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Afghanistan

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and there were reports officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Reports indicated corruption was endemic throughout society, and flows of money from the military, international donors, and the drug trade continued to exacerbate the problem.

The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative Afghanistan reported that during the last 15 years, many government infrastructure projects did not go through proper legal mechanisms, but instead were based on favoritism. The organization estimated total embezzlement in the billions of dollars.

According to prisoners and local NGOs, corruption was widespread across the justice system, particularly in connection with the prosecution of criminal cases and in arranging release from prison. There were also reports that officials received unauthorized payments in exchange for reducing prison sentences, halting an investigation, or dismissing charges outright.

National-level survey data offered a mixed picture of corruption in the justice sector. The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law survey found moderate improvements in perceptions of government accountability. Nonetheless, experts polled for the report cited corrupt prosecutors as the biggest problem in criminal investigative services and corruption as the largest problem in criminal courts. Respondents to the poll increasingly believed that high-ranking government officials would be investigated for embezzlement, but they also named judges, magistrates, parliamentarians, and local government officials as most likely to be involved in corrupt practices. Respondents also reported widespread bribe taking by government officials and agencies, police, and hospitals.

During the year there were reports of “land grabbing” by both private and public actors. Most commonly, businesses illegally obtained property deeds from corrupt officials and sold the deeds to unsuspecting prospective homeowners, who then were caught up in criminal prosecutions. Other reports indicated government officials confiscated land without compensation with the intent to exchange it for contracts or political favors. There were reports provincial governments illegally confiscated land without due process or compensation in order to build public facilities.

Corruption: In June 2016 the president signed a decree establishing an independent Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) with responsibility for prosecuting high-level corruption cases. Since the ACJC’s inauguration in August 2016, it tried 21 single- and multi-defendant cases against 83 defendants, handing just under 47 billion Afghani ($67 million) in fines, recoveries, and asset seizure judgements in addition to lengthy prison sentences for those convicted. The court acquitted 11 defendants, providing initial evidence that the cases that ACJC prosecutors were sound but that the new court was a forum where a vigorous defense could lead to a speedy acquittal for the accused if the evidence was weak. Media and public observers attended the proceedings and reported the trials were procedurally fair, orderly, and professional. On March 26, the ACJC convicted four ministry of housing and urban development officials on charges of misuse of authority and embezzling more than $12.8 million. On appeal the court upheld the 20-year prison sentences on June 20 for the two ringleaders in the scheme, and the seven-year sentences for their two accomplices, but adjusted the financial penalties imposed. Ultimately, the group was ordered to pay $32.1 million in restitution and penalties. On August 15, the ACJC sentenced the chairman of Dawi Oil Company, Abdul Ghafar Dawi, to five years and nine months in prison and a $21 million fine for embezzlement of $16 million from the Kabul Bank.

According to various reports, many government positions, up to district or provincial governorships, could be suborned. Governors with reported involvement in corruption, the drug trade, or records of human rights violations reportedly continued to receive executive appointments and served with relative impunity.

There were allegations of widespread corruption, and abuse of power by officers at the Ministry of Interior. Provincial police reportedly extorted civilians at checkpoints and received kickbacks from the drug trade. Police reportedly demanded bribes from civilians to gain release from prison or avoid arrest.

Financial Disclosure: The High Office of Oversight is responsible for collecting, verifying, and publishing information from senior government officials on all sources and levels of personal income when they assume and leave office. While collection and publication occurred, some officials failed to submit the required reports, and there was only limited progress on the verification of such declarations by independent experts. The absence of legal penalties for omissions or misrepresentations tended to undermine this key tool for identifying wrongdoing.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views. Human rights activists continued to express concern that human rights abusers remained in positions of power within the government.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The constitutionally mandated AIHRC continued to address human rights problems, but it received minimal government funding and relied almost exclusively on international donor funds. Three Wolesi Jirga committees deal with human rights: the Gender, Civil Society, and Human Rights Committee; the Counternarcotics, Intoxicating Items, and Ethical Abuse Committee; and the Judicial, Administrative Reform, and Anticorruption Committee. In the Meshrano Jirga, the Committee for Gender and Civil Society addresses human rights concerns.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The EVAW law criminalizes 22 acts of violence against women, including rape, battery, or beating; forced marriage; humiliation; intimidation; and deprivation of inheritance. The law provides for a sentence of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment for rape. If the act results in the death of the victim, the law provides for a death sentence for the perpetrator. The law provides for imprisonment of up to seven years for the “violation of chastity of a woman…that does not result in adultery (such as sexual touching).” Under the law rape does not include spousal rape. Authorities did not always fully enforce the EVAW law.

Prosecutors and judges in remote provinces were frequently unaware of the EVAW law or received pressure to release defendants due to familial loyalties, threat of harm, or bribes, or because some religious leaders declared the law un-Islamic. Female victims faced stringent societal reprisal, ranging from imprisonment to extrajudicial killing. Interpretations of sharia also impeded successful prosecution of rape cases.

Forced virginity testing remained legal, and police, prosecutors, and judges continued to order virginity tests in cases of “moral crimes” such as zina. Women who sought assistance in cases of rape were often subject to virginity tests. The new penal code, signed into law by presidential decree on March 4 and scheduled to take effect in February 2018, contains language criminalizing virginity tests performed without the consent of the woman and a court order.

The penal code criminalizes assault, and courts convicted domestic abusers under this provision, as well as under the beating provision in the law. According to NGO reports, hundreds of thousands of women continued to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, in-laws, armed individuals, parallel legal systems, and institutions of state, such as the police and justice systems.

The justice system’s response to domestic violence was limited, in part due to low reporting, sympathy toward perpetrators, and bribery, family, or tribal pressure.

Space at the 29 women’s protection centers across the country was sometimes insufficient, particularly in major urban centers, and shelters remained concentrated in the western, northern, and central regions of the country. Most women did not seek legal assistance for domestic or sexual abuse because they did not know their rights or because they feared prosecution or being sent back to their family or the perpetrator.

Women in need of protection often ended up in prison, either because their community lacked a protection center or based on the local interpretation of “running away” as a moral crime. Adultery, fornication, and kidnapping are criminal offenses. Running away is not a crime under the law, and both the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office issued directives to this effect, but some local authorities continued to detain women and girls for running away from home or “attempted zina.” The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as well as nongovernmental entities, sometimes arranged marriages for women who could not return to their families.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law criminalizes forced, underage, and “baad” marriages (the practice of settling disputes in which the culprit’s family trades a girl to the victim’s family) and interference with a woman’s right to choose her spouse.

Under the penal code, if a man convicted of honor killing sees his wife or other close relation in the act of committing adultery and immediately kills or injures one or both parties to defend his honor, he cannot receive a prison sentence of more than two years. On March 7, the Taliban convicted and stoned to death a woman accused of adultery in Badakhshan Province.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes harassment and persecution ofwomen. Women who walked outside alone or who worked outside the home often experienced harassment, including groping and being followed. Women with public roles occasionally received threats directed at them or their families.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women who reported cases of abuse or who sought legal redress for other matters reported they experienced discrimination within the judicial system. Some observers, including female judges, asserted that discrimination was a result of faulty implementation of law. Limited access to money and other resources to pay fines (or bribes) and the social requirement for women to have a male guardian affected women’s access to and participation in the justice system.

Prosecutors in some provinces continued to be reluctant to use the EVAW law, and judges would sometimes replace those charges with others based on the penal code.

The law provides for equal work without discrimination, but there are no provisions for equal pay for equal work. The law criminalizes interference with a woman’s right to work. Women faced discrimination in access to employment and terms of occupationOverall, 22 percent of civil servants and 5 percent of security forces were female, including 3,000 female police and 1,400 female soldiers.

Children

Birth Registration: A citizen father transmits citizenship to his child. Birth in the country or to a citizen mother alone does not transfer citizenship. Adoption is not legally recognized. For more information, see data.unicef.org .

Education: Education is mandatory up to the lower secondary level (six years for primary school and three years for lower secondary), and the law provides for free education up to and including the college level. Many children, however, did not attend school.

Key obstacles to girls’ education included poverty, early and forced marriage, insecurity, lack of family support, lack of female teachers, and a lack of nearby schools. An October 2017 Human Rights Watch report observed that the government provided fewer schools for girls than boys and that the lack of basic provisions in many schools for security, privacy, and hygiene, including boundary walls, toilets, and water, also disproportionately affected girls.

Violent attacks on schoolchildren, particularly girls, also hindered access to education, particularly in areas controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban and other extremists threatened and attacked school officials, teachers, and students, particularly girls, and burned both boys’ and girls’ schools. There were press reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by teachers and school officials, particularly against boys. The government claimed families rarely pressed charges due to shame and doubt that the judicial system would respond.

Child Abuse: Police reportedly beat and sexually abused children. NGOs reported a predominantly punitive and retributive approach to juvenile justice throughout the country. Although it is against the law, corporal punishment in schools, rehabilitation centers, and other public institutions remained common.

There were reports that some members of the security forces, including members of the Afghan security forces, and progovernment groups sexually abused and exploited young girls and boys. On January 22, in Paktika Province, Afghan National Border Police reportedly sexually abused a 13-year-old boy at their check-post before shooting him. According to UNAMA, the perpetrators were serving six-year prison sentences for murder after being investigated and prosecuted by the Afghan National Police prosecution unit. There were multiple reports of “bacha bazi,” a practice in which men exploit boys for social and sexual entertainment. On March 20, a Tajik police commander in Faryab Province reportedly killed the son of another police commander, an Uzbek, for hosting a bacha bazi party with Tajik boys.

The government took steps to discourage the abuse of boys and to prosecute or punish those involved. On February 22, President Ghani signed a Law to Combat Crimes of Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, which includes legal provisions criminalizing behaviors associated with the sexual exploitation of children. The law criminalizes the various acts associated with bacha bazi, including not only sexual exploitation of a minor, but also forced dancing, and prescribes punishments ranging from eight to 12 years.

Early and Forced Marriage: Despite a law setting the legal minimum age for marriage at 16 for girls (15 with the consent of a parent or guardian and the court) and 18 for boys, international and local observers continued to report widespread early marriage. Under the EVAW law, those who arrange forced or underage marriages are subject to imprisonment for not less than two years, but implementation of the law was limited. During the year the government launched a five-year National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage.

By law a marriage contract requires verification that the bride is 16 years of age (or 15 with the permission of her parents or a court), but only a small fraction of the population had birth certificates.

There were reports from Badakhshan Province that Taliban militants bought young women to sell into forced marriage. The UN Development Program Legal Aid Grant Facility reported women increasingly petitioned for divorce.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although pornography is a crime, child pornography is not specified in the law. Exploitation of children for sexual purposes, often associated with bacha bazi, was widespread, although some aspects of this practice are separate crimes under the penal code.

Child Soldiers: In February 2016 the Law on Prohibition of Children’s Recruitment in the Military became effective. There were reports the ANDSF and progovernment militias recruited and used children in a limited number of cases, and the Taliban and other antigovernment elements recruited children for military purposes (see section 1.g.). Media reported that local progovernment commanders recruited children under 16 years of age. The Taliban and other antigovernment groups regularly recruited and trained children to conduct attacks.

Displaced Children: Returnee families and their children overwhelmed border areas, specifically Herat and Jalalabad. Although the government banned street begging in 2008, NGOs and government offices reported large numbers of children begging and living in the streets of major cities.

Institutionalized Children: Living conditions for children in orphanages were poor. NGOs reported up to 80 percent of children between ages four and 18 years in the orphanages were not orphans but came from families that could not provide food, shelter, or schooling. Children in orphanages reported mental, physical, and sexual abuse and occasionally were victims of trafficking. They did not have regular access to running water, heating in winter, indoor plumbing, health services, recreational facilities, or education. Security forces kept child detainees in juvenile detention centers run by the Ministry of Justice, except for a group of children arrested for national security violations who stayed at the detention facility in Parwan. NGOs reported these children were kept separate from the general population but still were at risk of radicalization.

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.

Anti-Semitism

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 constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination against citizens and requires the state to assist persons with disabilities and to protect their rights, including the rights to health care and financial protection. The constitution also requires the state to adopt measures to reintegrate and provide for the active participation in society of persons with disabilities. The Law on the Rights and Benefits of Disabled Persons provides for equal rights to, and the active participation of, such persons in society.

Disability rights activists reported that corruption prevented some persons with disabilities from receiving benefits. There were reports that government officials redirected scholarship funds for persons with disabilities to friends or family through fraud and identity theft. NGOs and government officials also reported that associations of persons with disabilities attempted to intimidate ministry employees in an effort to secure benefits such as apartments.

Lack of security remained a challenge for disability programs. Insecurity in remote areas, where a disproportionate number of persons with disabilities lived, precluded delivery of assistance in some cases. The majority of buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities, prohibiting many from benefitting from education, health care, and other services.

Persons with disabilities faced barriers such as limited access to educational opportunities, inability to access government buildings, lack of economic opportunities, and social exclusion.

In the Meshrano Jirga, authorities reserved two of the presidentially appointed seats for persons with disabilities. Per law, 3 percent of all government positions are reserved for persons with disabilities, but government officials admitted the law was not enforced.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic tensions between various groups continued to result in conflict and killings. Societal discrimination against Shia Hazaras continued along class, race, and religious lines in the form of extortion of money through illegal taxation, forced recruitment and forced labor, physical abuse, and detention. According to NGOs, the government frequently assigned Hazara ANP officers to symbolic positions with little authority within the Ministry of Interior. NGOs also reported Hazara ANDSF officers were more likely than non-Hazara officers to be posted to insecure areas of the country. During the year there was a marked rise in violence, principally carried out by ISIS-K, against the Hazara community. In August ISIS-K attacked Shia Hazara mosques in Herat and then Kabul, killing more than 100 persons. There were six major attacks on Shia mosques or Shia communities during the first half of the year, all attributed to ISIS-K.

Sikhs and Hindus faced discrimination, reporting unequal access to government jobs and harassment in school, as well as verbal and physical abuse in public places. According to the Sikh and Hindu Council of Afghanistan, there were approximately 900 members of the Sikh and Hindu community in the country.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, and there were reports of harassment and violence by society and police. The law does not prohibit discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Homosexuality was widely seen as taboo and indecent. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community did not have access to certain health services and could be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Organizations devoted to protecting the freedom of LGBTI persons remained underground because they could not legally register with the government. Members of the LGBTI community reported they continued to face discrimination, assault, rape, and arrest by security forces and society at large.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no confirmed reports of discrimination or violence against persons with HIV/AIDS, but there was reportedly serious societal stigma against persons with AIDS.

Botswana

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally sought to implement these laws effectively. Officials tasked with enforcement lacked adequate training and resources, however. Media reports of government corruption increased during the year.

Corruption: In past years police officials acknowledged corruption was a problem in the lower ranks, and some officers took advantage of irregular immigrants and traffic violators by exacting bribes.

The press continued to publish information leaked from a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) investigation of the director of the DISS, a story first reported in 2014. The documents allegedly demonstrated substantive links to corruption and money laundering. At year’s end the director retained his position, and the DCEC had not initiated any action against him.

Financial Disclosure: There are no formal financial disclosure laws; however, a 2009 presidential directive requires all cabinet ministers to declare their interests, assets, and liabilities to the president. Critics contended this policy did not go far enough to promote transparency and asserted financial declarations by senior government officials should be available to the public.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. Authorities effectively enforced laws against rape when victims pressed charges; however, police noted victims often declined to press charges against perpetrators. By law the minimum sentence for rape is 10 years in prison, increasing to 15 years with corporal punishment if the offender is HIV-positive and unaware, and 20 years with corporal punishment if the offender is HIV-positive and aware. By law formal courts try all rape cases. A person convicted of rape is required to undergo an HIV test before sentencing.

The law prohibits domestic and other violence, whether against women or men, but it remained a serious problem.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in both the private and public sectors. Sexual harassment committed by a public officer is considered misconduct and punishable by termination, potentially with forfeiture of all retirement benefits; suspension with loss of pay and benefits for up to three months; reduction in rank or pay; deferment or stoppage of a pay raise; or reprimand. Nonetheless, sexual harassment, particularly by men in positions of authority, including teachers, continued to be a widespread problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Under the constitution, women and men have the same civil rights and legal status, but under customary law based on tribal practice, a number of traditional laws restricted women’s property rights and economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas. Women increasingly exercised the right to marriage “out of common property,” in which they retained their full legal rights as adults. There is no legal requirement that women receive equal pay for equal work.

In May President Khama signed the Revised Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.

Children

Birth Registration: In general citizenship is derived from one’s parents, although there are limited circumstances in which citizenship may be derived from birth within the country’s territory. The government generally registered births promptly; however, unregistered children may be denied some government services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Primary education was tuition-free for the first 10 years of school but not compulsory. Parents must cover school fees as well as the cost of uniforms and books. These costs could be waived for children whose family income fell below a certain level.

Child Abuse: Child abuse occurred and often was reported to police in cases of physical harm to a child. Police referred the children and, depending on the level of abuse, their alleged abuser(s) to counseling in the Department of Social Services within the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, as well as to local NGOs. Police referred some cases to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

Early and Forced Marriage: Child marriage occurred infrequently and was largely limited to certain tribes. The government does not recognize marriages that occur when either party is under the minimum legal age of 18. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the prostitution and sexual abuse of children. Sex with a child younger than 16, including a prostituted child, constitutes defilement and is punishable by a minimum of 10 years’ incarceration.

Child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by five to 15 years in prison.

Displaced Children: In 2013 UNICEF, which defines an orphan as a child with one or both parents deceased, estimated there were 130,000 orphans in the country, of whom approximately 96,000 had lost one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS. The government, which defines an orphan as a child both of whose parents are dead, registered 38,596 children as orphans and 32,068 as vulnerable in 2013. Once registered as an orphan, a child receives school uniforms, shelter, a monthly food basket worth between 216 pula ($22) and 600 pula ($60), depending upon location, and counseling as needed.

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.

Anti-Semitism

There was a very small Jewish population, 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 disabilities, but does not prohibit discrimination by private persons or entities. The government’s policy provides for integrating the needs of persons with disabilities into all aspects of policymaking. It mandates access to public buildings or transportation for persons with disabilities, but access for persons with disabilities was limited. Although new government buildings were being constructed in such a way as to provide access for persons with disabilities, older government office buildings remained largely inaccessible. Most new privately owned commercial and apartment buildings provided access for persons with disabilities.

Children with disabilities attended school, although a human rights NGO raised concern the Children’s Act does not guarantee accessible education to children with disabilities. The government made some accommodations during elections to allow for persons with disabilities to vote.

There was a Department of Disability Coordination in the Office of the President to assist persons with disabilities. The Department of Labor in the Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in the labor force and investigating claims of discrimination. Individuals may also bring cases directly to the Industrial Court. The government funded NGOs that provided rehabilitation services and supported small-scale projects for workers with disabilities.

Indigenous people

The government does not recognize any particular group or tribe as indigenous. The eight tribes of the Tswana group, which speak a mutually intelligible dialect of Setswana, have been politically dominant since independence, are officially recognized by law, and were granted permanent membership in the House of Chiefs. Constitutional amendments subsequently enabled the recognition of other tribes.

English and Setswana are the only officially recognized languages, a policy human rights organizations and minority tribes criticized particularly with regard to education, where some children were forced to learn in a nonnative language.

An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 persons belong to one of the many scattered, diverse tribal groups known collectively as Basarwa or San. The Basarwa constituted approximately 3 percent of the population and are culturally and linguistically distinct from most other residents. The law prohibits discrimination against the Basarwa in employment, housing, health services, or because of cultural practices; however, the Basarwa remained marginalized economically and politically and generally did not have access to their traditional land. The Basarwa continued to be geographically isolated, had limited access to education, lacked adequate political representation, and some members were not fully aware of their civil rights.

The government interpreted a 2006 High Court ruling against the exclusion of Basarwa from traditional lands in the CKGR to apply only to the 189 plaintiffs, their spouses, and their minor children. Many of the Basarwa and their supporters continued to object to the government’s interpretation of the court’s ruling. Negotiations between Basarwa representatives and the government regarding residency and hunting rights in the CKGR stalled after a separate court ruling provided the right to access water through boreholes.

Government officials maintained the resettlement program was voluntary and necessary to facilitate the delivery of public services, provide socioeconomic development opportunities to the Basarwa, and minimize human impact on wildlife. In 2012 the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues approved a set of nine draft recommendations addressing the impact of land seizures and disenfranchisement of indigenous people. In 2013 attorneys for the Basarwa filed a High Court case in which the original complainants from the 2006 CKGR case appealed to the government for unrestricted access (i.e., without permits) to the CKGR for their children and relatives.

There were no government programs directly addressing discrimination against the Basarwa. With the exception of CKGR lands designated in the 2006 court ruling, there were no demarcated cultural lands.

In previous years, the government charged Basarwa with unlawful possession of hunted carcasses. In 2014 five Basarwa filed a lawsuit against the minister of environment, natural resource conservation, and tourism over the hunting ban in the CKGR; the case was pending at year’s end.

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

The law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, but it includes language criminalizing some aspects of same-sex sexual activity. What the law describes as “unnatural acts” are criminalized with a penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment, and there was widespread belief this was directed toward LGBTI persons. There were no reports police targeted persons suspected of same-sex sexual activity. LGBTI-rights organizations claimed there were incidents of violence, societal harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The victims of such incidents seldom filed police reports, primarily due to stigma but occasionally as a result of overt intimidation.

In September the High Court ruled in favor of a transgender man who sued the Registrar of National Registration to change the gender indicated on his government-issued identity document from female to male. In a separate case, on December 12, the Gaborone High Court ordered the Registrar of Births and Deaths to amend the gender marker on a transgender applicant’s birth certificate from male to female within seven days, and to reissue the applicant’s national identity document within 21 days.

Public meetings of LGBTI advocacy groups and debates on LGBTI issues occurred without disruption or interference. In March 2016 the Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 High Court ruling ordering the government to formally register LeGaBiBo (Lesbian, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana), a group that advocates for LGBTI rights. LeGaBiBo has since participated in government-sponsored events.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The HIV prevalence rate was 18 per cent in the general population. According to the UNFPA, limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and youth-friendly services, as well as gender-based violence, contributed to high HIV rates. The government funded community organizations that ran antidiscrimination and public awareness programs.

Finland

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

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

Corruption: In June the Helsinki district court sentenced the former mayor of Vantaa, Jukka Peltomaki, to two years and six months of unconditional imprisonment for accepting bribes totaling 187,958 euros ($225,500). He was also ordered to pay the bribe money to the state.

Financial Disclosure: By law, income and asset information from the tax forms of all citizens, including appointed and elected officials, must be made public each year. The law does not provide for specific criminal penalties for nondisclosure.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, , and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to four years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be more severe. The maximum penalties are six years’ imprisonment for rape and 10 years for aggravated rape. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (intoxicated or with a disability) are considered as severe as rape.

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

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a problem. According to Statistics Finland, approximately 69 percent of the victims of domestic and intimate-partner violence were women.

The government encouraged women to report rape and domestic violence and provided counseling, shelters, and other support services to survivors.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: On July 14, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered a 22-year-old Iraqi man who was convicted of planning to kill his sister to “restore his family’s honor” to be deported to Iraq.

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

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law. In February the district court of North Karelia sentenced Kesla Oyj (a machinery company) to pay more than 60,000 euros ($72,000) in compensation to the only female employee in its factory for unjustified termination of employment and gender discrimination in 2014. According to a 2016 report (the most recent available) by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment on working conditions, 9 percent of women reported facing discrimination in the workplace.

Children

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

Child Abuse: The law considers all sexual offenses against minors subject to public prosecution.

Minors accounted for 19.6 percent of all victims of assault offenses reported to police, according to Statistics Finland.

The ombudsman for children’s affairs under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health continued to raise public awareness of child abuse and promote the government’s child, youth, and family policy program.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, but the law allows exceptions. Minors who want to marry must submit an application to the Ministry of Justice providing a justification based on religious beliefs, cultural practices, or pregnancy. The minister of justice makes the final ruling on whether to approve a request to marry.

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

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law regards a person whose age cannot be determined, but who can reasonably be assumed to be under the age of 18, as a child. The law defines rape of a minor (under 18 years of age) as aggravated rape.

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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to Statistics Finland, in 2016 the Jewish community numbered 1,110 persons, most living in the Helsinki area.

The website Magneettimedia, known for its anti-Semitic content, continued to post discriminatory statements online during the year. The site’s publisher denied that the website was anti-Semitic, instead describing itself as “critical of the Zionist elite” that included “both Christians and Jews.” In May and July, respectively, it posted articles entitled “Zionist Bank Cartel Damages Finnish Mining Industry” and “International Drug Trafficking in the Hands of the Jewish Elite.” The neo-Nazi NRM continued to post anti-Semitic content on its social media pages and published other online materials glorifying Adolf Hitler. The former owner of Magneettimedia continued to spread anti-Semitic editorials through the newspaper KauppaSuomi, a periodical distributed through his large chain of department stores. An editorial published April 19 stated “a majority of people working in education in Finland are directly influenced by literature written abroad. In the Finnish school system the most important ‘anti-racist’ authority has for decades been the Jew Karmela Liebkind.”

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 constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in all fields and the provision of other state services. The government effectively enforced these provisions.

Authorities generally enforced laws mandating access to buildings for persons with disabilities, although many older buildings remained inaccessible. Most forms of public transportation were accessible, but problems continued in some geographically isolated areas.

Official 2016 law enforcement figures recorded 24 cases of crimes based on bias toward persons with disabilities, including 17 physical assaults, six verbal threats, and one case of “mutual combat.”

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In 2016, the most recent year for which data were available, official police figures recorded 831 racist and xenophobic hate crimes. Of these, 236 were physical assaults, 70 cases of damage to property or theft, 302 verbal assaults, and 223 other crimes. Among foreign citizens resident in the country, Iraqis experienced the highest frequency of racially motivated crimes.

According to historical data from the minority ombudsman, discrimination against the country’s approximately 10,000-12,000 Roma extended to all areas of life. Police investigated Member of Parliament Juho Eerola (Finns Party) for suspected ethnic agitation over a Facebook post in which he claimed to have spat at Romani beggars. Ethnic Finns were also occasionally victims of racially motivated crimes for associating with members of minority communities.

In addition to the Romani minority, Russian-speakers, Somalis, and Sami experienced discrimination. According to a study by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, members of ethnic minorities faced discrimination in the labor market (see section 7.d.).

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

Indigenous People

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

Despite constitutional protections, members of the Sami community continued to protest a lack of explicit laws safeguarding Sami land, resources, language, and economic livelihood and to call for greater inclusion in political decision-making processes.

In January the Sami parliament complained to the chancellor of justice concerning the role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in the Tenojoki Fisheries Agreement. According to media reports, the agreement, which entered into force on March 22, restricts fishing in the Teno River to revive the salmon stock and particularly restricts traditional Sami fishing techniques. A group of Sami rights activists occupied an island in the river in July to protest the agreement. In March the chancellor of justice stated that the Sami were consulted too late in the agreement’s drafting process.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Nonetheless, the law requires a person to be sterilized or infertile before the government will recognize their gender change.

In 2016, the last year for which data were available, official law-enforcement figures recorded 57 hate crimes based on bias against LGBTI persons, including 17 verbal insults, threats, and harassment and 19 physical assaults.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In 2016 the nondiscrimination ombudsman received 891 discrimination complaints, 37 (or 4 percent) of which involved religious discrimination.

There were isolated incidents in which politicians made discriminatory remarks on social media aimed at members of the Muslim community. In January, Member of Parliament Teuvo Hakkarainen (Finns Party) was found guilty of incitement of racial hatred and ordered to pay a 1,160-euro ($1,390) fine. The court also ordered him to remove the Facebook post for which he was prosecuted.

In June the online investigative journalism magazine Long Play published a story accusing police officers of posting racist comments on a secret Facebook group page. Yle estimated that about one-third of the country’s police officers, including police leadership, belonged to the group. On July 6, Yle reported that, after reviewing complaints, the prosecutor general’s office found no evidence of criminal activity and would not pursue an investigation. The head of communications at the Police Administration, however, told media that police units would still assess separately whether to take administrative actions.

The arrival of large numbers of migrants has been followed by an increase in activity by extreme right-wing and antiforeigner groups. In 2015, the latest data available, authorities recorded 33 suspected cases of violent right-wing extremism and another 16 cases instigated by antifascist and anarchist elements. The neo-Nazi NRM was suspected in most of the cases.

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