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Executive Summary

Ethiopia is a federal republic. The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four ethnically based parties, controls the government. In the 2015 general elections the EPRDF and affiliated parties won all 547 House of People’s Representatives (parliament) seats to remain in power for a fifth consecutive five-year term. In 2015 parliament elected Hailemariam Desalegn to his first full mandate as prime minister. Hailemariam assumed that office in 2012 after the death of his predecessor. Government restrictions severely limited independent observation of the general election vote. A mission from the African Union, the sole international institution or organization permitted to observe the voting, called the elections “calm, peaceful, and credible.” Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported an environment conducive to a free and fair election was not in place prior to the election. There were reports of unfair government tactics, including intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters, and violence before and after the election that resulted in at least six deaths.

It was widely reported that civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over security forces. Local police in rural areas and local militias sometimes acted independently.

In October 2016 parliament imposed a State of Emergency (SOE) and extended it in March. According to the SOE, an executive body called the Command Post managed security policy under the leadership of the minister of defense. During the SOE the Command Post held broad powers, including the ability to detain individuals, restrict speech, and restrict movement. On August 4, parliament voted to end the SOE, which took effect immediately.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary deprivation of life, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces; denial of a fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, internet, assembly, association, and movement; lack of accountability in cases involving rape and violence against women; and criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct.

The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed human rights abuses other than corruption. Impunity was a problem; there was an extremely limited number of prosecutions of security force members or officials for human rights abuses during the year.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and conviction provides for a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case. The law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law.

Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of laws in this sphere was inconsistent. Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. A 2013 government report stated 50-60 percent of all women had experienced domestic violence. Depending on the severity of injury inflicted, penalties for conviction range from small fines to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but the government did not actively enforce this prohibition. It was less common in urban areas. The penal code criminalizes the practice of clitoridectomy and provides for three months or a fine of at least 500 birr ($22) for convicted perpetrators. Conviction of infibulation of the genitals (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM/C) is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. According to government sources, there has never been a criminal charge regarding FGM/C, but media reported limited application of the law. For more information, see .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Forced sexual relationships accompanied most marriages by abduction, and women often experienced physical abuse during the abduction. Abductions led to conflicts among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the victim agreed to marry the perpetrator.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes penalties for conviction of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce harassment laws.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: Discrimination against women was a problem. It was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 80 percent of the population lived. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children more than five years old. Courts generally did not consider domestic violence by itself a justification for granting a divorce. Irrespective of the number of years married, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months’ financial support if a relationship ended. There was limited legal recognition of common-law marriage. A common-law husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family, and consequently women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Traditional courts continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships.

All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws also enable widows to inherit joint property acquired during marriage.

Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was limited by their lower levels of educational attainment and by traditional attitudes. There were a number of initiatives in progress aimed at increasing women’s access to these critical economic empowerment tools.


Birth Registration: A child’s citizenship derives from its parents. The law requires all children to be registered at birth. Children born in hospitals were registered; most of those born outside of hospitals were not. The overwhelming majority of children, particularly in rural areas, were born at home. During the year the government initiated a campaign to increase birth registrations by advising that failure to register would result in denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The law does not make education compulsory. As a policy primary education was universal and tuition free; however, there were not enough schools to accommodate the country’s youth, particularly in rural areas. The cost of school supplies was prohibitive for many families. The most recent data showed the net primary school enrollment rate was 90 percent of boys and 84 percent of girls.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Uvula cutting, tonsil scraping, and milk tooth extraction were amongst the most prevalent harmful traditional practices. The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013, published by the African Child Policy Forum, found the government had increased punishment for sexual violence against children. “Child friendly” benches heard cases involving violence against children and women. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs in the EHRC.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age of marriage for girls and boys at 18; however, authorities did not enforce this law uniformly, and rural families sometimes were unaware of this provision. The government strategy to address underage marriage focused on education and mediation rather than punishment of offenders. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 18, but authorities did not enforce this law. The law provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for conviction of sexual intercourse with a minor. The law provides for one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 birr ($444) for conviction of trafficking in indecent material displaying sexual intercourse by minors. Traffickers recruited girls as young as age 11 to work in brothels. Young girls were trafficked from rural to urban areas and exploited as prostitutes in hotels, bars, resort towns, and rural truck stops.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Ritual and superstition-based infanticide, including of infants with disabilities, continued in remote tribal areas, particularly in South Omo. Local governments worked to educate communities against the practice.

Displaced Children: According to a 2010 report of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, approximately 150,000 children lived on the streets; 60,000 of them were in the capital. The ministry’s report stated the inability of families to support children due to parental illness or insufficient household income exacerbated the problem. Research in 2014 by the ministry noted rapid urbanization, illegal employment brokers, high expectations of better life in cities, and rural-urban migration were adding to the problem. These children begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector. A large number of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea continued to arrive in the country (see section 2.d.).

Institutionalized Children: There were an estimated 4.5 million orphans in the country in 2012, 4.9 percent of the population, according to statistics published by UNICEF. The vast majority lived with extended family members. Government and privately run orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions often unsanitary. Institutionalized children did not receive adequate health care.

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


The Jewish community numbered approximately 2,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution does not mandate equal rights for persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment and mandates access to buildings but does not explicitly mention intellectual or sensory disabilities. It is illegal for deaf persons to drive.

The law prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. It also makes employers responsible for providing appropriate working or training conditions and materials to persons with disabilities. The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on women with disabilities. The government took limited measures to enforce these laws; for example, by assigning interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing civil service employees (see section 7.d.). The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Public Servants Administration Commission are responsible for the implementation of employment laws for individuals with disabilities.

The law mandates building accessibility and accessible toilet facilities for persons with physical disabilities, although without specific regulations that define accessibility standards. Buildings and toilet facilities were usually not disability accessible. Property owners are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground-floor apartments, and generally did so.

Women with disabilities faced more disadvantages in education and employment. According to the 2010 Population Council Young Adult Survey, 23 percent of girls with disabilities were in school, compared with 48 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys without disabilities. Girls with disabilities also were much more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse than were girls without disabilities.

Nationally there were several schools for persons with hearing and vision disabilities and several training centers for children and young persons with intellectual disabilities. There was a network of prosthetic and orthopedic centers in five of the nine regional states.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs worked on disability-related problems. The CSO law hindered several domestic NGOs active in supporting persons with disabilities, particularly those focused on accessibility and vocational training.

The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although continued accessibility challenges could make participation difficult. Most polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities and these individuals as well as the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers received priority.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 35 percent of the population, is the largest. The federal system drew boundaries approximately along major ethnic group lines. Most political parties remained primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties are coalitions of several ethnically based parties.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and conviction is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation of abuses against LGBTI individuals. Individuals did not identify themselves as LGBTI persons due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Activists in the LGBTI community reported surveillance and at times feared for their safety. There were no reports of persons incarcerated for engaging in same-sex sexual activities.

The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa reported the majority of self-identified gay and lesbian callers, most of whom were men, requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men reported anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracism, religious conflict, and suicide attempts.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal stigma and discrimination against persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS continued in education, employment, and community integration. Persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS reported difficulty accessing various services. There were no statistics on the scale of the problem.


Executive Summary

Fiji is a constitutional republic. The country held general elections in 2014, which international observers deemed credible and “broadly reflected the will of the Fijian people.” Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama’s Fiji First party won 32 of the 50 seats, and he was sworn in as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: abuse of persons in custody; government restrictions on freedoms of expression and on the press and media; forced exile of government opponents; restrictions on the formation and operation of political parties; government corruption; and forced labor (including of children).

The government investigated some security forces officials who committed abuses, and prosecuted or punished officials who committed abuses elsewhere in the government; however, impunity was a problem.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape (including spousal rape), domestic abuse, incest, and indecent assault were significant problems; there was a large increase in the reported number of rape cases this year, due at least in part to greater awareness that a spouse can be charged with rape of his/her partner. The law provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for rape. The law recognizes spousal rape as a specific offense.

The domestic violence decree defines domestic violence as a specific offense. Police enforced the practice of a “no-drop” policy, whereby they are required to pursue investigations of domestic violence cases even if a victim later withdraws the accusation. Nonetheless, women’s organizations reported police were not always consistent in their observance of this policy. Courts dismissed some cases of domestic abuse and incest or gave perpetrators light sentences. Traditional and religious practices of reconciliation between aggrieved parties in both indigenous and Indo-Fijian communities were sometimes considered to mitigate sentences in domestic violence cases. In some cases authorities released offenders without a conviction, on condition they maintained good behavior.

Sexual Harassment: A decree prohibits sexual harassment, and the government used criminal law against “indecent assaults on females,” which prohibit offending the modesty of women, to prosecute sexual harassment cases.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: Women have full rights of inheritance and property ownership by law, but local authorities often excluded them from the decision-making process on disposition of indigenous communal land, which constituted more than 80 percent of all land. Women have the right to a share in the distribution of indigenous land lease proceeds, but authorities seldom recognized this right. Women have the same rights and status as men under family law and in the judicial system. Nonetheless, women and children had difficulty having protection orders enforced by police in domestic violence cases.

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender and requires equal pay for equal work, employers generally paid women less than men for similar work (see section 7.d.).


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both from birth within the country and through one’s parents. Parents were generally able to register births promptly.

Child Abuse: Corporal punishment was common in both homes and schools, despite a Ministry of Education policy forbidding it in the classroom. Increasing urbanization, overcrowding, and the breakdown of traditional community and extended family structures put children at risk for abuse and appeared to be factors that contributed to a child’s chance of exploitation for commercial sex. The government embarked on a major anti-child-abuse public awareness campaign, urging adults not to mistreat children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years. Some NGOs reported that, especially in rural areas, girls often married at 18 years, preventing them from completing their secondary school education. In indigenous villages, girls younger than 18 years who became pregnant could live as common-law wives with their child’s father after the men presented traditional apologies to the girls’ families, thereby avoiding the filing of a complaint to police by the families. The girls frequently married the fathers as soon as legally permissible.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children continued to occur. It is an offense for any person to buy or hire a child younger than 18 years for sex, exploitation in prostitution, or other unlawful purpose; the offense is punishable by a maximum imprisonment of 12 years. No prosecutions or convictions for trafficking of children occurred during the year.

It is an offense for a householder or innkeeper to allow commercial sexual exploitation of children in his or her premises, but there were no known prosecutions or convictions for such offenses during the year.

Some high-school age children and homeless and jobless youth were exploited for commercial sex trafficking during the year, and there were reported cases of child sex tourism in tourist centers such as Nadi and Savusavu.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. The Court of Appeal has ruled that 10 years is the minimum appropriate sentence for child rape, but police often charged defendants with “defilement” rather than rape because defilement is easier to prove in court. Defilement or unlawful carnal knowledge of a child younger than 13 years has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for defilement of a child between 13 and 15 years, or of a person with intellectual disabilities, is 10 years’ imprisonment.

Child pornography is illegal. The maximum penalty for violators is 14 years in prison, a maximum fine of F$25,000 ($12,200), or both for a first offense and life imprisonment, a maximum fine of F$50,000 ($24,400), or both for a repeat offense, and the confiscation of any equipment used in the commission of the offense.

The child welfare decree requires mandatory reporting to police by teachers and health and social welfare workers of any incident of child abuse.

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


There was a small Jewish community composed primarily of foreign residents. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

Discrimination against persons with disabilities is illegal. The constitution addresses specifically the right of persons with disabilities to reasonable access to all places, public transport, and information, as well as the right to use braille or sign language and to reasonable access to materials and devices relating to the disability; the law, however, does not further define “reasonable.” Moreover, the constitution provides that the law may limit these rights “as necessary.” Statutes provide for the right of access to places and all modes of transport generally open to the public. Public health regulations provide penalties for noncompliance, but there was very little enabling legislation on accessibility for persons with disabilities, and there was little or no enforcement of laws protecting them.

Building regulations require new public buildings to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but only a few buildings met this requirement. By law all new office spaces must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities continued to face employment discrimination (see section 7.d.). There were no government programs to improve access to information and communications for persons with disabilities, and persons with disabilities, in particular those with hearing or vision disabilities, had difficulty accessing public information. In February parliament began televising its sessions in sign language to improve access for the hearing impaired.

There were a number of separate schools offering primary education for persons with physical, intellectual, and sensory disabilities; however, cost and location limited access. Some students attended mainstream primary schools, and the Early Intervention Center monitored them. Opportunities for a secondary school or higher education for persons with disabilities was very limited.

A decree stipulates that the community, public health, and general health systems provide treatment for persons with mental and intellectual disabilities, though persons with such disabilities were generally supported at home by family. Institutionalization of persons with more significant mental disabilities was in a single, underfunded public facility in Suva. Opportunities for a secondary school or higher education for persons with disabilities was very limited.

In April the Fijian Elections Office launched a website to improve accessibility for the disability community, including text-to-speech capability, large type, and an inverted color scheme. In 2016 it signed an agreement with the Pacific Disability Forum and the Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons to create an Elections Disability Access Working Group to improve the political participation of the country’s disability community. The national council, a government-funded statutory body, worked to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Tension between indigenous Fijians and the Indo-Fijian minority is a longstanding problem. Indigenous Fijians make up an estimated 58 percent of the population, Indo-Fijians comprise 36 percent, and the remaining 6 percent is composed of Europeans, Chinese, Rotumans, and other Pacific Islander communities. The government publicly stated its opposition to policies giving “paramountcy” to the interests of ethnic Fijians and Rotumans, which it characterized as racist, and called for the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices that favor one race over another. Although Indo-Fijians dominated the commercial sector, indigenous Fijians continued to dominate the security forces.

Land tenure remained a highly sensitive and politicized issue. Indigenous Fijians communally held approximately 87 percent of all land, the government 4 percent, and the remainder was freehold land held by private individuals or companies.

Most cash-crop farmers were Indo-Fijians, the majority of whom are descendants of indentured laborers who came to the country during the British colonial era. Virtually all Indo-Fijian farmers must lease land from ethnic Fijian landowners. Many Indo-Fijians believed that limits on their ability to own land and their consequent dependency on leased land from indigenous Fijians constituted de facto discrimination against them. Many indigenous Fijian landowners believed that the rental formulas prescribed in the national land tenure legislation discriminated against them as the resource owners.

By law all indigenous Fijians are automatically registered upon birth into an official register of native landowners known as the Vola ni Kawa Bula (or native land register). The register also verifies access for those in it to indigenous communally owned lands and justifies titleholders within indigenous communities.

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

The constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity and expression. The employment relations law prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. However, the FHRADC reported complaints of discrimination against LGBTI persons in such areas as employment, housing, or access to health care.


Executive Summary

The Republic of Finland is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral parliament (Eduskunta). The prime minister heads a three-party coalition government approved by parliament and appointed by the president in 2015. Parliamentary elections in 2015 were considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included societal violence against minority persons based on their nationality or ethnicity or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) animus; authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate prosecuted, such cases.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, , and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to four years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be more severe. The maximum penalties are six years’ imprisonment for rape and 10 years for aggravated rape. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (intoxicated or with a disability) are considered as severe as rape.

Authorities may prosecute domestic abuse under various criminal laws, including laws prohibiting rape, assault and battery, harassment, and disturbing the peace. The penalty for physical domestic violence ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a problem. According to Statistics Finland, approximately 69 percent of the victims of domestic and intimate-partner violence were women.

The government encouraged women to report rape and domestic violence and provided counseling, shelters, and other support services to survivors.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: On July 14, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered a 22-year-old Iraqi man who was convicted of planning to kill his sister to “restore his family’s honor” to be deported to Iraq.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as a specific, punishable offense with penalties ranging from fines up to six months’ imprisonment. Employers who fail to protect employees from workplace harassment are subject to the same penalties. The prosecutor general is responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. The government generally enforced the law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law. In February the district court of North Karelia sentenced Kesla Oyj (a machinery company) to pay more than 60,000 euros ($72,000) in compensation to the only female employee in its factory for unjustified termination of employment and gender discrimination in 2014. According to a 2016 report (the most recent available) by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment on working conditions, 9 percent of women reported facing discrimination in the workplace.


Birth Registration: A child generally acquires citizenship at birth through one or both parents. A child can also acquire citizenship at birth if the child is born in the country and meets certain other criteria, such as if the parents have refugee status in the country or if the child is not eligible for any other country’s citizenship. A local registration office records all births immediately.

Child Abuse: The law considers all sexual offenses against minors subject to public prosecution.

Minors accounted for 19.6 percent of all victims of assault offenses reported to police, according to Statistics Finland.

The ombudsman for children’s affairs under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health continued to raise public awareness of child abuse and promote the government’s child, youth, and family policy program.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, but the law allows exceptions. Minors who want to marry must submit an application to the Ministry of Justice providing a justification based on religious beliefs, cultural practices, or pregnancy. The minister of justice makes the final ruling on whether to approve a request to marry.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The country prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including the sale, offering or procuring of children for prostitution, and child pornography. Authorities enforced the law effectively. The law prohibits purchase of sexual services from minors and covers “grooming” (enticement of a child), including in a virtual environment or through mobile telephone contacts.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law regards a person whose age cannot be determined, but who can reasonably be assumed to be under the age of 18, as a child. The law defines rape of a minor (under 18 years of age) as aggravated rape.

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


According to Statistics Finland, in 2016 the Jewish community numbered 1,110 persons, most living in the Helsinki area.

The website Magneettimedia, known for its anti-Semitic content, continued to post discriminatory statements online during the year. The site’s publisher denied that the website was anti-Semitic, instead describing itself as “critical of the Zionist elite” that included “both Christians and Jews.” In May and July, respectively, it posted articles entitled “Zionist Bank Cartel Damages Finnish Mining Industry” and “International Drug Trafficking in the Hands of the Jewish Elite.” The neo-Nazi NRM continued to post anti-Semitic content on its social media pages and published other online materials glorifying Adolf Hitler. The former owner of Magneettimedia continued to spread anti-Semitic editorials through the newspaper KauppaSuomi, a periodical distributed through his large chain of department stores. An editorial published April 19 stated “a majority of people working in education in Finland are directly influenced by literature written abroad. In the Finnish school system the most important ‘anti-racist’ authority has for decades been the Jew Karmela Liebkind.”

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in all fields and the provision of other state services. The government effectively enforced these provisions.

Authorities generally enforced laws mandating access to buildings for persons with disabilities, although many older buildings remained inaccessible. Most forms of public transportation were accessible, but problems continued in some geographically isolated areas.

Official 2016 law enforcement figures recorded 24 cases of crimes based on bias toward persons with disabilities, including 17 physical assaults, six verbal threats, and one case of “mutual combat.”

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In 2016, the most recent year for which data were available, official police figures recorded 831 racist and xenophobic hate crimes. Of these, 236 were physical assaults, 70 cases of damage to property or theft, 302 verbal assaults, and 223 other crimes. Among foreign citizens resident in the country, Iraqis experienced the highest frequency of racially motivated crimes.

According to historical data from the minority ombudsman, discrimination against the country’s approximately 10,000-12,000 Roma extended to all areas of life. Police investigated Member of Parliament Juho Eerola (Finns Party) for suspected ethnic agitation over a Facebook post in which he claimed to have spat at Romani beggars. Ethnic Finns were also occasionally victims of racially motivated crimes for associating with members of minority communities.

In addition to the Romani minority, Russian-speakers, Somalis, and Sami experienced discrimination. According to a study by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, members of ethnic minorities faced discrimination in the labor market (see section 7.d.).

The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups, and sought to address racial discrimination, and assisted victims.

Indigenous People

The constitution provides for the protection of the Sami language and culture, and the government financially supported these efforts. The Sami, who constituted less than 0.1 percent of the population, have full political and civil rights as citizens as well as a measure of autonomy in their civil and administrative affairs. A 21-member Sami parliament (Samediggi), popularly elected by the Sami, is responsible for the group’s language, culture, and matters concerning their status as an indigenous people. The Sami parliament is an independent body but operates under the purview of the Ministry of Justice. It can adopt legally binding resolutions, propose initiatives, and provide policy guidance.

Despite constitutional protections, members of the Sami community continued to protest a lack of explicit laws safeguarding Sami land, resources, language, and economic livelihood and to call for greater inclusion in political decision-making processes.

In January the Sami parliament complained to the chancellor of justice concerning the role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in the Tenojoki Fisheries Agreement. According to media reports, the agreement, which entered into force on March 22, restricts fishing in the Teno River to revive the salmon stock and particularly restricts traditional Sami fishing techniques. A group of Sami rights activists occupied an island in the river in July to protest the agreement. In March the chancellor of justice stated that the Sami were consulted too late in the agreement’s drafting process.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Nonetheless, the law requires a person to be sterilized or infertile before the government will recognize their gender change.

In 2016, the last year for which data were available, official law-enforcement figures recorded 57 hate crimes based on bias against LGBTI persons, including 17 verbal insults, threats, and harassment and 19 physical assaults.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In 2016 the nondiscrimination ombudsman received 891 discrimination complaints, 37 (or 4 percent) of which involved religious discrimination.

There were isolated incidents in which politicians made discriminatory remarks on social media aimed at members of the Muslim community. In January, Member of Parliament Teuvo Hakkarainen (Finns Party) was found guilty of incitement of racial hatred and ordered to pay a 1,160-euro ($1,390) fine. The court also ordered him to remove the Facebook post for which he was prosecuted.

In June the online investigative journalism magazine Long Play published a story accusing police officers of posting racist comments on a secret Facebook group page. Yle estimated that about one-third of the country’s police officers, including police leadership, belonged to the group. On July 6, Yle reported that, after reviewing complaints, the prosecutor general’s office found no evidence of criminal activity and would not pursue an investigation. The head of communications at the Police Administration, however, told media that police units would still assess separately whether to take administrative actions.

The arrival of large numbers of migrants has been followed by an increase in activity by extreme right-wing and antiforeigner groups. In 2015, the latest data available, authorities recorded 33 suspected cases of violent right-wing extremism and another 16 cases instigated by antifascist and anarchist elements. The neo-Nazi NRM was suspected in most of the cases.


Executive Summary

France is a multiparty constitutional democracy. Voters directly elect the president of the republic to a five-year term. They elected Emmanuel Macron to that position in May. An electoral college elects members of the bicameral parliament’s upper house (Senate), and voters directly elect members of the lower house (National Assembly). Observers considered the April 23/May 7 presidential and the June 11/18 parliamentary (Senate and National Assembly) elections to have been free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Since the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, the country was under a state of emergency that gave expanded powers to police and other government authorities. The emergency law authorized the government to dissolve associations deemed to be working towards the serious disruption of public order. It also authorized prefects in all regions to close temporarily concert halls, restaurants, or any public place and to prohibit public demonstrations or gatherings posing a threat to public safety, as they deemed appropriate. While the state of emergency generally enjoyed legislative and public support, some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and parliamentarians expressed concern it negatively affected the balance between security and individual rights. On October 31, the state of emergency was lifted, and the government enacted legislation to codify certain powers granted under it. To prevent acts of terrorism, the law permits authorities to restrict and monitor the movement of individuals, conduct administrative searches and seizures, close religious institutions for disseminating violent extremist ideas, implement enhanced security measures at public events, and expand identity checks near the country’s borders. The core provisions will expire at the end of 2020 unless actively renewed by parliament. Some members of the National Assembly and human rights organizations criticized the bill for incorporating the emergency measures in common law, a step they believed eroded civil liberties and diminished judicial oversight.

The most significant human rights issues included reports of societal acts of violence against migrants, minorities, Jews, Muslims, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons; authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate prosecuted, such cases.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish members of the security forces and other officials who committed human rights abuses. Impunity was not widespread.

During the year the country experienced six terrorist attacks, at least five terror-related individual killings targeting security forces, and several attempted terrorist attacks. As of year’s end, authorities continued to investigate elements of these cases.

Note: The country includes 11 overseas administrative divisions covered in this report. Four overseas territories in French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and La Reunion have the same political status as the 22 metropolitan regions and 101 departments on the mainland. Five divisions are overseas “collectivities”: French Polynesia, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna. New Caledonia is a special overseas collectivity with a unique, semiautonomous status between that of an independent country and an overseas department. Citizens of these territories periodically elect deputies and senators to represent them in parliament, like the other overseas regions and departments.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for rape survivors.

The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for domestic violence against either gender varies from three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($54,000) to 20 years in prison.

In November the government’s Interministerial Agency for the Protection of Women against Violence and Combatting Human Trafficking (MIPROF) published data showing that, between 2012 and 2017, an annual average of 225,000 women between the ages of 18 and 75 declared that they had been victims of physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of a partner or former partner. MIPROF reported that, over the same period, an annual average of 93,000 women declared that they had been victims of rape or attempted rape.

The report noted that 123 women were killed by their male partner or former partner in 2016.

The government sponsored and funded programs for female victims of violence, including shelters, counseling, hotlines, free mobile phones, and a media campaign. The government also supported the work of 25 associations and NGOs dedicated to fighting domestic violence.

The government budgeted 125 million euros ($150 million) to fund its 2017-19 interministerial plan to combat violence against women, a 50-percent increase over the previous three-year plan. The program’s three main objectives were ensuring women’s access to rights, strengthening public action to protect the most vulnerable groups, such as children, young women, and women living in rural regions, and uprooting the culture of sexism.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is practiced in the country, particularly within diaspora communities where FGM/C was prevalent. The law prohibits FGM/C as “violence involving mutilation or permanent infirmity.” It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The government provides reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C victims.

According to the Ministry of Gender Equality, 53,000 victims resided in the country. The majority were recent immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries where the procedure was performed. According to the Group against Sexual Mutilation, 350 excisions were performed in the country each year. In a November 2016 interministerial plan to combat violence against women, the government introduced new measures to prevent genital mutilation and support affected women and girls.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is defined as “subjecting an individual to repeated acts, comments, or any other conduct of a sexual nature that are detrimental to a person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, thereby creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.”

A November report by MIPROF reported that the security forces registered 10,870 incidents of harassment and other threats committed by a partner in 2016, with female victims making up more than 88 percent of the total victims. The same report stated that in 2016 the Ministry of Justice sentenced 82 men for sexual harassment.

On August 9, parliament passed an ethics bill directed at parliamentarians and other elected officials, which included a measure that bars persons with a conviction for sexual harassment from running for public office.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors but does not apply to relationships between peers. The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The Ministry of Gender Equality is responsible for protecting the legal rights of women. The constitution and law provide for equal access to professional and social positions and the government generally enforced the laws.

There was discrimination against women with respect to employment and occupation (see section 7.d.), and women were underrepresented in most levels of government leadership.


Birth Registration: The law confers nationality to a child born to at least one parent with citizenship or to a child born in the country to stateless parents or to parents whose nationality does not transfer to the child. Parents must register births of children regardless of citizenship within three days at the local city hall. Parents who do not register within this period are subject to legal action.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Child marriage was a problem. The law provides for the prosecution of forced marriage cases, even when the marriage occurred abroad. Penalties for violations are up to three years’ imprisonment and a 45,000-euro ($54,000) fine. Women and girls could seek refuge at shelters if their parents or guardians threatened them with forced marriage. The government offered educational programs to inform young women of their rights.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consent is 15 but prosecutors still have to prove sex was non-consensual to prove rape. Otherwise, sex with a minor is considered sex abuse, punishable with up to five years in prison as opposed to up to 20 years in the case of rape. The government generally enforced these laws effectively.

The law also criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The minimum penalty for sexual exploitation of children is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million). The law prohibits child pornography; the maximum penalty for its use and distribution is five years’ imprisonment and a 75,000-euro ($90,000) fine.

According to a November report by MIPROF, the security forces registered 7,570 acts of sexual violence against children under age 18 in 2016. Female victims made up more than 80 percent of this total.

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


There were between 460,000 and 700,000 Jews in France in 2016, depending on the definitional criteria of who is Jewish, according to a 2016 report by Berman Jewish DataBank.

NGO and government observers reported numerous anti-Semitic incidents during the year, including physical and verbal assaults on individuals and attacks on synagogues, cemeteries, and memorials. As of January 2016, according to the Ministry of the Interior, security forces were protecting 12,000 sites across the country, of which 26 percent were Jewish.

On December 10 at a Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF) convention in Paris, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the number of anti-Semitic acts in the country had dropped by 20 percent in the first 10 months of the year compared with the same period in 2016, according to Israeli media. He stated there were 216 anti-Semitic incidents during this period. According to press reports, anti-Semitism was causing a growing number of Jews to abandon their suburban homes for downtown Paris.

On April 4, a 27-year-old Franco-Malian man, Kobili Traore, killed his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi. Neighbors heard Traore beating Halimi while reciting the Quran and shouting “Allah hu akbar” (“God is greatest”) and calling her Satan before throwing her from the third-story window of her apartment. On July 10, authorities arrested Traore and charged him for “voluntary homicide” and “sequestration.” The umbrella group of French Jewish communities, CRIF, and the NGO National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) criticized the prosecutor’s delay in filing an indictment and omission of the anti-Semitic motive behind it. On September 27, authorities added the charge of anti-Semitism to the indictment. The investigation continued at year’s end.

On September 7, three attackers forcibly entered the home of a Jewish family in Livry-Gargan, a suburb of Paris. They confined, beat, and threatened to kill the family of three, according to the BNVCA. Minister of the Interior Collomb said, “everything will be done to identify and arrest those who carried out this cowardly attack (which) appears directly linked to the victims’ religion.” On November 28, authorities arrested five individuals–four men and one woman–in connection with the attack. On December 1, authorities charged them with armed robbery, illegal detention, and extortion with violence, motivated by the victims’ religious affiliation. All five individuals were placed in pretrial detention. The case remained open at year’s end.

On September 18, a juvenile court in northeastern France ordered five teenagers, ages 15 to 17, who vandalized approximately 300 gravestones in the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union in 2015, to perform 140 hours of community service each; the court, however, suspended an earlier decision to sentence the teenagers to prison to up to seven years.

Jewish community leaders objected to Front National Party politician Marine Le Pen’s statement on April 9 that the country was not responsible for the 1942 roundup and detention of 13,152 Jews at the Velodrome d’hiver stadium in Paris. At a Velodrome d’hiver roundup memorial event on July 16, President Macron reaffirmed the French government’s position that “it was indeed France that organized the roundup, the deportation, and thus, for almost all, death.”

In June authorities upheld the charge of anti-Semitism in the indictment against five assailants for an attack committed in December 2014 against a 21-year-old man and his 19-year-old girlfriend in Creteil. One of the five attackers faced the charge of rape of the woman while another faced the charge of complicity in the rape; all five aggressors faced charges of theft or attempted theft, extortion, and false imprisonment with a weapon; or complicity.

On August 7, unknown persons vandalized a memorial in Lyon dedicated to 44 children and their seven adult supervisors who were arrested by the Lyon Gestapo in 1944 at the Children’s Home of Izieu and deported to concentration camps, where all but one adult died. The memorial was broken and removed from its base.

Former president Hollande, President Macron, and other government leaders condemned anti-Semitism during the year. On July 16, President Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a ceremony in Paris honoring the victims of the Velodrome d’hiver roundup. President Macron stated, “We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”

On October 2, Prime Minister Philippe announced a new initiative to combat online anti-Semitism during an address at Paris’ Buffault Synagogue to mark the Jewish New Year. He also confirmed the continuation of high-level security at Jewish community institutions.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.

While the law requires companies with more than 20 workers to hire persons with disabilities, many such companies failed to do so (see section 7.d.).

The law requires that buildings, education, and employment be accessible to persons with disabilities. According to government estimates, 40 percent of establishments in the country were accessible. In July 2015 parliament ratified decrees that extend the deadline for owners to make their buildings and facilities accessible by three to nine years. In May 2016 then president Hollande announced that 500,000 public buildings across the country were undergoing major renovation work to improve accessibility.

On January 19, a Bayonne criminal court fined easyJet Airline 60,000 euros ($72,000) for refusing to board a passenger with a disability. The airline denied boarding to the 55-year-old plaintiff, Joseph Etcheveste, in 2010, citing “security” reasons.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Societal violence and discrimination against immigrants of North African origin, Roma, and other ethnic minorities remained a problem. Many observers expressed concern that discriminatory hiring practices in both the public and private sectors deprived minorities from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and Asia of equal access to employment.

Citizens, asylum seekers, and migrants may report cases of discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity to the Defender of Rights. According to the most recent data available, the Defender of Rights in 2016 received 5,203 discrimination claims, 18 percent of which concerned discrimination based on ethnic origin.

Government observers and NGOs reported a number of anti-Muslim incidents during the year, including slurs against Muslims, attacks on mosques, and physical assaults. The National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, citing interior ministry figures, registered 64 incidents and 118 threats against the Muslim community in 2016, representing a 48.4- and a 61.3-percent decrease, respectively, in the number of anti-Muslim incidents and threats from 2015.

According to media reports, in June the city of Lorette prohibited women wearing veils from accessing the city’s municipal swimming pool by adding “headscarves” to the pool’s list of prohibited items. The rules require a woman to wear a one-piece or two-piece bathing suit to access the pool.

In an April 25 ruling, the Paris Criminal Court fined the mayor of Beziers, Robert Menard, 2,000 euros ($2,400) for inciting hatred and discrimination through anti-Muslim comments. In September 2016 he had tweeted his “regret” at witnessing “the great replacement,” an allusion to a term used by xenophobic writer Renaud Camus to describe the country being “overtaken” by foreign-born Muslims. Menard was also prosecuted for an interview given in September 2016 in which he claimed the number of Muslim children in Beziers was “a problem.” The mayor was ordered to pay symbolic damages, of 1 to 1,000 euros ($1.20 to $1,200) to the seven antiracism organizations that had originally filed the suit against him.

Societal hostility against Roma, including Romani migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, continued to be a problem. There were reports of anti-Roma violence by private citizens. Romani individuals, including migrants, experienced discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.). Government data estimated there were 20,000 Roma in the country.

Authorities dismantled camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma throughout the year. In the first half of the year, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) reported the eviction of 4,382 Roma in 50 different localities. According to the ERRC and Human Rights League data, authorities evicted 10,119 Roma from 76 illegal camps in 2016, a 9-percent decrease from 2015, when 11,128 Roma were evicted.

On February 7, the country’s highest court upheld the conviction of Luc Jousse, the former mayor of Roquebrune-sur-Argens, for his anti-Roma statements in 2013. Jousse was fined 10,000 euros ($12,000) and disqualified from running for public office for one year.

On February 27, the Aix-en-Provence appeals found guilty and ordered Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front Party, to pay a 5,000-euro ($6,000) fine for inciting hatred against the Romani community in Nice. At a news conference in 2013, Le Pen described members of the Romani community as “irritating” and “smelly.”

In a report released September 12, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights criticized the country for continuing to “exclude disabled children, Roma(ni) children and migrants or refugees from mainstream schools.” The commissioner noted that inequality in the education system “perpetuates their marginalization.”

The government attempted to combat racism and discrimination through programs that promoted public awareness and brought together local officials, police, and citizens. Some public school systems also managed antidiscrimination education programs.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The statute of limitations is 12 months for offenses related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Authorities pursued and punished perpetrators of violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The NGO SOS Homophobie, a NGO supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights, reported 1,575 homophobic acts in 2016, a 19.5-percent increase from 2015. It reported 121 instances of physical assault, a 20-percent decrease from 2015.

On March 11, authorities arrested and indicted two men in Marseille for kidnapping and raping Zak Ostmane, an Algerian LGBTI activist and refugee. SOS Homophobie reported the two assailants drugged the victim in a gay bar in central Marseille, then took him to a hotel room where he was beaten and raped. Police rescued Ostmane two days later. The Marseille prosecutor’s office did not release the identities of the assailants.

Human rights organizations criticized the government for continuing to require transgender persons to go to court to change their gender legally.


Executive Summary

Gabon is a republic with a presidential form of government dominated by the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) and the Bongo family, which has held power since 1967. Ali Bongo Ondimba was declared winner of the August 2016 presidential election. Observers noted numerous irregularities, including a highly questionable vote count in Ali Bongo Ondimba’s home province. The government forcibly dispersed violent demonstrations that followed the election. Legislative elections were scheduled for December 2016. Authorities postponed them to April 2018 with a provision for further delay should the electoral code be changed during the interim. Observers characterized the 2011 legislative elections as generally free and fair, although some opposition parties boycotted them, citing the government’s inability to provide for full transparency and prevent voter irregularities. PDG candidates won 114 of 120 seats in the National Assembly.

Civilian authorities generally maintained control over the security forces, but at times abuses and lapses of discipline occurred.

The most significant human rights issues included: harsh prison conditions; an inefficient judiciary subject to government influence; interference with the right of assembly; government corruption; trafficking in persons; and child labor.

The government took some steps to prosecute officials and punish those convicted of abuses. Nevertheless, impunity remained a problem.

Authorities took steps to investigate alleged abuses by Gabonese peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic and to mitigate future risks.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and convicted rapists face penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. Nevertheless, authorities seldom prosecuted rape cases. The law does not address spousal rape. There were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of rape, but a women’s advocacy NGO estimated it to be a frequent occurrence. Discussing rape remained taboo, and women often opted not to report it due to shame or fear of reprisal.

Although the law prohibits domestic violence, NGOs reported it was common. Penalties for conviction range from two months’ to 15 years’ imprisonment. Women virtually never filed complaints, due to shame or fear of reprisal, although the government operated a counseling group to provide support for abuse victims. The government provided in-kind support to an NGO center to assist victims of domestic violence and through the center’s work, police intervened in response to incidents of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: No law prohibits sexual harassment, and it remained a widespread problem. NGOs reported sexual harassment of women in the military was pervasive.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: Although the law does not generally distinguish between the legal status and rights of women and men, it requires a married woman to obtain her husband’s permission to receive a passport and to travel abroad. The law provides for equal treatment in property, nationality, and inheritance. No specific law requires equal pay for equal work. Women owned businesses and property, participated in politics, and worked in government and the private sector. Nevertheless, women faced considerable societal discrimination, including in obtaining loans and credit and, for married women, opening bank accounts without their husbands’ permission and administering jointly owned assets, especially in rural areas.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is conferred through one’s parents and not by birth in the country. At least one parent must be a citizen to transmit citizenship. Registration of all births is mandatory, and children without birth certificates may not attend school or participate in most government-sponsored programs. Many mothers could not obtain birth certificates for their children due to isolation in remote areas of the country or lack of awareness of the requirements of the law. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Although education is compulsory until age 16 and tuition-free through completion of high school, it often was unavailable after sixth grade in rural areas. There was no significant difference in the rates of enrollment between boys and girls; however, due to high rates of early pregnancy, girls were less likely to complete school than were boys.

Child Abuse: Child abuse occurred and when abuse was reported, police generally arrested the accused abusers, but an inefficient judicial system resulted in long delays in adjudication.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for consensual sex and marriage is 15 for girls and 18 for boys. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities generally enforced the law. Perpetrators convicted of procuring a child for prostitution or a child pornography-related offense may be sentenced to between two and five years’ imprisonment. Conviction of child trafficking is punishable by fines of up to 10 million to 20 million CFA francs ($16,668-$35,336); these penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Conviction of possession of pornography is punishable by imprisonment of six months to one year and a fine of up to 222,000 CFA francs ($392).

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


The Jewish population 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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with “physical, mental, congenital, and accidental” disabilities and requires access to buildings and services, including voter access to election polling centers. Most public buildings, however, did not provide adequate access, hindering access to state services and the judicial system. The law subsumes sensory disabilities under congenital and “accidental” disabilities but does not recognize the concept of intellectual disability. The law provides for the rights of persons with disabilities to education, health care, and transportation. Enforcement was limited–there were no government programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities generally attended school at all levels, including mainstream schools. There was accommodation for persons with disabilities in air travel but not for ground transportation.

Persons with disabilities faced barriers in obtaining employment, such as gaining access to human resources offices to apply for jobs, because buildings were not accessible. The inaccessibility of buses and taxis complicated seeking jobs or getting to places of employment for those without their own means of transportation.

Indigenous People

The Babongo, Baghama, Baka, Bakoya, and Barimba ethnic groups are the earliest known inhabitants of the country. The law grants members of indigenous ethnic groups the same civil rights as other citizens, but they experienced societal discrimination. They remained largely outside of formal authority–keeping their own traditions, independent communities, and local decision-making structures–and did not have ready access to public services. Discrimination in employment also occurred. Indigenous people had little recourse if mistreated by persons from the majority Bantu population. No specific government programs or policies assisted them.

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

The law does not criminalize sexual orientation or limit freedom of speech or peaceful assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. There are no specific antidiscrimination or hate crime laws, or other criminal justice mechanisms designed to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes. There were no reports LGBTI persons were targeted for abuse, but underreporting of such incidents was likely, in view of societal stigma. Societal discrimination in employment and housing was a problem, particularly for openly LGBTI persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Local NGOs reported discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Persons with HIV/AIDS encountered difficulties obtaining loans and finding employment in at least some sectors. NGOs worked closely with the Ministry of Health to combat both the associated stigma and the spread of the disease.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Ritual killings in which persons were killed and their limbs, genitals, or other organs removed occurred and often went unpunished. During the year authorities made no arrests of persons accused of ritual killing. The local NGO Association to Fight Ritual Crimes reported 14 victims of ritual killings and six disappearances from January to October. The actual number of victims was probably higher because many ritual killings were not reported or were incorrectly characterized.


Executive Summary

The constitution provides for an executive branch that reports to the prime minister, a unicameral parliament, and a separate judiciary. The government is accountable to parliament. The president is the head of state and commander in chief. In September, a controversial constitutional amendments package that abolished direct election of the president and delayed a move to a fully proportional parliamentary election system until 2024 became law. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers termed the October local elections as generally respecting fundamental freedoms and reported candidates were able to campaign freely, while highlighting flaws in the election grievance process between the first and second rounds that undermined the right to effective remedy. They noted, too, that the entire context of the elections was shaped by the dominance of the ruling party and that there were cases of pressure on voters and candidates as well as a few violent incidents. OSCE observers termed the October 2016 parliamentary elections competitive and administered in a manner that respected the rights of candidates and voters but stated that the campaign atmosphere was affected by allegations of unlawful campaigning and incidents of violence. According to the observers, election commissions and courts often did not respect the principle of transparency and the right to effective redress between the first and second rounds, which weakened confidence in the election administration. In the 2013 presidential election, OSCE observers concluded the vote “was efficiently administered, transparent and took place in an amicable and constructive environment” but noted several problems, including allegations of political pressure at the local level, inconsistent application of the election code, and limited oversight of alleged campaign finance violations.

While civilian authorities maintained effective control of the Ministry of Defense, there were indications that at times they did not maintain effective control of domestic security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: alleged participation by government officials in the reported kidnapping and forced rendition to Azerbaijan of an Azerbaijani journalist; arbitrary detentions and deprivation of life by Russian and de facto authorities of the country’s citizens along the administrative boundary lines (ABL) with the Russian-occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; interference in judicial independence and impartiality; interference with privacy; and violence against LGBTI persons.

The government took steps to investigate some allegations of human rights abuses, but shortcomings remained.

De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remained outside central government control and were supported by several thousand Russian troops and border guards occupying the areas since the 2008 conflict with Russia. A cease-fire remained in effect in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian border guards restricted the movement of local populations. While there was little official information on the human rights and humanitarian situation in South Ossetia due to limited access, allegations of abuse persisted.

De facto authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia restricted the rights, primarily of ethnic Georgians, to vote or otherwise participate in the political process, own property, register businesses, and travel. Although de facto South Ossetian authorities refused to permit most ethnic Georgians driven out due to the 2008 conflict to return to South Ossetia, a special crossing arrangement existed for those from Akhalgori district. De facto authorities did not allow most international organizations regular access to South Ossetia to provide humanitarian assistance. Russian “borderization” of the ABL of the occupied territories continued, separating residents from their communities and livelihoods.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, but criminal law does not specifically address spousal rape. A convicted first-time offender may be imprisoned for up to seven years. Through September the Prosecutor’s Office initiated investigations in seven rape cases. The government enforced the law effectively.

In cases that do not result in injury, penalties for conviction of domestic violence include 80 to 150 hours of community service or imprisonment for up to one year.

Domestic and other violence against women remained a significant problem. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 12 women died as a result of domestic violence. NGOs reported law enforcement officials and prosecutors in Tbilisi showed improved professionalism in handling domestic violence crimes.

The Ministry reported it opened 2,248 cases of domestic violence through December.

NGOs reported instances of law enforcement officials failing to take action against perpetrators of rape and domestic violence and failing to grant victim status to survivors The Public Defender’s Office noted that low public awareness of domestic violence, violence against women, and women’s rights in general resulted in victims not seeking assistance from authorities.

The Public Defender’s Office blamed the high number of killings of women on the lack of monitoring and risk assessment systems for cases of violence against women and domestic violence. The office called on the government to create an effective system to record and analyze cases of femicide.

Domestic violence laws mandate the provision of temporary protective measures, including shelter and restraining orders that prohibit an abuser from coming within 330 feet of the victim and from using common property, such as a residence or vehicle, for six months. The Public Defender’s Office stated victims often reported receiving inadequate responses from law enforcement officers to restraining order violations.

Local NGOs and the government jointly operated a 24-hour hotline and shelters for abused women and their minor children, although space in the shelters was limited and only four of the country’s 10 regions had facilities.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Kidnapping women for marriage occurred in remote areas and ethnic minority communities but was very rare. Police rarely took action in these cases, because there was usually no way to distinguish whether the event was a kidnapping or an arranged elopement.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace was a problem. The law provides a general definition of harassment, but it does not provide a legal sanction for it. The Public Defender’s Office reported it received three sexual harassment complaints in 2016 and in each case the victim did not want to go to court. The government initiated a sexual harassment training course for all civil servants to raise awareness of the problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The equal legal status and rights of women and men was not always respected. Discrimination against women in employment was reported. The law provides for the establishment of a gender equality council in Parliament, enhancement of women’s security, and strengthening of women’s political participation. It stipulates that the government should engage in gender-responsive planning and budgeting. In March parliament passed an action plan to address gender equality reforms. The Public Defender’s Office monitored gender equality cases.


Birth Registration: By law citizenship derives from parents at birth or from birth within the country’s territory. It applies to children of stateless individuals. According to the UNICEF, 99 percent of births were registered before the child reached age five.

Since 2015 UNHCR reported a widening documentation gap in Abkhazia, noting that fewer residents of Gali District held valid documents due to the expiration and nonrenewal of documentation by de facto authorities. It reported that more than 400 returnee children born after 2013 were not given birth certificates because their parents lacked valid documents required for registration.

Education: Children of noncitizens often lacked the documentation to enroll in school. The level of school attendance was low for children belonging to disadvantaged and marginalized groups, such as street children and children with disabilities or in foster care. The Public Defender’s Office reported that violence, negligence, and other forms of mistreatment were still acute in educational institutions.

Child Abuse: According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as of December authorities opened investigations into 460 cases involving different kinds of crimes against children.

Authorities referred children who suffered abuse to the relevant community and government services in coordination with stakeholders, including police, schools, and social service agencies.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both men and women is 18. Conviction of forced marriage of an individual under age 18 is punishable by two to four years’ imprisonment. As of September the Public Defender’s Office was reviewing 22 instances of alleged early marriage and the Ministry of Interior launched investigations into six cases. Reports of child marriages continued throughout the year, although there were no official statistics. Child marriages reportedly occurred more frequently among certain ethnic and religious groups.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. Street children and children living in orphanages were reportedly particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law classifies sexual intercourse with a juvenile as rape, provided the perpetrator is proven to be aware of the victim’s age. The penalty is up to nine years’ imprisonment; the government generally enforced the law. Conviction of other sexual crimes carry increased levels of punishment if the victim was a juvenile.

Displaced Children: Difficult economic conditions contributed to the problem of street children, although it was unclear how many were geographically displaced. The Public Defender’s Office reported a lack of information about street children and noted the inadequacy of resources devoted to them.

According to the Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs, mobile teams established contacts with 908 children working or living on the streets. As of July 204 of these children were enrolled in day care services, 24 were provided shelter services, 73 were enrolled in the education system, and 110 were provided with personal documentation.

Institutionalized Children: The government continued replacing large-scale orphanages with smaller foster-parenting arrangements. According to the Social Service Agency, 302 children were housed in 46 small-group homes and 1,440 children were placed in different forms of foster care. The government provided grants for higher education for institutionalized and foster-care children, including full coverage of tuition and a stipend, and provided emergency assistance to foster families.

UNICEF and a foreign development agency supported the government in developing small-scale facilities for children with severe and profound disabilities with the view to closing the Tbilisi infant home.

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


Observers estimated the Jewish community to be no more than 6,000 persons. There were no reliable reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, the judicial system and right to a fair trial, and the provision of other government or private-sector services, the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. The Public Defender’s Office reported that persons with disabilities continued to encounter barriers to participating fully in public life. Many families with children with disabilities considered themselves stigmatized and kept their children from public view. Discrimination in employment was also a problem.

The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities and stipulates fines for noncompliance. Very few public facilities or buildings, however, were accessible. Public and private transportation generally did not accommodate persons with disabilities, and sidewalk and street-crossing access was poor.

The Public Defender’s Office stated that inclusive education remained a major challenge. Despite the introduction of inclusive education in professional and general educational institutions, preschool and higher education were not part of the system. Only a limited number of preschools among the 165 monitored by the Public Defender’s Office in Tbilisi in 2016 were accessible to children with disabilities.

The Public Defender’s Office reported that state-run institutions caring for persons with disabilities lacked the infrastructure, trained staff, psychosocial services, and contact with the outside world and families needed to provide for the delivery of services. It raised concerns about a high number of deaths of residents in regional facilities. The Ministry of Internal Affairs opened investigations into several deaths at state-run institutions, but the Public Defender’s Office reported its study of these investigations revealed the investigations were ineffective.

In April parents of children with disabilities protested the unequal distribution of government assistance for persons with disabilities and claimed that only children in some regions received government funding. The parents requested an increased budget for rehabilitation programs for children with disabilities.

A report on the privatization of psychiatric facilities in the country by the Foundation Global Initiative on Psychiatry–Tbilisi, the Federation Global Initiative on Psychiatry, and the Public Defender of Georgia described overcrowding at the Naneishvili Psychiatric Health Center (Kutiri hospital), where some patients slept in halls. The physical and sanitary conditions were poor, and the hospital offered little therapeutic treatment.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Public Defender’s Office and NGOs reported some instances of discrimination against minority communities. The Public Defender’s Office noted that from September 2015 to August 2016, it received more than a dozen claims of discrimination based on national/ethnic origin. Minority rights NGOs reported that victims rarely registered claims due to a lack of knowledge about their rights and criticized authorities for not raising greater awareness in minority communities.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there were no reports of crimes committed on the basis of race, nationality, or ethnicity in recent years.

The media reported numerous cases of hate speech targeting minority groups.

Weak Georgian-language skills were the main impediment to integration for members of the country’s ethnic minorities, although political, civic, economic, and cultural obstacles to integration also remained. Ethnic Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Abkhaz, Ossetians, and Russians usually communicated in their native languages or Russian in the areas where they were the dominant groups. Some minorities asserted that the law requiring “adequate command of the official language” to work as a civil servant excluded them from participating in government. The Public Defender’s Office reported that involving ethnic minorities in national decision-making processes remained a problem due to the small number of representatives of ethnic minorities in the central government.

The government continued its “1+4” program for ethnic minorities to study the Georgian language for a year prior to their university studies. According to a quota system, the government assigned 12 percent of all bachelor or higher certificate-level placements to students with ethnic minority backgrounds. Ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani communities each received 5 percent of the slots, while Ossetian and Abkhaz communities received 1 percent each.

The law permits the repatriation of Muslim Meskhetians deported in 1944. According to the Ministry for Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Refugees, and Accommodations, 1,998 of more than 5,841 applications were approved by August. Of this number, 494 applicants received “conditional citizenship,” which, according to a presidential decree, grants them “full Georgian citizenship” upon renouncing their foreign citizenship within five years.

The legal status of ethnic Georgians living in the Gali District of Abkhazia was unclear. The community faced problems receiving education in the Georgian language. According to the EUMM, unlike in 2016, some Gali students seeking to attend school in Georgian government-administered territory faced difficulties at the start of the school year crossing the administrative boundary to attend school. In 2015 de facto authorities shifted the language of instruction for students in first through fourth grades in Lower Gali to Russian. According to the Abkhaz government-in-exile, in the Tkvarcheli and Ochamchire zones, Russian was the only instructional language and, since the 2008 conflict, the de facto government prohibited Georgian language instruction. Teachers who did not speak Russian had to memorize lessons in Russian, although some continued to instruct students informally in Georgian. The Public Defender’s Office noted that, in the Gali, Ochamchire, and Tkvarcheli Districts, ethnic Georgian students and teachers had poor command of Russian, and therefore Russian-only instruction had significantly affected the quality of their education. Local communities had either to pay for teachers, arrange for teachers to cross from undisputed government territory to teach, or send their children across the ABL for Georgian-language lessons. Secondary school graduates had to cross the ABL to take university entrance examinations. De facto Abkhaz authorities closed a school in Tagiloni in Lower Gali in November ostensibly due to low numbers of students, disrupting the education of 23 students who were either transferred to another school in Tagiloni or had to commute to a school in Nabakevi.

In early September, South Ossetian de facto authorities began transitioning all six Georgian curriculum schools and two kindergartens in Akhalgori District to Russian, for the majority of subject teaching, starting with the first through fourth grades.

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

The constitution provides for fundamental equality before the law, and a variety of laws or regulations contain antidiscrimination provisions. The criminal code makes acting on the basis of prejudice because of a person’s sexual orientation an aggravating factor for all crimes.

The Public Defender’s Office reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals continued to experience systemic violence, oppression, abuse, intolerance, and discrimination in every sphere of life. According to NGOs, the government rarely enforced the law, and law enforcement authorities lacked robust training on hate crimes.

LGBTI organizations, NGOs, and the Public Defender’s Office reported societal prejudices against LGBTI individuals remained strong. The organizations reported that the government’s ineffective antidiscrimination policy reduced the LGBTI community’s trust in state institutions and pointed to some homophobic statements by politicians and public officials as furthering hatred and intolerance against the LGBTI community.

In August, two LGBTI organization leaders accused police officers from Batumi’s sixth precinct of inhuman and degrading treatment, including physical abuse. The individuals alleged that police failed to intervene when several persons physically assaulted them on the street. The law enforcement officials subsequently arrested the two LGBTI individuals, who reported that the officials mistreated them in detention. The courts fined the LGBTI individuals 300 lari ($120) each for disobeying police. None of the alleged attackers was detained. The Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office opened investigations into the incident. As of September the investigations continued.

In February the Tbilisi City Court of Appeals’ upheld a Tbilisi City Court’s 2015 ruling that the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not provide for the safety of activists in the 2013 rally to mark the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHOT). The Tbilisi City Court had also ruled that the Ministry of Internal Affairs should compensate participants 12,500 lari ($5,000) for the moral damage they suffered. On September 17, the Ministry of Internal Affairs appealed the appellate court’s decision to the Supreme Court; the Supreme Court ruled the ministry’s appeal inadmissible.

According to the LGBTI community, the law provides for gender recognition for transgender persons. NGOs reported, however, that the Civil Registry Office and Service Development Agency standard requires applicants to present proof of gender reassignment surgery in order to change their gender status in official documents.

On May 17, LGBTI organizations were able to hold an IDAHOT rally without incident. All of the approximately 200 participants arrived in government-provided, secure transportation, and law enforcement agencies restricted pedestrian and vehicle traffic for several blocks around the rally location. Some NGOs considered the rally a step forward but noted the tight security controls restricted freedom of assembly.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS were major barriers to HIV/AIDS prevention and service utilization. Negative social attitudes and low public awareness also remained obstacles. NGOs reported that social stigma caused individuals to avoid testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS. Some health-care providers, particularly dentists, refused to provide services to HIV-positive persons. Individuals often concealed their HIV/AIDS status from employers due to fear of losing their jobs.


Executive Summary

Germany is a constitutional democracy. Citizens choose their representatives periodically in free and fair multiparty elections. The lower chamber of the federal parliament (Bundestag) elects the head of the federal government, the chancellor. The second legislative chamber, the Federal Council (Bundesrat), represents the 16 states at the federal level and is composed of members of the state governments. Observers considered the national elections for the Bundestag on September 24 to have been free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included incidents of anti-Semitism and violence against Muslims, refugees, and LGBTI individuals. Authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate prosecuted, such cases.

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

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison.

Officials may temporarily deny abusers access to the household without a court order, put them under a restraining order, or in severe cases prosecute them for assault or rape and require them to pay damages. Penalties depend on the nature of the case. The government enforced the law.

Approximately 12,000 to 13,000 cases of sexual violence are reported annually to police. According to the Federal Office for Family and Civic Duties, approximately one in four women between the ages of 16 and 85 has been a victim of domestic violence at least once in her life.

The federal government, the states, and NGOs supported numerous projects to deal with gender-based violence, both to prevent it and to give victims greater access to medical care and legal assistance. During the year approximately 350 women’s shelters operated throughout the country. The NGO Central Information Agency of Autonomous Women’s Homes (ZIF) reported accessibility problems, especially in bigger cities, because women who found refuge in a shelter tended to stay there longer due to a lack of available and affordable housing. ZIF stated the number of refugee women seeking protection in shelters rose since the refugee influx in 2015.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C of women and girls is a criminal offense punishable by one to 15 years in prison. FGM/C affected segments of the immigrant population and their German-born children. In February the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth estimated in a study that 50,000 women in the country were victims of FGM. The study further stated that this number reflected an increase of one-third compared with 2014 and traced the increase to the number of refugees coming from Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. A working group under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth worked with other federal government bodies and all 16 states to combat FGM.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law criminalizes “honor killings” as murder and provides penalties that include life in prison. The government enforced the law effectively.

Court proceedings continued in Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, regarding the suspected honor killing of a 35-year-old Iraqi Yazidi woman, Hanaa S. In June the woman’s brother-in-law confessed to kidnapping and killing her. The government financed various projects that aim to tackle this problem.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of women was a recognized problem and prohibited by law. The law requires employers to protect employees from sexual harassment. Various disciplinary measures against harassment in the workplace were available, including dismissal of the perpetrator. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment to be a breach of contract, and an affected employee has the right to paid leave until the employer rectifies the problem. Unions, churches, government agencies, and NGOs operated a variety of support programs for women who experienced sexual harassment and sponsored seminars and training to prevent it.

In July police in Schorndorf, Baden-Wuerttemberg, recorded nine cases of sexual assault during a public festival. While three of those cases could not be substantiated, local police and Stuttgart prosecutors continued investigating sexual harassment allegations against four unknown and two known suspects.

As of August the state attorney in Hamburg initiated 245 prosecutions related to charges of 400 women being sexually harassed or assaulted during New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2015 in Hamburg. During New Year’s Eve of 2016, with increased police presence, there were 14 reports of sexual harassment. Police identified 10 suspects.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution, including under family, labor, religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law provides for equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in highly paid managerial positions and overrepresented in some lower-wage occupations (see section 7.d.).


Birth Registration: In most cases persons derive citizenship from their parents, but the law also allows citizenship based on birth in the country if one parent has been a resident for at least eight years or has had a permanent residence permit for at least three years. Parents or guardians have the responsibility to apply for registration for newborn children. Once officials receive registration applications, they generally process them expeditiously. Parents who fail to register their child’s birth may be subject to a fine.

Child Abuse: There were reported incidents of child abuse. The Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women, and Youth sponsored a number of programs throughout the year on the prevention of child abuse. The ministry sought to create networks among parents, youth services, schools, pediatricians, and courts and to support existing programs at the state and local level. Other programs provided therapy and support for adult and youth victims of sexual abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: Forced marriages are illegal, invalid, and punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. There were no reliable statistics on the number of forced marriages. The legal minimum age for marriage is 18.

In July parliament passed a law that declared marriages involving minors unlawful and prohibited such marriages. Prior to the new law, 16-year-old children could marry under certain circumstances. The new law also invalidates foreign underage marriages that were legal in the country in which they were officiated.

Child and forced marriage affected mostly girls. Media reported that during the year more than 1,400 cases of child marriage involving more than 1,100 girls were registered with authorities. Nearly one-half of the cases reported involved nationals from Syria; other countries of origin were Iraq, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Greece.

In June a 17-year-old Iraqi girl in Selm, North Rhine-Westphalia, who disagreed with the marriage her parents arranged for her, escaped her family’s apartment. According to media, her father found her, beat her in public, and threatened to take her to Iraq if she did not marry the groom. The girl called the police, and a local youth welfare office provided her protected relocation and refuge. Police investigated her parents for bodily injury, threat, and attempted forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalty for rape of adults–up to 15 years in prison–also applies to the rape of children. Consensual sex is legal from age 14 in most cases. There is an exception if the older partner is older than 18 and is “exploiting a coercive situation” or offering compensation and the younger partner is under 16. It is also illegal for a person who is 21 or older to have sex with a child under 16 if the older person “exploits the victim’s lack of capacity for sexual self-determination.” The government’s Independent Commissioner for Child Sex Abuse Issues offered a sexual abuse help online portal and an anonymous telephone helpline free of charge.

Possession of or attempts to acquire any material “reflecting a true or realistic incident of child pornography” is punishable by three months to five years in prison.

In August a court in Krefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, allowed the extradition to Chile of a 73-year-old physician associated with Colonia Dignidad, a group which the foreign ministry called “a German sect in Chile, in which… children were systematically sexually abused.” He fled to Germany after being sentenced in Chile to five years in prison in 2011 for aiding the sexual abuse of children.

Displaced Children: Media reported that authorities could not account for the whereabouts of approximately 8,000 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. According to the NGO Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF), many of these minors moved on to join relatives in the country and abroad. BumF also stated some unaccompanied minors might have become victims of human trafficking. Authorities were working to improve their ability to track these missing children. For more information, please see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

According to the year’s estimates by the NGO Off Road Kids, there were up to 2,500 runaways under the age of 18. Off Road Kids reported most runaways did not end up on the street but become “sofa-hoppers.” These minors are generally school dropouts who had no contact with the youth welfare office or their parents but were able to find temporary housing through digital networks.

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


Observers estimated the country’s Jewish population to be almost 200,000, of whom an estimated 90 percent were from the former Soviet Union. There were 90,000 registered Jewish community members. Manifestations of anti-Semitism, including physical and verbal attacks, occurred at public demonstrations, sporting and social events, and in certain media. Apart from anti-Semitic speech, desecration of cemeteries and Holocaust monuments represented the most widespread anti-Semitic acts. The federal government attributed most anti-Semitic acts to neo-Nazi or other right-wing extremist groups or persons. Jewish organizations also noted an increase of anti-Semitic attitudes among some Muslim youth.

During the final federal cabinet meeting before federal elections in September, the government officially acknowledged the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed this decision as an important step towards combatting anti-Semitism.

In 2016, 644 anti-Semitic crimes were reported. According to a report released in April by the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Semitism, traditional forms of anti-Semitism declined slightly, while modern anti-Semitism, such as conflating individual Jews with actions by Israel, remained prevalent. The report also noted anti-Semitism existed on both the extreme right and extreme left of the political spectrum as well as among Muslims in the country.

The FOPC’s annual report stated the number of violent right-wing anti-Semitic incidents increased from 29 in 2015 to 31 in 2016. It noted membership in skinhead and neo-Nazi groups remained steady at approximately 6,000 persons. Federal prosecutors brought charges against suspects and maintained permanent security measures around many synagogues.

In January Bjoern Hoecke, the caucus chair of the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Thuringia state parliament, denounced the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a “monument of shame.” He was criticized within his party but actively campaigned for the AfD in September’s general election.

In January a local court in Betzdorf, Rhineland-Palatinate, acquitted three members of a band called Kaltes Judenleder (Cold Jew Leather) of charges of disseminating right-wing propaganda and using symbols of “anticonstitutional” organizations. The court could not prove that the band’s “inhumane and brutal” anti-Semitic and racist lyrics were meant to be made available to the public.

In April Jewish parents removed their child from a school in the Friedenau district of Berlin, stating their son was subjected to continual discrimination by children of Turkish and Arab descent. The child reportedly was also physically attacked. Following the incident, Jewish leaders called for an investigation into anti-Semitic bullying in schools.

In April a politician from the far-right NPD of the district of Barnim, Brandenburg, was sentenced to eight months in prison for showing unconstitutional tattoos. In 2015 he was seen in a public swimming pool having the silhouette of the concentration camp Buchenwald’s with its slogan “Jedem das Seine” (“To each his own”) tattooed on his back.

On August 26 and September 2, one or more unidentified perpetrators kicked at the facade of the New Synagogue in Ulm, Baden-Wuerttemberg, and later rammed it with a metal post, breaking through the outer wall.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other federal government services, including access to other transportation. The law makes no specific mention of the rights of persons with sensory or intellectual disabilities, but their rights are considered included under the other headings. NGOs disagreed on the effectiveness of government’s enforcement of antidiscrimination laws.

In August the federal government commissioner for matters relating to persons with disabilities criticized the fact that more than 84,000 individuals in the country were not allowed to vote in federal elections. The stated reason was that many were the subjects of court orders declaring they are not capable of independently managing their administrative and financial matters.

Persons with disabilities faced particular difficulties finding housing. The country’s approximately 500,000 children with disabilities attended school.

States decide whether children with disabilities may be included in regular schools or whether they must attend special needs schools.

In February a public hearing organized by the German Institute for Human Rights showed that refugees with disabilities were not always granted the special protection and reasonable accommodation for which they are eligible according to EU Commission guidelines.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Harassment of foreigners and members of racial minorities such as Roma remained a problem throughout the country. Hostility focused on the increasing number of asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

The annual FOPC report for 2016 described 1,190 of the 1,600 violent “politically motivated crimes” with “right-wing extremist backgrounds” as xenophobic. Since January the FOPC registered crimes against asylum seekers and refugees as a separate subcategory of politically motivated crimes.

The right-wing extremist, anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) maintained the size of its support base after a considerable decline in 2016. On average, approximately 2,000 demonstrators attended PEGIDA rallies in Dresden during the first half of the year.

In April a group of 13 persons using racist language insulted, threatened, and assaulted a 22-year-old Jordanian man and his German female companion walking together in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. During the exchange the man suffered a blow to the head and the woman was threatened with a knife. Police arrested one suspect and filed charges.

Persons of foreign origin faced particular difficulties finding housing. FADA reported cases of landlords denying rental apartments to persons of non-ethnic-German origin, particularly of Turkish and African origin, saying that the neighborhood’s population was majority ethnic German.

In March a 20-year-old Serbian Rom sued the state of North Rhine-Westphalia for damages and compensation of 52,000 euros ($62,000). He claimed he was wrongfully diagnosed as having mental disabilities when he entered elementary school in Bavaria and spoke very little German. The assessment was not reviewed by local authorities when he moved to North-Rhine Westphalia, and he subsequently attended schools for students with special needs for11 years. The trial continued at year’s end.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In November the federal constitutional court found the legal sex-identification option on birth certificates of only “male” and “female” unconstitutional.

There were no official statistics on mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; the availability of NGO reports on the incidence of such mistreatment varied widely in different parts of the country, although some quantitative data was available for cities with large populations of LGBTI persons. In 2016 there were 336 assaults in Berlin motivated by bias against LGBTI persons, according to the NGO Maneo. Insults accounted for 20 percent of the cases reported, injury for 29 percent, and coercion and threat for 22 percent.

In June a lesbian couple was violently assaulted in Berlin. One of the women was hit with a bottle and strangled until she lost consciousness. Passersby intervened and held the assailant until the police took him into custody. Police determined the attack was homophobic, and the BKA took over the investigation.

In July parliament passed a law to compensate the approximately 50,000 men who were punished under the ban on gay acts between 1945 and 1994. Compensation packages include 3,500 euros ($4,200) per person and 1,500 euros ($1,800) for each year the person spent incarcerated.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The NGO German AIDS Foundation reported that societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS ranged from isolation and negative comments from acquaintances, family, and friends to bullying at work. A domestic AIDS service NGO criticized authorities in Bavaria for their continued practice of mandatory HIV testing for asylum seekers.

In August the German Medical Association changed its guidelines regarding blood donations to allow gay men to donate blood, but only after a year of sexual abstinence.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Authorities in Aalen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, reported more than 15 instances of right-wing, neo-Nazi, and anti-Muslim propaganda spray painted on public buildings, including a memorial for the local World War II concentration camp. In February unknown perpetrators desecrated several Muslim graves at the local cemetery. Police were investigating at year’s end.


Executive Summary

Ghana is a constitutional democracy with a strong presidency and a unicameral 275-seat parliament. Presidential and parliamentary elections conducted in 2016 were peaceful, and domestic and international observers assessed them to be transparent, inclusive, and credible. New Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate Nana Akufo-Addo defeated National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate and incumbent President John Mahama. NPP candidates won 169 parliamentary seats, with the NDC securing the remaining 106 seats.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included excessive use of force by police, including torture resulting in death and injuries; rape by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; assault on and harassment of journalists; corruption in all branches of government; lack of accountability in cases of violence against women and children, including female genital mutilation/cutting; early and forced marriage; sexual exploitation of children; infanticide of children with disabilities; trafficking in persons; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, though rarely enforced; and exploitative child labor, including forced child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, but impunity remained a problem.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women but not spousal rape. Sexual assault on a male can be charged as indecent assault. Convicted rapists may be punished with prison sentences ranging from five to 25 years, while indecent assault is a misdemeanor subject to a minimum term of imprisonment of six months.

Rape and domestic violence remained serious problems. Survey data released in 2016 suggested 27.7 percent of women and 20 percent of men had experienced at least one type of domestic violence in the 12 months prior to the study.

The Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service worked closely with the Department of Social Welfare, Domestic Violence Secretariat, CHRAJ, the Legal Aid Board, Ark Foundation, UNICEF, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the national chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, and several other human rights NGOs to address rape and domestic violence. Inadequate resources and logistical capacity in the DOVVSU and other agencies, however, hindered the full application of the law.

Unless specifically called upon by the DOVVSU, police seldom intervened in cases of domestic violence, in part due to a lack of counseling skills, shelter facilities, and other resources to assist victims. In cases where police identified and arrested suspects for rape or domestic abuse, few of the cases reached court or resulted in conviction due to witness unavailability, inadequate resources and training on investigatory techniques and police prosecutor case management, and, according to DOVVSU, lack of resources on the part of victims and their families to pursue cases.

The DOVVSU addressed rape through public education efforts on radio and in communities, participation in efforts to prevent child marriage and sexual and gender based violence, expanding the implementation of its online data management system to select police divisional headquarters, and data management training.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Several laws include provisions prohibiting FGM/C. It was rarely performed on adult women, but the practice remained a serious problem for girls under 18 years of age. Intervention programs were partially successful in reducing the prevalence of FGM/C, particularly in the northern regions.

For more information, see: 

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The constitution prohibits practices that dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person. Media reported several killings and attempted killings for ritual purposes. For example, in April a man from Western Region confessed to killing and decapitating his six-year-old son in order to gain spiritual power. In the Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions, rural women and men suspected of “witchcraft” were banished by their families or traditional village authorities to “witch camps.” Such camps were distinct from “prayer camps,” to which persons with mental illness were sometimes sent by their families to seek spiritual healing. Some persons suspected of witchcraft were also killed. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection monitored witch camps.

The law criminalizes harmful mourning rites, but such rites continued, and authorities did not prosecute any perpetrators. In the north, especially in the Upper West and Upper East Regions, widows are required to undergo certain indigenous rites to mourn or show devotion for the deceased spouse. The most prevalent widowhood rites included a one-year period of mourning, tying ropes and padlocks around the widow’s waist or neck, forced sitting by the deceased spouse until burial, solitary confinement, forced starvation, shaving the widow’s hair, and smearing clay on the widow’s body. In the Northern and Volta Regions along the border with Togo, wife inheritance, the practice of forcing a widow to marry a male relative of her deceased husband, continued.

Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, although authorities prosecuted some sexual harassment cases under provisions of the criminal code.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Predominantly male tribal leaders and chiefs are empowered to regulate land access and usage within their tribal areas. Within these areas women were less likely than men to receive access rights to large plots of fertile land. Widows often faced expulsion from their homes by their deceased husband’s relatives, and they often lacked the awareness or means to defend property rights in court.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth in the country or outside if either of the child’s parents or one grandparent is a citizen. Children unregistered at birth or without identification documents may be excluded from accessing education, health care, and social security. Some children were reportedly denied education because their births were not registered, although having a birth certificate is not a legal precondition to attend school. The country launched an automated birth registration system in 2016 aimed at enhancing the ease and reliability of registration. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free, compulsory, and universal basic education for all children from kindergarten through junior high school. In September the government began phasing in a program to provide tuition-free enrollment in senior high school, beginning with first-year students. Girls in rural and the northern regions were less likely to continue and complete their education due to the weak quality of education service delivery, inability to pay expenses related to schooling, prioritization of boys’ education over girls’, security problems related to distance between home and school, lack of dormitory facilities, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits defilement (sex with a child younger than 16 years with or without consent), incest, and sexual abuse of minors. There continued to be reports of male teachers sexually assaulting and harassing both female and male students. There were no reports that a teacher suspected of sexually assaulting a student faced prosecution or job termination as a result of the allegation. Physical abuse and corporal punishment of children were concerns. Local social workers rarely had sufficient resources, such as transportation and equipment, to effectively respond to and monitor cases of child abuse and neglect.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 18 years. The law makes forcing a child to marry punishable by a fine, one year’s imprisonment, or both. Early and forced child marriage, while illegal, remained a problem. Child marriage rates continued to decrease, with one-fifth of women during the year married before the age of 18, compared with one-third in the early 1990s.

The Child Marriage Unit of the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection continued to lead governmental efforts to combat child marriage. The ministry launched the first National Strategic Framework on Ending Marriage in Ghana (2017-2026). The framework prioritizes interventions focused on strengthening government capacity to address issues of neglect and abuse of children, girls’ education, adolescent health, and girls’ empowerment through skills development. The National Advisory Committee to End Child Marriage and the National Stakeholders Forum, with participation from key government and civil society stakeholders, provided strategic guidance and supported information sharing and learning on child marriage among partners in the country. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years, and defilement is punishable by imprisonment for seven to 25 years. The law criminalizes the use of a computer to publish, produce, procure, or possess child pornography, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years, a fine of up to 5,000 penalty units (60,000 cedis or $13,300), or both.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law bans infanticide, but several NGOs reported that communities in the Upper East Region kill “spirit children” born with physical disabilities who are suspected of being possessed by evil spirits. Local and traditional government entities cooperated with NGOs to raise public awareness about causes and treatments for disabilities and to rescue children at risk of ritual killing.

Displaced Children: The migration of children to urban areas continued due to economic hardship in rural areas. Children were often forced to support themselves to survive, contributing to both child prostitution and the school dropout rate. Girls were among the most vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation while living on the streets.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Abduction at


The Jewish community had a few hundred members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law explicitly prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law provides that persons with disabilities have access to public spaces with “appropriate facilities that make the place accessible to and available for use by a person with disability,” but inaccessibility to schools and public buildings continued to be a problem. Children with disabilities attended specialized schools that focused on their needs, in particular schools for the deaf. In July the government hired 80 persons with disabilities to serve as tollbooth operators, but few adults with disabilities had employment opportunities.

Persons with both mental and physical disabilities, including children, were frequently subjected to abuse and intolerance. Children with disabilities who lived at home were sometimes tied to trees or under market stalls and caned regularly; families reportedly killed some of them. The Ghana Education Service, through its Special Education Unit, supported education for children who are deaf or hard of hearing or have vision disabilities through national schools for deaf and blind students.

Thousands of persons with mental disabilities, including children as young as seven, were sent to spiritual healing centers known as “prayer camps,” where mental disability was often considered a “demonic affliction.” Some residents were chained for weeks in these environments, denied food for seven consecutive days, and physically assaulted. While the country passed a Mental Health Act in 2012 that provides for monitoring of prayer camps and bars involuntary or forced treatment, officials took few steps to implement the legislation. In July officials from the Mental Health Authority rescued 16 persons with mental disabilities whom they found chained at a prayer camp in Central Region; the individuals were later taken to the Ankaful psychiatric hospital for treatment.

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

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law criminalizes the act of “unnatural carnal knowledge,” which is defined as “sexual intercourse with a person in an unnatural manner or with an animal.” The offense applies to persons engaged in same-sex male relationships and those in heterosexual relationships; there were reports of the law also being applied to individuals in same-sex female relationships. While there were reports of adults being prosecuted for consensual same-sex sexual conduct, no convictions were reported.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced widespread discrimination in education and employment. As of June CHRAJ reported receiving 41 reports of discrimination against LGBTI persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They also faced police harassment and extortion attempts. There were reports police were reluctant to investigate claims of assault or violence against LGBTI persons. Gay men in prison were often subjected to sexual and other physical abuse.

While there were no reported cases of police or government violence against LGBTI persons during the year, stigma, intimidation, and the attitude of the police toward LGBTI persons were factors in preventing victims from reporting incidents of abuse.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remained a problem. Fear of being stigmatized continued to discourage persons from being tested for HIV infection and those who tested positive from seeking timely care. HIV-positive persons faced discrimination in employment and often were forced to leave their jobs or houses. The government and NGOs subsidized many centers that provided free HIV testing to citizens, although high patient volume and the physical layout of many clinics often made it difficult for the centers to respect confidentiality.

Parliament passed a revised Ghana AIDS Commission Bill in 2016 that sought to address gaps in the existing law. The law penalizes discrimination against a person infected with or affected by HIV or AIDS by a fine of 100 to 500 penalty units (1,200 cedi to 6,000 cedis, or $265-$1,300), imprisonment for 18 months to three years, or both. The law contains provisions that protect and promote the rights and freedoms of persons with HIV/AIDS and those suspected of having HIV/AIDS, including the right to health, education, insurance benefits, employment/work, privacy and confidentiality, nondisclosure of their HIV/AIDS status without consent, and the right to hold a public or political office.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Chieftaincy disputes, which frequently resulted from lack of a clear chain of succession, competing claims over land and other natural resources, and internal rivalries and feuds continued to result in deaths, injuries, and destruction of property. Throughout the year there continued to be disputes between Fulani herdsmen and landowners that at times led to violence. For example, in January violence between residents of Ho, Fulani herdsmen, and police resulted in injuries to at least two police officers.

In April a long-standing land dispute between the communities of Nkonya and Alavanyo in Volta Region led to violence, resulting in at least two deaths. To address the conflict, in June the government announced it was seizing the disputed land and turning it into a military training ground.

There were reports of ritual killings, including an herbalist arrested for allegedly murdering a teenage girl in August in Koforidua.

There were frequent reports of killings of suspected criminals through mob violence.


Executive Summary

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy. King Mswati III and Queen Mother Ntombi, the king’s mother, rule as co-monarchs and exercise ultimate authority over the cabinet, legislature, and judiciary. There is a bicameral parliament consisting of the Senate and House of Assembly, each composed of appointed and elected members. The prime minister is appointed by the king; political power remained largely vested with the king and his traditional advisors. International observers concluded the 2013 parliamentary elections did not meet international standards.

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

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; denial of citizens’ ability to choose their government in free and fair elections; institutional lack of accountability in cases involving rape and violence against women; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, although rarely enforced; trafficking in persons; restrictions on worker rights; and child labor.

With few exceptions, the government did not prosecute or administratively punish officials who committed abuses. In general perpetrators acted with impunity.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but no law specifically addresses spousal rape. Rape was common, and the government rarely enforced the law effectively. According to the Swaziland Action Group against Abuse, one in three girls and women between ages 13 and 24 had been a victim of sexual violence. Although rape is legally defined as a crime, many men regarded it as a minor offense. The maximum sentence for conviction of rape is 15 years in prison, but the acquittal rate for rape was high, and sentences were generally lenient. Prosecutors reported difficulty obtaining the evidence required to try rape and domestic violence cases because witnesses feared testifying against accused rapists. There were few social workers or other intermediaries to work with victims and witnesses in order to obtain evidence.

No legislation or law deals specifically with domestic violence and sexual abuse. If charged as assault, however, domestic violence is illegal. Domestic violence against women, particularly wife beating, was common and sometimes resulted in death. Police efforts to combat the crime were inadequate. Women have the right to charge their husbands with assault under both the Roman-Dutch and traditional legal systems, and urban women frequently did so, usually in extreme cases when intervention by extended family members failed to end such violence. Penalties for men found guilty of assault not involving rape against a woman depended on the court’s discretion. Rural women often had no relief if family intervention did not succeed because traditional courts were unsympathetic to “unruly” or “disobedient” women and were less likely than courts using Roman-Dutch-based law to convict men of spousal abuse. The Roman-Dutch legal system often gave light sentences in cases of conviction for abuse against women.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Accusations of witchcraft were employed against women in family or community disputes that could lead to them being physically attacked, driven from their homes, or both. For example, on September 7, the Times of Swaziland reported a wife blamed by a traditional healer for misfortunes that had befallen her family was forced by her husband to leave her home and community.

Sexual Harassment: Legal provisions against sexual harassment were vague, and government enforcement was ineffective. No cases have ever been brought to trial. Nevertheless, there were frequent reports of sexual harassment, most often of female students by teachers. During the year the Teaching Service Commission suspended and fired several male teachers for sexual harassment of female students, but none was prosecuted.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: Women occupied a subordinate role in society. The dualistic nature of the legal system complicated the protection of women’s rights. Since unwritten customary law and custom govern traditional marriage and matters of inheritance and 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.

Civil law is inconsistent with the constitutional stipulation that “women have the right to equal treatment with men and that right shall include equal opportunities in political, economic, and social activities.” Civil law defines married women as subordinate to their husbands.

Girls and women faced discrimination in rural areas by community elders and authority figures, who gave preference to boys in education. Women faced employment discrimination (see section 7.d.). While the constitution provides that women may open bank accounts, obtain passports, and take jobs without the permission of a male relative, these constitutional rights often conflicted with customary law, which classifies women as minors. Both traditional and Roman-Dutch civil law recognize women as dependents of their husbands or fathers. Although women routinely executed contracts and entered into a variety of transactions in their own names, banks often refused personal loans to married women without a male guarantor. The constitution provides for equal access to land and civil law provides for women to register and administer property. Most persons were unaware of this right, however, and customary law forbids women from registering property in their own names.

Customary law considers children to belong to the father and his family if the couple divorce. Children of unmarried parents remain with the mother, unless the father claims paternity. Inheritances pass to and through male children only. 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 that widows heading households sometimes became homeless and were forced to seek public assistance when the husband’s family took control of the homestead. Women who had jobs sometimes lost them due to absence from work during the extended mourning period. Women in mourning attire were generally not allowed to participate in public events and were barred from interacting with royalty or entering royal premises. In some cases the mourning period lasted up to three years.


The 2012 Children’s Protection and Welfare Act sets the age of majority at 18. It defines child abuse and imposes penalties for abuse; details children’s legal rights and the responsibility of the state, in particular with respect to orphans and other vulnerable children; establishes structures and guidelines for restorative justice; defines child labor and exploitative child labor; and sets minimum wages for various types of child labor. At year’s end the government had not implemented most of the law’s provisions.

Birth Registration: 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 Swazi woman marries a foreign man, however, even if he is a naturalized Swazi citizen, their children carry the father’s birth citizenship.

The law mandates compulsory registration of births. According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 50 percent of children under age five were registered and 30 percent had birth certificates. Lack of birth registration may result in denial of public services, including access to education. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The constitution does not state that education is compulsory, but regulations provide for fining parents who do not have their children attend school. Primary education was tuition-free through grade seven. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received an annual budget allocation to pay school fees for orphans and other vulnerable children in primary and secondary school. Principals and teachers routinely demanded bribes to admit students.

Child Abuse: Child abuse, including rape of children and incest, was a serious problem. If reported, perpetrators were seldom prosecuted, and when prosecuted and convicted, sentences seldom matched the maximum penalties allowable. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Corporal punishment by teachers and principals is legal and routinely practiced. School rules and regulations allow a teacher to administer up to four strokes with a stick on the buttocks to a student under age 16, and up to six strokes to students age 16 and older. In 2015 the Ministry of Education and Training introduced positive disciplinary standards based on counseling–the minister warned that teachers who beat pupils would be held accountable for such abuses. Nevertheless, teachers often exceeded these limits with impunity. For example, on August 2, the Times of Swazilandreported a Salesian High School student was caned on his bare buttocks by a teacher.

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. Under traditional law marriages are permitted for girls as young as age 13. Although the deputy prime minister criticized this practice, civil law was generally not enforced to prevent it. According to a 2015 UNICEF report on child marriage in the country, 1 percent of adolescent girls were married before age 15 and 7 percent were married before age 18. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Girls were victims of sex trafficking. Orphans and other vulnerable children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation at truck stops and in bars and brothels. The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act includes a specific provision criminalizing “mistreatment, neglect, abandonment, or exposure of children to abuse.” Offenders convicted under these provisions are liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years. Statutory law sets the age of sexual consent at 16, while criminal law states that a girl under age 14 may not consent to sexual intercourse. The penalties for conviction of statutory rape and prostituting a girl are from six to 25 years’ imprisonment, up to 24 lashes with a whip, and a fine of 1,000 emalangeni ($76). Penalties for conviction of child pornography are up to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of 100 emalangeni ($6.58).

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


The Jewish community is 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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution provides for the rights of persons with disabilities but does not differentiate among physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities and requires parliament to enact relevant implementing legislation, which parliament has not done. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is responsible for upholding the law and for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. No laws prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment. Persons with disabilities complained of government neglect. No laws mandate access to health care for persons with disabilities or accessibility to buildings, transportation, information, communications, or public services. Government buildings under construction included some 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.

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. 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, as they are believed to bring “bad spirits.”

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Governmental and societal discrimination was practiced against nonethnic Swazis, generally persons of Caucasian or Asian descent and persons of mixed race. Although there were no official statistics, an estimated 2 percent of the population was nonethnic Swazi. Nonethnic Swazis experienced difficulty in obtaining official documents, including passports, and suffered from other forms of governmental and societal discrimination, such as needing special permits or stamps to buy a car or house, delays in receiving building permits for houses, and difficulties in applying for bank loans.

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

While colonial-era legislation against sodomy remains on the books, no penalties are specified, and there were no arrests. The government asserted that same-sex relationships and acts were illegal but did not prosecute any cases during the year. Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons was prevalent, and LGBTI persons generally concealed their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTI persons who were open regarding their sexual orientation and relationships faced censure and exclusion from the chiefdom-based patronage system, which could result in eviction from one’s home. Chiefs, pastors, and government officials criticized same-sex sexual conduct as neither morally Swazi nor Christian. LGBTI advocacy organizations had trouble registering with the government. One such organization, House of Pride, was under the umbrella of another organization that dealt with HIV/AIDS. It was difficult to determine the extent of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity because victims were not likely to come forward, and most LGBTI persons were not open regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity.

On July 23, a third-year University of Swaziland student committed suicide, reportedly because he found himself isolated after his family rejected him due to his sexual orientation.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, Swaziland had among the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world in 2011. The People Living with HIV Stigma Index reported that, of a study sample of 1,233 persons, 18 percent believed their HIV-positive status caused persons to gossip about them; 7 percent were insulted or harassed; and 3 percent were assaulted. Experience of internal stigma included: 25 percent had low self-esteem, 24 percent felt shame, 17 percent felt guilt, 14 percent felt isolation, and 7 percent had suicidal thoughts. In a 2014 nationally representative sample of HIV-positive persons within the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 7.7 percent of women and 12 percent of men ages 15 to 59 years reported discriminatory attitudes.

Social stigma associated with being HIV positive discouraged persons from being tested. Nevertheless, there were often long lines, especially of young persons, waiting to be tested during prevention campaigns. The armed forces encouraged testing and did not discriminate against active military members testing positive. Persons who test HIV positive, however, were not recruited by the armed forces because military authorities claimed that they would not be able to withstand strenuous training.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There was social stigma attached to albinism. Several persons with albinism stated they were subject to discrimination, called names, and at risk of being killed for ritual purposes. The government condemned such acts but took no further action.

Belief in witchcraft was common, and those accused of witchcraft were at risk of being assaulted or killed. For example, on February 23, Lomthantazo Eunice Tfwala of Lubhuku was strangled to death by her stepson and nephew for allegedly practicing witchcraft.

The Gambia

Executive Summary

The Gambia’s constitution enumerates a full range of provisions and assurances for a multiparty democratic republic. On December 1, 2016, Adama Barrow, the candidate of a coalition of seven political parties, defeated incumbent president Yahya Jammeh in what international observers deemed a peaceful and credible election. After initial acceptance of the results, the former president subsequently rejected them, claiming voter fraud and irregularities. This led to a six-week political impasse that was resolved largely through peaceful regional and international intervention, including by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries. President Barrow was officially sworn into office on January 20 in Dakar, Senegal, amid security concerns due to his predecessor’s refusal to accept the election results. President Barrow was sworn into office again on Gambian soil after the political impasse with former president Jammeh was resolved. In the April 6 parliamentary elections, the United Democratic Party (UDP) won 31 of the 53 seats contested. The parliamentary elections were considered by international and domestic observers to be free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. ECOWAS military personnel remained in the country at the invitation of the president.

The democratic transfer of power resulted in significant positive changes in the human rights climate. Among President Barrow’s first acts was the release of 171 prisoners from the state central prison, a majority of whom were political prisoners. National Assembly members repealed the state of emergency declared by former president Jammeh during the political impasse, a few days after Jammeh flew into exile on January 21. The new administration made several significant efforts to create a more conducive environment for freedom of expression. The Justice Department conceded that the country’s sedition law and some provisions (pertaining to criminal defamation and false publication on the internet) of the country’s internet law were unconstitutional. The country previously enacted legislation making both female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage illegal, although deep-seated cultural norms made the full eradication of these practices difficult. Several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies actively publicized the newly introduced laws in local communities.

Proceedings continued against nine former officials of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) charged with the torture of protesters arrested in May and April 2016 and the subsequent killing of Solo Sandeng, an official of the UDP party; as of November their trials were underway. The government took steps towards establishing a Truth, Reconciliation, and Repatriations Commission (TRRC), led by the Ministry of Justice, to probe human rights abuses that occurred during President Jammeh’s administration. The National Assembly unanimously passed a bill in December that formally established the nine-member TRRC and outlined its composition, objectives, and functions. Also in December, the National Assembly passed a bill establishing an independent National Human Rights Commission.

The most significant human rights issues included: harsh and potentially life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women, including rape and FGM/C; trafficking in persons; and child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute or punish some individuals who committed abuses. Nevertheless, impunity and the lack of consistent enforcement remained problems.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The penalty for rape is life imprisonment; however, rape was a widespread problem. The maximum penalty for attempted rape is seven years’ imprisonment without an option of a fine. Spousal rape is not illegal and was widespread;, police generally considered it a domestic issue outside its jurisdiction. A 40-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping and impregnating a 14-year-old girl in August. Most cases of domestic violence went unreported due to victims’ fear of reprisal, unequal power relations, stigma, discrimination, and pressure from family and friends not to report. Conviction of domestic violence carries a fine of D50,000 ($1,060), imprisonment of two years, or both.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a deeply rooted practice in society, and many are hesitant to report FGM/C cases, either because they do not agree with the law or because they are uncomfortable reporting family members or neighbors. Legislation passed in 2015 bans FGM/C . The law stipulates imprisonment of not more than three years, a fine of D50,000 ($1,060), or both, for anyone found to have circumcised a female child; if the child dies, the penalty is life imprisonment. Failure to report the practice may lead to a fine of D10,000 ($210). Despite the law the practice was very prevalent, with approximately 76 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15-49 believed to have undergone FGM/C. NGOs, including the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, Wassu Gambia Kafo, Safe Hands for Girls, and Think Young Women, were at the forefront of combatting FGM/C in the country. (For more information, see ).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and conviction provides for a one-year mandatory prison sentence. Sexual harassment was widely prevalent, but not commonly reported due to social pressures and unwillingness to challenge the offenders.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: .

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equality of all persons before the law, and it stipulates that no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner irrespective of their race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Its provisions against discrimination do not apply to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, and devolution of property upon death. Employment in the formal sector was open to women at the same salary rates as men. No statutory discrimination existed in other kinds of employment, access to credit, owning and managing a business, or in housing or education.


Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory or through either parent. Not all parents registered births, but this did not preclude their children from receiving public health services. Birth certificates were easily obtained in most cases. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The constitution and law mandate compulsory, tuition-free education through the secondary level. Under the tuition-free education plan, however, families often must pay fees for books, uniforms, lunch, school fund contributions, and examination fees. An estimated 75 percent of primary school-age children enrolled in primary schools. Girls constituted approximately half of primary school students and a third of high school students.

Child Abuse: The Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2010revealed that approximately 90 per cent of children between ages two and 14 were subjected to at least one form of psychological and/or physical abuse, while 18 percent were severely punished physically. Authorities generally enforced the law when cases of child abuse or mistreatment came to their attention and imposed criminal penalties in serious cases.

Early and Forced Marriage: In 2016 the National Assembly made the marriage of children under 18 illegal under the Children’s (Amendment) Act 2016. Approximately 33 percent of girls below the age of 18 were married, and 8.6 percent before the age of 15. Government sensitization campaigns were undertaken in several areas of the country, particularly in remote villages, to create awareness of the act. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for 14 years’ imprisonment for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children and five years for involvement in child pornography. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18 years. Local NGOs believed criminals exploited children, who were often seeking to support their families, in prostitution in brothels and that tourists staying in remote guesthouses and motels were involved in the sexual exploitation of children. Authorities instructed security officers in the tourism development area to turn away all minors who approached the main resort areas without an acceptable reason. NGOs largely blamed many of the difficulties in reporting and prosecuting sexual abuse on a national culture of secrecy with regard to intimate family issues and a penchant for resolution outside of the formal system.

Displaced Children: In August immigration officials in the capital, Banjul, repatriated 70 Senegalese children ages 11 to 16 to Senegal after a raid. According to immigration officials, the children lived on the streets of the capital without supervision or proper documents.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at


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

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination against or exploitation of persons with disabilities, although it does not expressly reference the kinds of disabilities protected, particularly as regards access to health services, education, and employment. Authorities effectively enforced these provisions. There is no explicit legal guarantee of access to transportation, nor any requirement to provide for access to buildings for persons with disabilities. No law or program stipulates persons with disabilities should have access to information or communications. The law requires judicial proceedings involving a person with disabilities to take into account the disabilities.

The Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Health is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and worked with the Gambia Organization for the Visually Impaired and the School for the Deaf and Blind to help educate children with disabilities and to develop relevant skills. Most children with disabilities, however, did not attend school. The department also worked with international donors to supply wheelchairs to some persons with disabilities. The NHRU, a unit of the Office of the Ombudsman, sought to promote the rights of women with disabilities. Persons with disabilities received priority access to polling booths on election days.

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

In 2014 then president Jammeh signed into law an amendment to the criminal code making “aggravated homosexuality” a crime punishable by life imprisonment. The bill defines “aggravated homosexuality” to include serial offenders or persons with a previous conviction for homosexual activity, persons having same-sex relations with someone under the age of 18 or with members of other vulnerable groups, or a person with HIV having same-sex relations.

President Barrow dismissed homosexuality as a nonissue in the country, citing more pressing priorities. As a result the government had not articulated its intention whether it would attempt to reverse or change the aggravated homosexuality bill. The provisions of the bill were not enforced.

There was strong societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were no LGBTI organizations in the country.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS sometimes hindered identification and treatment of persons with the disease and resulted in their rejection by partners and relatives when their condition became known. The government took a multisectoral approach to fighting HIV/AIDS through its national strategic plan, which provided for care, treatment, and support for persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The plan, enacted in 2015, also included HIV-prevention programs for high-risk populations.

There were no reports on HIV-related stigma and discrimination in employment, housing, or access to education or health care.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future