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Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Senate elections were held in 2014. While turnout nationwide at 25 percent was low compared with the 2005 and 2011 general elections, because voting was postponed multiple times due to the Ebola outbreak, it was comparable to turnout for the 2011 constitutional referendum. Only two of 12 incumbent senators retained their seats, and most formal electoral process complaints were resolved through the National Elections Commission or, if appealed, by the Supreme Court. At least two cases were still pending at the Supreme Court. International and national observers declared the elections free, fair, transparent, and credible despite some minor irregularities.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors limited women’s participation in politics compared to men. Women participated at significantly lower levels than men in voting and as party leaders, civil society activists, and elected officials. According to the Liberia Electoral Access and Participation survey, of registered voters, 43 percent fewer women than men voted in the 2014 Senate elections, and women were 26 percent less likely than men to be registered and vote in the Senate elections. Overall, 25 percent fewer women than men said they were engaged in campaign activities. Although female candidates continued to compete against men at the same proportional levels, the number of women elected to office declined. After the 2011 elections, the percentage of women representatives dropped from 12.5 percent to 9.6 percent and in the Senate from 13.3 percent to 10 percent. During the year there were four women in the 20-member national cabinet, three women in the 30-seat Senate, and nine in the 73-seat House of Representatives. Two female associate justices sat on the five-member Supreme Court. Women constituted 33 percent of local government officials and 13 percent of senior and deputy ministers.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law does not provide explicit criminal penalties for official corruption, although criminal penalties exist for economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, bribery, and other corruption-related acts. Corruption persisted throughout the government, and the World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a serious problem.

Corruption: Some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Low pay for civil servants, minimal job training, and little judicial accountability exacerbated official corruption and contributed to a culture of impunity. The government dismissed or in some instances suspended officials for alleged corruption and recommended others for prosecution. On May 11, Global Witness released a report that alleged several serving and former senior officials of the government received L$95 million ($1.1 million) in bribes from British firm Sable Mining to obtain an iron ore concession. On May 12, the president appointed a special task force led by Minister of State Without Portfolio Jonathan Koffa to investigate the allegations and recommend prosecution if warranted. On May 25, Speaker of the House of Representatives Tyler and Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman were indicted for bribery, criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, solicitation, and facilitation, based on recommendations by the special task force. In September controversy regarding the indictment led to Tyler’s removal from office.

Corruption persisted in the legal system. Some judges accepted bribes to award damages in civil cases. Judges sometimes solicited bribes to try cases, release detainees from prison, or find defendants not guilty in criminal cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable decisions from judges, prosecutors, and jurors. Corrections officers sometimes demanded payment to escort detainees to trial.

Police corruption was a problem. The LNP investigated reports of police misconduct or corruption, and authorities suspended or dismissed several LNP officers. For example, in February the LNP suspended eight officers from the Criminal Services Division and requested the Ministry of Justice investigate their alleged facilitation of armed robbery. The case was pending with the Ministry of Justice at year’s end. In June, LNP authorities dismissed, arrested, and jailed an officer for allegedly taking more than L$1.5 million ($16,725) from 20 individuals as “rent payments” and in September dismissed two officers and suspended seven others for various acts, including extortion and harassment of members of the public.

Financial Disclosure: By regulation senior officials must declare their assets before taking office. There are administrative sanctions for noncompliance.

Public Access to Information: The law provides that the government release upon request information not involving national security issues. Some transparency advocates stated the law did not provide citizens adequate access to verify the proper spending and accounting of government funds.

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

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views, although sometimes slow to act on requests for assistance on investigations associated with the prosecution of individuals who committed atrocities during the civil war.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Justice Human Rights Protection Division convened monthly coordination meetings that provided a forum for domestic and international human rights NGOs to present matters to the government, including proposed legislation. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) acted as an independent check on the actions of the government in line with its mission to monitor human rights violations in the country. Its work plan included the Palava Hut mechanism, through which community members came together in their towns and villages to discuss grievances and seek reconciliation at the community level. The mechanism was launched in 2012 but remained in the development process with limited geographical reach. During the year the INCHR revamped its operations, including development of a new strategic plan of action, appointment of new staff and human rights monitors, and revitalization of the Palava Hut process.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, but the government did not enforce the law effectively, and rape remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law’s definition of rape does not specifically criminalize spousal rape. Conviction of first-degree rape–defined as rape involving a minor, rape that results in serious injury or disability, or rape committed with the use of a deadly weapon–is punishable by up to life imprisonment. Conviction of second-degree rape, defined as rape committed without the aggravating circumstances enumerated above, is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Defendants accused of first-degree rape may be denied bail if evidence presented at arraignment meets certain evidentiary standards.

From January to August, the Women’s and Children’s Protection Section of the LNP received 264 reports of rape, of which 161 were pending investigation and 114 were referred to a specialized sexual violence court (Court E) that has exclusive original jurisdiction over cases of sexual assault, including abuse of minors. Court E’s effectiveness was limited by having only one of two authorized judges. A few of the 114 cases referred to Court E were forwarded to criminal court (Court D) for further judicial review. Of 98 cases submitted to the grand jury for prosecution, 89 resulted in indictment. During the year, 22 of 102 prosecuted statutory rape cases resulted in conviction. The true incidence of statutory rape was believed to be much higher than the number of rape cases prosecuted. The Sexual and Gender-based Crimes Unit within the Ministry of Justice continued to improve case management and increased the number of sexual offense indictments. During the year, 290 persons were arrested for sexual offenses and in pretrial detention. Of these, 215 had their initial appearance or first proceeding in front of a judge and 75 remained unprocessed. Of five cases tried, there were two convictions, one mistrial, one acquittal, and one that ended in a hung jury. Prosecutors obtained nine additional convictions through plea bargains.

The Sexual and Gender-based Crimes Unit continued to coordinate with Court E and to collaborate with NGOs and international donors to increase public awareness of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) problems; these efforts, according to the government and NGOs, led to increased reporting of rape. Human rights groups claimed the true prevalence of rape was higher than reported.

The government operated two shelters for SGBV victims and victims of trafficking in persons, and established two hotlines for citizens to report SGBV-related crimes. There was also one shelter run by an NGO. The Sexual Pathways Referral program, a combined initiative of the government and NGOs, improved access to medical, psychosocial, legal, and counseling assistance for victims.

The social stigma of rape, especially in rural areas, contributed to the pervasiveness of out-of-court settlements and discouraged formal prosecution of cases. An overtaxed justice system also prevented timely prosecution, although local NGOs pushed for judicial action and sometimes provided lawyers to indigent victims. Due to delays in prosecution, many victims chose to cease cooperating with prosecutors. The government raised awareness of rape through billboards, radio broadcasts, and other outreach campaigns.

Although outlawed, domestic violence remained a widespread problem. The maximum penalty for conviction of domestic violence is six months’ imprisonment, but the government did not enforce the law effectively and generally treated cases, if reported, as either simple or aggravated assault.

During the year the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection organized workshops and seminars to combat domestic violence. Media made some efforts to publicize the problem, and several NGOs continued programs to treat abused women and girls and to increase public awareness of their rights. LNP officers received training on sexual offenses as part of their initial training.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not specifically prohibit FGM/C, although the government maintained that a 2011 law protecting children against all forms of violence also proscribes FGM/C. The penal code prohibits causing bodily harm with a deadly weapon. No FGM/C perpetrators, however, were prosecuted. It was often performed during initiation into women’s secret Sande societies. Less discussed was the use of improper methods for traditional circumcision of boys. While uncommon, young men injured by poorly performed circumcisions may be ostracized by their communities.

In view of the sensitivity of the topic, FGM/C surveys typically eliminate direct reference to FGM/C and instead ask respondents questions regarding initiation into a women’s secret society, making it difficult to ascertain actual prevalence rates. According to a 2013 demographic health survey, 50 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 had undergone the procedure. FGM/C was common and traditionally performed on young girls of northern, western, and central ethnic groups, particularly in rural areas and in the poorest households. There were also instances of women age 18 or older being cut, sometimes having married into a practicing community and being shunned by women unless they underwent FGM/C. According to a 2015 OHCHR report, older women were forcibly initiated into Sande societies as a threat or as punishment for perceived wrongs committed against society members. The percentage of girls and women ages 15 to 49 that underwent FGM/C ranged from 73 percent in the North Central Region to 28 percent in the South Eastern Region.

Government officials routinely engaged traditional leaders to underscore the government’s commitment to eliminate FGM/C. The president, minister of internal affairs (as overseer of traditional culture), and the minister of gender, children, and social protection spoke out against the practice, and the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Gender worked together in an attempt to pass anti-FGM/C legislation. The government routinely decried FGM/C in discussions of violence against women, although there remained some political resistance to passing legislation criminalizing FGM/C because of its association with particular tribes in populous counties.

There was steady movement in prior years toward limiting or prohibiting the practice. The Domestic Violence Bill proposed in January included a provision banning FGM/C on minors without parental consent, or on adults without their consent. In April this provision was removed by the House of Representatives, which prompted movement within the government to propose a stand-alone anti-FGM/C bill.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, which remained a major problem, including in schools and places of work. Government billboards and notices in government offices warned against harassment in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: No laws restrict couples and individuals from deciding the number, spacing, and timing of their children or managing their reproductive health, and individuals have the right to seek and acquire information on reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Information and assistance on family planning was difficult to obtain, however, particularly in rural areas, where there were few health clinics. The government included family planning counseling and services as key components of its 10-year national health and social welfare plan. The UN Population Division estimated 19.6 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015. A 2011 government-led survey found that approximately two-thirds of women in similar rural counties said they wanted to use family planning methods. This discrepancy suggested that poverty, lack of government resources, and cultural barriers impeded family planning efforts. The teenage pregnancy rate remained very high.

According to the UN Population Fund’s 2015 Trends in Maternal Mortality Report, the country had a maternal mortality rate estimated at 725 per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 28. Activities to reduce maternal mortality included additional training of midwives and providing incentives to pregnant women to seek prenatal care and childbirth at a hospital or clinic. Most women delivered outside of health facilities.

Discrimination: By law women may inherit land and property, are entitled to equal pay for equal work, have the right of equal access to education, and may own and manage businesses. Under family law, men retain legal custody of children in divorce cases. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, pay, education, and housing. In rural areas traditional practice or traditional leaders often did not recognize a woman’s right to inherit land. Programs to educate traditional leaders on women’s rights made some progress, but authorities often did not enforce those rights.

While the law prohibits polygamy, traditional and religious customs permit men to have more than one wife. No specific office exists to enforce the legal rights of women, but the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection and the Women, Peace, and Security Secretariat–established within the ministry to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325–generally are responsible for promoting women’s rights. The Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia operated a clinic to provide free legal representation to women, with its largest caseload made up of indigent women in child custody actions.


Birth Registration: Children of “Negro” descent born in the country to at least one Liberian parent are citizens. Children born outside the country to a Liberian father are also Liberian citizens. Nevertheless, they may lose that citizenship if they do not reside in Liberia prior to age 21, or if residing abroad they do not take an oath of allegiance before a Liberian consul before age 23. Children born to non-Liberian fathers and Liberian mothers outside of the country do not derive citizenship from the mother. If the father naturalizes as a Liberian citizen prior to a child attaining the age 21, the child may qualify for citizenship. Otherwise, the child must follow normal naturalization procedures. If a child born in the country is not of Negro descent, the child may not acquire citizenship. Non-Negro residents, such as members of the large Lebanese community, may not acquire or transmit citizenship. The law requires parents to register their infants within 14 days of birth, but fewer than 5 percent of births were registered. Even more women than usual did not give birth at health facilities during the Ebola crisis, resulting in thousands of unregistered births. The government acknowledged this problem and took steps to register these children.

Education: The law provides for tuition-free and compulsory education in public schools from the primary (grades one-six) through junior secondary (grades seven-nine) levels, but many schools charged informal fees to pay teachers’ salaries and operating costs the government did not fund. These fees prevented many students from attending school. By law fees are required at the senior secondary level (grades 10-12) and, as a practical matter, are essential since the government was unable to fund these schools fully. In both public and private schools, families of students often were required to provide their children’s uniforms, books, pencils, paper, and even desks. According to UNICEF only 62 percent of primary school-age children were enrolled in school. The Ministry of Education disagreed, noting that UNICEF data did not take into account the many children enrolled in early childhood education programs. During the year the government began a pilot project with several for-profit education companies to test the feasibility of outsourcing public education. In September some public school teachers went on strike to protest the government’s actions, including inadequate pay and job retention reforms.

Girls accounted for fewer than half of all students and graduates in primary and secondary schools, with their proportion decreasing progressively at higher levels. Because parents placed more family responsibilities on daughters, they were more likely to pay school fees for their sons than for their daughters. In addition sexual harassment of girls in schools was commonplace, and adolescent girls were often denied access to school if they became pregnant. Students with disabilities and those in rural counties were most likely to encounter significant barriers to education.

Child Abuse: Widespread child abuse persisted, and reports of sexual violence against children continued. Civil society organizations reported many rapes of children under age 12, and from January to June there were 34 cases of child endangerment reported, of which four cases were being tried, four were pending investigation, and 26 were withdrawn for insufficient evidence or due to lack of cooperation by the complainant. The government engaged in public campaigns to combat child rape.

Early and Forced Marriage: The 2011 National Children’s Act sets the marriage age for all persons at 18, while the Domestic Relations Act sets the minimum marriage age at 21 for men and 18 for women. The Equal Rights of the Traditional Marriage Act of 1998 permits a girl to marry at age 16. In partnership with international donors, the government operated a free alternative basic education program for those unable to access formal education that taught life skills such as health, hygiene, birth control, and the merits of delayed marriage. The program, however, operated sporadically. Mass media campaigns were conducted in target communities, especially in rural areas, to educate citizens on the negative consequences of child marriage. Nevertheless, underage marriage remained a problem, especially in rural areas. According to a 2015 UNICEF report, 11 percent of women ages 20 to 24 were married by age 15 and 38 percent were married by age 18.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: See information on girls under 18 in the women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities generally enforced the law, although girls occasionally were exploited in prostitution in exchange for money, food, and school fees. Additionally, sex in exchange for grades was a pervasive problem in secondary schools, with many teachers forcing female students to exchange sexual favors for passing grades. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. The 2011 National Children’s Act sets the marriage age for all persons at 18, while the Domestic Relations Act sets the minimum marriage age at 21 for men and 18 for women. The Equal Rights of the Traditional Marriage Act of 1998 permits a girl to marry at age 16. Statutory rape is a criminal offense that has a maximum sentence if convicted of life imprisonment. During the year the government prosecuted 102 cases of statutory rape. The penalty for conviction of child pornography is up to five years’ imprisonment. Orphaned children remained especially susceptible to exploitation, including sex trafficking.

Displaced Children: Despite international and government attempts to reunite children separated from their families during the civil war, some children–a mix of street children, former combatants, and internally displaced persons–continued to live on the streets of Monrovia.

Institutionalized Children: Regulation of orphanages continued to be very weak. Many unofficial orphanages also served as transit points or informal group homes for children, some of whom had living parents who had given them up for possible adoption. Many orphanages lacked adequate sanitation, medical care, and nutrition. They relied primarily on private donations and support from international organizations such as UNICEF and the World Food Program for emergency food and medical and psychological care. Many orphans received no assistance from these institutions. According to the NGO National Concern Youth of Liberia, some groups under the guise of operating an orphanage brought children from rural areas with a promise to provide them with education and then sold the children, often to households in the Monrovia area.

Since the country did not have a facility for their care, juvenile offenders at the MCP routinely were housed in separate cells in adult offender cellblocks. Guidelines existed and steps occasionally were taken to divert juveniles from the formal criminal justice system and place them in a variety of safe homes and “kinship” care situations.

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


There was a small 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

Persons with Disabilities

Although it is illegal to discriminate against persons with physical and mental disabilities, such persons did not enjoy equal access to government services and found very limited employment prospects. The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment and provides for access to health care, the judicial system, and other state services, but these provisions were not always enforced. Government buildings were not easily accessible to persons with mobility disabilities, and sign language interpretation was not provided for deaf persons in criminal proceedings or in the provision of state services. There is a legal prohibition against discrimination on such grounds in accessing air travel or other transportation.

Few children with disabilities had access to education. Public educational institutions discriminated against students with disabilities, arguing resources and equipment were insufficient to accommodate them. During the year the legislature passed a law prohibiting school administrators from discriminating against students with disabilities or denying them admission to schools based on inadequate school resources.

Many citizens had permanent disabilities resulting from the civil war. Persons with disabilities faced societal exclusion, particularly in rural areas. The government included persons with disabilities in its 2012 Vision 2030 National Development Strategy and related panel discussions that continued during the year. In August a Monrovia church taught LNP, Drug Enforcement Agency, and Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization officers basic sign language to facilitate communication with deaf citizens and suspects.

Students with more significant disabilities are exempt from compulsory education but may attend school subject to constraints on accommodating them. In reality few such students were able to attend either private or public schools. There were a small number of private schools located in urban areas specialized in education for persons with disabilities, but these schools had limited resources.

The right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs is legally protected and generally respected. The inaccessibility of buildings posed problems for persons with limited mobility wishing to exercise these rights. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection is the government agency responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and implementing measures designed to improve respect for their rights.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the law prohibits ethnic discrimination, racial discrimination is enshrined in the constitution, which restricts citizenship and land ownership to those of “Negro descent.” While persons of Lebanese and Asian descent who were born or who have lived most of their lives in the country may not by law attain citizenship or own land, there were some exceptions.

Indigenous People

The law recognizes 16 indigenous ethnic groups; each speaks a distinct primary language and is concentrated regionally. Long-standing disputes regarding land and other resources among ethnic groups continued to contribute to social and political tensions.

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

The law prohibits consensual same-sex sexual activity, and the culture is strongly opposed to homosexuality. “Voluntary sodomy” is a misdemeanor with a penalty for conviction of up to one year’s imprisonment. LGBTI activists reported that LGBTI persons faced difficulty in obtaining redress for crimes committed against them, including at police stations, because those accused of criminal acts used the victim’s LGBTI status as a defense. For example, an individual who was beaten sought police assistance but rather than investigate the victim’s allegation, police arrested the victim because the alleged perpetrator accused him of being gay. In October an LGBTI advocacy group reported several individuals were arrested and accused of sodomy; one of them was arrested after he reported being robbed to police.

The law prohibits same-sex couples, regardless of citizenship, from adopting children. LGBTI persons were cautious about revealing their sexual orientation or gender identities. A few civil society groups promoted the rights of LGBTI individuals, but most groups maintained a very low profile due to fear of mistreatment. Additionally, societal stigma and fear of official reprisal prevented some victims from reporting violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, an LGBTI advocacy group reported instances of women being raped to “correct” their sexual orientation, but women rarely reported rapes to the police due to fear and social stigma surrounding both sexual orientation and rape.

LGBTI individuals faced discrimination in accessing housing, health care, employment, and education. For example, in October an individual working for the Ministry of Health was “outed” by a coworker who repeatedly derided him at work, and the ministry failed to order an end to the harassment or otherwise respond. LGBTI advocacy groups also reported children quitting school due to bullying related to sexual identity and orientation.

There were press and civil society reports of harassment of persons perceived to be LGBTI, with some newspapers targeting the LGBTI community. For example, in June The Inquirer newspaper published a cartoon and sponsored an essay contest on whether FGM/C or homosexuality was worse for society. Some politicians, to garner support, made public statements against the rights of the LGBTI community.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Health created a coordinator to assist minority groups–including LGBTI persons–in obtaining access to health care and police assistance. A civil society group provided human rights training on LGBTI issues to communities, including to local police and others promoted LGBTI access to judicial and health services by networking with and training lawyers. An LGBTI rights advocacy group provided human rights training to female police and immigration officers.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The most recent demographic and health survey in 2013 found no measurable improvement since 2007 in popular attitudes, which remained broadly discriminatory toward those with HIV. HIV-related social stigma and discrimination discouraged persons from testing for their HIV status, thus limiting HIV prevention and treatment services. Children orphaned because of AIDS faced similar social stigma.

Government ministries developed, adopted, and implemented several strategic plans to combat social stigma and discrimination based on HIV status. The Ministry of Labor continued to promote a supportive environment for persons with HIV. The Ministry of Education continued implementation of its strategic plan to destigmatize and safeguard HIV-positive persons against discrimination in its recruitment, employment, admission, and termination processes. The law prohibits “discrimination and vilification on the basis of actual and perceived HIV status” in the workplace, school, and health facilities, with conviction of offenses punishable by a fine of no less than L$1,000 ($11).

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence and vigilantism, due in part to the public’s lack of confidence in police and the judicial system, resulted in deaths and injuries. For example, in September the threat of intertribal violence in Voinjama forced residents to hide or flee from an angry mob of ethnic Mandingos after police refused to release a Lorma man accused of ritually killing a Mandingo man. According to multiple reports, the Mandingo mob threatened to storm the police station and seize the Lorma man. The mob did not act on the threat.

There were also reports of increased stigmatization of Ebola survivors and their families and health-care workers who had worked in Ebola treatment facilities. According to the Ebola Survivors Network, survivors and their families confronted discrimination from landlords, neighbors, health-care providers, and employers.

There were reports of killings in which body parts were removed from the victim, a practice possibly related to ritual killings. On March 2, the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County convicted three men of murdering Nimley Tarr in 2014 for ritualistic purposes and sentenced them to death by hanging. According to the court record, the convicted men lured and murdered Tarr for his body parts. Ritual killings were reportedly on the increase during the year, but it was difficult to ascertain exact numbers since ritual killings were often attributed to homicide, accidents, or suicide.


Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to participate in public elections, but it allows parliament to restrict this right if a citizen is a citizen of another state, mentally infirm, convicted of certain criminal offenses, or omits or fails to prove or produce evidence as to age, citizenship, or registration as a voter. Citizens exercised that ability for the union presidential elections. The chairperson of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced he had nullified the October 2015 Zanzibar elections; new elections in March were neither inclusive nor representative.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2015 the country held its fifth multiparty general election in which voters elected a new president and legislative representatives. The union elections were judged to be largely free and fair. The CCM, however, benefited from vastly superior financial and institutional resources.

In the presidential election, John Magufuli, the CCM candidate, was elected with 58 percent of the vote to replace Jakaya Kikwete, who was not eligible to run for a third term. Four opposition parties combined in the Coalition for the People’s Constitution to support a single candidate, who ran under the Chadema banner, as the law does not recognize coalitions. In parliamentary elections the CCM retained its majority in parliament with nearly 73 percent of the seats.

Separate elections are held for the union and for Zanzibar, ordinarily on the same day, in which citizens of the two parts of the union elect local officials, members of the national parliament, and a union (national) president. Additionally, Zanzibar separately elects a president of Zanzibar and members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives. The voting in Zanzibar in October 2015 was judged to be largely free and fair. Following the vote, however, when tabulation of the results was more than half completed, the chairperson of the ZEC announced he had nullified the Zanzibar elections, although according to the constitution and law, the commission does not have the authority to do so. This decision precipitated a political crisis in the semiautonomous archipelago, with the opposition candidate declaring he had won. New elections in March were neither inclusive nor representative. They were boycotted by the opposition, which claimed they would not be fair. Following the new elections, the ZEC announced President Shein had won with 91 percent of the vote, with the ruling CCM party sweeping nearly all seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Official voter turnout was announced at 68 percent, although numerous sources estimated actual turnout at closer to 25 percent.

From February to August 2015, officials conducted national registration of voters using a Biometric Voter Registration system that collected a photograph and two thumb prints. Registration concluded with 22,751,292 eligible voters registered on the mainland and 503,193 registered in Zanzibar.

Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution requires that persons running for office must represent a registered political party. The law prohibits unregistered parties. The number of political parties with full registration remained at 22 during the year.

The registrar of political parties has sole authority to approve registration of any political party and is responsible for enforcing regulations on registered parties. Parties granted provisional registration may hold public meetings and recruit members. To secure full registration, parties must submit lists of at least 200 members in 10 of the country’s 31 regions, including two of the five regions of Zanzibar. In September the registration of new political parties was suspended indefinitely for lack of funds, according to the registrar.

The law requires political parties to support the union between Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar; parties based on ethnic, regional, or religious affiliation are prohibited.

During the year the president stated political activity should be confined only to parliamentary business and interaction between members of parliament and their constituents until the next election cycle in 2020. On May 7, police barred a group of political opposition leaders from entering their party regional offices, on the grounds that no political activity was allowed to take place in the region. On June 7, the TPF banned indefinitely all political rallies across the country, claiming such meetings were intended to incite civil disobedience. On August 23, the inspector general of police extended the ban to include indoor private meetings and public rallies; the indoor restriction was lifted on September 22.

The election law provides for a “gratuity” payment of TZS 235 million to TZS 280 million ($108,000-129,000) to MPs completing a five-year term. Incumbents can use these funds in re-election campaigns. Several NGOs and opposition parties criticized this provision for impeding aspiring opposition parliamentary candidates from mounting effective challenges.

The mainland government allowed political opponents unrestricted access to public media, but the ruling party had far more funding to purchase broadcast time.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Some observers believed cultural constraints limited women’s participation in politics. In the October 2015 election, Tanzania elected a woman as vice president for the first time. Few women won elected constituent seats in parliament or in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. There were special women’s seats in both parliament and the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

While the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption was generally perceived to be rampant at all levels nationwide. After taking office, President Magufuli took several high-profile steps to signal a commitment to fighting corruption. These included surprise inspections of ministries, hospitals, and the port of Dar es Salaam, often followed by the immediate dismissal of officials. The 2016-17 fiscal year budget, however, included a substantial cut to the funding for the Office of the Controller and Auditor General, one of the country’s two main anticorruption bodies.

Corruption: According to the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), most corruption investigations concerned government involvement in mining, land matters, energy, and investments. Through June the PCCB reported it had opened 412 new investigations and forwarded 133 case files to the director of public prosecutions for action. There were 232 new cases filed and 509 cases underway in court. Two hundred ninety-four cases were concluded, with 125 convictions and 152 acquittals. According to Afrobarometer findings for 2014-15, the most corrupt entities were the police, Tanzania Revenue Authority, courts, and local government. NGOs reported that allegations of corruption involved the Tanzania Revenue Authority, local government officials, police, licensing authorities, hospital workers, and the media.

In February the remaining portions of prison sentences of the former ministers for finance and for energy and minerals convicted in 2015 on corruption charges were reduced to community service.

Corruption featured in newspaper articles, civil complaints, and reports of police corruption from the PCCB and from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The PCCB’s mandate excludes Zanzibar. In Zanzibar the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Authority received 56 complaints, 37 of which were under investigation.

Financial Disclosure: Government ministers and MPs, as well as certain other public servants, are required to disclose their assets upon assuming office, annually at year’s end, and upon leaving office. Although penalties exist for noncompliance, there was no enforcement mechanism or means to determine the accuracy of such disclosures. The Ethics Secretariat distributes forms each October for collection in December. In May the minister of state responsible for the central establishment in the President’s Office reported 1,081 public officials–up to the level of government ministers–did not submit their wealth declaration forms by the end of 2015. Secretariat officials previously stated the individuals who failed to meet the deadline were asked to show cause for the delay. Any declaration forms submitted or filed after the deadline must explain the failure to observe the law. Asset disclosures are not public. In February the president issued an ultimatum to four ministers and one deputy minister to submit their declaration forms in one day or be fired.

Public Access to Information: In September parliament passed the Access to Information Act, establishing the right of citizens to access government information. Stakeholders publicly raised concerns about the law’s potential impact.

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

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views. Some human rights NGOs complained of a negative government reaction when they challenged government practice or policy.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The union parliamentary Committee for Constitutional, Legal, and Public Administration is responsible for reporting and making recommendations regarding human rights. The new committee formed since the 2015 elections retains a majority of members from the ruling CCM party.

The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance operated on both the mainland and Zanzibar; funding levels limited its effectiveness. The commission has no legal authority to prosecute cases but can make recommendations to other offices concerning remedies or call media attention to human rights abuses and violations and other public complaints. From January through June, the commission investigated 7,672 complaints, of which 375 were new. Of the complaints, 844 involved misuse of authority, 652 involved not having received benefits, and 582 covered employment and disciplinary issues. A total of 242 complaints were closed: 50 were justified/successful, 25 were not justified/not successful, 20 were directed to other authorities after investigation, 92 were outside the jurisdiction of the commission, and 55 were declined for various reasons, including lack of cooperation from complainants.

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


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law provides for life imprisonment for persons convicted of rape, including spousal rape during periods of legal separation. The law stipulates a woman wishing to report a rape must do so at a police station before seeking medical help. Only after obtaining a release form from police may she be admitted to a hospital. This process contributed to medical complications, incomplete forensic evidence, and failure to report rapes. Victims often feared that cases reported to police would be made public.

The law prohibits assault but does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Domestic violence may serve as grounds for divorce. Domestic violence against women remained widespread, and police rarely investigated such cases.

The LHRC stated there were 17,059 reported cases of gender-based violence, including 5,802 cases of rape, in 2015 (the latest figures available). The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children and the World Health Organization identified the main forms of gender-based violence as wife-beating (30 percent of cases), defilement (25 percent), rape (20 percent), sexual exploitation (13 percent), and marital rape (12 percent). According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey, 45 percent of women experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The deputy director of criminal investigations on Zanzibar stated that through November 78 cases of sexual violence were reported.

Cultural, family, and social pressures often prevented women from reporting abuse, including rape and domestic violence, and authorities rarely prosecuted persons who abused women. Persons close to the victims, such as relatives and friends, were most likely to be the perpetrators. Many who appeared in court were set free because of corruption in the judicial system, lack of evidence, poor investigations, and poor evidence preservation.

A report by the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) released in 2014 found courts adjudicated few rape cases due to factors including lack of evidence, repeated adjournment of cases, alleged perpetrators jumping bail, witnesses unwilling to appear in court or unable to pay for transport to court, and a legal requirement for a doctor’s report.

According to the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association, there were 161 gender-based violence cases reported in Mwera and Mfenesini district courts and the Land Tribunal. Of these, 25 cases were continuing, and two had resulted in convictions.

There were some government efforts to combat violence against women. Activities under the 2001-15 National Plan of Action for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children continued. Police maintained 417 gender and children desks in regions throughout the country to support victims and address relevant crimes. Women often tolerated prolonged domestic abuse before seeking a divorce, due to fear of retaliation, loss of support, shame, and family pressure. In Zanzibar, at One Stop Centers in both Unguja and Pemba, victims could receive health services, counseling, legal assistance, and a referral to police.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C from being performed on girls under the age of 18, but it does not provide for protection to women ages 18 or older. According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey, 15 percent of women and girls ages 15 to 49 were subjected to FGM/C, and 7 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 19 were subjected to the practice. The practice was most common in the northern and central zones: in Manyara the prevalence rate among girls and women 15 to 49 years old was 71 percent, in Dodoma 64 percent, Arusha 59 percent, Singida 51 percent, Mara 40 percent, Kilimanjaro 22 percent, Morogoro 21 percent, and Tanga 20 percent.

Prosecutions were rare. Many police officers and communities were unaware of the law, victims were often reluctant to testify, and some witnesses feared reprisals from FGM/C supporters. Some villagers reportedly bribed local leaders not to enforce the law in order to carry out FGM/C on their daughters.

No new plan had replaced the 2001-15 National Plan of Action for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women and Children, although activities under the 2001-15 plan continued during the year. The plan enlisted the support of practitioners and community leaders in eradicating FGM/C. As part of the effort, the government continued a three-year program to eradicate FGM/C by 2016 in the Mara Region, one of the most affected areas. The campaign targeted girls, traditional elders, parents, and FGM/C practitioners, using advocacy, education, and information dissemination by government in cooperation with stakeholders to combat FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment of women in the workplace. Statistics did not exist on its extent or the effectiveness of enforcement. There were reports women were asked for sexual favors in return for promotions. According to the Women’s Legal Aid Center, many women did not report sexual harassment since cultural norms often place blame on victims of sexual harassment, and police rarely investigated cases. Even when reported, cases were often dropped before they got to court–in some instances by the plaintiffs due to societal pressure and in others by prosecutors due to lack of evidence.

Reproductive Rights: Couples have the ability to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 32 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 used a modern form of contraception. The relatively low rate was due in part to cultural factors, lack of transportation to health clinics, and shortages of contraceptives. On the mainland, use of any contraceptive method among married women varied significantly by region, ranging from 57 percent in Ruvuma to 15 percent in Geita. In Zanzibar use varied from a high of 41 percent in Kusini Unguja to 9 percent in Kusini Pemba. The government provided free prenatal, childbirth, and postpartum services but lacked qualified health-care professionals as well as medical supplies to offer these services widely.

According to the UN Children’s Fund, the maternal mortality rate in 2015 was 398 deaths per 100,000 live births. Skilled health personnel attended approximately 49 percent of births. Major factors influencing high maternal mortality included the low rate of attendance by skilled personnel, high fertility rate, and poor quality of many medical facilities.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men; the law, however, also recognizes customary practices that often favor men. In particular women faced discriminatory treatment in the areas of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and nationality.

While overt discrimination in areas such as education, credit, business ownership, and housing was uncommon, women, especially in rural areas, faced significant disadvantages due to cultural, historical, and educational factors. In much of the country, education was traditionally less valued for women than men. Recent government policies encouraging girls to go to school contributed to increases in school attendance by girls.

Lack of collateral has historically limited women’s access to credit, which has restricted women’s business ownership. Despite improvements in access to bank loans and small credit cooperatives, limited access to financing continued to hinder women’s participation in business.

Women experienced discrimination in employment and pay; problems were particularly acute in the informal sector.

Civil society activists reported widespread discrimination against women in inheritance and divorce proceedings. Women were especially vulnerable if they initiated the separation from their partners or if their partners died. Women have the same status as men under labor law on the mainland. In Zanzibar the law states the normal retirement age for women is 55 and for men 60. The law on the mainland allows men to marry multiple wives in certain circumstances but does not allow women to have multiple husbands. Mainland law generally assumes it is in the best interest of a child under age seven to be with its mother if parents separate or divorce. In Zanzibar qadi courts handle inheritance, marital, and custody issues.


Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country if at least one parent is a citizen, or if abroad, also if at least one parent is a citizen. The Registration, Insolvency, and Trusteeship Agency estimated 20 percent of the population had birth certificates in 2011, the latest year nationwide statistics were available. Registration within three months of birth is free; parents who wait until later must pay a fee. Public services were not withheld from unregistered children.

Education: Primary education is compulsory and universal on both the mainland and Zanzibar until age 15. Tuition is free, but parents are required to pay for books, uniforms, and school lunches. In December 2015 the government also made secondary school tuition-free, but not compulsory. Many families were unable to pay costs of transport or housing for children who have to travel long distances to secondary schools.

Girls represented approximately half of all children enrolled in primary school but were absent more often than boys due to household duties. At the secondary level, child marriage and pregnancy often prevented girls from finishing school.

The Center for Reproductive Rights reported in 2013 that more than 55,000 girls over the previous decade had been expelled from school for being pregnant. Under the Education and Training Policy launched by the government in 2015, pregnant girls are allowed to be reinstated in schools. The policy, however, was not consistently implemented.

Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were major problems. The law allows head teachers to cane students, and corporal punishment was employed in schools. The National Violence against Children Survey, conducted in 2009 (the most recent data available), found that almost 75 percent of children experienced physical violence prior to age 18. Of these, 60 percent experienced physical violence from relatives and 50 percent from teachers. In 2013 the government launched a three-year national plan to prevent and respond to violence against children. The plan involved programs in all key ministries, especially at the community level through the support of the local government authority. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, between July 2015 and June, 33,675 cases were reported through the program’s hotline.

Early and Forced Marriage: In July the High Court ruled amendments must be made to the Law of Marriage Act to make child marriage illegal for girls under the age of 18; the law already extends this protection to boys. In August the government appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal, Tanzania’s highest court. To circumvent these laws, individuals reportedly bribed police or paid a bride price to the family of the girl to avoid prosecution. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), girls as young as seven were married. An estimated 37 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18, and 7 percent were married before age 15, according to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey. Zanzibar has its own law on marriage, but it does not specifically address early marriage.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under 18 in the women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child prostitution and child pornography. According to the National Survey on Violence against Children, approximately 4 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 reported they had received money or goods in exchange for sex. Those found guilty of facilitating child prostitution or child pornography are subject to a fine ranging from TZS one million ($460) to TZS 500 million ($230,000), a prison term of one to 20 years, or both. There were no prosecutions based on this law during the year.

The law provides that sexual intercourse with a child under 18 is rape regardless of consent, unless within a legal marriage. The law was not always enforced.

According to TAMWA, child rape remained prevalent. In August there were 2,571 child rapes reported, according to police. According to the 2009 National Survey on Violence against Children, 27.9 percent of girls and women ages 13-24 reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual violence before turning 18. Among boys in the same age group, 13.4 percent reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual violence prior to the age of 18.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide continued, especially among poor rural mothers who believed themselves unable to afford to raise a child. Nationwide statistics were not available.

Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, large numbers of children were living and working on the street, especially in cities and near the borders. Statistics from 2012 showed more than 5,000 children were living and working on the streets in Dar es Salaam alone. These children had limited access to health and education services, because they lacked a fixed address or money to purchase medicines, school uniforms, and books. They were also vulnerable to sexual abuse.

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


The Jewish population is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. Persons with physical disabilities were restricted in employment, education, access to health care, and other state services by physical barriers and inadequate financial resources.

Although the government mandates access to public buildings, transportation, and government services for persons with disabilities, few public buildings were accessible. New public buildings were being built in compliance with the law, but funds to retrofit existing structures were unavailable. The law provides for access to information and communication, but not all persons with disabilities had such access.

There were six members of the union parliament with disabilities. The president appointed one of these MPs, two were elected, and three were chosen by parties. Persons with disabilities held three appointed seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

Although the government reportedly took steps to improve election participation by persons with disabilities, shortcomings continued to limit their full participation. These included inaccessible polling stations, lack of accessible information, limited involvement of persons with disabilities in political parties, the failure of the National Electoral Commission to implement its directives concerning disability, and stigma toward persons with disabilities.

According to the 2008 Tanzanian Disability Survey, an estimated 53 percent of children with disabilities attended school. Approximately 32 percent of those not attending school reported it was due to their disability. Persons with disabilities faced difficulties due to inadequate or unavailable accommodations and stigma, but there were no significant reported patterns of abuse in educational or mental health facilities.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal in the country. The law on both the mainland and Zanzibar punishes “gross indecency” by up to five years in prison or a fine. The law punishes any person who has “carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature or permits a man to have carnal knowledge of him against the order of nature” with a prison sentence of 30 years to life on the mainland and imprisonment up to 14 years in Zanzibar. In Zanzibar the law also provides for imprisonment up to five years or a fine for “acts of lesbianism.” The burden of proof in such cases is significant, and according to a 2013 HRW report, arrests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons rarely led to prosecutions. They usually were a pretext for police to collect bribes or coerce sex from vulnerable individuals. Nonetheless, the CHRAGG’s prison visits in 2014 revealed that “unnatural offenses” were among the most common reasons for pretrial detention of minors. In the past courts charged individuals suspected of same-sex sexual conduct with loitering or prostitution. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Police often harassed persons believed to be LGBTI based on their dress or manners.

During the year government officials publicly stated opposition to improved safeguards for the rights of LGBTI persons, which it characterized as contrary to the law of the land and the cultural norms of society. Senior government officials made several anti-LGBTI statements. In August the minister of constitutional affairs and justice stated the ministry was investigating NGOs believed to support homosexuality and same-sex marriage and threatened drastic legal action against them, saying that the “dirt and nonsense” of the westerners should remain with them. He warned if the country relaxed on this issue “later we will be forced to accept marriage with animals as a human right.” LGBTI persons were targets of government sanctioned “sungusungu” citizen patrols. They were often afraid to report violence and other crimes, including those committed by state agents, due to fear of arrest. LGBTI persons faced societal discrimination that restricted their access to health care, including access to information about HIV, housing, and employment. There were no known government efforts to combat such discrimination.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The 2013 People Living with HIV Stigma Index Report indicated persons with HIV/AIDS experienced significant levels of stigma countrywide (39.4 percent), with stigma particularly high in Dar es Salaam (49.7 percent). The most common forms of stigma and discrimination experienced were gossip, verbal insults, and exclusion from social, family, and religious activities. More than one in five persons with HIV/AIDS experienced a forced change of residence or inability to rent accommodations. In Dar es Salaam, nearly one in three of these persons experienced the loss of a job or other source of income.

The law prohibits discrimination against any person “known or perceived” to be HIV positive and establishes medical standards for confidentiality to protect persons with HIV/AIDS. HRW reported in 2013 that HIV-positive persons, particularly in three key populations (sex workers, drug users, and LGBTI persons) experienced discrimination by law enforcement officials and in accessing health services. Police abuses of these persons included arbitrary arrest, extortion, and refusal to accept complaints from victims of crime. In the health sector, key populations experienced denial of services, verbal harassment and abuse, and violations of confidentiality. In August the government announced a ban on the distribution of lubricants and threatened to deregister and ban NGOs serving the LGBTI community, including those providing health services to counter HIV/AIDS, for “promoting homosexuality.” In response to government threats, several NGOs suspended services to the LGBTI community.

The government included guidance and training on appropriate health-care treatment of key populations in its HIV/AIDS program. Gender Desks at police stations throughout the country were established to help address mistrust between members of key populations and police. The Tanzania AIDS Commission in 2013 established a Key Populations Task Force to enable members of marginalized communities to have a say in government policies affecting them.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Despite efforts by the government and NGOs to reduce mob violence through educational outreach and community policing, mob violence continued to occur. According to the LHRC, there were 997 cases of killings by mobs in 2015. The LHRC also reported 425 witchcraft-related killings in 2015.

Persons with albinism remained at risk of violence. Some ritual practitioners, particularly in the Lake Zone region, sought albino body parts in the belief they could be used to create power and wealth. In March the body of an unidentified young girl with albinism was found with one foot and genitals cut off. In 2015 the government outlawed witchdoctors in an attempt to curtail killings of persons with albinism. According to a report by the NGO Under the Same Sun, in July a 20-month-old baby girl with albinism survived three abduction attempts in two weeks.

Farmers and pastoralists sometimes argued over traditional animal grazing areas, and violence continued to break out during some disputes.

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