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Angola

Executive Summary

Angola is a constitutional republic. In August 2017 the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola party won presidential and legislative elections with 61 percent of the vote. The ruling party’s presidential candidate Joao Lourenco took the oath of office for a five-year term in September 2017, and the party retained a supermajority in the National Assembly. Domestic and international observers reported polling throughout the country was peaceful and generally credible, although the ruling party enjoyed advantages due to state control of major media and other resources. The Constitutional Court rejected opposition parties’ legal petitions alleging irregularities during the provincial-level vote count and a lack of transparent decision making by the National Electoral Commission.

The national police, controlled by the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for internal security and law enforcement. The Criminal Investigation Services, also under the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for preventing and investigating domestic crimes. The Expatriate and Migration Services and the Border Guard Police within the Ministry of Interior are responsible for law enforcement relating to migration. The state intelligence and security service reports to the presidency and investigates state security matters. The Angolan Armed Forces are responsible for external security but also have domestic security responsibilities, including border security, expulsion of irregular migrants, and small-scale actions against groups such as the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda separatists in Cabinda. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by government security forces; forced disappearance; cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by government security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious restrictions on free expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence or unjustified arrests against journalists and criminal libel laws; interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; serious acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons.

The government took significant steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses as well as those who were involved in corruption. Nevertheless, accountability for human rights abuses was limited due to a lack of checks and balances, lack of institutional capacity, a culture of impunity, and government corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented the law effectively. The government dismissed and prosecuted cabinet ministers, provincial governors, senior military officers, and other officials for corruption and financial crimes. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. The Attorney General’s Office continued corruption investigations and brought criminal charges against several officials. Nonetheless, official impunity and the uniform application of anticorruption legislation remained a serious problem.

Corruption: In April authorities sentenced the minister of social communications under former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Manuel Rabelais, to 14 years and six months in prison for embezzlement and money laundering committed in a foreign exchange scheme between 2016 and 2017.

In late May President Lourenco dismissed his minister of state and seven other high-level military officials following the arrest of a military major attempting to leave the country with two suitcases full of money. In June 2020 other provincial government and military officials in Cuando Cubango were also detained as part of the same investigation.

In July Attorney General Helder Pitta Gros announced in a press conference that the government had been able to freeze more than 550 billion kwanza (one billion dollars) that had been stolen and deposited in foreign banks. He noted that the funds would be repatriated following legal proceedings.

Carlos Manuel de Sao Vicente, former head of the insurance company AAA Seguros, remained in custody after a September 2020 arrest for alleged money laundering.

On September 21, the former chairman of the board of directors of the Luanda Collective and Urban Transport Company, Abel Antonio Cosme, was extradited by Portugal to the country. Although he was released from custody on September 29 after paying more than nine million kwanza ($16,500) in bail, his extradition was the first of its type to the country for corruption charges.

Laws and regulations regarding conflict of interest exist, but they were not enforced. Petty corruption among police, teachers, and other government employees was widespread. Police extorted money from citizens and refugees, and prison officials extorted money from family members of inmates.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated throughout the country. Some groups investigating government corruption and human rights abuses alleged government interference in their activities, particularly in provinces outside of Luanda. Civil society organizations faced fewer difficulties in contacting detainees than in previous years, and prison authorities permitted civil society work in the prisons, but COVID-19 preventive measures forced limited access by some civil society groups.

The law requires NGOs to specify their mandate and areas of activity. The government used this provision to prevent or discourage established NGOs from engaging in certain activities, especially those that the government deemed politically sensitive.

The government allowed local NGOs to carry out human rights-related work, but many NGOs reported they were forced to limit the scope of their work because they faced problems registering, were subjected to subtle forms of intimidation, and risked more serious forms of harassment and closure.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The state-funded Interministerial Commission for the Writing of Human Rights Reports included representatives from various government ministries. Leading civil society members decided not to participate on the commission because they did not believe the commission was independent or effective.

The 10th Commission on Human Rights of the National Assembly is charged with investigating citizen complaints of alleged human rights violations and makes recommendations to the National Assembly.

An Office of the Ombudsman, with a national jurisdiction, existed to mediate between an aggrieved public, including prisoners, and an offending public office or institution. The office had representative offices open in the provinces of Cabinda, Kwanza-Sul, Cunene, Huambo, and Luanda. It had neither decision-making nor adjudicative powers but helped citizens obtain access to justice, advised government entities on citizen rights, and published reports. These reports are presented annually to the National Assembly. The ombudsman is elected by the National Assembly.

During the year the government began the implementation and training of local human rights committees at the provincial, municipal, and communal levels. These committees were composed of government representatives, civil society members, journalists, religious representatives, and traditional authorities. The committees are tasked with gathering information and reporting monthly on human rights issues within their area.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and intimate partner rape, is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years’ imprisonment if convicted, depending on aggravating situations. Limited investigative resources, poor forensic capabilities, and an ineffective judicial system prevented prosecution of most cases. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights worked with the Ministry of Interior to increase the number of female police officers and to improve police response to rape allegations.

The law criminalizes domestic violence and penalizes offenders with prison sentences of up to eight years and monetary fines, depending on the severity of their crime. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights maintained a program with the Angolan Bar Association to give free legal assistance to abused women and established counseling centers to help families cope with domestic abuse.

According to the Ministry of Social Assistance, from January to August there were 639 reports of family-based violence, of which 588 victims were women. Reports decreased significantly from 2020, which reported more than 1,000 cases through May. Prosecutions were reportedly rare. In October the ministry joined an education campaign started by musician Sarissari called “Silencio Mata” (Silence Kills), which aimed to raise the awareness of domestic violence in the country.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There were anecdotal reports that some communities abused women and children due to accusations the latter practiced witchcraft. The Ministry of Culture and the National Institute for Children (INAC) had educational initiatives and emergency programs to assist children accused of witchcraft.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common and not illegal. It may be prosecuted, however, under assault and battery and defamation statutes.

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

Persons living in rural areas faced more barriers to access of sexual and reproductive health services and postabortion emergency services than urban dwellers due to a lack of resources and health programs in those areas. According to 2015-16 World Health Organization (WHO) data, 62 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 made their own informed decisions regarding reproductive health care, contraceptive use, and sexual relations. Some cultural views, such as that women have a responsibility to bear children, and religious objections to using contraception limited access to reproductive health services. The WHO reported there were four nursing and midwifery personnel per 10,000 inhabitants in the country (2010-18 data). For survivors of sexual violence, the law on domestic violence provides for legal and medical assistance, access to shelter spaces, and priority care assistance to obtain legal evidence of the crime. Emergency contraception was available as clinical management of rape.

According to a 2017 WHO report, the country’s maternal mortality rate was 241 deaths per 100,000 live births, which was a significant reduction from 431 deaths in 2007 and 827 deaths in 2000. High maternal mortality was due to inadequate access to health facilities before, during, and after giving birth, a lack of skilled obstetric care, and early pregnancy. The WHO data reported a high adolescent birth rate of 163 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. A UN Population Fund report found that six of 10 teenage girls who abandoned school did so due to pregnancy. According to 2010-19 data, 30 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods. UNICEF reported in 2016 that 50 percent of births in the country were attended by skilled health personnel.

According to an official in the Ministry of Public Administration, Labor, and Social Security, lack of running water and sanitary facilities at some schools disproportionately affected teenage girls, causing them to not attend school for several days each month while they are having their period. The cumulative effect of lost class time was detrimental to their success in school, leading struggling students to drop out and enter the work force.

Discrimination: Under the constitution and law, women enjoy the same rights and legal status as men. The government, however, did not enforce the law effectively, and societal discrimination against women remained a problem, particularly in rural areas. Customary law prevailed over civil law, particularly in rural areas, and at times had a negative effect on a woman’s legal right to inherit property.

The law provides for equal pay for equal work, although women generally held low-level positions. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment in occupations and industries compared to men, including in jobs deemed hazardous, factory jobs, and those in the mining, agriculture, and energy sectors. The Ministry of Social Assistance led an interministerial information campaign on women’s rights and domestic abuse and hosted national, provincial, and municipal workshops and training sessions.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The penal code revision that took effect in February has several provisions that criminalize discrimination based on skin color, race, and ethnicity. The Human Rights National Plan 2020-2022 contains policies to mitigate racial discrimination. Reports of racial or ethnic violence were rare.

Indigenous Peoples

The constitution does not specifically refer to the rights of indigenous persons, and no specific law protects their rights and ecosystems. One NGO estimated that 14,000 members of the San indigenous group scattered among the southern provinces of Huila, Cunene, Cuando Cubango, and Moxico suffered discrimination and lacked adequate access to basic government services, including medical care, education, and identification cards.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or from one’s parents. The government does not register all births immediately. According to the 2014 census, approximately 13.7 million citizens (46 percent of the population) lacked birth registration documents. Since 2019 the government’s birth registration and identity document campaign provided 1.9 million persons with their first identity documents. During the year the government continued programs to improve the rate of birth registration through on-site registries located in maternity hospitals in all 18 provinces with a campaign called “Born with Registration.” The government also trained midwives in rural areas to complete temporary registration documents for subsequent conversion into official birth certificates. The government permitted children to attend school without birth registration, but only through the sixth grade.

Education: Education is tuition-free and compulsory for documented children through the ninth grade. Students in public schools often faced significant additional expenses such as books or irregular fees paid directly to education officials to guarantee a place. When parents were unable to pay the fees, their children were often unable to attend school. The Ministry of Education estimated that one to two million children did not attend school because of a shortage of teachers and schools.

There were reports that parents, especially in more rural areas, were more likely to send boys to school rather than girls. According to UNESCO, enrollment rates were higher for boys than for girls, especially at the secondary level.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Reports of physical abuse within the family were commonplace, and local officials largely tolerated abuse due to lack of capacity within institutions to provide appropriate care. The Ministry of Social Assistance offers programs for child abuse victims and other vulnerable children. Nevertheless, nationwide implementation of such programs remained a problem.

In 2020 INAC launched a hotline called “SOS Child” to report violence against children. INAC reported that between June 2020 and June, the hotline received 4,274 reports of sexual violence against children.

According to the local UNICEF office, there were reports that more than 50,000 children suffered from some form of child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage with parental consent is 15 for girls and 16 for boys. The government did not enforce this restriction effectively, and the traditional age of marriage among lower income groups coincided with the onset of puberty. According to UNICEF, 6 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or in union before the age of 18, 30 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or in union by the age of 18, and 7 percent of women between the age of 20 and 24 were married or in union by the age of 15.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children is illegal. Police did not actively enforce laws against commercial sexual exploitation, and local NGOs expressed concern regarding the sexual exploitation of children. The law prohibits the use of children to produce pornography; however, it does not prohibit the procuring or offering of a child for the production of pornography, or the use, procuring, or offering of a child for pornographic performances.

Sexual relations between an adult and a child younger than 12 are considered rape, and conviction carries a potential penalty of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment. Sexual relations with a child between the ages of 12 and 17 are considered sexual abuse and convicted offenders may receive sentences from two to eight years in prison. The legal age for consensual sex is 18. Limited investigative resources and an inadequate judicial system prevented prosecution of most cases. There were reports of prosecutions during the year.

Displaced Children: Extreme poverty and the economic decline during recent years led to an increase in the number of children living on the street, especially in urban areas of the capital. These children, estimated to number from the hundreds to several thousand, did not have access to health care or education, often resorted to begging or trash picking for survival, and lived in conditions placing them at great risk for exploitation. During the year INAC met with former street children to better understand the problem and to formulate a plan to address the growing issue.

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.

Anti-Semitism

There is a Jewish community of approximately 350 persons, primarily resident Israelis. 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 law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. The constitution grants persons with disabilities full rights without restriction and calls on the government to adopt national policies to prevent disability; treat, rehabilitate, and integrate persons with disabilities; to support their families; remove obstacles to their mobility; educate society regarding disability; and encourage learning and training opportunities for persons with disabilities.

The law requires changes to public buildings, transportation, and communications to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities. The law also institutes a quota system to encourage the public and private sectors to employ more persons with disabilities, with the public-sector quota at 4 percent of total employees and the private-sector quota set at 2 percent. Civil society organizations and persons with disabilities, however, reported the government failed to enforce the law, and significant barriers to access remained.

The government official responsible for overseeing programs to promote inclusion for persons with disabilities acknowledged that both the private and public sectors failed to meet the quota system established by law. The Angolan Disabled Persons National Association, an NGO that promotes the rights of persons with disabilities, said in a March interview that discrimination, physical, and psychological barriers impeded persons with disabilities from having access to work, education, and public transportation.

Persons with disabilities included more than 80,000 survivors of land mines and other explosive remnants of war. According to the 2014 census, there were 656,258 persons with disabilities in the country. Because of limited government resources and uneven availability, only 30 percent of such persons were able to take advantage of state-provided services such as physical rehabilitation, schooling, training, or counseling.

Persons with disabilities found it difficult to access public or private facilities, and it was difficult for such persons to find employment or participate in the education system. Women with disabilities were reported to be vulnerable to sexual abuse and abandonment when pregnant. The Ministry of Social Assistance sought to address problems facing persons with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, and several government entities supported programs to assist individuals disabled by landmine incidents.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against those with HIV or AIDS is illegal, but lack of enforcement allowed employers to discriminate against persons with HIV. There were no media reports of violence against persons with HIV. Reports from local and international health NGOs suggested discrimination against persons with HIV was common. The government’s National Institute to Fight HIV/AIDS included sensitivity and antidiscrimination training for its employees when they test and counsel HIV patients.

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

The constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination but does not specifically address sexual orientation or gender identity. On February 11, changes to the penal code took effect that decriminalize same-sex sexual relations and criminalize acts of violence or discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation. Transgender and intersex persons are not specifically covered in the new legislation, nor does it recognize same-sex marriage, leading to problems in adoption and family planning, accompanying family into health-care facilities, and obtaining appropriate identity documents.

Local NGOs reported that LGBTQI+ persons faced violence, discrimination, and harassment. The government, through its health agencies, instituted a series of initiatives to decrease discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons.

Discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons was rarely reported, and when reported, LGBTQI+ persons asserted that sometimes police refused to register their grievances. The Ministry of Health continued to collaborate with the National Institute to Fight HIV/AIDS to improve access to health services and sexual education for the LGBTQI+ community.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers, except members of the armed forces, police, firefighters, members of sovereign bodies, and public prosecutors to form and join independent unions. To establish a trade union, at least 30 percent of workers in an economic sector in a province must follow a registration process and obtain authorization from government officials. The law provides for the right to collective bargaining except in the civil service. The law prohibits strikes by members of the armed forces, police, prosecutors and magistrates of the Attorney General’s Office, prison staff, fire fighters, public-sector employees providing “essential services,” and oil workers. Essential services are broadly defined, including the transport sector, communications, waste management and treatment, and fuel distribution. In exceptional circumstances involving national interests, authorities have the power to requisition workers in the essential services sector. The law does not explicitly prohibit employer interference with union activity.

While the law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference, it also places some restrictions on their ability to strike. Before engaging in a strike, workers must negotiate with their employer for at least 20 days prior to a work stoppage. Should they fail to negotiate, the government may deny the right to strike. The government may intervene in labor disputes that affect national security and energy sectors. Collective labor disputes are to be settled through compulsory arbitration by the Ministry of Public Administration, Labor, and Social Security (Ministry of Labor). The law prohibits employer retribution against strikers, but it does not contain effective measures to deter such retribution. The law permits the government to force workers back to work for “breaches of worker discipline” or participation in unauthorized strikes. Nonetheless, the law prohibits antiunion discrimination and stipulates that worker complaints should be adjudicated in the labor court. The Ministry of Labor had a hotline and two service centers in Luanda for workers who believed their rights had been violated. By law employers are required to reinstate workers who have been dismissed for union activities.

During the year there were several strikes in the public and private sector over disputes between employers and workers. There were also allegations of retribution against strikers during the year. On August 9, workers of the National Company of Electricity Distribution (ENDE) went on strike to demand better working conditions and for an increase in salary and benefits. Union delegates reported that ENDE threatened to fire workers if they joined the strike, in particular workers hired within the last two years.

The government generally did not effectively enforce labor laws. Labor courts functioned but were overburdened by a backlog of cases and inadequate resources. The law provides for penalties for violations of the law and labor contracts, which are commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, but the penalties were not an effective deterrent due to the inefficient functioning of the courts.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not generally respected. Government approval is required to form and join unions, which were hampered by membership and legalization issues. Labor unions, independent of those run by the government, worked to increase their influence, but the ruling MPLA party dominated the labor movement because of its historical close relationship with labor unions and from the strong financial base of the nation’s largest union, of which the MPLA is a part.

The government was the country’s largest employer, and the Ministry of Labor mandated government worker wages with no negotiation with the unions. In September 2020 President Joao Lourenco created an advisory body, the Economic and Social Council, with 45 members representing large sectors of the country’s society but did not include labor representatives. Public-sector labor unions used strikes and protests to advance labor rights. For example, in May a group of public-sector labor unions began a strike in four provinces to protest salaries that the unions said had remained too low for 10 years. In September the Angola Union of Justice Clerks announced a general strike over staff shortages, salary stagnation, and working conditions. After the government agreed to start negotiations with these groups, the unions called off the strikes.

On July 30, municipal and provincial judges and public prosecutors protested in Luanda and Malanje Provinces against the deterioration of working conditions and benefit cuts, including health insurance. The president of the National Union of Public Prosecutors said that although the law did not allow them to strike, they would use protests and other means to pressure the government to solve their problems.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and sets penalties commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes. The government did not effectively enforce the law due in part to an insufficient number of inspectors and to systemic corruption.

Forced labor of men and women occurred in fisheries, agriculture, construction, domestic service, and artisanal diamond-mining sectors, particularly in Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul Provinces. Migrant workers were subject to seizure of passports, threats, denial of food, and confinement. Forced child labor occurred (see section 7.c.).

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 law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and provides for a minimum age of employment (age 14), which applies to all sectors. To obtain an employment contract, the law requires youth to submit evidence they are 14 or older. Children may work from age 14 to age 18 with parental permission, or without parental consent if they are married, and the work does not interfere with schooling or harm the physical, mental, and moral development of the minor. Children ages 14 to 16 may work no more than six hours per day or 34 hours per week; children ages 16 to 18 may work up to seven hours per day or 39 hours per week. Children are also prohibited from working between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. and are prohibited from performing shift work. The law also allows orphan children who want to work to get official permission in the form of a letter from “an appropriate institution,” but it does not specify the type of institution. The Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Social Assistance, Ministry of Interior, INAC, and the national police are responsible for enforcement of child labor laws.

In August the Council of Ministers approved a redesigned National Action Plan for the Eradication of Child Labor for 2021-2025 with the goal of combatting and preventing child labor through social assistance, education, victim advocacy, and finance the enforcement and prosecution of child labor.

The government did not effectively monitor the large informal sector, where most child labor occurred. Penalties were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes. The government did not consistently enforce the law, and child labor remained a problem, especially in the informal sector. Between January and March, INAC registered more than 3,000 cases of hazardous child labor on farms involving the handling of chemicals, stones, and bricks, as well as working as street vendors and beggars, and reported the cases to law enforcement but acknowledged that the real number was likely much higher. The Ministry of Labor has oversight of formal work sites in all 18 provinces, but it was unknown whether inspectors examined the age of workers or conditions of work sites. If the ministry determined a business was using child labor, it transferred the case to the Ministry of Interior to investigate and possibly press charges. It was not known whether the government fined any businesses for using child labor.

Child labor occurred in agriculture on family and commercial farms as well as in fishing, brick making, artisanal diamond mining, charcoal production, domestic labor, construction, and street vending. Exploitive labor practices included involvement in the sale, transport, and offloading of goods in ports and across border posts. Children were forced to work as couriers in the illegal cross-border trade with Namibia. Adult criminals sometimes used children for forced criminal activity, since the justice system prohibits minors younger than 12 from being tried in court.

Street work by children was common, especially in the provinces of Luanda, Benguela, Huambo, Huila, and Kwanza Sul. Investigators found children working in the streets of Luanda. Most of these children shined shoes, washed cars, carried water and other goods, or engaged in other informal labor, but some resorted to petty crime and begging. Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred as well (see section 6).

The incidence of child labor increased in the southern provinces due to a severe drought. In Cunene Province, children were forced to leave school and work as herders or dig wells and fetch water. The drought and the accompanying economic devastation increased the risk of exploitation of vulnerable persons in the province; one NGO in Cunene said the drought led many boys to seek work in urban areas and led girls to engage in commercial sexual exploitation.

The government, through INAC, worked to create, train, and strengthen child protection networks at the provincial and municipal levels in all 18 provinces. No central mechanism existed to track cases or provide statistics. The government also dedicated resources to the expansion of educational and livelihood opportunities for children and their families.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, color, sex, ethnic origin, country origin and social condition, religion, political opinion, union membership, disability, or language, and the government in general effectively enforced the law in the formal sector. The International Labor Organization, however, noted the law did not clearly define discrimination. The constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination, although it does not specifically address HIV or AIDS status, sexual orientation, or gender identity (see section 6). The law provides for equal pay for equal work, but gender pay disparities in the country existed. The law provides that both employers and workers are treated with respect, but there were no provisions prohibiting harassment in the workplace. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment in occupations considered dangerous, in factories, and in industries such as mining, agriculture, and energy.

The law provides working mothers nine weeks of maternity leave and four weeks of prematernity leave before childbirth and one day of leave each month in the next 15 weeks after the birth, while working fathers receive leave on the day of the child’s birth.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, although penalties, when applied, were commensurate with those for other laws related to civil rights. There were no known prosecutions of official or private-sector gender-based discrimination in employment or occupation. Persons with disabilities found it difficult to gain access to public or private facilities, and it was difficult for such persons to participate in the education system and thus find employment. In 2020 there were reports that persons with albinism experienced discrimination in employment and access to public services. In the past there were also complaints of discrimination against foreign workers. There were no known prosecutions for discrimination in employment. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: A minimum wage for the formal sector exists and varies by sector. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights raised concerns regarding the wide disparities of minimum wage by sector and the possibility this may undervalue work in female-dominated sectors. The lowest minimum wage was for agricultural work and was set below the UN Development Program’s official line of poverty. The minimum wage for the formal sector may be updated annually or when the government assesses economic conditions warrant. The minimum wage had not been updated since 2019. The minimum wage law does not cover workers in informal sectors, such as street vendors and subsistence farmers.

The standard workweek in the private sector is 44 hours, while in the public sector it is 37 hours. In both sectors the law mandates at least one unbroken period of 24 hours of rest per week. In the private sector, when employees engage in shift work or a variable weekly schedule, they may work up to 54 hours per week before the employer must pay overtime. In the formal sector, there is a prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, defined as more than two hours a day, 40 hours a month, or 200 hours a year. The law also provides for paid annual holidays. By law employers must provide, at a minimum, a bonus amounting to 50 percent of monthly salary to employees each year in December and an annual vacation. The law does not cover domestic workers, but a 2016 presidential decree extended some protections and enforcement standards to domestic workers. Workweek standards were not enforced unless employees filed a formal complaint with the Ministry of Labor. The law protects foreign workers with permanent legal status or a temporary work visa.

The government effectively enforced the minimum wage law within the formal labor sector, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar infractions. The Ministry of Labor is charged with implementing and enforcing the law. An insufficient number of adequately trained labor inspectors hampered enforcement efforts. Inspectors have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, but some companies received advance warning of impending labor inspections.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards are required for all sectors of the economy. Employees have the right to remove themselves from hazardous working conditions without jeopardy to their employment. The government did not always proactively enforce occupational safety and health standards nor investigate private company operations unless complaints were made by NGOs and labor unions. Inspections were reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 there were 1,151 labor accidents that caused the death or serious injury of workers.

Informal Sector: As much as 80 percent of the workforce was employed in the informal economy. The rate was higher in rural areas than urban areas (93 and 67 percent, respectively). Even in the country’s rapidly growing urban areas, self-employed informal workers provided essential services such as water, food, and transportation. Other common types of informal work included agriculture, commerce and trading, domestic work, security guards, and raising cattle. The government began job skills training programs to reduce informal employment, as well as efforts to reduce barriers to formalization and promote greater awareness of the advantages and protection that come with the formalization.

Government regulation and closure of market stalls during COVID-19 forced many informal workers to set up shop in the streets, apartment building entrances, or their own doorsteps to sell food, handcrafts such as leather sandals, furniture, and imported goods. Informal markets were the main source of food goods for most of the population. Informal money changers operated a parallel financial system to exchange weak local currency for dollars. This practice was not as widespread as years past due to the devaluation of the kwanza, which reduced the gap between the official and unofficial exchange rates. Some informal-sector workers joined unions, such as the National Federation of Unions of Food Industry, Commerce, and Hotels. Most workers in the informal sector were not covered by wage or occupational safety standards or social protections.

Botswana

Executive Summary

Botswana is a constitutional, multiparty, republican democracy. Its constitution provides for the indirect election of a president and the popular election of a National Assembly. The Botswana Democratic Party has held a majority in the National Assembly since the nation’s founding in 1966. In 2019 President Mokgweetsi Masisi won his first full five-year term in an election that outside observers deemed free and fair.

The Botswana Police Service, which reports to the Ministry of Defense, Justice, and Security, has primary responsibility for internal security. The Botswana Defense Force, which reports to the president through the minister of defense, justice, and security, has some domestic security responsibilities. The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, which reports to the Office of the President, collects and evaluates external and internal intelligence, provides personal protection to high-level government officials, and advises the presidency and government on matters of national security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.

In April 2020, at President Masisi’s request, the National Assembly passed a six-month state of emergency as a COVID-19 mitigation measure. The National Assembly, again at the president’s request, extended the state of emergency for an additional six months in September 2020 and in April. Ostensibly to give the government necessary powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the terms of the state of emergency included a ban on the right of unions to strike, limits on free speech related to COVID-19, and restrictions on religious activities. It also served as the basis for several lockdowns that forced most citizens to remain in their homes for several weeks to curb the spread of the virus. Opposition groups, human rights organizations, and labor unions argued that the state of emergency powers were too broad, placed too much power in the presidency, and were unnecessarily restrictive. Parliament did not extend the state of emergency beyond September 30 when President Masisi declared it no longer necessary.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including an unjustified arrest or prosecution of journalists and the existence of criminal slander and libel laws; substantial interference with freedom of association; serious acts of government corruption; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation of children and forced child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses or were implicated in corruption. Impunity was generally not a problem.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally sought to implement these laws effectively. Officials tasked with enforcement lacked adequate training and resources, however. Media reports of government corruption continued. During the year there were numerous reports of government corruption, including allegations tied to tenders issued by local governments for COVID-19 projects, such as renovating public facilities so that they complied with virus prevention measures, as well as in the acquisition of personal protective equipment. A 2019 poll by Transparency International found that 7 percent of those polled had paid bribes to government officials, an increase from the 1 percent who reported paying bribes in a 2015 poll.

Corruption: In July 2020 former permanent secretary to presidents Khama and Masisi, Carter Morupisi, and his wife stood trial on charges of abuse of office, money laundering, and receiving bribes. A decision remained pending at year’s end. An embezzlement case against the former chief of DISS, Isaac Kgosi, ended in November 2020 when the Gaborone High Court dismissed the case for lack of evidence. On August 23, a court also dismissed a case against Welheminah Mphoeng Maswabi, a former DISS agent accused of facilitating a $10 billion theft of bonds from the Bank of Botswana by Kgosi and former president Ian Khama. Neither was charged in the case, although government court filings in the agent’s case implicated the pair. Khama responded by filing a formal complaint in April against government investigators, alleging they committed perjury by naming him in the agent’s case.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The small number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to domestic NGO views on most subjects. The government interacted with and provided financial support to some domestic organizations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: An ombudsman within the Office of the President handled complaints of maladministration, including some human rights abuses in the public sector, and the government generally cooperated with the ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, however, lacked sufficient staff.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape without specifying gender but does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. By law formal courts try all rape cases. Authorities effectively enforced laws against rape when victims pressed charges, although police noted victims often declined to press charges against perpetrators. In 2019 the BPS Commissioner announced BPS would no longer allow the withdrawal of gender-based violence cases waiting to be heard by magistrate court. In October 2020 President Masisi announced the BPS would establish standard operating procedures for dealing with gender-based violence, including establishing dedicated units to handle such cases, establishing a special hotline for victims, and requiring victims to be interviewed in private spaces. In November 2020 the government introduced special courts to hear gender-based violence cases. By law the minimum sentence for conviction of rape is 10 years’ imprisonment; the sentence increases to 15 years with corporal punishment if the offender was unaware of being HIV-positive; and increases to 20 years with corporal punishment if the offender was aware of being HIV-positive. A person convicted of rape is required to undergo an HIV test before sentencing.

The law prohibits domestic and other violence, whether against women or men, but domestic violence remained a serious problem. Although statistics were unavailable, media widely reported on cases of violence against women, including several high-profile murder cases. For example, over the Independence Day weekend in October, authorities reported six women were killed in domestic violence incidents.

The government regularly referred survivors of gender-based violence to a local NGO that ran shelters for women.

In April 2020 shelter operators and civil society groups reported a significant increase in victims of gender-based violence at the start of the seven-week COVID-19 lockdown. The shelter operators noted the situation has since stabilized but was still significantly higher than before COVID-19 emerged. The government made statements to discourage such violence but did not devote extra resources to address the issue or help shelters overwhelmed by the influx of victims.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in both the private and public sectors. Sexual harassment committed by a public officer is considered misconduct and punishable by termination, potentially with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, suspension with loss of pay and benefits for up to three months, reduction in rank or pay, deferment or stoppage of a pay raise, or reprimand. Nonetheless, sexual harassment, particularly by men in positions of authority, including teachers, was widespread.

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

Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; and to manage their reproductive health. They had the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. A 2018 study of family planning found that 98 percent of women knew of at least one family-planning method. The major factors hindering greater contraceptive prevalence rates included a shortage of supplies, provider biases, inadequately skilled health-care workers, HIV status, culture, religion, and popularly accepted myths and misconceptions. Access to health care during pregnancy and childbirth was widespread, with 95 percent of the population living within an average of five miles from the nearest health facility.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including postexposure prophylaxis, emergency contraceptives, counseling, treatment of injuries, and rapid HIV testing.

According to 2019 data, the maternal mortality ratio was 166 deaths per 100,000 live births. The leading causes of maternal mortality included postpartum hemorrhage, genital tract and pelvic infections following unsafe abortion, and ectopic pregnancy.

Discrimination: Under the constitution women and men have the same civil rights and legal status. Under customary law based on tribal practice, however, several traditional laws restricted women’s property rights and economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas. Women increasingly exercised the right to marriage “out of common property,” in which they retained their full legal rights as adults. Although labor law prohibits discrimination based on gender and the government generally enforced the law effectively, there is no legal requirement for women to receive equal pay for equal work.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The eight tribes of the Tswana group, who speak mutually intelligible dialects of Setswana, have been politically dominant since independence, are officially recognized by law, and were granted permanent membership in the House of Chiefs. Constitutional amendments subsequently enabled the recognition of tribes from other groups.

Indigenous Peoples

The government does not recognize any group or tribe as indigenous.

An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 persons belong to one of the many scattered, diverse tribal groups known collectively as Basarwa or San. The Basarwa constituted approximately 3 percent of the population and are culturally and linguistically distinct from most other residents. The law prohibits discrimination against the Basarwa in employment, housing, health services, or because of cultural practices. The Basarwa, however, remained marginalized economically and politically and generally did not have access to their traditional land. The Basarwa continued to be geographically isolated, had limited access to education, and lacked adequate political representation. Some members were not fully aware of their civil rights. During the year there were no reported threats to the Basarwa from business or commercial interests.

The government interpreted a 2006 High Court ruling against the exclusion of Basarwa from traditional lands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) to apply only to the 189 plaintiffs, their spouses, and their minor children. Many of the Basarwa and their supporters continued to object to the government’s interpretation of the court’s ruling.

Government officials maintained the resettlement programs for Basarwa were voluntary and necessary to facilitate the delivery of public services, provide socioeconomic development opportunities to the Basarwa, and minimize human impact on wildlife. In 2012 the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues approved a set of nine draft recommendations addressing the impact of land seizures and disenfranchisement of indigenous persons. In 2013 attorneys for the Basarwa filed a High Court case in which the original complainants from the 2006 CKGR case appealed to the government for unrestricted access (i.e., without permits) to the CKGR for their children and relatives. There has been no ruling in the case to date.

No government programs directly address discrimination against the Basarwa. Except for CKGR lands designated in the 2006 court ruling, there were no demarcated cultural lands.

Children

Birth Registration: In general, citizenship is derived from one’s parents, although there are limited circumstances in which citizenship may be derived from birth within the country’s territory. The government generally registered births promptly. Unregistered children may be denied some government services, including enrollment in secondary schools and national exams.

Education: Primary education is tuition free for the first 10 years of school but is not compulsory. Parents of secondary school students must cover tuition fees as well as the cost of uniforms and books. These costs could be waived for children whose family income fell below a certain level.

Human rights organizations and minority tribes criticized the policy that designates English and Setswana as the only officially recognized languages, thereby forcing some children to learn in a nonnative language. In 2018 the UN special rapporteur on minority issues noted that the lack of mother tongue education or failure to incorporate minority languages into the school curriculum may constitute discrimination and encouraged the government to review its language policy regarding education. In July the government announced the final draft of an education language policy to provide guidance on implementation of mother tongue teaching in schools. The government proposed to implement 11 languages for Phase 1 beginning January 2022.

Child Abuse: The law penalizes neglect and mistreatment of children. There was reportedly widespread abuse of children. Child abuse was reported to police in cases of physical harm to a child. Police referred children and, depending on the level of abuse, their alleged abuser(s) to counseling in the Department of Social Services within the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development as well as to local NGOs. Police referred some cases to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

The deputy opposition whip, Pono Moatlhodi, was charged in 2020 with assault for allegedly setting a dog on a boy age 12 he suspected of stealing mangoes. The lawmaker offered the boy 40,000 pula ($3,480) in compensation, but government prosecutors rejected the offer and pursued an assault case against him. The case began May, but there was no verdict as of the end of the year.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Child marriage occurred infrequently and was largely limited to certain tribes. The government does not recognize marriages that occur when either party is younger than the minimum legal age of 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children. Conviction of sex with a child younger than 18 constitutes defilement (statutory rape) and is punishable by a minimum of 10 years’ incarceration. The penalty for conviction of not reporting incidents of child sexual exploitation ranges from a substantial monetary fine to imprisonment for no less than two years but no greater than three years, or both. Perpetrators who engage in sexual exploitation of children are punished, if convicted, with a substantial monetary fine, imprisonment for no less than five years but no longer than 15 years, or both. The law further requires the government to develop programs to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. In 2019 member of parliament Polson Majaga was charged with defilement of a minor and was subsequently suspended by the BDP from party activities but retained his seat in the legislature. In March Majaga was acquitted of defilement.

Child advocacy groups reported increases in sexual abuse of children during COVID-19 lockdowns. For example, in April 2020 UNICEF reported 23 cases of defilement and 22 rape cases during the first seven days of the national lockdown.

Child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by five to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Displaced Children: Orphans and vulnerable children received government support. Once registered as an orphan, a child receives school uniforms, shelter, a monthly food basket, and counseling as needed.

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.

Anti-Semitism

There was a very small Jewish population, 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

Persons with disabilities could not always access education, health services, public buildings on an equal basis with others. The government’s policy provides for integrating the needs of persons with disabilities into all aspects of policymaking. It mandates access to public buildings and transportation, but access for persons with disabilities was limited. Although newer government buildings were constructed to provide access for persons with disabilities, older government office buildings remained largely inaccessible. Most new privately owned commercial and apartment buildings provided access for persons with disabilities. The government at times provided government information and communication in accessible formats. President Masisi, however, gave several national addresses on COVID-19 and other issues during the year that did not include a Botswana Television-provided sign language interpreter.

Violence against persons with disabilities was not common, and authorities punished those who committed violence or abuses against persons with disabilities.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but there is no specific disability act. Children with disabilities attended school, although human rights NGOs raised concerns the law does not stipulate inclusive education for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities attended both public schools and segregated schools, depending on resource availability and the wishes of parents. In 2018 the UN special rapporteur on minority issues observed that most teachers were not trained in sign language or in teaching methods adapted to the educational needs of deaf persons. The special rapporteur also noted that the absence of sign language interpreters in the health-care sector inhibited the dissemination of information. The Independent Electoral Commission made some accommodations during elections to enable persons with disabilities to vote, including providing ballots in braille and installing temporary ramps at polling places that were not accessible to disabled persons.

There is a Department of Disability Coordination in the Office of the President to assist persons with disabilities. The Department of Labor in the Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in the labor force and investigating claims of discrimination. Individuals may also submit cases directly to the Industrial Court. The government funded NGOs that provided rehabilitation services and supported small-scale projects for workers with disabilities. During the year parliament passed an updated National Policy on Disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

According to 2020 UNAIDS data, the HIV prevalence rate for persons 15 to 49 years of age was 20.9 percent. According to the UN Population Fund, limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and youth-friendly services, as well as gender-based violence, contributed to high HIV rates. The government funded community organizations that ran antidiscrimination and public awareness programs.

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

There were incidents of violence, societal harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and no reported cases of authorities investigating abuses against LGBTQI+ persons. The victims of such incidents seldom filed police reports, primarily due to stigma but occasionally because of overt official intimidation.

The penal code previously included language that was interpreted as criminalizing some aspects of same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. In 2019 the High Court found this language unconstitutional, thereby decriminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct in the country. While the ruling party welcomed the decision, the government appealed the judgment. In November the Court of Appeals ruled to officially decriminalize same-sex sexual activity.

Security forces generally did not enforce the laws that previously forbade same-sex sexual activity; there were no reports during the year that police targeted persons suspected of same-sex sexual activity.

Public meetings of LGBTQI+ advocacy groups and debates on LGBTQI+ matters occurred without disruption or interference. In 2016 the Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 High Court ruling ordering the government to register the NGO Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo) formally. LeGaBiBo has since participated in government-sponsored events.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers, except police, military, and prison personnel, to form and join independent unions and to bargain collectively. The law provides some workers with the right to strike. The COVID-19 state of emergency barred all industrial actions by unions, although workers at some companies did conduct short work stoppages concerning wage matters without government interference. The law allows registered unions to conduct their activities without interference. Layoffs were prohibited under the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The law limits the right to organize. Police, military, and prison personnel belong to employee associations that communicate collective needs and concerns to their government employer. Union representatives reported employee associations were generally not as effective as unions in resolving labor disputes.

Trade unions failing to meet formal registration requirements are automatically dissolved and banned from carrying out union activities. The law does not protect members of unregistered trade unions and does not fully protect union members from antiunion discrimination; thus those trying to establish, join, or register a trade union were not protected from antiunion discrimination.

The law imposes several substantive requirements on the constitutions and rules of trade unions and federations of trade unions. An association must have more than 30 worker members to be a union. The law also authorizes the registrar to inspect accounts, books, and documents of a trade union at “any reasonable time” and provides the minister of defense, justice, and security with the authority to inspect a trade union “whenever he considers it necessary in the public interest.” It also allows the registrar or attorney general to apply for an order to restrain any unauthorized or unlawful expenditure of funds or use of any trade union property. Employers and employer associations have the legal right to ask the registrar to withdraw recognition of a union, and the Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development has the right to suspend a union if it is “in the public interest,” although the former practice was uncommon and the latter has never been employed. Any person acting or purporting to act as an officer of a trade union or federation that fails to apply for registration within 28 days of its formation is subject to sanctions.

The law provides for collective bargaining only for unions that have enrolled at least one-third of an employer or industry’s workforce. The law does not allow employers or employers’ organizations to interfere in the establishment, functioning, or administration of trade unions. The law provides a framework for either employers or unions to nullify collective bargaining agreements and provides a mechanism for the other party to dispute the nullification. The law also permits an employer or employers’ organization to apply to the government to withdraw the recognition granted a trade union if it establishes that the trade union refuses to negotiate in good faith with the employer.

The law prohibits employees who provide “essential services” from striking. The law limits its definition of essential services to aviation, health, electrical, water and sanitation, fire, and air traffic control services.

The law empowers two officials within the Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development (the minister and the commissioner of labor) to refer a dispute in essential services to arbitration or to the Industrial Court for determination.

Civil service disputes are referred to an ombudsman for resolution, and the ombudsman generally made decisions without government interference. Labor commissioners mediate private labor disputes, which, if not resolved within 30 days, may be referred to the Industrial Court.

Workers who are members of registered unions may not be terminated for legal union-related activities. Dismissals may be appealed to civil courts or labor officers, which have rarely ordered payment of more than two months’ severance pay. The law does not provide for reinstatement of workers, but a judge may order reinstatement if the termination is deemed to be related to union activities. The law does not provide protection to public employees’ organizations from acts of interference by public authorities in their establishment or administration.

The government enforced some labor laws but did not protect the freedom of association for workers. In addition, the government placed significant barriers to union organizing and operations, and there were some restrictions on the right to collective bargaining. The government has not acted to revive the Public Sector Bargaining Council. Workers exercised the right to form and join unions, and employers generally did not use hiring practices to avoid hiring workers with bargaining rights. Legal penalties for violations of laws governing freedom of association were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights.

The law severely restricts the right to strike, and strikes were rare. When unions followed legal requirements, exhausted arbitration, and notified the government in advance of a planned strike, the government permitted strikes and did not use force on strikers. Due to strike requirements, however, many strikes were ruled illegal, and striking workers often risked dismissal. The law prohibits sympathy strikes. Compulsory arbitration was rare and only applied in cases involving a group dispute of workers in essential services. The law prohibits an employer from hiring workers to replace striking or locked-out workers and prohibits workers from picketing only if the parties have an agreement on the provision of minimum services or, if no such agreement has been made, within 14 days of the commencement of the strike. The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions reported to the International Confederation of Trade Unions that employers dismissed union members in the mining sector for union activity.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution and law prohibit and criminalize all forms of forced and compulsory labor, including by children, with an exception for compulsory labor as part of a prison sentence for civil and political offenses.

The law allows compulsory prison labor in the case of a willful breach of a contract of employment by an employee who is acting either alone or in combination with others if such breach affects the operation of essential services. Sentences of imprisonment involving compulsory prison labor may be imposed on any person who prints, makes, imports, publishes, sells, distributes, or reproduces any publication prohibited by the president “in his absolute discretion” as being “contrary to the public interest.” Similar sentences may be imposed concerning seditious publications and on any person who manages, or is a member of, or in any way takes part in the activity of an unlawful society, particularly of a society declared unlawful as being “dangerous to peace and order.” The provisions are worded in terms broad enough to allow punishment for the expression of views, and insofar as they are enforceable with sanctions involving compulsory labor, they are incompatible with international standards. A prisoner may be employed outside a prison under the immediate order and for the benefit of a person other than a public authority.

Apart from this exception, labor inspectors from the Ministry of Employment, Labor, Productivity and Skills referred cases of forced labor to the BPS for prosecution. The government did not effectively enforce the law, particularly in remote areas, and compulsory and forced labor occurred in several sectors. There were no prosecutions for forced labor during the year. Members of the San community, including children, were sometimes subjected to forced labor conditions on farms and ranches in the Ghanzi District. The law prescribed penalties that were not commensurate with comparable serious crimes.

Also see 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 law prohibits the worst forms of child labor but does not criminalize all the worst forms of child labor.

The minimum age for work is 15, but children as young as 14 may be employed in light work that is “not harmful to (their) health and development” and is approved by a parent or guardian. The law, however, does not define the types of permitted light work activities. The law provides that work shall not exceed six hours per day when a child is not in school and five hours when a child is in school, but only on vacation days between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Although the law prohibits night work and hazardous underground work for children, it does not cover hazardous activities, such as the use of dangerous machinery, tools, and equipment. In addition, the law establishes the right of children to be protected from commercial sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking and the production of pornography (see section 6).

The Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and policies in all sectors, but its resources were too limited for effective enforcement in remote areas. District and municipal councils have child welfare divisions, which are also responsible for enforcing child labor laws. Other involved government entities included offices within the Ministry of Basic Education and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Government officials continued to publicly caution against the worst forms of child labor.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, particularly in remote areas, and child labor occurred in several sectors. Officials prosecuted three individuals for forced labor and continued prosecutions against 11 alleged traffickers from previous years. The government did not convict any traffickers, contrasted with conviction of five traffickers in two cases in 2020. The law continued to allow fines in lieu of imprisonment during the reporting period. Penalties were not criminal nor commensurate with those for comparable serious crimes.

There were anecdotal reports of forced child labor in cattle herding and in domestic servitude. Child labor occurred mostly on small-scale cattle posts or farms, where employees lived with their children in family units, particularly in the Ghanzi District. Child labor also occurred in domestic work and street vending. Civil society representatives noted in such cases where it was likely to exist, child labor resulted from a lack of awareness of the law among their parents and employers.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, tribe, place of origin, including national origin, social origin, sex, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV status, marital status, religion, creed, or social status. The law does not address discrimination based on age. The government generally enforced these regulations in the public and formal sectors. Penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable violations.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: According to the Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development, the minimum hourly wage for full-time labor in the private sector was determined by sector. The minimum wage for all sectors was higher than the official estimate of the poverty income level. Formal-sector jobs generally paid well above minimum wage.

The law permits a maximum 48-hour workweek, exclusive of overtime, which is payable at one-and-a-half times the base hourly rate. In May the government froze payment for overtime work of public servants as a measure to address a budget shortfall during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to union representatives, some workers were required to perform overtime duties without compensation.

Occupational Safety and Health: There were limited occupational safety and health (OSH) requirements. The government’s ability to enforce OSH legislation remained limited due to inadequate staffing and lack of clear ministerial jurisdictions. Inspectors did have authority to conduct unannounced inspections and could demand that an employer suspend the use of hazardous materials or equipment. Inspectors could not initiate sanctions on their own but could require employers to meet in a public office to discuss matters. The government curtailed inspections because of the pandemic and health restrictions on movement to the pandemic.

The law provides protection against termination for workers who verbally complain regarding hazardous conditions, but no specific provisions in the law allow workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. There were no figures available on the number of industrial accidents during the year that caused the death or serious injury of workers. The Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development is responsible for enforcing wage, hour, and OSH standards, but the number of inspectors was not sufficient to effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Informal Sector: The August 2020 National Informal Sector Recovery Plan estimated that the country had approximately 190,000 informal workers who contributed approximately 5.3 percent of all economic activity. Informal work sectors included wholesale and retail trade (45 percent), manufacturing (15 percent), and construction of buildings (12 percent). More women and young persons worked in the informal sector. Some workers in the informal sector received only housing and food, particularly in the agricultural and domestic service areas. Wages in the informal sector were frequently below the minimum wage. Informal-sector workers generally were covered by the same legal protections available to formal-sector workers, but enforcement in the informal sector was rare.

Foreign migrant workers were vulnerable to exploitative working conditions like working excessive hours or having their wages withheld, mainly in domestic labor.

Ecuador

Executive Summary

Ecuador is a constitutional, multiparty republic with an elected president and unicameral legislature. On April 11, voters elected President Guillermo Lasso Mendoza from a center-right alliance among the Creating Opportunities Movement and the Social Christian Party and selected members of the National Assembly in elections that observers deemed free and fair.

The National Police maintains internal security and law enforcement and is under the authority of the Ministry of Government. The military is under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense and is responsible for external security. Police and military forces share responsibility for border enforcement, with the military also having limited domestic security responsibilities. The military may complement police operations to maintain and control public order when expressly mandated. Migration officers are civilians and report to the Ministry of Government. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture and abuse by police officers and prison guards; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; the existence of criminal libel laws; serious acts of government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women and children; and the use of child labor.

The government took steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses and against those accused of corruption.

Members of criminal gangs operating in prisons committed acts of torture and killed their rivals during prison disturbances. The government investigated these crimes, and prosecutions were pending. There were incidents of violence and threats of violence against journalists by likely nongovernment actors. Members of society engaged in crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government took steps to implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption throughout the year.

Corruption: The government launched or continued multiple investigations, judicial proceedings, and legislative audits of officials accused of corruption related to state contracts and commercial endeavors that reached the highest levels of government.

High-profile prosecutions and investigations of alleged public-health sector corruption during the COVID-19 crisis at the national, provincial, and municipal levels continued. On May 17, former Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS) board president Paul Granda was called to trial for charges of organized crime along with two former IESS hospital managers. Granda was also accused of alleged irregularities in medical supply acquisition contracts during the COVID-19 emergency. As of December 1, the date for proceedings remained pending.

Regarding the Sobornos (bribes) corruption scheme that illicitly financed former president Rafael Correa’s Alianza PAIS party in exchange for public contracts from 2012 to 2016, former vice president Jorge Glas was serving his eight-year sentence for involvement in the scheme, in addition to a six-year sentence in a separate case for an illicit association connected to Brazilian company Odebrecht. On August 18, Interpol denied a National Court of Justice request to issue a Red Notice for Correa, who was self-exiled in Belgium. The court stated it would continue to pursue the extradition of Correa and the other 14 defendants in the case, who were residing abroad.

On May 24, President Lasso issued Decree 4 on Governmental Ethical Behavior Standards that applies to all executive branch members. The decree includes a prohibition on remuneration of any nature to the spouses of the president and vice president; prohibits the nomination of executive branch officials’ relatives for other government positions; requires a preemptive declaration of conflicts of interest where they may exist; and prohibits the unofficial use of official aircraft, vehicles, and government property, among others.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office is an administratively and financially independent body under the Transparency and Social Control branch of government focused on human rights. The Ombudsman’s Office regularly presented cases to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

On August 19, the National Court of Justice ruled against Ombudsman Freddy Carrion’s habeas corpus request. Carrion had been in pretrial detention since May 17 for alleged sexual assault. The National Assembly impeached and removed Carrion from office for nonfulfillment of duties on September 14. On October 20, the court found Carrion guilty of sexual abuse and sentenced him to three years in prison.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal and intimate partner rape and domestic violence. The government enforced the law, although victims were sometimes reluctant to report these crimes. Rape is punishable with penalties of up to 22 years in prison. The law includes spousal rape under crimes against sexual and reproductive integrity. The penalty for rape where death occurred is 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence is punishable with penalties ranging from four days to seven years in prison and a substantial fine for “damages, pain, and suffering,” depending on the severity of the crime. Penalties for physical, psychological, and sexual violence were enforced.

The law provides reparation to victims of gender-based violence, while also advocating for the re-education of aggressors. The law defines rape, including spousal rape or incest, forced prostitution, sexual harassment, and other analogous practices, as forms of sexual violence. It also entitles victims to immediate protective measures designed to prevent or cease violence, such as police surveillance, placement in shelters, and awareness programs for the victim and family. These restorative measures were generally enforced.

According to human rights organizations, victims were generally reluctant to press domestic violence charges, and the court system was insufficiently staffed to deal with the caseload. On November 24, the Attorney General’s Office, in cooperation with the civil society-UN Spotlight Initiative reported 172 total femicides through November, compared with 118 in 2020 and 106 in 2019. On August 25, the Attorney General’s Office announced a 26-year prison sentence for a man from Morona Santiago Province for murdering his four-year-old stepdaughter in August 2020 in front of her mother, whom he threatened to harm if she intervened.

Due to a drop in the number of complaints filed in person with judicial authorities, the government expanded online legal services available to victims in April 2020. Nevertheless, barriers such as digital illiteracy, internet unavailability in rural areas, and lack of general familiarization with these technological resources continued to limit the ability of victims to obtain help.

Judges lacked specialized training for dealing with gender-based violence. Rights organizations also reported local protection-board officials at times discouraged victims from reporting their aggressors.

According to local experts, reporting rapes and other forms of violence continued to be a traumatic process, particularly for female minors. For example, a rape victim must file a complaint at the Public Prosecutor’s Office and submit to gynecological evaluations akin to rape kits administered by medical experts. Many individuals did not report cases of rape and sexual assault due to fear of retribution from the perpetrator and social stigma.

On February 10, the Attorney General’s Office announced a 12-year, seven-month prison sentence for a police officer in Tungurahua Province for raping a woman in September 2020 (see section 1.c.).

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of one to five years in prison. The law defines sexual harassment and other analogous practices as forms of sexual violence and mandates that judges prohibit contact between the aggressor and the victim to prevent revictimization and intimidation, and the law was generally enforced. Despite the legal prohibition of sexual harassment and government implementation of the law, women’s rights organizations described a tendency not to report alleged harassment, and harassment remained common in public spaces.

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

Some women’s rights activists complained that a lack of comprehensive sex education limited individuals’ ability to manage their reproductive health and that ineffective distribution of birth control reduced access to contraception. Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church’s stance against contraceptive use and social stigma discouraged women from seeking family planning services.

A 2019 study found income status affected equity in sexual and reproductive health access and outcomes, with low income and rural individuals having significantly less access. UN agencies and CARE International reported migrant women faced limited access to, discrimination in, or both the provision of reproductive health services.

CARE International observed less access to sexual and reproductive health resources to survivors of sexual violence, and specifically, a lack of availability of emergency contraception as part of the clinical management of rape.

A February 2020 UNICEF-funded and Ministry of Health-supported teenage pregnancy report found that, although live birth rates for women ages 15 to 19 trended downward between 2009 and 2018 (the most recent year available for the report) from 88 live births per 1,000 women to 69), while live birth rates among girls ages 10 to 14 trended slightly upward, from 2.1 per 1,000 in 2007 to 2.8 in 2017. The report found the incidences of girls ages 10 to 14 having children were highest in coastal and Amazonian provinces, including Esmeraldas, Sucumbios, Orellana, and Morona Santiago. On August 17, Secretary of Human Rights Bernarda Ordonez stated 70 percent of girls ages 10 to 14 who become pregnant were most likely sexually violated. Ordonez added that many of these adolescents also suffered from sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, and other health complications.

Although the country’s maternal mortality rate had remained below 70 per 100,000 live births since 2012, media citing official national statistics indicated the rate increased from 37 to 57.6 between 2019 and 2020. According to local health experts, maternal mortality was 36 percent more likely among women in rural areas compared with those in urban areas, and women with primary or less education were three times more likely to suffer maternal death than those with at least a high school education. Further, indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian women were 69 and 50 percent more susceptible to maternal death, respectively, than their mestiza counterparts.

While the law prohibits discrimination against girls who become mothers, NGOs reported some faced discrimination and subsequently left school. A lack of resources also resulted in young mothers discontinuing their education to pursue work.

Discrimination: The constitution affords women the same legal status and rights as men. Nevertheless, discrimination against women was prevalent, particularly with respect to economic opportunities for older women and for those in the lower economic strata. Women continued to face wage disparities compared with men. NGOs said women also faced discrimination in housing access and some judicial proceedings, namely, in reporting and filing charges in cases of alleged sexual abuse.

UN agencies and NGOs reported female medical staff were discriminated against and subject to violence, including physical and verbal assaults, from their partners and family members for assisting COVID-19-infected patients. According to information collected by UN Women and CARE International, women outnumbered men in the first line of defense against COVID-19, in a medical field already two-thirds composed of women, making women far more susceptible to COVID-19 exposure.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution declares the state to be plurinational and affirms the principle of nonviolence and nondiscrimination by recognizing the rights of indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, and Montubio (an independent ethnic group of persons with a mixture of Afro-Ecuadorian, indigenous, and Spanish ancestry) communities. It also mandates affirmative action policies to provide for the representation of minorities. NGOs and civil society representatives said those provisions were not effectively enforced.

A 2019 report by the National Council for the Equality of Peoples and Nationalities reiterated that racism and discrimination continued against indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants despite government policies promoting equality. The report reiterated that ethnic minorities continued to struggle with education and job opportunities and often earned less in comparison with their nonindigenous counterparts. Less than 4 percent of the indigenous population entered higher education, according to the most recent census, carried out in 2010. The same agency reported racial minority groups had less access to managerial positions and other professional opportunities.

Afro-Ecuadorian citizens, who accounted for approximately 7 percent of the population according to the 2010 census, suffered pervasive discrimination, particularly regarding educational and economic opportunity. Afro-Ecuadorian organizations noted that, despite the absence of official discrimination, societal discrimination and stereotyping in media continued to result in barriers to employment, education, and housing. A National Gender Survey published in November 2019 found Afro-Ecuadorian women were particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence and harassment based on racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes. Late-night news show host Andres Carrion was criticized in social media as reinforcing negative gender and racial stereotypes after asking Afro-Ecuadorian Olympic gold medal-winning weightlifter Neisi Dajomes in an August 16 interview whether she “knew how to cook,” followed by whether she “knew how to wash dishes.”

Indigenous Peoples

There were isolated reports of restrictions placed on indigenous persons and their institutions in decisions affecting their property or way of life. Media reported the Pastaza Provincial Court partially accepted a habeas corpus request on July 16 for former Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) president Antonio Vargas Guatatuca. Vargas Guatatuca was originally convicted for land trafficking in 2018, with his sentence extended to three years and four months in 2019, all of which he had served doing community service. He was arrested on June 20 in Pastaza Province after an arrest warrant had been issued a few days prior to serve part of his time in jail. CONAIE argued Vargas Guatatuca’s detention was arbitrary and illegal, as international conventions to which Ecuador is a signatory state indigenous persons are subject to prison alternatives. The court ruled Vargas Guatatuca should serve 60 days in jail and 30 in his community, then continue serving out the rest of his sentence doing community service. On November 8, President Lasso issued an executive pardon exonerating Vargas Guatatuca of charges and cancelling the fines ordered in his convictions.

The law provides indigenous persons the same civil and political rights as other citizens. The constitution recognizes Kichwa and Shuar as “official languages of intercultural relations.” The constitution grants indigenous persons and communities the right to prior consultation, which is to participate in decisions on the exploitation of nonrenewable resources located on their lands that could affect their culture or environment, although indigenous peoples’ organizations noted public- and private-sector actors often ignored prior consultation. The constitution also allows indigenous persons to participate in the economic benefits natural resource extraction projects may bring and to receive compensation for any damages that result.

In the case of environmental damage, the law mandates immediate corrective government action and full restitution from the responsible company, although some indigenous organizations asserted a lack of consultation and remedial action. The law recognizes the rights of indigenous communities to hold property communally, although the titling process remained incomplete in parts of the country. The constitution prohibits mining in urban and protected areas and limits oil drilling in Yasuni National Park.

Although confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths among indigenous communities were lower than the national average, indigenous leaders and international organizations asserted indigenous communities, like other rural low-income communities, were particularly vulnerable to the pandemic’s environmental, medical, and economic effects. Precise information on COVID-19 vaccination rates among indigenous persons was not available as of September 18, but government authorities declared they prioritized vaccinating indigenous communities and publicized several instances of vaccine drives in indigenous communities that included military-assisted vaccine transport to remote areas. The government nonetheless faced logistical challenges due to transportable vaccine availability and the physical isolation of some communities.

Media and activist groups reported environmental and anti-illegal mining activist Andres Durazno was stabbed outside his home in Azuay Province on March 17, allegedly by a relative. Activist groups called on the attorney general to open an investigation, which had not begun as of October 28.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired through birth in the country, birth to an Ecuadorian mother or father abroad, or by naturalization. According to media reports, ethnic minority families and those with limited economic resources continued to show registration rates significantly lower than those of other groups. Government brigades occasionally traveled to remote rural areas to register families and persons with disabilities. While the law prohibits schools from requesting civil registration documents for children to enroll, some schools, mostly public schools, continued to require them. Other government services, including welfare payments and free primary health care, require some form of identification.

Education: The lack of schools in some areas specifically affected indigenous and refugee and migrant children, who must travel long distances to attend school.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes child abuse and provides penalties of 30 days to 26 years in prison, depending on the severity of the abuse.

In 2020 Ana Cristina Vera, director of the local NGO Surkuna, estimated six of 10 rape aggressors were immediate relatives, with most underage victims younger than 14. In 2019 the Office of the Public Prosecutor stated approximately 60 percent of rape victims were children and adolescents.

In 2019 media reported that approximately 16 percent of the 7,977 sex-crime complaints tracked by the Ministry of Education between 2014 and May 2019 were directed against minors. Teachers or school staff were accused as perpetrators in 25 percent of all complaints.

Local NGOs and the government expressed concern regarding child abuse and infanticide during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Quito Rights Protection Council reported 10 suicides and seven cases of infanticide between March and May 2020. The council stated the infanticides in that span were allegedly committed by the victims’ immediate family members. Council vice president Sybel Martinez warned that a lack of precise statistics on violence against minors could fuel impunity. The Attorney General’s Office publicized progress on several intrafamilial violence cases throughout the year.

Bullying remained a problem in schools and increasingly occurred on social media. On April 10, reforms to the Intercultural Education Law took effect, aiming to prevent and combat digital sexual violence and strengthen the fight against cybercrimes by making online bullying punishable. The law obligates educators to investigate allegations of bullying, considering the victim’s best interests. Cases that may lead to school violence (defined as incidents that may lead to death, physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological harm), harassment, or discrimination are prioritized for reporting to higher authorities within 48 hours.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal marriage age is 18. There were reports of early and forced marriage in indigenous communities, particularly in instances in which girls became pregnant following an instance of rape. Indigenous leaders reported cases in which sexual aggressors compensated violence with payment or exchange of animals, but in some cases, victims were forced to marry their aggressors. CARE International reported the government did not respond effectively to these cases, especially in Kichwa and Shuar indigenous communities.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is 14. The law prohibits sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, with penalties of 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for human trafficking, including child sex trafficking, is 13 to 16 years in prison. Authorities did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The criminal code requires proof of force, fraud, or coercion as essential elements of a trafficking crime, neglecting to recognize that anyone younger than age 18 is unable to provide such consent. Child sex trafficking remained a problem, despite government enforcement efforts.

On May 5, the Pichincha Provincial Court upheld the convictions and maximum prison sentences of 25 years and four months for five members of a criminal ring responsible for trafficking an estimated 100 teenage girls in Quito since at least 2018. The group recruited teenage girls from low-income neighborhoods to attend parties in an affluent Quito neighborhood. The case was related to a February 2020 conviction against one of the same defendants to a 34-year sentence for rape resulting in the death of a 15-year-old girl.

Displaced Children: Humanitarian organizations expressed concern that an increasing number of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children entered via irregular crossings after the government closed its borders in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. International organizations remained concerned unaccompanied children and adolescents were vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking by criminal groups.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There is a small Jewish community, including an estimated 450 individuals in Quito, 40 individuals in Guayaquil, and 10 individuals elsewhere in the country. The Jewish community reported no attacks or aggressions as of September 28. Community members said that during the military escalation between Gaza and Israel in May, opinion articles in El Comercio and El Universo newspapers included comments they considered anti-Semitic. Members of the Jewish community condemned the statements, but the government did not comment on the statements.

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 law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The National Council on Disability Equality oversees government policies regarding persons with disabilities.

Although the law mandates access to buildings and promotes equal access to health, education, social security, employment, transport, and communications for persons with disabilities, the government did not fully enforce it. By law children with disabilities could attend specialized schools, but all educational establishments must accommodate students with disabilities. An educational policy NGO said nonspecialized institutions lacked the capacity and staff to accommodate the range of disabilities. The NGO said children with disabilities attended primary school at similar rates to other children, but they attended secondary education at lower rates due to a lack of access to quality support.

The law stipulates persons with disabilities have the right to health facilities and insurance coverage, job security, access and inclusion in education, and a program for scholarships and student loans. The law also requires that 4 percent of employees in all public and private enterprises with more than 25 employees be persons with disabilities, and it gives the Ombudsman’s Office responsibility for following up on alleged violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, stipulating a series of fines and punishments for lack of compliance. A March 15 media report noted that the Ministry of Labor recorded a 29 percent increase in job dismissal complaints from persons with disabilities between 2019 and 2020 (652 to 838). More broadly, the number of complaints nearly tripled between 2017 and 2020.

The law directs the electoral authorities to provide access to voting and to facilitate voting for persons with disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists reported that during the peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic in April and May 2020, officials at public and private hospitals blocked access to retroviral treatment and hormones to LGBTQI+ patients to focus resources on COVID-19 treatment. The sudden unavailability adversely affected LGBTQI+ individuals undergoing medical treatment.

The NGO Fundacion Ecuatoriana Equidad, a sexual health and LGBTQI+ advocacy group, said that despite a Constitutional Court order that the Ministry of Health improve the administration of HIV home treatment regimens for LGBTQI+ individuals and the Ministry of Health’s commitment to do so, treatment continued to be inadequate due to perceived poor management by the ministry.

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

LGBTQI+ groups claimed police and prosecutors did not thoroughly investigate deaths of LGBTQI+ individuals, including when there was suspicion that the killing was motivated by anti-LGBTQI+ bias. On September 3, NGO Silueta X representatives said 14 members of the LGBTQI+ community had been killed in 2020 and seven more as of September 3 (including one alleged forced disappearance by unknown perpetrators). Fundacion Ecuatoriana Equidad cited police and prosecutors’ lax attitude and the lack of technical capacity and knowledge about the LGBTQI+ individuals to explain insufficient investigations into crimes committed against LGBTQI+ persons.

Regarding the May 2020 killing of Javier Viteri, on July 7, a municipal court in Arenillas convicted and sentenced the accused person, a military conscript, to 34 years and eight months in prison.

The constitution includes the principle of nondiscrimination and the right to decide one’s sexual orientation. The law also prohibits hate crimes, but LGBTQI+ activists asserted that since the legal codification of hate crimes in 2008, there had been no hate crime convictions for crimes directed at LGBTQI+ persons. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, LGBTQI+ persons continued to suffer discrimination from both public and private entities, particularly in education, employment, and access to health care. LGBTQI+ organizations reported transgender persons suffered more discrimination because they were more visible.

LGBTQI+ persons continued to report that the government sometimes denied their right of equal access to formal education. Despite the publication of a “Guide to Prevent and Combat Discrimination Based on Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity” by the Ministry of Education in 2019, Fundacion Ecuatoriana Equidad indicated the government had not comprehensively applied the guide’s provisions and not adapted relevant regulations to implement the guide. LGBTQI+ students, particularly transgender students, sometimes were discouraged from attending classes and were more susceptible to bullying in schools. Human rights activists argued the Ministry of Education and school administrators were slow to respond to complaints regarding overall harassment, discrimination, or abuse, particularly against LGBTQI+ persons. LGBTQI+ persons involved in the commercial sex trade reported abusive situations, extortion, and mistreatment by security forces.

The law prohibits changing gender on identity documents for LGBTQI+ persons younger than 18, even with parental consent. In 2019 an LGBTQI+ NGO reported a transgender minor was denied enrollment at 15 schools under her chosen name and gender in 2017. The minor’s parents subsequently filed a lawsuit requesting that officials allow her to change her name and gender on identity documents to end discrimination against her. In 2018 the Office of the Civil Registry allowed changes on her identity card. Fundacion Ecuatoriana Equidad reported the parents then filed an inquiry with the Constitutional Court to determine the age transgender underage individuals may change their identity information. A court decision on the inquiry remained pending as of September 28.

An LGBTQI+ organization reported the existence of clandestine private treatment centers confining LGBTQI+ persons against their will to “cure” or “dehomosexualize” them despite the illegality of such treatment. According to the organization, the Ministry of Public Health had some success in identifying and closing such institutions. Alternatively, LGBTQI+ organizations said relatives also took LGBTQI+ persons to neighboring countries, where clinics reportedly used violent treatments, including rape, to change LGBTQI+ persons’ sexual orientation.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, with some exceptions, provides for the rights of workers to form and join trade unions of their choice, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits the dismissal of union members from the moment a union notifies the labor inspector of its general assembly until the formation of its first executive board, the first legal steps in forming a union. Employers are not required to reinstate workers fired for union activity but are required to pay compensation and fines to such workers. According to an October 17 El Comercio article, 3 percent of the total workforce was unionized, with the number of public and private unions registered by the Ministry of Labor decreasing by half since 2017. Labor unions and associations reported difficulties in registering unions in the Ministry of Labor due to excessive requirements and ministry staff shortages.

Companies that dismiss employees attempting to form a union or that dismiss union members exercising their rights face a fine of one year’s annual salary for everyone wrongfully dismissed. Individual workers still employed may take complaints against employers to the Labor Inspection Office. Individuals no longer employed may take their complaints to courts charged with protecting labor rights. Unions may also take complaints to a tripartite arbitration board established to hear these complaints. Despite the promise of receiving a mediator within 48 hours of issuing a complaint, these procedures often were subject to lengthy delays because the Ministry of Labor continued to be nonspecialized and understaffed to address all arbitration requests and appeals. Private-sector representatives alleged that boards exhibited conscious bias in favor of employees when they did convene.

All private employers with unionized employees are required to negotiate collectively when the union so requests. The law requires a minimum of 30 workers for the creation of an association, work committee, or labor union, and it does not allow foreign citizens to serve as trade union officers. In 2018 the Ministry of Labor authorized, through ministerial resolutions, eight new types of labor contracts, with specific provisions for the flower, palm, fishing, livestock, and construction sectors.

In May a provincial court ordered that the Ministry of Labor recognize the Trade Union Association of Agricultural Banana Workers and Peasants as a sector-wide union for banana workers and assigned monitoring to the Ombudsman’s Office. This decision followed recent requests by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to permit sector-wide union organizing in compliance with international labor standards. In September the Ombudsman’s Office submitted a report finding that the Ministry of Labor had not complied with the court order. Instead of appealing the decision, the ministry filed an extraordinary action for protection against the provincial court judges seeking the protection of the Constitutional Court for having to enforce the order. The Constitutional Court accepted the writ in September. The ministry had not complied with the court order as of October 28.

The law provides for the right of private-sector employees to strike on their own behalf and conduct three-day solidarity strikes or boycotts on the behalf of other industries. The law also establishes, however, that all collective labor disputes be referred to courts of conciliation and arbitration.

In most industries the law requires a 10-day “cooling-off” period from the time a strike is declared before it can take effect. In the case of the agriculture and hospitality industries, where workers are needed for “permanent care,” the law requires a 20-day “cooling-off” period from the day the strike is called, and workers may not take possession of a workplace. During this time workers and employers must agree on how many workers are needed to ensure a minimum level of service, and at least 20 percent of the workforce must continue to work to provide essential services. The law provides the employer may contract substitute personnel only when striking workers refuse to send the number of workers required to provide the minimum necessary services. Contracting substitute personnel is effectively impossible, however, as the law does not provide for time-limited, seasonal, hourly, or part-time contracts.

The law prohibits formation of unions and restricts the right to collective bargaining and striking of public-sector workers in “strategic sectors.” Such sectors include workers in the health, environmental sanitation, education, justice, firefighting, social security, electrical energy, drinking water and sewage, hydrocarbon production, fuel processing, transport and distribution, public transportation, and postal service and telecommunications sectors. Some of the sectors defined as strategic exceed the ILO standard for essential services. Workers in these sectors attempting to strike may face charges with penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment. The government effectively enforced the law on “strategic sectors.”

All unions in the public sector fall under the Confederation of Public Servants. Although most public-sector workers also maintained membership in labor-sector associations, the law does not allow such associations to bargain collectively or to strike. The law specifies that only the private sector may engage in collective bargaining.

Several unions, labor associations, and media outlets denounced the presence of military vehicles and alleged police harassment during strikes by employees of local explosives company Explocen since July 2020. The strike started after five employees allegedly were dismissed in June 2020 without due compensation. The military deployed vehicles to guard the entrance to Explocen’s facilities when the strike started, and officials stated the military presence was necessary because of the national state of emergency (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and highly dangerous nature of the materials stored and processed at the facility. Employees’ attorneys and unions denounced the protest’s “militarization.” On March 24, the strike and military presence ended when Explocen reached an agreement with workers. The Ombudsman’s Office and the Ministry of Labor supported the negotiations.

The government did not effectively enforce all applicable laws, but penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denial of civil rights, such as discrimination. Employers did not always respect freedom of association and collective bargaining, and labor rights advocacy groups said that influential business interests tied to local officials sometimes used criminal proceedings to restrict workers’ right to unionize. Independent unions often had strong ties to political movements.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including all forms of labor exploitation; child labor; illegal adoption; servile marriage; and the sale of tissues, fluids, and genetic materials of living persons. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Limited resources, limited presence in parts of the country, and inadequate victim services hampered the effectiveness of police and prosecutors, trends that NGOs reported the COVID-19 pandemic had worsened. NGOs and media outlets continued to report that children were victims of human trafficking in forced criminality, particularly drug trafficking and robbery.

Reports of forced labor of children (see section 7.c.) and women persisted. Observers most frequently reported women as victims of domestic servitude. In 2020 police detained 22 suspected traffickers. Authorities prosecuted eight individuals in seven trafficking cases and convicted and sentenced eight traffickers. In 2020 the government identified 140 victims of human trafficking and aided 126.

Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorians, Venezuelan migrants, and Colombian refugees (see section 7.d.) were particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. Traffickers often recruited children from impoverished indigenous families under false promises of employment; these children were then forced to beg or to work as domestic servants, in sweatshops, or as street and commercial vendors within the country or in other South American countries. Ecuadorian men, women, and children were exploited in forced labor within the country’s borders, including in domestic servitude; forced begging; on banana, hemp, and palm plantations; street vending; mining; and other areas of the informal economy. According to the government, COVID-19 lockdown measures further pushed trafficking underground to occur on private properties, and in some cases even in mines or hidden locations near the country’s borders.

Men, women, and children were exploited in forced labor abroad, including in the United States and other South American countries, particularly Chile and Colombia. Traffickers used the country as a transit route for trafficking victims from Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean to other South American countries and Europe.

Also see 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 law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. It sets the minimum working age for minors at 15 for all types of labor and the maximum hours a minor may work at six hours per day, five days per week. The law requires employers of minors who have not completed elementary school to give them two additional hours off from work to complete studies. The law requires employers to pay minors the same wages received by adults for the same type of employment and prohibits minors younger than age 18 from working in “dangerous and unhealthy” conditions. A 2015 ministerial accord lists 27 economic activities that qualify as dangerous and unhealthy. Other illegal activities, including slavery, prostitution, pornography, and drug trafficking, are punishable. The law identifies work that is “likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of a child,” which includes work in mines, garbage dumps, slaughterhouses, livestock, fishing, textiles, logging, and domestic service, as well as in any work environment requiring exposure to toxic or dangerous substances, dust, dangerous machinery, or loud noises.

The law establishes penalties for violations of child labor laws, including fines and closure of the business. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. If an employer commits a second child labor violation, inspectors may close the business temporarily. The law authorizes labor inspectors to conduct inspections at factories, workshops, and any other location when they consider it appropriate or when an employer or worker requests an inspection.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Ministries of Labor and of Economic and Social Inclusion, Rights Protection Boards, and the Minors’ Tribunals are responsible for enforcing child labor laws.

A 2019 report by the governmental Intergenerational Equality Council indicated the provinces of Bolivar, Chimborazo, and Cotopaxi had the highest child labor rates for children between the ages of five and 14. Although the government conducted two surveys in 2017 that included some information on child labor, it had not conducted a nationwide child labor survey since 2012. Government, union, and civil society officials agreed that a lack of updated statistics hampered child labor eradication efforts.

Several labor organizations and NGOs reported that no reliable data concerning child labor in the formal employment sectors was available due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to these groups, even before the pandemic, the government-led austerity measures affected the Ministry of Labor’s child labor eradication program, and thus the number of government inspections decreased.

The government also did not effectively enforce child labor laws in the informal sector. Observers noted the COVID-19 pandemic most likely increased child labor in the informal sector, as NGO surveys and studies found an increase in children supporting family-run businesses who otherwise would attend school. The worsening national economic situation and nationwide school closures triggered by the pandemic further exacerbated this trend. The most common informal economic activity was cooking meals and selling them on the streets or delivering them to customers. According to CARE International, children in rural areas were most likely found working in family-owned farms or businesses, including banana and rose farms. Children were also subjected to gold mining and the production of bricks.

As COVID-19-induced nationwide school closures continued, some parents continued to take their children to agricultural fields while the parents worked. Labor organizations reported children were largely removed from the most heavy and dangerous work. For students who could not attend virtual classes due to internet connectivity problems, some communities organized community centers so these children could continue remote learning. Many children younger than 15 in urban areas worked informally to support themselves or to augment family income by peddling on the street, shining shoes, sorting garbage, or begging. According to the NGO Partners of the Americas, city governments took some children who worked on the street to attention centers where internet connections and computers provided an opportunity to resume online learning often unavailable in the home.

Local civil society organizations reported that children conducted domestic work, including paid household work. A July 2020 study by CARE International found that during the pandemic many female house cleaners took their children, mostly girls, to their place of employment to help with the mother’s household tasks, likely increasing child labor in domestic environments.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or social status. The law prohibits employers from using discriminatory criteria in hiring, discriminating against unions, and retaliating against striking workers and their leaders. The government did not effectively enforce those laws and regulations, but penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights, such as election interference. An NGO reported that Ministry of Labor representatives were frequently unprepared for administrative cases regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity due to a lack of familiarity with LGBTQI+ issues.

Employment discrimination against women was prevalent, particularly with respect to economic opportunities for older women and for those in the lower economic strata. A study of average salary statistics reported in media on August 25 found that the average pay gap between men and women widened between February and July. While men’s reported average monthly salary increased from $301 to $350 (or 16 percent), women’s salary decreased from $259 to $248 (or 4 percent) in that span. Reasons the article cited for this reduction in average pay for women were reduced labor opportunities and workhour reductions, as women disproportionately worked in sectors (lodging, food service, and manufacturing) most adversely affected by the COVID-19-induced economic slowdown.

The National Institute for Statistics and Census (INEC) announced the unemployment rate in July was 7.1 percent for women and 3.8 percent for men, compared with 15.7 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively, in June 2020.

Afro-Ecuadorians continued to demand more opportunities in the workforce and complained that employers often profiled them based on their job application photographs and racial stereotypes. At the conclusion of a December 2019 official country visit, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent expressed concern about reports of impunity and also human rights abuses and violations against farm workers, the majority of whom were Afro-descendants, at banana plantations owned by Japanese subsidiary company Furukawa Plantations C.A. The Working Group was also concerned by “the lack of access to justice for people of African descent” seeking reparations for injuries doing agricultural work and welcomed the Constitutional Court’s commitment to address the backlog of labor cases against agricultural employers. NGOs and labor leaders continued to note significant delays in processing these cases. Indigenous and LGBTQI+ individuals as well as persons with disabilities also experienced employment discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a minimum monthly wage, which was above the poverty income level.

The law limits the standard work period to 40 hours a week, eight hours a day, with two consecutive days of rest per week. Miners are limited to six hours a day and may only work one additional hour a day with premium pay. Premium pay is 1.5 times the basic salary for work done from 6 a.m. to midnight. Work done from midnight to 6 a.m. receives twice the basic salary, although workers whose standard shift is at night receive a premium of 25 percent instead. Premium pay also applies to work on weekends and holidays. Overtime is limited to no more than four hours a day and a total of 12 hours a week. Mandatory overtime is prohibited. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections. The ministry issues fines for wage and hour law violations. The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, but penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Workers are entitled to a continuous 15-day annual vacation, including weekends, plus one extra day per year after five years of service. Different regulations regarding schedule and vacations apply to live-in domestic workers. The law mandates prison terms for employers who do not comply with the requirement of registering domestic workers with the Social Security Administration. INEC data showed the “adequate employment” rate – the proportion of the population working at least 40 hours per week and earning at or above the minimum salary of $400 per month – was at 33.5 percent through September, and the “underemployment rate” was at 22.7 percent.

A June 2020 law addressing COVID-19’s impact allows employers and employees to enter into force majeure agreements, although the dismissal of an employee is permitted only if the business ceased operations permanently. The law also permits employers to reduce working hours and salaries by up to 50 and 45 percent, respectively, by signing “emergency contracts” with their employees to prevent job losses. Citing government figures, media reported that as of April 20 companies had enrolled 81,309 workers under “emergency contracts,” with most of them being in the agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, and trade industries. Unions and labor organizations stated the law enabled precarious work conditions, reduced wages below the minimum wage, and allowed unfair dismissals without due compensation because of employers’ leverage over employees desperate to keep their jobs during the COVID-19 economic slowdown. Labor unions filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court in June challenging the provisions in the June 2020 law. A ruling by the Constitutional Court remained pending as of October 25.

Labor leaders and NGOs said there were no specific sectors with a concentration of alleged violations of wage, hour, or overtime laws. They reported the number of complaints against public and private companies in the service, tourism, agricultural, and manufacturing sectors, however, were rising because of perceived unfair dismissals mostly under “emergency contracts” as provided in the June 2020 law. They said that women and young workers were sometimes vulnerable to wage exploitation in the informal sector, and that domestic and service-sector workers sometimes had to accept less convenient conditions on hours worked, especially in the context of customer capacity and operating hour restrictions due to COVID-19. Efforts to combat forced labor were deficient. The government did not have labor inspectors solely dedicated to identifying forced labor, although they were trained to do so. The government’s 159 total reported labor inspectors through November 8 were below ILO standards for the country’s population and labor force size.

The June 2020 law facilitates and encourages teleworking options, including a worker’s right to “disconnect” from work duties for a minimum of 12 continuous hours in a 24-hour period. Ministry of Labor data through July 29 indicated more than 457,000 persons in the public and private sectors worked remotely.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for the health and safety of workers and outlines occupational safety and health (OSH) standards, which are current and appropriate for the country’s main industries. These regulations and standards were not applied in the informal sector, which employed approximately 50 percent of the working population as of June. The number of inspectors was insufficient, and the government did not effectively enforce OSH laws.

Authorities may conduct labor inspections by appointment or after a worker complaint. If a worker requests an inspection and a Ministry of Labor inspector confirms a workplace hazard, the inspector then may close the workplace. Labor inspections generally occurred because of complaints, not as a preventive measure; inspectors could make unannounced visits. The COVID-19 pandemic impeded in situ inspections due to social distancing measures and budgetary constraints at the Ministry of Labor. In some cases violations were remedied, but other cases were subjected to legal challenges that delayed changes for months. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations and were often not enforced.

Some unions and labor associations alleged public- and private-sector employers sometimes failed to enforce biosecurity protocols and provide adequate protective equipment to prevent COVID-19 contagion.

The Ministry of Labor continued its enforcement reforms by increasing the number of workers protected by contracts, minimum wage standards, and registration for social security benefits.

Workers in the formal sector could generally remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Labor representatives said that COVID-19 complicated these protections, however, as employees and their employers sometimes had a conflicting sense on the degree of risk involved in presenting themselves for work and the extent of protective measures at the workplace, while employees feared losing employment in an economic downturn.

On July 9, the Labor Ministry issued guidelines for the progressive return to work activities in the public and private sectors. The guidelines did not consider recent COVID-19 exposure or previous infection as justifiable cause for not returning to in-person work and included fines for noncompliance. On July 18, the National Federation of Public Servants expressed concern with the guidelines, arguing they prevented public-sector employees’ safe, progressive return to work. On July 22, the Pichincha Medical Association requested the city of Quito to postpone the official return to in-person work due to concerns regarding the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant in the capital, but the request was denied. COVID-19 infection rates declined in August due in large part to higher vaccination rates among the population.

Informal Sector: Most workers worked in the large informal sector and in rural areas. These workers received far fewer labor protections and were less likely to be able to remove themselves from dangerous health or safety situations without jeopardy to their employment. Informal sector workers were not covered by minimum wage laws or legally mandated benefits. OSH problems were more prevalent in the informal sector. The law singles out the health and safety of miners, but the government did not enforce safety rules in informal, often illegal, small-scale mines (frequently linked to local community leaders and organized crime), which made up the vast majority of enterprises in the mining sector. Migrants and refugees were particularly vulnerable to hazardous and exploitative working conditions. According to media and labor associations, local organizations reported complaints of Venezuelans receiving below the minimum wage, particularly in the informal sector.

Eswatini

Executive Summary

Eswatini is a monarchy with limited democratic checks on the king’s power. King Mswati III and Queen Mother Ntfombi, the king’s mother, rule as comonarchs and exercise ultimate authority over the three branches of government. There is a bicameral parliament consisting of the Senate and House of Assembly, each composed of appointed and elected members. The king appoints the prime minister. Political power remains largely vested with the king. International observers concluded the 2018 parliamentary elections were procedurally credible, peaceful, and well managed.

The Royal Eswatini Police Service is responsible for maintaining internal security as well as migration and border crossing enforcement, and reports to the prime minister. The Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force also has domestic security responsibilities, including protecting members of the royal family. The Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force reports to the chief defense officer and the army commander. His Majesty’s Correctional Services is responsible for the protection, incarceration, and rehabilitation of convicted persons and keeping order within corrective institutions. His Majesty’s Correctional Services personnel sometimes work alongside police during demonstrations and other large events, such as national elections, that call for a larger complement of personnel. The king is the commander in chief of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force, holds the position of minister of defense, and is the titular commissioner in chief of the Royal Eswatini Police Service and His Majesty’s Correctional Services. Traditional chiefs supervise volunteer rural “community police,” who have the authority to arrest suspects who commit minor offenses for trial by an inner council within the chiefdom. For serious offenses suspects are transferred to police for further investigation. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

In late June and early July, the country experienced unprecedented civil unrest following the banning of petition deliveries, resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. The unrest was marked by violence, looting, arson, and large-scale destruction of property. In October civil unrest again sparked protests, resulting in at least one death and dozens of injuries. During the unrest, the military was deployed to restore order, and the government disrupted internet service. The government acknowledged that there were 34 fatalities from civil unrest in late June and early July, but other groups reported much higher numbers. There were credible reports that security forces used excessive force responding to unrest.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; political detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including an allegation of violence against foreign journalists; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly; restrictions on freedom of movement; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

The government was inconsistent in its investigation, prosecution, and punishment of officials who allegedly committed human rights abuses or for government corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Corruption continued to be a problem, most often involving personal relationships and bribes being used to secure government contracts on large capital projects. Throughout the year several school principals were convicted for misappropriation of school funds.

There were credible reports that a person’s relationship with government officials influenced the awarding of government contracts; the appointment, employment, and promotion of officials; recruitment into the security services; and school admissions. Although parliament’s Public Accounts Committee was limited in its authority to apply and enforce consequences except by drawing public attention to potential corruption, it continued to pursue investigations, particularly those related to public spending, and received broad media attention for its efforts.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative but only sometimes responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: CHRPA is empowered by the constitution to investigate complaints of corruption, abuse of power, human rights abuses, and mismanagement of public administration. Local observers regarded CHRPA as both effective and independent. During the year CHRPA investigated 156 complaints, made findings of fact, appeared in court on behalf of aggrieved parties, issued recommendations to judicial and governmental bodies, and provided training on human rights to law enforcement officers. In October CHRPA presented a preliminary report on the civil unrest. According to the report, which focused solely on the events of June 28-29, 46 persons lost their lives and 245 individuals sustained gunshot wounds, a higher number than the government’s official statements on the unrest. The report was completed with technical and financial support from UNICEF, the UN Development Program, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in collaboration with civil society partners. The assessment was presented to parliamentary committees and provided a platform for the government to conduct further investigations.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes domestic violence and rape, including rape of a spouse or intimate partner. The penalties for conviction of rape are up to 30 years’ imprisonment for first offenders and up to 40 years’ imprisonment for repeat offenders. The penalty for conviction of domestic violence is a fine, up to 15 years’ imprisonment, or both. Several convicted perpetrators received lengthy sentences. Although men remained the primary perpetrators, women have also been arrested and convicted under the law.

Rape remained common, and domestic violence against women has resulted in deaths. There were few social workers or other intermediaries to work with survivors and witnesses to obtain evidence of rape and domestic violence. There were reports that survivors faced intimidation, stigmatization, and violence from authorities, relatives, and perpetrators when attempting to report rape and domestic violence to police or other authorities.

Rural women who pursued prosecution for domestic violence in traditional courts often had no relief if family intervention failed, because traditional courts were less sympathetic to women and less likely than courts using Roman-Dutch-based law to convict men of spousal abuse.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Accusations of witchcraft were employed against women in family or community disputes that could lead to their being physically attacked, driven from their homes, or both.

Sexual Harassment: The law establishes broad protections against sexual harassment, with penalties if convicted of a monetary fine, 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. The government generally enforced this law effectively.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization by government authorities. Some individuals, however, particularly young women, often lacked the information and means to support their reproductive health. Cervical cancer screenings and precancer treatment programs were available to women living with HIV. Human papillomavirus vaccines were not available to girls in the country due to its high cost and a lack of government funding. There were reports that girls, particularly in rural areas, missed school on occasion due to lack of sanitary products. According to anecdotal reports, teenage pregnancy greatly increased during the year due to school closures from COVID-19 and civil unrest. Government officials announced pregnant pupils were welcome to attend public schools, but some private religious institutions did not allow pregnant girls to attend.

Travel and movement restrictions due to the unrest and COVID-19 created barriers that impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services. In general, there was wide access to contraception, including in health facilities, retail stores, public restrooms, and workplaces throughout the country, and most persons had access to reproductive health and contraception information. The UN Population Division estimated 68 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception during the year.

According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality ratio was 437 deaths per 100,000 live births. This high ratio resulted from a host of factors, one of which was the quality of medical care, but others were patient-dependent factors such as not seeking antenatal care, late presentation to facilities, and home deliveries.

The government provided emergency contraception and postexposure HIV prophylaxis to survivors of gender-based violence.

Discrimination: Women occupied a subordinate role in society. The dual legal system complicated the protection of women’s rights. Since unwritten customary law and custom govern traditional marriage and certain matters of family law, women’s rights often were unclear and changed according to where and by whom they were interpreted. Couples often married in both civil and traditional ceremonies, creating problems in determining which set of rules applied to the marriage and to subsequent questions of child custody, property, and inheritance in the event of divorce or death.

In 2019 the High Court ruled common law “marital power” that formerly denied married women the right to act without their husband’s consent in many instances was unconstitutional. The High Court in 2019 also struck down sections of the law that allowed marital power and spousal property rights to be governed by law and custom.

Women faced employment discrimination. The constitution provides for equal access to land, and civil law provides for women to register and administer property, execute contracts, and enter transactions in their own names.

Girls and women in rural areas faced discrimination by community elders and authority figures. Boys received preference in education. Although customary law considers children to belong to the father and his family if the couple divorce, custody of the children of unmarried parents typically remains with the mother, unless the father claims paternity. When the husband dies, tradition dictates the widow must stay at the residence of her husband’s family in observance of a strict mourning period for one month. Media reported widows and their dependents sometimes became homeless and were forced to seek public assistance after the husband’s family took control of the homestead. Women in mourning attire were generally not allowed to participate in public events and were barred from interacting with royalty or entering royal premises. The mourning period may last up to two years. No similar mourning period applied to men.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Under the constitution all persons are equal before the law. Discrimination based on gender, race, color, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, social or economic standing, political opinion, age, or disability is prohibited.

Governmental and societal discrimination sometimes occurred against ethnic minorities, primarily persons of South Asian descent, but not on a systemic basis. These persons sometimes had trouble in obtaining official documents, including passports, and suffered from other forms of governmental and societal discrimination, such as delays in receiving building permits for houses, difficulties in applying for bank loans, and being required to obtain special permits or stamps to buy a car or house.

Children

Birth Registration: Birth on the country’s territory does not convey citizenship. Under the constitution children derive citizenship from the father, unless the birth occurs outside marriage and the father does not claim paternity, in which case the child acquires the mother’s citizenship. If a woman marries a foreign man, even if he is a naturalized citizen, their children carry the father’s birth citizenship.

The law mandates compulsory registration of births, but data on compliance was unavailable. Lack of birth registration may result in denial of public services, including access to education.

Education: The law requires that parents provide for their children to complete primary school. Parents who do not send their children to school through completion of primary education were required to pay fines for noncompliance. Education was tuition-free through grade seven. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received an annual budget allocation to subsidize school fees for orphans and other vulnerable children in both primary and secondary school. Seventy percent of children were classified as orphans or vulnerable children and so had access to subsidized education through the secondary level. There were no reports of significant differences between boys and girls in enrollment, attendance, or school completion.

Child Abuse: The law provides broad protections for children against abduction, sexual contact, and several other forms of abuse. The penalty for conviction of indecent treatment of children is up to 20 or 25 years of imprisonment, depending upon the age of the survivor. Child abuse remained a serious problem, especially in poor and rural households, although authorities have increased prosecutions of such abuse.

The Ministry of Education released a circular banning corporal punishment in schools in 2015, but this has not been codified in legislation. Laws permit corporal punishment and provide specific guidelines on the number of strokes by infraction after a medical doctor has cleared the student to receive corporal punishment. There were multiple media and civil society reports of corporal punishment in schools, some of which were quite grave.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls, but with parental consent and approval from the minister of justice, girls may marry at 16. The government recognizes two types of marriage, civil marriage and marriage under traditional law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and practices related to child pornography. Children were survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. The law criminalizes “mistreatment, neglect, abandonment, or exposure of children to abuse” and imposes a statutory minimum of five years’ imprisonment if convicted. Although the law sets the age of sexual consent at 16, a 2018 law outlaws “maintaining a sexual relationship with a child,” defined as a relationship that involves more than one sexual act with a person younger than 18. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

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.

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law protects the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but such regulations were rarely enforced, and public awareness of them remained minimal.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is responsible for upholding the law and for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Little progress has been made to date in expanding accessibility and access to public services for persons with disabilities, although some newer government buildings, and those under construction, included various improvements for persons with disabilities, including access ramps. Public transportation was not easily accessible for persons with disabilities, and the government did not provide any alternative means of transport. The government did not provide information and communication in accessible formats.

There were only minimal services provided for persons with disabilities, and there were no programs in place to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities complained of government neglect and a significantly lower rate of school attendance for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities were mainstreamed in schools with children without disabilities, but children with disabilities sometimes failed to receive adequate support due to the lack of teachers with training in special education. There was one private school for students with hearing disabilities and one private special-education school for children with physical or mental disabilities. The hospital for persons with mental disabilities, located in Manzini, was overcrowded and understaffed.

By custom persons with disabilities may not be in the presence of the king, because they are believed to bring “bad spirits.” Persons with disabilities were sometimes neglected by families.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although discriminatory attitudes and prejudice against persons with HIV persisted, the country’s 2019 HIV Stigma Index Report suggested declining HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Individuals with HIV reported it was difficult or uncomfortable for them to disclose their HIV status and that frequently their status was revealed to others without their permission. Persons living with HIV are ineligible for armed forces recruitment; the military, however, encouraged active members to test for HIV and did not discriminate against those testing positive. Effective treatment for persons living with HIV was widely available across the country, and public messaging was oriented towards that of wellness through HIV testing and treatment, rather than campaigns that might increase fear and stigma.

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

While there are colonial-era common law prohibitions against sodomy, no penalties are specified, and there has never been an arrest or prosecution for consensual same-sex conduct. The law does not prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. Societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons, although gradually lessening, remained a concern, and LGBTQI+ persons often concealed their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQI+ persons who were open regarding their sexual orientation and relationships faced censure and exclusion from the chiefdom-based patronage system. Some traditional, religious, and government officials criticized same-sex sexual conduct as neither morally Swati nor Christian. In June LGBTQI+ persons conducted a virtual pride celebration without incident.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that workers, except for those designated as providing essential services, have the right to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law places restrictions on labor rights. The law provides for the registration of unions and federations but grants far-reaching powers to the labor commissioner with respect to determining eligibility for registration. Workers in export processing zones are not allowed to form trade unions but are not prohibited from joining existing labor groups.

The constitution and law provide for the right to organize and bargain collectively, subject to various legal restrictions. The law gives employers discretion as to whether to recognize a labor organization as a collective employee representative if less than 50 percent of the employees are members of the organization. If an employer agrees to recognize the organization as the workers’ representative, the law grants the employer the ability to set conditions for such recognition. The law provides for the registration of collective agreements by the Industrial Court. The court is empowered to refuse registration if an agreement conflicts with the law, provides terms and conditions of employment less favorable to employees than those provided by any law, discriminates against any person, or requires membership or nonmembership in an organization as a condition for employment. The Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) presides over resolution of all labor disputes.

Employees not engaged in “essential services” have the right to undertake peaceful protest actions to “promote or defend socioeconomic interests” of workers. The law defines “socioeconomic interests” as including “solutions to economic and social policy questions and problems that are of direct concern to the workers but shall not include matters of a purely political nature.” The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The law does not require reinstatement of workers fired for union activity but allows workers to seek judicial redress for alleged wrongful dismissal, and courts have broad powers to award reinstatement and retroactive compensation.

Although the law permits strikes, the right to strike is strictly regulated, and the administrative requirements to register a legal strike made striking difficult. Trade unions complained that the right to strike was further improperly limited by a 2017 Industrial Court of Appeal ruling in favor of an employer who hired replacement workers to replace striking workers. The government stated the law did not allow an employer to hire replacement workers during a strike but has not enforced the law.

Strikes and lockouts are prohibited in essential services, and the minister’s power to modify the list of these essential services provides for broad prohibition of strikes in sectors not normally deemed essential, including postal services, telephone, telegraph, radio, and teaching. The procedure for announcing a protest action requires advance notice of at least seven days. The law details the steps to be followed when disputes arise and provides penalties for employers who conduct unauthorized lockouts and for workers who participate in illegal strikes. When disputes arose with civil servant unions, the government often intervened to reduce the chances of a protest action, which may not be called legally until alternative dispute resolution mechanisms before CMAC are exhausted and a secret ballot of union members conducted. The commissioner of labor has the power to “intervene” in labor disputes before they are reported to the commission if there is reason to believe a dispute could have serious consequences for the employers, workers, or the economy if not resolved promptly.

The government did not enforce the law in all sectors, and labor inspectors lacked authorization to assess penalties or enforce compliance. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations.

To protect employee welfare and prevent exploitation, the government has legal restrictions on labor brokers who recruit domestically for foreign contracts of employment, but these were inconsistently enforced.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and imposes penalties commensurate with similar serious crimes. Government did not enforce the law effectively and did not have a robust inspection program. Forced labor occurred almost exclusively in the informal sector, where labor laws applied but were rarely enforced.

Forced labor, including forced child labor, took place in the sectors of domestic work, sex work, agriculture, and market vending. There were reports that some citizens, particularly those from rural areas, were required to participate in traditional cultural events for the royal family, such as during the incwala, or harvest ceremony. These events often include an element of agricultural labor, such as clearing the king’s fields.

Also see 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 law does not prohibit all the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 15, for night work 16, and for hazardous employment 18. The Employment Act, however, does not extend minimum age protections to children working in domestic or agricultural work. The law also prohibits children younger than 18 from engaging in hazardous work in industrial undertakings, including mining, manufacturing, and electrical work, but these prohibitions do not address hazardous work in the agriculture sector. The law limits the number of night hours children may work on school days to six and the overall hours per week to 33.

The Ministry of Labor, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister through the Department of Social Welfare, and REPS are responsible for enforcement of laws relating to child labor. The government did not effectively enforce laws combating child labor. The government did not coordinate effectively among different sectors or provide labor inspectors sufficient authority in the informal sector, where the majority of child labor took place.

Penalties for conviction of child labor violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as kidnapping.

Children were employed in the informal sector, particularly in domestic services and agricultural work such as livestock herding. This work might involve activities that put at risk their health and safety, such as working long hours, carrying heavy loads, being exposed to pesticides, and working alone in remote areas.

Child domestic servitude was also prevalent, disproportionately affecting girls. Such work could involve long hours of work and expose children to physical and sexual exploitation by their employer. Child exploitation in illicit activities was a problem. Particularly in rural areas, children grew cannabis.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, language, HIV and AIDS or other communicable disease status, religion, political views, or social status. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

The government enforced this law inconsistently. Due to complications from COVID-19 and civil unrest, complaints regarding workplace discrimination were limited. The government mechanisms to record complaints were inadequate and most were unaware of such mechanisms or their legal rights.

While women have constitutional rights to equal pay and treatment and may take jobs without the permission of a male relative, there were few effective measures protecting women from discrimination in hiring, particularly in the private sector. The average wage rates for men by skill category consistently exceeded those of women.

Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to work areas. The government did not effectively raise awareness of or enforce disability and employment law provisions. Openly LGBTQI+ persons were subject to discrimination in employment and to social censure.

Migrant workers enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens but sometimes faced discrimination in employment due to societal prejudice against foreigners.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is no national minimum wage. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security sets wage scales for each industry. There is a legally mandated sliding scale of minimum wages depending on the type of work performed. Minimum wages are above the poverty line in all sectors.

There is a standard 48-hour workweek for most workers and a 72-hour workweek for security guards spread over a period of six days. The law requires all workers to have at least one day of rest per week and provides for premium pay for overtime. Most workers in the formal economy received paid annual leave and sick leave.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws but did not effectively enforce them. The government did not prioritize enforcement, resulting in constraints such as a lack of motor vehicles and inability to hire additional staff. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law, and while the labor commissioner’s office conducted inspections in the formal sector, it did not conduct inspections in the informal sector. Public transportation workers complained that they were required to work 12 hours a day or more without overtime compensation and that they were not entitled to pensions and other benefits.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set appropriate safety standards for industrial operations and encouraged private companies to develop accident prevention programs. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and levy sanctions. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.

The government did not effectively enforce safety and health laws. The number of inspectors was inadequate to enforce compliance and there was no enforcement in the informal sector. There were reports of unsafe working conditions in the agricultural industry, particularly at sugar companies with large milling operations. There were also reports of safety and health violations in the informal sector in painting businesses including car spray-painting. Nurses protested in October concerning a lack of critical medications to provide their patients and protective gear such as face masks. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations but were seldom applied.

Informal Sector: Labor laws are applicable to the informal sector but were seldom enforced. Most workers were in the informal sector, but credible data on the proportion were not available. Workers in the informal sector, particularly foreign migrant workers, children, and women, risked facing hazardous and exploitative conditions. No inspections were conducted in the informal sector and violations were common. Minimum wage guidelines do not apply to the informal sector.

Lesotho

Executive Summary

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliamentary government. Under the constitution the king is head of state but does not actively participate in political activities. The prime minister is head of government and has executive authority. In 2017 then prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili of the Democratic Congress Party lost a vote of no confidence and the snap election that followed. All major parties accepted the outcome, and Motsoahae Thomas Thabane of the All-Basotho Convention party formed a coalition government and became prime minister. Mosisili transferred power peacefully to Thabane, and Mathibeli Mokhothu assumed leadership of the opposition. Local and international observers assessed the election as peaceful, credible, and transparent. In May 2020 Thabane’s coalition government collapsed, and the All-Basotho Convention party and the Democratic Congress Party formed a new coalition government. Former finance minister Moeketsi Majoro replaced Thabane as prime minister.

The security forces consist of the Lesotho Defense Force, Lesotho Mounted Police Service, National Security Service, and Lesotho Correctional Service. The Lesotho Mounted Police Service is responsible for internal security. The Lesotho Defense Force maintains external security and shares some domestic security responsibilities with police and the National Security Service. The National Security Service is an intelligence service that provides information on possible threats to internal and external security. The Lesotho Mounted Police Service reports to the minister of police and public safety; the Lesotho Defense Force and National Security Service to the minister of defense; and the Lesotho Correctional Service to the minister of justice and law. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service and Lesotho Defense Force committed some human rights abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early and forced marriage, and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; and the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although not enforced.

While impunity was a problem, the government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses and corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: There were numerous reports of government corruption similar to the following examples. On February 22, the prime minister suspended Director of Corruption and Economic Offences Mahlomola Manyokole following his February 18 appearance before the Maseru Magistrate Court on money laundering, corruption, and abuse of power charges. Manyokole had yet to tried by year’s end.

On June 15, the Lesotho Times newspaper reported that the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences advised the attorney general’s office in a June 9 confidential memorandum that a 1.7 billion maloti ($121 million) solar energy deal between Frazer Solar and the government was marred by corruption. Temeki Tsolo, a member of former prime minister Thabane’s cabinet allegedly committed the government to the energy deal without cabinet approval.

On September 25, Minister of Finance Thabo Sophonea announced that during the week of September 20, the ministry discovered fraudulent transactions involving ministry employees and other individuals amounting to 50 million maloti (three million dollars). On November 15, Police Commissioner Molibeli announced indictments of Lehlohonolo Selate, Ntseliseng Lawrence, Mookho Rafono, Tlali Mokoaleli, Thabang Nkoe, Hlabathe Phafoli, Thithili Makhesi, Maqoboto Lepolesa and Fako Molefe. Except for Selate, who was a suspect in other criminal cases, Chief Magistrate Nthunya released the defendants on bail.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. According to some local NGOs, government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views; however, the TRC stated the government needed to take concrete action against the perpetrators of abuses.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The mandate of the independent Office of the Ombudsman is to receive and investigate complaints of government maladministration, injustice, corruption, and human rights abuses, and to recommend remedial action where complaints are justified.

The TRC continued its campaign for the establishment of a human rights commission meeting international standards. On May 28, Minister of Justice Lekhetho Rakuoane submitted a bill to parliament for the establishment of a National Peace and Unity Commission empowered to “facilitate the granting of amnesty to persons who make full disclosure of all relevant facts relating to gross human rights violations and political offences.” The government’s initiative also calls for public hearings and awarding compensation to victims. Civil society organizations urged consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including victims.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes the rape of women or men, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. Rape convictions carry a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. Sexual assault and rape were commonplace, and according to local and international NGOs, most incidents went unreported. When informed, police generally enforced the law promptly and effectively; however, those cases prosecuted proceeded slowly in the judiciary.

Domestic violence against women was widespread. There were numerous reported abuses. On February 20, police officer Lebohang Moletsane allegedly stabbed and killed his estranged wife Malimpho Moletsane at Thoteng Village in Mohale’s Hoek District. Moletsane had previously assaulted her and burned her belongings, claiming infidelity. She filed a lawsuit against him and Moletsane allegedly killed her before her case went to trial.

On November 30, High Court assistant registrar Tebello Mokhoema conducted a preliminary interview in preparation for the trial of former prime minister Thabane on charges of four counts in relation to the 2017 killing of his estranged wife Lipolelo Thabane and the attempted killing of Thato Sibolla who was travelling with Lipolelo at the time of her death. The charges are murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder (of Thato Sibolla), and destruction of property. The trial is scheduled for March 2022.

Advocacy and awareness programs by the LMPS Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU), ministries, and NGOs sought to change public perceptions of violence against women and children by arguing violence was unacceptable. The prime minister also spoke strongly against rape and other forms of gender-based violence. On April 6, Minister of Gender Likeleli Tampane submitted the Counter Domestic Violence bill to parliament specifically addressing police investigation of reported incidents of domestic violence.

The government had one shelter in Maseru for abused women. The shelter offered psychosocial services but provided help only to women referred to it. Most survivors of gender-based violence were unaware of the shelter. Minister Tampane stated gender-based violence increased markedly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There were reports of forced elopement, a customary practice whereby men abduct and rape girls or women with the intention of forcing them into marriage. If a perpetrator’s family was wealthy, the victim’s parents often reached a financial settlement rather than report the incident to police or allow the case to proceed to trial.

Labia elongation – the act of lengthening the labia minora (the inner lips of female genitals) through manual manipulation (pulling) or physical equipment (such as weights) – was practiced. According to the NGO Federation of Women Lawyers, labia elongation was not a common practice.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment; however, victims rarely reported it. Penalties for those convicted of sexual harassment are at the discretion of the court. Police believed sexual harassment to be widespread in the workplace and elsewhere (see section 7.e.). There were numerous reported abuses similar to the following example. In June the Lesotho Times newspaper reported that suspended Lesotho Communications Authority chief executive officer Mamarame Matela alleged that on April 15, former communications minister Keketso Sello sexually harassed her. She claimed that he demanded sexual favors from her and stated that if she did not comply, she would be fired. On May 24, Matela filed a sexual-offense complaint with police, and on June 4, the prime minister transferred Sello to the Ministry of Public Service.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures, the Maseru Magistrate Court delayed setting a trial date for the sexual harassment case filed in July 2020 by Police Inspector Makatleho Mpheto against Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete. On October 25, the trial began and continued at year’s end.

The CGPU produced radio programs to raise public awareness of the problem of sexual harassment.

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

Social and cultural barriers, but no legal prohibitions, limited access to contraception and related services. There was access to modern contraception for a minimal fee; male and female condoms were readily available free of charge.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services informed by guidelines for medicolegal care to survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception as part of the Ministry of Health’s management of rape.

According to the 2014 Lesotho Demographic and Health Survey, which contains the most recent data available, the maternal mortality rate was 102 per 100,000 live births. The high maternal mortality rate was primarily attributed to health-system limitations. The survey identified a correlation between education, wealth, and contraceptive use; women with living children were more likely than those without living children to use contraceptives. In remote areas some women relied on traditional medicine rather than skilled providers during their pregnancy.

Discrimination: Except regarding employment and inheritance rights, women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The law prohibits discrimination against women in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, access to credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. There were no reports women were treated differently from men regarding employment, including regarding working hours in most occupations and job tasks; however, there were legal limitations on the employment of women in some industries, such as mining. Women have the right to execute a last will and testament and to sue for divorce. A customary law marriage does not have legal standing in a civil court unless registered in the civil system.

Although civil law provides for women to have inheritance, succession, and property rights, customary law does not permit women or girls to inherit property and takes precedence over civil law in property disputes.

According to the Lesotho Federation of Women Lawyers, the government enforced the law in urban areas but deferred to customary law in rural areas.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

According to the constitution, every citizen enjoys fundamental human rights and freedoms regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. There were no reports of violence or discrimination against racial or ethnic minority groups.

Children

Birth Registration: According to the constitution, birth within the country’s territory confers citizenship. The law stipulates registration within three months of birth but allows up to one year without penalty.

Education: By law primary education, which ends at grade seven, is universal, compulsory, and tuition free beginning at age six. The Ministry of Education and Training set the maximum age for free primary education at 13. Secondary education is not free, but the government offered scholarships to orphans and other vulnerable children. Authorities may impose a nominal monetary fine or imprisonment of parents convicted of failing to assure regular school attendance by their children.

Child Abuse: While the law prohibits child abuse, it was a continuing problem, especially for orphans and other vulnerable children. The penalties for conviction of ill treatment, neglect, abandonment, or exposure of a child to abuse are no more than two months’ imprisonment and a nominal monetary fine. Neglect, common assault, sexual assault, and forced elopement occurred.

The Maseru Magistrate’s Court has a children’s court as part of a government initiative to protect children’s rights. The CGPU led the government’s efforts to combat child abuse. The CGPU sought to address sexual and physical abuse, neglect, and abandonment of children, and to protect the property rights of orphans. It also advocated changing cultural norms that encourage forced elopement.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Civil law defines a child as a person younger than age 18 but provides for a girl to marry at age 16. Customary law does not set a minimum age for marriage. During the year the Ministry of Social Development conducted public awareness campaigns against child marriage in several districts. On May 20, Minister of Social Development Matebatso Doti stated that girls were particularly vulnerable to child marriage and early pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown period.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law sets the minimum age for consensual sex at 18. On January 14, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Amendment Act of 2021 went into force. The act criminalizes all forms of sex trafficking and removes the option of a monetary fine instead of imprisonment if convicted. Anyone convicted of an offense related to the trafficking of children is liable to a sentence of up to life imprisonment. Conviction of child pornography carries a similar sentence. The antitrafficking law criminalizes trafficking of children or adults for the purposes of sexual or physical exploitation and abuse. Offenders convicted of trafficking children for commercial sex are liable to a sentence of life imprisonment. The death penalty may be applied if an HIV-positive perpetrator is convicted of knowingly infecting a child. Although police stated there were no reported cases of sexual exploitation of children, they believed it occurred.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

Few Jewish persons resided in the country. 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 prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities; however, persons with disabilities did not have equal access to education, health services, public buildings, transportation, and government information and communication on an equal basis with others.

Children with physical disabilities attended school, but facilities to accommodate them in primary, secondary, and higher education were limited. In 2019 the Ministry of Education and Training instituted a policy to provide for greater access to education for children with disabilities. The policy provides for increasing the capacity of mainstream schools to accommodate children with disabilities instead of having them attend segregated schools. Implementation of the policy has been slow with only a few church-run schools providing greater access. By law conviction of denying a child admission to a school because of the child’s disability is punishable by a nominal monetary fine and up to five years’ imprisonment.

Law and regulations provide for persons with disabilities to have access to public buildings. Public buildings completed after 1995 generally complied with the law, but many older buildings remain inaccessible. According to the executive director of the ‎Lesotho National Federation of Organizations of the Disabled (LNFOD), air travel services were adequate for persons with disabilities. He stated the insufficient number of sign language interpreters in the judicial system resulted in case postponements for persons with hearing disabilities. Moreover, persons with hearing disabilities who signed could not access state services. Braille and JAWS (Job Access with Speech, a computer software used by persons with vision disabilities) were not widely available. Although the 2020 National Strategic Development Plan was printed in braille, it was uncommon for government documents to be printed in braille.

The law states public events, news broadcasts, educational programs and other platforms that cover public information of national significance should provide sign language and other means of access by persons with disabilities. The law provides for a 400 maloti ($28) monthly disability stipend for persons with severe disabilities. LNFOD executive director Nkhasi Sefuthi stated the criteria used to determine “severity of disability” limit inclusivity. On March 12, parliament passed the Persons with Disability Equity Act of 2021. The law provides for establishment of a persons with disabilities advisory council to provide for equal opportunities and recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities, including access to education, health services, public buildings, and public transport on an equal basis with others

There were no reports of persons with disabilities being abused in prison, school, or mental health facilities; however, according to the LNFOD, such abuse likely occurred regularly.

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

By law, “any person charged with sodomy or assault with intent to commit sodomy may be found guilty of indecent assault or common assault if such be the facts proved;” however, authorities did not enforce the law. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons faced societal discrimination and disregard. On May 17, the LGBTQI+ rights NGO Matrix convened a forum to discuss the challenges faced by LGBTQI+ persons. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown period, some LGBTQI+ participants reported being expelled from their homes by family members, leaving them vulnerable.

The law prohibits discrimination attributable to sex; it does not explicitly forbid discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. Matrix reported public sensitization campaigns reduced discrimination in access to health-care services and participation in religious activities. There were no reports of employment discrimination.

Matrix decentralized its activities and established committees in eight of the 10 districts to provide more access to vulnerable persons. The Christian Council of Lesotho offered pastoral care and counseling to LGBTQI+ persons.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

By law workers in the private sector have the right to join and form trade unions of their own choosing without prior authorization or excessive bureaucratic requirements. The law prohibits civil servants and police from joining or forming unions but allows them to form staff associations for collective bargaining and promoting ethical conduct of their members. All trade unions must register with the Office of the Registrar of Trade Unions. Registration requires that more than 35 percent of workers in an enterprise of 10 persons or more be unionized. Only the members of a registered trade union, which must represent more than 35 percent of the employees (of an employer with 10 or more employees), are entitled to elect workplace union representatives. The employees (of an employer with 10 or more employees) are entitled to elect workplace union representatives. The registrar may refuse to register a trade union if the provisions of its constitution violate the labor code. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference.

The law significantly limits the right to strike. In the private sector, the law requires workers and employers to follow a series of procedures designed to resolve disputes before the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR), an independent government body, authorizes a strike. A registered union with a 51 percent majority of staff may call a strike on a “dispute of interest” (a demand that goes beyond labor code stipulations). If mandatory negotiations between employer and employees reach a deadlock, a union may file with the DDPR for permission to embark on a strike. Typically, the employer and employees agree on the strike rules and its duration. Employers may also invoke a lockout clause and should inform DDPR of their intention to invoke the clause based on employer-employee agreement. The law does not permit civil servants, military, and essential workers to strike.

By law the Public Service Joint Advisory Council provides for due process and protects civil servants’ rights. The council consists of equal numbers of members appointed by the minister of public service and members of associations representing at least 50 percent of civil servants. The council concludes and enforces collective bargaining agreements, prevents and resolves disputes, and provides procedures for dealing with general grievances. Furthermore, the Public Service Tribunal handles appeals brought by civil servants or their associations. During the year five cases were adjudicated, and one was closed.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and other employer interference in union functions. The law provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. The law does not cover the informal sector and excludes the self-employed from relevant legal protections. There were reports foreign employers at construction companies did not rehire 106 workers who joined unions following a March-May 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The Construction, Mining, Quarrying, and Allied Workers Union stated that one construction company dismissed 75 workers for joining unions. Some employers threatened union leaders and denied them the opportunity to meet with their members.

The government effectively enforced applicable law with disputed cases typically resolved within one to six months at the DDPR. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations. The Labor Court’s independence remained questionable because it is under the authority of the Ministry of Labor and Employment (Ministry of Labor), despite a 2011 law transferring it to the judiciary.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and collective bargaining. Government approval is not required for collective agreements to be valid. The law protects collective bargaining but places restrictions on factory workers. Although factory workers have bargaining power, the law requires any union entering negotiations with management to represent at least 50 percent of workers in a factory. Only a few factories met that condition, and unions at factories where union membership is below 50 percent may not represent workers collectively in negotiations with employers. In 2015 the Factory Workers Union (FAWU), Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union, and National Union of Textile Workers merged to form the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) to strengthen their bargaining power. The National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union, which separated from FAWU, was active. Since 2018 the three largest unions (IDUL, United Textile Employees, and the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union) worked together to address workers’ issues, resulting in stronger collective bargaining. All worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. Most unions focused on organizing apparel workers.

Factory owners in the apparel industry were generally willing to bargain collectively on wages and working conditions but only with trade unions that represented at least 50 percent of workers. Factory decisions concerning labor disputes are determined by companies’ headquarters, which are usually located outside the country. In the retail sector, employers generally respected the freedom to associate and the right to bargain collectively, although retail unions complained employers commonly appealed Labor Court rulings to delay their implementation. The Labor Court was subject to judicial delays given its case backlog.

In April factory workers held a 27-day protest demanding the government publish the minimum wage gazettes for 2020 and 2021. The law stipulates that effective April 1, the minimum wage increment must be published annually. The workers further urged Minister of Labor and Employment Moshe Leoma to pass the amended Labor Code pending since 2006. The workers complained the government approved COVID-19 pandemic regulations without their contribution. These regulations led to delivery delays and factory closures. Some factory worker protests turned violent and resulted in two deaths: One person died after being struck by a vehicle during the protest, and police allegedly shot and killed Mots’illisi Ramanasi on May 25 during a factory worker protest in the Ha Tsolo area of Maseru. Following the incident, Ramanasi was transported by police to Maseru Private Hospital. An apparent examination from Maseru Private Hospital confirmed Ramanasi was shot. She was subsequently transferred to Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) where she died. The postmortem report indicated Ramanasi died as a result of being stabbed with a sharp object. Members of the trade union filed a lawsuit accusing QMMH of hiding evidence related to Ramanasi’s death. Protesters vandalized buildings and blocked roads with burning tires.

On June 8, the workers returned to work after the Lesotho Textile Exporters’ Association issued an ultimatum for them to return or face dismissal. On June 15, the government published a gazette reflecting a 14 percent minimum wage increase for textile factory workers and a 9 percent increase for other industries in the private sector.

According to the Lesotho Public Servants Staff Association (LEPSSA), 34 percent of civil servants belonged to the association. LEPSSA reported most civil servants did not register for membership in the association because they were not aware of its existence. LEPSSA has also reported that the Public Service Act of 2005 allows only workers from grade A to H (junior officers) to join the association while grade I to K (managers) are not allowed to join the association. The low rate of participation made it difficult for LEPSSA to engage with the government on workers’ rights problems, resulting in declining membership trends from 6,500 members in the 2017/18 financial year to 4,040 members in the 2021/22 financial year. In July LEPSSA filed a Constitutional Court application against the minister of labor for denial of its right to register as a civil servants’ trade union as enshrined in the constitution.

The Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA) stated 98 percent of all police officers were members of the organization, an increase from 92 percent in 2019. In 2019 police embarked on a “go-slow” work action and countrywide protest against the government’s failure to pay a risk allowance and 6 percent salary increase. Police also complained of a lack of uniforms and unclear transfer and promotion criteria. The government granted the salary increase in 2019. On September 2020 LEPOSA requested a permit to march to present grievances, but the minister of police declined, citing the law stating police were not allowed to protest. LEPOSA made a recommendation to the prime minister to dismiss Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli for incompetency and mismanagement of the police force. Because the infighting between LEPOSA and the commissioner disrupted the police force, the prime minister appointed an interministerial committee to investigate the matter. Based on the interministerial committee’s findings, the prime minister rejected LEPOSA’s demand to dismiss Molibeli. In April, Molibeli dismissed LEPOSA’s public relations officer, Motlatsi Mofokeng, due to his failure to disclose a conviction prior to joining the police force. Molibeli had asked Mofokeng to show cause why he could not dismiss him for failure to disclose his conviction. In March Mofokeng reportedly departed the country amid unsubstantiated rumors that police officers had been ordered to arrest and kill him.

From February 1 to March 11, nurses at Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital went on a strike demanding their salaries of 9,000 maloti ($638) per month be increased to 13,000 maloti ($921) to match those of their counterparts in government and in private hospitals. The Lesotho Nursing Council urged the nurses to stop their strike, arguing the strike put patients’ lives at risk and tarnished the image of the nursing and the midwifery professions. On February 24, a Labor Court interim ruling ordered the nurses to return to work pending the finalization of their case; however, the nurses continued to strike. On March 12, hospital management dismissed 345 nurses after they failed to comply with an interim Labor Court ruling of February 25 that ordered them to return to work. There was a pending Labor Court case.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor including child labor. The CGPU conducted community outreach on forced labor through community gatherings, lectures, workshops, and radio programs. Police focused on high schools and areas located close to the borders with South Africa to raise awareness of human trafficking and other forms of forced labor.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. Some government ministries and NGOs stated that the government did not have sufficient resources to enforce compliance. Police reported inadequate resources and training hampered their investigations and remediation efforts. The country convicted the first trafficker in four years and sentenced him to imprisonment. It enacted a new antitrafficking law that closed key legislative gaps, including criminalizing all forms of sex trafficking and prescribing penalties commensurate with the penalties for other serious crimes, and commencing criminal investigations into multiple government officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking offenses. It devoted, for the first time, modest funding for victim protection; and passed a 2021-26 antitrafficking national action plan. A national referral mechanism and standard operating procedures had been finalized and launched as of April. Criminal penalties for conviction of violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes, but they were seldom enforced. Forced labor, including forced child labor, continued to occur in the sectors of domestic work and agricultural work. Victims of forced labor were frequently either children or workers in the informal sector.

See 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 law defines the legal minimum age for employment as 15, or 18 for hazardous employment. The law does not prohibit all the worst forms of child labor. Children in domestic work are sometimes exposed to the worst forms of child labor and are not protected by law and regulations. The law defines hazardous work to include mining and quarrying; carrying heavy loads; manufacturing where chemicals are produced or used; working in places where machines are used, or in places such as bars, hotels, and places of entertainment where a person may be exposed to immoral behavior; herding; and producing or distributing tobacco.

The law provides for completion of free and compulsory primary school at age 13, two years before the legal age of employment, rendering children ages 13-15 particularly vulnerable to forced labor. According to the findings of the Worst Forms of Child Labor Report of 2020, 28.1 per cent of children between the ages of five and 14 years are engaged in child labor. The law prohibits the use of children for illicit activities, including drug trafficking, hawking, gambling, or other illegal activities detrimental to the health, welfare, and educational advancement of the child. The law also states a child has a right to be protected from the use of hallucinogens, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco products, psychotropic drugs, and any other substances declared harmful, and from being involved in their production, trafficking, or distribution. Additionally, the law prohibits the use of children for commercial sexual exploitation.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum age law regarding employment outside the formal economy. No convictions for child labor were reported. The Ministry of Labor and the CGPU investigated cases of working children, but it lacked enough labor inspectors to enforce compliance

The NGO Beautiful Dream Society reported one case of sex trafficking involving a girl trafficked to South Africa during the year.

Government regulations on “herd boys” distinguished between legal “child work” and illegal “child labor.” Herding continued to be the most common form of child labor, as the law was not effectively enforced for those younger than 18. The guidelines applied to children younger than age 18 and prohibited the engagement of children at a “cattle post,” the hut where herders stay when in remote mountain rangelands. In line with international conventions and standards, the law considers herding by children to be illegal child labor only if it deprives herd boys of the opportunity to attend school, obliges them to leave school prematurely, or requires them to combine school attendance with excessively long hours and difficult working conditions. Children also engaged in domestic service and street work, including vending.

See the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status, or refugee status. Discrimination based on disability is not explicitly prohibited. The law’s prohibition of gender-based discrimination is ambiguous. Generally, gender-based employment discrimination is prohibited. There is no provision for equal pay for equal work. According to the NGO Women and Law in Southern Africa, discrimination against women in employment, business, and access to credit is illegal, although social barriers to equality remained.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing the law, but it lacked adequate resources and did not report any complaints during the year. In the past both men and women reported hiring practices often aligned with gender, with men preferentially selected for certain positions (such as mechanics) and women preferentially selected for other positions (such as sewing machine operators). The Ministry of Labor was accused of providing work permits to white South Africans to work in mines, performing duties that Lesotho citizens could otherwise perform. Investigations into these allegations continued at the end of the year.

Migrant workers have the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is a sector-specific minimum wage and a general minimum wage. The general minimum monthly wage was above the official poverty line. Minimum wage provisions do not cover significant portions of the workforce. Labor laws were not applied to workers in agriculture or other informal sectors.

The law stipulates standards for hours of work, including a maximum 45-hour workweek, a weekly rest period of at least 24 hours, a daily minimum rest period of one hour, at least 12 days of paid leave per year, paid sick leave, and public holidays. Required overtime is legal if overtime wages for work in excess of the standard 45-hour workweek are paid. The maximum overtime allowed is 11 hours per week; however, there are exemptions under special circumstances. The law requires the premium pay for overtime be at a rate not less than 25 percent more than the employee’s normal hourly wage rate; any employer who requires excessive compulsory overtime is liable to a fine, imprisonment, or both.

The government applied wage and hour laws inconsistently. Wage and hour rates were not enforced in the large informal economy. The Ministry of Labor, which has the responsibility to enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, observed the security sector, retail, and construction sectors did not always conform to the minimum wages and hours-of-work regulations. In general, overtime laws were enforced through inspection visits and office mediation.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law empowers the Ministry of Labor to issue regulations on occupational health and safety standards, and the commissioner of labor is responsible for investigating allegations of labor law violations.

The law requires employers to provide adequate light, ventilation, and sanitary facilities for employees and to install and maintain machinery in a manner that minimizes injury. It also requires each employer have a registered health and safety officer. Employers must provide first aid kits, safety equipment, and protective clothing. The law also provides for a compensation system for industrial injuries and diseases related to employment. The law holds employers responsible for orienting their employees on safety standards and for providing adequate protective clothing. Workers may be held responsible for accidents if they fail to use provided protective clothing or fail to comply with safety standards.

The government did not effectively enforce the law on safety and health standards. Labor inspectors worked in all districts and generally conducted unannounced inspections, but the government did not employ enough labor inspectors to enforce compliance. By law the informal sector is not subject to inspection. The Ministry of Labor’s inspectorate reported employers, particularly in the security, transport, and construction sectors, did not always observe the minimum wage and hours-of-work laws. Many locally owned businesses did not keep adequate employee records to facilitate labor inspections as required by law. Smaller employers failed to establish safety committees, did not have complete first aid kits, and did not provide protective clothing. Except for the mining industry, employers’ compliance with health and safety regulations was generally low. According to the ministry, there was extensive noncompliance with health and safety regulations, especially in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Employers exploited the ministry’s lack of labor inspectors and its inability to prosecute violations. Additionally, penalties were not commensurate with those provided for in the labor code for violations.

Trade union representatives described textile-sector working conditions as poor or harsh but not dangerous. They stated failure by small factories to observe the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 pandemic guidelines put the workers at risk of contracting the disease. Unions noted government-constructed factories had poor layout and were designed with improperly installed ventilation. Employers who leased factories from the government were not allowed to change the design of government factory buildings to install ventilation systems. Independent auditors hired by foreign textile buyers conducted spot checks on many exporting factories, customarily sought labor’s input, and briefed the unions on their findings. Unions believed independent auditors kept factory owners compliant with health and safety regulations.

In 2019 a coalition of labor unions and women’s rights organizations, an apparel supplier, and three apparel brands signed agreements to address gender-based violence in garment factories. In response to allegations of sexual harassment, including some claims of supervisors demanding sexual favors, these agreements provided for the establishment of an independent body to receive complaints of gender-based violence and carry out investigations accordingly. Union leaders stated, however, that workers reported cases of violence and harassment, including assault and verbal abuse by employers. In May Time Magazine reported there was prevalence of abuse and gender-based violence at Hippo Knitting Factory. The Ministry of Labor, Hippo Knitting, and the trade unions signed a memorandum of understanding to eradicate gender-based violence and harassment in the factory. A local consultancy firm, Rise Africa, was contracted to monitor and assist in agreement implementation. Rise Africa successfully implemented a gender-based violence program at Nien Hsing Textiles.

Many workplace policies covered employees with HIV/AIDS. Some of the larger factories provided health-care services at the workplace. Where factories did not provide health care, workers had the right to access services at public health centers. Employers provided space for employee examinations and time off for employees to see doctors, receive counseling, and participate in educational and antistigma programs.

On August 19, the Ministry of Health launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for the textile factory workers. There were reports that the Ever Unison Textile Factory forced workers to receive COVID-19 vaccination shots to ensure safety at the workplace and to stabilize production. The National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union intervened, and the factory stopped the forced vaccination of workers.

The Ministry of Labor prepares an annual report on workplace fatalities and accidents. According to the report, from January through August, there were 124 accidents, of which 25 persons died and 99 individuals (76 men and 23 women) sustained serious injuries. The affected sectors included the textile, manufacturing, security, retail, and construction sectors.

Working conditions for foreign or migrant workers were the same as those of residents, and migrants had equal protection under the law in the formal sector.

The law does not explicitly provide for workers to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Workers have the right to report incidents that put their lives in danger to their safety officers of safety committees. In most cases workers reported being pressured not to report violations. Nevertheless, code provisions on safety in the workplace and dismissal imply such a dismissal would be illegal. Authorities protected employees when violations of the law were reported.

Informal Sector: The Ministry of Labor has minimal jurisdiction over the informal economy, where an estimated one-half of the country’s workers were employed. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations, but they were not applied. Violations of wage, hour and safety regulations were common. Conditions were especially hazardous in the construction, agriculture, domestic work, and mining sectors.

Malawi

Executive Summary

Malawi is a multiparty democracy. Constitutional power is shared between the president and the 193 National Assembly members. In 2019 elections were conducted for president, parliament, and local councils. In February 2020 the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of an opposition challenge, annulling the 2019 presidential election (leaving intact the parliamentary and local results). In June 2020 a new presidential election was conducted, and opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera won 58 percent of the vote, returning the opposition to power for the first time in 26 years. The international community and donors congratulated the country on the strength of its democratic institutions and peaceful transition of power.

The Malawi Police Service, under the Ministry of Homeland Security, has responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The executive branch sometimes instructed the Malawi Defense Force to carry out policing or other domestic activities, such as disaster relief. The Malawi Defense Force commander reports directly to the president as commander in chief. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the Malawi Police Service committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: harsh and life-threatening prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious government corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence; and criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

In some cases the government took steps to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corrupt practices, but impunity remained a problem.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

The government, in cooperation with donors, continued implementation of an action plan to pursue cases of corruption, reviewed how the “Cashgate” corruption scandal occurred, and introduced internal controls and improved systems to prevent further occurrences. Progress on investigations and promised reforms was slow.

Corruption: On April 18, President Chakwera announced the results of an investigative audit into the use of COVID-19 relief funds, which revealed the misuse of 494 million kwacha ($576,000). The investigation led to the arrests of more than 60 individuals across all levels of government and led Chakwera to dismiss the minister of labor for his role in the scheme. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is the agency primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of official corruption. It also works to educate the civil service and public on anticorruption matters. As of 2020 the bureau reported it completed 35 investigations and completed prosecution of 19 cases of which 10 resulted in convictions, three were acquittals, three were dismissed, and one was discharged; two were civil cases where individuals unsuccessfully sued the ACB. In the 2020/21 national budget, the government increased the ACB budget by 39 percent to allow an increase in staff and resources to investigate and prosecute cases.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, training civic educators, advocating changes to existing laws and cultural practices, and investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The MHRC, an independent government-chartered institution, is mandated by the constitution to promote and protect human rights and investigate human rights abuses. Despite its independent leadership, resource shortfalls resulted in a backlog of cases, delayed production of reports, and limited investigation of human rights abuses. The ombudsman and the law commissioner are ex officio members of the MHRC.

The Office of the Ombudsman is mandated to investigate cases of maladministration such as abuse of power, manifest injustice, oppressive conduct, and unfair treatment. Despite having a wider mandate under the constitution to investigate both public- and private-sector offenses, problems of limited capacity led the office to investigate only public officials and entities as the Ombudsman Act prescribes. According to the Office of the Ombudsman, it also prioritizes investigations relating to accountability of public resources. The office had 20 investigators, complemented by five full-time legal officers who handle the investigation of cases. During the year the Office conducted more than 50 public-awareness campaigns in seven of the country’s 28 districts, 46 radio programs on community radio stations, and three television programs on national television stations reaching approximately 3.8 million persons.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and girls with a maximum penalty of death for conviction. A 2015 law explicitly introduced the concept of spousal rape, but the act does not prescribe specific penalties for conviction and applies only to legally separated spouses. Spousal rape may be prosecuted under the rape provisions of the penal code. The government generally enforced the law effectively, and convicted rapists routinely received prison sentences.

Data on the prevalence of rape or spousal rape, prosecutions, and convictions were unavailable; however, press reporting of rape and defilement (statutory rape) arrests and convictions were an almost daily occurrence. Although the maximum penalty for conviction of rape is death or life imprisonment, the courts generally imposed lesser prison sentences. For cases of conviction of indecent assault on women and girls, the maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment. A person convicted of indecent assault on a boy younger than age 14 may be imprisoned for up to seven years.

The Ministry of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare and donor-funded NGOs conducted public-education campaigns to combat domestic sexual harassment, violence, and rape.

The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for conviction of domestic violence and recognizes that both men and women may be perpetrators as well as victims. Domestic violence, especially wife beating, was common, although victims rarely sought legal recourse. Police regularly investigated cases of rape, sexual assault, and gender-based violence but did not normally intervene in domestic disputes. Police support units provided limited shelter for some abuse survivors.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not specifically prohibit FGM/C. There were no national statistics on FGM/C. The practice of labia elongation or pulling has been documented. It was performed on girls ages 11 to 15 during sexual initiation camps in rural areas of the Southern Region.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law prohibits harmful social, cultural, or religious practices, including “widow cleansing” and “widow inheritance.” Nonetheless, in some areas widows were sometimes forced to have sex with male in-laws or a designee as part of a culturally mandated “sexual cleansing” ritual following the death of the husband. In some cases widows were “inherited” by a brother-in-law or other male relative. The government and NGOs sought to abolish such practices by raising awareness concerning the inherent dangers of such behavior, including the risk of HIV transmission.

Kupimbira, a practice that allows a poor family to receive a loan or livestock in exchange for pubescent daughters, existed in some areas.

Despite certain legal prohibitions, many abusive practices, including the secret initiation of girls into the socially prescribed roles of womanhood, continued. Such initiations were often aimed at preparing girls for marriage with emphasis on how to engage in sexual acts. In some traditional communities, girls as young as 10 undergo kusasa fumbi, a “cleansing ritual” in which the girls are raped by men. According to one UN-sponsored study in 2018, more than 20 percent of girls in secondary school underwent a form of initiation that involved rape by an older man.

Sexual Harassment: Although sexual harassment was believed to be widespread, there were no data on its prevalence or on the effectiveness of government enforcement of the law. The law makes conviction of sexual harassment punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and places an obligation on government to have policies and procedures aimed at eliminating sexual harassment. Conviction of “insulting the modesty” of a woman is a misdemeanor punishable by one year’s incarceration. Conviction in extreme cases, such as indecent assault on a woman or girl is punishable by sentences of up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

On March 29, the MHRC released a report which alleged former director general of the state-owned broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Aubrey Sumbuleta sexually harassed eight female employees. The report recommended compensation for victims and Sumbuleta’s prosecution for indecent assault. The report resulted from an investigation initiated in response to a July 2020 petition calling for Sumbuleta’s dismissal. On April 17, Sumbuleta was arrested and soon after was charged on six counts of indecent assault and abuse of office. He was released on bail on May 20.

In April the MHRC launched the country’s first workplace sexual harassment policy. The policy aims to safeguard employees and persons seeking services at the MHRC from unwelcome sexual advances and provide them with reporting guidelines. The policy provides the mechanism for handling complaints, actions to be taken against perpetrators and strategies for assisting survivors, including accessing legal remedies.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children.

Health-care clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. Access to contraceptives was limited in rural areas. According to the 2016 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS), 58 percent of girls and women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods. The government provided free childbirth services, but availability depended upon access to hospitals and other medical facilities in rural areas.

The MDHS estimated the maternal mortality rate was 439 deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 41. HIV and AIDS and adolescent pregnancy were factors in these high rates. Nurses and midwives were a critical component of prenatal and postnatal care due to a shortage of doctors. According to the National Statistical Office, skilled health-care providers assisted in 90 percent of births in 2018. There was only limited access to emergency obstetric care, particularly in rural areas.

Cultural beliefs regarding menstruation and lack of access to menstruation hygiene resources impacted women’s and girls’ ability to participate equally in society, including limiting girls’ access to education. Cultural practices in some regions traditionally excluded menstruating women and girls from participation in social activities, such as forbidding them from talking to male figures or being present where food is being cooked. UNICEF reported that increased availability of menstruation hygiene products such as reusable pads in recent years decreased absenteeism of women and girls in school and in the workplace but stated that lack of access to appropriate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities continued to be a problem. Factors such as pregnancy, economic hardship, and marriage were the main reasons that girls drop out of school. The country has policies allowing reentry for adolescent mothers. Pregnant students are suspended for one year. They can apply for readmission after this period only by sending requests to the Ministry of Education as well as the school. Many teachers have not seen the policy and were unsure how to implement it.

Discrimination: By law women have the same legal status and rights as men and may not be discriminated against based on gender or marital status, including in the workplace. Nevertheless, women had significantly lower levels of literacy, education, and formal and nontraditional employment opportunities, as well as lower rates of access to resources for farming. Widows often were victims of discriminatory and illegal inheritance practices in which most of an estate was taken by the deceased husband’s family. Although citizen men may sponsor their wives for naturalization, the law does not permit citizen women to sponsor their husbands for naturalization.

The government addressed women’s concerns through the Ministry of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare. The law provides for a minimum level of child support, widows’ rights, and maternity leave; however, few knew their rights or had access to the legal system and thus did not benefit from these legal protections.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnic origin. The MHRC is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of protecting and investigating human rights abuses. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

Despite numerous tribal groups with diverse cultures, languages, and traditions, violence and discrimination due to tribal, ethnic, or racial differences were rare. The government investigated, prosecuted, and punished persons complicit in violence and abuses.

The government took various measures to ensure equal access to education and employment at all levels of society, including a deliberate policy for free primary education to ensure equal access to basic education for all citizens, irrespective of their tribal, ethnic, cultural, or geographical origin.

The government launched numerous programs to promote social stability, including preventing racial and ethnic violence and discrimination. The government’s Malawi 2063 economic development plan includes numerous initiatives to mitigate poverty and address unemployment. The MHRC conducted effective awareness campaigns to address societal racial or ethnic biases.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship may be derived from birth within the country or abroad to at least one citizen parent “of African race.” There were no reports of discrimination or denial of services due to lack of birth registration.

Education: The government provided tuition-free primary education for all children, although many families could not afford exercise book fees and uniforms, and limited space in secondary schools prevented many students from continuing beyond primary education. In a reversal of previous trends, girls outnumbered boys in primary enrollment. Although initial secondary school enrollment rates for girls and boys were approximately the same, girls tended to drop out of secondary school at much higher rates. Girls accounted for approximately 63 percent of secondary school dropouts.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious problem. The press regularly reported cases of sexual abuse of children, including arrests for rape, incest, sodomy, and defilement.

The law prohibits subjecting a child to any social or customary practice that is harmful to health or general development. Prohibited practices include child trafficking, forced labor, early and forced marriage or betrothal, and use of children as security for loans or other debts.

The Ministry of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare activities to enhance protection and support of child victims included reuniting rescued victims of child labor with their parents and operating shelters for vulnerable children.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage:  The law sets the minimum age for marriage at 18. According to UNICEF, 46 percent of girls were married before 18, and 9 percent of girls were married before 15. Civic education on early marriage was carried out mainly by NGOs. Some traditional leaders annulled early marriages and returned the girls involved to school.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law forbids engaging in sexual activity with children younger than age 16, which is also the minimum age for sexual consent. The law further prohibits “indecent practice” in the presence of or with a child.

The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography and using a child for public entertainment of an immoral or harmful nature. The law was not effectively enforced.

The widespread belief that children were unlikely to be HIV-positive and that sexual intercourse with virgins could cleanse an individual of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS, contributed to the widespread sexual exploitation of minors. The trafficking of children for sexual purposes was a problem, and children engaged in commercial sex for survival at the behest of parents or without third-party involvement occurred. In urban areas bar and rest house owners recruited girls as young as 12 from rural areas to do household work such as cleaning and cooking. They then coerced them to engage in commercial sex with customers in exchange for room and board.

Displaced Children: According to the 2015 Demographic and Health Survey, 20 percent of children younger than age 18 were not living with either biological parent, and 12 percent were orphaned or vulnerable due to extended parental illness or death. Extended family members normally cared for such children and other orphans.

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.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, and there were no known 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

Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law requires such access. Government information and communication was provided in accessible formats. Societal stigma related to disability and the lack of accessibility to public buildings and transportation negatively affected the ability of persons with disabilities to obtain services and obtain and maintain employment.

The law prohibits discrimination in education, health care, the judicial system, social services, the workplace, housing, political life, and cultural and sporting activities for persons with disabilities, defined as a long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairment. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in political and public life and calls for the government to take measures to provide access for them to transportation, information, and communication services. The law provides for the establishment of a disability trust fund to support persons with disabilities, including regarding access to public facilities, both governmental and private.

Accommodations for persons with disabilities were not among the government’s priorities. Although the relevant law took effect in 2013, the government had yet to adopt standards and plans for its enforcement and implementation. The Ministry of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, but it was unable to do so.

There were public and privately supported schools and training centers that assisted persons with disabilities. As of September the MHRC reported that no complaints were received related to abuse of disability rights.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS remained a problem, especially in rural areas. Many individuals preferred to keep silent regarding their health conditions rather than seek help and risk being ostracized. Campaigns by the government and NGOs to combat the stigma had some success. The National AIDS Commission maintained that discrimination was a problem in both the public and private sectors.

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

The Center for the Development of People documented 16 instances of abuse based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The nature of the abuses fell into three broad categories: stigma, harassment, and violence. Although victims were willing to report the abuses to the center, they did not want their orientation to be revealed to their families or the public, so no investigations or prosecutions resulted.

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, or “unnatural offenses,” and conviction is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment, including hard labor. Conviction of attempting “unnatural offenses” is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment. The penal code also criminalizes “indecent practices” between men as well as between women and provides for punishment of five years’ imprisonment if convicted. The government did not actively enforce these laws.

Same-sex sexual conduct may also be prosecuted as “conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace.”

The law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. The revised Malawi National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS (202025) included transgender persons and men who have sex with men as part of the key populations to be targeted to reach its goals.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law allows workers, except for military personnel and police, to form and join trade unions of their choice without previous authorization. Unions must register with the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers’ Organizations in the Ministry of Labor; registration requirements are not onerous, but failure to meet annual reporting requirements may result in cancellation of a union’s registration. The law places some restrictions on the right to collectively bargain, including requirements of prior authorization by authorities, and bargaining status. The law provides for unions to conduct their activities without government interference. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for remedial measures in cases of dismissal for union activity. The law does not specifically prohibit retaliation against strikers or actions against unions that are not registered.

The law requires that at least 20 percent of employees (excluding senior managerial staff) belong to a union before it may engage in collective bargaining at the enterprise (factory) level, and at least 15 percent of employees must be union members for collective bargaining at the sector (industry) level. The law provides for the establishment of industrial councils in the absence of collective agreements for sector-level bargaining. Industrial council functions include wage negotiation, dispute resolution, and industry-specific labor policy development.

The law allows members of a registered union to strike after going through a mandatory mediation process overseen by the Ministry of Labor. A strike may take place only after failure of a lengthy settlement procedure, including seven days’ notice of a strike and a 21-day conciliation process as set out in the Labor Relations Act. An amendment to the Employment Act and Labor Relations Act enacted in October allows employers to deduct wages from striking employees if they strike for more than three days per year. The law also requires the labor minister to apply to the Industrial Relations Court to determine whether a strike involves an “essential service,” the interruption of which would endanger the life, health, or personal safety of part of the population. The law does not provide a specific list of essential services, but the amendment to the Labor Relations Act enacted during the year authorizes the minister of labor to designate categories of workers deemed essential who are not allowed to strike. Before the amendment, members of a registered union in essential services had only a limited right to strike. There are no special laws or exemptions from regular labor laws in export-processing zones. The law does not apply to most workers who are in the informal sector without work contracts.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. As was true of all cases entering the justice system, lack of capacity resulted in delays of some labor cases. Small fines for most violations were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights. Provisions exist for punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment, but no convictions were reported.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were adequately respected for those in the formal sector. Union membership among workers was low due to the small percentage of the workforce in the formal sector.

Arbitration rulings were legally enforceable; however, the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) did not monitor cases or adequately enforce the laws. The amendment to the Labor Relations Act restructured the Industrial Relations Court to eliminate the requirement of employer and employee panelists. Furthermore, the IRC is required to have permanent staff only.

The Ministry of Labor launched the Malawi Decent Country Programme II in September, modeled on the International Labor Organization (ILO) Decent Work Agenda, to improve worker rights and protections through support from the ILO and other development partners.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes. The amendment to the Employment Act during the year prohibits unlawful labor, including forced and tenancy labor. Violations of the act can incur a fine of up to five million kwacha ($5,830) and five years’ imprisonment for anyone convicted of exacting, imposing, causing, or permitting forced or tenancy labor.

The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws, and forced labor occurred during the year, especially in agriculture (predominantly the tobacco industry), goat and cattle herding, and brickmaking. Child forced labor also occurred (see section 7.c.). Under the tenancy system, estate owners recruited farmers from distant districts to grow tobacco for them on their estates. The tenants were often promised such services as accommodation and food rations as well as a share of the earnings from sales. Tenant farmers included men and women, usually accompanied by their children and dependents. Most tenants were from the southern region of the country and worked in the central or northern region. Employers loaned tenant farmers money to buy agricultural inputs during the growing season, which could turn into situations of debt bondage if they were unable to repay the loans. An amendment to the Employment Act during the year outlawed tenancy labor.

Also see 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 law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law sets the minimum age for employment at 14, and children between ages 14 and 18 may not work in hazardous jobs or jobs that interfere with their education. The prohibition of child labor does not apply to work done in homes, noncommercial farms, vocational technical schools, or other training institutions. The law provides a list of hazardous work for children and specifies a fine or imprisonment for conviction of violations. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

Police and Ministry of Labor officials were responsible for enforcing child labor laws and policies. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and child labor occurred.

Child labor, including the worst forms of child labor, remained a serious and widespread problem. In December the National Statistics Office released the Malawi Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey indicating that 14 percent of children between age five and 17 years engage in child labor, with 22 percent working in hazardous conditions. Child labor was most prevalent in agriculture, especially tea, tobacco, and livestock herding, brickmaking and construction, and domestic service. Forced child labor also occurred, particularly in agriculture, construction, forced begging and street work, in illicit activities, and commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). Children often worked 12-hour days, frequently for little or no pay. Many boys worked as vendors, and young girls in urban areas often worked outside their families as domestic servants, receiving low or no wages. Children who worked in the tobacco industry risked working with hazardous chemicals and sometimes suffered from nicotine poisoning. The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic led more children into situations of child labor, especially in rural areas.

In 2019 the Tobacco Industry Act came into force, requiring tobacco growers to report on efforts to eliminate child labor in tobacco farming. As a result of the law, most major tobacco companies put in place systems to address child and forced labor in their supply chain, and the Tobacco Commission engaged in awareness-raising activities.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The employment law prohibits discrimination against any employee or prospective employee but does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity, and the government in general did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for laws related to civil rights.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender and disability (see section 6). Despite the law against discrimination based on gender or marital status, discrimination against women was pervasive, and women did not have opportunities equal to those available to men. Women had significantly lower levels of literacy, education, and formal and informal employment opportunities. Few women participated in the limited formal labor market, and underrepresentation in the employment of women in managerial and administrative jobs was especially poor. Households headed by women were overrepresented in the lowest quarter of income distribution. In October 2020 protesters criticized the government’s failure to comply with the law’s requirement to include no less than 40 percent of either men or women in public appointments.

LGBTQI+ individuals faced discrimination in hiring and harassment, and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minister of labor sets the minimum wage rate based on recommendations of the Tripartite Wage Advisory Board composed of representatives of labor, government, and employers. The minimum wage was set below the World Bank’s poverty income level. The government reported during the year that 51 percent of citizens lived below the poverty line.

Migrant workers are entitled to the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens if they comply with immigration laws. Those persons not in compliance, however, lacked these protections and were subject to deportation.

The legal workweek is 48 hours, with a mandatory weekly 24-hour rest period. The law requires premium payment for overtime work and prohibits compulsory overtime. The law provides for a period of annual leave of no less than 15 working days.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Under the law labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections but lack the authority to initiate sanctions. The government did not provide information on the number of labor inspectors nor on government actions during the year to prevent violations, particularly for vulnerable groups.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that are appropriate for the main industries in the country. The Ministry of Labor houses a Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health responsible for minimum standards, but the number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law effectively. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Workers, particularly in industrial jobs, often worked without basic safety clothing and equipment. Workers harvesting tobacco leaves generally did not wear protective clothing and absorbed up to 54 milligrams of dissolved nicotine daily through their skin, the equivalent of 50 cigarettes.

Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. Workers dismissed for filing complaints regarding workplace conditions have the right to file a complaint at the labor office or sue the employer for wrongful dismissal; however, these processes were not widely publicized, and workers were unlikely to exercise these rights. Authorities did not effectively protect employees in this situation.

The government did not effectively enforce laws related to OSH, wages, or overtime. Workweek and annual leave standards were not effectively enforced, and employers frequently violated statuary time restrictions. Alleged violations of wage, hour, and overtime laws were believed to be widespread and, according to a 2017 Ministry of Labor report, were common across both the private and public sectors. The Ministry of Labor’s enforcement of health and safety standards was also poor. The law specifies fines and imprisonment for violations, but these penalties were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, and no reports of jail terms were ever reported.

Informal Sector: More than 88 percent of Malawi’s working population worked in the informal sector. Informal workers included street and market vendors, artisans, small veranda (khondes) businesses, cross-border traders, and smallholder tea farmers. A study by the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions found that informal workers endured unsafe and unhealthy working conditions; the law does not protect workers outside the formal sector.

Approximately 15,000 of two million informal workers were organized in the Malawi Union for the Informal Sector (MUFIS), which is affiliated with the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions. MUFIS worked with district councils to address matters affecting informal workers due in part to a Ministry of Labor decision that MUFIS did not have sufficient standing to bargain collectively with employers.

Mauritius

Executive Summary

Mauritius is a multiparty democracy governed by the prime minister, the Council of Ministers, and the National Assembly. International and local observers judged elections for the prime minister and legislators in 2019 to be free and fair. The coalition headed by the incumbent prime minister won a majority of seats.

The national police are responsible for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. A police commissioner heads the police force and has authority over all police and other security forces, including the Coast Guard and Special Mobile Forces, a paramilitary unit that shares responsibility with police for internal security. The national police report to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary arrest; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship and the existence of criminal libel laws; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of racial or ethnic minority groups.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Enforcement of prosecution and punishment was inconsistent and sometimes politically influenced, resulting in impunity.

The government took steps to investigate officials accused of corruption, but cases rarely resulted in convictions, implying impunity.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: In February, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Protection Yogida Sawmynaden resigned but kept his parliamentary seat after a woman accused him of creating a phantom job in her name and then pocketing the salary. The woman was the widow of political insider Soopramanien Kistnen, who died in October 2020 under suspicious circumstances. Lawyers for the Kistnen family suggested that his death was linked to corrupt procurement contracts for COVID-19 supplies and medical equipment in 2020. Police began investigations into several contracts for medical supplies from companies that had no previous medical background but had personal connections to the government.

On December 17, three senior civil service officers opted for early retirement after a parliamentarian revealed that the Ministry of Health bought COVID-19 medication at a price four times higher than the price paid for another batch of the same medication procured the day before. The Independent Commission Against Corruption started an investigation that continued at year’s end.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views; however, there were reports that relatives of human rights activists faced punitive job transfers in retaliation for the activists’ criticism of the government.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The president appoints an ombudsman to investigate complaints against public servants, including police officers and prison guards. Individual citizens, council ministers, or members of the National Assembly may request the ombudsman to initiate an investigation. As an alternative to filing judicial charges, the ombudsman may make recommendations to the appropriate government office for administrative responses to offenses committed by a public officer or other authority carrying out official duties. The ombudsman was independent and was adequately resourced and effective.

The Equal Opportunities Commission investigates allegations of discrimination and promotes equality of opportunity in both the private and public sectors. The commission was independent and was adequately resourced and effective.

The NHRC enjoyed the government’s cooperation and operated without government or party interference.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including of men. Although the law does not mention spousal rape, it stipulates that a spouse cannot force or threaten the other partner into a sexual act “from which the spouse or the other person has the right to abstain.”

Police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law, according to local NGOs that work with domestic violence survivors. The penalty for rape is up to 20 years’ imprisonment, with a substantial monetary fine. Rape cases rarely make the headlines unless they are egregious in nature.

The law criminalizes domestic violence, but it remained a major problem. The term “spouse” unmarried couples of the opposite sex; defines “domestic violence” to include verbal, psychological, economic, and sexual abuses; and empowers officers to act on behalf of the survivors instead of waiting for a formal complaint from the survivor.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. According to women’s rights NGOs, police were not always effective in protecting domestic violence survivors to whom authorities had granted court protection orders. Authorities prosecuted crimes including assault, aggravated assault, threats, and blows under the criminal code, but law enforcement recordkeeping did not always indicate whether they were linked to domestic violence.

The law provides for protection and housing rights for survivors, as well as counseling for the abuser; however, counseling for the abuser is not mandatory, and there were few shelters available to survivors. By law the penalty for violating a protection order is a monetary fine and imprisonment not to exceed one year for the first offense, two years for a second offense, and up to five years’ imprisonment for subsequent offenses. The government operated a mobile phone application, the Family Welfare App, to facilitate reporting of domestic violence and child abuse.

On January 31, police arrested a man after fatally stabbing his girlfriend after she broke up with him following two years of domestic violence. The case was underway at year’s end.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, which is punishable by up to two years in prison, but sexual harassment continued to be a problem due to lax enforcement and because survivors often did not believe filing a complaint would resolve anything. There were, however, an increasing number of women denouncing sexual harassment cases on social media platforms.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health. They had access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. No legal, social, or cultural barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraception, and all types of contraception were available at retail stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. Individuals younger than age 18 required parental permission to access health services. Individuals were able to access contraception and skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as essential obstetric and postpartum care that the state provided free of charge in government-run hospitals. Emergency health care was available, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Medical staff, however, must report any postabortion complications, which meant many women did not seek medical assistance. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available over the counter.

There were no reports of legal, social, or cultural barriers, including harmful practices, related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene that impacted women and girls’ ability to participate equally in society, including any limits on a girl’s access to education.

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution and law. The courts upheld these rights. Nonetheless, cultural and societal barriers prevented women from fully exercising their legal rights, especially in some cases involving inheritance.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution and the law protect members of racial or ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination, but the government was not always effective in enforcing the law.

For example, the government generally refused to release demographic information concerning civil service recruitment when it faced allegations that certain ethnic groups received preferential treatment.

Poverty continued to be more common among citizens of African descent (Creoles) than among those in any other community. There were violent and racist comments on social media.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory if one or both parents are citizens of the country. Birth registration was not denied on a discriminatory basis. Authorities register births, and the law provides for late registration. Failure to register births resulted in denial of some public services.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes certain acts compromising the health, security, or morality of a child, although the government was unable to ensure complete compliance, such as in child labor cases. NGOs asserted child abuse was more widespread than the government acknowledged or than survivors reported to authorities.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal marriage age for boys and girls is 16 with parental consent, but marriages of younger children were reported in the past. There was, however, no minimum age for religious marriages, which advocates pointed to as a loophole that could endanger young girls vulnerable to forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, or using children for commercial exploitation. The law criminalizes child sex and child sex trafficking. The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a monetary fine for each offense. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. On July 29, police on Rodrigues Island arrested a man, age 29, for allegedly sexually abusing and filming a woman, age 18. Police found numerous pornographic videos and photos of minors on the man’s cell phone. Police arrested two other men, and the investigation continued at year’s end.

The government assisted victims of child abuse by offering counseling at a drop-in center in Port Louis and referring victims to government-supported NGO shelters. Both medical treatment and psychological support were available at public clinics and NGO centers.

Institutionalized Children: The law provides that a simple oath before a magistrate allows parents to have their children placed in the care of the Rehabilitation of Youth Center on the basis that they are “children beyond control.” Once admitted, the children, some as young as eight or nine, could remain in detention until they reached the age of 18.

The NHRC stated that in 2020 the 33 children held in the Correctional Youth Center did not have access to primary and secondary education during their detention and imprisonment. Vocational training such as in plumbing or hairdressing was available at the correctional center on demand only after lengthy administrative procedures.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community consisted of approximately 120 persons, predominantly foreign residents. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts during the year.

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

Persons with disabilities cannot access education, health services, public buildings, or transportation on an equal basis with others. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law that requires equal access to public conveyances. Many buildings also remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities despite a legal requirement for public buildings to be accessible for them. The government implemented programs to provide persons with disabilities with access to information and communications, such as captions and sign language interpretation of news broadcasts. The state-run television station broadcasts a weekly sign-language-news program for persons with hearing disabilities. There is no provision, however, to make government websites accessible to persons with disabilities.

The law prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law stipulates that persons with disabilities must constitute at least 3 percent of a workforce of 35 or more employees, but authorities did not effectively enforce these provisions.

Children with physical disabilities have the right to attend mainstream schools, but, according to students with disabilities and their parents, schools often turned them away because they could not be accommodated. There is a regulatory authority to address and advocate for individuals with special needs, including children. Children with mental disabilities attended separate schools that received minimal government funding.

The government did not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic activities, although lack of accessible transportation posed a barrier to some voters with disabilities. The government provided wheelchairs to make polling stations more accessible to persons with disabilities and to elderly persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law provides that persons with HIV or AIDS should be free from stigmatization and discrimination. There were no pending cases of discrimination against such persons or their relatives.

The local NGO Aide Infos Liberte Soldarite reported that authorities did not automatically grant HIV and AIDS patients social aid unless accompanied by a social worker to advocate their cases.

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

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) victims of verbal abuse or violence generally did not file complaints with police due to ostracism or, in some cases, fear of reprisal from family members. In April the Passport and Immigration Office denied a transgender citizen living in France a new passport because the law does not recognize her as a woman after complete transition surgery. There were no developments at year’s end.

The law does not specifically criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. It criminalizes sodomy, however, for both same-sex and heterosexual couples. The sodomy statute is a holdover from 19th century colonial law. Authorities rarely used the sodomy statute against same-sex couples, unless one of the partners cited sodomy in the context of sexual assault. Only one such case had been reported in the last 20 years, and it involved a gay man accusing his former partner of sodomy as part of a larger assault accusation. The majority of the cases in which the sodomy statute was invoked involved heterosexual couples engaged in legal proceedings. In November the Supreme Court heard evidence in a case challenging the constitutionality of the sodomy statute, which activists argue violates constitutional rights to privacy and can be an obstacle to LGBTQI+ persons accessing health care. This is one of three cases against this statute, and activists initially filed this case in 2019. They were awaiting a ruling at year’s end.

The National Blood Transfusion Service disqualifies men who have had anal or oral sex with other men from donating blood, following World Health Organization guidelines.

The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against LGBTQI+ persons, particularly with respect to essential goods and services such as housing, employment, and access to government services such as health care. The government enforced such laws.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and law provide for the rights of all workers, including foreign workers, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Civil servants do not have the right to bargain collectively with the Pay Research Bureau, however, civil service trade union representatives do participate in the consultation process. Workers are free to form and join unions and to organize in all sectors, including in the export-oriented enterprises (EOE), formerly known as the export-processing zone. The law allows police officers to form and join unions but not to strike. The law provides for a commission to investigate and mediate labor disputes, and a program to provide unemployment benefits and job training. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without government interference but allows the government to cancel union registration if the registration was fraudulent, if the union engaged in activities that posed a serious threat to public safety, if it made resources available to a terrorist organization, if it violated the rules of the Registration of Associations Act, if it misapplied funds, or if it ceased to function. There were no reports, however, that the government exercised this right.

The law establishes a mandatory, complex, and lengthy process for declaring a legal strike. This process calls for labor disputes to be reported to the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation only after meaningful negotiations have occurred and the parties involved have reached a deadlock. If the parties reach no compromise, the workers may call a strike. Even if workers follow this procedure, the law allows the government to prohibit a strike and refer the dispute to arbitration if the strike could seriously affect an industry or service or threaten employment. Strikes are not generally legal on matters that are already covered in a collective bargaining agreement. The law requires workers in many sectors to provide minimum service levels in the event of a strike, including sectors that international standards do not classify as “essential services.” The law prohibits strikes and other demonstrations during the sittings of the National Assembly and does not allow unions to organize strikes at the national level or concerning general economic policy topics.

Worker participation in an unlawful strike is sufficient grounds for dismissal, but workers may seek a remedy in court if they believe their dismissals were unjustified. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, but it does not provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Dismissed workers may turn to the Industrial Relations Court to seek redress.

National labor laws cover all workers in the formal and informal sectors, with exceptions in the EOE pertaining to overtime.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws, but there were delays in court procedures and appeals. Penalties for violations by employers were not commensurate with those for similar violations.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected by the government and most employers, and workers exercised these rights. Most unions collectively negotiated wages higher than those set by the National Remuneration Board. Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. There were no reports of government interference in union activities.

Despite the law, antiunion discrimination and dismissal remained a problem in the private sector. Some employers in the EOE reportedly continued to establish employer-controlled work councils for EOE workers, effectively blocking union efforts to organize. Approximately 36,700 persons worked in the EOE; only 10 percent belonged to unions.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO) noted provisions that allow for compelled labor from seafarers who do not follow orders and allow for the hiring out of prisoners to private companies without the consent of prisoners. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The government made some efforts to prevent and eliminate forced labor, but trade unions stated resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for violations were criminal and commensurate to those for similar serious crimes. Data from the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training on the number of victims removed from forced or compulsory labor during the year were not available.

Trade unionists reported cases of forced labor during the year among migrant workers involving underpayment of wages, substandard living conditions, and denial of meal allowances. Unions stated these situations took place in the construction and bakery sectors. As of October 31, there were 25,274 migrant workers in the country, mainly from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the People’s Republic of China, and Madagascar. In addition, Malagasy women reportedly transited the country while traveling to other countries, where employers subjected them to forced labor conditions.

Also see 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 law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16 and prohibits employment of children younger than 18 in work that is dangerous, unhealthy, or otherwise unsuitable for young persons.

The Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training is responsible for the enforcement of child-labor laws and conducted frequent inspections of businesses in the formal economy, but generally inspections did not occur after hours or in the informal sector where there was evidence of child labor. The ministry developed vocational training programs to prevent employment of underage children and conducted programs to identify and integrate street children into its vocational training program. These programs are preparatory professional training for school dropouts who are too young to enter the work force.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, especially in the informal sector. The penalties for employing a child were not commensurate with those for other violations. Traffickers and other criminals exploited children in sex trafficking and other illicit activities (see section 6, Children). Children worked primarily in the informal sector as street traders, and they also worked in agriculture, fishing, and construction.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, social status, religion, political opinion, and national origin. Domestic workers and workers in enterprises with fewer than 10 employees are excluded from legal protection from discrimination in hiring, according to the ILO. The law affords women broadly defined wage protections and requires equal pay for equal work for both men and women; it also states that employers should not force women to carry loads above certain weight limits (see section 6, Women). The Equal Opportunity Commission receives and acts on complaints, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, race, disability, political affiliation, and HIV and AIDS status. While women had equal access to education, the private sector paid women less than men for substantially similar work. The ILO has expressed concern that the remuneration regulations assign lower minimum wages for women than men in certain sectors. For example, both the Sugar Industry Regulations and the Tea Industry Regulations still include gender-specific job reservations and set different wage levels for men and women in the same job. Women filled few decision-making positions in the private sector, and there were even fewer women sitting on corporate boards, where approximately 6 percent of all board members were women (see section 6, Women).

The law requires organizations employing more than 35 persons to set aside at least 3 percent of their positions for persons with disabilities, but the government was not always effective in enforcing this law (see section 6, Persons with Disabilities). The Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Board may summon an employer at any time to investigate noncompliance. The Board makes recommendations after an employer has justified its noncompliance, and if the employer still does not comply, then the employer may face a monetary fine and a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months. The main reasons for the low employment rate of persons with disabilities were inaccessible workplaces and a lack of adapted equipment.

Many community leaders claimed there was discrimination in the employment of Creoles (citizens of African descent) and Muslims of Indian origin in the public service (see section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination). Migrant workers faced discrimination in employment and pay, which was consistently less than wages for workers who were citizens.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Effective January 2020 the national minimum monthly wage was raised to 9,000 Mauritian rupees ($214) for export workers and 9,700 Mauritian rupees ($230) for nonexport workers, both above the poverty line. The actual market wage for most workers was much higher than the minimum wage due to a labor shortage and collective bargaining. In the private sector, the National Remuneration Board sets minimum wages for nonmanagerial workers outside the EOE.

The law provides for a standard workweek of 45 hours and paid annual holidays, requires premium pay for overtime, and prohibits compulsory overtime. By law employers cannot force a worker outside the EOE to work more than eight hours per day, six days per week. A worker (other than a part-time worker or a watchperson) and an employer may agree, however, to have the employee work in excess of the stipulated hours without added remuneration, if the number of hours covered in a 14-day period does not exceed 90 hours or a lesser number of hours as agreed to by both parties.

The standard legal workweek in the EOE is 45 hours. According to the Mauritius Labor Congress, 10 hours of overtime a week is nonetheless mandatory at certain textile factories in the EOE. Regulations require remuneration for those who work more than their stipulated hours at one and a half times the normal salary rate. Those who work during their stipulated hours on public holidays are remunerated at double their normal salary rate. The law provides for paid annual holidays but does not prohibit compulsory overtime in the EOE. For industrial positions, regulations do not permit workers to work more than 10 hours a day. The law requires the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training to investigate cases of overtime violations. If an employer fails to take action to address the violations, the ministry may initiate a court action.

Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training officials are responsible for the enforcement of wage and hour laws. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. As of June 1, the ministry made 354 labor inspections to construction sites and dormitories.

The government did not enforce the law effectively. While the government generally enforced wages in the formal sector, there were reports employers demoted workers to part-time status to evade wage and hour requirements. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations and were seldom applied in the informal sector, which was estimated to include at least 10 percent of all workers. Unions reported cases of underpayment for overtime in the textile and apparel industries due to differences in existing legislation and remuneration orders for the calculation of overtime hours.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets appropriate occupational safety and health standards, and the responsibility for identifying unsafe conditions lies with inspectors. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations; workers did not generally exercise this right.

Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training officials inspected working conditions. The ministry employed labor and industrial relations officers, including labor inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, to investigate all reports of labor abuses. Despite an increase in the number of inspectors in the Migrant Labor Unit, trade unions called attention to the fact that numbers remained insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties were not always commensurate with those for similar violations. Authorities generally applied these standards to both foreign and citizen workers except in the informal sector.

Employers did not always comply with safety regulations, resulting in occupational accidents. As of June 30, there were 34 industrial accidents and no deaths, according to the Ministry of Labor, Human Resource Development and Training. Subsequent press stories reported two deaths in the construction sector. For example, on August 18, an excavation operator was killed on a construction site after he was buried under a pile of rocks.

Informal Sector: According to a 2013 official government report, the most recent data available, informal workers comprised 10 percent of the workforce, mainly working in construction, transportation, and auto repair. The ILO has reported much higher numbers of informal workers constituting more than 50 percent of total nonagricultural employment. Labor laws applied to the informal sector, but they were seldom enforced, and penalties were not applied. Wage, hour, and safety violations were prevalent in the construction, agriculture, auto repair, and seafaring trades. According to a government official, during the year workers in the informal sector comprised mainly minors and women serving street food. There was an increasing number of migrant workers in the informal sector, the official stated.

Mozambique

Executive Summary

Mozambique is a multiparty parliamentary democracy with a freely elected republican form of government. In 2019 voters re-elected as president Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique party with 73 percent of the vote in an election with many irregularities reported by observers. Several incidents of serious violence and intimidation occurred during the pre-election period; national and international observers considered voting generally orderly but expressed concerns regarding election irregularities.

The National Police, the National Criminal Investigation Service, and the Rapid Intervention Unit are responsible for law enforcement and internal security. They report to the Ministry of the Interior. The Border Security Force, responsible for protecting the country’s international borders and for carrying out police duties within 24 miles of borders, also reports to the Ministry of the Interior. The National Penitentiary Service has financial and administrative autonomy but receives policy oversight from the Ministry of Justice. The State Intelligence and Security Service reports directly to the president and is responsible for intelligence operations. The Presidential Guard provides security for the president, and the Force for the Protection of High-level Individuals provides security for senior-level officials at the national and provincial levels. The Armed Defense Forces of Mozambique, consisting of the air force, army, and navy, are responsible for external security, cooperate with police on internal security, and have natural disaster and emergency response functions. The president is commander in chief of all these forces. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible allegations of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance by government security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious abuses in an internal conflict; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists; widespread acts of official corruption; and lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish some officials who committed human rights abuses and engaged in corrupt practices; however, impunity and corruption remained a problem at all levels.

During the year violent attacks against government forces and civilian populations perpetrated by ISIS-Mozambique that began in 2017 continued in the northeastern districts of Cabo Delgado Province. In March a massive ISIS-Mozambique attack on the town of Palma significantly increased the number of IDPs, which rose to approximately 800,000 by year’s end. Beginning in July joint offensive operations with Rwandan forces, and separately with the Southern African Development Community forces, significantly decreased ISIS-Mozambique’s activities, and government forces reclaimed some territory seized by ISIS; however, ISIS-Mozambique continued conducting small-scale attacks against military and civilian targets. The government began the process of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to its displaced residents in reclaimed areas. Human rights organizations and the government stated violent extremists committed human rights abuses against civilians that included beheadings, kidnappings, and the use of child soldiers. Abductions and forced displacement of civilians by extremists continued, and at times, entire communities were destroyed by fire. Security force responses to this violence were sometimes heavy handed, including arbitrary arrest and detention and alleged extrajudicial killings of both suspected violent extremists and civilians. Government forces detained individuals accused of being ISIS-Mozambique fighters. There were no reports authorities investigated or prosecuted abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corrupt acts by officials; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of corruption in all branches and at all levels of government during the year.

Corruption: Corruption, including extortion by police, remained widespread. Police regularly demanded identification documents for alleged vehicular infractions solely to extort bribes. In August commercial truck drivers alleged that police demanded payments at control points and border crossings. Public prosecutors faced threats for their role in efforts to investigate and prosecute corruption.

There were numerous allegations of corruption by security forces in Cabo Delgado Province. On May 25, media reported that security force members looted two bank branches in Palma. Government officials subsequently arrested them and returned the stolen money.

There were several cases of public corruption involving active and former government officials arrested and charged with crimes. On September 13, the Maputo City Court sentenced former minister of transportation Paulo Zucula convicted of corruption to 10 years’ imprisonment and ordered payment of substantial compensation to the state for his role in the purchase of two aircraft from the Brazilian company Embraer in 2009. In May 2020 the Court of Appeal upheld the indictment of former labor minister Maria Helena Taipo for misuse of public funds and embezzlement. In May Taipo was released on bail pending trial. The trial had yet to begin by year’s end.

On August 23, the Maputo City Court began the trial of 19 defendants in the “hidden debts” scandal, which emerged in 2016 and involved bribes and kickbacks orchestrated by political elites in connection with more than two billion dollars in illicitly obtained sovereign loans to finance a tuna fleet and patrol vessels. The defendants included the son of former president Armando Guebuza, the former president’s personal secretary, and the former head of the State Information and Security Service. The loans were signed by then finance minister Manuel Chang, and their existence was not disclosed to the public or parliament until 2016. In 2018 Chang was arrested in South Africa. In 2019 Mozambique’s Constitutional Council declared the loans illegal. In November the government of Mozambique appealed a South African government decision to extradite Chang to the United States in response to a successful motion filed by a Mozambican civil society organization to stop Chang’s extradition to Mozambique. As of December he remained in South Africa.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. The government had yet to act on the registration request pending since 2008 of a local LGBTQI+ rights advocacy organization. The government frequently denied or delayed NGO access to areas where credible allegations of abuses by security forces occurred, particularly in Cabo Delgado Province. Human rights activists in Cabo Delgado Province reported harassment and intimidation by police in gaining access to and interviewing IDPs.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNDH is mandated to promote and defend the human rights provisions of the constitution. Its stated priorities include cases of law enforcement violence and torture, judicial corruption, and abuses of prisoner rights. The CNDH lacks authority to prosecute abuses and must refer cases to the judiciary. Commission members are chosen by political parties, civil society, the prime minister, and the Mozambican Bar Association. Although the CNDH was an active human rights advocate, its lack of resources and formal staff training in human rights hindered its effectiveness.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of adults and children, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. Penalties for conviction range from two to eight years’ imprisonment if the survivor is age 12 or older and 20 to 24 years’ imprisonment if the survivor is younger than age 12.

International organizations and NGOs supporting the IDP population in Cabo Delgado Province reported concerns regarding rape, sexual exploitation, and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including reports of GBV perpetrated by ISIS-Mozambique and of women and girls fleeing from attacks or abductions. In May Macomia District community members alleged that a member of the security forces raped and killed a female IDP.

Conviction of abuse of a spouse or unmarried partner, regardless of gender, is punishable by one to two years’ imprisonment or longer if another crime is also applicable. The government did not effectively enforce domestic abuse law. Survivors often decided not to file charges or perpetrators fled arrest. NGOs stated domestic violence against women remained widespread and increased during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency due to restricted movement and confinement in place with male partners. In July the Ministry of Justice national director of human rights and citizenship was convicted of domestic violence and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

Many cases of domestic violence were not reported to authorities. In addition, according to NGO and media reports, many families preferred to settle rape allegations through informal community courts or privately through financial remuneration or marriage rather than through the formal judicial system.

Government agencies and NGOs implemented public outreach campaigns to combat violence against women nationwide. Police and NGOs worked together to combat domestic violence, including a campaign in June led by female PRM officers. The PRM operated special women and children’s units within police precincts that dealt with high numbers of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and violence-against-children cases.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. NGOs and the government stated the incidence of FGM/C was low, but there were no reliable estimates of the numbers of girls and women subjected to FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice of “purification,” whereby a widow is obligated to have unprotected sex with a member of her deceased husband’s family, occurred, particularly in rural areas, despite campaigns against it.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained pervasive in business, government, schools, and broadly in society. There is no legislation on sexual harassment in public places outside of schools. By law a teacher who abuses or sexually harasses a student through orders, threats, or coercion may be fined up to 20 times the teacher’s monthly salary.

In August 2020 media reported male instructors were accused of impregnating female trainees in the Matalane Police Training School in Maputo Province. Media reported all instructors suspected of involvement were suspended, and the pregnant trainees sent home on administrative leave with assurances they would be allowed to complete their training following their pregnancies. In June media reported that the officers involved were transferred without punishment.

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

The law respected the rights of vulnerable populations to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health. Nevertheless, couples and individuals had limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and family planning services. Additionally, social and cultural norms, including early marriage and childbearing, families with many children, and stigmatization of discussion of sexual topics with adolescents, hindered effective access. Women often relied on male partners to make health-care decisions for them. Women and girls displaced due to the conflict in Cabo Delgado and climate-related disasters faced high barriers to access reproductive health services.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the provision of family planning services declined by 32 percent in 2020, but there was a 41 percent increase in January to April, according to state media.

On October 12, 40 civil society organizations denounced violence and poor treatment of pregnant women in hospitals and called for an investigation and accountability.

The government provided some access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence. The government’s Health Sector Gender Inclusion Strategy 2018-2023 provides for policies, standards, and multisectoral coordination with partners and civil society to address GBV.

According to the 2011 Mozambique Demographic and Health Survey, the maternal mortality rate was 408 deaths per 100,000 births. The main factors were the lack of access to and availability of quality prenatal health care and emergency care of complications, such as hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, and sepsis during childbirth. The adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 girls and women between ages 15 and 19) in 2018 was 146. Women in poor communities, typically in remote, rural areas with limited access to health care, had a higher maternal mortality rate.

There were no legal barriers related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene that impacted women and girls’ ability to participate equally in society. In some areas, however, sociocultural barriers regarding menstruation limited girls’ autonomy, and a lack of access to menstrual hygiene management in schools contributed to absenteeism.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men; however, the government did not enforce the law effectively. The law does not specifically require equal pay for equal work, nor does it prohibit discrimination based on gender in hiring. The law contains provisions that limit excessive physical work or night shift requirements during pregnancy. The law contains special provisions to protect women against abuse, although these provisions were rarely enforced.

Women experienced economic discrimination. Gaps in education and income between men and women remained high. In some regions, particularly in the north, women had limited access to the formal judicial system for enforcement of rights provided by the civil code and instead relied on customary law to settle disputes. Enforcement of laws that protect women’s rights to land ownership in the formal economy remained poor. Women typically could not inherit land under customary law.

The parliament had a women’s caucus composed of members from the three parties with parliamentary seats that sought to promote women’s rights, including women’s representation in decision-making bodies.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and the government enforced the law effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained by birth within the country or birth to at least one Mozambican citizen parent outside the country. Failure to register a child’s birth may result in the child’s inability to attend school and may prevent a person from obtaining public documents, such as identity cards, passports, or “poverty certificates” that enable access to free health care and free secondary education. Birth registration was often delayed in rural areas. Cultural practice prevented a woman, especially in rural areas, from exercising her legal right to register a child without the presence of the child’s father.

Education: By law education is compulsory, universal, and free of tuition through primary school and grades seven through nine of secondary school. Nevertheless, school costs for supplies and uniforms remained beyond the means of many families, especially in rural areas. According to the Education Sector Development Plan, in 2018 only 49 percent of children completed primary school education. In June UNICEF reported that 8.5 million students did not have access to online distance learning during COVID-19-pandemic-related school closures.

Child Abuse: The Child Protection Law provides for protection against physical and sexual abuse; removal of children from parents who are unable to protect, assist, and educate them; and juvenile courts to deal with matters of adoption, maintenance, and regulating parental power. Juvenile courts have wide discretion regarding sentencing, but the law requires a minimum of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment for conviction of trafficking in persons.

Most child-abuse cases involved sexual or physical abuse. Sexual abuse in schools and in homes was a problem. NGOs remained concerned that certain male teachers used their authority to coerce female students into sex. Orphans and other vulnerable children remained at high risk of abuse.

While the government stressed the importance of children’s rights and welfare, significant problems remained; the government had yet to implement any programs to combat child abuse.

Media reported that violent extremists abducted more than 50 children in Cabo Delgado Province between June 2020 and June. Human rights organizations and the government stated that ISIS-Mozambique used children as soldiers, cooks, and laborers. Civilians who escaped after being abducted by ISIS-Mozambique confirmed these allegations.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: By law the minimum age of marriage for men and women is 18. In 2019 parliament outlawed marriage for children younger than age 18; the minimum age was previously 16 with parental consent. Civil society NGOs reported limited public awareness and poor enforcement of the law. During the year the government and civil society launched an initiative to combat sexual violence and traditional practices that discriminate against women, including child marriage. The United Nations reported that violent extremists in Cabo Delgado Province kidnapped girls and subjected them to forced marriages.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 for boys and girls. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. Authorities partially enforced the law, but exploitation of children and child trafficking remained a problem and worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to civil society organizations. Girls experienced sexual exploitation and human trafficking in bars, roadside clubs, and restaurants. Trafficking of children appeared to be most prevalent in the provinces of Maputo Nampula, Beira, and Manica; in border towns; and at overnight stopping points along key transportation routes.

Some NGOs provided health care, counseling, and vocational training to child survivors of trafficking, primarily girls.

Displaced Children: As of June 1, 400,000 children were without shelter, food, or schooling as a result of the violence in Cabo Delgado Province. Several government agencies, including the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Action, conducted programs to provide health-care assistance and vocational education for orphans from HIV or AIDS and other vulnerable 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.

Anti-Semitism

The country has a small Jewish community. 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 prohibit discrimination against citizens with disabilities; however, the law does not differentiate among physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities regarding access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, or other state services.

The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Action is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Reports of official action to investigate and punish abuses against persons with disabilities were rare. In August a school official in Murrupula District, Nampula Province, was accused of sexual abuse of a child with autism. Local police reportedly attempted to ignore the case, but the public prosecutor instructed SERNIC to investigate it.

The 2012-19 National Action Plan in the Area of Disabilities provided for funding, monitoring, and assessment of implementation by various organizations that supported persons with disabilities. The government had yet to approve another plan by year’s end.

Electoral law provides for access and assistance to voters with disabilities in polling booths, including the right for them to vote first. The city of Maputo offered free bus passes to persons with disabilities. Buses in Maputo, however, did not have specific accessibility features.

The government did not effectively implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. Discrimination in private-sector and government employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other services was common. Observers often cited unequal access to employment as one of the biggest problems. The government did not effectively implement programs to provide access to information and communication for persons with disabilities. Educational opportunities for children with disabilities were generally poor, especially for those with developmental disabilities. Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at a significantly lower rate than other children. The government sometimes referred parents of children with disabilities to private schools with more resources to provide for their children. The Mozambican Association for the Disabled Persons (ADEMO) reported teacher-training programs did not address the needs of students with disabilities. ADEMO also stated school buildings did not meet international standards for accessibility, and public tenders did not include provisions for the accessibility of persons with disabilities.

Doctors reported many families abandoned family members with disabilities at the country’s only psychiatric hospital. ADEMO reported access to equipment, such as wheelchairs, was a challenge due to lengthy and complicated bureaucratic procedures. In August the Forum of Mozambican Associations of People with Disabilities asserted that COVID-19 pandemic vaccination efforts excluded persons with disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV and HIV-related stigma and discrimination, social exclusion, and abuse were prevalent, including in employment, housing, access to education, and health care. Reports continued of many women expelled from their homes and abandoned by their husbands and relatives because they were HIV-positive. Family or community members accused some women widowed by HIV or AIDS of being witches who purposely killed their husbands to acquire belongings; as retribution, they deprived the women of all possessions. In May the government approved the Fifth National Action Plan to Combat HIV/AIDS, including transgender persons as a key population for the first time, and launched an inquiry into the level of stigma against persons with HIV or AIDS. In August the Nampula Provincial Council to Fight AIDS launched a campaign to eliminate stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV or AIDS.

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

Antidiscrimination laws protected LGBTQI+ persons only from employment discrimination. No hate-crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against LGBTQI+ persons. The Fifth National Action Plan to Combat HIV/AIDS denounced discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation for the first time. Since 2008 the government had failed to act on LAMBDA’s request to register legally (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).

There were no media or other reports of bias-motivated attacks on LGBTQI+ persons; however, discrimination in public medical facilities and schools was reported. Medical staff sometimes chastised LGBTQI+ individuals for their LGBTQI+ status when they sought treatment. According to an April study by LAMBDA, more than two-thirds of LGBTQI+ students stated they had experienced some kind of discrimination at school. Intimidation was not a factor in preventing incidents of abuse from being reported.

There were reports of societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and law provide for workers, with limited exceptions, to form and join independent trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. The law requires government approval to establish a union. By law the government may take up to 45 days to register unions, a delay the International Labor Organization deemed excessive. By law the government, political parties, and religious institutions may not interfere with the organization and direction of trade union associations. The law provides for the right of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. Workers in defense and security services, tax administration, and the fire brigade, along with prison workers, judges and prosecutors, and the President’s Office staff members are prohibited from unionizing and striking. Other public-sector workers may form and join unions, but they are prohibited from striking.

The law does not allow strike action until complex conciliation, mediation, and arbitration procedures are exhausted, which typically takes two to three weeks. Sectors deemed essential must provide a “minimum level” of service during a strike. Workers’ ability to conduct union activities in workplaces was strictly limited. The law provides for voluntary arbitration for “essential services” personnel monitoring the weather and fuel supply, postal service workers, export-processing-zone workers, and those loading and unloading animals and perishable foodstuffs. The law requires that strikes be announced at least five days in advance, and the announcement must include the expected duration of the strike, although the government interprets this to allow indefinite strikes. Mediation and arbitration bodies, in addition to the unions and workers themselves, may end strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination; however, it does not explicitly provide for reinstatement of workers terminated for union activities. An employee fired with cause does not have a right to severance, but employees terminated without cause do.

Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, although workers were not able to fully exercise these rights. Collective bargaining contracts covered less than 5 percent of the workforce.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Government efforts included fining companies that violated labor laws and the expulsion of foreign supervisors who allegedly did not follow the law. Inspection and prosecution were not sufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar denials of civil rights.

The largest trade union organization, the Organization of Mozambican Workers, was perceived as biased in favor of the government and Frelimo. There were no independent unions.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor. Forced or compulsory labor was among legal penalties for conviction of crimes. Defendants sentenced to fewer than three years’ imprisonment for negligent and other nonserious crimes may have their punishment converted to unpaid labor that benefits the community.

The government did not enforce the law effectively, and forced labor occurred. Criminal penalties if convicted were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. There was limited evidence of forced labor and forced child labor in the mining, domestic service, and agricultural sectors. Girls and women from rural areas, as well as migrant workers from bordering countries, were lured to cities with false promises of employment or education and exploited in domestic servitude and sex trafficking.

In August Vice World News reported that the Dugongo Cement plant, operated by West China Cement in a joint venture with a Frelimo party-associated fund, confined approximately 300 workers on its plant and threatened to dismiss any who left the premises during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to other workplace abuse allegations.

Also see 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 law prohibits the worst forms of child labor; however, gaps exist in the legal framework to protect children adequately from the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age of employment without restriction is 18. Labor law and regulations on domestic work allow children ages 12 to 15 to engage in domestic work with the permission of their legal guardian and according to certain conditions defined by the Council of Ministers. A minimum age of 12 is not in compliance with international standards.

Children are not permitted to work in occupations that are unhealthy, dangerous, or require significant physical effort. Hazardous work includes an extensive list of activities within 14 occupational categories, including some domestic service, mining, and production of tobacco. The law permits children between ages 15 and 17 to work with a Ministry of Labor permit. The employer is required to provide for their training and provide conditions of work that are not damaging to their physical and moral development. Children between ages 15 and 18 may work up to seven hours a day or a total of 38 hours a week.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for implementing laws prohibiting child labor in the formal sector. Labor inspectors may obtain court orders and have police enforce compliance with child labor provisions. Law enforcement officers work with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Action and the National Reference Group for the Protection of Children and Combating Trafficking in Persons to coordinate referrals of children to social service providers. The ministry has a standard operating procedure for handling human trafficking victims that incorporates an intake form used nationwide by law enforcement officers, including border officials, to collect the necessary data from victims and to provide for professional care and referrals to appropriate services.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. There were no mechanisms in place for submitting complaints regarding hazardous and forced child labor. Inspections and prosecutions were insufficient to deter violations. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Enforcement mechanisms generally were inadequate in the formal sector and nonexistent in the informal sector.

The labor inspectorate and police lacked adequate staff, funds, and training to investigate child labor cases, especially in areas outside the capital, where most of the abuses occurred. The government did not employ enough labor inspectors. Inspectors earned low wages (like many other government employees), making them vulnerable to, and often inclined to seek, bribes. Inspectors often did not have the means to travel to sites and therefore relied on the company they were investigating to provide transportation to the site of an alleged violation. The government provided training on child trafficking and abuse prevention to police officers, training to judges regarding legislation pertinent to child labor, and training to labor inspectors on trafficking identification and prevention.

Child labor remained prevalent. NGOs reported some girls who migrated from rural areas to urban centers to work as domestic help for extended family or acquaintances to settle debts were vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). Mothers who did not complete secondary school were more likely to have children involved in child labor. In rural areas children worked in agriculture, as domestic employees, or in prostitution. Civil society organizations reported that children dislocated due to violence in Cabo Delgado Province were subject to sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and child labor, including the recruitment and use as child soldiers by ISIS-Mozambique (see Section 1.g.).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, HIV, AIDS, or refugee status. The government generally enforced applicable law. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with laws relating to other civil rights matters.

Discrimination in hiring against persons with disabilities was common, and access to employment was one of the biggest problems facing persons with disabilities.

The law explicitly prohibits discrimination against workers because of HIV or AIDS status, and the Ministry of Labor generally intervened in cases of perceived discrimination by employers. With an increased public awareness of this law, there were no public reports of individuals dismissed because of their HIV status.

Women received lower wages than men and faced cultural and legal barriers in accessing the judiciary and inheriting land.

There were multiple media reports of the Ministry of Labor suspending the contracts of irregular foreign workers. Some foreign workers reported harassment by Ministry of Labor inspectors after disputes with Mozambican coworkers and being forced to pay bribes for work permits or leave the country. In 2017, however, the Constitutional Council ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to expel foreign workers without judicial approval.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The government-mandated minimum wage varies by sector and was above the official poverty line. After consultations with trade unions and the private sector, in August the government raised the minimum wage for the first time since 2019. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours but may be extended to 48 hours. Overtime must be paid for hours worked in excess of 48 hours at 50 percent above the base hourly salary. These legal protections also apply to foreign workers holding work permits.

The Mozambican General Labor Inspectorate, a Ministry of Labor service, is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage rates in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance does so in the public sector. The ministries usually investigated violations of minimum wage rates only after workers submitted a complaint.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar offenses. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Despite the relatively low number of inspectors, some businesses reported frequent visits by labor inspectors citing capricious violations and threats of substantial monetary fines in order to exact bribes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. Workers have the right to clean and safe workplaces, including good physical, environmental, and moral conditions. Workers have the right to be informed of safety risks and instruction on how to follow the regulations and improve safety, including the right to protective clothing and equipment, first aid, health exams, and compensation for workplace injuries or sickness. Workers have the right remove themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardy to their employment. OSH officers are responsible for identifying unsafe working conditions, but workers may file complaints regarding unsafe situations.

The Mozambican General Labor Inspectorate is responsible for enforcing OSH standards in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance does so in the public sector. Inspections for OSH were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authority as that for wages and hours.

The government did not effectively enforce OSH standards. The responsible ministries usually investigated violations of OSH standards only after workers submitted a complaint. Penalties for conviction were not commensurate with those for similar offenses. Labor law applied only to the formal sector, leaving workers in the informal sector unprotected. Agricultural, mining, and security workers were among the most vulnerable to poor work conditions and wage theft.

Informal Sector: The International Labor Organization estimated that approximately six million persons, or 80 percent of the economically active population in the country, worked in the informal sector. The Ministry of Labor did not effectively enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and OSH standards in the informal economy, since the Ministry of Labor applies the law only in the formal sector.

South Africa

Executive Summary

South Africa is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which constitutional power is shared among the executive, judiciary, and parliamentary branches. In 2019 the country held a credible national election in which the ruling African National Congress won 58 percent of the vote and 230 of 400 seats in the National Assembly. In 2019 African National Congress president Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in for his first full term as president of the republic.

The South African Police Service has primary responsibility for internal security. The police commissioner has operational authority over police. The president appoints the police commissioner, but the minister of police supervises the commissioner. The South African National Defense Force, under the civilian-led Department of Defense, also has domestic security responsibilities.

In July the country witnessed violent riots and unprecedented looting, primarily in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of the Constitutional Court. In the aftermath, then acting minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, announced the death toll related to the unrest was 337, but no deaths were attributed to authorities. The South African Human Rights Commission conducted public hearings in November and December to determine the causes of the unrest and identify failures by the government to anticipate violence and mitigate death and destruction.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious government corruption; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

Although the government investigated, prosecuted, and punished some officials who committed human rights abuses or were accused of corruption, there were numerous reports of impunity.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, and the government generally did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Official corruption remained a problem. The ANC sought to remove party members implicated in corruption scandals due to concern the scandals undermined public confidence in the ANC-led government. Hermione Cronje, head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate, resigned on December 3, allegedly for failing to prosecute sufficient official corruption cases. Cronje was the first person to lead the Investigating Directorate, which was established by President Ramaphosa in 2019 “as an instrument in the fight against corruption.”

At least 10 agencies, including the SAPS Special Investigation Unit, Public Service Commission, Office of the Public Prosecutor, and Office of the Auditor General, were involved in anticorruption activities. During the year the Office of the Public Protector, which is constitutionally mandated to investigate government abuse and mismanagement, investigated thousands of cases, some of which involved high-level officials.

Officially called the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, the Zondo Commission was established in 2018 to tackle corruption allegations against individuals inside and outside government. Former president Jacob Zuma steadfastly refused to appear before the commission to answer to allegations made against him. Although he was granted medical parole and only served two of his 15 months in prison, the Constitutional Court did sanction Zuma for refusing to appear before the Zondo Commission and effectively sentenced him to prison.

In October the National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole rejected calls for his suspension on corruption allegations. He was waiting for President Ramaphosa’s decision on his fitness to hold office. A year prior he had suspended his deputy national commissioner Bonang Mgwenya following allegations regarding her alleged involvement in crimes and fraudulent contracts. In December media broke the story that Deputy National Police Commissioner Sindile Mfazi may have been killed in July for his role in investigating COVID-19 personal protective equipment procurement.

In November 2020 authorities charged ANC secretary general Magashule with 21 charges of corruption, theft, fraud, and money laundering, and he was released on bail. Despite Magashule’s rejection of calls by the ANC Integrity Commission to step down, in May the ANC National Executive Committee suspended him.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating, and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Although created by the government, the constitution establishes several state institutions tasked with supporting constitutional democracy. The task of these institutions is to promote and protect those rights within the Bill of Rights and operate independently. Among these is the South African Human Rights Commission, which is responsible for promoting the observance of fundamental human rights at all levels of government and throughout the general population. The commission has the authority to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, and take sworn testimony. Civil society groups considered the commission only moderately effective due to a large backlog of cases and the failure of government agencies to adhere to its recommendations. Between November and December, the commission held a National Investigative Hearing into the July Unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng Provinces.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes domestic violence and rape of men or women, including spousal rape, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The minimum sentence for conviction of rape is 10 years’ imprisonment. Under certain circumstances, such as second or third offenses, multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities, conviction requires a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence.

In most cases of rape and domestic violence, attackers were acquaintances or family members of the survivor that, together with societal attitudes, contributed to a reluctance to press charges. NGOs stated that cases were underreported, especially in rural communities, due to stigma, unfair treatment, fear, intimidation, and lack of trust in the criminal justice system. SAPS reported a decrease in the number of reported rape cases from 42,289 in 2019/20 to 36,463 in 2020/21. According to first-quarter SAPS crime statistics, 10,006 persons were raped between April and June 2021. Police Minister Bheki Cele released crime statistics that 9,556 rape cases were reported between July and September. There were numerous reports of rapes by police officers of sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, incarcerated persons, and others (see also section 1.c.).

There were numerous reported sexual assaults such as the following example. In June 2020 a woman eight months pregnant was found dead hanging from a tree in Johannesburg. She and her fetus had multiple stab wounds. Muzikayise Malephane was arrested and charged with premeditated murder. In February he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder, five years for defeating the ends of justice, and five years for possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority 2019-2020 Annual Report, the authority achieved its highest number of successfully prosecuted sexual offense cases ever during that time period. It prosecuted 5,451 sexual offense cases and had 4,098 convictions, a 75 percent conviction rate.

The Department of Justice operated 96 dedicated sexual offenses courts throughout the country. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria, such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist, as a basis for imposing lighter sentences.

The government provided funding for, and the National Prosecuting Authority operated 51 rape management centers, addressing the rights and needs of survivors and vulnerable persons, including legal assistance. A key objective of the centers was prosecution of sexual, domestic violence, and child-abuse offenders. Approximately 75 percent of the cases they took to trial resulted in convictions.

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

During the year media documented a rise in teenage pregnancies particularly during the pandemic with the South African Medical Research Council attributing violence against women and girls as a contributor to these pregnancies along with difficulty faced by adolescents in obtaining contraceptives. In December the basic education minister published a new policy on prevention and management of teenage pregnancy. Under the policy, schools are mandated to report to SAPS cases of statutory rape, if a girl is younger than age 16 and the father of the unborn child is 16 or older.

The government financed shelters for abused women, but NGOs reported a shortage of such facilities, particularly in rural areas, and that women were sometimes turned away from shelters.

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

Sexual Harassment: Although prohibited by law, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem. Sexual harassment is a criminal offense for which conviction includes fines and sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment.

Enforcement against workplace harassment is initially left to employers to address as part of internal disciplinary procedures. The Department of Employment and Labour (Department of Labour) issued guidelines to employers on how to handle workplace complaints that allow for remuneration of a victim’s lost compensation plus interest, additional damages, legal fees, and dismissal of the perpetrator in some circumstances. NGOs and unions urged the government to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on the prevention of violence and harassment in the workplace. Despite presidential support, parliament had yet to ratify the convention by year’s end.

NGOs reported sexual harassment of women in the major political parties. Only two of the seven major parties had policies against sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of forced abortion on the part of government authorities; however, during the year there were reports of forced sterilizations submitted to the Commission for Gender Equality and civil society organizations.

Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children. The full range of contraception methods were available at all primary health-care clinics for free. Emergency health care was available for the treatment of complications arising from unsafe abortion.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. The country has laws and policies to respond to gender-based violence and femicide, although authorities did not fully implement these policies and enforce relevant law. The law provides for survivors of gender-based violence to receive shelter and comprehensive care, including treatment of injuries, a forensic examination, pregnancy and HIV testing, provision of postexposure prophylaxis, and counseling rehabilitation services.

According to the Saving Mothers Report 2017/2019, there has been a progressive and sustained reduction in institutional maternal mortality in the past three triennia (2010-19), from 320 per 100,000 live births to 120 per 100,000 live births. The report further identified that a significant systemic driver contributing to mortality was the length of time it took for emergency service personnel to arrive at a facility where a skilled birth attendant can deal with an emergency. Furthermore, the government developed a Framework and Guidelines for Maternal and Neonatal Care during a Crisis: COVID-19 response to strengthen Maternal, Perinatal, and Neonatal services for emergency preparedness and management.

Menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene affected girls’ attendance at school. One NGO estimated 30 percent of girls did not attend school while they menstruated, due to lack of access to sanitary products. During the year observers noted substantial increases in teenage pregnancies, which also affected girls’ attendance at school.

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

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

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

Indigenous Peoples

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

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides for citizenship by birth (if at least one parent is a permanent resident or citizen), descent, and naturalization. Registration of births was inconsistent, especially in remote rural areas and by parents who were unregistered foreign nationals. Children without birth registration had no access to government services such as education or health care, and their parents had no access to financial grants for their children. Organizations such as Lawyers for Human Rights continued to draw attention to the problem of statelessness among children born in the country to both citizens and foreign nationals.

Education: Public education is compulsory and universal until age 15 or grade nine. Public education is fee based and not fully subsidized by the government. Nevertheless, the law provides that schools may not refuse admission to children due to a lack of funds; therefore, disadvantaged children, who were mainly black, were eligible for financial assistance. Even when children qualified for fee exemptions, low-income parents had difficulty paying for uniforms and supplies. In violation of law, noncitizen children were sometimes denied access to education based on their inability to produce identification documents, such as birth certificates and immunization documents.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes child abuse. Violence against children, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, remained widespread. Civil society and academics documented evidence that experiencing child maltreatment and witnessing partner abuse in the home as a child increased the risk of becoming both a perpetrator and victim of sexual and intimate partner violence as an adult, contributing to intergenerational abuse and violence.

There were reports of abuse of students by teachers and other school staff, including reports of assault and rape. The law requires schools to disclose sexual abuse to authorities, but administrators sometimes concealed sexual violence or delayed taking disciplinary action.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: By law parental or judicial consent to marry is required for individuals younger than 18. Nevertheless, ukuthwala, the practice of abducting girls as young as 14 and forcing them into marriage, occurred in remote villages in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces. The law prohibits nonconsensual ukuthwala and classifies it as a trafficking offense, and the National Prosecuting Authority prosecuted multiple cases of forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, and offering or procurement of children for commercial sex and child pornography. The Film and Publications Board maintained a website and a toll-free hotline for the public to report incidents of child pornography. Online sexual exploitation of children continued in the country, potentially made worse by the pandemic and lockdown. Government authorities from the Department of Social Development and SAPS conducted educational outreach programs on the dangers of online recruitment and grooming. Media, government, and civil society reported that children were made more vulnerable to trafficking, particularly girls to sexual exploitation and trafficking, because of the pandemic’s economic impacts. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html

Anti-Semitism

According to a 2020 study published by the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town and the UK-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research, the country’s Jewish population stood at 52,300, with the majority living in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies recorded 65 anti-Semitic incidents, consistent with the 69 incidents reported in 2020; however, the bulk of the incidents occurred in May during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. There were reports of verbal abuse and hate speech, especially in social media and radio talk shows, and attacks on Jewish persons or property.

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

Persons with disabilities could access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The government provided government information and communication in accessible formats.

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

The law prohibits harassment of persons with disabilities and, in conjunction with the Employment Equity Act, provides guidelines on the recruitment and selection of persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, and guidelines on proper handling of employees’ medical information. Enforcement of this law was limited.

The 2020-2021 Annual Report of the Department of Basic Education stated there were numerous barriers to education for students with disabilities, primarily a policy of channeling students into specialized schools at the expense of inclusive education. The department’s report noted progress toward a more inclusive basic education and cited expansion of “special schools” and increased enrollment of students with disabilities in both special and public schools. Separate schools frequently charged additional fees (making them financially inaccessible), were located long distances from students’ homes, and lacked the capacity to accommodate demand. Human Rights Watch reported that children with disabilities were often denied tuition waivers or tuition reductions provided to other children. Children often were held in dormitories with few adults, many of whom had little or no training in caring for children with disabilities. When parents attempted to force mainstream schools to accept their children with disabilities – an option provided for by law – schools sometimes rejected the students outright because of their disabilities or claimed there was no room for them. Many blind and deaf children in mainstream schools received only basic care rather than education. Youth with disabilities in school faced problems of access (for example assistive equipment and technology; availability of learning materials in braille) and discriminatory attitudes that prevent their full and effective participation.

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

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV and HIV-related social stigma and discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care remained a problem, especially in rural communities.

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

Despite government policies prohibiting discrimination, there were reports of official mistreatment or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, there were reports of security force members raping LGBTQI+ individuals during arrest. A 2018 University of Cape Town report underscored violence and discrimination, particularly against lesbians and transgender individuals. The report documented cases of “secondary victimization” of lesbians, including cases in which police harassed, ridiculed, and assaulted victims of sexual and gender-based violence who reported abuse. LGBTQI+ individuals were particularly vulnerable to violent crime due to anti-LGBTQI+ attitudes within the community and among police. Anti-LGBTQI+ attitudes of junior members of SAPS affected how they handled complaints by LGBTQI+ individuals. According to Mamba Online, a gay news and lifestyle website, more than 22 LGBTQI+ persons were killed since February. One NGO in Durban claimed most hate crime victims did not report their cases to police due to secondary victimization; several activists accused religious leaders of not condemning hate crimes and killings against the LGBTQI+ community.

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. In 2019 the High Court of Gauteng ruled that the Dutch Methodist Church’s ban on solemnizing same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law allows all workers, except for members of the National Intelligence Agency and the Secret Service, to form and join independent unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for the right to strike, but it prohibits workers in essential services from striking, and employers are prohibited from locking out essential service providers. The government characterizes essential services as a service, the interruption of which endangers the life, personal safety, or health of the whole or part of the population; parliamentary service; and police services.

The law allows workers to strike due to matters of mutual interest, such as wages, benefits, organizational rights disputes, socioeconomic interests of workers, and similar measures. Workers may not strike because of disputes where other legal recourse exists, such as through arbitration. Labor rights NGOs operated freely.

The law protects collective bargaining and prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants based on past, present, or potential union membership or participation in lawful union activities. The law provides for automatic reinstatement of workers dismissed unfairly for conducting union activities. The law provides a code of good practices for dismissals that includes procedures for determining the “substantive fairness” and “procedural fairness” of dismissal. The law includes all groups of workers, including illegal and legally resident foreign workers.

The government respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Labor courts and labor appeals courts effectively enforced the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and penalties were commensurate with penalties for comparable violations of the law.

Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties, although the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the country’s largest labor federation, is a member of a tripartite alliance with the governing ANC Party and the South African Communist Party. Due to the unique and often contentious relationship COSATU has with the ANC, COSATU union affiliates openly discussed whether COSATU should break its alliance with the ANC regarding concerns that the ANC has done little to advance workers’ rights and wages. During the year cash-flow problems, mounting debt, and unpaid salaries caused tensions between the ANC and their workers, exposing the depth of the financial woes the party was experiencing. ANC staff officials embarked on strikes and protests beginning in July protesting against late payment of wages and the party’s alleged failure to pay employee benefits. COSATU publicly sharply criticized the ANC for their failure to pay wages, and COSATU threw its weight behind the protesting workers.

The minister of labour has the authority to extend agreements by majority employers (one or more registered employers’ organizations that represent 50 percent plus one of workers in a sector) and labor representatives in sector-specific bargaining councils to the entire sector, even if companies or employees in the sector were not represented at negotiations. Companies not party to bargaining disputed this provision in court. Employers often filed for and received Department of Labour exemptions from collective bargaining agreements.

If not resolved through collective bargaining, independent mediation, or conciliation, disputes between workers in essential services and their employers were referred to arbitration or the labor courts.

Workers frequently exercised their right to strike. Trade unions generally followed the legal process of declaring a dispute (notifying employers) before initiating a strike. The 2020/21 striking season was heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and saw unions and business working together to salvage both jobs and industries.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor. The penalties were not commensurate with those for comparable crimes. Inspectors typically levied fines and required payment of back wages in lieu of meeting evidentiary standards of criminal prosecution.

The government did not always effectively enforce the law. Boys, particularly migrant boys, were forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture (see section 7.c.). Women from Asia and neighboring African countries were recruited for legitimate work, but some were subjected to domestic servitude or forced labor in the service sector. There were also reports by NGOs of forced labor in the agricultural, mining, and fishing sectors.

Also see the Department of States Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report./.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits employment of children younger than 15. The law allows children younger than 15 to work in the performing arts if their employers receive permission from the Department of Labor and agree to follow specific guidelines. The law also prohibits children between ages 15 and 18 from work that threatens their wellbeing, education, physical or mental health, or spiritual, moral, or social development. Children may not work more than eight hours a day or before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m. A child not enrolled in school may not work more than 40 hours in any week, and a child attending school may not work more than 20 hours in any week.

The law prohibits children from performing hazardous duties, including lifting heavy weights, meat or seafood processing, underground mining, deep-sea fishing, commercial diving, electrical work, working with hazardous chemicals or explosives, in manufacturing, rock and stone crushing, and work in gambling and alcohol-serving establishments. The Regulations on Hazardous Work by Children allow child workers not expected at school the following day to work between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. in certain businesses or in babysitting. Employers may not require a child to work in a confined space or to perform piecework and task work. Penalties for violating child labor laws were commensurate with those for comparable crimes.

The government enforced child labor law in the formal sector of the economy that strong and well organized unions monitored, but enforcement in the informal and agricultural sectors was inconsistent.

According to the department, the government made progress in eradicating the worst forms of child labor by raising awareness, instituting strict legal measures, and increasing penalties for suspected labor violators. Nevertheless, it added that more efforts to address problems of child labor in migrant communities were needed.

Children were found working as domestic laborers, street workers, and scavenging garbage for food items and recyclable items. Children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including commercial exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking, illicit activities, including gang-related activity, and use in the production of pornography. According to the ILO, approximately 40-50 percent of the estimated 1.39 million persons forced into commercial sexual exploitation in the country were children. Boys, particularly migrant boys, were forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Although the government did not compile comprehensive data on child labor, NGOs and labor inspectors considered its occurrence rare in the formal sectors of the economy but believed there might instances in the informal economy of child labor that were underreported due to lack of dedicated resources. Civil society and government acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact made children more vulnerable to exploitation, in particular to sex trafficking.

See also the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The Employment Equity Act protects all workers against unfair discrimination based on race, age, gender, religion, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, disability, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, HIV status, birth, or any other arbitrary ground. The legal standard used to judge discrimination in all cases is whether the terms and conditions of employment among employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially similar work, or work of equal value, differ directly or indirectly based on any of the grounds listed above. Employees have the burden of proving such discrimination. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable crimes. The government has a regulated code of conduct to assist employers, workers, and unions to develop and implement comprehensive, gender-sensitive, and HIV- and AIDS-compliant workplace policies and programs.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV status, and country of origin (see section 6).

Discrimination cases were frequently taken to court or the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration, and Mediation.

In its 2020-21 annual report, the Commission for Employment Equity cited data on discrimination by ethnicity, gender, age, and disability in all sectors of the economy. The report argued that White and Indian females continued to bear the brunt of discrimination, while the White and Indian population groups dominated top and senior management positions. The implementation of the Black Economic Empowerment Act, which aims to promote economic transformation and enhance participation of Blacks in the economy, continued. The public sector better reflected the country’s ethnic and gender demographics. Bias against foreign nationals was common in society and the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: In 2019 the country’s first national minimum wage came into effect, replacing a patchwork of sectoral minimum wages set by the Department of Labour. The minimum wage was above the official poverty line. The employment and labour minister announced an increase to 21,69 rand ($1.47) per hour for the year that went into effect on March 1. The law protects migrant workers, and they are entitled to all benefits and equal pay. The minimum wage law also established a commission to make annual recommendations to parliament for increases in the minimum wage.

The law establishes a 45-hour workweek, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and authorizes four months of maternity leave for women. No employer may require or permit an employee to work overtime except by agreement, and employees may not work be more than 10 overtime hours a week. The law stipulates rest periods of 12 consecutive hours daily and 36 hours weekly and must include Sunday. The law allows adjustments to rest periods by mutual agreement. A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the law concerning overtime and leave. Farmers and other employers could apply for variances from the law by showing good cause. The law applies to all workers, including workers in informal sectors, foreign nationals, and migrant workers, but the government did not prioritize labor protections for workers in the informal economy.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set appropriate occupational health and safety (OSH) standards through the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy for the mining industry and through the Department of Labour for all other industries.

There are harsh penalties for violations of OSH laws in the mining sector. Employers are subject to heavy fines or imprisonment if convicted of responsibility for serious injury, illness, or the death of employees due to unsafe mine conditions. The law allows mine inspectors to enter any mine at any time to interview employees and audit records. The law provides for the right of mine employees to remove themselves from work deemed dangerous to health or safety. The law prohibits discrimination against a mining employee who asserts a right granted by law and requires mine owners to file annual reports providing OSH statistics for each mine, including safety incidents. Conviction of violating the mining health and safety law is punishable by two years’ imprisonment, and the law empowers the courts to determine a fine or other penalty for perjury. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is responsible for enforcing OSH law.

Outside the mining industry, no law or regulation permits workers to remove themselves from work situations deemed dangerous to their health or safety without risking loss of employment, although the law provides that employers may not retaliate against employees who disclose dangerous workplace conditions. Employees were also able to report unsafe conditions to the Department of Labour that used employee complaints as a basis for prioritizing labor inspections. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable offenses. The Department of Labour is responsible for enforcing safety laws outside the mining sector.

The Department of Labour is responsible for enforcing wage standards outside the mining sector, and a tripartite Mine Health and Safety Council and an Inspectorate of Mine Health and Safety enforced such standards in the mining sector. Penalties for violations of wages and workhour laws outside the mining sector were commensurate with those for comparable offenses.

The Department of Labour employed an insufficient number of labor inspectors to enforce compliance. Labor inspectors conducted routine and unannounced inspections at various workplaces that employed vulnerable workers. Labor inspectors investigated workplaces in both the formal and informal sectors. Labor inspectors and unions reported having difficulty visiting workers on private farms.

The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors. OSH regulations were frequently violated in the mining sector, and compensation for injuries was erratic and slow. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable offenses, however, not sufficient to deter violations. Unions in the agriculture sector noted their repeated attempts to have the Department of Labour fine farm owners who failed to shield workers from hazardous chemicals sprayed on crops. Although labor conditions improved on large commercial farms, COSATU and leading agricultural NGOs reported labor conditions on small farms remained harsh. Underpayment of wages and poor living conditions for workers, most of whom were Black noncitizens, were common. Many owners of small farms did not measure working hours accurately, 12-hour workdays were common during harvest time, and few farmers provided overtime benefits. Amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act attempted to address some labor abuses at farms. For example, changes prohibited farms from selling goods from farm-operated stores to farm employees on credit at inflated prices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers cut salaries, without following the law restricting an employer’s ability to change an employee’s pay; this was especially evident with domestic workers. Most domestic workers were either subject to staying with their employers or risk losing both their income and employment.

Farm workers also reported health and sanitation concerns.

Mining accidents were common. Mine safety has steadily improved from prior decades, however. For example, 553 miners lost their lives in 1995 compared with only 60 deaths in 2020 and 51 deaths in 2019. Mining operations were scaled down significantly for much of 2020 and during the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly deep-level mining. According to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, as of December 13, there were 72 reported fatalities among workers in the mining industry.

In July 2019 the Constitutional Court ruled employees assigned to workplaces via a labor broker (“temporary employment service”) are employees of the client and entitled to wages and benefits equal to those of regular employees of the client.

Informal Sector: Economic researchers reported that approximately 30 percent of total employment was informal, with higher rates in rural areas. The informal sector included traders such as street vendors and market sellers, domestic workers, waste pickers, and agricultural workers. The Government Gazette confirmed that domestic workers are covered for injury or death under workers compensation laws and minimum wage laws. This action followed a landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court upholding the 2019 High Court of Gauteng decision expanding statutory workers’ compensation coverage to domestic workers.

Sweden

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a freely elected multiparty parliamentary form of government. Legislative authority rests in the unicameral parliament (Riksdag). Observers considered the general elections in 2018 to be free and fair. In 2019 a center-left coalition led by Stefan Lofven of the Social Democratic Party assumed office. Lofven lost a vote of no confidence in June but returned as prime minister in July. The king is largely a symbolic head of state. The prime minister is the head of government and exercises executive authority.

The national police are responsible for law enforcement and general order within the country. The Security Service is responsible for national security related to terrorism, extremism, and espionage. The Ministry of Justice provides funding and letters of instruction for both branches of the police’s activities, but it does not control how police perform them. According to the constitution, all branches of police are independent authorities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that members of security forces committed abuses.

Significant issues included the existence of criminal libel laws.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The country had nine national ombudsmen: four justice ombudsmen; the chancellor of justice; the children’s ombudsman; the consumer ombudsman; the child and school student ombudsman; and the equality ombudsman with responsibility for ethnicity, gender, transgender identity, religion, age, sexual orientation, and disabilities. There were normally ombudsmen at the municipal level as well. The ombudsmen enjoyed the government’s cooperation and operated without government or party interference. They had adequate resources, and observers considered them generally effective.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

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

The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) reported 9,577 cases of rape in 2020, an increase of approximately 9 percent from 2019. Women and girls were victims in 93 percent of the cases. Domestic violence remained a problem, and 16,616 cases between adults were reported during 2020, a 58 percent increase from 2019. Of these, 13,616 (82 percent) were violence against women.

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

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia. The national support line for those who need advice in situations concerning honor-related violence reported a decrease from 1,019 cases involving 1,054 suspected victims in 2019 to 784 cases involving 907 suspected victims in 2020. The calls mostly concerned child or forced marriage, abduction or being held abroad, or female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C).

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

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

NGOs the Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) and Never Forget Pela and Fadime reported on virginity testing and hymenoplasty done by some private medical practitioners. The government condemned these practices and stated they were not compatible with health and medical care legislation.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. The government enforced the laws effectively.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution charges public institutions with promoting equality in society and combating discrimination. The constitution prohibits unfavorable treatment of anyone based on ethnic origin, color, or other similar circumstances, and the government generally respected these rights.

Societal discrimination and violence against Roma continued to be a problem.

Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked to neo-Nazi or white supremacy ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. The Security Service concluded that right-wing extremism was on the rise in the country: right-wing propaganda spread more widely, and more individuals were attracted to it. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) was the largest white supremacy group with approximately 160 active members. The NRM registered as a political party and participated in the parliamentary and local elections in 2018 but did not win any seats.

There were problems around vulnerable EU citizens, the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, who resided in the country. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for no more than three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit.

The country’s official minority languages are all varieties of Finnish, Yiddish, Meankieli, Romani Chib, and Sami. During the year the government supported 38 projects with 3.5 million kronor ($410,000) in grants, including a digital platform for culture (Yiddish), a language learning page on Facebook (Meankieli), creative writing (Finnish), digital tools for language promotion for youths (Romani Chib), and a language and sports camp for youths (Sami).

Basic training for police officers included training on identifying and investigating hate crimes. Emergency call responders were continuously trained in identifying hate crime motives in crime reports. Police cooperated with Victim Support Sweden, which helps and supports victims, witnesses, and others affected by crime.

Police in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have democracy and anti-hate-crime groups. The National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism under the auspices of the NCCP serves as a clearinghouse for information, best practices, and support of municipalities, agencies, and other actors.

Indigenous Peoples

The constitution charges public institutions with promoting opportunities for the Sami people and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities to preserve and develop a cultural and social life of their own. The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acts as an advisory body to the government and has limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations govern the Sami parliament’s operations.

Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their history. On November 3, the government announced the creation of a truth commission to chart and investigate policies – including “abuses, rights violations and racism” – affecting the Sami. Another task of the commission is to spread awareness of Sami history and how past abuses affect the Sami people today.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The tax authority immediately registered in the national population register all children born in the country, regardless of their parents’ citizenship or immigration or residency status in the country.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children mentally or physically. Penalties range from a fine up to 10 years in prison. Cases of child abuse were reported. Authorities may remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. Rape of a child carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to marry. The government legally recognizes as valid the marriage of anyone who comes to the country after the age of 18, even if they were married abroad before the age of 18. The government does not recognize a foreign child marriage if either of the parties was a Swedish citizen or resident in Sweden at the time of marriage. Compelling or allowing a child to marry is punishable by up to two years in prison. Municipalities’ social welfare services can petition administrative courts to issue travel restrictions to protect at-risk children from being taken out of the country for marriage. Such children are not to be issued passports, and passports that were issued are to be rescinded. The law makes it a crime to take a child who is subject to travel restrictions out of the country, with punishment of up to two years in prison for violations.

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

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 15,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The NCCP registered 280 anti-Semitic crimes in 2018, compared with 182 in 2016. Anti-Semitic crimes accounted for 4 percent of all reported hate crimes. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, harassment in schools, and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitic incidents were often perpetrated by groups associated with neo-Nazi movements or corresponded with events in the Middle East. Swedish Jews were often targeted for actions of the Israeli government.

The most commonly reported incidents of anti-Semitism were hate speech (45 percent of complaints), unlawful threats or harassment (34 percent), vandalism or graffiti (8 percent), and defamation (8 percent). Of the 182 investigations opened in 2016, 52 percent were dismissed; 37 percent were directly dismissed without a formal investigation due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in 9 percent of the cases.

On January 26 – the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day – four anti-Semitic acts of vandalism took place at the Linkoping City Hall and at three media outlets in Linkoping and Norrkoping, small cities approximately 120 and 100 miles from Stockholm, respectively. The perpetrators plastered anti-Semitic messages and Stars of David on building facades and left behind cans of an unidentified powder. The Linkoping police opened four investigations into incitement against ethnic groups. Also on January 26, the words “the Holocaust is a hoax” were projected onto a crane in Gothenburg, the country’s second largest city, for about 10 minutes. Gothenburg police confirmed on January 28 that they had initiated an investigation into the incident.

On May 12, a man was arrested on suspicion of hate speech after singing the anti-Semitic Khaybar chant at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Malmo. In May a 12-year-old Jewish girl filed a police report concerning anti-Semitic harassment to which she had been subjected by schoolmates in a Malmo school. On May 26, a non-Jewish man wearing a kippah was assaulted by several men and was called “Jewish bastard” by at least one of them in Gothenburg.

On March 27, the first night of Passover, baby dolls splashed with red paint were strung outside a synagogue in Norrkoping, next to a flyer with anti-Semitic messages. The Norrkoping police opened a hate crime investigation on March 28.

Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. In March the Malmo Municipality published a report on anti-Semitism in schools where all 26 staff and 14 Jewish students interviewed said they had experienced anti-Semitism in Malmo schools and kindergartens. School staff identified anti-Semitic expressions in Malmo’s schools that were connected to the Israel-Palestine conflict, geopolitical relations in the Middle East, and pan-Arabic nationalism.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center left in place its travel advisory, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.”

In January Prime Minister Lofven announced that Sweden would assume the presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) starting in March 2022. On October 13, the government hosted the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, marking the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration that created the IHRA, with over 300 participants including Holocaust survivors, high-ranking representatives from more than 35 countries, and leaders of civil society organizations. Forum participants criticized social media platforms for not better policing anti-Semitic hate speech online.

During the year a Jewish neurosurgeon at Nya Karolinska University Hospital (NKS) reported continuing reprisals stemming from his 2017 report that the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery subjected him and two other Jewish colleagues to anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination. In June the Equality Ombudsman concluded its third inquiry into the doctor’s allegation and found its inquiry did not substantiate the allegations that the NKS violated the law’s prohibition on retaliation. In December 2020 the Health and Social Care Inspectorate rejected a formal complaint made in 2019 by the NKS that the doctor posed a risk to patient safety and rebuked the NKS for identifying the doctor’s religion in its complaint.

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

The Media Council, a government agency whose primary task is to train minors to be conscious media users and to protect them from harmful media influences, initiated a “No Hate Speech Movement” campaign and worked to stop anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The government allocated six million kronor ($706,000) to the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism and the Living History Forum to increase opportunities for student and teacher study visits to Holocaust memorial sites. On March 18, the government stated that two million kronor ($235,000) of these funds were earmarked for planning and preparation for resuming remembrance trips to the Holocaust memorial sites for high school students and teachers after trips were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Persons with disabilities were able to access health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. Government regulations require new buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible. The government enforced these provisions. Observers reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as apartments, restaurants, and bars. Some means of public transportation remained inaccessible.

In 2020 the Equality Ombudsman received 916 reports concerning discrimination related to disability, of which 372 concerned a lack of accessibility. The complaints were mainly about perceived discrimination in working life, education, social services, and trade in goods and services. A large proportion of the complaints concerned the lack of reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In the education system, many cases concerned children and young persons with reading and writing difficulties not receiving sufficient support at school. In the case of trade in goods and services, many of the cases concerned access to premises or services and inadequate communication tools. The NGO Antidiscrimination Agency Norra Skane, the NGO Malmo against Discrimination, and an individual who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome sued the Swedish Armed Forces in the autumn of 2020 because the military was denying persons with neuropsychiatric disabilities access to basic military training. The armed forces stated these diagnoses were not compatible with military activities, due to the requirements and the environment in which the individual would work; it paid a fine to the plaintiff.

According to the Agency for Participation, the level of education was lower among persons with disabilities than among others in the population. Its reports showed that two reasons were that special support was provided too late and that students with disabilities felt more insecure. Among 30- to 64-year-olds with disabilities, 33 percent had postsecondary education compared with 47 percent for the rest of the population. Within the group of persons with disabilities between the ages of 20 and 36, 9 percent had dropped out of upper secondary school, compared with 3 percent in the rest of the population. In 2019 just over 11,100 students with disabilities attended compulsory special school, just over 6,000 attended upper secondary special school, and 659 students with disabilities attended special resource school. In November the Supreme Court ordered the city of Malmo to pay fines of 20,000 kronor ($2,350) to a student for discrimination based on the student’s disability when a municipal school did not provide the student sufficient assistance within a reasonable time span. Disability NGOs noted the judgment was one of the first of its kind in the country.

The Agency for Participation noted that some polling stations in the general election of 2018 were inaccessible for persons with disabilities. In the 2018 elections, 84 percent of persons with disabilities voted, compared with 91 percent in the rest of the population.

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

The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. The government generally enforced such laws.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for protection of workers from being fired because of union activity. If a court finds a dismissal to be unlawful, the employee has the right to reinstatement. The government effectively enforced the law and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes.

Foreign companies may be exempt from collective bargaining, provided they meet minimum working conditions and levels of pay. Public-sector employees enjoy the right to strike, subject to limitations in the collective agreements protecting the public’s immediate health and security. The government mediation service may also intervene to postpone a strike for up to 14 days for mediation. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) claimed the law restricts the rights of the country’s trade unions to take industrial action on behalf of foreign workers in foreign companies operating in the country. The law allows unions to conduct their activities largely without interference.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws. The Labor Court settles any dispute that affects the relationship between employers and employees. An employer organization, an employee organization, or an employer who has entered into a collective agreement on an individual basis may lodge claims. The Labor Court may impose prison sentences commensurate with those for similar violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Workers and employers exercised all legal collective bargaining rights, which the government protected. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. ITUC reported no serious violations of worker rights in 2020 and from January to June 2021.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and the government effectively enforced the law. Penalties of imprisonment were generally commensurate with those for similar serious crimes. Forced labor involving adult trafficking victims occurred in agriculture (including involving companies providing foreign labor for berry picking), construction, hospitality, domestic work, forced begging, and theft, and there were reports of forced begging involving child trafficking victims (see section 7.c.). In some cases employers or contractors providing labor seized the passports of workers and withheld their pay. Resources and inspections were adequate.

According to the latest government statistics from the NCCP, 196 cases of suspected human trafficking were reported to police in 2020. Of those, 24 concerned adult forced labor, 12 adult forced begging, and 42 other forms. According to the NCCP, there were 79 cases of human exploitation, a complementary crime to human trafficking related to unreasonable working conditions, with 72 cases of human exploitation for adult forced labor and four for human exploitation of adults for the purpose of begging.

Also see 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 law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. It permits full-time employment from the age of 16 under the supervision of local authorities. Employees younger than 18 may work only during daytime and under supervision. Children as young as 13 may work part time or perform light work with parental permission. The law limits the types of work in which children may or may not engage. For instance, a child may not work with dangerous machinery or chemicals. A child may also not work alone or be responsible for handling cash transactions. The law considers a violation of these limits a civil rather than a criminal violation. According to the law, forcing a child to work may be treated as coercion, deprivation of liberty, or child abuse, and it carries a wide range of penalties, including fines and imprisonment. The government effectively implemented these laws and regulations. Criminal penalties were commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance.

According to the most recent government statistics from the NCCP, 196 cases of suspected human trafficking were reported to police in 2020. For children, there were 15 cases of child sex trafficking, five cases of child forced labor, one case of child forced begging, one case of forced child war service, and 25 cases of other forms of child trafficking.

Boys were mainly subjected to forced begging and forced petty theft. Girls were mainly subjected to sexual exploitation, forced begging, and child marriage. Police and social services reportedly acted promptly when cases were reported.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation based on religion, sex, ethnicity (including race, national origin, color, and in some cases refugee status), disability (including HIV/AIDS status), age, and sexual orientation or gender identity. The government effectively enforced applicable law, and penalties were commensurate with similar violations. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The government effectively enforced the law prohibiting gender discrimination by investigating and prosecuting complaints.

The equality ombudsman investigated complaints of gender discrimination in the labor market. In 2020 the ombudsman received 988 complaints of discrimination in the labor market, of which 431 were related to gender and 145 to disabilities. The World Economic Forum estimated that earned income for women was less than that for men. Of the complaints of ethnic discrimination to the equality ombudsman, 555 involved the labor market. Complaints may also be filed with the courts or with the employer. Labor unions generally mediated in cases filed with the employer.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is no national minimum wage law. Annual collective bargaining agreements set wages within industries, which were greater than the poverty income level. By regulation, both foreign and domestic employers must offer conditions of employment on par with the country’s collective agreements. Nonunion establishments generally observed these contracts as well.

The labor law and collective bargaining agreements regulate overtime and rest periods. The law allows a maximum of 200 hours of overtime annually. Collective agreements determined compensation for overtime, which could take the form of money or time off. The law requires a minimum period of 36 consecutive hours of rest, preferably on weekends, over a seven-day period. The Work Environment Authority effectively enforced wage and hour laws.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate. The responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The Work Environment Authority, a government agency, effectively enforced these standards. In 2020 the authority conducted 17,602 inspections. Inspectors have the authority to conduct unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. The 258 inspectors were sufficient to enforce the law. In 2020 the authority took part in a cross-agency task force that made 1,274 visits to check on work permits, taxes, and working environment regulations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Work Environment Authority carried out many inspections at a distance via video meetings or telephone. The government tasked the authority with carrying out a targeted supervisory effort focusing on the spread of COVID-19 in primary and secondary schools, grocery and retail stores, transportation, dentist offices, slaughterhouses, cleaning companies, companies that worked with property management, and restaurants that sold takeaway food.

The Work Environment Authority issued occupational health and safety regulations and trained union stewards and safety ombudsmen whom government inspectors monitored. If an employee finds that the work involves immediate and serious danger to life or health, the employee must immediately notify the employer or safety ombudsman. Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe conditions without jeopardy to their employment. Safety ombudsmen have authority to stop unsafe activity immediately and to call in an inspector. An employer may be fined for violating work environment regulations. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Foreign seasonal workers, including berry pickers from Asia and Bulgaria, faced poor living and working conditions. The guidelines of the Swedish Retail and Food Federation cover EU citizens who pick berries in the country but not workers from outside the EU. Under the guidelines, berry pickers are to be informed that they have the right to sell their berries to all buyers and that nobody has the right to control how, when, and where they pick wild berries. A foreign company providing berry pickers to a local company must also demonstrate how it expects to pay workers in case of limited work or a bad harvest. The guidelines task food and retail organizations and brokers with ensuring their implementation.

In August approximately 50 Bulgarian berry pickers were stranded in Alvsbyn (450 miles north of Stockholm) when their employer was not present when they arrived, and police determined their vehicles were not fit for legal use. Police started an investigation on human exploitation. The Bulgarian embassy helped 35 of the berry pickers to return to Bulgaria by bus.

The Swedish Construction Workers’ Union reported in 2020 that working conditions for foreign workers in the construction sector had deteriorated. In the report, foreign workers said they received lower salaries than their Swedish colleagues and that some employers did not pay taxes or give the foreign workers an official employment contract. The living standards provided by the employer were substandard. There were reports of 20 to 30 workers living in the same apartment and sleeping in shifts.

The Work Environment Authority reported industrial accidents caused the death of 24 workers in 2020, the lowest number recorded in any year since 1955. Ten of the accidents in 2020 were in the construction sector. Construction, transport, and manufacturing were the three sectors with the greatest number of deaths caused by industrial accidents between 2011 and 2020.

United Kingdom

Executive Summary

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is a constitutional monarchy with a multiparty, parliamentary form of government. Citizens elect members of Parliament to the House of Commons, the lower chamber of the bicameral Parliament. They last did so in free and fair elections in 2019. Members of the upper chamber, the House of Lords, occupy appointed or hereditary seats. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Bermuda have elected legislative bodies and devolved administrations with varying degrees of legislative and executive powers. The UK has 14 overseas territories, including Bermuda. Each of the overseas territories has its own constitution, while the UK government is responsible for external affairs and defense.

Except in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the national police maintained internal security and reported to the Home Office. The army, under the authority of the Ministry of Defence, is responsible for external security and supports police in extreme cases. The National Crime Agency investigates serious crime in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and has a mandate to deal with organized, economic, and cybercrimes as well as border policing and child protection. The National Crime Agency’s director general has independent operational direction and control over the agency’s activities and is accountable to the home secretary.

Scotland’s judicial, legal, and law enforcement system is devolved. Police Scotland reports to the Scottish justice minister and the state prosecutor, coordinates cross-border crime and threat information to the national UK police, and responds to UK police needs in Scotland upon request.

Northern Ireland also maintains a separate police force, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which reports to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, a public body composed of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and independent members of the community.

The Bermuda Police Service is responsible for internal security on the island and reports to the governor appointed by the UK, but it is funded by the elected government of the island.

Civilian authorities throughout the UK and its territories maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of crimes, violence, and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented the law effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year. In April the government implemented a new sanctions regime that allows it to impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals and entities determined to have committed or to have been involved in serious corruption, specifically, bribing or misappropriating property from a foreign public official or benefitting from such bribery or misappropriation.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings of human rights cases. Government officials were routinely cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Parliament has a Joint Committee on Human Rights composed of 12 members selected from the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The committee investigates human rights matters in the country and scrutinizes legislation affecting human rights. It may call for testimony from government officials, who routinely comply.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an independent, nondepartmental public body that promotes and monitors human rights and protects, enforces, and promotes equality across nine “protected” grounds: age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation, and gender reassignment. The sponsoring department was the Government Equalities Office. The commission was considered effective.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission, which is accountable to the Scottish Parliament, monitors and protects human rights in the region.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office, and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, sponsored by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, monitor human rights in that province. Both entities were considered effective.

In Bermuda the Human Rights Commission is an independent body that effectively administered human rights law through the investigation and resolution of complaints lodged with it.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape. The maximum legal penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The law also provides for injunctive relief, personal protection orders, and protective exclusion orders (similar to restraining orders) for survivors of gender-based violence. The government enforced the law effectively in reported cases. Courts in some cases imposed the maximum punishment for rape. The government provided shelters, counseling, and other assistance for survivors of rape or violence. NGOs warned that police and Crown Prosecutorial Services have raised the bar for evidence needed, causing survivors to drop out of the justice process. The Crown Prosecution Service was in the second year of a five-year plan for the prosecution of rape and serious sexual offenses (RASSO) to help reduce the gap between reported cases and prosecutions. The plan is committed to improving cooperation between police and prosecutors, fully resourcing RASSO units, and training to improve communication with victims.

The law criminalizes domestic violence. Those who abuse spouses, partners, or family members face tougher punishment than those who commit similar offenses in a nondomestic context. The government estimated that there were 2.3 million survivors of domestic abuse a year between the ages of 16 and 74 (two-thirds of whom were women), and more than one in 10 of all offenses recorded by the police were domestic abuse-related. On April 29, the Domestic Abuse Act became law. It creates a statutory definition of domestic abuse, establishes the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner, provided for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order, and requires local authorities in England to provide accommodation-based support to survivors of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation. The act no longer allows accused perpetrators to cross-examine witnesses in the courts and establishes a statutory presumption that survivors of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil, and family courts. It also widened the offense of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress, established nonfatal strangulation or suffocation of another person as a new offense, and clarified in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to his or her own death.

On July 21, the government published its Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to tackle the crimes of rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, stalking, harassment, and digital crimes such as cyberflashing, “revenge porn,” and “up-skirting.”

Domestic abuse incidents in Scotland reached a 20-year high over 2019/20, with Police Scotland recording 63,000 incidents. Government officials suggested an awareness campaign to encourage survivors to report abuse helped drive the increase.

Police in Northern Ireland recorded 31,174 domestic abuse incidents (19,612 crimes) from June 2020 to July 2021, the highest total for a 12-month period since 2004/05. In January the Northern Ireland Assembly passed domestic abuse legislation criminalizing coercive control in the region for the first time.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and requires health and social care professionals and teachers to report to police cases of FGM/C on girls younger than age 18. It is also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM/C or to help someone trying to do so. The penalty is up to 14 years in prison. An FGM/C protection order, a civil measure that can be applied for through a family court, offers the means of protecting survivors or at-risk women and girls from FGM/C under the civil law. Breach of an FGM/C protection order is a criminal offense carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.

FGM/C is illegally practiced in the country, particularly within some diaspora communities from countries where FGM/C is prevalent. The National Health Service reported 2,165 newly recorded cases between January and September.

The government took nonjudicial steps to address FGM/C, including awareness-raising efforts, a hotline, and requiring medical professionals to report FGM/C observed on patients.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment at places of work. Authorities used different laws to prosecute cases of harassment outside the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Health policy was devolved to constituent parts of the country.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The government enforced the law effectively. Women were subject to some discrimination in employment (see also section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination, but Travelers, Roma, and persons of African, Afro-Caribbean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern origin at times reported mistreatment on racial or ethnic grounds.

The majority of hate crimes were racially motivated, accounting for around three-quarters of such offenses (74 percent; 85,268 offenses), an increase of 12 percent.

On May 31, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture reported on its visit to the country in 2019. It found persons from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups were over four times more likely to be detained than persons from White ethnic groups. Black Caribbean persons experienced particularly high rates of detention. Those from ethnic minorities were more likely to be subject to restraint and other restrictive practices and to experience disproportionate numbers of deaths in custody and in mental health care. Both male and female individuals from ethnic minorities were significantly overrepresented in prisons, which was attributed to a number of factors including discriminatory sentencing. In 2018 a total of 27 percent of the prison population identified as an ethnic minority, compared with 13 percent of the general population.

In September, Human Rights Watch reported that in the country, black persons were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched, and four times more likely to have force used against them by police than a white person. A black child was four times more likely to be arrested, and three times more likely to be given a caution or sentence. Blacks were also disproportionately represented in the prison population and continued to die at disproportionate rates in custody. A black woman was five times more likely to die in childbirth.

The government responded to nationwide antiracist demonstrations in 2020 by announcing a cross-governmental commission. On March 31, the government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities reported it did not find the system was “deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.” The report acknowledged impediments and disparities existed but stated “very few of them are directly to do with racism.” It added that racism was “too often” used as a catchall explanation.

In Scotland racial or other discriminatory motivation may be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Race-based hate crime was the most commonly reported hate crime in Scotland, accounting for 3,285 charges in 2020/21, an increase of 6 percent on the previous year.

“Right to Rent” rules require all landlords in England to check the immigration documents of prospective tenants to verify they were not irregular or undocumented migrants. Landlords may be fined up to 3,000 pounds ($3,960) for noncompliance.

On March 11, the Scottish Parliament extended protection for vulnerable groups with a new offense of “stirring up hatred.” Under the bill offenses are considered “aggravated” when involving age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or variations in sex characteristics.

In Northern Ireland, 839 racially motivated crimes were recorded in the period July 2020 to June 2021, an increase of 238 compared to the previous 12 months.

Children

Birth Registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a UK citizen or a legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for UK, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a UK overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. All births must be registered within 42 days in the district where the baby was born; unregistered births were uncommon.

Child Abuse: Laws make the abuse of children punishable by up to a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. Social service departments in each local authority in the country maintained confidential child protection registers containing details of children at risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. The registers also included child protection plans for each child.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 16. In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, persons younger than 18 require the written consent of parents or guardians, and the underage person must present a birth certificate. The legal minimum age to enter into a marriage in Scotland is 16 and does not require parental consent.

Forcing someone to marry against his or her will is a criminal offense throughout the country with a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Forcing a UK citizen into marriage anywhere in the world is a criminal offense in England and Wales. In 2020 the joint Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office and the Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) provided support in more than 759 cases of potential or confirmed forced marriage involving UK citizens, which represented a 44 percent decrease from 2019, attributable to restrictions on overseas travel and weddings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the cases that the FMU provided advice or support to in 2020, 199 cases (26 percent) involved victims younger than 18 years, 278 cases (37 percent) involved victims ages 18-25, 66 cases (9 percent) involved victims with mental capacity concerns, 603 cases (79 percent) involved female victims, and 156 cases (21 percent) involved male victims.

Assistance included safety advice as well as “reluctant spouse cases” in which the government assisted forced marriage victims in preventing their unwanted spouse from moving to the UK. The government offers lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more to come forward.

In Scotland, 12 cases of forced marriage were reported in 2020, down from 22 in 2018.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range up to life imprisonment. Authorities enforced the law. The law prohibits child pornography. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16.

International Child Abductions: The UK, including Bermuda, is 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.

Anti-Semitism

The 2011 census recorded the Jewish population at 263,346. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the British Board of Deputies suggested that the actual figure in 2011 was approximately 300,000. A new census was carried out during the year, but the figures were not released before year’s end.

The semiannual report of the NGO Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 1,308 anti-Semitic incidents during the first six months of the year, the highest number the CST has recorded for that period and an increase of 49 percent from the same period in 2020. Of this number, 639 occurred in May. The CST noted the number of reports fluctuated with tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. In educational settings, a total of 130 incidents occurred in schools or during travel to or from school; of these, 21 incidents happened in Jewish schools. There were 355 reported anti-Semitic incidents online.

The CST recorded 87 violent anti-Semitic assaults during the first half of the year, a 67 percent increase from of the same period in 2020. Two of the violent incidents were classified by the CST as “extreme violence,” meaning the incident involved potential grievous bodily harm or a threat to life. There were 56 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property and 1,073 incidents of abusive behavior, including verbal abuse, graffiti including on non-Jewish property, social media, and hate mail, an increase of 45 percent from the same period in 2020.

The CST recorded 748 anti-Semitic incidents in Greater London in the first half of the year, an increase of 51 percent from 2020. The 181 incidents the CST recorded in Greater Manchester represented an increase of 159 percent from the same period in 2020. Elsewhere in the country, the CST recorded an anti-Semitic incident in all but four of the 43 police regions, compared with nine regions in the first half of 2020.

In September police arrested a man for six assaults on Jews in the London area. On September 20, Mohammed Iftikhar Hanif, Jawaad Hussain, Asif Ali, and Adil Mota were charged with shouting anti-Semitic abuse while driving around in a convoy in north London on May 16. In December police launched an investigation following an incident in which three men were filmed spitting and yelling anti-Semitic abuse at Jewish passengers celebrating Hanukkah on a privately chartered bus on Oxford Street in London. In December 2020 neo-Nazi Luke Hunter was convicted in Leeds after pleading guilty to seven charges of promoting terrorism and circulating material from terrorist publications against Jews, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community, and non-White minorities. He was sentenced to a jail term of four years and two months.

In September Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party had “closed the door” on the “dark chapter” on anti-Semitism with the introduction of new rules to tackle it. Labour published its plan for a major overhaul in response to a highly critical report by the EHRC into its handling of anti-Semitism complaints under former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Reforms included a fully independent complaints process to deal with anti-Semitism. The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the new approach adopted by the party. Jewish Labour member of parliament Dame Margaret Hodge said there was “enormous relief and immeasurable hope to every Labour Party member who has been a victim of vile anti-Jew hate.” Former Labour member of parliament Louise Ellman, who quit Labour over its handling of anti-Semitism, rejoined following the rule changes and said she was “confident” leader Sir Keir Starmer was tackling the issue.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn remained suspended from the party for refusing to apologize for saying that while the problem (of anti-Semitism) was “absolutely abhorrent,” the scale of the problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents,” and for refusing to retract his words.

In January, Scottish justice minister Hamza Yousaf condemned anti-Semitic abuse against the Celtic soccer club’s Israeli midfielder, Nir Bitton, noting that “anti-Semitism deserves the same contempt as Islamophobia or any other prejudice.”

In April the Northern Ireland Assembly adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. The motion, which passed by oral vote, was opposed by some members of the Legislative Assembly who argued the IHRA definition prevents legitimate criticism of the state of Israel. In April, 10 Jewish graves were vandalized in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the same month, headstones in a Jewish cemetery were destroyed in what police stated was a hate crime. The incident was condemned by all political parties in Northern Ireland.

In May a Jewish-owned business in Londonderry was vandalized with graffiti. Police initiated an investigation into the incident.

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 law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate.

Bermudian law protects the rights of persons with disabilities in the workplace. The law does not include any protection from discrimination on mental health grounds.

According to the government’s UK Disability Survey Research Report, June 2021, which surveyed 14,491 individuals to inform the development of its National Disability Strategy, over a quarter of respondents with disabilities often had difficulty accessing public buildings, while one in three respondents with disabilities often had difficulty accessing public spaces. Many persons with disabilities and carers who had trouble accessing public buildings also reported difficulty accessing important public services. Respondents reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes. Many persons with disabilities and carers reported that they live in homes, which do not meet their needs to live independently or to provide care, or that they have needed to make significant adjustments to their homes to meet accessibility requirements.

In July a deaf woman won a High Court action against the government after arguing it had breached its obligations to make broadcasts accessible to deaf individuals under equality legislation. The court ruled the absence of interpretation constituted discrimination.

Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at similar rates to children without disabilities. The law requires all publicly funded preschools, nurseries, state schools, and local authorities to try to identify, help assess, and provide reasonable accommodation to children with “special educational needs or disabilities.”

According to the UK Disability Survey, only one in 10 respondents with disabilities to the survey agreed that persons with disabilities are given the educational opportunities they need to thrive in society. Over half of respondents with disabilities not employed reported that they would like more help finding and keeping a job. Of those employed, half of respondents with disabilities felt their employer was flexible and made sufficient reasonable adjustments, and half of care givers felt their employer was supportive of their caring responsibilities. Only a quarter of persons with disabilities and care givers felt they had the same promotion opportunities as their colleagues.

Over half of respondents to the UK Disability Survey reported worrying about being insulted or harassed in public places, and a similar proportion reported being mistreated because of their disability. In the year ending in March, police in England and Wales recorded 9,943 disability hate crimes. According to disability rights organizations United Response and Leonard Cheshire, only 1 percent of alleged hate crime cases across England and Wales in 2020/21 were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service or charged.

In April former Metropolitan Police officer Benjamin Kemp was dismissed from his job after the Independent Office for Police Conduct determined he used excessive force against a 17-year-old girl with learning disabilities in 2019. Kemp reportedly used tear gas spray and struck the girl over 30 times with a baton. A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service stated, “prosecutors carefully considered the evidence passed to them by the Independent Office for Police Conduct in 2019 and determined that, taking into account the circumstances of this particular incident, their legal test was not met” to charge Kemp.

The Crown and Procurator Fiscal’s Office, Scotland’s prosecutor, reported in June that the number of recorded hate crimes against persons with disabilities rose by 29 percent to 387 in 2019/20.

The EHRC provided legal advice and support to individuals and a hotline. It could also conduct formal investigations, arrange conciliation, require persons or organizations to adopt action plans to ensure compliance with the law, and apply for injunctions to prevent acts of unlawful discrimination.

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

There were no reports of police or other government agents inciting, perpetrating, or condoning violence against LGBTQI+ individuals or those reporting on such abuse. There were reports of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity against LGBTQI+ persons.

The law in England and Wales prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. It encourages judges to impose a greater sentence in assault cases where the victim’s sexual orientation was a motive for the hostility, and many local police forces demonstrated an increasing awareness of the problem and trained officers to identify and moderate these attacks. The government generally enforced the law. In the year ending in March, police in England and Wales recorded 124,091 hate crimes, of which 18,596 were sexual-orientation hate crimes and 2,799 were transgender hate crimes.

Sexual motivation may be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Crime aggravated by sexual orientation was the second most common type of hate crime in Scotland. Hate crime against LGBTQI+ persons accounted for 1,580 charges in 2020/21, an increase of 5 percent year on year. According to figures obtained by Vice World News, the number of homophobic hate crimes in the UK has tripled and the number of transphobic hate crime reports quadrupled over the last six years. Figures received through responses to freedom of information requests from police forces across the country showed there were 6,363 reports of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014/15, compared to 19,679 in 2020/21. For reports of transphobic hate crimes, there were 598 in 2014/15 and 2,588 in 2020/21.

Statistics from the Police Service of Northern Ireland showed 262 homophobic crimes and 33 transphobic crimes.

In June, LGBTQI+ NGO Galop reported that only one in five LGBTQI+ persons surveyed were able to access support after experiencing a hate crime. Galop reported that only one in eight LGBTQI+ persons surveyed had reported the most recent incident they had experienced to the police, with over half saying they thought the police would not do anything, and almost a third who did not submit a report did not because they mistrusted or were fearful of the police.

In October police arrested a second man on suspicion of murdering Ranjith “Roy” Kankanamalage in a suspected homophobic attack that occurred in August. As of November the investigation was ongoing.

Observers reported individuals identifying as LGBTQI+ were more likely to experience worse health outcomes than the general population, found it harder to access services, and had poorer experiences of using services when they were able to access them. According to the report Trans lives survey 2021: Enduring the UKs hostile environment published in September by NGO TransActual UK, one in seven transgender persons have been refused care or treatment by their general practitioner because they were transgender.

In October the minister for women and equalities vowed to protect LGBTQI+ persons, and especially those under 18, from harmful conversion therapies. The government launched consultations and published its proposals on how to make coercive conversion therapies illegal. According to some observers, the government’s proposals would still leave individuals over 18 open to abuse.

According to a report published in September by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in partnership with LGBTQI+ rights NGO Stonewall, UK’s LGBTQI+ students increasingly view the education system as a space where they feel safe and free to be themselves. The report also stated that individuals identifying as transgender tend to have a less positive experience, with these individuals being less likely to be open about their gender identity, and more likely to have a health condition and achieve lower grades. A report titled Growing up LGBTQI+ published by Just Like Us in June stated LGBTQI+ students were twice as likely to have been bullied and 91 percent had heard negative language about being LGBTQI+.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law does not cover workers in the armed forces, public-sector security services, police forces, and freelance or temporary work. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and protects employees from unfair dismissal while striking for up to 12 weeks, provided the union has complied with the legal requirements governing such industrial action. The majority of a union’s members must support the industrial action, as demonstrated through an official ballot, and the union must then inform its members and the employer when and how the industrial action will take place.

The law allows strikes to proceed only when at least 50 percent of workers who participate in a secret ballot support it, and workers have provided 14-day notification of strike action. For “important public services,” defined as health services, education for those younger than 17, fire services, transport services, nuclear decommissioning and the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, and border security, 40 percent of all eligible union members must vote in favor of the strike action, and ballots require at least a 50 percent turnout to be valid and for strike action to be legal. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the right to strike in the UK is “limited” due to prohibitions against political and solidarity strikes, lengthy procedures for calling strikes, and the ability of employers to seek injunctions against unions before a strike has begun if the union does not observe all legal steps in organizing the strike.

The government generally enforced the law. Remedies were limited in situations where workers faced reprisal for union activity, and ITUC stated that the law does not provide “adequate means of protection against antiunion discrimination.” Penalties range from employers paying compensation to reinstatement and were commensurate with those for similar violations. Inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy funded the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS), which works to help employees and employers better adhere to collective bargaining and other workplace laws and to improve workplace relationships. If ACAS is not able to settle a dispute, a claim can be brought to the Employment Tribunal.

The government and employers routinely respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The law allows any workplace with more than 21 workers to organize into a collective bargaining unit if 50 percent of workers agree and the employer accepts the terms. Unions and management typically negotiated collective “agreements,” which were less formal and not legally enforceable. The terms of the agreement could, however, be incorporated into an individual work contract with legal standing.

The law does not allow independent trade unions to apply for de-recognition of in-house company unions or to protect individual workers seeking to do so. The effect has been that some in-house company unions operate with a membership less than the majority of workers.

Trade union membership levels rose for four consecutive years since 2017, driven by the increase in female members and public-sector workers. According to the ONS, 6.56 million employees were trade union members in 2019. Membership levels were below the 1979 peak of more than 13 million.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor.

The law permits punishment of up to life imprisonment for all trafficking and slavery offenses, including sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, and forced servitude. Firms with a global turnover of 36 million pounds ($47.5 million) that supply goods or services in the UK must by law publish an annual statement setting out what steps they are taking to ensure that forced labor is not being used in their operations and supply chain. Foreign companies and subsidiaries that “carry on a business” in the UK also must comply with this law. The law allows courts to impose reparation orders on convicted traffickers and prevention orders to ensure that those who pose a risk of committing human trafficking offenses cannot work in relevant fields, such as with children.

The government effectively enforced the law. Resources and inspections were generally adequate, and penalties were commensurate with other sentences for serious crimes.

Forced labor occurred in the UK involving both foreign and domestic workers, mainly in sectors characterized by low-skilled, low-paid manual labor and heavy use of flexible, temporary workers. Those who experienced forced labor practices tended to be poor, living on insecure and subsistence incomes and in substandard accommodations. Forced labor was normally more prevalent among men, women, and children of the most vulnerable minorities or socially excluded groups. The majority of victims were British nationals including minors or young adults forced by criminal gangs to sell drugs.

Albania and Vietnam were the most likely foreign countries of origin for forced labor. Most labor migrants entered the country legally. Many migrants used informal brokers to plan their journey and find work and accommodation in the UK, enabling the brokers to exploit the migrants through high fees and to channel them into forced labor situations. Many with limited English were vulnerable and trapped in poverty through a combination of debts and constrained opportunities. Migrants were forced to share rooms with strangers in overcrowded houses, and often the work was just sufficient to cover rent and other subsistence charges. Forced labor was the most common form of exploitation reported in the UK, followed by sexual exploitation. Migrant workers were subject to forced labor in agriculture (especially in marijuana cultivation), construction, food processing, service industries (especially nail salons), and on fishing boats. Women employed as domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to forced labor.

In Bermuda there were no reported cases of forced labor during the year. The government effectively enforced the law. Expatriate workers are required to obtain a work permit based on the type of work and the expected length of time of employment in Bermuda. The law requires employers to repatriate work-permit holders. Failure to do so has been a migrant complaint. Cases of worker exploitation largely consisted of employers requiring workers to work longer hours or to perform work outside the scope of their work permit, threatening the status of their permit. Penalties for forced labor were generally commensurate with those for similar serious crimes.

Also see 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 law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 13 with exceptions for sports, modeling, and paid performances, which may require a child performance license, depending on local bylaws. Children younger than 18 are prohibited from working in hazardous environments or after 7 p.m. The law prohibits those younger than 16 from working in an industrial enterprise, including transportation or street trading. Children’s work hours are strictly limited and may not interfere with school attendance. Different legislation governs the employment of persons younger than 16 and, while some laws are common across the UK, local bylaws vary. If local bylaws so require, children between the ages of 13 and 16 must apply for a work permit from a local authority. The local authority’s education and welfare services have primary responsibility for oversight and enforcement of the permits.

The government effectively enforced the law. The Department for Education has primary regulatory responsibility for child labor, although local authorities generally handled enforcement. Penalties were commensurate with equally severe crimes.

In Bermuda, children younger than 13 may perform light work of an agricultural, horticultural, or domestic character if the parent or guardian is the employer. Schoolchildren may not work during school hours or more than two hours on school days. No child younger than 15 may work in any industrial undertaking, other than light work, or on any vessel, other than a vessel where only family members work. Children younger than 18 may not work at night except that those ages 16 to 18 may work until midnight; employers must arrange for safe transport home for girls between ages 16 and 18 working until midnight. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. The government effectively enforced the law. The Bermuda Police Service reported no cases of child labor or exploitation of children during the year.

No cases of child labor were reported in overseas British territories, but gaps in the law made children vulnerable. The governments of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Montserrat, and St. Helena-Ascension-Tristan da Cunha have not developed a list of hazardous occupations prohibited for children. On Anguilla the minimum age for labor is 12 and for hazardous work is 14, allowing children to engage in work deemed hazardous.

There are legislative gaps in the prohibition of trafficking in children for labor exploitation and the use of children for commercial sexual exploitation on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and St. Helena-Ascension-Tristan da Cunha. While criminal laws prohibit trafficking in children for sexual exploitation, they do not address trafficking in children for labor exploitation. Laws do not exist in Monserrat regarding the use of children in drug trafficking and other illicit activities. Traffickers subjected children to commercial sexual exploitation in Turks and Caicos.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  for information on UK territories.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation regarding race, color, sex, religion or belief, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, age, language, or HIV or other communicable disease status. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Women were paid less than men, and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring, access to the workplace, and training. Ethnic minorities faced difficulty in hiring and attaining promotion, as well as discrimination in the workplace.

The law requires equal pay for equal work. Businesses with more than 250 employees are required to measure, and then report, on how they pay men and women. This affected 8,000 businesses employing approximately 11 million persons. The pay gap has narrowed over the long term for low earners but has remained largely consistent over time for high earners. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is charged with enforcing pay gap reporting requirements. In 2019 the finance sector had the highest pay gap of all sectors, with the average woman earning 35.6 percent less than the average man.

In Northern Ireland the law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation regarding age, disability, gender or gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliation. Teachers applying to work in religious schools, however, are not protected from discrimination on religious grounds. Employers must register with the Northern Ireland Equality Commission if they employ more than 10 persons. Registered employers are required to submit annual reports to the commission on the religious composition of their workforce.

In Scotland the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Scottish government introduced a plan in 2019 to address the gender pay gap, estimated at 5.7 percent in 2018. The plan set a goal of reducing the gender pay gap by 2021 and included 50 actions to provide resources and support for working women and mothers.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a National Living Wage for workers age 23 or older and a National Minimum Wage for workers of at least school leaving age until age 22. Both wages were above the poverty level.

The law limits the workweek to an average of 48 hours, normally averaged over a 17-week period. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime, but it limits overtime to the 48-hour workweek restriction. The 48-hour-workweek regulations do not apply to senior managers and others who can exercise control over their own hours of work. There are also exceptions for the armed forces, emergency services, police, domestic workers, sea and air transportation workers, and fishermen. The law allows workers to opt out of the 48-hour limit, although there are exceptions for airline staff, delivery drivers, security guards, and workers on ships or boats.

The government effectively enforced the wage and hour laws. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) enforces wage payments. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforces maximum working hours. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. The HMRC and the HSE can make unannounced inspections and initiate criminal proceedings.

Penalties were generally commensurate with those for similar violations and inspections were sufficient to enforce compliance. Although criminal enforcement is available, most minimum wage noncompliance is pursued via civil enforcement through the courts. In August the HMRC named and shamed 191 companies that had failed to pay 2.1 million pounds ($2.8 million) to over 34,000 workers. The companies had to pay back wages owed and fines to the government. The HSE reported violations of wage, hour, or overtime laws were common in the agriculture, chemicals, construction, fairgrounds and theme parks, film and theater, logistics and transport, manufacturing, mining, energy, sports and leisure, utilities, and waste and recycling sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set appropriate and current occupational safety and health standards. The law stipulates employers may not place the health and safety of employees at risk. The HSE is responsible for identifying unsafe situations, and not the worker, and inspectors had the authority to conduct unannounced inspections, levy fines, and initiate criminal proceedings. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in March 2020 the government advised citizens to work from home if possible. Employers of “essential workers,” such as hospital staff, grocery store workers, and public works departments, were required to make arrangements to work safely. In July 2020 the government allowed anyone unable to work from home to return to their place of work, as long as their employer had put in place sufficient safety measures. The government issued “COVID-secure” workplace guidance for different sectors of the economy. Employers that fail to meet these standards can be reported to the local authority or the HSE, an arm of the Department for Work and Pensions, which can require employers to take additional steps where appropriate. Certain businesses, such as theaters and live music venues, have been ordered to close to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, contributing to a steep rise in unemployment.

The HSE effectively enforced occupational health and safety laws in all sectors including the informal economy. The fines for violations were commensurate with those for similar laws. HSE inspectors also advise employers on how to comply with the law. Employers may be ordered to make improvements, either through an improvement notice, which allows time for the recipient to comply, or a prohibition notice, which prohibits an activity until remedial action has been taken. The HSE issued notices to companies and individuals for breaches of health and safety law. The notice may involve one or more instances when the recipient failed to comply with health and safety law, each of which was called a “breach.” The HSE prosecuted recipients for noncompliance with a notice while the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) prosecuted similar cases in Scotland. The International Labor Organization expressed concern that the number of HSE inspectors decreased in recent years, noting that the number of cases brought by the HSE had also declined.

From April 10 to August 14, there were 34,835 disease notifications of COVID-19 in workers where occupational exposure was suspected, including 409 death notifications.

Figures for April 2020 to March 2021 revealed 142 persons were fatally injured at work. An estimated 693,000 workers sustained a nonfatal injury at work according to self-reports in 2019-20. A total of 65,427 industrial injuries were reported in 2019-20 in the UK. The HSE and COPFS prosecuted 342 cases with at least one conviction secured in 325 of these cases, a conviction rate of 95 percent. Across all enforcing bodies, 7,075 notices were issued. The HSE and COPFS prosecutions led to fines totaling 35.8 million pounds ($47.3 million) compared with the 55.3 million pounds ($73 million) in 2018-19.

Bermuda’s legislation does not provide a minimum or living wage, and efforts to introduce one have not progressed. The Bermuda Department of Labour and Training enforces any contractually agreed wage, hours and safety and health standards. Regulations enforced by the department extensively cover the safety of the work environment, occupational safety, and health standards and are current and appropriate for the main industries. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

Zambia

Executive Summary

Zambia is a constitutional republic governed by a democratically elected president and a unicameral national assembly. On August 12, the country held elections for president, national assembly seats, and local government. The United Party for National Development candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, won the election by a wide margin. Incumbent president and Patriotic Front candidate, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, conceded and facilitated a peaceful transition of presidential power. International and local observers deemed the election technically well-managed but cited several irregularities. The pre-election period was marred by abuse of incumbency, restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly, and movement, and political party intolerance resulting in sporadic violence across the country. Although the results were deemed a credible reflection of votes cast, media coverage, police actions, and legal restrictions heavily favored the ruling party and prevented the election from being genuinely free and fair.

The Zambia Police Service has primary responsibility for internal security and reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security. The military consists of the Zambia Army, the Zambia Air Force, and the Zambia National Service, under the Ministry of Defense. The commanders of each respective service, however, are appointed by and report directly to the president. The military is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities in cases of national emergency. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the internal security forces committed numerous abuses.

President Hichilema’s victory in the August 12 election represented a significant break from years of authoritarian drift. Hichilema’s election occurred despite ruling party efforts to tilt the electoral playing field in its favor. Hichilema has announced plans to combat corruption, enshrine protections for human rights, and strengthen independent media. His administration has also voiced strong support for human rights and democratic governance at international fora.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by government agents; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious restrictions on free expression online and in the media and the press, including violence and threats of violence against journalists, censorship, and the application of criminal libel and slander laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the right to freedom of assembly; official corruption; the existence and use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and widespread child labor.

The government took steps to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of human rights abuses. Nevertheless, impunity before the August 12 elections remained a problem because perpetrators affiliated with the ruling party or serving in government were either not prosecuted for serious crimes or, if prosecuted, were acquitted or released after serving small fractions of prison sentences. During the Lungu administration, the government applied the law selectively to prosecute or punish individuals who committed abuses and mostly targeted those who criticized the ruling party. The government also took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials for corruption, although impunity remained widespread.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for officials convicted of corruption, and the government attempted to enforce the law but did so inconsistently. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Although the government collaborated with the international community and civil society organizations to improve capacity to investigate and prevent corruption, anticorruption NGOs observed that, the enforcement rate was low among senior government officials and in the civil service.

According to Transparency International Zambia, the conviction rate for those prosecuted for corruption was 10 to 20 percent. The Patriotic Front government did not effectively or consistently apply laws against corrupt officials; it selectively applied anticorruption law to target opposition leaders or officials who ran afoul of it. Transparency International Zambia further reported that, during the Patriotic Front administration, officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Media reported numerous allegations of government corruption, particularly in public procurement. For example, the Ministry of Health’s procurement of 17 million dollars’ worth of defective and unsafe medical supplies in 2020 and its alleged misapplication of COVID-19 donations made corruption a key electoral issue during the national elections. Subsequently, former Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, former Ministry of Health permanent secretary Kakulubelwa Mulalelo, and others were arrested in connection with the scandal. In July the Lusaka Magistrates Court acquitted Chilufya, Mulalelo, and others of all charges relating to these allegations.

In June 2020 the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) arrested Chilufya, while serving as minister of health, and charged him with four counts of possession of criminally obtained property. The ACC offered no further evidence against him and dropped the charges.

On June 24, the Lusaka Magistrates Court convicted former minister of community development and social services, Emerine Kabanshi, of corruption-related charges and sentenced her to two years of imprisonment. Kabanshi appealed to the High Court and her appeal case remained pending at the year’s end. Kabanshi was also arrested for abuse of authority of office by the ACC in 2019.

On December 7, former international minister Joseph Malanji was arrested by the government for possessing property suspected to be proceeds of crime; he remained in police detention at year’s end.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The HRC is an independent body established by the constitution to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights. The HRC monitored human rights conditions, interceded on behalf of persons whose rights it believed the government denied, and spoke on behalf of detainees and prisoners.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and other sexual offenses, and courts have discretion to sentence convicted rapists to life imprisonment with hard labor.

The law does not include provisions for spousal rape. The law criminalizes domestic violence between spouses and among family members living in the same home. The law provides for prosecution of most crimes of gender-based violence, and penalties for conviction range from a fine to 25 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of injury and whether a weapon was used. The law provides for protection orders for survivors of domestic violence and gender-based violence, and such orders were issued and enforced. Despite this legal framework, rape remained widespread. Although the law criminalizes rape and domestic violence, the government did not consistently enforce the law.

To address the problem of gender-based violence, the government engaged traditional marriage counselors on gender-based violence and women’s rights in collaboration with NGOs. The government and Young Women’s Christian Association worked to address these problems through community sensitizations, shelters, toll-free lines, and one-stop centers where survivors accessed counseling and legal support services. The Survivor Support Unit under the Zambia Police Service, staffed with trained personnel, supplemented these efforts. Other efforts to combat and reduce gender-based violence included curriculum development for training police officers, roadshows to sensitize the public about gender-based violence, and instruction on how to file complaints and present evidence against perpetrators.

A gender-based violence information management system in the government Central Statistics Office strengthened monitoring and reporting of cases of gender-based violence. The system, which allows for effective and comprehensive reporting of gender-based violence and improved support, including legal services, social, economic, and overall national planning, has increased the number of reported cases.

Human rights-focused NGOs observed that the country’s dual system of customary and statutory law made it difficult to combat and deter injustices against women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls. The NGO Women and Law in Southern Africa and other human rights-focused NGOs reported that labia elongation, the practice of pulling of the labia which is intended to elongate the labia, was widely practiced. There were, however, indications the incidence rate was declining, especially in urban areas.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common, and the government took few steps to prosecute harassment during the year. Although the law contains provisions under which some forms of sexual harassment of women may be prosecuted, the provisions are inadequate to protect women effectively from sexual harassment. The NGO Gender Organizations’ Coordinating Council received many reports of sexual harassment in the workplace but noted stringent evidence requirements often prevented survivors from filing charges against their harassers. Family pressure on survivors to withdraw complaints, especially when perpetrators were also family members, also hampered prosecution.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Lack of access to information and services, however, remained a problem. Many women lacked access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, including essential prenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum care.

Barriers to access to reproductive health services included myths and misconceptions regarding contraceptive use and inadequate reproductive health infrastructure, including insufficient skilled health-care providers, communication, and referral systems. These barriers were greatest in remote, hard-to-reach rural areas, contributing to significant inequalities in access to and availability of maternal and reproductive services. Access to menstrual health and hygiene remained limited due to inadequate knowledge and poverty resulting in inadequate funds to buy menstrual hygiene products. Teen pregnancy also remained a barrier to education, but under the reentry policy girls who drop out of school due to pregnancy are readmitted into school after delivery. Barriers to accessing post-abortion care (PAC) included lack of information and inadequate sensitization on the existence of PAC services, limited resources to provide PAC services, and inadequate skilled staff, infrastructure, equipment, and commodities.

Through the Zambia-UN Joint Program on Gender Based Violence, the government provided survivors of sexual violence access to sexual and reproductive health services. Although emergency contraception was available, service delivery points did not stock it due to funding gaps in the procurement process and the stigma associated with getting the commodity in public health centers. There was, however, an increased uptake of emergency contraception in private health centers.

The maternal mortality ratio was 278 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018. The three major causes of maternal mortality were postpartum hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, and septicemia. According to the Zambia 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, 80 percent of childbirths were assisted by a skilled provider, the pregnancy rate for girls and women between ages 15 and 19 was 29 percent, and the median age of having the first child was 19, indicating limited contraceptive use among teenagers.

Discrimination: In contrast to customary law, the constitution and other laws provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, and nationality laws. The government did not adequately enforce the law, and women experienced discrimination. For example, customary land tenure and patriarchal systems discriminate against women seeking to own land. This situation restricted women’s access to credit as they lacked the collateral that land ownership provides.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law prohibits any form of discrimination including on ethnicity, and there were no reports of violence or discrimination based on ethnicity. The government generally permitted autonomy for ethnic minorities and encouraged the practice of local customary law. Some political parties maintained political and historical connections to tribal groups and promoted their interests. There are seven major ethnic and language groups, Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Ngoni, and Tonga, and 66 smaller ethnic groups, many of which are related to the larger tribes.

The government granted special recognition to traditional leaders nationwide. It did not recognize the 1964 Barotseland Agreement that granted the Lozi political autonomy and was signed by the United Kingdom, Northern Rhodesia, and the Barotse Royal Establishment immediately prior to the country’s independence. Some Lozi groups continued to demand official recognition of the Barotseland Agreement, while others pushed for independence.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents or, except for refugees, by birth within the country’s territory. Birth registration was neither denied nor provided on a discriminatory basis. Failure to register births did not result in the denial of public services, such as education or health care, to children, and there were no differences in birth registration policies and procedures between girls and boys. Birth registration rates remained low, at 11 percent of children under the age of five years old, UNICEF reported. Both state and nonstate institutions accepted alternative documents to access other basic services.

Education: Although the law provides for free and compulsory education for children of “school-going age,” it neither sets a specific age nor defines what is meant by “school-going age.” These omissions left children particularly vulnerable to child labor (see section 7.b.). The numbers of girls and boys in primary school were approximately equal, but only 37 percent of children who completed secondary school were girls.

Medical Care: Boys and girls had equal access to state-provided medical care. In July the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a press statement calling on the government to provide medical treatment to thousands of children suffering from lead poisoning in Kabwe. It urged the government to “take swift steps to clean up areas” in Kabwe “contaminated by residue from what was once the country’s largest lead mine.” According to the World Health Organization, more than 95 percent of children in the area had excessive blood lead levels, meaning they were exposed to serious risks and harm. In 2020 approximately 2,500 Kabwe children who were tested under a World Bank project were found to have extremely high blood lead levels and required immediate chelation therapy, the most common treatment for lead poisoning.

Child Abuse: The punishment for conviction of causing bodily harm to a child is five to 10 years’ imprisonment, and the law was generally enforced. Beyond efforts to eliminate child marriage, there were no specific initiatives to combat child abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 16 for boys and girls with parental consent and 21 without consent. There is no minimum age under customary law. According to UNICEF, 29 percent of women between ages 20 and 24 had been married before age 18, and 5 percent before age 15. UNICEF reported child marriage was largely between peers, rather than forced. Early and forced marriages were prevalent, especially in rural areas. The government, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and donors worked together to fight early and forced marriages. The government adopted a multisectoral approach to stop child marriage, including keeping children in school, creating reentry policies for girls who become pregnant, and strengthening the role of health centers for sexual reproductive health. These efforts were articulated by the National Strategy on Ending Child Marriage (2016-2021) started in 2017. Other efforts by the government and other nonstate actors included community sensitization and withdrawing children from child marriages, supported by several traditional leaders. Some local traditional leaders nullified forced and early marriages and placed the girls removed from such marriages in school.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16. The law provides penalties of up to life imprisonment for conviction of statutory rape or defilement, which the law defines as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a child younger than age 16. The minimum penalty for a conviction of defilement is 15 years’ imprisonment.

The law criminalizes sex trafficking of children and child pornography and provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for convicted perpetrators. Demonstration of threats, force, intimidation, or other forms of coercion, however, is required to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, which is inconsistent with the definition under international law, and therefore, does not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The law requires prosecution of perpetrators and referral to care for survivors of sex trafficking but authorities did not enforce the law, and commercial sexual exploitation of children was common. According to UNICEF transactional sexual exploitation, which refers to engaging in sexual activity in exchange for basic needs, such food, clothes, or shelter, remained prevalent among extremely vulnerable girls.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were fewer than 500 persons in the Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

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

The Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities (ZAPD) reported the government did not enforce the law; lack of accessibility in public transportation and infrastructure and information access remained a problem. ZAPD reported police and other government institutions did help prevent violence against persons with disabilities by investigating allegations of violence.

The Ministry of Community Development and Social Services oversees the government’s implementation of policies that address general and specific needs of persons with disabilities in education, health care, buildings access, and electoral participation.

A lack of consolidated and disaggregated data was a major impediment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in government programming and policy. Persons with disabilities had limited access to education and correspondingly low literacy levels. While the government did not restrict persons with physical or mental disabilities from voting or otherwise participating in most civic affairs, progress in providing for their participation remained slow. Persons with disabilities also faced significant societal discrimination in employment and education.

By law the government must provide reasonable accommodations for all persons with disabilities seeking education and provide that “any physical facility at any public educational institution is accessible.”

Public buildings, including schools, prisons, and hospitals, rarely had facilities to accommodate persons with disabilities. Five schools were designated for children with disabilities. Some children with physical disabilities attended mainstream schools, but long distances to school restricted others from accessing education. According to ZAPD, three types of education systems were accessible to children with disabilities: segregated education (special schools), integrated education (special units), and inclusive education. Most children with disabilities attended special schools, while the rest attended special units. There were 150 schools practicing inclusive education in selected provinces during the year. The government also developed and promoted employment recruitment strategies for persons with disabilities seeking to enter the civil service and had a university student loan program for students with disabilities.

Government inaction limited participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process, including voting. According to CCMG, most polling stations were not accessible to persons with disabilities. For example, of the 965 polling stations observed, 354 were not accessible to persons with disabilities, CCMG reported. During the August 12 elections, information on voter registration and elections was accessible and the government provided ballots in braille or digitally accessible formats.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government actively discouraged discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS. Most employers adopted nondiscriminatory HIV and AIDS workplace policies. Training of the public sector, including the judiciary, on the rights of persons with HIV or AIDS increased public awareness and acceptance, but societal and employment discrimination against such individuals persisted. The government continued to make progress in changing entrenched attitudes of discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and penalties for conviction of engaging in “acts against the order of nature” are 15 years’ to life imprisonment. Conviction of the lesser charge of gross indecency carries a penalty of up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Under the Lungu administration the government continued to reject calls to recognize and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) rights.

Police perpetrated violence and verbal and physical harassment against persons based on gender identity and sexual orientation. LGBTQI+ persons were at risk of societal violence due to prevailing prejudices, misperceptions of the law, lack of legal protections, and inability to access healthcare services, and were subjected to prolonged detentions. Many politicians, media figures, and religious leaders expressed opposition to basic protections and human rights for LGBTQI+ persons and same-sex marriage.

According to LGBTQI+ advocacy groups, police routinely requested bribes from LGBTQI+ individuals after arresting them. Bribes ranged from 500 to 15,000 kwacha ($30 to $900). Societal violence against LGBTQI+ persons continued, as did discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. LGBTQI+ groups reported frequent harassment of LGBTQI+ persons and their families, including threats via text message and email, vandalism, stalking, and outright violence. For example, an LGBTQI+ group reported that in March a 17-year-old intersex individual who applied for a job that required a female was made to undress in front of a hiring official to confirm their gender. The group alleged that the individual was not offered the job as a result of discrimination.

Freedom of expression or peaceful assembly on LGBTQI+ matters remained nonexistent.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Statutory restrictions regulate these rights; the government has discretionary power to exclude certain categories of workers from unionizing, including prison staff, judges, court registrars, magistrates, and local court justices. The law also requires the registration of a trade union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which may take up to six months. The ministry has the power to refuse official registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds. The labor commissioner has authority to monitor the accounts of trade unions and recommend dissolution of trade union boards if the union has violated the law or is dormant.

No organization may be registered as a trade union unless its application is signed by at least 50 employees or such lesser number as may be prescribed by the minister of labor and social security. With some exceptions, a trade union may not be registered if it claims to represent a class of employees already represented by an existing trade union. Unions may be deregistered under certain circumstances, but the law provides for notice, reconsideration, and right of appeal to an industrial relations court.

The government, through the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, brokers labor disputes between employers and employees. Casualization and unjustifiable termination of employment contracts is illegal. The law defines a casual employee as one engaged for less than a day.

In cases involving the unjustified dismissal of employees, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security settles disputes through social dialogue, and any unresolved cases are sent to the Industrial Relations Division of the High Court. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other similar violations. The law also provides a platform for employers, workers, and government to discuss matters of mutual interest through the Tripartite Consultative Labor Council.

The law provides for collective bargaining. In certain cases, however, either party may refer a labor dispute to a court or for arbitration. The International Labor Organization raised concerns the law did not require the consent of both parties involved in the dispute for arbitration. The law also allows for a maximum period of one year for a court to consider the complaint and issue a ruling. The parties to the collective agreement must conclude negotiations within three months or face fines. Collective bargaining agreements must be filed with the commissioner and approved by the minister before becoming binding on the signatory parties.

Except for workers engaged in a broadly defined range of essential services, the law provides for the right to strike if all legal options are first exhausted. The law defines essential services as fire departments, the mining sector, sewage removal, and any activity relating to the generation, supply, or distribution of electricity and water. Employees in the defense force and judiciary as well as police, prison, and intelligence service personnel are also considered essential. Essential employees do not have the right to strike; disputes must be referred directly to the Industrial Relations Court. The process of exhausting the legal alternatives to a strike is lengthy. The law also requires a union to notify employers 10 days in advance of strike action and limits the maximum duration of a strike to 14 days. If the dispute remains unresolved, it is referred to the court. The government may stop a strike if the court finds it is not “in the public interest.” Workers who engage in illegal strikes may be dismissed by employers.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions, and it provides for reinstatement and other remedies for workers fired for union activity. Except for workers in “essential services,” no other groups of workers are excluded from relevant legal protections. The law covers workers in the informal sector but is seldom applied. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for employers were not commensurate with those for similar violations and were not effectively enforced.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law authorizes the government to call upon citizens to perform labor in specific instances, such as during war, national emergencies, or disasters. The government also may require citizens to perform labor associated with traditional, civil, or communal obligations. Disobeying a lawful order or command to perform labor in such instances is an offense punishable by up to two years of imprisonment.

The law criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties for conviction of violations range from a fine, up to two years’ imprisonment, or both. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations, such as kidnapping.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. While the government investigated cases involving a small number of victims, it did not investigate more organized trafficking operations involving forced labor in the mining, construction, and agricultural sectors. According to the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, there was no standard system for collecting data on forced labor.

Also see 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 law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor, but gaps hampered adequate protection of children. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than age 15 at any commercial, agricultural, or domestic worksite or engaging a child in the worst forms of child labor. The employment code consolidates all child-related labor laws into a single law to provide regulations on the employment and education of children. Restrictions on child labor prohibit work that harms a child’s health and development or that prevents a child’s attendance at school.

The government did not effectively enforce the law in all sectors, particularly in the informal sector where child labor was prevalent. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties were not commensurate with those for similar violations such as kidnapping. The law does not stipulate an age for compulsory education, and children who were not enrolled were vulnerable to child labor.

The labor commissioner enforced minimum age requirements in the industrial sector, where there was little demand for child labor, and prosecuted some cases of child labor. The government seldom enforced minimum age standards in the informal sector, particularly in artisanal mining, agriculture, and domestic service. The government reported that the National Steering Committee on Child Labor was reconstituted during the year, consisting of government representatives, employers, trade unions, and civil society members, and remained active in overseeing child labor activities. The government collaborated with local and international organizations to implement programs combatting child labor. Because most child labor occurred in the agricultural sector, often on family farms or with the consent of families, inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security focused on counseling and educating families that employed children. In some cases, such work also exposed children to hazardous conditions. Scarcity of financial and human resources, including lack of transportation, hampered the ability of labor inspectors and law enforcement agencies to investigate alleged violations and successfully prosecute cases.

Child labor remained prevalent, particularly in agriculture, including the production of tobacco, herding, fisheries, domestic service, construction, farming, commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children), quarrying, begging, and mining. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security estimates, there are 38.3 percent and 44.4 percent of unpaid and paid incidences of child labor in the country. UNICEF noted discrepancies between the right to education and child labor laws in the country; the employment code allows children ages 13 to 15 legally to be engaged in light work that is not harmful to the child’s health or development and education.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings , and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The employment code prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, or refugee status but does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on HIV and AIDS status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Various organizations had policies that protected individuals with HIV or AIDS. Although the employment code provides for maternity leave, it requires a worker be continuously employed for two years before being eligible for such leave. Some NGOs warned the code was likely to have a negative impact on women because potential employers would see hiring them as a financial risk, since the increased maternity leave allowance provides for up to 14 weeks with full pay. The law prohibits termination or imposition of any penalty or disadvantage to an employee due to pregnancy.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. There were reports of discrimination against minority groups. Undocumented migrant workers are not protected by the law and faced discrimination in wages and working conditions.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. LGBTQI+ persons were at times dismissed from employment or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Women’s wages lagged men’s, and training opportunities were less available for women. Women were much less likely to occupy managerial positions. Persons with disabilities faced significant societal discrimination in employment, education, and access to the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law allows the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to set wages by sector; the category of employment determines the minimum wage and conditions of employment. The minimum wage categories, last revised in 2019, at the low end were slightly above World Bank poverty estimates for a lower-middle-income country but lower than the Basic Needs Basket. Before an employee commences employment or when the nature of employment changes, an employer is required to explain employee conditions of employment, including about wages. For unionized workers, wage scales and maximum workweek hours were established through collective bargaining. Almost all unionized workers received salaries considerably higher than the nonunionized minimum wage. Penalties for violations of wage and hour laws were commensurate with those for similar violations.

According to the law, the normal workweek should not exceed 48 hours. The standard workweek is 40 hours for office workers and 45 hours for factory workers. There are limits on excessive compulsory overtime, depending on the category of work. The law provides for overtime pay. Employers must pay employees who work more than 48 hours in one week (45 hours in some categories) for overtime hours at a rate of 1.5 times the hourly rate. Workers receive double the rate of their hourly pay for work done on a Sunday or public holiday. The law requires that workers earn two days of annual leave per month without limit.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law regulates minimum occupational safety and health (OSH) standards in industry. According to the Workers Compensation Fund Control Board and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, government OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries. The law places on both workers and experts the duty to identify unsafe situations in a work environment.

The government did not consistently enforce wage, hour, and safety laws. Inspection was inadequate and did not extend to the informal sector. Safety and health standards were only applied in certain sectors of the formal economy. According to the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, compliance levels to standardized overtime pay were low due to insufficient enforcement.

Reported incidents of Chinese-owned firms forcing workers into quarantine to prevent the spread COVID-19 among them continued. For example, SinoHydro, a Chinese company working at the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydro Power project in Kafue, forcibly held its workers under lockdown from March 2020 until October 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Human Rights Commission reported.

The government engaged with mining companies and took some steps to improve working conditions in the mines. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Despite these legal protections, workers generally did not exercise the right to remove themselves from work situations that endangered their safety or health, and workers who protested working conditions often jeopardized their employment.

Violations of wage, overtime, or OSH standards were most common in the construction and mining sectors, particularly in Chinese-owned companies, and among domestic workers.

Informal Sector: The informal sector employs approximately 90 percent of the labor force. Labor laws apply to the informal sector, but they are rarely enforced. Agriculture was the biggest sector in the informal economy, but much of the artisanal mining and construction sectors were also informal.