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Namibia

Executive Summary

Namibia is a constitutional multiparty democracy. In the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019, President Hage Geingob won a second five-year term, and the South West African People’s Organization retained its parliamentary majority, winning 63 of 96 National Assembly seats. International observers characterized the 2019 election as generally free and fair.

The national police maintain internal security. The military is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The Namibian Police Force reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety, and Security. The Namibian Defense Force reports to the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces allegedly committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of serious government corruption.

The government took steps to prosecute or administratively punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were two reports the government or its agents may have committed arbitrary or unlawful killings; both were under investigation at year’s end. The Namibian Police Force (NamPol) conducts internal investigations of police misconduct and presents its findings to the Office of the Prosecutor-General, which determines whether to pursue charges.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but the law does not define “torture” or separately classify it as a crime. Torture is prosecuted as a crime under legal provisions such as assault or homicide. The Office of the Ombudsman received one report of police mistreatment of detainees during the year. The report stated the denial of visitation rights during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency constituted mistreatment. In 2020 there were two reports of Namibian Defense Force (NDF) members beating suspects. Additionally, investigation continued of images from 2020 released online showing NamPol officers beating detained irregular migrants.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces; however, delays in investigation of allegations of misconduct and in the filing of charges and adjudication of cases meriting prosecution contributed to a perception of impunity. Most cases cited by civil society advocates were pending trial at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The Office of the Ombudsman documented incidents of gross overcrowding and poor hygienic conditions as human rights violations in its annual report. Overcrowding was primarily due to an increase in the number of pretrial detainees attributable to COVID-19 pandemic related delays in the judicial processing of inmates.

Physical Conditions: Conditions in detention centers and police holding cells remained poor. Conditions were often worse in pretrial holding cells than in prisons. Human rights bodies and government officials reported overcrowding in holding cells. Prisons, however, were not overcrowded.

In pretrial holding cells, sanitation and medical assistance were inadequate. Tuberculosis continued to be prevalent.

Prison and holding-cell conditions for women were generally better than for men. Authorities permitted female prisoners to keep their infants with them until age two and provided them with food and clothing for their infants.

There were programs to prevent HIV transmission in prisons.

The law does not permit holding juvenile offenders with adults. Prison authorities reported they generally confined juvenile offenders separately, but police occasionally held juveniles with adults in rural detention facilities due to a lack of separate facilities for juveniles. The Office of the Ombudsman conducted an investigation of juvenile detention facilities that revealed 30 instances of improper detention of juveniles. It filed a complaint at the High Court against the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare alleging it failed to effectively implement Child Care and Protection Act statutes.

Administration: The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent authority, investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, and the office reported cooperation with police in resolving complaints and responding to inquiries.

Independent Monitoring: The government granted local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) access to prisons and prisoners. Representatives from the Office of the Ombudsman visited prisons and pretrial detention facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of that person’s arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Arrest warrants are not required in all cases, including when authorities apprehend a suspect while committing a crime. Authorities must inform detained persons of the reason for their arrest, and police generally informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. Authorities must arraign arrested persons within 48 hours of their detention. The government does not always meet this requirement, especially in rural areas far from courts.

The constitution permits detention without trial during a state of emergency but requires publication of the names of detainees in the government’s gazette within 14 days of their apprehension. An advisory board appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (the constitutional body that recommends judges to the president for appointment) must review cases within one month of detention and every three months thereafter. The advisory board has the power to order the release of anyone detained without trial during an emergency.

There is a functioning bail system. The constitution stipulates accused persons are entitled to defense by legal counsel of their choice or one provided by the state, and authorities respected this right. Detainees are allowed prompt access to a lawyer of their choice, or one provided by the state.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. According to the Namibian Correctional Service, in 2020 approximately 3 percent of the inmate population was in pretrial detention, and the average length of time inmates were held before trial was four years. A shortage of qualified magistrates and other court officials, the inability of many defendants to afford bail, the lack of a plea-bargaining system, slow or incomplete police investigations, the frequency of appeals, and procedural postponements resulted in a large backlog in prosecuting criminal cases. Delays between arrest and trial could last for years in some cases. There were lengthy delays in criminal appeals as well. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, however, pretrial detention did not exceed the maximum sentence for conviction of an alleged crime. Defendants convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment are credited with time served in pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. Authorities respected and enforced court orders.

The law delineates the offenses the customary system may handle. Customary courts may hear many civil and petty criminal cases in rural areas. Customary courts deal with infractions of local customary law by members of the same ethnic group. The law defines the role, duties, and powers of traditional leaders and states customary law inconsistent with the constitution is invalid. Cases resolved in customary courts were sometimes tried a second time in civil or criminal courts.

Trial Procedures

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and the government generally respected judicial independence. Nevertheless, long delays in courts hearing cases and the uneven application of constitutional protections in the customary system compromised this right. Defendants are presumed innocent. The law provides for defendants to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, in a language they understand, and of their right to a fair, timely, and public trial.

Defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney of choice. Defendants receive free interpretation as necessary starting with their first court appearance through all appeals. Indigent defendants are entitled to a lawyer provided by the state in criminal and civil cases; however, this sometimes does not occur due to an insufficient number of public defenders, insufficient state funds to pay private lawyers to represent indigent defendants, or because the state-funded Legal Aid Directorate did not accept the application for representation from a defendant. The Legal Aid Directorate provides free legal assistance to indigent defendants in criminal cases and, depending on resource availability, in civil matters.

Defendants may confront witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The courts provide defendants with adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants have the right not to testify against themselves or be forced to confess guilt. Convicted individuals have the right to appeal adverse decisions.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The law provides for access to a court for lawsuits seeking damages for or cessation of human rights violations. The constitution provides for administrative procedures and judicial remedies to redress wrongs. Civil and criminal court orders were mostly well enforced.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: There were reports journalists working for state-owned media practiced self-censorship in favor of the government or the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO). SWAPO led Namibia’s independence movement and transformed into a political party when the country won its independence in 1990. SWAPO candidates have won both the presidency and a parliamentary majority in every election since independence.

Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation is a criminal offense. There were several defamation cases tried at the High Court involving prominent public figures and politicians during the year. There were no reports authorities used libel or slander laws to restrict public discussion or retaliate against journalists or political opponents.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no confirmed reports the government monitored private online communication without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Nevertheless, in October 2020 there were confrontations between police and protesters during “shut in movement” demonstrations against sexual- and gender-based violence throughout the country. The protests began following the discovery of the remains of a 22-year-old woman who had been missing for six months. In Windhoek police and Special Reserve Force members hit peaceful demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets and teargas. According to authorities, protesters were “disrupting commercial businesses” and “increasingly aggressive in actions towards the officers responsible for crowd control.” Police arrested 25 youths and three journalists covering a confrontation with protesters. The arrested protesters were charged and released on bail. They decried police treatment on social media.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees.

Freedom of Movement: The government did not permit refugees to move freely within the country. Refugees were required to live at the government’s Osire refugee settlement. The government maintained strict control over public access to the settlement but provided regular, unrestricted access to UNHCR, and UNHCR’s NGO partners. The government cooperated with UNHCR to provide food, shelter, health care, water, and sanitation at the settlement. The government issued identification cards and exit permits allowing refugees to leave the settlement to travel to specified locations for defined periods.

g. Stateless Persons

Persons unregistered by the government living in tribal and traditional communities were de facto stateless. The government has citizenship policies in place and provides opportunities for these persons to register to confirm their citizenship and was taking measures to improve this process.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Presidential and parliamentary elections take place every five years. In 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections were conducted. SWAPO candidate Hage Geingob was re-elected president with 56 percent of the vote. SWAPO candidates won 63 of the 96 elected seats – there are also eight appointed nonvoting seats – in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. Opposition parties increased their share from 19 to 33 seats. Voting proceeded in an orderly and effective manner with no reports of politically motivated violence or voter intimidation. International observers characterized the 2019 election as generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No law limits participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Virtually all the country’s ethnic minorities had representatives in parliament. The president is from the minority Damara ethnic group. Historic, economic, and educational disadvantages often limited participation in politics by the San and OvaHimba ethnic groups.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: There were several reported abuses similar to the following examples. On April 7, media reported that the prime minister stated the government would audit the NDF-owned August 26 Holding Company Ltd. regarding allegations of misappropriation of public funds and concealing corruption under the guise of national security. During the year the prosecutor general continued a criminal investigation into former minister of defense and veteran affairs Peter Vilho’s offshore bank account in Hong Kong. Vilho’s 12-year-old Hong Kong account coincides with an arms-deal corruption investigation into allegations a Chinese state-owned weapons company bribed him. The investigation has reportedly been stalled because of a lack of cooperation from Chinese government and Hong Kong authorities. The online newspaper The Namibian reported that Vilho called for a forensic audit of allegations of corruption “pertaining to the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs/Namibian Defense Force/August 26 Holdings for the purposes of clearing my name.”

In late 2019 and early 2020, national media unearthed the “Fishrot” scandal with alleged involvement by former minister of justice Sacky Shanghala, former minister of fisheries and marine resources Bernhardt Esau, former chief executive officer of the public National Fishing Corporation of Namibia Mike Nghipunya, and seven coconspirators. They were arrested and charged with corruption, fraud, and money laundering for their alleged roles in a scheme that involved bribery in exchange for fishing rights granted to the Icelandic fishing company Samherji. Prosecutors indicted the 10 men on 42 criminal charges. Seven of the accused were in pretrial bail hearings at the High Court at year’s end.

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

Several domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views and were tolerant of NGO reports provided to the United Nations highlighting matters not raised by the government or pointing out misleading government statements. The Office of the Ombudsman, local human rights NGOs, and the Anti-Corruption Commission reported NamPol cooperated and assisted in human rights investigations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: There is an autonomous ombudsman with whom government agencies cooperated. Observers considered the ombudsman effective in identifying human rights abuses but stated the office lacked an enforcement mandate or the means to correct problems.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape. The law defines rape as the commission of any sexual act under coercive circumstances. The courts tried numerous cases of rape during the year. The government generally enforced court sentences of those convicted, which ranged between five and 45 years’ imprisonment. Factors hampering rape prosecutions included limited police capacity and the withdrawal of allegations by survivors after filing charges. Survivors often withdrew charges because they received compensation from the accused; succumbed to family pressure, shame, or threats; or became discouraged by the length of time involved in prosecuting a case.

Traditional authorities may adjudicate civil claims for compensation in cases of rape, but criminal trials for rape are held in courts.

Gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, was a widespread problem. The government and media focused national attention on gender-based violence. The president and first lady spoke out publicly against gender-based violence; the Office of the First Lady actively promoted awareness of gender-based violence and remedies in every region. In October activists protested government inaction to prevent gender-based violence. Protesters submitted a petition to the government demanding establishment of a register of convicted sexual offenders, a review of sentencing laws for conviction of sexual offenses and other gender-based violence (including murder), hastening the investigation of all reported sexual offense and gender-based violence cases, institution of armed neighborhood patrols, and an evaluation of school practices that promote survivor blaming.

The law prohibits domestic violence. Penalties for conviction of domestic violence, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, and serious emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse, range from a token monetary fine for simple offenses to sentences of 10 years’ imprisonment, a substantial monetary fine, or both for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The law provides for procedural safeguards such as protection orders to protect gender-based violence survivors. When authorities received reports of domestic violence, gender-based violence protection units intervened. The gender-based violence units were staffed with police officers, social workers, legal advisors, and medical personnel trained to assist survivors of sexual assault. Some magistrates’ courts provided special courtrooms with a cubicle constructed of one-way glass and child-friendly waiting rooms to protect vulnerable witnesses from open testimony. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare operated shelters; however, due to staffing and funding shortfalls, the shelters operated only on an as-needed basis with social workers coordinating with volunteers to place survivors and provide them with food and other services.

Sexual Harassment: The law explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. By law employers must formulate a workplace sexual harassment policy, including defined remedies. Employees who leave their jobs due to sexual harassment may be entitled to legal “remedies available to an employee who has been unfairly dismissed.”

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

Supply chain challenges limited access to contraceptives through the public sector. gender-based violence investigation units present at most state hospitals provided forensic examinations to survivors of sexual violence, including prompt access to medication to prevent HIV, hepatitis B, and other diseases. Emergency contraception was not available. Access to postabortion care was very limited because by law abortion may only be performed under strict medical supervision in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger.

gender-based violence investigation units present at most state hospitals provided forensic examinations to survivors of sexual violence, including prompt access to medication to prevent HIV, hepatitis B, and other diseases. Emergency contraception was not available. Access to postabortion care was very limited because by law abortion may only be performed under strict medical supervision in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger.

According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate was 195 per 100,000 live births. A general lack of access to effective health care, including the treatment of eclampsia, resulted in prolonged labor complications and contributed to the high rate of maternal mortality. HIV/AIDS was the leading indirect cause of maternal mortality, linked to more than 4 percent of maternal deaths. According to the UN Population Fund, the adolescent birth rate was 62 per 1,000 girls. The Ministry of Education reported that the number of schoolgirl pregnancies in 2020 increased sharply compared with the previous year.

Discrimination: Civil law prohibits gender-based discrimination, including discrimination regarding employment, divorce, education, housing, and business and property ownership. The government generally enforced the law effectively. Women experienced persistent discrimination in access to credit, salary level, owning and managing businesses, education, and housing. Some elements of customary family law provide for different treatment of women. Civil law grants maternity leave to mothers but not paternity leave to fathers. The law bases marital property solely on the domicile of the husband at the time of the marriage and sets grounds for divorce and divorce procedures differently for men and women. The law protects a widow’s right to remain on the land of her deceased husband, even if she remarries. Traditional practices in certain northern regions, however, permitted family members to confiscate the property of deceased men from their widows and children.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

By law all traditional communities participate without discrimination in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and allocation of natural resources. Nevertheless, due to their nomadic lifestyle, the San, the country’s earliest known inhabitants, were unable to exercise these rights effectively because of minimal access to education, limited economic opportunities, and their relative isolation. Some San had difficulty obtaining a government identification card because they lacked birth certificates or other identification. Without a government-issued identification card, the San could not access government social programs or register to vote. A lack of access to police, prosecutors, and courts prevented San women from reporting and seeking protection from gender-based violence.

Indigenous lands were effectively demarcated but poorly managed. Many San community members lived on conservancy (communal) lands but were unable to prevent members of larger ethnic groups from using and exploiting those lands. Some San claimed regional officials failed to remove members of other ethnic groups from San lands. An October Amnesty International report stated unequal access to health care left the San community vulnerable to tuberculosis. The government responded that the problem was not discrimination but a lack of San-speaking health-care providers.

Children

Birth Registration: The constitution provides for citizenship by birth within the country to a citizen parent or a foreign parent ordinarily resident in the country, or to those born outside the country to citizen parents; however, many persons born in the country lacked birth registration and were therefore unable to prove their citizenship. During the year single mothers registering a birth were no longer required to identify the child’s father.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a serious problem, and authorities prosecuted crimes against children, particularly rape and incest. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare 2019 Violence Against Children Survey, police statistics from 2003 to 2011 revealed that 10 percent of reported homicide victims were children and approximately 32 percent of reported rape and attempted rapes were committed against both boys and girls. By law the penalties for conviction of child abuse include a substantial monetary fine, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. There were reports of severe corporal punishment. A 2007/2008 survey found that 36 percent of children were subjected to excessive physical discipline.

Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare employed social workers throughout the country to address cases of child abuse. It conducted public-awareness campaigns aimed at preventing child abuse and publicizing services available to survivors.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits civil marriage for both boys and girls younger than age 18. There were reports of child or early marriages in rural areas.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child pornography, trafficking of children, and the actions of both sex buyers and traffickers in cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children younger than age 18. NGOs reported HIV/AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children engaged in commercial sex without third-party involvement due to economic hardship and lack of supportive services.

The government enforced the law; perpetrators accused of sexual exploitation of children were routinely charged and prosecuted. The penalties for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of a child (including through pornography), are a substantial monetary fine, up to 30 years’ imprisonment, or both. The law makes special provisions to protect vulnerable witnesses, including individuals younger than age 18 or who have been survivors of sexual offense.

An adult convicted of commercial sexual exploitation of a child may be sentenced for up to 15 years’ imprisonment for a first offense and up to 45 years’ imprisonment for a repeat offense. Any person convicted of aiding and abetting trafficking in persons, including commercial sexual exploitation of children, within the country or across the border is liable for a substantial monetary fine or up to 50 years’ imprisonment.

The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16. According to the 2019 Violence Against Children Survey, 11.8 percent of girls and 7.3 percent of boys experienced sexual violence before age 18. The penalty for conviction of statutory rape, sex with a child younger than age 14 when the perpetrator is more than three years older than the survivor, is a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment if the survivor is younger than age 13 and a minimum of five years’ imprisonment if the survivor is age 13. There is no minimum penalty for conviction of sexual relations with a child between ages 14 and 16. Possession of or trade in child pornography is illegal. The government trained police officers in handling child-sex-abuse cases. Centers for abused women and children worked to reduce the trauma suffered by abused children.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Media reported cases in which parents, usually young mothers, abandoned their newborns, sometimes leading to the newborn’s death. The government enforced prohibitions against this practice by investigating and prosecuting suspects.

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

Anti-Semitism

There is a small Jewish community of fewer than 100 persons in the country, most of whom lived in Windhoek. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities often did not have equal access to education, health services, public buildings, information and communications, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The constitution protects the rights of “all members of the human family,” which is interpreted by domestic legal experts to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination in any employment decision based on several factors, including any “degree of physical or mental disability.” It makes an exception in the case of a person with a disability unable to perform the duties or functions of the job in question. Enforcement in this area was ineffective, and societal discrimination persisted.

By law official action is required to investigate and punish those accused of committing violence or abuse against persons with disabilities; authorities did so effectively.

The government requires the construction of government buildings to include ramps and other features facilitating access to persons with physical disabilities. The government, however, does not mandate retrofitting or other measures to provide such access to already constructed public buildings.

Children with disabilities attended mainstream schools. Blind and deaf children attend mainstream public schools and have the option to attend specialized schools. The law does not restrict the rights of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, but a lack of access to public venues hindered the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in civic life.

The National Assembly-adopted National Policy on Disability states that the government must pursue equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities by removing barriers to full participation in all areas to allow persons with disabilities to reach a quality of life equal to that of other citizens. The deputy minister of disability affairs in the Office of the Vice President is responsible for matters related to persons with disabilities and oversees the National Disability Council of Namibia. The council is responsible for coordinating the implementation of policies concerning persons with disabilities with government ministries and agencies.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on HIV status, societal discrimination and stigmatization against persons with HIV remained problems. Some jobs in the civilian sector require a pre-employment test for HIV, but there were no reports of employment discrimination specifically based on HIV/AIDS status. According to the Namibian Employers’ Federation, discrimination based on HIV status was not a major problem in the workplace because most individuals were aware HIV was not transmissible via casual contact.

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

The constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Although Roman-Dutch common law inherited at independence criminalizes sodomy, the ban was not directly enforced but had discrimination repercussions related to the definition of marriage, legal asylum and immigration procedures, access to medical care, and children. The law defines sodomy as intentional anal sexual relations between men. The legal definition excludes anal sexual relations between heterosexual persons and sexual relations between lesbians. Many citizens considered same-sex sexual activity to be taboo. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) groups conducted annual pride parades recognized by the government as constitutionally protected peaceful assembly.

Gender discrimination law does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQI+ persons faced harassment when trying to access public services. There were isolated reports of transgender persons being harassed or assaulted. Some politicians opposed any legislation that would specifically protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. The ombudsman favored abolition of the common law offense of sodomy. In October the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couple defendants in a case in which two men sought citizenship for their child born of a surrogate mother. Four other court cases regarding LGBTQI+ demands for equal marriage, family, and domicile rights continued at year’s end.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right to form and join independent trade unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively; however, the law prohibits workers in certain sectors, such as police, military, and corrections, from joining unions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Except for workers providing designated essential services such as in public health and safety, workers may strike once mandatory conciliation procedures lasting 30 days are exhausted and 48 hours’ advance notice is given to the employer and the labor commissioner. Workers may take strike actions only in disputes involving specific worker interests, such as pay raises.

Worker rights disputes, including dismissals, must first be submitted to the labor commissioner for conciliation, followed by a more formal arbitration process if conciliation is unsuccessful. The parties have the right to appeal the arbitrator’s findings in labor court. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays. The law provides for conciliation and arbitration to resolve labor disputes more quickly, although both employers and unions publicly questioned the system’s effectiveness. The law prohibits unfair dismissal of workers engaged in legal strikes, specifically prohibits employer retaliation against both union organizers and striking workers, and provides for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity provided the workers’ actions at the time were not in violation of other law.

The law provides employees with the right to bargain individually or collectively and provides for recognition of the exclusive collective bargaining power of a union when more than half of workers are members of that union. Employers have no obligation to bargain with minority unions. The law covers all formal-sector workers, including migrants, nonessential public-sector workers, domestic workers, and those in export-processing zones. The law on collective bargaining does not cover the informal sector.

The government effectively enforced applicable labor law in the formal sector, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. Inspection was insufficient to enforce compliance in the informal sector. Aside from mediation efforts, the government was not directly involved in union activities. The government and employers generally respected freedom of association, and workers exercised this right. There were no reports of employers interfering in union activities.

Collective bargaining was practiced widely in the mining, construction, agriculture, and public sectors. Almost all collective bargaining was at the workplace and company level. Employers respected the collective bargaining process in the formal sector. Employees exercised their legal rights. For example, on April 22, workers at Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, which had approximately 600 employees for its radio and television services, went on nationwide strike after two years of failed negotiations between management and their union, the Namibia Public Workers Union.

Employers may apply to the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation for an exemption from certain provisions if they are able to prove workers’ rights are protected, but very few employers pursued this option.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, including by children. The government effectively enforced the law in the formal sector, and criminal penalties were commensurate with those for conviction of analogous serious crimes. The government investigated allegations of forced or compulsory labor and found no prosecutable cases. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. Penalties for conviction of violations have not been applied under the trafficking act.

By law seamen may be sentenced to imprisonment with labor for breaches of discipline, a provision that the International Labor Organization criticized as forced labor. The Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union confirmed that the law has never been applied.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 14. Children younger than age 18 may not engage in hazardous work, including work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., underground work, mining, construction work, in facilities where goods are manufactured or electricity is generated, transformed, or distributed, or where machinery is installed or dismantled. Prohibitions on hazardous work by children in agriculture are not comprehensive. Children ages 16 and 17 may perform hazardous work subject to approval by the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation and restrictions outlined in the law. Criminal penalties are commensurate with those for conviction of analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The government effectively enforced the law in the formal economy. gender-based violence protection units enforced child labor law in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation. The ministry made special provisions in its labor inspections to identify underage workers, although budget constraints did not provide for enough inspectors. The government trained all inspectors to identify the worst forms of child labor. Where child labor was reported, labor inspections were conducted regularly.

Child labor occurred primarily in the informal sector. Children worked herding goats and sheep on communal farms owned by their families. Children also worked as child minders or domestic servants and in family businesses, including informal “businesses” such as begging or street hawking. NGOs reported rising commercial sexual exploitation of girls, particularly in cities and in transit corridors (see section 6).

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, citizenship, pregnancy, family responsibility, disability, age, language, social status, and HIV-positive status. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The law, however, does not specifically address employment discrimination based on sexual or gender orientation.

Refugees and legal immigrants with work permits enjoy the same legal protections, wages, and working conditions as citizens.

The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation and the Employment Equity Commission are both responsible for addressing complaints of employment discrimination.

The government inconsistently enforced the law. Penalties are commensurate with those of similar laws but were seldom applied. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, most frequently in the mining and construction industries. Men occupied approximately two-thirds of upper management positions in both the private and public sectors. Indigenous and marginalized groups sometimes faced discrimination in employment involving unskilled labor. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in employment and access to the workspace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: Although various sectors have a minimum wage, there is no national minimum wage law that applies across all sectors. Nevertheless, all sector-specific minimum wage rates are applied nationally and were above the poverty line. Unions and employers negotiated industry-specific minimum wages under Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mediation.

The standard legal workweek was 45 hours, with at least 36 consecutive hours of rest between workweeks. By law an employer may not require more than 10 hours’ overtime work per week and must pay premium pay for overtime work. The law mandates 20 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a five-day workweek and 24 workdays of annual leave per year for those working a six-day workweek. The law also requires employees receive paid time off for government holidays, five days of compassionate leave per year, at least 30 workdays of sick leave during a three-year period, and three months of maternity leave paid by the employer and the Social Security Commission.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation mandates occupational safety and health (OSH) standards, and the law empowers authorities to enforce these standards through unannounced inspections and criminal prosecution. The law requires employers to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their employees; the responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker. The law covers all employers and employees in the country, including the informal sector and individuals placed by a private employment agency (labor hire), except independent contractors and members of the NDF, the Namibia Central Intelligence Service, the Namibian Correctional Service, and police. By law employees have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations.

The government enforced wage, hour, and safety standards laws in the formal sector but did not effectively enforce labor law in the informal sector. Penalties are commensurate with those for similar violations, but they were seldom applied in the informal sector. Inspections occurred proactively, reactively, and at random. Due to the ministry’s resource constraints in vehicles, budget, and personnel, as well as difficulty in gaining access to some large communal and commercial farms and private households, labor inspectors sometimes found it difficult to investigate possible violations. Workers in the construction, agriculture, and mining sectors faced hazardous working conditions. There was one report of a fatal industrial accident. In November 2020 an employee of Dundee Precious Metals Inc. was killed while conducting maintenance activities.

Allegations persisted that, in addition to not adhering to the law on hiring and firing, Chinese firms failed to pay sector-established minimum wages and benefits in certain industries, failed to respect work-hour regulations for public holidays and Sundays, and ignored OSH standards, for example, by requiring construction workers to sleep on site.

Informal Sector: The informal sector included an estimated 57 percent of workers. The law applied to the informal sector but was seldom enforced. The Namibian Employers’ Federation reported that the most prominent offenses concerning employee rights and working conditions were in the informal sector, including for domestic workers, street hawkers, and employees in the common informal bars known as shebeens. Sectors having hazardous working conditions included construction and agriculture. Inspection was inadequate and penalties were seldom applied.

Nauru

Executive Summary

Nauru is a constitutional republic. International observers deemed the 2019 parliamentary election to be generally free and fair. Parliament elected Lionel Aingimea, a former human rights lawyer and second-term member of parliament, as president.

The police force, under the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, maintains internal security and, as necessary, external security. The country has no military force. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed few abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of censorship and the existence of criminal libel laws, although there were no such cases of the latter issue during the year.

There were no reports that government officials committed egregious human rights abuses or corruption, and impunity was not a problem. The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses or corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or prisoner abuse.

Administration: There were no reports that authorities failed to conduct proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permits prison and detention center monitoring visits by independent human rights observers. There were no reports that such visits occurred during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Authorities made arrests based either on warrants issued by authorized officials or for proximate cause by a police officer witnessing a crime. Police may hold a person for a maximum of 24 hours without a hearing before a magistrate. Authorities informed detainees promptly of the charges against them. The bail system functioned properly. The law provides for accused persons to have access to legal assistance, but qualified assistance was not always readily available.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

English common law provides the basis for procedural safeguards, including the presumption of innocence, the right to be present at one’s own trial, adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, and prohibitions on double jeopardy and forced self-incrimination. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of charges and consult with an attorney or have one provided at public expense as necessary “in the interest of justice.” Defendants also have the right to confront witnesses, present evidence, not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and appeal convictions. The law extends these rights to all suspects. There was no legal provision for traditional reconciliation mechanisms; however, as a mitigating factor in sentencing, apologies and reconciliation frequently played an informal role in criminal proceedings. This was sometimes due to communal pressure.

The law limits defendants’ access to overseas lawyers, barring them from participating in local cases unless specifically instructed by a local lawyer or pleader with 10 years of legal experience in Nauruan law.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The judiciary generally functioned in an independent and impartial manner in civil matters. Individuals or organizations have access to the court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and laws prohibit such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media; however, the government owned all media and exercised some editorial control over content.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government owned all media, giving it significant control over published and broadcast content.

Libel/Slander Laws: By law “unlawful vilification” and “criminal defamation” are punishable by a maximum three years’ imprisonment. There were no reports of arrests for breach of the law.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

Neither the constitution nor the law specifically provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government generally respected these rights for its citizens.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law includes a provision for nonrefoulement. Refugee advocates noted, however, the government allowed refugees to reside in the country only temporarily pending resettlement to a third country. The government did not provide a pathway to gain citizenship.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: As of July 31, 107 individuals formerly housed at the Australian government’s Regional Processing Center in the country (used to house individuals seeking refuge or asylum in Australia), a site criticized for its poor conditions, remained in Nauru. The last refugees left the center in 2019 and all those remaining in the country were living in the local community, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.

Durable Solutions: The government grants five-year visas to asylum seekers after they receive refugee determination.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: International observers considered the most recent parliamentary election, held in 2019, to be generally free and fair. There were accusations, however, of actions taken to improve the government’s electoral prospects. These accusations included late changes to the election law by the government of then president Baron Waqa allegedly to disadvantage nongovernment candidates, substantial payments by Waqa’s government to persons affected by the 2006 collapse of the Bank of Nauru, and the approval of citizenship for 118 individuals in the weeks before the election.

The resulting 19-member parliament elected Lionel Aingimea, a former human rights lawyer and second-term member of parliament, as president.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Although political parties have the legal right to operate without outside interference, there were no formal parties.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate; however, participation by women was significantly less than by men. Two of the five women who ran in the August 2019 general election were elected to the 19-member parliament.

The country has a small and almost entirely homogeneous Micronesian population. There were no members of minority groups in parliament or the cabinet.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively.

Corruption: There were no reports of government corruption.

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

The government did not restrict the establishment or operation of local human rights organizations, but no such groups existed. No international human rights organizations maintained offices in the country.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Department of Justice had a Human Rights Section staffed by a human rights adviser, two human rights officers, and a liaison officer from the secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team. The section was generally effective.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women or men is a crime and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment. The law specifically applies penalties for rape of married and de facto partners. Police are required to investigate all reported rape cases. They generally did so, and the courts prosecuted cases. Observers said many instances of rape and sexual abuse went unreported. The law does not address domestic violence specifically, but authorities prosecuted domestic-violence cases under laws against common assault. The maximum penalty for simple assault is one year’s imprisonment. The maximum penalty for assault involving bodily harm is three years’ imprisonment.

Both police and judiciary treated major incidents and unresolved family disputes seriously.

Police officials stated they received frequent complaints of domestic violence, announcing that from March through September, the Domestic Violence Unit “recorded 158 cases of domestic dispute.” In the run-up to the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, the police force presented a two-week daily Facebook series engaging men for behavior change “to shed abusive beliefs and violence.” Families normally sought to reconcile such problems informally and, if necessary, communally.

Sexual Harassment: There is no specific law against sexual harassment, but authorities could and did prosecute harassment involving physical assault under assault laws.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. A 2017 Asian Development Bank report indicated the contraceptive prevalence rate was 25 percent, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported there was a high unmet need for family-planning commodities. Causes of this unmet need included limited access to adequate sexual health and reproductive services, especially for individuals in the outer islands; perceptions of family-planning services as inconvenient, unsatisfactory, or culturally insensitive; cultural or religious opposition; lack of skills among those dispensing contraceptives and family-planning services; and misconceptions regarding side effects. The government provided some access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence. Such access, however, was limited by social stigma, cultural practices, and popularly accepted misconceptions. According to UNFPA, access to adolescent reproductive health services and information was limited, and the 2010-16 adolescent birth rate for girls ages 15 to 19 was 94 per 1,000. Other causes of this problem were inadequate access to contraceptives and cultural factors.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Discrimination in employment and wages occurred with respect to women (see section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution states, “every person in Nauru…has the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed or sex,” to life, liberty, security of the person, property, and the protection of the law; to freedom of conscience, of expression, and of peaceful assembly and association; and to respect for their private and family life.

It was unclear whether the government enforced these provisions effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship if one of their parents is a citizen. The constitution also provides for acquisition of citizenship by birth in the country in cases in which the person would otherwise be stateless. The law requires registration of births within 21 days to receive citizenship, and families generally complied with the law.

Child Abuse: The government does not maintain data on child abuse, but it remained a problem, according to civil society groups. The law establishes comprehensive measures, including mandatory reporting, to protect children from abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits marriage by persons younger than 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the sale of children, offering or using a child for commercial sexual exploitation, and practices related to child pornography. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. There are standardized penalties for sexual exploitation of children; intentional sexual intercourse with a child younger than age 16 is punishable by 25 years’ imprisonment. Sexual intercourse with a child younger than 13 carries a penalty of life imprisonment.

The law establishes penalties for taking images of children’s private acts and genitalia. If the child is younger than age 16, the maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment, and if younger than 13, it is 15 years’ imprisonment. The same law prescribes tougher penalties for involving children to produce pornographic material. The maximum penalty if the child is younger than 16 is 15 years’ imprisonment and 20 years’ imprisonment if the child is younger than 13. The cybercrime law outlaws the electronic publication and transmission of child pornography.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country does not have a Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

There were no confirmed reports during the year that Nauru was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. No legislation mandates services for persons with disabilities or access to public buildings. Although the government has installed mobility ramps in some public buildings, many buildings were not accessible. The Department of Education has a special education adviser who is responsible for education for students with disabilities, and teachers provided classes for a small group of students with disabilities.

The Department of Justice is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The law grants some legal protections for persons with mental disabilities. There were no reports of discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, but social stigma likely led to decreased opportunities for employment.

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

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law does not specifically cite sexual orientation, but it could be used to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons. There were isolated reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent trade unions or other associations. It restricts freedom of association for police. While the right to strike is neither protected nor prohibited by law, a civil servant may not foment or take part in a strike and may be summarily dismissed if found guilty of organizing a strike. The law does not specifically provide for the right of workers to bargain collectively, but it does not prohibit it. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination, and there is no legal requirement to reinstate workers dismissed due to union activity; however, workers may seek redress through the civil court system.

The government effectively enforced the law, although gaps in worker protections remained. Penalties for violations include fines, which were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

The country lacked formal trade unions. Worker interests were represented by informal associations. The transient nature of the mostly foreign workforce hampered efforts to organize trade unions.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution prohibits but does not criminalize all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The law does not stipulate penalties, and there were no labor inspectors. Civil courts handled cases of forced labor. There were no reports of forced labor or of government efforts to investigate, or prosecute perpetrators, or remove victims of forced labor.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The worst forms of child labor were not prohibited. The law sets the minimum age of employment at 16. No regulations govern type of work, occupation, or hours for workers younger than age 18, nor do they identify hazardous occupations. The Department of Human Resources and Labor is responsible for enforcing the law. The government effectively enforced the law in the public sector but did not conduct any workplace inspections of private businesses. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

The only two significant employers – the government and the phosphate industry – respected minimum age restrictions.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations do not prohibit discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The law requires that public servants receive equal pay for work of equal value. Women working in the private sector did not have a similar entitlement.

The government did not effectively enforce the law, and discrimination against women in employment and wages occurred. Societal pressures, lower wages, and the country’s general poverty limited opportunities for women. While women headed approximately one-third of all households, less than one-quarter of heads of households engaged in paid work were women. There were no reports the government took any specific action to prevent or respond to employment discrimination.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum starting salary for public-sector employees is above the poverty level. There is no minimum salary for the private sector; approximately 26 percent of the population lived at the subsistence level. The law outlines a standard eight-hour workday and one-hour meal break for permanent and contract employees; workers were not required to work longer than nine hours. The law stipulates that for “each year of service, an employee is entitled to four weeks of recreation leave on full salary” and that it can be accumulated for up to three years, at which time the employee must take leave to reduce the balance or “cash out” an amount of recreation leave to reduce the total leave balance accrued.

Public-service regulations govern salaries, working hours, vacation periods, and other employment matters for government workers, who constituted more than 90 percent of salaried workers. The government has a graduated salary system for public-service officers and employees. The law provides for maternity leave after a woman has completed six months of employment.

There is no limit to the maximum number of accumulated overtime hours and no prohibition on excessive or compulsory overtime for workers in the public sector. No specific regulations govern overtime or overtime pay for private-sector workers.

The Department of Human Resources and Labor effectively enforced wage and hour regulations in the public sector, and private-sector employers generally respected wage and hour guidelines. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. There were no reports of violations or prosecutions during the year.

Occupational Safety and Health: Although the government sets some health and safety standards, they do not have the force of law. The law does not provide workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment.

The Department of Human Resources and Labor effectively enforced occupational safety and health standards in the public sector. Enforcement was lax in the private sector, but no violations of labor regulations were reported. The law allows the department the right to inspect a workplace without prior notification. Authorities can charge an employer with a criminal offense if found to be in violation of the labor law or the provisions of an employment contract. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations. The number of inspectors was insufficient to monitor compliance fully.

With the decline of the phosphate industry, enforcement of workplace health and safety requirements continued to be lax.

Informal Sector: Most workers were employed in the informal sector in subsistence agriculture, fishing, and copra gathering. Laws and regulations on working conditions apply to the informal sector but were not enforced. Violations were reportedly common, but no inspections of the informal sector occurred.

Nepal

Executive Summary

Nepal is a federal democratic republic. The 2015 constitution established the political system, including the framework for a prime minister as the chief executive, a bicameral parliament, and seven provinces. In 2017, the country held national elections for the lower house of parliament and the newly created provincial assemblies. Domestic and international observers characterized the national elections as “generally well conducted,” although some noted a lack of transparency in the work of the Election Commission of Nepal.

The Nepal Police are responsible for enforcing law and order across the country. The Armed Police Force is responsible for combating terrorism, providing security during riots and public disturbances, assisting in natural disasters, and protecting vital infrastructure, public officials, and the borders. The Nepal Police and Armed Police Force report to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Nepali Army is responsible for external security and international peacekeeping, but also has some domestic security responsibilities such as disaster relief operations and nature conservation efforts. The Nepali Army reports to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective authority over the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and Army. Human rights organizations documented some credible abuses by members of the security forces.

Significant reported human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by the government; arbitrary detention; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists and unjustified arrests of journalists; substantial interference with peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, and operation of NGOs and civil society organizations; restrictions on freedom of movement for refugees, notably resident Tibetans; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for human rights abuses and gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early and forced marriage and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.

The government investigated but did not widely hold accountable those officials and security forces accused of committing violations of the law. Security personnel accused of using excessive force in controlling protests in recent years did not face notable accountability nor did nearly any conflict-era human rights violators. The government made attempts to investigate and hold officials accountable for corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, particularly among members of marginalized communities. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Ministry of Home Affairs are authorized to examine and investigate whether security force killings were justified. NHRC has the authority to recommend action and to record the name and agency of those who do not comply with its recommendations. The attorney general has the authority to pursue prosecutions. Between 2015 and 2020, 52 complaints of unlawful killings were registered with the NHRC. According to a report by the human rights group Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance, 12 of 18 custodial deaths they reported from 2015-20 occurred among members of the Dalit, Madhesi, or other marginalized communities.

On January 31, police in Jumla district arrested 13-year-old Padam Buda for stealing a mobile phone. According to NGO and media reports, he was allegedly beaten with a pipe, after which he was taken to Karnali Health Science Academy, where he died on February 17. A committee, led by an undersecretary from the Ministry of Home Affairs, was constituted in February and concluded its investigation, but the report has not been made public. On September 12, the government provided 500,000 rupees ($4,200) compensation to the victim’s family.

In June 2020, Shambhu Sada, a member of the Dalit minority community, died in police custody in Dhanusha District. Sada, a truck driver, turned himself in to police after a traffic accident where he hit and killed a woman. Police reported the cause of death as suicide; however, Sada’s family and community believe police killed Sada or drove him to suicide through physical and emotional torture. Sada’s mother-in-law visited him three days before his death and stated that Sada looked scared and told her that he feared for his life. On April 29, Sada’s mother filed a writ of mandamus at the Janakpur High Court after the Dhanusha District Police Office and District Attorney Office denied registering an investigation into his death. In response to this writ, the High Court asked the District Prosecutor, High Government Attorney’s Office, and District Administration Office, to furnish a written reason for not registering the case. On July 1 and July 2, the District Public Prosecutor’s Office and High Government Attorney’s office responded, stating that the reason for not investigating the case was that it had been declared a suicide. As of October, the writ of mandamus had not been decided by the High Court.

In July 2021 the Chitwan District Court sentenced Chiran Kumar Buda from the Nepali Army to nine months imprisonment for death by negligence, a fine of 9,000 rupees (approximately $75), and 200,000 rupees ($1,680) compensation to the victims, in the death of Raj Kumar Chepang. In July 2020 Chepang and six friends were arrested for foraging in Chitwan National Park. They were released later in the day, but Chepang complained of physical discomfort when he arrived home. His health deteriorated and he died on July 22 from injuries that his family and the community alleged were sustained while in custody.

b. Disappearance

The law formally criminalizes enforced disappearance; however, it is not retroactive and has a statutory limitation of six months. There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities during the year.

The fate of most of those who disappeared during the 1996-2006 civil conflict remained unknown. According to the NHRC, 746 cases of disappearances remain unresolved, most of which the NHRC says may have involved state actors. During the year no new conflict-era cases were registered. Additionally the NHRC completed investigation and recommended action to the government for 56 cases (45 by the government and 11 by Maoists). As of December, the government had not prosecuted any Maoists or government officials, sitting or former, for involvement in conflict-era disappearances, nor had it released information on the whereabouts of the persons the NHRC identified as having been disappeared by state actors. In 2017 the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) formed five teams to begin investigating complaints of disappearances filed by conflict-era victims. As of June the commission had before it 3,197 registered cases and ultimately decided 2,506 warranted detailed investigation.

Human rights organizations continued to express concern over flaws in the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, and the CIEDP (see section 5). According to the International Commission of Jurists, CIEDP investigations were hampered by inadequate human and financial resources to handle the large number of cases, opaque appointment processes of investigators, and a lack of measures to provide confidentiality and security of victims and witnesses. According to NGOs, the CIEDP has not been able to clarify the fate of a single case of enforced disappearance. On August 29 and 30, the Nepal Human Rights Organization Advocacy Forum provided legal assistance to 13 families of victims that tried to file cases of enforced disappearance with police in different districts of the country. Police denied the registrations, saying they had been ordered not to register the cases.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits torture, and the law criminalizes torture, enumerates punishment for torture, and provides for compensation for victims of torture; however, the statute of limitations was only six months.

According to human rights activists and legal experts, police resorted to severe abuse, primarily beatings, to force confessions. Advocacy Forum estimated that torture and mistreatment in detention centers continued at the same levels as in prior years, although it was not able to collect data by visiting detention centers and interviewing detainees. Advocacy Forum also reported that police increasingly complied with the courts’ demand for preliminary medical checks of detainees.

In 2019 Advocacy Forum reported that 19 percent of the 1,005 detainees interviewed reported some form of torture or ill treatment. These numbers were even higher among women (26.3 percent) and juvenile detainees (24.5 percent).

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, four allegations of rape by Nepalese peacekeepers deployed to the UN stabilization mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo were submitted during the year. Each allegation involved rape of a child. As of September, the government was investigating the allegations. A 2018 allegation involving sexual assault and attempted sexual assault of two children was found to be unsubstantiated and the case was closed.

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces due to lack of prosecution of alleged perpetrators. In custodial torture and death cases, victims or their family members must file a report in the nearest police station, which is often the same police station that committed the abuse. Police are reluctant to register and initiate investigation against their colleagues or superiors, and victims are often hesitant to file complaints due to intimidation by police or other officials and fear of retribution. In some cases, victims settled out of court under pressure from the perpetrators. Advocacy Forum and Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance noted the courts ultimately dismissed many cases of alleged torture due to a lack of credible supporting evidence, especially medical documentation. In cases where courts awarded compensation or ordered disciplinary action against police, the decisions were rarely implemented. The Nepal Police Human Rights Unit reported that four officers were subject to departmental action for physical and mental abuse. According to Advocacy Forum’s 2021 Countering Impunity in Torture report, however, no perpetrator of torture has been convicted since the endorsement of the 2017 Penal Code that criminalized torture.

On July 22, the government promoted Dipendra Bahadur Chand, despite an October 2020 recommendation by the NHRC that he face criminal charges for his involvement in an extrajudicial killing in 2018. Chand was part of a police team that allegedly killed Gopal and Ajay Tamang on August 6, 2018. A two-year NHRC investigation led by a former Supreme Court justice concluded that Gopal and Ajay Tamang were executed after their arrest, and the encounter was staged to cover up the incident. The police instead claimed that Gopal and Tamang, who were suspected of kidnapping and killing an 11-year-old boy from Kathmandu, were shot during a confrontation in the woods.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions, especially those in pretrial detention centers, were poor and did not meet national or international standards due to overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, and poor sanitation and medical care, according to human rights groups.

Physical Conditions: Prisons were overcrowded. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) reported in its nationwide assessment of prisons that facilities held 200 percent of the designed capacity of inmates. Advocacy Forum stated that overcrowding and poor sanitation remained a serious problem in detention centers. According to the OAG and Advocacy Forum, prisons and detention centers lacked basic infrastructure like water and electricity. Advocacy Forum reported that some detainees slept on the floor due to lack of beds and had access only to unfiltered and dirty water and inadequate food, and that many detention centers had poor ventilation, lighting, heating, and bedding. The OAG reported that while some prisons had health officials, other detention centers or juvenile reform homes had only weekly visits by medical practitioners. According to Advocacy Forum, medical examinations for detainees generally were perfunctory and medical care was poor for detainees with serious conditions.

Some facilities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. Due to a lack of adequate juvenile detention facilities, authorities sometimes incarcerated pretrial child detainees with adults or allowed children to remain in jails with their incarcerated parents. Under the law, children should only be kept in juvenile reform homes and not in prison. According to Advocacy Forum, juveniles were sometimes observed with adult detainees. There were no separate facilities for persons with disabilities. Women were kept in separate facilities, but the facilities also lacked basic amenities.

Administration: Authorities including the OAG conducted investigations of allegations of mistreatment. Detainees have the legal right to receive visits by family members, but family access to prisoners varied from prison to prison.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally allowed prison and pretrial detention center visits by the OAG, NHRC, as well as by lawyers of the accused. NGOs are prevented from accessing detention facilities and can only meet detainees at the gate. Some independent human rights observers, including the United Nations and international organizations, were given such access. Media had no access to prisons or detention centers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but security forces reportedly conducted arbitrary arrests during the year. Human rights groups contended that police abused their 24-hour detention authority by holding persons unlawfully, in some cases without proper access to counsel, food, and medicine, or in inadequate facilities. The law provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law stipulates that, except in cases involving suspected security and narcotics violations, or when the crime’s punishment would be more than three years’ imprisonment, authorities must obtain an arrest warrant and present the suspect to a court within 24 hours of arrest (not including travel time).

If the court upholds a detention, the law generally authorizes police to hold the suspect for up to 25 days to complete an investigation and file a criminal charge sheet. In special cases that timeframe is extended. For narcotics violations, a suspect can be held for up to three months; for suspected acts of organized crime, 60 days; and for suspected acts of corruption, six months. Human rights monitors expressed concern that the law vests too much discretionary power with police and court officials. The constitution provides for detainees’ access to a state-appointed lawyer or one of the detainee’s choice, even if charges have not been filed. Few detainees could afford their own lawyer, and the justice system did not provide free and competent counsel to indigent defendants. Independent organizations, however, provided free legal services to a limited number of detainees accused of criminal violations. Authorities routinely denied defense attorneys access to defendants in custody. A functioning bail system exists; the accused have the option of posting bail in cash or mortgaging their property to the court. Unless prisoners are released on recognizance (no bail), no alternatives to the bail system exist to assure a defendant’s appearance in court.

Arbitrary Arrest: The human rights NGO Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC) documented 80 incidents of arbitrary arrest (without timely warrant presentation) from January to mid-September.

Pretrial Detention: Time served is credited to a prisoner’s sentence and no person may be held in detention for a period exceeding the term of imprisonment that could be imposed on him if he were found guilty of the offense.

Under the law security forces may detain persons who allegedly threaten domestic security and tranquility, amicable relations with other countries, or relations between citizens of different castes or religious groups. The government may detain persons in preventive detention for as long as 12 months without charging them with a crime if the detention complies with the law’s requirements. The courts have no substantive legal role in preventive detentions under the law.

According to human rights groups, in some cases detainees appeared before judicial authorities well after the legally mandated 24-hour limit, allegedly to allow injuries from police mistreatment to heal. Advocacy Forum estimated in 2018 that 14 percent of detainees did not appear before judicial authorities within 24 hours of their arrests, down from 41 percent in 2015. Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance stated police frequently circumvented the 24-hour requirement by registering the detainee’s name only when they were ready to produce the detainee before the court.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, but courts remained vulnerable to political pressure, bribery, and intimidation.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to counsel, equal protection under the law, protection from double jeopardy, protection from retroactive application of the law, public trials, and the right to be present at one’s own trial. These rights are largely honored, except for the right to counsel and the right to be present at one’s own trial, which were sometimes ignored. Defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence except in some cases, such as human trafficking and drug trafficking, where the burden of proof is on the defendant once the charge sheet establishes a prima facie criminal violation. The law provides detainees the right to legal representation and a court-appointed lawyer, a government lawyer, or access to private attorneys. The government provided legal counsel to indigent detainees only upon request. Persons who were unaware of their rights, in particular “lower-caste” individuals and members of some ethnic groups, were thus at risk of being deprived of legal representation. Defense lawyers reported having insufficient time to prepare their defense. The courts must provide free interpretation services to those who do not speak or understand Nepali, and interpreters were made available to interpret a variety of languages. Defense lawyers may cross-examine accusers. All lower-court decisions, including acquittals, are subject to appeal.

Military courts adjudicate cases concerning military personnel under the military code, which provides military personnel the same basic rights as civilians. The law requires that soldiers accused of rape or homicide be transferred to civilian authorities for prosecution. Under normal circumstances, the army prosecutes all other criminal cases raised against soldiers under the military justice system. Nevertheless, the army has told the government it was willing to cooperate with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and CIEDP. Military courts cannot try civilians for crimes, even if the crimes involve the military services; civilian courts handle these cases.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals or organizations may seek remedies for human rights abuses in national courts.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these provisions.

The law allows police to conduct searches and seizures without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, in which case a search may be conducted if two or more persons of “good character” are present. If a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a suspect may possess material evidence, the officer must submit a written request to another officer to conduct a search, and there must be another official present who holds at least the rank of assistant subinspector. Some legal experts claimed that by excluding prosecutors and judges from the warrant procedure, there were relatively few checks against police abuse of discretionary authority.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government tended to respect these rights. Nonetheless, journalists, NGOs, and political activists stated the government restricted media freedom by threatening journalists and news organizations that criticized the government, leading to reports of self-censorship. Human rights lawyers and some journalists stated that both the constitution and law enable the government to restrict freedom of speech and press in ways they considered vague and open to abuse. For example the constitution lists several circumstances under which laws curtailing freedom of speech and press may be formulated. These include acts that “jeopardize harmonious relations between federal units” and acts that assist a foreign state or organization to jeopardize national security. The constitution prohibits any acts “contrary to public health, decency, and morality” or that “disturb the public law and order situation.”

Freedom of Expression: Citizens generally believed they could express their opinions freely and often expressed critical opinions in print and electronic media without restriction. The government continued to limit freedom of expression for members of the country’s Tibetan community through its attempts to stop Tibetans from celebrating culturally important events (see section 2.b.).

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views, generally without restriction. Under the law any person who makes harsh comments on social media or another online site against a senior government official can be charged with a crime. In August police arrested Rautahat Express owner Mohammad Mojibullah and journalist Shekh Gulab for possession of 105 nitravet tablets when the two exited a hotel in Ward 1 of Gaur Municipality. It was later determined that police had planted the illegal drugs in the motorbike of the journalists. The fraud came to light after the Rautahat chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) found closed-circuit television footage showing two individuals planting the drugs in the journalists’ bike, allegedly on the instruction of Assistant Subinspector Udaya Shankar Yadav and Constable Manoj Sah. Police suspended the personnel accused of framing the journalists and launched an investigation into the incident.

Violence and Harassment: There were several press freedom abuses including threats and attacks on journalists who reported on corruption, and the government did not make sufficient efforts to preserve the safety and independence of media. On May 25, journalists who wrote about an alleged meeting between former prime minister Oli and Supreme Court Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana were summoned by the Supreme Court. The court also issued a press statement refuting the news as “misleading” followed by a warning of “legal actions” if publication of such news were to persist.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The constitution prohibits prior censorship of material for printing, publication, or broadcasting, including electronically. The constitution also provides that the government cannot revoke media licenses, close media houses, or seize material based on the content of what is printed, published, or broadcast. The constitution, however, also provides for “reasonable restrictions” of these rights for acts or incitement that “may undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality of Nepal, or harmonious relations between the federal units or harmonious relations between the various castes, tribes, religions, or communities.” Speech amounting to treason, defamation, or contempt of court is also prohibited.

Journalists and NGOs stated that constitutional provisions and laws criminalize normal media activity, such as reporting on public figures, which sometimes resulted in self-censorship by media. The constitution also includes publication and dissemination of false materials as grounds for imposing legal restrictions on press freedom. Media experts reported, however, that these provisions were not enforced against any media outlets. Media professionals expressed concern regarding an additional provision in the constitution that allows the government to formulate laws to regulate media. The penal code, for example, extends the scope of limitation on freedom of expression compared to the language in the constitution for national security and for maintaining public order, and defines defamation as a criminal offense. The FNJ argued that such laws could be used to close media houses or cancel their registration. Although by law all media outlets, including government-owned stations, operate independently from direct government control, indirect political influence sometimes led to self-censorship.

On August 31, a steady stream of inflammatory language against a foreign assistance program and threats of violence from agitators opposed to that program caused a local private television station to pull public service announcements funded by that program. A group of Swagat Nepal supporters and another group led by Nirga Raj Jaishi went to the television station and threatened violence against the station’s property and staff if it continued to air the announcement. After delivering the ultimatum, Nirga Raj Jaishi posted a video on YouTube threatening to “cut the neck” of anyone who advocates for the foreign assistance program. As a result of these threats, the station abruptly stopped airing the public service announcement, and several political leaders tweeted support for the decision to self-censor without referring to the threats of violence.

Libel/Slander Laws: The penal code defines defamation as a criminal offense. On February 9, police arrested lawmaker Ram Kumari Jhakri for allegedly making offensive remarks against President Bidya Devi Bhandari. Political parties and civil society members called the detention of Jhakri arbitrary and unlawful and pressured the government to release her from detention the same day. According to NGOs, police acted at the behest of former prime minister KP Sharma Oli in order to silence his opponents, particularly the rival faction of his own party. Jhakri’s arrest came at a time when the Oli government was planning to introduce a directive to regulate the use of social media and social networking sites.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association; however, the government sometimes restricted freedom of assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Freedom of assembly generally was respected for citizens and legal residents, but there were some restrictions, especially for minority communities. Government permits are required to hold large public events. The law authorizes chief district officers to impose curfews when there is a possibility that demonstrations or riots could disturb the peace.

The government continued to limit freedom of association and peaceful assembly for members of the Tibetan community, including by denying requests to celebrate publicly certain culturally important events, such as the Dalai Lama’s birthday, and deploying large numbers of police offices to Tibetan settlements to monitor private celebrations of this and other culturally important events, including Tibetan Uprising Day and Tibetan Democracy Day.

Tibetan leaders and NGOs expressed concern over the government’s scrutiny of their activities, especially during the December 2020 and April 2021 parliamentary and presidential elections of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Tibetan leaders reported that Tibetans in Nepal were not freely allowed to cast their vote to elect their representatives. Police detained 13 Tibetans, raided the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office, and confiscated ballots. In July for the first time, Tibetan election officers and staff were detained for conducting an election of a local representative in Kathmandu Valley.

On January 25, police used water cannons and batons on demonstrators against the dissolution of the House of Representatives in the Baluwatar area of Kathmandu. According to INSEC, police injured several human rights defenders, including a former commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission.

Freedom of Association

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. NGOs, however, stated the existing legal framework does not adequately recognize the independence of civil society and opens the door to the exercise of excessive discretion by the government. They added that the registration process for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) was restrictive and cumbersome, the government had wide discretion to deny registration, and requirements varied among various registration authorities, with some entities requiring documents not mentioned in existing laws on an ad hoc basis.

Additionally, the law empowers the government to give directions to associations and to terminate associations if they refuse to follow these directions. To receive foreign or government resources, NGOs must seek separate and additional approval from the Social Welfare Council, the government entity responsible for overseeing NGOs. NGOs expressed concern that the approval process was not transparent – and that low level officials have the power to stall the approval process almost indefinitely.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and generally respected these rights, except for most refugees, whose freedom of movement within the country is limited by law. Constraints on refugee movements were enforced unevenly.

In-country Movement: The government has not issued personal identification documents to Tibetan refugees in more than 25 years, leaving most of this refugee population without the required documents to present at police checkpoints or during police stops. Some refugees reported being harassed or turned back by police at checkpoints. The government also restricted the movement of urban refugees of various nationalities whom the government considered irregular migrants (see section 2.f.).

Foreign Travel: The government maintained strict criteria for women traveling overseas for domestic employment, stating it was to protect women from trafficking or other abuse in overseas employment. NGOs and human rights activists viewed these restrictions and prior bans on women under certain ages from traveling to Gulf countries for work as discriminatory and counterproductive because they impelled some women to migrate through informal channels across the Indian border, rendering them more vulnerable to exploitation (see section 7.d.).

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, natural disasters in 2020 led to 48,000 displacements.

Many internally displaced persons (IDP) from the 2015 earthquake remained in camps or informal settlements because they did not hold a title to land and were occupying it illegally when the earthquake occurred. Others stayed because their homes remained vulnerable to or were destroyed by subsequent landslides. The government promoted their safe, voluntary return and had policies in place to help them.

Although the government and the Maoists agreed to support the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of conflict-displaced IDPs to their homes following the 10-year civil war, the agreement had not been fully implemented. The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliament estimated that 78,700 persons were displaced from 1996 to 2006, but an estimated 50,000 remained unwilling or unable to return home. The reasons included unresolved land and property matters, lack of citizenship or ownership documentation, and security concerns, since the land taken from IDPs by Maoists during the conflict was often sold or given to landless or tenant farmers.

The government provided relief packages for the rehabilitation and voluntary return of conflict-era IDPs. Many of those still displaced preferred to integrate locally and live in urban areas, mostly as illegal occupants of government land along riversides or together with the landless population. The absence of public services and lack of livelihood assistance also impeded the return of IDPs.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, except as noted. The National Unit for Coordination of Refugee Affairs (NUCRA) – under the Home Ministry – signed an agreement with UNHCR on the provision of electronic migration and continuous verification of personal data of Bhutanese refugees (Data sharing Agreement) in September 2020.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the determination of individual refugee or asylum claims or a comprehensive legal framework for refugee protection. The government recognized only Tibetans and Bhutanese as refugees and regarded the approximately 725 refugees and asylum seekers of other nationalities as irregular migrants. The government continued to support the resettlement to foreign countries of certain Bhutanese refugees, while requiring other refugees accepted for third country resettlement to pay substantial penalties for illegal stay before granting exit permits. The government does not recognize Tibetans who arrived in the country after 1990 as refugees. Most Tibetans who arrived since then transited to India, although an unknown number remained in the country. The government has not issued refugee cards to Tibetan refugees since 1995. UNHCR estimated three-quarters of the approximately 12,000 resident Tibetan refugees remain undocumented, including all of whom were younger than the age of 16 in 1995 or had been born since then. Government opposition to registration has prevented revisions to these estimates. UNHCR reported 663 refugees and 60 asylum seekers from other countries, including Pakistan, Burma, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Somalia, Iran, and Iraq, lived in the country. The government continued to deny these groups recognition as refugees, even when recognized as such by UNHCR.

Freedom of Movement: The government officially restricted freedom of movement and work for the approximately 6,365 refugees with claims to Bhutanese residency or citizenship residing in the two remaining refugee camps in the eastern part of the country, but those restrictions were largely unenforced for this population. After China heightened security in 2008 along its border and increased restrictions on internal freedom of movement for ethnic Tibetans, the number of Tibetans who transited through the country dropped significantly. UNHCR reported that 37 Tibetans transited the country in 2017, 37 in 2018, 23 in 2019, nine in 2020, and two as of September. The government does not issue exit permits to Tibetan new arrivals. While Tibetans based in the country with refugee certificates were eligible to apply for travel documents to leave the country, the legal process was often arduous, expensive, and opaque, and travel documents were typically valid for up to three years and a single trip. A government directive authorizes chief district officers to skip the verification step, which requires witnesses and a police letter, for Tibetans who had previously been issued a travel document. For individuals whom the government did not recognize as refugees, even when recognized by UNHCR, the government levied fines for each day out of status and a substantial discretionary penalty to obtain an exit permit. The government maintained its policy enabling Nepali government-registered refugees destined for resettlement or repatriation to obtain exit permits without paying these fines.

Employment: Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees were officially denied the right to work.

Access to Basic Services: Most Tibetan refugees who lived in the country, particularly those who arrived after 1990 or turned 16 after 1995, did not have documentation, nor did their locally born children. Even those with acknowledged refugee status had no legal rights beyond the ability to remain in the country. The children born in the country to Tibetans with legal status often lacked documentation. The government allowed NGOs to provide primary- and secondary-level schooling to Tibetans living in the country. The government also provided COVID vaccinations to virtually all refugees living in the country by July, specifically including them in the administration of vaccines donated by a foreign government. Tibetan refugees had no entitlement to higher education in public or private institutions, nor were they eligible for professional licensing in fields such as medicine, nursing, and engineering. They were also unable to legally obtain business licenses, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, or own property. Some refugees continued to experience difficulties documenting births, marriages, and deaths. Some in the Tibetan community resorted to bribery to obtain these services.

The government allowed UNHCR to provide some education, health, and livelihood services to urban refugees, but these refugees lacked legal access to public education and the right to work. In particular the government officially does not allow the approximately 6,365 refugees with claims to Bhutanese residency or citizenship to work. During the year local governments in areas close to Bhutanese refugee settlements allowed the refugees access to public schools and hospitals.

Durable Solutions: The government does not provide for local integration as a durable solution. Since 2007, the government has permitted third-country resettlement for more than 113,000 Bhutanese refugees.

g. Stateless Persons

An estimated 6.7 million individuals lacked citizenship documentation, although the majority of these would be eligible for citizenship under local law. Citizenship documents, which are issued at age 16, are required to register to vote, register marriages or births, buy or sell land and immobile property, access higher education, appear for professional examinations, work in the civil service, open bank accounts, or gain access to credit and receive state social benefits.

Constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations governing citizenship limited women’s ability to convey citizenship to their children (see section 6, Women, Discrimination), which contributed to statelessness. Legal provisions also make it more difficult for marginalized groups including landless individuals, former bonded laborers, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) community to obtain citizenship as do lack of knowledge and corruption. NGOs assisting individuals lacking citizenship documentation stated that local authorities maintained patriarchal requirements, such as attestations from a woman’s male relatives that she qualified for citizenship, a measure that impeded attempts by some individuals to obtain citizenship certificates.

Stateless persons experienced discrimination in employment, education, housing, health services, marriage and birth registration, identity documentation, access to courts and judicial procedures, migration opportunities, land and property ownership, and access to earthquake relief and reconstruction programs.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The government held parliamentary, provincial, and local assembly elections over five phases throughout 2017. International observers indicated that these parliamentary and provincial assembly elections were generally well conducted, despite some violent incidents, and logistical and operational challenges, including a notable lack of transparency and adequate voter education by the Election Commission of Nepal, which hampered the electoral process. According to domestic observer groups, the elections were free, fair, and peaceful and saw high voter turnout. There were three reports, however, of individuals being killed by police and sporadic reports of interparty clashes or assaults, vandalism, and small explosive devices and hoax bombs.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws explicitly limit participation of women, members of minority groups, or members of historically marginalized groups including persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+, and indigenous persons in the political process, and they did participate in local, provincial, and national elections. The constitution mandates proportional inclusion of women in all state bodies and allocates one third of all federal and provincial legislative seats (LGBTQI+). Activists noted that this mandate excluded nonbinary candidates from running for office.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

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

Corruption: During the past fiscal year the Commission for the Investigations of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) filed 205 cases of bribery against 341 individuals.

As in previous years, student and labor groups associated with political parties demanded contributions from schools and businesses. Corruption remained problematic within the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and local governments.

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

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. While government officials were generally cooperative with NGO investigations, the government placed administrative burdens on some international NGOs by complicating procedures for obtaining visas and compelling them to sign asset control documents. Some NGOs, particularly those with a Christian religious element, reported increasing bureaucratic constraints after the devolution of power to local level officials.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The NHRC investigated allegations of abuses, but insufficient staff (78 out of 309 positions were vacant as of August), and limitations on its mandate led some activists to view the body as ineffective and insufficiently independent. The NHRC claimed the government helped promote impunity by failing to implement its recommendations fully. The Nepal Police and Armed Police Force each have a Human Rights Cell (HRC) and the Nepali Army has a human rights directorate (HRD). The Nepali Army HRD and Nepal Police HRC have independent investigative powers. The Nepali Army’s investigations were not fully transparent, according to human rights NGOs.

During the year the government and judiciary did not significantly address most conflict-era human rights and humanitarian law abuses committed by the Nepali Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, and Maoist parties.

The country’s two transitional justice mechanisms, CIEDP and the TRC, are not fully independent. Human rights experts continued to report that neither had made significant progress on investigations or reporting. In February, the government extended the tenure of the TRC and CIEDP commissioners for six months and in July for another year.

Local human rights advocates cited continued legal shortcomings that pose obstacles to a comprehensive and credible transitional justice process in the country. For example, the law does not retroactively criminalize torture or enforced disappearance, and the statute of limitations for rape is only 180 days.

Additionally, the law does not specifically recognize war crimes or crimes against humanity, although the constitution recognizes as law treaties to which the country is a party. Critics also cited instances in which parliament failed to implement Supreme Court decisions. For example, in a 2015 ruling, the court nullified provisions of the law that would have granted the commissions discretionary power to recommend amnesty for serious crimes, because amnesty would violate the then interim constitution and international obligations. In April 2020 the Supreme Court rejected the government’s petition seeking review of the 2015 decision. As of September, the federal parliament had not amended the act in line with the Supreme Court verdict and international standards.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

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.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

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.

Children

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.

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination 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.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join unions of their choice, except those organizations deemed by the government to be subversive or seditious. Freedom of association extends to workers in both the formal and informal sectors. Noncitizens cannot be elected as trade union officials or form unions.

Certain workers have the right to strike and bargain collectively, except for employees in what the government defines as essential services, including public transportation, banking, security, and health care. Members of the armed forces, police, and government officials at the undersecretary level or higher also are prohibited from forming or taking part in union activities.

The law prohibits workers from striking in any special economic zone. One special economic zone in Bhairahawa, near the Indian border, is operating.

The law stipulates that unions must represent at least 25 percent of workers in a given workplace to be considered representative. The minimum requirement does not prohibit the formation of unofficial union groups, which under certain conditions may call strikes and negotiate with the government. Workers in the informal sector may also form unions, but due to the strong political affiliation of many of these unions, nonaffiliated individuals often remain excluded or unaware of this right.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights such as discrimination. Enforcement in the private and informal sectors, however, remains a challenge. A labor court addresses violations of labor laws and other issues related to labor.

The law protects union representatives from adverse legal action arising from their official union duties, including collective bargaining, and prohibits antiunion discrimination. Workers dismissed for engaging in union activities can seek reinstatement by filing a complaint in labor court or with the Department of Labor, which has semi judicial and mediation authority. Most cases are settled through mediation. The law stipulates that participation in a strike that does not meet legal requirements constitutes misconduct, for which the consequences can be suspension or termination of employment.

To conduct a legal strike, 51 percent of a union’s membership must vote in favor in a secret ballot, and unions are required to give 30 days’ notice before striking. If the union is unregistered, does not have majority support, or calls a strike prior to issuing 30 days’ notice, the strike is considered illegal.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected. Although the government restricted strikes in essential services, workers in hospitals, education services, and the transportation sector occasionally called strikes during the year and did not face any legal penalties. Many unions had links to political parties and did not operate independently from them but worked effectively to advance the rights of workers. The government did not interfere in the functioning of workers’ organizations or threaten union leaders.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but does not criminalize the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of persons by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law and the country continued to be a source, transit, and destination for men, women, and children who were subjected to forced labor. Kamlari is one such form of illegal slavery in which girls as young as four years and women across all age groups were forced to work as bonded laborers in the houses of rich landlords. The government did not provide support, such as financial assistance or educational opportunities, to adequately reintegrate newly freed women and girls into society. Several nonprofit organizations operated checkpoints along the country’s border with India, where human trafficking was still a problem, and play an important role in victim detection and raising awareness among women and children at a higher risk of human trafficking and slavery.

Government enforcement of the laws against bonded labor was uneven, and social reintegration of victims remained difficult. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. The government did not effectively screen for labor trafficking among abused migrant workers and handled such cases administratively in lieu of criminal investigation. In addition, despite reports of worker exploitation, including trafficking, and illegal recruitment fees charged by recruitment agencies, the government did not sufficiently investigate agencies for violations. The penalties for violating laws against bonded labor involve fines and compensation to victims, with no imprisonment, and are not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Labor trafficking is prosecuted as a criminal offense and punishments are commensurate with other serious crimes.

Forced labor, including through debt-based bondage, of adults and children existed in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, and domestic work. A government study documented more than 61,000 individuals – including approximately 10,000 children – in forced labor over the past five years, especially in agriculture, forestry, and construction. NGOs reported some children worked in brick kilns, including carrying loads, preparing bricks, and performing other tasks at kilns for extended periods.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor and establishes 14 as the minimum age for work and 17 as the minimum age for hazardous work, and it defines and mandates acceptable working conditions for children. The law prohibits employment of children in factories, mines, and 60 other categories of hazardous work and limits children between the ages of 16 and 17 to a 36-hour workweek (six hours a day between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., six days a week). The types of hazardous work prohibited for children do not include brickmaking, where work involves carrying heavy loads and being exposed to hazardous substances. Employers must maintain separate records of laborers between the ages of 14 and 17.

The Department of Labor, which is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and practices, did not effectively do so. Labor law enforcement was centralized and the number of labor inspectors at the provincial levels remained inadequate. The Department of Labor conducted most of its inspections in the formal sector while nearly all child labor occurred in the informal sector. The department had 14 factory inspector positions in district labor offices and two senior factory inspector positions in Kathmandu. Chronic vacancies in these positions, however, limited the department’s effectiveness. Some of these positions were vacant due to regular rotation of civil servants, and resources devoted to enforcement were limited. Although labor inspectors periodically received training on child labor laws and inspection, this training did not necessarily adhere to any formal schedule.

A broad range of laws and policies were designed to combat and eventually eliminate child labor. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Child labor, including forced child labor, occurred in agriculture, domestic service, portering, recycling, and transportation; the worst abuses were reported in brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, the carpet sector, embroidery factories, and the entertainment sector. In the informal sector, children worked long hours in unhealthy environments, carried heavy loads, were at risk of sexual exploitation, and at times suffered from numerous health problems (see section 6, Children).

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, sex, caste, tribe, geographical or social origin, language, marital status, physical or health condition, disability, or ideological conviction. Labor regulations prohibit discrimination in payment or remuneration based on gender. Penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights.

There are no provisions in the constitution, law, or regulations prohibiting discrimination, including labor discrimination, based on color, age, sexual orientation or gender identity, refugee status, national origin or citizenship, HIV or AIDS-positive status, or other communicable diseases. To be eligible for government jobs, Nepali national origin or citizenship is mandatory. Certain groups, such as lower-class women, minority groups, persons with disability, marginalized groups, Muslims, gender and sexual minority groups, youths, peasants, laborers, and other disadvantaged groups are stated to have the right to employment in state structures based on “the principle of inclusion.”

Authorities restrict domestic work in Gulf countries for Nepali women to protect them from exploitation and violence, including with conditions a labor destination country must meet. Civil society organizations note that these conditions are so stringent that they remain a de facto ban for women traveling for domestic employment.

Despite constitutional and legal protections, discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, caste, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, and HIV-positive status. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Such discrimination was most common in the informal sector, where monitoring by the government and human rights organizations was weak or absent and those in disadvantaged categories had little leverage or recourse. In the formal sector, labor discrimination generally took the form of upper-caste men without disabilities being favored in hiring, promotions, and transfers.

According to the Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens and disability rights advocates, the overall rate of employment of persons with disabilities did not increase significantly. In the private sector, large numbers of persons with disabilities claimed they were denied work opportunities or dismissed due to their conditions. In all sectors, employees with disabilities reported other forms of discriminatory treatment.

According to the Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization, the government made little progress in implementing antidiscrimination legal provisions to assure employment opportunities for lower-caste individuals in both the public and private sectors. There was no comprehensive data on this abuse.

Structural barriers and discrimination forced Dalits to continue low-income and dehumanizing employment, such as manual scavenging, disposing of dead animals, digging graves, or making leather products.

For every 100 employed men, there were only 59 employed women, and the average monthly income for women was 6000 rupees ($50) less than what men earn. make up 58 percent of the population earning 7,600 rupees ($65) per month but only 12 percent of those earning more than 25,000 rupees ($ 210). Patriarchal attitudes and unequal gender division of labor has long been identified as a factor causing inequality with direct links to lower income, education, and access to finance.

Reliable data on discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in various sectors was not available, but activists reported it was common for gender and sexual minorities to be denied promotions and competitive opportunities within security services and athletics.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage exceeded the official poverty line, but it was minimally sufficient to meet subsistence needs.

The law stipulates a 48-hour workweek, with one day off per week and one-half hour of rest per five hours worked. The law limits overtime to no more than four hours in a day and 20 hours per week, with a 50 percent overtime premium per hour. Excessive compulsory overtime is prohibited. Employees are also entitled to paid public holiday leave, sick leave, annual leave, maternity leave, bereavement leave, and other special leave. The law provides benefits such as a provident fund, housing facilities, day-care arrangements for establishments with more than 50 female workers, and maternity benefits.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. The ministry did not employ enough inspectors to enforce the wage and hour laws or the occupational health and safety laws. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

The government did not effectively enforce the law and the number of worksite inspections was low. Penalties for violations of minimum wage and overtime laws were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. Most factories in the formal sector complied with laws on minimum wage and hours of work, but implementation varied in the informal sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: Implementation and enforcement of occupational health and safety standards were minimal, and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security considered it the most neglected area of labor law enforcement. The law provides adequate occupational health and safety standards and the ministry found violations across sectors, including in construction, mining, transportation, agriculture, and factory work.

The government had not created the necessary regulatory or administrative structures to enforce occupational safety and health provisions. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security did not have a specific office dedicated to occupational safety and health, nor did it have inspectors specifically trained in this area. Although the law authorizes factory inspectors to order employers to rectify unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety standards remained minimal, and monitoring was weak. Accurate data on workplace fatalities and accidents was not available. Labor law and regulations provide for protection of workers from work situations that endanger their health and safety, but in small and cottage industries located in towns and villages, employers sometimes forced workers to work in such situations or risk losing their jobs. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance.

The government regulated labor contracting or “manpower” agencies recruiting workers for overseas jobs, and penalized fraudulent recruitment practices. The government declared it remained committed to its free-visa, free-ticket scheme, but according to migrant rights NGOs, the government failed to implement the policy effectively. Some government officials were complicit in falsifying travel documents and overlooking recruiting violations by labor contractors. The Department of Foreign Employment introduced measures to reduce the number of registered manpower agencies and more closely scrutinize their activities. The myriad unregistered and unregulated labor “brokers” and intermediaries, who were often trusted members of the community, complicated effective monitoring of recruitment practices. Workers were also encouraged to register and pay a fee to the Foreign Employment Board, which tracked migrant workers and provided some compensation for workers whose rights were violated. As in 2020, the suspension of international flights and the economic impact of COVID-19 prevented workers from traveling for a significant portion of the year and made it difficult to evaluate the impact of any measures.

The government required contracts for workers going abroad to be translated into Nepali and instituted provisions whereby workers must attend a predeparture orientation program. During the orientation workers are made aware of their rights and legal recourse, should their rights be violated. The effectiveness of the initiatives remained questionable since workers who went overseas often skipped the mandatory training, and many companies issued predeparture orientation certificates for a small fee and failed to deliver the training. Migrant workers heading abroad often continued to face exploitive conditions.

Informal Sector: According to the International Labor Organization, more than 70 percent of the economically active population was involved in the informal economy, and over 90 percent of women were employed in the informal sector including domestic service. A rapid study published by the Home Workers’ Trade Union of Nepal in late 2020 showed that the pandemic and lockdowns had left more than 85 percent of domestic workers unemployed and without a safety net. Minimum-wage laws apply to both the formal sector and the informal sector, but implementation was stronger in the formal sector. Violations occurred in informal agriculture, transportation, domestic servitude, brick kilns, carpet industries, construction, and small hotels and restaurants.

Netherlands

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, consists of four semiautonomous countries: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. The kingdom retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense, and other “kingdom issues.” The Netherlands includes the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, which are special municipalities. The six Caribbean entities collectively are known as the Dutch Caribbean. The Netherlands has a bicameral parliament. The country’s 12 provincial councils elect the First Chamber, and the Second Chamber is elected by popular vote. A prime minister and a cabinet representing the governing political parties exercise executive authority. Second Chamber elections held in March were considered free and fair. Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten have unicameral parliamentary systems, and each island country has one minister plenipotentiary representing them in the kingdom’s Council of Ministers. Ultimate responsibility for safeguarding fundamental human rights and freedoms in all kingdom territories lies with the kingdom’s ministerial council, which includes the Dutch government and the plenipotentiary ministers of Curacao, Aruba, and Sint Maarten. (Note: The adjective “Dutch” throughout this report refers to “the Netherlands.”) Curacao’s March 19 and Aruba’s June 25 parliamentary elections were considered free and fair. Elections for seats in the Netherlands’ First Chamber in 2019 were considered free and fair.

The national police maintain internal security in the Netherlands and report to the Ministry of Justice and Security, which oversees law enforcement organizations, as do the justice ministries in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. The kingdom’s armed forces report to the Ministry of Defense and are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities. The military police (Marechaussee) are responsible for border control in the Netherlands. Each country’s Border Protection Service (immigration), police, and the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard share responsibility for border control on Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao, respectively. Civilian authorities throughout the kingdom maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: violence or threats of violence against journalists; crimes and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; crimes involving threats of violence against members of national, racial, and ethnic minorities; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

Authorities in the kingdom identified, investigated, prosecuted, and punished officials who committed abuses or were accused of corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the governments or their agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no reports regarding prison or detention center conditions in the Netherlands that raised human rights concerns. According to human rights organizations, prison conditions in some detention centers on Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao did not meet minimum international standards.

Physical Conditions: In the Netherlands there were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse. In a 2015 report on its visit to the Dutch Caribbean, the most recent report available, the Council of Europe’s Committee of the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted poor physical conditions in Curacao and Aruba, in some cases serious enough to be considered inhuman and degrading treatment, and reports of inmate mistreatment and interprisoner violence in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. Amnesty International reported during the year that migrants in detention on Curacao were subjected to harsh conditions, including overcrowding and poor food, as well as psychological and physical abuse from guards and had limited contact with the outside world.

On Aruba and Curacao, repatriation flights occurred more often to return undocumented Venezuelans who did not request asylum to Venezuela, although the schedule was not regular, and some undocumented Venezuelans remained in immigration detention longer than expected.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported that Venezuelan refugees were held in detention in Curacao for more than six months, which is a violation of local immigration policy. An August 2020 report by the independent body Council for Law Enforcement stated that at the time of their investigation, there was a lack of staff at the prison and the living conditions at the migration detention center were poor.

Administration: Agencies that make up the national preventive mechanism addressing allegations of mistreatment throughout the entire kingdom conducted investigations into credible allegations.

Independent Monitoring: The kingdom’s governments permitted monitoring by independent governmental and nongovernmental observers such as human rights groups, media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as by international bodies such as the CPT, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and the UN Working Group for People of African Descent.

Improvements: In response to the 2015 CPT report, Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao added staff, daytime activities, rehabilitation programs, and electronic surveillance, and prompted by overcrowding due to the Venezuelan migration crisis, Dutch government-funded improvements of the Curacao detention center and prison continued during the year, based on CPT standards.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law throughout the kingdom prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The governments generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

A prosecutor or senior police officer must order the arrest of any person unless the person is apprehended at the site of an alleged crime. Arrested persons have the right to appear, usually within a day, before a judge, and authorities generally respected this right. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them. The kingdom’s laws also allow persons to be detained on a court order pending investigation.

In terrorism-related cases in the Netherlands, the examining magistrate may initially order detention for 14 days on the lesser charge of “reasonable suspicion” rather than the “serious suspicion” required for other crimes.

There is no bail system. Detainees can request to be released claiming there are no grounds to detain them. Authorities frequently grant such requests. In all parts of the kingdom, the law provides suspects the right to consult an attorney. The Netherlands’ law grants all criminal suspects the right to have their lawyers present at police interrogation. In Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, a criminal suspect is only entitled to consult his or her lawyer prior to the first interview on the substance of the case. Immigration detainees in Curacao do not always have access to legal counsel, nor do they have consistent visitation rights. On Curacao, Venezuelans faced barriers to accessing legal assistance since they must know how to call upon assistance themselves, a significant challenge as they were often uninformed regarding Curacaoan laws and regulations and since materials provided were only in Dutch. Additionally, attorney’s fees must be paid by the detainee, his or her family, or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In the Netherlands and Curacao, in the case of a minor, the lawyer can be present during interviews but cannot actively participate. In 2020 the Council on Law Enforcement revealed that the 30-day maximum detention rule for migrant foreign nationals was regularly exceeded on Curacao, and that foreign nationals in detention were not informed of their rights.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

In all parts of the kingdom, the law provides for an independent judiciary, and the governments generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial throughout the kingdom, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly of the charges. Trials must be fair and take place without undue delay in the presence of the accused. The law provides for prompt access of defendants to attorneys of their choice, including at public expense if the defendant is indigent, although this was not the case for deportation hearings in Curacao. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. If required, the court provides interpreters free of charge throughout the judicial process. The defendant is not present when the examining magistrate examines witnesses, but an attorney for the accused has the right to question them.

In most instances defendants and their attorneys may present witnesses and evidence for the defense. The judge has the discretion to decide which witnesses and evidence are relevant to the case; if the defendant disagrees with the judge’s decision, there is a procedure to address the grievance. In certain cases involving national security, the defense has the right to submit written questions to witnesses whose identities are kept confidential. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees anywhere in the kingdom.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals throughout the kingdom may bring lawsuits for damages for human rights abuses in the regular court system or specific appeal boards. If all domestic means of redress are exhausted, individuals may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Citizens of Sint Maarten and Curacao may also seek redress from the government through the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Property Seizure and Restitution

The Netherlands government has laws or mechanisms in place, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government has made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. During the year the government revised its policies on art restitution. The new policy is comprehensive and includes, among other steps: ending the former “balancing test,” which gave weight to the existing owners in contravention of the Washington Principles on Nazi-confiscated art; establishing a help desk for survivors and heirs; and providing additional money for provenance research and opening more of the archives to the public. The World Jewish Restitution Organization noted the new policy, stating that it returned “…the Netherlands to its role as a leading country in regard to research on and restitution of artworks and other cultural property that was plundered from the Jews of the Netherlands during the Holocaust.” The government sought to meet the goals of the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues. A legal process exists for claimants to request the return of property looted during the Holocaust, although some advocates said that bureaucratic procedures and poor record keeping were barriers to restitution efforts. There were no active restitution cases on Curacao, Aruba, or Sint Maarten.

On June 3, the Dutch railway (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) published its final report on the restitution program it managed for victims of its transport of more than 100,000 Jews, Roma, Sinti, and others to transit camps during World War II. The program, which ran from 2019 to 2020, approved 5,489 applications out of 7,791 total and awarded approximately 43.9 million euros ($50.5 million) to eligible recipients, most of whom were the descendants of victims. The report also announced the start of a historical research project into the railway’s role during the Second World War and noted its five-million-euro ($5.75 million) donation to four local Holocaust memorial centers in 2020 as a “collective expression of recognition” for the railway’s victims.

The 2020 Department of State Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law throughout the kingdom prohibits such actions but some human rights organizations criticized police capturing of facial photographs and storing citizens’ privacy-sensitive data.

Dutch police used photos of drivers’ faces automatically taken by automated number plate recognition (ANPR) license plate cameras for investigative purposes. The use of facial photos, however, is not permitted under the existing legal framework, under which police are only allowed to record license plates. Moreover, the data must be destroyed after 28 days, and recognizable faces must be blurred to prevent breaches of privacy. The head of the department responsible for the ANPR cameras of the National Police stated in August that he would like to see the law expanded so that in cases of serious crimes such as armed robbery, murder, or manslaughter, faces captured by ANPR cameras could be made recognizable and used in investigations. At year’s end, the Scientific Research and Documentation Center of the Ministry of Justice and Security was evaluating the relevant law to determine whether the use of the ANPR in this fashion could continue.

The Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism’s (NCTV) legal department confirmed in September that the government body had been unlawfully collecting, storing, and analyzing privacy-sensitive data about citizens for years, according to media outlet NRC, citing NCTV internal documents. During a parliamentary debate in June, Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus denied that NCTV acted unlawfully but nevertheless in July submitted a proposal for a draft law to provide a legal basis for the NCTV to process personal data. Parliament had yet to vote on the legislation by year’s end.

In December police announced a halt to the collection of personal data from phones and laptops of asylum seekers and the erasure of such data from police systems. The collection program, named “Athens,” began in 2016 over concerns about possible terrorists or criminals within the asylum seeker population, and cross-referenced the collected data with national databases to identify signs of human trafficking, smuggling, and terrorist threats. The practice, however, yielded no new criminal investigations, according to media. Authorities asserted this practice had been allowable under data regulations before the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulations in 2018. The Council of State, the highest court in the Netherlands, ruled in June there should be legal safeguards that “limit” the collection, use, and retention of data copied from asylum seekers’ phones and advocated for clearer definitions on for what purpose data could be stored and the length of storage.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the governments throughout the kingdom generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the press.

Freedom of Expression: It is a crime to “verbally or in writing or image deliberately offend a group of persons because of their race, their religion or beliefs, their sexual orientation, or their physical, psychological, or mental disability.” The statute in the Netherlands does not consider statements that target a philosophy or religion, as opposed to a group of persons, as criminal hate speech. The penalties for violating the law include imprisonment for a maximum of two years, a substantial fine, or both. In the Dutch Caribbean, the penalties for this offense are imprisonment for a maximum of one year or a fine. In the Netherlands there are restrictions on the sale of the book Mein Kampf and the display of the swastika symbol with the intent of referring to Nazism.

On July 6, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders’ 2016 conviction for “group insult” against Moroccans at a 2014 political rally. Wilders had filed the appeal following the September 2020 appellate court’s decision to uphold the original 2016 conviction. As was the case in the 2016 conviction, Wilders was not punished.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media in the kingdom were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. Restrictions on “hate speech” applied to media outlets but were only occasionally enforced.

Nongovernmental Impact: Several crime reporters and media outlets in the Netherlands faced threats, violence, and intimidation from criminal gangs. A June report commission by PersVeilig, a joint initiative by the Dutch Association of Journalists, the Dutch Association of Editors in Chief, and the national police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, found that eight out of 10 journalists surveyed had experienced some form of threat, mostly verbal, compared to six out of 10 in 2017. If required by circumstances, reporters receive temporary police protection.

Veteran investigative crime reporter Peter R. de Vries died on July 15, nine days after being shot in the head outside an Amsterdam television studio. Two suspects in De Vries’ killing remained in custody awaiting trial at year’s end. A public prosecutor stated that De Vries was killed for advising a major witness testifying against accused drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi, rather than for his journalism. De Vries, however, had been threatened in the past for his investigative reporting. Following the July 6 shooting, television channel RTL canceled its July 10 live broadcast of its show RTL Boulevard, on which De Vries had been a guest just before being shot outside the studio, over threats against the show’s studio in Amsterdam. An investigation by the Dutch Safety Board into whether De Vries should have been assigned personal protection, which he himself had refused, was ongoing at year’s end.

On July 19, a court in London charged Mohammed Gohir Khan, a United Kingdom citizen, with plotting to kill Pakistani blogger Ahmad Waqass Goraya. Goraya resided in Rotterdam and was the victim of an assault and threats in 2020.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The laws in the kingdom provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the governments generally respected these rights.

Amid the eviction of demonstrators at a March 15 anticoronavirus pandemic-related lockdown protest in The Hague, two police officers, while making an arrest, beat a demonstrator who appeared to be lying defenseless on the ground. A police dog also attacked the demonstrator during the arrest. Police reported the arrested demonstrator had thrown a jumper cable at an officer before the arrest and grabbed the dog’s ears while on the ground. The Hague police chief Paal van Musscher stated that during the protest, “significant violence [had] been used against the police.” The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced in December the involved officers would be prosecuted for their actions which it deemed were at a disproportionate level of violence. Chair of the Dutch Police Association Jan Struijs expressed his support for the two officers, who he alleged were confronted with “a lot of aggressive violence” during the incident.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The laws in the kingdom provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the governments generally respected these rights.

Citizenship: Since 2017 Dutch law has allowed revocation of Dutch citizenship for dual nationals suspected of joining a terrorist organization. During the year the government did not revoke any dual citizen’s citizenship on the basis of terrorism but affirmed in April that the revocation of citizenship for six nationals in 2017 was conducted on a lawful basis. In December the government stated that since the law’s inception, it had revoked the citizenships of 17 persons. Several human rights bodies, including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, and Netherlands-based human rights advocates and migration law experts, criticized the practice as being racially discriminatory. They noted those that have had their Dutch citizenship revoked were all of non-Western origin while those of Western origin who had committed similar crimes but only had one citizenship could not lose it or else they become stateless. On December 14, parliament voted to extend the law, set to expire in March 2022, until March 2027. Dutch intelligence and the Public Prosecutor’s Office opposed the extension, asserting that citizenship revocation did not reduce the threat to national security.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The governments of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten, and Aruba cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. Curacao expelled UNHCR in 2017 but allowed UNHCR to re-establish an office in 2020. In the meanwhile, it cooperated with the UNHCR office on Aruba.

Access to Asylum: The laws on asylum vary in different parts of the kingdom. In the Netherlands the law generally provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees.

The laws in Sint Maarten and Curacao do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Foreigners requesting asylum are processed as foreigners requesting a humanitarian residence permit. If an individual is unable to obtain a humanitarian residence permit, authorities deport the person to their country of origin or a country that agreed to accept them. Curacao requested and received guidance and training from the Netherlands on asylum-processing procedures and established an asylum policy based on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Amnesty International, however, found that Curacao’s new international protection procedure did not comply with international standards. Curacaoan immigration police routinely pressured Venezuelans in their custody to sign deportation orders irrespective of whether they needed international protection. On Aruba the law generally provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. Additionally, Aruba received capacity-building support and training from the Netherlands that further supports the development of an asylum-processing system and its relevant procedures.

Most asylum seekers in the Dutch Caribbean were from Venezuela. Authorities in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten generally considered most Venezuelan asylum seekers to be economic migrants ineligible for protection. There were an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Venezuelan migrants on Aruba and a similar number on Curacao, and another 1,000 on Sint Maarten. Approximately 25 percent of the migrants on Aruba requested asylum. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao deported undocumented displaced Venezuelans throughout the year. Local and international human rights organizations urged the governments of Aruba and Curacao to refrain from deporting or repatriating Venezuelan asylum seekers back to their home country. Local human rights organizations reported that Aruba and Curacao deported asylum seekers who had presented credible evidence suggesting that they would face abuse for their political beliefs if returned to Venezuela. Local authorities on Aruba denied the allegation, noting that all deportations were coordinated with international organizations. On Curacao, Venezuelans who have asked for protection were not deported and remained in detention, although those who decided not to proceed with the process under the European Convention on Human Rights (see Refoulement, below) were deported.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: Authorities in the Netherlands denied asylum to persons who came from so-called safe countries of origin or who had resided for some time in safe countries of transit. They used EU guidelines to define such countries. Applicants had the right to appeal all denials.

The highest court in the Netherlands, the Council of State, ruled July 28 that the government could not automatically deport two Syrian asylum seekers with Greek residence permits to Greece without examining the merits of their case. The council found that Greece was unable to provide for their basic needs. This ruling overturned the council’s 2018 verdict which found at the time the living conditions in Greece were suitable enough to allow for the automatic deportation of status holders.

Refoulement: On Curacao and Sint Maarten, there is no legal protection against returning a person who faces a well-founded fear of persecution to their country of origin. Curacao and Sint Maarten are, however, bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits in absolute terms torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Accordingly, persons may not be expelled if they face a real risk of abuse contrary to the convention in their country of origin. Both governments developed corresponding national procedures but did not amend their immigration statutes. Both the Netherlands and Aruba have legal protections to prevent refoulement. In Aruba, however, human rights organizations, including UNCHR, reported that Aruban authorities deported Venezuelans who claimed they would face abuse if returned to Venezuela without adjudicating their asylum claims. Authorities on Aruba dismissed these claims and stated that due process was followed.

In an August 11 letter to parliament, the Dutch government stated that all decisions on forced deportations and asylum applications of Afghan asylum seekers would be postponed for six months, due to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The letter followed criticism from coalition and opposition political parties regarding the Netherlands signing an August 5 letter with five other EU member states appealing to the European Commission to continue allowing deportations to Afghanistan.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: During the year Amnesty International reported that authorities in Curacao used excessive force against some detainees and criticized conditions in facilities for detainees (see section 1.c.). Human rights organizations criticized the government of Curacao for failing to provide a robust system for temporary status to Venezuelan refugees and other displaced Venezuelans. During the year Curacao implemented a new policy to arrange the integration of migrants under strict conditions. Most migrants, however, did not meet the stringent conditions and remained without legal status, living on the fringes of society.

Freedom of Movement: Government guidelines allow those whose asylum application has been denied and are to be deported to be detained for up to six months, during which a judge monthly examines the legitimacy of the detention. If authorities cannot deport the detained individual within this time period, the individual is released. Authorities can, however, detain the individual for up to a maximum of 18 months on exceptional grounds, such as security concerns, with approval from the court. Detainees have access to a lawyer and can appeal the detention at any time. The Ministry of Justice and Security estimated the average detention span is two months. In the Netherlands Amnesty International, the Dutch Refugee Council, and other NGOs asserted that persons denied asylum and irregular migrants were regularly subjected to lengthy detention before deportation, even when no clear prospect of actual deportation existed.

Durable Solutions: In the Netherlands the government accepted up to 500 refugees for resettlement through UNHCR, and the governments of the Dutch Caribbean accepted up to 250 each. Most of the persons granted residency permits or requested asylum on Curacao and Aruba were from Venezuela. The governments of Aruba and Curacao provided assistance to migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers who sought to return to their home country voluntarily. Sint Maarten does not receive a significant number of applications from refugees or asylum seekers for residency permits; of those, most were from the northern Caribbean, not Venezuela. The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for non-Dutch persons to gain citizenship.

Temporary Protection: The government of the Netherlands provided temporary protection to individuals who did not qualify as refugees. According to Eurostat data, in 2019 it provided subsidiary protection to 2,355 persons and humanitarian status to 680 others.

g. Stateless Persons

In 2020 Statistics Netherlands reported the registration of 45,947 persons under “nationality unknown,” which also included stateless persons. According to provisional UNHCR statistics, there were 2,006 stateless persons, including forcibly displaced stateless, in the Netherlands at the end of 2020. The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for stateless persons to gain citizenship.

Some newborns of undocumented Venezuelan parents on Curacao and Aruba risked becoming stateless, because neither the local government nor the Venezuelan consulate issues birth certificates to undocumented persons.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and laws in the entire kingdom provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the March parliamentary elections for seats in the Second Chamber of the Netherlands free and fair.

Observers considered the 2020 parliamentary elections on Sint Maarten, the March 19 parliamentary elections on Curacao, and the June 25 parliamentary elections on Aruba all free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, and indigenous persons, in the political process in the kingdom, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The laws in the entire kingdom provide criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the governments generally implemented the laws effectively. There were isolated reports of corruption in the kingdom’s governments during the year.

Corruption: Investigations started against several former and sitting members of parliament on Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, and in some cases resulted in convictions and sentencing by the courts. In January former parliamentarian Chanel Brownbill lost his appeal to his conviction for tax fraud. In March 2020 a court sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

In 2020 a large-scale investigation of 23 million intercepted messages among criminals on the encrypted Encrochat chat service brought to light corruption among police in the Netherlands, such as officers allegedly leaking police information to organized criminals through the chat service. In April media outlets reported that at least seven police officers were arrested on suspicion of corruption.

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

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: A citizen of the Netherlands may bring any complaint before the national ombudsperson, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), the Commercial Code Council, or the Council of Journalism, depending on circumstances. The NIHR acted as an independent primary contact between the Dutch government and domestic and international human rights organizations.

Citizens of Curacao and Sint Maarten may bring any complaint before their national ombudsperson. All citizens of the Dutch Caribbean islands can direct complaints to their public prosecutors or to NGOs.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law in all parts of the kingdom criminalizes rape for both men and women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The penalty in the Netherlands for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years, a substantial fine, or both. In the case of violence against a spouse, the penalty for various forms of abuse can be increased by one-third. On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the penalty for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 15 years, a substantial fine, or both. Authorities effectively prosecuted such crimes.

The government estimated that each year, approximately 200,000 persons are confronted with serious and repeated domestic violence. Authorities used various tools to tackle and prevent domestic violence, including providing information, restraining orders for offenders, and protection of victims. Reliable crime statistics were not available for the islands.

The governmental Central Bureau of Statistics reported in September that one in five young persons between the ages of 16 and 24 had been a victim of domestic violence between March 2019 and April 2020. The bureau report identified girls were more vulnerable than boys and men were more likely to commit domestic violence, included physical and verbal attacks.

The government continued funding for Safe Home, a knowledge hub and reporting center for domestic abuse with 26 regional branches, as the national platform to prevent domestic violence and support victims. The center operated a national 24/7 hotline for persons affected by domestic violence. The government supported the organization Movisie, which assisted survivors of domestic and sexual violence, trained police and first responders, and maintained a website on preventing domestic violence.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence is treated as regular violence for the purposes of prosecution and does not constitute a separate offense category. Laws against violence were enforced effectively in honor-related violence cases, and survivors were permitted to enter a specialized shelter.

Sexual Harassment: The law penalizes acts of sexual harassment throughout the kingdom and was enforced effectively. The penalty in the Netherlands is imprisonment not exceeding eight years, a substantial fine, or both. The law requires employers to protect employees against aggression, violence, and sexual intimidation. In the Netherlands complaints against employers who failed to provide sufficient protection can be submitted to the NIHR. Victims of sexual assault or rape in the workplace can report the incidents to police as criminal offenses.

On Curacao the Victims Assistance Foundation assists survivors. On Sint Maarten there was no central institution handling sexual harassment cases. According to the law, substantive civil servant law integrity counselors must be appointed for each ministry. These integrity counselors advise civil servants on integrity matters, and the responsible minister must act on the complaint. Aruban law states the employer shall ensure the employee is not sexually harassed in the workplace. Employers are required to keep the workplace free from harassment by introducing policies and enforcing them. Sint Maarten and Curacao also have laws prohibiting stalking.

The Sint Maarten government established a victim support unit. Sexual harassment also qualifies as a criminal offense, in which case prosecution is possible and persons are eligible to receive support.

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

Some religious and cultural communities discouraged premarital sex, the use of contraception, or both. Although no government policies or legal, social, or cultural barriers adversely affect access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth in the Dutch Caribbean islands, there are barriers on Aruba and Curacao for the large population of undocumented migrants that do not have access to the public health insurance system. Migrants, however, do have access to generalized medical care. Hospitals provided medical emergency assistance, including regarding birth and accidents, to all.

On July 28, an Arnhem court ruled that the in vitro fertilization (IVF) tax benefit should also be available to same-sex couples and called upon politicians to adjust the law, which only allows the benefit on the grounds of a medical issue. The case involved the tax authority’s denial of a request from a same-sex male couple – both of whom were found fertile – for the IVF tax benefit for their surrogate’s treatment outside the country. The court stated that the law was discriminatory as same-sex male couples required additional services, such as surrogacy and IVF, for biological reproduction.

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

Discrimination: Under the law women throughout the kingdom have the same legal status and rights as 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 governments enforced the law effectively, although there were some reports of discrimination in employment (see section 7.d., Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The laws throughout the kingdom prohibit racial, national, or ethnic discrimination, and the government enforced these prohibitions effectively.

Various monitoring bodies in the Netherlands reported that in 2020 there were more reports of discrimination than in 2019. In total, various organizations received more than 17,000 complaints, an increase of 6,000 compared to 2019. Police registered 6,141 discrimination incidents in 2020, 12 percent more than in 2019. According to various monitoring bodies, the largest percentage (43 percent) of incidents of discrimination registered with police in 2020 had to do with a person’s origin, including color and ethnicity. Almost all these incidents concerned persons of non-Western backgrounds, including Turkish, Moroccan, and East Asian persons. Police reported that, of these incidents, 14 percent involved physical violence, although in most cases this did not go beyond pushing and shoving. Approximately 20 percent of the reports received by antidiscrimination agencies concerned the labor market. Examples include discrimination experienced during the recruitment process or by colleagues or clients.

According to the NIHR, discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds occurred in virtually every sphere (see also Other Societal Violence or Discrimination in this section). On September 28, Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren appointed Rabin Baldewsingh as the Netherlands’ first national coordinator on racism and discrimination. In this role, Baldewsingh is expected to work with the cabinet to create a multiyear national program against discrimination and coordinate with stakeholders including the national coordinator for countering anti-Semitism.

The ad hoc national Advisory Board on Slavery History (Advisory Board) presented recommendations for Minister Ollongren’s consideration, including recognizing Keti Koti (break the chains) as a national holiday and issuing a national apology during its July 1 celebrations, which commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the Dutch Caribbean and Suriname. On the same day, Mayor Femke Halsema issued her own apology on behalf of Amsterdam, the first of several cities considering such a move after studying their own slavery histories. Societal and political divisions, however, abound regarding the sensitive issue of a national apology, with many citizens believing an apology is unnecessary. The city of Utrecht published its report on June 30 outlining how the city was directly involved in and benefited from slavery. On June 28, the city of The Hague announced it would begin an investigation into its own slavery history to be completed in 2022. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam identified their links to slavery, respectively, in September and October 2020.

Another source of debate on racism was the traditional figure of Black Pete, the assistant to St. Nicholas during the annual celebration for children on December 5. For years antiracism campaigners protested the Black Pete tradition of blackface as an offensive relic of colonial times. Meanwhile, more communities discontinued blackface Black Pete in the traditional St. Nicholas parades; major department stores and online retailers stopped selling products showing the blackface Black Pete image. Media noted that “sooty” Petes had replaced blackface Petes in most municipalities, citing a survey of more than 210 municipalities, in which 123 chose “sooty” Petes and 10 reported choosing to keep traditional Black Petes. A 2017 survey found 239 municipalities chose the traditional Black Pete compared to 19 “sooty” Petes. YouTube announced in November it would not ban portrayals of Black Pete in blackface but would continue its policy of prohibiting monetization via advertising of this type of portrayal.

On September 22, a municipal court in The Hague ruled that the use of a travelers’ ethnicity to make screening determinations by the Royal Marechaussee, the military police responsible for border control, was not discriminatory if other risk indicators were present. The lawyer of the coalition of plaintiffs, including Amnesty International, characterized the ruling as a “missed opportunity for the Netherlands” and filed an appeal. In November the Royal Marechaussee stated it would end this practice.

In the Netherlands police received training on avoiding ethnic or racial profiling, although Amnesty International stated ethnic profiling by police continued to be a concern. The government put into place more effective procedures to process reports of discrimination and assist victims, including an independent complaints committee.

Children

Birth Registration: Throughout the kingdom citizenship can be derived from either the mother or the father, but not through birth on the country’s territory. Births are registered promptly.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse throughout the kingdom. A multidisciplinary task force in the Netherlands acts as a knowledge hub and facilitates interagency cooperation in combatting child abuse and sexual violence. The children’s ombudsman headed an independent bureau that safeguards children’s rights and calls attention to abuse. Physicians are required to report child abuse to authorities.

Aruba has a child abuse reporting center. On Curacao, while physicians were not required to report to authorities instances of abuse they encountered, hospital officials reported indications of child abuse to authorities. On Sint Maarten the law addresses serious offenses against public morality, abandonment of dependent persons, serious offenses against human life, and assault that apply to child abuse cases.

The Public Prosecutor Offices in the Dutch Caribbean provide information to victims of child abuse concerning their rights and obligations in the juvenile criminal law system.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 in all parts of the kingdom. In the Netherlands and on Aruba, there are two exceptions: if the persons concerned are older than 16 and the girl is pregnant or has given birth, or if the minister of justice and security in the Netherlands or the minister of justice on Aruba grants a dispensation based on the parties’ request.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Throughout the kingdom, the law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children as well as production, possession, and distribution of child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The age of consent is 16 throughout the kingdom.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Liberal Jewish Community, the largest Jewish community in the Netherlands, estimated the Jewish population in the Netherlands at 40,000 to 50,000.

In April the NGO Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), the main chronicler of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, reported 135 anti-Semitic incidents in 2020, lower than in 2019 when a spike of 182 incidents was registered. CIDI posited that the statistics were somewhat distorted due to the impact of pandemic-related lockdowns and the lack of large public gatherings, which decreased the total number of all types of physical interactions. CIDI explained that most anti-Semitic incidents occurred in public when individuals were recognized as being Jewish. CIDI stated the number of anti-Semitic incidents online rose during the pandemic.

Common incidents included vandalism, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and hate emails. The most common form of vandalism was swastikas scratched or painted on cars, walls, or buildings, sometimes in combination with a Star of David or slogans such as “Heil Hitler.” Persons recognized as Jewish because of their religious attire were targeted occasionally in direct confrontations. A significant percentage of anti-Semitic incidents concerned calling somebody a “Jew” as a common derogatory term. CIDI reported no violent confrontations in 2020, as compared to one incident in 2019. CIDI also noted that 2020 saw a steep rise in the number of conspiracy theories and theorists, both on social media and in public, which portrayed members of the Jewish community as the cause or beneficiaries of the coronavirus pandemic. In one case, a Dutch-run website referred to the conspiracy theory that the Jewish community maintained control over the world through the pandemic.

CIDI claimed registered incidents were likely only a small portion of the number of all incidents and pointed to research by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2018 that concluded only 25 percent of Jews who were victims of anti-Semitism in the past five years reported incidents or filed complaints to police.

Acts of anti-Semitism accounted for 19 percent of all discrimination incidents reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2020, compared to 40 percent in 2019. CIDI and police stated that one explanation for the decrease was that soccer games were played without an audience due to the COVID-19 measures. In 2019, three-quarters of anti-Semitic incidents reviewed by the Prosecutor’s Office’s National Expertise Center for Discrimination and police involved anti-Semitic statements and chants by soccer fans, mostly concerning the Amsterdam soccer team Ajax, whose fans and players were nicknamed “Jews.”

In 2020 the government-sponsored but editorially independent Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet reported that it received 40 complaints of Dutch-language anti-Semitic expressions on the internet, which constituted 5 percent of all reported discriminatory expressions it received that year but were fewer than in the previous year. The organization gave no explanation for the decrease. CIDI did not report complaints of anti-Semitic expressions on the internet.

Dutch government ministers regularly met with the Jewish community to discuss appropriate measures to counter anti-Semitism. Government efforts included raising the problem of anti-Semitism within the Turkish-Dutch community, setting up a national help desk, organizing roundtables with teachers, reaching out to social media groups, promoting an interreligious dialogue, and conducting a public information campaign against discrimination and anti-Semitism.

The government’s first national coordinator on countering anti-Semitism, Eddo Verdoner, began his duties on April 1. The national coordinator reports directly to the minister of justice and security and works to strengthen cooperation between government and civil society stakeholders in combating anti-Semitism. Following parliamentary motions calling for the extension of the coordinator’s original mandate, the government announced in December it would fund the position for the coming five years.

The government, in consultation with stakeholders, also established measures to counter harassing and anti-Semitic chanting during soccer matches. The Anne Frank Foundation continued to manage government-sponsored projects, such as the “Fan Coach” project to counter anti-Semitic chanting and the “Fair Play” project to promote discussion on discrimination. The government assisted local organizations with projects to combat anti-Semitism by providing information and encouraging exchange of best practices among key figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The Jewish populations in the Dutch Caribbean are small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts there.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

In the Netherlands the law requires equal access to employment, education, health services, transportation, housing, and goods and services. It requires that persons with disabilities have access to public buildings, information, and communications, and it prohibits making a distinction in supplying goods and services. The law provides criminal penalties for discrimination and administrative sanctions for failure to provide access.

The government generally enforced the law effectively, although government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate. Public buildings and public transport were not always accessible, sometimes lacking access ramps.

Laws throughout the kingdom ban discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The NIHR reported that in 2020 it received 715 cases of discrimination on the grounds of disability or chronic illness – 36 percent of all cases it received that year – compared to 914 such cases in 2019. During the March general elections, authorities received 139 reports of discrimination on the ground of disability, including regarding inaccessible voting booths for some individuals with certain disabilities.

In the Dutch Caribbean, a wide-ranging law prohibiting discrimination was applied to persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, health care, transportation, and the provision of other government services. Some public buildings and public transport were not accessible to persons with physical disabilities.

Human rights observers from UNICEF noted that in Curacao, persons with disabilities had to rely on improvised measures to access buildings and parking areas, as well as to obtain information.

Not all schools in Sint Maarten were equipped for children with a range of physical disabilities, even though the government reported that all children with physical disabilities had access to public and subsidized schools.

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

There were hundreds of reports of discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. In 2020, 32 percent of incidents of discrimination registered by police concerned sexual orientation. Of those incidents, 67 percent concerned verbal abuse, 14 percent physical abuse, and 14 percent threats of violence. It continued to be common practice for police to be insulted with the use of LGBTQI+ slurs. Prosecutions were rare; many incidents were not reported, allegedly because victims often believed that nothing would be done with their complaint.

According to a survey of 3,800 members of the LGBTQI+ community in the Netherlands by a television program, most respondents reported it was difficult to be openly gay in the Netherlands. In addition, many respondents stated that they did not believe they were free to walk hand-in-hand with their partner (50 percent) or to exchange a kiss in public (54 percent). In one case of physical violence, a group of boys attacked a gender-neutral teenager at a playground in the city of Amstelveen on July 27, resulting in the victim’s hospitalization for severe injuries, including a broken nose, fractured jaw, and dislodged teeth. The victim’s father reported to authorities and media that the victim was assaulted after the teenager refused to respond whether they were a boy or a girl. Police investigated the attack; they arrested a boy age 14 who was awaiting trial at year’s end, and continued to search for other perpetrators.

The Dutch government told parliament June 1 that it would not prohibit the practice of LGBTQI+ “conversion therapy” without additional research to understand how the government could enforce such a prohibition while balancing “freedom of choice” to undergo the practice. On June 26, hundreds of persons demonstrated in Amsterdam against the alleged outsized role of psychologists in determining whether a transgender individual may qualify for hormone treatments and surgery in response to media reports regarding the difficulties faced by several patients of the Amsterdam University Medical Center.

An Amsterdam court ruled July 21 that a plaintiff assigned female gender at birth may retroactively change the gender field on their birth certification from “F” for female to “X” for nonbinary, for the first time in the country. The Prosecutor’s Office argued that there were no legal provisions allowing for the nonbinary option, but the court disagreed, citing the Gender Equal Treatment Act. In 2018 a nonbinary person received a passport with “X” as the gender marker for the first time, but their birth certificate noted that the gender could not be determined, an interim solution that the courts had adopted until the July 21 ruling.

Throughout the kingdom the law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. The governments generally enforced the law.

The law explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex characteristics, gender identity, and gender expression. The government urged institutions and companies to stop unnecessary registration of gender. The law allows for higher penalties for violence motivated by anti-LGBTQI+ bias.

Police had a Netherlands-wide network of units dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. The city of Amsterdam’s informational call center was dedicated to increasing safety for LGBTQI+ persons. The Ministry of Justice and Security sponsored a campaign in LGBTQI+-oriented media to encourage victims to report incidents and file complaints with police.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide for public- and private-sector workers to form or join independent unions of their own choosing without prior governmental authorization or excessive requirements. The law provides for collective bargaining. Unions may conduct their activities without interference.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and retaliation against legal strikers. It requires workers fired for union activity to be reinstated. The law restricts striking by some public-sector workers if a strike threatens the public welfare or safety. Workers must report their intention to strike to their employer at least two days in advance.

The governments effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Throughout the kingdom the government, political parties, and employers respected the freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Authorities effectively enforced applicable laws related to the right to organize and collective bargaining.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Throughout the kingdom the law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the governments enforced it. The penalty for violating the law against forced labor ranges from 12 years’ imprisonment in routine cases to 18 years’ imprisonment in cases where the victim incurs serious physical injury and life imprisonment in cases where the victim dies. These penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Enforcement mechanisms and effectiveness varied across the kingdom. In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment investigated cases of forced or compulsory labor. The inspectorate worked with various agencies, such as police, and NGOs to identify possible cases. After completion of an investigation, cases were referred to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. On the islands of the Dutch Caribbean, labor inspectors together with representatives of the Department for Immigration inspected worksites and locations for vulnerable migrants and indicators of trafficking. On Sint Maarten the lack of standard procedures for frontline responders to identify forced labor victims hindered the government’s ability to assist such persons.

Isolated incidents of forced or compulsory labor occurred in the kingdom. Victims of coerced labor included both domestic and foreign women and men, as well as boys and girls (see section 7.c.) forced to work in, among other sectors, agriculture, horticulture, catering, domestic servitude and cleaning, the inland shipping sector, and forced criminality (including illegal narcotics trafficking). Refugees and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, were vulnerable to labor trafficking.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

In the Netherlands the law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, and there were no reports of child labor. The government groups children into three age categories for purposes of employment: 13 to 14; 15; and 16 to 17. Children in the youngest group are only allowed to work in a few light, nonindustrial jobs and only on nonschool days. As children become older, the scope of permissible jobs and hours of work increases, and fewer restrictions apply. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working overtime, at night, or in hazardous situations. Hazardous work differs by age category. For example, children younger than 18 are not allowed to work with toxic materials, and children younger than 16 are not allowed to work in factories. Holiday work and employment after school are subject to very strict rules set by law. The government effectively enforced child labor laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Aruba’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. On Aruba the minimum age for employment is 15. The rules differentiate between “children,” who are younger than 15, and “youngsters” who are between the ages of 15 and 18. Children who are 13 or older and who have finished elementary school may work, if doing so is necessary for learning a trade or profession (apprenticeship), is not physically or mentally taxing, and is not dangerous. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment, which were adequate to deter violations. The government enforced child labor laws and policies with adequate inspections of possible child labor violations.

Curacao’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The island’s minimum age for employment is 15. The rules differentiate between “children” who are younger than 15 and “youngsters” who are between the ages of 15 and 18. Children who are 12 or older and who have finished elementary school may work, if doing so is necessary for learning a trade or profession (apprenticeship), is not physically or mentally taxing, and is not dangerous. The penalty for violations is a maximum four-year prison sentence, a fine, or both, which was adequate to deter violations.

Sint Maarten’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. On Sint Maarten, the law prohibits children younger than 14 from working for wages. Special rules apply to schoolchildren who are 16 and 17 years of age. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working overtime, at night, or in activities dangerous to their physical or mental well-being. Penalties ranged from fines to imprisonment and were adequate to deter violations. The government effectively enforced the law.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations throughout the kingdom prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation, and the governments effectively enforced the laws. The law applies to all refugees with residency status. Penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

The NIHR, which covers the Netherlands, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, focused on discrimination in the labor market, such as discrimination in the workplace, unequal pay, termination of labor contracts, and preferential treatment of ethnically Dutch employees. Although the NIHR’s rulings are not binding, they were usually adhered to by parties. The NIHR noted in its yearly report that in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic profoundly affected the Dutch labor force but disproportionally impacted persons with lower levels of education, youths, migrants, and persons with disabilities or physical or mental health conditions that do not allow them to work. In 2020, 51 percent of the 638 cases addressed by the NIHR were cases of possible labor discrimination. For example, NIHR judged that a judicial bailiff company discriminated on the grounds of religion by not employing a woman because she wore a headscarf. It also found the national postal services guilty of discrimination for not considering the chronic illness of an employee during its structural reorganization. Plaintiffs may also take their cases to court, but the NIHR was often preferred because of a lower threshold to start a case. The Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment conducted inspections to investigate whether policies were in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace. The law addresses requirements for employers to accommodate employees with disabilities, and the government worked to improve the position of persons with disabilities in the labor market (see section 6).

Discrimination occurred in the Netherlands, including on the basis of race, sex, religion, and disability. The country’s residents with migrant backgrounds faced numerous barriers when looking for work, including lack of education, lack of Dutch language skills, and racial discrimination. According to Statistics Netherlands, the unemployment rate of persons of other than of West European background during 2020 was more than twice that of ethnic Dutch (8.2 percent vs 3 percent) and the unemployment rate among youths with a non-West European background was also twice as high compared to the rate among ethnic Dutch youth. The government completed implementing a pilot program, “Further Integration on the Labor Market,” to improve the competitiveness of persons with a migrant background who are seeking work in the Netherlands.

In 2019 the NIHR reported there were at least 37 claims of discrimination in employment related to pregnancy. Unemployment among women was higher than for men, and women’s incomes lagged behind those of their male counterparts.

There were no reports of labor discrimination cases on Curacao, Aruba, or Sint Maarten.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: In the Netherlands the minimum wage for an adult older than 21 was sufficient for a single-person household but inadequate for a couple with two children, according to the government. The government effectively enforced wage laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the monthly minimum wage was considered sufficient to ensure a decent living for workers, according to the three governments.

In the Netherlands the law does not establish a specific number of hours as constituting a full workweek, but most workweeks were 36, 38, or 40 hours long. Collective bargaining agreements or individual contracts, not law, regulate overtime. The legal maximum workweek is 60 hours. During a four-week period, a worker may only work 55 hours a week on average or, during a 16-week period, an average of 48 hours a week, with some exceptions. Persons who work more than 5.5 hours a day are entitled to a 30-minute rest period.

Occupational Safety and Health: In the Netherlands the government set occupational safety and health (OSH) standards across all sectors. OSH standards were appropriate for primary industries and frequently updated. The situation was similar in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. On Sint Maarten the government established guidelines for acceptable conditions of work in both the public and private sectors that cover specific concerns, such as ventilation, lighting, hours, and terms of work. The Ministries of Labor in the kingdom reviewed and updated the guidelines and routinely visited businesses to ensure employer compliance.

In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment effectively enforced the labor laws on conditions of work across all sectors, including the informal economy. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. The inspectorate can order companies to cease operations due to safety violations or shut down fraudulent temporary employment agencies that facilitate labor exploitation. The number of labor inspectors, who have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, was sufficient to enforce compliance. In 2020 the government set up a special team to draft a report and provide recommendations to structurally improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers. Government and civil society stakeholders asserted the pandemic made exploitation and mistreatment of migrant workers more visible. The government implemented several recommendations throughout the year to prevent violations, including ensuring registration of labor migrants, improving their medical position, and launching a multilanguage website where labor migrant can learn more concerning their rights.

Most violations in the Netherlands were in temporary employment agencies that mainly hired workers from Eastern Europe, particularly in the construction and transportation sectors, without paying the minimum wage. The situation was similar on Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, although the underpaid workers were generally from Latin America.

New Zealand

Executive Summary

New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy. The Labour Party, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has an outright majority in parliament. Elections held in October 2020 were considered free and fair.

The New Zealand Police, under the minister of police, are responsible for internal security, and the armed forces, under the Ministry of Defence, are responsible for external security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces did not commit any significant abuses.

There were no reports of significant human rights abuses.

The government had effective mechanisms to identify and prosecute officials who commit human rights abuses; there were no reports of such abuses. The government generally implemented effectively laws criminalizing official corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports government officials employed them.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Watchdog groups highlighted overcrowding, inadequate mental health treatment and treatment of prisoners who risked self-harm, excessive restraint (including the abuse of solitary confinement), and prisoner-on-prisoner violence as systemic problems in prisons and detention facilities. The government and civil society groups highlighted the disproportionate rates of incarceration of indigenous peoples (see section 6, Indigenous People).

Physical Conditions: Persons aged 17 or older who are accused of a crime are tried as adults and, if convicted, sent to adult prisons. Authorities held male prisoners younger than 17 in four separate detention facilities operated by the national child and youth welfare agency under the Ministry for Children (Oranga Tamariki). There was no separate facility for juvenile female prisoners because there were very few such prisoners. Due to a lack of beds in secure youth residences, at times children were detained in police cells.

Suicide and suspected suicide rates in prisons were historically higher than in the general population.

Administration: Inmates could make uncensored complaints to statutory inspectors, an ombudsperson, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison-monitoring visits by independent human rights observers. The law provides for specified rights of inspection, including by members of parliament and justices of the peace. The Office of the Ombudsman inspects prisons and mental-health facilities to prevent cruel and abusive treatment, in line with international standards and domestic laws, and reports to parliament annually on prison conditions. Information was publicly available on complaints and investigations, subject to the provisions of privacy legislation.

In January prisoners at the 850-inmate Waikeria Prison rioted, alleging “dehumanizing and unhygienic” conditions. The prison was severely damaged by fires set during the six-day riot. The minister of corrections said most rioters were gang members who had never raised any concerns about their living conditions before the riot. In May the Department of Corrections began an inquiry into the riot, the department’s response, and its preparedness for such incidents throughout the prison system. Additional government criminal charges and prisoners’ civil rights claims arising from the riot were pending as of October 1.

Also in May, the Chief Ombudsman began an investigation into how the Department of Corrections responded to repeated calls for reforms for improved conditions for prisoners, including opportunities for constructive activity, such as education, employment, rehabilitation and reintegration programs, and complaints management; oversight of segregation orders; and use-of-force reviews. “In many [of these] areas, I have not seen significant and sustained improvements to prisoners’ welfare and rehabilitation,” the ombudsman said in announcing the investigation, adding that he expects his investigation to take at least a year.

Prisoners serving sentences of less than three years are eligible to vote in general elections.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police may arrest a suspect without a warrant if there is reasonable cause; however, a court-issued warrant is usually required. Police officers may enter premises without a warrant to arrest a person if they reasonably suspect the person committed a crime on the premises or if they found the person committing an offense and are in pursuit. Police must inform arrested persons “as soon as possible” of their legal rights and the grounds for their arrest.

After arresting and charging a suspect, police may release the suspect on bail until the first court appearance. Except for more serious offenses, such as assault or burglary, bail is normally granted and frequently does not require a deposit of money. Suspects have the right to appear “as soon as possible” before a judge for a determination of the legality of the arrest and detention. After the first court appearance, the judge typically grants bail unless there is a significant risk the suspect would flee, tamper with witnesses or evidence, or commit a crime while on bail. Authorities granted family members timely access to detainees and allowed detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and, if indigent, to a lawyer provided by the government.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence. By law authorities must inform defendants promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Defendants have the right to a fair, timely, and public trial; to be present at their trial; to have counsel (the government provides a lawyer at public expense if the defendant cannot afford counsel); and to have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants receive free interpretation as necessary beginning from the moment they are charged through all their appeals. They have the right to confront witnesses against them, to present their own witnesses and evidence, and cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. They have the right to appeal convictions. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals and organizations may seek civil judicial remedies for human rights violations, including access to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. There are also administrative remedies for alleged wrongs through the Human Rights Commission and the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The government’s chief privacy officer is responsible for supporting government agencies to meet their privacy responsibilities and improve their privacy practices.

After 2020 media reports of trials of facial recognition systems by police, Immigration New Zealand, and the Internal Affairs Department, in August 2020 the government launched the Algorithm Charter, a set of guidelines for government agencies detailing transparency and accountability standards for the use of data.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and laws provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the media.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

After a terrorist attacked mosques in Christchurch in 2019, the government imposed an open-ended ban on publication via the internet and other means of the video footage of the attack and on the attacker’s “manifesto.” The government followed up with the Christchurch Call to Action, which called for other governments, civil society, and online service providers to do more to “eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.”

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

Legal challenges to COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions – in particular, the inability of citizens and permanent residents to re-enter the country due to insufficient capacity within the border quarantine system – continued.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. The country’s Refugee Resettlement Strategy is reviewed annually.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. Refugees can arrive in the country in three ways: 1) through the UNHCR resettlement program; 2) additional asylum seekers (also known as “protection claims,” see below) can be recognized as refugees; or 3) family members can be reunified with refugees already living in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic response reduced scheduled intakes.

While most persons claiming asylum were not detained at any stage, some were held in prisons because of security concerns or uncertain identity. Asylum seekers detained in prisons are subject to general prison standards. In July NGOs supporting asylum seekers, including Amnesty International, claimed many detained asylum seekers were held longer than the 28 days permitted by law “as a deterrent for asylum seekers” and that some had been sexually assaulted and attempted suicide while in prison. In response the government commissioned an independent review into whether Immigration New Zealand’s detention decisions over the last five years met its international obligations; the review will not cover treatment within prison, which falls to the Department of Corrections.

Durable Solutions: The country accepts approximately 1,500 refugees under the UNHCR resettlement program, although the UNHCR’s 2020 temporary, COVID-19-related suspension of refugee resettlements meant that quota was not met during the year. Refugees who arrive through this program are granted permanent residence status. When refugees arrive, they stay at a central refugee resettlement center in Auckland for six weeks; they also receive settlement support for up to 12 months, including help with English, health, education, and employment.

Temporary Protection: The country provided temporary protection to persons who did not qualify as refugees under its UN quota commitment. Given COVID-19-related international travel restrictions, few asylum seekers claimed refugee status during the year. Advocacy groups were concerned that the asylum seekers outside the UN quota system did not receive the same level of governmental support as quota refugees, specifically in finding work.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2020 elections seen as free and fair, the Labour Party led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won an outright majority in parliament. The election was delayed from September by agreement of all political parties, due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Following the 2020 election, 48 percent of the members of parliament were women, up from 38 percent after the 2017 election.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. The Serious Fraud Office and police investigate corruption. Allegations of corruption can be reported anonymously, and the law protects employees who make a report relating to their employers. Agencies such as the Office of the Controller and Auditor General, and the Office of the Ombudsman independently report on and investigate state-sector activities, acting as watchdogs for public-sector corruption. Only parliament can remove individuals, who are known as officers of parliament, from these positions.

Several investigations into alleged irregularities within national and local politics were underway. In February the Serious Fraud Office brought charges of campaign finance breaches against two unnamed defendants in the New Zealand First Foundation, a funding organization for former deputy prime minister Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party; a trial is scheduled for June 2022. In April police referred the Maori Party to the Serious Fraud Office after it failed to declare financial donations to the Electoral Commission within the time required. One former independent member of parliament also faced election legislation-related charges.

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

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice funded the Human Rights Commission, which operates as an independent agency without government interference. The commission had adequate staff and resources to perform its mission.

The Office of the Ombudsman, responsible to parliament but independent of the government, is charged with investigating complaints about administrative acts, decisions, recommendations, and omissions of national and local government agencies; inspecting prisons; and following up on prisoner complaints. The office enjoyed government cooperation, operated without government or party interference, had adequate resources, and was considered effective. The ombudsman produced a wide variety of reports for the government that were publicly available.

The law mandates that the Department of Internal Affairs provide administrative assistance to significant public and governmental inquiries into, among other items, human rights abuses. The only large-scale inquiry underway during the year was an investigation into abuse in care.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

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.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

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 dispr