Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, the government restricted these rights. The law imposes penalties on journalists deemed to have committed “serious errors” as defined in the media code.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The High Authority of Audiovisuals and Communications is a constitutionally mandated body charged with allocating frequencies to private television and radio stations and providing for press freedom and ethical standards of journalism. For violations of the press code, it has the power to impose penalties, including suspending publications for up to six months, withdrawing press cards, and seizing equipment from journalists.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 7.1 percent of the population used the internet in 2015.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
While the law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the government restricted some of these rights.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
In-country Movement: Traffic police routinely stopped motorists on fabricated charges of violating traffic laws to solicit bribes.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: On March 3, the National Assembly passed a law in compliance with the Geneva Convention that defines the process for determining refugee status and created an appeals commission. The law defines the status of refugees and grants refugees protection, rights, and duties. It also created two commissions, the Appeals Commission (CR) and the National Commission for Refugees (CNR), with the existing Office of National Coordination of Refugees being the CNR’s permanent secretariat. The Ministry of Security and Civil Protection presides over the CNR, which comprises representatives from nine ministries, and heads the CR, which includes representatives from seven ministries.
Durable Solutions: The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees to assist in the safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees to their home countries. The government assisted in the repatriation of 29 refugees.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but it was rarely reported due to societal reasons and, if reported, was often ignored by authorities. The law provides for prison terms of five to 10 years for those convicted of rape and a fine of two million to 10 million CFA francs ($3,405 to $17,024). Conviction of spousal rape is punishable by up to 720 hours of community service and a fine of 200,000 to one million CFA francs ($340 to $1,702). A prison term for conviction of 20 to 30 years applies if the victim is a child under age 14; is gang-raped; or if the rape results in pregnancy, disease, or incapacitation lasting more than six weeks. The government was diligent in investigating reports of rape and prosecuting suspects, but victims were reluctant to report incidents due to the social stigma associated with being raped and fear of reprisal. Although neither the government nor any other group-compiled statistics on rape or rape arrests, some observers claimed rape was a widespread problem throughout the country.
The law does not specifically address domestic violence, and domestic violence against women continued to be widespread. Police generally did not intervene in abusive situations, and many women were not aware of the formal judicial mechanisms designed to protect them. Although there were no official efforts to combat domestic violence, several NGOs actively educated women on their rights.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for girls and women. It was usually perpetrated a few months after birth. According to 2015 data from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), FGM/C had been performed on 3 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 and on 1 percent of girls and young women ages 15 to 19. The most common form of FGM/C was excision.
Penalties for those convicted of FGM/C range from five to 10 years in prison as well as substantial fines; repeat offenders face longer sentences. The law was rarely enforced, however, because most cases occurred in rural areas where awareness of the law was limited or traditional customs often took precedence over the legal system among certain ethnic groups. The practice was most common in isolated Muslim communities in the sparsely populated Central Region.
The government continued to sponsor educational seminars on FGM/C. Several domestic NGOs, with international assistance, organized campaigns to educate women on their rights and on how to care for victims of FGM/C. NGOs also worked to create alternative labor opportunities for former FGM/C perpetrators.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem. While the law states harassment is illegal and may be prosecuted in court, no specific punishment is prescribed, and authorities did not enforce the law.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but they often lacked the information and means to do so. Health clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, but according to the UN Population Division, only 21.4 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015. The major barriers to contraceptive use were poverty and lack of education.
According to 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) data, skilled health-care personnel attended approximately 60 percent of births. Although the government provided free cesarean sections, it did not provide free childbirth services generally, and the lack of doctors meant most women used skilled midwives for childbirth as well as for prenatal and postnatal care, unless the mother or child suffered serious health complications. According to the WHO, the maternal mortality rate was 368 deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 58 as of 2015. The most common causes of maternal mortality were hemorrhaging, adolescent pregnancy, and lack of access to skilled obstetric care during childbirth.
Discrimination: Although women and men are equal under the law, women continued to experience discrimination in education, pay (see section 7.d.), pension benefits, and inheritance. In urban areas women and girls dominated market activities and commerce. Harsh economic conditions in rural areas, where most of the population lived, left women with little time for activities other than domestic tasks and agricultural fieldwork. While formal law supersedes traditional law, it is slow, distant, and expensive to access; rural women were effectively subject to traditional law.
There are no restrictions on women signing contracts, opening bank accounts, or owning property. Women did not experience formal sector economic discrimination in access to employment (see section 7.d.), credit, or managing a business. Under traditional law a wife has no maintenance or child support rights in the event of divorce or separation. The formal legal system provides inheritance rights for a wife upon the death of her husband. Polygyny was practiced and recognized by formal and traditional law.
Birth Registration: By law citizenship is derived either from birth within the country’s borders or, if abroad, from a Togolese parent.
Authorities registered approximately 50 percent of children at birth, but the percentage was lower in rural areas. The main obstacles were the cost and difficulty of registering births for rural families living far from government offices. Coupled with an outreach campaign to remind rural families that all children must have birth certificates, the government coordinated from time to time with NGOs to organize free delivery of birth certificates to rural areas.
Education: School attendance is compulsory for boys and girls until age 15, and the government provides tuition-free public education from nursery through primary school. Parents must pay for books, supplies, uniforms, and other expenses. Primary school education ends between the ages of 11 and 13. There was near gender parity in primary school attendance, and girls and boys were generally treated equally. Girls were more likely than boys to complete primary school but less likely to attend secondary school.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a widespread problem. While there is no statutory rape law, by law the minimum age of consensual sex is 16 for both boys and girls. The government continued to work with local NGOs on public awareness campaigns to prevent exploitation of children.
The government maintained a toll-free telephone service for persons to report cases of child abuse and to seek help. The service provides information on the rights of the child and legal procedures and access to social workers who may intervene in emergencies. The government also established school curricula to educate children on human rights and, working with UNICEF, trained teachers on children’s rights.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 for girls and 20 for boys, although both may marry under these ages with parental consent. According to a 2015 UNICEF report, 25 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or in a union before age 18, and 6 percent were married or in a union before age 15. The practice significantly declined in recent years. Underage marriage rates were highest in the Savannah Region at 61 percent, followed by the Plateau Region at 37 percent, the Kara Region at 36 percent, the Central Region at 31 percent, and the Maritime Region at 29 percent.
The government and NGOs engaged in a range of actions to prevent early marriage, particularly through awareness raising among community and religious leaders. The Ministries of Education, Gender and Health led development of the National Program against Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. Multiple initiatives focused on helping girls stay in school. Messages broadcast through mass media, particularly local radio, stressed avoiding early marriage and the importance of educating girls.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under age 18 in women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides penalties for those convicted of between one and five years’ imprisonment and fines from 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($170 to $1,702). For conviction of violations involving children under age 15, prison sentences may be up to 10 years. The law was not effectively enforced. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 for boys and girls.
The law prohibits child pornography and provides penalties of five to 10 years in prison for those convicted. Minors were subjected to prostitution. The government conducted a survey and assessment of reports of child sex tourism in 2013 as part of its effort to address the problem, but had yet to release the reports.
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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There is no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, mental, intellectual, and sensory disabilities in employment (see section 7.d.), education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or in the provision of other government services, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. The law does not mandate accessibility to public or private facilities for persons with disabilities, although some public buildings had ramps. Children with disabilities attended schools at all levels, with some attending schools specifically for those with disabilities. Information regarding possible abuse in these facilities was unavailable. The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and participate in civic affairs, although lack of accessible buildings and transportation posed barriers.
The Ministry of Social Action, Women’s Promotion, and Elimination of Illiteracy, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education are responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Action, Women’s Promotion, and Elimination of Illiteracy held awareness campaigns to fight discrimination and promote equality; it also distributed food and clothing and provided skills training to persons with disabilities.
The northern ethnic groups, especially the Kabye, dominate the civil and military services while southern ethnic groups, especially the Ewe, dominate the private commercial sector. Relative dominance has been a recurring source of political tension.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Article 392 of the penal code forbids “acts against nature committed with an individual of one’s sex,” widely understood as a reference to same-sex sexual activity. The law provides that a person convicted of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity may be sentenced to one to three years’ imprisonment and fined one million to three million CFA francs ($1,702 to $5,107), but the law was not enforced directly. On those occasions when police arrested someone for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity, the charge was usually for some other violation as justification for the arrest, such as disturbing the peace or public urination. The media code forbids promotion of immorality. LGBTI persons faced societal discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. Existing antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTI persons (see section 7.d.). No laws allow transgendered persons to change gender markers on government-issued identity documents.
A revised draft of the penal code, debated by a National Assembly drafting committee in August and September 2015, did not alter Article 392. The draft included new language in a separate article that would punish anyone who offends “public morality” through speeches, writings, images, and other means. This came despite international pressure on the legislature to use the broad update of the penal code to drop discriminatory language. Several LGBTI groups were vocal in their opposition to the revision of the penal code, issuing press releases calling on lawmakers to eliminate Article 392. There were no overt reprisals against these groups by authorities.
The government allowed LGBTI groups to register with the Ministry of Territorial Affairs as health-related groups, particularly those focused on HIV/AIDS prevention. Activists reported violence against LGBTI persons was common, but police ignored complaints. Most human rights organizations, including the CNDH, refused to address LGBTI concerns.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS, and the government continued to sponsor broadcasts aimed at deterring discrimination. Persons infected with HIV/AIDS, nonetheless, continued to face significant societal discrimination at all levels, including reports of family members refusing to share eating utensils with infected persons. The 2015 Demographic and Health Survey did not address social stigma towards persons infected with HIV/AIDS.