Squad, to address domestic violence and other family problems.

The Social Affairs Division of the Ministry of Family Affairs and NGOs provided counseling services to victims of rape and domestic violence. The ministry’s Gender Secretariat conducted outreach campaigns to end gender-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but enforcement was rare. The penal code provides no penalty for sexual harassment, although the court may order a person accused of such conduct to “keep a bond of peace,” which allows the court to assess a fine if the harasser fails to cease the harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Although society is largely matriarchal, the law provides for the same legal status and rights for men as for women, including equal treatment under family, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. While unwed mothers were the societal norm, the law requires fathers to support their children. The Employment Act, as amended in 2015, provides fathers with five days of paid paternity leave upon the birth of a child.

There was no officially sanctioned economic discrimination against women in employment, access to credit, equal pay for equal work, or owning or managing a business. Women were well represented in both the public and private sectors. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth in the country or from parents, and generally births were registered immediately. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits physical abuse of children, child abuse was a problem. Physical abuse of children is a cultural norm. According to government social workers, perpetrators of child sexual abuse often were stepfathers, boyfriends of the mother, and other male family members. The strongest public advocate for young victims was a semiautonomous agency, the National Council for Children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 15 years for girls with parental consent and 18 years for boys. Child marriage was not a significant problem. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the prostitution and sexual exploitation of children and specifically prohibits the procurement, recruitment, or exploitation of children under age 18 for the purpose of prostitution. The law also prohibits the procurement or detainment of any child against his or her will with the intent to engage in sexual conduct or for the purpose of prostitution. The law provides for a sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment for a first conviction of sexual assault on a person under age 15 and 28 years’ imprisonment for a second conviction, but the presiding judge may reduce these sentences. For example, on December 12, Today in Seychelles reported a 37-year-old man from Belvedere was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl in 2016.

The 2014 Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act prescribes penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment and a fine up to 800,000 Seychellois rupees ($57,200) for conviction of child trafficking. There were credible reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children. Authorities prosecuted several child abuse cases in court. For example, on July 31, Today in Seychelles reported a 75-year-old man repeatedly sexually assaulted an eight-year-old girl and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. No cases of child pornography, which is illegal, were reported during the year.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered fewer than 10 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

Although the constitution and law provide for the right of persons with disabilities to special protection, including reasonable provisions for improving quality of life, no laws provide for access to public buildings, transportation, or government services, and the government does not provide such services. There were cases of discrimination against persons with disabilities. Employers paid their employees with disabilities two thirds of their salaries if the latter were already receiving disability social aid, compared to previous years when they were often not paid a salary (see section 7.d.). Most children with disabilities were segregated in specialized schools. The National Council for the Disabled, a government agency under the Ministry of Family Affairs, developed work placement programs for persons with disabilities, although few employment opportunities existed.

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

In 2016 consensual same-sex sexual activity between men was decriminalized. There were few reports of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; although LGBTI activists reported they faced social stigma and discrimination. On September 12, the Seychelles News Agency carried an article about the struggles faced by the local LGBTI association.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, the government has informal policies that require a foreign citizen marrying a Seychellois to undergo an HIV test. If the test is positive, the couple are not permitted to marry in the country. In April 2016 a national policy on HIV/AIDS in the workplace was initiated that provides for core guidelines and responses for HIV/AIDS in the workplace, including nondiscriminatory employment practices.

Sierra Leone

Executive Summary

Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. In 2012 the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) party won an expanded majority in parliament, and citizens re-elected President Ernest Bai Koroma in peaceful multiparty elections.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

The Office of the Attorney General reported that, despite no formal announcement by the government, all state of emergency measures expired on August 7, 2016, due to statutory lapse provisions in the constitution.

The most significant human rights issues included: unlawful killings and abusive treatment by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; official corruption; lack of accountability in cases involving sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation/cutting; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, leading to the arrest of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals;. and child labor.

The government took some steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed violations, but impunity persisted.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape for which conviction is punishable by between five and 15 years’ imprisonment. Rape was common and viewed more as a societal norm than a criminal problem. The law specifically prohibits spousal rape. Indictments were rare, especially in rural areas. A reluctance to use the judicial system by both victims and law enforcement officials, combined with women’s lack of income and economic independence, helped perpetuate violence against women and impunity for offenders. Despite the establishment of the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the SLP and the existence of applicable legislation, reports of rapes and sexual penetration, especially involving child victims, steadily increased.

The HRCSL observed that the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence continued to rise while arrests and convictions of perpetrators were negligible.

Defense for Children International reported that between January and June 2016, sexual penetration and molestation accounted for more than 60 percent of abuse cases reported at police stations. Girls were the main victims of sexual exploitation. A majority of victims were between ages 11 and 14, and an estimated 20 percent were between ages six and 10.

Civil society organizations, such as Legal Aid and Timap for Justice, provided free legal services for victims of gender-based and domestic violence. Inefficiencies and corruption in the judicial system, however, resulted in many cases settled out of court or without going to trial. Most perpetrators, including teachers, family friends, relatives, traditional leaders, and neighbors, were known to their victims.

Medical and psychological services for rape victims were limited. Police often required victims to obtain a medical report for the filing of charges, examinations, reports, and court appearances, and most government doctors charged fees that were prohibitively expensive for most victims. The law provides that the victim of a sexual offense shall be entitled to free medical treatment and a free medical report, but in reality many victims had to pay for medical services.

Violent acts against women, especially wife beating and spousal rape, were common and often surrounded by a culture of silence. Conviction of domestic violence is punishable by a fine not exceeding five million leones ($685) and two years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence was seldom reported due to victims’ fear of social stigma and retaliation.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C for women and girls. UNICEF data from 2014, the most recent available, reported that nine of 10 women and girls had undergone the procedure. As a result of the statutory lapse of the Ebola state of emergency measures in August 2016, suspension of activities, including FGM/C, by the “bondo” and other secret societies was no longer in force. Beginning in January there were again reports FGM/C was being perpetrated. In July the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs signed a memorandum of understanding with the Soweis and other traditional leaders who practice FGM/C, whereby the traditional leaders committed not to initiate minors under 18 years of age. The FSU reported that of six recorded cases of FGM/C during initiation of girls under 18 years of age between January and August, four were investigated, but no charges were filed. A renewed call to end the practice began following international attention to the death of 19-year-old Fatmata Turay after she underwent FGM/C.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment, but the law was not always effectively enforced. It is unlawful to make unwanted sexual advances, repeatedly follow or pursue others against their will, initiate repeated and unwanted communications with others, or engage in any other “menacing” behavior. Conviction of sexual harassment is punishable by a fine not exceeding 14.3 million leones ($1,960) or imprisonment not exceeding three years. No reliable data was available on the prevalence of sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws, but it does not provide the same legal status for women and men in relation to religion and personal status. Women continued to experience discriminatory practices. Their rights and positions are largely contingent on customary law and the ethnic group to which they belong. The law provides for both Sierra Leonean fathers and mothers to confer nationality to children born abroad.

The law provides for equal remuneration for equal work without discrimination based on gender. Either spouse may acquire property in their own right and women may obtain divorce without being forced to relinquish dowries.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs reported that women faced widespread societal discrimination, particularly in matters of marriage, divorce, property, and inheritance, which are guided by customary law in all areas except the capital. Formal laws apply in customary as well as formal courts, but customary judges had limited or no legal training and often were unaware of formal laws or chose to ignore them. Women’s rights and status under customary law varied significantly depending upon the ethnic group to which they belonged, but such rights and status were routinely inferior to those of men. Under customary law women’s status in society is equal to that of a minor. A woman was frequently perceived to be the property of her husband, to be inherited on his death with his other property.

Discrimination occurred in access to credit, equal pay for similar work, and the ownership and management of a business. Women did not have equal access to education, economic opportunities, health facilities, or social freedoms. In rural areas women performed much of the subsistence farming and had little opportunity for formal education. Women also experienced discrimination in access to employment, and it was common for an employer to dismiss a woman if she became pregnant during her first year on the job. The law does not prohibit dismissal of pregnant workers based on pregnancy.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs has a mandate to protect the rights of women, but most international and domestic NGOs asserted the ministry did not have the resources, infrastructure, and support of other ministries to handle its assigned projects effectively. The ministry routinely relied on the assistance of international organizations and NGOs to help combat women’s rights violations.

Domestic NGOs such as 50/50, the Forum for African Women Educationalists, the Women’s Forum, and the All Political Parties Women’s Association raised awareness of gender inequality and other women’s issues and encouraged women to become involved in running for mayoral positions and local councils.

Children

Birth Registration: Although the constitution states that it prohibits discrimination based on race, tribe, gender, place of origin, political opinion, color, and religion, the constitution denies citizenship at birth to persons who are not of “Negro-African descent.” Non-Africans who have lived in the country for at least eight years (two years for foreigners married to Sierra Leonean citizens) may apply for naturalization, subject to presidential approval. Citizenship derived by birth is restricted to children with at least one parent or grandparent of Negro-African descent who was born in Sierra Leone. Children not meeting the criteria must be registered in their parents’ countries of origin.

Birth registration was not universal due to outdated birth registration laws and inadequate staffing of government registry facilities. Lack of registration did not affect access to public services or result in statelessness. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education is tuition free and universal at the primary level for all children. At the secondary level, however, education is tuition free only for girls, based on a government policy to encourage female education. Pregnant girls were prohibited from attending classes and taking examinations with other students on the grounds that they were a “bad moral influence.”

Child Abuse: A pattern of violence against and abuse of children existed, and according to the FSU, it increased between January and August compared with previous years. The FSU reported the following forms of child abuse to be on the increase: sexual violence, abandonment, and trafficking. FSU personnel were trained in dealing with sexual violence against children, and cases of child sexual abuse generally were taken more seriously than adult rape cases. Substantial enforcement problems remained, and conviction numbers remained low. In many cases of sexual assault on children, parents accepted payment instead of taking the perpetrator to court due to difficulties dealing with the justice system, fear of public shame, and economic hardship.

Early and Forced Marriage: Although the law prohibits marriage of boys and girls under the age of 18, including forced marriage, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs reported the practice of early and forced child marriages continued to be a problem, especially in rural areas. The International Center for Research on Women reported that 44 percent of girls in the country were married before 18 years of age, and 14 percent were wed before 14 years of age. UNICEF supported the government in addressing child marriage at the local level through awareness raising and training of communities and stakeholders. Prevalence of early marriage was highest in the North. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although, the law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, and child trafficking, including child pornography, enforcement remained a problem. The FSU reported 698 cases of sexual exploitation of children between January and August, with only 142 cases taken to court. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Children under the age of 18 engaged in prostitution.

Displaced Children: The NGO Needy Child International reported during the year that approximately 50,000 children worked and lived on the street, with 45,000 of them engaged in artisanal gravel production in the Western Area.

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 Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The Persons With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment and provision of state services, including judicial services. The government did not effectively implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. The government-funded Commission on Persons with Disabilities is charged with protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of persons with disabilities. Given the high rate of general unemployment, work opportunities for persons with disabilities were few, and begging by them was commonplace. Children with disabilities were also less likely to attend school than other children.

There was considerable discrimination against persons with mental disabilities. The vast majority of persons with mental disabilities received no treatment or public services. The Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital in Kissy, the only inpatient psychiatric institution that served persons with mental disabilities, was underfunded. It had only one consulting psychiatrist, patients were not provided sufficient food, and restraints were primitive and dehumanizing. The hospital lacked running water and only sporadic electricity. Only basic medications were available.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is responsible for providing free primary health-care services to persons with polio and diabetic retinopathy as well as those who are blind or deaf. The ministry did not provide these services consistently, and organizations reported many persons with disabilities had limited access to medical and rehabilitative care. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs has a mandate to provide policy oversight for issues affecting persons with disabilities but had limited capacity to do so.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population included 18 ethnic groups of African origin. In addition there were significant Lebanese and Indian minorities and small groups of European and Pakistani origin. Little ethnic segregation was apparent in urban areas, where interethnic marriage was common. The two largest ethnic groups were the Themne in the North and the Mende in the South. Each group constituted approximately 30 percent of the population. The Krio, 2 percent of the population, historically dominated the civil service and judiciary. Strong ethnic loyalties, bias, and stereotypes existed among all ethnic groups. The Themne and Mende vied historically for political power, and violence during the 11-year civil war had some ethnic undertones. Ethnic loyalty remained an important factor in the government, the armed forces, and business. Complaints of ethnic discrimination in government appointments, contract assignment, and military promotions were common.

Residents of non-African descent faced some institutionalized discrimination, particularly in the areas of citizenship and nationality (see sections 3, Participation of Women and Minorities, and 6, Children, Birth Registration).

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

A law from 1861 prohibits male-to-male sexual acts (“buggery” and “crimes against nature”), but there is no legal prohibition against female-to-female sex. The 1861 law, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment for “indecent assault” upon a man or 10 years for attempting such an assault, was not enforced. The constitution does not offer protection from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Sexual orientation and gender-identity civil society groups alleged that because the law prohibits male-to-male sexual activity, the law limits lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons from exercising the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. The law, however, does not restrict the rights of persons to speak out on LGBTI issues. No hate crime laws cover LGBTI persons. The law does not address transgender persons.

A few organizations, including Dignity Association, supported LGBTI persons, but they maintained low profiles. LGBTI groups claimed police were biased against them.

Dignity Association reported that in May 2016 police disrupted and shut down an LGBTI social event in Aberdeen; officers arrested 18 participants and held them in custody overnight. LGBTI groups reported that LGBTI persons feared going to the SLP to report violations, including societal discrimination.

On March 30, police in Waterloo arrested four participants attending a workshop on HIV/AIDS for Men who Sex Men, accusing them of promoting gay activities in the community. They were released on March 31 after being humiliated and denounced.

In the areas of employment and education, sexual orientation or gender identity was a basis for abusive treatment, which led individuals to leave their jobs or courses of study. It was difficult for gays and lesbians to receive health services due to fear their right to confidentiality would be ignored if they disclosed their ailments; many chose not to be tested or treated for sexually transmitted infections. Obtaining secure housing was also a problem for LGBTI persons. Families frequently shunned their LGBTI children, leading some to turn to prostitution to survive. Adults could lose their leases if their sexual orientation became public. Women in the LGBTI community reported social discrimination from male LGBTI persons and the general population. On June 9, authorities expelled two female secondary school students for kissing each other in public. The NGO Dignity Association reported that after NGOs expressed concerns to school authorities about the expulsions, the authorities agreed to allow the girls to return to the school.

As of August there was no information regarding any official action by government authorities to investigate or punish public entities or private persons complicit in abuses against LGBTI persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on actual, perceived, or suspected HIV status, but society stigmatized persons with HIV/AIDS. There was no official discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDs, but NGOs reported children were denied access to education because of their HIV status. Adults with HIV/AIDS lacked employment and promotion opportunities. There were also reports men often divorced their wives due to HIV/AIDS status, leaving them without financial support. Through August, Dignity Association and the government agency National AIDS Secretariat reported receiving no specific complaints from persons regarding workplace discrimination or stigma based on HIV/AIDS status. Dignity Association reported, however, that persons with HIV/AIDS expressed concerns that nurses at hospitals discriminated against them in the provision of medicines and medical care.

Singapore

Executive Summary

Singapore is a parliamentary republic where the People’s Action Party, in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominated the political scene. There was no voting for the 2017 presidential election because only a single, ethnic minority Malay candidate qualified for the ballot, due to criteria specified in a 2016 constitutional amendment. On September 13, the Elections Department declared Halimah Yacob president. Observers considered the 2015 general election and a 2016 by-election open and free.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: caning as punishment imposed by the courts; preventive detention by government authorities under various laws without warrant, filing of charges, or normal judicial review; monitoring private electronic or telephone communications without a warrant; significant restrictions on freedoms of expression, including for the press and online, and assembly; the use of defamation laws to discourage criticism; laws and regulations significantly limiting freedom of association; and the criminalization of sexual activities between men, although the law was not enforced.

The government prosecuted officials who committed human rights abuses, although there were no instances of such prosecutions reported during the year. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The government enforced the law against rape, which provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and the possibility of caning. By law only a man can commit rape. A man cannot legally be a victim of rape, but may be the victim of unlawful sexual penetration, which carries the same penalties as rape. Spousal rape is generally not a crime, but husbands who force their wives to have intercourse may be prosecuted for other offenses, such as assault. Spousal rape is a criminal offense when the couple is separated, subject to an interim divorce order that has not become final, or subject to a written separation agreement, as well as when a court has issued a protection order against the husband. Rape was not prevalent.

The law criminalizes domestic violence. Victims may obtain court orders restraining the respondent and barring the spouse or former spouse from the home until the court is satisfied that the spouse has ceased aggressive behavior. Several voluntary welfare organizations that assisted abused women called for measures to address under-reporting of gender-based violence, which they said was the result of social stigma and a lack of understanding among the population at large as well as among law enforcement officials. The press gave prominent coverage to several instances of abuse or violence against women

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Type I (as classified by the World Health Organization) female genital mutilation/cutting was practiced among a small portion of the Muslim population. There is no legislation banning the practice.

Sexual Harassment: The law prescribes mandatory caning and a minimum imprisonment of two years for conviction on any charge of “outraging modesty” that caused the victim to fear death or injury. According to police statistics, incidents of outrage of modesty increased by 20 percent to 1,168 cases from January to September, compared with 974 cases in the same period of 2016.

By law a person who uses threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior may incur a fine of up to S$5,000 ($3,700). The law criminalizes harassment and cites examples that include harassment both within and outside the workplace, cyberbullying, and bullying of children. It also provides a range of self-help measures, civil remedies, and enhanced criminal sanctions to protect against harassment. Additionally, it makes stalking an offense punishable with a fine of up to S$5,000 ($3,700), imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including civil liberties, employment, commercial activity, and education. Women were well represented in many professions (see section 7.d.).

No laws mandate nondiscrimination in hiring practice based on gender, prohibit employers from asking questions about a prospective employee’s family status during a job interview, provide for flexible or part-time work schedules for employees with minor children, or establish public provision of childcare.

Polygyny is permitted for Muslim men, but is limited and strictly regulated by the Syariah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages which oversees Muslim marriages and other family law matters. Polygynous marriages constituted 0.2 percent of Muslim marriages.

Both men and women have the right to initiate divorce proceedings.

Children

Birth Registration: The law requires that all births be registered within 14 days. Citizenship derives from one’s parents.

Child Abuse: The Children and Young Persons Act criminalizes mistreatment of children, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The government enforced the law and provided support services for child-abuse victims.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law characterizes unmarried persons under age 21 as minors and persons under 14 as children. Individuals under age 21 wishing to marry must obtain parental consent. In addition to obtaining parental consent, individuals under age 18 require a special license from the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes human trafficking, including child sex trafficking, and authorities enforced the law. One child sex trafficking case was reported in the year.

The age of consent for noncommercial sex is 16 years. Sexual intercourse with a person under 16 is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine, or both, and if the victim is 14 or younger punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine or caning.

Authorities may detain (but generally do not prosecute) persons under age 18 whom they believe to be engaged in prostitution. They prosecute those who organize or profit from prostitution, bring women or girls to the country for prostitution, or coerce or deceive women or girls into prostitution. The law is ambiguous regarding employment of persons ages 16 to 18 in the production of pornography.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were between 800 and 1,000 members of the Jewish community. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The Ministry of Social and Family Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. There is no comprehensive legislation addressing equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in education or employment. In January the ministry began implementing a 2017-2021 policy plan for programs and services in the disability sector. The plan focuses on greater inclusiveness for persons with disabilities.

During the 2015 general elections, voters with visual disabilities could cast their vote independently with stencils, and electoral law allows voters who are unable to vote in the manner described by law to receive assistance from election officials to mark and cast their ballots.

The government maintained a comprehensive code on barrier-free accessibility, established standards for facilities for persons with physical disabilities in all new buildings, and mandated the progressive upgrading of older structures. SG Enable, established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, provided job training and placement program for persons with disabilities.

The country provided a high level of educational support for children and minors with disabilities from preschool to university. Elementary and secondary levels both included mainstreaming programs and special education schools. All primary schools and the majority of secondary schools had specialist support for students with mild disabilities. Informal provisions permitted university matriculation for those with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Malays constituted approximately 13 percent of the population. The constitution acknowledges them as the indigenous persons of the country and charges the government to support and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social, cultural, and language interests. Although the government took steps to encourage greater educational achievement among Malay students and upgrading of skills among Malay workers, ethnic Malays have not yet reached the educational or socioeconomic levels achieved by the ethnic Chinese majority, the ethnic Indian minority, or the Eurasian community. Malays remained underrepresented at senior corporate levels and, some asserted, in certain sectors of the government and the military. This reflected their historically lower educational and economic levels, but some argued it also was a result of employment discrimination.

The Presidential Council on Minority Rights examined all pending bills to ensure that they would not disadvantage any particular group. It also reported to the government on matters that affected any racial or religious community.

Government policy designed to facilitate interethnic harmony and prevent the formation of racial enclaves enforced ethnic ratios, applicable for all ethnic groups, to all forms of public housing.

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

Section 377a of the penal code criminalizes and punishes male-to-male sexual relations with prison sentences up to two years. The law does not criminalize female-to-female sexual relations. The authorities did not enforce the section during the year.

No laws explicitly provide for the protection of the LGBTI community from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, since single persons are prevented from purchasing government housing reserved for married couples until age 35, LGBTI persons, who are unable to wed, were more susceptible to these restrictions.

Recruitment procedures do not bar members of the LGBTI community from military service but classify LGBTI military personnel by sexual orientation and evaluate them on a scale of “effeminacy.” LGBTI citizens may become government workers but must declare their sexual orientation on job applications. Changing of gender on official documents is allowed only through sex reassignments. Media censorship perpetuated negative stereotypes of LGBTI individuals by restricting portrayals of LGBTI life. The IMDA censored films and television shows with LGBTI themes. According to the IMDA website, authorities allow the broadcast of LGBTI themes on television “as long as the presentation does not justify, promote, or glamorize such a lifestyle” (see section 2.a.).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Some individuals with HIV/AIDS claimed that they were socially marginalized and faced employment discrimination if they revealed their HIV/AIDS status. The government discouraged discrimination, supported initiatives that countered misperceptions about HIV/AIDS, and publicly praised employers that welcomed workers with HIV/AIDS. HIV-positive foreigners are barred from obtaining work permits or immigrant visas.

Slovakia

Executive Summary

The Slovak Republic is a multiparty parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister and a 150-member parliament (Narodna Rada or National Council). Prime Minister Robert Fico heads a three-party coalition that secured a majority of seats in parliament following free and fair parliamentary elections in March 2016. Voters elected Andrej Kiska to a five-year term as president and head of state in 2014.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included incidents of interference with privacy; corruption; widespread discrimination against Roma; and security force violence against ethnic and racial minorities government actions and rhetoric did little to discourage.

The government investigated reports of abuses by members of the security forces and other government institutions, although some observers questioned the thoroughness of these investigations. Some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Two former ministers were convicted of corruption during the year.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and sexual violence, which carry a penalty of five to 25 years in prison. The law does not specifically define spousal rape, but the criminal code covers spousal rape and spousal sexual violence under the crime of rape and sexual violence. NGOs and rape victims criticized police for sometimes failing to enforce the law effectively and for often failing to communicate appropriately with rape victims. Rape victims had access to shelters and counseling offered by NGOs and government-funded programs.

Domestic violence against women is punishable by three to eight years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence was widespread, and activists claimed the government did not enforce the law effectively. As of August police had identified 350 domestic violence cases, up from 284 during the same period in 2016.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as unlawful discrimination, subject to civil penalties. Victims usually avoided legal action due to fear of reprisal, lengthy court proceedings, and lack of accessible legal services.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Roma women continued to pursue compensation through the courts for involuntary sterilization, and NGOs called on the government to establish an independent investigative body to determine the scope of the practice. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status for women as for men. Discrimination against women remained a problem.

A 2015 Eurobarometer survey estimated the gender pay gap in the country at 20 percent, and 33 percent of entrepreneurs were female.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth to at least one citizen parent, regardless of where the child is born. Each domestic birth is recorded at the local vital statistics office, including for children born to asylum seekers, stateless persons, and detained migrants.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem according to child advocates. A 2012 government study showed that 23 percent of 13- to 15-year-old persons suffered physical abuse and 7 percent suffered sexual abuse. Domestic abuse carries basic penalties of three to eight years’ imprisonment. As of September, police reported 376 cases of domestic abuse of minors.

The government continued implementing the National Action Plan for Children for 2013-17, funded through the government budget. Government bodies provided financial support to crisis centers for abused children and NGOs that worked on child abuse. The Labor and Social Affairs Office had dedicated departments for overseeing childcare and monitoring child abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. In exceptional cases, based upon request of one of the marrying couple, a competent court may allow marriage of a person as young as 16, if both parents consent. Women from marginalized Romani communities were transported to the United Kingdom by force or deception to marry foreign citizens attempting to avoid deportation by marrying an EU citizen, and might consequently have been subjected to trafficking in persons.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Rape and sexual violence carry basic penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law establishes 15 years as the minimum age for consensual sex. In addition to prohibiting trafficking in persons, the law prohibits the prostitution of children. These abuses were not common, and there were no obstacles to enforcement of the law.

The production, distribution, or possession of child pornography is a crime with penalties ranging from two to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Institutionalized Children: Reports published by the Office of the Public Defender of Rights during the year and in 2013 found that juvenile offenders at educational rehabilitation centers regularly endured hunger and were subjected to degrading treatment, including compulsory gynecological examinations of girls after their trips outside the facility. The reports also found substandard levels of education at the centers.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Jewish community leaders estimated, and the 2011 census data indicated, the size of the Jewish community at approximately 2,000 persons.

Organized neo-Nazi groups with an estimated 500 active members and several thousand sympathizers occasionally spread anti-Semitic messages. Latent anti-Semitic attitudes characterizing Jewish people as greedy or secretly influencing world affairs were widespread, even beyond neo-Nazi groups and their sympathizers.

Polls revealed increased support for the neo-Nazi LSNS, polling at 10 percent or higher. In September, LSNS chairman and governor of Banska Bystrica, Marian Kotleba, recommended the public read Protocols of the Elders of Zion to learn how a Jewish conspiracy to control the world was causing the migration crisis in Europe. An LSNS member elected to parliament in March 2016 wrote on social media that the Holocaust was a “fairy tale” and praised Hitler. In August police charged a far-right radical who ran for the LSNS in the 2016 parliamentary elections with Holocaust denial related to online content published between 2013 and 2016. In January an LSNS MP criticized the president on LSNS social media for giving state awards to people of Jewish origin. While direct denial of the Holocaust was relatively rare, expressions of approval for the World War II-era Slovak fascist state, which deported tens of thousands of Jews, Roma, and others to death camps, occurred frequently. Throughout the year, far-right groups organized small events to commemorate dates associated with the Slovak fascist state and its president, Jozef Tiso. On March 14 and April 19, the LSNS organized commemorations of the creation of the fascist Slovak state in 1939 and Tiso’s execution in 1947.

On March 25, President Andrej Kiska unveiled a commemorative plaque at a grammar school in Poprad to mark the 75th anniversary of the deportation of 1,000 Jewish schoolgirls–the first transport of Slovak Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. On September 9, government officials commemorated the Day of the Victims of the Holocaust and of Racial Violence at the Holocaust Memorial in Bratislava. The new coalition government undertook initiatives to promote Holocaust education in schools. Government leaders including Prime Minister Fico and President Kiska denounced the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the far-right. During a public speech in January, Prime Minister Fico criticized support for the LSNS party.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, the judicial system, other transportation, or the provision of other public services.

Psychiatric institutions and hospitals, which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Health, used cage beds to restrain patients. The law prohibits both physical and nonphysical restraints in social care homes managed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family.

No broadcaster complied with laws requiring television stations to provide audio descriptions for viewers who are blind or have impaired vision. While the law defines mandatory standards for access to buildings, NGOs noted they were not fully implemented, although access to privately owned buildings improved more rapidly than access to public buildings.

The government’s Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a committee on persons with disabilities. The council served as a governmental advisory body and included representation from NGOs working on disability problems. The country’s first national human rights strategy included a chapter on the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the 2011 census, approximately 458,000 ethnic Hungarians lived in the country. The law provides for the imposition of fines on government institutions, civil servants, and legal entities that do not provide information required by law in Slovak. Members of the ethnic Hungarian minority criticized the provision as discriminatory and a restriction on their right to free speech. In February the Ministry of Transport and Construction started placing dual language signs at train stations serving Hungarian minority populations.

Societal discrimination against Roma and individuals of non-European ethnicity was common. As much as 53 percent of the Romani population resided in marginalized communities. The UNDP atlas identified 231 segregated rural settlements located, on average, less than one mile from neighboring municipalities.

There were reports of violence against members of ethnic minorities during the year. In February a man attacked a French national in the town of Banska Bystrica while shouting racist abuse, causing injuries to the victim’s face with broken glass. The media reported the attacker was motivated by the victim’s skin color. A Supreme Court tribunal ruled in September the attack was not racist and released the attacker from custody.

Marginalized Romani communities were subjected to controversial police raids. In May the media published a video recording of an April 16 police raid in the Romani community in the village of Zborov. Several police officers appeared to chase, threaten, and beat–using punches, kicks, and batons–numerous community residents, including children and the elderly, who did not appear to be resisting police. Three residents required medical assistance. Shortly after the publication of the video, the police president said the Inspection Service Department of the Ministry of Interior would investigate the incident. The investigation was pending.

NGOs reported racially motivated attacks on minorities throughout the year, but authorities’ investigation of such incidents varied by jurisdiction. In December 2016 the Ministry of Interior Inspection Service Department brought charges against the police officer who commanded a 2015 raid in a Romani community in the village of Vrbnica. According to reports, a group of 15 officers entered the community, allegedly to locate and arrest individuals evading arrest warrants, and severely beat, mistreated, and harassed a number of Romani residents. The investigation was pending. At the same time, the investigation into several other police officers involved in the raid was halted, allegedly due to lack of evidence.

Between December 2016 and March, police investigated several community residents who had testified as witnesses in the previous investigation into a 2013 police raid in Moldava nad Bodvou and charged four residents with perjury. Expert testimony claimed the witnesses had a “Romani mentality,” which the expert claimed made the witnesses inherently less trustworthy.

In May a Kosice district court disallowed the use of a video recording as evidence and again acquitted all of the police officers accused in the 2009 case of police abuse against a group of six Romani boys ages 11 to 15. In 2016 the Kosice regional court overturned the initial 2015 acquittal. The prosecutor appealed the latest verdict, and the case remained pending.

The LSNS continued to organize marches against “Gypsy criminality” and operated patrols on train lines that allegedly experienced crime at the hands of Roma. The patrols refrained from violence, but patrol members–wearing standardized LSNS outfits–intimidated Romani passengers.

Police generally responded quickly to gatherings targeting the Romani community and prevented crowds from entering Romani communities or inciting confrontations.

There were instances of public officials at every level defaming minorities and making derogatory comments about Roma. In September opposition Freedom and Solidarity chairman Richard Sulik said it was a problem that 76 out of 85 children born in the town of Velka Lomnica during the year were Romani and proposed offering free sterilization to Romani women with at least four children.

In July police charged LSNS chairman Kotleba with hate speech for using extremist symbols. In March, Kotleba awarded a charitable donation to a family writing a check for 1,488 euros ($1,800). The number is a white supremacist symbol that stands for “14 words” (“we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”) and the numeric representation of double “H” (“Heil Hitler”). Kotleba donated 1,488 euros ($1,800) again in October, to a youth hockey team in Velky Krtis. In January, LSNS MP Stanislav Mizik criticized the president’s selection of state award recipients, labelling them “defenders of gypsies and Muslims,” “fanatics of gypsy traditions,” and criticized some of the recipients because of their Jewish origin. In April police charged Mizik with hate speech crimes.

Widespread discrimination against Roma continued in education, health care, housing, loan practices, restaurants, hair salons, and public transportation.

In March the Spisska Nova Ves district court found discrimination in access to employment on the grounds of ethnicity in the 2010 case of a Romani woman who applied for the position of field social worker with the Spisska Nova Ves municipality. Despite the woman’s extensive experience with social work in marginalized Romani communities, the municipality hired a non-Romani woman with fewer qualifications, less experience, and without a grasp of the Romani language. The Constitutional Court overturned lower court decisions and ordered the municipality to apologize and pay out 2,500 euros ($3,000) in compensation.

Local authorities continued to use regulatory obstacles, such as withholding of construction permits, to discourage the legal establishment of Romani settlements. The Kosice municipality announced plans to continue demolitions of apartment buildings in the marginalized Romani district of Lunik IX.

NGOs reported persistent segregation of Romani women in maternity wards in several hospitals in the eastern part of the country. The hospitals claimed they grouped persons according to their levels of hygiene and adaptability, not by race.

Romani children from socially excluded communities faced educational segregation and were disproportionately enrolled in “special” schools or placed in segregated classrooms within mainstream schools.

Schools often justified the segregation as being in the children’s best interest; the ombudsperson identified numerous cases where the parents of marginalized Romani children believed their children were made to attend classrooms that were poorly equipped compared with non-Romani classrooms and were sometimes subjected to aggressive behavior by teachers.

In April the Ministry of Education responded to a petition by the mothers of Romani students at an elementary school in the village of Hermanovce, which asked the ministry to end discrimination and segregation of Romani children at the school. The Romani activists and a local NGO claimed that almost 90 percent of Romani children at the school attended so-called special classes for children with developmental disabilities. The ministry stated the government was not obliged to address discrimination in schools because it did not directly cause it and rejected the petition on technical grounds. The ministry similarly argued it is not obliged to adopt measures that would prevent discrimination, yet claimed the government had nevertheless adopted a number of measures to address discrimination in education.

The Government Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Other Forms of Intolerance.

The law bans the spreading of profascist propaganda and hatred in public, including on social media and hate speech against LGBTI individuals. Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska noted that investigators often misclassified extremism-related crimes as misdemeanors, carrying mild punishments that fail to act as deterrents. The law allows extremism-related cases to be tried by a special prosecutor at the Specialized Criminal Court rather than at the district court level, where expertise on extremism was often lacking.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and identifies sexual orientation as a hate crime motivation. Persons intending to change their legal gender status need to obtain medical approval, which usually requires undergoing gender-reassignment surgery. According to LGBTI rights advocates, prejudice and official and societal discrimination persisted, although no official cases were reported.

The law does not allow educational establishments to reissue educational certificates with a new first name and surname to individuals after they have undergone a gender transition. The law does allow institutions to issue such individuals new birth certificates with their new names.

LGBTI organizations complained that the law requires a confirmation from a medical practitioner that a person has undergone a gender change in order to obtain new identity documents, but does not define gender change. In practice authorities required confirmation that a person had undergone permanent sterilization before issuing new identity documents.

In August SNS deputy chair Jaroslav Paska criticized ombudsperson Maria Patakyova for giving a speech at Bratislava Rainbow Pride and accused her of demeaning the country’s traditional civilizational, cultural, and social values.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

NGOs reported violence and online hate speech towards refugees.

Government officials at all levels and leaders from across the political spectrum, including the opposition, engaged in rhetoric portraying refugees and Muslims in Europe as a threat to society.

In February, LSNS MP Mazurek stated that Islam allows pedophilia, zoophilia, and even necrophilia and that it is nothing other than the work of the devil.

In May, Prime Minister Fico stated that “Islam has no place in Slovakia” and that he did not want “a unified Muslim community to appear in Slovakia” that could “push through their things.”

Slovenia

Executive Summary

Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic. Power is shared among a directly elected president (head of state), a prime minister (head of government), and a bicameral parliament composed of the National Assembly (lower house) and the National Council (upper house). The country held parliamentary elections in 2014 and presidential elections on October 22, with a runoff election on November 12. Observers considered the elections free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence, is illegal. Sexual violence is a criminal offense carrying a penalty from six months’ to eight years’ imprisonment. The penalty for rape is one to 10 years in prison. Police actively investigated accusations of rape and prosecuted offenders. There were 29 reported rapes, one attempted rape, and 23 other reported acts of sexual violence in the first eight months of the year.

The law provides from six months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment for aggravated and grievous bodily harm. When police received reports of spousal abuse or violence, they generally intervened and prosecuted offenders.

There was a network of maternity homes, safe houses, and shelters for women and children who were victims of violence. The total capacity of this network was 450 beds. The police academy offered annual training on domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense carrying a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual harassment, psychological violence, mistreatment, or unequal treatment in the workplace that causes “another employee’s humiliation or fear.” Authorities did not prosecute any sexual harassment cases during the year.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. Despite legal provisions for equal pay, inequities still existed.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from the parents with certain limitations. A child is granted citizenship at birth, provided that, at the time of birth, the child’s mother and father were citizens, one of the child’s parents was a citizen and the child was born on the territory of the country, or one of the child’s parents was a citizen while the other parent was unknown or of unknown citizenship and the child was born in a foreign country. Naturalization is also possible. Children of migrants and asylum seekers do not qualify for citizenship if they are born in Slovenia, although their parents may file for asylum or refugee status on their behalf.

Child Abuse: In the first eight months of the year, according to law enforcement authorities, there were 900 cases of domestic violence and 369 cases of parental negligence and child abuse.

There were 10 crisis centers for youth, with a combined capacity to accommodate 86 children. The government allowed children to stay at these centers until they reached the age of 21, if they were still in school.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. Centers for social service can approve marriage of a person under the age of 18, together with the approval of parents or legal guardians. Child marriage occurred within the Romani community but was not a widespread problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Statutory rape carries a prison sentence of one to eight years. The law sets the minimum age of consent for sexual relations at 15. The government generally enforced the law.

The law penalizes the possession, sale, purchase, or propagation of child pornography, and the government enforced the law effectively. The penalty for violations ranged from six months to eight years in prison.

As of mid-September, authorities had received reports of 99 criminal acts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 15 and investigated 76 cases of child sexual exploitation involving pornographic photographs and videos disseminated on the Internet, compared with 77 such investigations in all of 2016. As of mid-September, authorities arrested 87 individuals on charges of internet child abuse or possession and distribution of pornographic images of children, compared with 71 arrests in all of 2016.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 300 Jews in the country. Jewish community representatives reported some prejudice, ignorance, and false stereotypes of Jews propagated within society, largely through public discourse. There were no reports of anti-Semitic violence or overt discrimination.

The government promoted antibias and tolerance education in primary and secondary schools, and the Holocaust was a mandatory topic in the history curriculum.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but modification of public and private structures to improve access continued at a slow pace, and some buildings–particularly older buildings–were not accessible. The law provides social welfare assistance and early-childhood, elementary, secondary, and vocational education programs for children with disabilities. It also provides vocational and independent living resources for adults with disabilities. The government continued to implement laws and programs to provide persons with disabilities with access to buildings, information, and communications.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Three officially recognized ethnic minorities live in the country: Roma (estimated at 7,000 to 12,000), Hungarians (approximately 8,000), and Italians (population approximately 4,000).

Discrimination against socially marginalized Roma persisted in some parts of the country. Organizations monitoring conditions in the Romani community noted that Roma continued to face difficulties securing adequate housing in traditional housing markets. Many Roma lived apart from other communities in illegal settlements lacking basic utilities, such as electricity, running water, sanitation, and access to transportation. Government officials emphasized that the illegality of settlements remained the biggest obstacle to providing Roma access to adequate housing, water, and sanitation. Under the law only owners or persons with another legal claim to land, such as legal tenants, may obtain public services and infrastructure, such as water, electricity, and sanitation.

Organizations monitoring conditions in the Romani community and officials employed in schools with large Romani student populations unofficially reported high illiteracy rates among Roma remained a problem. While education for children is compulsory through grade nine, school attendance and completion rates by Romani children remained low.

Although segregated classrooms are illegal, a number of Roma reported to NGOs that their children attended segregated classes and that school authorities selected them disproportionately to attend classes for students with special needs.

NGOs and community group representatives reported some prejudice, ignorance, and false stereotypes of Roma persisted within society, propagated largely through public discourse.

The government continued to implement a project to provide drinking water (via cisterns) to three Romani settlements, providing a temporary solution to a systemic problem. A government-established commission to safeguard Roma continued to function. The commission included representatives from the Romani community, municipalities, and the government.

In June the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities announced a public tender of 1.68 million euros (two million dollars) to establish multipurpose Roma Centers to strengthen the socioeconomic status of Romani community members.

Representatives of the Romani community participated in a program, which improved communication between police and individual Roma.

The government supported a project that trained 12 Romani health coordinators and undertook to cofinance health-care programs for Romani women, children, and youth.

The government supported a financial literacy project, funding 26 Romani educators to work with teachers and parents. According to the ministry, these educators had a positive effect on helping Romani children stay in school.

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

While the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, societal discrimination was widespread.

The law considers crimes against LGBTI persons to be hate crimes and prohibits incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation. An NGO focused on LGBTI rights reported that 49 percent of LGBTI individuals had experienced violence or discrimination based on their sexual orientation at least once, and approximately 44 percent experienced violence or bullying in schools. The Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities, as well as NGOs and law enforcement authorities, recorded incidents, but they did not track the number of cases of violence against LGBTI persons.

While the law and implementing regulations establish procedures for gender changes, LGBTI NGOs maintained the provisions are too general, subject to misinterpretation, and insufficiently protect the rights to health, privacy, and physical integrity of transgender persons.

By law same-sex couples are eligible to receive social benefits, such as unemployment insurance and survivor pensions, through their partners and the right to paid leave in the event of the partner’s death.

On January 1, the government formally established an independent Office of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality, replacing the previous office in the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunity. The office reported its effectiveness was limited, however, due to insufficient resources and staffing problems.

Solomon Islands

Executive Summary

Solomon Islands is a constitutional multiparty parliamentary democracy. Observers considered the 2014 parliamentary election generally free and fair, although there were incidents of vote buying. Parliament elected Manasseh Sogavare as prime minister, and he formed a coalition government.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues in the country included: lengthy pretrial detention; government corruption; violence against women; sexual and physical abuse of children; criminalization of same-sex sexual activity, although the law was not enforced; and child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime under the law, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of SBD 30,000 ($3,863). In May the government officially launched a National Policy to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls, 2016-2020. Aims of the policy include strengthening the referral network for survivors of domestic violence in rural areas and better coordination among all stakeholders for public awareness about domestic violence.

Violence against women, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussion of such matters.

A 2011 World Health Organization report revealed that more than half of the women in the country had experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner and 64 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 regularly experienced violence in the home.

Police made efforts to charge offenders for domestic violence and assault against women. As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape victims. Police have a Sexual Assault Unit, staffed mostly by female officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges.

In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts dealt with physical abuse of women as with any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and to cultural bias against women.

The Family Protection Act requires that victims of domestic violence have access to counseling and medical services, legal support, and a safe place within the community if they cannot return home. The government has a referral system in place to coordinate these services, but referral agencies are often underfunded, especially in rural areas. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility for abused women provided counseling and other support services for women.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued to increase and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for equal work (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship through their parents. The laws do not allow dual citizenship for adults, and persons who acquire dual citizenship at birth must decide by age 18 years which citizenship to retain. The creation of an electronic registration system in 2015 helped bridge infrastructure that delayed the registration of births. Delays did not result in denial of public services to children.

Education: Education was neither free nor compulsory. The government continued to implement the Free Fee Basic Education (FFBE) Policy, which covers the operational costs for children to attend school but allows school management to request additional contributions from families such as cash, labor, and school fundraising. The FFBE Policy is intended to increase educational access by subsidizing school fees for grades one through nine, but this rarely covers all costs for schools. Additional school fees and other costs prevented some children from attending school. According to 2013 data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 75 percent of boys who entered primary school reached the last grade, whereas only 69 percent of girls did. According to the ADB, gender imbalance in education improved from earlier years.

Child Abuse: The law grants children the same general rights and protections as adults, with some exceptions. Parliament passed the Child and Family Welfare Act in February. The law mandates the social welfare division to coordinate child protection services and authorizes the courts to issue protection orders in cases of serious child abuse or neglect. Laws do not specifically prohibit the use of children in illicit activities such as drug trafficking.

The government did not provide sufficient resources to enforce laws designed to protect children from sexual abuse, child labor, and neglect (see section 7.c.). The law criminalizes domestic violence including violence against children, but lacked public awareness and enforcement. Child sexual and physical abuse remained significant problems. Nonetheless, the traditional extended-family system generally respected and protected children in accordance with a family’s financial resources and access to services.

Early and Forced Marriage: Both boys and girls may legally marry at 15, and the law permits marriage at 14 with parental and village consent. Marriage at such young ages was not common.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The maximum penalty for sexual relations with a girl younger than 13 is life imprisonment, and for sexual relations with a girl between the ages of 13 and 15, the penalty is five years’ imprisonment. Consent is not a permissible defense under these provisions; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was 15 or older is a permissible defense. Selling or hiring minors younger than 15 and girls younger than 18 for prostitution is punishable as a criminal offense. Prostitution laws do not cover boys between the ages of 15 and 18 and therefore leaves them without legal protection. These laws are enforced when reported; there were no reported cases this year.

Child pornography is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Amendments to the penal code passed in May criminalize commercial sexual exploitation of children and participation in or use, distribution, and storing of sexually exploitative materials with children, and some forms of internal child trafficking. Within the country girls and boys were exploited in prostitution and sexual servitude.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

No law or national policy prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and no legislation mandates access to buildings, information, or communications for such individuals. Very few buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities.

The country had one educational facility, supported almost entirely by the International Committee of the Red Cross, for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities could attend mainstream schools, but inadequate facilities and other resource constraints often made it impractical. A center for persons with disabilities in Honiara assisted persons with disabilities in finding employment, although with high unemployment nationwide and no laws requiring reasonable accommodations in the workplace, most persons with disabilities, particularly those in rural areas, did not find work outside the family structure.

The government relied upon families to meet the needs of persons with mental disabilities, and there were very limited government facilities or services for such persons.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 27 major islands with approximately 70 language groups. Many islanders saw themselves first as members of a clan, next as inhabitants of their natal island, and only third as citizens of their nation. Tensions and resentment between the Guadalcanalese and the Malaitans on Guadalcanal culminated in violence beginning in 1998. The presence of RAMSI greatly reduced ethnic tension between the two groups, and reconciliation ceremonies organized during the year led to further easing of tensions. Underlying problems between the two groups remained, however, including issues related to jobs and land rights.

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

“Sodomy” is illegal, as are “indecent practices between persons of the same sex.” The maximum penalty for the former is 14 years’ imprisonment and for the latter five years. There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons under these provisions during the year, and authorities generally did not enforce these laws. There are no specific antidiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although stigma may hinder some from reporting.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was societal discrimination toward persons with HIV/AIDS, but there were no specific reports of disownment by families as reported in the past and no reports of violence targeting persons with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were two reported cases of sorcery-related violence during the year. In both cases, violence was related to alleged involvement in sorcery and witchcraft and typically targeted the most vulnerable persons: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly.

Somalia

Executive Summary

The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), formed in 2012, was led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” following his election by a joint vote of the two houses of parliament on February 8. President Farmaajo succeeded President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who peacefully stepped down from power following his electoral defeat. Members of the two houses of parliament were selected through indirect elections conducted from October 2016 through January, with House of the People membership based on clan and Upper House membership based on state. The electoral process in both houses was widely viewed as deeply flawed and marred with corruption, but the two houses of parliament elected President Farmaajo in a process viewed as fair and transparent. The government of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland in the northwest and the regional government of Puntland in the northeast controlled their respective jurisdictions. As these administrations exercised greater authority in their areas, they were also more capable of infringing on the rights of citizens. The Interim Galmudug Administration (IGA), Interim Jubaland Administration (IJA), Interim South West Administration (ISWA), and Interim Hirshabelle Administration did not fully control their jurisdictions. The terrorist organization al-Shabaab retained control of the Juba River Valley and maintained operational freedom of movement in many other areas in the south-central part of the country. Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and al-Shabaab resulted in death, injury, and displacement of civilians. AMISOM and Somali security forces did not conduct any major offensive operations to liberate additional areas during the year.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces and had limited ability to provide human rights protections to society.

The most significant human rights issues included killings of civilians by security forces, clan militias, and unknown assailants, but the terrorist group al-Shabaab committed the majority of severe human rights abuses, particularly terrorist attacks on civilians and targeted assassinations. Other major human rights abuses included disappearances; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; arbitrary and politically motivated arrest and detentions, including of journalists; use of child soldiers; restrictions on freedoms of speech and press, assembly and movement; forced eviction, relocation and sexual abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs); disruption, diversion, and seizure of humanitarian assistance; civilians lack of ability to change their government through free and fair elections; trafficking in persons; widespread violence against women and girls with little government action for accountability, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct; and forced labor, including by children.

Impunity generally remained the norm. Government authorities took minimal steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed violations, particularly military and police officials accused of committing rape, killings, clan violence, and extortion.

Clan militias and al-Shabaab continued to commit grave abuses throughout the country, including extrajudicial and politically motivated killings; disappearances; cruel and unusual punishment; rape; and attacks on employees of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the United Nations. They also blocked humanitarian assistance, conscripted child soldiers, and restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement. AMISOM troops killed civilians (see section 1.g.).

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, providing penalties of five to 15 years in prison for violations. Military court sentences for rape included death. The government did not effectively enforce the law. There are no federal laws against spousal violence, including rape, although in May 2016, the Council of Ministers approved a national gender policy that gives the government the right to sue anyone convicted of committing gender-based violence, such as the killing or rape of a woman. Puntland enacted a state law against sexual offenses in December 2016 that provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty for offenses such as rape using a weapon. Local authorities, however, failed to apply the new law and continued to rely on sharia court hearings.

Somali NGOs documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of female IDPs and members of minority clans. According to UNICEF, reports of rape and sexual violence increased significantly during the year, particularly in drought-affected areas.

Government forces, militia members, and men wearing uniforms raped women and girls. While the army arrested some security force members accused of such rapes, impunity was the norm.

IDPs and members of marginalized clans and groups suffered disproportionately from gender-based violence. Police were reluctant to investigate and sometimes asked survivors to do the investigatory work for their own cases. Some survivors of rape were forced to marry perpetrators.

For the most part, authorities rarely used formal structures to address rape. Survivors suffered from subsequent discrimination based on the attribution of “impurity.”

In December 2016 a 14-year-old girl was gang raped, stabbed, and beaten by six males between 13 and 16 years of age in Galdogob district in Puntland. A second girl was also beaten in the incident. The perpetrators were sentenced by the local sharia court to fines between $1,750 and $4,600 each, 100 to 200 lashes, and five to 10 years in prison each. Observers noted the prison sentences would have likely been much higher if convicted under the sexual offenses law rather than sharia.

Local civil society organizations in Somaliland reported that gang rape continued to be a problem in urban areas, primarily perpetrated by youth gangs and male students. It often occurred in poorer neighborhoods and among immigrants, returned refugees, and displaced rural populations living in urban areas.

Domestic and sexual violence against women remained serious problems despite the provisional federal constitution provision prohibiting any form of violence against women. While both sharia and customary law address the resolution of family disputes, women were not included in the decision-making process.

Al-Shabaab also committed sexual violence, including through forced marriages. Al-Shabaab sentenced persons to death for rape.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the provisional federal constitution describes female circumcision as cruel and degrading, equates it with torture, and prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C was almost universally practiced throughout the country.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Adultery in al-Shabaab-controlled areas was punishable by death; unlike in prior years, there were no reports of women being stoned to death for adultery.

Sexual Harassment: The provisional federal constitution states that workers, particularly women, shall have a special right of protection from sexual abuse and discrimination. Nevertheless, sexual harassment was believed to be widespread.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women did not have the same rights as men and experienced systematic subordination to men, despite provisions in the federal constitution prohibiting such discrimination. Women experienced discrimination in credit, education, politics, and housing. In May 2016 the Council of Ministers approved a national gender policy to increase women’s political participation, economic empowerment, and the education of girls, but implementation had not begun. In October 2016 the Somali Religious Council released a press statement warning the government against advocating for women in politics, calling the 30 percent quota for women’s seats in parliament “dangerous” and against Islamic religious tenets and predicting the policy would lead to disintegration of the family. Several women electoral delegates were killed after the electoral process concluded.

Only men administered sharia, which often was applied in the interests of men. According to sharia law and the local tradition of blood compensation, anyone found guilty of the death of a woman paid to the victim’s family only half the amount required to compensate for a man’s death.

The exclusion of women was more pronounced in al-Shabaab-controlled areas, where women’s participation in economic activities was perceived as anti-Islamic.

While formal law and sharia provide women the right to own and dispose of property independently, various legal, cultural, and societal barriers often obstructed women from exercising such rights. By law girls and women could inherit only half the amount of property to which their brothers were entitled.

Children

Birth Registration: The provisional federal constitution provides that there is only one Somali citizenship and calls for a special law defining how to obtain, suspend, or lose it. As of year’s end, parliament had not passed such a law.

According to UNICEF data from 2010 to 2015, authorities registered 3 percent of births in the country. Authorities in Puntland and in the southern and central regions did not register births. Birth registration occurred in Somaliland, but numerous births in the region were unregistered. Failure to register births did not result in denial of public services, such as education. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The provisional constitution provides the right to a free education up to the secondary level, but education was not free, compulsory, or universal. In many areas children did not have access to schools other than madrassas. Nearly half of the student-age population remained out of school due to barriers such as poverty in rural areas, poor school safety, exorbitant school fees, and competing household and labor demands. Girls faced additional challenges of early marriage and low prioritization of girls’ education, leading to even lower attendance. There was an insufficient supply of qualified teachers, particularly female teachers.

In 2016 the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Higher Education finalized the national education policy, endorsed a unified primary and secondary curricular framework, and entered two memoranda of understanding with state ministries of education to clarify responsibilities in the sector and for the administration of national primary and secondary examinations for a three-year period. Despite some progress, the government lacked sufficient funds to provide effective education countrywide, and its reach was often limited to more secure urban areas.

Child Abuse: Child abuse and rape of children were serious problems and there were no known efforts by the government or regional governments to combat child abuse. Children remained among the chief victims of continuing societal violence.

The practice of “asi walid,” whereby parents placed their children in boarding schools, other institutions, and sometimes prison for disciplinary purposes and without any legal procedure, allegedly continued throughout the country.

Early and Forced Marriage: The provisional federal constitution requires both marriage partners to have reached the “age of maturity” and defines a child as a person less than 18 years old. It notes marriage requires the free consent of both the man and woman to be legal. Early marriages frequently occurred. In areas under its control, al-Shabaab arranged compulsory marriages between its soldiers and young girls and used the lure of marriage as a recruitment tool. There were no known efforts by the government or regional authorities to prevent early and forced marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child prostitution is illegal in all regions. There is no statutory rape law or minimum age for consensual sex. The law does not expressly prohibit child pornography. The law on sexual exploitation was rarely enforced, and such exploitation reportedly was frequent.

Child Soldiers: The use of child soldiers remained a problem (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: There was a large population of IDPs and children who lived and worked on the streets.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The provisional federal constitution provides equal rights before the law for persons with disabilities and prohibits the state from discriminating against them. Authorities did not enforce these provisions. The provisional federal constitution does not discuss discrimination by nongovernmental actors. The law does not mandate access to buildings, information, or communications for persons with disabilities.

The needs of most persons with disabilities were not addressed. According to Amnesty International, persons with disabilities faced daily human rights abuses, such as unlawful killings, violence including rape and other forms of sexual violence, forced evictions, and lack of access to health care or an adequate standard of living. Domestic violence and forced marriage were prevalent practices affecting persons with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities faced an increased risk of rape and other forms of sexual violence, often with impunity, due to perceptions that their disabilities were a burden to the family or that such persons were of less value and could be abused.

Without a public health infrastructure, few services existed to provide support or education for persons with mental disabilities. It was common for such persons to be chained to a tree or restrained within their homes.

Local organizations advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities with negligible support from local authorities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

More than 85 percent of the population shared a common ethnic heritage, religion, and nomad-influenced culture. In most areas the predominant clan excluded members of other groups from effective participation in governing institutions and subjected them to discrimination in employment, judicial proceedings, and access to public services.

Minority groups, often lacking armed militias, continued to be disproportionately subjected to killings, torture, rape, kidnapping for ransom, and looting of land and property with impunity by faction militias and majority clan members, often with the acquiescence of federal and local authorities. Many minority communities continued to live in deep poverty and to suffer from numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion.

Representatives of minority clans in the federal parliament were targeted by unknown assailants, whom minority clan members alleged were paid by majority clan members. Somali returnees and IDPs from marginalized clans suffered discrimination, since they often lacked powerful clan connections and protection.

Fighting between clans resulted in deaths and injuries (see section 1.g.).

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

Same-sex sexual contact is punishable by imprisonment for two months to three years. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no known LGBTI organizations and no reports of events. There were few reports of societal violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity due to severe societal stigma that prevented LGBTI individuals from making their sexual orientation or gender identity known publicly. There were no known actions to investigate or punish those complicit in abuses. Hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms did not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community.

On January 10, al-Shabaab announced that it had executed a teenage boy and young man in Middle Juba for engaging in same-sex sexual conduct. This was the first report of al-Shabaab executing individuals for homosexual activity.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS continued to face discrimination and abuse in their local communities and by employers in all regions. The United Nations reported that persons with HIV/AIDS experienced physical abuse, rejection by their families, and workplace discrimination and dismissal. Children of HIV-positive parents also suffered discrimination, which hindered access to services. There was no official response to such discrimination.

South Africa

Executive Summary

South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared among the executive, judiciary, and parliament branches. In 2016 the country held largely free and fair municipal elections, in which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) received 54 percent of the vote. In 2014 the country held a largely free and fair national election in which the ruling ANC won 62 percent of the vote and 249 of 400 seats in the National Assembly, which re-elected Jacob Zuma to a second term as the country’s president.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: police use of unlawful lethal force; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; official corruption; and victimization by police of migrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons, including violence.

Although the government investigated and prosecuted officials who committed abuses, there were numerous reports of impunity.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and remained a serious and pervasive problem. The minimum sentence for rape is 10 years in prison for the first offense. Under certain circumstances, such as second or third offenses, multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities, conviction results in a minimum sentence of life imprisonment (25 years), unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence.

In most cases attackers were acquaintances or family members of the victim, which contributed to a reluctance to press charges, as did a poor security climate and societal attitudes. From April 2016 to March 2017, 39,828 cases of rape were reported. According to the 2016-2017 NPA Annual Report, the conviction rate for sexual offense crimes was 72 percent. This was, however, only related to cases that went to trial. A recent Medical Research Council study on the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of reported rape cases concluded only 18.5 percent of all cases reported went to trial and only 8.6 percent of cases resulted in a verdict of guilty. Prosecutors chose not to prosecute many cases due to insufficient evidence. Poor police training, insufficient forensic lab capacity, a lack of trauma counseling for victim witnesses, and overburdened courts contributed to the low conviction rate.

The Department of Justice operated 57 dedicated sexual-offenses courts throughout the country. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist as a basis for imposing lighter sentences.

The NPA operated 55 rape management centers, or TCCs (Thuthuzela Care Centers). All TCCs were located at hospitals. Of rape cases brought to TCCs, 47 percent went to trial and were terminated–by either conviction or acquittal–within nine months from the date a victim reported the case.

Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking. The government prosecuted domestic violence cases under laws governing rape, indecent assault, damage to property, and violating a protection order. The law requires police to protect victims from domestic violence, but police commanders did not always hold officers accountable. Conviction of violating a protection order is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, or up to 20 years if additional criminal charges apply. Penalties for conviction of domestic violence include fines and sentences of between two and five years’ imprisonment.

The government financed shelters and rape-support centers for abused women, but more were needed, particularly in rural areas. The government conducted rape and domestic violence awareness campaigns. In honor of Women’s Month, the government hosted numerous events focused on empowering women in business, government, health, sports, and the arts. The discussions generated controversy, however, because the government focused on men’s role in protecting women, while civil society advocated a more inclusive focus on gender-based violence. Many civil society organizations were also dissatisfied with the Ministry of Women’s general focus on women’s economic empowerment while neglecting the issue of gender-based violence.

According to SAPS the number of incidents of violence against women and children had drastically increased nationwide. For example, in August former deputy minister of higher education Mduduzi Manana pled guilty to charges of assaulting three women; he was fired from his ministerial position and awaited sentencing. In April, Karabo Mokoena was killed, allegedly by her boyfriend. Mokoena’s charred remains were discovered in an open field in Johannesburg. The trial of the accused, Sandile Mantsoe, was set for March 2018.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but girls in isolated zones in ethnic Venda communities in Limpopo province were subjected to the practice. The government continued initiatives to eradicate the practice, including national research and sensitization workshops in areas where FGM/C was prevalent.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Sexual Harassment: Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, it remained a widespread problem. With criminal prosecution a rare secondary step that the complainant must request, the government left enforcement primarily to employers. The Department of Labor issued guidelines to employers on how to handle workplace complaints that allow for remuneration of the victim’s lost compensation plus interest, additional damages, legal fees, and dismissal of the perpetrator in some circumstances.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Discrimination against women remained a serious problem despite legal equality in family, labor, property, inheritance, nationality, divorce, and child custody matters. Women experienced economic discrimination in wages (see section 7.d.), extension of credit, and ownership of land.

Traditional patrilineal authorities, such as a chief or a council of elders, administered many rural areas. Some traditional authorities refused to grant land tenure to women, a precondition for access to housing subsidies. Women could challenge traditional land tenure decisions in national courts, but access to legal counsel was costly.

According to the Employment Equity Amendment Act, any difference in the terms or conditions of employment among employees of the same employer performing the same, substantially similar, or equal value work constitutes discrimination. The act expressly prohibits unequal pay for work of equal value and discriminatory practices, including unequal pay and separate pension funds for different groups in a company (see section 7.d.).

According to the Labor Department’s 2016-17 Employment Equity Report, women held 22 percent of top management positions, 33 percent of senior management positions, and 46 percent of professional positions. Women held 39 percent of public sector senior management positions.

The minister of women in the Presidency, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Commission for Employment Equity, and a number of other government bodies monitored and promoted women’s rights, as did numerous NGOs and labor unions.

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides for citizenship by birth (if at least one parent is a permanent resident or citizen), descent, and naturalization. Nevertheless, registration of births was inconsistent, especially in remote rural areas or among parents who were unregistered foreign nationals. Children without birth registration had no access to free government services such as education or healthcare, and their parents had no access to financial grants for their children. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Public education is compulsory until age 15 or grade nine. Public education was fee-based and not fully subsidized by the government. Nevertheless, the law provides that schools may not refuse admission to children due to a lack of funds; disadvantaged children, who were mainly black, were eligible for assistance. Even when children qualified for fee exemptions, low-income parents had difficulty paying for uniforms and supplies.

Child Abuse: Violence against children, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, remained widespread.

Some teachers and other school staff harassed, abused, raped, and assaulted students in schools, according to reports. The law requires schools to disclose sexual abuse to authorities, but administrators sometimes concealed sexual violence or delayed disciplinary action.

Student-on-student violence, including racially motivated violence and drug-related violence, was a problem.

Early and Forced Marriage: Parental or judicial consent to marry is required for individuals younger than 18. Nevertheless, the traditional practice of “ukuthwala,” the arranged marriage of girls as young as age 12 to older men, occurred in remote villages in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. In 2015 the president promulgated the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill that prohibits nonconsensual ukuthwala and classifies it as a trafficking offense. According to the 2016 State of the World’s Children Report of the UN Children’s Fund, 6 percent of girls in the country were married before age 18. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for conviction of sexual exploitation of a child include fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years. By law the age of consent is 16. The statutory sentence for rape of a child is life in prison, although the law grants judicial discretion to issue sentences that are more lenient.

The law prohibits child pornography and provides for penalties including fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years. The Film and Publications Board maintained a website and a toll-free hotline for the public to report incidents of child pornography.

Traffickers in the sex trade exploited other children. Traffickers often recruited children from poor rural areas and moved them to urban centers such as Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. NGOs provided shelter, medical, and legal assistance for children in prostitution and a hotline for victims of child abuse.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies estimated the Jewish community at 75,000 to 80,000 persons. There were reports of verbal abuse, hate speech, harassment, and attacks on Jewish persons or property. Government and political representatives were quoted throughout the year making anti-Semitic statements.

In January twin brothers Brandon Lee Thulsie and Tony Lee Thulsie appeared in court to face charges of contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terror and Related Activities. The brothers, along with two others, who were alleged to have links to ISIS, were arrested in 2016 for allegedly planning to set off explosives at a foreign embassy in Pretoria and Jewish institutions in the country. The case continued at year’s end.

On June 29, the South African Equality Court ruled that Bongani Masuku, International Relations Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, issue a formal apology to the South African Jewish community for anti-Semitic comments he made in 2009. On May 29, a high school student from Edenvale High School in Johannesburg interrupted a Holocaust-related theater performance with anti-Semitic statements. The student and the school’s principal later apologized and the school agreed to work with the Jewish community to improve sensitivity training for students.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination based on physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disability in employment or access to health care, the judicial system, and education. Department of Transportation policies on providing services to persons with disabilities were consistent with the constitution’s prohibition on discrimination. The Department of Labor ran vocational centers at which persons with disabilities learned skills to earn a living. Nevertheless, government and private-sector discrimination existed. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but such regulations were rarely enforced, and public awareness of them remained minimal.

According to the 2016-2017 Annual Report of the Department of Basic Education , there were numerous barriers to education for students with disabilities, primarily a policy of channeling students into specialized schools at the expense of inclusive education. Separate schools frequently charged additional fees (making them financially inaccessible), were located long distances from students’ homes, and lacked the capacity to accommodate demand. Children often were housed in dormitories with few adults, many of whom had little or no training in caring for children with disabilities. When parents attempted to force mainstream schools to accept their children with disabilities–an option under the law–schools sometimes rejected the students outright because of their disabilities or claimed there was no room. Many blind and deaf children in mainstream schools received only basic care rather than education.

The law prohibits harassment of persons with disabilities and, in conjunction with the Employment Equity Act, provides guidelines on the recruitment and selection of persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, and guidelines on proper handling of employees’ medical information. Enforcement of this law was limited. The law also requires employers with more than 50 workers to create an affirmative action plan with provisions to achieve employment equity for persons with disabilities (see section 7.d.). Nevertheless, persons with disabilities constituted only an estimated 1.2 percent of the workforce and the government did not meet its goal of filling 2 percent of government positions with persons with disabilities by year’s end.

Persons with disabilities were sometimes subject to abuse and attacks, and prisoners with mental disabilities often received no psychiatric care. According to the 2016 Optimus Study, children with disabilities were 78 percent more likely than children without disabilities to have experienced sexual abuse in the home.

According to the umbrella advocacy group Disabled People South Africa there were 15 persons with disabilities in the upper and lower houses of parliament and 218 elected officials with disabilities at the provincial and municipal levels. The law does not allow persons identified by the courts as mentally disabled to vote.

The Department of Social Development has primary responsibility for disability policy. All provincial and local governments also have offices charged with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and there are representatives advocating for persons with disabilities at the Commission for Gender Equality and the SAHRC. NGOs also advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities.

A 2014 study by the South African Federation for Mental Health found that of the 20 percent of citizens with mental disabilities, 75 percent did not receive needed care. There were approximately 80 mental health treatment facilities in the country, and more than half were run by NGOs, well short of the facilities needed.

In September a video clip of a Johannesburg woman on a bus beating a pupil with a disability went viral. In the clip the pupil, who has bipolar disorder, is seen being beaten with bare fists. The bus driver is seen stopping the altercation and forcefully pushing the child off the bus. The attacker, a school cook, was charged with assault and suspended. The bus driver was also suspended.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide for previously disadvantaged groups, legally defined as “Africans or blacks,” “Coloureds,” and “Asians” (collectively constituting more than 90 percent of the population) to be represented adequately at all levels of the workforce. Nevertheless, blacks remained underrepresented, at the professional and managerial levels (see section 7.d.). According to the 2016-2017 Employment Equity Report, whites occupied 69 percent of top management positions, 58 percent of senior management positions, and 38 percent of professionally qualified positions, while comprising only 10 percent of the population.

Incidents of racism continued. In March a video clip of a white man threatening to attack a black woman inside a restaurant went viral on social media. The man had approached the woman to alert her that his child was bullied by her child, to which the woman responded that his child was the one who started the bullying.

In July a white man out with a group of friends allegedly made a racist remark to a group of black Stellenbosch University students. A physical alteration ensued between the two groups; one of the black students suffered a bloodied nose and another an injured jaw. No one was arrested.

Xenophobic attacks on foreign African migrants and ethnic minorities occurred and sometimes resulted in death, injury, and displacement. Incidents of xenophobic violence generally were concentrated in areas characterized by poverty and lack of services. Citizens blamed immigrants for increased crime and the loss of jobs and housing. According to researchers from the African Center for Migration and Society, perpetrators of crimes against foreigners enjoyed relative impunity.

Local community or political leaders who sought to gain notoriety in their communities allegedly instigated some attacks. The government sometimes responded quickly and decisively to xenophobic incidents, sending police and soldiers into affected communities to quell violence and restore order, but more often, the response was slow and insufficient. Since 2013 the government significantly reduced the number of assaults and deaths by evacuating individuals from communities affected by xenophobic violence, although little was done to protect property owned by foreign nationals. Civil society organizations criticized the government for failing to address the causes of violence, for not facilitating opportunities for conflict resolution in affected communities, for failing to protect the property or livelihoods of foreigners, and for failing to deter such attacks by vigorous investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

Indigenous People

The NGO Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa estimated there were 7,500 indigenous San and Khoi in the country, some of whom worked as farmers or farm laborers. By law the San and Khoi have the same political and economic rights as other citizens, although the government did not always effectively protect those rights or deliver basic services to indigenous communities. Indigenous groups complained of exclusion from land restitution, housing, and affirmative action programs. They also demanded formal recognition as “first peoples” in the constitution. Their lack of recognition as “first peoples” excluded their leadership from government-recognized structures for traditional leaders. Their participation in government and the economy was limited due to fewer opportunities, lack of land or other resources, minimal access to education, and relative isolation (see section 7.d.).

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

The law outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to a study by the NGO The Other Foundation, more than 50 percent of citizens believed that LGBTI individuals should have the same human rights as other citizens, although more than 70 percent of respondents believed same-sex sexual activity was morally wrong. This cultural attitude influenced service delivery by individual government employees at the local level. NGOs reported the prevailing culture also negatively influenced hiring practices by local firms, particularly for transgender and intersex individuals.

There were reports of official mistreatment or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity despite clear government policies prohibiting discrimination. Security force members, for example, reportedly raped LGBTI individuals during arrest. A 2015 Human Rights Watch report highlighted violence and discrimination, particularly against lesbians and transgender individuals in the country. The report documented cases of “secondary victimization” of lesbians, including cases in which police harassed, ridiculed, and assaulted victims of sexual- and gender-based violence who reported abuse. According to the 2014 Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry Report, LGBTI individuals were particularly vulnerable to violent crime due to anti-LGBTI attitudes within the community and among police. Anti-LGBTI attitudes among junior members of SAPS affected how SAPS handled complaints by LGBTI individuals, and management did not always address the problem.

In 2015 the country’s LGBTI rapid response team, a body consisting of various government agencies and NGOs, analyzed more than 200 hate crimes cases labeled as “stalled” by civil society. The NPA closed approximately 80 of the cases due to lack of evidence or unavailability of witnesses, but it advanced and concluded 23 cases with convictions, some resulting in life sentences. The NPA and SAPS continued to investigate the remaining cases. The task team has also made progress in educating local government officials and the public about equal rights for the LGBTI community.

In April, Nonkie Smous, a lesbian in Kroonstad, was gang-raped, murdered, and set on fire. On previous occasions she was both raped and gang-raped because of her sexual orientation. No arrests were made.

In September an Equality Court case ended in victory for a lesbian who was banned from a restaurant’s “straight couples only” date night events. In 2016 Mia Agrela had made a reservation for the restaurant’s weekly date night evening with her partner. She was informed in a follow up message that “no same sex couples” were allowed, so she filed a discrimination case in the Equality Court. The restaurant agreed to stop excluding same-sex couples from its events and the owners agreed to apologize for their actions and to undergo sensitivity training.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS remained a problem, especially in rural communities. In 2015 the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC)–a joint body composed of government, academic, and civil society representatives released a landmark People Living with HIV Stigma Index. The council surveyed more than 10,000 HIV-positive individuals about their experiences with social stigma. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Forty-three percent of respondents of all socioeconomic groups reported internal stigma, or negative feelings toward themselves. Internal stigma had a profound impact on social participation, with 32 percent of respondents deciding not to have children because of their status, 15 percent deciding not to marry, 12 percent choosing not to attend social gatherings, and 10 percent isolating themselves from family and friends. Those most likely to experience internal stigma were between ages 15 to 24, in their first year of HIV-positive status, and lacking formal education.

Of those surveyed who disclosed their status to family or friends, most found family or friends to be supportive. Most respondents disclosed their status–89 percent to their partners and 68 percent to their children. Approximately 28 percent suggested their status might have been disclosed without their consent, 24 percent were unsure whether their status might have been disclosed, and 30 percent were unsure if their medical records were kept confidential.

SANAC lately played a leading role in driving a comprehensive 360-degree Stigma and Discrimination Mitigation Program, presenting a multisectoral response that included PLHIV organizations, SAG agencies, civil society, and development partners.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were reports that persons accused of witchcraft were attacked, driven from their villages, and in some cases killed, particularly in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape provinces. Victims were often elderly women. Traditional leaders generally cooperated with authorities and reported threats against persons suspected of witchcraft.

Persons with albinism faced discrimination and were sometimes attacked in connection with ritual practices.

Ritual (“muthi”) killings to obtain body parts believed by some to enhance traditional medicine persisted. Police estimated organ harvesting for traditional medicine resulted in 50 deaths per year.

Incidents of vigilante violence and mob killings occurred, particularly in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

South Sudan

Executive Summary

South Sudan is a republic operating under the terms of a peace agreement signed in August 2015. President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whose authority derives from his 2010 election as president of what was then the semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan within the Republic of Sudan, is chief of state and head of government. International observers considered the 2011 referendum on South Sudanese self-determination, in which 98 percent of voters chose to separate from Sudan, to be free and fair. President Kiir was a founding member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) political party, the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Of the 30 ministers in the government, 16 were appointed by Kiir, 10 by the SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO), two by a political faction known as the Former Detainees, and two by the group known as “other political parties” as provided for in the peace agreement. The bicameral legislature consists of a Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) with 400 seats (68 were added in accordance with the peace agreement), and a Council of States with 50 seats. SPLM representatives controlled the vast majority of seats in the legislature. Through presidential decrees, Kiir appointed most new governors. The constitution states that a gubernatorial election must be held within 60 days if an elected governor is relieved by presidential decree. As of year’s end, this had not happened.

Civilian authorities routinely failed to maintain effective control over the security forces.

In 2013 a power struggle within the ruling SPLM party erupted into armed conflict. President Salva Kiir accused then first vice president Riek Machar of plotting a coup. The two leaders appealed to their respective ethnic communities, and the conflict spread primarily to the northwest of the country. The parties signed several ceasefire agreements, culminating in the 2015 peace agreement. A ceasefire generally held from 2015 to July 2016, when fighting broke out between government and opposition forces in Juba leading to four days of intense conflict, during which government forces drove out Machar, who fled the country. A rump section of the SPLM-IO, led by current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, remained in Juba as part of a transitional government that claimed to be committed to implementing the 2015 agreement. Following the 2016 violence, however, the government and the opposition resumed and expanded the geographic scope and scale of the conflict, which by year’s end had spread to all parts of the country.

The most significant human rights issues included conflict-related, ethnically based targeted killings of civilians; extrajudicial killings, abuse, and mass forced displacement of approximately four million civilians, displaced internally and as refugees; and intimidation and inhuman treatment of civilians such as arbitrary arrest and detention, abductions and kidnapping, recruitment and use of an estimated 17,000 child soldiers; and widespread sexual violence. Attacks on military and civilian targets often resulted in rape, destruction of villages, theft, looting, and revenge attacks on civilians. Human rights abuses also included torture, intimidation, and unlawful detention of civilians; harassment, intimidation, and violence against journalists, civil society organizations, and human rights defenders; government restriction of freedoms of privacy, speech, press, and association; and abductions related to intercommunal and interethnic conflict. Officials reportedly arrested, detained, and mistreated several ‎persons affiliated with the LGBTI community.

Security force abuses occurred throughout the country. Impunity was widespread and remained a major problem.

While government offensives during the year were responsible for the majority of the atrocities, resulting displacement, and consequent food insecurity, opposition forces also perpetrated serious human rights abuses.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and rape was believed to be widespread. The law defines sexual intercourse within marriage as “not rape.” No information was available on the number of persons prosecuted, convicted, or punished for rape, and convictions of rape seldom were publicized. According to observers, sentences for persons convicted of rape were often less than the maximum. Since the conflict began in 2013, conflict-related sexual violence was widespread. The targeting of girls and women reached epidemic proportions following skirmishes and attacks on towns in conflict zones (see section 1.g.). Women and girls also faced the threat of rape while living in PoC sites and when leaving PoC sites to conduct daily activities.

The law does not prohibit domestic violence. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was common, although there were no reliable statistics on its prevalence. According to NGOs, some women reported police tried to charge them SSP 20 ($0.16) or more when they attempted to file the criminal complaints of rape or abuse. While not mandatory, police often told women they needed to complete an official report prior to receiving medical treatment. Families of rape victims encouraged marriage to the rapist to avoid public shaming.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a criminal offense under the penal code, but little data existed to determine its prevalence. The law prohibits subjecting children to negative and harmful practices that affect their health, welfare, and dignity. Although not a common practice, FGM/C occurred in some regions, particularly along the northern border regions in Muslim communities. Several NGOs worked to end FGM/C, and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare raised awareness of the dangers of FGM/C through local radio broadcasts.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice of girl compensation–compensating the family of a crime victim with a girl from the perpetrator’s family–occurred. Victims were generally between ages 11 and 15, did not attend school, and often were physically and sexually abused and used as servants by their captors. Local officials complained the absence of security and rule of law in many areas impeded efforts to curb the practice. Dowry practices were also common. NGOs reported fathers often forced daughters, generally minors, to marry older men in exchange for cattle or money.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government rarely enforced the law, and NGOs reported most women were unaware it was a punishable offense. Observers noted sexual harassment, particularly by military and police, was a serious problem throughout the country.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: While the transitional constitution provides for gender equality and equal rights for women, deep cultural prejudices resulted in widespread discrimination against women. High illiteracy rates also impeded women’s ability to understand and defend their rights. Communities often followed customary laws and traditional practices that discriminated against women. For example, authorities arrested and detained women for adultery.

Despite statutory law to the contrary, under customary law a divorce is not final until the wife and her family return the full dowry to the husband’s family. As a result, families often dissuaded women from divorce. Traditional courts usually ruled in favor of the husband’s family in most cases of child custody, unless children were between three and seven years of age.

Women also experienced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, inheritance, housing, and ownership and management of businesses or land. Although women have the right to own property and land under the transitional constitution, community elders often sought to prevent women from exercising these rights because they contradicted customary practice.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through birth if a person has any South Sudanese parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent on either the mother’s or the father’s side, or if a person is a member of one of the country’s indigenous ethnic communities. Individuals may also derive citizenship through naturalization. Birth in the country is not sufficient to claim citizenship. The government did not register all births immediately. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The transitional constitution and the 2012 Education Act provide for tuition-free, compulsory basic education through grade eight. Armed conflict and violence, however, were key factors preventing children from attending school throughout the year. UNICEF estimated nearly three-quarters of the country’s children were not attending school. The expansion of conflict also resulted in the displacement of many households and widespread forced recruitment of children, particularly boys, by armed groups, as reported by international NGOs, making it difficult for children to attend school and for schools to remain in operation. NGOs reported government and opposition forces, and militias associated with both, looted numerous schools in conflict zones. In addition, the government did not give priority to investments in education, particularly basic education, and schools continued to lack trained teachers, educational materials, and other resources. Girls often did not have equal access to education. Many girls did not attend school or dropped out of school due to early marriage, domestic duties, and fear of gender-based violence at school. According to the 2015 Education for All national review, girls constituted only 39 percent of primary school students and 32 percent of secondary school students, although this figure may be even lower due to continuing violence and displacement as a result of the conflict.

Child Abuse: Abuse of children included physical violence, abduction, and harmful traditional practices such as “girl compensation” (see Other Harmful Traditional Practices). Child abuse, including sexual abuse, was reportedly widespread. Child rape occurred frequently in the context of child marriage and within the commercial sex industry in urban centers, and armed groups perpetrated it. Authorities seldom prosecuted child rape due to fear among victims and their families of stigmatization and retaliation. Child abduction also was a problem. Rural communities often abducted women and children during cattle raids (see section 1.g.).

Early and Forced Marriage: The law provides that every child has the right to protection from early marriage but does not explicitly prohibit marriage before age 18. Child marriage was common. According to the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare, nearly half of all girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 19 were married, and some brides were as young as 12. Early marriage sometimes reflected efforts by men to avoid rape charges, which a married woman cannot bring against her husband. In other cases families of rape victims encouraged marriage to the rapist to avoid public shaming. Many abducted girls, often repeatedly subjected to rape (see section 1.g.), were forced into marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law designates a minimum age of 18 years for consensual sex, although commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred. Perpetrators of child prostitution and child trafficking may be punished by up to 14 years’ imprisonment, although authorities rarely enforced these laws. Child prostitution and child trafficking both occurred, particularly in urban areas.

Child Soldiers: The law prohibits recruitment and use of children for military or paramilitary activities and prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Opposition and government forces and affiliated armed militia groups recruited and used child soldiers throughout the year (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: During the year conflict displaced numerous children. Few had access to government services, such as education (see section 1.g.).

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were no statistics concerning the number of Jews in the country. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other government services. NGOs reported community and family routinely subjected persons with disabilities to discrimination. The government did not enact or implement programs to provide access to buildings, information, or communications public services. The Transitional Constitution and the 2012 Education Act stipulate primary education be provided to children with disabilities without discrimination. Very few teachers, however, were trained to address the needs of children with disabilities, and very few schools were able to provide a safe, accessible learning environment for children with disabilities. There were no legal restrictions on the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although lack of physical accessibility constituted a barrier to effective participation. There were no mental health hospitals or institutions, and persons with mental disabilities were often held in prisons. Limited mental health services were available at Juba Teaching Hospital.

Persons with disabilities also faced disproportional hardship during famine conditions and continuing violence throughout the year. Human Rights Watch reported persons with disabilities were often victimized by both government and opposition forces. Persons with disabilities faced difficulty fleeing areas under attack and accessing humanitarian assistance in displacement camps. Since 2013 the conflict itself disabled an unknown number of civilians, who experienced maiming, amputation, sight and hearing impairment, and trauma. The World Health Organization estimated 250,000 persons with disabilities were living in displacement camps, while the total disabilities population at risk in the country could be more than one million.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Interethnic fighting and violence by government, opposition forces, and armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition targeting specific ethnic groups resulted in human rights abuses throughout the year (see section 1.g.). The country has at least 60 ethnic groups and a long history of interethnic conflict. Ethnic groups were broadly categorized into the Nilotic (Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk ethnic groups), Nilo-Hamitic, and Southwestern Sudanic groups. For some ethnic groups, cattle represented wealth and status. Competition for resources to maintain large cattle herds often resulted in conflict. Longstanding grievances over perceived or actual inequitable treatment and distribution of resources and political exclusion contributed to conflict.

Interethnic clashes occurred throughout the year. Insecurity, inflammatory rhetoric–including hate speech–and discriminatory government policies led to a heightened sense of tribal identity, exacerbating interethnic differences.

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

The law does not prohibit same-sex sexual acts, but it prohibits “unnatural offenses,” defined as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” which are punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment if committed with consent and up to 14 years if without consent. There were no reports authorities enforced the law.

There were some reports of incidents of discrimination and abuse. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons reported security forces routinely harassed and sometimes arrested, detained, tortured, and beat them. In September Labor, Public Service, and Human Resource Development Minister Gathoth Gatkuoth Hothnyang stated the government would order security forces to arrest LGBTI persons and detain them until they procreate. There were no reports of such arrests by year’s end.

In December, NSS agents reportedly arrested, detained, and mistreated several ‎persons affiliated with the LGBTI community.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

While there were no known reports filed regarding discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, discrimination was widely believed to be both pervasive and socially acceptable. Key groups especially vulnerable to stigma and discrimination included commercial sex workers and LGBTI persons. This stigma often presented a barrier to seeking and receiving services for the prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment of HIV.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Throughout the year disputes between Dinka herders and agrarian youths over cattle grazing in the Equatorias at times deteriorated into violent and retaliatory events, leaving numerous dead and injured and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

Civilian casualties and forced displacements occurred in many parts of the country when raiders stole cattle, which define power and wealth in many traditional communities. Land disputes, often erupting when stolen cattle were moved into other areas, also caused civilian casualties and displacement. SPLA and police sometimes engaged in the revenge killings both between and within ethnic groups.

Spain

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Spain is a parliamentary democracy headed by a constitutional monarch. The country has a bicameral parliament, the General Courts or National Assembly, consisting of the Congress of Deputies (lower house) and the Senate (upper house). The head of the largest political party or coalition usually is named to head the government as president of the Council of Ministers, the equivalent of prime minister. Observers considered national elections held in June 2016 to be free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses during the year.

The government generally took steps to prosecute officials, both in the security services and elsewhere in the government, who committed abuses. In some instances officials engaged in corruption and created the impression of impunity.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is six to 12 years in prison. The law also prohibits violence against women and sets prison sentences of six months to a year for domestic violence, threats of violence, or violations of restraining orders, with longer sentences if serious injuries result.

According to the government’s delegate for gender violence, as of October partners or former partners were responsible for the deaths of 42 women. According to the General Council of the Judiciary, 47,175 cases of gender violence were prosecuted in 2016. The Observatory against Domestic and Gender Violence reported 142,893 complaints of gender-based violence in 2016. Independent media and government agencies generally paid close attention to gender-based violence.

During the year the Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality spent 4.8 million euros ($5.8 million) on awareness campaigns.

A 24-hour toll-free national hotline advised battered women on finding shelter and other local assistance.

In February police forces started sending text messages to female victims of gender violence alerting them to changes in the prison sentences of their attackers.

In September congress approved the State Plan against Gender Violence, with a budget of one billion euros ($1.2 billion) over five years, to support efforts to counter the problem.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and authorizes courts to prosecute residents of the country who have committed this crime in the country or anywhere in the world. Doctors must ask parents in the country to sign a declaration promising their daughter(s) will not undergo FGM/C when they visit countries where the practice is common. Once a family returns to the country, a doctor, who can start legal action against the parents if examination finds that the minors underwent FGM/C during their trip, must examine the girl(s) again.

As of July 31, police in Catalonia investigated four cases of FGM/C.

The State Plan against Gender Violence approved in September included FGM/C as a form of gender violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but few cases came to trial. The punishment in minor cases can be between three and five months in jail or fines of six to eight months’ salary. Harassment reportedly continued to be a problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Under the law women enjoy the same rights as men. The government generally enforced the law.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. All children born in the country, except children of diplomats and children whose parents’ country of origin gives them nationality, are registered as citizens. When a child does not acquire the parents’ nationality, the government may grant it.

Child Abuse: As of May 2016, either a parent or a parent’s partner killed five minors. In 2016 the NGO Foundation for Children and Youth at Risk received 468,754 telephone calls and emails reporting various forms of child abuse, an increase of 27 percent from 2015.

The Catalan regional government continued to be concerned about the poor conditions of shelters for unaccompanied foreign children in the region.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 16 years for minors living on their own.

The law categorizes forced marriage as a crime punishable by from six months to three years and six months in prison. Forced marriage carries similar penalties as coercion.

As of July 31, Catalan police assisted four victims of forced marriage, one of whom was a minor.

In May a 19-year-old Moroccan woman from Vilanova sought protection. Authorities reported that the woman had travelled to her hometown in Morocco with her parents (both Spanish citizens) and was told she could not leave Morocco unless she agreed to marry a 33-year-old man. The woman was able to escape with her 16-year old sister and return to Barcelona. Authorities placed her parents under investigation for crimes of forced marriage and gender violence. A judge granted the woman a restraining order and issued a no-contact order against her parents.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the “abuse and sexual attack of minors” under the age of 13. The penalty for sexual abuse and assault of children under the age of 13 is imprisonment from two to 15 years, depending on the nature of the crime. Individuals who contact children under the age of 13 through the internet for the purpose of sexual exploitation face imprisonment of one to three years. Authorities enforced the law.

The minimum age for consensual sex in the country is 16. The law defines sexual acts committed against persons under age 16 as nonconsensual sexual abuse, and provides for sentences from two to 15 years in prison, depending on the circumstances.

Penalties for recruiting children or persons with disabilities into prostitution are imprisonment from one to five years. The penalty for subjecting children to prostitution is imprisonment from four to six years.

The commercial sexual exploitation of trafficked teenage girls remained a problem.

The law prohibits child pornography. The penal code criminalizes using a minor “to prepare any type of pornographic material” as well as producing, selling, distributing, displaying, or facilitating the production, sale, dissemination, or exhibition of “any type” of child pornography by “any means.” The penalty is one to five years’ imprisonment; if the child is under the age of 13, imprisonment is five to nine years. The law also penalizes knowingly possessing child pornography.

There is a registry for sex offenders to bar them from activities in which they could be in the presence of minors.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 40,000-45,000 persons. The descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country 500 years ago have the right of return as full Spanish citizens under a 2016 law due to expire in 2019. In July the secretary of state for justice said that 1,091 Sephardic Jews had obtained Spanish nationality under that law. The Jewish community noted that burdensome financial and administrative requirements such as a self-funded trip to the country made the process more difficult.

The law considers denial and justification of genocide as a crime if it incites violence, with penalties that range from one to four years in prison.

According to Jewish community leaders and the NGO Movement against Intolerance, anti-Semitic incidents included graffiti on Jewish institutions, although violence against Jews was rare. According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were seven cases of anti-Semitism in 2016, down from nine in 2015. Government institutions promoted religious pluralism, integration, and understanding of Jewish communities and history, but their efforts did not reach all of the country’s autonomous regions.

In 2016, according to a report from the Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience, six instances of religiously motivated violence targeted Jews.

On March 15, unknown persons wrote “All Jews to the gas chambers” on a wall in the University of Barcelona.

On June 7, the National Police arrested a 23-year-old woman in Zaragoza for writing messages on social networks that encouraged attacks on Jews. Some of the messages openly incited attacks on Israelis, with phrases such as “stab the Jews.”

In March a neo-Nazi who stabbed five persons in 2014 was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits, with fines of up to one million euros ($1.2 million), discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.

The law requires private companies with more than 50 employees to hire persons with disabilities for at least 2 percent of their jobs. In February 2016 the NGO Leialta estimated that 81 percent of the companies did not comply with the obligation.

Of the 1,272 hate crimes reported in 2016, 262 (20.6 percent) were committed against persons with disabilities.

The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities. While the government generally enforced these provisions, levels of assistance and accessibility varied among regions.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Ministry of the Interior reported 416 hate crimes linked to racism (38 percent) in 2016, a decrease of 17.6 percent from 2015. The regions of Catalonia, Madrid, Andalusia, the Basque Country, and Valencia had the highest numbers of hate crimes according to the ministry’s data.

According to Fundacion Secretariado Gitano (FSG), one of the largest NGOs working with Roma in the country, 94 percent of Romani children started school at the compulsory age of three and more than 96 percent of those completed primary education, but the dropout rate in obligatory secondary education still amounted to 64 percent in 2015, compared with 13 percent for the entire country. In 2016 approximately 91 percent of the country’s Roma were literate, a gain of almost 5 percent over the previous 10 years. The FSG also noted that, despite many successes, Roma remained marginalized, and they were poorer when compared with other Spaniards due to high dropout rates, poor access to the labor market, and inconsistent use of universal health care. The FSG’s 2016 annual report cited 202 cases of discrimination against Roma affecting 334 persons.

Some of the efforts to address problems affecting the Romani community included tougher penalties for hate crimes, specialized prosecutors, a network to assist victims, and a council designed to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination. The government has various programs, such as the Acceder Program and Learning by Doing Program, to assist young Roma in accessing the job market and to increase their professional skills. More than 87,000 persons benefited directly from such programs, with Roma constituting 67 percent and women 53 percent of the beneficiaries.

The NGO SOS Racism recorded 121 cases of racism in Catalonia in 2016, 80 of which were reported to local authorities and 41 of which went unreported. The NGO found that 28 percent of the cases were perpetrated by public security agents and 17 percent by private individuals.

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

The country’s antidiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law penalizes those who provoke discrimination, hate, or violence based on sexual orientation with up to three years’ imprisonment. The law also prohibits denial or disqualification of employment based on sexual orientation and the formation of associations that promote discrimination, hate, or violence against others based on their sexual orientation. The law can consider an anti-LGBTI hate element an aggravating circumstance in crimes.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 230 hate crimes reported during 2016 were linked to the victim’s sexual orientation, an increase of 36.1 percent from 2015. The LGBTI association Arcopoli also asserted that most of the attackers were under the age of 30.

The government fought LGBTI hate crimes by sensitizing police and social workers on sexual diversity, increasing awareness of LGBTI hate crimes, facilitating reporting, and providing better assistance to crime victims. Employing a whole-of-government approach, authorities channeled their efforts in the area through the Spanish Observatory against LGBTI-phobia, an initiative by the Spanish Federation of LGBTI Persons with the support of the Ministries of Health, Social Services, and Equality, and of the Interior.

The Catalan government delivered more than 300 health cards to transgender individuals, allowing them to record the name and gender with which they identify. Other measures included the right to assisted reproduction of lesbian women, the implementation of the protocol against LGBTI-biphobia in schools, and training courses for civil servants, teachers, and geriatric nursing staff. The budget for these activities increased substantially to 1.3 million euros ($1.6 million).

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 1,272 hate crimes were reported in 2016, a 4.2-percent decline from 2015. Of these, 240 cases involved physical injuries and 205 involved threats. The NGO Movement against Intolerance estimated that 80 percent of hate crimes in the country were unreported.

According to a report from the Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience, in 2016 there were 153 instances of religiously motivated violence. An estimated 4.2 percent of hate crimes involved religion. Of the 1,272 crimes reported, 47 were committed against Muslims.

Sri Lanka

Executive Summary

Sri Lanka is a constitutional, multiparty republic with a freely elected government. In January 2015 voters elected President Maithripala Sirisena to a five-year term. The parliament shares power with the president. August 2015 parliamentary elections resulted in a coalition government between the two major political parties. Both elections were free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful killings; torture; sexual abuse; arbitrary arrest; lengthy detention; lack of property restitution by the military; and surveillance and harassment of civil society activists and journalists. Government discrimination toward and security forces harassment of Tamils and nondenominational Christian groups persisted. Same-sex sexual conduct was prohibited by law, though rarely prosecuted.

The military and police harassed civilians with impunity, and impunity for crimes committed during and since the armed conflict continued. The government, however, took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish some officials who committed human rights abuses. The president signed a gazette legally establishing the Office of Missing Persons. The government made limited progress toward establishing additional transitional justice mechanisms.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and domestic violence, but enforcement of the law was inconsistent. Section 363 of the penal code does not explicitly criminalize rape of men. Section 365 B (1), which is gender neutral, criminalizes “grave sexual abuse.” The prescribed penalties for rape are seven to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 200,000 rupees ($1,333). For domestic violence, a victim can obtain a protection order for one year and request a maintenance allowance. The law only prohibits spousal rape if the spouses are legally separated.

Women’s organizations reported the police and judiciary responses were inadequate. The police Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Women and Children conducted awareness programs in schools and at the grassroots level to encourage women to file complaints. Police continued to establish women’s units in police stations. Services to assist survivors of rape and domestic violence, such as crisis centers, legal aid, and counseling, were generally scarce nationwide due to a lack of funding.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Sri Lankan Muslims have historically practiced FGM/C, but it was not a part of public discourse until recent years when media articles drew attention to the practice. There were no statistics on the current prevalence of FGM/C in the country, which does not have laws against FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sexual harassment was common and was a particularly widespread problem in public transport.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women have equal rights to men under civil and criminal law. Adjudication of questions related to family law, including marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, varied according to the customary law of each ethnic or religious group, resulting in discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: Children obtain citizenship from their parents.

Child Abuse: Most child abuse complaints received by the National Child Protection Authority related to violence inflicted on children, and the rest of the complaints addressed related issues such as cruelty to children, deprivation of a child’s right to education, sexual abuse, and child labor. Teachers, school principals, and religious instructors reportedly sexually abused children. In a number of child rape cases, government officials were the suspected perpetrators. Civil society organizations working on children’s issues asserted children had insufficient mechanisms to report domestic violence or abuse safely. Although police stations are supposed to have an officer dedicated to handling abuse complaints from women and children, the government did not consistently implement this practice nationwide.

Early and Forced Marriage: Civil law sets the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 for both men and women, although girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent. According to the penal code, sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 years of age, with or without her consent, amounts to statutory rape. The provision, however, does not apply to married Muslim girls above the age of 12. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, which applies only to Muslims, permits the marriage of girls as young as 12 at the consent of the bride’s father or other male relative. The bride’s consent is not required.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography, but authorities did not always enforce the law. The minimum age of consensual sex was 16.

Child sex tourism remained a problem.

Displaced Children: IDP welfare centers and relocation sites exposed children to the same difficult conditions as adult IDPs and returnees in these areas.

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 Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population remained very small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

Various laws forbid discrimination against any person with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel, other public transportation, and access to health care. In practice, though, discrimination occurred in employment, education, and provision of state services, including public transportation. Children with disabilities attended school at a lower rate than other persons. There were regulations on accessibility, but accommodation for access to buildings and public transportation for persons with disabilities was rare.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained they suffered longstanding, systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, housing, health services, language laws, and procedures for naturalization of noncitizens. Throughout the country, but especially in the north and east, Tamils reported security forces regularly monitored and harassed members of their community, especially activists and former or suspected former LTTE members.

The government had a variety of ministries and presidentially appointed bodies designed to address the social and development needs of the Tamil minority. The government has implemented a number of confidence-building measures to address grievances of the Tamil community. It also replaced military governors of the Northern and Eastern provinces with civilians. The Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, established by the president in 2016, continued to coordinate the government’s reconciliation efforts. The office focuses on promoting social integration to build an inclusive society, securing language rights for all citizens, supporting a healing process within war-affected communities via the government’s proposed Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, and nonrecurrence of the violence. On April 17, the Tamil National Alliance and Defense Ministry initiated a formal dialogue on returning military-held lands in the Northern and Eastern provinces. In August army Chief Major General Mahesh Senanayake publicly committed the military to prosecuting personnel who committed criminal acts during and after the conflict, many of which were committed against the Tamil community.

Buddhist nationalist monks reportedly instigated attacks on Muslims and their property. These included more than 20 attacks on Muslim places of worship and shops from April to June. Authorities arrested four alleged perpetrators, including one police officer, all of whom were members of the Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena.

Indigenous People

The country’s indigenous people, known as Veddas, reportedly numbered fewer than 1,000. Some preferred to maintain their traditional way of life, and the law generally protected them. They freely participated in political and economic life without legal restrictions, but some did not have legal documents.

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

The law criminalized consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Although prosecutions have been rare, human rights organizations reported police used the threat of arrest to assault, harass, and sexually and monetarily extort LGBTI individuals. Those convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual activity in private or in public face 10-years’ imprisonment. Antidiscrimination laws did not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Transgender persons continued to face societal discrimination, including arbitrary detention, mistreatment, and discrimination accessing employment, housing, and health care.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons who provided HIV prevention services and groups at high risk of infection reportedly suffered discrimination. In addition hospital officials reportedly publicized the HIV-positive status of their clients and occasionally refused to provide healthcare to HIV-positive persons.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Sources stated some Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship on the grounds they lacked the Ministry of Buddha Sasana’s approval. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka documented 79 cases of attacks on churches, intimidation and violence against pastors and their congregations, and obstruction of worship services as of November.

Sudan

Executive Summary

Sudan is a republic with power concentrated in the hands of authoritarian President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his inner circle. The National Congress Party (NCP) continued 28 years of nearly absolute political authority. The country last held national elections (presidential and National Assembly) in April 2015. Key opposition parties boycotted the elections when the government failed to meet their preconditions, including a cessation of hostilities, holding of an inclusive “national dialogue,” and fostering of a favorable environment for discussions between the government and opposition on needed reforms and the peace process. In the period prior to the elections, security forces arrested many supporters, members, and leaders of boycotting parties and confiscated numerous newspapers, conditions that observers said created a repressive environment not conducive to free and fair elections. Only 46 percent of eligible voters participated in the elections, according to the government-controlled National Electoral Commission (NEC), but others believed the turnout to have been much lower. The NEC declared al-Bashir winner of the presidential election with 94 percent of votes.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Some armed elements did not openly identify with a particular security entity, making it difficult to determine under whose control they operated.

In June 2016 President Bashir declared a four-month unilateral cessation of hostilities (COH) in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states (the “Two Areas”) and an end to offensive military actions in Darfur. The government repeatedly extended the COH, and as of year’s end, no offensive military actions had resumed, except for infrequent skirmishes between armed groups and government forces. Authorities used excessive force against protesters in Kalma Camp near Nyala, South Darfur, in September, killing nine internally displaced persons (IDPs). Nevertheless, the continued COH allowed for increased stability and an overall improvement in the human rights situation in Darfur and the Two Areas, as the government ceased its aerial bombardments and scorched-earth tactics in conflict zones. In Darfur weak rule of law persisted, however. Banditry, criminality, and intercommunal violence were main causes of insecurity in Darfur.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings; torture, beatings, rape, and other cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment of detainees and prisoners; arbitrary detention by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; restrictions on the freedoms of expression, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; intimidation and closure of human rights and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women, including rape and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); the use of child soldiers; trafficking in persons; criminalization of same-sex conduct with severe penalty; denial of workers’ rights to associate with independent trade unions; and child labor.

Government authorities did not investigate human rights violations by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), the military, or any other branch of the security services, with limited exceptions relating to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The government failed to adequately compensate families of victims of shootings during the September 2013 protests, make its investigation results public, or hold security officials accountable. Impunity remained a problem in all branches of the security forces and government institutions.

In the internal conflict areas of Darfur and the Two Areas, security forces, paramilitary forces, and rebel groups continued to commit killings, rape, and torture of civilians. Local militias maintained substantial influence due to widespread impunity. There were reports of both progovernment and antigovernment militias looting, raping, and killing civilians. Intercommunal violence spawned from land tenure and resource scarcity resulted in high death tolls, particularly in East, South, and North Darfur. Between January and October, there were 34 reports of intercommunal clashes, up from 24 in 2016. Abduction was also seen as a lucrative business by both militias and various tribes in Darfur. In Abyei tribal conflict between Ngok Dinka and Misseriya was at the root of most human rights abuses. Reports were difficult to verify due to restricted access. In October the government launched a disarmament campaign beginning with a voluntary disarmament phase and then a forced disarmament phase. There were no known investigations of or prosecutions related to human rights abuses.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: In February 2015, an amendment to Artice 149 of the Criminal Code changed the definition of rape and added Article 151 (3) to criminalize the offense of sexual harassment. Under the new definition of rape, rape victim could no longer be prosecuted for adultery.

There were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of rape and domestic violence. The international expert on the human rights situation in Sudan and UNAMID’s human rights section reported that they received regular reports of incidents of rape and sexual and gender-based violence (see section 1.g.). Human rights organizations cited substantial barriers, including cultural norms, police reluctance to investigate, and the widespread impunity of perpetrators, to reporting sexual and gender-based violence, including a substantial gap between the law and its implementation.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women, and Child Affairs is responsible for matters pertaining to women. The Violence against Women Unit is responsible for implementation of the National Action Plan for Combating Violence against Women. It had offices in 14 of the 18 states.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C remained a problem throughout the country. No national law prohibits FGM/C, and the procedure continued to be used on women and girls throughout the country. The government launched a national campaign in 2008 to eradicate FGM/C by 2018, and since 2008, five states had passed laws prohibiting FGM/C: South Kordofan, Gedaref, Red Sea, South Darfur, and West Darfur. The government, with the support of the first lady, continued to prioritize the “saleema” (uncut) campaign, which raised public awareness about FGM/C. The government continued to work with UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to end FGM/C.

According to UNICEF and UNFPA, the national prevalence rate of FGM/C among girls and women between 15 and 49 years old was 87 percent. Prevalence varied geographically and depended on the local ethnic group.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The Interim National Constitution obligates states to combat harmful customs and traditions that undermine the dignity and status of women.

Sexual Harassment: There were frequent reports of sexual harassment by police. The government did not provide any information on the number of sexual harassment reports made. NGOs, not the government, made most efforts to curb sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law, including many traditional legal practices and certain provisions of Islamic jurisprudence as interpreted and applied by the government, discriminates against women. In accordance with Islamic judicial interpretation, a Muslim widow inherits one-eighth of her husband’s estate; of the remaining seven-eighths, two-thirds goes to the sons and one-third to the daughters. In certain probate trials, the testimony of women is not considered equivalent to that of men; the testimony of two women is required. In other civil trials, the testimony of a woman equals that of a man. A Muslim woman cannot legally marry a non-Muslim man.

Various government institutions required women to dress according to Islamic or cultural standards, including wearing a head covering. In Khartoum, Public Order Police occasionally brought women before judges for allegedly violating Islamic standards. One women’s advocacy group estimated that in Khartoum, Public Order Police arrested an average of 40 women per day.

Islamic standards for dress generally were not enforced for non-Muslims.

Children

Birth Registration: The Interim National Constitution states persons born to a Sudanese mother or father have the right to citizenship. The law grants citizenship only to children born to a father who is a Sudanese citizen by descent.

Most newborns received birth certificates, but some in remote areas did not. Registered midwives, dispensaries, clinics, and hospitals could issue certificates. A birth certificate does not automatically qualify a child for citizenship. Failure to present a valid birth certificate precludes enrollment in school. Access to health care was similarly dependent on possession of a valid birth certificate, but many doctors accepted a patient’s verbal assurance that he or she had one.

For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The law provides for tuition-free basic education up to grade eight, but students often had to pay school, uniform, and examination fees to attend. Primary education is neither compulsory nor universal.

Child Abuse: The government tried to enforce laws criminalizing child abuse and was more likely to prosecute cases involving child abuse and sexual exploitation of children than cases involving adults. Some police stations included “child friendly” family and child protection units and provided legal, medical, and psychosocial support for children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage was 10 years for girls and 15 years or puberty for boys. The government and the president’s wife continued to work to end child marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for offenses related to the sexual exploitation of children vary and can include imprisonment, fines, or both. The government tried to enforce laws criminalizing sexual exploitation of children. Some police stations included “child friendly” protection units and provided legal, medical, and psychosocial support for children.

There is no minimum age for consensual sex or statutory rape law. Pornography, including child pornography, is illegal. Statutes prescribe a fine and period of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years for offenses involving child pornography.

Displaced Children: Internally displaced children often lacked access to government services such as health and education due to both security concerns and an inability to pay related fees. In October 2016 UNICEF reported approximately 70 percent of IDPs were children.

Institutionalized Children: Police typically sent homeless children who had committed crimes to government camps for indefinite periods. Health care, schooling, and living conditions were generally very basic. All children in the camps, including non-Muslims, had to study the Quran.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

A very small Jewish community remained in the country, predominantly in the Khartoum area. Societal attitudes were generally not tolerant of Jewish persons, although anti-Semitic acts were rare.

During a February 17 recorded sermon in Khartoum, Imam Mohamed Abdul-Kareem condemned Sheikh Yousuf al-Koda’s call to normalize relations with Israel. Abdul-Kareem described Jews as “slayers of prophets,” “brothers of pigs and apes,” and “people of deception and corruption.” He also claimed, “Jewish tourists spread AIDS, corruption, and drugs” and “tamper with state security.”

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

Although the law, including the Interim National Constitution, provides protection for persons with disabilities, social stigma and a lack of resources hindered the government’s enforcement of disability laws. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Social stigma and lack of resources often prevented government and private entities from accommodating persons with disabilities in education and employment. Appropriate supports were especially rare in rural areas.

The government had not enacted laws or implemented effective programs to provide for access to buildings, information, and communication for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population includes more than 500 ethnic groups, speaking numerous languages and dialects. Some of these ethnic groups self-identify as Arab, referring to their language and other cultural attributes. Northern Muslims traditionally dominated the government. Discrimination against Darfuri students on college campuses was a pervasive problem. There were multiple cases such as the following example: Nasr Aldin Mukhtar, former chairman of the Darfuri Student Union at Quran al-Kareem University, was arrested in 2015 and rearrested on August 22, while leaving the university as police used live ammunition during a raid on the campus. As of November he remained in detention suffering from various health problems as a result of reported mistreatment during detention. Family members were allowed one visit, after substantial pressure from civil society groups.

In May security services violently dispersed student protests against corruption at Bakht Alrida University in El Duaweim, White Nile, and conducted a raid on housing inhabited by Darfuri students. Security forces arrested nine students and, as of December, continued to hold them in prison without charges. Security forces stopped buses of Darfuri student protesters against the action in a village outside Khartoum. Military and police units surrounded the village and caused a day-long standoff between security and students. After the involvement of local leaders and substantial pressure from the international community, the government took no violent action against the students but did stop the delivery of food supplies. The Darfuri Members Caucus within parliament attempted unsuccessfully to report the marginalization of Darfuri students to the minister of education.

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

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons are not considered a protected class under antidiscrimination laws. The law does not specifically prohibit homosexuality but criminalizes sodomy, which is punishable by death. Antigay sentiment was pervasive in society. LGBTI organizations increasingly felt pressured to suspend or alter their activities due to threat of harm. Several LGBTI persons felt compelled to leave the country due to fear of persecution, intimidation, or harassment.

In September, Public Order Police arrested journalist-blogger Marwa Altijani and released her the same day after filing apostasy charges against her for publishing an article online in which she asserted, “Nothing is wrong with being a lesbian.”

On October 24, a man was arrested at a social event for wearing “indecent” female clothes and makeup. A Public Order Court sentenced him to 40 lashes and a fine of 5,000 SDG ($625). The punishment was reportedly carried out the same day.

There were no reports of official action to investigate or punish those complicit in LGBTI-related discrimination or abuses.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

The government, government-supported militias, and rebel groups reportedly promoted hatred and discrimination, using standard propaganda techniques. The government often used religiously charged language to refer to suspected antigovernment supporters.

The government did not take measures to counter hate speech.

Suriname

Executive Summary

Suriname is a constitutional democracy with a president elected by the unicameral National Assembly. Elections for the National Assembly took place in May 2015, and in July 2015 the assembly elected Desire Delano Bouterse to a second consecutive term as president. International observers considered legislative elections to be free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included the unresolved trial of President Bouterse and 18 codefendants for the 1982 extrajudicial killings of 15 political opponents; arbitrary arrest of protest leaders; threats made against the judiciary; restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly; widespread government corruption; violence and abuse against women and children; trafficking in persons; police violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons as well as persons with HIV and other minorities; and worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government. Observers nonetheless expressed concern that high public officials and security officers had impunity from enforcement.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of between 12 and 15 years’ imprisonment, and fines up to 100,000 Surinamese dollars (SRD) ($13,333). The government enforced the law effectively, including applying its provisions in cases involving rape of men. Police received 410 reports of sexual abuse as of September. Authorities investigated and prosecuted all reported cases.

Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. Through September police received 421 reports of domestic abuse, down from 870 reports for the same period in 2016. Domestic abuse played a role in eight of the 12 homicides committed through September; prosecutions were pending.

The Victim Assistance Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and Police provided resources for victims of domestic violence and continued to raise awareness about domestic violence through public television programs. There were victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie. Authorities trained police units in dealing with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The Victim Assistance Bureau managed a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and children up to age 12 and served an average of 40 clients per year.

Authorities reported an average of 20 requests per week for restraining orders, primarily from women seeking protection from abusive partners.

Sexual Harassment: There is no specific legislation on sexual harassment, but prosecutors cited various penal code articles in filing sexual harassment cases. There were no reported court cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace.

Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without the filing of a formal complaint. Pending investigation, police may issue temporary restraining orders limiting contact between victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders can receive prison sentences ranging from four to 12 years and fines from SRD 50,000 to SRD 150,000 ($6,667 to $20,000).

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides for protection of women’s rights to equal access to education, employment, and property. Nonetheless, women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work. The government did not undertake specific efforts to combat economic discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: The law on citizenship and residency provides that citizenship transmits to a child when either the father or mother has Surinamese citizenship at the time of birth, when the parent is Surinamese but has died before birth, or if the child is born in the country’s territory and does not automatically acquire citizenship of another country. Births must be registered with the Civil Registry within one week. Failure to do so within the mandated period results in a more cumbersome process of registration.

Child Abuse: Police registered 35 cases of physical abuse and 212 cases of child sexual abuse as of September. Observers believed the actual number of abuse cases was significantly higher than reported. To avoid intimidation by perpetrators, there were arrangements for children to testify in special chambers at legal proceedings. The Youth Affairs Office continued to raise awareness about sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol through a weekly television program. The government operated a telephone hotline for children and provided confidential advice and aid to children in need. Authorities reported an average of 80 calls per day. In August the government held an awareness campaign to highlight the severity of child abuse and to urge persons to report cases of physical and sexual abuse.

The UN Children’s Fund continued cooperating with the government in providing training to officials from various ministries dealing with children and children’s rights. In December 2016 the Ministry of Justice and Police opened its third child protection center in southern Paramaribo.

Several cases of sexual exploitation, sexual and physical abuse, and neglect came to trial. Victims included both boys and girls. Sentences ranged up to 10 years in prison.

Early and Forced Marriage: Parental permission to marry is required until the age of 21. The marriage law sets the age of marital consent at 15 for girls and 17 for boys, provided parents of the parties agree to the marriage. Children in certain tribal communities often marry at an age below that set forth by the law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities prosecuted all reported violations. While the legal age of sexual consent is 14, trafficking-in-persons legislation makes sexual exploitation of a person under the age of 18 illegal. Criminal law penalizes persons responsible for recruiting children into prostitution and provides penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of SRD 100,000 ($13,333) for pimping. The law also prohibits child pornography, which carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and maximum fine of SRD 50,000 ($6,667). Violations are punishable by prison terms of up to 12 years.

Deteriorating economic circumstances led to an increasing number of adolescent boys and girls entering prostitution to support family or to pay for education. One NGO reported commercial sexual exploitation of children as young as 14. While not marked as a destination for child sex tourism, cases were reported of tourists involved in sexual exploitation of children. There were also reported cases of parents forcing their young children into prostitution.

Institutionalized Children: A lack of financial support from the Ministry of Social Affairs for orphanages and other shelters for children significantly affected these institutions’ ability to care for children adequately.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was a declared Jewish community of approximately 150 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts or discrimination.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

No laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive general health benefits, but the process can be cumbersome. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and services. Authorities provided some training programs for persons with impaired vision or other disabilities. No laws or programs provide that persons with disabilities have access to buildings. A judge may rule to deny a person with a cognitive disability the right to vote, take part in business transactions, or sign legal agreements. Primary education was available for persons with disabilities and, depending on the disability, secondary and higher education could also be available. There was secondary and technical education for those with auditory disabilities but not for those with visual disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive a stipend from the government until they marry or turn 60. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

Indigenous People

The law affords no special protection for, or recognition of, indigenous peoples. The IACHR identified the Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the hinterland–approximately 22 percent of the population) as tribal peoples and thus entitled to the same rights as the indigenous Amerindian communities (approximately 4 percent of the population).

Maroons and Amerindians living in the remote and undeveloped interior had limited access to education, employment, and health and social services. Both groups participated in decisions affecting their tradition and culture, but they had limited influence in decisions affecting exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, and other natural resources on their lands. Both Maroons and Amerindians took part in regional governing bodies, as well as in the National Assembly, and were part of the governing coalition.

The government recognizes the different Maroon and indigenous tribes, but they hold no special status under national law, and there was no effective demarcation of their lands. Because authorities did not effectively demarcate or police Amerindian and Maroon lands, these populations continued to face problems with illegal and uncontrolled logging and mining. No laws grant indigenous people the right to share in the revenues from the exploitation of resources on their traditional lands. Organizations representing Maroon and Amerindian communities complained that small-scale mining operations, mainly by illegal gold miners, some of whom were themselves tribal or supported by tribal groups, dug trenches that cut residents off from their agricultural land and threatened to drive them away from their traditional settlements. Mercury runoff from these operations as well as riverbank erosion also contaminated sources of drinking water and threatened traditional food sources, especially freshwater fish.

Maroon and Amerindian groups complained about the government granting land within their traditional territories to third parties, who sometimes prevented the villages from engaging in their traditional activities on those lands.

At year’s end the government had not taken action to carry out IACHR orders in the case of the Kalina and Lokono Peoples vs. Suriname. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the state responsible for violating the rights to recognition of juridical personality, to collective property, to political rights, and to cultural identity, and reminded the state of its duty to adopt appropriate domestic legal provisions. The court ordered the government to recognize the Kalina and Lokono collective juridical personality legally; delimit, demarcate, and title the territory to the peoples; establish a community development fund; and rehabilitate areas affected by mining by third parties. The court also ordered similar legislative changes to be made for recognizing the rights of all indigenous and tribal people and to have this effective legal recognition and protection within three years.

The government also took no action to implement precautionary measures requested by the IACHR in 2016 regarding a 2009 petition from the Kalina Indigenous Community of Maho. In 2014, despite the continuing litigation, the government continued to grant concession rights to third parties in the area of the Maho community. In 2016 the Maho community requested that the IACHR forward the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Throughout the year the community continued to report infringements on its lands.

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

The constitution prohibits many forms of discrimination but does not address sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-positive status. LGBTI groups could associate freely, were very active, and advocated within society under the same laws that pertain to the assembly and association of other groups. The law includes specific legislation regarding discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation, specifically protecting the LGBTI community. Violation of this law is punishable by a fine or prison sentence of up to one year. The legislation does not set standards for determining what constitutes such discrimination or hate speech. The law was in effect but had not been used in any case.

Despite the protective legislation, the LGBTI community faced discrimination from the government and society. LGBTI persons, particularly transgender commercial sex workers, reported arbitrary arrests, harassment, and beatings by security forces. Police have no specific policy for handling of male transgender commercial sex workers, which resulted in those arrested being placed in male detention facilities where they faced harassment and other violence by other detainees.

There were few official reports of societal violence against LGBTI persons, primarily due to the victims’ fear of retribution and because authorities reportedly did not take seriously complaints filed by members of the LGBTI community. There were reports of societal discrimination against the LGBTI community in areas of employment and housing.

In January the court ruled in favor of a transgender person who sought to have her gender officially changed by the Civil Registration Office in the public registry. The office appealed the ruling and, as of October, the court was hearing arguments.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS continued to experience societal discrimination in employment and medical services. Medical treatment is free for HIV/AIDS patients covered under government insurance, but private insurers did not cover such treatment. NGOs reported discriminatory testing, and subsequent denial, when applying for housing assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Police statistics showed that crime in general was rising and had become more violent. Chinese shop owners continued to be targets of violent armed robberies, some of which resulted in fatalities. Violence in the gold-mining areas of the interior occurred primarily among and within the Brazilian and Maroon communities, where the government exercised little authority.

Sweden

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a freely elected multiparty parliamentary form of government. Legislative authority rests in the unicameral parliament (Riksdag). Observers considered the national elections in 2014 to be free and fair. In the same year, the king announced that the center-left coalition led by Stefan Lofven of the Social Democratic Party had taken office. The king is largely a symbolic head of state. The prime minister is the head of government and exercises executive authority.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included anti-Semitic threats of violence and attempted bomb attacks on immigrants, which the authorities investigated and prosecuted.

Authorities generally prosecuted officials who committed abuses in the security services or elsewhere in the government.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence, are illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties range from two to 10 years in prison.

Authorities apprehended and prosecuted abusers in most cases of domestic violence reported to them.

The law provides for protection of survivors from contact with their abusers. When necessary, authorities helped survivors protect their identities or obtain new identities and homes. Both national and local governments helped fund volunteer groups that provided shelter and other assistance for abused women.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia.In July the Swedish Prison and Probation Services estimated that 97 persons were in prison for committing honor-related violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for criminal penalties from a fine to up to two years in prison. The government generally enforced this law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in high-ranking positions in both the public and the private sectors (see section 7.d.).

Gender-based discrimination in access to credit, owning or managing a business, and access to education and housing is prohibited and was not commonly reported.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. Children born in the country, regardless of their parents’ citizenship and status in the country, were registered immediately in the tax authority’s population register.

Child Abuse: Child abuse existed. The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children mentally or physically. Authorities may remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. The children’s ombudsman published a number of reports and publications for children and those working to protect children from abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to marry. The law allows no exceptions.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes “contact with children under 15 for sexual purposes,” including internet contact intended to lead to sexual assault. Penalties range from fines to one year in prison. The law prohibits the sale of children; penalties range from two to 10 years in prison. It also bans child pornography with penalties ranging from fines to six years in prison. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.

Displaced Children: Stockholm Police reported that underage children, mainly from Morocco, Algeria, and other countries in North Africa, were living on the streets. Many children sought asylum in the country, but authorities considered only a much smaller number as qualifying for asylum. Social Services offered accommodation for children or foster families regardless of asylum status, but many were stuck in a criminal lifestyle. Because in many cases the juveniles’ countries of origin were unwilling to accept them back due to their criminal record, they could not be deported.

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 Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The NCCP registered 182 anti-Semitic crimes in 2016, compared with 277 in 2015, a decrease of approximately 34 percent. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, and harassment in schools. Anti-Semitic incidents were often associated with events in the Middle East and the actions of the Israeli government, and Swedish Jews were at times blamed for Israeli policies.

The most common forms of anti-Semitism were unlawful threats/harassment (49 percent of complaints), hate speech (27 percent), defamation (5 percent), and vandalism/graffiti (10 percent). Ten violent anti-Semitic hate crimes were reported in 2016, an increase from eight such crimes in 2015. Authorities initiated an investigation in 58 percent of the complaints of anti-Semitism reported in 2015; 37 percent were directly dismissed due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in only 4 percent of the cases.

On September 30, an estimated 500 supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) marched through Gothenburg. The original route was supposed to pass a downtown synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, but a court changed the route after local protests. Participants in a counterprotest of approximately 10,000 persons clashed with the NRM supporters and police. Some NRM members attempted to break through police lines. Police arrested 22 NRM supporters and one counterdemonstrator. The Jewish community expressed appreciation for the robust police presence and reported they were not affected by the disturbances.

Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. The Simon Wiesenthal Center left in place its travel warning, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.”

In April the Jewish Association in Umea ended its activities and closed the center following neo-Nazi threats. The small association with approximately 50 members received threatening emails, and its buildings were painted with swastikas and the phrase, “we know where you live.” A car connected to the association was also vandalized. Local authorities and police held a meeting with the center to see if they could find a new venue, but representatives chose to close since their members did not feel safe. Minister for Home Affairs Anders Ygeman called what happened in Umea “completely unacceptable.”

In September unknown persons threw stones at the windows of the Malmo synagogue and broke the outer glass. The incident was classified as destruction of property and a hate crime.

In response to international events, on December 8 and 9, protesters at demonstrations in Malmo shouted “shoot all the Jews” and “the Jews should remember that Mohammed’s army will return.” Malmo Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh condemned the statements. On December 9, an estimated 10-20 persons threw Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Gothenburg. The incendiaries did not ignite the building, and nobody was hurt. Police later arrested three individuals in connection with the attack; the investigation continued. Government officials, including the prime minister and foreign minister, condemned the attack. On December 11, unknown assailants threw two Molotov cocktails at a building in the old Jewish cemetery in Malmo. Nobody was injured, and a police investigation was continuing.

The government allocated 10 million kronor ($1.2 million) to increase security for places of worship during the year. All religious communities may apply for the grant.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency continued to cooperate with religious communities on a national level to promote dialogue and prevent conflicts leading to anti-Semitic incidents. It continued to train police officers to detect hate crimes and visited high schools to raise awareness of such crimes and encourage more victims to report abuses. The government made available information in several languages for victims of hate crimes and provided interpreters to facilitate reporting. Police hate-crime officers operated throughout the country.

The Living History Forum, a public authority commissioned to work with problems related to tolerance, democracy, and human rights using the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as its starting point, continued to sensitize the public, and particularly the young, to the need to respect the equal value of all persons, with a specific focus on teaching about the Holocaust as a means of fighting Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities and prohibits universities from discriminating against students with disabilities in making admission decisions. The law protects, and the government effectively enforced, the right to access to health care and other public services.

Adequate accessibility for persons with disabilities is required by law: Government regulations require full accessibility for new buildings, and similar requirements exist for public facilities. Observers reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as apartments, restaurants, and bars. Many buildings and some means of public transportation remained inaccessible.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law recognizes Sami (formerly known as Lapps), Swedish Finns, Tornedalers, Roma, and Jews as national minorities. Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants and Roma continued to be problems during the year.

Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked to neo-Nazi or white power ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. Official estimates placed the number of active neo-Nazis and white supremacists at 1,500. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally, but courts have held that it is illegal to wear xenophobic symbols or racist paraphernalia or to display signs and banners with inflammatory symbols at rallies, since the law prohibits incitement of hatred against ethnic groups.

On July 7, three men with ties to the neo-Nazi NRM were sentenced to up to eight-and-a-half years in prison for bomb attacks in western Sweden in November 2016 at a left-wing bookstore, and in January at an asylum center and for an attempted bombing of a second asylum center. One man was seriously injured in the asylum center attack. Two of the men received paramilitary training in Russia, according to the verdict.

On September 17, approximately 50 individuals from the NRM marched in Gothenburg without a permit. It is not illegal to demonstrate without a permit. Police surveilled the demonstration, but did not interrupt it.

A majority of the Roma lived as socially excluded outcasts. Perpetrators of nonviolent hate crimes usually worked in the service sector or were unknown to the victim. The Red Cross estimated that 4,700 “vulnerable EU citizens,” the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, resided in the country in abject poverty at any given time. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for up to three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit.

In April a verdict by the appeals court determined that 11 Romani persons who had been registered in the database and had filed a lawsuit against the government had been subjected to a severe violation by being registered purely on the basis of their ethnicity.

Indigenous People

The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acted as an advisory body to the government and had limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations governed the Sami parliament’s operations.

Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their tribal history.

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

Antidiscrimination laws exist, apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, and were enforced. There were isolated incidents of societal violence and discrimination against persons perceived to be LGBTI.

The NCCP reported 550 hate crimes based on sexual orientation and 80 reports of transphobic hate crimes. On July 22, a group of 15 far-right extremists, some from the right-extremist organization Nordic Youth, briefly halted a pride parade in Ostermalm. Police quickly led the group away without arrest, and the parade resumed.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In 2016 the NCCP identified 6,415 police reports with a hate crime motive, a majority with xenophobic motives.

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