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Kenya

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of all persons, defilement (statutory rape), domestic violence, and sex tourism, but enforcement remained limited. The law’s definition of domestic violence includes sexual violence within marriage, early and forced marriage, FGM/C, forced wife “inheritance,” damage to property, defilement, economic abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, harassment, incest, intimidation, physical abuse, stalking, verbal abuse, or any other conduct against a person that harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person. The law does not explicitly criminalize spousal rape. Insulting the modesty of another person by intruding upon that person’s privacy or stripping them of clothing are criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.

The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for rape when the survivor is older than 18, although sentences were at the discretion of the judge and usually no longer than the minimum of 10 years (see section 6, Children). Citizens frequently used traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms, including maslaha in Muslim communities, to address sexual offenses in rural areas, with village elders assessing financial compensation for the survivors or their families. They also used such mechanisms occasionally in urban areas.

The judiciary recorded 17,272 cases of gender-based violence filed in court between July 2019 and June 2020. The NGO Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya reported arrests and prosecutions of sexual violence cases remained low, even in cases in which survivors identified perpetrators, due to limited police resources to conduct investigations, insufficient evidence collection and handling mechanisms, and lengthy court proceedings, which made it difficult and expensive for survivors to pursue cases.

Although police no longer required physicians to examine survivors, physicians still had to complete official forms reporting rape. Rural areas generally had no police physician, and in Nairobi there were only three. NGOs reported police stations often but inconsistently accepted the examination report of clinical physicians who initially treated rape survivors. In October the National Police Service launched its “Policare” program, which sought to establish one-stop shops in every county to address and prevent gender-based violence. Police also launched an updated Integrated Response to Gender-Based Violence document, which standardized procedures and standards of care in these cases.

Authorities cited domestic violence as the leading cause of preventable, nonaccidental death for women. Except in cases of death, police officers generally refrained from investigating domestic violence, which they considered a private family matter.

NGOs expressed concerns regarding a rise in incidents of sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and forced evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September Human Rights Watch released a report on the rise of gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report blamed the government for failing to protect and providing inadequate assistance to survivors.

A national helpline established by the Department of Gender Affairs received a total of 5,009 cases in 2020, an increase of 36 percent compared with the prior year. Survivors of sexual violence were unable to report crimes or seek medical treatment during curfew hours. The government established rescue centers for gender-based violence in West Pokot, Bungoma, Vihiga, Meru, and Mirgori Counties.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law makes it illegal to practice FGM/C, procure the services of someone who practices FGM/C, or send a person out of the country to undergo the procedure. The law also makes it illegal to make derogatory remarks about a woman who has not undergone FGM/C. In September the court dismissed a petition filed in 2017 to strike down the law banning FGM/C. The court ruled revoking the anti-FGM/C law would expose women to this harmful practice without sufficient legal protection. Government officials often participated in public-awareness programs to prevent the practice. Nevertheless, individuals practiced FGM/C widely, particularly in some rural areas. According to UNICEF, despite the legal prohibition of FGM/C and progress made by the government in eliminating the practice, myths supporting the practice remained deep rooted in some local cultures. UNICEF estimated 21 percent of adult women ages 15 to 49 had undergone the procedure some time in their lives, but the practice was heavily concentrated in a few communities, including the Maasai (78 percent), Samburu (86 percent), and Somali (94 percent).

As part of the government’s initiative to end FGM/C by 2022, the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs, and Special Programs continued work with county officials and nonstate actors to improve enforcement of the FGM/C law. This included education and advocacy efforts as well as prosecutions of those violating the law. NGOs and government officials reported a significant increase of FGM/C cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting school closures left girls more at risk. Many FGM/C rescue centers were closed partially or even totally due to the pandemic. Media reported arrests of perpetrators and parents who agreed to FGM/C, but parents in regions with a high prevalence of FGM/C frequently bribed police to allow the practice to continue. There were also reports FGM/C increasingly occurred in secret to avoid prosecution. County officials in areas with a high prevalence of FGM/C noted many cases targeted infants, with one recent government study finding an estimated 61 percent of girls younger than five in one county had undergone the procedure.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Certain communities practiced wife inheritance, in which a man inherits the widow of his brother or other close relative, regardless of her wishes. The practice was more likely in cases of poor women with limited access to education and living outside of major cities.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes prison time of at least three years or a fine of at least $880 or both for anyone found guilty of committing such crimes. Sexual harassment was often not reported, and survivors rarely filed charges.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Nonetheless, families of girls with disabilities sometimes colluded with medical professionals to sterilize them as a means of protecting them from sexual violence, according to a disability rights activist. See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.

The constitution recognizes the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Exercising this right, however, remained difficult due to the prohibitive costs of contraception for some persons, the limited information and services that were available, and cultural and religious norms in some areas that discouraged the use of modern contraceptives and gave men decision-making authority over women. Subsidized contraception options, including condoms, birth control pills, and long acting or permanent methods, were widely available to both men and women, although access was more difficult in rural areas.

A 2019 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that more than half of sexually active adolescent women between the ages of 15 and 19 who did not want to become pregnant had an unmet need for modern contraception and that almost two-thirds of pregnancies among this age group were unintended. The adolescent birth rate was 96 per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Access to sexual and reproductive health information by adolescents remained a problem due to lack of comprehensive sexuality education in schools, low coverage of youth-friendly services, and a lack of adequate stocks of contraceptives in public hospitals.

According to UNFPA, 56 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 made their own decisions regarding health care, contraception, and sex with their husbands or partners. NGOs reported that it was more difficult for marginalized groups, including LGBTQI+ persons, women with disabilities, displaced persons, and persons with HIV, to access reproductive health information and services.

Skilled obstetric, prenatal, and postpartum care was available in major hospitals, but many women could not access or afford these services. Skilled health-care personnel attended an estimated 62 percent of births, according to the 2014 Kenya Demographic Health Survey. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Maternity services were free of charge in all public health institutions in the country. The government’s Linda Mama program, a free health insurance plan that covers the pregnancy period and up to three months postdelivery, targeted women in rural and low-income areas and continued to operate during the year. NGOs reported that government measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a nationwide curfew and movement restrictions, led to an increase in maternal morbidity, a decrease in births attended by skilled health-care personnel, and a decrease in women receiving prenatal and postpartum care during the year.

Maternal deaths accounted for 51 percent of all deaths of women between the ages of 15 and 49, and the maternal mortality rate was 342 per 100,000 live births, according to the World Health Organization. Unsafe abortion, pregnancy, and birth complications limited access to health services, and harmful cultural practices were cited as among the main causes of maternal death and morbidity. UNFPA reported that maternal mortality in Mandera County was 3,795 deaths per 100,000 live births – the highest in the country – partially due to harmful cultural rites such as FGM/C and limited access to health services. In 2019 the High Court ruled that the director of medical services and the Ministry of Health had violated the rights of the country’s women by arbitrarily withdrawing standards and guidelines on reducing morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortions.

The law provides pregnant girls the right to continue their education until and after giving birth, but NGOs reported schools often did not always respect this right (see section 6, Children). Human rights organizations reported teenage pregnancy often led girls to drop out of school without a safety net or plan for continued education after birth.

Discrimination: The constitution provides equal rights for men and women and specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language, or birth. Nevertheless, the justice system widely applied customary laws that discriminated against women, limiting their political and economic rights.

The constitution prohibits gender discrimination in relation to land and property ownership and gives women equal rights to inheritance and access to land. The constitution also provides for the enactment of legislation for the protection of wives’ rights to matrimonial property during and upon the termination of a marriage, and it affirms parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during the marriage, and at its dissolution. In September a judge presiding over a matrimonial property dispute ruled being a housewife should be considered a full-time job. The judge ruled it was unfair for courts to rule that housewives do not contribute to household financial wellbeing. According to civil society groups, women continued to face institutional and legal barriers that hindered their access to justice and a fair share of matrimonial property upon the dissolution of marriage. Additionally, the components of the law that stipulate how to apply for succession were little known, and thus many inheritances continued to pass from fathers to sons only.

Children

Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from the citizenship of the parents, and either parent may transmit citizenship. Birth on the country’s territory does not convey citizenship. Birth registration is compulsory. An estimated 82 percent of births were officially registered in 2020, according to the Interior Ministry’s Civil Registration Services. Authorities attributed the increase in registered births to a rise in the number of women delivering in health centers. Lack of official birth certificates resulted in discrimination in delivery of public services. The Department of Civil Registration Services implements the Maternal Child Health Registration Strategy, which requires nurses administering immunizations to register the births of unregistered children.

Education: By law education is tuition free and compulsory until age 18, although public schools may impose fees for boarding, uniforms, and other expenses. The law also allows schools to charge tuition and other fees on children who are noncitizens of the country. Authorities did not enforce the mandatory attendance law uniformly. The government closed all schools in March 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but fully reopened all grades and schools in January 2021. Media reported widely on the negative impact of long-term school closures on students. In April a study found that 53 percent of students exhibited a decline in math proficiency. Civil society organizations highlighted a rise in teen pregnancy and drug use during the pandemic.

While the law provides pregnant girls the right to continue their education until and after giving birth, NGOs reported schools did not always respect this right (see section 6, Women). School executives sometimes expelled pregnant girls or transferred them to other schools. In recent years media outlets reported a significant number of girls failed to take their final secondary school examinations due to pregnancy. Final examinations were not held during the year due to the pandemic.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes several forms of violence that affect children, including early and forced marriage, FGM/C, incest, and physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. Violence against children, particularly in poor and rural communities, was common, and child abuse, including sexual abuse, occurred frequently. A recent Ministry of Labour report found nearly half of female children and more than half of male children experienced childhood violence. The study found emotional violence was also common.

According to IPOA, most police facilities did not have designated child protection units, and police usually requested the Department of Children Services to take custody of child survivors. Although all the police facilities that IPOA inspected during the year had at least one officer designated to handle children’s cases, only some of the officers had received training on handling these cases, and the police stations did not have sufficient resources to process the large number of cases involving child survivors. IPOA found the shortage of designated child protective units made it difficult for officers to record statements from child survivors due to the lack of privacy. According to IPOA, police also reported difficulties investigating cases such as child rape, since some communities defended the perpetrators and preferred to settle cases through traditional mechanisms.

The minimum sentence for conviction of statutory rape is life imprisonment if the survivor is younger than age 11; 20 years in prison if the survivor is between ages 11 and 15; and 10 years’ imprisonment if the survivor is 16 or 17. Although exact numbers were unavailable, during the year media reported several statutory rape convictions.

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

Although there were no reports the government recruited child soldiers, there were reports the al-Shabaab terrorist group recruited children in areas bordering Somalia.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 years for women and men. According to UNICEF, 25 percent of girls are married by 18. Media occasionally highlighted the problem of early and forced marriage common among some ethnic groups. Under the constitution the qadi courts retain jurisdiction over Muslim marriage and family law in cases where all parties profess the Muslim religion and agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts. NGOs reported an increase in child, early, and forced marriages during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting school closures left girls more vulnerable to the practice.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children, including prohibiting procurement of a child younger than age 18 for unlawful sexual relations. The law also prohibits domestic and international trafficking or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, transfer, or receipt of children up to age 18 to produce pornography or for pornographic performances. Provisions apply equally to girls and boys. The law has provisions regarding child trafficking, child sex tourism, child sexual exploitation, and child pornography. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. Nevertheless, according to human rights organizations, children were sexually exploited and victims of trafficking.

The DCI continued to expand its Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit, which is responsible for investigating cases of child sexual exploitation and abuse, providing guidance to police officers across the country on cases involving children, and liaising with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection’s Department of Children Services to identify and protect abused children.

NGOs, international organizations, and local officials expressed concerns with reports of rising number of pregnancies among teenage girls, resulting in part from increased sexual abuse and exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Displaced Children: Poverty and the spread of HIV and AIDS continued to intensify the problem of child homelessness. Street children faced harassment and physical and sexual abuse from police and others and within the juvenile justice system (see section 1.c.). The government operated programs to place street children in shelters and assisted NGOs in providing education, skills training, counseling, legal advice, and medical care to street children whom the commercial sex industry abused and exploited. According to UNHCR, 52 percent of refugees were younger than age 18 (see section 2.d.).

Children continued to face protection risks in urban areas, particularly unaccompanied and separated children. Alternative care arrangements, such as foster care placement, were in place for a limited number of children. Additionally, government child protection services and the children’s department often stepped in to provide protection to children at risk, particularly unaccompanied children.

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.

Trafficking in Persons

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

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

The penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature,” which was interpreted to prohibit consensual same-sex sexual conduct and specifies a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment if convicted, and seven years for “attempting” said conduct. The law also criminalizes acts of “gross indecency” between men, whether in public or in private, with five years’ imprisonment. Police detained persons under these laws, particularly persons suspected of prostitution, but released them shortly afterward.

In 2016 LGBTQI+ activists filed two petitions challenging the constitutionality of these penal codes. In 2019 the High Court issued a unanimous ruling upholding the laws criminalizing homosexuality, citing insufficient evidence they violate LGBTQI+ rights and claiming repealing the law would contradict the constitution that stipulates marriage is between a man and woman. The LGBTQI+ community filed an appeal against this ruling and received favorable decisions on a handful of procedural matters but was awaiting a substantive hearing at year’s end. After filing this case, the LGBTQI+ community experienced increased ostracism and harassment, according to activist groups.

LGBTQI+ organizations reported police more frequently used public-order laws (for example, disturbing the peace) than same-sex legislation to arrest LGBTQI+ individuals. NGOs reported police frequently harassed, intimidated, or physically abused LGBTQI+ individuals in custody. They also reported police threatened homosexual men with forced anal examinations while in custody, which were outlawed in 2018.

Authorities permitted LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations to register and conduct activities.

The constitution does not explicitly protect LGBTQI+ persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals were widespread. LGBTQI+ rights organizations reported an increase in conversion therapy and practices. It attributed this increase to the fact many LGBTQI+ persons had returned to hostile home and community environments after losing their jobs because of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some LGBTQI+ groups also reported an increase in abuses cases against LGBTQI+ persons during the pandemic. They attributed this rise to increased scrutiny of LGBTQI+ persons’ lifestyles because of COVID-19-related lockdown and curfew orders. In May human rights defender and HAPA Kenya paralegal Joash Mosoti was allegedly tortured and killed at his home in Mombasa.

In September the Kenya Film Classification Board banned the film I am Samuel for attempting to “promote same-sex marriage agenda as an acceptable way of life.” The board claimed the film violated Article 165 of the penal code, which outlaws homosexuality, as well as provisions of the Films and Stage Plays Act.

Although the country grants refugee status to persons whose persecution is due to sexual orientation or gender expression, some LGBTQI+ refugees continued to face stigma and discrimination. They were often compelled to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity to protect themselves, especially among Somali refugee communities in Dadaab. National organizations working with LGBTQI+ persons offered support to refugees who were LGBTQI+, including access to safety networks and specialized health facilities.

There were approximately 1,000 LGBTQI+ refugees in the country, including approximately 300 in Kakuma, where there were reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQI+ refugees during the year. An arson attack by unknown perpetrators in March led to the death of one LGBTQI+ refugee in April. UNHCR and NGO partners provided medical and other assistance for LGBTQI+ refugees when necessary, but legal accountability for perpetrators was lacking. In March UNHCR released a statement outlining efforts in collaboration with police and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat to enhance security for LGBTQI+ refugees, including the relocation of some particularly vulnerable individuals.

Rwanda

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women and spousal rape, and the government handled rape cases as a judicial priority. Penalties for conviction of rape range from 10 years’ to life imprisonment with substantial monetary fines. Penalties for conviction of committing physical and sexual violence against one’s spouse range from three to five years’ imprisonment.

Domestic violence against women and children remained common. Civil society organizations and NGOs reported this trend appeared to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, although precise data was unavailable. Authorities encouraged reporting of domestic violence cases, although most incidents remained within the extended family and were not reported or prosecuted.

Police headquarters in Kigali had a hotline for domestic violence. Several other ministries also had free gender-based violence hotlines. Each of the 78 police stations nationwide had its own gender desk, an average of three officers trained in handling domestic violence and gender-based violence cases, and a public outreach program. The government operated 44 one-stop centers throughout the country, providing free medical, psychological, legal, and police assistance to survivors of domestic violence.

The government continued its whole-of-government, multistakeholder campaign against gender-based violence, child abuse, and other types of domestic violence. Gender-based violence was a required training module for police and military at all levels and was included for all troops and police preparing for deployment to peacekeeping missions abroad. In September the president made remarks to judicial officials calling for tougher treatment of gender-based violence offenders.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for penalties of six months’ to one year’s imprisonment and monetary fines. The penalties are increased when the offender is an employer or other person of authority and the victim is a subordinate. Nevertheless, advocacy organizations reported sexual harassment remained common, and enforcement was lax.

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

According to the United Nations, the estimated maternal mortality ratio decreased from 373 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 248 in 2017, with a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 94. The most recent domestic surveys from 2020 put the ratio at 210 deaths per 100,000 live births. Major factors influencing maternal mortality included low clinical capacity of health providers, absence of equipment and commodities, and patients delaying seeking timely care. UN reporting indicated that 94 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel.

The UN Population Fund estimated 70 percent of girls and women ages 15 and 49 made their own decisions regarding health care, the use of contraception, and whether to engage in sexual activity. The United Nations reported 53 percent of women had access to modern family planning methods, whereas the most recent domestic surveys of 2020 reported 58 percent had access. Parental consent is required for minors (individuals younger than 18 years of age) to access family planning services. The country’s adolescent birth rate was 41 births per 1,000 women between 15 and 19 years of age, according to UN sustainable development goal datasets. While there is no policy restricting reproductive health service access for LGBTQI+ persons, there are no protections, and LGBTQI+ persons and organizations reported societal discrimination as a barrier when seeking services.

In some households, there were cultural and social barriers to conversations regarding adolescents seeking reproductive health services.

Some women and girls missed classes at school due to economic factors that made it difficult for them to access menstruation hygiene products. By law schools are required to ensure pregnant girls continue their education, and the government enforced the law. Nonetheless, some pregnant girls stopped attending school due to social stigma.

The government provides sexual and reproductive health services (including emergency contraceptives) for survivors of gender-based violence via the country’s network of Isange One Stop Centers.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and are entitled to the same rights as men, including under family, labor, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands, and couples may make their own legal property arrangements. Women experienced some difficulties pursuing property claims due to lack of knowledge, procedural bias against women in inheritance matters, multiple spousal claims due to polygyny, and the threat of gender-based violence. The law requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits discrimination in hiring decisions. There are no known legal restrictions on women’s working hours or employment in the same occupations, tasks, and industries as men. Studies in previous years indicated few persons reported gender-based discrimination in workplaces, and most individuals were either unaware of it or unwilling to discuss it. Experts concluded gender-based discrimination remained underreported, in part because victims of discrimination feared losing their employment.

After the 1994 genocide that left many women as heads of households, women assumed a larger role in the formal sector, and many operated their own businesses. The law governing matrimonial regimes stipulates joint land title ownership for a husband and wife who are legally married. Nevertheless, men owned the major assets of most households, particularly those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, making bank credit inaccessible to many women and rendering it difficult to start or expand a business.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents. Children born to at least one citizen parent automatically receive citizenship. Children born in the country to unknown or stateless parents automatically receive citizenship. Minor children adopted by citizens, irrespective of nationality or statelessness, automatically receive citizenship. Children retain their citizenship in the event of dissolution of the parents’ marriage. Birth registrations were generally performed immediately at hospitals and birth centers. If a birth occurred elsewhere, the birth could be registered upon the presentation of a medical birth certificate at the sector level. The government cooperated with humanitarian organizations to conduct birth registration in refugee camps. There were no reports of unregistered births leading to denial of public services.

Education: The government provides compulsory and tuition-free universal public education for six years of primary education for boys and girls by law. By policy the government also provides six years of tuition-free secondary education, although only the first three years of secondary education are compulsory. Parents were not required to pay tuition fees, but they often had to pay high fees for teachers’ incentives and meal expenses, according to domestic observers. This at times posed obstacles for members of marginalized groups and others with limited economic resources.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes abuse, including violence against children, child abandonment, and forced begging. Officials enforced the law, and the president made public remarks regarding the importance of prosecuting offenders. While statistics on child abuse were unreliable, such abuse was common within the family, in the village, and at school. The Rwanda Violence against Children and Youth Survey (2018) indicated most sexual abuse perpetrated against women ages 19 to 24 occurred in public urban areas such as on the street (42 percent of cases) or in the victim’s home (32 percent). For men the main locations were the victim’s home (27 percent), urban street areas (23 percent), and rural land areas (17 percent).

As in previous years, the government conducted a high-profile public awareness campaign against gender-based violence and child abuse. The government supported a network of one-stop centers and hospital facilities that offered integrated police, legal, medical, and counseling services to victims of gender-based violence and child abuse. In partnership with UNICEF, the National Commission for Children (NCC) maintained a corps of 29,674 community-based “Friends of the Family” volunteers (two for each of the country’s 14,837 villages) to help address gender-based violence and child protection concerns at the village level.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 21; the government strictly enforced this requirement. Anecdotal evidence suggested child marriage sometimes occurred in line with traditional norms in rural areas and refugee camps but rarely in urban areas and not with government recognition.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law, sexual relations with a child younger than 18 constitutes child defilement (statutory rape), which is punishable by 20 years to life in prison, depending on the age of the victim.

The law prohibits sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Conviction statistics were not available. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Displaced Children: There were numerous street children throughout the country. Authorities gathered street children in district transit centers before returning them to their home areas or placing them in rehabilitation centers. In 2020 HRW reported authorities abused street children in the transit centers and held them under harsh conditions (see section 1.c., Prison and Detention Center Conditions). Conditions and practices varied at 29 privately run rehabilitation centers for street children.

UNHCR continued to accommodate in the Mahama refugee camp unaccompanied and separated minors who entered the country as part of an influx of refugees from Burundi since 2015. Camp staff provided additional protection measures for these minors.

Institutionalized Children: The country regulated and maintained facilities providing care for children with disabilities when needed. Studies in previous years stated some institutions lacked the capacity to provide adequate care for these children. The government took steps to transfer orphans from institutional settings to host families and to close centers not meeting standards of care for children with disabilities.

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 .

Trafficking in Persons

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

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

Advocates reported law enforcement officials routinely abused LGBTQI+ persons in transit centers, with transgender persons targeted for particularly severe hate speech and violence. The government did not report investigating these cases.

No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, or access to government services such as health care. Cabinet-level government officials expressed support for the human rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, but LGBTQI+ persons reported societal discrimination and abuse, including problems officially registering NGOs.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Laws protecting persons with disabilities applied to persons with albinism, but persons with albinism continued to experience persistent societal discrimination.

Tanzania

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law provides for life imprisonment for persons convicted of rape, including spousal rape during periods of legal separation. The law stipulates persons wishing to report a rape must do so at a police station, where they must receive a release form before seeking medical help. This process contributed to medical complications, incomplete forensic evidence, and failure to report rapes. Survivors often feared that cases reported to police would be made public.

The law prohibits assault but does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Domestic violence against women remained widespread, and police rarely investigated such cases.

Authorities rarely prosecuted persons who abused women. Persons close to the victims, such as relatives and friends, were most likely to be the perpetrators. Many defendants who appeared in court were set free because of corruption in the judicial system, lack of evidence, poor investigations, and poor evidence preservation.

There were some government efforts to combat gender-based violence. Police maintained gender and child desks in regions throughout the country to support survivors, address relevant crimes, and address mistrust between members of key populations and police. Their effectiveness, however, varied widely. Police validated a referral guide to improve the quality and consistency of responses to cases of gender-based violence. Despite government efforts, cases against women increased, particularly due to the tradition of resolving matters of this nature within the family unit or at the community level. The LHRC released a statement that condemned an increase in gender-based violence within the community during COVID-19 restrictions. In an effort to combat its incidence, the government introduced a campaign called “Tokomeza Ukatili Twende Pamoja” or “Let us Unite and Fight Against Violence,” which aimed to raise public awareness about the issue through special awareness raising events throughout the country.

In prisons the government also continued to coordinate policies, strategies, and guidelines in reference to gender matters. The government introduced gender desks within the prison department as a reporting mechanism for gender-based violence in prisons. The PCCB also had a gender desk to report sexual exploitation, although since 2015, just 31 cases were reported.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C from being performed on girls younger than age 18, but it does not provide for protection to women ages 18 or older.

Prosecutions were rare. Many police officers and communities were unaware of the law, victims were often reluctant to testify, and some witnesses feared reprisals from FGM/C supporters. Some villagers reportedly bribed local leaders not to enforce the law in order to carry out FGM/C on their daughters. In 2019 the Ministry of Health reported that approximately 10 percent of women had undergone FGM/C. The areas with the highest rates of FGM/C were Manyara (58 percent), Dodoma (47 percent), Arusha (41 percent), Mara (32 percent), and Singida (31 percent). In March the government launched a four-year national strategy to end FGM by 2030.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment of women in the workplace. There were reports women were asked for sexual favors in return for promotions or to secure employment. According to the Women’s Legal Aid Center, police rarely investigated reported cases. Those cases that were investigated were often dropped before they got to court – in some instances by the plaintiffs due to societal pressure and in others by prosecutors due to lack of evidence. There were reports women were sexually harassed when campaigning for office, and one MP said that female MPs were subjected to sexual harassment frequently.

The LHRC’s 2020/2021 Human Rights and Business Report found that the issue of sexual harassment was among the most pressing matters facing women in the business sector. Women reported having to use their bodies to obtain relief and privileges at work, an issue primarily observed in Mara, Mbeya, Shinyanga, Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Dodoma Regions. The LHRC’s survey in Shinyanga also illustrated cases of sexual harassment against women in Chinese-owned mines, where women reported sexual harassment by Chinese workers and supervisors.

On June 1, Speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai ousted female Member of Parliament Condester Sichwale from a parliamentary session for allegedly dressing immodestly. Human rights stakeholders stated that these acts of humiliation discouraged women from appearing in large numbers within political leadership.

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

Less than one-third of married women used modern contraceptives. Nearly one in four women would like to prevent pregnancy but lacked access to family planning. Family planning, including contraceptives, are covered in the national health system. Reproductive conditions and levels of contraceptive use varied based on factors including education, income level, geographical area, and age. For instance, the fertility rate in rural areas was six children per woman and 3.8 children per woman in urban areas. Modern contraceptive use also varied geographically, from 51 percent of those currently married in the Southern Zone to 14 percent in Zanzibar. While 12 percent of adolescents started having sexual relations by age 15, and 60 percent by 18, only 8.6 percent of adolescent girls between ages 15 and 19 used modern contraceptive methods. One in four adolescent girls between ages 15 and 19 were already mothers or were pregnant with their first child. Of adolescents living in rural areas, 32 percent had a live birth or were pregnant, compared with 19 percent of those living in urban areas. Adolescence was associated with a high frequency of child marriage, insufficient knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, and restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services. Persons with disabilities (especially adolescents) had greater sexual and reproductive health needs than the general population due to lack of information and greater exposure to sexual abuse and rape, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and stigma. Access to sexual and reproductive health services was hindered by communication and environmental barriers, physical inaccessibility, and negative interaction with service providers including lack of confidentiality, mistreatment and disrespect, and inadequacy of service delivery.

Despite government efforts to improve the availability and quality of postabortion services, women and girls who suffered complications avoided seeking treatment due to being prosecuted, and many health-care providers were not aware they are legally allowed to provide treatment and that women have the right to such service.

Within the Reproductive and Child Health Unit in the Ministry of Health and implemented by the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, the government has national guidelines managing the health-sector response to and the prevention of gender-based violence. Health facilities trained on sex and gender-based violence and provided sexual and reproductive health information, as well as emergency contraceptive and prophylaxis to survivors of sexual violence, per standard operating procedures.

From 2007 to 2015, maternal mortality increased from 454 to 556 per 100,000 live births. Only 57 to 68 percent of pregnant women delivered with a skilled birth attendant. A recent study conducted in Lindi and Mtwara Regions in the southern part of the country found that traumatic and nontraumatic postpartum hemorrhage was the most common cause of maternal deaths: 51 percent of women died within 24 hours of delivery; 60 percent of those who died were ages 25 to 36; and 63 percent were lower-income rural inhabitants.

Many women had untreated obstructed fistula, a situation resulting in large part from deficiencies in the health system. Women attributed fistula development to negative experiences such as disrespectful maternity care. Multiple studies reported that women also perceived that their fistula resulted from prolonged wait times in the primary health-care facility due to nurses’ negligence and failure to make decisions to transfer them to a better prepared facility in a timely manner. Moreover, mothers reported persistent systematic barriers and dismissive institutional norms and practice, including poor communication, denial of husbands’ presence at birth, denial of mobility, denial of safe traditional practices, no respect for their preferred birth positions, and poor physical condition of facilities. Community stigma was another major factor that delayed women seeking obstetric fistula treatment.

Menstrual hygiene also remained a prohibitive factor for girls’ access to education, as most girls did not have access to feminine hygiene products and decided to remain home during their menstrual period. Schools did not provide comprehensive sexuality education, and students reported they did not have adequate information to prevent pregnancy. In addition many girls became pregnant as a result of rape. Under the Education and Training Policy launched by the government in 2015, pregnant girls may be reinstated in schools. In 2017, however, President Magufuli declared that girls would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth. Human rights NGOs criticized the policy as contrary to the country’s constitution and laws. This policy led to girls being excluded from educational opportunities, while the fathers of the babies were often their teachers or other older men who frequently did not suffer any consequences (see section 6, Children). On November 24, the government announced it would allow persons who had dropped out of school, including pregnant school-age girls and adolescent mothers, to return to the formal education system.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including in employment, housing, education, and health care, and the government generally enforced the law; however, the law also recognizes customary practices that often favor men.

While women faced discriminatory treatment in marriage, divorce, inheritance, and nationality, overt discrimination in education, credit, business ownership, and housing was uncommon. There are no legal restrictions on women’s employment in the same occupations, tasks, and working hours as men. Nevertheless, women, especially in rural areas, faced significant disadvantages due to cultural, historical, and educational factors.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or abroad if at least one parent is a citizen. Registration within three months of birth is free; parents who wait until later must pay a fee. Public services were not withheld from unregistered children. The Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency, in collaboration with the Tigo telecommunication company, facilitated birth registrations. The registration program continued, issuing 1.6 million birth certificates by year’s end in Shinyanga, Mbeya, Njombe, Mwanza, Iringa, Geita, and Temeke Regions.

Education: According to law, primary education is compulsory and universal on both the mainland and Zanzibar until age 13. Secondary school is tuition-free in Zanzibar but is not compulsory. The ruling CCM party manifesto includes a policy to provide fee-free education for primary and secondary students. Parents must still provide food, uniforms, and transportation.

Girls represented approximately one-half of all children enrolled in primary school but were absent more often than boys due to household duties and lack of sanitary facilities. At the secondary level, child, early, and forced marriage and pregnancy often caused girls to be expelled or otherwise prevented girls from finishing school (see section 6, Women, Reproductive Rights).

On June 22, the government announced its plans to direct its 54 Folk Development Colleges to act as an alternative education opportunity for secondary-school dropouts, including pregnant girls who had been expelled under Magufuli. President Hassan did not reverse the expulsion policy of her predecessor, but instead, amidst controversy, asserted that the government was providing an alternative education pathway. This announcement followed World Bank’s $500 million “Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project” loan to the country to improve access to quality education and retain children, especially young mothers, in secondary school. On November 24, the government announced that pregnant schoolgirls and adolescent mothers would be allowed to return to the formal education system. The change was part of a larger policy to promote the return of students who dropped out of school. In Zanzibar the Ministry of Education amended the Spinsters and Single Parents Protection Act of 2005 to allow pregnant school-age girls to return to school and continue their studies after delivery.

Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were major problems. Corporal punishment was employed in schools, and the law allows head teachers to cane students. The National Violence against Children Survey, conducted in 2009 (the most recent data available), found almost 75 percent of children experienced physical violence prior to age 18. There were no notable reports of government efforts to combat child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age for marriage at 18 for boys and 14 with parental consent for girls. The law makes it illegal to marry a primary or secondary school student. To circumvent these laws, individuals reportedly bribed police or paid a bride price to the family of the girl to avoid prosecution. According to Human Rights Watch, girls as young as age seven were married. Zanzibar has its own law on marriage, but it does not specifically address child, early, and forced marriage. The government provided secondary school-level education campaigns on gender-based violence, which included information on child, early, and forced marriage.

In 2019 the Court of Appeal rejected a government appeal to retain provisions in the law, which would have permitted girls as young as 14 to marry with parental consent, instead ruling that the act was unconstitutional and discriminatory towards girls. The government was supposed to set the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls to 18 and remove the parental consent exceptions provision for marriage before the age of 18 but as of year’s end had not amended the law.

The Women’s Legal Aid Center reported increasing patterns of early marriage within refugee camps, further complicated by laws of the child, which refer to children as under 18. The marriage law, however, allows girls to marry at age 14.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes commercial sexual exploitation of children, including prostitution, sexual exhibitions, and child pornography. During the year there were no reported prosecutions based on this law. The law provides that sexual intercourse with a child younger than 18 is rape unless within a legal marriage. The law was not always enforced because cases were not always reported or because girls, facing pressure, dropped charges. For example, there were accounts of statutory rapes of girls that went unreported in Zanzibar. There were unofficial reports that the number of cases of statutory rapes in Zanzibar increased, but there were no official statistics to substantiate those claims.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide continued, especially among poor rural mothers who believed themselves unable to afford to raise a child. Nationwide statistics were not available.

Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, large numbers of children were living and working on the street, especially in cities and near the borders. After data collection throughout 26 regions and 138 districts, the ministry reported 29,983 children were living in hazardous conditions during the year. These children had limited access to health and education services because they lacked a fixed address or money to purchase medicines, school uniforms, and books. They were also vulnerable to sexual abuse. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, during the year, 15,365 displaced children received necessities, including food, clothing, education, and health services, from a combination of government and private organizations.

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.

Trafficking in Persons

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

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

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized. The law on both the mainland and Zanzibar punishes “gross indecency” by up to five years in prison or a fine. The law punishes any person convicted of having “carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature or permits a man to have carnal knowledge of him against the order of nature” with a prison sentence on the mainland of 30 years to life and in Zanzibar of imprisonment up to 14 years. In Zanzibar the law provides for imprisonment up to five years or a fine for “acts of lesbianism.” In the past courts charged individuals suspected of same-sex sexual conduct with loitering or prostitution. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Police often harassed persons believed to be LGBTQI+ based on their dress or manners.

In March 2020 seven men were arrested for same-sex sexual conduct and were purportedly subjected to forced anal exams. In July the case was dismissed after the prosecution failed to summon the doctor to the court to provide medical evidence of same-sex sexual conduct.

In June the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Coalition Tanzania reported the death of a transgender woman, age 26, whose identity was uncovered. She was found dead in Kinondoni District, Dar es Salaam. Activists believed this person was killed due to their gender expression and identity.

LGBTQI+ persons were afraid to report violence and other crimes, including those committed by state agents, due to fear of arrest. LGBTQI+ persons faced societal discrimination that restricted their access to health care, including access to information regarding HIV, housing, and employment. There were no known government efforts to combat such discrimination (see section 2.f., Refoulement).

NGOs and civil society organizations serving LGBTQI+ persons and key populations continued to face occasional harassment. While there was continuing fear among these NGOs to operate freely and openly, they reported remaining relatively free from targeting and deregistration by authorities under President Hassan. There were no safe houses or shelters in Zanzibar for LGBTQI+ persons facing discrimination, violence, or abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. In 2017 authorities filed a case against two women in Mwanza who exchanged rings in an engagement ceremony that was recorded and posted on social media. The case was withdrawn without being heard in 2018 and then reopened as a new case in 2019. The case continued as of year’s end.

Uganda

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, which is punishable by life imprisonment or death. The law does not address spousal rape. The law defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl without her consent.” Men accused of raping men are tried under a section of the law that prohibits “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” The law also criminalizes domestic violence and provides up to two years’ imprisonment for conviction.

Rape remained a common problem throughout the country, and the government did not effectively enforce the law. Local media reported numerous incidents of rape, often involving kidnapping and killings of women, but authorities were often unable to investigate and hold perpetrators accountable. Local media often reported that perpetrators of rape included persons in authority, such as religious leaders, local government officials, police and military officers, health-care workers, and academic staff. According to local media and human rights activists, many rape survivors lacked faith in government institutions to bring their abusers to justice and declined to report the crime, while others remained silent to avoid stigmatization. Human rights activists and local media reported that, even when women reported cases of rape to police, officers blamed the women for causing the rape by dressing indecently, took bribes from the alleged perpetrators to stop the investigation and to pressure the survivors into withdrawing the cases, or simply dismissed the accusations and refused to record them. According to human rights activists, police personnel lacked the required skills for collection, preservation, and management of forensic evidence in sexual violence cases. Human rights activists also reported that some police stations lacked female officers on the staff, which discouraged rape survivors from reporting their cases. On March 16, local media reported that police in Moroto District arrested one of its officers, Moses Steven Ebu, on allegations of rape. According to local media, the survivor sought refuge at Camp Swahili Police Post after she was unable to find public transport home before curfew. Ebu allegedly raped her at the police post. On March 18, local media reported that police had arraigned Ebu in court and charged him with rape. The trial continued at year’s end.

Human rights activists also noted that government restrictions on movement to combat COVID-19 made it difficult for survivors to report rape or access postexposure prophylaxis after rape. Local government officials, academics, and journalists reported that gender-based violence was common and worsened during restrictions to combat COVID-19. Human rights activists reported that the restrictions increased poverty for many households, which raised tensions and conflict in domestic settings, particularly violence against women. The activists also reported that during the June to July COVID-19 lockdown, some survivor support centers closed and rendered many survivors unable to access help. On September 1, local media reported that military officer Samuel Ojara shot and killed himself after he had shot and killed a 20-year-old woman identified as Sharon Okello in what the police stated was an attempted rape.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and establishes a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators, or life imprisonment if the victim dies; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. According to the 2016 Demographics and Health Survey, 0.3 percent of the female population younger than age 50 had undergone FGM/C. Local media and government officials, however, reported that the practice was common among some communities along the eastern border with Kenya. Government officials reported that some parents and cultural leaders in the Karamoja subregion used the school closures due to COVID-19 to force teenage girls to undergo FGM/C, which led many girls to flee into neighboring Kenya. Local government leaders also reported that some cultural leaders in Amudat District traveled to Kenya on the pretext of celebrating the end-of-year December-January holiday season and subjected girls to FGM/C. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that COVID-19 lockdowns exacerbated FGM/C incidents by enabling practitioners to carry out the practice in hiding. UNFPA also reported that the government had committed $55,000 to interventions against FGM/C in the Sebei subregion. The resident district commissioner in Amudat District announced on February 25 that the government had recruited a network of informers in communities throughout the district who would strengthen surveillance and enforcement efforts against FGM/C. UNICEF reported that it was working with 20 young men married to women who did not undergo FGM/C as social ambassadors to convince communities that FGM/C was unnecessary.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: According to local media and human rights activists, violence against widows was prevalent. The activists reported that widows in remote areas complained that their deceased husband’s families forced them to marry their brothers-in-law to compensate for the bride price paid to their families. The law does not explicitly provide widows with the opportunity to consent before marrying their brothers-in-law. Local media also reported that many widows in remote areas experienced sexual violence at the hands of their deceased husband’s family and lost their rights to property (see section 6, Discrimination).

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but authorities did not effectively enforce the law. Sexual harassment was a widespread problem in homes, schools, universities, workplaces, public transport, public spaces, media, and in the music and entertainment industry. Local media reported numerous incidents of senior executives, public servants in the legislature and judiciary, and music producers who demanded sexual favors from female subordinates in exchange for job retention, promotion, and nomination for official trips. On May 7, parliament called for the prosecution of philanthropist Bryan Kirumira, also known as Bryan White, after parliament’s Committee on Human Rights found that he sexually harassed women he employed in his charity, the Bryan White Foundation. The committee found that the military and police provided Kirumura with protection, which intimidated survivors and deterred them from seeking justice. The public prosecutor had not brought any charges against Kirumira by year’s end.

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

Human rights activists reported that although persons with disabilities had the right to access reproductive services, the absence of health workers with the ability to communicate with blind and deaf patients meant that many persons with disabilities did not receive all the information they needed regarding reproductive health services. LGBTQI+ activists reported that members of the community were able to provide informed consent before receiving reproductive health treatment. LGBTQI+ activists also reported that police officers carried out forced anal examinations against some members of the LGBTQI+ community (see section 1.c. and section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.)

Local media and human rights activists reported that cultural practices in some remote areas impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services. On May 21, local media reported that some women in Amudat District complained that their husbands prevented them from accessing reproductive health services because they wanted to have as many children as possible. Human rights activists reported the COVID-19 lockdown led to closure of some reproductive health service providers and prevented many women from accessing reproductive health services. The activists also reported that women in remote areas where there were few health-care providers found it difficult to access reproductive health information. LGBTQI+ activists reported that some public health officials declined to provide health services, including reproductive health services, to LGBTQI+ persons.

Human rights activists reported that some police Family and Child Protection units often ran out of postexposure prophylaxis for rape survivors and many public health-care facilities lacked emergency contraception medication.

Maternal mortality was 375 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and local civil society organizations. Media attributed the high rate to a lack of access to skilled medical care for pregnant women, a preference for traditional birth attendants over skilled medical workers, and unsafe abortions. Human rights activists reported that travel restrictions to combat COVID-19 prevented many women, especially in remote areas, from accessing neonatal and prenatal health care. According to the WHO, adolescent birth rates were high, at 111.4 per 1,000 girls for the period 2011 to 2020. According to human rights activists and the WHO, statutory rape, child sexual exploitation, a high rate of school dropouts that led to and was also caused by teenage pregnancies, limited knowledge of contraception among teenagers, and school closures due to COVID-19 countermeasures were among the causes.

There were social and cultural barriers related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene that impacted girls’ ability to participate equally in society including many limits on girls’ access to education. Local media reported many girls lacked access to menstrual hygiene materials, including sanitary towels. This caused many to suffer stigmatization and bullying, which led many to drop out of school. Local media and child rights activists reported that girls who became pregnant while in school almost always dropped out of school. According to child rights activists, public and private schools dismissed and declined to readmit girls who became pregnant while in school. On March 26, local media reported that the government had adopted a new policy directing that all girls who become pregnant while in school would undergo mandatory maternity leave at three months of the pregnancy and would return to school six months after delivery. The new policy also directed that a boy responsible for the pregnancy would simultaneously drop out of school until the girl returned. The government also advised that girls change school after giving birth to avoid stigmatization (see section 6, Children).

Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Human rights activists reported numerous cases of discrimination against women, including in divorce, employment, education, and owning or managing businesses and property. Many customary laws discriminate against women in adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Under customary laws in many areas, widowed women cannot own or inherit property or retain custody of their children. Traditional divorce law in many areas requires women to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men to prove adultery. In some ethnic groups, men can “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers. The law does not recognize cohabiting relationships, and women involved in such relationships had no judicial recourse to protect their rights.

Children

Birth Registration: The law accords citizenship to children born inside or outside the country if at least one parent or grandparent is a citizen at the time of birth. Abandoned children younger than age 18 with no known parents are considered citizens, as are children younger than 18 adopted by citizens.

The law requires citizens to register a birth within three months. Lack of birth registration generally did not result in denial of public services, although some primary schools, especially those in urban centers, required birth certificates for enrollment. Enrollment in public secondary schools, universities, and other tertiary institutions required birth certificates.

Education: The law provides for compulsory education through the completion of primary school by age 13, and the government provided tuition-free education in select public primary and secondary schools (ages six to 18 years). Parents, however, were required to provide lunch and schooling materials for their children, and many parents could not afford such expenses. Local media and civil society organizations reported that child, early, and forced marriages and teenage pregnancy led to a higher rate of school dropouts for girls than for boys (see section 6, Women). Local media, private school proprietors, opposition politicians, and activists reported that government efforts to provide virtual learning to children during a school closure as part of measures to fight COVID-19, including providing lessons on broadcast media and printing classwork in the newspapers, denied children from poor backgrounds the opportunity to learn as their families could not afford radios or printed materials. Opposition politicians and child rights activists also reported that some schools switched to online classes during the closure, which denied learning opportunities to children whose parents could not afford internet connections.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits numerous forms of child abuse and provides monetary fines, five years’ imprisonment, or both for persons convicted of abusing children’s rights. Victims’ parents, however, often opted to settle cases out of court for a cash or in-kind payment. Corporal punishment in schools is illegal. The law also provides for protection of children from hazardous employment and harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and FGM/C. Despite the law, a pattern of child abuse existed in sexual assault, physical abuse, ritual killings, early marriage, FGM/C, child trafficking, infanticide, and child labor, among other abuses. Traditional healers (witch doctors) kidnapped and killed children to use their organs for ancestral worship. Child rights activists reported cases in which wealthy entrepreneurs and politicians paid traditional healers to sacrifice children to ensure their continued wealth and then bribed police officers to stop the investigations. Child rights activists reported that COVID-19-related school closures led to an increase in child abuse incidents in homes and communities, especially through the increased use of beatings as a disciplinary measure, child neglect, and child sexual exploitation. The government operated a tollfree helpline to which it encouraged survivors and witnesses of child abuse to call and report.

The Lord’s Resistance Army, an armed group of Ugandan origin operating in the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, continued to hold children against their will.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but authorities generally did not enforce this law. Child marriages were prevalent and became even more so during school closures introduced as a measure to address COVID-19. According to UNICEF in 2017, 40 percent of girls were married before age 18 and 10 percent were married before age 15. According to local media reports, local government officials blamed families and some community leaders for concealing child marriage cases, which they supported as a cultural practice. Numerous government officials in the central and local governments regularly joined efforts led by child rights activists and cultural leaders to speak out and sensitize communities against child marriages. District probation officers at local governments also supported efforts led by child rights activists to rescue children from forced marriages and keep them in shelters before their gradual reintegration into communities.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, the sale and procurement of sexual services, and practices related to child pornography. It sets the minimum age for consensual sex at 18 years. The law defines “statutory rape” as any sexual contact outside marriage with a child younger than 18, regardless of consent or age of the perpetrator. The government did not enforce the law effectively, however, and the problem was pervasive. Child rights activists reported that as many teenage students turned to online lessons after school closures, cases of online sexual exploitation increased. Local media and child rights activists also reported that despite bans on bars operating, some bar owners continued to operate clandestinely and exploited children in sex trafficking.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Local media reported that intersex children were at high risk of infanticide and that some parents of children with disabilities abandoned them in the bush or threw them in pit latrines to die. Local media also reported numerous incidents of killings of children for use in ancestral worship. The law criminalizes infanticide or infanticide of children with disabilities, but authorities sporadically enforced the law.

Displaced Children: Local civil society organizations and media reported that poverty and famine drove families in the remote northeast Karamoja region to send many children to Kampala to find work and beg on the streets. Civil society organizations reported that traffickers often manipulated families in Karamoja to sell their children to traffickers for 50,000 shillings ($13.90) with promises the children would obtain a good education or a profitable job. Instead, traffickers forced the children to beg on the streets of Kampala or other major cities and gave them almost none of what they earned. Kampala City authorities worked with civil society organizations to return Karamojong street children to their families, but often the families soon returned the children to the streets because families partly depended on the children’s collections to maintain their households. Local media and child rights activists also reported increased numbers of children living on the streets in other towns, such as Mbale, Lira, and Gulu, where a lack of rehabilitation facilities frustrated local government efforts to remove the children from the streets.

Institutionalized Children: Police announced on November 22 that they had shut down several children’s shelters where they rescued more than 90 children whom ISIS-DRC supporters were attempting to radicalize.

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.

Trafficking in Persons

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

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

LGBTQI+ persons faced discrimination, legal restrictions, harassment, violence, and intimidation. Authorities incited, perpetrated, and tolerated violence against LGBTQI+ individuals and blocked some meetings organized by LGBTQI+ persons and activists. On May 31, police officers raided the Happy Family Youth Uganda LGBTQI+ shelter in Wakiso District outside Kampala and arrested 44 individuals – 36 men and 8 women – celebrating what was alleged to be a gay engagement ceremony. Amateur video footage recorded at the scene showed a plainclothes police officer verbally abusing and mocking the detainees. Police announced that it would charge the individuals with “a negligent act likely to spread an infectious disease” for disobeying COVID-19 restrictions. On June 1, however, a police doctor subjected some of the detainees to forced anal examinations. On June 7, a court released the detainees on bail, and the court dismissed the case in November.

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized according to a colonial-era law that criminalizes “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and provides for a penalty of up to life imprisonment. Attempts to “commit unnatural offences,” as laid out in the law, are punishable with seven years’ imprisonment. The government occasionally enforced the law.

Local media and LGBTQI+ organizations reported that some hospitals and religious institutions offered and subjected LGBTQI+ persons to conversion therapy. Local media also reported that intersex children were at a high risk of infanticide.

Although the law does not restrict freedoms of expression or peaceful assembly for those speaking out in support of the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons, the government severely restricted such rights.

The law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, or access to government services.

Local civil society organizations reported that public and private health-care services turned away LGBTQI+ persons who sought medication and some health-care providers led community members to beat LGBTQI+ persons who sought health care. Local civil society organizations reported that some LGBTQI+ persons needed to pay bribes to public health-care providers before they received treatment.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future