Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenders, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape was a widespread problem. Authorities prosecuted only a small percentage of rape cases since victims seldom reported rapes due to societal pressure, particularly because attackers were frequently close relatives, and due to fear of retaliation. No law specifically prohibits spousal rape, but law enforcement officials stated that criminal laws against rape apply to spousal rape. Police and judicial authorities were willing to pursue rape cases but stopped if parties reached an agreement prior to trial.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, was prevalent. A 2012/2013 gender assessment found a vast majority of women in the country suffered from domestic violence and concluded that 76 percent of women thought it was acceptable for a man to beat a woman for burning food, arguing, going out without telling the man, being negligent with children, or refusing to have sexual intercourse. For example, in Bamako, a man stabbed his wife to death before killing himself in September. In October a woman killed her husband in a Bamako neighborhood in retaliation for his previous violence against her. Spousal abuse is a crime, but the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. According to human rights organizations, most cases went unreported as a result of both cultural taboos and a lack of understanding regarding legal recourse. Assault is punishable by prison terms of one to five years and fines of up to 500,000 CFA francs ($830). If premeditated, it is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Police were often reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic violence. Many women were reluctant to file complaints against their husbands because they feared their husbands would interpret such allegations as grounds for divorce, were unable to support themselves financially, sought to avoid social stigma, or feared retaliation or further ostracism. The governmental Planning and Statistics Unit, established to track prosecutions, did not produce reliable statistics.
According to the UN’s Panel of Experts’ reporting, the Gender-based Violence Information Management System reported 210 cases of conflict-related sexual violence from January to April, including cases of forced marriage, sexual slavery, castration, forced prostitution, and forced pregnancies.
In its August report, the UN Panel of Experts on Mali reported receiving multiple accounts of female migrants being raped during their journey. For example, on May 19, four armed men intercepted a public transport vehicle traveling from Bamako to Timbuktu near Acharane village, stole all the passengers’ belongings, and gang-raped a 20-year-old woman. On August 31, a group of seven individuals harassed and raped a girl in the Nafadji neighborhood in Bamako. Five of the assailants remained in custody, while two fled and were not captured. The case was under investigation. In October, during the second session of the Court of Assizes, cases related to sexual assault and rape were heard; one rape suspect was convicted and received a 20-year sentence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is legal in the country and, except in certain northern areas, all religious and ethnic groups practiced it widely, particularly in rural areas. Although FGM/C is legal, authorities prohibited the practice in government-funded health centers.
Parents generally had FGM/C performed on girls between the ages of six months and nine years. The most recent comprehensive FGM/C survey, conducted by UNICEF in 2015, indicated that 83 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 were excised, and 74 percent of girls and women in the same age group had at least one daughter who was excised. Government information campaigns regarding the dangers of FGM/C reached citizens throughout the country where security allowed, and human rights organizations reported decreased incidence of FGM/C among children of educated parents.
For more information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, which routinely occurred, including in schools, without any government efforts to prevent it.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law does not provide the same legal status and rights for women as for men, particularly concerning divorce and inheritance. Women are legally obligated to obey their husbands and are particularly vulnerable in cases of divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Women had very limited access to legal services due to their lack of education and information as well as the prohibitive cost. The government effectively enforced the law.
While the law provides for equal property rights, traditional practices and ignorance of the law prevented women from taking full advantage of their rights. The marriage contract must specify if the couple wishes to share estate rights. If marriage certificates of Muslim couples do not specify the type of marriage, judges presume the marriage to be polygynous.
Women experienced economic discrimination due to social norms that favored men, and their access to education and employment was limited.
The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, the Family, and Children is responsible for ensuring the legal rights of women.
Per 2018 estimates, 57.9 percent of the population of Mali is under 18 years of age. The UN estimated 1.6 million children were in need of humanitarian assistance. According to UNICEF’s data regarding children, repeated attacks have led to death; gunshot or burn injuries; displacement and separation from families; and exposure to violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence; arrests and detention; and psychological trauma. Hundreds of children were also estimated still to be in armed groups, and more than 900 schools remain closed due to insecurity. Children made up 52 percent of IDPs in the country.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from either parent or by birth within the country, and the law requires registration within 30 days of birth. A fine can be levied for registration occurring after the 30-day period. Girls were less likely to be registered.
The government did not register all births immediately, particularly in rural areas. Some organizations indicated there were insufficient registration sites to accommodate all villages, further exacerbating the low registration rates in certain areas. According to UNICEF, the government registered 81 percent of births in 2014. The government conducted an administrative census in 2014 to collect biometric data and assign a unique identifying number to every citizen. The process allowed the registration of children not registered at birth, although the number of new birth certificates assigned was unknown. During the year several local NGOs worked with foreign partners to register children at birth and to educate parents about the benefits of registration. Birth registration also plays an essential role in protecting children, as well as facilitating their release and reintegration if recruited by armed groups or detained. In August the Malian Red Cross in collaboration with MINUSMA facilitated the registration and issuance of birth certificates of 500 children, aged zero to 14 years, in the Kidal and Tin Essako circles in the north.
Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free universal education, and the law provides for compulsory schooling of children between the ages of six through 15. Nevertheless, many children did not attend school. Parents often had to pay their children’s school fees as well as provide their uniforms and supplies. Other factors affecting school enrollment included distance to the nearest school, lack of transportation, shortages of teachers and instructional materials, and lack of school feeding programs. Girls’ enrollment was lower than that of boys at all levels due to poverty, a cultural preference to educate boys, the early marriage of girls, and sexual harassment of girls.
The conflict resulted in the closure of schools in the regions of Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu, Mopti, and Segou, and many schools were damaged or destroyed because rebels sometimes used them as bases of operations. MINUSMA reported at least 10 schools were attacked or targeted. Jihadist groups threatened teachers and communities causing, as of July, the closure of over 900 schools during the 2018-19 school year, up from 657 schools in the same period in 2017-18, affecting more than 270,000 students according to UNICEF. At least 60 percent of closed schools were located in Mopti region. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated that 71 percent of primary school-age boys and 63 percent of primary school-age girls were actually enrolled. This dropped to 32 percent and 26 percent, respectively, for secondary school-age children.
Child Abuse: Comprehensive government statistics on child abuse did not exist, but the problem was widespread. Citizens typically did not report child abuse. In the first half of the year, more than 150 children were killed (twice as many as were killed throughout the entirety of 2018), 75 maimed, 39 detained, and 377,000 were in need of increased protection and assistance because of jihadist attacks or intercommunal violence. MINUSMA also reported an increase in grave violations against children, defined as recruitment or use of children as soldiers, killing and maiming of children, rape and other grave sexual violence, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, or denial of humanitarian access to children. MINUSMA’s third quarterly report, issued in October, identified 284 cases, up from 145 cases in the prior reporting period. Police and the social services department in the Ministry of Solidarity and Humanitarian Action investigated and intervened in some reported cases of child abuse or neglect, but the government provided few services for such children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age to marry without parental consent is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. A 15-year-old girl may marry with parental consent if a civil judge approves. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law, particularly in rural areas, and underage marriage was a problem throughout the country. Girls were also taken as ‘wives’ for combatants and leaders of armed groups. According to 2017 data from the UN Population Fund, 52 percent of women were married by the age of 18 and 17 percent before the age of 15.
In some regions of the country, especially Kayes and Koulikoro, girls married as young as 10. It was common practice for a 14-year-old girl to marry a man twice her age. According to local human rights organizations, officials frequently accepted false birth certificates or other documents claiming girls younger than age 15 were old enough to marry. NGOs implemented awareness campaigns aimed at abating child marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the sexual exploitation of children, including commercial sexual exploitation. Penalties for the sexual exploitation of both adults and children are six months to three years in prison and a fine of between 20,000 and one million CFA francs ($33 and $1,661). Penalties for convicted child traffickers are five to 20 years in prison. Penalties for indecent assault, including child pornography, range from five to 20 years in prison. The country has a statutory rape law that defines 18 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The law, which was inconsistent with the legal minimum marriage age of 15 for girls, was not enforced. Sexual exploitation of children occurred. The Division for Protection of Children and Morals of the National Police conducted sweeps of brothels to assure that individuals in prostitution were of legal age and arrested brothel owners found to be holding underage girls. Between January and April, 60 percent of the more than 1,000 victims of gender-based violence (including rape, sexual assault, and physical and psychosocial violence) were girls.
Child Soldiers: According to UNICEF, at least 99 children were identified as associated with armed groups through the year. While hundreds more were estimated to be affiliated with armed groups, no precise data exists. Children may carry arms and be used in combat or be forced to work with an armed group in its operations, acting as spies, messengers, porters, or cooks or cleaning camps, vehicles, and weapons.
A local NGO in Kidal, Solidarite pour le Sahel, identified and admitted 60 children into its protection center in 2018. This included two girls who had been recruited by signatory armed groups in Tessalit, Aguelhok, and Kidal. Children were used mainly as porters, with girls also serving as cooks.
From April 2017 to August, the National Directorate for the Promotion of Children and the Family registered 86 children associated with armed groups. Of these, 29 were identified in 2017, 24 in 2018, and 33 in 2019. The government and national and international NGOs assisted them all. As of September, three children remained at shelter centers in Bamako, Mopti, and Gao, while all others were reunited with their families. Of the children identified during the year 22 were associated with jihadist groups operating in Mopti region, while three were identified in Kidal, one in Timbuktu, and six in Niger.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Some prostitutes and domestic workers practiced infanticide, mainly due to lack of access to and knowledge about contraception. Authorities prosecuted at least five infanticide cases during the year.
Displaced Children: UNICEF reported that, during the first half of the year, it had united 287 unaccompanied children with their caregivers. In October the DNPEF identified 392 displaced children in three Bamako IDP sites.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
There were fewer than 50 Jews in the country, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and law do not specifically protect the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or in the provision of other state services. There is no law mandating accessibility to public buildings. While persons with disabilities have access to basic health care, the government did not place a priority on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and few resources were available. Many such individuals relied on begging.
Persons with mental disabilities faced social stigmatization and confinement in public institutions. For cases in which an investigative judge believed a criminal suspect had mental disabilities, the judge referred the individual to a doctor for mental evaluation. Based on the recommendation of the doctor, who sometimes lacked training in psychology, the court then either sent the suspect to a mental institution in Bamako or proceeded with a trial.
The Ministry of Solidarity and Humanitarian Action is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The ministry sponsored activities to promote income-earning opportunities for persons with disabilities and worked with NGOs, such as the Malian Federation of Associations for Handicapped Persons, which provided basic services. Although the government was responsible for eight schools countrywide for deaf persons, it provided almost no resources or other support.
Societal discrimination continued against black Tuaregs, often referred to as Bellah. Some Tuareg groups deprived black Tuaregs of basic civil liberties due to traditional slavery-like practices and hereditary servitude relationships.
There were continued reports of slave masters kidnapping the children of their Bellah slaves, who had no legal recourse. Slaveholders considered slaves and their children as property and reportedly took slave children to raise them elsewhere without permission from their parents. The antislavery organization Temedt organized workshops throughout the country to convince communities to abandon the practice of keeping slaves. In July, due to their refusal to continue slavery practices, more than 2,000 families were displaced and prevented from farming and accessing social services in the areas of Diema, Nioro du Sahel, and Yelimane in the Kayes region. Some of the victims were beaten and mistreated. According to reports, 66 villages decided to force people refusing slavery practices to leave these villages. The CNDH and other human rights organization condemned the situation and called on the government to take action. In March the government issued a statement warning against the practice but took no action to establish punishment for practicing slavery.
In September, two men from the town of Kremis in the Kayes Region were forced to flee to Yelimane after they publicly opposed their social status as descendants of slaves. One of them was tied up and publicly humiliated on the orders of the chief of Kremis before he fled.
Intercommunal violence led to frequent clashes between members of the Fulani or Peuhl ethnic groups and, separately, members of the Bambara and Dogon communities for their alleged support of armed Islamists linked to al-Qa’ida. According to HRW, this tension has given rise to ethnic “self-defense groups” and driven thousands from their homes, diminished livelihoods, and induced widespread hunger. Such groups representing these communities were reportedly involved in several communal attacks. Retaliatory attacks were seemingly more frequent and deadly.
In the Center, violence across community lines escalated. Clashes between the Dogon and Fulani communities were exacerbated by the presence of extremist groups and resulted in the death of a large number of civilians. On March 23, in Ogossagou, Mopti region, a group of armed men, allegedly mainly composed of Dogons, killed at least 157 members of Fulani community–including women and 46 children–during the deadliest Malian massacre since 2012. An additional 65 civilians were reported injured and 95 percent of the village burned. As of May, at least 10 suspects had been arrested and a criminal investigation was opened before the Specialized Judicial Unit to Combat Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.
On June 10, clashes between Dogon hunters and Fulani herders in Sobane Da, Bandiagara Region, a Dogon village, resulted in at least 35 deaths–including children–of members of the Dogon community.
In another example, on August 10, unidentified gunmen attacked the village of Donkono, in the circle of Bankass, Mopti region, killing two civilians, wounding several others, and burning numerous houses.
According to HRW’s December 2018 report, in 2018 there were at least 26 separate attacks against Fulani villages (allegedly by Bambara and Dogon self-defense groups) with at least 156 civilians killed. The report further indicated at least 50 Fulani villagers, including children, remained missing. Similarly, 45 Dogon villagers were killed during 16 attacks allegedly carried out by Islamist armed groups backed by Fulani self-defense groups.
According to MINUSMA’s latest quarterly report, issued in October, there were 331 incidents in which 367 civilians were killed and 221 injured, as well as 63 reported abductions of civilians, compared with the previous period, which registered 245 incidents, 333 civilian fatalities, 175 injuries, and 145 abductions. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in July that intercommunal conflict in the North, Center, and South had resulted in a level of displacement not seen since 2014. Displacement was estimated at 187,139 individuals, with at least 28,000 new IDPs between May and June–more than double the number recorded in the same period in 2018. A June report stated that during the first six months of the year, nearly 50,000 IDPs fleeing intercommunal violence had been registered in Mopti, Sevare, and Fotama in central Mali, 2,000 of them resulting from the Ogossagou massacre.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits association “for an immoral purpose.” There are no laws specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
NGOs reported LGBTI individuals experienced physical, psychological, and sexual violence, which society viewed as “corrective” punishment. Family members, neighbors, and groups of strangers in public places committed the majority of violent acts, and police frequently refused to intervene. Most LGBTI individuals isolated themselves and kept their sexual orientation or gender identity hidden. An NGO reported that LGBTI individuals frequently dropped out of school, left their places of employment, and did not seek medical treatment to hide their sexual identity and avoid social stigmatization.
There were no known LGBTI organizations in the country, although some NGOs had medical and support programs focusing specifically on men having sex with men.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred. The government implemented campaigns to increase awareness of the condition and reduce discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Discrimination continued against persons with albinism. Some traditional religious leaders perpetuated the widespread belief that such persons possessed special powers that others could extract by bringing a traditional spiritual leader the blood or head of one. For example, in October a group of people, including the husband, killed an albino pregnant woman in Kita on the orders of a traditional spiritual leader. Two of the perpetrators were arrested. At year’s end, the case remained under investigation at the Kita high instance tribunal. In November 2018 a Malian singer-songwriter and albino activist, Salif Keita, assembled an international forum on protecting albino persons in Africa and dedicated a benefit concert to a five-year-old albino girl who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in the country in May 2018. Keita noted that men often divorced their wives for giving birth to a child with albinism. Lack of understanding of the condition contributed to such persons’ lack of access to sunblock, without which they were highly susceptible to skin cancer. Keita founded the Salif Keita Global Foundation in 2006, which provided free health care to persons with albinism, advocated for their protection, and provided education to help end their abuse.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
Workers, except members of the armed forces, have the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. There are restrictions imposed on the exercise of these rights. The law provides that workers must be employed in the same profession before they may form a union. A worker may remain a member of a trade union only for a year after leaving the relevant function or profession. Members responsible for the administration or management of a union must reside in the country and be free of any convictions that could suspend their right to vote in national elections. The process is cumbersome and time-consuming, and the government may deny trade union registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds.
The minister of labor and public service has the sole authority to decide which union is representative for sectoral collective bargaining and to approve sectoral collective agreements. Employers have the discretionary right to refuse to bargain with representatives of trade unions. The law allows all types of strikes and prohibits retribution against strikers. Unions must exhaust the mandatory conciliation and arbitration procedures set out in the labor code in order to strike legally. Regulations require civil servants and workers in state-owned enterprises to give two weeks’ notice of a planned strike and to enter into mediation and negotiations with the employer and a third party, usually the Ministry of Labor and Public Service. The law does not allow workers in “essential services” sectors to strike, and the minister of labor can order compulsory arbitration for such workers. The law defines “essential services” as services whose interruption would endanger the lives, personal safety, or health of persons; affect the normal operation of the national economy; or affect a vital industrial sector. For example, the law requires striking police to maintain a minimum presence in headquarters and on the street. The government, however, has not identified a list of essential services. Participation in an illegal strike is punishable by harsh penalties, including dismissal and loss of other rights except wages and leave. Civil servants exercised the right to strike during the year.
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. The government did not effectively enforce relevant laws. Penalties for violating antiunion discrimination provisions were not sufficient to deter violations. The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not have adequate resources to conduct inspections or perform mediation. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.
Authorities did not consistently respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, although workers generally exercised these rights. The government did not always respect unions’ right to conduct their activities without interference.
Although unions and worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties, they were closely aligned with various political parties or coalitions. The Ministry of Mines intervened to facilitate negotiations between labor and management over the closure of the Morila gold mine. Officials have not renegotiated some collective agreements since 1956.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Forced labor occurred. The law prohibits the contractual use of persons without their consent, and penalties include fines and imprisonment with compulsory hard labor. Penalties can double if a person younger than 15 is involved. Penalties were seldom enforced and therefore were not sufficient to deter violations. According to NGOs, the judiciary was reluctant to act in forced labor cases. The government made little effort during the year to prevent or eliminate forced labor, although it did allocate initial funding to its antitrafficking action plan. A government commission has conducted an inventory of mercury in artisanal gold mines, mapped artisanal gold mines in the auriferous regions of Kayes, Koulikoro, and Sikasso, and created a professional identification card for artisanal gold miners. On September 17, a man in the town of Kremis was publicly assaulted for his opposition to hereditary slavery.
Most adult forced labor occurred in the agricultural sector, especially rice production, and in gold mining, domestic services, and in other sectors of the informal economy. Forced child labor occurred in the same sectors. Corrupt religious teachers compelled boys into begging and other types of forced labor or service (see section 7.c.).
The salt mines of Taoudeni in the North subjected men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, to a longstanding practice of debt bondage. Employers subjected many black Tuaregs to forced labor and hereditary slavery, particularly in the eastern and northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal (see section 6).
See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The labor law sets the minimum employment age at 15. No child may work more than eight hours per day under any circumstance. The government prohibits some of the worst forms of child labor. The government’s Hazardous Occupations List prohibits certain activities by children younger than 18. Girls between the ages of 6 and 18 may not work more than six hours per day. The law applies to all children, including those who work in the informal economy and those who are self-employed. Gaps exist in the country’s legal framework to protect children adequately from the worst forms of child labor, and the law does not meet international standards as related to the prohibition of forced labor, the prohibition against using children in illicit activities, and the prohibition of military recruitment by nonstate armed groups.
Responsibility for enforcing child labor laws is shared between the Ministry for the Promotion of Children and Women through the National Committee to Monitor the Fight against Child Labor; the Ministry of Justice through different courts; the Ministry of Security through the Morals and Children’s Brigade of the National Police; the National Social Security Institute through its health service; and the Ministry of Labor and Public Service through the Labor Inspectorate. Interagency coordinating mechanisms were ineffective, inefficient, and cumbersome. Authorities often ignored child labor laws or did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Resources, inspections, and remediation were not adequate, and the penalties for violations were not sufficient to deter violations.
Child labor, particularly in its worst forms, was a serious problem. Child labor was concentrated in the agricultural sector, especially rice and cotton production, domestic services, gold mining, forced begging organized by Quranic schools, and other sectors of the informal economy.
Approximately 25 percent of children between the ages of five and 14 were economically active, and employers subjected more than 40 percent of economically active children to the worst forms of child labor. Many were engaged in hazardous activities in agriculture. Armed groups used child soldiers in the North and the Center (see section 1.g). Child trafficking occurred. Employers used children, especially girls, for forced domestic labor. Employers forced Black Tuareg children to work as domestic and agricultural laborers.
Child labor in artisanal gold mining was a serious problem. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, at least 20,000 children worked under extremely harsh and hazardous conditions in artisanal gold mines. Many children also worked with mercury, a toxic substance used in separating gold from its ore.
An unknown number of primary school-age boys throughout the country, mostly younger than 10, attended part-time Quranic schools funded by students and their parents. Some Quranic teachers (marabouts) often forced their students, known as garibouts or talibes, to beg for money on the streets or work as laborers in the agricultural sector; any money earned was usually returned to their teachers. In some cases talibes are also used as domestic workers without receiving compensation.
The Ministry of Labor and Public Service conducted few surprise or complaint-based inspections. Insufficient personnel, low salaries, and lack of other resources hampered enforcement in the informal sector. Prosecutors in Bamako had several pending investigations of potential abuse charges against marabouts who used children solely for economic purposes.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, disability, social status, HIV-positive status, and color. The government’s Labor Inspection Agency is responsible for investigating and preventing discrimination based on race, gender, religion, political opinion, nationality, or ethnicity, but the law was not effectively enforced. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations.
Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, sexual orientation, disability, and ethnicity (see section 6). The government was the major formal-sector employer and ostensibly paid women the same as men for similar work, but differences in job descriptions permitted pay inequality. There were cases where employers from southern ethnic groups discriminated against individuals from northern ethnic groups.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The official minimum wage allows one to live above the World Bank’s poverty line. Minimum wage requirements did not apply to workers in the informal and subsistence sectors, which included the majority of workers. The government supplemented the minimum wage with a required package of benefits, including social security and health care. In January 2018 the government increased the salaries of public sector workers after coming to a collective bargaining agreement with the largest national workers’ union, the National Workers’ Union of Mali. In August 2018 banks and insurance companies also increased their employees’ salaries.
The legal workweek is 40 hours, except for the agricultural sector, where the legal workweek ranges from 42 to 48 hours, depending on the season. The law requires a weekly 24-hour rest period, and employers must pay workers overtime for additional hours. The law limits overtime to eight hours per week. The law applies to all workers, including migrants and domestics, but it was routinely ignored in the informal sector, which included an estimated 87 percent of workers.
The law provides for a broad range of occupational safety and health standards in the workplace. Workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment and to request an investigation by the Social Security Department, which is responsible for recommending remedial action where deemed necessary. Authorities, however, did not effectively protect employees in these situations. With high unemployment, workers often were reluctant to report violations of occupational safety regulations.
The Ministry of Labor and Public Service did not effectively enforce these standards, did not employ a sufficient number of labor inspectors, and the few inspectors it did employ lacked resources to conduct field investigations. Many employers did not comply with regulations regarding wages, hours, and social security benefits. The ministry conducted few inspections in the three northern regions where the government has suspended services since the 2012 occupation of those regions by armed groups and other organizations. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations, and no government agencies provided information on violations or penalties. Labor inspectors made unannounced visits and inspections to work sites only after labor unions filed complaints.
Working conditions varied, but the worst conditions were in the private sector. In small, family-based agricultural endeavors, children worked for little or no remuneration. Employers paid some domestic workers as little as 7,500 CFA francs ($14) per month. Violations of overtime laws were common for children working in cities and those working in artisanal gold mines or rice and cotton fields. Labor organizations reported employers used cyanide and mercury in gold mines, posing a public health risk to workers exposed to them. Inspectors lacked the resources to assemble credible data on dangerous workplaces.