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Algeria

Executive Summary

Algeria is a multiparty republic whose president, the head of state, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The president has the constitutional authority to appoint and dismiss cabinet members and the prime minister, who is the head of government. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune won the 2019 presidential election, which followed mass popular demonstrations (known as the Hirak) throughout 2019 calling for democratic reforms. Observers characterized the elections as well organized and conducted without significant problems or irregularities, but they noted restrictions on civil liberties during the election period and lack of transparency in vote-counting procedures. The country held a constitutional referendum in November 2020, followed by legislative elections on June 12. Official voter turnout was 23 percent, the lowest in the country’s history for a parliamentary election.

The 130,000-member National Gendarmerie, which performs police functions outside urban areas under the auspices of the Ministry of National Defense, and the 200,000-member General Directorate of National Security or national police, under the Ministry of Interior, share responsibility for maintaining law and order. The army is responsible for external security and has some domestic security responsibilities. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by members of the security forces; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary and impartiality; unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including criminal defamation laws, unjustified arrests of journalists, government censorship and blocking of websites; substantial interference with freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, including squelching a resumption of the Hirak and overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; restrictions of religious freedom; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence against women; trafficking in persons; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct; significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association; and the worst forms of child labor.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish public officials who committed human rights abuses, especially corruption. The General Directorate of National Security conducted investigations into allegations of mistreatment and took administrative actions against officers it deemed to have committed abuses. The Ministry of Justice reported no prosecutions or convictions of civil, security, or military officials for torture or other abusive treatment. Impunity for police and security officials remained a problem.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Authorities continued their anticorruption campaign against political, military, and security officials, as well as prominent business leaders from the Bouteflika era.

The law provides for criminal penalties of two to 10 years in prison for official corruption, but the government did not fully implement the law. Although President Tebboune’s administration has emphasized rooting out corruption, corruption remained a problem. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: On May 3, the Ministry of Justice released a progress report on the government’s efforts to recover funds embezzled during former president Bouteflika’s tenure. According to the report, the government successfully recovered 52 billion dinars ($390 million) in assets, 39 billion dinars ($293 million), $214 million, and two million euros ($2.2 million). The government also seized vehicles, plots of land, residences, and businesses. The report accounted for assets recovered in the country but not funds or assets located abroad, primarily in Europe.

On August 28, President Tebboune amended the process for pursuing corruption-related charges or investigating corruption-related offenses against local officials. The Ministry of Interior must first authorize security services to pursue legal proceedings in corruption cases. Lawyers claimed the president’s executive order violates the penal code stipulating the public prosecutor is the “sole authority to assess whether or not to initiate investigative or legal proceedings.”

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

A variety of domestic human rights groups operated with varying degrees of government restriction and cooperation. The law requires all civil associations to apply for operating permission, and at year’s end several major civil associations remained unrecognized but tolerated.

Amnesty International maintained an office and actively reported on human rights matters, but it did not receive official authorization to operate from the Ministry of Interior. Amnesty International has received authorization to open a bank account, although the organization awaits final documentation from the government to open the account.

Although the government did not renew the accreditation of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, the organization had members countrywide, received independent funding, and was one of the most active independent human rights groups. The Algerian League for Human Rights, a separate but licensed organization based in Constantine, had members throughout the country monitoring individual cases.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated budget restrictions and time constraints delayed the visit of several UN delegations in charge of human rights but asserted that the country responds to all UN requests stemming from special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.

The government officially recorded 3,200 forced disappearances during the 1990s and noted families remained dissatisfied with the government’s official response surrounding the disappearances of their family members. The government reported the working group was tasked with addressing questions posed by the families of “the disappeared.” The Foreign Affairs Ministry asserted the working group took on the role of a UN investigative body, which was outside its mandate and ran contrary to the country’s constitution. The ministry added that it extended invitations to the working group in 2014 and again in 2015, but UN financial and scheduling constraints delayed their visit. The ministry claimed the United Nations would not be able to visit until at least 2023 due to continued financial and scheduling issues.

The country joined the Human Rights Council in 2014 but continued to deny requests for visits from the UN special rapporteurs on extrajudicial executions (pending since 1998) and counterterrorism and human rights (pending since 2006), the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention (pending since 2009), and the UN Security Council Mali Panel of Experts on Sanctions (since 2016). The Foreign Ministry stated that even during the 1990s, the country did not record many extrajudicial executions, but the perception caused numerous human rights groups to request special rapporteurs.

On March 5, Rupert Colville, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), called on authorities to put an end to violence against peaceful demonstrators of the Hirak movement. Colville expressed OHCHR’s concern regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and the continued and increasing crackdown on Hirak members, as “authorities are responding in the same repressive manner seen in 2019 and 2020.”

In May, OHCHR urged authorities to stop using violence to disperse peaceful Hirak demonstrations. OHCHR also urged authorities to stop arbitrarily arresting and detaining protesters for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly. OHCHR called on authorities to conduct “prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations and to ensure that the victims obtain reparations.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Human Rights Council (CNDH) has budget autonomy and the constitutional responsibility to investigate alleged human rights abuses, officially comment on laws the government proposes, and publish an annual report that is submitted to the president, the prime minister, and the two speakers of parliament. The CNDH releases the report to the public. The CNDH reported representation in 1,548 communes and five regional delegations located in Chlef, Biskra, Setif, Bechar, and Bejaia. The CNDH reported it had 123 local volunteers and 245 representatives.

The CNDH reported COVID-19 hampered its activities. Nevertheless, the CNDH noted that during the year it had conducted prison visits; ensured children were connected to their schools and facilitated distance learning; held sessions with the Danish Human Rights Institute, the Arab League, and Penal Reform International; interceded to guarantee that all citizens had equal access to health care; signed a convention with the Republic Ombudsman; and took steps to set up a database to track human rights-related statistics.

Between January 1 and September 30, the CNDH reported receiving 943 requests for assistance, examined 473 of them, and completed 46. The CNDH stated 424 remained under review. A CNDH representative reported the organization’s focus during the year was on health measures, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and migrants.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution allows for the right of workers to join and form unions of their choice, provided they are citizens. The country has ratified the ILO’s conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining but failed to enact legislation needed to implement these conventions fully. It was unclear whether the government enforced applicable laws commensurate with those for other laws involving denial of civil rights, such as discrimination. The law requires that workers obtain government approval to form a union, and the Ministry of Labor must approve or disapprove a union application within 30 days. To form a union, an applicant must be Algerian by birth or have held Algerian nationality for 10 years. The law also provides for the creation of independent unions, although the union’s membership must account for at least 20 percent of an enterprise’s workforce. Unions have the right to form and join federations or confederations, and the government recognized four confederations. Unions may recruit members at the workplace. The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers and provides mechanisms for resolving trade union complaints of employers’ antiunion practices.

The law permits unions to affiliate with international labor bodies and develop relations with foreign labor groups. For example, the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), which represented most public-sector workers, is an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation. Nevertheless, the law prohibits unions from associating with political parties and receiving funds from foreign sources. The courts are empowered to dissolve unions that engage in illegal activities. The government may invalidate a union’s legal status if authorities perceive its objectives to be contrary to the established institutional system, public order, good morals, law, or regulations in force.

The law provides for collective bargaining by all unions, and the government permitted the exercise of this right for authorized unions. Nevertheless, the UGTA remained the only union authorized to negotiate collective bargaining agreements during the annual tripartite meeting. Other authorized unions can bargain with specific ministries but are excluded from the tripartite meeting.

The law provides for the right to conduct legal strikes, and workers exercised this right, subject to conditions. Striking requires a secret ballot of the whole workforce. The decision to strike must be approved by majority vote of workers at a general meeting. The government may restrict strikes on several grounds, including economic crisis, obstruction of public services, or the possibility of subversive actions. Furthermore, all public demonstrations, including protests and strikes, must receive prior government authorization. By law workers may strike only after 14 days of mandatory conciliation or mediation. The government occasionally offered to mediate disputes. The law states that decisions reached in mediation are binding on both parties. If mediation does not lead to an agreement, workers may strike legally after they vote by secret ballot to do so. The law requires that a minimum level of essential public services must be maintained during public-sector service strikes, and the government has broad legal authority to requisition public employees. The list of essential services included banking, radio, and television. Penalties for unlawful work stoppages range from eight days’ to two months’ imprisonment. The law protects union members from discrimination or dismissal based on their union activities. Penalties for abusing union members’ rights are not sufficient to deter abuses. The law says any firing or other employment action based on discrimination against union members is invalid. The government did not effectively enforce these laws.

The government reported 99 registered trade unions and 59 employers’ organizations, up from 91 and 47, respectively, in 2020. Many trade unions remained unrecognized by the government; they identified delayed processing and administrative hurdles as the primary obstacles to establishing legal status. The ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations reiterated in 2017 that the lengthy registration process seriously impeded the establishment of new unions.

Attempts by new unions to form federations or confederations suffered similar challenges. Representatives of the National Autonomous Union for Public Administration Personnel (SNAPAP) stated that the union continued to function without official status.

The government continued to deny recognition to the General Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA), an independent trade union confederation that includes public and economic-sector unions and committees. CGATA membership included workers from unions representing government administrators, diplomatic personnel, state electricity and gas employees, university professors, public transport and postal workers, and lawyers. The confederation also included migrants working in the country. In 2019 authorities shut down CGATA’s offices and authorities arrested and jailed an executive member of CGATA, Kaddour Chouicha. On April 29, authorities arrested Chouicha, journalists Jamila Loukil and Said Boudour, and 12 others on charges of “enlistment in a terrorist or subversive organization active abroad or in Algeria.” The court in Oran heard the case on May 18 but did not notify the defendants’’ lawyers. The court granted Chouicha and Loukil’s provisional release and placed Boudour under judicial supervision.

SNAPAP and other independent unions faced government interference throughout the year, including official obstruction of general assembly meetings and police harassment during sit-in protests. Furthermore, the government restricted union activities and the formation of independent unions in certain critical public services sectors, such as oil and gas and telecommunications. The International Trade Union Confederation reported that judicial abuse of trade union leaders had intensified.

On April 5, authorities arrested Mourad Ghedia, president of the SNAPAP/CGATA Justice Sector Workers. A judge placed Ghedia in pretrial detention. Ghedia did not have access to a lawyer, and the judge did not inform him of the charges.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits and criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

NGOs reported that irregular migrants sometimes worked in forced labor and that their lack of work permits made them more vulnerable to exploitation. For example, migrant women were subjected to debt bondage as they worked to repay smuggling debts through domestic servitude, forced begging, and exploitation. Construction workers and domestic workers were reportedly vulnerable. Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not prohibit and criminalize all the worst forms of child labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The law prohibits employment by minors in dangerous, unhealthy, or harmful work or in work considered inappropriate because of social and religious considerations, yet the country has not determined by national law or regulation the types of work that are hazardous for children. Under the law there is no legislative provision prohibiting the use, procuring, or offering of a child younger than age 18 for the production and trafficking of drugs. The minimum legal age for employment is 16, but younger children may work as apprentices with permission from their parents or legal guardian. The law prohibits workers younger than 19 from working at night. The ILO noted, however, that the country’s standard of “night” for children is only eight hours, less than the 11 hours recommended by the ILO.

Although specific data were unavailable, children reportedly worked mostly in the informal sales market, often in family businesses. There were isolated reports that children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws and refers violators to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution. There is no single office charged with this task, but all labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing laws regarding child labor. The Ministry of Labor conducted inspections and, in some cases, investigated companies suspected of hiring underage workers. The ministry’s Labor Inspector Service in 2019 conducted 124,698 inspections and reported 10 children were found working illegally but did not provide updated statistics for the year. The Ministry of Labor attributed the low figure to the fact that most children worked in the informal economy, and inspections were limited to registered businesses. Monitoring and enforcement practices for child labor were ineffective.

The Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and Women led a national committee composed of 12 ministries and NGOs that meets yearly to discuss child labor issues. The committee was empowered to propose measures and laws to address child labor as well as conduct awareness campaigns.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment, salary, and work environment based on age, gender, social and marital status, family links, political conviction, disability, national origin, and affiliation with a union. It was not clear whether penalties for violations were commensurate with other laws on civil rights, such as election interference. The law restricts women from working during certain hours of the day and does not permit women to work in jobs deemed arduous. In addition to the legislative provisions in force, employers must ensure that the work entrusted to women, minors, and persons with disabilities does not “require an effort exceeding their strength.”

Men held a large percentage of positions of authority in government and the private sector, and women reported facing employment discrimination with job offers being extended to less qualified male applicants. Although the law states women should receive a salary equal to men, leaders of women’s organizations reported discrimination was common and that women were less likely to receive equal pay for equal work or promotions, particularly in the private sector.

Few businesses abided by the law requiring that they reserve 1 percent of jobs for persons with disabilities. NGOs reported that the government did not enforce payment of fines for failing to abide by the law. The government usually highlighted its efforts in March to coincide with the National Day of the Disabled. The ministry, however, reported it had increased efforts to enforce the 1 percent quota during the year. The ministry reported it inspected 276 businesses, encompassing 88,718 workers, to verify compliance with the 1 percent quota. The ministry issued 44 formal notices to 68 noncompliant employers for failure to adhere to the quota.

The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination with respect to employment based on sexual orientation, HIV-positive status, or religion. The government did not adequately enforce the law, since discrimination reportedly existed, specifically against migrant workers in the informal economy who lacked a legal means to address unfair working conditions. Particularly vulnerable were women, girls, and young men from sub-Saharan Africa who were lured into the country to accept jobs in restaurants and hair salons but were subjected to forced labor conditions. NGOs reported instances in which unaccompanied migrant girls were exploited as domestic workers and were known to be loaned out to families for extended periods to work in homes or exploited as prostitutes.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: A tripartite social pact among business, government, and the official union established a national, monthly minimum wage which is above the poverty income level. In June 2020 President Tebboune directed the Ministry of Labor to increase the monthly minimum wage. He also eliminated tax obligations for low-income workers.

The standard workweek was 40 hours, including one hour for lunch per day. Half of the lunch hour is considered compensated working time. Employees who worked longer than the standard workweek received premium pay on a sliding scale from time-and-a-half to double time, depending on whether the overtime occurred on a normal workday, a weekend, or a holiday. It was unclear whether penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were appropriate for the main industries in the country. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with OSH experts and not the worker based on hazards inherent to the nature of work. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations remains with occupational safety and health experts and not the worker. It was not clear whether the law provides workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment. There were no known reports of workers dismissed for removing themselves from hazardous working conditions. If workers face such conditions, they may renegotiate their contracts or, failing that, resort to the courts. While this legal mechanism existed, the high demand for employment in the country gave an advantage to employers seeking to exploit employees. The government did not effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws. It was unclear whether penalties for violations were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence.

Informal Sector: The government’s labor laws do not formally allow refugee employment or adequately cover migrant laborers; therefore, many economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere who worked in the informal sector, primarily in construction and as domestic workers, were at risk of labor exploitation due to their lack of legal status.

The government requires employers to declare their employees to the Ministry of Labor and to pay social security benefits. The government allowed undeclared workers to gain credit for social security and retirement benefits for time spent in the informal economy if they repay any taxes owed after registering. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Labor Ministry did not employ sufficient inspectors.

The government prioritized pregnant women and women raising children, as well as individuals with chronic illnesses and those with health vulnerabilities, for exceptional leave. In 2020 authorities extended exceptional leave to the private sector.

On August 8, the government increased the unemployment allowance. The government set an age limit for qualified job seekers and introduced a system to control unemployment cards.

Argentina

Executive Summary

Argentina is a federal constitutional republic. In October 2019 Alberto Fernandez was elected president in elections that local and international observers considered generally free and fair. On November 14, the country held midterm municipal, provincial, and federal elections. Voters elected one-half of the members of the Chamber of Deputies, representing all the provinces and the autonomous city of Buenos Aires, and one-third of the members of the Senate, representing eight provinces.

Federal, provincial, and municipal police forces share responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of internal security. All federal police forces report to the Ministry of Security, while provincial and municipal forces report to a ministry or secretariat within their jurisdiction. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by federal and provincial officials; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious government corruption; violence motivated by anti-Semitism; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

The government took limited steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights violations and corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Weak institutions and an often ineffective and politicized judicial system undermined systematic attempts to curb corruption.

Corruption: Several corruption-related investigations against sitting and former high-ranking political figures, including Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and former president Mauricio Macri, were underway as of September. In 2019 a federal judge sent to trial the corruption scandal known as “the notebooks case.” Fernandez de Kirchner and 52 other defendants were accused of receiving kickbacks, paying kickbacks, or both on public works contracts between 2008 and 2015 when Fernandez de Kirchner was president. Prosecutors estimated the total value of the bribery scheme at $160 million. Fernandez de Kirchner and her children faced four other financial corruption cases as of November. According to local media, court officials expected pandemic-related delays would continue to delay trials in some of these cases.

In May an appeals court rejected an extraordinary appeal from former planning minister Julio de Vido, upholding a 2018 sentence of five years and eight months for fraud, misuse of funds, and lack of oversight related to a 2012 train accident that killed 52 persons. De Vido also faced charges in the “notebooks” case and others related to his management of public works projects.

Corruption and official complicity occurred in some security forces. The most frequent abuses included extortion of, and protection for, those involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, and the promotion of prostitution. Allegations of corruption in provincial and federal courts were also frequent.

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

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government has a human rights secretariat within the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Its main objective is to coordinate within the ministry and collaborate with other ministries and the judiciary to promote policies, plans, and programs for the protection of human rights. It published leaflets and books on a range of human rights topics.

NGOs argued that the government’s failure to fill the post of national ombudsman, vacant since 2009, undermined the office’s mandate to protect human rights.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Crimes against Humanity investigated and documented human rights violations that occurred under the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indigenous Peoples

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes; the government generally respected these rights. The law prohibits discrimination against unions and protects workers from dismissal, suspension, and changes in labor conditions. It also prohibits military and law enforcement personnel from forming and joining unions. The government effectively enforced the law, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Complaints of unfair labor practices can be brought before the judiciary. Violations of the law may result in a fine imposed on the employer or the relevant employers’ association, as appropriate.

The law allows unions to register without prior authorization, and registered trade union organizations may engage in certain activities to represent their members, including petitioning the government and employers. The law grants official trade union status to only one union deemed the “most representative,” defined by law as the union that has the highest average proportion of dues-paying members to number of workers represented, per industrial sector within a specific geographical region. Only unions with such official recognition receive trade union immunity from employer reprisals against their officials, are permitted to deduct union dues directly from wages, and may bargain collectively with recourse to conciliation and arbitration. The most representative union bargains on behalf of all workers in each sector, and collective agreements cover both union members and nonmembers in the sector. The law requires the Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security (Ministry of Labor) to ratify collective bargaining agreements.

The Argentine Workers’ Central Union and other labor groups not affiliated with the General Confederation of Labor continued to contend that the legal recognition of only one union per sector conflicted with international standards, namely International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and it prevented these unions from obtaining full legal standing.

Civil servants and workers in essential services may strike only after a compulsory 15-day conciliation process, and they are subject to the condition that unspecified “minimum services” be maintained. Once the conciliation term expires, civil servants and workers in essential services must give five days’ notice to the administrative authority and the public agency against which they intend to strike. If “minimum services” are not previously defined in a collective bargaining agreement, all parties then negotiate which minimum services will continue to be provided and a schedule for their provision. The public agency, in turn, must provide clients two days’ notice of the impending strike.

Employers generally respected the right to bargain collectively and to strike.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government generally enforced the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Despite being prohibited by law, forced labor, including forced child labor, occurred. The Ministry of Labor carried out regular inspections across the country. Efforts to hold perpetrators accountable continued. The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Human Trafficking and Exploitation continued to investigate forced labor complaints; in 2020 it reported four convictions for labor trafficking and indictments of 19 individuals.

Employers subjected a significant number of Bolivians, Paraguayans, and Peruvians, as well as Argentines from poorer northern provinces, to forced labor in the garment sector, agriculture, street vending, charcoal and brick production, construction, domestic work, and small businesses (including restaurants and supermarkets). Traffickers exploited victims from China and South Korea. Chinese citizens working in supermarkets were vulnerable to debt bondage. Traffickers compelled trafficking victims to transport drugs across the country’s borders. Men, women, and children were victims of forced labor, although victims’ typical gender and age varied by employment sector (see section 7.c.).

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 minimum age for employment is 16. In rare cases labor authorities may authorize a younger child to work as part of a family unit. Children ages 16 to 18 may work in a limited number of job categories and for limited hours if they have completed compulsory schooling, which normally ends at age 18. Children younger than 18 cannot be hired to perform perilous, arduous, or unhealthy jobs. The law requires employers to provide adequate care for workers’ children during work hours to discourage child labor.

Provincial governments and the municipal government of Buenos Aires are responsible for labor law enforcement. Penalties for employing underage workers were generally sufficient to deter violations.

While the government generally enforced applicable laws, observers noted some inspectors were acquainted or associated with the persons they inspected, and corruption remained an obstacle to compliance, especially in the provinces. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. In August the Ministry of Labor’s National Program to Build Capacity of Provincial Committees for the Eradication of Child Labor continued during the year, with the goal of improving national-provincial coordination. By year’s end the ministry reported that it had provided advanced tools to combat child labor to 20 of the country’s 24 provinces.

Children were engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes because of human trafficking, including forced labor in domestic servitude, agriculture, and production of garments, and illicit activities such as the transport and sale of drugs. In 2018 the government published the final report from its 2016-17 national child labor survey. The survey found 20 percent of children in rural areas performed at least one form of labor, while 8 percent of children in urban areas did so.

Similar patterns emerged with adolescents, which the report defined as children ages 16 and 17. The report found 44 percent of adolescents in rural areas and 30 percent in urban areas engaged in at least one form of labor. Principal activities were helping in a business or office; repair or construction of homes; cutting lawns or pruning trees; caring for children, the elderly, or the infirm; helping in a workshop; making bread, sweets, or other food for sale; gathering paper, boxes, cans, and other recyclable material in the street; handing out flyers or promotional materials for a business; cleaning homes and businesses or washing and ironing clothes for others; and cultivating or harvesting agricultural products.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, religion, nationality, gender, physical characteristics, social or economic status, or political opinion, and the government generally enforced the law. Penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights. The most prevalent cases of workplace discrimination were based on disability, gender, and age. Discrimination also occurred based on HIV-positive status and against individuals of indigenous origin. Women are prohibited from working in certain industries; for example, there are restrictions on their employment in the mining, manufacturing, and transportation sectors. There are also restrictions on women working in jobs deemed hazardous or arduous.

Although women enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, they continued to face economic discrimination, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women held a disproportionately high proportion of low-paying, informal jobs and significantly fewer executive positions in the private sector than men, according to several studies. Although equal pay for equal work is constitutionally mandated, women earned approximately 30 percent less than men earned for equal or similar work.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage remained below the official poverty income level for a family of four, despite a 35 percent increase announced in August. Most workers in the formal sector earned significantly more than the minimum wage. The minimum wage generally served to mark the minimum pay an informal worker should receive.

Federal law sets standards in workhours and occupational safety and health (OSH). The maximum workday is eight hours, and the maximum workweek is 48 hours. Overtime pay is required for hours worked in excess of these limits. The law prohibits excessive overtime and defines permissible levels of overtime as three hours a day. Labor law mandates between 14 and 35 days of paid vacation, depending on the length of the worker’s service.

The Ministry of Labor, through the National Work Regularization Plan, coordinates law enforcement efforts with the labor authorities at the provincial level in each of the 23 provinces and the city of Buenos Aires. The National Ministry’s labor inspection payroll had 324 staffers in 2020, a number ILO estimated insufficient for the workforce size. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and to impose fines. Inspectors have a referral process to direct labor crimes, including child labor and forced labor, to the courts.

The law sets premium pay for overtime, adding an extra 50 percent of the hourly rate on ordinary days and 100 percent on Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and holidays. Employees cannot be forced to work overtime unless work stoppage would risk or cause injury, the need for overtime is caused by force majeure, or other exceptional reasons affecting the national economy or “unusual and unpredictable situations” affecting businesses occur. The government enforced these regulations through routine labor inspections and by investigating complaints. Violations were more common among workers in the informal sector, as registered workers often negotiated bargaining agreements through their respective unions. Penalties for violations were commensurate with similar crimes such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Labor has responsibility for enforcing legislation related to working conditions. The government sets OSH standards, which were current and appropriate for the main industries in the country. The government effectively enforced OSH laws. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence. The law requires employers to insure their employees against accidents at the workplace and when traveling to and from work. The law requires employers either to provide insurance through a labor-risk insurance entity or to provide their own insurance to employees to meet requirements specified by the national insurance regulator. The law limits the worker’s right to file a complaint if the worker does not exhaust compulsory administrative proceedings before specified medical committees.

Laws governing acceptable conditions of work were not enforced universally, particularly for workers in the informal sector (approximately 35 percent of the labor force). The Ministry of Labor continued inspections to ensure companies’ workers were registered and formally employed. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and to initiate sanctions. The ministry conducted inspections in various provinces, but the Labor Inspectorate employed well below the number of inspectors recommended by the ILO, given the size of the workforce. The Superintendence of Labor Risk served as the enforcement agency to monitor compliance with OSH laws and the activities of the labor risk insurance companies.

Workers could not always recuse themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities did not effectively protect employees in these circumstances. During the first quarter of the year, the Ministry of Labor reported receipt of 110,307 occupational safety complaints related to COVID-19, especially in the manufacturing sector. As a result, the sector surpassed the traditionally more dangerous manufacturing and mining sectors in the number of complaints received.

Informal Sector: The government estimated the share of informal employment at approximately 45 percent of total employment. Domestic workers remained the most affected by the lack of social protections and enforcement of labor laws. According to some estimates from the ILO, as many as 85 percent of domestic workers were not enrolled in social security. The garment sector had high rates of informal employment, as did small businesses, farms, and construction projects. Analysts reported that the official minimum wage, which is regularly updated to keep pace with inflation, was typically used as the basis for informal-sector wages.

During a government-facilitated drive for registration in the second half of 2020, more than two million workers registered in the government’s National Registry for Workers of the Popular Economy. Registration enables workers to benefit from social programs, family subsidies, retirement contributions, coverage for work accidents, and unemployment insurance. In addition, the government began offering a variety of social protection programs for informal workers aimed at securing food nutrition for their children, subsidies for school termination, medical assistance, and monetary incentives to take occupational training. According to a recent National Registry survey, however, only 25 percent of informal sector worker were receiving these benefits.

The government also dissuaded informal employment through penalties for employers, including by limiting their access to government loans and tax exemptions.

Brazil

Executive Summary

Brazil is a constitutional, multiparty republic governed by a democratically elected government. In 2018 voters chose the president, the vice president, and the bicameral national legislature in elections that international observers reported were free and fair.

The three national police forces – the Federal Police, Federal Highway Police, and Federal Railway Police – have domestic security responsibilities and report to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (Ministry of Justice). There are two distinct units within the state police forces: the civil police, which performs an investigative role, and the military police, charged with maintaining law and order in the states and the Federal District. Despite the name, military police forces report to the Ministry of Justice, not the Ministry of Defense. The armed forces also have some domestic security responsibilities and report to the Ministry of Defense. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings by police; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; violence against journalists; widespread acts of corruption by officials; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; violence or threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; trafficking in persons; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of racial minorities, human rights and environmental activists, members of racial and indigenous groups and other traditional populations, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

The government prosecuted officials who committed abuses; however, impunity and a lack of accountability for security forces was a problem, and an inefficient judicial process at times delayed justice for perpetrators as well as for victims.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for convictions of corruption by officials and stipulates civil penalties for corruption committed by Brazilian citizens or entities overseas. There were numerous reports of corruption during the year at various levels of government, and delays in judicial proceedings against persons accused of corruption were common, often due to constitutional protections from prosecution for elected officials. This often resulted in de facto impunity for those responsible.

Corruption: The investigation of the Petrobras state oil company embezzlement scandal (Operation Carwash or Lava Jato), which began in 2014, officially ended in February. Despite the operation’s continued popularity with the public, the investigating task force was dissolved after widespread concerns regarding the process and fairness of the prosecutions. Some prosecutors were transferred to the organized crime unit of the Federal Public Ministry to continue their work. During its seven years of existence, Operation Carwash was responsible for 295 arrests and 278 convictions and saw R$ 4.3 billion ($769.6 million) in recovered funds returned to the government.

On April 30, a Rio de Janeiro Special Tribunal voted unanimously to impeach Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel for involvement in the embezzlement scheme related to contracts for COVID-19 response, permanently removing him from office and making him ineligible for public office for five years. The impeachment followed an August 2020 decision by STF Minister Benedito Goncalves to remove Witzel from office for an initial period of 180 days on charges of corruption, money laundering, and obstruction of justice related to his role in a criminal organization that oversaw fraudulent expenditures and contracting in the state’s COVID-19 response.

On April 29, police arrested Marcus Vinicius Rebello Gomes, municipal secretary of health in Itatiaia, Rio de Janeiro State, and four other suspects for their participation in a criminal organization that oversaw fraudulent expenditures and contracting in the city’s COVID-19 response. On June 8, the state’s Court of Justice ruled that Itatiaia Mayor Imbere Moreira Alves, his chief of staff, and three municipal secretaries should be removed from office on corruption charges in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic response in the municipality

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

Many 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. Federal and state officials in many cases sought the aid and cooperation of domestic and international NGOs in addressing human rights problems.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Some local human rights organizations were critical of the Ministry of Human Rights, stating that many positions were either unfilled or filled by individuals who did not support human rights and that the role of civil society in policy discussions had been severely reduced.

The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate had human rights committees and subcommittees that operated without interference and participated in several activities nationwide in coordination with domestic and international human rights organizations. Most states had police ombudsmen, but their accomplishments varied, depending on such factors as funding and outside political pressure.

The government operated several interministerial councils linking civil society to decision makers in the government on a range of human rights topics. Many of their activities were interrupted by the pandemic.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape. In addition, the law criminalizes physical, psychological, and sexual violence against women, as well as defamation and damage to property or finances by someone with whom the victim has a marriage, family, or intimate relationship. The law defines femicide as homicide of a woman due to her gender, including but not limited to, homicide that escalated from other forms of domestic violence, discrimination, or contempt for women. The law stipulates a sentence of 12 to 30 years. According to NGOs and official data, there were 1,350 femicides in 2020, compared with 1,326 in 2019. According to the National Council of Justice, the number of new cases involving the killing of a woman rose 39 percent in 2020 to 2,788 cases, and courts imposed sentences in 2,016 cases of femicide in 2020 – a 24 percent decrease from the 2,657 sentences in 2019, due to process difficulties in light of the pandemic. According to the Brazilian Public Security Forum, in cases of femicide, the killer was a partner or former partner of the victim 81.5 percent of the time.

The state of Rio de Janeiro had a total of 42 victims of femicide in the first five months of the year according to the Institute of Public Security. The state of Bahia had 64 cases of femicide in the first six months, according to the Bahian Public Security Secretariat. The Espirito Santo Public Security Secretariat recorded 13 victims in the first five months of the year. The state of Minas Gerais recorded 67 victims of femicide from January to June and 70,450 victims of domestic violence during the same period.

On April 2, justice prosecutor Andre Luiz Garcia de Pinho killed his wife, Lorenza Maria Silva de Pinho. In July the Minas Gerais Court of Justice decided that de Pinho would be brought to trial for aggravated homicide. He remained in pretrial detention after a request for habeas corpus was denied.

NGO and public security representatives reported that, culturally, domestic violence was often viewed as a private matter and that survivors and bystanders often did not report cases of violence. On July 14, police arrested Iverson de Souza Araujo (also known as DJ Ivis), in Fortaleza after videos of assaults against his former wife, Pamella Holanda, were posted by her on her social media account. The public release of the video led to widespread public condemnation, and distribution contracts and music collaborations were cancelled.

According to NGOs and public security data, gender-based violence was widespread. According to the 15th Public Safety Yearbook released annually by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, there were 60,460 cases of rape in 2020. Due to underreporting, the actual number of cases was likely much higher. The state of Sao Paulo recorded an average of 34 cases of rape per day in the first quarter of the year, 7 percent higher than the same period of 2020, according to a survey conducted by the NGO Instituto Sou da Paz. Data showed that 75 percent of the victims were girls younger than age 14.

Each state secretariat for public security operated police stations dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women. State and local governments also operated reference centers and temporary women’s shelters, and many states maintained domestic violence hotlines. In January, Rio de Janeiro State’s Civil Police announced a new hotline for victims of gender-based violence in an effort to reduce instances of feminicide. During the pandemic the court of justice in the state of Piaui invested in campaigns and online assistance to facilitate access for victims of violence. There were several ways to denounce domestic violence: through the Salve Maria application or calling the Francisca Trindade Center, Maria da Penha Patrol, Esperanca Garcia Institute, Ombudsman of the Public Ministry of Piaui, or Public Defender’s Office. In April in the state of Piaui, requests for protective measures for women victims of domestic violence increased more than 30 percent, compared with the same period in 2020.

During the first quarter of the year, the state of Rio Grande do Sul saw a 375 percent increase in preventive arrests for domestic violence, compared with the same period of 2020. A key factor contributing to this increase was the rise of information sharing with the government through electronic means, such as WhatsApp and Online Police. The state also inaugurated an additional 17 salas das margaridas, a dedicated space within police stations to receive women at risk, bringing the total in Rio Grande do Sul to 40.

In July 2020 Rio de Janeiro’s then governor Witzel signed a bill that temporarily authorized gun permit suspensions and weapons seizures in cases of domestic violence and femicide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities cited concerns that quarantine could lead to increases in domestic violence cases involving weapons. According to Rio de Janeiro’s Public Security Institute, as of June 2020 domestic violence calls to the military police aid hotline had increased by 12 percent, in comparison with the same period the previous year. In August 2020 a police operation resulted in the arrest of 57 suspects accused of domestic violence.

The law recommends health facilities contact police regarding cases in which a woman was harmed physically, sexually, or psychologically and instructs police to collect evidence and statements should the victim decide to prosecute. Despite these protections, allegations of domestic violence were not always treated as credible by police.

Sexual assault and rape of minors was widespread. In 2020, 44,400 cases of rape and rape of vulnerable minors were registered, representing 60.6 percent of the total number of rape cases. A “vulnerable” victim is defined as a person younger than age 14, or who is considered physically, mentally, and therefore legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. According to the 15th Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security, 54 percent of these victims were 11 years old or younger.

In Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, a group of five men (two adults and three adolescents) raped and killed an 11-year-old Kaiowa indigenous girl in August. Police arrested the perpetrators, who confessed the crimes, and indicted them on charges of rape of a vulnerable person, femicide, and aggravated homicide. One of them, the girl’s uncle, died in prison three days later, and police were investigating the case as a possible suicide.

On March 12, the STF unanimously decided to invalidate the use of the “legitimate defense of honor thesis” in cases of femicide. The 11 STF justices assessed this thesis contradicts constitutional principles of human dignity, protection of life, and gender equality and, therefore, cannot be applied in jury trials as a defense argument in cases of femicide. The legitimate defense of honor thesis was used in jury courts to largely absolve men who killed women to “protect their own honor,” for example in cases of betrayal in romantic relationships.

On July 28, the federal government approved a law that includes the crime of psychological violence against women in the penal code, assigning a punishment of six months’ to two years’ imprisonment and a fine. The text approved by Congress defines the crime as: “Causing emotional damage to women that can harm and disturb them, or their full development, or that aims to degrade or control their actions, behaviors, beliefs and decisions, through threat, embarrassment, humiliation, manipulation, isolation, blackmail, ridicule, limitation of the right to come and go, or any other means that harm their psychological health and self-determination.”

On May 10, the government of the state of Alagoas inaugurated A Casa da Mulher Alagoana. The center serves women victims of domestic violence and provides professional psychology, advocacy, and social care services. Victims may file a police report and request protective measures in-person at the facility, as well as receive temporary shelter.

In the state of Ceara, the Women’s Reference Center, which offers a psychologist, lawyer, and social worker service and partnership with the Maria da Penha Patrol, received 240 requests for assistance in 2020, but within the first four months of 2021 it responded to 142 requests. According to the center’s director, most victims were financially dependent on their partner, which deepened during the COVID pandemic.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison. The law includes actions performed outside the workplace. NGOs reported sexual harassment was a serious concern, and perpetrators were infrequently held accountable. A 2019 study conducted by research institutes Patricia Galvao and Locomotiva with support from Uber found that 97 percent of women had experienced sexual harassment on public transportation, in taxis, or while using a rideshare application.

On June 15, the National Council of Justice ruled that Judge Glicerio de Angiolis Silva from Rio de Janeiro’s Court of Justice should be removed from the bench for two years for morally and sexually harassing public workers and interns at the court of Miracema, in the northwestern part of the city of Rio de Janeiro, in 2015. The victims reported that the judge asked them to send him photographs of them in bikinis, asked them out, and requested them to work late with no reasonable purpose. By law the judge was still entitled to receive his salary while away from his regular duties.

In June the Rio Grande do Sul Civil Police opened an investigation into plastic surgeon Klaus Wietzke Brodbeck on suspicion of sexually abusing more than 95 women patients, including one sedated patient he allegedly raped after surgery.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraceptives and termination of pregnancy as provided for by law. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), persons in remote regions experienced difficulty accessing reproductive health services.

According to UNFPA, in 2020, 89 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods, and skilled health personnel attended to 99 percent of births from 2014 to 2019. UNFPA also reported that adolescent birth rate per 1,000 girls for those between the ages of 15 to 19 averaged 53 births for the period of 2003 to 2018. The Ministry of Health reported that the maternal mortality ratio averaged 59 deaths per 100,000 live births as of 2018 and was higher among Black women than among white women. Data published in May by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation found that the risk of death of pregnant brown and Black women from COVID-19 was almost twice that of white women and noted that Black women were less likely to have gynecological and prenatal care and travelled farthest to reach a maternity ward.

In May, UNICEF and UNFPA published a report on menstrual poverty experienced by Brazilian girls who lived in conditions of poverty and vulnerability, sometimes without access to basic sanitation services, hygiene resources, and minimal knowledge about the body. More than 700,000 girls had no access to a bathroom or shower in their homes. More than four million girls experienced at least one deprivation of hygiene in schools, including lack of access to feminine care products and basic facilities such as toilets and soap. Nearly 200,000 of these students were completely deprived of the minimum conditions to handle menstruation at school. A study from Girl Up Brazil, a network to end menstrual poverty in the country, found that one in four girls had missed school because they lacked access to feminine products.

In October, President Bolsonaro signed a law to create the Program for the Protection and Promotion of Menstrual Health, a strategy to promote health and attention to feminine hygiene and aims to combat lack of access to hygiene products related to menstruation. The president vetoed a provision contained in the measure to provide free basic hygiene products to low-income students, persons living on the streets, and prisoners because he said the legislation did not establish a funding source. In November the Foreign Trade Chamber reduced the import tax rate from 12 to 10 percent on sanitary pads and baby diapers to make the products more affordable to consumers.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in all circumstances. The law does not require equal pay for equal work. According to the International Labor Organization, women not only earned less than men but also had difficulties entering the workplace: 78 percent of men held paid jobs, compared with 56 percent of women. Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, but the law was not effectively enforced.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law prohibits racial discrimination, specifically the denial of public or private facilities, employment, or housing to anyone based on race. The law also prohibits the incitement of racial discrimination or prejudice and the dissemination of racially offensive symbols and epithets, and it stipulates prison terms for such acts.

Approximately 57 percent of the population self-identified as belonging to categories other than white. Despite this high representation within the general population, darker-skinned citizens, particularly Afro-Brazilians, encountered discrimination. They experienced a higher rate of unemployment and earned average wages below those of whites in similar positions. There was also a sizeable education gap. Afro-Brazilians were disproportionately affected by crime and violence.

In November 2020 a Black man was beaten to death by security guards outside a Carrefour supermarket in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. The two guards, including an off-duty Military Police officer, were arrested for assaulting and killing Joao Alberto Silveira Freitas. The attack was filmed by witnesses and generated outcry nationally, mobilizing a series of protests across the country. Carrefour condemned the act, terminated its contract with the company that hired the guards, and promised to take measures promoting diversity and inclusion, including the creation of an “antiracist plan” to provide training and protocol for employees with an emphasis on welcoming clients, guidance for valuing human rights and diversity, and combating racism. Carrefour also committed to diversifying hiring practices and setting a requirement to hire at least 30,000 Black workers in three years. In June, Carrefour signed an agreement with the prosecutor’s offices, the public defender’s offices, Educafro, and the Santo Dias Human Rights Center and agreed to invest R$115 million ($20.6 million) in human rights organizations in payment for collective moral damages. The funds were to support undergraduate and graduate scholarships for Afrodescendant students; scholarships for language and technology courses; social inclusion and Black entrepreneurship projects; the establishment of a museum at the Valongo Wharf in Rio de Janeiro, the main gateway for enslaved Africans who arrived in the country; and public funding for justice institutions and entities.

In February, Sao Paulo Military Police Lieutenant Colonel Evanilson Correa de Souza suffered racist verbal abuse while speaking at an online international conference organized by the University of Sao Paulo. The police officer, who is Black, was speaking about the program to combat racism within police forces in Sao Paulo when one of the participants started writing insults on the shared screen. The aggressor also used pornographic images to cover the colonel’s presentation.

The law provides for quota-based affirmative action policies in higher education, government employment, and the military. Nevertheless, Afro-Brazilians were underrepresented in the government, professional positions, and middle and upper socioeconomic classes.

Many government offices created internal committees to validate the self-declared ethnicity claims of public-service job applicants by using phenotypic criteria, assessing “Blackness” to reduce abuse of affirmative action policies and related laws. University administrators regularly conducted investigations and expelled students for fraudulently claiming to be Black or brown to claim racial quota spots in universities. Statistics showed university racial-quota policies were beginning to have a positive impact on educational outcomes for Afro-Brazilians. For example, data analysis from the National Household Sample Survey showed that in 2019 Black women (28 percent of the population) made up 27 percent of students in public higher education, an increase of 8 percent since 2001.

Indigenous Peoples

According to data from the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) and the 2010 census, there were approximately 896,000 indigenous persons, representing 305 distinct indigenous ethnic groups that spoke 274 distinct languages.

The constitution grants the indigenous population broad protection of their cultural patrimony and use of their territory; however, indigenous lands and all aboveground and underground minerals as well as hydroelectric power potential belong to the government. Approximately 14 percent of the country’s land area is designated as indigenous territory.

Indigenous peoples have the exclusive possession and land use rights in their traditional lands. Requests to exploit mineral and water resources, including ones with energy potential, on indigenous lands must be approved by Congress, in consultation with the indigenous communities. Despite several proposals, Congress had not approved legislation that rules and regulates these activities. The exploitation of natural resources on indigenous territory by nonindigenous persons is illegal.

Beginning in 2019, tension and provocative rhetoric increased between the Bolsonaro administration and many indigenous leaders regarding the extent of indigenous protections and rights. On June 28, in a report presented at the 47th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, special adviser for the prevention of genocide, cited Brazil as a genocide risk.

On August 9, indigenous leaders accused President Bolsonaro of genocide at the International Criminal Court in the Hague in response to the deaths of 1,162 indigenous individuals from 163 communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The leaders also argued that the dismantling of government institutions charged with social and environmental protection had triggered invasions of indigenous lands, deforestation, and fires in the biomes.

Through a series of decisions by the Ministry of Health and the STF, beginning in January, indigenous persons were prioritized for COVID-19 immunizations. The government initially focused on vaccines for indigenous persons in officially demarcated territories and later expanded preferential access to indigenous persons living in cities or other areas. By June, according to the Ministry of Health, 72 percent of the eligible indigenous population residing in indigenous areas was fully vaccinated, compared with a 39 percent fully vaccinated rate for the overall population as of September 3.

NGOs claimed the lack of regulation and attempts to create new legislation or change existing legislation to promote economic development, along with impunity in cases of illegal land invasions, resulted in the illegal exploitation of natural resources. The NGO Instituto Socioambiental reported more than 20,000 miners were illegally extracting gold from the Yanomami indigenous lands in Roraima State. According to a report during the year released by the indigenous NGO Missionary Council, there were 263 cases of illegal invasions and exploitation of natural resources on 253 indigenous territories in 19 states in 2020. A MapBiomas study released in August showed that the area of illegal mining in indigenous lands and conservation areas expanded 495 percent from 2010 to 2020. In March the Federal Police led an operation to shut down a large illegal mining camp in Yanomami lands in Roraima. Officials compared the illegal camp on Yanomami lands to a small city capable of housing more than 2,000 persons, with markets, restaurants, and a dental office.

Illegal land invasions often resulted in violence and even death. According to reporting by the Pastoral Land Commission, a Catholic NGO that represents rural workers on land rights, there were 1,083 cases of violence related to land disputes in 2020, impacting more than 130,000 families, compared with 1,254 incidents that affected 144,741 families in 2019. There were 178 invasions into territories in 2020, in comparison with only nine in 2019. Most of the victims of these invasions were indigenous persons (54.5 percent), while 11.8 percent of the invasions took place in quilombola communities. Among the conflicts noted in the report, there were 18 killings of indigenous persons (39 percent of the victims), and 12 of 35 victims of attempted homicide were indigenous.

In May the Hutukara Yanomami Association reported a series of attacks against the Palimiu community in Roraima by illegal miners, and media reports indicated that one indigenous person and four miners were shot and wounded. Yanomami leaders reported that two children, ages one and five, drowned during the attack. A federal court ruled on May 13 that the government should keep permanent troops in place to prevent conflict. The Federal Police and the army visited the site, conducted operations to halt mining operations, and seized equipment.

According to the Missionary Council report, there were 182 killings of indigenous persons in 2019 – a 61 percent increase, compared with 113 cases in 2018. In May 2020 the Federal Public Ministry accused two indigenous men, Nilson Carneiro Sousa Guajajara and Eduardo dos Santos Guajajara, of killing indigenous leader and environmental and human rights defender Zezico Rodrigues Guajajara in March in Arame, Maranhao State. The victim was the fifth such killing of an indigenous Guajajara in as many months. Rodrigues worked as director of the Indigenous School Education Center and fought environmental crimes. According to indigenous leaders in the region, he reportedly received death threats and formally complained to FUNAI and the Federal Police.

On February 12, state troopers shot indigenous leader Isaac Tembe in Alto Rio Guama, Para State. According to media reports, Tembe, a leader of the Tenetehara people, was hunting with community members in an area near the Alto Rio Guama when military police officers shot at them. Tembe was killed as the group tried to escape into the woods. According to the Para State Department of Public Security, police were called to investigate cattle theft in the region and, upon arrival at the scene, they heard shots and returned fire in self-defense. According to the local indigenous population, Tembe did not have a gun. The Federal Public Ministry and an internal affairs office from the military police were investigating, but the indigenous group requested the case be federalized due to potential bias by local police and courts.

As of August there were 568 areas of land claimed by indigenous peoples in different stages of the demarcation process: 441 were fully approved and officially recognized and 127 remained under review. Various indigenous groups protested the slow pace of land demarcations. As of October no indigenous lands had been approved under the Bolsonaro administration, aligning with his pledge when he entered office to not increase indigenous land designations.

Throughout the year indigenous groups protested in Brasilia and in state capitals to protect their ancestral lands. In June an estimated 500 to 850 members of indigenous groups protested in Brasilia to demand that Congress cease consideration of a bill that proposes additional requirements and barriers for demarcation of indigenous lands. Protesters broke down security barriers placed to prevent entry into the federal Chamber of Deputies due the pandemic, and chamber security forces responded with tear and pepper gas, while the protesters allegedly shot arrows at the security guards. According to the indigenous groups, security forces also fired rubber bullets, an accusation the chamber denied. Three officers and at least three protesters were wounded and referred to local hospitals. The chamber’s vote on the bill in its Constitution and Justice Committee was postponed until June 23, when it was approved. The bill requires approval in the chamber before moving on to the Senate.

As of November the STF continued to review a case that analyzes the “cutoff date for land claims” thesis, which holds that indigenous peoples can only claim lands on which they were present on October 5, 1988, the day the constitution was promulgated. The decision will set precedent, impacting already completed, ongoing, and future land demarcation processes. On August 22, 6,000 indigenous leaders and supporters camped on Brasilia’s main mall for several days to bring attention to the case and call on the STF to rule against the case. Members of Congress said they would continue with their bill seeking similar timebound requirements irrespective of the STF decision.

The quilombola population – descendants of escaped African slaves – was estimated to include 6,000 communities and five million individuals, although the government had no official statistics. The constitution recognizes quilombola land ownership rights. Nearly 3,000 communities were registered, but fewer than 140 had been granted land titles by the government.

Quilombola representatives and partner organizations reported that members of these communities suffered higher mortality rates due to COVID-19 than the rest of the country’s population. According to a partnership between the NGOs ISA and National Coordination for the Articulation of Quilombola Communities (CONAQ), the case mortality rate due to COVID-19 in quilombola communities as of August 18 was 5.3 percent. In comparison, as of August the Ministry of Health reported case mortality rates due to COVID-19 in the entire country averaging 2.8 percent and in the northern region, where most indigenous peoples lived, 2.5 percent. As of September 3, the Ministry of Health estimated that 36 percent of quilombolas had been fully vaccinated. Although the government provided quilombola individuals with priority status, in some cases local municipalities did not recognize their priority status or local vaccination sites were not certified, according to research by CONAQ.

Quilombola communities faced systemic challenges such as endemic poverty, racism, violence, threats against women, and threats against community leaders, as well as limited access to essential resources and public policies. According to CONAQ, Black populations had a higher rate of diseases that further aggravated the effects of COVID-19, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The precarious access to water in many territories was a cause for concern, as it also hindered hygiene practices. Civil society leaders also cited concerns about food insecurity in quilombola communities. The communities claimed that health officials did not conduct sufficient contact tracing or testing there, compared with the general population.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country or from birth to a Brazilian citizen parent. Parents are required to register their newborns within 15 days of the birth or within three months if they live more than approximately 20 miles from the nearest notary. Nevertheless, many children did not have birth certificates.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse and negligence, but enforcement was often ineffective, and abuse was widespread. According to data from the National Human Rights Ombudsman, in the first six months of the year, the country registered 47,416 reports of crimes against children and adolescents, compared with 53,525 in the first half of 2020. Of these, 121 were from mistreatment, and 52 were from sexual abuse, such as rape or harassment. The total number of reports in 2020 was 124,839 – a 47 percent increase over 2019 – and experts suspected that pandemic closures resulted in significant underreporting.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 (or 16 with parental or legal representative consent). The practice of early marriage was common. A study of child marriage in the northeastern states of Bahia and Maranhao found that pregnancy was the main motivation for child marriage in 15 of 44 cases. According to a 2020 UNICEF report, 26 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married by age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children, adolescents, and other vulnerable persons is punishable by four to 10 years in prison. The law defines sexual exploitation as child sex trafficking, sexual activity, production of child pornography, and public or private sex shows. The government enforced the law unevenly. The law sets a minimum age of 14 for consensual sex, with the penalty for statutory rape ranging from eight to 15 years in prison.

The Alagoas state government invested in campaigns to raise public awareness of the increase of sexual abuse of children and adolescents, largely within the same family, during the pandemic. From January to March, 211 cases of child sexual abuse were registered in the state, an increase from 186 during the same period in 2020.

In Maranhao State, the Department of Health Care for Children and Adolescents carried out a campaign with the theme “You report it, we take care of it” to improve assistance for victims of child sexual abuse. The state registered 99 cases of pregnant children younger than age 14 in 2019 and again in 2020.

The country was a destination for child sex tourism. While no specific laws address child sex tourism, it is punishable under other criminal offenses. The country was a destination for child sex tourism. In addition girls from other South American nations were exploited in sex trafficking in the country.

The law criminalizes child pornography. The creation of child pornography carries a prison sentence of up to eight years and a fine. The penalty for possession of child pornography is up to four years in prison and a fine. In June the Ministry of Justice coordinated Brazil’s participation, carried out by state civil police forces, in an international operation to combat crimes of child sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet. The operation carried out 176 search and seizure warrants in 18 states and five countries and resulted in the arrests of 39 individuals in Brazil.

Displaced Children: According to UNICEF, in 2020 refugee support organizations identified more than 1,577 unaccompanied Venezuelan children and adolescents in Pacaraima, Roraima State, and in the first three months of the year the number reached 1,071. According to civil society contacts, some of these minors were at risk of being trafficked or sexually exploited. Local child protection services offices act as legal guardians so unaccompanied adolescents can go to school and obtain identification papers to access the public health system. In some areas, however, they could not accommodate the influx of children. State shelters in Roraima, the state where most migrants entered the country, could house a maximum of 15 adolescent boys and 13 adolescent girls. According to a 2019 Human Rights Watch report, some unaccompanied children ended up living on the streets, where they may be particularly vulnerable to abuse or recruitment by criminal gangs.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to the Brazilian Israelite Federation, there were approximately 120,000 Jewish citizens in the country, of whom approximately 65,000 lived in the state of Sao Paulo and 34,000 in the state of Rio de Janeiro. By law it is a crime to manufacture, sell, distribute, or broadcast symbols, emblems, ornaments, badges, or advertising that use the swastika for purposes of publicizing Nazism, and it provides for a penalty of two to five years of imprisonment.

In 2020 the number of inquiries opened by the Federal Police to investigate pro-Nazi activity increased, with the highest growth in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. According to press reports, in 2019 there were 69 investigations opened for the crime and 110 in 2020. In the first five months of 2021, 36 cases were opened. Federal Police data did not include the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondonia, and Tocantins.

A global survey released in June 2020 by the Anti-Defamation League indicated that the percentage of Brazilians who harbored some anti-Jewish sentiment had grown from 19 percent in 2019 to 26 percent in 2020.

In June, after a six-year process, a federal court in Sao Paulo indicted a man for pro-Nazi and pro-Hitler propaganda on a Russian social network. The defendant was already serving community service sentences for two earlier crimes similar in nature.

In March the Jewish community filed a complaint against Roberto Jefferson, leader of the Brazilian Labor Party, for a social media post in which Jefferson claimed Jews sacrificed children. From 2020 to May 2021, neo-Nazi cells grew from 349 to 530, according to anthropologist Adriana Magalhaes Dias at the Sao Paulo State University of Campinas. The groups were most prevalent in the south and southeast regions of the country, with 301 and 193 groups identified, respectively. Cells were also mapped in the Midwest (18) and Northeast (13) regions.

Neo-Nazi groups maintained an active presence online. The Safernet Brasil platform, an NGO that promotes human rights on social networks and monitors radical websites, recorded an increase of complaints about content in support of Nazism on the networks. The year 2020 marked a record for new pages (1,659) of neo-Nazi content and also for the largest number of pages removed from the internet because of illegal pro-Nazi content.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities, and the federal government generally enforced these provisions. While federal and state laws mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities, states did not enforce them effectively. The law requires private companies with more than 100 employees to hire 2 to 5 percent of their workforce from persons with disabilities. According to the 2010 census, only 1 percent of those with disabilities were employed.

The Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Act, a legal framework on the rights of persons with disabilities, seeks to promote greater accessibility through expanded federal oversight of the City Statute (a law intended to foster the safety and well-being of urban citizens, among other objectives). The act also includes harsher criminal penalties for conviction of discrimination based on disability and inclusive health services with provision of services near residences and rural areas.

The National Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the National Council for the Rights of the Elderly have primary responsibility for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The lack of accessible infrastructure and school resources significantly limited the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in the workforce. Data released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics in August revealed that individuals with a disability were less likely to complete education at all levels. More than half of individuals with a disability, 67 percent, had no education or incomplete primary education, compared with 31 percent of those with no disability. Similarly, only 16 percent of persons with disabilities completed high school, compared with 37 percent of persons without disabilities. Five percent of the disabled population older than age 18 had a complete higher education, while 17 percent of those without disabilities did.

Civil society organizations acknowledged monitoring and enforcement of disability policies remained weak and criticized a lack of accessibility to public transportation, weak application of employment quotas, and a limited medical-based definition of disability that often excludes learning disabilities.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS is punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine. Civil society organizations and the press reported discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS. According to one LGBTQI+ activist, although the government provided affordable HIV treatment through the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, many HIV-positive persons did not access the service because they were unaware of its existence or did not understand the bureaucracy required to participate in the program.

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

Violence against LGBTQI+ individuals was a serious concern. While violence against LGBTQI+ individuals generally had declined yearly since 2017, violence specifically targeting transgender individuals increased. The Federal Public Ministry is responsible for registering reports of crimes committed based on gender or sexual orientation but reportedly was slow to respond. Transgender individuals were particularly at risk of being the victims of crime or committing suicide.

According to a July report by the National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals, based on reports from LGBTQI+ organizations across the country, 80 transgender individuals were killed in the first six months of the year. The largest number of cases occurred in the states of Bahia, Ceara, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo. Victims were mostly Afro-Brazilians younger than age 35. In 2019 and 2020, there were 124 and 175 killings of transgender persons, respectively. According to some civil society leaders, underreporting of crimes was likely because many LGBTQI+ persons were afraid they might experience discrimination or violence while seeking services from law enforcement authorities.

On June 24, a 17-year-old youth killed Roberta Nascimento da Silva, a homeless transgender woman, in Recife – the fourth transgender woman killed in Pernambuco State within one month. The teenager threw alcohol on the woman while she slept on the street and set her on fire. Police apprehended the assailant and charged him with an “infractional act” (because the act was committed by a minor) analogous to attempted aggravated homicide. The teenager was being provisionally held in juvenile detention awaiting sentencing. Authorities did not confirm if the case would be registered as a homophobic or transphobic crime, but Recife Mayor Joao Campos expressed regret at the transgender woman’s death and stated the city would seek to expand services to the LGBTQI+ population with a new shelter to be named in Roberta’s honor.

In July, four men convicted of the murder of Emanuelle Muniz, a transgender woman, were issued prison sentences of up to 35 years for rape, murder, and robbery. The assailants, who remained in prison following their apprehensions in 2017, received substantial prison sentences, ranging from 26 to 35 years.

No specific law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in essential goods and services such as health care. In 2019, however, the STF criminalized discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Offenders face sentences of one to three years’ imprisonment and a fine, or two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine if the offender disseminates the incident via social media thereby exposing the victim. In October the Regional Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro instructed the armed forces to recognize the social name of transgender military personnel and prohibited compulsory removal of service members for “transsexualism.”

In the Northeast there was an effort to raise civil society awareness against homophobia; to train civil and military police to provide more humanized care to the victims of violence; and to implement reference centers for legal, psychological, and social assistance to the LGBTQI+ community. The Recife Municipal Reference Center offered specialized services with a qualified team of psychologists, social workers, and lawyers for LGBTQI+ individuals.

NGOs cited lack of economic opportunity for LGBTQI+ persons as a concern. According to the NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia, 33 percent of companies avoided hiring LGBTQI+ employees, and 90 percent of transgender women engaged in prostitution because they could find no employment alternative. Transgender women often paid human traffickers for protection and daily housing fees. When they were unable to pay, they were beaten, starved, and forced into commercial sex. Traffickers exploited transgender women, luring them with offers of gender reassignment surgery and later exploiting them in sex trafficking when they were unable to repay the cost of the procedure.

According to some LGBTQI+ leaders, the COVID-19 pandemic severely limited the LGBTQI+ population’s access to public health and mental health resources, and many were in abusive domestic situations with families that did not support them. According to some civil society sources, LGBTQI+ workers, who were more likely to work in the informal economy, lost their jobs at a much higher rate than the general population during the pandemic. In the states of Pernambuco, Paraiba, and Ceara, several donation campaigns were carried out to assist vulnerable LGBTQI+ populations, including donation of food baskets, hygiene kits, and clothes.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for freedom of association for all workers (except members of the military, military police, and firefighters); the right to bargain collectively with some restrictions; and the right to strike. The law limits organizing at the enterprise level. By law the armed forces, military police, and firefighters may not strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, including the dismissal of employees who are candidates for, or holders of, union leadership positions, and it requires employers to reinstate workers fired for union activity.

New unions must register with the Ministry of Economy, which accepts the registration unless objections are filed by other unions. The law stipulates certain restrictions, such as unicidade (in essence, one union per occupational category per city), which limits freedom of association by prohibiting multiple, competing unions of the same professional category in a single geographical area. Unions that represent workers in the same geographical area and professional category may contest registration.

The law stipulates that a strike may be ruled “disruptive” by the labor court, and the union may be subjected to legal penalties if the strike violates certain conditions, such as if the union fails to maintain essential services during a strike, notify employers at least 48 hours before the beginning of a walkout, or end a strike after a labor court decision. Employers may not hire substitute workers during a legal strike or fire workers for strike-related activity, provided the strike is not ruled abusive.

The law obliges a union to negotiate on behalf of all registered workers in the professional category and geographical area it represents, regardless of whether an employee pays voluntary membership dues. The law permits the government to reject clauses of collective bargaining agreements that conflict with government policy, and it includes collective bargaining rights, such as the ability to negotiate a flexible hourly schedule and work remotely.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected. Collective bargaining was widespread in establishments in the private sector. Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. In the view of expert NGOs working in this field, the government usually effectively enforced applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits “slave labor,” defined as “reducing someone to a condition analogous to slavery,” including subjecting someone to forced labor, debt bondage, exhausting work hours, and labor performed in degrading working conditions.

Many individuals in slave labor, as defined by the country’s law, were victims of human trafficking for the purpose of forced labor. The government took actions to enforce the law, although forced labor occurred in a number of states. Violations of forced labor laws are punishable by up to eight years in prison, but this was often not sufficient to deter violations. The law also provides penalties for various crimes related to forced labor, such as illegal recruiting or transporting workers or imposing onerous debt burdens as a condition of employment. Every six months the Ministry of Economy publishes a “dirty list” of companies found to have employed forced labor. Although fewer names were included during the year due to COVID-related processing delays, in April the updated list included 19 new companies and owners from a range of sectors such as cattle ranching and livestock, agriculture, mining, and construction; in October an additional 13 entities were added, including a retired attorney, a former mayor, and a construction service company. Public and private banks use the list to conduct risk assessments, and inclusion on the list prevents companies from receiving loans from state-owned financial institutions. The Labor Prosecutor’s Office, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO), maintained an online platform that identified hotspots for forced labor. The Ministry of Economy’s Mobile Labor Inspection Unit teams conducted impromptu inspections of properties where forced labor was suspected or reported, using teams composed of labor inspectors, labor prosecutors from the Federal Labor Prosecutor’s Office, and Federal Police officers. Mobile teams levied fines on landowners who used forced labor and required employers to provide back pay and benefits to workers before returning the workers to their municipalities of origin. Labor inspectors and prosecutors, however, could apply only civil penalties; consequently, many cases were not criminally prosecuted.

Forced labor, including forced child labor, was reported in jobs such as clearing forests to provide cattle pastureland, logging, producing charcoal, salt industries, mining, raising livestock, and other agricultural activities. Forced labor often involved young men, notably Afro-Brazilian men, drawn from the less-developed northeastern states – Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins, and Ceara – and the central state of Goias to work in the northern and central-western regions of the country. In addition there were reports of forced labor in the construction industry. News outlets reported cases that amounted to forced labor in production of carnauba wax. Cases of forced labor were also reported in the garment industry in the city of Sao Paulo; the victims were often from neighboring countries, such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Paraguay, while others came from Haiti, South Korea, and China.

Media also reported cases of forced labor of domestic workers in wealthy urban households. In November 2020 the Public Ministry rescued 48-year-old Madalena Gordiano from domestic servitude 38 years after she began working for a Minas Gerais family as a child. The victim was exploited by a university professor and his family, working from 2 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily without a salary, benefits, or days off. Later, in her twenties, she was forced to marry an elderly relative of the employer with a pension, which was taken by her employers after his death. Although the total amount due to the victim was calculated to be R$2.2 million ($394,000), at a July virtual regional labor court hearing, she accepted an offer of R$690,100 ($124,000) to be fulfilled by the transfer of the family’s apartment to her, the purchase of a new car, and an additional R$20,000 ($3,600). The victim was also to receive the monthly pension to which she is entitled through the marriage, worth R$8,400 ($1,500) per month. The agreement was the largest individual agreement made to a person rescued from slave labor. The victim filed administrative and criminal proceedings against other family members, which the Federal Public Ministry was investigating.

During the first six months of the year, labor inspectors rescued 772 victims of slave labor – 80 percent of the previous year’s total. In 2020 authorities conducted 266 labor inspections and identified 942 victims of labor exploitation, compared with 280 labor inspections and the identification of 1,130 victims of labor exploitation in 2019. According to expert NGOs working in this field, penalties for slave labor were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes such as kidnapping. A study published in 2020 by the Slave Labor and Trafficking in Persons Clinic of the Federal University of Minas Gerais showed that only 4.2 percent of those accused were held criminally responsible for the crime of subjecting workers to contemporary slavery.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor. The definitions of crimes involving child sex trafficking require the use of threats, violence, coercion, fraud, or abuse, which does not meet international standards. The minimum working age is 16, but apprenticeships may begin at age 14. The law bars all minors younger than 18 from work that constitutes a physical strain or occurs in unhealthy, dangerous, or morally harmful conditions. Hazardous work includes an extensive list of activities within 13 occupational categories, including domestic service, garbage scavenging, and fertilizer production. The law requires parental permission for minors to work as apprentices. The Ministry of Economy’s Special Mobile Inspection Group is responsible for inspecting worksites to enforce child labor laws. Penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Most inspections of children in the workplace were driven by complaints brought by workers, teachers, unions, NGOs, and media. Due to legal restrictions, labor inspectors remained unable to enter private homes and farms, where much of the child labor allegedly occurred. The government did not always effectively enforce the law.

In 2020 labor inspectors found situations of child labor during 279 investigations, involving 810 children. According to data collected by UNICEF in Sao Paulo among vulnerable families, child labor worsened during the pandemic. UNICEF conducted a survey of data on the income and work situation of 52,744 vulnerable families from different regions of Sao Paulo who received donations from the organization and its partners. The data collected from April to July 2020 identified a 26 percent increase in child labor when comparing May and July.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, religion, political opinion, natural origin or citizenship, age, language, and sexual orientation or gender identity. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Discrimination against individuals who are HIV positive or suffer from other communicable diseases is also prohibited. The government generally enforced the laws and regulations, although discrimination in employment occurred with respect to Afro-Brazilians, women, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, and transgender individuals. The Ministry of Economy implemented rules to integrate promotion of racial equality in its programs, including requiring race be included in data for programs financed by the ministry. According to the ILO, women not only earned less than men but also had difficulties entering the workplace: 78 percent of men held paid jobs, compared with 56 percent of women. Although the law prohibits gender discrimination in pay, professional training, working hours, occupations, tasks, and career advancement, according to NGO representatives, the law was rarely enforced, and discrimination existed.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a minimum wage. The minimum wage was greater than the official poverty income level. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, however, in 2019 approximately 60 percent of workers had incomes below the minimum wage. The Ministry of Economy verified enforcement of minimum wage laws as part of regular labor inspections. Penalties alone were not sufficient to deter violations.

The law limits the workweek to 44 hours and specifies a weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours, preferably on Sundays. The law also provides for paid annual vacation, prohibits excessive compulsory overtime, limits overtime to two hours per workday, and stipulates that hours worked above the monthly limit must be compensated with at least time-and-a-half pay; these provisions generally were enforced for all groups of workers in the formal sector. The constitution also provides for the right of domestic employees to work a maximum of eight hours per day and 44 hours per week, a minimum wage, a lunch break, social security, and severance pay.

In July a labor inspection at a coffee farm in Minas Gerais State found that farm owners were illegally deducting nearly one-third of workers’ wages to cover the cost of the machinery workers use to harvest coffee beans, which should have been provided to workers for free under the law. The farm owners signed an agreement with the Labor Prosecution Service and the Public Defender’s Office agreeing to pay the deductions back to the 19 affected workers, along with an additional R$2,000 ($350) payment to each worker for moral damages.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Economy sets occupational, health, and safety (OSH) standards that are consistent with internationally recognized norms, although unsafe working conditions were prevalent throughout the country, especially in construction. The law requires employers to establish internal committees for accident prevention in workplaces. It also provides for the protection of employees from being fired for their committee activities. Workers could remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, although those in forced labor situations without access to transportation were particularly vulnerable to situations that endangered their health and safety. In the view of expert NGOs working in this field, officials enforced OSH laws. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes, such as negligence. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

The Ministry of Economy addressed problems related to acceptable conditions of work such as long workdays and unsafe or unhygienic work conditions. Penalties for violations include fines that vary widely depending on the nature of the violation. Fines were generally enforced and were sometimes sufficient to deter violations. The National Labor Inspection School held various virtual training sessions for labor inspectors throughout the year. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to deter violations. During the year the Ministry of Economy launched an online database to monitor workplace accidents nationwide.

Informal Sector: According to data collected by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics as a part of its August Continuous National Household Survey, 37 million Brazilians participated in the informal sector, representing 41 percent of the employed population. Although workers in the informal sector enjoyed some labor protections, including minimum wage, hour limitations, and OSH laws and workplace inspections, they lacked access to unemployment insurance and social safety nets.

Canada

Executive Summary

Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal parliamentary government. In a free and fair multiparty federal election held in September, the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, won a plurality of seats in the federal parliament and formed a minority government.

Federal, provincial, municipal, and indigenous police forces maintain internal security. The armed forces are responsible for external security but in exceptional cases may exercise some domestic security responsibility at the formal request of civilian provincial authorities. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police reports to the Department of Public Safety, and the armed forces report to the Department of National Defense. Provincial and municipal police report to their respective provincial authorities. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses during the year.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings; crimes involving violence against indigenous women and girls; and crimes involving violence or threats targeting Black, Asian, Jewish, and Muslim minorities.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses and corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On May 13, the federal ethics commissioner reported his findings in investigations into former federal finance minister Bill Morneau’s failure to recuse himself from the proposed award of a sole source C$900 million ($692 million) federal pandemic-relief contract in 2020 to the nonprofit WE Charity, and into the prime minister’s relations with the charity. The contract was never issued. The commissioner found Morneau had a prior personal and professional relationship with the charity’s directors and broke federal ethics law by failing to recuse himself, by allowing his staff to “disproportionately assist” WE, and by “improperly furthering” WE’s private interests. The breaches did not carry criminal or financial penalties. In a related investigation, the commissioner cleared Morneau of improperly accepting approximately C$41,000 ($32,000) in personal travel from WE Charity. Separately, the commissioner found the prime minister did not breach the act.

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

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

Government Human Rights Bodies: Federal and provincial human rights commissions enjoyed government cooperation, operated without government or party interference, and had adequate resources. Observers considered the commissions effective. Parliamentary human rights committees operated in the House of Commons and the Senate. The committees acted independently of government, conducted public hearings, and issued reports and recommendations to which the government provided written, public, and timely responses. Most federal departments and some federal agencies employed ombudsperson. Nine provinces and one territory also employed an ombudsperson.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, as sexual assault, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for sexual assault carry prison sentences of up to 10 years, up to 14 years for sexual assault with a restricted or prohibited firearm, and between four years and life for aggravated sexual assault with a firearm or committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization. Most victims of sexual assault were women.

The law provides protections against domestic violence for both men and women, although most victims were women. Although the law does not define specific domestic violence offenses, assault, aggravated assault, intimidation, mischief, or sexual assault charges apply to acts of domestic violence. Persons convicted of assault receive up to five years in prison. Assaults involving weapons, threats, or injuries carry terms of up to 10 years. Aggravated assault or endangerment of life carry prison sentences of up to 14 years. The government generally enforced the law effectively. Police received training in interacting with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and agencies provided hotlines to report abuse.

The law was appropriately enforced, but a study prepared for federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of justice and released to the public in 2018 acknowledged challenges in reporting, investigating, and prosecuting sexual assault cases. Crimes of sexual assault were self-reported, and the majority of incidents were not reported to police. According to studies in 2014 by the federal department of justice, 83 percent of survivors of sexual assault did not report their assaults to police in that year. Of all sexual assaults reported to and substantiated by police from 2009 to 2014, 43 percent resulted in police laying a charge, 21 percent proceeded to court, and 12 percent resulted in a criminal conviction over the six-year period. Indigenous women and girls were disproportionately victims of sexual abuse. In 2014 indigenous women reported a sexual assault rate of 115 incidents per 1,000 population, significantly higher than the rate of 35 per 1,000 reported by nonindigenous women.

Approximately 1,180 indigenous women disappeared or were killed from 1980 to 2012, according to a 2014 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Indigenous advocates and a report issued in 2019 by the government-commissioned National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) stated the number was probably far higher, since many deaths had gone unreported. Indigenous women and girls made up an estimated 5 percent of the country’s women but represented 16 percent of the women killed, according to government statistics. Indigenous women and children were also at high risk of human trafficking.

The NIMMIWG concluded in 2019 that the government’s treatment of indigenous peoples amounted to “deliberate race, identity, and gender-based genocide,” that the harm continued, and that it required immediate remedy. On June 1, two years after the NIMMIWG report and one year later than the government had originally promised an official response, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) said it had “lost confidence” in the government and released its own NIMMIWG action plan without waiting for government action. NWAC is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that had originally spurred creation of the NIMMIWG. On June 3, the government released its National Action Plan in response to the NIMMIWG inquiry’s 231 recommendations. The government attributed the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan committed C$2.2 billion ($1.7 billion) over five years and C$160.9 million ($127 million) for data collection, counseling and support services, culture, health, justice, safety, and security, and to combat human trafficking. It committed to no timeline for action.

The government’s Family Violence Initiative involved 15 federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations, including Status of Women Canada, Health Canada, and Justice Canada. These entities worked with civil society organizations to eliminate violence against women and to advance women’s human rights. The government continued a national strategy begun in 2017 to prevent and address gender-based violence, budgeting C$101 million ($77.8 million) over five years and C$20.7 million ($16.6 million) annually thereafter to create a center of excellence within Status of Women Canada for research, data collection, and programming, and to provide support for prevention, victim and family support, public education, justice, training, and programming. The 2018 federal budget allocated an additional C$86 million ($66 million) over five years, starting in 2018-19, and C$20 million ($15.4 million) per year thereafter, to expand the strategy with a focus on preventing teen-dating violence, bullying, and cyberbullying; health care for victims; investigative policing; police training; research; funding for rape crisis and sexual assault centers; and programs to prevent gender-based violence in postsecondary educational institutions. Provincial and municipal governments also sought to address violence against women, often in partnership with civil society.

In July preliminary findings from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability’s (CFOJA) midyear report found 92 women and girls were killed between January and June, 79 of whom were killed by men. Indigenous women accounted for 12 percent of femicide victims, despite comprising 5 percent of the country’s population. The CFOJA reported 60 women and girls were victims of femicide in 2020. NGOs reported higher demand for services during the COVID-19 pandemic and attributed increases in domestic partner fatalities in part to the stress of societal lockdowns. The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses reported an increase of domestic violence fatalities in Ontario of more than 84 percent, from 19 to 35 in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2020.

On April 23, the Quebec government allocated C$223 million ($173.4 million) over five years to combat gender-based violence, including C$90 million ($70 million) for women’s shelters. The new money, combined with allocations in the provincial budget in March and previous commitments, totaled C$425 million ($330.5 million) over five years. According to the Quebec public security minister, as of October, 16 women had been killed by their male partners in Quebec, a significant increase from an average of 12 deaths in the province attributed to domestic violence in a calendar year.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C of women and girls and prosecutes the offense, including parents of minors, as aggravated assault with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. FGM/C occurred on occasion, predominantly in diaspora communities. While internal government reports leaked to media asserted that FGM/C practitioners and victims often traveled to the country of the practitioners’ origin for the illegal procedure, officials also sought to prevent the entry of FGM/C practitioners into the country.

Sexual Harassment: The law offers protections from sexual harassment at the workplace but does not articulate a specific offense of “sexual harassment” outside of work; instead, it criminalizes harassment (defined as stalking), punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and sexual assault, with penalties ranging from 10 years for nonaggravated sexual assault to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions have responsibility for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers, companies, unions, educational facilities, professional bodies, and other institutions had internal policies against sexual harassment, and federal and provincial governments provided public education and guidance.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of the government. A class action suit filed in 2017 against the province of Saskatchewan by at least 60 indigenous women who claimed physicians in the provincial health system subjected them to coerced sterilization or sterilization without proper or informed consent between 1972 and 2017 remained in progress as of November.

No significant legal, social, or cultural barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraception; cost was cited as the most important barrier to contraception access in the country, particularly for young and low-income women and indigenous women in northern or remote communities where menstrual products and other imported consumer goods cost significantly more than in southern and urban communities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence in hospitals and through dedicated sexual assault care centers, including emergency contraception as part of clinical management of rape.

Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Skilled health attendants were available during pregnancy and childbirth and were publicly funded; however, women in rural, remote, and Arctic areas had more difficulty accessing care. Although the country’s maternal mortality rate in 2018 was low at 8.5 per 100,000 live births, a 2016 medical study reported indigenous women had a two times higher risk of maternal mortality than the national average and a higher risk of adverse outcomes, including stillbirth, perinatal death, low-birth weight infants, prematurity, and infant deaths. The country’s birth rate among females 15 to 19 years of age was 6.3 per 1,000 in 2019, the latest available figure, and varied widely by province. In Ontario, the most populous province that includes multiple urban centers, the birth rate was 4.3 per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19. In the rural northern territory of Nunavut – 86 percent of the population of which was indigenous – the rate was 97.3 per 1,000. The country’s national statistical agency cited low income, overcrowded or inadequate housing, lack of a high school diploma, and lack of access to sexual health education and contraception as social determinants of higher birth rates among indigenous adolescents.

Discrimination: Women 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 government enforced these rights effectively.

In May the government released 2020 data regarding female representation and diversity on the corporate boards of approximately 669 publicly traded companies in the country required by law to disclose annual diversity data. Women held 25 percent of all senior management positions in the identified companies and 50 percent had at least one woman on their board of directors. Fourteen percent had set targets for the representation of women on their boards and 32 percent had written policies relating to the identification and nomination of women for board seats. Seven provinces and two territories require private-sector companies to report annually on their efforts to increase the number of women appointed to executive corporate boards. The government’s statistical agency reported that hourly wages for women were, on average, lower than for men but that the wage gap had narrowed to 87 cents for women for every dollar earned by men in 2018 (latest available figures), except at the top of corporate structures. The agency attributed the change to women’s higher rates of public-sector work, unionization, and higher educational attainment and cited factors such as differences in the industries where men and women work, and the higher likelihood for women to work part-time, for the continuing gap.

An April 20 ruling by Quebec’s Superior Court upheld most of a provincial law that bans specific public employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work. The Superior Court judge acknowledged the law violated the rights of Muslim women and had “cruel” and “dehumanizing” consequences for those who wore religious symbols but concluded it did not violate the country’s constitution. The province had shielded the law by invoking a constitutional override provision that allows a province to suspend protected rights for a period of five years. The judge, however, struck down the application of the law for two worker categories: members of the provincial National Assembly and those working for Anglophone school boards. Under the law judges, lawyers, police officers, and teachers in the majority Francophone public school system continued to be prohibited from wearing visible religious symbols at work. The two-tiered ruling was seen by minority rights groups as a major setback that they said would perpetuate violation of religious freedom and permit the continuation of legal discrimination in the province – especially against Muslim women. The judge remarked in his ruling that persons who “fall into this category can no longer seek out new jobs in the public service without compromising their beliefs.”

In June the Quebec government appealed the Superior Court ruling, which remained pending as of November. The government’s appeal paused the exemption from the law for Anglophone school boards; the English Montreal School Board asked the Quebec Court of Appeal for a temporary exemption to allow them to hire staff before the appeal was decided. A judicial decision on the temporary exemption also remained pending as of November. Separately, Muslim and civil rights organizations in Quebec in May said they would appeal the Superior Court ruling. Their appeal remained pending as of November.

First Nations women living on reservations (where land is held communally) have matrimonial property rights. First Nations may choose to follow federal law or may enact their own rules related to matrimonial real property rights and interests that respect their customs.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution, the law, and federal and provincial human rights laws provide for equal rights, protect members of racial or ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination, and provide redress. The federal Canadian Race Relations Foundation coordinates and facilitates public education and research and develops recommendations to eliminate racism and promote harmonious race relations. The government enforced the law effectively.

There were reports of discrimination and violence against ethnic minority groups and racial profiling by police. In July the government’s national statistical agency reported 2,669 hate crimes, up from 1,951 in 2019, a 37 percent increase and the highest number since comparable data became available in 2009. The increase was largely the result of hate incidents targeting the Black population (up 318 incidents and 92 percent from 2019) and the East or Southeast Asian population (up 202 incidents and 301 percent as of 2019).

On January 28, Montreal police arrested a Black man, charged him with attempted murder, assaulting a police officer, and disarming a police officer, and detained him for six nights after an officer was attacked at a separate location following a traffic stop. The man was exonerated and cleared of all charges on February 5, and Montreal’s police chief apologized to him. Police denied the man had been racially profiled, and a public inquiry led by a Quebec Superior Court justice concurred on September 3. The judge found that both police and the prosecutor who authorized the charges acted lawfully and reasonably. The judge reported investigators made technical errors that delayed the man’s release and recommended improvements in police training and procedures. Lawyers for the man described the judicial report as “one-sided” and confirmed the man would continue with a suit seeking redress for the wrongful arrest and detention that he had filed in July against the city and the province. The suit remained in progress as of October.

Police forces in major cities, including Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, reported an increase in incidents of harassment, violence, and graffiti based on race, ethnicity, or skin color against Asians between 2019 and 2020, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. Verbal harassment, targeted coughing and spitting, and physical aggression reportedly accounted for the majority of the incidents. According to the Vancouver Police Department, anti-Asian hate crimes in the city increased seven-fold in 2020. A June 8 poll by the Angus Reid Institute found 58 percent of Asian respondents to the survey said they had experienced at least one incident of anti-Asian discrimination in the previous year; 86 percent of those polled said the discrimination was societal, not institutional. On June 17, police charged two individuals with mischief after they allegedly threw a hot beverage at an Asian staff member and uttered racist slurs at a coffee shop in Richmond, British Columbia, on March 29 after the employee asked them to maintain social distance between customers. A British Columbia court scheduled a hearing for the case in November. On August 18, the British Columbia Human Rights Commission launched a year-long public inquiry to investigate the increase in hate crime incidents in the province during the pandemic. The commission will not hold public hearings but will solicit expert and public written testimony and report in 2022.

The prime minister and government ministers condemned anti-Asian racism and “scapegoating” for the COVID-19 pandemic. In April the federal budget allocated C$11 million ($8.6 million) over two years to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to combat racism during the pandemic and to establish a national coalition to support Asian-Canadian communities. In 2019 the government announced a C$45 million ($35.7 million) Anti-Racism Strategy over three years to combat racism and discrimination, including creation of an Anti-Racism Secretariat to coordinate initiatives across government, conduct outreach and public education, and engage indigenous people and community groups. On August 4, the government allocated C$96 million ($76 million) to Black community groups to support capacity and workspace development in addition to C$25 million ($20 million) in 2019 and C$350 million ($277.5 million) in 2020 to support Black entrepreneurs and address barriers to access to credit and systemic racism.

The government held a national emergency summit on anti-Semitism on July 21 and a separate summit on Islamophobia on July 22 to raise awareness, conduct public education, engage communities, and identify best practices to combat discrimination. The prime minister addressed both summits, and elected officials were invited to attend. The country’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism participated in the summit on July 21. In October the prime minister confirmed the government had made the role of special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism a permanent office with dedicated funding.

Indigenous Peoples

According to the government’s national statistical agency, indigenous peoples constituted approximately 5 percent of the national population and much higher percentages in the country’s three territories: Yukon, 23 percent; Northwest Territories, 51 percent; and Nunavut, 86 percent. Disputes over land claims, self-government, treaty rights, taxation, duty-free imports, fishing and hunting rights, and alleged police brutality and harassment were sources of tension. Indigenous peoples remained underrepresented in the workforce, leadership positions, and politics; more susceptible than other groups to suicide, poverty, chronic health conditions, sexual violence, human trafficking, and other violent crime; and overrepresented on welfare rolls and in prison populations.

On June 9, the provincial government of British Columbia agreed to a request by the indigenous Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations to defer commercial logging for two years on the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island, which included their territories. The logging company also agreed to the moratorium. Activists, including nonindigenous persons, had blocked roads to the site to stop commercial harvesting of old-growth trees since August 2020, resulting in more than 180 arrests after police enforced an injunction in May. Chiefs of the impacted First Nations asked activists to leave their territories and allow indigenous peoples to make decisions on how to use the land.

The law recognizes individuals registered under the Indian Act based on indigenous lineage and members of a recognized First Nation as Status Indians and eligible for a range of federal services and programs. Status and services are withheld from unregistered or nonstatus indigenous persons who do not meet eligibility criteria for official recognition.

The law recognizes and specifically protects indigenous rights, including rights established by historical land claims settlements. Treaties with indigenous groups form the basis for the government’s policies in the eastern part of the country, but there were legal challenges to the government’s interpretation and implementation of treaty rights. Indigenous groups in the western part of the country that had never signed treaties continued to claim land and resources, and many continued to seek legal resolution of outstanding issues. As a result the evolution of the government’s policy toward indigenous rights, particularly land claims, depended on negotiation or legal challenges.

The law imposes statutory, contractual, and common-law obligations to consult with indigenous peoples on the development and exploitation of natural resources on land covered by treaty or subject to indigenous land claims. According to a Supreme Court ruling, the federal government has the constitutional duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate indigenous peoples when the government contemplates actions that may adversely affect potential or established indigenous and treaty rights, and indigenous title.

Supreme Court decisions affirmed that indigenous title extends to territory used by indigenous peoples for hunting, fishing, and other activities prior to contact with Europeans, as well as to settlement sites. Provincial and federal governments may develop natural resources on land subject to indigenous title but are obliged to obtain consent of the indigenous titleholders in addition to existing constitutional duties to consult, and where necessary, accommodate indigenous peoples in matters that affect their rights. If governments cannot obtain consent, they may proceed with resource development only based on a “compelling and substantial objective” in the public interest, in which the public interest is proportionate to any adverse effect on indigenous interests. The court has established that indigenous titles are collective in nature.

On April 23, the Supreme Court affirmed the country’s constitutional obligations towards indigenous peoples extended to noncitizen indigenous persons with historical territory in Canada. The court determined indigenous rights stemmed from precolonial territorial control, even if that area was now outside the country’s borders.

Indigenous minors were overrepresented in foster care and in the custody of provincial child welfare systems. In 2020 the law changed to affirm and recognize First Nations, Inuit, and Metis jurisdiction over child and family services with the goal of keeping indigenous children and youth connected to their families, communities, and culture. On July 7, the government signed an agreement with the Cowessess First Nation, the first indigenous group under the law to take control of child welfare in its community. Indigenous groups must sign these agreements with the federal government on a case-by-case basis. They may develop their own child welfare laws or use traditional practices, either of which take precedence over federal or provincial law.

In September the Federal Court upheld two 2019 rulings by the federal Human Rights Tribunal that awarded financial compensation to indigenous children in the child welfare system after 2006. The tribunal had concluded the government discriminated against indigenous children by willfully underfunding child welfare services on reserves that resulted in their removal from their families, and by failing to provide services as the result of a jurisdictional dispute between federal and provincial governments over which government should pay for care off reserves. The federal government acknowledged the discrimination but claimed the tribunal lacked jurisdiction and asserted the government wanted to resolve the issue as part of separate but related class-action lawsuits with a more generous financial settlement. On October 29, it announced that it would appeal the part of the tribunal’s ruling that related to financial compensation, but not the section that mandated the government provide public services to First Nations children on the same basis as nonindigenous children. The government stated the parties had agreed to pause litigation until December to allow time to negotiate financial compensation as part of a comprehensive settlement package.

On September 24, the Federal Court approved a financial settlement reached in June by the federal government with indigenous former students who attended indigenous residential schools on a day basis but did not reside at the schools. Court approval was required to verify the agreement was “fair and reasonable.” The agreement was the third relating to compensation for abuse experienced by students compelled to attend the schools. In 2019 the Federal Court approved a financial settlement between the government and indigenous former students to compensate students who suffered physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and loss of culture and language while attending federal and provincial government-funded day schools. The claims period was scheduled to remain open until July 2022. The government and churches that operated indigenous residential schools on the former’s behalf reached a settlement with indigenous former students in 2006, the largest class action settlement in the country’s history. As of March when the claims period closed, the government had disbursed more than C$ three billion ($2.3 billion) to claimants.

In May the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia announced the discovery of 251 unmarked graves on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School that they believed included the remains of indigenous children who attended the school. The prime minister said the discovery served as a “painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.” Indigenous communities in British Columbia and other provinces subsequently identified undocumented grave sites on or near the locations of former residential schools totaling more than 1,200 graves. More than 130 indigenous residential schools operated across the country between the 1870s and 1996. As of August the federal government had received more than 100 applications from indigenous nations or groups for funding to locate, identify, and commemorate the remains and had committed C$27 million ($21.4 million). Provincial governments in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario also pledged funding for a combined federal and provincial total of approximately C$62 million ($50 million) as of October.

Contaminated drinking water was a problem in many indigenous communities. On July 30, the government announced an out-of-court settlement of C$ eight billion ($6.3 billion) to compensate 258 First Nations and to fix water quality systems on reserves. The settlement was subject to approval by the Federal Court to determine whether it was fair. The government had committed to end all drinking water advisories on indigenous lands by March 2021 but missed the deadline. In March it recommitted to end the advisories but did not provide a timeline. As of September the government stated 117 long-term water advisories had been lifted since November 2015 and 45 long-term water advisories remained in effect in 32 indigenous communities.

On October 1, a Quebec coroner concluded that racism contributed to the death of Joyce Echaquan, an indigenous woman who died in a Quebec hospital in 2020 and recorded racist abuse on her cell phone directed toward her by nursing staff. The coroner found Echaquan did not receive the medical care to which she was entitled and that the care provided by the hospital was “imprinted with prejudice and biases” that prompted staff to neglect, minimize or misdiagnose her symptoms because she was indigenous. The coroner issued several recommendations, including that the provincial government recognize the existence of systemic racism within its institutions. The premier of Quebec stated Echaquan experienced discrimination and Quebec would continue to combat racism, but he denied the existence of systemic racism in the province. The prime minister recognized Echaquan’s death as an example of systemic racism. In October Echaquan family members said they would file suit against the hospital where she died.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Births are registered immediately and are neither denied nor provided on a discriminatory basis.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law establishes 16 years as the legal minimum age of marriage with parental consent. Early marriages were not known to be a major problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, sale, grooming, offering, or procuring children for commercial sex, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law effectively. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 years. Persons convicted of living from the proceeds of child sex trafficking face between two and 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons who aid, counsel, compel, use, or threaten to use violence, intimidation, or coercion in relation to child sex trafficking face between five and 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons who solicit or obtain the sexual services of a child younger than age 18 face between six months’ and 10 years’ imprisonment. Children, principally teenage girls, were exploited in sex trafficking. The country was a destination for child sex tourism, and Canadian tourists committed child sex tourism crimes abroad. Children from indigenous communities; at-risk youth; runaway youth; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) children; and youth in the child welfare system were at high risk for trafficking.

The law prohibits accessing, producing, distributing, and possessing child pornography. Maximum penalties range from 18 months’ imprisonment for summary offenses to 10 years’ imprisonment for indictable offenses.

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

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

Anti-Semitism

Approximately 1 percent of the population is Jewish. The government enforced laws against discrimination effectively.

The B’nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights received 2,610 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2020, the latest available data, representing an 18 percent increase from 2019. Of this total, there were 2,483 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment in 2020, up 23 percent from 2019. B’nai Brith also reported there were nine cases of anti-Semitic violence, of which approximately 44 percent were related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 118 reports of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2020.

In May the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies filed a complaint with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regarding the flying of a Hitler Youth flag on private property in Breton, Alberta. Police officers spoke to the property owner, who refused to take down the flag. The center also filed a separate police complaint the same month regarding the flying of a Hitler Youth flag at a property in Boyle, Alberta. The property owner removed the flag after police spoke to him.

In July Toronto police charged a man with assault and municipal by-law infractions for antisocial behavior in two separate anti-Semitic incidents. On July 6, a man with a swastika drawn on his bare chest yelled anti-Semitic slurs and threw an object at a Jewish person in a public park, and on July 10, the same man, again with the swastika drawn on his chest, yelled anti-Semitic slurs at three Jewish women walking in a public park with a baby. When a Jewish man intervened, the assailant punched the man several times. Police investigated whether to file hate-crime charges in both incidents. In September the same assailant was arrested and charged with one count of assault and one count of failure to comply with a release order in a third anti-Semitic incident in Toronto. The man approached a woman at a subway station, asked her multiple times whether she was Jewish, performed a Nazi salute, and attacked her when she ignored his questions. The woman was not Jewish.

In August unknown vandals defaced election signs of two Jewish candidates in Montreal, Quebec, with swastikas. On August 17, the prime minister tweeted the graffiti was “completely unacceptable” and that he stood “in solidarity” with the two candidates and with “the entire Jewish community against this type of hatred.”

On July 21, the government hosted an emergency national summit on anti-Semitism and announced C$ six million ($4.7 million) in funding for 150 projects to support communities at risk of hate crime. On July 5, the Ontario government gave C$327,000 ($258,500) to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center to develop anti-Semitism courses for teachers and students in the province’s schools.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and persons with disabilities could access education, employment, health services, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services on an equal basis with others. Children with disabilities attended school with peers without disabilities. Federal and provincial governments effectively implemented laws and programs mandating access to public buildings, information, and communications in accessible formats for persons with disabilities, but regulation varies by jurisdiction. The government enforced these provisions effectively. The law requires employers and service providers to “identify, remove, and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction.

Disability rights NGOs reported that persons with disabilities experienced higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, lower rates of job retention, and higher rates of poverty and economic marginalization than others. Persons with disabilities were at increased risk of human trafficking. Mental-disability advocates asserted the prison system was not sufficiently equipped or staffed to provide the care necessary for those in the criminal justice system, resulting in cases of segregation and self-harm.

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

The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services, including health care, and the government enforced the law. Conversion therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation is lawful. A 2020 study by the British Columbia-based nonprofit Community-Based Research Centre that promotes the health of individuals of diverse sexualities and genders found 20 percent of sexual-minority men surveyed reported experiencing sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression change efforts, and, of them, almost 40 percent (or 47,000 men) reported having experienced conversion therapy. LGBTQI+ individuals were at increased risk of human trafficking.

In January the Quebec Superior Court invalidated provisions in the province’s civil legal code that prevented individuals from changing their birth gender designation to reflect their gender identity, required parents to identify as a mother or father rather than parent on a declaration of birth, and required individuals ages 14 to 17 years to obtain approval from a physician or health professional to change their gender designation on official documents. The court ruled the code deprived transgender and nonbinary persons of dignity and equality and gave the province until December 31 to amend it. In April the Quebec government appealed the decision that struck down the requirement for minors to obtain permission from a physician or health professional to change their gender designation; the case remained in progress as of November.

On June 15, Egale Canada, a LGBTQI+ NGO, filed an application at the Ontario Superior Court to challenge the constitutionality of exemptions in the law that permit nonconsensual aesthetic surgeries on the genitalia of intersex infants and children. The application remained pending as of November.

On March 21, unknown vandals painted a homophobic slur on the road outside the home of Ottawa’s mayor, an openly gay man. In a tweet the prime minister condemned “ignorance and inexcusable hate” and expressed his support for the mayor. The city removed the graffiti.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

Federal and some provincial laws, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provide for the right of workers in both the public and the private sectors to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Bargaining units had access to mediation at any time and the choice of binding arbitration or conciliation to resolve disputes with employers. Workers in the public sector who provide essential services, including police and armed forces, do not have the right to strike but have mechanisms to provide for due process and to protect workers’ rights. Workers in essential services had recourse to mediation and binding arbitration if labor negotiations fail. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination or other forms of employer interference in union functions.

Federal labor law applies in federally regulated sectors, which include industries of extra provincial or international character, transportation and transportation infrastructure that cross provincial and international borders, marine shipping, port and ferry services, air transportation and airports, pipelines, telecommunications, banks, grain elevators, uranium mining and processing, works designated by the federal parliament affecting two or more provinces, protection of fisheries as a natural resource, many First Nation activities, and most state-owned corporations. These industries employed approximately 10 percent of workers.

The law requires the government and a bargaining unit in a federal or federally regulated industry to negotiate an essential services agreement defining an essential service and identifying the number and type of employees and the specific positions within the bargaining unit necessary to provide such essential service and, consequently, do not have the right to strike. If the parties are unable to agree, either party can apply to the independent Federal Public Sector Labor Relations and Employment Board for a resolution.

Provincial and territorial governments regulate and are responsible for enforcing their own labor laws in all occupations and workplaces that are not federally regulated, leaving categories of workers excluded from statutory protection of freedom of association in several provinces. Some provinces restrict the right to organize. For example, agricultural workers in Ontario and Quebec do not have the right to organize or bargain collectively or experience restrictions on such rights, under provincial law. Migrant workers in specific occupations, such as agriculture or caregiving, may also be exempt from minimum wage, overtime, and other labor standards protections in specific provinces.

The government generally respected freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining. The government effectively enforced applicable laws and regulations, including with remedies and penalties such as corrective workplace practices and criminal prosecution for noncompliance and willful violations. Penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations and were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government enforced the law, although NGOs said enforcement lacked resources. The law prescribes penalties that are sufficiently stringent to deter violations. The government investigated and prosecuted cases of forced labor, including domestic servitude, and penalties were commensurate with penalties for other analogous serious crimes. The government’s efforts to identify victims and address forced labor, through both law enforcement and victim identification and protection measures, remained inadequate.

The federal government held employers of foreign workers accountable by verifying employers’ ability to pay wages and provide accommodation and, through periodic inspections and mandatory compliance reviews, ensuring that employers provided the same wages, living conditions, and occupation specified in the employers’ original job offer. The government can deny noncompliant employers the permits required to recruit foreign workers for two years and impose fines of up to C$100,000 ($77,000) per violation of the program. Some provincial governments imposed licensing and registration requirements on recruiters or employers of foreign workers and prohibited the charging of recruitment fees to workers. Forced labor, fraud, coercion, and the withholding of identity and travel documents from workers was a criminal offense with penalties that include imprisonment. The government’s national strategy to combat human trafficking committed to prevent human trafficking in federal procurement supply chains. In August the government’s procurement agency, Public Services and Procurement Canada, updated its code of conduct for procurement for vendors supplying products and services to the government that included new provisions relating to human and labor rights, and to mitigate risks in supply chains. The government amended its Customs Tariff Act in 2020 to prohibit the importation of all goods produced, in whole or in part, by forced or compulsory labor, irrespective of their country of origin. There were reports that employers subjected employees with temporary or no legal status to forced labor in the agricultural sector, food processing, cleaning services, hospitality, construction industries, and domestic service. During the pandemic there were also reports that some employers barred migrant workers from leaving the work location, hired private security to prevent workers from leaving, and deducted inflated food and supply costs from their wages. NGOs reported bonded labor, particularly in the construction industry, and domestic servitude constituted the majority of identified cases of forced labor and that some victims had participated in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

In July the government announced amended regulations to improve protections for migrant workers, including mandating that employers inform workers of their rights, prohibiting reprisals for workers who file complaints, requiring employers to provide access to health care and health insurance, strengthening employment assessments of applications from employers, and increasing the frequency and scope of enforcement inspections. NGOs cited lack of oversight and enforcement of quarantine and isolation for outbreaks of the virus among migrant agricultural workers.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor. In federally regulated sectors, children younger than age 17 may work only when they are not required to attend school under provincial legislation, provided the work does not fall under excluded categories (such as work underground in a mine, on a vessel, or in the vicinity of explosives) and the work does not endanger health and safety. Children may not work in any federally regulated sector between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The provinces and territories have primary responsibility for regulation of child labor, and minimum age restrictions vary by province. Enforcement occurs through a range of laws covering employment standards, occupational health and safety, education laws, and in regulations for vocational training, child welfare, and licensing of establishments for the sale of alcohol. Most provinces restrict the number of hours of work to two or three hours on a school day and eight hours on a nonschool day and prohibit children ages 12 to 16 from working without parental consent, after 11 p.m., or in any hazardous employment.

Authorities effectively enforced child labor laws and policies, and federal and provincial labor ministries carried out child labor inspections either proactively or in response to formal complaints. There were reports that limited resources hampered inspection and enforcement efforts. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

There were reports child labor occurred, particularly in the agricultural sector. There were also reports children, principally teenage girls, were subjected to sex trafficking – including child sex tourism – and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, national origin or citizenship, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, and refugee status. Refugees and statelessness NGOs reported stateless persons may have difficulty in obtaining legal employment. The law does not include restrictions on women’s employment concerning working hour limits, occupations, or tasks. In 2019 Quebec used a legal exemption to override constitutional protections of freedom of religion for a period of five years to pass a law that restricts the wearing of visible religious symbols – including hijabs, kippahs, turbans, and crosses – by certain public-sector employees in the province to enforce a policy of religious neutrality in the delivery of provincial public services. Some provinces, including Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Northwest Territories, prohibit employment discrimination on the grounds of social origin or “social condition.” Some provinces list political opinion as a prohibited ground of discrimination, but the federal Human Rights Act does not extend this protection to federally regulated workers. The government enforced the law effectively, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Penalties were generally commensurate with laws related to civil rights.

Federal law requires equal pay for equal work for four designated groups in federally regulated industries enforced through the Canadian Human Rights Commission: women, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, and visible minorities. Ontario and Quebec have pay equity laws that cover both the public and private sectors, and other provinces require pay equity only in the public sector.

Authorities encouraged individuals to resolve employment-related discrimination complaints through internal workplace dispute resolution processes as a first recourse, but federal and provincial human rights commissions investigated and mediated complaints and enforced the law and regulations. Some critics complained the process was complex and failed to issue rulings in a timely manner. Foreign migrant workers generally have the same labor rights as citizens and permanent residents, although workers in specific sectors such as agriculture or caregiving were exempt from minimum wage, overtime, and other labor standards protections in specific provinces. NGOs alleged discrimination occurred against migrant workers and that some refugee claimants faced language and other nonlegal barriers that made it difficult to enter the workforce.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: There is no national minimum wage. Employees are subject to the minimum wage of the province or territory in which they are employed. In June the government amended the law to apply a federal minimum wage of C$15 ($11.87) per hour, effective December 29, for workers across the country in federally regulated sectors. If the minimum wage of a province or territory is higher than the federal minimum wage, the law requires employers to pay federally regulated workers the higher minimum wage in that jurisdiction. In 2018 the government adopted the Market Basket Measure (MBM) as its first official poverty line. The income level varies based on family size and province; for example, the threshold for a family of four in the national capital, Ottawa, was C$48,391 ($38,300) in 2019, the most recent date for which data was available. The minimum wage was less than the MBM for a family of four, notably in urban centers. The government effectively enforced wage rates, and penalties were generally sufficient to deter violations.

Standard work hours vary by province, but the limit is 40 or 48 hours per week, with at least 24 hours of rest. The law requires payment of a premium for work above the standard workweek. There is no specific prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, which is regulated by means of the required rest periods in the labor code that differ by industry. Some categories of workers have specific employment rights that differ from the standard, including commercial fishermen, oil-field workers, loggers, home caregivers, professionals, managers, and some sales staff. Employment and Social Development Canada is responsible for regulation and enforcement of wage and hour standards in federally regulated sectors across the country, and departments of labor, training, and employment in each province and territory regulate labor standards in all other employment sectors in their respective jurisdictions. Some trade unions claimed that limited resources and number of inspectors hampered the government’s enforcement efforts, including delays in addressing complaints.

Occupational Safety and Health: Federal law provides safety and health standards for employees under federal jurisdiction. Provincial and territorial legislation provides for all other employees, including foreign and migrant workers. Standards were current and appropriate for the industries they covered. Responsibility for identifying unsafe situations resides with authorities, employers, and supervisors, not the worker. Inspectors conducted proactive workplace visits to raise awareness of hazards, advise parties of their rights, duties, and obligations, and to promote and assist with compliance, and reactively in response to fatalities, injuries, and complaints. Federal, provincial, and territorial laws protect the right of workers with “reasonable cause” to refuse dangerous work and to remove themselves from hazardous work conditions, and authorities effectively enforced this right. The government also promoted safe working practices and provided training, education, and resources through the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, a federal agency composed of representatives of government, employers, and labor.

Minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational health and safety standards were enforced by the same authorities. Standards were effectively enforced, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. Federal and provincial labor departments monitored and effectively enforced labor standards by conducting inspections through scheduled and unscheduled visits, in direct response to reported complaints, and at random. Inspectors had authority to require remedies and initiate sanctions, including fines, suspensions, or closures. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

NGOs reported migrants, especially agricultural migrant workers, new immigrants, young workers, and the unskilled were vulnerable to violations of the law on minimum wage, overtime pay, unpaid wages, and excessive hours of work. NGOs also alleged that restrictions on the types of labor complaints accepted for investigation and delays in processing cases discouraged the filing of complaints. Federal and federally regulated workers could file complaints related to unpaid wages and health and safety, and grievances for unjust dismissal and genetic testing. Restrictions varied between provinces in provincially regulated industries, and time limits existed to file complaints.

According to the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada, during 2019, the most recent year for which data were available, there were 925 fatalities related to the workplace, including from traumatic injuries and work-related exposure to chemicals or disease-causing substances.

Informal Sector: In 2020 the government’s national statistical agency estimated GDP at market prices for activity in the informal sector in the country in 2018 at C$61.2 billion ($49.2 billion), or 2.7 percent of total GDP. Residential construction, retail trade, finance, insurance, real estate, rental services, and accommodation and food services were the largest sectors of informal activity, and wages and tips accounted for the largest share of unreported income. The federal government has authority to enforce standards over federal workers and in federally regulated industries and provincial governments in all other sectors, but standards were not enforced in practice because work in the informal economy was not reported. Similarly, workers in the informal economy were not subject to federal or provincial wage, hour, and occupational health and safety laws and inspection in practice because the work was not reported. Employers or businesses often classified workers in the gig economy as self-employed independent contractors and not employees, which left them without protections afforded under labor statutes, including the right to unionize or bargain collectively; to occupational health and safety protections, minimum wage, and sick leave provisions; and access to employment insurance.

Finland

Executive Summary

The Republic of Finland is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral parliament (Eduskunta). The prime minister heads a five-party coalition government approved by parliament and appointed by the president in 2019. The parliamentary election in 2019 and the presidential election in 2018 were considered free and fair.

The national police maintain internal security. Both Finnish Customs and the Border Guard have law enforcement responsibilities related to their fields of responsibility. The Border Guard has additional law enforcement powers to maintain public order when it operates in joint patrols and under police command. The Defense Forces are responsible for safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity and providing military training. The Defense Forces also have some domestic security responsibilities, such as assisting the national police in maintaining law and order in crises. The national police and Border Guard report to the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for police oversight, law enforcement, and maintenance of order; the Ministry of Defense oversees the Defense Forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant issues included the existence of criminal libel laws.

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

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

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

Corruption: The National Bureau of Investigation stated that the former director general of the National Audit Office, Tytti Yli-Viikari, and its former director, Mikko Koiranen, were suspected of aggravated abuse of office and breach of duty over salary payments to an agency employee without a duty to work and a possible illegal use of frequent flyer program flight points. Parliament fired Yli-Viikari; Koiranen was suspended from his duties.

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 often cooperative and responsive to their views.

The parliamentary ombudsman enjoyed the government’s cooperation, operated without government or party interference, and had adequate resources. The parliamentary ombudsman investigates complaints that a public authority or official failed to observe the law, to fulfill a duty, or appropriately to implement fundamental human rights protections.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Center is an autonomous, independent institution administratively connected to the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The center’s functions include promoting the implementation of human rights, reporting on the implementation of human rights obligations, and cooperating with European and international bodies on human rights matters. The center does not have authority to investigate individual human rights abuses. A delegation of representatives from civil society who participated in promoting and safeguarding human rights frequently cooperated with the center.

The parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee analyzes proposed legislation for consistency with international human rights conventions. The committee deals with legislation relating to criminal and procedural law, the courts, and the prison system.

The law requires the ombudsman for children, the nondiscrimination ombudsman, and the ombudsman for equality impartially to advance the status and legal protection of their respective reference groups. These ombudsmen operate under the Ministry of Justice. Responsibility for investigating employment discrimination rests solely with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Responsibility for developing antidiscrimination policies and legislation as well as for the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations resides with the Ministry of Justice’s Unit for Democracy, Language Affairs, and Fundamental Rights. The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations advocates for policy changes to improve integration.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman also operated as an independent government-oversight body that investigates discrimination complaints and promotes equal treatment within the government. The nondiscrimination ombudsman also acted as the national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings and supervised the government’s removal of foreign nationals from the country.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be up to 10 years. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (such as because of unconsciousness, intoxication, or a disability) are considered as severe as rape.

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

The legal definition of rape emphasizes intentional violence, which civil society organizations alleged leads courts to find assailants not guilty in cases where coercion was less explicit. In addition police must inquire about a party’s willingness to participate in reconciliation, which is usually engaged in before the case proceeds to the prosecutor. Reconciliation may be grounds for the prosecutor not to press charges, but even reconciliation where a mutual agreement has been reached does not prevent the prosecutor from pressing charges.

Gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, continued to be a problem. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International estimated that more than 100,000 persons experienced violence annually in the country and that 76 percent of the victims were women. According to Amnesty International, only 10 percent of these incidents were reported to authorities and most of those reported did not lead to prosecution. While police are obligated to investigate domestic violence cases, many of the cases are referred to a mediator after which police do not closely track the cases. According to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), 36.3 percent of intimate partner violence cases were directed to mediation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of intimate-partner violence reported to police increased by 6 percent, and utilization of the online services of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters grew by 11 percent over the same period. A government-funded provider of telephone support services for victims of violence against women and domestic violence also reported a 31 percent increase in individuals seeking assistance in 2020. From January through July, 160 cases of rape were reported to police or border guards, a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2020. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas.

The government funded shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence. There were 29 shelters for victims of domestic violence, and the number of places available in shelters throughout the country increased to 231 from 179 in 2018. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International stated that 550 places were needed to support the number of victims properly and that some rural areas had very few shelters and insufficient space in those shelters. The Human Rights Center acknowledged the problem. A survey of shelter services published by the THL during the year found a decrease in the number of shelter clients since 2019. The use of social welfare and health care services that refer clients decreased during COVID-19 lockdowns, which contributed to a decrease in the use of shelters. The THL estimated that the total required number of family places in shelters varied between 262 and 367. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas. Funding of support services for survivors of violence were predominantly provided from the revenue of a state-owned company operating slot machines and gambling.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is treated as aggravated assault under the law and may be punished with imprisonment or deportation. Taking a girl living in the country abroad for FGM/C is also considered a crime. The government generally enforced the law. A school health survey released by the THL in June 2020, the most recent data available, found that 0.2 percent of girls attending high school or vocational school had undergone FGM/C and that at least 10 girls who answered the questionnaire were mutilated in Finland. The population that most reported having undergone FGM/C were Somali-born residents.

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

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

In 2019 a group of parents, midwives, and doulas (nonmedical professionals who provide comfort and support to women during pregnancy and childbirth) organized a public campaign against alleged obstetric violence based on reports of episiotomies being performed during birth without informing or obtaining the consent of the mother and medical personnel pressuring pregnant women to consent to interventions and performing “violent internal examinations” on female patients.

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical certificate of infertility before the government may legally recognize their gender identity (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, below, for additional information.)

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively. Pregnant women experienced difficulties in finding a job, returning from leave, and renewing fixed-term contracts. The equality ombudsman estimated that half of all calls relating to workplace discrimination concerned discrimination based on pregnancy or issues involving return from parental leave (see also section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law specifically prohibits discrimination based on origin and nationality.

The public broadcaster Yle reported in July that the Helsinki Police Department fired two officers, including the chief of staff, for engaging in racist communications with far-right hate groups. Text messages revealed discussion of an upcoming “civil war,” with language particularly targeting the country’s Muslim, Somali, and Romani populations. The report indicated that an additional five police officers and one guard with ties to far-right groups were under investigation.

In June the chief inspector of the ombudsman for equality confirmed that security officials, including police, were observed profiling and discriminating against individuals based on their ethnicity. The statement confirmed the key finding of a 2018 study that found police officers, security guards, border agents, and customs officers targeted minorities due to their ethnic background or skin color.

Roma continued to face discrimination in all social sectors and were often targeted by law enforcement and security officials. An investigation by Yle in May indicated that internal guidelines issued by the Helsinki Police Department to record the movements of the Finnish Romani populations meant that the police were collecting personal information and detaining Roma without legal grounds beginning in 2013. Police representatives stated they had stopped recording the movements of the Finnish Romani populations in 2017. According to the Fundamental Rights Barometer survey, 53 percent of Finnish respondents would be uncomfortable with a Romani neighbor. Housing discrimination acutely affected Romani populations, but instances of housing discrimination for Roma were likely underreported. Between January and June, the Office of the Equality Ombudsman received 753 reports of housing discrimination.

In June 2020, the latest year for which statistics from the National Crime Victim Survey were available, the nondiscrimination ombudsman reported that 80 percent of respondents with an African background experienced discrimination because of their skin color, 67 percent encountered discrimination or harassment in education, 60 percent encountered discrimination in the workplace, and 27 percent also experienced physical violence. More than one-half of the respondents said they had not reported the discrimination to authorities because they believed reporting harassment would not accomplish anything. According to statistics from the Fundamental Rights Barometer Survey, 36 percent of Arabic-speaking respondents and 31 percent of Russian-speaking respondents experienced discrimination during employment or while searching for a job.

According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, having an immigrant background disproportionally influenced educational results for students: 45 percent of immigrant students were in the bottom quarter of the PISA index of economic, social, and cultural status, compared with 24 percent of nonimmigrant students.

According to a university researcher, students were often placed in Finnish-as-a-second-language classes regardless of their Finnish proficiency if their native language on record was something other than Finnish or if they had a “non-Finnish” name.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman is responsible for responding to complaints of discrimination and regularly mediated between business owners, government agencies, and public service providers regrading treatment of customers and clients. The Ministry of Justice also responds to complaints of discrimination.

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

In January Helsingin Sanomat reported that the banned Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) continued to operate out of public sight and without a clear name. In June prosecutors charged nine NRM members with engaging in illegal association for continuing NRM activities under the organization of the group Toward Freedom! (Kohti Vapautta! in Finnish) and leading a demonstration at Tampere Central Market in October 2020. The NGOs Save the Children and Hope Not Hate both reported that far-right youth groups such as the National Partisan Movement had used pandemic lockdowns to recruit minors online. The Finnish Intelligence Service highlighted that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism in online platforms was a significant source of radicalization in the country. Leaders in both the Jewish and the Muslim minority communities stated that, while extremist websites were not a new phenomenon, the types of websites and forums targeting citizens expanded over the previous year.

In September the Ministry of Justice and the nondiscrimination ombudsman launched the “I am Antiracist” campaign to encourage individuals to act antiracist in their daily lives and consider the effects of racism more broadly in society. The campaign was part of the Ministry of Justice’s “Together for Equality” project, which received funding from the EU’s Fundamental Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Program.

Indigenous Peoples

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

Reports issued by the Sami parliament in February and December 2020 found that the linguistic rights of the Sami were not realized in the way intended by the constitution and the Sami Language Law. Shortcomings involved the number of Sami language personnel, the accessibility of services, and the fact that, contrary to provisions of the Sami Language Law, Sami people must still separately invoke their linguistic rights for them to be recognized. Speakers of Inari Sami and Skolt Sami were in the most vulnerable positions, according to the report. The number of students in all Sami languages decreased by 3.5 percent to 710 pupils nationwide from 2020. In addition, as services were moved online and to centralized service telephone lines, authorities did not take into consideration the possibility of accessing these services in the Sami languages. Funds appropriated for Sami language social and health care have not been indexed to inflation since 2004, and there were fears that social and health-care reforms could further deplete services. There was also poor availability of Sami language prekindergarten personnel, and the funding of Sami language prekindergarten programs was inadequate.

The ombudsman for gender equality stated that Sami victims of domestic violence were at a disadvantage in accessing public shelters due to the long distances between population centers in the northern part of the country.

In May the Regional Council of Lapland agreed to rewrite its draft provincial plan for the period until 2040 to exclude the Arctic railway line from Helsinki to the northern border. Sami objected to plans for the railway, citing the railway’s potential impact on natural resources critical for their livelihoods, including reindeer-herding land and Arctic nature tourism.

Children

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

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, defining children as individuals younger than 16. Child neglect and physical or psychological violence carry penalties of up to six months in prison and up to two years in prison, respectively. Sexual abuse of a child carries a minimum penalty of four months’ imprisonment and a maximum of six years. The law defines rape of a minor (younger than 18) as aggravated rape. Rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of two years’ and a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Aggravated rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of four years’ and a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment. In October a man was sentenced to four months in prison for physically assaulting his six-year-old son during a summer vacation. The boy’s older brother was a witness to the assault. The man had two previous convictions for assaulting the mother of the child. The prison sentence was converted to 120 hours of community service.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18; the law disallows marriage of individuals under that age. In the first half of the year, the National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking reported 19 new cases of forced marriage. In 2020 the system assisted 45 women and girls, a slight decrease from 2019, considered to have been subjected to forced marriage. Many of these marriages occurred when the victim was underage.

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

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law regards a person whose age cannot be determined, but who may reasonably be assumed to be younger than 18, as a child.

From January to June, there were 993 reported cases of child exploitation, compared with 838 cases reported during the same period in 2020. In June police passed to prosecutors a case involving a man suspected of multiple counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated child rape, and the possession and dissemination of indecent images of children. As of September all of the more than 30 victims identified were girls between the ages of eight and 14.

In June a man was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for aggravated child sexual abuse, rape, and attempted rape committed against two minors, ages seven and nine, in 2019 and 2020. The perpetrator’s self-reporting the crimes and cooperating with the prosecution reduced the sentence by six months.

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

Anti-Semitism

Government statistics and Jewish leaders place the size of the Jewish population between 1,500 and 2,500 individuals, most living in the Helsinki area.

Stickers and posters with anti-Semitic images and messages were placed on the synagogue of Helsinki’s Jewish congregation, in neighborhoods with significant Jewish populations, and on public property throughout the year. The vandalism ranged from targeted to apparently random, and similar incidents had occurred numerous times over the previous three years. Some of the anti-Semitic graffiti and stickers claimed to be from the banned NRM. Stickers specifically targeted Jewish community members at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) pride events. Representatives of the Jewish community reported that, despite available video and photographic evidence of the perpetrators, police made no arrests in the incidents.

Debates on religious practices of animal slaughter with respect to kosher products and on nonmedical male circumcision often used direct or veiled anti-Semitic language (see Other Societal Violence or Discrimination, below).

The government provided funding for the security of the Helsinki synagogue, but the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities reported that funding had recently been cut in half. Representatives of the Jewish community reported feeling under threat and specifically targeted due to their beliefs.

On August 30, the Helsinki District Court ruled that the men who carried swastika flags in the 2018 Independence Day demonstrations of the Finnish neo-Nazi organization Toward Freedom! were not guilty of ethnic agitation. The court found that the defendants had not directly threatened or insulted a specific ethnic group.

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

During the year a report on the results of the Fundamental Rights Barometer survey published by the Ministry of Justice found that 40 to 60 percent of persons with disabilities disagreed or strongly disagreed that public administration and local authorities adequately facilitated access to information depending on the specific issue, and 29 percent of persons with disabilities stated they had been treated disrespectfully by public administrations. The Ministry of Interior noted that only two police officers in the country were able to communicate in sign language and that access to services for persons with disabilities continued to be a problem. There were no existing comprehensive assessments of the state of accessibility of public buildings. An estimate from 2019, the most recent data available, suggested that 15 percent of residential buildings were accessible. Municipalities must organize reasonable transport services for persons with disabilities if they are needed to manage daily life functions. Municipalities reported problems in the availability and quality of transport services, particularly during major events, on-call times, and evenings and weekends. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in all fields, including the provision of government services.

According to the Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (FAIDD), most children with disabilities were included in early childhood education in the same classes as other children. In primary schools there were fewer opportunities for children with disabilities to attend classes or participate in organized hobby groups with peers. According to statistics, 114 children with intellectual disabilities lived in institutional settings. The resources available varied across different municipalities. According to FAIDD, reforms to vocational education reduced the opportunities for young persons with disabilities to receive necessary professional training and find employment. The nondiscrimination ombudsman highlighted that inclusion in education was a complicated matter because, while some groups advocated for more inclusion, other advocacy groups noted that increased inclusion was not in the best interest of some persons in their community.

The law requires an authority, education provider, employer, or provider of goods to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities to deal with the authorities, gain access to education, and work through reasonable accommodations. The parliamentary ombudsman’s annual report published in June saw an increase in complaints (from 281 in 2019 to 306 in 2020) regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. During the same period, a total of 80 complaints related to the COVID-19 pandemic concerned persons with disabilities, mainly regarding social and health-care administrative matters.

Wheelchair-accessible voting became more common, in part in response to a call for greater accessibility at polling sites by the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The parliamentary ombudsman noted there was still room for improvement (see also Section 3, Recent Elections). Persons with disabilities, including blindness, may use a personal assistant of their choice or the assistance of an election official when voting. A report by the Human Rights Center noted that dependence of the blind on assistants to mark their ballots did not sufficiently recognize the needs of persons with disabilities. The Association of the Deaf stated that the deaf community did not receive enough information in sign language about political and public affairs, which, in practice if not by law, limited participation in politics.

According to civil society groups, municipalities routinely did not budget enough money to provide such services and provided only the minimum services required by law regardless of the actual need for services. Sometimes services were denied, and the person with a disability was instructed to appeal the decision, since an appeal lengthens the process of granting services.

An expert from a civil society group asserted that legislation and practices surrounding labor and daily activities of persons with mental disabilities needed comprehensive reform. Gaps in the law created conditions where businesses could employ persons with disabilities for so-called rehabilitative work without pay. The system does not take into consideration that individuals with intellectual disabilities are often capable of full- or part-time wage-labor on the same basis as others. Social welfare legislation defines labor activities as maintaining and improving capabilities, and a municipality may grant tax-free pay of between zero and 12 euros ($13.80) an hour for such activities. If the work requires guidance, it is seen as a daily activity rather than labor, meaning an employee may not receive even food in exchange for hours of work. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health acknowledged that too many persons with intellectual disabilities were not paid for their work.

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

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical statement affirming the individual’s gender identity and a certificate of infertility before the government may legally recognize their gender identity. To obtain the medical statement that includes an affirmation of gender, transgender persons must first undergo a psychiatric monitoring process and receive a psychiatric diagnosis, a process that organizations, activists, and transgender persons criticized as causing significant harm, distress, and humiliation. Access to specialized treatment services is only available after a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria,” which lasts for at least two years, thereby creating barriers to gender affirming procedures.

In addition to the requirement that an individual submit to sterilization, activists criticized the duration of the legal process, stating it could take up to three years to obtain identity documents with the new gender markers. In April a citizens’ initiative to reform laws for obtaining legal gender recognition, to extend legal redress opportunities to juvenile minors, and the abolition of a centralized database on past gender transitions garnered 50,000 signatures. Trafficking authorities and civil society stated they had no specialized services for transgender victims of trafficking in persons and were unaware of their status among the trafficking-victim population.

While the law prohibits “conversion therapy” in medical settings, it continued to be practiced privately, most commonly in religious associations. According to local activists, children in the Pentecostal Church community continued to be provided material that encourages sexual orientation conversion.

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services, and the government enforced the law. Stickers for the banned NRM targeted LGBTQI+ pride events, inter alia.

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 unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government effectively enforced all applicable laws regarding the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Workers without permanent residence may not be eligible to join voluntary unemployment insurance funds. Employers who violate the rights of employees to organize and retain employee representatives may face administrative measures, legal proceedings, and fines. The penalties were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and there were no reports of violations. All workers, regardless of sector union membership or nationality, are entitled to the same wages negotiated between employers and trade unions via generally applicable collective agreements.

The law does not permit public-sector employees who provide “essential services,” including police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, and border guards, to strike. An official dispute board may make nonbinding recommendations to the cabinet on ending or limiting the duration of strikes when they threaten national security. Employees prohibited from striking may use arbitration to provide for due process in the resolution of their concerns.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for forced or compulsory labor depend on the severity of the crime and were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Despite strong penalties for violations, some cases of persons subjected to conditions of forced labor in the country were reported.

Men and women working in the restaurant, cleaning, construction, and agriculture industries were the most likely to face conditions of forced labor. The sexual services sector, legal in certain circumstances, also saw incidences of sex trafficking and forced labor. From January 1 through June 30, Victim Support Finland, an NGO, supported 545 clients, including 98 new clients, who had been the victims of human trafficking, labor exploitation, or related crimes.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor but allows persons between the ages of 15 and 18 to enter into a valid employment contract as long as the work does not interrupt compulsory education. It provides that workers between the ages of 15 and 18 may not work after 10 p.m. or under conditions that risk their health and safety, which the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health defined as working with mechanical, chemical, physical, or biological hazards or bodily strain that may result from lifting heavy loads.

Penalties for violations of child labor regulations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment effectively enforced child labor regulations. There were no reports of children engaged in work outside the parameters established by law.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law broadly prohibits employment discrimination. Penalties for violations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. The government effectively enforced applicable laws against employment discrimination.

The Occupational Safety Administration (OSHA) received 600 reports of workplace discrimination in 2020. Of the 140 reports that resulted in further inspection, 28 percent concerned ethnicity, nationality, language, or religion, 14 percent concerned age discrimination, and 5 percent concerned disability. OSHA highlighted that age was one of the most common reasons for workplace discrimination.

According to the Human Rights Center and the nondiscrimination ombudsman’s office, discrimination in job recruitment was a significant problem, especially in cases where applicants had “non-Finnish” names. In October, Helsingin Sanomat reported that the University of Helsinki was under investigation for suspicions of discrimination. Three students stated that interviews for a position to teach Islam at a school in southern Finland were restricted to students who had a Finnish surname. The Faculty of Theology acknowledged and apologized for the incident on Twitter, and the dean of the faculty said an internal investigation was underway.

In June the government adopted a four-year gender equality action plan, which is designed to advance women’s rights and empowerment by reducing the gender pay gap, promoting female entrepreneurship, raising gender equality awareness in schools, and reducing segregation in education and the labor market (see also section 6, Women).

A report from the equality ombudsman’s office published in June detailed a case where a painter’s fixed-term contract had been extended continuously until she revealed her pregnancy to her employer. The equality ombudsman found that the woman’s occupational safety was not an acceptable reason for not extending her fixed-term contract, and the employer’s actions were in violation of the law.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hour Laws: While there is no national minimum wage law, the law requires all employers, including nonunionized employers, to pay the minimum wages stipulated in collective bargaining agreements. Authorities adequately enforced wage laws.

The standard workweek established by law is no more than 40 hours of work per week with eight hours work per day. Because the law does not include a provision regarding a five-day workweek, regular work hours may, at least in principle, span six days. The regular weekly work hours may also be arranged so that the average is 40 hours during a period of no more than 52 weeks. Persons in certain occupations, such as seamen, household workers, road transport workers, and workers in bakeries, are subject to separate workweek regulations. The law entitles employees working shifts or during the weekend to one 24-hour rest period per week. The law limits a worker to 250 hours of overtime per year and 138 overtime hours in any four-month period.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for labor policy and implementation, drafting labor legislation, improving the viability of working life and its quality, and promoting employment. Authorities adequately enforced wage and overtime laws.

According to a service and restaurant industry trade union, there were 800 cases of wage and hour disagreements between employees and employers in 2020, and 35 percent of these cases were from the service, restaurant, and leisure industry.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and regulations. In addition, OSHA enforces appropriate safety and health standards and conducts inspections at workplaces. Individuals who commit work safety or working hours’ offenses are subject to penalties commensurate with similar crimes. The center informs employers of inspections in advance unless a surprise inspection is necessary for enforcement purposes. A subsequent inspection report gives employers written advice on how to remedy minor defects. In the case of serious violations, the inspector issues an improvement notice and monitors the employer’s compliance. When necessary, OSHA may issue a binding decision and impose a fine. If a hazardous situation involves a risk to life, an inspector can halt work on the site or issue a prohibition notice concerning the source of risk. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The law requires employees to report any hazards or risks they discover in working conditions, including in machinery, equipment, or work methods. The law also requires employees, where possible, to correct dangerous conditions that come to their attention. Such corrective measures must be reported to the employer.

Foreign seasonal berry pickers do not always have the same legal employment protections as other workers. In some cases berry pickers and wild produce pickers were classified as entrepreneurs, not employees. They can also be charged for training and recruitment services and face difficult work conditions. During the summer, COVID-19 outbreaks disproportionately impacted seasonal berry pickers, most of whom were from Thailand. In Rovaniemi, 180 of 262 foreign seasonal berry pickers were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Government resources, inspections, and penalties were adequate to deter most violations.

France

Executive Summary

France is a multiparty constitutional democracy. Voters directly elect the president of the republic to a five-year term. President Emmanuel Macron was elected in 2017. An electoral college elects members of the bicameral parliament’s upper house (Senate), and voters directly elect members of the lower house (National Assembly). Observers considered the 2017 presidential and separate National Assembly elections to have been free and fair.

Under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, a civilian national police force and gendarmerie units maintain internal security. In conjunction with specific gendarmerie units used for military operations, the army is responsible for external security under the Ministry of Armed Forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: violence against journalists; the existence of criminal defamation laws; violence motivated by anti-Semitism; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting Muslims, migrants, members of ethnic minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or engaged in corruption. Impunity was not widespread.

Note: The country includes 11 overseas administrative divisions covered in this report. Five overseas territories, in French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and La Reunion, have the same political status as the 13 regions and 96 departments on the mainland. Five divisions are overseas “collectivities”: French Polynesia, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna. New Caledonia is a special overseas collectivity with a unique, semiautonomous status between that of an independent country and an overseas department. Citizens of these territories periodically elect deputies and senators to represent them in parliament, like the mainland regions and departments.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

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

Corruption: In November 2020 former president Nicolas Sarkozy stood trial on corruption charges for trying to obtain confidential information through his lawyer from a judge. Prosecutors claimed he offered to help the judge obtain a well-paid post in Monaco in exchange for the information, leading to charges of corruption and influence peddling. On March 1, the Paris Criminal Court found Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence-peddling in the “Wiretapping Affair.” Sarkozy, his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, and the now-retired magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, were each sentenced to three-year prison terms, with two years suspended. All three appealed the verdict.

In June 2020 the inspector general of the National Police placed six officers from a Paris unit into custody on charges of theft, drug possession, and extorting money from drug dealers. In July 2020 four of them were formally charged. The officers were part of the Security and Intervention Unit (CSI 93) in the Seine-Saint-Denis department, one of the poorest in the country. CSI 93, tasked with addressing urban violence and crime, had 17 preliminary investigations open against its officers for violations. In September 2020 the inspector general placed four other officers in custody on violence and forgery charges. On June 4, a Bobigny court sentenced two officers from the unit to a one-year suspended prison sentence and a five-year prohibition from serving in the police force over “violence,” “forgery,” and “use of forgery” charges. Two other officers received a four-month suspended prison sentence for falsifying documents related to a January 2020 arrest.

On July 17, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) announced that Rachida Dati, formerly minister of justice and the 2020 Republican Party candidate for mayor of Paris, was indicted on July 22 for corruption and abuse of power. Dati was accused of receiving 900,000 euros ($1.04 million) from Renault-Nissan from 2010 to 2012 to conduct illegal lobbying while serving as a member of the European Parliament. Dati said she would appeal the PNF’s decision.

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

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights organizations generally operated, investigated, and published their findings on human rights cases without government restrictions. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The CNCDH advised the government on human rights and produced an annual report on racism and xenophobia. Domestic and international human rights organizations considered the CNCDH independent and effective. Observers considered the Defender of Rights independent and effective, with access to all necessary resources.

Following spring protests against police violence and racism, the National Assembly in September 2020 established an investigative committee to assess the ethics of police actions, practices, and law and order doctrine. On January 20, the committee presented the conclusions of its report and made 35 proposals aimed at re-establishing the balance between freedom to demonstrate, security of demonstrators, and protection of public order, which is the basis of the “relationship of trust between all citizens and the police.”

Following the April 14 Supreme Court ruling that the killer of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was unfit to stand trial because his cannabis use prior to the killing rendered him psychotic, the National Assembly on July 22 established a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the affair. The investigation will be able to summon police officers, witnesses, judges, ministers, and others to examine the case.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

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

The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for domestic violence against either gender varies from three years to 20 years in prison and a substantial fine.

In 2019 the government’s Interministerial Agency for the Protection of Women against Violence and Combatting Human Trafficking published data showing that in 2018 approximately 213,000 women older than 18 declared they were survivors of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner or former partner. The agency reported that over the same period, 94,000 women declared they had been survivors of rape or attempted rape.

In 2019 the National Observatory of Crime and Criminal Justice, an independent public body, and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) published a joint study showing that the number of persons who considered themselves survivors of sexual violence committed by a person who did not live with them declined from 265,000 in 2017 to 185,000 in 2018. In 2017 there had been a sharp increase in the number of estimated victims so, despite the decline, the 2018 estimate still reflected the second-highest level of abuse since the organizations began collecting data in 2008.

In its 2020 annual report on delinquency published on January 28, the Ministry of Interior reported that domestic violence and rape cases rose by 9 and 11 percent, respectively, compared with 2019. Police and gendarmes registered 24,800 rapes committed in the country in 2020, an 11 percent increase compared with 2019 when 22,300 rapes were registered. The government sponsored and funded programs for women survivors of gender-based violence, including shelters, counseling, hotlines, free mobile phones, and a media campaign. The government also supported the work of 25 associations and NGOs dedicated to addressing domestic violence.

In 2019 the government initiated a national forum on domestic violence that brought together dozens of ministers, judges, police officers, survivors’ relatives, and feminist groups in approximately 100 conferences across the country. At the close of the conferences, then prime minister Philippe announced 46 measures aimed at preventing gender-based violence, including domestic violence. Among concrete measures announced were the creation of 1,000 new places in shelters for survivors and improved training for those who work with survivors of domestic violence. On September 3, Prime Minister Castex reported that, of the 46 measures announced in 2019, 36 had been implemented.

In July 2020 parliament adopted a bill on the protection of domestic violence survivors that authorizes doctors to waive medical confidentiality and report to police if a patient’s life is in “immediate danger.” The law reinforces harassment penalties and includes a 10-year prison sentence in cases where violence led to a victim’s suicide. The law also makes it possible for authorities to suspend parental rights in cases of domestic violence.

Starting in September 2020, judges in five courts (Bobigny, Pontoise, Douai, Angouleme, and Aix-en-Provence) were able to order domestic violence offenders to wear electronic tracking bracelets with a monitor that alerts survivors and police if the abuser comes within a certain distance of the survivor. Judges may order trackers for men charged with assault, even if not yet convicted, provided sufficient grounds are met and the suspect accepts. If a suspect refuses a tracker, the judge may order prosecutors to open a criminal inquiry. Survivors will be given a warning device, and alleged offenders must submit to restraining orders as defined by judges.

The government estimated more than 200,000 women were survivors of marital violence each year, with many cases never reported. Official statistics showed that 102 women were killed in domestic violence cases in 2020, down from 149 in 2019. At year’s end the feminist collective “Nous toutes” (All of us) estimated that 113 women were killed in cases involving domestic violence during the year.

On May 4, 31-year-old Chahinez Boutaa, a mother of three, was shot in the legs by her husband before being doused in a flammable liquid and burned alive. The attack happened in broad daylight in Merignac. Following Chahinez Boutaa’s killing, the government launched an inquiry, whose conclusions pointed to serious flaws in the system, notably in the failure to monitor the perpetrator upon his release from prison. The conclusions also revealed a lack of coordination between police and judicial services. In September media outlets leaked an internal police report conducted by the inspector general of the IGPN on the handling of this case. The report concluded that two high-ranking police officers, an inspector and a sergeant, should face a disciplinary hearing and possibly face other sanctions after the report revealed they had made errors of judgment in dealing with this case.

On June 9, the government announced a series of measures to offer women better protection, to include evaluating the danger posed by a perpetrator prior to any easing of sentences. The number of emergency telephones given by police to abuse victims to make calls in case of immediate danger was scheduled to be increased to 3,000 by early 2022, up from the existing 1,324. The government also announced the “reinforcement of the control and possession” of weapons and the creation of a committee to monitor the measures, as well as the introduction of a conjugal violence file, shared and updated each time the police are called in to deal with a case of conjugal violence or when a formal complaint is lodged.

On June 25, a court in Saone-et-Loire sentenced a woman who had killed her rapist husband to a four-year term with three years suspended. She was spared more prison time as she had already served a year in pretrial detention. Prosecutors told the court that the 40-year-old should not go back to prison, as she was “very clearly a victim” of her tyrannical husband.

In an August 2 interview, Interior Minister Darmanin announced new measures against domestic violence. He stated that priority would be given to the processing of complaints of domestic violence, and that an officer specializing in this type of violence would be appointed to each police station and each gendarmerie brigade across the country. To handle the increased number of court procedures (193,000 for the year 2020), Darmanin promised a recruitment drive for judicial police officers.

On September 24, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti unveiled an experiment that uses virtual reality technology to deter men convicted of domestic violence from reoffending. The technology offers a “total immersion” experience by way of a headset that allows the offender to look at things from the point of view of his victims. Some 30 volunteers – all men who have been convicted for domestic violence –chose to participate in the experiment, which started in October and will be run for a year by three prison services. Six are from Villepinte and 12 are from Meaux, suburbs north-east of Paris, while 10 are in the south-eastern city of Lyon. “We have given priority to the profiles that are most likely to re-offend,” the Justice Ministry said of the project, which was to be independently evaluated before being made permanent.

On October 1, the 2021 European Crystal Scales of Justice prize, organized by the Council of Europe to reward innovative judicial practices within European judicial institutions, was awarded to the Ministry of Justice for its project Simplified filing of complaints in hospitals for victims of domestic violence. The project involved a system that allows investigating authorities to receive complaints from victims of domestic violence directly in medical facilities. The system strengthens survivor protection by providing a simplified procedure for filing a complaint at the moment and place where the violence was reported.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was practiced in the country, particularly within diaspora communities. Various laws prohibit FGM/C and include extraterritorial jurisdiction, allowing authorities to prosecute FGM/C, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, even if it is committed outside the country, and up to 30 years if the FGM/C leads to the death of the victim. The government provided reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C survivors.

According to the latest statistics available from the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, between 40,000 and 60,000 FGM/C survivors resided in the country; the majority were from sub-Saharan African countries where FGM/C was prevalent, and the procedure was performed. According to the Group against Sexual Mutilation, 350 excisions were performed in the country each year. In 2019 the government initiated a national action plan to combat FGM/C, focusing on identifying risks, preventing FGM/C, and supporting female survivors. In 2019 the National Public Health Agency estimated the number of victims of FGM/C rose from 62,000 in the early 2000s to 124,000 in the middle 2010s.

On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilations/Cutting, Junior Minister of Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination Schiappa announced the allocation of 60,000 euros ($69,000) to implement a key provision of the 2019 national action plan to eradicate FGM/C. The funds were to support initial trials of a system to study the prevalence of FGM/C in the country.

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

The law provides for on-the-spot fines for persons who sexually harass others on the street (including wolf whistling), and substantial fines if there are aggravating circumstances. The law covers sexual or sexist comments and behavior that is degrading, humiliating, intimidating, hostile, or offensive and provides for increased sanctions for cyberstalking and prohibits taking pictures or videos under someone’s clothes without consent, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and a substantial fine. In a report released on July 6, the Ministry of Interior noted that authorities fined 3,500 men for harassing women in public spaces since the introduction of the law in 2018, including 850 during the first five months of the year.

In May 2020 the government unveiled a plan to fast-track court proceedings for street harassment and a campaign to keep women safe on the streets. The measures were part of a “cat-calling law,” which already allows for on-the-spot fines. The new provisions tighten enforcement for street harassment against women, allowing prosecutors to hear cases immediately. The plan, backed by the United Nations, allowed women who feel in danger “to know where they can find refuge if there are no police officers at hand to take their statement.” Refuge shelters could be bars, restaurants, pharmacies, or any business willing to take part in the program. Women would be able to recognize participating locations by a label displayed outside the business. On April 15, the government launched a “barometer” program to assess the street harassment phenomenon and map “red areas” of concern.

According to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Interior in January, reported cases of sexual harassment increased by 6 percent in 2020, with 2,270 complaints registered by police.

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

On September 9, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that contraception will be free for women up to the age of 25 beginning in 2022, extending a program under which girls ages 15 to 18 could receive free contraception. The minister stated that 25 was chosen as the age limit because “this age corresponds with more economic and social autonomy,” adding that “it’s also the age limit for coverage under one’s family health plan.”

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

Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors, but this prohibition does not apply to relationships between peers. The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, employment, property, nationality, and inheritance laws, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property in line with the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Diversity, the Fight against Discrimination and Equal Opportunities is responsible for protecting the legal rights of women. The constitution and law provide for equal access to professional and social positions, and the government generally enforced the laws.

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

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The country’s laws protect members of racial or ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination, and the government generally enforced them effectively. The criminal code punishes the authors of violence committed against individuals, and the penalties are increased when they have been committed for racial and ethnic reasons. Discrimination law bears on everyday measures and practices. Discrimination is defined as the unequal and unfavorable treatment of an individual or group of individuals based on prohibited grounds and in a specific area defined by law such as employment, education, housing, or health care. Nearly 25 discrimination grounds are stipulated in the criminal code and associated laws, including origin, gender, physical appearance, or the economic circumstances of an individual.

On March 18, the Defender of Rights reported registering 2,162 complaints against the security forces’ intervention methods in 2020. The Defender of Rights noted a 10.5 percent increase in complaints related to the “ethics of security” in 2020 compared with the previous year.

On September 5, the Ministry of Interior reported that since 2018, 636 foreigners flagged for radicalization and living illegally in the country had been deported. On September 23, Alain Regnier, the interministerial delegate overseeing the arrival and integration of refugees, told the National Assembly that difficulties making appointments for foreigners could be credited to the COVID-19 pandemic and prefecture operations rather than an intentional strategy to prevent access to appointments.

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

On March 18, the Ministry of Interior announced the government registered 1,461 racist and xenophobic hate crimes involving threats or violence in 2020, a 26 percent decrease from the number recorded in 2019 with 1,963 acts. The ministry reported 339 anti-Semitic acts, down 50 percent from 2019. On January 28, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) reported it registered 235 anti-Muslim acts, up 53 percent from 2019. The Ministry of Justice reported it reviewed 6,603 cases related to racism in 2019 (compared with 6,122 in 2018) and 393 racist offenses were punished with convictions.

Government observers and NGOs, including the CFCM, reported several anti-Muslim incidents during the year, including slurs against Muslims, attacks on mosques, and physical assaults. The number of registered violent acts against Muslims increased by 14 percent in 2020. Over the same period, threats against the Muslim community increased by 79 percent, while total anti-Muslim acts increased by 53 percent, from 154 in 2019 to 235 in 2020.

On April 11, the Avicenne Muslim Cultural Center in the western city of Rennes was defaced with anti-Muslim graffiti, prompting a same-day visit by Interior Minister Darmanin and CFCM president Mohammed Moussaoui. At a press conference, Darmanin declared, “all anti-Muslim acts are offenses against the French Republic.” The Rennes’ prosecutor opened an investigation for vandalism of a religious nature.

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

On July 22, the CNCDH highlighted in its annual report that intolerance of Roma remained particularly stark and had changed little since 2016. The CNCDH 2020 report showed the Romani community remained the community regarded most negatively in public opinion. The report, however, pointed out the Roma were less often taken as scapegoats by political, social, and media elites than in previous years. Roma and unaccompanied minors were at risk for forced begging and forced theft.

Authorities continued to dismantle camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma. According to the Observatory for Collective Expulsions from Informal Living Places, authorities evicted persons from 1,079 places between November 2019 and the end of October 2020. Among those experiencing expulsions, 957 places were in Calais and its area and 122 in the rest of the country. Among those 122 places, 57 were targeting places occupied by persons “mainly coming from Eastern Europe, (who were) Romani or perceived as such.”

In a report released October 6, the Defender of Rights stated that “caravan travellers,” a distinct ethnic minority, were victims of systemic discrimination. The main reason for discrimination was the lack of recognition of a caravan (trailer) as a fully-fledged accommodation, according to the report. This lack of recognition prevented the exercise of rights to housing assistance, access to credit and insurance, or even obtaining custody of a child.

Citizens, asylum seekers, and migrants may report cases of discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity to the Defender of Rights. According to the most recent data available, the office received 5,196 discrimination claims in 2020, 13 percent of which concerned discrimination based on ethnic origin.

The government attempted to combat racism and discrimination through programs that promoted public awareness and brought together local officials, police, and citizens. Some public-school systems also managed antidiscrimination education programs. The Interministerial Delegation to Fight Against Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Anti-LGBT Hate, an organization reporting to the prime minister, coordinated the government’s efforts to combat racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.

Children

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

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse, including against rape, sexual assault, corruption of a minor, kidnapping, child pornography, and human trafficking, including both child sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The government actively worked to combat child abuse. Penalties were generally severe.

In 2019 the government presented a three-year plan with 22 measures to end violence against children. The measures included 400,000 euros ($460,000) in additional funding for responses to the “child in danger” emergency hotline and strengthened implementation of background checks on persons working in contact with children. Of the 22 points, approximately one-third had been implemented before the end of 2020 and the rest were still in progress.

According to a November 2020 French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) poll, one in 10 persons in the country reported experiencing sexual violence during childhood. In 80 percent of the cases, the abuses were committed by family members.

On April 15, parliament adopted a bill setting the minimum age of sexual consent at 15. Under the legislation, sex with children younger than 15 is considered rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, unless there is a small age gap between the two partners. The bill also makes it illegal for an adult to have sex with a relative younger than age 18.

On September 21, the Independent Commission on Incest and Sexual Violence Against Children (CIIVISE) established a telephone hotline and website for childhood victims to report abuse as well as direct them to relevant legal, psychological, or medical care providers. CIIVISE could be asked to report cases to the courts for prosecution. According to CIIVISE, 160,000 children were victims of sexual violence each year in the country, and 70 percent of the lawsuits involving such violence were closed with no further action.

On September 17, a Marseille police officer assigned to the juvenile unit was indicted and imprisoned for the rape and sexual assault of a minor in the Philippines. He was also charged with possession of child pornography following an internal investigation. The individual managed an association in the Philippines dedicated to aiding impoverished children and assisting in their adoption.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Early marriage was a problem mainly for communities from the Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. The law provides for the prosecution of forced marriage cases, even when the marriage occurred abroad. Penalties for violations are up to three years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine. Women and girls could seek refuge at shelters if their parents or guardians threatened them with forced marriage. The government offered educational programs to inform young women of their rights.

On July 23, parliament adopted the bill Upholding Republican Values, which makes it illegal for medical professionals to issue virginity certificates, as the government considered those certificates usually preceded a forced marriage. The bill also allows city hall officials to interview couples separately when there were concerns the relationship may be a forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children. The minimum age of consent is 15, and sexual relations with a minor between the ages of 15 and 18 are illegal when the adult is in a position of authority over the minor. For rape of a minor younger than 15, the penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased in the event of aggravating circumstances. Other sexual abuse of a minor younger than 15 is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a substantial fine. The law provides that underage rape victims may file complaints up to 30 years after they turn 18.

The government enforced these laws effectively. The law also criminalizes child sex trafficking with a minimum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine. The law prohibits child pornography; the maximum penalty for its use and distribution is five years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine.

On July 13, the junior minister for child protection, Adrien Taquet, stated that a report by experts in education, the judiciary, law enforcement, healthcare, and child protection NGOs noted a 70 percent increase in the number of minors in commercial sex in the previous five years, based on Ministry of Interior statistics. NGOs reported that approximately 7,000 to 10,000 minors were involved in commercial sex across the country. They were typically girls between the ages of 15 and 17 from all social classes, often vulnerable due to family situations, who were recruited via social media and did not self-identify as victims, according to the report.

On October 5, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, established in 2018 by the French Catholic Church, released its report on child abuse committed by Catholic priests in the country since the 1950s following a two-and-a-half-year investigation. The report found that 216,000 minors were victims of abuse from 1950 to 2020. Deceased victims were not counted, and according to the report, the number of victims could climb to 330,000 when claims against lay members of the church, such as teachers at Catholic schools, are included. The report found that 80 percent of the victims were boys, typically between the ages of 10 and 13 and from a variety of social backgrounds. The commission president, Jean-Marc Sauve, said the abuse was systemic and the church had shown “deep, total and even cruel indifference for years.”

Displaced Children: By law unaccompanied migrant children are taken into the care of the country’s child protection system. NGOs continued to assess that border police summarily returned unaccompanied migrant children attempting to enter via Italy, rather than referring them to the child protection system. On May 5, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement saying French police summarily expelled dozens of unaccompanied children to Italy each month in violation of domestic and international law.

According to HRW, “To enable the returns, the police frequently record on official documents different ages or birth dates than the children declared. The authorities have also summarily returned adults, including families with young children, without telling them they had a right to seek asylum in France,” the association wrote. HRW also conducted in-person and remote interviews between November 2020 and April with volunteers and staff of aid groups, lawyers, and others working on both sides of the France-Italy border. The HRW statement noted that many of these returns took place at the border crossing between the French town of Menton and the Italian town of Ventimiglia. According to the HRW statement, “Police take children and adults found to have entered France irregularly to the French border post at the Saint-Louis Bridge and direct them to walk across to the Italian border post.” In the first three weeks of February, volunteers recorded accounts from more than 60 unaccompanied children who said they had been pushed back from France. The staff also recorded at least 30 such accounts from children in each of the previous three months, as well as in March and April. In each case the children showed entry refusal forms on which French police wrote false birth dates. HRW said it viewed many of these forms, including for two Sudanese boys who gave their ages as 17 and 16, but whose ages French police listed as 27 and 20, respectively.

The government did not report taking steps to address the 3,000 to 4,000 unaccompanied Comorian minors who were at risk for sex and labor trafficking in the French department of Mayotte by offering them medical, shelter, education, or other protection services. Traffickers exploited the large influx of unaccompanied minors who entered the country in recent years. Roma and unaccompanied minors were at risk for forced begging and forced theft.

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

Anti-Semitism

To promote equality and prevent discrimination, the law prohibits the collection of data based on race, ethnicity, and religion. A 2018 report by the Berman Jewish Data Bank estimated there were 453,000 Jews in the country,

NGO and government observers reported numerous anti-Semitic incidents, including physical and verbal assaults on individuals and attacks on synagogues, cemeteries, and memorials, particularly in the Alsace-Lorraine region. The number of anti-Semitic acts decreased by 50 percent (339 acts total) in 2020, according to government statistics, while the number of violent attacks against individuals remained almost identical to 2019, with 44 violent attacks registered (45 in 2019). The lower 2020 numbers were believed to be related to COVID-19 measures that severely limited outdoor activity throughout the country in 2020.

On April 14, the Court of Cassation – the country’s court of last recourse – upheld the Paris Court of Appeals’ decision that the killer of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was unfit to stand trial because his cannabis consumption prior to the crime rendered him psychotic, despite the judges’ opinion the attack was anti-Semitic in character. The Court of Cassation’s decision closed the case. According to legal sources, the killer continued under psychiatric care, where he was assigned since Halimi’s death, and would remain hospitalized until psychiatrists concluded he no longer represented a danger to himself or others. On April 25, media outlets reported that more than 20,000 persons demonstrated at Trocadero Square in Paris to “proclaim determination to continue the fight for Sarah’s memory.” Similar protests were held in several other cities across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Italy, and Israel. Political leaders, including President Macron, criticized the court ruling and particularly the provisions in French law exposed by the case. Macron, who had previously criticized the Paris Appeals Court ruling during his January 2020 visit to Israel, reiterated his criticism in an April 19 interview in national daily newspaper Le Figaro. “Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should not, in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” Macron told the daily. “It is not for me to comment on a court decision,” Macron said, “but I want to assure the family, relatives of the victim, and all fellow citizens of Jewish faith who were awaiting this trial, of my warm support and the determination of the Republic to protect them.”

Following the April 14 Supreme Court ruling, the National Assembly established on July 22 a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the affair. According to parliamentary sources, the investigation would be able to summon police officers, witnesses, judges, ministers, and others to examine aspects of the case.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Armed Forces in March, the government deployed 3,000 military personnel throughout the country to patrol sensitive sites, including vulnerable Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim sites and other places of worship. This number was anticipated to go up to as many as 10,000 personnel at times of high threat. Some Jewish leaders requested the government also provide static armed guards at Jewish places of worship.

Many anti-Semitic threats of violence singled out public spaces and figures. In August 2020 a man was attacked by two persons who shouted anti-Semitic insults, stole his watch, and beat him unconscious in the hallway of his parents’ apartment building in Paris. Justice Minister Dupond-Moretti tweeted, “I know the immense emotion that besets the entire Jewish community. It is the emotion of the whole nation and of course mine.” Two men were charged with violent theft motivated by religious reasons and placed in pretrial detention in August 2020.

April Benayoum, a runner-up in the 2021 Miss France competition, became the subject of “a torrent” of anti-Semitic comments on social media after revealing that her father was Israeli during the televised competition in December 2020. One message read “Hitler forgot about this one.” In December 2020 Interior Minister Darmanin tweeted that he was “deeply shocked” and promised law enforcement would investigate the incidents. Others, including the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism and the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions, also denounced the comments. The Paris Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation in December 2020. On September 22, four men and four women appeared before the Paris Criminal Court for posting anti-Semitic tweets against Benayoum and were tried for “public insults committed because of origin, ethnicity, race, or religion.” Prosecutors requested suspended sentences of two months’ imprisonment. On November 3, a Paris court ordered seven defendants, four women and three men, to each pay fines ranging from 300 ($345) to 800 euros ($920). They were also ordered to pay one euro ($1.15) in damages to the contestant and to several associations that fight against racism and anti-Semitism that had joined the plaintiffs. Four of them were also asked to attend a two-day civic class. An eighth suspect was acquitted, with the court finding that his tweet did not target April Benayoum directly.

On April 17, authorities deported to Algeria an Algerian Deliveroo rider who was convicted of anti-Semitic discrimination by the Strasbourg Criminal Court on January 14 for refusing to transport orders of kosher food to Jewish customers on January 7. Interior Minister Darmanin stated the courier, who was illegally living in France, was expelled from the country after serving a four-month prison sentence.

On July 2, the Seine-Saint-Denis Criminal Court sentenced nine individuals to prison for four to 12 years for the violent 2017 robbery of a Jewish family in Livry-Gargan, a northern Paris suburb. The suspects were accused of breaking into the home of Roger Pinto, the president of Siona, a group that represented Sephardic Jews, and beating Pinto’s son and wife. The court confirmed the anti-Semitic nature of the robbery and issued the group’s ringleader the longest sentence, 12 years in prison.

Anti-Semitic vandalism targeted Jewish sites, including Holocaust memorials and cemeteries. On August 11, local media reported that a monument to French Holocaust survivor Simone Veil in Perros-Guirec, Brittany, had been defaced three times, including with excrement and swastikas. On August 24, following a joint investigation conducted by the Gendarmerie and the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes against Humanity, two men were arrested and placed in custody. On August 26, the local prosecutor announced they were both formally charged on aggravated degradation, aggravated public insult, and incitement to hatred charges and placed under judicial control.

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 protect the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. Adults with disabilities received a 904 euro ($1,040) allowance per month from the government. The government did not always enforce these provisions effectively.

In 2019 the right to vote was restored to all protected adults after a previous law allowed judges to deny the right to vote to individuals who were assigned decision-making guardians, which mainly affected persons with disabilities. The decision restored the right to vote to 350,000 citizens.

While the law requires companies with more than 20 workers to hire persons with disabilities, many such companies failed to do so and paid penalties.

The law requires that buildings, education, and employment be accessible to persons with disabilities. According to the latest government estimates available, 40 percent of establishments in the country were accessible. In 2015 the National Assembly extended the deadline for owners to make their buildings and facilities accessible from three to nine years. In 2016 then president Hollande announced that 500,000 public buildings across the country were undergoing major renovation to improve accessibility. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (now called the Ministry for Solidarity and Health) reported in 2016 that only 300,000 of one million establishments open to the public were fully accessible. Public transport was not accessible, or was only partially accessible, in Paris and Marseille, the two largest cities in the country.

According to statistics released in September by the Education Ministry, 480,000 children with disabilities attended schools in the country, a little more than 80,000 in hospitals or social health-care institutions and 400,000 in “ordinary” schools. The government did not provide detailed statistics on how many of those 400,000 children attended class full time or for only a few hours a week, or whether they had the help of assistants for children with disabilities, as required.

On September 15, UN experts from the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called on the government to improve its policy towards persons with disabilities. The UN experts criticized the country for adopting a medical approach to those persons. Committee experts said they had been made aware of inhuman and degrading conditions of custodial measures in residential facilities, including forced medication, solitary confinement, and convulsive therapy without consent.

On November 15, the president of APF France Handicap, Pascale Ribes, told press that persons with disabilities continued to be subject to severe discrimination in accessing and maintaining employment, with some employers refusing reasonable accommodations due to financial reasons.

In 2018 the government began implementing a 400 million euro ($460 million) four-year strategy to give autistic children access to education. The plan included increasing diagnosis and early years support for children with autism, increasing scientific research, and training doctors, teachers, and staff.

On World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, President Macron visited a monitoring center for autistic individuals created as part of the government’s “autism strategy.” He announced 63 centers had been opened since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

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

Homophobic violence and hate speech decreased by 15 percent in 2020, with 1,590 acts compared with 1,870 in 2019, according to Ministry of Interior statistics released May 12. Insults constituted 31 percent of the offenses, while nonsexual physical violence made up 26 percent. Victims were mainly men (75 percent) and young persons (60 percent were younger than age 35). The ministry stressed there was significant underreporting, so the actual figures were higher.

On May 10, the Bobigny Criminal Court sentenced a 21-year-old man to four years in prison, including an 18-month suspended prison sentence, for hitting and stabbing a 31-year-old gay man in an ambush in Drancy in 2019. The court acknowledged the homophobic nature of the attack. Two other suspects, minors at the time of the attack, were due to appear before a children’s judge.

On May 17, the Inter-LGBT association reported that COVID-19 lockdowns led to an increase in violence against lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons within families in 2020. The group said the associations have been under increased pressure to find emergency lodgings for youth thrown out on the street because of their sexual orientation.

According to a YouGov survey of 1,028 individuals conducted between June 7 and June 14 and published on August 31, 57 percent of respondents said they would be supportive if a close family member came out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, while one in five (19 percent) said they would not. Approximately half (47 percent) would be supportive if their relative came out as transgender or nonbinary, but one in four (27 percent) would not.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services. Authorities pursued and punished perpetrators of violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The statute of limitations is 12 months for offenses related to sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

In October 2020 Elisabeth Moreno, the junior minister of gender equality and the fight against discrimination, unveiled a three-year national plan to combat hatred and discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. Moreno told media the plan emphasized the importance of inclusive education in stamping out homophobia and aimed to make members of the LGBTQI+ community “citizens in their own right.” The strategy comprised 42 measures designed to tackle homophobia or transphobia in the home, school, university, work, health care, and sports, and will be “amplified” between 2020 and 2023. The plan also aimed to act against conversion therapy, which Moreno stated constituted “abject and medieval practices.”

In a September 29 circular addressed to all Education Ministry staff, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer gave instructions on how to improve the welcoming of transgender children and how to fight against transphobia in schools. The circular set rules on responding to requests to change first names, wear clothing, and use private areas such as toilets and changing rooms.

Human rights organizations such as Inter-LGBT criticized the government for continuing to require transgender persons to go to court to obtain legal recognition of their gender identity.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and labor law provide workers the right to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law provides for the right to bargain collectively and allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. Workers, except those in certain essential services, such as police and the armed forces, have the right to strike unless the strike threatens public safety. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and forbids removing a candidate from a recruitment procedure for asking about union membership or trade union activities. The Ministry of Labor, Employment and Economic Inclusion treated such discrimination as a criminal offense and prosecuted cases of discrimination by both individuals and companies.

Public-sector workers must declare their intention to strike at least 48 hours before the strike commences. In addition, a notification of intent to strike is permissible only after negotiations between trade unions and employers have broken down. Workers are not entitled to receive pay while striking. Wages, however, may be paid retroactively. Health-care workers were required to provide a minimum level of service during strikes. In the public transportation (buses, metro) and rail sectors, the law requires the continuity of public services at minimum levels during strikes. This minimum service level is defined through collective bargaining between the employer and labor unions for each transportation system. For road transportation strikes, the law on minimum service provides for wages to be calculated proportionally to time worked while striking. Transportation users must also receive clear and reliable information on the services that would be available in the event of a disruption. Authorities effectively enforced laws and regulations, including those prohibiting retaliation against strikers. Penalties for violations were commensurate to those under other laws related to the denial of civil rights, although union representatives noted antiunion discrimination occasionally occurred, particularly in small companies.

Workers freely exercised their rights to form and join unions and choose their employee representatives, conduct union activities, and bargain collectively. Most workers’ organizations stressed their independence vis-a-vis political parties. Some union leaders, however, did not conceal their political affiliations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, firms were required to consult labor unions before implementing organizational change in the workplace, including health and safety measures related to the sanitary crisis. Unions successfully sued firms they believed did not properly consult them. The government specifically requested proposals from labor unions on how to improve health and safety measures, optimize work schedules, and leverage teleworking capabilities. Labor unions continued to be instrumental in formulating health and safety guidelines for the Ministry of Labor. The guidelines were regularly updated, most recently on June 9.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes. The government also provided some financial support to some NGOs that assist victims; however, NGOs criticized the amount of funding generally provided by the government to all NGOs for victim assistance as insufficient.

Men, women, and children, mainly from Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia, were subjected to forced labor, including domestic servitude (also see section 7.c.). There were no government estimates of the extent of forced labor among domestic workers. Forced labor also occurred in construction, small commerce, agriculture, fishing, and livestock and seasonal migrant workers were vulnerable to forced labor in grape harvesting for wine production. In 2020 the NGO Committee against Modern Slavery assisted 222 victims of forced labor from 45 different countries, 71 percent of whom were women.

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 16, with exceptions for persons enrolled in certain apprenticeship programs or working in the entertainment industry, who are subject to further labor regulations for minors. The law generally prohibits persons younger than 18 from performing work considered arduous or dangerous, such as working with dangerous chemicals, high temperatures, heavy machinery, electrical wiring, metallurgy, dangerous animals, working at heights, or work that exposes minors to acts or representations of a pornographic or violent nature. Persons younger than 18 are prohibited from working on Sunday, except as apprentices in certain sectors, including hotels, cafes, caterers, and restaurants. Youth are prohibited from working between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. when they are younger than 16 and between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when they are between 16 and 18.

The government effectively enforced labor laws and penalties were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, although some children were exploited in the worst forms of child labor, including child sex trafficking (also see section 6, Children) and labor trafficking through forced criminal activity. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor investigated workplaces to enforce compliance with all labor statutes. To prohibit violations of child labor statutes, inspectors may place employers under observation or refer them for criminal prosecution. Penalties for the use of child labor were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings/  for information on the French overseas collective of Wallis and Futuna.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor code prohibits discrimination based upon an individual’s national origin; sex; customs; sexual orientation; gender identity; age; family situation or pregnancy; genetic characteristics; particular vulnerability resulting from an economic situation that is apparent or known to the author of the discrimination; real or perceived ethnicity, nationality, or race; political opinions; trade union or mutual association activities; religious beliefs; physical appearance; family name; place of residence or location of a person’s bank; state of health; loss of autonomy or disability; and ability to express oneself in a language other than French. Authorities generally enforced this prohibition, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those under other laws related to civil rights.

Employment discrimination based on sex, gender, disability, and national origin occurred. The country’s Romani community faced employment discrimination. On February 16, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled that the BNP Paribas bank had discriminated against an employee based on his Maghreb Arabic ethnic origin, awarding the plaintiff 50,000 euros ($57,500) in damages.

A gender equality law provides measures to reinforce equality in the workplace as well as sanctions against companies whose noncompliance could prevent women from bidding for public contracts. The law also requires employers to conduct yearly negotiations with employees on professional and pay equity between women and men in companies with more than 50 employees. The companies must publish on their company websites an estimate of salary disparities between men and women. The law requires that women receive equal pay for equal work. On June 11, the economic statistics institute INSEE released a study on the gender pay gap between 2008 and 2018, which found that in 2018 the average monthly pay for women was 2,118 euros ($2,440), while that of men was 2,547 euros ($2,930).

An April report on the employment and unemployment of persons with disabilities from the Fund Management Organization for the Professional Integration of People with Disabilities (AGEFIPH) showed a further decrease in the unemployment of persons with disabilities, from 8.6 percent unemployment for the general population at the end of 2019 to 7.8 percent at the end of 2020. Job seekers with disabilities were out of work for 908 days on average, compared with 673 days for the general population. They were also older, on average, than the general population: an estimated 51 percent of job seekers with disabilities were 50 or older, although they constituted just 26 percent of all job seekers. In November 2020 AGEFIPH and the polling organization IFOP presented a survey on the perspective of employers, employees, and the public on the employment of persons with disabilities. The study showed that 62 percent of employers (9 percent less than in 2018) found it easier to employ a person with disabilities, while another 67 percent (up 6 percent compared with 2018) said they were more inclined to hire someone with disabilities. The poll also indicated that those businesses supported by specialized organizations such as AGEFIPH were more likely to hire a person with disabilities (47 percent compared with only 33 percent for those who did not seek support).

The law requires at least 6 percent of the workforce in companies with more than 20 employees to be persons with disabilities. Noncompliant companies must contribute to a fund managed by AGEFIPH. The funds go to financial support for persons with disabilities seeking employment or firms employing persons with disabilities, research and analysis on disability employment issues, and support for employment retention of persons with disabilities. Approximately 51 percent of private-sector enterprises met the workforce requirement in 2018, while the companies that did not complete the requirement contributed to a 400-million-euro ($460 million) fund and a small number (mostly large corporations) received an exemption from the government based on a negotiated action plan, according to AGEFIPH. As of January 1, new companies had five years to comply with the 6 percent requirement, instead of the previous 3 percent. Under the government’s recovery plan, companies hiring workers with disabilities on a full-time contract of at least three months between September 1 and February 28 were entitled to a yearly 4,000-euro ($4,600) bonus.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The minimum wage adequately met the poverty-line income level, and employers in the formal sector generally adhered to the minimum wage.

The official workweek is 35 hours, although companies may negotiate exceptions with employees. The maximum number of working days for workers is 235 days per year. Maximum hours of work are set at 10 hours per day, 48 hours per week, and an average of 44 hours per week during a 12-week work period. Workdays and overtime hours are fixed by a convention or an agreement in each sector in accordance with the labor code. Under an executive order signed in 2017, companies with fewer than 50 employees may negotiate working conditions directly with employees without involvement of labor unions.

The law gives employees the “right to disconnect” digitally from their work. Companies with 50 or more employees must negotiate the use of digital tools with employees or their collective bargaining units and publish clear rules on “the right to disconnect” from email, text messages, and other electronic communications after working hours.

Employees are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 hours and a weekly break of at least 24 hours. Employers are required to give workers a 20-minute break during a six-hour workday. Premium pay of 25 percent is mandatory for overtime and work on weekends and holidays; the law grants each worker five weeks of paid leave per year for a full year of work performed. The standard amount of paid leave is five weeks per year (2.5 weekdays per month, equivalent to 30 weekdays per year). Some companies also allowed other compensatory days for work of more than 35 hours to 39 hours per week, called “spare-time account.” Work of more than 39 hours per week was generally remunerated at a higher rate.

The Ministry of Labor enforced the law governing work conditions and performed this responsibility effectively, in both the formal and the informal economy. The government permitted salaries below the minimum wage for specific categories of employment, such as subsidized jobs and internships, which must conform to separate and clearly defined standards. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance with the labor laws. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Disciplinary sanctions at work were strictly governed by the labor code to protect employees from abuse of power by their employers. Employees may pursue appeals in a special labor court up to the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court). Sanctions depend on the loss sustained by the victim and were usually applied on a case-by-case basis.

The government effectively enforced wage and overtime laws, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets occupational health and safety standards in addition to those set by the EU. Government standards covered all employees and sectors. Individual workers could report work hazards to labor inspectors, unions, or their company health committee (for companies with more than 50 employees). Workers have a right to remove themselves without fear of reprisal from a situation presenting grave and imminent danger.

Occupational safety and health laws were covered by the same inspectors and authorities as wage and hours. The government effectively enforced occupational safety and health laws. Penalties for violations depend on the status of the accused and generally were commensurate with those for other similar crimes.

Immigrants were more likely to face hazardous work, generally because of their concentration in sectors such as agriculture, seasonal employment, construction, and hospitality services. In 2020, six major industrial accidents classified as “Seveso”-type accidents involving dangerous substances occurred, up from three in 2019, according to the Industrial Risks and Pollution Analysis Office, due to the pandemic. The report indicated that the number of major industrial accidents remained within the same range, at approximately six per year.

Informal Sector: The Labor Ministry’s General Directorate for Labor published a report on May 12 that included inspections into the informal economy. The ministry’s 1,952 labor inspectors covered 1.8 million private businesses that employed approximately 20 million persons in 2019 and 2020. According to the report, 300,000 labor inspections took place in 2019, including 24,000 in the informal economy, compared with 150,000 labor inspections in 2020, including 16,500 in the informal economy. The ministry attributed the lower number of inspections in 2020 to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a February 2019 report, the Employment Advisory Council, which includes business and labor union representatives as well as parliamentarians and government-appointed members, estimated 5 percent of persons older than age 18 (around 2.5 million persons) worked in the informal economy, which totaled 2 to 3 percent of the total wages paid by companies nationwide.

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 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.

Paraguay

Executive Summary

Paraguay is a multiparty, constitutional republic. In 2018 Mario Abdo Benitez of the Colorado Party, also known as the National Republican Association, won the presidency in elections recognized as free and fair. Legislative elections took place at the same time.

The National Police, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for preserving public order, protecting the rights and safety of persons and entities and their property, preventing and investigating crimes, and implementing orders given by the judiciary and public officials. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; substantial problems with the independence of the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including intimidation of journalists by politically and economically powerful actors; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; and human trafficking, including the worst forms of child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish low- and mid-ranking officials who committed human rights abuses and corruption, but impunity for high-level politicians and officials in police and security forces was widely alleged.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. There were widespread reports of government corruption in all branches and at all levels of government, with investigative journalists and NGOs reporting on hundreds of cases of embezzlement, tax evasion, illicit enrichment, breach of public confidence, false documents, and criminal association.

Although in 2020 there was an increase in Public Ministry corruption investigations and indictments, these cases typically proceeded slowly and took several years to reach a verdict in the courts. Under a law that prohibits court cases from lasting longer than four years, politicians and influential individuals convicted in lower courts routinely avoided punishment by filing appeals and motions until reaching the statute of limitations or by successfully requesting the removal or suspension of judges and prosecutors working on their cases. Although indictments and convictions for corruption of low- and mid-level public officials occurred occasionally, high-ranking public officials enjoyed a high degree of impunity. In addition, politicization and corruption were pervasive throughout the judicial branch, particularly in the lower courts and regional offices, hampering the judiciary’s effectiveness and undermining public trust.

Corruption: Impunity was endemic for former and current high-level government officials accused of crimes. NGOs and the press continued to report on several former government ministers, mayors, governors, and current elected officials who avoided prosecution in the justice system despite being accused of, and indicted for, corruption and other crimes. Persons indicted for corruption were not held in pretrial detention. As of October 18, unresolved high-level corruption cases included four former ministers from the current administration, as well as four former and seven current members of Congress, and three former Supreme Court justices.

On August 12, after a six-month trial, a criminal court sentenced former senator Oscar Gonzalez Daher to seven years in prison for illicit enrichment and making false statements. The court also ordered the forfeiture of nearly five million dollars of illicit gains and barred Gonzalez Daher from public office for seven years. Observers judged the sentencing of such a politically powerful figure to be a landmark event given the tradition of judicial corruption and impunity. Gonzalez Daher appealed the ruling and was free on bail when he died on October 21. The court also sentenced his son, Oscar Gonzalez Chaves, to eight years in prison. Gonzalez Chaves appealed the ruling. The appeal remained pending when he was elected to municipal office on October 10. Gonzalez Chaves took office on November 9.

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

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally cooperated with domestic NGOs and international organizations and met with domestic NGO monitors and representatives, but they rarely acted in response to NGO reports or recommendations.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The human rights ombudsman generally operated with independence, focusing on investigating misuse of public money and abuse of authority by public officials. The NMPT maintained its independence from other government offices, although its reports were not always acted upon. The Public Ministry maintained a special human rights unit in charge of investigating human rights abuses on behalf of the government. Several other government ministries had human rights offices to monitor compliance with human rights legislation. According to NGOs and civil society, however, there was no central point of contact to coordinate human rights issues.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or sexual assault. If the victim is a minor, the sentence ranges from three to 15 years in prison. According to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and media sources, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem, with many rapes going unreported due to social stigma, victims’ fears of retaliation, and lack of training among law enforcement officials. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and sometimes obtained convictions. Prosecutors reported difficulties obtaining convictions for rape due to victims’ reluctance to testify or submit to medical examinations. Meanwhile, due to the slow pace of the judicial system, cases often reached their statute of limitations before prosecutors could obtain a conviction.

Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine, the law requires the abuse to be habitual and the aggressor and victim to be “cohabitating or lodging together.” Judges typically issued fines, but in some cases, they sentenced offenders to prison to provide for the safety of the victim. In some instances the courts mediated domestic violence cases.

According to NGOs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, domestic violence was widespread. Government statistics from January to May showed a 30 percent decrease in calls to a hotline for victims of domestic violence, compared with the same period in 2020. The Public Ministry reported domestic violence was the most reported crime during the year, with more than 13,000 cases reported between January and July. In many instances victims asked prosecutors to drop cases against their attackers due to fear of reprisals, allowing their attackers’ crimes to go unpunished.

Femicide remained a serious problem. The law criminalizes femicide and mandates a sentence of between 10 and 30 years in prison. Officials generally enforced the law and prosecuted femicide cases, but impunity in these cases remained high, consistent with generalized impunity levels.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs promoted a national 24-hour telephone hotline for victims. The ministry also operated a shelter and coordinated victim assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training. The ministry’s Woman City in Asuncion, an integrated service center for women, aided focusing on prevention of domestic violence and on reproductive health, economic empowerment, and education. As of October 12, the National Police had nine specialized units to assist victims of domestic violence and 39 officers dedicated exclusively to responding to domestic violence situations.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine. Sexual harassment remained a problem for many women, especially in the workplace. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove due to victims’ fear of workplace retaliation and societal pressures against victims. Many dropped their complaints or were unwilling to cooperate with prosecutors. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs carried out a campaign to build public awareness regarding sexual harassment. The ministry’s Woman City initiative attended to complaints of sexual harassment and provided legal guidance and emotional support for victims.

In September the Public Ministry indicted lawyer Diego Lansac for extorting a female client by demanding sex in exchange for not releasing her sensitive photographs. As of October 18, Lansac was under house arrest while awaiting trial.

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

Women’s rights advocates reported cases of doctors at public hospitals refusing to perform tubal ligation procedures on women younger than age 30 without children, or without consent from the patient’s spouse. These criteria were not based on law or Ministry of Health guidance.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services, including for survivors of sexual violence. A Ministry of Health protocol for survivors of sexual violence, which included provision of reproductive health services, applied to all health-care institutions. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape. Follow-up psychiatric care and legal referrals were also available for victims. In practice, however, health-care institutions did not provide access to reproductive health services evenly and in some cases denied such services to sexual violence survivors.

Reproductive health services were concentrated in cities; rural areas faced significant gaps in coverage. According to World Health Organization estimates, the country’s maternal mortality and morbidity rate in 2017 was 84 in 100,000 live births. According to UN Population Fund estimates, in 2019 the adolescent birth rate remained high at 72 births per 1,000 girls and women between ages 15 and 19. The Ministry of Health reported a daily average of two births for girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence authorities attributed the high adolescent birth rate to a lack of adequate sexual education in schools, noting conservative and religious groups effectively quashed the ministry’s December 2020 attempt to improve sexual education in public schools.

While menstrual period stigma was not sufficiently strong to prevent women and girls from participating in society, lack of sexual education and limited access to hygiene products may have dissuaded some students from going to class during their periods. In addition, women’s rights advocates reported some pregnant adolescents were barred from private schools.

Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, but the government did not effectively enforce this provision. There is no comprehensive law against discrimination. There is a law specifically against workplace discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, age, religion, political opinion, disability, HIV-positive status, or social origin, but it was rarely enforced.

Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. Nonetheless, gender-related discrimination persisted, and employers were sometimes reluctant to hire female employees who might require maternity leave as set forth in the labor code.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law protects members of ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination, but not racial minorities or groups. The government did not enforce the law effectively, most often in cases involving indigenous communities. The Public Ministry is responsible for investigating crimes against ethnic minorities. The Ombudsman’s Office is charged with safeguarding the rights of indigenous communities, although it often failed to do so. NGOs also performed independent investigations.

The Afro-descendant community was subject to discrimination and marginalization. While distinct Afro-descendant communities were few, the Ministry of Culture estimated in 2018 there were 12,000 persons of African descent. Afro-descendant communities faced high rates of racial profiling and violence by police, as well as discrimination in the legal system. Afro-descendant communities had limited access to quality education, health services, housing, and social security, as well as low rates of political participation.

On October 14, the lower house of Congress rejected a bill to recognize Afro-descendants as an ethnic minority and create procedures to protect citizens of African descent from racism and discrimination on the grounds that it did not believe there was any discrimination against Afro-descendants in the country. As of December 10, the Senate was discussing the law.

Indigenous Peoples

The law provides indigenous persons the right to participate in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the country, but the law was not effectively enforced. Discrimination, coupled with a lack of access to employment, education, health care, shelter, water, and land, hindered the ability of indigenous persons to progress economically while maintaining their cultural identity. Indigenous workers engaged as laborers on ranches typically earned low wages, worked long hours, received pay infrequently, and lacked medical and retirement benefits. This situation was particularly severe in the Chaco region.

The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INDI), Public Ministry, Ministry of Justice, Labor Ministry, and Ombudsman’s Office are responsible for protecting and promoting indigenous rights. The law mandates that INDI negotiate, purchase, and register land on behalf of indigenous communities who claim lack of access to their ancestral lands. Land rights activists reported INDI was unable to fulfill its mandate due to lack of government support.

The law authorizes indigenous persons to determine how to use communal land. There were insufficient police and judicial protections from encroachments on indigenous lands. This often resulted in conflict and occasional violence between indigenous communities and large landowners in rural areas. Indigenous rights NGO Tierraviva and media reported indigenous communities were often victim to threats, intimidation, and violence from large agrobusinesses in land disputes, often resulting in forced displacement. Agrobusinesses frequently employed private security guards to intimidate indigenous communities. The NGO and media reported law enforcement failed to protect victims in such cases.

The NGO Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator and Tierraviva expressed concern regarding the widespread cases of rape, sexual harassment, and physical abuse of women in indigenous communities. Perpetrators were often male members of the community, workers, or employees from neighboring ranches and farms. There were also credible reports of trafficking in persons in indigenous communities. NGO representatives also alleged agrobusiness operations exploited and violated the rights of indigenous workers. Security officials reported that the Paraguayan People’s Army actively recruited minors from indigenous communities.

INDI reported in August that an unknown number of evangelical leaders associated with three different churches raped and impregnated 10 adolescent girls from the Yvy Pyte indigenous community in Amambay Department earlier in the year. The Vice Ministry of Worship reported none of the three churches involved were registered with the government. As of November 29, the Public Ministry was investigating the case.

On August 13, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled in favor of a complaint from the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, finding that the government failed to protect the community’s traditional lands from toxic contamination by agrobusiness pesticides. A court had previously ruled against the community’s suit. As of November 29, the government had not taken any steps to pursue judicial proceedings against the responsible parties, make reparations to the victims, or repair the environmental damage.

Children

Birth Registration: Nationality derives from birth within the country’s territory, from birth to government employees in service abroad, or from birth to a citizen residing temporarily outside the country. Hospitals immediately register births, but registration was difficult for many parents of children born in rural areas and in indigenous communities with limited access to health-care facilities. Birth certificates and national identity documents are a prerequisite to access government services, including obtaining a passport.

Child Abuse: The NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence stated that violence against children was widespread. The Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence received reports of physical and psychological child abuse through its child abuse hotline.

The government did not have a shelter exclusively for child victims of sexual abuse; victims were usually assigned to an extended family member or referred to general-purpose youth shelters. Several such shelters existed, including one comanaged by the government and a Roman Catholic organization. In many cities the municipal council for children’s rights assisted abused and neglected children.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but the law permits marriage for persons ages 16 to 18 with parental consent, and for those younger than age 16 only with judicial authorization under exceptional circumstances. There were no reports of forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: According to the Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence and the NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, child trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced domestic servitude was a problem. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation; sale, offering, or procuring children for prostitution; and child pornography. The law provides a penalty of eight years’ imprisonment for persons responsible for pimping or brokering victims younger than 17, which is significantly lower than the penalties described under the antitrafficking law. The government generally enforced the law.

The minimum age of consent is 14 when married and 16 when not married. The law sets the penalty for sexual abuse in cases involving violence or intercourse to at least 15 years in prison if the victim is younger than 18, and up to 20 years in prison if the victim is younger than 10. The penal code also provides for fines or up to three years in prison for the production, distribution, and possession of pornography involving children or adolescents younger than 18. Authorities may increase this penalty to 10 years in prison depending on the age of the child and the child’s relationship to the abuser. The law prohibits the publication of names, images, or audio recordings of underage sexual abuse victims or witnesses, and it stipulates fines and one year in prison for offenders.

In the first eight months of the year, the Public Ministry received hundreds of reports of sexual abuse of children. Indictments and convictions for child sexual abuse were common. The Public Ministry’s office in Ciudad del Este on September 19 received a report that a man raped his 11-year-old stepdaughter earlier in the year. When the man learned he had impregnated the girl, he allegedly hired two women to kidnap the girl and perform a home abortion. The Public Ministry raided the location where the women performed the abortion and detained the two women. As of October 18, the man was at large, and the Public Ministry continued to investigate the case.

The Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence in January began redrafting its 2020-24 National Plan for Childhood and Adolescence after its initial proposal drew fierce criticism from socially conservative and religious groups. Such groups alleged in late 2020 the plan’s emphasis on sexual education and gender equality would destroy traditional family values. Some government officials, including Vice Minister of Worship Fernando Griffith, spoke out publicly against teaching “gender ideology” to children, stating such content encouraged tolerance of abortion and LGBTQI+ lifestyles.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community had fewer than 1,000 members. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law nominally prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Most of the country’s buildings, communications, public transportation, and health services remained inaccessible.

Many persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment; some were unable to seek employment because of a lack of accessible public transportation. The law mandates the allocation of 5 percent of all available civil servant positions to persons with disabilities; in practice persons with disabilities occupied less than 1 percent of civil service positions. As of April, of 422 public institutions, only 11 hired enough persons with disabilities to fill at least 5 percent of their positions while complying with all regulations regarding accessibility. According to UNESCO’s Profiles Enhancing Education Reviews, as of June only 36 percent of persons with disabilities between the ages of six and 18 attended educational institutions. Only 17 percent of students with disabilities completed elementary school, and only 2 percent of students with disabilities enrolled in higher education. Most children with disabilities who attended school were enrolled in the public school system. Some specialized schools served specific disabilities, such as deafness.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV-positive status and protects the privacy of medical information. The law also specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees based on HIV-positive status. Labor Ministry regulations forbid employers from requiring HIV testing prior to employment, but many companies reportedly did so.

NGOs, including the Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator and the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Counseling and Reporting Center, noted that persons with HIV or AIDS who sought access to health care and employment opportunities faced discrimination based on their sexual orientation, demand for HIV testing, and gender identity. NGOs reported discrimination of students with HIV or AIDS decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic as schools employed virtual curricula. Discrimination reportedly continued to occur, however, in awarding scholarships. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected access to HIV/AIDS-specific health care and testing. Public officials lacked awareness of HIV/AIDS-related human rights issues, in some cases resulting in privacy violations.

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

No laws explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons, and cases of violence and discrimination occurred.

On November 11, transgender woman Gabi Cabrera was killed in San Lorenzo Municipality, which borders Asuncion. Cabrera’s partner found her body hanging from a tree. Media reported Cabrera had previously been violently attacked by a group of men on November 6 for being transgender. As of November 29, authorities continued to investigate Cabrera’s death.

As of October the Public Ministry continued to investigate allegations from July 2020 that coast guard sailors in Ciudad del Este targeted three transgender women for torture and abuse because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law does not allow individuals to officially change their birth names to anything that could “cause confusion over the person’s sex.” As a result, transgender individuals must maintain names on their vital documents that do not match their gender identity. LGBTQI+ rights activists report this created difficulties for transgender individuals when accessing essential services, including denial of those services.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provides for the right of workers (except for the armed forces and police) to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits binding arbitration or retribution against union organizers and strikers.

There are several restrictions on these rights. The law requires that industrial unions have a minimum of 20 members to register. All unions must register with the Ministry of Labor, a process that often takes more than a year. The ministry, typically within weeks of the application, issues provisional registrations that allow labor unions to operate. Unions with provisional registrations have the same rights and obligations as fully registered unions. Workers cannot be members of more than one union, even if they have more than one part-time employment contract. Strikes are limited to purposes directly linked to workers’ occupations. Candidates for office in trade unions must work for a company and be active members of the union.

The Labor Ministry is responsible for enforcing labor rights, registering unions, mediating disputes, and overseeing social security and retirement programs. Penalties, fines, and remedies associated with discrimination against unions were generally ineffective. Investigations to protect labor rights from antiunion discrimination were rare, lacked sufficient resources, and reportedly occurred only if requested by an aggrieved party. The ministry does not have jurisdiction to initiate or participate in litigation to prevent unionization.

Employers who fail to recognize or to bargain collectively with a registered union face a fine equaling 50 times the minimum daily wage, or approximately $595. Employers who blacklist employees face a fine of 30 times the minimum daily wage ($350). These penalties were insufficient to deter violations but were commensurate with penalties for workplace discrimination based on gender or race. The government often did not prevent retaliation by employers who took action against strikers and union leaders. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays, mishandling of cases, and corruption. Delays were initially exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as courts struggled to shift proceedings to virtual platforms for the first time.

The government generally respected unions’ freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Employers and professional associations heavily influenced some private-sector unions. The leadership of several unions representing public-sector employees had ties to political parties and the government.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) provided technical assistance in several areas, including the formalization of micro, small, and medium enterprises.

While union workers from the steel and maritime industries were unionized and often received relevant legal protections, most workers, including farmers, ranchers, and informal-sector employees, did not participate in labor unions. Many of these workers were members of farmworker labor movements.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The Labor Ministry was unable to conduct inspections effectively, especially in remote areas, where forced labor was reportedly more prevalent. Penalties for violations include up to 20 years in prison, commensurate with penalties for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping (15 to 25 years in prison).

Ministry of Labor authorities reported no known instances of debt bondage. In the Chaco region, however, there were reports of children working alongside their parents in debt bondage on cattle ranches, on dairy farms, and in charcoal factories.

The government continued antitrafficking law enforcement and training efforts for teenagers entering the workforce but provided limited protective services to female and child trafficking victims. The Labor Ministry carried out child-labor information campaigns, in addition to campaigns promoting labor rights specific to the Chaco region. The ministry’s Directorate for the Protection of Children and Youth continued to develop new virtual solutions, including online training for local authorities and a hotline for child labor tips.

Child labor and trafficking, particularly in domestic service, was a significant problem (see section 7.c.). Reports of criadazgo continued throughout the year. (Criadazgo is the practice where middle- and upper-income families informally “employ” children as domestic workers. The children are often from impoverished families and in theory receive shelter, food, some education, and a small stipend.) Approximately 47,000 children, or an estimated 2.5 percent of all children and youth, were engaged in criadazgo. Although not all children in situations of criadazgo were victims of trafficking, criadazgo made them more vulnerable. The government did not oversee implementation of the practice or specifically safeguard the rights of children employed through the criadazgo system, although the ILO requested the government to intensify its efforts to combat the exploitation of child labor within this context. While the practice is not legally prohibited, the National Child and Adolescent Secretariat continued to denounce it as illegal under child labor laws, and the Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence continued to implement a social media campaign to call attention to the potentially harmful effects of criadazgo.

See the Department of State’s annual 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. The minimum age for full-time employment is 18. Children ages 14 to 17 may work with written parental authorization if they attend school, do not work more than four hours a day (if they are ages 14 to 15) or six hours a day (if they are ages 16 to 17), and do not work more than a maximum of 24 hours per week.

The government did not effectively enforce laws protecting children from exploitation in the workplace. The law stipulates those who illegally employ adolescents between ages 14 and 17 under hazardous conditions must pay the maximum administrative penalty, serve up to five years in prison, or both. These penalties were not as harsh as those for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping, and were insufficient to deter violations, in part due to lax enforcement.

The Labor Ministry is responsible for administratively enforcing child labor laws, and the Public Ministry prosecutes violators. The Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence continued its program providing safe and educational spaces for children at risk of child labor, incorporating it into the Programa Abrazo (Hug Program). When the Ombudsman’s Office and the Child Rights Committee received complaints, they referred them to the Public Ministry. Between January and November, the ministry received 17 complaints regarding child and adolescent workers, the same number it received between January and September of 2020. Most children worked in agriculture, construction, and services.

Despite the government’s moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, child labor continued to occur in sugar, brick, and limestone production; domestic service; and small-scale farming. Children also worked in manufacturing, restaurants, and other service industries. Boys were often victims of forced labor in agriculture, domestic service, criminality, in some cases in production of marijuana, and street scavenging.

In exchange for work, employers promised room, board, and financial support for school to child domestic servants. Some of these children were victims of human trafficking for the purposes of forced child labor, did not receive pay or the promised benefits in exchange for work, suffered from sexual exploitation, and often lacked access to education.

The worst forms of child labor occurred where malnourished, abused, and neglected children worked in unhealthy and hazardous conditions selling goods or services on the street, working in factories, or harvesting crops. Children were used, procured, and offered to third parties for illicit activities including commercial sexual exploitation (see also section 6, Children), sometimes with the knowledge of parents and guardians who received remuneration. Some minors were involved in forced criminality, such as acting as drug smugglers for criminal syndicates along the border with Brazil. Children reportedly worked in debt bondage alongside their parents in the Chaco region. The ILO indicated higher risk of a possible increase of child labor as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law specifically prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, age, religion, political opinion, disability, HIV-positive status, or social origin. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations. The fines for discrimination, which range from 10 to 30 times the minimum daily wage per affected worker, are not commensurate with laws related to civil rights such as election interference, which can carry penalties of up to five years in prison.

The press and civil society reported on employment discrimination based on sex, disability, language, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status, and pregnancy.

Many workers within the LGBTQI+ community preferred not to file complaints with the Labor Ministry due to the ministry’s ineffective enforcement of the law and due to fear of being dismissed.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not provide for a national minimum wage for all economic sectors, but a standard minimum wage applies to most sectors. Further, there are minimum wage standards stipulated for specific sectors, such as cattle raising. The standard minimum wage was above the official estimate for the poverty income level.

The law stipulates that domestic employees work a maximum of eight hours per day. The law provides for a standard legal workweek of 48 hours (42 hours for night work) with one and one-half days of rest. There are no prohibitions of, or exceptions for, excessive compulsory overtime.

The Labor Ministry is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance with all labor laws. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Many of the ministry’s efforts during the year were focused on enforcing workplace compliance with COVID-19 sanitary measures.

The Labor Ministry continued public-awareness campaigns aimed at employers and workers to raise awareness of labor laws and worker rights. Penalties, which were limited to fines, were insufficient to deter violations and were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud, which could include imprisonment. Alleged violations of wage, hour, or overtime laws were common in cattle ranching and the textile industry.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government sets appropriate occupational safety and health (OSH) standards stipulating conditions of safety, hygiene, and comfort. Although these standards were current and appropriate for the light manufacturing and construction industries, enforcement was inadequate. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and recommend sanctions.

During the first eight months of the year, the Labor Ministry’s Department of Mediation of Private Conflicts received more than 7,000 labor complaints and mediation requests, a higher number than in 2020.

Between January 1 and November 16, the Labor Ministry received 10 reports of fatal workplace accidents in construction, retail, and manufacturing sectors.

Employers are obligated to register workers with the Labor Ministry. As of October 12, approximately 6,270 employers registered 18,287 new workers with the ministry, both numbers significantly higher than in 2019.

According to media and NGOs, many domestic workers suffered discrimination, were not paid for overtime work as required by law, and were not entitled to publicly provided retirement benefits, unlike other workers covered by the labor code. Only 18,000 of an estimated 280,000 domestic employees were registered for social security benefits. Domestic workers were eligible for government-sponsored medical care and retirement programs through payroll and employer contributions.

Informal Sector: The Labor Ministry did not effectively enforce provisions for overtime pay, the minimum wage, or limitations on hours of work in the formal or the informal sector. Informal-sector workers did not unionize. The World Bank estimated in May that 70 percent of workers were active in the informal economy. The National Institute of Statistics estimated in 2020 that 65 percent of workers in nonagricultural sectors were active in the informal economy, especially in service (including restaurants, hotels, and commerce), construction, and manufacturing sectors. Informal-sector workers were not covered by OSH laws or inspections. No government entity provided social protections for workers in the informal economy, although such workers qualified for basic health care and social security benefits available to all citizens. The government provided financial aid for informal-sector workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poland

Executive Summary

Poland is a republic with a multiparty democracy. The bicameral parliament consists of an upper house (Senate) and a powerful lower house (Sejm). The president and the Council of Ministers headed by the prime minister share executive power. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found the July 2020 presidential election was administered professionally despite legal uncertainty during the electoral process due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rescheduling of the election to a later date. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted that there was overall confidence in the administration of the October 2019 parliamentary election.

The police force is a national law enforcement body with regional and municipal units overseen by the Ministry of Interior and Administration. The Border Guard is responsible for border security and combating irregular migration; it reports to the Ministry of Interior and Administration. The Internal Security Agency has responsibility for investigating and combating organized crime, terrorist threats, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Central Anticorruption Bureau is responsible for combating government, business, and financial corruption and may investigate any matter involving public funds. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Some members of law enforcement entities committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: several cases of unlawful or arbitrary killings by police forces; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; restrictions on freedom of expression including criminal defamation and blasphemy laws; a report of mistreatment of irregular migrants from third countries; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of ethnic minorities; and violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses. There were no reports of security force impunity.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and criminal prosecutions for official corruption occurred. There were no reports of high-profile government corruption during the year.

On March 3, the Wroclaw District Court upheld the February 2020 ruling of the first instance court which sentenced Jozef Pinior, a former senator and member of the European Parliament, to 18 months in prison for corruption. The verdict is final. The court found him guilty of accepting bribes from businessmen in return for intervening with various public institutions to get favorable decisions for their businesses.

The investigation against Slawomir Nowak, transportation minister under the prior Civic Platform government, on charges of corruption and leading an organized criminal group, continued at year’s end. During the year, the Warsaw district prosecutor’s office pressed additional corruption charges against Nowak. Nowak was released from pretrial detention on April 12, after spending more than eight months in detention. His arrest resulted from a Polish-Ukrainian investigation into alleged corruption when he served as the president of the Ukrainian State Road Agency in 2017-19.

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

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitution and the law entrust the ombudsperson with defending human and civil rights. The law states that the children’s rights ombudsperson is responsible for protecting the rights of children. The law entrusts the government plenipotentiary for equal treatment with the task of “implementing the principle of equal treatment.” Both ombudspersons are appointed by the Sejm and confirmed by the Senate. Civil society observers continued to assess the office of the human rights ombudsperson as independent and effective in defending human and civil rights, but the children’s rights ombudsman was not. In cooperation with NGOs, the ombudsperson processes complaints, conducts investigations, institutes and participates in court proceedings, undertakes studies, provides other public bodies with advice, appeals to authorities to take legislative or legal action, and conducts public information campaigns. The ombudsperson has no authority to mediate disputes between private entities, even in cases of racial discrimination. The ombudsperson presents an annual report to the Sejm on the state of human rights and civic freedom in the country.

The children’s rights ombudsperson serves as a guardian of children’s rights, in particular the right to life and health, the right to being brought up in the family, the right to decent social living conditions, and the right to education. The children’s rights ombudsperson processes complaints, conducts investigations, participates in court proceedings, and may demand concrete actions to be taken by public institutions to protect children’s rights.

The government plenipotentiary for equal treatment has a mandate to counter discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all. The plenipotentiary implements the government’s equal treatment policy, develops and evaluates draft acts, analyzes and evaluates legal solutions, and monitors the situation within the scope of application of the principle of equal treatment. The sitting plenipotentiary serves as a deputy minister in the Ministry of Family and Social Policy. As such, the position does not have the same institutional independence as the human rights ombudsperson and does not have a separate budget.

Both chambers of parliament have committees on human rights and the rule of law. The committees serve a primarily legislative function and consist of representatives from multiple political parties.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years in prison. While domestic violence is illegal and courts may sentence a person convicted of domestic violence to a maximum of five years in prison, most of those found guilty received suspended sentences. The law permits authorities to place restraining orders without prior approval from a court on spouses to protect against abuse.

On September 16, the Council of Europe’s Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence published its first evaluation report on the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (so-called Istanbul Convention). The report praised a November 2020 law that introduced an immediate restraining order that may be issued by police who respond to a domestic dispute. Under the new law, the perpetrator must immediately leave the location where the violence took place. The Women’s Rights Center noted that during the first six months since the law’s entry into force, police used the new mechanism in only a small fraction of documented instances of domestic violence. According to the foundation, this may indicate police were not properly trained in the use of the new mechanism. The Women’s Rights Center reported that police were occasionally reluctant to intervene in domestic violence incidents, sometimes arguing there was no need for police intervention. The law requires every municipality in the country to set up an interagency team of experts to deal with domestic violence.

Centers for survivors of domestic violence operated throughout the country. The centers provided social, medical, psychological, and legal assistance to survivors; training for personnel who worked with survivors; and “corrective education” programs for abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations carry penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment. According to the Women’s Rights Center, sexual harassment continued to be a serious and underreported problem.

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

The law obliges both central and local governments to provide citizens with unrestricted access to methods and means serving “conscious procreation,” implemented by the government as gynecological counseling for women and girls and access to contraception. While there were no legal restrictions on the right to obtain contraceptives, a patient’s ability to obtain them was limited, according to NGOs. The Federation for Women and Family Planning noted the government excluded almost all prescription contraceptives from its list of subsidized medicines, making them less affordable, especially for poor women in rural areas. The law also provides that doctors may refrain from performing health services inconsistent with their conscience. According to a 2020 report by the Central and Eastern European Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, doctors regularly used the conscience clause to refuse to write prescriptions for contraceptives. The report also noted that some pharmacies did not stock or sell contraceptives.

The law does not permit voluntary sterilization. Although women have the right to comprehensive medical services before, during, and after childbirth, home birth, while legal, is not subsidized by the National Health Fund. Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. According to the Childbirth with Dignity Foundation, standards for perinatal and postnatal care written into the laws are adequate, but the government failed to enforce them effectively. A 2018 report by the Supreme Audit Office indicated women living in rural areas had limited access to medical services related to childbirth due to an insufficient number of gynecological and obstetric clinics in smaller towns and villages.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraception for survivors of rape. According to women’s rights NGOs, access was limited due to survivors’ fear of social stigma, some legal constraints, and the use of the conscience clause by medical doctors who refused to provide such services. According to a September report by the Council of Europe Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the country lacked rape crisis and sexual violence centers offering medical care, high-quality forensic examination, and immediate short- and long-term trauma support delivered by trained professionals.

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women and prohibits discrimination against women, although few laws exist to implement the provision. The constitution requires equal pay for equal work, but discrimination against women in employment existed (see section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution prohibits discrimination in political, social, and economic life “for any reason whatsoever.” The law on discrimination in employment covers nationality, ethnic origin, and race. The law also bans discrimination of members of national and ethnic minorities and penalize incitement to hatred, public insult, and violence against others on the grounds of national, ethnic, and racial differences.

Romani leaders complained of discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, media, and education. In December 2020 the government adopted a new 10-year program on social and civic integration of Roma people, with particular focus on education and living conditions of the Romani community. During the year the government allocated 11.7 million zloty ($2.9 million) for programs to support Romani communities, including for educational programs. The Ministry of Education helped finance school supplies for Romani children. The Ministry of Interior and Administration provided school grants for Romani high school and university students, postgraduate studies on Romani culture and history in Krakow, and Romani-related cultural events.

The country’s Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities continued to experience harassment and discrimination. On January 21, the Torun District Court began a trial of three men charged with using violence and making threats against others on the grounds of their national identity. The trial concerns a February 2020 incident in which several men verbally and physically attacked a group of five foreigners from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia in the city center of Torun.

On May 31, a man approached three Belarusian nationals speaking their native language as they walked down the street in Krakow. He asked where they were from, and when they answered, he threatened them with a knife and used pepper spray against them. On July 9, police detained the perpetrator.

During the year there were incidents of xenophobic attacks targeting persons of African descent.

In March the Krakow district prosecutor’s office indicted two men who in July 2020 allegedly attacked and shouted racist insults at a man of African descent at a bus stop in the town of Wieliczka. The two men also allegedly attacked a bystander who had defended the victim.

On June 27, police detained a man who verbally abused and threatened four men from the Republic of the Congo and Rwanda at a lake area in Krakow. The man was charged with public insult of a group on racial grounds.

Children

Birth Registration: A child acquires citizenship at birth if at least one parent is a citizen, regardless of where the birth took place. Children born or found in the country whose parents were unknown or stateless are also citizens. The government has a system of universal birth registration immediately after birth.

Child Abuse: The law bans all forms of violence against children and requires the ombudsperson for children’s rights to undertake actions aimed at protecting children from violence, cruelty, exploitation, demoralization, neglect, or other ill treatment. The ombudsperson’s office also operated a 24-hour free hotline for abused children.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18, although courts may grant permission for girls as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual intercourse with children younger than 15. The penalty for statutory rape ranges from two to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Child pornography is illegal. The production, possession, storage, or importation of child pornography involving children younger than 15 is punishable by three months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment. During the year police conducted several operations against child pornography and alleged pedophiles.

According to the government and the La Strada Foundation, a leading NGO assisting trafficking victims, trafficking of children for sexual exploitation remained a problem.

Institutionalized Children: On September 2, media reported on the systematic use of physical and psychological violence at the Youth Educational Center in Renice, a correctional education facility for boys between ages 12 and 18. Media reported students in the facility were subjected to abuse, including severe beatings, by other students and by educators. Following the reports, the government decided to close the facility. The Szczecin district prosecutor’s office was appointed to investigate the allegations and scrutinize earlier prosecutorial activities regarding cases of abuse at the facility.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Union of Jewish Communities estimated the Jewish population at 20,000, while other estimates, including by Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, put the number as high as 40,000. Anti-Semitic incidents continued to occur, often involving desecration of significant property, including a synagogue and Jewish cemeteries, and sometimes involving anti-Semitic comments on television and social media. Some Jewish organizations expressed concern regarding the physical safety and security of their members. During the year there were several attacks on Jewish properties and houses of worship.

On April 20, a member of the lower house of parliament from a small opposition party, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, referred to Adolf Hitler in a video posted online as “a great, in fact the greatest, European socialist” and argued there was no evidence Hitler was aware of the Holocaust.

On January 12, police detained three men who painted neo-Nazi symbols on the outer wall of the Jewish cemetery in Oswiecim (the town adjacent to the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau). On January 13, the local prosecutor’s office charged two of the men with public promotion of fascism and the third with destruction of a monument (the cemetery wall is registered as a provincial monument). At year’s end, the men were not in pretrial detention and their trial had not been scheduled.

On June 26, three teenagers vandalized 67 tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in the town of Bielsko-Biala. Some tombstones were broken and others were tipped over. On June 28, police identified the perpetrators and handed the case over to the family court.

On October 5, anti-Semitic graffiti were found on nine wooden barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau former concentration camp. The graffiti included statements in English and German and two references to Old Testament sayings frequently used by anti-Semites. Police were searching for perpetrators at year’s end.

On November 11, an anti-Semitic demonstration occurred in the city of Kalisz. Participants burned a book symbolizing the Statute of Kalisz, a 13th-century document that regulated the legal status of Jews in Poland and granted them special protections. Some march participants also chanted “Death to Jews.” On November 14, President Duda responded on his Twitter account, writing: “I strongly condemn all acts of anti-Semitism. The barbarism perpetrated by a group of hooligans in Kalisz contradicts the values on which the Republic of Poland is based. And in view of the situation on the border and propaganda campaigns against Poland, it is even an act of treason.” On November 15, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski announced police had detained three men for allegedly organizing the march. The men were charged with public incitement to hatred, public insult on national grounds, and public incitement to commit crimes against persons based on their national and religious identity. They spent two weeks in pretrial detention and then were released on bail.

According to the Never Again Association, anti-Semitic discourse appeared in the public sphere and on social media, in particular during the legislative process of revisions to the Code of Administrative Procedure, which affected the restitution process. For example, on July 10, former anti-Communist oppositionist Andrzej Michalowski participated as a guest in a debate on state-run public radio and said the Jewish lobby was trying to interfere with legislation affecting heirless property. A trial of six persons accused of publicly promoting Nazism in 2017 by organizing a celebration of Hitler’s birthday in a forest, donning Wehrmacht uniforms, and burning a swastika continued at year’s end. The incident was secretly filmed and later broadcast by undercover television journalists. The main organizer of the event, a member of the neo-Nazi Pride and Modernity Association, pleaded not guilty, claiming the event was private. In 2019 in a separate case, the Gliwice regional court decided to dissolve Pride and Modernity, stating that the event was tantamount to approval or even affirmation of Hitler and Nazism.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law states that buildings should be accessible for persons with disabilities, but many buildings remained inaccessible. Public buildings and transportation generally were accessible, although older trains and vehicles were often less so, and many train stations were not fully accessible. A 2018 report by the Supreme Audit Chamber, the latest report available, noted there are still many technical barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from freely accessing museums, libraries, or cultural centers. The report also noted regulations regarding access to public buildings were imprecise and not properly enforced.

The 2019 accessibility law requires all public institutions to provide access for persons with special needs, including persons with disabilities, in three main areas: access to buildings, digital services, and information and communication services. During the year the government continued implementing the “Accessibility Plus” program for the years 2018-25, whose main goal is to ensure unlimited access to goods and services and to create the possibility of full participation in social and public life for individuals with special needs. According to the 2020 report on implementation of the program, during the year, the government continued to implement programs aimed at improving access to schools, universities, public health institutions, and door-to-door transportation services. The government plenipotentiary for persons with disabilities, who also serves as deputy minister in the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, monitors the implementation of the government’s policy regarding vocational and social inclusion and employment of persons with disabilities.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions, and there were reports of societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government restricted the right of persons with certain mental disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs.

On April 9, a well-known YouTube user posted a video showing himself and two acquaintances abusing a man with an intellectual disability by ordering him to perform degrading and humiliating tasks. On April 19, police arrested the man. Prosecutors charged the three individuals with mentally abusing a person with disabilities. On September 10, the trial against the man and his two acquaintances began.

The law states that education is obligatory for all children, including those with disabilities. Children with disabilities may attend schools where they are integrated with children without disabilities, or parents may choose to send them to segregated schools, depending on the significance of the disability.

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

While the constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the specific grounds of sexual orientation, it prohibits discrimination “for any reason whatsoever.” The laws on discrimination in employment cover sexual orientation and gender identity but hate crime and incitement laws do not. The government plenipotentiary for equal treatment is charged with monitoring discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals and groups. LGBTQI+ advocacy groups, however, criticized the plenipotentiary office for a lack of interest and engagement in LGBTQI+ questions. The ombudsperson also continued to work on LGBTQI+ human rights cases.

During the year some government officials made anti-LGBTQI+ or homophobic public statements. On June 23, Education and Science Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek criticized participants in LGBTQI+ pride parades for causing “public demoralization” and promoting “deviancy.” He said that those who participated in such parades “do not have the same public rights” as “a person behaving in accordance with standards and norms, who does not demoralize.” On June 28, Czarnek said the country should adopt a law that prohibits schools from using materials seen as promoting homosexuality.

During the year there were several physical and verbal attacks against members of the LGBTQI+ community. On February 17, a man approached a gay couple holding hands in Warsaw and stabbed one of the men. Police published a sketch of the suspect, but no arrests had been made as of November.

On March 17, several members of an LGBTQI+ sports group were attacked during an outdoor training session in the city of Gdansk. Several men disrupted the training, shouted homophobic slurs, and physically attacked two men in the sports group who were later taken to the hospital for medical evaluation. In July the Gdansk district prosecutor’s office discontinued its investigation into the incident. On May 26, an unknown perpetrator physically attacked a man in Wroclaw because he appeared to be gay, according to the victim. Police published a photograph of the suspect from surveillance cameras, but no arrests were made as of November. On February 25, the Czestochowa regional court convicted a night club security guard for physically attacking a woman who was wearing clothing with a rainbow-colored heart. The court imposed a three-year ban on working as a security guard and a three-year restraining order to protect the victim. The court also ordered the perpetrator to pay a fine and compensation to the victim. On May 9, the Poznan regional court sentenced a man to 18 months of community service for attacking an LGBTQI+ couple in Poznan in December 2020. The couple was walking along the street in the city center when a man verbally abused them and threatened them with a knife.

On July 14, the European Commission initiated an infringement procedure against the country for failure to fully and appropriately respond to the Commission’s inquiry regarding the nature and impact of what LGBTQI+ activists and critics call “LGBT-free zone” resolutions adopted by dozens of local governments across the country in 2019 and 2020. These resolutions did not explicitly call for “LGBT-free” zones but focused in varying degrees on preventing “LGBT ideology” in schools, called for protection of children against moral corruption, and declared marriage as a union between a woman and a man only.

The commission expressed concerns the declarations may violate EU law regarding nondiscrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. On September 3, the European Commission sent a letter to five provinces that adopted the resolutions, urging them to abandon the declarations and notifying them the commission had suspended discussions on payment of several billion euros in EU funds because of the adoption of the declarations. On September 15, the country’s deputy minister for funds and regional policy sent a letter to all local governments to review declarations to ensure the texts did not contain any discriminatory elements. By the end of September, all five provinces as well as several lower local government units had either repealed or revised the declarations to attempt to satisfy commission concerns. As of October 18, the commission had not commented if the changes were sufficient to restore funding.

On July 2 and September 24, the Supreme Administrative Court returned four legal challenges by the ombudsperson against anti-LGBTQI+ resolutions to provincial administrative courts for another review regarding the municipalities of Lipinki and Niebylec, and the counties of Tarnow and Ryki. Earlier in 2020 and in February of 2021, provincial courts had rejected the complaints, arguing that the declarations could not be reviewed by administrative courts.

As a result of a complaint filed by the human rights ombudsperson in 2019, in July 2020 the Gliwice Provincial Administrative Court struck down a declaration adopted by the Istebna municipality. The court ruled the anti-LGBTQI+ declaration violated administrative law and the constitution, in particular the ban against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro sent appeals against the ruling and a similar one regarding a declaration in the Klwow municipality to the Supreme Administrative Court in September 2020, but the court had not issued a ruling as of December 6.

On January 12, the human rights ombudsperson announced the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in December 2020 that a transgender person who underwent gender reassignment procedure abroad had the right to receive a passport with her new legal identity. Authorities initially refused to update the citizen’s documents to reflect the change.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides legal measures under which workers fired for union activity may demand reinstatement. Individuals who are self-employed or in an employment relationship based on a civil law contract are permitted to form a union.

Government workers, including police officers, border guards, prison guards, and employees of the Supreme Audit Office, are limited to a single union. Workers in services deemed essential, such as security forces, the Supreme Audit Office, police, border guards, and fire brigades, do not have the right to strike. These workers have the right to protest and to seek resolution of their grievances through mediation and the court system.

Trade unions are registered when at least 10 eligible persons adopt a resolution to form a trade union. Newly established trade unions must appoint a founding committee consisting of three to seven persons. A new trade union must register with the National Court Registry within 30 days of the resolution. The court may remove a trade union from the registry only if a trade union adopts a resolution to dissolve; is no longer able to operate due to the bankruptcy, liquidation, or reorganization of the company in which the trade union operated; or if a trade union has fewer than 10 members for more than three months.

Legal strike ballots require the support of a majority of union voters. To allow for mandatory mediation, a strike may not be called fewer than 14 days after workers present their demands to an employer. The law obligates employers to report workplace group disputes to the district inspection office in their region. Cumbersome procedures made it difficult for workers to meet all of the technical requirements for a legal strike. What constitutes a strike under the law is limited to strikes regarding wages and working conditions, social benefits, trade union rights, and worker freedoms. The law prohibits collective bargaining for key civil servants, appointed or elected employees of state and municipal bodies, court judges, and prosecutors.

According to trade unions, existing legal provisions regarding freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are adequate but there are concerns with enforcement. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. The penalties for obstructing trade union activity range from fines to community service. They were not commensurate with the penalties for other laws related to the denial of civil rights. Resources, inspections, and remediation efforts were not adequate, and according to trade unions, the penalties allowed by law were too small to deter future violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were subjected to lengthy delays and appeals.

Trade union representatives stated that violations of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining occurred. While many workers exercised the right to organize and join unions, several large international companies discriminated against those who attempted to organize. Union discrimination typically took the forms of intimidation, attempts to challenge the legality of trade union activity, or termination of work contracts without notice or without a justified reason. For example, media reported banking company mBank fired Mariusz Lawnik on November 17 for allegedly “harassing employees” after Lawnik posted a message regarding a newly established trade union on the company’s intranet.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Nevertheless, forced labor occurred.

The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for forced labor violations were commensurate with those of other serious crimes. In 2020, the most recent year for which statistics were available, the government assisted in removing 70 victims from forced labor.

There were reports that foreign and Polish men and women were subjected to forced labor in agriculture, restaurants, construction, domestic work, and the garment and fish processing industries, and that children were subjected to forced begging (see section 7.c.).

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16, with exceptions in the cultural, artistic, sporting, and advertising fields when parents or guardians and the local labor inspector give their permission. The labor inspector issues a permit on the basis of psychological and medical examinations. Child labor is not allowed if the work may pose any threat to life, health, or physical and mental development of the child, or may conflict with the child’s education. The government effectively enforced applicable law prohibiting employment of children younger than 16, and penalties were commensurate with those of other serious crimes.

Some children younger than 18 engaged in hazardous work in agriculture, primarily on private family farms. Romani children, primarily from Romania, were subjected to forced begging. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6, Children).

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation in any way, directly or indirectly, on all grounds, in particular on the grounds of race, sex, color, religion, political opinion, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, or trade union membership, and regardless of whether the person is hired for definite or indefinite contracts, or for full- or part-time work. The law does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on language, HIV-positive status, gender identity, or social status. According to the Polish Society for Antidiscrimination Law, by law the accused must prove that discrimination did not take place. In the case of labor contracts that are protected by law, antidiscrimination measures are adequate, and judges know how to apply them.

Civil contracts are protected under antidiscrimination law, which prohibits unequal treatment in employment on the basis of gender, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, belief, viewpoint, disability, age, or sexual orientation. According to the society, it is relatively straightforward for claimants to assert discrimination occurred during court proceedings; however, very few employees come forward and report discrimination at the workplace. The government enforced applicable law, but penalties for violations were not commensurate with those of similar laws related to civil rights.

At year’s end the Krakow District Court continued a criminal trial against a human resources manager at an IKEA store for dismissing an employee after the employee posted quotes from the Bible on the company’s intranet website to imply gay persons deserved death. Prosecutors argued the manager violated the employee’s religious rights. In a separate proceeding, a labor branch of the Krakow court continued a labor dispute case against IKEA that was initiated by the fired employee. The employee demanded compensation and the right to return to work. The court had not issued a ruling at year’s end.

According to trade union representatives, discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, age, and trade union membership. According to NGOs, sexual harassment at the workplace was an underreported problem, and police statistics showed a low number of identified offenses (83 in 2020, the latest statistics available). Discrimination against Romani workers also occurred (see section 6, Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The national monthly minimum wage and the minimum wage for formal work agreements met the social minimum monthly income level.

The constitution provides every employee the right to statutorily specified days free from work as well as annual paid holidays.

The National Labor Inspectorate (NLI) is responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. According to trade union representatives, the NLI is committed to eliminating violations of wage and hour laws, but due to an insufficient number of labor inspectors and limitation of resources to conduct inspections, the NLI is not able to ensure compliance with existing laws.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws, but the penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. According to trade union representatives, the most common labor rights violations concerned failure to pay wages, delayed payment of wages, and failure to formally register and pay for overtime work. According to the NLI’s 2020 report, most wage payment violations occurred in trade and repair services as well as in industrial processing industries. Seasonal and migrant workers were particularly vulnerable to such violations. The NLI’s report did not cover domestic workers because inspectors could only conduct inspections in businesses, not private homes.

During September 20-24, the NLI participated in the “action week” of the EU-wide information campaign “Rights for all seasons,” which focused on employment of seasonal and migrant workers. The campaign included training, distribution of educational materials, and press publications devoted to this matter. As part of the campaign, the NLI provided free legal counselling services by telephone in Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian on various aspects of legal employment, focusing specifically on seasonal and migrant workers.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law defines strict and extensive minimum conditions to protect worker health and safety. Inspections for occupational safety and health were conducted by the same inspectors under the same authorities as for wages and hours. Resources were inadequate and the government did not effectively enforce occupational health and safety in the formal or informal sectors. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those of similar laws.

During the year the NLI continued a three-year information and education campaign which began in 2019 to improve work-related health and safety standards in meat-processing companies and continued in programs targeting construction companies, professional drivers, forestry companies, small businesses, and agricultural employers.

Employers routinely exceeded exposure standards for limits on chemicals, dust, and noise. According to the Central Statistical Office’s 2020 report, the majority of work-related accidents occurred in mining and quarrying, water supply, sewage and waste management, and ecological reclamation. According to the NLI’s 2020 report, which investigated 1,775 work-related accidents that happened in 2020, most accidents occurred in industrial companies and at construction sites. The report noted some of the leading causes of workplace accidents were poor organization of work processes, inadequate supervision of employees, inadequate training of employees in work-related health and safety standards, and inadequate measures by employers to prevent accidents. The Central Statistical Office reported 62,740 victims of workplace accidents, including 189 fatal accidents, during 2020.

Informal Sector: The Main Statistical Office’s definition of the informal economy included unregistered employment performed without a formal contract or agreement and where wages do not count as contributions to social security or have income taxes deducted. There is no minimum wage for informal work agreements. There were reports of employers withholding wages or underpaying laborers under informal work agreements, particularly Ukrainian migrant workers in the construction and agriculture industries. Workers in the informal sector are not covered by wage, hour, and occupational safety and health laws and inspections. While the NLI’s powers are limited to the formal economy, one of its responsibilities is to inspect legality of employment, which can contribute to limiting work in the informal economy and ensuring employees who are hired in the informal economy are provided with appropriate occupational health and safety conditions. According to the Central Statistical Office, in 2017 (the latest year for which data were available) 5.4 percent of the workforce (880,000 persons) worked in the informal economy. According to trade union representatives, many migrant workers from Ukraine work in informal economy.

Singapore

Executive Summary

Singapore is a parliamentary republic where the People’s Action Party, in power since 1959, dominates the political scene. The Elections Department declared Halimah Yacob president in 2017; she was the only candidate who qualified for the ballot, which was reserved that year for an ethnic Malay. Observers considered the 2020 general election to be free and open; the People’s Action Party won 83 of 93 parliamentary seats with 61 percent of the vote. The president subsequently reappointed party leader Lee Hsien Loong as prime minister.

The Singapore Police Force, under the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, maintains internal security. The Singapore Armed Forces, under the Ministry of Defense, have trained for deployment alongside the Home Affairs Ministry for certain domestic security operations, including joint deterrence patrols with police in instances of heightened terrorism alerts. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no credible reports of abuses by members of the security forces.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: preventive detention by the government under various laws that dispense with regular judicial due process; monitoring private electronic or telephone conversations without a warrant; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including criminal libel laws; restrictions on internet freedom; substantial legal and regulatory limitations on the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; and existence of a law criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men, although not enforced.

The government prosecuted officials who committed human rights abuses and were involved in corruption. There were no reports of impunity for such abuses.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

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

Corruption: Among the 81 cases the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau investigated in 2020, 11 were public-sector related. Of the 129 individuals prosecuted in court for corruption in 2020, three were public-sector employees.

In September former senior Land Transport Authority officer Henry Foo Yung Thye was sentenced to 5.5 years’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a penalty of S$1.16 million ($845,000) after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of corruption. Foo had been charged with 36 counts of corruption for accepting bribes amounting to S$1.24 million ($906,000). In May two of the seven other individuals – both citizens and foreigners – who were also charged in the case were jailed for eight months each.

In November a district court sentenced former Public Utilities Board assistant engineer Jamaludin Mohamed to nine months’ jail time for accepting bribes, imposed a further 10 weeks for attempting to receive a bribe, and required him to pay the sum he received as a penalty or serve an additional three months in jail. From 2017 to 2018 he took bribes totaling approximately S$45,000 ($32,900) from an employee of Pipe Works PTE Ltd for facilitating and speeding up work performed by the company. In 2019 he allegedly sought a bribe of S$500,000 ($365,000) from a civil engineering firm that had submitted a bid for a Public Utilities Board tender and an unspecified amount from another company bidding for the same tender. Jamaludin was also sentenced to two weeks in jail for falsifying accounts.

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

A variety of domestic human rights groups generally operated without government interference, but subject to close monitoring and legal restraints, and these organizations investigated and published their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. NGOs were subject to registration according to the Societies Act or the Companies Act.

Some international human rights NGOs criticized the government’s policies in areas such as capital punishment, migrant workers’ rights, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and protection of the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. They charged that the government generally ignored such criticisms or published rebuttals.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Under the law rape is a crime, with maximum penalties of 20 years’ imprisonment and the possibility of caning. There is no marital immunity for rape and the definition of rape is gender neutral. The law imposes up to twice the maximum penalty for offenses affecting the human body – “rape, hurt, or wrongful confinement” – committed by partners in a close or intimate relationship (even if unmarried) than it imposes for these offenses committed outside such relationships. Domestic violence is a crime. Victims may obtain court orders restraining the respondent and barring a spouse or former spouse from the victim’s home until the court is satisfied the spouse has ceased aggressive behavior. The government enforced the laws on rape and domestic violence.

Identity protection orders are mandatory for sexual crimes or child abuse even before a police report is lodged. Victims of sexual crimes may video-record their testimony instead of having to recount it in person. Victims may testify in closed-door hearings, with physical screens to shield them from the accused person. Lawyers may not ask questions concerning a victim’s sexual history unless the court grants them permission to do so.

Several voluntary welfare organizations that assisted abused women noted gender-based violence was underreported but that the number of reported incidents was increasing, which they stated was the result of advocacy campaigns to address social stigma.

Releasing statistics on family violence for the first time, police in January disclosed that in 2020, 5,135 reports were made, of which 1,115 were referred to family service centers or family violence specialist centers. Reported abuses included causing hurt, using criminal force, assault, criminal intimidation, and wrongful confinement. The Ministry of Home Affairs saw a 10 percent increase in family violence cases every month between April and December 2020, which it attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. In October a court sentenced a man to 29 years’ imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane for raping his 13-year-old daughter and forcing his 15-year-old son to rape his biological mother. The judge termed the man’s acts “an assault on the basic values of being human.”

In January the Ministry of Social and Family Development launched the country’s first 24-hour national helpline dedicated to addressing family violence and other cases of abuse and neglect, providing support in the country’s four main languages. The helpline received 3,700 calls from January to June. Another 10 helplines to report child abuse and family violence remained in operation.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Types I (a) and IV (as classified by the World Health Organization) FGM/C were practiced among a portion of the Muslim population. There was no legislation banning FGM/C and no official data on how prevalent the practice was, but 75 percent of Muslim women indicated they had undergone FGM/C, according to an End FGC Singapore survey with a sample size of 360 women in late 2020. Some medical clinics offer the procedure, requiring parents to consent and go through counseling, according to the Singapore Muslim Women’s Association. This medicalization, however, contravenes the global normative guidance by the World Health Organization and the UN Population Fund on this harmful practice. End FGC Singapore, a community-based movement, criticized the practice as covert and stated girls often may not know they underwent the procedure until later in life.

Sexual Harassment: Harassment is a crime, and the law covers harassment within and outside the workplace, cyberbullying, and bullying of children. The law also prescribes mandatory caning and imprisonment (see below) on conviction of any charge for “outraging modesty” that causes the victim to fear death or injury. The law also subjects to a fine persons convicted of using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior. It also provides a range of self-help measures, civil remedies, and enhanced criminal sanctions to protect against harassment. Additionally, stalking is an offense punishable by a fine, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.

The law makes technology-related crimes such as voyeurism and sexual exposure criminal offenses. Doxing (publishing private information regarding a person or organization on the internet with the intent to harass) is also an offense.

In June amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act took effect, increasing protections for victims. It became easier to obtain protection orders; if a person was convicted of any previous harassment or hurt-related offense against the victim, the requirement to show that a provision under the act was contravened is deemed to be satisfied, and a protection order can be granted. Judges granting expedited protection orders must consider whether a criminal investigation is warranted and, if so, refer cases for police investigation. Breaches of orders are arrestable if harm was caused. Protection orders can be extended to persons related to the victim who might be harassed by the perpetrator. Domestic exclusion orders can be granted to protect victims residing with the harasser. The amendment also established a specialized Protection from Harassment Court to hear all criminal and civil harassment cases, such as doxing and threatening behavior, to provide faster relief. Applications for protection orders and orders relating to falsehoods are eligible for simplified court processes through an online portal and may be heard within 24 hours if actual violence or risk of violence is involved. Those who repeatedly breach protection orders are subject to up to twice the normal maximum penalty.

In September amendments to the Penal Code increased penalties for outrage of modesty from two to three years. According to police statistics, outrage of modesty incidents decreased by 17.8 percent in 2020 to 1,320 incidents.

The women’s rights advocacy group AWARE reported a 36 percent increase in technology-facilitated sexual violence in 2020 with 191 cases. Total cases of sexual violence increased from 777 in 2019 to 967 cases in 2020. In July AWARE and the National Youth Council jointly funded a new website to educate the community on the most common types of online harassment and to provide assistance.

A November 2020 national survey by AWARE found that two in five of the 1,000 respondents had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and that 13 percent had been touched physically. Only one in three victims reported such incidents.

Media gave significant coverage to sexual harassment convictions throughout the year. The government ran awareness campaigns encouraging women to report molestation, and several members of parliament urged the government to address sexual harassment in the workplace more actively.

Following several sexual harassment cases in recent years, the National University of Singapore reported in August that from January through June, one researcher was dismissed for making inappropriate sexual remarks, sending inappropriate videos to two students, and touching one of them without consent; two students were expelled for sexual misconduct; and there were eight other cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving students.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including civil liberties, employment, commercial activity, and education. Women were well represented in many professions (see section 7.d.).

Polygyny is permitted for Muslim men but is limited and strictly regulated by the Registry of Muslim Marriages, which oversees Muslim marriages and other family law matters. Polygynous marriages constituted 0.2 percent of Muslim marriages.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

Various laws such as the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act and the Penal Code criminalize violence and incitement of violence against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities or groups. The government takes a proactive stance in fighting racial and ethnic discrimination and enforces the law effectively. Racially motivated violence was almost nonexistent, and even cases of racial discrimination were rare but did occur.

In May police arrested a 30-year-old ethnic Chinese man for making offensive racial remarks and assaulting a 55-year-old ethnic Indian woman. He was charged with one count of voluntarily causing hurt and one count of uttering words with intent to wound the racial feelings of a person. Court proceedings continued as of December. Prime Minister Lee, President Halimah Yacob, and several ministers condemned the attack and declared it went “against everything” the country’s multiracial society stood for. In July a 33-year-old man was arrested and charged with voluntarily causing hurt and intentional harassment after he punched and kicked an ethnic Chinese university student in a park and used a racist slur against another. Court proceedings continued as of December. Throughout the year individuals who committed racist or racially insensitive verbal offenses were prosecuted and sentenced under the law.

The Presidential Council on Minority Rights examines all pending bills so they do not disadvantage any particular group. It also reports to the government on matters that affect any racial or religious community.

Government measures to mitigate racial and ethnic biases and promote ethnic and racial harmony included mandated representation of all major ethnic groups in elected and non-elected government positions; allocation of public holidays for each racial group; and the use of four official languages, with an emphasis in schools on teaching English as the common language. There was no systemic racial discrimination in terms of access to education.

The opposition and civil society groups criticized various policies for their negative side effects on access to some services and the freedom of choice of residence. They also charged that the government’s policy of assigning each person a race besides the national identity would prevent the society from achieving a post-racial state and that forms of racial discrimination would persist in everyday situations such as house rentals and employment.

Indigenous Peoples

Ethnic Malays constituted approximately 15 percent of the population. The constitution recognizes them as the indigenous inhabitants of the country and charges the government with supporting and promoting their political, educational, religious, economic, social, cultural, and linguistic interests. The government took steps to encourage educational achievement among Malay students and upgrade skills among Malay workers, including through subsidies for tertiary education fees for poorer Malays. Malay educational performance has improved, although ethnic Malays have not yet reached the educational or socioeconomic levels achieved by the ethnic Chinese majority, the ethnic Indian minority, or the Eurasian community. Malays remained underrepresented at senior corporate levels and, some asserted, in certain sectors of the government and the military. This reflected their historically lower educational and economic levels, but some argued it also was the result of employment discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents as long as one parent is a citizen of the country and the parents are registered as legally married. The law requires that all births be registered within 42 days. Dual citizens born abroad to citizen parents must renounce their foreign citizenship after turning 21 to retain their citizenship.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes mistreatment of children, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The government enforced the law and provided support services for child abuse victims.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development investigated 1,313 child abuse cases in 2020, a 21 percent increase from 2019 and the highest number in 10 years.

The courts sentenced several men to long prison terms for sexually abusing their children. In February a perpetrator was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane for raping his daughter. In April and July two other perpetrators were sentenced to 24 strokes of the cane each, and to 28 years’ and 29 years’ imprisonment, respectively, for sexually assaulting their daughters.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The law characterizes unmarried persons younger than age 21 as minors and persons younger than 14 as children. Individuals younger than 21 who wish to marry must obtain parental consent, and the couple must attend a mandatory marriage preparation program. Individuals younger than 18 also require a special license from the Ministry of Social and Family Development to wed or, if they are marrying under Muslim law, they require permission from the kadi (a Muslim judge appointed by the president), who should grant permission only under special conditions.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes human trafficking, including child sex trafficking, and authorities enforced the law.

The age of consent for noncommercial sex is 16. Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 16 is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, a fine, or both, and if the victim is younger than 14 it is punishable by up to 40 years in prison and a fine or caning.

The law prohibits commercial sex provided by anyone younger than age 18. Authorities may detain (but generally do not prosecute) persons younger than 18 whom they believe to be engaged in commercial sex. They prosecute those who organize or profit from commercial sex, bring women or girls to the country for commercial sex, or coerce or deceive women or girls into commercial sex.

The law protects minors from sexual exploitation and makes a distinction between child pornography and other types of pornography. It is a separate offense to use or involve a child younger than age 16 in the production of child-abuse material and a crime to be involved in the supply and consumption of child-abuse material. The law criminalizes offenses, such as sexual intercourse, pornography, or sexual grooming, committed in the context of exploitative relationships when the victim was older than age 16 but younger than age 18, even if the victim had consented.

In September the Penal Code was amended to increase the maximum imprisonment from one to two years for engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a minor between ages 14 and 16 or causing a person of that age to view sexual images. The same penalty applies if the victim was between ages 16 and 18 and the offender was in an exploitative relationship with the minor. By law those convicted under the Penal Code for any offenses committed against vulnerable victims – children younger than age 14, persons with mental or physical disabilities, and domestic workers (see section 7.e.) – are subject to up to twice the maximum penalty.

In January the High Court sustained the prosecution’s appeal in the case of a 25-year-old man who had sex with a then 13-year-old in 2017 and increased his prison sentence from 24 to 33 months.

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

Anti-Semitism

Although estimates varied widely, the government estimated there were approximately 2,500 members in the Jewish community. In February, following a tip-off from the Ministry of Defense, authorities detained Amirull bin Ali, a 20-year-old man, under the ISA for planning to attack and kill Jewish worshippers with a knife at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue. According to the government, Amirull, a full-time national serviceman with the Singapore Armed Forces when arrested, had been self-radicalized online. The government stated this was the first time an individual was motivated by the Israel-Palestine conflict to plot an attack in the country (section 1.d.).

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

There is no comprehensive legislation addressing equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in education or employment or preventing discrimination.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and coordinates implementation of the government’s 2017-21 policy plan for programs and services in the disability sector, which focuses on greater inclusiveness. The law provides grants, legal protection, and training to employers and persons with disabilities to provide better safeguards for employees, including persons with disabilities.

In December 2020 the government launched an Enabling Lives Initiative grant for public education to build positive attitudes towards persons with disabilities. In April it launched a pilot program to improve case management support for persons with disabilities who had high support needs and their families. Three SGUnited Jobs and Skills schemes were also set in motion during the year for persons with disabilities: place-and-train programs, attach-and-train programs, and skills development programs. Sign-language interpretation was provided for live televised broadcasts of key national communications, and all public buses were wheelchair accessible. These initiatives formed part of the country’s 2017-21 Third Enabling Masterplan, a national road map to building a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities.

The government maintained a comprehensive code on barrier-free accessibility and standards for facilities for persons with physical disabilities in all new buildings and mandated the progressive upgrading of older structures. The SG Enable program, established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, administered several assistance schemes for persons with disabilities, and provided a job training and placement program for them. In July a “Caregiver Action Map” was launched to provide social service agencies and other organizations that seek to develop or improve support for caregivers of persons with disabilities with guidance on how this could be achieved. The map was developed by the Coalition of Partners for Caregivers Support and will be facilitated by SG Enable and the Institute of Policy Studies.

The country’s 2020 census for the first time included data on persons with disabilities, defined as persons who had difficulties performing basic activities such as seeing, hearing, remembering, self-care, communicating, or moving around. In total, 97,600 residents ages five and older had difficulties performing at least one basic activity. Organizations supporting persons with disabilities welcomed the data to help address specific community needs but criticized the omission of specific reference to persons with disabilities.

The government reported that in 2020 companies hired more than 9,200 persons with disabilities through use of government-sponsored support programs, an increase of 2.2 percent from 2019.

The Disabled People’s Association, an advocacy group, indicated that discrimination against persons with disabilities was underreported because affected individuals either did not file a complaint or were unaware of their rights and the available resources. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices received an average of two complaints per year of discrimination against persons with disabilities between 2014 and the first half of 2021. The Disabled People’s Association also reported private discrimination against persons with disabilities who were seeking employment.

The country provided a high level of educational support for children and minors with disabilities from preschool to university. Children with moderate to severe educational needs were required to participate in compulsory education until they reached age 15. Elementary and secondary levels both included mainstreaming programs and separate education schools. All primary schools and most secondary schools had specialist support for students with mild disabilities. Mainstreaming programs catered primarily to children with physical disabilities. Separate education schools, which focused on children who required more intensive and specialized assistance, were operated by social service organizations and involved a means-tested payment of fees. The Special Educational Needs Support Offices, established in all publicly funded tertiary education institutions including universities, provided support for students. Informal provisions permitted university matriculation for those with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities through assistive technology devices and services such as note taking.

The law allows voters who are unable to vote in the manner described by law to receive assistance from election officials, who are under oath to maintain voting secrecy. For the 2020 general election, the government improved support for persons with disabilities. Voters with visual disabilities could cast their vote independently with stencils, wheelchair users could use a portable booth placed on their laps, and those with physical disabilities could instruct election officials to mark the ballot paper on their behalf. Polling stations were barrier-free with special drop-off points.

In February a 34-year-old woman was sentenced to 8.5 years’ imprisonment for physically abusing a woman with a mild intellectual disability. The perpetrator pleaded guilty to two counts of voluntarily causing hurt and one count of twisting the victim’s toe with a pair of pliers until it fractured. She had splashed hot water on the victim and used a hammer to strike her mouth, causing her to lose two teeth. She and her family had repeatedly abused the victim, now age 30, since 2016.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although no legislation bars employers from discriminating against job applicants based on their HIV status, government guidelines for employers state that employees who are dismissed based on their medical status, including HIV-positive status, have grounds for wrongful dismissal claims against their employers. Many persons living with HIV were, however, afraid to disclose their status during the job application process and, during employment, feared dismissal if they were discovered to have made a false declaration.

The government discouraged discrimination, supported initiatives that countered misperceptions regarding HIV or AIDS, and publicly praised employers that welcomed workers with HIV or AIDS. HIV-positive foreigners, however, were barred from obtaining work permits, student visas, or immigrant visas.

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

Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalizes consensual male-male sexual conduct, subject to up to two years’ imprisonment. Authorities have not enforced this law since 2010 and have stated since then that they do not intend to do so. There were no indications the provision was used intentionally to intimidate or coerce. Its existence, however, intimidated some gay men, particularly those who were victims of sexual assault but would not report it to police for fear of being charged with violating Section 377A.

In January the Court of Appeal heard the appeal of three plaintiffs against a March 2020 High Court decision to dismiss a constitutional challenge to section 377A. In the hearing Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon declared that the 2007 political compromise to keep section 377A but not enforce it should be factored in when determining whether the law should be repealed. The court reserved judgment and a decision was pending as of October.

No laws explicitly protect the LGBTQI+ community from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, since single persons are prevented from purchasing government housing reserved for married couples until age 35 and same-sex marriage is not permitted, LGBTQI+ couples were unable to receive certain government services and benefits available to other citizens before reaching 35.

Same-sex partners were covered under the Protection from Harassment Act and enjoyed access to legal protections such as expedited protection orders in cases of harassment or violence, including by close and intimate partners.

LGBTQI+ persons experienced discrimination in the military, which classifies individuals by sexual orientation and evaluates them on a scale of “effeminacy” to determine fitness for combat training and other assignments. Openly gay servicemen faced threats and harassment from their peers and were often ostracized.

Individuals were prohibited from updating their gender on official documents unless they underwent sex reassignment surgery.

Critics remained concerned that media censorship resulted in underrepresentation of the LGBTQI+ community. In September, Heckin’ Unicorn, a local firm that sells pride products, maintains a blog, and supports LGBTQI+ initiatives, stated that in regulating media content with a classification system, the IMDA “through its legally enforceable guidelines” played “a huge part in erasing LGBTQ+ voices in Singapore.” The IMDA censored films and television shows with LGBTQI+ themes. According to the IMDA website, authorities allow the broadcast of LGBTQI+ themes on television “as long as the presentation does not justify, promote, or glamorize such a lifestyle” (see section 2.a.).

In July police began to investigate a 23-year-old man who threatened violence against the LGBTQI+ community in a viral Instagram video and later issued him a 12-month conditional warning for criminal intimidation and intentionally causing alarm. Also in July police issued a two-year conditional warning to a man for harassing the staff of a restaurant in January and throwing at the staff a pride flag the shop had displayed.

The rights of transgender persons and the use of hormone therapy prompted a wider public debate after a transgender student accused the Ministry of Education in a January Reddit post of preventing her from beginning hormone replacement therapy and threatening to expel her from her all-boys school if she did not wear the boys’ uniform. Rejecting the accusations, the ministry stated it was in no position to interfere with a medical treatment and that the decisions lay with clinics and the parents in the case of minors. Several LGBTQI+ advocacy groups expressed solidarity with the student and declared that transgender persons faced violence and discrimination at home and in schools. This resulted in an unauthorized protest outside the ministry (see section 2.b.). In a parliamentary debate, then education minister Lawrence Wong cautioned that “issues of gender identity have become bitterly contested sources of division in the culture wars in some western countries and societies. We should not import these culture wars into Singapore or allow issues of gender identity to divide our society.”

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 trade unions, with limits on union independence. Workers have the legal right to strike and to bargain collectively. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Parliament may impose restrictions on the right of association based on security, public order, or morality grounds. The Ministry of Manpower also has broad powers to refuse to register a union or to cancel a union’s registration. Refusal may occur when a trade union already exists in an industry or occupation. Laws and regulations restrict freedom of association by requiring any group of 10 or more persons to register with the government. The law also restricts the right of uniformed personnel and government employees to organize, although the president may grant exemptions. Foreigners and those with criminal convictions generally may not hold union office or become employees of unions, but the ministry may grant exemptions.

The law requires the majority of affected unionized workers to vote in favor of a strike by secret ballot, as opposed to the majority of those participating in the vote. Workers in “essential services” are required to give 14 days’ notice to an employer before striking, and there is a prohibition on strikes by workers in the water, gas, and electricity sectors.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with those under other laws involving denial of civil rights, such as discrimination.

Unions were unable to carry out their work without interference from the government. The law limits how unions may spend their funds, prohibiting, for example, payments to political parties, or the use of funds for political purposes.

Almost all unions were affiliated with the National Trade Union Congress (hereafter trade union congress), an umbrella organization with a close relationship with the government and the ruling PAP. Trade union congress policy prohibited union members who supported opposition parties from holding office in its affiliated unions.

Collective bargaining was a routine part of labor-management relations in the private sector. Because nearly all unions were affiliates, the trade union congress had almost exclusive authority to exercise collective bargaining power on behalf of employees. Union members may not reject collective agreements negotiated between their union representatives and an employer. Although transfers and layoffs are excluded from the scope of collective bargaining, employers consulted with unions on both matters.

Foreign workers constituted approximately 15 percent of union members. Labor NGOs also filled an important function by providing support for migrant workers, including legal aid and medical care, especially for those in the informal sector and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not define “forced labor,” but the government has accepted as law the definition found in International Labor Organization Convention 29. Under the law, destitute persons could be compelled to work if they resided in one of the 10 welfare homes managed by voluntary organizations as government agents, and if a medical and social assessment found them fit for work; no resident was forced to work under the relevant law during the year.

The government enforced the law, although it was more likely to prosecute employers for less serious charges than domestic servitude or bonded labor. Penalties included prison terms and fines, which were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The government investigated fewer forced labor allegations in 2020 and received fewer reports due to COVID-19 but imposed fines on some employment agencies for illegal practices. In March the Ministry of Manpower charged three companies of the MES Group and its five directors with 553 counts of employment offenses, such as illegal employment of foreigners, excessive overtime hours, and making false salary declarations. The case continued as of October. In September the ministry arrested 18 persons for suspected illegal labor importation through a syndicate that obtained work passes through false declarations. In view of the number of low-paid foreign workers in the country, however, outside observers speculated that many cases of abuse continued to go undetected.

Practices indicative of forced labor, including withholding of wages and passports, occurred. Migrant workers in low-wage and unskilled sectors such as domestic work, hospitality, and construction were vulnerable to labor exploitation.

The law caps the fees payable by foreign domestic workers to employment agencies in the country at one month’s salary per year of the employment contract, not to exceed two months’ salary irrespective of the duration of the contract. Observers noted that unscrupulous agencies in migrant workers’ countries of origin could charge exorbitant fees.

Some observers also noted that the country’s employer sponsorship system made legal migrant workers vulnerable to forced labor because there were limited circumstances in which they may change employers without the consent of their employer.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits employment of children younger than age 13. A child age 13 or older may engage in light, nonindustrial work, subject to medical clearance. Exceptions exist for family enterprises; a child 13 or older may work in such an industrial undertaking if it employs members of his or her family. Ministry of Manpower regulations prohibit night employment of children and restrict industrial work for children between ages 15 and 16. Children younger than 15 may not work on commercial vessels, with moving machinery, on live electrical apparatus lacking effective insulation, or in any underground job, and normally they are prohibited from employment in the industrial sector.

The Ministry of Manpower effectively enforced these laws and regulations. Employers who violated laws related to child labor were subject to fines, imprisonment, or both. Penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Government officials asserted that child labor was not a significant problem.

The incidence of children in formal employment was low, although some children worked in family enterprises.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution provides for equality in employment. No specific antidiscrimination legislation exists, although some statutes prohibit certain forms of discrimination. For example, employers may not dismiss female employees during pregnancy or maternity leave, and employers may not dismiss employees solely due to age, gender, race, religion, nationality, marital status, family responsibilities, disability, or medical condition.

In addition, the Ministry of Manpower’s Fair Consideration Framework requires all companies to comply with the Guidelines of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (guidelines), which cover procedures from recruitment to dismissal so that all employment practices are open, merit based, and nondiscriminatory. These guidelines call for eliminating language referring to age, race, gender, religion, nationality, marital status, family responsibilities, and disability in employment advertisements and prohibit questions on family status during a job interview. Employers are required to provide explanations for putting requirements such as specific language skills in the job advertisement. Penalties for violation of government guidelines are at the discretion of the Ministry of Manpower. No government guidelines explicitly recommend against discrimination with respect to political opinion, sexual orientation, or HIV or other communicable disease status. Companies found guilty of discrimination may not hire foreigners for at least 12 months and also may not renew work passes of existing foreign workers.

The government effectively enforced the guidelines. Penalties were not commensurate with those under other laws related to civil rights but had a deterrent effect.

The government supported flexible work policies, although no laws mandate it, and subsidized childcare.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices received and investigated complaints of employment discrimination. As of October the Ministry of Manpower had placed 400 companies on a watch list for potential discriminatory hiring practices. In the past three years, the alliance investigated an approximate annual average of 400 cases of possible workplace discrimination with 60 percent involving discrimination based on nationality, according to the Ministry of Manpower. In August the alliance announced it was investigating video-game developer Ubisoft for claims of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

The Council for Board Diversity reported that as of June, women’s representation on boards of the largest 100 companies listed on the Singapore Exchange increased to 18 percent, slightly more than the previous year. Representation of women also increased on statutory boards but declined on registered NGOs and charities. The country’s adjusted gender pay gap was 6 percent as of the most recent data in 2018, but occupational segregation continued.

Some ethnic Malays and Indians reported that discrimination limited their employment and promotion opportunities. Malays were prohibited from holding certain sensitive national security positions in the military.

There were also some reports of discrimination based on disability, pregnancy, and sexual orientation or gender identity. Pregnancy is a breach of the standard work permit conditions for foreign workers, and the government cancels work permits and requires repatriation of foreign domestic workers who become pregnant.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law does not specify a national minimum wage for all sectors. The government, in consultation with unions and employers, has a progressive wage model (PWM), which sets wage floors and skills requirements for specific positions in cleaning, landscaping, elevator maintenance, and security services sectors. Employers must follow these pay scales as a requirement to obtain a business license. The government did not have an official poverty line, but an October 2020 report by the National University of Singapore found that 12.5 percent of all households (PWM and non-PWM) had incomes below the absolute poverty line.

The law sets the standard legal workweek at 44 hours and requires employers to apply for an overtime exception from the Ministry of Manpower for employees to work more than 72 hours of overtime per month. Workplace protection, including paid sick leave, mandatory annual leave, and protection against wrongful dismissal, is available to all private-sector employees except domestic workers and seafarers who are covered under separate laws. Foreign domestic workers must receive one rest day per week. The law also mandates benefits for part-time employees, defined as those working 35 hours per week or less. The government effectively enforced wage floor and overtime laws; penalties were lower than those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes a framework for workplaces to comply with occupational safety and health standards, and regular inspections enforced the standards. Officials encouraged workers to report situations that endanger health or safety to the Ministry of Manpower. The law provides employees with the right to remove themselves if they are threatened by a danger not agreed to in the contract. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions.

The Ministry of Manpower effectively enforced laws and regulations establishing working conditions and comprehensive occupational safety and health regulations. The government took action against employers for workplace violations, including for nonpayment of salaries, serious safety violations, and abuse or mistreatment of foreign domestic workers. Penalties for violating these regulations – fines and stop-work orders – were commensurate with those for similar crimes. The number of inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance.

The Ministry of Manpower continued to promote training to reduce the frequency of job-related accidents in high-risk sectors such as construction, and authorities provided tax incentives to firms that introduced hazard control measures. Workplace fatalities in 2020 were the lowest since 2004, when statistics first became publicly available, with 30 recorded deaths (0.9 per 100,000 workers). Nonfatal major injuries decreased by 26 percent to 463 cases (14 per 100,000 workers). The total number of workplace injuries fell by 18 percent from 13,779 injuries in 2019 to 11,350 in 2020, largely due to work suspensions during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the ministry noted an escalating injury rate in late 2020 and a spate of accidents during the year, with 23 workplace fatalities in the first six months. Between December 2020 and mid-March, the ministry conducted more than 1,000 work site inspections, issued 13 stop-work orders, and fined 264 companies a total of S$303,000 ($221,000). In 2020 the government issued 28 stop-work orders for workplace safety violations with an average duration of eight weeks and fined 558 companies a total of S$877,000 ($641,000), a significant decrease compared with 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The government also enforced requirements for employers to provide one rest day per week or compensation for foreign domestic workers.

In March the minister of manpower formed an inquiry committee to investigate the causes and circumstances that led to a fatal explosion and fire at Stars Engrg Pte Ltd on February 24 that killed three workers and injured another seven.

In August a court sentenced Muhammed Noredzuan Bin Othman to four months’ imprisonment under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to perform required procedures, negligence that resulted in the death of welder Chin Chee Cheng. The government also issued fines and penalties and closed businesses for noncompliance by employees with temporary COVID-19 safe-distancing measures.

The law incentivizes companies to prevent workplace injuries by permitting employers with better safety records to pay lower insurance premiums, expedites the benefit claim process for workers, and increases the size of benefit payouts to injured workers.

The Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management, which includes the Ministry of Manpower, unions, and the employers’ federation, offered advice and mediation services to help employees and employers to manage employment disputes. The alliance provided free advisory services to both foreign and local workers who experienced problems with employers; it provided mediation services for a fee. The ministry operated a hotline for foreign domestic workers.

Most foreign workers were concentrated in low-wage, low-skill jobs in construction, shipbuilding, services, and domestic work and were often required to work long hours. After widespread criticism of living conditions in purpose-built dormitories housing approximately 323,000 migrant workers following a 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in the dormitories, the government announced improved standards for new dormitories in September. Maximum occupancy per room for new structures is 12 persons, each room must have one en-suite toilet per six residents, and minimum living space is increased to 45 square feet per resident. The new dormitories must also include Wi-Fi and fans in the dormitory rooms and one exhaust fan per toilet. Following the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in the dormitories, migrant workers’ freedom of movement continued to be restricted under temporary COVID-19 legislation and remained significantly more limited and controlled than for the rest of the population. These restrictions were gradually eased in September under a pilot project that allowed up to 500 migrant workers per week to visit pre-identified community locations for six hours if they were fully vaccinated and their dormitories met specific requirements. All workers were also allowed to visit recreation centers up to twice a week, and all vaccinated workers could join excursions to local attractions.

In December 2020 a construction worker sued his employer, V Spec Engineering & Supplies, and dormitory operator Joylicious Management, for being forcibly locked up with approximately 20 other migrant workers for 43 hours in April 2020 after a roommate tested positive for COVID-19. The Ministry of Manpower had previously issued a stern warning to Joylicious Management and put a hiring freeze on V Spec in April 2020.

NGOs advocated for structural changes to the work permit employment system in order to reduce the financial vulnerability and potential for exploitation of such workers.

The majority of foreign domestic workers, mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia, worked under clearly outlined contracts. Certain offenses, such as causing hurt or insulting the modesty of a foreign domestic worker, have significantly higher penalties than for other foreign workers. There were reports of employers abusing or mistreating such workers (see section 7.b.).

Throughout the year the government investigated and sentenced several employers for abuse of their foreign domestic workers. In June a woman was sentenced to 30 years in prison for starving, torturing, and ultimately killing her domestic worker from Burma. The conviction represented the longest jail term handed out for the abuse of a domestic worker in the country’s history.

In response, the Ministry of Manpower in July announced measures to strengthen support for foreign domestic workers and better detect signs of abuse, including medical examinations by doctors without the employer present. Employment agencies were required to conduct post-placement checks of foreign domestic workers. In April the Ministry of Manpower began random house visits to check on domestic workers’ working and living conditions and advise them on avenues to seek assistance. Working with the Centre for Domestic Employees, the ministry expanded its interviews to cover all first-time domestic workers by year’s end. As of December employment agencies of foreign domestic workers were required to conduct at least one check on newly hired workers and their employers either via phone or in person within the first three months to ensure the well-being of the worker.

Venezuela

Executive Summary

While Venezuela is legally a multiparty, constitutional republic, the authoritarian regime led by Nicolas Maduro usurped control over all branches of government: executive, judicial, legislative, the offices of the prosecutor general and ombudsman, and the electoral institutions. In December 2020 the Maduro regime organized parliamentary elections that were rigged in favor of the regime, and approximately 60 countries and international bodies publicly declared the elections were neither free nor fair.

Civilian authorities’ control over the security forces continued to decline and was deeply politicized. Increasingly unpopular with citizens, the Maduro regime depended on civilian and military intelligence services, and to a lesser extent, progovernment armed gangs known as colectivos, to neutralize political opposition and subdue the population. The Bolivarian National Guard – a branch of the military that reports to the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace – is responsible for maintaining public order, guarding the exterior of key government installations and prisons, conducting counternarcotics operations, monitoring borders, and providing law enforcement in remote areas. The Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace controls the National Scientific Criminal, and Investigative Corps, which conducts most criminal investigations, and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, which collects intelligence within the country and abroad and is responsible for investigating cases of corruption, subversion, and arms trafficking. Police include municipal, state, and national police forces. Mayors and governors oversee municipal and state police forces. The Bolivarian National Police report to the Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace. The national police largely focused on policing Caracas’ Libertador municipality; patrolling Caracas-area highways, railways, and metro system; and protecting diplomatic missions. The national armed forces patrolled other areas of the country. There were credible reports that members of security forces committed numerous abuses, and a 2020 United Nations report concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe that Maduro regime authorities and security forces committed crimes against humanity.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by regime forces; forced disappearances by the regime; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention by security forces; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with independence of the judiciary; unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; significant barriers to accessing reproductive health; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting indigenous persons and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the worst forms of child labor.

The Maduro regime took no effective action to identify, investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the Maduro regime did not implement the law effectively. Several officials explicitly acknowledged corruption as a major problem. The regime frequently investigated, prosecuted, and detained political opponents on corruption charges to harass, intimidate, or imprison them. According to Transparency International, among the main reasons for the country’s widespread corruption were impunity, systematic institutional weakening, and a lack of transparency in the management of government resources.

Corruption: According to Maduro regime attorney general Tarek William Saab, during 2020, 802 persons were convicted for corruption, with a total of 2,274 convicted since August 2017, although observers claimed regime statistics were unreliable. From January to June, 269 public prosecutors were charged and 24 convicted of corruption. Between February and July, 51 senior managers at companies and state-owned institutions were prosecuted on corruption grounds.

Corruption was a major problem in all security and armed forces, whose members were generally poorly paid and minimally trained. No data were publicly available on the number of cases involving police and military officials during the year, although the Public Ministry publicized several individual cases against police officers for soliciting bribes and other corrupt activities.

The NGO Transparencia Venezuela reported an increase of corruption in the country amid the pandemic crisis, highlighting the opacity of the vaccination plan and the purchase of medical equipment from the governments of Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran. NGOs also documented an increase in bribes requested by military and police during the quarantine periods in exchange for allowing citizens to move freely throughout the country.

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

A variety of independent domestic and international human rights groups generally operated with restrictions from the Maduro regime. Major domestic human rights NGOs conducted investigations and published their findings on human rights cases. Regime officials were rarely cooperative or responsive to their requests. Domestic NGOs reported fear the regime would use the 2017 law against hate to justify widespread repression of their activities, jailing of the participants and organizers, and threats against family members. Some domestic NGOs reported threats against and harassment of their leaders, staff, and organizations, in addition to raids and detentions, but they were able to publish dozens of reports during the year. Some human rights activists reported regime authorities barred them from traveling abroad or that they feared not being able to return to the country if they traveled. NGOs played a significant role in informing citizens and the international community regarding alleged abuses and key human rights cases.

On March 30, the regime promulgated a decree that obligates NGOs to register in the unified registry of the Office Against Organized Crime and Terrorism Financing in the Ministry of Interior and Justice. Human rights watchdogs assessed the decree as a mechanism that would allow the Maduro regime to force civil society organizations to provide information with the intent of supervising and controlling their activities. Among the registration requirements were a list of international donors from whom they receive contributions, a list of the overseas headquarters of the organizations, and a list of all beneficiaries. Critics said the legal instrument criminalizes international cooperation and prequalifies the NGOs as terrorists. These new requirements and conditions were lightened in an amendment introduced on May 3, but it included four other mandatory registries for NGOs, raising concerns regarding the right to freedom of association.

NGOs noted the Maduro regime created a dangerous atmosphere for them to operate. The regime continued to implement increasingly stringent legal means aimed at controlling and supervising the actions of human rights and humanitarian organizations, including additional oversight of the banking operations of NGOs, resulting in raids, arrest warrants, and attempted prosecutions against members of organizations such as Azul Positivo, Accion Solidaria, Prepara Familia, Convite, Alimenta la Solidaridad, and Caracas Mi Convive.

Human rights organizations claimed they were subject to frequent internet hacking attacks and attempts to violate their email privacy. The regime targeted multiple humanitarian NGOs by issuing politically motivated arrest warrants against their staff and directors, raiding their facilities, and stealing their computers and other electronic devices.

The Maduro regime attempted to discredit and threaten NGOs with criminal investigations for allegedly illegally accepting foreign funds. Various regime officials accused human rights organizations on national television and other media of breaking the law by receiving funding from international donors.

The NGO Center for Defenders and Justice published a report that recorded 374 attacks and security incidents against human rights defenders and civil society organizations in the first half of the year, a 243 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020. In April alone there were at least 115 incidents. The NGO remarked that one of the mechanisms used by the Maduro regime to subdue human rights defenders was the Unified Registry of Obligated Subjects of the Office of Organized Crime and Terrorism Financing. The regime used the registry to seek information on external sources of support to civil society under the premise of terrorism or crimes against the state.

In February a draft law on international cooperation that threatened to restrict funding for NGOs was once more placed on the agenda of the illegal National Assembly. Although the law did not pass, the revival of the draft created a climate of fear among human rights NGOs and a hesitancy to seek international assistance.

In addition to the restrictions placed on fund raising, domestic NGOs also faced regulatory limitations on their ability to perform their missions. The law includes provisions eliminating the right of human rights NGOs to represent victims of human rights abuses in legal proceedings. The law provides that only the public defender and private individuals may file complaints in court or represent victims of alleged human rights abuses committed by public employees or members of security forces.

The OHCHR recorded 97 incidents related to human rights defenders, including journalists, union leaders, human rights activists, and civil society organizations. They included two killings, six acts of violence, 62 instances of criminalization, 17 accounts of threats and intimidation, and 10 cases of stigmatization. At least 16 members of the opposition were arbitrarily arrested; most were released shortly their detention.

On July 1, the OHCHR gave an update on the human rights situation, indicating it continued to receive credible reports of torture, new cases of forced disappearance, and other forms of Maduro regime-authorized violence and intimidation. The report also focused on the deteriorated condition of the country’s prisons and detention centers and discussed the regime’s pattern of voter intimidation and coercion.

On January 14, five human rights defenders and humanitarian workers of Azul Positivo – Johan Leon Reyes, Yordy Bermudez, Layners Gutierrez Diaz, Alejandro Gomez Di Maggio, and Luis Ferrebuz – were indicted on charges of “fraudulent handling of smart cards, money laundering, and criminal association.” On February 11, they were released on probation and subsequently required to report to court every 30 days.

On July 2, Javier Tarazona, director of the human rights NGO Fundaredes, was detained by SEBIN officers. Tarazona had gone to the Public Ministry to report the persecution he was suffering in Falcon State by police officers and unidentified individuals. He was arbitrarily detained along with Omar de Dios Garcia and Jose Rafael Tarazona, also human rights defenders. Regime attorney general Tarek William Saab accused Fundaredes members of issuing public accusations that incited hatred and compromised the peace of the country after Tarazona demanded an investigation into the alleged links of the country with Colombian guerrilla groups. As of November Tarazona remained in custody without trial and in need of medical treatment, but the other two had been released.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The Maduro regime was generally hostile toward international human rights bodies and continued to refuse to permit a visit by the IACHR, which last visited the country in 2002. In 2019 the regime and the OHCHR signed a memorandum of understanding that provided for the presence of two UN human rights officers, and in October the UN Human Rights Council voted to extend the mandate of the OHCHR until 2022. In 2019 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to establish a one-year FFM to investigate “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment committed in Venezuela since 2014.” The FFM was extended again in 2020 until 2022.

In September the FFM issued its second report demonstrating the Maduro regime had systematically deployed the judicial system since 2014 as a tool to attack and repress members of independent civil society and political opponents.

In November Chief International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan visited the country, culminating in the announcement of the opening of an investigation into crimes committed under the Maduro regime.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Throughout the year the Maduro regime gave its 2016-19 human rights plan minimal attention, with no announcements to renew or update the plan.

The TSJ continued to hold the National Assembly in “contempt” status, which diminished the purview and operational effectiveness of the assembly’s subcommission on human rights. The regime’s human rights ombudsman failed to advocate for citizen victims of human rights neutrally and objectively, especially in the most emblematic of cases. In September regime attorney general Tarek William Saab announced the formation of a new Office to Attend to Victims of Human Rights Abuses; the office showed limited public progress by year’s end.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, making it punishable by a prison term of eight to 14 years. A man may legally avoid punishment by marrying (before he is sentenced) the person he raped. The law allows authorities to consider alternative forms of punishment, including work release, for those convicted of various crimes, including rape, if they have completed three-quarters of their sentence. The law was not consistently enforced.

The law criminalizes physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the home or community and at work, with increased penalties for intimate partner violence. The law punishes perpetrators of domestic violence with penalties for conviction ranging from six to 27 months in prison. The law requires police to report domestic violence to judicial authorities and obligates hospital personnel to notify authorities when admitting patients who are victims of domestic abuse. Police generally were reluctant to intervene to prevent domestic violence and were not properly trained to handle such cases. The law also establishes women’s bureaus at local police headquarters and tribunals specializing in gender-based violence, and two-thirds of states had specialized courts. The Public Ministry’s ’s Defense Department employed a team of lawyers, psychiatrists, and other experts who dealt exclusively with cases of femicide, gender-related violence, and other crimes against women. The law was often not followed or enforced.

The Maduro regime did not publish statistics on gender-based violence. The OHCHR reported a lack of due diligence in investigations of gender-based violence cases. According to NGOs, government efforts to protect victims of gender-based violence were ineffective or nonexistent. Enforcement of laws and access to justice were limited, as victims of gender-based violence reported a lack of progress and inability to follow up on cases after filing reports with authorities.

Many advocates observed there was a lack of public awareness among women regarding resources and support available to prevent and combat domestic violence. There were four shelters for victims of gender-based violence, one each in Aragua, Cojedes, Sucre, and Trujillo States, but only two remained open; the remaining two struggled to operate effectively due to a lack of government support. NGOs provided most domestic abuse support services.

NGOs and media reported an increase of domestic abuse and gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NGO Center for Justice and Peace reported 207 femicides between January and September 30.

On February 21 and 22, Eduarlys Falcon and Eliannys Martinez Ronoz were killed in Turen, Portuguesa State. The two young women were missing for more 24 hours and were later found with signs indicating they were tortured and sexually assaulted before being strangled to death. On February 28, the regime attorney general declared the alleged murderer had been arrested. In his annual report before the illegitimate National Assembly, the attorney general stated since 2017 there had been 610 femicide cases, of which 50 percent had been resolved.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by fines and a prison sentence of one to three years. Although allegedly common in the workplace, sexual harassment cases were rarely reported. Several cases of harassment at the hands of security forces – both police and military – were reported during the year.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of the Maduro regime. The regime restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraception for the clinical management of rape.

The regime’s economic mismanagement and neglect of the country’s health-care infrastructure severely restricted access to resources for menstrual health and hygiene as well as to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth. Media reported access to methods of contraception and emergency contraception were limited. When available, birth control pills cost almost 10 times the monthly minimum wage, and an intrauterine device cost 25 times the monthly minimum wage. A pack of condoms cost three times the monthly minimum wage. According to NGOs, the COVID-19 pandemic further reduced access to contraception and the ability to see doctors and pharmacies. A 2020 study by the Venezuelan Association for Alternative Sex Education (AVESA) found that fewer than 50 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods.

The IACHR found that many young women who were pregnant or had young children migrated to other countries to gain access to prenatal care and health and reproductive services. The IACHR also reported that women seeking neonatal or obstetric care had to provide their own surgical and personal protective equipment. Pregnant women frequently did not receive prenatal care or take prenatal supplements containing iron or folic acid needed for correct child formation, which affected child development and caused possible malnutrition and diseases. The precarious economic situation limited access to food to the entire population, which had a direct negative impact on pregnant women and their unborn children.

Hospitals lacked qualified health-care professionals, medicine, and necessities such as water, electricity, and cleaning supplies. The country’s health-care crisis, including the inability to attend to maternal health, was compounded by the pandemic as hospitals prioritized COVID-19 cases over other health services. AVESA also studied the impact the COVID-19 pandemic on the sexual and reproductive health of women in reproductive age in the Capital District and Miranda State. A report released during the year showed that between October and December 2020, there was a reduction of 18 percent in health assistance centers with family planning services, with no increase of the numbers of centers for assistance regarding sexually transmitted infections. Media reported sexually transmitted infections, including those passed onto children, were on the rise and citizens had limited access to resources to address them.

Women, children, and teenagers lacked the conditions and information to safely make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and also lacked access to services and contraceptive methods in a timely manner and in terms of quality. The pandemic’s mobility restrictions and closure of services aggravated the situation.

The Maduro regime claimed in its report to the UN ’s Women’s Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination towards Women that maternal mortality had dropped, which experts doubted. According to the Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Venezuela, the maternal death rate in 2019 was 112 per 100,000 live births, with postpartum hemorrhages, sepsis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension cited as the leading causes of maternal mortality. Doctors stated these were “predictable and treatable” conditions but were often fatal due to hospitals’ lack of adequate beds, medical resources, and medicine. Statistics were unreliable due to the compounded crisis in the country, and experts believed the numbers could potentially be higher. An increasing number of births took place at home due to faltering medical services.

According to the UN Population Fund, the adolescent birth rate in 2019 was 95 births for every 1,000 adolescents ages 15 to 19.

In October 2020 Vanesa Rosales, a human rights defender from the city of Merida, was arrested on accusations of providing information and medications for the voluntary termination of pregnancy for a 13-year-old adolescent who became pregnant as a result of rape. Rosales was charged with conspiracy, conspiracy to commit a crime, and abortion induced by a third party, exposing her to severe penalties. She was detained without due process and was released in May.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men under the constitution. Women and men are legally equal in marriage, and the law provides for gender equality in exercising the right to work. The law specifies that employers must not discriminate against women regarding pay or working conditions. According to the Ministry of Labor and the Confederation of Workers, regulations protecting women’s labor rights were enforced in the formal sector, although according to the World Economic Forum, women earned 36 percent less on average than men doing comparable jobs. Gender disparities persisted despite guarantees provided by law.

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race. The law prohibits all forms of racial discrimination and provides for a maximum of three years’ imprisonment for acts of racial discrimination. As mandated by law, signage existed outside commercial and recreational establishments announcing the prohibition against acts of racial discrimination. Beyond signage, the Maduro regime did little to enforce laws against discrimination or prosecute cases of discrimination.

Indigenous Peoples

The law prohibits discrimination based on ethnic origin. The constitution provides for three seats in the National Assembly for deputies of indigenous origin to “protect indigenous communities and their progressive incorporation into the life of the nation,” but some indigenous communities continued without representation due to the TSJ’s annulment of the 2015 election of Amazonas State’s indigenous representatives.

NGOs and the press reported local political authorities seldom took account of indigenous interests when making decisions affecting indigenous lands, cultures, traditions, or allocation of natural resources. Indigenous groups continued to call for faster implementation of the demarcation process.

Indigenous groups and NGOs expressed concern regarding mining in the expanding Arco Minero, an area between the states of Bolivar, Amazonas, and Delta Amacuro. Indigenous communities reported the Maduro regime developed and expanded mining zones without consulting those native to the region, resulting in a rise in environmental degradation, water contamination, and malaria. Illegal armed groups, including the National Liberation Army and FARC-D, had a considerable presence in the area, increasing the level of violence and insecurity in the communities. There was also an unprecedented influx of disease; drugs; human trafficking, including commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; and other illegal activities in the mining areas, putting indigenous communities at risk.

Indigenous groups regularly reported violent conflicts with miners and cattle ranchers regarding land rights. There were reports of harassment, attacks, and forced evictions against indigenous persons living in areas included as part of Maduro regime mining concessions. Indigenous persons reported a lack of consultation by the regime on the social and environmental impact of mining activity in indigenous and protected areas.

Border disputes with Colombia affected indigenous groups living in border regions. There were many reported cases in which movements of indigenous groups were restricted, including from border closures. After more than 18 months, these regions continued to suffer severe restrictions that impeded tourism and forced indigenous communities of Santa Elena de Uairen, Bolivar State, to practice mining. The tourism chamber affirmed that approximately 28 indigenous communities stopped working in tourism due to the closure of the country’s borders and gasoline shortages, which made them depend on illegal mining for 60 percent of their income.

NGOs stated that quarantine measures imposed by the Maduro regime unduly affected indigenous communities, preventing transit to and through territories and making it impossible for indigenous persons to obtain sufficient food, water, and access to medical care, which was already difficult due to gasoline shortages in the area. PROVEA alerted that the migration of indigenous communities from Amazonas State to Colombia had increased in the past five years due to the worsening of the political-economic crisis and the increase in mining activity and invasion of indigenous territories. Colombian authorities estimated 3,900 Venezuelans had registered in 25 indigenous and nonindigenous settlements in Puerto Carreno as migrants or displaced persons.

In January there was concern for the 12 indigenous members of the Pemon community detained in the Rodeo II prison, due to the poor detention conditions. All were detained on allegations of having assaulted the 513 Jungle Infantry Battalion Mariano Montilla in 2019. Foro Penal called on authorities to grant them priority medical assistance, since they had tuberculosis due to poor sanitary conditions and lack of adequate food and water. Their lawyers affirmed in their case that due process was not guaranteed and that they had been subject to cruel and inhuman treatment. Advocacy groups decried that they should have been tried in an indigenous jurisdiction to respect indigenous rights. The National Observatory for Human Rights demanded the detainees be transferred to another facility closer to their community where they could have access to family and community. They also requested as a minimum condition to receive medical assistance according to their indigenous practices. They were released on February 13.

On February 21, an assembly of indigenous leaders in Bolivar State denounced the continued presence of illegal armed groups engaged in illegal mining activities on indigenous lands and declared a state of emergency in the community of San Luis de Morichal. The National Assembly denounced environmental degradation, instability, human rights violations, and the closure of schools. Leaders condemned the inaction and complicity of the Maduro regime and called on the regime to enforce protections for indigenous communities as enshrined in the constitution.

On June 21, Fundaredes in Apure State reported FARC dissidents killed six indigenous individuals in the Macanilla sector, located in the Pedro Camejo municipality. According to the NGO, the deaths occurred on June 15 after the indigenous individuals allegedly looted a food truck that was moving from San Juan de Payara to a church in Puerto Paez, in the Codazzi parish. Fundaredes also said the indigenous communities were unprotected by the state and suffered from malnutrition, sexual abuse, human trafficking, and displacement by irregular armed groups.

Also in June the OHCHR expressed concern regarding the death of indigenous Pemon leader Salvador Franco while he was in detention and called on authorities to conduct an immediate and independent investigation and to protect the rights of the detainees, especially their right to receive medical assistance. As of November neither the Attorney General’s Office nor the human rights ombudsman had made a statement regarding the case.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory. The children’s rights NGO Cecodap reported that families struggled to register births due to quarantine measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Child Abuse: According to UNICEF and NGOs working with children and women, child abuse, including incest, occurred but was rarely reported. The Maduro regime made efforts to detain and prosecute some perpetrators of child abuse. Although the judicial system acted to remove children from abusive households, the press reported public facilities for such children were inadequate. According to NGOs, in many cases children were returned to their homes without proper reintegration measures or follow-up. An investigation by Cecodap documented the lack of information from official sources regarding the violation of child and adolescents’ rights, noting that only 23 percent of the monitored news came from official sources.

During the first quarter of the year, Cecodap identified 209 violent episodes involving child and adolescents and said they were the victims in 86 percent of the cases. Cecodap reported that 30 percent of episodes monitored involved sexual abuse and most victims were between seven and 12 years old.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and men, but with parental consent the minimum age is 16.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law conviction for having sexual relations with a minor younger than 13, with an “especially vulnerable” person, or with a minor younger than 16 when the perpetrator is a relative or guardian is punishable with a mandatory sentence of 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits the forced commercial sexual exploitation and the corruption of minors. Penalties range from 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment in cases of forced labor and some forms of sex trafficking of women and girls. The law requires a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute child sex trafficking. The law prohibits the production and sale of child pornography and establishes penalties of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Displaced Children: Children’s rights advocates and media reported an increase in the number of abandoned children living on the street. State-run facilities, already filled to capacity, were unable to support the influx. Cecodap estimated that as many as one million minors had been left behind with family members when their parents fled the country’s economic crisis, many of whom also struggled with the country’s economic downturn. These children resided in limbo, since their parents who left were unable legally to transfer guardianship to a third party. Private institutions denounced the Maduro regime’s refusal to provide subsidized food benefits to support the country’s population.

NGOs noted young girls constituted almost one-half of the children living on the streets. This shift posed particular challenges for shelters, which historically housed predominantly male populations. With institutions filled to capacity, hundreds of children accused of infractions, such as curfew violations, were confined in inadequate juvenile detention centers.

The Human Rights Center of the Catholic University Andres Bello documented that between October 2020 and February, at least 430 children and adolescents permanently left the country alone or accompanied by other minors. An additional 51,250 minors were recorded as regularly crossing the border between Venezuela and Colombia.

Save The Children affirmed that 70 percent of children and adolescents left the country to find their parents and to achieve a family reunion; the remainder fled domestic violence. Many of these children were motivated by deceptive job offers. NGOs confirmed cases of unaccompanied Venezuelan girls who were victims of sex trafficking in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Confederation of Israelite Associations in Venezuela estimated there were 10,000 Jews in the country. Jewish community leaders expressed concern regarding anti-Semitic pieces in regime-aligned media outlets. They stated regime-owned or -associated media and supporters of the Maduro regime promoted Zionist conspiracy theories. There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, including anti-Semitism.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities, but the Maduro regime did not implement the law, inform the public of it, or combat societal prejudice against persons with disabilities. The law requires that all newly constructed or renovated public parks and buildings provide access, but persons with disabilities had minimal access to public transportation, and ramps were almost nonexistent. Many persons with disabilities expressed concern that public transportation workers often were unwilling to transport them and forced them to find taxis, which were often unaffordable and frequently not equipped to support patrons with disabilities. NGOs reported hospitals lacked infrastructure to accommodate persons with mobility problems and staff to communicate with deaf persons. Parents of children with disabilities also complained they were forced to wait in long lines for services rather than receive preference as afforded by law. Online resources and access to information were generally available to persons with disabilities, although access to closed-captioned or audio-described online videos for persons with sight and hearing disabilities was limited. Leading advocates for persons with hearing disabilities lamented difficult access to public services due to a lack of interpreters in public courts, health-care facilities, and legal services, as well as a lack of other public accommodations.

The National Council for Persons with Disabilities, an independent agency, advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities and provided medical, legal, occupational, and cultural programs. All forms of organization, whether public or private, are required by law to incorporate no less than 5 percent of persons with disabilities in their work area, according to their condition, their abilities, their skills, and their specialties with the aim of seek job placement. There was no available information regarding the number of persons registered with regime health programs who were fully employed. The law was generally not followed or enforced.

Some children with disabilities attended separate schools, while others were in mainstream schools with their peers without disabilities. Media reported that schools for children with disabilities suffered from underfunding, decaying infrastructure, and little consideration for the specific needs of individual disabilities. Parents of children with disabilities reported significant difficulties in school enrollment, which prevented their children from receiving formal education. NGOs reported that in the shift to online classes due to COVID-19, children with disabilities had limited access to educational materials, and the Ministry of Education did not adapt curricula for children with disabilities.

The NGOs Cecodap and Deaf Confederation of Venezuela reported three legal cases where the accused were individuals with cognitive disabilities who were arbitrarily detained and deprived of liberty.  In each case the court omitted information about the defendant’s mental disability, even when the disability was reflected and endorsed by medical reports from each of the accused.  The most recent case was in December 2020, regarding a 15-year-old adolescent in Yaracuy State who allegedly was involved in crimes of extortion and kidnapping.  He was linked to the crime by a cell phone that was used by his mother, who went missing at that time.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law provides for the equal rights of persons with HIV or AIDS and their families. Nevertheless, leading advocates alleged discrimination occurred against such persons. Media and NGOs denounced that during the pandemic more than one thousand persons died due to lack of antiretroviral treatment, as well as poor care in public hospitals. Since 2016 the regime had not purchased antiretroviral medicine, which also affected a great number of children with HIV. The NGO Citizen Action Against AIDS reported there was permanent discrimination in public hospitals and refusal of medical attention against persons with HIV and mistreatment of pregnant women with HIV at the time of delivery.

The number of persons with HIV in treatment increased in the last two years from 24 percent to 54 percent in December 2020, according to UNAIDS. On January 12, DGCIM arbitrarily detained six members of NGO Azul Positivo that provided humanitarian aid to the HIV-positive population of Zulia State, raided the NGO’s offices, and seized equipment.

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

Local police and private security forces allegedly prevented lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons from entering malls, public parks, and recreational areas. NGOs reported the Maduro regime systematically denied legal recognition to transgender and intersex persons by preventing them from obtaining identity documents required for accessing education, employment, housing, and health care. This vulnerability often led transgender and intersex persons to become victims of human trafficking.

The armed forces criminalize homosexual relations in the military justice code, punishing members of the LGBTQI+ community with prison from one to three years and fines.

NGOs reported incidents of bias-motivated violence against LGBTQI+ persons. Reported incidents were most prevalent against transgender individuals. Leading advocates noted that law enforcement authorities often did not properly investigate to determine whether crimes were bias motivated.

In June media reported at least seven hate crimes against LGBTQI+ persons. These cases should have been processed by the Special Ombudsman’s Office for the Protection of Persons of Sexual Diversity (an entity created in December 2020 and attached to the Ombudsman’s Office), but NGOs affirmed the office was ineffective and that most related hate crimes were not investigated.

The constitution provides for equality before the law of all persons and prohibits discrimination based on “sex or social condition,” but it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. According to a TSJ ruling, no individual may be subjected to discrimination because of sexual orientation, but the ruling was rarely enforced.

The law establishes the principle of no discrimination for sexual orientation as well as no discrimination in the workplace for sexual preferences; however, there were no mechanisms to denounce violations of the law.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides that all private- and public-sector workers (except members of the armed forces) have the right to form and join unions of their choice, and it provides for collective bargaining and the right to strike. The law, however, places several restrictions on these rights, and the Maduro regime deployed a variety of mechanisms to undercut the rights of independent workers and unions. Minimum membership requirements for unions differed based on the type of union. Forming a company union requires a minimum of 20 workers; forming a professional, industrial, or sectoral union in one jurisdiction requires 40 workers in the same field; and forming a regional or national union requires 150 workers. Ten persons may form an employee association, a parallel type of representation the Maduro regime endorsed and openly supported.

The law prohibits “any act of discrimination or interference contrary to the exercise” of workers’ right to unionize. The law requires all unions to provide the Ministry of Labor a membership roster that includes the full name, home address, telephone number, and national identification number for each union member. The ministry reviews the registration and determines whether the union fulfilled all requirements. Unions must submit their registration application by December 31 of the year the union forms; if not received by the ministry or if the ministry considers the registration unsatisfactory, the union is denied the ability to exist legally. The law also requires the presence of labor inspectors to witness and legitimize unions’ decisions before the Ministry of Labor. The International Labor Organization (ILO) raised concerns regarding the ministry’s refusal to register trade union organizations.

By law employers may negotiate a collective contract only with unions that represent most of their workers. Minority organizations may not jointly negotiate in cases where no union represents an absolute majority. The law also restricts unions’ ability to administer their activities. For example, the CNE has the authority to administer internal elections of labor unions, federations, and confederations. By law elections must be held at least every three years. If CNE-administered and -certified elections are not held within this period, the law prohibits union leaders from representing workers in negotiations or engaging in anything beyond administrative tasks. The ILO repeatedly found cases of interference by the CNE in trade union elections and since 1999 called for delinking the CNE from the union election process.

The law recognizes the right of all public- and private-sector workers to strike, subject to conditions established by law. Workers participating in legal strikes receive immunity from prosecution, and their time in service may not be reduced by the time engaged in a strike, but this was not enacted in practice. The law requires that employers reincorporate striking workers and provides for prison terms sufficient to deter violations for employers who fail to do so. This law also was not enforced. Replacement workers are not permitted during legal strikes. The law prohibits striking workers from paralyzing the production or provision of essential public goods and services, but it defines “essential services” more broadly than ILO standards. The ILO called for the law to be amended to exclude from the definition of “essential services” activities “that are not essential in the strict sense of the term…so that in no event may criminal sanctions be imposed in cases of peaceful strikes.”

The minister of labor may order public- or private-sector strikers back to work and submit their disputes to arbitration if a strike “puts in immediate danger the lives or security of all or part of the population.” Other legal provisions establish criminal penalties for exercising the right to strike in certain circumstances. For example, anyone who “organizes, supports, or instigates the realization of activities within security zones that are intended to disturb or affect the organization and functioning of military installations, public services, industries and basic (i.e., mining) enterprises, or the socioeconomic life of the country” could be punished with five to 10 years in prison. The law also provides for prison terms sufficient to deter violations by those who restrict the distribution of goods and “those…who develop or carry out actions or omissions that impede, either directly or indirectly, the production, manufacture, import, storing, transport, distribution, and commercialization of goods.”

The organic code of military justice establishes arrest sentences between six months and one year for expressing outrage to a sentry, a public official, or the armed forces. This type of criminal offense was used against indigenous leaders and workers unconstitutionally subjected to military jurisdiction.

The Maduro regime restricted the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining through administrative and legal mechanisms. The regime did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denial of civil rights, such as discrimination.

The ILO raised concerns regarding violence against trade union members and intimidation of the Associations of Commerce and Production of Venezuela by the Maduro regime. In 2018 ILO member countries voted to establish an ILO Commission of Inquiry (COI) for Venezuela to investigate long-standing complaints first filed in 2015 of labor rights violations of ILO Conventions Nos. 26, 87, and 144, which pertain to minimum-wage fixing, freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, and tripartite consultation, respectively. In 2019 the commission submitted its report to the ILO director general, noting the regime had repeatedly committed violations of international conventions on minimum wage, freedom of association and the right to organize, and labor standards. The report also called for “the immediate release of any employer or trade unionist who may be in prison as a result of carrying out the legitimate activities of their workers’ or employers’ organization.”

On March 27, the ILO Governing Body agreed to increase the pressure on the Maduro regime to comply with the COI recommendations that requested “the immediate halt of all violent acts, threats, persecution, stigmatization, harassment, and aggression” against organization of workers and employers not affiliated with the Maduro regime and the adoption of measures to guarantee such acts would not be repeated in the future. The ILO COI also requested a tripartite social dialogue. The regime categorically rejected the COI recommendations and continued to detain individuals because of their union activities in cases where the activities were perceived as counter to the interests of the Maduro regime.

Organized labor activists continued to report that the annual requirement to provide the Ministry of Labor a membership roster was onerous and infringed on freedom of association. They alleged the ministry removed member names from the rosters for political purposes, particularly if members were not registered voters on the CNE’s rolls. Labor leaders also criticized the laborious and costly administrative process of requesting CNE approval for elections and subsequent delays in the CNE’s recognition of such union processes. In addition there reportedly was a high turnover of ministry contractors, resulting in a lack of timely follow-through on union processes. Labor unions in both the private and public sectors noted long delays in obtaining CNE concurrence to hold elections and in receiving certification of the election results, which hindered unions’ ability to bargain collectively.

The Maduro regime continued to support “parallel” unions, which sought to dilute the membership and effectiveness of traditional independent unions. The regime excluded from consideration other, independent union federations, including the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, General Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, Confederation of Autonomous Unions of Venezuela, and National Union of Workers.

The Maduro regime continued to refuse to adjudicate or otherwise resolve the cases of thousands of PDVSA employees who were dismissed during and after the 2002-03 strike. The Ministry of Labor continued to deny registration to the National Union of Oil, Gas, Petrochemical, and Refinery Workers.

The concept of striking, demonized since the 2002 national security law, was used periodically as a political tool to accuse regime opponents of coup plotting or other destabilizing activities. Some companies, especially in the public sector, had multiple unions with varying degrees of allegiance to the ruling party’s version of the “socialist revolution,” which could trigger interunion conflict and strife.

The crimes of association to commit a crime, instigation to commit a crime, obstruction of the public way, violation of the security zone, crimes against freedom of work, and terrorism were frequently used against union leaders who demanded labor rights.

The OHCHR documented at least three union leaders were arrested on charges of terrorism or terrorism financing in 2020.

NGOs reported the Maduro regime continued harassment of unions by prosecuting union members in military courts.

The Venezuelan Observatory of Union Liberty reported in February that between September 2019 and November 2020, there were 28 new cases of union leaders targeted with judicial proceedings, at least five workers deprived of liberty, and more than 100 on probation.

On January 15, the Venezuelan Teachers Union went on strike to demand better salaries, benefits, and infrastructure. As a result of the protest, the Ministry of Education dismissed 200 educators and suspended their salaries without explanation.

On July 26, a member of the College of Nurses of the State of Anzoategui, Ada Macuare, was arrested in the city of Barcelona after a WhatsApp note was circulated among medical professionals indicating Macuare’s attempt to call for a strike due to personal protective equipment and COVID-19 vaccine shortages. The nurse appeared before a judge on July 27 and faced charges of instigating hatred and terrorism. On August 5, Macuare was released and ordered to appear before a judge every 30 days.

On September 25, military intelligence officials from the DGCIM detained seven workers from the PDVSA-owned Paraguana refining complex in Falcon State on terrorism-related charges. The officials alleged the workers were involved in sabotaging the oil company. On October 4, human rights NGOs and family members of the detainees told media the workers had not been granted access to lawyers since the time of their arrest.

In November 2020 Eudis Felipe Girot, a PDVSA plant operator and executive director of the Unitary Federation of Oil Workers, was detained by the DGCIM at his residence, in the Diego Bautista Urbaneja municipality of Anzoategui State, for exercising union obligations and denouncing mismanagement of PDVSA facilities, the lack of gasoline, and the violation of workers’ rights. In a June 10 preliminary hearing, the court sentenced Girot to house arrest.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits some forms of forced or compulsory labor but does not provide criminal penalties for certain forms of forced labor. The law on organized crime prohibits human trafficking by organized crime groups. It prescribes penalties sufficient to deter human trafficking of adults carried out by a member of an organized-crime group of three or more individuals. The organized-crime law, however, fails to prohibit trafficking by any individual not affiliated with such a group. Prosecutors may employ other statutes to prosecute such individuals. The law increases penalties for child trafficking with the purpose of forced labor. There was no comprehensive information available regarding the Maduro regime’s enforcement of the law. The labor group Autonomous Front in Defense of Employment, Wages, and Unions (FADESS) reported that public-sector worker agreements included provisions requiring service in the armed forces’ reserves. NGOs noted sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service within the country increased in 2019 (see section 7.c.).

Some doctors participating in Cuba’s overseas medical program showed indicators of forced labor. According to FADESS, Cubans worked in the Maduro regime’s social programs, such as the Mission Inside the Barrio, in exchange for the regime’s provision of oil resources to the Cuban government. FADESS noted Cubans worked in the ministries of Education, Registrar, Notary, Telecommunications, and Security. FADESS also cited that the G-2 Cuban security unit was present in the armed forces and in state enterprises. Observers noted indications the Cuban government may have forced some Cubans to participate in its government-sponsored medical missions. Some Cuban medical personnel who participated in the social program Mission Inside the Barrio described indicators of forced labor, including underpayment of wages, mandatory long hours, limitations on movement, the use of “minders” to conduct surveillance of participants outside of work, forced political indoctrination, and threats of retaliatory actions against workers and their families if they left the program or did not return to Cuba as directed by government supervisors. The Cuban government acknowledged it withheld the passports of Cuban medical personnel in the country. Authorities did not investigate allegations of forced labor in Cuba’s overseas medical program. Additionally, doctors who deserted the program reported Cuban “minders” coerced them to indoctrinate the population into supporting the Maduro regime and to falsify records to bolster the number of individuals assisted.

The law does not criminalize all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Illegal mining operations existed in some of the country’s most remote areas, including Bolivar State, where armed groups exploited girls in sex trafficking, forcibly recruited youth to join armed criminal groups, and forced children to work in gold mines under dangerous conditions.

Reliable reports indicated that forced labor occurred throughout the Orinoco Mining Arc, a swath of land in southern Bolivar state, where most of the country’s gold is concentrated. An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 gold miners were in the country. Mines were largely run by armed and violent criminal groups, and research showed evidence that officials from the Maduro regime, including members of security forces and local authorities, colluded with and allowed members of nonstate armed groups to commit human rights violations and labor abuses. Miners experienced unsafe working conditions, unsafe and degrading living conditions, extortion and financial penalties, limited freedom of communication, and threats of violence and torture.

The Human Rights Center of the Catholic University Andres Bello also documented forced recruitment in the Mining Arc, where irregular armed groups controlled the mining activity through corruption and extortion networks that involved the military. These groups recruited men and children under threats of violence, death, and debt manipulation to gain control over the zone.

An estimated 3,500 women and girls, between ages 12 and 35, were subjected to forced labor in the illegal mines, forced into prostitution, or exploited as washerwomen and cooks.

In 2020 the OHCHR identified a pattern of labor exploitation, a sharp increase in sexual exploitation and trafficking in mining areas, including of adolescent girls, and reports that children as young as age seven were present in mining areas, often unaccompanied, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

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

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law sets the minimum employment age at 14. Children younger than 14 may work only if granted special permission by the National Institute for Minors or the Ministry of Labor. Such permission may not be granted to minors who are younger than the legal age for work in hazardous occupations that risk their life or health or could damage their intellectual or moral development. According to the ILO, the Maduro regime had not made publicly available the list of specific types of work considered hazardous. Children ages 14 to 18 may not work without permission of their legal guardians or in occupations expressly prohibited by law, and they may work no more than six hours per day or 30 hours per week. Minors younger than 18 may not work outside the normal workday.

Anyone employing children younger than eight is subject to time in prison. Employers must notify authorities if they hire a minor as a domestic worker. The Maduro regime did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

No information was available on whether or how many employers were sanctioned for violations. The regime continued to provide services to vulnerable children, including street children, working children, and children at risk of working. There was no independent accounting of the effectiveness of these and other regime-supported programs.

Child labor increased 20 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the most recent report by the NGO World Vision. Most children who worked did so in the agricultural sector, street vending, domestic service, or in small and medium-size businesses, most frequently in family-run operations. There continued to be isolated reports of children exploited in domestic servitude, mining, forced begging, sexual exploitation (see section 6), and human trafficking, including sex trafficking and forced criminality. Members of the Maduro regime supported the operations of the National Liberation Army and FARC-D by allowing the exploitation and human trafficking, including sex trafficking, forced labor, and forced recruitment of children for armed conflict.

Fundaredes reported that nonstate armed groups in the border states of Tachira and Apure forcibly recruited children, invaded property, charged for public services, and threatened communities.

A study by Cecodap found that child laborers constituted up to 45 percent of those working in mines. Media reported children as young as nine years old worked in mines. Underfunded schools and high rates of student dropouts pushed children into labor situations.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution prohibits employment discrimination of every citizen. The law prohibits discrimination based on age, race, sex, social condition, creed, marital status, union affiliation, political views, nationality, disability, or any condition that could be used to lessen the principle of equality before the law. No law specifically prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV/AIDS status. Media and NGOs, such as PROVEA and the Human Rights Center of the Catholic University Andres Bello, reported the Maduro regime did not effectively enforce applicable law, and penalties were not commensurate to those related to civil rights infractions, such as election interference.

NGOs reported public employees faced discrimination and harassment for their political beliefs or activities. According to Aula Abierta, 4,876 public servants were dismissed from their jobs for political reasons in 2018.

In March four Siderurgica del Orinoco Alfredo Maneiro union leaders – Jose Saracual, Cesar Soto, Carlos Ramirez, and Cruz Hernandez – had their salaries frozen and were banned from entry into the workplace after they demanded the board comply with the collective contract and improve salaries. Their names and faces were used in a campaign inside the enterprise to show others what would happen if they made such demands. They were also qualified as terrorists. 

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The national minimum wage remained below the poverty line. Labor experts noted the unilateral nature of the most recent regime decree to raise the minimum wage contravened ILO Convention No. 26, which requires the government to consult with employers and workers prior to enacting wage increases. Legislators noted the decree violated the law, since it supplanted collective bargaining agreements. Union leaders from the petroleum, health, telecommunications, and electricity sectors highlighted that the decree did not include wage adjustments to keep up with hyperinflation and thus remained insufficient to afford the basic food basket. The decree also violated the law by nullifying previously signed collective bargaining agreements, including wage tables that scaled salaries to account for seniority and merit pay.

The trade union of the industrial sector stated that in 2020, 88 industries ceased operations and that at the end of the year only 2,121 remained, an 83 percent reduction from the more than 12,000 entities in 1997.

The law sets the workweek at 40 hours (35 hours for a night shift). The law establishes separate limits for “shift workers,” who may not work more than an average of 42 hours per week during an eight-week period, with overtime capped at 100 hours annually. Managers are prohibited from obligating employees to work additional time, and workers have the right to two consecutive days off each week. Overtime is paid at a 50 percent surcharge if a labor inspector approves the overtime in advance and at a 100 percent surcharge if an inspector does not give advance permission. The law establishes that after completing one year with an employer, a worker has a right to 15 days of paid vacation annually. A worker has the right to an additional day for every additional year of service, for a maximum of 15 additional days annually.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law provides for secure, hygienic, and adequate working conditions. Workplaces must maintain “protection for the health and life of the workers against all dangerous working conditions.” The law obligates employers to pay workers specified amounts for workplace injuries or occupational illnesses, ranging from two times the daily salary for missed workdays to several years’ salary for permanent injuries. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Occupational safety and health (OSH) standards were not appropriate for the main industries in the country, and workers were not able to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The Maduro regime did not effectively enforce OSH law. Penalties for OSH law violations were not commensurate with those for crimes, such as negligence.

The law covers all workers, including temporary, occasional, and domestic workers. There was reportedly some enforcement by the Ministry of Labor of minimum wage rates and hours of work provisions in the formal sector, but an estimated 40 percent of the population worked in the informal sector, where labor law and protections generally were not enforced. There was no publicly available information regarding the number of inspectors or the frequency of inspections to implement health and safety, minimum wage, or hours of work provisions. Ministry inspectors seldom closed unsafe job sites. Official statistics regarding workplace deaths and injuries were not publicly available.

Health workers were severely exposed to COVID-19 due to the lack of personal protective equipment. The Maduro regime cracked down on medical professionals who spoke about the realities they faced in their work. The NGO Medicos Unidos por Venezuela reported 736 health-worker deaths due to COVID-19 through August.

Nurses’ unions said that during the pandemic they were subjected to labor exploitation and persecution and could not reject or abandon these conditions due to threats, violence, coercion, deception, or abuse of power. Medical professionals lacked vaccines and biosafety equipment for individual protection, worked excessively long hours, and assumed the daily risk of infecting their family members.

NGOs and media reported hazardous conditions in mining areas, many of which operated illegally and exposed miners to injury, disease, and mercury poisoning.

The OHCHR documented high levels of violence and human rights violations linked to the control of and dispute over mines by organized criminal and armed groups. In some cases security forces were reportedly involved in some of the violent incidents.

NGOs reported the use of beatings, mutilation, disappearances, and killings by armed groups to enforce control in mining areas.

Informal Sector: Vast portions of the economy operated in the informal sector, where standardized labor protections did not exist, and labor violations occurred frequently. The regime made little effort to provide social protections in this area.