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Guyana

Executive Summary

The Cooperative Republic of Guyana is a multiparty democracy. National and regional elections took place in 2015, and the APNU+AFC coalition parties won both the presidency and a majority of representational seats. The largest APNU+AFC components were A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)–itself a coalition of the major People’s National Congress/Reform party and other minor parties–and the Alliance for Change (AFC) party. Former opposition leader David Granger led the election coalition and became president. International and local observers considered the 2015 elections free, fair, and credible.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included reports of unlawful killings; harsh and potentially life-threatening prison conditions; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity between men, although the law was not enforced during the year; and child labor.

Government officials did not enjoy impunity for human rights abuses. There were independent and transparent procedures for handling allegations of abuses by security forces.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year, and administration officials responded to the reports. There remained a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and the judiciary.

Corruption: Corruption by police officers was frequent. There were no reports the government prosecuted any members of the police force during the year.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to declare their assets to an integrity commission and sets out both criminal and administrative sanctions for nondisclosure. If a person fails to file a declaration, the daily newspapers and the official gazette can publish that fact. Failure to comply with the law can lead to a summary conviction, fines, and imprisonment for six to 12 months. If property is not disclosed as required, the magistrate convicting the defendant must order the defendant to make a full disclosure within a set time. Although the integrity commission was reconstituted in February after a 12-year hiatus, it did not appear to be fully functional. No publications or convictions occurred during the first nine months of the year.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. These groups at times complained government officials were uncooperative and unresponsive to their requests and stated that when officials responded, it was generally to criticize the groups rather than to investigate allegations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The law provides for an ombudsperson to investigate official government actions or actions taken by government officials in exercise of their official duties. Observers reported the ombudsperson operated independently of government interference.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape and domestic violence. The law provides stringent penalties for rape, with life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. Successful prosecution of cases of rape and domestic violence was infrequent.

Domestic violence and violence against women, including spousal abuse, was widespread. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines up to 10,000 Guyanese dollars (GYD) ($47) and 12 months’ imprisonment. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides for monetary penalties and award of damages to victims. The law does not cover harassment in schools. Acts of sexual harassment involving physical assault are prosecuted under relevant criminal statutes. While reports of sexual harassment were common, no cases had been filed as of October.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Although women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, gender-related discrimination was widespread and deeply ingrained. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but there was no meaningful enforcement against such discrimination in the workplace. Job vacancy notices routinely specified that the employer sought only male or only female applicants, and women earned approximately 61 percent less than men for equal work.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or by birth to a Guyanese citizen abroad. The law requires that births be registered within 14 days but also provides for registration of births after the 14-day period. Births at hospitals and health facilities were registered within a day of delivery.

Child Abuse: There were frequent reports of physical and sexual abuse of children, which was a widespread and serious problem. As with cases of domestic abuse, NGOs alleged some police officers could be bribed to make cases of child abuse “go away.”

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years, but boys and girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent or judicial authority. UNICEF reported that 23 percent of women were married before the age of 18, and 6 percent of girls were married before age 15.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 16 years. By law a person who has sexual relations with a child under 16 may be found guilty of a felony and imprisoned for life. There were continued reports of children being exploited in prostitution. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children 18 and younger. Laws related to pornography and pornographic performances do not prohibit the use, procuring, and offering of a child for each of these purposes. The law also regulates selling, publishing, or exhibiting obscene material, defined as anything that could deprave or corrupt those open to immoral influences.

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.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, perhaps fewer than 20 members. 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/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution mandates that the state “take legislative and other measures” to protect disadvantaged persons and persons with disabilities. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but civil society groups stated the law was not regularly enforced. The law provides for a National Commission on Disabilities to advise the government, coordinate actions on problems affecting persons with disabilities, and implement and monitor the law. The commission focused its attention on sensitizing the public about the law and on compliance, as well as performing sensitization workshops with the Ministries of Social Protection, Education, and Health.

There were segregated schools for the blind and for persons with other disabilities in the most populous regions of the country. As a result, children with disabilities rarely attended mainstream schools, since these lacked the curriculum and infrastructure necessary to accommodate children with disabilities. Lack of appropriate transportation and infrastructure to provide access to both public and private facilities made it difficult for persons with disabilities to be employed outside their homes.

Indigenous People

Various laws protect the rights of the indigenous community, and members have some ability to participate in decisions affecting them, their land, and resources. Rules enacted by village councils require approval from the minister of indigenous peoples’ affairs before entering into force. Indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated.

According to the 2012 census, the indigenous population constituted 10.5 percent of the total population. There were nine recognized tribal groups. Ninety percent of indigenous communities were in the remote interior. The standard of living in indigenous communities was lower than that of most citizens, and they had limited access to education and health care. A UN study found that pregnant women in indigenous communities were not receiving mandatory HIV tests.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity among adult men is illegal under the law and is punishable by up to two years in prison. Anal intercourse is punishable with a maximum sentence of life in prison, regardless of whether the intercourse is between persons of the same sex. These laws were not enforced during the year; however, activists reported it was more common for police to use the law to intimidate men who were gay or perceived to be gay than to make arrests. The law also criminalizes cross-dressing. Despite this, the government permitted the first gay pride parade in June.

No antidiscrimination legislation exists to protect persons from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and NGOs reported widespread discrimination of persons in this regard. Reports noted official and societal discrimination in employment, access to education and medical care, and in public space. According to a 2014 survey, approximately 12 percent of men who had sex with men experienced stigma daily, while approximately 30 percent of transgender youth and adults encountered stigma every day or regularly.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

A 2014 UNICEF survey reported only 23 percent of persons ages 15 to 49 expressed accepting attitudes towards individuals with HIV.

Section 7. Worker Rights

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 15 years old, with some exceptions, but it does not sufficiently prohibit the worst forms of child labor. Technical schools may employ children as young as age 14, provided a competent authority approves and supervises such work. No person under 18 may be employed in industrial work at night. Exceptions are for those ages 16 and 17 whose work requires continuity through day and night, including certain gold-mining processes and the production of iron, steel, glass, paper, and raw sugar. The law permits children under 15 to be employed only in enterprises in which members of the same family are also employed. The law prohibits children under 15 from working in factories and stipulates that those under 18 may be removed from factory work if authorities determine they are engaged in activities hazardous to their health or safety.

The government did not always enforce laws effectively. The Ministry of Social Protection collaborated with the Ministry of Education, Geology and Mines Commission, Guyana Forestry Commission, National Insurance Scheme, and Guyana Police Force to enforce child labor laws. Fines for child labor offenses are low and were not sufficient to deter violations. The government did not prosecute any employers for violations relating to child labor.

Child labor occurred and was most prevalent in farming, bars and restaurants, domestic work, and street vending. Small numbers of children also performed hazardous work in the construction, logging, farming, and mining industries. NGOs reported that incidences of the worst forms of child labor occurred, mainly in gold mining, prostitution (see section 6), and forced labor activities, including domestic servitude. According to local NGOs, children who worked in gold mines operated dangerous mining equipment and were exposed to hazardous chemicals, including mercury.

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

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law provides for a national minimum wage for private-sector employees. Minimum wages for regular working hours of all full-time, private-sector employees are set nationally for hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly workers. The national minimum wage for regular working hours of full-time, public-sector employees was 55,000 GYD ($260) per month. A normal workweek is 40 hours, distributed over no more than five days per week. The law prohibits compulsory overtime, and overtime work must be paid according to rates set in the law or according to any collective bargaining agreement in force where workers are unionized. The law establishes workplace safety and health standards. These standards were current and appropriate for the country’s main industries and were effectively enforced.

The law provides that some categories of workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe work environments without jeopardizing their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in these situations.

The Ministry of Social Protection is charged with enforcement of the labor law, but the number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Penalties for violations were not sufficient to deter violations. Labor inspections carried out during the year targeted all sectors, including agriculture, mining, and construction. Ministry follow-up of labor inspection findings varied, and compliance among employers was also inconsistent.

According to local trade unions and NGOs, enforcement of minimum wage legislation was not effective. Although specific data were unavailable, a significant number of workers were employed in the informal economy. Unorganized workers, particularly women in the informal sector, were often paid less than the minimum wage. Local trade unions and NGOs also reported the Ministry of Social Protection lacked sufficient resources to enforce occupational safety and health laws adequately. In 2017, 207 workplace accidents were reported, of which 153 were investigated.

Suriname

Executive Summary

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

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included corruption, trafficking in persons, violence and abuse against women and children, use of child labor, and criminal defamation laws, although there were no prosecutions during the year.

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

Section 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. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports that officials engaged in corrupt practices, including accusations from political opponents and official investigations of graft.

Corruption: Allegations of corruption remained prevalent as the economy stabilized. Allegations included government contracting to political party insiders and supporters. There continued to be questions regarding the transparency of government decisions to issue mineral and timber concession rights. There was a continuing widespread perception that officials used public power for private gain. Civil society, media, and other nongovernmental parties particularly scrutinized and criticized the Ministries of Public Works, Social Affairs, Public Health, Finance, Regional Development, and Physical Planning, alleging widespread corruption and favoritism.

In July the attorney general announced that his office was investigating six suspected corruption cases, including an after-school program in which numerous close allies of the government were alleged to have overcharged the government for food delivered to schools. A 2015 case involving corruption at the Electricity Company of Suriname, a state-owned entity, continued before the court. Five persons were on trial in that case.

Financial Disclosure: The anticorruption legislation approved in 2017, but yet to be signed into force, includes financial disclosure requirements for certain groups of government officials.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of independent domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. NGOs reported generally positive relationships with government officials, although officials were not always responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Office of the Ministry of Justice and Police is responsible for advising the government on regional and international proceedings against the state concerning human rights. It is also responsible for preparing the state’s response to various international human rights reports. Its independence is limited as a ministerial office exclusively under executive branch control and it does not solicit or investigate public complaints. The National Assembly has a commission dealing with issues related to human rights.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of between 12 and 15 years’ imprisonment and fines up to 100,000 Surinamese dollars (SRD) ($13,300). The government enforced the law effectively, including applying its provisions in cases involving rape of men. Police received 513 reports of sexual abuse as of September. Authorities investigated and prosecuted all reported cases.

Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. Through September police reported to have received 102 cases of domestic abuse, compared with 421 for the same period in 2017. Domestic abuse played a role in four of the 18 homicides committed through September; prosecutions were pending.

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

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

Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without the filing of a formal complaint. Pending investigation, police may issue temporary restraining orders limiting contact between victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders can receive prison sentences ranging from four to 12 years and fines from SRD 50,000 to SRD 150,000 ($6,650 to $19,950).

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides for protection of women’s rights to equal access to education, employment, and property. Nonetheless, women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work. In August the National Assembly passed labor legislation that protects pregnant women from being fired.

Children

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

Child Abuse: Police registered 47 cases of physical abuse and 256 cases of child sexual abuse as of September. Subject-matter experts believed the actual number of abuse cases was significantly higher than reported. To avoid intimidation by perpetrators, there were arrangements for children to testify in special chambers at legal proceedings. The Youth Affairs Office continued to raise awareness about sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol through a weekly television program. The government operated a telephone hotline for children and provided confidential advice and aid to children in need. Authorities reported an average of 80 calls per day.

UNICEF continued cooperating with the government in providing training to officials from various ministries dealing with children and children’s rights. The Ministry of Justice and Police operated three child protection centers in different parts of the country.

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

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities prosecuted all reported violations. While the legal age of sexual consent is 14, trafficking-in-persons legislation makes illegal the sexual exploitation of a person younger than age 18. Criminal law penalizes persons responsible for recruiting children into prostitution and provides penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of SRD 100,000 ($13,300) for pimping. The law also prohibits child pornography, which carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and maximum fine of SRD 50,000 ($6,650). Violations are punishable by prison terms of up to 12 years.

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

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

Institutionalized Children: A lack of financial support from the Ministry of Social Affairs for orphanages and other shelters for children significantly affected these institutions’ ability to care for children adequately. There were reported cases of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in some shelter facilities.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

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

In October the Ministry of Social Affairs supported an NGO-led workshop on developing awareness for the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as identifying issues of concern.

Indigenous People

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

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

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

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

In July the government translated and published the summary of the Kalina and Lokono Peoples vs. Suriname Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling announced in 2015. The court declared the state responsible for violating the rights to recognition of juridical personality, to collective property, to political rights, and to cultural identity, and reminded the state of its duty to adopt appropriate domestic legal provisions. The court ordered the government to recognize the Kalina and Lokono collective juridical personality legally; delimit, demarcate, and title the territory to the peoples; establish a community development fund; and rehabilitate areas affected by mining by third parties. The court also ordered similar legislative changes to be made for recognizing the rights of all indigenous and tribal peoples and to have this effective legal recognition and protection within three years. As of October the government had not taken action to carry out the court’s orders. The final deadline for the government to implement the ruling was January 2019.

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

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

The constitution prohibits many forms of discrimination but does not address sexual orientation or gender identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals could associate freely, were socially very active, and advocated within society under the same laws that pertain to the assembly and association of other groups. The law prohibits discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation, specifically protecting the LGBTI community. Violations are punishable by a fine or prison sentence of up to one year. The law does not set standards for determining what constitutes such discrimination or hate speech. The law was in effect but had not been used in any case.

The LGBT Platform, a collective of NGOs, reported improvements in acceptance of the LGBTI community by society. Despite legal protections, the government itself discriminated against same-sex couples, since 2014 legislation on retirement benefits specifically excludes same-sex couples from benefits granted to heterosexual couples. Among the LGBTI community, the transgender community faced the most stigmatization and discrimination. Transgender women arrested or detained by police were placed in detention facilities for men, where they faced harassment and other violence from other detainees.

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

An appeals case involving the Civil Registration Office concerning the ability of transgender individuals to update legal documents to reflect their gender identity in the public registry was ongoing.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

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

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Chinese shop owners continued to be targets of violent armed robberies. Violence in the gold-mining areas of the interior occurred primarily among and within the Brazilian community, where the government exercised little authority.

Section 7. Worker Rights

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and sets the minimum age for most types of employment at 14 and restricts working hours for minors younger than 14 to day shifts, but it does not limit the number of hours minors can work. The law permits children younger than 14 to work only in a family-owned business, small-scale agriculture, and special vocational work. The law requires children to attend school until they are at least age 12, but this leaves children between ages 12 and 14 particularly vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor, as they are no longer required to attend school, but they are not yet legally permitted to work. The law prohibits children younger than 18 from doing hazardous work, defined as work dangerous to life, health, and decency. The law does not permit children younger than 15 to work on boats. Authorities may prosecute parents who permit their children to work in violation of labor laws. Employing a child younger than 14 is punishable by fines and imprisonment. While such penalties generally were sufficient to deter violations, authorities rarely enforced them, typically responding only when a report was filed with Youth Police.

The Ministry of Labor’s Department of Labor Inspection did not identify any cases of child labor in the formal business sector during the year. The police are responsible for enforcement in the informal sector and enforced the minimum working age law sporadically. Resources, such as vehicles and manpower, to enforce the laws also remained inadequate.

Child labor remained a problem in the informal sector and, according to newspaper reports, grew during the year due to lack of economic opportunities in the country. Historically, child labor occurred in agriculture, logging, fisheries, and the construction sector, as well as in street vending. Isolated cases of child labor occurred in the informal gold-mining sector in the interior, informal urban sectors, and in commercial sexual exploitation (see also section 6, Children).

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

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law provides for a national minimum wage. The minimum wage was SRD 6.14 ($0.82), which was below the World Bank poverty income level. In the private sector, most unions were able to negotiate wage increases.

Approximately 41,000 of the estimated 133,000 total formal workforce were employed by the government. Government employees frequently supplemented their salaries with second or third jobs, often in the informal sector.

Work in excess of 45 hours per week on a regular basis requires special government permission, which was routinely granted. The law requires premium pay for such overtime work, prohibits excessive overtime, requires a 24-hour rest period per week, and stipulates paid annual holidays. Overtime is generally limited to four hours per day, for a maximum 12-hour workday. During the holiday season, the retail sector has a blanket permit allowing for work up to 15 hours a day, including seven hours of overtime. The government sets occupational health and safety standards, which generally are current and appropriate for the main industries in the country.

Laws were effectively enforced only in the formal sectors. Inspectors in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Ministry of Labor are responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health regulations, but they did not make regular occupational safety and health inspections. The Department of Labor Inspection is responsible for enforcing labor laws. Penalties for violating the labor laws vary from fines to suspension of business licenses, depending on the severity of the case, and were sufficient to deter the worst violations.

An estimated 15 percent of the working-age population worked in the informal economy, where there was limited enforcement of labor laws. Workers in the informal sector, particularly in small-scale mining, often were exposed to dangerous conditions and hazardous substances, such as mercury.

Limited data were available on workplace accidents. The International Labor Organization, however, noted an increasing number of serious or fatal occupational accidents, as well as steps by labor inspectors to begin occupational safety and health training in mines, construction, and public service. The majority of fatal occupational accidents took place in the mining sector.

Workers in the formal sector can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. Workers in the informal sector did not enjoy the same protection.

Trinidad and Tobago

Executive Summary

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy governed by a prime minister and a bicameral legislature. The island of Tobago’s House of Assembly has some administrative autonomy over local matters. In elections in 2015, which observers considered generally free and fair, the opposition People’s National Movement, led by Keith Rowley, defeated the ruling People’s Partnership, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included refoulement of refugees and corruption.

The government took some steps to punish security force members and other officials charged with killings or other abuses, but open-ended investigations and the generally slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings created a climate of 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. There were reports of government corruption during the year, and the World Economic Forum and Transparency International ranked corruption as a problematic factor for doing business in the country. There were no documented instances of an individual receiving a criminal punishment for corruption.

Corruption: Corruption in police and immigration services continued to be a problem, with senior officials acknowledging that officers participated in corrupt and illegal activities. There were allegations that some police officers had close relationships with gang leaders and that police, customs, and immigration officers often accepted bribes to facilitate drug, weapons, and human smuggling as well as human trafficking.

In September, two police officers were arrested for kidnapping and holding an innocent person for ransom. The minister of national security and commissioner of police worked quickly on the case, ensuring the safe release of the victim and arresting the suspected police officers. As of November the case was pending, but all charged officers remained incarcerated.

There were continued allegations that some ministers used their positions for personal gain.

Financial Disclosure: The law mandates that public officials disclose their assets, income, and liabilities to the Integrity Commission, which monitors, verifies, and publishes disclosures. Officials and candidates for public office were reluctant to comply with asset disclosure rules, primarily due to the perceived invasiveness of the process. The act stipulates a process when public officials fail to disclose assets and provides criminal penalties for failure to comply. The law clearly states which assets, liabilities, and interests public officials must declare.

While the commission undertook numerous investigations, it seldom referred cases to law enforcement authorities, and prosecution of those officials who refused to comply with asset disclosure rules was very limited.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman investigates citizens’ complaints concerning the administrative decisions of government agencies. Where there is evidence of a breach of duty, misconduct, or criminal offense, the ombudsman may refer the matter to the appropriate authority. The ombudsman has a quasi-autonomous status within the government and publishes a comprehensive annual report. Both the public and the government had confidence in the integrity and reliability of the Office of the Ombudsman and the ombudsman’s annual report.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to life imprisonment, but the courts often imposed considerably shorter sentences. Police channeled resources to the Victim and Witness Support Unit in an effort to encourage reporting.

The law provides for protection orders separating perpetrators of domestic violence, including abusive spouses and common-law partners, from their victims. Courts may also fine or imprison abusive spouses, but it was rarely done.

The NGO Coalition against Domestic Violence charged that police often hesitated to enforce domestic violence laws and asserted that rape and sexual abuse against women and children remained a serious and pervasive problem.

Sexual Harassment: No laws specifically prohibit sexual harassment. Related statutes could be used to prosecute perpetrators of sexual harassment, and some trade unions incorporated antiharassment provisions in their contracts.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. No laws or regulations require equal pay for equal work.

Children

Birth Registration: Every person born in the country is a citizen at birth, unless the parents are foreign envoys accredited to the country. Children born outside the country can become citizens at birth if on that date one or both of the parents is, or was, a citizen. The law requires registration of every child born alive within 42 days of birth.

Child Abuse: Child abuse cases continued to increase. During the fiscal year 2017, the Children’s Authority received and investigated more than 4,200 reports of child abuse and maltreatment. More than half (55 percent) of all cases involved female children. Neglect and sexual abuse accounted for 24 percent and 26 percent of the cases, respectively. The law prohibits both corporal punishment of children and sentencing a child to prison. According to NGOs, however, abuse of children in their own homes or in institutional settings remained a serious problem.

Early and Forced Marriage: Child marriage is illegal. The law defines a child as younger than age 18. In June 2017 parliament passed legislation changing the legal marriage age to 18. The president formally proclaimed the enactment of the Marriage Act in September 2017.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 18, and the age of consent for sexual touching is 16. Sexual penetration of a child is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. The law creates specific offenses such as sexual grooming of a child (gaining the trust of a child, or of a person who takes care of the child, for the purpose of sexual activity with the child) and child pornography. The law prescribes penalties of 10 years’ to life imprisonment for subjecting a child to prostitution.

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.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were fewer than 100 Jewish persons 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 www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

Disability rights advocates were not aware of any efforts by the government to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which it ratified in 2015. Prior to the ratification, the law prohibited discrimination based on disability but did not mandate equal access for persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities faced discrimination and denial of opportunities. Such discrimination could be traced to architectural barriers, employers’ reluctance to make necessary accommodations that would enable otherwise qualified job candidates to work, an absence of support services to assist students with disabilities to study, and social stigma accompanied by lowered expectations of the abilities of persons with disabilities, condescending attitudes, and disrespect.

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

On September 20, the High Court issued a final ruling on the country’s Sexual Offenses Act, removing an “antibuggery” law and effectively decriminalizing same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults. High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad first ruled in April that the law was unconstitutional and expressed his intent to amend the law, which criminalized same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults. Although the legislation was not struck out completely, the ruling provides that consenting adults will not be liable to criminal charges if engaging in consensual sexual acts. Immigration laws also bar the entry of “homosexuals” into the country, but the legislation was not enforced during the year.

The law identifying classes of persons protected from discrimination does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The 2012 Children Act decriminalizes sexual exploration between minors who are close in age but specifically retains language criminalizing the same activity among same-sex minors. Other laws exclude same-sex partners from their protections.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Stigmatization of those with HIV persisted, especially among high-risk groups, including men who have sex with men. There were reports of discrimination against this group but no clear evidence of violence. The government’s HIV and AIDS Unit coordinates the national response to HIV/AIDS, and the government employed HIV/AIDS coordinators in all ministries as part of its multisector response.

Section 7. Worker Rights

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

There were anecdotal reports of children engaged in the worst forms of child labor in the small-scale agricultural sector and domestic service. The law sets the minimum age for employment in public and private industries at 16. Children ages 14 to 16 may work in activities in which only family members are employed or that the minister of education approved as vocational or technical training. The law prohibits children younger than age 18 from working between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except in a family enterprise or within other limited exceptions. There is no clear minimum age for hazardous activities.

Violation of child labor laws is punishable by six months’ imprisonment or a fine of TT$2,500 ($375). In cases of child trafficking, including forced or exploitive child labor, perpetrators are subject to fines of TT$ one million ($150,000) and 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

The government was generally effective in enforcing child labor laws, and the penalties were sufficient to deter violations, but there were anecdotal reports of children working in agriculture or as domestic workers. The Ministry of Labor and Small Enterprise Development and the Ministry of the People and Social Development are responsible for enforcing child labor laws. There were 18 labor inspectors in the Labor Inspectorate Unit in 2016–compared with 10 in 2015–trained to investigate and identify cases of child labor and to identify and report on indicators relating to possible cases of forced labor involving children.

The Minister of Labor and Small Enterprise Development may designate an inspector to gather information from parents and employers regarding the employment of a person younger than age 18. The Industrial Court may issue a finding of contempt against anyone obstructing the inspectors’ investigation.

The government did not have comprehensive mechanisms for receiving, investigating, and resolving child labor complaints.

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

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The national minimum wage was greater than the official poverty income level of TT$665 ($100) per month.

The law establishes a 40-hour workweek, a daily period for lunch or rest, and premium pay for overtime. The law does not prohibit excessive or compulsory overtime. The law provides for paid leave, with the amount of leave varying according to length of service. Workers in the informal economy reported wages above the national minimum wage but reported other areas of labor laws, including the number of hours worked, were not enforced. There were an estimated 30,000 domestic workers, most of whom worked as maids and nannies, not covered by labor laws.

The law sets occupational health and safety standards, which were current and appropriate for the main industries in the country. The Ministry of Labor and Small Enterprise Development was responsible for enforcing labor laws related to minimum wage and acceptable conditions of work, while the Occupational Safety and Health Agency enforced occupational health and safety regulations, which apply to all workers in the formal economy, regardless of citizenship. Local labor laws generally protected foreign laborers brought into the country, a stipulation usually contained in their labor contract. Resources, inspections, and penalties appeared adequate to deter violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Act provides a range of fines and terms of imprisonment for violations of the law, but despite these penalties, a number of violations occurred.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act provides workers the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities generally protected this right.

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