Argentina

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women, including spousal rape, is a crime. The penalties range from six months’ to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the ages of the perpetrator and victim, their relationship, the use of violence, and other factors. Most perpetrators received penalties between six and 15 years’ imprisonment. There were anecdotal reports of police or judicial reluctance to act on rape cases; women’s rights advocates alleged the attitudes of police, hospitals, and courts toward survivors of sexual violence sometimes victimized them again, often by forcing them to recount details of their trauma, conflating silence with consent, or admitting as evidence their past sexual history.

The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse. Survivors may secure protective measures. The laws were generally enforced, and survivors generally had access to protective measures. The law imposes a stricter penalty than murder on those who kill their spouses, partners, or children as a consequence of their gender. According to local NGOs, lack of police and judicial vigilance often led to a lack of protection for victims. The law requires all federal employees to receive training on gender and gender-based violence. The law was enforced, including for cabinet-level officials and the president. In June training on gender and gender-based violence also became a requirement for all persons applying for their first driver’s license.

The National Register of Femicides, maintained by the Supreme Court’s Office of Women, recorded that 287 women died because of domestic or gender-based violence during 2020. As of June 30, the National Ombudsman’s Office reported 137 women had died due to violence. Approximately 18 percent of the victims had previously filed formal complaints.

The ministry operated a 24-hour hotline for victims of gender-based violence and created emergency WhatsApp and email contact channels for victims unable to use the telephone. The Supreme Court’s Office of Domestic Violence provided around-the-clock protection and resources to victims of domestic violence. The office also carried out risk assessments necessary to obtain a restraining order. Public and private institutions offered prevention programs and provided support and treatment for abused women. A national network of shelters included 89 facilities. The law provides for the financial support of children who lost their mothers to gender-based violence; however, many families complained of delays in receiving payment. As of April an estimated 860 children and young adults had received support through the program.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in public spaces and imposes disciplinary or corrective measures. In some jurisdictions, such as the city of Buenos Aires, sexual harassment could lead to the abuser’s dismissal, whereas in others, such as Santa Fe Province, the maximum penalty is five days in prison. The law does not prohibit sexual harassment in employment more broadly.

In December 2020 a new law entered into force that condemns harassment, especially sexual harassment, in work environments, both in the public and private sectors. This law effectively follows the precepts of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 190 on Eliminating Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

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

With the slogan “End Forced Sterilizations,” several human rights organizations launched a campaign in October 2020 to change a 2006 law they argued had led to the sterilizations of many persons with disabilities without their consent. The law was written to provide all citizens with access to certain surgical contraceptive measures but allows legal representatives to provide consent for any individual declared legally incompetent. The organizations argued that this loophole, along with broad societal acceptance of forced sterilizations of individuals with disabilities, had led to extensive use of the practice.

Access to sexual and reproductive health services, information, and contraception was generally available, although access could be limited for indigenous or rural populations. Local media reported that indigenous pregnant women in Formosa Province were being forcibly taken to hospitals to induce their labor and have cesarean sections performed because of COVID-19 protocols. In April the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a resolution suspending these protocols while an investigation could be conducted. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights lifted the commission’s measures on July 11, noting that at least five of the seven women had given birth and that their representatives had yet to provide sufficient proof of their allegations. Legal representatives supporting the women said they were partly unable to gather testimony and evidence because witnesses were afraid of reprisals from state and national authorities.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception as part of clinical management of rape.

In August the National Directorate of Sexual and Reproductive Health reported that authorities in Salta Province were unable to meet demand for health-care services, noting that 25 percent of the calls they received from Salta on their national hotline represented women and girls who were unable to access abortions in due time and form. In addition, social and cultural barriers adversely affected access. There were reports that provincial health-care providers and facilities, especially in remote and conservative regions, intentionally delayed and obstructed access to abortion. In December 2020 congress legalized abortion up to the 14th week of gestation. After this period the law permits medical professionals to perform abortions only in the case of rape or danger to the life of the mother.

Discrimination: The constitution provides the same legal status and rights for women and men and prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender. The government generally enforced the law, although discrimination remained a persistent and pervasive problem in society.

The Supreme Court’s Office of Women trained judges, secretaries, and clerks to handle court cases related to gender problems and to provide equal access for women to positions in the court system. The office also trained judges, prosecutors, judicial staff, and law enforcement agents to increase awareness of gender-related crimes and develop techniques to address gender-related cases and victims.

Women are not able to work in all the same industries as men; there are restrictions on their employment in the mining, manufacturing, and transportation sectors. There are also restrictions on women working in jobs deemed hazardous or arduous.

The law prohibits any type of discrimination based on race, social conditions, gender, religion, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity group and subscribes to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Groups representing indigenous and afrodescendant peoples reported that their communities received discriminatory treatment from police and security forces. A 2019 report by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent noted that “the experiences of people of African descent with law enforcement indicate the prevalence of structural discrimination. As reported by civil society, racial profiling of Afro-Argentines, persons of African descent, and Africans was prevalent among law enforcement agents.”

The government undertook actions to raise the profile of citizens of African descent and to address concerns. On June 24, it inaugurated the Federal Advisory Council of the Afro-Argentine Community. On November 1, the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism (INADI) convened a national meeting of Afro-Argentine community organizations.

Through INADI the government enforces the law by processing public complaints, formally denouncing violations in court, and creating public programs to address discrimination. Domestic NGOs generally agreed that INADI was ineffective in providing meaningful solutions to their concerns.

The constitution recognizes the ethnic and cultural identities of indigenous peoples and states that congress shall protect their right to bilingual education, recognize their communities and the communal ownership of their ancestral lands, and allow for their participation in the management of their natural resources.

A 2020 study conducted by researchers from eight universities examined the situation of 27 indigenous groups and found that indigenous persons were more likely to be employed informally than the general public (70 percent, compared with 44 percent). The study noted that indigenous persons in rural areas often could not access social service programs and that their communities lacked basic infrastructure, including clean water.

The lack of trained teachers hampered government efforts to offer bilingual education opportunities to indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples were not fully consulted in the management of their lands or natural resources, particularly lithium, in part because responsibility for implementing the law is delegated to the 23 provinces, the constitutions of only 11 of which recognize indigenous rights.

In August members of several Mapuche communities protested contamination and fracking in the Vaca Muerta region of Neuquen Province, demonstrating in front of the regional offices of the state oil company and blocking roads that provided access to key oil-producing zones. Protesters noted their communities lacked access to clean water while the oil companies used large quantities in their fracking operations.

Projects carried out by the agricultural and extractive industries displaced individuals, limited their access to traditional means of livelihood, reduced the area of lands on which they depended, and caused pollution that in some cases endangered the health and welfare of indigenous communities. Conflict occurred when authorities evicted indigenous peoples from ancestral lands then in private ownership.

Birth Registration: The government provides universal birth registration, and citizenship is derived both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Parents have 40 days to register births, and the state has an additional 20 days to do so. The Ministry of Interior and Transportation may issue birth certificates to children younger than age 12 whose births were not previously registered.

Child Abuse: By law sexual abuse of a child is a punishable offense, with sentences of up to 20 years in prison. Physical harm to a child is punishable with up to 15 years in prison. Child abuse was common; the Supreme Court’s Office of Domestic Violence reported that approximately 30 percent of the complaints it received between January and March involved children. The government maintained a 24-hour hotline staffed by professional child psychologists for free consultations and advice.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Children older than age 16 are legally allowed to marry if they have parental permission. Children younger than 16 are required to obtain judicial authorization in addition to parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and the sale, offering, or procuring of children for prostitution. Authorities generally enforced the law; however, sexual exploitation of children, including in prostitution, was a problem. The minimum age of consensual sex is 13, but there are heightened protections for children ages 13 to 16. A statutory rape law provides for penalties ranging from six months to 20 years in prison, depending on the age of the victim and other factors.

In May, after numerous delays since June 2020, a trial began for two nuns and seven former employees of a group of schools for hearing-impaired children, the Antonio Provolo Institutes. A reported 67 students claimed abuses between 1983 and 2002. As of November, the trial continued.

The law prohibits the production and distribution of child pornography, with penalties ranging from six months to four years in prison. Possession of child pornography is a criminal offense.

Prosecutors from the nationwide Point of Contact Network against Child Pornography on the Internet pursued cases of internet child pornography. The city of Buenos Aires Public Ministry’s Judicial Investigative Bureau served as the primary point of contact for receiving and distributing child pornography leads from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to prosecutors and police forces across the country.

In June authorities conducted a series of 71 raids nationwide, arresting 31 individuals for suspected involvement in the distribution of child pornography. The raids formed part of a multinational effort and coincided with arrests in Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States.

In August federal police with investigative support arrested a man in Junin, Buenos Aires Province, for distributing child pornography.

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

Estimates of the size of the Jewish community varied, but the most recent data available, published by the Berman Jewish Databank, estimated the population at 180,000 in 2019. Sporadic acts of anti-Semitic discrimination and vandalism continued. The Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA) recorded 507 complaints of anti-Semitism in 2020, compared with 918 in 2019, a 45 percent decrease. DAIA attributed the drop, especially in acts of physical violence, to COVID-19 lockdowns and the reduced frequency of encounters between Jewish persons and individuals holding anti-Semitic sentiments. The most commonly reported anti-Semitic incidents were slurs posted on various websites, often in relation to news articles. Other incidents included graffiti and verbal slurs.

In June the Israeli ambassador remarked during a panel at the College of Law at La Plata that Argentina was not fulfilling its trade obligations by restricting shipments of meat to Israel. In response, owner of a chain of butcher shops and former politician Alberto Samid tweeted that “the best that could happen is that the Jews no longer buy meat from us… the world does not want to sell them anything. They are a disaster as clients.”

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

The constitution and laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced the law, but there were scattered reports of discrimination. Various government agencies offered a variety of services and programs to individuals with disabilities, including community-based rehabilitation programs, sports and recreation facilities, braille translation services, legal services, and a variety of pensions and subsidies. The law also mandates access to buildings by persons with disabilities. The city continued to install new elevators and escalators and to repair existing ones.

While the federal government has protective laws, many provinces had not adopted such laws and had no mechanisms to ensure enforcement. An employment quota law reserves 4 percent of federal government jobs for persons with disabilities.

In August President Fernandez and the National Disability Agency launched the ACCESS Plan to construct more accessible cities and ensure that persons with disabilities could access government services. The initiative also aims to restore government payments for persons with disabilities who were deemed ineligible in prior years, and to expand the eligibility criteria. Under these new criteria, 110,000 newly identified persons with disabilities would qualify for government assistance, according to administration estimates.

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

The National Observatory of Hate Crimes registered 69 official complaints of hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals and six killings in the first half of 2020. The numbers were comparable with the same period in 2019.

National antidiscrimination laws do not specifically include the terms “sexual orientation or gender identity” as protected grounds, only “sex.” There was no reported official discrimination, however, based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or access to education. There were some cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in access to health care. Officials from the Ministry of Women, as well as media and NGOs, reported cases of discrimination, violence, and police brutality toward LGBTQI+ individuals, especially transgender persons.

In September 2020 President Fernandez decreed that at least 1 percent of the positions in public administration must be held by transvestites, transsexuals, and transgender persons. The Senate implemented a similar decree to regulate its own hiring practices.

In June the Senate passed a law providing access to formal employment for transvestites as well as transgender and transexual individuals. The law provides the same legal protections and privileges for transgender persons in the workplace as for cisgender persons, such as paid vacation and retirement provisions.

On July 21, the government formally recognized nonbinary identities through a presidential decree. The decree allows individuals to list an “X” for gender on national identity documents.

Costa Rica

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and it provides penalties from 10 to 18 years in prison for rape. The judicial branch generally enforced the law effectively.

The law prohibits domestic violence and provides measures for the protection of domestic violence victims. Criminal penalties range from 10 to 100 days in prison for aggravated threats and up to 35 years in prison for aggravated homicide, including sentences of 20 to 35 years for persons who kill their partners. The government enforced the laws effectively.

Violence against women remained a serious problem, and as of May the government reported that 29 women had been killed, including four killed by a partner or spouse. On May 14, the president signed a reform to the Law on Criminalization of Violence Against Women to expand the protections available to victims of violence, including to those who are in informal relationships, engaged to be married, divorced, and separated. On August 23, the president signed a reform to the law, which includes the concept of femicide in other contexts.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security generally enforced this prohibition. The government enforced the law effectively. The law imposes penalties ranging from a letter of reprimand to dismissal, with more serious incidents subject to criminal prosecution.

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

According to human rights experts, problems related to access of reproductive health services remained for lesbian and bisexual, indigenous, and Afrodescendent women, and women with disabilities.

There were some barriers to access contraception. The COVID-19 pandemic especially affected vulnerable population’s access to sexual and reproductive health. A study by the UN Population Fund reported the country may have regressed by as much as five years with respect to access to short-term contraception caused by the lack of access to health services, either due to pandemic-related isolation measures, caregiving tasks that fall mainly on women (which increased during the pandemic), or lack of information. On May 5, health authorities announced that the public health system included emergency contraception as a service, according to a guideline published on April 16; previously, emergency contraception was provided only to victims of rape.

Some social barriers adversely affected access to skilled health care providers during pregnancy and childbirth. Women in rural areas and indigenous women did not always have access to health care during childbirth due to geographic isolation. Some women had difficulty accessing prenatal care. Government regulations state that all pregnant women, including undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, have access to health services. In practice, however, refugees and asylum seekers reported that access to health services and reproductive health management services was difficult. Refugee and migrant advocates stated that this population only qualified for public health services if they were minors, visibly pregnant, or facing a life-threatening emergency, but some individuals reported being denied services even in emergency situations.

The government provided some access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. The government does not allow abortion for survivors of rape or sexual violence. Human rights experts identified problems such as revictimization and access to antiretroviral therapy.

On October 11, the National Institute for Women and the UN Population Fund presented a guide made for the indigenous territories of Talamanca to raise awareness regarding the importance of preventing pregnancies in girls and adolescents. During the year the birth rates of girls and adolescents within the Talamanca region surpassed the national average by 17 per 1,000.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men; however, the law restricts women’s ability to work the same hours as men or in sectors deemed dangerous. The law prohibits discrimination against women and obligates the government to promote political, economic, social, and cultural equality. The law requires that women and men receive equal pay for equal work. The government enforced the laws effectively, although an official study reported a pay gap of 13 percent for highly skilled jobs, which remained largely male dominated.

The constitution establishes that the country is a multiethnic and multicultural nation. The government enforced the law effectively. On August 10, the president signed a law establishing affirmative hiring policies for persons of African descent.

Land ownership continued to be a problem in most indigenous territories. The law protects reserve land as the collective, nontransferable property in 24 indigenous territories; however, 38 percent of that land was in nonindigenous hands.

On March 22, the president participated in a meeting with indigenous leaders to find ways to streamline processes in favor of a plan for the recovery of indigenous territories, designed to comply with the 1977 indigenous law obligating the return of land to indigenous communities. The government put embargoes on properties owned by nonindigenous individuals located in indigenous territories. A few embargoed properties were in the southern region that in the past suffered violent incidents, including the killing of two activists over land ownership.

On August 25, Judge Jean Carlos Cespedes Mora issued an eviction order against a community of indigenous women in the Cabecar territory of China Kicha, in favor of the nonindigenous individual Danilo Badilla Roman. Indigenous leaders and activists denounced this ruling, stating that the registry of state information showed the land had the official annotation of “property located in indigenous territory” and that according to the indigenous law, nonindigenous persons “may not rent, lease, buy or in any other way acquire lands or farms included within these reserves,” and “any transfer or negotiation of lands or improvements of these in indigenous reserves, between indigenous and nonindigenous, is absolutely null.” Badilla’s property deeds were granted in 2019, long after the 1977 indigenous law was passed.

Indigenous women faced social and political obstacles to participate in local governance and to hold leadership positions in social organizations. The board of directors of the National Indigenous Commission comprised seven members, but only one of them was female.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained from birth within the country’s territory or can be derived if either parent is Costa Rican. Birth registration was not always automatic, and migrant children were especially at risk of statelessness since they did not have access to legal documents to establish their identity if their parents did not seek birth registration for them.

Child Abuse: The autonomous National Institute for Children (PANI) reported violence against children and adolescents continued to be a concern, but there was no marked increase in the number of cases of child violence or abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 18. The law establishes penalties for sex with minors and prohibits child marriage. The crime carries a penalty of up to three years in prison for an adult having sex with a person younger than age 15, or younger than 18 if the age difference is more than five years.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides sentences of up to 16 years in prison for violations. The law provides for sentences of two to 10 years in prison for statutory rape and three to eight years in prison for child pornography. The law establishes a statute of limitations of 25 years for sexual crimes against minors. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 years. The country was a destination for child sex tourism.

Institutionalized Children: The Ombudsman’s Office issued a series of recommendations to PANI, which included a recommendation to design shelters for children according to international standards. These recommendations were a result of the Ombudsman Office’s 2020 plan to conduct random inspections as a follow-up measure to reduce overcrowding in PANI shelters. The judicial investigation continued in the 2020 case of allegations of abuse of children in a PANI-operated shelter. PANI representatives reported they took immediate actions to guarantee the protection of the nine victims and opened a disciplinary procedure against the workers while the judicial investigation progressed.

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

The Jewish Zionist Center estimated there were between 3,000 and 3,500 Jewish persons in the country. There were isolated reports of anti-Semitic comments on social media.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The law establishes that persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law also establishes a right to employment for persons with disabilities and sets a hiring quota of 5 percent of vacant positions in the public sector. On May 28, the president signed two executive orders that seek to assure employment for persons with disabilities by facilitating enforcement of a quota for positions in the public sector and by promoting employment in the private sector. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

Although the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, the government did not enforce this provision, and many buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The Ombudsman’s Office reported that the poor condition of ramps, lack of priority seating, and the height of steps continued to be reasons for complaints. The report also noted that government officials did not sanction transportation providers for these violations. The government policy on education and the national plan for higher education aimed to increase educational opportunities for students with disabilities. According to an August complaint by a student with disabilities, the University of Costa Rica was not accessible to students with disabilities. The student’s complaint noted that he was not able to enroll in a required course for two years because the university would not provide an interpreter. The Ombudsman’s Office investigated the complaint and recommended a change to the method of requesting interpreters for deaf students at the university.

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on HIV/AIDS in health care, housing, employment, and education, some discrimination was reported.

Labor discrimination towards HIV patients continued; some persons reported losing their jobs due to discrimination, their deteriorating health, or both, although the problem was not widespread. The government took no concrete steps to combat discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status despite having adopted a national strategic plan on HIV and AIDS (2016-21).

On February 10, the Ombudsman’s Office cut funding to an HIV containment project. In reaction to this announcement, 20 civil society organizations and an estimated 40 persons protested outside of the Ombudsman’s Office to demonstrate support for the HIV project.

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

No law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. Discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by a series of executive orders and workplace policies but not by national laws.

There were cases of discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation, ranging from employment, police abuse, and access to education and health-care services. LGBTQI+ individuals experienced discrimination within their own families due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.

Greece

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction of rape, including spousal rape, and attempted rape is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment, and up to life imprisonment in cases of gang rape, multiple rapes by the same perpetrator, or if the rape results in death. Charges may be pressed without the need of a survivor complaint. If the survivor does not wish to seek prosecution, the prosecutor may decide to drop charges. The law applies equally to all survivors, regardless of gender.

Penalties for domestic violence range from one to three years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violence. The court may impose longer prison sentences for crimes against pregnant or minor survivors. Authorities generally enforced the law effectively when the crimes were reported; however, some NGOs stated law enforcement authorities did not respond appropriately to survivors reporting domestic violence. As of December 15, police recorded 17 homicides of women by existing or former husbands or male partners. In one case a neighbor claimed to have called police to report violence 19 days before the fatal incident, but police who came to the scene left immediately without intervening.

On January 14, Olympic sailing medalist Sofia Bekatorou revealed that an official in the National Sailing Federation sexually abused her more than 20 years previously, marking the first time a prominent woman made a public revelation and sparking the country’s version of the global “Me Too” movement. Government officials expressed solidarity with Bekatorou, and prominent newspapers and broadcasters reported on the topic, which generally had been taboo in mainstream media. The Supreme Court encouraged prosecutors to prioritize responding to such claims and the government launched the metoogreece.gr website that urged survivors of gender-based violence to follow Bekatorou’s example. In response, other women, primarily from the sports, entertainment, and business arenas, shared similar experiences. Prosecutors launched investigations against alleged perpetrators, some of whom were well-known actors and directors.

Sexual Harassment: Penalties for conviction of sexual harassment are up to three years’ imprisonment and may include longer terms for perpetrators who used positions of authority or the survivor’s need for employment. In November 2020 the NGO ActionAid reported that 85 percent of women were subjected to sexual harassment. The research was based on a sample of 1,001 women from across the country and an additional 376 women working in tourism and catering. Based on the same research, only 6 percent officially denounced the incidents.

During the year parliament passed several laws that addressed sexual harassment. On June 19, parliament adopted into law the International Labor Organization Convention on Violence and Harassment. The law includes provisions that require employers to investigate and report cases of workplace harassment.

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

Some pregnant women and mothers with newborns, particularly those residing in the five reception and identification centers for asylum seekers in the Aegean islands during the COVID-19 pandemic, faced obstacles in accessing proper health care and hygiene products.

There were no legal, social, and cultural barriers to access to contraceptives. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The government effectively enforced the laws promoting gender equality, although discrimination occurred, especially in the private sector. With the notarized consent of concerned parties, Muslim minority persons in Thrace may request the use of sharia for family and inheritance matters.

While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination against members of minority groups, Roma and members of other minority groups faced discrimination. There were government programs to mitigate poverty, unemployment, and societal, racial, or ethnic biases, but these programs often lacked consistency and effectiveness.

According to the NGO Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN), the pandemic contributed to a public perception of migrants and refugees as a threat to public health. In 2020 the RVRN reported 74 attacks against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers on grounds of ethnic origin, religion, or skin color. Authorities reported 222 incidents motivated by hatred on various grounds, of which 166 were linked to nationality, ethnicity, race, and skin color; eight incidents specifically targeted Romani persons.

Local media and NGOs continued to report attacks, both verbal and physical, on migrants and individuals perceived as foreigners. For example, on August 11, seven Greek nationals reportedly used knives and crowbars to beat, rob, and shoot 15 Pakistanis in their homes in the Crete village of Agios Georgios. Five of the survivors were seriously injured. Police arrested the alleged attackers, who were charged with robbery, causing bodily harm, damaging property, and violating the law on the use of weapons. The Pakistanis received official protection as victims of racist violence. The mayor of Agios Georgios denounced the incident, noting that it caused sorrow and horror in the area. The alleged attackers were in pretrial detention at year’s end.

On June 30, the Supreme Court affirmed previous rulings that denied the registration of the Thrace-based “Turkish Union of Xanthi,” on “natural security and public order grounds.” Government officials and courts also routinely deny requests by Slavic groups to use the term Macedonian, claiming the term creates confusion because more than two million ethnically (and linguistically) Greek citizens also identify as from the region of Macedonia.

Roma continued to face widespread governmental and societal discrimination, social exclusion, and harassment, including ethnic profiling by police, alleged abuse while in police custody, discrimination in employment, limited access to education, and segregated schooling.

On October 25, police shot and killed a 20-year-old Romani man, following a car chase in Perama, in western Athens. In addition a 15-year-old Roma was injured. Seven police officers were arrested in connection with the death. Initial findings showed that police knew the perpetrators were Roma. Human rights activists criticized the officers for abusing their authority and using disproportionate measures. The incident prompted the government to announce a series of new policing measures, including the introduction of body-mounted cameras, protocols for police emergency response, a 10-month training program for frontline officers, the digitization of the Police Operations Center, and the addition of 20 dispatchers to coordinate active incidents (see section 1.c., Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment).

The 2020 ombudsman report stated noninclusion of the Roma into municipal registries persisted and that there were reports of municipal authorities refusing to issue certificates attesting that the municipal taxes had been paid that Roma required to purchase property. There were reports of authorities sometimes denying registration as citizens to Roma born in the country to unregistered parents. The ombudsman stated Roma often lacked documentation necessary to meet eligibility requirements.

On April 22, the government issued a ministerial decree that opposition MPs criticized for setting income, Greek language proficiency, knowledge of Greek history and culture, and length of residency requirements to obtain naturalized citizenship that were too stringent.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents at birth; a single parent may confer citizenship on a child. Parents are obliged to register their children within 10 days of birth. The law allows delayed birth registration but imposes a fine in such cases. In February 2020 the government passed legislation allowing the birth registration process to be completed electronically to increase transparency and facilitate the cross-checking of documents and data.

Education: Education was free, compulsory, and universal through the secondary level; however, children of asylum seekers, residing mostly in RICs, generally had no access to formal education and only partial access to informal education programs. Local officials often excluded Romani pupils from schools or sent them to Roma-only segregated schools. Some members of the Muslim minority in Thrace complained the quality of minority school education was inferior, including the absence of bilingual (Greek-Turkish) middle and high schools.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits corporal punishment and child abuse, but government enforcement was generally ineffective, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Violence against children, particularly migrant, refugee, homeless, and Romani children, remained a problem. From January to June, the NGO Smile of the Child reported an 82 percent increase in the number of calls regarding abused children in need of psychological support.

The government provided treatment, prevention programs, and foster care or accommodation in shelters for abused and neglected children. Government-run institutions were understaffed, and NGOs reported insufficient space to cover all needs.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, although a court may authorize minors who are 16 and 17 to marry. While official statistics were unavailable, NGOs reported illegal child marriage was common in Romani communities, with Romani girls often marrying between the ages of 15 and 17, or even younger, and male Roma often marrying between the ages of 15 and 20.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The legal age of consent is 15. The law criminalizes sex with children younger than 15. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, offering, or procuring of children for commercial sexual exploitation and practices related to child pornography. Authorities generally enforced the law. On February 9, authorities reported receiving 300 cases of child pornography and sexual abuse of children in 2020. There were media reports of child pornography-related arrests and sexual abuse of minors by close relatives.

Displaced Children: According to National Center statistics, as of December 31, 2,225 refugee and migrant unaccompanied and separated children resided in the country. Local NGOs reported cases of minors living in unsafe accommodations who were not properly registered, lacked legal guardians, and were vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation. The government continued efforts to reduce their number, including by relocating them to other EU member states. In April the NGO METAdrasi opened the country’s first homeless shelter for minors. During the year police ended the practice of holding minors in detention centers. There were reports of the sexual abuse of minors in migrant shelters.

Institutionalized Children: Media reported that on December 23, Deputy Labor Minister Domna Michailidou announced an investigation into a complaint of sexual abuse involving five boys ages seven to 11 in an Athens orphanage. Female workers at the orphanage allegedly forced children to engage in sexual acts that they filmed. Michailidou stated authorities had removed the children from the facility, suspended government funding to the orphanage, and referred the matter for possible prosecution. The deputy minister added that the orphanage’s management board had failed to act on a complaint of abuse it received three months earlier.

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 Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Local Jewish leaders estimated the Jewish population in the country consisted of approximately 5,000 individuals. Anti-Semitic rhetoric remained a problem, particularly in the extremist press, social networking sites, and certain blogs. There were at least three incidents of graffiti and vandalism.

KIS continued to express concern regarding political cartoons and images using Jewish sacred symbols and making Holocaust comparisons. On January 18, KIS issued a statement protesting a sketch of the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in a political cartoon used regarding opposition to a university education bill referring to it as “a hideous and vulgar instrumentalization of the Holocaust for political purposes.” On March 9, KIS issued a statement denouncing columnist Elena Akrita for comparing life in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp to life in contemporary Greece because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. KIS stated that Greek Jews “will never stop denouncing any attempt to denigrate and instrumentalize the Holocaust, which leads to the oblivion and distortion of history.”

Reports of anti-Semitic incidents of vandalism included damage to a mural honoring Holocaust victims at the Thessaloniki New Train Station and desecration of graves in the Ioannina Jewish cemetery in Epirus.

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

Persons with disabilities were unable to access education, health services, public buildings, or transportation on an equal basis with others, despite a law that prohibits discrimination. Government information and communication is not always provided in accessible formats. The government did not enforce nondiscrimination provisions effectively or with consistency, according to NGOs and organizations for disability rights.

Most children with disabilities had the choice to attend either mainstream or specialized schools for specific disabilities through secondary education, including schools for the deaf.

Persons with disabilities continued to have poor access to public buildings, transportation, and public areas, although such access is required by law. Access to buildings, ramps for sidewalks, and accessible public transportation vehicles were among the most serious deficiencies. Ramps were often too steep or uneven, and ramps on public transportation were often out of order.

While the law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment of individuals with HIV, societal discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS remained a concern. Persons with HIV or AIDS were exempt on medical grounds from serving in the armed forces. A presidential decree authorizes the dismissal of professional military staff members if a member diagnosed with AIDS does not respond to treatment, but there were no reports of dismissals under this provision.

On May 13, main opposition party MPs criticized a decision by the National Organization for Public Health to allow the transfer to an unrelated management post of the only gynecologist-obstetrician working in a public hospital with expertise in the treatment of HIV-positive pregnant women. The 35 MPs argued that the transfer in effect eliminated the only available unit throughout the country dedicated to births of healthy infants from HIV positive mothers.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons in housing, employment, and government services such as education and health care. The government enforced antidiscrimination laws, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, as aggravating circumstances in hate crimes. Offices combatting race crimes and hate crimes include in their mandates prosecuting crimes targeting LGBTQI+ individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Societal discrimination and harassment against LGBTQI+ individuals, including LGBTQI+ refugees and migrants, remained a concern. Some violent incidents targeting LGBTQI+ individuals were reported. LGBTQI+ community members reported they continued facing hardships and domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown because they were forced to spend long periods at home with families who were not always accepting of their gender identity.

In 2020 the RVRN recorded 14 attacks based on sexual orientation, 12 based on gender identity, and four on mixed grounds. The attacks because of sexual orientation included verbal and physical assaults. In three cases the survivors were minors. Two of the survivors were targeted for a second time. The gender identity attacks included verbal insults or threats and harassment, and at times violence. The RVRN stated the incidents were unprovoked and based solely on the external appearance and features of the survivors. The RVRN also underscored the increasing number of cyberbullying attacks against LGBTQI+ students because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift from in-person to virtual classes. According to information communicated to the RVRN, police recorded 24 incidents in 2020 related to sexual orientation and eight to gender identity.

On June 27, media in Thessaloniki reported that a refugee member of the local LGBTQI+ community, received hospital treatment after a group of approximately 10 individuals physically attacked him and his friends inside a university campus. The perpetrators made homophobic and racist comments and hit them with bottles, punches, and kicks.

Members of the LGBTQI+ community continued to advocate for the right to adopt children by same-sex couples and the legal recognition of children born and raised in same-sex families. On June 28, the NGO Transgender Support Association (SYD) hailed the government’s decision to include transgender individuals as vulnerable and eligible for state budget employment subsidies. On March 16, SYD issued a statement criticizing police and the national defense general staff for barring transgender individuals from joining police academies and the armed forces. Unmarried transgender individuals older than 15 may update documents to reflect their gender identity without undergoing sex reassignment surgery. A judge must validate the change based on the individual’s external appearance. According to SYD, the hearing process does not always have the necessary privacy and dignity for the applicant.

Guatemala

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and sets penalties between five and 50 years in prison. Police had minimal training or capacity to investigate sexual crimes or assist survivors of such crimes, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape and other sexual offenses remained serious problems.

The government took steps to combat femicide and violence against women. The judiciary continued to operate a 24-hour court in Guatemala City to offer services related to violence directed toward women, including sexual assault, exploitation, and trafficking of women and children. The judiciary also operated specialized courts for violence against women throughout the country, but not in every department. The Public Ministry maintained a 24-hour victim service center to provide medical, psychosocial, and legal support to victims, including restraining orders for their immediate protection. The ministry also maintained a national alert system for finding disappeared women. Sexual violence remained widespread despite these advances. The ministry reported that 6,307 women were victims of rape from January to August, compared with 3,684 women in all of 2020.

The law establishes penalties for femicide of 25 to 50 years in prison without the possibility of reducing the sentence; however, femicide remained a significant problem. The NGO Mutual Support Group reported that from January to August, 395 women were killed, compared with 302 in the same period in 2020. According to judicial system data, no one was convicted of femicide as of November, compared with 34 in the same period in 2020. Mutual Support Group pointed to the lack of convictions as partly due to a judicial backlog stemming from COVID-19 closures in 2020 and partly to the judicial branch’s lack of attention to these crimes.

Violence against women, including sexual and domestic violence, remained widespread and serious. The law establishes penalties of five to eight years in prison for physical, economic, and psychological violence committed against women due to their gender. The Public Ministry estimated that reports of domestic violence decreased by more than 75 percent compared with the previous year, noting 410 cases of “intrafamily violence” in the first six months, perhaps due to fewer stay-at-home orders issued compared with 2020. The Public Ministry recorded 44,229 instances of violence against women from January to August, compared with 39,399 in the same period of 2020. The ministry noted that the judicial system convicted 1,118 perpetrators of violence against women from January to August, compared with 424 in the same period of 2020.

The case against Francisco Cuxum Alvarado and seven codefendants remained in the evidence-gathering phase. In January 2020 PNC officers arrested Cuxum Alvarado immediately after his deportation from the United States. The Public Ministry indicted him on charges of crimes against humanity and aggravated sexual assault against 36 Maya Achi women in Rabinal between 1981 and 1985. The Public Ministry indicted seven other defendants, former members of the civil defense patrols, on the same charges in 2018.

Sexual Harassment: Although several laws refer to sexual harassment, no single law, including laws against sexual violence, addresses it directly. Human rights organizations reported sexual harassment was widespread.

Women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQI+ community with disabilities remained at greater risk of being victims of continued sexual violence. Most persons with disabilities, especially women, did not report situations of violence and abuse because the reporting processes are complex and discriminate against them, among other reasons.

Reproductive Rights: Forced sterilization was purportedly common in persons with disabilities but reporting on these abuses was rare. There were no official reports during the year of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Cultural, geographic, and linguistic barriers hampered access to reproductive health care including contraceptives, particularly for indigenous women in rural areas, where contraceptives were also least likely to be available locally. The prevalence of modern contraceptive use remained low among indigenous women compared with all other women, and a lack of culturally sensitive reproductive and maternal health-care service providers deterred some indigenous women from accessing reproductive health care services.

In July the government approved the Policy for the Protection of Life and the Institutionality of the Family, an executive policy that sets forth policy principles, including a definition of family as a nuclear family with one male and one female parent, and a definition of life as starting at conception.

The government provided survivors of sexual violence who sought medical attention some services through the Model for Integrated Attention for Women Victims of Violence (MAINA) and the Model of Integrated Attention for Children and Adolescents (MAIMI) systems, administered by the Ministry of Public Health. The MAINA and MAIMI models provided victims with access to emergency contraceptives and antiviral medicines to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape in addition to some justice services. Some hospitals classified sexual assault as a medical emergency; however, many survivors did not seek medical care due to cultural and geographic barriers. Authorities within the justice system commented that on occasion some hospital clinics did not have the required pills in stock to protect rape victims against sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.

According to a report by the Ministry of Health published in 2020, the maternal mortality rate among indigenous communities was 156 per 100,000 live births, compared with the national average of 108 per 100,000 live births.

One-half of all the maternal deaths occurred in four departments in the northwest of the country (Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Quiche, and Alta Verapaz), most of them in rural and dispersed areas with high rates of malnutrition, poverty, and concentrated populations of indigenous persons.

Most maternal deaths were due to preventable causes – hemorrhages (47 percent), hypertension (23 percent), infections (14 percent), and unsafe abortion (8 percent). Factors such as the lack of medical services available in indigenous languages and lack of providers and equipment in remote areas also played a role in these deaths. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, prenatal care decreased by 16 percent.

The NGO The Reproductive and Sexual Health Observatory reported that from January to October, there were 60,464 births to mothers who were adolescents: 58,820 births to mothers between ages 15 and 19 and 1,644 to mothers between ages 10 and 14.

Access to menstrual products and the lack of separate boys’ and girls’ bathrooms in some rural schools continued to negatively affect adolescent girls’ access to education in rural areas of the country.

Discrimination: Although the constitution establishes the principle of gender equality, stating that all individuals are equal and have the same rights and that men and women enjoy the same opportunities and responsibilities, women, and particularly indigenous women, faced discrimination and were less likely to hold management positions. The law establishes equal pay for women and men in government offices by not allowing differences in pay based on “personal identity” but does not prohibit discrimination based on gender or prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace in the private sector. There are laws that restrict women from working in certain sectors, including in jobs deemed morally inappropriate. The law does not prohibit discrimination in access to credit based on gender.

The law provides for equality between men and women in divorce to both provide for care of the children and responsibility to provide financial and housing assistance to the children’s caretakers, who are often the women, both during and after the divorce. The PDH reported that divorce proceedings had improved in the last 20 years with regards to fairness between men and women. Observers, however, reported that men availed themselves of procedural delays involved with complications for women who must register children from previous relationships, thereby creating obstacles to child support for women in those cases.

There are no laws, policies, or state programs that specifically contribute to the reduction of racism, according to international human rights organizations. The constitution provides for protections against discrimination, and the law provides for a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 3,000 quetzals ($388) for acts of discrimination. Other legal and material efforts to combat discrimination include litigation instructions for discrimination crimes by the Public Ministry.

The government generally did not effectively enforce laws against discrimination. Of the 12 agreements that make up the Peace Accords signed in 1996, the two in which the government had made the least progress in implementing were those specifically dealing with matters related to indigenous persons: the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Agreement on Socioeconomic Aspects and Agrarian Issues.

According to the OHCHR, there was a significant increase in attacks and incidents of defamation and intimidation against indigenous defenders of indigenous land, territory rights, and natural resources.

Indigenous spiritual leaders, such as Mayan spiritual guide Jesus Choc Yat in Quiche, were attacked or killed.

The executive branch lacked a coordinated approach to address poverty and unemployment concentrated mainly in indigenous and Afrodescendant communities, although there were some government programs directed at the needs of these populations. In January the Cabinet for Social Development officially introduced an executive policy to support the integration of midwives into the health-care system. The policy promotes the inclusion of midwives in health-care institutions, which international human rights organizations noted should help fight discrimination against indigenous persons’ cultural practices.

The government’s National Institute of Statistics estimated indigenous persons from 24 ethnic groups made up 44 percent of the population. The law provides for equal rights for indigenous persons and obliges the government to recognize, respect, and promote the lifestyles, customs, traditions, social organizations, and manner of dress of indigenous persons. The government does not, however, recognize particular indigenous groups as having a special legal status provided by national law. The government is party to the International Labor Organization convention 169 (ILO 169) on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, which stipulates that the government must consult with indigenous groups prior to implementing large infrastructure projects in indigenous territories. Observers indicated the government did not always consult with all affected parties and indigenous leaders, and activists regularly reported being harassed and threatened for their work. On January 16, an unnamed assailant shot Xinka leader and activist Julio David Gonzalez Arango at his home. Gonzalez Arango, a public leader for the Xinka people in the case of the Pan American Silver Escobal mine, later recovered.

Indigenous lands were not effectively demarcated, making the legal recognition of titles to the land problematic. Indigenous representatives claimed actors in several regional development projects failed to consult meaningfully with local communities. In some cases indigenous communities were not able to participate in decisions affecting the exploitation of resources in their communities, including energy, minerals, timber, rivers, or other natural resources. They also lacked effective mechanisms for dialogue with the state to resolve conflicts.

The Russian conglomerate Solway, which bought the Fenix nickel mine in Izabal Department in 2014, continued to stand accused of violence against indigenous activists and illegal extraction of undeclared materials. On December 10, the government declared the successful conclusion of the ILO 169 consultations with those indigenous groups they designated as participants in the process. The community’s self-determined governance structure, the Ancestral Council of Q’eqchi Peoples, was excluded from the consultations, and critics claimed that the government purposely neglected to include the group. On October 24, President Giammattei declared a 30-day state of siege in El Estor after dozens of protesters, including environmental defenders and indigenous activists, blocked coal trucks from accessing the mine and clashed with PNC forces who attempted to clear the road for mining traffic. According to local observers present at the scene, a police force outnumbering protesters by a ratio of seven to one broke up the protest and allowed mining traffic to continue along the road.

Between May 21 and November 26, the Ministry of Energy and Mines held four court-ordered ILO-169 preconsultations with Xinka authorities to discuss the Pan American Silver mine (formerly San Rafael) at Escobal. Another three meetings are planned for early 2022 to finish the preconsultation process. In 2018 the Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Energy and Mines to hold ILO Convention 169-compliant consultations with Xinka populations and upheld the suspension of the operating license of the San Rafael Mine until after conclusion of the consultations.

Discrimination against indigenous cultures and customs existed in the health-care system. Civil society organizations of indigenous midwives in rural areas reported that their services were not recognized by government health-care institutions under the Ministry of Public Health such as Centers of Integral Maternal Care. This lack of recognition of indigenous midwives and the vital role they play as authorities, leaders, and family members in rural indigenous communities created a cleavage between the government and indigenous communities.

Indigenous communities were underrepresented in national politics and remained largely outside the political, economic, social, and cultural mainstream. This was mainly due to limited educational opportunities (contrary to law), limited communication regarding their rights, and pervasive discrimination. Government agencies dedicated to supporting indigenous rights lacked political support. These factors contributed to disproportionate poverty and malnutrition among most indigenous populations.

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country or from their parents. UNICEF described low birth registration as a “serious problem,” and UNHCR reported problems in registering births were especially acute in indigenous communities due to inadequate government registration and documentation systems. Lack of registration restricted children’s access to some public services and created conditions that could lead to statelessness.

Education: While primary education is free and compulsory through age 15, access was limited in many rural areas; education through the secondary level is not obligatory. International observers noted boys were prioritized for high school education in rural communities due to the need to travel long distances and girls’ perceived value in the home. UNICEF noted improvements in school feeding programs that increased access to nutrition for underserved communities and celebrated the government’s October reforms to the school nutrition program that increased expenditures on elementary and pre-elementary school feeding programs by 50 percent per student.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious problem. A unit under the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Children and Adolescents handled child abuse cases. The Public Ministry opened an integrated 24-hour care model providing medical, psychosocial, and legal support to children and adolescent victims of violence. The ministry reported 2,250 reports of abuse of minors of all types, approximately 1,700 fewer than in 2020. The ministry reported 48 convictions for child abuse from January through August, compared with 14 during the same period in 2020.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18. The National Registry of Persons reported no attempts to register new underage marriages. Registry officials, however, reported they registered nine underage marriages unreported from previous years, all of which were entered before the 2017 prohibition of underage marriage took effect.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides sentences ranging from 13 to 24 years in prison, depending on the victim’s age, for engaging in sex with a minor. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18.

The law prohibits child pornography and establishes penalties of six to 10 years in prison for producing, promoting, and selling child pornography and two to four years’ imprisonment for possessing it. The Public Ministry and the PNC conducted several raids against alleged online child pornography networks. The Regional Unit against Trafficking in Persons, responsible for eight departments in the Western Highlands and launched in 2018, expanded the government’s investigative capacity against child pornography offenders. The commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child sex tourism, remained a problem, including in privately run orphanages. The COVID-19 pandemic forced most schools to operate virtually. According to SVET this led to more children spending unsupervised time online, which led to increased online exploitation of children. In July the PNC, acting on information from Interpol, rescued eight children from a child pornography trafficking ring in Zacapa.

Displaced Children: Criminals and gangs often recruited street children, many of them victims of domestic abuse, for purposes of theft, extortion, commercial sexual exploitation, transporting contraband, and conducting illegal drug activities.

Institutionalized Children: More than 800 children and adolescents lived in shelters operated by the Secretariat for Social Welfare (SBS).

Overcrowding was common in both private and SBS shelters, and government funding for orphanages remained limited. The SBS reported there were no infrastructure improvements during the year, but that Hogar Esperanza, a state-run shelter, adjusted staffing to maintain specialized personnel. International human rights organizations reported Hogar Esperanza was housing children in spaces that resembled cages and that there was a clear need for reform to care adequately for children with disabilities. Observers also stated private shelters were often better than SBS shelters.

A criminal court set the date for public arguments in the Hogar Seguro fire case for March 2022. Hogar Seguro is a state-run orphanage under the authority of the SBS. Former SBS secretary Carlos Rodas and former deputy secretary for protection and shelter services Anahi Keller remained in pretrial detention with four others on charges of murder, abuse of authority, breach of duty, and abuse against minors following the deaths of 41 girls in the 2017 fire at the Hogar Seguro orphanage.

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

The Jewish population numbered approximately 1,500. Jewish community representatives reported no anti-Semitic incidents as of November.

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

Discrimination against persons with disabilities continued to be a problem, with such persons experiencing discrimination based on the specific disability, gender, age, place of residency, and sexual orientation, among others. These factors combined with lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult for persons with disabilities to exercise their rights.

Persons with disabilities were unable to access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. No law requires such access, nor does the law mandate that persons with disabilities have access to information or communications.

Children with disabilities attended school at all levels at a significantly lower rate than other children; most did not attend school at all.

Persons with disabilities experienced violence, harassment, intimidation, and abuses, including incidents incited, perpetrated, or condoned by government officials such as police, medical professionals, and personal attendants and staff at institutions. Persons with disabilities, especially underrepresented groups, experienced higher levels of violence and abuse, including sexual assault. According to the Public Ministry, from January 2019 to June 7, a total of 826 persons with disabilities were registered as victims in a criminal or civil cases or complaints, of which 729 were aggravated assault cases (88 percent). Of these, 64 percent of victims were women and 36 percent men; 21 percent were minors and 9 percent were older than 60. Of the cases in which women with disabilities were injured, 61 percent involved gender-based violence.

Nongovernmental organizations that advocate for persons with disabilities reported the government violated the right to education for students with disabilities, especially those with intellectual disabilities. Reports indicated the lack of access to resources and technologies, such as internet connectivity and computers, caused the deficiency in virtual education during COVID-19 shutdowns, especially in rural and poor areas. Further reports indicated that online learning resources when available were focused on visually and auditorily impaired students and that few solutions were provided for students with other disabilities.

Observers noted little progress was made in access to voting for persons with disabilities. Mechanisms for persons with intellectual disabilities did not exist. Voting in braille existed, but it did not guarantee secret voting.

The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status. Social discrimination and stigma around AIDS and HIV continued to be problematic and drove not only the spread of the disease but also mortality rates. Some government authorities required citizens to reveal HIV/AIDS test results to receive certain public benefits, and some employers required similar disclosure to be hired.

Discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons with HIV or AIDS was particularly common and affected access to HIV-prevention programs, especially for transgender individuals.

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

Extreme violence against LGBTQI+ persons remained a persistent issue and escalated during the year. According to an annual report from the Lambda Association, there were 17 killings of LGBTQI+ persons from January to July in which the violence could plausibly be linked to the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity. The Lambda Association also reported that most homicides and general crimes of prejudice against LGBTQI+ persons occurred either in the capital, Guatemala City, or in Izabal. In June three of the 17 killed were killed in the span of one week. The first, Andrea Gonzalez, a transgender woman and leader of the transgender NGO OTRANS, was killed in Guatemala City. The second, also a member of OTRANS, Cecy Caricia Ixtapa, was killed in the interior of the country. Government authorities originally reported Ixtapa’s death as caused by complications from cancer, but her family members and members of OTRANS reported she was attacked by two unknown assailants. The third of the June killings was a gay man who was shot and killed in Morales, Izabal.

Openly gay and HIV-positive congressman Aldo Davila reported death threats because of his public denunciations of corrupt officials. The threats often included harassing mentions of his sexual orientation.

According to NGOs that work on gender matters, the government reversed progress in recognition and acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, as evidenced by the minister of education cancelling a public-school module that taught sexual diversity and the increased discrimination against sexual education overall as ordered in the Executive Policy of the Protection of Life and the Family announced by President Giammattei in July.

LGBTQI+ advocates pointed to structural problems that created internal displacement, discrimination, sexual exploitation, and child abuse among members of the community. The largest of these remained government-issued national identification cards that are used to access basic services and education resources but that do not allow transgender persons to receive identification cards with their chosen names or correct gender identification. Without identification that reflected the name and gender under which they lived, transgender persons were denied many government services.

LGBTQI+ groups claimed lesbian, bisexual, and queer women experienced specific forms of discrimination, such as forced marriages and “corrective” rape intended to cause pregnancy, although these incidents were rarely, if ever, reported to authorities.

According to LGBTQI+ activists, gay and transgender individuals often experienced police abuse. LGBTQI+ human rights groups stated, for example, that police regularly engaged in extortion and harassed male and transgender individuals whom they alleged to be sex workers.

Lambda and other LGBTQI+ organizations reported a lack of will on the part of police to investigate fully hate crimes and violence against LGBTQI+ persons. The law does not extend specific antidiscrimination protections to LGBTQI+ individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

There was general societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in access to education, health care, employment, and housing. The government made minimal efforts to address this discrimination.

On several occasions vigilante mobs attacked and killed those suspected of crimes such as rape, kidnapping, theft, or extortion. The NGO Mutual Support Group reported five persons were killed and 62 injured in vigilante groups from January through August. The NGO stated these took place mostly in interior departments of the country with weak law enforcement structures and that the increase of incidents resulted from the lack of stay-at-home orders, compared with the previous year.

On June 24, the three defendants accused of the murder of Domingo Choc were found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Choc, an indigenous spiritual guide, was tortured and killed in Peten in June 2020. The lawyer for Choc’s family, Juan Castro, publicly maintained that the case had a cultural and religious component, but the judge treated the case as a simple murder. Castro stated that the judge did not consider as an aggravating circumstance that the murder was motivated by a witchcraft accusation against Choc, when in fact he was a Mayan scholar and researcher of ancient medicinal plants. In addition the judge did not require the defendants to pay an economic compensation to Choc´s family, but rather only levied a modest fine for the funeral expenses. In November Castro challenged the ruling, and the court scheduled the appeal hearing for February 2022.

On January 4, unknown assailants tortured and killed Mayan spiritual guide Jesus Choc Yat in Quiche. As of November the PNC had not made an arrest. Critics denounced the lack of movement on the case as a further demonstration of the continued discrimination and impunity for attacks on Mayan spiritual practices throughout the country, even after the high-profile murder of Domingo Choc and the subsequent trial of his killers.

Nepal

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including marital rape, is illegal, with minimum prison sentences that vary between five and 15 years, depending on the victim’s age. The law also mandates five years’ additional imprisonment in the case of gang rape, rape of pregnant women, or rape of women with disabilities. The law prohibits interference with a victim’s ability to file a complaint, including through coercion, threat, or force, and the law also prohibited mediation as an alternative to legal action, with a punishment of up to three year’s imprisonment and a fine. If the perpetrator of such coercion or threats is someone holding a public position, he or she will be imprisoned for an additional six months. The law imposes a fine for rape, which should be provided to the survivor as compensation. It also mandates recording the testimony of the survivor when the initial charges are filed at the court to prevent the survivor from later refusing to testify due to coercion or social pressure. The country’s definition of rape does not include male survivors. Male survivors may file a complaint under the ‘unnatural’ sexual offense penal code; the highest punishment is up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Police and the courts were responsive in most cases when rape was reported, although stigma and societal pressure make it difficult for rape victims to secure justice. Government and NGO contacts all report increases in the number of rape and attempted rape cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020 Angira Pasi, a 13-year-old Dalit girl, was raped by Birenda Bhar, a 25-year-old non-Dalit man in Rupandehi District, Devdaha Municipality. Villagers, including the ward chair, decided the girl should marry Bhar, because she would otherwise be considered unsuitable for marriage due to the rape. After the marriage, Bhar’s mother refused to let Pasi enter the house and beat her. Bhar took Pasi to a nearby stream and hours later her body was found hanging in a manner that her relatives said would have been impossible for her to carry out herself. Bhar’s family offered 200,000 rupees ($1,680) to keep the incident quiet, and police initially refused to register the case. After the NHRC and national attention focused on the case, police detained Bhar, his mother, and his aunt. In November 2020, the Butwal High Court released Bhar’s mother and aunt on bail. Bhar remains in police custody and the case is pending trial in Rupandehi District Court.

Human rights activists expressed concern that police outside of Kathmandu frequently refused to register cases of gender-based violence, including occasionally rape cases. These groups reported that police often preferred to use mediation rather than criminal investigation to resolve conflicts. In October 2019, allegations of rape against Speaker of Federal Parliament Krishna Bahadur Mahara led to his resignation at the request of Prime Minister Oli and the ruling Nepal Communist Party. In February 2020, the Kathmandu District Court acquitted Mahara due to lack of evidence after the victim recanted her story, allegedly due to threats. A doctor also questioned her credibility due to the influence of alcohol and history of taking medication for depression. On July 27, the Patan High Court upheld the Kathmandu District Court’s February 2020 decision.

Domestic violence against women and girls remained a serious problem. NGOs reported that violence against women and girls, including early and forced marriage, was one of the major factors responsible for women’s relatively poor health, livelihood insecurity, and inadequate social mobilization and contributed to intergenerational poverty. The law allows for settling complaints of domestic violence through mediation with an emphasis on reconciliation. Authorities usually pursued prosecution under the act only when mediation failed.

The Nepal Police had women’s cells staffed by female officers in each of the country’s 77 districts to make it easier for women and girls to report crimes to police. According to Women, Children and Senior Citizens Service Directors, all 233 women’s cells across the country located in all 77 districts were in operation. NGOs stated that despite improvements, resources and training to deal with victims of domestic violence and trafficking were insufficient. Although police guidelines call on officers to treat domestic violence as a criminal offense, observers reported this guidance was difficult to implement outside of the women’s cells due to entrenched discriminatory attitudes.

The government maintained service centers in 17 districts, rehabilitation centers in eight districts, and hospital-based one-stop crisis management centers in 17 districts to provide treatment, protection, and psychosocial and legal support for survivors of gender-based violence. Gender experts said the service centers have improved coordination among police, the NHRC, National Women’s Commission, chief district officers, local authorities, community mediation centers, and NGOs working to address violence against women and girls.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The constitution criminalizes violence against women or oppression of women based on religious, social, or cultural traditions and gives victims the right to compensation. The penal code makes the practice of paying dowries illegal and imposes fines, prison sentences of up to three years, or both. The law also criminalizes violence committed against one’s spouse in connection to a dowry, imposing substantial fines, prison sentences of up to five years, or both. Additionally, the law stipulates that any psychological abuse of women, including asking for dowry, humiliation, physical torture, and shunning women for not providing a dowry, is punishable. Nevertheless, according to NGOs, dowries remained common, especially in the Terai region. Government agencies documented incidents of dowry-related violence and forced marriage, recommended interventions, and occasionally rescued victims and offered them rehabilitation services.

Traditional beliefs about witchcraft negatively affected rural women, especially widows, the elderly, persons of low economic status, and members of the Dalit caste, despite a law specifically criminalizing discrimination and violence against those accused of witchcraft. In fiscal year 2020-21, the Nepal Police registered 61 cases of witchcraft accusations and subsequent torture, a 74 percent increase over the prior year.

The law criminalizes acid attacks and imposes strong penalties against perpetrators; it also regulates the sale of acids.

The practice of chhaupadi (expelling women and girls from their homes during menstruation and sometimes following childbirth, including forcing women and girls to reside in livestock sheds) continued to be a serious problem. The law stipulates a punishment of up to three months’ imprisonment, a token fine, or both. Some local officials implemented various efforts to eliminate chhaupadi, including education campaigns and physical destruction of sheds, but stigma and tradition maintained the practice, particularly in rural western districts, where women sometimes died from exposure to the elements. According to news reports, after antichhaupadi campaigns destroyed chhaupadi huts, family members, often mothers in law, still forced women and girls to remain isolated. Some women and girls in rural areas resorted to sleeping in sheds, animal pens, or caves throughout the winter and the monsoon season.

Sexual Harassment: The law allows the top administrative official in a district to impose up to six months imprisonment, a fine, or both, against a perpetrator, once a series of internal workplace processes to address a complaint have been exhausted. According to women’s rights activists, the law provides adequate protective measures and compensation for victims, but the penalties are inadequate, and the law does not cover the informal sector, where sexual harassment is most common.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. who became pregnant outside of marriage, especially while working abroad, faced considerable social stigma. Although illegal, child marriage remained prevalent, especially in rural areas, and many girls faced social pressure to have children before being emotionally ready and before their bodies were able to bear children safely. Contraception was available to both men and women, although cultural norms impeded access for adolescents and single women, and some were denied services by individual health workers.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors. Victims of sexual violence had access to sexual and reproductive health services in government hospitals, including emergency contraception, psychosocial counseling, and there were one-stop crisis management centers in each of the 17 districts. Hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley also provide sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of physical and sexual violence.

According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate in 2017 was 186 deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 236 deaths in 2015. Skilled birth attendants assisted in 77 percent of deliveries according to the NMICS compared with 56 percent in 2014. The NMICS reported 95 percent of women received antenatal care services and 89 percent were attended to at least once by skilled health personnel. According to the 2015 Health Facility Survey, services for the management of sexually transmitted infections were available in 74 percent of facilities countrywide. Normal childbirth delivery services were available in about half of facilities countrywide, but in only 33 percent of facilities in the Terai region in the south of the country.

Discrimination: The law contains discriminatory provisions. For example, the law on property rights favors men in land tenancy and the division of family property. The constitution, however, confers rights for women that had not previously received legal protection, including rights equal to those of their spouses in property and family affairs, and special opportunities in education, health, and social security.

The constitution does not allow women to convey citizenship to their children independent of the citizenship of the child’s father and has no specific provision for naturalization of foreign husbands married to citizen wives.

For women and girls to obtain citizenship by descent for themselves, regulations require a married woman to submit a formal attestation from her husband, father, or husband’s family (if widowed) that she qualifies for citizenship and has his or their permission to receive it. This requirement makes a woman’s right to citizenship contingent on her father’s or husband’s cooperation. In many cases, husbands refused to provide their wives this attestation. Preventing women from obtaining citizenship documentation precludes their access to the courts and thus their ability to make legal claims to land and other property, which permits the husband or male relatives to stake their own claims.

Although the law provides protection, women faced systemic discrimination, including in employment (see section 7.d.) and especially in rural areas. Dalit women in particular faced gender and caste discrimination. The law grants women equal shares of their parents’ inheritance and the right to keep their property after marriage, but many women were not aware of their rights, and others were afraid to challenge existing practice. The law also grants widows complete access to and authority over the estate of their deceased husbands; the government did not take sufficient measures to enforce these provisions.

Caste-based discrimination is illegal, and the government outlawed the public shunning of or violence against Dalits and tried to protect the rights of other disadvantaged castes. The constitution prohibits the practice of untouchability and stipulates special legal protections for Dalits in education, health care, and housing. It also establishes the National Dalit Commission as a constitutional body to strengthen protections for and promote the rights of Dalits. Dalit rights activists maintained that the laws against discrimination were too general and did not explicitly protecting Dalits. They said most cases go unreported, and those that are reported rarely result in official action. In May 2020, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned attacks against Dalit minorities and noted that impunity for caste-based discrimination and violence remained prevalent in the country.

The law provides that each community shall have the right “to preserve and promote its language, script, and culture” and to operate schools at the primary level in its native language. The government generally upheld these provisions. More than 125 caste and ethnic groups, some of which are considered indigenous nationalities, speak more than 120 different languages.

Discrimination against lower castes and some ethnic groups, including in employment (see section 7.d.), was widespread and especially common in the Terai region and in rural areas. According to the Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization, government progress in reducing discrimination remained limited in rural areas.

On June 15, television presenter, journalist, and human rights activist Rupa Sunar was denied an apartment based on her caste; a landlord refused to rent an apartment to Sunar because she was Dalit. According to human rights NGOs, the police were reluctant to register a case under the Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offense and Punishment) Act, 2011. The case was filed on June 17 and police arrested the landlord on June 20. The landlord was released without bail on June 23, with the case to be heard by a court at an undetermined future date.

In May 2020, six youth, including four Dalits, were killed in what activists characterized as the most violent attack on Dalits in the modern history of the country. Nawaraj Bishwokarma and a group of friends were attacked by a mob of villagers, including the local ward chair Dambar Malla, when he tried to elope with his Chhetri caste girlfriend. According to survivors of the attack and some local officials, villagers chased the young men to a nearby riverbank, beat them to death with stones, sharp weapons, and pieces of wood, and threw their bodies in the river. The Ministry of Home Affairs and House of Representatives formed committees to investigate the incident, and the NHRC sent a team to investigate. As of mid-September, 34 accused persons were arrested. Authorities released 11 of these persons, including the mother of the girl, who was released on bail in June 2020. A total of 23 accused currently remain in police custody and the Rukum District Court is collecting statements from witnesses as of January 2022. The next hearing is scheduled for February 11, 2022.

The government recognized 59 ethnic and caste groups as indigenous nationalities, comprising approximately 36 percent of the population. Although some communities were comparatively privileged, many individuals faced unequal access to government resources and political institutions and linguistic, religious, and cultural discrimination. Activists report that indigenous groups lack adequate protections and risk losing access to their lands and territories due to encroachment from mining, hydropower, and real estate companies.

Birth Registration: Constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations governing citizenship discriminated by the gender of the parent, which contributed to statelessness (see section 2.g.). There was no difference in birth registration policies and procedures based on the sex of the child.

The constitution states that citizenship derives from one citizen parent, but also stipulates that a child born to a citizen mother and a noncitizen father may obtain citizenship only through naturalization. In some cases, mothers faced extreme difficulties in securing citizenship papers for children of citizen parents, even when the mother possessed citizenship documents, except in cases in which the child’s father supported the application.

The constitution states that the children of unidentified fathers may obtain citizenship through their mothers, but if it is later determined that the father is a foreign citizen, the child will lose citizenship by descent but be eligible for naturalization. Many single women faced difficulties registering their children as citizens by descent. The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that government authorities must not deny the registration for birth and citizenship of children of citizen mothers and fathers who cannot be traced. According to human rights lawyers, although this provision applies to the children of single mothers, including rape and trafficking victims, it does not address situations in which the identity of a child’s father is known but he refuses to acknowledge paternity. The legal and practical restrictions on transferring citizenship imposed hardships on children whose fathers were deceased, had abandoned the family, or (as was increasingly common) departed the country to work abroad.

Naturalization is subject to state discretion. Although they lacked specific data, human rights lawyers reported that the government has processed few applications for naturalization of children in recent years.

Education: The constitution makes basic primary education free and compulsory nationwide. The law divides the education system into basic education (early childhood development and grades one to eight), which is free and compulsory, and secondary education (grades nine to 12), which is free but not compulsory. The government reported that during the 2020 school year, 94.7 percent of school-age children attended primary schools with gender parity.

Some children, particularly girls, face barriers to accessing education due to lack of sanitation facilities, child marriage, geographic distance, costs associated with schooling, household chores, and lack of parental support. Countrywide, nearly a third of schools lack separate toilet facilities for girls, which can deter them from attending school, especially when they are menstruating. Barriers for attending school for school-age boys include pressure to find employment, migration to work outside the country, and problems with drugs and alcohol. Children with disabilities face additional barriers to accessing education, including denial of school admission. Children are required to attend school only up to age 13; this standard makes children aged 13 and older vulnerable to child labor despite not being legally permitted to work.

Medical Care: The government provided basic health care without cost to children and adults, although quality and accessibility varied. Parental discrimination against girls often resulted in impoverished parents giving priority to their sons when seeking medical services.

Child Abuse: Violence against children, including sexual abuse, was reportedly widespread. NGOs stated that such reports have increased in part due to greater awareness, but no reliable estimates of its incidence exist. The government has some mechanisms to respond to child abuse and violence against children, such as special hotlines and the National Child Rights Council.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits marriage for both boys and girls before the age of 20, but the country has a high rate of child marriage and childbearing among girls. According to UNICEF, nearly a third of young women ages 20-24 reported they were married by the age of 18, and 7.9 percent by age 15.

Social, economic, and cultural values promoted the practice of early and forced marriages, which was especially common in the Dalit and Madhesi communities. The law sets penalties for violations according to the age of the girls involved in child marriage. The penalty includes both a prison sentence and fine, with the fees collected going to the girl involved. The law provides that the government must act whenever a case of child marriage is filed with authorities. Additionally, the practice of early and forced marriage limited girls’ access to education and increased their susceptibility to domestic violence and sexual abuse, including sex trafficking.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem, according to NGOs. There were reports of boys and girls living on the streets and exploited for child sex trafficking, including by tourists, and of underage girls employed in dance bars, massage parlors, and cabin restaurants (sometimes fronts for brothels). Enforcement was generally weak due to limited police capacity and investigative efforts, and police sometimes arrested girls in commercial sexual exploitation. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18 years.

There is no specific law against child pornography, but the law stipulates that no person can involve or use a child for an immoral profession, and photographs cannot be taken or distributed for the purpose of engaging a child in an immoral profession. Additionally, photographs that tarnish the character of the child may not be published, exhibited, or distributed.

Displaced Children: Many children remained displaced due to the 2015 earthquake and its aftershocks (see section 2.e.). The government did not have comprehensive data on children affected by the decade-long Maoist conflict, including the original number of internally displaced and the number who remained displaced.

Institutionalized Children: Abuse, including sexual abuse, and mistreatment in orphanages and children’s homes reportedly was common. An NGO working in this field estimated that approximately one-third of registered children’s homes met the minimum legal standards of operation, but there was no reliable data on the many unregistered homes. NGOs reported some children in the institutions were forced to beg. The NGO also reported no significant change in the level or degree of abuse of children compared to previous years. Specific information on the status and conditions of children with disabilities who were institutionalized was not available.

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

There was a small Jewish population in the country and no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

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

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on disability or physical condition and contain additional specific rights for persons with disabilities. These include the right to free higher education for all citizens with physical disabilities who are “financially poor” and the provision of accessible instructional materials and curricula for persons with vision disabilities. NGOs report that a few public buildings, roads, and schools had become accessible, but most are still inaccessible.

The government provides services for persons with physical and mental disabilities, including a monthly stipend, shelters, and appointing one social welfare worker in each of 753 local governments. The law provides that persons with disabilities have equal access to education, health, employment, public physical infrastructure, transportation, and information and communication services. The government implementation of laws and regulations to improve rights and benefits for persons with disabilities, although improved, still was not fully effective. For example, books printed in braille were not available for students at all grade levels, and free higher education was not uniformly available to all interested persons with disabilities.

The government provided monthly social security allowances for persons with disabilities of 3,990 rupees ($34) for those categorized as “profoundly” disabled, and 2128 rupees ($18) for “severely” disabled persons. The law states that other persons with disabilities should receive allowances based on the availability of funds and the degree of disability. Three provincial governments funded sign language interpreters in 20 districts to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing persons in obtaining government services.

The Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens was responsible for the protection of persons with disabilities. The government does not report the percentage of students with disabilities who attend schools. The country has 380 resource classrooms for students with disabilities, 33 special education schools, and 23 integrated schools. The number of students enrolled was low compared to the number of children without disabilities. Compared with primary school attendance, relatively few children with disabilities attended higher levels of education, largely due to accessibility problems, school locations, and financial burdens on parents. Although abuse of children with disabilities reportedly occurred in schools, no reports of such incidents were filed in the courts or with the relevant agencies during the year. The Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens reported that most of the 753 municipalities have allocated funding to minority and vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, under the new federal system. Most persons with disabilities had to rely almost exclusively on family members for assistance.

There are no restrictions on the rights of persons with disabilities to vote and participate in civic affairs or to access the judicial system. According to the Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens, however, there were obstacles in exercising these rights, especially the lack of accessibility to public facilities.

Societal discrimination and stigma against persons with HIV and those at high risk of HIV remains common, according to NGOs. There was no official discrimination against persons in high-risk groups that could spread HIV or AIDS. Most health care facilities run by government and NGOs provide HIV services to HIV-infected and affected populations.

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

LGBTQI+ rights groups reported that gender and sexual minorities faced harassment from police during the year. On January 21, police reportedly assaulted and arrested 16 third gender (LGBTQI+) commercial sex workers at a bus park in the Gongabu area of Kathmandu. Media reported that the incident began when a man groped and assaulted a transgender woman. Other members from the LGBTQI+ community intervened and the police arrived, but rather than arrest the man, they beat the women with rifle butts, batons, and sticks. According a prominent LGBTQI+ rights organization, multiple third gender persons sustained injuries and two needed stitches.

No laws criminalize same-sex sexual activity, and LGBTQI+ persons actively advocated for their rights. The constitution contains provisions outlining protections for LGBTQI+ persons, but LGBTQI+ activists continued to press for further legislation to increase protections for gender and sexual minorities.

While the government does not have coercive medical practices targeting LGBTQI+ individuals, many districts require gender-affirming surgery or an application to the Nepal Medical Council, which requires surgical interventions and certification from the hospital that performed the procedure to change gender markers on identity documents.

According to local LGBTQI+ advocacy groups, the government did not provide equal opportunities for LGBTQI+ persons in education, health care, or employment (see section 7.d.). LGBTQI+ activists reported challenges obtaining COVID-19 vaccines and relief because their name and appearance did not match their citizenship documents. Advocacy groups stated that some LGBTQI+ persons faced difficulties in registering for citizenship, particularly in rural areas.

Although several LGBTQI+ candidates ran for office in local elections in recent years, LGBTQI+ activists noted that election authorities prevented one person in 2017 who self-identified as third gender from registering as a candidate for vice mayor in a rural municipality of Myagdi district, Gandaki Province because electoral quotas required the individual’s party to register a “female” candidate for the position; the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government. Separately, LGBTQI+ activists stated that some transgender persons refrained from voting due to harassment or social scorn because transgender persons were forced to stand in lines reflecting the gender on their citizenship documents, regardless of whether they had changed gender in practice.

According to LGBTQI+ rights NGOs, there were some instances of harassment and abuse of LGBTQI+ persons by private citizens and government, especially in rural areas.

New Zealand

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape. The government enforces this law. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment; however, preventive detention may occur in cases where the parole board, during its annual review, believes the prisoner poses a continuing threat to society.

Reported rates of violence against women remained at high levels, according to domestic and international observers. Ministry of Justice data for 2020-21 showed convictions for sexual offenses increased slightly from 2019-20. According to the ministry’s most recent annual Crime and Victims Survey (October 2019-September 2020) approximately 2 percent of adults had experienced sexual violence in the previous 12 months; this figure did not change significantly from previous years. The report, however, described “worryingly low levels” of reporting of sexual violence, noting that “94 percent of sexual assaults were not reported to Police.” Women were more than two times more likely than men to have experienced intimate partner violence and three times more likely to have experienced sexual violence.

Domestic violence is a criminal offense. Police were responsive to reports of domestic violence. The law provides victims with 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. The government partially funded women’s shelters, psychosocial services, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, family-violence victim support networks, and violence prevention services. Victim’s programs include: a crisis response plan for the 72 hours after a sexual assault; programs to reduce harmful sexual behavior, offending, and reoffending; programs focusing on adults who pose a risk to children; and services for male survivors of sexual abuse.

The law defines family violence to reflect how controlling behavior can be used over time to frighten victims and undermine their autonomy. It also names 10 government agencies and a range of social service practitioners as family violence agencies; provides principles to guide decision making and timely responses across agencies; and allows information sharing between agencies to increase victims’ safety.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, requires employers to ensure their workplace is free of behaviors that are unwelcome or offensive, and provides for civil proceedings in cases of workplace harassment. The government, through the Human Rights Commission, effectively enforced the law. Sexual contact induced by certain threats also carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The Human Rights Commission published a guide on making a complaint about sexual harassment. The guide includes access to the commission’s free, informal, and confidential service for questions or complaints about sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination. The commission also published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made regular sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments.

After media reports in June revealed incidents of alleged sexual harassment in the media industry, information released under the Official Information Act showed there had been numerous incidents of alleged sexual harassment at state broadcasters Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, as well as at several private broadcasters, in the last year. Two workers and one external contractor were asked to leave Television New Zealand due to sexual misconduct.

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

In 2020 the Human Rights Commission expressed concern about informed consent and the legal permissibility of nontherapeutic medical procedures including sterilization. Under the country’s Disability Action Plan 2019-2023, the Ministries of Health and of Social Development examined the legal framework that protects the bodily integrity of children and adults with disabilities for nontherapeutic medical procedures.

The government provides access to health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government effectively enforced the law. Although the law prohibits discrimination in employment and requires equal rates of pay for equal or similar work, in August Statistics New Zealand identified a gender pay gap of 9 percent between women and men. Academics and watchdog groups argued that the lack of pay transparency hindered pursuing pay discrimination claims.

Under the law violence and discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities is prohibited; the government enforced these laws effectively.

In its 2020 annual report, the Human Rights Commission stated that approximately 12 percent of complaints of alleged unlawful discrimination raised with the commission related to race, racial harassment, or racial disharmony.

Pacific Islanders were 8 percent of the population in the 2018 census. They experienced some societal discrimination and had higher-than-average rates of unemployment (7.8 percent in June) and among the lowest labor force participation (66 percent) of any ethnic group.

Several government ministries, including the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and the Ministry of Health, had programs to identify gaps in delivery of government services to Pacific Islanders and to promote their education, employment, entrepreneurship, culture, languages, and identity. After the country’s first Delta-variant COVID-19 outbreak in August, which disproportionately affected Pacific Island and Maori communities, some Pacific Islander and health practitioners criticized the government and media for inadequately addressing low vaccination rates in their communities.

In July the Ministry for Ethnic Communities was created to focus on promoting diversity and improving minority communities’ inclusion in the wider society and their economic outcomes.

Asians, who were 15 percent of the population, reported some societal discrimination. Advocacy groups noted a rise in bullying and harassment of persons of Asian, especially Chinese, descent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Human Rights Commission launched a website to help Asian persons understand their rights during the pandemic.

Approximately 16.5 percent of the population claimed descent from the indigenous Maori people. The government bestows specific recognition and rights, enshrined in law, custom, and practice, on Maori persons. These rights derive from the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the country’s founding document, which guarantees autonomy, self-determination, sovereignty, and self-government to Maori persons.

The law prohibits discrimination against the indigenous population, but there were disproportionately high numbers of Maori persons on unemployment and welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts, and in single-parent households. Maori persons have elevated infant mortality statistics. Maori persons experienced some societal discrimination and had higher rates of unemployment than non-Maori – 7.8 percent in June, above the country’s average of 3.9 percent – and a labor force participation rate of 68 percent, below the country’s average of 70 percent.

To redress historic violations by the government of the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Waitangi Tribunal, a standing commission of inquiry adjudicates claims by various Maori groups (iwi). The tribunal makes recommendations on claims brought by Maori relating to legislation, policies, actions, or omissions of the government that are alleged to breach the promises made in the Treaty of Waitangi. The government continued active negotiations with almost all iwi that made claims.

As of June, Maori persons were 53 percent of the prison population and 46.5 percent of persons serving community-based sentences. In February several prisoners’ rights activists questioned the progress of Hokai Rangi, a five-year strategy launched in 2019 by the corrections minister aimed at reducing the number of Maori persons in prison.

Birth Registration: Children born in the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen or legal permanent resident of the country. Children born outside the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen. The law requires notification of births by both parents as soon as “reasonably practicable,” deemed as being within two months of the child’s birth, and most births were registered within this period.

Child Abuse: The law defines and prohibits child abuse, and the government effectively enforced the law. The government promoted information sharing between the courts and health and child protection agencies to identify children at risk of abuse.

The law permits the Ministry for Children to act quickly to ensure the safety of newborn babies at immediate risk of serious harm, notably from parental substance abuse, family violence, or medical neglect. Admissions to Care and Protection Residences run by the ministry have declined over the past decade. A disproportionately high percentage of children (approximately 60 percent) entering children’s ministry homes were Maori. Children less than five years old made up 30 percent of all children entering into care.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, but persons between 16 and 18 may marry with family court approval. Marriages involving persons younger than 18 were rare. Watchdog groups believed that parents forced a small number of marriages of persons between the ages of 16 and 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that any person who engages in sexual conduct with a person younger than 16 – the minimum age for consensual sex – is liable to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Further, the law makes it an offense punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to assist a person younger than 18 in providing commercial sexual services; to receive earnings from commercial sexual services provided by a person younger than 18; or to contract for commercial sexual services from, or be a client of, a person younger than 18. While these statutes cover dealing in persons younger than 18 for sexual exploitation, the trafficking-in-persons statute requires a demonstration of deception or coercion to constitute a child sex-trafficking offense. The authorities may prosecute citizens who commit child sex offenses overseas, and they did so in cooperation with several foreign governments during the year.

Government statistics reported 363 convictions in 2020 for sexual offenses against children younger than age 16, down from more than 380 convictions during the previous year.

The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum 14 years’ imprisonment as well as heavy fines if a person produces, imports, supplies, distributes, possesses for supply, displays, or exhibits an objectionable publication. The Censorship Compliance Unit in the Department of Internal Affairs polices images of child sex abuse on the internet and prosecutes offenders.

Institutionalized Children: In March inspectors from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner heard “serious allegations” of staff bullying, excessive use of force, and inappropriate use of isolation while visiting Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residences. The commissioner’s report stated there was not enough evidence to prove the allegations, but neither could they show the allegations were false.

In July the ministry announced the closure of the Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residence in Christchurch; media reported “a number of serious issues involving staff,” including physical restraint of children, were investigated. In September the children’s minister accepted the findings of a ministerial advisory board that he had appointed earlier in the year to recommend ways to improve the ministry’s “disconnected” relationship with Maori communities.

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

According to the 2018 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 5,200. While anti-Semitic incidents remained relatively rare, in June the New Zealand Jewish Council expressed concern over the number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the previous year. “2020 saw 33 anti-Semitic incidents recorded (including anti-Semitic comments online), the highest number since records began in 1990,” the council said.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities – whether physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental – unless such discrimination can be “demonstrably justified.” The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Most school-age children with disabilities attended either schools dedicated to children with disabilities or mainstream schools. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability in 2020 was 8 percent, twice that of persons without a disability. Unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability was the second most cited cause of complaints to the Human Rights Commission in 2020.

The Human Rights Commission and the Ministry for Disabled People, created in late October, worked to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. Both the Human Rights Commission and the Mental Health Commission addressed mental disabilities in their antidiscrimination efforts. Watchdog groups were concerned about compulsory assessments and treatments and the use of seclusion and restrictive practices in medical facilities, especially those involved with mental health services. Maori persons were significantly more likely to be subjected to these practices.

In August the ombudsman highlighted “serious and persistent” problems at mental health units, contrasting the results of simultaneous inspections at two colocated facilities, one where seclusion or restraint facilities were being used and one where no seclusion was used – described as “best practice in the treatment of those detained.” Several previous ombudsman reports recommended that such practices should stop.

Approximately 20 percent of eligible voters had a disability and potentially faced obstacles in exercising their voting rights. The Electoral Commission has a statutory obligation to administer the electoral system impartially and seeks to reduce barriers to participation by developing processes that enable citizens with disabilities to access electoral services fully.

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

The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults older than 16. The law prohibits abuse, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government enforced the law. According to the Ministry of Justice’s most recent Crime and Victims Survey (October 2019-September 2020), gay, lesbian, or bisexual adults had more than twice the average likelihood of experiencing intimate partner violence and sexual violence.

Portugal

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law makes rape, including spousal rape, illegal, with a penalty of three to 10 years’ imprisonment for violations. The government generally enforced the law when the victim chose to press charges and if the cases were not settled out of court through mediation. The law provides for criminal penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment in cases of domestic violence by a spouse or by a person other than the spouse. The judicial system prosecuted persons accused of committing gender-based violence, including violence towards women.

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, continued to be a problem. According to preliminary data from NGOs and media reports, in the first six months of the year, there were 14 deaths related to domestic violence.

The law allows third parties to file domestic violence reports. The government encouraged survivors of violence to file complaints with the appropriate authorities and offered the victim protection against the abuser. The government’s Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights operated 39 safe houses and 28 emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence and maintained an around-the-clock telephone service. Safe-house services included food, shelter, health assistance, and legal assistance. The government-sponsored Mission against Domestic Violence conducted an awareness campaign, trained health professionals, proposed legislation to improve legal assistance to survivors, and negotiated protocols with local authorities to assist survivors.

In March the government began a new training program for Public Administration workers on domestic violence to improve coordination among officials in different areas, such as health, law enforcement, and justice. The training courses were scheduled to continue through June 2023.

In June the government announced a new plan to reinforce the prevention and fight against domestic violence. Since then, the government launched social alert mechanisms and support to victims of domestic violence through an awareness campaign #EuSobrevivi (#ISurvived), an advice pamphlet, and information on local assistance contacts. Campaign materials were broadcast in the media and posted in police stations, hospitals, courts, citizens services shops, public transportation, gas stations, among other public locations.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a crime punishable under the law. The State Secretariat for Citizenship and Equality reported that some immigrant communities practiced FGM/C on young girls, particularly among Bissau-Guinean immigrants. According to the government’s Healthy Practices Project to prevent and combat FGM/C, the country flagged 101 cases of possible FGM/C in 2020, down from 129 in 2019. Since authorities began collecting FGM/C statistics in 2014, there have been only three confirmed cases of FGM/C performed in the country. The remaining cases were performed in the immigrants’ countries of origin.

On October 1, the government allocated 60,000 euros ($69,000) to nine civil society organizations for new projects to prevent and combat FGM/C. The projects focus on encouraging girls and women to act against female genital mutilation.

On January 8, a Sintra court sentenced Rugui Djalo, a 21-year-old Bissau-Guinean citizen residing in the country, to three years in prison for the crime of genital mutilation of her then 18-month-old daughter. Djalo was the first person to be brought to trial in the country for the crime of FGM/C. In July the court of appeals suspended the sentence for a period of four years on the grounds that taking the mother away from the child would punish the daughter a second time and that the censure of the practice of FGM/C and the threat of imprisonment already achieved the objective of deterring the practice. The court concluded that the mother travelled to Guinea-Bissau and requested the procedure but did not actually perform FGM/C herself.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime, with penalties ranging from one to eight years in prison. If perpetrated by a superior in the workplace, the penalty is up to two years in prison, or more in cases of “aggravated coercion.”

The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment, composed of representatives of the government, employers’ organizations, and labor unions, examines but does not adjudicate complaints of sexual harassment. From January to April, the Inspectorate General of Finance received 28 reports of sexual harassment, and the Working Conditions Authority registered seven infractions during the same period.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities (see Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), above, for additional information).

Vulnerable populations had the ability to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including for sterilization.

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

Discrimination: The constitution and the law provide women full legal equality with men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property, and the government enforced the law.

The constitution bans discrimination and provides legal protection against discriminatory acts and practices. This protection covers discrimination on the grounds of ancestry, sex, race, age, disability, language, territory of origin, religion, political or ideological convictions, education, economic situation, social condition or sexual orientation, and any other reason. The scope of the country’s law against discrimination is wider than EU law. There is a law against hate crimes, including murder and assault motivated by racial or religious hatred, genocide, racial and religious discrimination and related intolerance, insults on grounds of religion and profanation of cemeteries.

On March 24, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, released a memorandum to address “the increasing level of racism and the persistence of related discrimination” in the country. In the memorandum the commissioner noted a number of assaults during 2020 “on people of African descent and other persons perceived as foreigners, as well as against antiracist and other civil society activists” in the country. According to the memorandum, the incidents culminated in July 2020 with the murder of Bruno Cande, a Portuguese citizen of African descent, who was shot and killed in Lisbon. His killer reportedly shouted racist slurs before killing Cande. On June 29, a Lisbon court convicted Evaristo Marinho, 76, of homicide aggravated by racial hatred and sentenced him to 22 years and nine months in prison for killing Cande. Marinho, a veteran who served during the country’s colonial war in Angola between 1963 and 1974, confessed to the murder at the trial.

In her March 24 memorandum, Commissioner Mijatovic noted that, in the same period, “racist slurs and swastikas appeared on the walls of several public buildings, including schools, and on the walls of premises of certain NGOs, in particular SOS Racismo” and that the organization’s president, together with other persons belonging to civil society organizations, received death threats and warnings to leave the country within 48 hours in response to their public stance and work against racism. The threats reportedly also targeted trade unions and three members of the country’s parliament, and in August, a “Ku Klux Klan-style” demonstration took place in front of the SOS Racismo premises.

The government estimated the Romani population to be between 40,000 and 50,000 persons. Many Roma continued to live in encampments consisting of barracks, shacks, or tents. Many settlements were in areas isolated from the rest of the population and often lacked basic infrastructure, such as access to drinking water, electricity, or waste-disposal facilities. Some localities constructed walls around Romani settlements. Media reports of police harassment, misconduct, and abuses against Roma continued.

The March 24 Mijatovic memorandum also stated that “Roma have long been targeted by racist hate speech and continue to be routinely confronted with discriminatory practices, such as service denials, throughout Portugal” and that “widespread hostility has at times resulted in incidents of mob violence against Roma communities.” The memorandum noted, as an example, a series of incidents in 2017 that included threats, arson, and attacks against property targeting the Roma community that had occurred in a locality in the south of the country.

In some localities the government provided integration and access to services for the Roma, including vaccination campaigns, monitoring of prenatal care, scholarship programs, assistance in finding employment, and a mediation program staffed by ethnic Romani mediators in the Office of the High Commission for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue.

The Commission for Equality and Against Racial Discrimination (CICDR) is the dedicated body to combat racial discrimination. Its mission under law is to prevent and prohibit racial discrimination and to penalize actions that result in the violation of fundamental rights or in the refusal or constraint of the exercise of economic, social, or cultural rights by any person based on race, ethnic origin, color, nationality, ancestry, or territory of origin. According to its annual report, CICDR received 655 complaints of discrimination in 2020, an increase of 50.2 percent from 2019, the vast majority related to alleged discrimination on social media (319 complaints, or 48.7 percent). CICDR explained that the increase might reflect greater social awareness of the problem of racial and ethnic discrimination as well as a growing knowledge and confidence in the commission and in the mechanisms available for the exercise of rights.

In June the government released its new national action plan to combat racism and discrimination. The plan outlined 10 areas of action, including information and knowledge for a nondiscriminatory society; education; higher education; work and employment; housing; health and social action; justice and security; participation and representation; sports; and media and digital.

The media reported that a UN working group on Peoples of African Ancestry was “surprised and shocked” by reports on police brutality in the country. The group arrived in the country in late November at the invitation of the government to gather data on racial discrimination towards persons of African descent. During a press conference on December 6, the delegation said it was surprised by the amount of police intervention in African communities and by the prevalence of racial insults in public places. The group stated that what it observed “does not align with the rules of a country that claims to be open and progressive.”

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Birth registration is free and mandatory and was not denied or provided on a discriminatory basis.

Child Abuse: The constitution provides for basic rights of the child, and laws protect children against, among others, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and physical and emotional neglect, and the government generally enforced the law. The Association for Victim Support reported 1,816 crimes against children younger than 18 in 2020. According to the 2018 Annual Internal Security Report (but not in the 2019 report), Romani parents exploited minor children in labor trafficking through forced street begging. A child-abuse database was accessible to law enforcement and child protection services. The government prohibits convicted child abusers from work or volunteer activities involving contact with children. It also carried out awareness campaigns against child abuse and sexual exploitation.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and men, but both sexes may marry at 16 with the consent of both parents exercising parental authority, or a guardian, or, in default of the latter, a court decision.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Statutory rape is a crime with penalties ranging up to 10 years in prison, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for legal consensual sex is 16. The law prohibits child pornography. Penalties range up to eight years in prison.

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

Estimates placed the Jewish population at 3,000 to 4,000 persons.

In January a contestant in the country’s version of the “Big Brother” reality show was expelled for repeatedly making Nazi salutes in front of his housemates. Helder Teixeira, 39, made the gesture and was repeatedly told to stop by the other contestants. Teixeira laughed and proceeded to mimic the Nazi march with his arm raised in the air, repeating the gesture days later. Following these episodes, the “Big Brother” host called all house members together and played a video of a Holocaust survivor talking about the Nazi persecution minorities faced during World War II, including Jews, Roma, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community. After telling Teixeira that joking about the Holocaust risks downplaying or trivializing the subject and that the gesture symbolized “millions of deaths,” the host expelled Teixeira from the show.

On February 7, Rodrigo Sousa Castro, one of the military generals who led the country’s 1974 revolution, posted an anti-Semitic tweet suggesting that Jewish financial domination facilitated Israel’s success in vaccinating for COVID-19. Castro tweeted that “the Jews, as they dominate global finance, bought and have all the vaccines they wanted. It’s historical revenge of sorts. And I won’t say anything more or the Zionist bulldogs will jump.” In response, Israel’s ambassador to Portugal tweeted, “As a proud Zionist bulldog, I can promise that if Israel develops a cure for COVID-19, Colonel Sousa e Castro will have access to it if needed.” Sousa Castro came under immediate fire by numerous public authorities, including the Lisbon and Porto Israeli Communities, the Portuguesa Association for Israel, and the Social Democratic Party who adopted a draft resolution in parliament on February 9 that stated, “Portugal is seeing the propagation of anti-Semitic discourse with serious insinuations.” To be an advocate of the 1974 revolution, it added, “means to honor its values.” Sousa Castro later removed the tweet, stating he had committed an “error” by engaging in a “generalization” that was not “correct” and was “abusive,” adding that “many will have the right to have been offended.”

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

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced the law effectively. The law mandates access to public and private buildings, information, and communication for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. There are laws requiring such access, however, access is not always available. The Portuguese Association for the Disabled (APD) reported receiving daily complaints about lack of accessibility for the disabled, such as buildings without ramps, excessively narrow and uneven sidewalks, transportation without elevator access, and public buses without wheelchair lifts. Urban public transport buses are equipped with lift platforms for seats, but these are not always operational. During election periods, the APD receives complaints about polling stations that are inaccessible to the disabled. The head of the APD told media in September that some progress has been made in recent years, but that improvements happen at a very slow pace.

Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at the same rate as other children, together with their nondisabled peers.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including with respect to essential goods and services such as housing, employment, and access to government services such as health care. The government generally enforced such laws effectively. The law allows transgender adults to update their names and gender markers in the civil registry to reflect their gender identities without having to submit a medical certificate. Transgender minors who are 16 or 17 can also update their names and gender markers in the civil registry to reflect their gender identities, but they must present a clinical report.

Spain

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape; it does not distinguish between rape of women and men. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although there were reports that judicial authorities dismissed cases if victims were not physically present in the country at the time of trial. The penalty for rape is six to 12 years in prison. Additional charges, including if the victim was a minor or if the assailant ridiculed the victim, may add to the length of the overall prison sentence. The law also prohibits violence against women and sets prison sentences of six months to a year for domestic violence, threats of violence, or violations of restraining orders, with longer sentences if serious injuries result.

The law establishes “the mere act of aggression by a man against a woman who is his partner or former partner already constitutes an act of gender-based violence;” there is no requirement to establish “the intent to dominate.” Amnesty International reported this qualification resulted in a two-tier system for sexual assault victims, with increased protections for those assaulted by a partner.

On July 31, the Ministry of the Interior reported a 31 percent increase in the number of reported rapes during the first six months of the year. According to a joint report by the Observatory against Gender-Based and Domestic Violence and the General Council of the Judiciary, there were 22,724 verdicts in gender-based violence cases in 2020 with a 60 percent conviction rate.

According to the government’s delegate against gender-based violence, as of September 25, partners or former partners were responsible for the deaths of 35 women. According to the General Council of the Judiciary, 26,551 cases of gender-based violence were open for prosecution in 2020. There were 35,001 allegations of gender-based violence in the first quarter of the year. Police alerted female survivors of gender-based violence of any changes in prison sentences of their attackers. Independent media and government agencies generally paid close attention to gender-based violence.

NGOs cited continuing concerns with investigations of sexual assault and lenient sentencing for offenders. Lack of training on sexual assault cases for police, forensic investigators, and judges was a problem. There were reports that police officers were sometimes dismissive of rape allegations involving acquaintances and did not actively pursue such cases. Differing protocols for handling sexual assault cases around the country led to inconsistent access to justice for sexual assault victims. The lack of clear sentencing guidelines meant sentences for sexual crimes were almost entirely at the discretion of the judge and could vary widely.

In July the Catalonia Superior Court reduced the sentence of a man convicted in April for his role in a 2019 gang rape case from 31 to 22 years’ imprisonment. In April the Barcelona High Court also sentenced two other defendants to 13 years each for their role. A fourth defendant was acquitted.

In July a court in Malaga announced it was investigating a man on charges of attempted murder, illegal detention, humiliation, assault, coercion, and habitual mistreatment related to an incident in January in which the man was accused of throwing sulfuric acid on his former girlfriend and her friend. Both survivors suffered severe injuries, with the former girlfriend suffering from burns on more that 50 percent of her body. The investigation continued at year’s end.

A 24-hour toll-free national hotline advised battered women on finding shelter and other local assistance. In March the government’s delegate against gender-based violence announced the hotline would expand its assistance to include legal advice, psychological assistance and referrals, and social worker assistance for all forms of gender-based violence in 53 languages. The delegate also announced the creation of a WhatsApp number and other expanded services for women with auditory or visual disabilities.

In April the Council of Ministers approved funding to establish at least one 24-hour sexual assault crisis center in each of the country’s 50 provinces as well as Ceuta and Melilla by 2023. The centers would not require victims to formally accuse their attackers or to participate in prosecutions.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and authorizes courts to prosecute residents of the country who committed this crime in the country or anywhere in the world. The law punishes those who subjugate others to FGM/C with prison sentences of between six and 12 years, with additional penalties if the victim is a minor or disabled.

In January the NGO Dimbe, which is dedicated to bringing awareness to and promoting the eradication of FGM/C, warned that 4,500 girls in the Canary Islands were at risk of being subjected to FGM/C. According to Dimbe, girls, primarily of African origin, might be taken to their home countries under the pretext of a vacation and then subjected to the procedure. There were also reports of the procedure taking place in the Canary Islands.

The State Plan against Gender Violence includes FGM/C as a form of gender-based violence. In its 2020 study Female Genital Mutilation in Spain, the government’s delegate against gender-based violence, prepared in collaboration with the Wassu Foundation and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, noted girls from sub-Saharan African migrant families were at risk of FGM/C. There is a protocol for medical professionals for the identification, treatment, and prevention of FGM/C, but there is no specific national-level plan for combatting FGM/C. Some autonomous communities have their own plans for combatting FGM/C.

In its 2020 report Estimation of Girls at Risk of Female Genital Mutilation in the European Union, the European Institute for Gender Equality noted that in 2018, the absolute number of girls at risk of FGM/C in the country had decreased despite an increase in the number of migrant girls from FGM/C-practicing countries. A local press outlet reported that in most cases the victims were taken to their ancestral country of origin for the procedure, although in at least one case a victim was taken to Morocco because of difficulties in travelling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU report estimated that 15 percent of girls under 18 years old living in the country were at high-risk of being subjugated to FGM/C and 9 percent were at lower risk. High-risk and low-risk scenarios were determined by country of origin and how many generations ago the family immigrated to the country. According to the government’s delegate against gender-based violence, the autonomous communities with the highest numbers of women and girls at risk for FGM/C were Catalonia, Andalusia, and Madrid.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but few cases came to trial. The punishment in minor cases may be between three and five months in jail or fines. Harassment continued to be a problem, according to media reporting. In the Ministry of Equality’s Survey of Violence against Women in 2020, the latest year for which information was available, more than 40 percent of women reported having been sexually harassed over their lifetime, with more than 17 percent reporting harassment by a work colleague. More than 15 percent of the women surveyed reported having been the victim of stalking.

In February more than 20 students and alumni of the Barcelona Institute of Theater complained about years of sexual harassment and abuse of power by faculty. In October the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal investigation into the allegations against one of the teachers, who was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior and sending sexually explicit material to students. The Barcelona Institute of Theater removed the teacher from his position in March and opened disciplinary investigations against at least two other teachers.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Under the law women enjoy the same rights as men. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

The law criminalizes the promotion of hate or discrimination against individuals or groups based on, inter alia, their race, ethnicity, or national origin. The punishment is one to four years’ imprisonment and a fine. The law also considers motives based on race, ethnicity, or national origin to be an aggravating circumstance in other crimes. The government generally effectively enforced the law. The Ministry of the Interior’s Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes provides for the equality of vulnerable groups and prevents discrimination against them based on, inter alia, national origin and ethnicity. The policy orders law enforcement officers to avoid the use of terms or expressions that may be perceived as offensive or pejorative.

The Ministry of the Interior reported 485 hate crimes linked to racism and xenophobia in 2020, a 5.8 percent decrease from 2019. The regions of Melilla, Basque Country, Navarre, and Ceuta had the highest numbers of hate crimes according to the ministry’s data.

Activists for racial equality said there were racist and xenophobic motives behind the June shooting death of Moroccan national Younes Bilal in Mazarron (Murcia). Bilal died after being shot three times during an altercation, during which witnesses said the shooter used racial slurs. Police opened a homicide investigation with racism as a possible aggravating factor. Also in June, Moroccan Momoun Koutaibi was left in a coma after being assaulted by a coworker in an attack in Alhama de Murcia that witnesses and his family said was racially motivated. There were reports of attacks against mosques in Murcia in February and July. Many of the incidents also included anti-Muslim rhetoric. The Ministry of Equality’s Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination denounced the events in Murcia as racist and xenophobic.

NGOs expressed particular concern about racist and xenophobic rhetoric toward unaccompanied minor migrants and reported that opposition Vox party promoted and amplified such rhetoric. In February the Madrid prosecutor’s office began a hate crime investigation into the right-wing group Frontal Bastion for allegedly spreading false information about minor migrants, including linking them to increased street crime and sexual assault. In July a Madrid court closed the hate crime case brought by the public prosecutor against the Vox party for its campaign poster for the May 4 Madrid regional elections that depicted unaccompanied immigrant minors as a menace and drain on public resources. Various rights organizations and political parties denounced the advertisement as racist and xenophobic. In dismissing the case, the court ruled that unaccompanied immigrant minors represent a “clear social and political” problem even if the figures cited in the advertisement were inaccurate.

There were multiple instances of soccer fans using racists insults against Black soccer players, including players from soccer clubs in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. In May, Minister of Equality Irene Montero and Minister of Social Rights and Agenda 2030 Ione Belarra met with the head of the Spanish soccer federation la Liga to discuss preventing and fighting racism in soccer. On November 30, the Council of Ministers agreed to increase funding to support victims of racial discrimination by expanding staffing to address the issue, legal assistance to victims, and the racial discrimination hotline’s hours.

Catalan law enforcement noted the increase of right-wing extremism, especially white nationalism, in the region, including the increased use of social media as a tool to amplify right-wing messaging of conspiracy theories.

The Romani community was the largest minority group in the country, with an estimated 750,000 persons. There were three representatives of Romani heritage in the Congress of Deputies. The Gitano Secretariat Foundation (FSG) reported significant integration challenges for the Romani community, including high rates of poverty, unemployment (especially for Romani women), and children dropping out from secondary education. The FSG’s 2020 annual report on discrimination against the Romani community reported 425 cases of discrimination, a 27 percent increase over the previous year. FSG reported numerous instances of anti-Romani messaging on social media, but a decrease in anti-Romani sentiment in traditional media. On November 2, the government approved the 2021-2030 National Strategy for the Equality, Inclusion, and Participation of the Romani People. The strategy seeks to support the social integration of the Roma into broader society, paying special attention to those living in situations of poverty and social exclusion, with specific provisions related to improving access to education, employment, health, and housing as well as promoting gender equality and fighting discrimination against the Romani people.

In a study released in February, the Ministry of Equality found more than half of those identifying as a racial minority felt discriminated against in 2020. Racial discrimination was analyzed in public health, administrative services, housing, education, and treatment by the police. Perceived discrimination increased in every area since the last comparative study in 2013. While discrimination rates varied, the main populations reporting having experienced discrimination included sub-Saharan African, North African, Romani, South Asian, and East Asian populations. Of Black residents, 78 percent reported experiencing discrimination based on skin color.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. Children born in the country, except children of diplomats and children whose parents’ country of origin gives them nationality, are registered as citizens. When a child does not acquire the parents’ nationality, the government may grant Spanish citizenship.

Child Abuse: The Law for the Protection of Children, the country’s first comprehensive law to protect children and adolescents from violence, entered into force in June. The law seeks to avoid revictimization by requiring children under 14 to provide testimony only once. It also extends the period for reporting sexual abuse against children and adolescents, permitting victims to initiate cases up to when they are 35 years old, and the statute of limitations does not expire until they are 40, or 55 years of age in especially grave cases. The law confers legal recognition of children as victims of gender-based violence in instances of violence between a parent and a parent’s partner. Any citizen who has knowledge of violence against a child is obligated to report it to authorities under the new law. For the first time, children are permitted to file reports of violence without being accompanied by an adult. As part of the new legislation, the government has one year to approve a project for the creation of special courts and prosecutors dedicated to violence against children.

The law provides other protections as well against various forms of child abuse. Those accused of sexual abuses involving minors receive larger penalties. For example, in cases of sexual abuse, instead of one to four years of imprisonment, the penalty increases to four to 10 years when the victim is a child. Cases of sexual aggression, which normally receive six to 12 years in jail, are punished with 12 to 15 years in cases involving minors.

According to the government’s delegate for gender-based and domestic violence, as of September 25, either a parent or a parent’s partner were responsible for the deaths of five children.

In 2020 the ANAR Foundation, dedicated to the protection of children, registered 166,433 requests for assistance and attended to 11,761 serious cases of violence against minors. The foundation reported an increase in physical abuse of minors and reported the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated many of the problems affecting minors.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 16 years for minors living on their own. Forced marriage is criminalized with fines and prison sentences of between six months and three years, with penalties increasing to prison sentences of five to eight years if the victim is determined to have been a victim of human trafficking. The antitrafficking NGO Project Esperanza stated forced marriages continued to happen in the country. NGOs working with refugees expressed concern about possible forced marriages among migrants. In April police in A Coruna (Galicia) and Cordoba (Andalusia) arrested five individuals on charges of trafficking in persons, illegal detention, and continuous sexual abuse related to a family arranging the forced marriage of their 12-year-old daughter to cover a debt. In July police in Castile-La Mancha arrested five individuals on charges related to the forced marriages of two sisters when they were 14 years old and preparations to forcibly marry a third sister aged 12.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the “abuse and sexual attack of minors” younger than age 13 and sets the penalty at imprisonment from two to 15 years, depending on the nature of the crime. Individuals who contact children younger than age 13 through the internet for the purpose of sexual exploitation face imprisonment for one to three years. Authorities enforced the law.

Child sex trafficking is criminalized and was prosecuted under the law. The penalty for child sex trafficking is five to eight years’ imprisonment. The penalty for recruiting children or persons with disabilities into commercial sex is imprisonment from one to five years. The penalty for subjecting children to commercial sex is two to 10 years’ imprisonment, depending on the age of the victim and the existence of violence or intimidation. The law prohibits using a minor “to prepare any type of pornographic material” as well as the production, sale, distribution, display, or facilitation of the production, sale, dissemination, or exhibition of “any type” of child pornography by “any means.” The penalty is one to five years’ imprisonment; if the child is younger than age 13, the length of imprisonment is five to nine years. The law also penalizes knowingly possessing child pornography.

In February a court in Navarre sentenced Daniel Lucia, owner of a modeling agency, to 115 years’ imprisonment for the unauthorized filming of 129 women and girls without their clothing, 48 of whom were minors 13-17 years old. Media outlets reported Lucia was likely to serve five years in prison based on the law, which allows a convicted person to serve concurrently sentences for similar crimes. Lucia’s victims criticized the sentence as too lenient.

In September police arrested 15 individuals in multiple cities throughout the country in connection with possession and distribution of child pornography on social media platforms. Law enforcement identified two child victims during the investigation.

In January the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) of the Roman Catholic Church publicly recognized that at least 81 minors and 37 adults had suffered sexual abuse by members of the Jesuit order in the country since 1927. Following the announcement, seven additional orders of the Roman Catholic Church reported they had carried out or were in the process of investigating past cases of abuse. The Church stated it was open to compensating victims.

The minimum age for consensual sex in the country is 16. The law defines sexual acts committed against persons younger than age 16 as nonconsensual sexual abuse and provides for sentences from two to 15 years in prison, depending on the circumstances.

A registry for sex offenders provides a basis to bar them from activities in which they could be in the presence of minors.

The sex trafficking of teenage girls into commercial sex remained a problem. See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

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

The Jewish community numbered approximately 40,000 to 50,000 persons.

The law considers denial and justification of genocide to be a crime if it incites violence, with penalties that range from one to four years in prison.

In February the Madrid prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into an anti-Semitic demonstration praising the Blue Division, the military unit dictator Francisco Franco sent to support Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. On February 15, approximately 300 neo-Nazis marched through several streets of Madrid, made the Nazi salute, and sang fascist-themed songs. The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, various national and local government agencies, and the Israeli embassy in Madrid condemned the demonstration.

The Ministry of the Interior’s Office on the Prevention of Hate Crimes reported three cases of anti-Semitism in 2020. According to the Observatory of Anti-Semitism of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, anti-Semitic incidents included hate speech on social media and anti-Semitic graffiti. In November police arrested a man for defacing a United Left party office in San Andres del Rabanedo (Castile and Leon) in 2020 by breaking windows and painting swastikas and anti-Semitic language on the office facade. Authorities called the man, who was arrested for a similar incident in August, a “far-right extremist.”

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

The law mandates that persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. While the government generally enforced these provisions, levels of assistance and accessibility varied among regions. There were reports of delays in creating equal access to some facilities. In July the mother of a girl in a wheelchair told press that they had been waiting three years for the Madrid regional government to install an elevator in the girl’s high school. The law requires government information and communication is provided in accessible formats, and the government generally enforced these provisions effectively.

The law prohibits with fines discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively. The law requires private companies with more than 50 employees to hire persons with disabilities for at least 2 percent of their jobs.

The Minister of the Interior’s Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes guarantees the equality of and prohibits discrimination against vulnerable groups based on, inter alia, intellectual, and physical disabilities. The ministry published a Guide for Working with Victims of Hate Crimes with Developmental Disabilities to help police officers better assist persons with disabilities in understanding, reporting, and protecting themselves from hate crimes.

In May a royal decree entered into force promoting employment access into the general labor market for persons with intellectual disabilities as well as deaf and hearing-impaired persons. According to the State Employment Public Service’s 2020 report, the latest year for which data were available, in 2019 more than 65 percent of persons with disabilities were unemployed, more than twice the percentage of the general population. Percentages increased with age and with the degree of visible disability.

In the 2018-19 school year, the latest year for which data was available, 83 percent of children with disabilities attended schools with peers without disabilities and 17 percent attended special education centers. Children with disabilities did not attend school at significantly lower rates than other children. In January a new education law entered into force that seeks to integrate most children with disabilities into regular schools in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities within a 10-year period, reserving special education centers for children with severe disabilities. The Spanish Confederation of Persons with Physical and Organic Disabilities (CERMI) raised concerns that there was no specific plan for how the government intends to implement and enforce the new law.

In May the parliament approved an amendment to the constitution to affirm the full equality of and protections for persons with disabilities. The amendment states that public authorities shall enact policies to guarantee the full personal autonomy and social inclusion of persons with disabilities. It also confers special protection to persons with disabilities to guarantee they receive the specialized attention they require and can enjoy all the rights the constitution grants to all citizens.

In September a new law entered into force to support persons with disabilities in exercising their legal rights in accordance with the International Convention for Persons with Disabilities. The new law provides for the rights, will, and preferences of persons with disabilities. It abolishes the requirement for persons with disabilities to have a guardian in legal proceedings and instead provides for technical assistance based on everyone’s specific needs.

According to the report The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Persons with Disabilities published by the Ministry of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, 66.5 percent of persons with disabilities required social services during the pandemic; however roughly half were unable to get the assistance required. CERMI continued to report significant challenges for persons with disabilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation for women and girls was particularly difficult, according to CERMI, in part because of caretaker responsibilities, higher rates of poverty, and increased social exclusion.

In February the government’s prison authority launched a social insertion program for inmates with intellectual disabilities. The government reported 639 inmates with intellectual disabilities in the country’s prison system.

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

The country’s antidiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government enforced the law. The law penalizes those who provoke discrimination, hate, or violence based on sexual orientation with one to four years’ imprisonment and a fine. The law also prohibits denial or disqualification of employment based on sexual orientation and the formation of associations that promote discrimination, hate, or violence against others based on their sexual orientation. The law may consider hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons an aggravating circumstance in crimes.

The Ministry of the Interior’s Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes provides for the equality of and prohibits discrimination against vulnerable groups based on, inter alia, sexual orientation and identity. The Ministry of the Interior’s 2020 report on hate crimes outlined 277 crimes reported to the police based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the second most prevalent reason for hate crimes. Rights organizations reported official figures were significantly lower than incidents reported to various LGBTQI+ rights groups around the country. NGOs expressed concern about a rise in anti-LGBTQI+ hate speech and reported that opposition Vox party promoted anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric. According to the NGO Kif Kif Association, LGBTQI+ migrants faced “double discrimination” and were particularly targeted by far-right groups.

In June after a young gay man was attacked and beaten by a group of men shouting homophobic slurs in Basauri (Basque Country), thousands of demonstrators protested against violence aimed at the LGBTQI+ community. Basque regional police arrested nine individuals in connection with the attack. The investigation continued at year’s end.

Rights groups denounced the July 3 death of Samuel Luiz Muniz, a 24-year-old gay man. A group of men attacked and beat Muniz outside a nightclub in A Coruna (Galicia). Several of Muniz’s friends, who were witness to the assault, claimed the attackers yelled homophobic slurs during the attack. Muniz’s death prompted demonstrations against violence aimed at the LGBTQI+ community. Police arrested six individuals in connection with Muniz’s death. The investigation was ongoing.

The number of homophobic attacks continued to be a concern in Catalonia. Although the number of aggressions against the LGBTQI+ community remained like previous years, the Barcelona city council denounced increased violence against the LGBTQI+ community. The Observatory against Homophobia of Catalonia reported 80 incidents as of June. According to the Barcelona hate crimes prosecutor, in 2020, for the first time, the largest number of hate crimes offenses reported, at 40 percent, were for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In July the Council of Ministers approved a draft law to allow children 16 years and older to determine their gender identity in the civil registry without parental consent or medical exam and allow children 14 years and older to do so with parental consent. The draft law had significant support from LGBTQI+ and other rights organizations. It was, however, the subject of very intense national debate and significant protests. It was front-page news for weeks.

The Ministry of the Interior’s Action Protocol for Law Enforcement Agencies on Hate Crimes provides for the equality and nondiscrimination of persons due to their special vulnerability, whether due to the lack of a family environment; abuse suffered; status as a refugee, asylum seeker or subsidiary protection; or any other relevant characteristic or circumstance.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 1,334 hate crimes were reported in 2020, a 17 percent decrease from 2019. Of these, 263 cases involved physical injuries and 327 involved threats.

According to a report from the Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience, in 2020 there were 240 instances of religiously motivated violence, compared with 175 in 2019.

In January the Ministry of the Interior published a Guide of Good Practices for Reporting Hate Crimes. The guide reminds the public that hate crimes can be reported to the national police or Civil Guard at their offices, through their emergency numbers, or through ALERTCOPS, a free mobile application. The public can also report such crimes to the regional prosecutor’s office for hate crimes or to the corresponding court. The guide encourages citizens to include in their complaints detailed descriptions of the perpetrator, a medical report in case of injuries, photographs, or videos if available, and information about any possible witnesses.

In September the Catalan regional police created a Central Unit for Hate Crimes and Discrimination to investigate and prosecute hate crimes committed in the region. Most of the hate crimes in Catalonia during the year were homophobic attacks or attacks against race, ethnicity, or nationality.

Thailand

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women is illegal, although the government did not always enforce the law effectively. The law narrowly defines rape as acts in which male sex organs were used to physically violate victims, thereby leaving victims assaulted by perpetrators in other ways without legal remedies. The law permits authorities to prosecute spousal rape, and prosecutions occurred. The law specifies penalties for conviction of rape or forcible sexual assault ranging from four years’ imprisonment to the death penalty as well as fines.

NGOs said rape was a serious problem and that victims underreported rapes and domestic assaults, in part due to a lack of understanding by authorities that impeded effective implementation of the law regarding violence against women.

According to NGOs, agencies tasked with addressing the problem were underfunded, and victims often perceived police as incapable of bringing perpetrators to justice.

Domestic violence against women was a significant problem. The Ministry of Public Health operated one-stop crisis centers to provide information and services to victims of physical and sexual abuse throughout the country. The law establishes measures designed to facilitate both the reporting of domestic violence complaints and reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. Moreover, the law restricts media reporting on domestic-violence cases in the judicial system. NGOs expressed concern that the law’s family unity approach put undue pressure on a victim to compromise without addressing safety problems and led to a low conviction rate.

Authorities prosecuted some domestic-violence crimes under provisions for assault or violence against a person, where they could seek harsher penalties. The government operated shelters for domestic-violence victims, one in each province. The government’s crisis centers, located in all state-run hospitals, cared for abused women and children.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No specific law prohibits this practice. NGOs and international media reported Type IV FGM/C occurred in the Muslim-majority south, although statistics were unavailable. There were no reports of governmental efforts to prevent or address the practice.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal in both the public and private sectors. The law specifies a fine and a jail term of one month for sexual harassment, while abuse categorized as an indecent act may result in a fine and a maximum 15 years’ imprisonment. Sexual harassment in the workplace may be punished by modest fines. The law governing the civil service also prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates five levels of punishment: probation, docked wages, salary reduction, suspension, and termination. NGOs claimed the legal definition of harassment was vague and prosecution of harassment claims difficult, leading to ineffective enforcement of the law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information.)

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The constitution provides that “men and women shall enjoy equal rights and liberties. Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education or political view, shall not be permitted.”

Human rights advocates expressed concern regarding lengthy delays in reviewing individual discrimination complaints and a lack of awareness among the public and within the ministry’s provincial offices.

Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men but sometimes experienced discrimination, particularly in employment. The law imposes a maximum jail term of six months, a fine, or both, for anyone convicted of gender discrimination. The law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender and sexual identity in policy, rule, regulation, notification, project, or procedure by government, private organizations, and any individual, but it also stipulates two exceptions criticized by civil society groups: religious principles and national security.

Women were unable to confer citizenship to their noncitizen spouses in the same way as male citizens.

Women comprised approximately 12 percent of the country’s military personnel. Ministry of Defense policy limits the percentage of female officers to not more than 25 percent in most units, with specialized hospital or medical, budgetary, and finance units permitted 35 percent. Military academies (except for the nursing academy) refused admission to female students, although a significant number of instructors were women.

Women are barred from applying to the police academy. The Royal Thai Police continued to list “being a male” as a requirement in an employment announcement for police investigators and other positions, although in 2020 police did permit 300 women (and 700 men) to take police investigator examinations.

The constitution includes provisions aimed at protecting the traditional culture and way of life for ethnic minorities, and stipulates all persons are equal before the law, including equal protection. During the year, however, there were reports of violence and discrimination against members of ethnic minority groups.

Stateless members of hill tribes (approximately 50 percent) faced restrictions on their movement, were not permitted to own land, had difficulty accessing bank credit, and faced discrimination in employment. Although labor law gives them the right to equal treatment as employees, employers often violated those rights by paying them less than their citizen coworkers and less than minimum wage. The law further bars them from government welfare services but affords them limited access to government-subsidized medical treatment.

The law provides citizenship eligibility to certain categories of hill tribes who were not previously eligible (see section 2.g.). The government supported efforts to register citizens and educate eligible hill-tribe members regarding their rights.

In February authorities arrested 22 ethnic-Karen villagers in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi Province after the villagers defied orders to vacate the land. Park officials decided to evict the villagers from the Jai Paendin area of the Kaeng Krachan National Park after discovering the number of illegal settlers in the park had increased and more forest land had been cleared for crop rotation. The land evictions were met with protests by civil society groups, who claimed the Jai Paendin area was the villagers’ ancestral land before it became a national park in 1981. On March 7, a court in Phetchaburi released the 22 villagers without bail on the condition that they do not return to the Jai Paendin area of the national park.

Birth Registration: Citizenship is conferred at birth if at least one parent is a citizen. Birth within the country does not automatically confer citizenship, but regulations entitle all children born in the country to birth registration, which qualifies them for certain government benefits regardless of citizenship (see section 2.g.). The law stipulates every child born in the country receive an official birth certificate regardless of the parents’ legal status. In remote areas some parents did not obtain birth certificates for their children due to administrative complexities and a lack of recognition of the importance of the document. In the case of hill-tribe members and other stateless persons, NGOs reported misinformed or unscrupulous local officials, language barriers, and restricted mobility made it difficult to register births.

Education: The constitution provides for 12 years of free education. NGOs reported children of registered migrants, unregistered migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers had limited access to government schools.

Child Abuse: The law provides for the protection of children from abuse, and laws on rape and abandonment carry harsher penalties if the victim is a child. The penalties for raping a child younger than age 15 range from four to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines. Those convicted of abandoning a child younger than age nine are subject to a jail term of three years, a fine, or both. The law provides for protection of witnesses, victims, and offenders younger than age 18 in abuse and pedophilia cases. Advocacy groups stated police often ignored or avoided child-abuse cases.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 17, while anyone younger than 21 requires parental consent. A court may grant permission for children younger than 17 to marry.

In the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces, Islamic law used for family matters and inheritance allows the marriage of young girls after their first menstrual cycle with parental approval. The minimum age for Muslims to marry is 17. A Muslim younger than 17 may marry with a written court order or written parental consent, which is considered by a special subcommittee of three members, of which at least one member must be a woman with knowledge of Islamic law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The law provides heavy penalties for persons who procure, lure, compel, or threaten children younger than 18 for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, with higher penalties for persons who purchase sexual intercourse with a child younger than 15. Authorities may punish parents who allow a child to enter into prostitution. The law prohibits the production, distribution, import, or export of child pornography. The law also imposes heavy penalties for sexually exploiting persons younger than 18, including for pimping, trafficking, and other sexual crimes against children.

Child sex trafficking remained a problem, and the country continued to be a destination for child sex tourism, although the government continued to make efforts to combat the problem. Children from migrant populations, ethnic minority groups, and poor families remained particularly vulnerable, and police arrested parents who forced their children into prostitution. Citizens and foreign sex tourists committed pedophilia crimes, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children and production and distribution of child pornography.

The Thai Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a police unit with 17 officers, received more than 260,000 tips from NGOs based abroad on potential cases of child sexual exploitation, a significant increase compared with approximately 117,000 tips received in 2019. The task force investigated 94 cases of internet crimes against children in 2020 (77 in 2019), including 22 cases of internet-facilitated child sex trafficking (26 in 2019).

There were numerous reported cases of rape and sexual harassment of girls in school environments. In February a male teacher in Amphoe Phanom Dongrak, Surin, was arrested for the sexual assault of at least 13 female students. The abuse took place over the year, and some were as young as seven. In March a male teacher in a public school in Amphoe Krasang, Buriram, was arrested for the sexual assault of multiple 14-year-old female students. The Ministry of Education operated a Protection and Assistance Center for the Sexually Abused Students to receive complaints and report sexual assault in schools. During the year the ministry produced the 14-page Manual for Prevention of Sexual Abuses in School to distribute to all schools.

Displaced Children: Authorities generally referred street children to government shelters located in each province, but foreign undocumented migrants avoided the shelters due to fear of deportation. As of August the government estimated there were 20,000 street children who sought shelter nationwide, 5,000 of whom received assistance from the government or private organizations. In October the NGO Foundation for the Better Life of Children reported approximately 50,000 children were living on the streets, 30,000 of them foreign born. The government generally sent citizen street children to school, occupational training centers, or back to their families with social-worker supervision. The government repatriated some street children who came from other countries.

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

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

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

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on disability and physical or health conditions. The law provides tax benefits to employers employing a certain number of persons with disabilities, such as special income-tax deductions to promote employment of such persons.

The government modified many public accommodations and buildings to accommodate persons with disabilities, but government enforcement was not consistent. The law mandates persons with disabilities have access to information, communications, and newly constructed buildings, but authorities did not uniformly enforce these provisions. The law entitles persons with disabilities who register with the government to free medical examinations, wheelchairs, and crutches.

The government’s Community-based Rehabilitation Program and the Community Learning Center for Persons with Disabilities project operated in all provinces. The government provided five-year, interest-free, small-business loans for persons with disabilities.

The government maintained dozens of separate schools and education centers for children with disabilities and operated occupational and career development centers for adults with disabilities. The law requires all government schools nationwide to accept students with disabilities, and most schools taught students with disabilities during the year. The government also operated shelters and rehabilitation centers specifically for persons with disabilities, including day care centers for autistic children.

Organizations for persons with disabilities reported difficulty in accessing information concerning a range of public services.

In previous years disability rights activists alleged that government officials, including from the National Office for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and private companies often contracted with organizations for persons with disabilities to recruit employees with disabilities, an arrangement that could allow dishonest officials and the staff of such organizations to keep a portion of the wages intended for those workers.

Some social stigma remained for persons with HIV or AIDS, despite educational efforts by the government and NGOs. There were reports some employers fired or refused to hire persons who tested positive for HIV.

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

No law criminalizes expression of sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

The LGBTQI+ community reported that police treated LGBTQI+ victims of crime the same as other persons except in the case of sexual crimes, where there was a tendency to downplay sexual abuse or not to take harassment seriously.

The law does not permit transgender persons to change their gender on identification documents, which, coupled with societal discrimination, limited their employment opportunities.

The UN Development Program and NGOs reported that LGBTQI+ persons experienced discrimination, particularly in rural areas. The UN Development Program also reported media represented LGBTQI+ persons in stereotypical and harmful ways resulting in discrimination.

Legislation mandating gender equality prohibits discrimination “due to the fact that the person is male or female or of a different appearance from his or her own sex by birth” and protects transgender students from discrimination. The country’s Fourth National Human Rights Plan, covering the period 2019-22, includes LGBTQI+ persons as one of 12 groups in its action plan.

NGOs and the United Nations reported transgender persons faced discrimination in various sectors, including in the military conscription process, while in detention, and in education because of strict policies in place at most schools and universities that require students to wear uniforms that align with their biological gender.

The Ministry of Education has a curriculum incorporating discussion of sexual orientation and gender diversity for grades one to 12; this followed two years of advocacy by the LGBTQI+ community. NGOs continued to encourage the Ministry of Education to make the curriculum compulsory and continued to work with the ministry on curriculum development and to organize training courses to prepare teachers to teach it effectively.

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