Seychelles is a multiparty republic governed by a president, Cabinet of Ministers, and National Assembly. In joint presidential and legislative elections from October 22-24, voters elected six-time presidential candidate Wavel Ramkalawan of opposition party Linyon Demokratik Seselwa with 54.9 percent of the vote. The Linyon Demokratik Seselwa party also won 20 of 26 seats in the National Assembly. International election observers determined the elections to have been free, credible, and transparent, despite some reports of vote buying and voter intimidation.
The Seychelles Police Force, which includes unarmed police and an armed paramilitary Police Special Support Wing, the Anti-Narcotics Bureau, and the Marine Police Unit, have primary responsibility for internal security and report to the minister of internal affairs. The Seychelles People’s Defense Forces–composed of the infantry, the special forces, the coast guard, and the air force–are responsible for external security and assist police with internal security as needed. These military services report to the president, who acts as minister of defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.
The October 22-24 election was the first time that Seychellois voters elected an opposition party candidate as president since 1976. Former president Danny Faure of the United Seychelles Party immediately accepted the election results, conceded, and supported a peaceful and smooth transfer of power. On October 26, President Ramkalawan was sworn into office.
Significant human rights issues included: lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women, trafficking in persons, and the worst forms of child labor.
The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, spousal rape, and domestic abuse are criminal offenses for which conviction is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Nevertheless, rape was a problem, and the government generally did not enforce the law effectively. Authorities in general did not prioritize domestic abuse cases and police were undertrained in handling sexual assault cases. Many victims did not report rape due social stigma and a reluctance to enter into lengthy court cases.
Domestic violence against women was a widespread problem. On May 26, the National Assembly passed the Domestic Violence Act, which prohibits verbal, physical, emotional, sexual, economic, or psychological abuse and prescribes penalties for perpetrators convicted of domestic violence. A key feature of the law is that plaintiffs may not withdraw a complaint after it is filed with police. Prior to the passage of the Domestic Violence Act, police investigated domestic violence cases as assault. In February, 25 police officers attended a week-long interactive training workshop on handling rape and serious sexual assault cases.
A gender-based violence survey published in 2018 indicated that 58 percent of women had been assaulted, mainly by their partners, with one in 10 women having been raped. In 2019 the minister for family affairs reported receiving 371 reports of domestic violence, an increase from 2018. Media continued to draw attention to the problem.
In 2019 the Family Squad, a special police unit that addresses domestic violence and other family problems, became part of the Criminal Investigation Unit. The Social Affairs Division of the Ministry of Family Affairs as well as NGOs provided counseling services to victims of rape and domestic violence. The ministry’s Gender Secretariat conducted anti-GBV outreach campaigns. A shelter for victims of GBV run by an NGO was rarely used, due to a lack of procedure for admission and a no children policy. Women may also receive medical assistance, legal advice, and counseling at the shelter.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but enforcement was rare. The penal code provides no penalty for conviction of sexual harassment, although a court may order a person accused of such conduct to “keep a bond of peace” that allows a court to assess a fine if the harasser fails to cease the harassment. In the workplace the Employment Act states that an employer may not harass a worker.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. All individuals have the right to manage their reproductive health and had access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Health clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There were no restrictions on access to contraceptives for persons over the age of 18, but the law prohibits access to contraceptives for individuals under 18 even though the legal age of consent is 15. Abortions are only permitted under special circumstances subject to the approval of a medical board. First-time mothers from the country’s outer islands are required to travel to the main island of Mahe to give birth. Midwives were used for delivery unless the services of a doctor were required due to health concerns involving either the mother or the child, or a cesarian section was required. Nurses are also responsible for both prenatal and postnatal care unless the mother or child have health concerns.
Men and women had access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; no legal, social, cultural, or other barriers limited access to these services. The country’s high adolescent birth rate of 61.22 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19 was a concern. All services related to reproductive health as well as other health matters were free of cost in state-operated facilities. Information on government assistance to victims of sexual assault was not available.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: Although society is largely matriarchal, the law provides for the same legal status and rights for men as for women, including equal treatment under family, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. While unwed mothers traditionally bear the burden of supporting their children, the law requires fathers to support their children financially. The Employment Act provides fathers with 10 days of paid paternity leave upon the birth of a child; mothers are provided with 112 days of leave. An amendment to the civil code signed into law in November by the president provides equal rights to children. The revision applies to the sharing of inheritance as well as the responsibilities of parents to their children regardless of whether they are married. The revised civil code also addresses the sharing of property in married or unmarried intimate-partner relationships.
There was no officially sanctioned economic discrimination against women in employment, access to credit, equal pay for equal work, or owning or managing a business. Women were well represented in both the public and private sectors. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women.