Liechtenstein

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense. Penalties for rape and sexual violence vary between six months’ and 15 years’ imprisonment, depending on the degree of violence and humiliation of the victim, and between 10 years’ and lifetime imprisonment if the victim is killed. The government effectively prosecuted individuals accused of such crimes.

The law prohibits all forms of domestic violence and provides for restraining orders against violent family members. Police may prohibit an abuser from returning to the victim’s home where the violence was committed. Penalties for domestic violence range from monetary fines to lifetime imprisonment if the victim is killed. According to the law, victims who migrated to the country and who have been married to a citizen for less than five years are required to prove their victim status or sufficient integration into the country’s society to avoid losing their marriage-based residence permits. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted in 2018 that the country’s only women’s shelter, Frauenhaus, was not allowed to accept undocumented women fleeing domestic violence. According to the Women’s Network, victims who were unable to present witnesses in court risked the dismissal of criminal proceedings against their perpetrators. The government enforced the law effectively.

There were reports of violence against women, including spousal abuse. In 2018 Frauenhaus assisted 16 women and 17 children. The shelter continued to observe a decrease in restraining orders issued by authorities and stated their care for victims had become more complex and time intensive due to victims’ suffering increased psychological trauma.

In January the criminal court sentenced a 30-year-old man to 12 years in prison for attempted murder and inflicting serious bodily harm when he beat his wife unconscious after the couple, with their seven-month-old child, returned from visiting friends in June 2018. The attack resulted in the victim’s partial paralysis and loss of speech. The case received widespread media attention.

In July authorities established a threat management position within the police force to allocate more resources and expertise to domestic violence cases.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions. Stalking is a criminal offense. The government also considers “mobbing,” including pressure, harassment, or blackmail tactics in the workplace, to be a crime. In 2018 the national police recorded six cases of sexual harassment, and the women’s resource and counseling NGO Infra assisted in 16 cases of sexual harassment.

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

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men. The government’s enforcement of the labor contract law and equal opportunity law was not entirely effective. The Liechtenstein Human Rights Association (LHRA) and the Women’s Network stated that a lack of human and financial resources as well as inadequate strategies and competencies prevented the Department for Equal Opportunity from effectively enforcing the law. The Women’s Network asserted that the government increasingly relinquished its responsibilities regarding equal opportunity policies to NGOs.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived at birth from a child’s parents. Either parent may convey citizenship. A child born in the country to stateless parents may acquire citizenship after five years of residence. All children are registered at birth.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both girls and boys is 18 years.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the prostitution of minors. Penalties for the sexual exploitation of minors range from one to 10 years’ imprisonment. Possession or distribution of child pornography is a criminal offense, with penalties including up to three years in prison. Authorities effectively enforced these prohibitions. In 2018 the national police recorded five cases of child sexual exploitation. The law sets the minimum age for consensual sex at 14.

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.

The Jewish community consisted of approximately 30 individuals. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities.

The government’s implementation of laws and programs to ensure that persons with disabilities readily had access to employment, buildings, information, health services, the judicial system, and communications was not entirely effective. According to the Liechtenstein Institute and the Liechtenstein Association for Persons with Disabilities, persons with disabilities were not sufficiently integrated into the labor market and education systems.

In 2018 the UN Human Rights Committee cited a lack of appropriate infrastructure and regulations for enabling access by persons with disabilities to the labor market. The law mandates that public kindergartens and schools as well as public transportation systems must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities were able to attend public schools or a special school established by the country’s remedial center. According to the Liechtenstein Association for Persons with Disabilities, few disabled children attended public schools. The association also noted that only one-third of all public kindergartens and schools were barrier free, and there was a shortage of barrier-free, affordable housing for families with children with disabilities.

The law requires public buildings constructed before 2002 to be barrier free by 2019 and public buildings constructed between 2002 and 2007 to be barrier free by 2027.

The law defines discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation as a criminal offense. It also prohibits debasement, slander, and incitement to hate based on an individual’s gender and sexual orientation. The law further prohibits the refusal of general services based on an individual’s gender and sexual orientation. The government enforced the law.

The country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community issued no formal complaints of abuse or discrimination. ECRI noted in 2018 that LGBTI students still experienced intolerance at schools, with many LGBTI students only deciding to come out after completing their schooling. According to ECRI, LGBTI persons also experienced discrimination in housing and employment.

Luxembourg

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for violations range from five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits domestic violence, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law is gender neutral and provides for the removal of abusers from their residences for a 14-day period that can be extended once for an additional three months upon request of the victim. Penalties may include fines and imprisonment. Police are required to investigate if an NGO reports having been approached by an individual for assistance in cases involving domestic abuse.

On August 10, a 40-year-old woman died after her boyfriend reportedly beat her severely. According to the national daily Tageblatt, police officers had intervened the day before, removing the boyfriend from the couple’s residence. As of October the boyfriend remained in custody awaiting trial.

The government funded organizations that provided shelter, counseling, psychosocial assistance, and hotlines. Three separate hotlines were available to assist men, women, and children who were victims of domestic abuse. The government provided financial assistance to domestic violence victims.

In 2018 authorities investigated 122 accusations of indecent assault and 76 cases of rape, representing modest decreases from 2017. In 2018 police intervened 739 times in domestic violence situations, and prosecutors authorized 231 evictions of the abuser from the domestic home as a result of these incidents; these were increases from the prior year. The Minister of Equality between Women and Men stated that authorities were unable to determine if this increase was due to growth in the number of incidents or in reports.

In November-December 2018, the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men helped fund events to raise awareness of violence against women in conjunction with the “Orange Week” campaign against such violence. Campaign events included public exhibitions, film screenings, and panel discussions. During the week the ministry also launched an awareness campaign in conjunction with the country’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and requires employers to protect employees from such harassment. The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors. Disciplinary measures against offenders, including dismissal, are applicable. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment a breach of contract, and an affected employee is entitled to paid leave until the situation is rectified.

Between June 17 and July 7, the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men conducted a public survey to help draft the new national action plan on equality. The survey revealed that 74 percent of women and 61 percent of men considered combatting sexual harassment a priority. At the same time, 77 percent of women and men considered awareness-raising programs in schools as the best method to combat sexual harassment.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is governed by the principle of descent, according to which a father or mother who is a citizen automatically conveys citizenship to offspring at birth. The law allows for citizenship via naturalization and allows dual citizenship. Citizenship for minor children is automatically conveyed when a parent naturalizes. All residents, regardless of citizenship, are required to register in their commune of residence.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 but can be waived by a guardianship judge. In its 2017 report, the country’s Ombudsman Committee for the Rights of Children noted that forced marriage had become a problem as a result of immigration, but no official data on it was available.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, the offering or procuring of a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law, and cases were rare. Penalties for the sexual exploitation of children range from five years’ to life imprisonment.

Amendments to the penal code provide that a client having consciously committed a commercial sexual act with a minor can be sentenced to one to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 251 to 50,000 euros ($280 to $55,000).

The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16.

Displaced Children: In 2018 the Immigration Directorate noted there were 36 asylum requests for unaccompanied children, down from the 50 requests it received in 2017. There were three specialized housing shelters specifically for unaccompanied children and two shelters that also accepted unaccompanied children; the government placed unaccompanied children in these shelters whenever feasible.

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

The Jewish community numbered approximately 1,500 persons. There were no reports of violent anti-Semitic acts although there were isolated cases of anti-Semitic content on the internet and a nonviolent, anti-Semitic act against the rabbi of Esch-sur-Alzette.

In September unknown individuals placed a sticker reading “Jewish Faggots” on the postal box of the openly gay rabbi of Esch-sur-Alzette. A police investigation continued. In an act of solidarity, the mayor of Esch-sur-Alzette condemned the act of anti-Semitism and homophobia during a World War II commemoration. Halfway through his remarks, the mayor put on a gay pride sash and a kippah in an act of solidarity and emphasized his condemnation of anti-Semitism.

Jewish groups reported anti-Semitic statements and attitudes online, especially, but not exclusively, in association with statements on the government of Israel and the Holocaust. The government has laws that punish anti-Semitic statements and Holocaust denial; the government generally enforced the law when notified.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The government enforced these provisions. The law requires all new government-owned buildings and buildings undergoing renovation to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Private facilities and services as well as existing government-owned buildings are not subject to the law. The accessibility of public transportation outside the capital was limited. The law recognizes German sign language, allowing deaf and hard-of-hearing persons to use both the language and a state-paid translator in their communications with government.

On July 10, parliament adopted legislation that calls on public-sector bodies to render the content of their websites and mobile applications more accessible to persons with disabilities, in accordance with EU norms. The Information and Press Service, the official organ responsible for circulating communications from the government, periodically monitored the accessibility requirements and reported on the outcome. The legislation does not include sanctions for violations.

There were reports of the forced administration of contraceptives to women with disabilities who were of reproductive age, particularly of women and girls with intellectual disabilities who were living in state-funded institutions.

The education system allows children with disabilities to attend their local schools with their nondisabled peers. Parents, however, can decide to place their children in segregated classes. According to a representative of InfoHandicap, an organization for persons with disabilities, most children with disabilities attend segregated classes due to the lack of trained teachers to respond to the children’s needs. He further noted that attending those segregated classrooms impacts a child’s chances of employment or pursuing higher education, as these segregated classes do not issue diplomas. A representative of the Ministry of Education noted that the ministry increased financial resources and trained personnel to allow a maximum number of children with disabilities to attend their local schools with their nondisabled peers. He further noted that most children attending segregated classes suffer from mental and physical disabilities that are serious enough to prevent them from pursuing employment or higher education.

The law permits persons with mental disabilities to be placed under legal guardianship. Persons under guardianship lose the right to vote.

The law prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and applies to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. There were no reports of violations of the law during the year.

The law provides protections for transgender persons, including simplified legal gender recognition without first obtaining a medical certificate or undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Mauritius

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, but there is no provision criminalizing spousal rape, unless it is sodomy. Police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law, according to local NGOs that work with domestic violence victims. The penalty for rape is up to 20 years’ imprisonment, with a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($5,555). Rape cases rarely make the headlines, unless they are egregious in nature.

The law criminalizes domestic violence, but it remained a major problem. On September 7, media reported 32-year-old Stephanie Menes was found dead in her house after her husband beat her. Her hands and feet were tied with a rope. Amendments to the Protection from Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) effective in 2016 establish a list of offenses separate from the criminal code, which was not the case prior to the amendment. The amendments redefine the term “spouse” to include unmarried couples of the opposite sex; redefine “domestic violence” to include verbal, psychological, economic, and sexual abuses; and empower police officers and enforcement officers to act on behalf of the victims instead of waiting for a formal complaint from the victim. Although the amendments do not mention spousal rape, section 2.d. stipulates that a spouse cannot force or threaten the other partner into a sexual act “from which the spouse or the other person has the right to abstain.”

Domestic violence activists stated police did not effectively enforce the law. According to women’s rights NGOs, police were not always effective in protecting domestic violence survivors to whom authorities had granted court protection orders. Authorities prosecuted crimes including assault, aggravated assault, threats, and blows under the criminal code, but law enforcement recordkeeping did not always indicate whether they were linked to domestic violence.

The law provides for protection and housing rights for victims, as well as counseling for the abuser; however, counseling for the abuser is not mandatory, and there were few shelters available to house survivors. Anyone found guilty of violating a protection order under the PDVA may be fined up to 50,000 rupees ($1,373) or first-time offenders may be imprisoned for up to one year. Under the newly amended PDVA, the penalty is 100,000 rupees ($2,747) and imprisonment not to exceed two years for a second offense and up to five years’ imprisonment for subsequent offenses. In June 2018 the government launched a new mobile phone application, the Family Welfare app, to facilitate reporting of domestic violence and child abuse. As of December there was one case of domestic violence reported through the new application.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, which is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. Generally, however, sexual harassment continued to be a problem due to lax enforcement and because victims often did not believe filing a complaint would resolve anything.

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

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution and law. The courts upheld these rights. Nonetheless, cultural and societal barriers prevented women from fully exercising their legal rights.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory if one or both parents are citizens of the country. Authorities register births, and the law provides for late registration. Failure to register births resulted in denial of some public services.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes certain acts compromising the health, security, or morality of a child, although the government was unable to ensure complete compliance, such as in child labor cases. NGOs asserted child abuse was more widespread than the government acknowledged publicly or than actually reported to authorities.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal marriage age for boys and girls is 16 with parental consent, but marriages of younger children were reported. For example, in June 2018 the investigation into the death of a 13-year-old who died of epilepsy revealed she had been married since January to a 19-year-old man, with her parents’ consent, and that the religious marriage was not registered as the law requires.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees ($2,747) for each offense. The law prohibits all forms of child sex trafficking and provides for a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The penalty for rape is imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($5,494). In addition, the Judicial Provisions Act of 2008 prescribes punishment for child trafficking offenses of up to 30 years’ imprisonment.

The government assisted victims of child abuse by offering counseling at a drop-in center in Port Louis and referring victims to government-supported NGO shelters. Both medical treatment and psychological support were available at public clinics and NGO centers.

Institutionalized Children: The law provides that a simple oath before a magistrate allows parents to have their children placed in the care of the Rehabilitation of Youth Center (RYC) on the basis that they are “children beyond control.” Once admitted to the RYC, the children, some as young as eight or nine, could remain in detention until they reached the age of 18. There were allegations children held in the Correctional Youth Center did not have access to education during their detention and imprisonment.

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.

Approximately 120 Jews, predominantly expatriates, resided in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts during the year.

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

The law prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law with respect to public conveyances. Many buildings also remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities despite a legal requirement for public buildings to be accessible for them. The law stipulates that persons with disabilities must constitute at least 3 percent of a workforce of 35 or more employees, but authorities did not effectively enforce it.

The government implemented programs to provide that persons with disabilities had access to information and communications, such as captions and sign language interpretation of news broadcasts. The state-run television station broadcasts a weekly sign language news program for persons with hearing disabilities. The government did not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic activities, although lack of accessible transportation posed a barrier to some voters with disabilities. The government provided wheelchairs to make polling stations more accessible to persons with disabilities and elderly persons. Children with physical disabilities have the right to attend mainstream schools, but, according to students with disabilities and their parents, schools turned them away because they could not be accommodated. In 2018 the government approved the Special Needs Bill, which established a regulatory authority to address and advocate for individuals with special needs, including children. Children with mental disabilities attended specialized schools that received minimal government funding.

Poverty continued to be more common among citizens of African descent (Creoles) than in any other community. On September 24, a court acquitted former vice prime minister and minister of housing Showkutally Soodhun of abusing his authority after a video emerged of him reassuring a group of Hindu citizens that 90 percent of a new housing project would go to Hindus, 10 percent to Muslims, and that Creoles would get nothing to “prevent prostitution from spreading in the neighborhood.” The minister stepped down in 2017 but continued as a member of parliament.

The law does not specifically criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. It criminalizes sodomy, however, for both same-sex and heterosexual couples. Authorities rarely used the sodomy statute against same-sex couples, unless one of the partners cited sodomy in the context of sexual assault.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) victims of verbal abuse or violence generally did not file complaints with police for fear of ostracism or, in some cases, fear of reprisal from family members. The law allows individuals who have had same-sex sexual activity to donate blood so long as they satisfy blood donation requirements, namely, not having had unprotected sex in the 12 months prior to the donation. There were unsubstantiated claims, however, that health officials still prevented LGBTI persons who engage in sodomy from donating blood. Unlike in previous years, there were no incidents or counterprotests during this year’s Gay Pride march.

The law provides that persons with HIV/AIDS should be free from stigmatization and discrimination. There were no pending cases of discrimination against such persons or their relatives.

The local NGO Prevention Information Lutte contre le Sida reported authorities denied HIV/AIDS patients social aid due to the absence of an HIV/AIDS expert on the medical board of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life.

Monaco

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense with penalties of five to 20 years in prison, depending on the type of offense. The law prohibits spousal abuse, and victims may bring criminal charges against abusive spouses. According to the Association of Assistance to Victims of Offenses, a Monaco-based nongovernmental organization that supports victims of domestic violence, there were 50 cases of domestic or family violence as of October. Six victims out of 50 decided to lodge an official complaint. On August 22, a woman was stabbed by her husband. She was seriously injured but survived. Her husband, a citizen of the country, was arrested and charged with attempted murder.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense with penalties of three months to three years in prison, depending on the type of offense. There were no reports of sexual harassment during the year.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the equality of men and women. The government enforced the law effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship may be transmitted by a citizen parent. The government registered births immediately.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage in the country is 18 for women and men. Children younger than age 18 need parental authorization to marry.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child prostitution and child pornography are illegal, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 15.

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

According to the European Jewish Congress, the Jewish community numbered approximately 1,000 persons, most of whom were not citizens of the country but foreign residents. According to the Monaco-based Association Culturelle Israelite, there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

There were no confirmed reports during the year that Monaco was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking. In January a delegation of the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings made its first evaluation visit to the country.

The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. The government effectively implemented these laws.

The country’s law does not clearly define and does not expressly prohibit direct and indirect discrimination based on national, racial, or ethnic identity.

Police and judicial statistics on hate crimes and hate speech were not published. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the country has never submitted data on hate crimes.

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including in housing, employment, nationality, and access to government services. It provides for fines, imprisonment, or both for persons who provoke hatred or violence against a person or group due to their sexual orientation, real or perceived. The government enforced these laws.

Nauru

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

Women

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

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

Human Rights Watch reported that female refugees faced sexual assault and sexual harassment, yet such cases often were not reported to police.

The government did not maintain statistics on the physical or domestic abuse of women, but police officials stated they received frequent complaints of domestic violence. Families normally sought to reconcile such problems informally and, if necessary, communally.

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

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

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Discrimination in employment and wages occurred with respect to women (see section 7.d.).

Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netherlands

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law in all parts of the kingdom criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The penalty in the Netherlands for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years or a fine not exceeding 83,000 euros ($91,300). In case of violence against a spouse, the penalty for various forms of abuse can be increased by one-third. In Aruba the penalty for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years or a fine of 100,000 Aruban florins ($55,250). Authorities effectively prosecuted such crimes.

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

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

Sexual Harassment: The law penalizes acts of sexual harassment throughout the kingdom and was enforced effectively. The penalty in the Netherlands is imprisonment not exceeding eight years or a fine not exceeding 83,000 euros ($91,300). The law requires employers to protect employees against aggression, violence, and sexual intimidation. In the Netherlands complaints against employers who failed to provide sufficient protection can be submitted to the NIHR. Victims of sexual assault or rape in the workplace can report the incidents to police as criminal offenses.

In Curacao the Stichting Slachtofferhulp (Victims Assistance Foundation) assists the victims.

In Sint Maarten no central institution handles sexual harassment cases. According to the law, substantive civil servant law integrity counselors must be appointed for each ministry. These integrity counselors advise the civil servants on integrity issues. The responsible minister must act on the complaint.

Aruban law states the employer shall ensure the employee is not sexually harassed in the workplace. Employers are required to keep the workplace free from harassment by introducing policies and enforcing them. Sint Maarten and Curacao also have laws prohibiting stalking.

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

Discrimination: Under the law women throughout the kingdom have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government enforced the law effectively, although there were some reports of discrimination in employment.

Children

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

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse. The penalties depend on the details and context of the case and can reach up to 12 years in prison. A multidisciplinary task force in the Netherlands acts as a knowledge hub and facilitates interagency cooperation in combatting child abuse and sexual violence. The children’s ombudsman headed an independent bureau that safeguards children’s rights and calls attention to abuse. Physicians are required to report child abuse to authorities. In February the Dutch government started a public awareness campaign on child abuse which encouraged witnesses to report suspicious cases to police.

Aruba has a child abuse-reporting center. In Curacao physicians are not required to report to authorities instances of abuse they encounter, but hospital officials reported indications of child abuse to authorities. In Sint Maarten the penal code addresses serious offenses against public morality, abandonment of dependent persons, serious offenses against human life, and assault that apply to child abuse cases.

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

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Throughout the kingdom, the law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children as well as production, possession, and distribution of child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age of consent is 16 in the Netherlands, Curacao, and Aruba and 15 in Sint Maarten. The Netherlands is a source country of child sex tourists. The government ran campaigns to encourage travelers to report suspicions of child sex tourism. An offender can be tried in the Netherlands even if the offense takes place abroad.

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

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

In March the NGO Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), the main chronicler of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, reported 135 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, an increase of 19 percent over 2017, as well as 95 incidents online. Of these cases, 67 percent occurred within the victims’ regular life routine, such as at school or work or in the company of the people the victims knew. Common incidents included vandalism, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and hate emails. The most common form of vandalism was swastikas scratched or painted on cars, walls, or buildings, sometimes in combination with a Star of David or texts such as “Heil Hitler.” People recognized as Jewish because of their religious attire were targeted occasionally in direct confrontations. A significant percentage of anti-Semitic incidents concerned calling somebody a “Jew” as a common derogatory term. CIDI reported half a dozen anti-Semitic statements by politicians by the pro-Muslim DENK party and the local The Hague Islamic Unity Party in particular.

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

The bulk of anti-Semitic expressions reviewed by the prosecutor’s office National Expertise Center for Discrimination and police in 2018 related to anti-Semitic statements and chants by soccer fans, mostly about the Amsterdam soccer team Ajax, whose fans and players are nicknamed “Jews.”

In 2018 MiND Nederland reported 145 anti-Semitic expressions on the internet, a quarter of all reported discriminatory expressions.

In December 2018 the EU-FRA released its second survey of Jewish experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism. The EU-FRA targeted Jewish populations through community organizations, Jewish media, and social networks; 1,202 individuals who identified themselves as Jewish residents of the Netherlands responded to the online survey. Of the respondents, 43 percent said they occasionally avoided Jewish events for security reasons, while 33 percent said they avoided the public display of Jewish symbols. Eighty percent said they believed the government response and security measures were inefficient and inadequate.

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

In May the government of the Netherlands acknowledged the growing need to combat anti-Semitism more effectively by appropriating three million euros ($3.3 million) in supplemental funding, which included improved training on anti-Semitism, as well as Holocaust and World War II remembrance for teachers. In August the Netherlands national railway announced a compensation program for Holocaust victims, who were transported by the railways to a transit camp en route to concentration camps. The program also offered compensation to surviving spouses and children of Holocaust victims.

The Dutch government entered into agreements with major social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, to counter offensive language on the internet, including anti-Semitic statements. The government also established measures to counter harassing and anti-Semitic chanting during soccer matches in consultations with stakeholders. The Anne Frank Foundation continued to manage government-sponsored projects, such as the “Fan Coach” project to counter anti-Semitic chanting and the “Fair Play” project to promote discussion on discrimination.

The government of the Netherlands assisted local projects to combat anti-Semitism by providing information and encouraging exchange of best practices among key figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism as nonlegally binding and shared indicators from this definition with authorities as aids to define policy, identify anti-Semitism, and enforce local law.

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

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

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

Government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate. Despite continued progress, public buildings and public transport were not always easily accessible, lacking access ramps.

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

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

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

The laws of the kingdom’s constituent territories prohibit racial, national, or ethnic discrimination.

Various monitoring bodies in the Netherlands reported that the largest percentage (43 percent in police statistics) of registered incidents of discrimination in 2018 had to do with a person’s origin, including color and ethnicity. Almost all of these incidents concerned persons of non-Western backgrounds, including Turks, Moroccans, Roma, and Sinti. According to the NIHR, discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds occurred in virtually every sphere (see also Other Societal Violence or Discrimination in this section).

In the Netherlands police received training on avoiding ethnic or racial profiling, although Amnesty International in 2018 criticized the lack of monitoring to assess the training’s effectiveness. The government put into place more effective procedures to process reports of discrimination and assist victims, including an independent complaints committee.

In the Netherlands the law prohibits discrimination against LGBTI persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. The government generally enforced those laws.

The law explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex characteristics, gender identity, and gender expression. In April the Netherlands amended the law to make it easier for transgender persons to change their gender on their birth certificate. The government urged institutions and companies to stop unnecessary registration of gender.

The law allows for higher penalties for violence motivated by anti-LGBTI bias. There were hundreds of reports of anti-LGBTI violence. A quarter of incidents of discrimination registered by police in 2018 concerned sexual orientation. Of the 847 complaints registered by police in 2018, 95 percent concerned gay men; 65 percent involved verbal abuse, and 22 percent physical abuse. Prosecutions were rare; many incidents were not reported because victims often believed that nothing would be done with their complaint.

The Transgender Network Netherlands (TNN) worked with authorities and NGOs to advance the rights of transgender persons and to combat discrimination. The TNN specifically promoted an action plan to increase labor participation of transgender persons.

Police had a Netherlands-wide network of units dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTI persons. The city of Amsterdam’s informational call center dedicated to addressing LGBTI issues aimed at increasing safety and acceptance of homosexuality. The Ministry of Justice and Security sponsored a campaign in LGBTI-oriented media to encourage victims to report incidents and file complaints with police. Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven tightened adherence to the mandatory curriculum to promote respect for sexual diversity.

In the Netherlands the Muslim community of approximately 900,000 persons faced frequent physical and verbal attacks, acts of vandalism, discrimination, and racism, as did members of other minority and immigrant groups. In 2018 police registered 137 incidents against Muslims out of a total of 3,299 discriminatory incidents. Multiple incidents concerned harassment of women on the street because they were wearing a headscarf, as well as incidents involving anti-Muslim stickers and posters. Violent incidents, however, were rare.

The Dutch government, the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security, as well as local authorities closely monitored threats directed at Islamic institutions, including about 500 mosques. In 2018, 26 incidents at mosques were reported. The authorities supported mosques in enhancing security and provided ad hoc security if required.

New Zealand

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rates of reported violence against women were at historic high levels, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Ministry of Justice data shows there were 2,605 convictions for sexual offenses in 2018-19, up from 2,172 in 2009-10. According to a 2016 government report, one in three women reported having experienced physical or sexual violence or both by an intimate partner. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment; however, indefinite detention may occur in cases where the parole board, during its annual review, believes the prisoner poses a continuing threat to society.

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

The E Tu Whanau program is a Maori-centered response, supported by government social services resources, to high levels of violence within Maori homes, which aims to increase protective factors and decrease risk factors for family violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides civil penalties. Sexual contact induced by certain threats may also fall under the criminal code, with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. In July the HRC released an updated guide on making a complaint about sexual harassment, which includes access to the HRC’s free, informal, and confidential service for questions or complaints about sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination. The HRC also published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made regular sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Although the law prohibits discrimination in employment and requires equal rates of pay for equal or similar work, academics and watchdog groups argue that the lack of pay transparency hinders pursuing pay discrimination claims.

Children

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

Child Abuse: A 2018 Auckland University of Technology report found that, by age 17, nearly one-quarter of children had at least one report submitted to child protection services, and almost 10 percent had been a victim of abuse or neglect, while 3 percent had gone into foster or other care. A disproportionately high number of reported cases of child abuse involved Maori children. The government promoted information sharing between the courts and health and child protection agencies to identify children at risk of abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, but persons between 16 and 18 may marry with family court approval. Marriages involving persons younger than 18 were rare. Watchdog groups believed that a small number of marriages of persons between 16 and 18 were forced by parents. To reduce these, the parliament passed a law in May 2018 requiring family court approval of marriages involving a person younger than 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that any person who has a sexual connection with a person younger than age 16 is liable to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Further, the law makes it an offense punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to assist a person younger than 18 in providing commercial sexual services; to receive earnings from commercial sexual services provided by a person younger than 18; or to contract for commercial sexual services from, or be a client of, a person younger than 18. The law also makes it an offense to traffic in persons younger than 18 for sexual exploitation or for forced labor. The courts may prosecute citizens who commit child sex offenses overseas.

Government statistics reported 422 convictions in 2018-19 for sexual offenses against children younger than age 16, approximately the same number as a decade before.

The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum 14 years’ imprisonment, as well as maximum individual and corporate fines of NZ$200,000 ($129,000) if a person produces, imports, supplies, distributes, possesses for supply, displays, or exhibits an objectionable publication. The Department of Internal Affairs Censorship Compliance Unit polices images of child sex abuse on the internet and prosecutes offenders.

Institutionalized Children: In 2018 Prime Minister Ardern announced the creation of a Royal Commission–the highest level of governmental inquiry–into the historical abuse of children in state care. The inquiry is expected to be completed by November 2023, later than originally intended due to its scope being expanded to include abuses in faith-based institutions. The Royal Commission is tasked with focusing on physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect, as well as systemic bias based on race, gender, or sexual orientation during the period 1950-1999.

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

The Jewish community numbered approximately 5,200, according to the 2018 census. While anti-Semitic incidents were rare, in March videos emerged of a man linking the Christchurch mosque shootings to Israeli intelligence and Zionist businesses at an antiracism rally in Auckland. The New Zealand Jewish Council said anti-Semitism was increasing, particularly online. In November the pro-Israel lobby group the Israel Institute of New Zealand (IINZ) reported that Prime Minister Ardern, along with three MPs from the coalition government-supporting Green Party, were members of a pro-Palestinian Facebook page, called Kia Ora Gaza, where anti-Semitic comments were rife. A spokesperson for Ardern said she had been added to the group “without her knowledge” and would remove herself forthwith. The IINZ criticized the Green MPs for not responding to the request to disassociate themselves from the group.

Social media reports described a New Zealand Sign Language sign–making a hook-nose gesture for the word Jew–as anti-Semitic and called for its removal.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law prohibits the government from discriminating based on physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disability, unless such discrimination can be “demonstrably justified.” The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Most school-age children with disabilities attended either separate or mainstream schools. The HRC’s 2018 report expressed concern that the Minimum Wage Exemption (MWE) system, which can be applied to workers who are significantly and demonstrably limited by a disability, is discriminatory. During the year, approximately 900 exemptions were in place, with 70 percent of them allowing wages of NZ$5.00 ($3.20) per hour and below. The government responded with a proposal to replace the MWE with a wage supplement to encourage employers to take on workers with disabilities.

The HRC and the government’s Office for Disability Issues worked to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. In addition, both the HRC and the Mental Health Commission addressed mental disabilities in their antidiscrimination efforts.

Watchdog groups were concerned about compulsory assessments and treatments, and the use of seclusion and restrictive practices in medical facilities, especially those involved with mental-health services. Maori were significantly more likely to be subjected to these practices. The HRC has also expressed concern that courts may authorize the sterilization of intellectually disabled persons if they consider it to be in those persons best interest.

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

Pacific Islanders (also known as Pasifika), who comprised 8.1 percent of the population in 2018, experienced some societal discrimination and had the highest rates of unemployment (8 percent) and lowest labor force participation (60 percent) of any demographic group. In late 2018 the HRC reported on significant ethnic pay gaps in the country’s public service that left Pasifika women paid 21 per cent lower than the average.

Several government ministries, such as the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and Ministry of Health, had programs to identify gaps in delivery of government services to Pacific Islanders and to promote their education, employment, entrepreneurship, culture, languages, and identity. The Office of Ethnic Affairs within the Department of Internal Affairs focused on improving dialogue and understanding about minority communities among the wider population.

Asians, who comprised 12 percent of the population, reported some societal discrimination.

On March 15, a racially and religiously motivated terrorist attacked the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic center in Christchurch. The attacks, the country’s worst mass murder ever, killed 51 and injured 49 persons. All the victims were from ethnic minorities, and many observers noted the attack was indicative of anti-immigrant and Islamophobic sentiment in the country.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against the indigenous population, but there were disproportionately high numbers of Maori on unemployment and welfare rolls, in prison, among school dropouts and single-parent households, and with elevated infant mortality statistics.

To redress historic violations of the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, a multi-year process (the Waitangi Tribunal) continued adjudicating claims by various Maori groups (iwi). In the nine months ending March 31, the government paid NZ$5.448 million ($3.510 million) as commercial and financial compensation to several indigenous Maori groups to settle their claims. The government continued active negotiations with almost all other iwi that made claims and were in various stages of the process. In July a Waitangi Tribunal report found that the government breached the Treaty of Waitangi by failing to address persistent Maori health inequities and by failing to fulfill other treaty guarantees, thereby validating the claims of many iwi.

Although Maori represented 16 percent of the country’s population, they comprised nearly 52 percent of the prison population and 43 percent of persons serving community-based sentences. In August the Department of Corrections launched Hokai Rangi, a five-year strategy that aims to cut the number of Maori in prison to 16 percent. The strategy aims to improve rehabilitation and reintegration outcomes. The department stated that the strategy was codesigned with the Maori community, and Maori-specific support is slated for every prison.

The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The law prohibits abuse, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government generally enforced the law. During the year, approximately 1.6 percent of discrimination complaints received by the HRC related to gender identity or sexual orientation. The UN Human Rights Commission observed an elevated risk of mental-health issues, suicide risk, and youth discrimination in the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex, and queer/questioning population.

Panama

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, with prison terms of five to 10 years. Rapes continued to constitute the majority of sexual crimes investigated by the National Police Directorate of Judicial Investigation. Eighty percent of the victims were women and 63 percent of those were younger than 17.

The law against gender violence stipulates stiff penalties for harassment and both physical and emotional abuse. The law states that sentencing for femicide is a mandatory 25 to 30 years in prison. Officials and civil society organizations agreed that domestic violence continued to be a serious crime. The PNP Specialized Unit for Domestic and Gender Violence created in 2018 continued to have 190 agents trained to work these cases. In June, Roberto Moreno Grajales was convicted and sentenced to 30 years prison for the 2016 killing of his former girlfriend, Diosila Martinez. He had originally fled to Costa Rica after the killing but was extradited in 2018 to Panama.

The Ombudsman’s Office continued its program Mujer Conoce tus Derechos (Woman, Know Your Rights), which included a wide distribution of flyers. In May the National Institute for Women’s Affairs (INAMU) established 24/7 hotline 182 to give legal guidance to victims of domestic violence. If the caller was at risk during the call, the operator would make a connection with the police.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in cases of employer-employee relations in the public and private sectors and in teacher-student relations. Violators face a maximum three-year prison sentence. The extent of the problem was difficult to determine, because convictions for sexual harassment were rare, pre-employment sexual harassment was not actionable, and there was a lack of formal reports. During the year the Ministry of Labor, UN Development Program, and NGO SUMARSE began to develop a protocol for private sector employers on how to investigate and deal with labor and sexual harassment within companies.

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

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and women enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. The law recognizes joint property in marriages. The law mandates equal pay for men and women in equivalent jobs. Although an illegal hiring practice, some employers continued to request pregnancy tests. There were two cases reported in the countryside of temporary workers who terminated their pregnancies once the condition became obvious, presumably due to fear of being fired.

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides citizenship for all persons born in the country, but parents of children born in remote areas sometimes had difficulty obtaining birth registration certificates.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal. The law has several articles pertaining to child abuse and its penalties, which depend on the type of abuse and range from six months to 20 years’ imprisonment if the abuse falls under a crime that carries a higher penalty. Public Ministry statistics as of August reported that 2,090 children were victims of different types of abuse; the Public Ministry believed this figure was underreported. The Ministry of Social Development maintained a free hotline for children and adults to report child abuse and advertised it widely. The ministry provided funding to children’s shelters operated by NGOs and continued a program that used pamphlets in schools to sensitize teachers, children, and parents about mistreatment and sexual abuse of children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The government prohibits early marriage even with parental permission.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, and offering for prostitution of children, in addition to child pornography. Officials from the Ministry for Public Security continued to prosecute cases of sexual abuse of children, including within indigenous communities. Ministry officials believed that commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred, including in tourist areas in Panama City and in beach communities, although they did not keep separate statistics. In September, seven Panamanians were detained for their connections to an international child pornography ring based in Brazil. For two and one-half months, Panama and Brazil worked together with authorities in El Salvador, Paraguay, Chile, Ecuador, and other foreign countries to capture and imprison the individuals responsible for this child pornography ring as part of Operation Luz de la Infancia.

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

Jewish community leaders estimated there were 15,000 Jews in the country. There were no known reports of anti-Semitic acts.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities; however, the constitution permits the denial of naturalization to persons with mental or physical disabilities. The law mandates access to new or remodeled public buildings for persons with disabilities and requires that schools integrate children with disabilities. Despite provisions of the law, persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in a number of these areas.

Most of Panama City’s bus fleet remained wheelchair inaccessible. Media reports in August noted again that Metro elevators were frequently locked and could not be used. A lack of ramps further limited access to the old stations, although the newly inaugurated Metro Line 2 had ramp access. Most businesses had wheelchair ramps and accessible parking spaces to avoid fines, but in many cases they did not meet the government’s size specifications.

In September the National Secretariat for People with Disabilities began a free shuttle service from the city’s largest bus terminal for individuals with disabilities that needed to visit their offices, which were located in a residential neighborhood with limited public transportation.

Some public schools admitted children with mental and physical disabilities, but most did not have adequate facilities for children with disabilities. Few private schools admitted children with disabilities, as they are not legally required to do so. The high cost of hiring professional tutors to accompany children to private schools–a requirement of all private schools–precluded many students with disabilities from attending.

The government-sponsored Guardian Angel program continued to provide a monthly subsidy of 80 balboas ($80) for children with significant physical disabilities living in poor conditions.

As of September, 1,440 individuals with disabilities were hired by local companies per Ministry of Labor statistics. This was an increase from the yearly average number of individuals with disabilities hired between 2014 and 2018. The law stipulates that employers who hire individuals with disabilities receive tax breaks at the end of the fiscal year.

Minority groups were generally integrated into mainstream society. Prejudice was directed, however, at recent legal immigrants, the Afro-Panamanian community, and indigenous Panamanians. Cultural and language differences and immigration status hindered the integration of immigrant and first-generation individuals from China, India, and the Middle East into mainstream society. Additionally, some members of these communities were reluctant to integrate.

The Afro-Panamanian community was underrepresented in positions of political and economic power. Areas where they lived lagged in terms of government services and social investment. The government’s National Secretariat for the Development of Afro-Panamanians focused on the socioeconomic advancement of this community. The secretariat was not supportive of the joint work between government entities and NGOs to ensure an accurate count of the Afro-Panamanian population in the upcoming 2020 census.

The law prohibits discrimination in access to public accommodations such as restaurants, stores, and other privately owned establishments; no complaints were filed. The Ombudsman’s Office intervened in several cases before students with Rastafarian braids were permitted entry into public school classrooms.

There were reports of racial discrimination against various ethnic groups in the workplace. Lighter-skinned persons continued to be overrepresented in management positions and jobs that required dealing with the public, such as bank tellers and receptionists. A July report by the UN Development Program and the National Institute on Women stated that Afro-Panamanian women were 10 times more susceptible to discrimination in the workplace than women from other races.

The law affords indigenous persons the same political and legal rights as other citizens, protects their ethnic identity and native languages, and requires the government to provide bilingual literacy programs in indigenous communities. Indigenous individuals have the legal right to take part in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation and exploitation of natural resources. Nevertheless, they continued to be marginalized in mainstream society. Traditional community leaders governed comarcas (legally designated semiautonomous areas) for five of the country’s seven indigenous groups. The government also unofficially recognized eight other traditional indigenous government authorities. Government institutions recognized these eight regions were traditionally organized indigenous settlements and territories not included when the original comarcas were created.

Government officers continued to meet with traditional organized authorities from the indigenous community, and many requested recognition of their land via collective titles. No collective land titles were granted during the year, however, and land conflicts continued to arise. In March the bill for Naso Comarca was sent to the Supreme Court of Justice to decide if it is constitutional after a veto by the president in December.

The Ngabe and Bugle continued to oppose the Barro Blanco dam project, which became operational in 2017. There were no plans by the government to halt dam operations. The Ngabe-Bugle and the government continued to negotiate details of the dam’s operation.

Although the law is the ultimate authority in indigenous comarcas, many indigenous persons had not received sufficient information to understand their rights and, due to the inadequate system of education available in the comarcas, failed to use available legal channels.

In February the government established the Governing Committee for the National Indigenous Peoples Development Plan, with three representatives of the indigenous groups and government entities to ensure the implementation of the plan.

Societal and employment discrimination against indigenous persons was widespread. Employers frequently denied indigenous workers basic rights provided by law, such as a minimum wage, social security benefits, termination pay, and job security. Laborers on the country’s agricultural plantations (the majority of whom were indigenous persons) continued to work in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The Ministry of Labor conducted limited oversight of working conditions in remote areas.

Deficiencies in the educational system continued in the comarcas, especially beyond the primary grades. There were not enough teachers in these remote and inaccessible areas, with many schools poorly constructed and lacking running water. Teachers and students in remote areas of the comarcas continued to sporadically protest poor road and school conditions. Access to health care was a significant problem in the indigenous comarcas, despite government investment in more health infrastructure and staff. This was reflected in high rates of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, and an increase in HIV rates. The government continued to execute the Indigenous Development Plan jointly developed with indigenous leaders in 2013.

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. There was societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which often led to denial of employment opportunities.

The PNP’s internal regulations describe consensual same-sex sexual conduct by its employees as against policy and potentially grounds for dismissal. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) human rights organizations reported harassment of LGBTI persons by security forces as a source of serious concern. On July 5, the new PNP director general stated in a national news interview that members of the LGBTI community can be members of the police force as long as they do not conduct actions that could damage the image of the institution. According to LGBTI NGOs, no changes had been made to internal police policies prohibiting LGBTI persons from serving in the force.

LGBTI NGOs reported hospital personnel refused to provide medical services to a transgender individual in a public hospital in Changuinola, province of Bocas del Toro, early in the year. In June, after attending the Pride Parade, a young man was raped by two men after they saw a rainbow flag in his backpack. The victim sought support from a local NGO and filed a criminal complaint with the Public Ministry. As of November there had been no progress in the case.

As of September the 2016 class-action lawsuit before the Supreme Court of Justice requesting Article 26 of the Family Code, which refers to marriage as “the union of a man and a woman” and thus forbids same-sex legal unions, be declared unconstitutional, was still unresolved.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS in employment and education. Discrimination, however, continued to be common due to ignorance of the law and a lack of mechanisms for ensuring compliance. LGBTI individuals reported mistreatment by health-care workers, including unnecessary quarantines.

Human rights NGOs reported receiving complaints of labor discrimination when employers found out employees were HIV positive, despite the fact that the law prohibits discrimination against persons with sexually transmitted diseases, as well as their immediate relatives. Employees are not obligated to disclose their condition to the employer, but if they do so, the employer must keep the information confidential. LGBTI NGOs reported at least one employer who allegedly sought ways to dismiss an HIV-positive employee who had 15 years of service at the company. Health Ministry representatives made a public call to employers to follow the law and asked laid-off employees to reach out to them for legal advice. Employers can be fined for not keeping an employee’s medical condition confidential.

In September the NGO PROBIDSIDA published concerns about a shortage of antiretroviral medications for treating patients with HIV/AIDS. PROBIDSIDA claimed that bureaucracy and lack of interest from administrative offices at the Ministry of Health and the Social Security clinics led to late purchase orders and late payment of providers, implying systematic prejudice against HIV-positive individuals within the health-care system.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future