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Palau

Executive Summary

Palau is a constitutional republic. Voters elect the president, vice president, and members of the legislature (House of Delegates) for four-year terms. In 2016 voters re-elected Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. president for a four-year term in a generally free and fair election.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, although it did not punish any officials for involvement in human trafficking offenses.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has no established system for providing protection to refugees. The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by a maximum 25 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $50,000 (national currency is U.S. dollar), or both. Domestic violence is a criminal offense. The law is enforced when police respond to calls of domestic violence; however, many people are reluctant to call police in these situations. The most recent government-sponsored research project on violence against women indicated that approximately 35 percent of women experienced physical or sexual violence or both since the age of 15. There are no shelters for victims of rape and domestic violence. There was a domestic violence counselor available through the Bureau of Public Health. The government conducted public education efforts to combat abuse against women and children.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by a maximum one-year’s imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or both. There were reported cases of sexual harassment during the year.

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

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The constitution provides women and men equal parental rights, privileges, and responsibilities. The inheritance of property and of traditional rank is matrilineal, with women occupying positions of importance within the traditional system. There were no reports of unequal pay for equal work or gender-related job discrimination. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: At least one parent must be a citizen of the country in order to transmit citizenship to a child. Birth registration occurs immediately, and there were no reports of failure to register. Authorities register a child born to foreign national parents as a citizen of the parents’ countries.

Early and Forced Marriage: There is no minimum age for marriage between two citizens. The minimum age for marriage between a citizen and a noncitizen is 18 years for a man and 16 years for a woman, and women younger than 18 years must obtain parental permission. Underage marriage was not common.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and the law was enforced, with nine men convicted during the year in the same case of sexual assault and promoting prostitution of minors. The age of consensual sex is 17 years. Sexual assault of a minor younger than 15 years is a felony and is subject to a maximum imprisonment of 25 years, a $50,000 fine, or both. Child sexual abuse is a felony with fines up to $50,000, imprisonment for up to 25 years, or both. The law does not specifically address child pornography.

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

Anti-Semitism

There were reportedly fewer than 20 persons in the Jewish community. 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 and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. The law covers persons with mental and physical disabilities, and the government enforced these acts. The law includes a provision for limited access to government buildings for persons with disabilities, and the government generally enforced this provision. Most public schools had separate programs to address the education needs of students with disabilities that included mainstreaming them with other students.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits noncitizens from purchasing land, and there are no provisions for naturalization. Some foreign nationals experienced discrimination in employment, pay, housing, education, and access to social services, although the law prohibits such discrimination (see section 7.d.). Authorities did not pursue or prosecute crimes committed against noncitizens with the same vigor as crimes against citizens.

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

No laws addressed sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Panama

Executive Summary

Panama is a multiparty constitutional democracy. In 2014 voters chose Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez as president in national elections that international and domestic observers considered generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included undue restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including censorship, site blocking, and criminal libel; and widespread corruption.

The Varela administration and the Public Ministry continued investigations into allegations of corruption against public officials.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, persons under temporary humanitarian protection, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In January the Ministry of Government issued an executive decree to regulate the protection of refugees, abolishing the previous decree from 1998. The National Office for the Attention of Refugees (ONPAR) declared the reforms were positive and necessary. The decree increases the frequency of the approval board meetings and reduces wait times for final decisions through improved processing and the implementation of a computerized application process. International organizations and NGOs criticized the new decree because it did not include the Cartagena Declaration definition of refugee, nor did it provide applicants with work permits. The new decree also stipulates a six-month waiting period after entering the country before applying for refugee status, and it establishes a summary proceeding to deny refugees who have “manifestly unfounded claims” as determined by ONPAR. In August the government issued a resolution detailing which claims will be considered “manifestly unfounded.” NGOs believed this would further limit access to refugee status and leave more persons in need of international protection. The process of obtaining refugee status generally took one to two years, during which asylum seekers did not have the right to work and encountered difficulties accessing basic services.

In March the government and UNHCR signed a cooperation agreement to train border personnel in identification and referral of persons needing international protection. The government also signed two protocols for the protection of children who migrate: a protocol for identification, referral, and attention for minors requiring international protection, and an institutional protocol for protecting minors who migrate.

In June the government announced it would deport 70 Cuban migrants sheltered in Darien, on the border with Colombia, and in July the government reported that 37 Cubans were placed in the shelter located on the border with Costa Rica. The government continued to manage camps in the Darien region to provide food, shelter, and medical assistance to the migrants. The government reported continued migrations of persons from South Asia, India, and Africa.

According to UNHCR and its NGO implementing partners, thousands of persons living in the country might be in need of international protection. These included persons in the refugee process, persons denied refugee status, and persons who did not apply for refugee status due to lack of knowledge or fear of deportation.

Employment: Refugees recognized by authorities have the right to work, but recognized refugees complained that they faced discriminatory hiring practices. In an effort to prevent this discriminatory practice, ONPAR removed the word “refugee” from recognized refugees’ identification cards. By law individuals in the process of applying for asylum do not have the right to work.

All foreigners seeking a work contract must initiate the process through a lawyer and pay a government fee of 700 balboas to obtain a work permit that expires upon termination of the labor contract or after one year, whichever comes first.

Access to Basic Services: Education authorities sometimes denied refugees access to education and refused to issue diplomas to others if they could not present school records from their country of origin. The Ministry of Education continued to enforce the government’s 2015 decree requiring schools to accept students in the asylum process at the grade level commensurate with the applicants’ prior studies.

Durable Solutions: The law allows persons legally recognized as refugees or with asylum status who have lived in the country for more than three years to seek permanent residency.

STATELESS PERSONS

The government continued to work with Colombia to recognize approximately 200 stateless persons on the border. The governments of Panama and Costa Rica, with the cooperation of UNHCR, continued to use a mobile registry office on the border with Costa Rica to register indigenous Ngabe and Bugle seasonal workers who travel between Costa Rica and Panama and who had not registered their births in either country.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, with prison terms of five to 10 years. The government generally implemented criminal aspects of the law better than protection aspects. Rapes constituted the majority of sexual crimes investigated by the PNP and its Directorate of Judicial Investigation.

The law against gender violence stipulates stiff penalties for harassment and both physical and emotional abuse. The law states that sentencing for femicide is a mandatory 25 to 30 years in prison. Officials and civil society organizations agreed that domestic violence continued to be a serious crime. In August the PNP initiated the Specialized Unit for Domestic and Gender Violence with 190 agents trained to work these cases. As of June there were 7,773 reported cases of domestic violence nationwide.

The Ombudsman’s Office continued its program Mujer Conoce tus Derechos (Woman, Know Your Rights), which included a wide distribution of flyers. The government, through the National Institute for Women’s Affairs, operated shelters for victims of domestic abuse and offered social, psychological, medical, and legal services. The secretary general of the Ombudsman’s Office and the director of the Panamanian Observatory Against Gender Violence claimed the number of shelters was insufficient.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in cases of employer-employee relations in the public and private sectors and in teacher-student relations. Violators face a maximum three-year prison sentence. The extent of the problem was difficult to determine, because convictions for sexual harassment were rare, pre-employment sexual harassment was not actionable, and there was a lack of formal reports.

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

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and women enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. The law recognizes joint property in marriages. The law mandates equal pay for men and women in equivalent jobs. Although an illegal hiring practice, some employers continued to request pregnancy tests.

The Ministry of Social Development and the National Institute of Women promoted equality of women in the workplace and equal pay for equal work, attempted to reduce sexual harassment, and advocated legal reforms. In February President Varela signed a law prohibiting harassment and racism. The prior law sanctioned sexual harassment but not labor harassment or bullying. The law mandates equal rights for labor and measures to prevent discrimination as well as respect of the norms established in the international human rights conventions signed by the country. It establishes fines for employers or immediate supervisors who fail to follow the law and instructs the Ministries of Education, Social Development, and Labor, in conjunction with the University of Panama, to develop educational programs for the awareness of these rights.

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides citizenship for all persons born in the country, but parents of children born in remote areas sometimes had difficulty obtaining birth registration certificates. The National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents, and the Family estimated the registration level of births at 92 percent.

Child Abuse: The Ministry of Social Development maintained a free hotline for children and adults to report child abuse and advertised it widely. The ministry provided funding to children’s shelters operated by NGOs and continued a program that used pamphlets in schools to sensitize teachers, children, and parents about mistreatment and sexual abuse of children. In March President Varela signed a law amending the penal code to increase sentences for convicted pedophiles. Sentences went from five-10 years to seven-12 years in prison. If the crime is committed by a clergyperson, relative, tutor, or teacher, the penalties increased from eight-12 years to 10-15 years in prison.

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

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Officials continued to prosecute cases of sexual abuse of children in urban and rural areas, as well as within indigenous communities. Officials believed that commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred, including in tourist areas in Panama City and in beach communities, although they did not keep separate statistics.

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

Anti-Semitism

Jewish community leaders estimated there were 15,000 Jews in the country. There were no known 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 based on physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities; however, the constitution permits the denial of naturalization to persons with mental or physical disabilities. The law mandates access to new or remodeled public buildings for persons with disabilities and requires that schools integrate children with disabilities. Despite provisions of the law, persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in a number of these areas.

Most of Panama City’s bus fleet was not wheelchair accessible. Metro elevators were frequently locked and could not be used. A lack of ramps further limited access to the stations. Most businesses had wheelchair ramps and accessible parking spaces as required by law, but in many cases they did not meet the government’s size specifications.

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

In January the National Secretariat for Disabilities Issues publicly admitted a shortfall of 2.5 million balboas to conduct the Second National Census on People with Disabilities, which was two years behind schedule. The first census took place in 2006.

The government-sponsored Guardian Angel program continued to provide a monthly subsidy of 80 balboas for children with significant physical disabilities. To qualify, the parents or guardian of a child must be living in poverty and must submit a medical certification specifying the degree of the disability and the child’s dependency on another person. Authorities conducted home visits to ensure the beneficiaries’ guardians used the funds for the intended purpose.

In June and July the Ministry of Labor hosted weekly job fairs for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Minority groups were generally integrated into mainstream society. Prejudice was directed, however, at recent immigrants, the Afro-Panamanian community, and indigenous Panamanians. Newly arrived Venezuelans noted prejudice in popular culture and in recent laws passed by the legislature restricting labor participation and length of visa stays. Cultural and language differences and immigration status hindered the integration of immigrant and first-generation individuals from China, India, and the Middle East into mainstream society. Additionally, some members of these communities were reluctant to integrate.

The Afro-Panamanian community was underrepresented in positions of political and economic power. Areas where they lived lagged in terms of government services and social investment. The government’s National Secretariat for the Development of Afro-Panamanians focused on the socioeconomic advancement of this community. The secretariat was designed to work with the national census agency to ensure an accurate count in 2020 of Afro-descendant Panamanians.

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

There were reports of racial discrimination against various ethnic groups in the workplace. Lighter-skinned persons continued to be overrepresented in management positions and jobs that required dealing with the public, such as bank tellers and receptionists.

Indigenous People

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

In March members of the Embera and Wounaan communities protested for collective land titles in front of the Ministry of Environment. To resolve the issue, the ministry granted eight territories, home to more than 5,000 persons, conditional land titles pending inspections by the National Authority of Land Administration. Several indigenous organizations along with NGOs requested a hearing at the IACHR to analyze the collective land title claims and the protection of indigenous communities. Part of the land of the 17 communities still awaiting titles fell within protected areas, which delayed ministerial approval.

Other land-titling conflicts continued to arise. In April the Embera Wounaan demanded the eviction of nonindigenous settlers occupying their land illegally, in compliance with a ruling from the Supreme Court. In July an incident between the indigenous Guna community from the Wargandi comarca in Darien and local settlers left one person dead and one injured. In October the National Assembly’s Indigenous Issues Committee approved a law to create a comarca for the Naso people. In September the Bri submitted a claim to the Supreme Court demanding the protection of their human rights. In 2015 the Bri Bri requested collective title for their lands in Bocas del Toro but as of November had not received a reply. This action was in response to a protest outside the Ministry of Environment’s regional office by local farmers, who contended the Bri Bri land claim included land farmed by approximately 300 local farmers and therefore the title should not be granted. The Bri Bri claim was analyzed in the October IACHR hearing, but the government requested more documentation and clarification of the specifics of the land claim.

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

Although the country’s law is the ultimate authority in indigenous comarcas, many indigenous persons misunderstood their rights and, due to their inadequate command of the Spanish language, failed to use available legal channels.

In May the Ministry of Government presented its 15-year National Indigenous Peoples Development Plan, backed by a 25-year, $80 million loan from the World Bank. The plan includes goals to increase development investments for indigenous territories and to deliver public services within the comarcas.

In August members of the Guna community protested outside of the Electoral Tribunal against alleged discrimination. According to the group, community members were forced to remove a traditional nose piercing before taking their national identification photograph. After the incident the Electoral Tribunal instructed regional offices that they could not force a citizen to remove the piercing, according to a 2000 law that protects the right to traditional garb.

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

Education deficiencies continued in the comarcas, especially beyond the primary grades. There were not enough teachers in these remote and inaccessible areas, with many multigrade schools often poorly constructed and lacking running water. In April teachers and indigenous communities in the Ngabe comarca began periodically protesting the poor roads and education in the comarca by closing the Interamerican Highway as well as other roads. In September a group of Ngabe closed the highway for more than 10 hours to protest the delay in the construction of a road to their communities that would connect the 1,200 inhabitants and 12 schools. Police forcibly removed the protesters from the highway. Nine police officers were injured and 12 Ngabe arrested, some with injuries. This sparked a 60-day strike in 43 of the schools in the comarca as teachers demanded better work conditions, including safety bonuses, better life insurance, and improved roads. Access to health care was a significant problem in the indigenous comarcas, despite government investment in more health infrastructure and staff. This was reflected in high rates of maternal and infant mortality and malnutrition. The government continued to execute the Indigenous Development Plan jointly developed with indigenous leaders in 2013.

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

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

The PNP’s internal regulations describe consensual same-sex sexual conduct by its employees as against policy and potentially grounds for dismissal. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) human rights organizations reported harassment of LGBTI persons by security forces as a source of serious concern.

On June 29, LGBTI activists organized the 14th annual Pride Parade without impediment. Unlike in previous years, there was no anti-Pride Parade countermarch.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

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

In August President Varela signed a law prohibiting labor and other types of discrimination against persons with sexually transmitted diseases and their immediate relatives and mandating employers to follow International Labor Organization (ILO) recommendations on how to manage employees with HIV. Employees are not obligated to disclose their condition to the employer, but if they do so, the employer must keep the information confidential. The law also mandates that persons seeking to wed must submit to the civil court a physician’s note certifying they each had an HIV test recently. The test results are not to be made known to the court, but the judge must ask both parties if they know the results of the other’s test. Marriage cannot be impeded if the results are positive. Several LGBTI activists complained that forcing the disclosure of the results to the other individual violates privacy rights.

The government’s National Network for the Continued Integral Attention of Persons with HIV/AIDS continued during the year. The Ministry of Social Development collaborated with the NGO PROBIDSIDA to conduct HIV/AIDS outreach to students in public junior and high schools.

In a joint effort with LGBTI NGOs, the UN Development Program, and the National Program for HIV/AIDS, the Ministry of Health conducted HIV/AIDS tests within the LBGTI community in several provinces. During the year PROBIDSIDA also worked with the Ministry of Public Security “Barrios Seguros” (Safe Neighborhoods) program to provide HIV/AIDS training and free testing services to at-risk youth from vulnerable communities. Individuals who tested positive received medical treatment.

Papua New Guinea

Executive Summary

Papua New Guinea is a constitutional, federal, multiparty, parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary elections took place in 2017, and the People’s National Congress party won a majority in the 111-seat unicameral parliament, led by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. In some parts of the country, electoral contests involved widespread violence, fraud, bribery, voter intimidation, and undue influence.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included unlawful or arbitrary killings by police; torture; government corruption; gender-based violence, including acts committed by police; trafficking in persons; the criminalization of same sex conduct between men, although the law was not enforced; and child labor.

The government frequently failed to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Impunity was pervasive.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the IOM, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Asylum seekers and refugees were sometimes subjected to abuse by security forces and the local population. In 2017 Australia’s Senate Standing Committees released findings from a seven-month inquiry into allegations of serious abuse in the detention center on Manus Island. The inquiry documented evidence that asylum seekers were exposed to physical violence, sexual assault, and medical neglect leading to death, and collected “indisputable” evidence of correspondingly widespread mental health problems that led to self-harm.

In May Rohingya refugee Salim Kyawning died in an apparent suicide after he jumped from a moving bus in Lorengau on Manus Island. Two refugee men also died from suspected suicides in 2017. Human rights groups alleged that these men all suffered from mental illness, exacerbated by frequent clashes with local police, and that their lives could have been saved had they received proper mental health services. In June a fact-finding mission from the UNHCR observed high levels of anxiety and depression among the refugees, and a lack of psychiatric support.

In February PNGDF personnel assaulted three asylum seekers, injuring all three. Tensions between detainees and local police, soldiers, and residents remained high.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Natural disasters, including a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in February and volcanic eruptions, caused most displacements, while tribal violence, ethnic clashes, and land disputes were responsible for approximately one-third. Displacement was generally protracted, with families living in temporary situations for more than one year on average. These populations were vulnerable because they lacked access to land, basic services, and protection. Women and children were especially susceptible to abuse. The government had no policy or legislation to address the needs of IDPs, and host communities often reacted with violence to displaced populations.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: While the law does not formally provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, legislation provides a refugee status determination process. The law allowed persons from the Indonesian’s Papua Province (formerly Irian Jaya) to apply for Papua New Guinea citizenship without having to pay the usual fee.

The government maintains two agreements with Australia on refugees. The first allows Australia to send asylum seekers to Manus Island (see sections 1.d. and 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons) for processing only. The second allows asylum seekers to resettle in Papua New Guinea. International organizations, NGOs, and civil society groups in the country raised questions about the constitutionality of the latter agreement.

In 2017 Australian authorities closed the Manus Island RPC and moved refugees to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center. As of October the transit center held approximately 400 refugees.

Australian Immigration and Border Protection and UNHCR trained the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority (ICSA) on how to make refugee status determinations. ICSA officers are responsible for processing refugee claims by those on Manus Island. As of October, 403 persons were determined to be genuine refugees, 124 had their claims denied, and another 598 had accepted the voluntary departure package, which in some cases included as much as $25,000 in cash offered by Australian and Papua New Guinea authorities. The remainder were either deported, sent to Australia for medical treatment, settled in Papua New Guinea or the United States, or had died.

ICSA worked with the support of international organizations and NGOs to provide training, job matching, and temporary financial support to help refugees establish themselves in the country. Resettlement efforts were problematic, however, because several refugees who tried to resettle in the country became victims of crime.

Durable Solutions: The national refugee policy provides a way for Indonesian Papuans to apply for Papua New Guinean citizenship without having to pay the PGK 10,000 ($3,000) citizenship fee. ICSA estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Indonesian Papuans lived in Papua New Guinea. Under the policy 1,259 Indonesian Papuans received citizenship certificates in 2017, and during the year through October, another 115 received citizenship.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to persons from Papua who may not qualify as refugees. Approximately 3,000 persons, classified by the government as “border crossers,” lived in villages adjacent to the border with Indonesia, and approximately 2,400 lived in urban areas, including Port Moresby.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, gang rape, and intimate-partner violence was a serious and widespread problem. In a 2015 World Health Organization report, approximately 70 percent of women reported they had experienced rape or sexual assault. According to Amnesty International, approximately two-thirds of women had been beaten by their partners. Due to stigma, fear of retribution, and limited trust in authorities, most women did not report rape or domestic violence to authorities. In January the media reported that a woman was repeatedly beaten and raped by her brother-in-law, who also sewed her genitalia shut and tied her up. Authorities charged the man with rape, deprivation of liberty, and unlawful wounding.

Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by a sentence ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. The legal system allows village chiefs to negotiate the payment of compensation in lieu of trials for rapists. The law criminalizes family violence and imposes maximum penalties of two years’ imprisonment and PGK 5,000 ($1,500) in fines in an effort to end the cultural practice of providing compensation to victims. Implementing regulations were not complete, however, and the law was not in effect despite being enacted in 2013.

Police committed sexual violence, and the unresponsiveness of authorities to complaints of sexual or intimate-partner violence deterred reporting of such crimes. The law criminalizes intimate-partner violence, but it nonetheless persisted throughout the country and was generally committed with impunity. Since most communities viewed intimate-partner violence as a private matter, few survivors reported the crime or pressed charges, and prosecutions were rare. Implementation of the law remained incomplete.

There were 17 family and sexual violence units in police stations across the country to provide victims with protection, assistance through the judicial process, and medical care. Police leadership in some provinces led to improved services for victims of gender-based violence. Nevertheless, comprehensive services for victims of domestic and sexual violence were lacking in most of the country. This lack of services, along with societal and family pressure, often forced women back into violent and abusive homes.

Those convicted of rape received prison sentences, but authorities apprehended and prosecuted few rapists. The willingness of some communities to settle rape cases through material compensation rather than criminal prosecution made the crime difficult to combat.

Human Rights Watch reported there were five shelters for abused women in Port Moresby, which were often full and had to turn away women in need of counseling and shelter. The situation was worse outside the capital, where small community organizations or individuals with little access to funds and counseling resources maintained shelters.

Violence committed against women by other women frequently stemmed from domestic disputes. In areas where polygyny was customary, authorities charged an increasing number of women with murdering another of their husband’s wives. Independent observers indicated that approximately 90 percent of women in prison were convicted for attacking or killing their husband or another woman.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride price payments continued. This contributed to the perception by many communities that husbands owned their wives and could treat them as chattel. In addition to being purchased as brides, women sometimes were given as compensation to settle disputes between clans.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal, and was a widespread and severe problem. Women frequently experience harassment in public locations and the workplace. In Port Moresby the government and UN Women worked together to provide women-only public buses to reduce instances of sexual harassment on public transportation.

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

Discrimination: Although the law provides extensive rights for women dealing with family, marriage, and property disputes, gender discrimination existed at all levels. Women continued to face severe inequalities in all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political life.

Village courts tended to impose jail terms on women found guilty of adultery while penalizing men lightly or not at all. The law, however, requires district courts to endorse orders for imprisonment before the imposition of the sentence, and judges frequently annulled such village court sentences.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through birth to a citizen parent. Birth registration often did not occur immediately due to the remote locations in which many births took place. Failure to register did not generally affect access to public services such as education or health care.

Education: In 2012 the government established a policy of free education through grade 10 and pledged to provide subsidies for students thereafter. There were many complaints the government did not adequately fund education, leading to overcrowded classrooms, too few teachers, and a decline in the quality of education. Many schools charged fees despite the free education policy, and only one-third of children completed primary school. Primary and secondary education completion rates tended to be slightly higher for boys than for girls. Recent reports confirmed that girls were at high risk of domestic and sexual violence, sexual harassment in schools, commercial exploitation, and HIV infection, which posed serious threats to their education.

Child Abuse: In 2016 nongovernmental Save the Children released the results of a small-scale study showing that 70 percent of children faced physical or emotional violence and 50 percent faced sexual violence or family violence in the home; child protection systems, especially in rural areas, were not adequate to meet the needs of children facing abuse. Other studies found that only the most egregious forms of sexual and physical abuse of children were reported to police, because family violence is viewed as a domestic matter. Although the country passed a law in 2015 to strengthen child protection efforts in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, implementing regulations were incomplete.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years for boys and 16 for girls. There is a lower legal marriage age (16 years for boys and 14 for girls) with parental and court consent.

Customary and traditional practices allow marriage of children as young as 12 years, and early marriage was common in many traditional, isolated rural communities. Child brides frequently were taken as additional wives or given as brides to pay family debts and often were used as domestic servants. Child brides were particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. The maximum penalty for violators is 25 years’ imprisonment or, if the victim is younger than 12 years, life imprisonment. Child pornography is illegal; penalties range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, but enforcement remained a problem. There were cases of sex trafficking of children in urban areas, including of minors working in bars and nightclubs. There were reports of exploitation of children through the production of pornography and that both local and foreign children were subjected to sex trafficking. The law does not criminally prohibit using, procuring, and offering a child for pornographic performances. NGOs reported increased prevalence of child sex trafficking.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish community in the country, 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 constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Nevertheless, persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities faced discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, air travel and other transportation, and provision of other state services. Most buildings and public infrastructure remained inaccessible for persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities experienced an under-resourced educational system and attended school in disproportionately low numbers. The government endorsed sign language as a national language for all government programs, although access to interpreters was limited.

Through the National Board for the Disabled, the government granted funds to a number of NGOs that provided services to persons with disabilities. The government provided free medical consultations and treatment for persons with mental disabilities, but such services were rarely available outside major cities. Most persons with disabilities did not find training or work outside the family structure (see section 7.d.).

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

Consensual same-sex sexual relations and acts of “gross indecency” between males are illegal. The maximum penalty for same-sex sexual relations is 14 years’ imprisonment; for acts of gross indecency between male persons (a misdemeanor), is three years. There were no reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons under these provisions during the year. There were reports of societal violence and discrimination against such persons, and they were vulnerable to societal stigmatization, which may have led to underreporting.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of government discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS; however, there was a strong societal stigma attached to HIV/AIDS infection, which prevented some persons from seeking HIV/AIDS-related services.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Press reported vigilante killings and abuses continued to increase and became more common in urban areas. Many killings were related to alleged involvement in sorcery and witchcraft and typically targeted the most vulnerable persons: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly. The government repealed controversial anti-sorcery legislation in 2013, which had provided a defense for violent crime if the accused was acting to stop witchcraft. The government established the Sorcery National Action Plan in 2016, to be implemented by a national committee. The committee, however, lacked funding to carry out its mandate fully, and despite efforts by some provincial governments, police often lacked the capacity to stop killings of alleged sorcerers. In January, 97 persons were convicted in a mass trial for eight sorcery-related murders that took place in 2014. Eight persons were sentenced to death and the remainder received life sentences.

Church leaders and policy makers observed that the number of persons reportedly tortured and killed for alleged sorcery was increasing. Many believed perpetrators used sorcery-related violence to mask violence against vulnerable members of the community, including women, or for revenge. Reliable data on the issue remained elusive with estimates ranging from 30 to 500 attacks resulting in death per year. In April, eight police officers, including their provincial police commander, killed a man and assaulted several others whom they accused of practicing sorcery. All eight officers were charged and are free on bail awaiting a court date.

Long-standing animosities among isolated tribes, a persistent cultural tradition of revenge for perceived wrongs, and the lack of law enforcement were factors underlying frequent violent tribal conflict in highland areas. During the year tribal fighting continued in highland provinces. The number of deaths and IDPs resulting from such conflicts continued to rise due to the increased availability of modern weapons (see section 2.d.).

Paraguay

Executive Summary

Paraguay is a multiparty, constitutional republic. In April, Mario Abdo Benitez of the Colorado Party, also known as the National Republican Association (ANR), won the presidency in elections recognized as free and fair. Legislative elections took place at the same time.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Critics asserted the government did not deploy or monitor forces effectively, particularly in the northeastern section of the country.

Human rights issues included reports of torture by government officials; harsh and at times life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; corruption of prosecutors and judges, and police involvement in criminal activities; violent intimidation of journalists by organized crime groups and government officials; legal impunity and widespread corruption in all branches and all levels of government; widespread and sometimes lethal violence against women and indigenous persons, despite government efforts to curtail such acts, as well as police violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; and child labor, particularly in domestic service and informal agricultural sectors.

The executive branch took steps to prosecute and punish low- and mid-ranked officials who committed abuses, but general impunity for officials in the police and security forces continued to be widely reported.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. The government’s National Commission of Refugees cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. The NGO Committee of Churches for Emergency Aid acted as the local legal representative of UNHCR.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Durable Solutions: Authorities permitted persons whose asylum or refugee status cases were refused to seek other migration options, including obtaining legal permanent residency in the country or returning to the most recent point of embarkation. The government did not assist in the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their homes but rather relied on UNHCR assistance to facilitate such returns.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or sexual assault. If the victim is a minor, the sentence ranges from a minimum of three years to 15 years in prison. According to the Attorney General’s Office, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem, with many rapes going unreported. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and sometimes obtained convictions.

Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine if convicted, it requires the abuse to be habitual and the aggressor and victim to be “cohabitating or lodging together.” Judges typically issued fines, but in some cases they sentenced offenders to jail to provide for the safety of the victim. In some instances the courts mediated domestic violence cases. According to NGOs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, domestic violence was widespread, and thousands of women received treatment for injuries sustained in domestic altercations. The ministry promoted a national 24-hour telephone hotline for victims. The ministry also operated a shelter and coordinated victim assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training.

In February the Ministry of Women’s Affairs launched Ciudad Mujer in Asuncion, an integrated service center for women, focusing on prevention of domestic violence, reproductive health, economic empowerment, and education. The ministry indicated the center had served 24,000 visitors as of July 31.

As of August the National Police had 17 specialized units to assist victims of domestic violence, and 137 officers were assigned to these stations.

Femicide remained a serious problem. A 2016 law criminalizes femicide and mandates a sentence of between 10 and 30 years in prison upon conviction. In 2017 there were 53 cases of femicide, an increase of 15 from 2016, according to the Supreme Court’s gender office. As of August 24, the office reported 32 cases of femicide.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine, although sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for many women, especially in the workplace environments. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove because of victims’ fear of workplace retaliation and societal pressures against victims. Many dropped their complaints or were unwilling to continue cooperating with prosecutors.

In July the Civil Service Secretariat approved a protocol for addressing sexual misconduct involving government workers. This protocol streamlines the filing of complaints for misconduct and harassment. To facilitate the enforcement of the protocol, the Civil Service Secretariat trained public servants and adopted guidance to include gender perspective in all public agencies’ internal resolutions.

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

Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. There is no comprehensive law against discrimination and thus no legal basis for enforcement of the constitutional clause against discrimination.

Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. Nonetheless, gender-related discrimination was widespread. Women experienced more difficulty than men in securing employment and occupation.

Children

Birth Registration: Nationality derives from birth within the country’s territory, from birth to government employees in service abroad, or from birth to a citizen residing temporarily outside the country. Hospitals immediately register births, but this is not the case for many children born in rural areas and in indigenous communities with limited access to health-care facilities. Birth certificates and national identity documents are a prerequisite to access government services, including obtaining a passport.

Education: Education is free, compulsory, and universal from kindergarten through secondary school, although in many parts of the country parents had to pay fees to make sure the school could pay operational expenses. According to the government, girls from rural families tended to leave school at a younger age than did boys. Approximately 10 percent of children from poor families did not have access to schooling, due to economic hardship, geographic isolation, or early entry into the workforce.

Child Abuse: The NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Ministry of Children and Youth, formerly the Secretariat of Children and Adolescents, stated that violence against children was widespread and equally prevalent among rural and urban families.

On August 21, a criminal court convicted priest Felix Miranda Gamarra of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. Rather than sentencing Miranda to jail time, the court ordered him to donate Gs. five million ($850) to a local hospital.

The government does not have a shelter exclusively for child victims of sexual abuse; victims are usually assigned to an extended family member or referred to other general-purpose youth shelters. Several general-purpose youth shelters existed, including a shelter comanaged by the government and a Roman Catholic organization. In many cities the municipal council for children’s rights assisted abused and neglected children. An insufficient number of orphanages operated in the country.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, but the law permits marriage for those ages 16 to 18 with parental consent, and for those younger than age 16 only with judicial authorization under exceptional circumstances. There were no reports of forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: According to the Ministry of Children and Youth, child trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced domestic servitude remained problematic. The law provides penalties of up to eight years of imprisonment for persons responsible for pimping or brokering victims younger than 17 years of age.

The minimum age of consent is 14 when married and 16 when not married. A December 2017 amendment to the penal code establishes mandatory sentences for sexual abuse of children. The amendment increases the penalty for sexual abuse in cases involving violence or intercourse to at least 15 years in prison if the victim is under 18 and to 20 years in prison if the victim is under 10 years old. The penal code also provides for fines or up to three years in prison for the production, distribution, and possession of pornography involving children or adolescents younger than age 18. Authorities can increase this penalty to 10 years in prison depending on the age of the child and the child’s relationship to the abuser. A 2018 law prohibits the publication of names, images, or audios of underage sexual abuse victims or witnesses and stipulates fines and one year in prison for offenders.

In the first nine months of the year, the Ministry of Children and Youth received more than 2,000 reports of sexual abuse against children. In early September a prosecutor with the Attorney General’s Office placed in pretrial detention 13 navy officers who had sexually abused a 13-year-old girl at a navy garrison.

Child Soldiers: While the government as well as NGOs, including the Coordinator for the Rights of Infants and Adolescents and the Peace and Justice Service, alleged in previous years that the EPP recruited children into logistical support roles that later grew into combatant roles, there were no such reports during the year. The entire size of the EPP was estimated to be 20 to 50 members.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community has fewer than 1,000 members. 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 nominally prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law mandates accessibility in all public offices, but it does not specifically provide for access to information or communications, and most of the country’s buildings remained inaccessible, although some municipalities made progress.

Many persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment; others were unable to seek employment because of a lack of accessible public transportation. The law mandates the allocation of 5 percent of all available public-employee positions to persons with disabilities; in practice less than 1 percent were so employed. The Ministry of Education and Sciences estimated more than 50 percent of children with disabilities did not attend school because of lack of access to public transportation capacity.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Anecdotally, ethnic minorities faced discrimination in finding employment, accessing credit, receiving equal pay, owning or managing businesses, accessing education, and accessing housing.

Indigenous People

The law provides indigenous persons the right to participate in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the country, but the law was not effectively enforced. Discrimination, coupled with a lack of access to employment, education, health care, shelter, and sufficient land, hindered the ability of indigenous persons to progress economically while maintaining their cultural identity.

Indigenous workers engaged as laborers on ranches typically earned low wages, worked long hours, received pay infrequently, and lacked medical or retirement benefits. This situation was particularly severe in the Chaco region.

The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INDI), the Attorney General’s Office; the Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security; the Social Action Secretariat; and the Ombudsman’s Office are responsible for protecting and promoting indigenous rights. The law mandates that INDI negotiate, purchase, and register land on behalf of indigenous communities who claim lack of access to their ancestral lands. In some instances INDI claimed it lacked sufficient funding to purchase land on behalf of indigenous persons or required them to register land in the Asuncion office rather than locally.

The law authorizes indigenous persons to determine how to use communal land. There were insufficient police and judicial protections from encroachments on indigenous lands. This often resulted in conflict between indigenous communities and large landowners in rural areas, which at times led to violence.

CODEHUPY and other NGOs documented widespread trafficking in persons, rape, sexual harassment, and physical abuse of women in indigenous communities. Perpetrators were often workers and employers from neighboring ranches and farms. NGOs also alleged agribusiness operations in the Chaco exploited and violated the rights of indigenous workers.

The cases of Marcos Torales, Javier Torales, Robert de Souza, and Ismael Barrios were pending as of September 5. In 2017 the Attorney General’s Office charged them for organizing and participating in the May 2017 eviction of 20 families of the Ava Guarani indigenous community from 740 acres on the disputed Colonia Colorado’i property near Itakyry, Alto Parana Department.

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

No laws explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTI persons, and discrimination occurred frequently. Several NGOs, including SomosGay, the Center for Studies and Documentation, and Aireana, reported police harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons.

According to press and NGO reporting, during the year police officers beat, robbed, and implicated transgender individuals as suspects in serious crimes, including drug trafficking and armed robbery.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV-positive status and protects the privacy of medical information. The law also specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees based on their HIV-positive status. Labor ministry regulations forbid employers from requiring HIV testing prior to employment, but many companies reportedly still did so.

NGOs, CODEHUPY, and the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Counseling and Reporting Center noted that persons with HIV/AIDS who sought access to health care, education, and employment opportunities faced discrimination based on their sexual orientation, demand for HIV testing, or gender identity.

Peru

Executive Summary

Peru is a constitutional, multiparty republic. Pursuant to the constitution, in March First Vice President Martin Vizcarra assumed the presidency following the resignation of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Kuczynski, leader of the Peruanos Por el Kambio (Peruvians for Change) party, had won the 2016 national elections in a vote widely considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included isolated cases of torture; government corruption, including in the judiciary; violence against women and girls; and forced labor (human trafficking) at illegal gold mining sites.

The government took steps to investigate and in some cases prosecute or otherwise punish public officials accused of abuses.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: The government maintained an emergency zone in the VRAEM and parts of four regions, where it restricted freedom of movement in an effort to maintain public peace and restore internal order.

Narcotics traffickers and Shining Path members at times interrupted the free movement of persons by establishing roadblocks in sections of the VRAEM emergency zone. Individuals protesting against extractive industry projects also occasionally established roadblocks throughout the country.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

The situation of former IDPs was difficult to assess. According to UNHCR, the number of IDPs was unknown, since officials registered relatively few.

The governmental Reparations Council continued to assist victims of the 1980-2000 internal conflict with the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement terrorist groups. The Quechua and other Andean indigenous populations were disproportionately represented among IDPs, since the conflict took place primarily within the Andean region. The council continued to compile a registry of victims and identify communities eligible for reparations. Some victims and family members lacking proper identity documents experienced difficulties registering for reparations.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The government, UNHCR, IOM, and civil society organizations estimated nearly 100,000 foreigners, mostly Venezuelans, resided in the country under irregular circumstances. The number of Venezuelans entering the country continued to increase, reaching more than 600,000 as of November, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015. The government created temporary residence permits for Venezuelans, enabling them to reside and work in the country legally. The government had granted temporary residence permits to approximately 92,000 Venezuelans who entered between February 2017 and September 2018. Local authorities reported approximately 694,000 Venezuelans entered from Ecuador between January and October. Of these Venezuelan entrants, 71 percent declared (over 491,000) their final destination was Peru and the remainder (over 202,000) departed for Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government cooperated with UNHCR and recognized the Catholic Migration Commission as the official provider of technical assistance to refugees. The commission also advised citizens claiming a fear of persecution who sought asylum. The government provided protection to refugees on a renewable, year-to-year basis, in accordance with commission recommendations. Asylum requests continued to grow, from approximately 400 cases in 2015 to more than 130,000 as of September. Approximately 97 percent of the asylum requests during the year came from Venezuelan citizens.

Durable Solutions: The government does not have a resettlement program, but it received persons recognized as refugees in other nations and provided some administrative support toward their integration. UNHCR provided such refugees humanitarian and emergency aid, legal assistance, documentation, and, in exceptional cases, voluntary return and family reunification.

Temporary Protection: As of September, the government provided temporary protection to more than 130,000 individuals awaiting a decision on their refugee status. The government provided these individuals temporary residence permits and authorization to work.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, with penalties of six to eight years in prison. The law defines femicide as the killing of a woman or girl based on gender. In July the government increased the minimum sentence for femicide to 20 years and to 30 years when the crime includes aggravating circumstances (e.g., crimes against minor, elderly, or pregnant victims). Enforcement of these laws, however, was often ineffective.

The law prohibits domestic violence; penalties range from one month to six years in prison. The law also authorizes judges and prosecutors to prevent a convicted spouse or parent from returning to the family home and authorizes the victim’s relatives and unrelated persons living in the home to file complaints of domestic violence. The law requires a police investigation of domestic violence to take place within five days of a complaint and obliges authorities to extend protection to female victims of domestic violence. Enforcement of these laws, however, was lax.

Violence against women and girls–including rape, spousal abuse, and sexual, physical, and psychological abuse–were serious national problems. A National Institute of Statistics (INEI) survey found 68 percent of women suffered some form of gender-based violence in their lives. The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations reported 43 femicides and 103 attempted femicides between January and April, a 26 percent and 39 percent increase, respectively, for the same period in 2017. In February, Jimena B., an 11-year-old girl, was abducted, raped, and killed in Lima. The alleged perpetrator, Cesar Alva Mendoza, was apprehended, placed in preventative detention, had several hearings, and awaited final trial as of November. He did not know the victim.

The Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations continued to operate service centers with police, prosecutors, counselors, and public welfare agents to help victims. NGOs expressed concerns about the program’s quality and quantity, particularly in rural areas. The ministry operated a toll-free hotline and implemented projects to sensitize government employees and the citizenry to domestic violence. Following the abduction, rape, and killing of Jimena B., public protests called for more protection for children. In response, the PNP formed a family violence prevention unit to provide follow-up visits on domestic abuse and other criminal complaints.

The government continued to support temporary shelters, but NGOs and members of Congress stated there were not enough.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a serious problem. Sexual harassment is defined as unsolicited comments, actions, and touching of a sexual nature that is unwanted by the female or male victim. In December 2017 Congress passed a law that criminalized sexual harassment in the workplace. In September Congress revised the law, providing penalties of up to eight years in prison for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a labor rights violation subject to administrative punishment as well. Government enforcement of laws against sexual harassment were minimally effective.

In October a court sentenced a man to three years in prison for sexual harassment, threats, and indecent proposals to a 15-year-old girl through social media. It was the first prison sentence handed down by a court for sexual harassment.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for equality between men and women and prohibits discrimination against women with regard to marriage, divorce, pregnancy, pay, and property rights, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. While the law prohibits discrimination in employment and educational opportunities based on gender, there was a persistent underrepresentation of women in high-ranking positions, and the arbitrary dismissal of pregnant women and workplace discrimination was common. The law stipulates that women should receive equal pay for equal work, but women often were paid less than men. The INEI estimated that as of September, women received 71 percent of the average income of men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived either by birth within the country’s territory or from one’s parents. Problems with government registration of births continued in remote areas of the country, although the government made significant progress in promoting registration.

Obtaining a national identity document requires a birth certificate, which was a problem in the most remote rural areas, where many births occurred at home and were not registered. As a result poor indigenous women and children disproportionately lacked identity documents as they were less able than men to travel outside these remote areas to obtain the documents. Undocumented citizens faced social and political barriers to accessing government services, including running for public office or holding title to land. Government representatives and NGOs assessed that undocumented citizens were particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation, human trafficking, and crime.

Child Abuse: Violence against and sexual abuse of children were serious nationwide problems. The country strengthened its laws in 2017 and 2018 to protect minor girls and boys without parents or guardians as well as children living in at-risk, poor households. The law mandates government safeguards for vulnerable children, including access to education, health, and housing at Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations operated residential shelters, to reduce their susceptibility to sexual exploitation, child labor, and human trafficking. The law requires all government authorities, courts, and social service institutions to use the “best interests of the child” standard in all decisions affecting these children. The Peruvian Penal Code imposes stiff prison sentences for promoting child prostitution, abusing minors, and trafficking in children.

The government supported overnight shelters. Provincial or district governments operated approximately one-half of the offices to assist victims, while schools, churches, and NGOs ran the others. Law students continued to staff the units, particularly in rural districts. When these offices could not resolve disputes, officials usually referred cases to the Public Ministry’s local prosecutor offices, whose adjudications had the same force as court judgments.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The law allows minors older than 16 to marry with civil judge authorization.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits exploiting children in prostitution and penalizes promoters with a minimum of 15 years in prison. The law prohibits child pornography, and the penalty for conviction of involvement in child pornography is four to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Government officials, police, NGOs, civil society leaders, and journalists identified numerous cases of child prostitution during the year. The country remained a destination for child sex tourism.

While the country has strong laws to protect children, it frequently had serious problems with enforcement. Media for example, frequently reported on the sexual exploitation of minor girls in the illicit gold mining sites of the remote Amazonian Madre de Dios region. In one broadly circulated article, Yaneth, a 14-year-old girl, was sent by her aunt to work as a waitress in a mining site’s bar-brothel. Within a few weeks of her arrival, Yaneth was forced into prostitution to pay off the cost of transporting her to the encampment. The police rescued Yaneth and she now resides in a Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations shelter. A local NGO estimated there are approximately 400 brothels in the Madre de Dios mining region, with hundreds of minor girls living in debt bondage and working 13-hour days as prostitutes.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. A conviction of rape of a minor younger than 14 carries penalties ranging from 25 years to life in prison. The law also prohibits adults from using deceit, abuse of power, or the vulnerability of a teenager to have sex with a minor under 18.

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

Anti-Semitism

Estimates of the Jewish population ranged from 3,000 to 4,000 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law establishes infractions and sanctions for noncompliance. The law also provides for the protection, care, rehabilitation, security, and social inclusion of persons with disabilities; mandates that public spaces be free of barriers and accessible to persons with disabilities; and provides for the appointment of a disability rights specialist in the Ombudsman’s Office. The law mandates the government make its internet sites accessible for persons with disabilities and requires the inclusion of sign language or subtitles in all educational and cultural programs on public television and in media available in all public libraries. The government generally did not effectively enforce these laws.

In September the government issued the General Law on People with Disabilities, requiring companies to improve their selection processes to enable persons with disabilities the opportunity to apply for jobs on equal terms. The law requires employers to provide employees up to 56 hours per year to accompany their disabled relatives to medical appointments. In August the Army implemented a pilot program to recruit persons with disabilities for military and civilian positions. The initial military class included 15 soldiers who will receive cyber-security and administrative assignments following their initial training.

The government failed to enforce laws protecting the rights of persons with mental disabilities. NGOs and government officials reported the number of medical personnel providing services in psychiatric institutions was insufficient.

While government officials improved enforcement of the rights of persons with disabilities, the country’s disability community still faced immense challenges due to inaccessible infrastructure, minimal access to education, insufficient employment opportunities, and discrimination, according to government and civil society leaders. The Ombudsman’s Office reported approximately 87 percent of children with disabilities did not attend school and 76 percent of persons with disabilities did not work. One government survey reported that 70 percent of employers stated they would not hire a person with a disability.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law requires the government to treat all citizens equally and prohibits discrimination based on race, national origin, or language, and the government did not enforce the law effectively.

Indigenous People

Indigenous communities remained politically, economically, and socially marginalized. There were reports of threats directed against indigenous leaders with respect to land grabs and illicit gold mining in the Amazon. Indigenous leaders expressed concerns that the national and regional governments did not adequately protect them and their property interests.

While the constitution recognizes indigenous persons have the right to own land communally, indigenous groups often lacked legal title to demarcate the boundaries of their lands. Amazonian indigenous peoples in particular continued to accuse the national government of delaying the final allocation of their land titles. By law, local communities retain the right of unassignability. Some indigenous community members, however, sold land to outsiders without the majority consent of their community.

The national government retains the subsurface mineral rights for land nationwide, which frequently caused disputes between the local indigenous communities, national government, regional governments, and the various extractive interests. The law requires the government to consult with indigenous communities on proposed extractive projects or changes to ongoing extractive projects and to produce a detailed implementation plan to facilitate government and private-sector compliance; implementation of this law was somewhat effective. The law also requires the Ministry of Culture to establish a database of indigenous communities entitled to consultation. As of September the ministry had recognized 55 indigenous groups as being entitled to prior consultation. From 2014 to October the government initiated 24 prior consultations with various indigenous communities, which generated 487 agreements. Ten of the prior consultations had concluded, and 14 were ongoing.

Indigenous NGOs, legal experts, and the Ombudsman’s Office continued to express concerns that indigenous communities did not have sufficient training to engage in consultations with the government and extractive industry.

Indigenous persons continued to face threats from narcotics traffickers and illegal miners and loggers who operated near or within their claimed land holdings.

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

The constitutional procedure code recognizes the right of individuals to file legal claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Four of the regional governments (Piura, La Libertad, Loreto, and San Martin) have regulations that prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals explicitly and provide for administrative relief, but not criminal sanctions.

Government officials, NGOs, journalists, and civil society leaders reported widespread official and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons in employment, housing, education, and health care on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. NGOs continued to report that law enforcement authorities repeatedly failed to protect, and on occasion violated, the rights of LGBTI citizens. Police harassed and abused transgender women. For example, the local police in Lima frequently demanded that transgender women working as sex workers pay the police for protection, and physically harmed them if they did not pay.

The law does not provide transgender persons the right to obtain national identity documents that reflect their gender identity. Transgender persons, therefore, often did not have national identification cards, which consequently limited their access to government services.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination and harassment, including societal discrimination for employment, housing, and general social inclusion. The Ministry of Health implemented policies to combat discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status. HIV/AIDS affected transgender women disproportionately, and many of them could not obtain health care because they lacked national identification cards reflecting their gender and appearance.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

The Ombudsman’s Office reported 134 active social-conflict cases as of August, compared with 109 in August 2017. The report found most conflicts involved socioenvironmental issues, with mining-related incidents accounting for 68 percent of the cases.

Two potato farmers died and dozens of others were wounded during several February clashes between protesting farmers and police in the Pasco and Huancavelica regions. Three police officers were also injured, and authorities arrested three farmers. The farmers had demanded the national government declare an agricultural emergency to help them sell their crops. After resolving the conflict, the government launched an investigation into the two deaths.

Police opened an investigation in January of the December 2017 killing of environmental activist Jose Napoleon Tarrillo. Media reported that land invaders killed Tarrillo for his efforts to protect the Chaparri Ecological Reserve in the Chiclayo region. Tarrillo’s wife informed police she had received death threats for pursuing her husband’s case with the authorities.

Philippines

Executive Summary

The Philippines is a multi-party, constitutional republic with a bicameral legislature. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, elected in May 2016, began his constitutionally limited six-year term in June 2016. The 2016 presidential election was generally seen as free and fair. Barangay (village) and youth council elections originally scheduled for 2016 were twice postponed but ultimately held in May. These, too, were generally free and fair, although there were reports of violence and vote buying.

Civilian control over the Philippine National Police (PNP) continued to improve but was not fully effective.

Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the antidrug campaign in 2016, they continued in the reporting year, albeit at a lower level. From January to September 29, media chronicled 673 deaths in police operations suspected to be connected with the government’s antidrug campaign. The PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) is required to investigate all deaths or injuries committed in the conduct of a police operation. IAS claimed it began investigations of all reported extrajudicial killings. There were no reports that civilian control over other security forces was inadequate.

Human rights issues included unlawful or arbitrary killings by security forces, vigilantes, and others allegedly connected to the government, and by insurgents; forced disappearance; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; criminal libel; killings of and threats against journalists; official corruption and abuse of power; and the use of forced and child labor.

The government investigated a limited number of reported human rights abuses, including abuses by its own forces, paramilitaries, and insurgent and terrorist groups. Concerns about police impunity increased significantly following the sharp increase in killings by police in 2016. President Duterte publicly rejected criticism of alleged police killings, but said authorities would investigate any actions taken outside the rule of law. Significant concerns persisted about impunity of civilian national and local government officials and powerful business and commercial figures. Slow judicial processes remained an obstacle to bringing government officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses to justice.

Muslim separatists, communist insurgents, and terrorist groups continued to attack government security forces and civilians, causing displacement of civilians and resulting in the deaths of security force members and civilians. Terrorist organizations engaged in kidnappings for ransom, bombings of civilian targets, beheadings, and the use of child soldiers in combat or auxiliary roles. The government called off negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political arm of the communist New People’s Army, in June, but continued to explore ways to resume talks.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. There were no reports the government exerted pressure or threatened refugees to return to the country from which they had fled.

Foreign Travel: Government limits on foreign travel were generally based on security or personal safety factors, such as when a citizen had a pending court case, or to discourage travel by vulnerable workers to countries where they could face personal security risks, including trafficking or other exploitation. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration manages departures for work abroad. It requires overseas workers to register and receive predeparture screening, training, and certification before traveling, and is intended to ensure that future overseas workers deal with legitimate, licensed recruitment agencies.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

Decades of sectarian and political insurgency, sporadic interclan fighting, and natural disasters have generated significant internal displacement. The number of IDPs was uncertain and fluctuated widely. Counterinsurgency campaigns against the ASG, primarily in Sulu and Basilan Provinces, and clashes with the NPA, concentrated in the most geographically remote provinces, caused sporadic and small-scale displacement. Most IDPs were women and children.

In Mindanao, UNHCR reported that as of June an estimated 143,033 persons were displaced and in need of durable solutions. Of those, an estimated 98,433 were displaced by crime or violence, 36,617 by armed conflict, and 7,983 by natural disasters.

Government agencies, often with support from UN agencies and other international donors, provided food (although NGOs noted that food aid was sometimes delayed); constructed shelters and public infrastructure; repaired schools; built sanitation facilities; offered immunization, health, and social services; and provided cash assistance and skills training for IDPs. The government permitted humanitarian organizations access to IDP sites. Security forces sometimes carried out military operations near IDP sites, increasing the risk of casualties and damage, and restricting freedom of movement. Impoverished IDPs were highly susceptible to human trafficking networks. Additionally, despite a government policy of free public education, significant numbers of children in displaced families were unable to attend school because of unofficial school fees and transportation expenses.

At times the government encouraged IDPs to return home, but they were often reluctant to do so for security or welfare reasons.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: No comprehensive legislation provides for granting refugee status or asylum. The Department of Justice’s Refugee and Stateless Persons Protections Unit (RSPPU) determines which applicants qualify as refugees in accordance with an established, accessible system that appeared to provide basic due process. From January to July, the RSPPU received 129 asylum applications, and granted 20. The RSPPU reported 493 refugees in the country as of July 31; 11 refugees transited under the Emergency Transit Mechanism according to UNHCR.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to assist refugee transit through the country pursuant to a Department of Foreign Affairs-UNHCR memorandum of agreement.

Employment: The government allowed refugees to work (see section 7.d.).

Access to Basic Services: In 2017, 16 agencies signed the Inter-Agency Agreement on the Protection of Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Stateless Persons, which commits them to provide government services, including education and health care, to affected persons.

STATELESS PERSONS

The Department of Justice is responsible for statelessness determinations of persons born in the country and of newly arrived persons. According to revised rules, after an applicant files for a determination of statelessness, deportation or exclusion proceedings against the applicant and dependents are suspended, and the applicant may be released from detention. As of July, five stateless persons were in the country. None were classified as refugees.

Stateless persons may be naturalized. As of August there were no known cases of social discrimination against stateless persons or limits on their access to public services.

As of August under a 2014 initiative to register persons of Indonesian descent at risk of statelessness in Southern Mindanao, the Philippine and Indonesian governments collectively registered 8,745 persons, of whom 6,744 had their citizenship confirmed. The Philippine and Indonesian governments jointly reaffirmed the provision of consular assistance to both documented and undocumented migrants of Indonesian descent.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, with penalties ranging from 12 to 40 years’ imprisonment with pardon or parole possible only after 30 years’ imprisonment. Conviction can also result in a lifetime ban from political office. Penalties for forcible sexual assault range from six to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law criminalizes physical, sexual, and psychological harm or abuse to women and children committed by spouses, partners, or parents. Penalties depend on the severity of the crime and may include imprisonment or fines.

Authorities generally took reports of rape seriously. In August a witness reported a rape and murder to authorities. Authorities asked the witness to identify the suspects, which he did, and police arrested the suspects in less than 24 hours. In another example police acting on a tip arrested a man with an outstanding warrant for seven counts of rape in 1999. NGOs noted that in smaller localities perpetrators of abuse sometimes used personal relationships with local authorities to avoid prosecution.

Statistics were unavailable on prosecutions, convictions, and punishments for cases filed by the PNP, but difficulty in obtaining rape convictions remained a challenge to effective enforcement. Moreover, NGOs report that because of cultural and social stigmatization, many women did not report rape or domestic violence. Reports of rape and sexual abuse of women in police or protective custody continued; the Center for Women’s Resources stated that 16 police officers were involved in eight rape cases from January 2017 to July 2018.

Cases of rape reported to the Social Welfare Department (DSWD) declined 12 percent from 2016 to 2017, to 7,584. The DSWD provided shelter, counseling, and health services to female survivors of rape.

Domestic violence against women remained a serious and widespread problem. As of July the PNP reported 14,899 cases of domestic violence against women and children. The great majority of these cases involved physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, and the number included 1,139 female victims of trafficking in persons. The DSWD also assisted women victims of other abuses, including emotional and economic battery.

The PNP and the DSWD both maintained help desks to assist survivors of violence against women and to encourage reporting. From January to June, the DSWD reported assisting 47,268 women categorized as “in especially difficult circumstances,” significantly fewer than in the same period the year before. DSWD staff attributed the decline to budget cuts. With the assistance of NGOs, the CHR, and the Philippine Commission on Women, law enforcement officers continued to receive gender sensitivity training to deal with victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The PNP maintained a women and children’s unit in 1,802 police stations throughout the country with 1,918 help desks to deal with abuse cases. The PNP assigned 4,843 officers to the desks nationwide, almost 98 percent of them women. The law provides 10 days of paid leave for domestic violence victims.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations are punishable by imprisonment from one to six months, a fine of from 10,000 to 20,000 pesos ($187-374), or both.

Sexual harassment remained widespread and underreported, including in the workplace due to victims’ fear of losing their jobs. A 2016 Social Weather Stations study showed that 60 percent of women in Metro Manila were harassed at least once in their lifetime.

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

Discrimination: In law but not always in practice, women have most of the rights and protections accorded to men, and the law seeks to eliminate discrimination against women. The law accords women the same property rights as men. In Muslim and indigenous communities, however, property ownership law or tradition grants men more property rights than women.

The CHR and others alleged that multiple statements by President Duterte incited violence against women. One example included Duterte telling soldiers to shoot NPA women in their genitals.

No law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring, although the law prohibits discrimination in employment based on sex. Nonetheless, women continued to face discrimination on the job as well as in hiring (see section 7.d.).

The law does not provide for divorce. Legal annulments and separation are possible, and courts generally recognized foreign divorces if one of the parties was a foreigner. These options, however, are costly, complex, and not readily available to the poor. The Office of the Solicitor General is required to oppose requests for annulment under the constitution. Informal separation is common, but brings with it potential legal and financial problems. Muslims have the right to divorce under Muslim family law.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from birth to a citizen parent and, in certain circumstances, from birth within the country’s territory to alien parents. The government promoted birth registration, and authorities immediately registered births in health facilities. Births outside of facilities were less likely to be registered promptly, if at all. NGOs previously estimated that more than 2.5 million children were unregistered, primarily among Muslim and indigenous groups. The Department of Social Welfare continued working closely with local governments to improve registration; the Philippines Statistics Authority operated mobile birth registration units to reach rural areas. The lack of a birth certificate does not generally result in a denial of education or other services, but may cause delays in some circumstances, for example if a minor becomes involved in the court system.

Education: Education is free and compulsory through age 18, but the quality of education was often poor, and access difficult, especially in rural areas where substandard infrastructure makes traveling to school challenging.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem. Department of Welfare statistics indicated that approximately 70 percent of child abuse victims were girls. Several cities ran crisis centers for abused women and children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both sexes is 18 years; anyone younger than 21 must have parental consent. Under Muslim personal law, Muslim boys may marry at 15 and girls may marry when they reach puberty.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial exploitation of children and child pornography and defines purchasing commercial sex acts from a child as a trafficking offense. The statutory rape law criminalizes sex with minors under 12 and sex with a child under 18 involving force, threat, or intimidation. The maximum penalty for child rape is 40 years in prison plus a lifetime ban from political office. The production, possession, and distribution of child pornography are illegal, and penalties range from one month to life in prison, plus fines of from 50,000 to five million pesos ($935 to $93,500), depending on the gravity of the offense.

While authorities endeavored to enforce the law, inadequate prosecutorial resources and computer evidence analysis were challenges to enforcing the law effectively. The government made serious efforts to address this crime and collaborated with foreign law enforcement, NGOs, and international organizations. Despite the penalties, law enforcement agencies and NGOs reported that criminals and family members continued to use minors unlawfully in the production of pornography and in cybersex activities. The country remained the top global internet source of online child pornography.

Child prostitution continued to be a serious problem as well, and the country remained a destination for foreign and domestic child sex tourists. The government continued to prosecute accused pedophiles and deport those who were foreigners. Additionally, the live internet broadcast of young Filipino girls, boys, and sibling groups performing sex acts for paying foreigners continued. To reduce retraumatization of child victims and spare children from having to testify, the government increased its use of plea agreements in online child sexual exploitation cases. In June, for example, two foreign pedophiles pled guilty 37 days after their arrest. The National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP worked closely with the labor department to target and close facilities suspected of prostituting minors. The PNP reported 93 child trafficking cases involving 196 persons. Of the total, 56 were victims of prostitution while 24 involved online sexual exploitation of children.

Displaced Children: While there are no recent, reliable data, involved agencies and organizations agreed that there are hundreds of thousands of street children in the country. The problem was endemic nationwide and encompassed local children and the children of IDPs, asylum seekers, and refugees. Many street children were involved in begging, garbage scavenging, and petty crime.

Service agencies, including the DSWD, provided residential and community-based services to thousands of street children nationwide, including in a limited number of residential facilities and the growing Comprehensive Program for Street Children, Street Families, and Indigenous Peoples. This program included activity centers, education and livelihood aid, and community service programs.

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

Anti-Semitism

An estimated 2,000 persons of Jewish heritage, almost all foreign nationals, lived in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. In June, President Duterte signed the Philippine Mental Health Law aimed at providing affordable and accessible mental health services. Other laws provide for equal access for persons with disabilities to all public buildings and establishments.

The National Council for Disability Affairs formulated policies and coordinated the activities of government agencies for the rehabilitation, self-development, and self-reliance of persons with disabilities and their integration into the mainstream of society.

The law was not effectively enforced, and many barriers remained for persons with disabilities. Advocates for persons with disabilities contended that equal access laws were ineffective due to weak implementing regulations, insufficient funding, and inadequately focused integrative government programs. The great majority of public buildings remained inaccessible to persons with physical disabilities. Many schools had architectural barriers that made attendance difficult for persons with disabilities. Government efforts to improve access to transportation for persons with disabilities were limited.

Persons with disabilities continued to face discrimination and other challenges in finding employment (see section 7.d.).

Some children with disabilities attended schools in mainstream or inclusive educational settings. The Department of Education’s 648 separate education centers did not provide nationwide coverage, and the government lacked a clear system for informing parents of children with disabilities of their educational rights and did not have a well defined procedure for reporting discrimination in education.

From January to June, the DSWD provided services to 3,374 persons with disabilities in assisted-living centers and community based vocational centers nationwide, significantly more than reported in 2017. If a person with disabilities suffered violence, access to after-care services was available through the DSWD, crisis centers, and NGOs. Of local government units, 60 percent had a Persons with Disability Office to assist in accessing services including health, rehabilitation, and education.

The constitution provides for the right of persons with physical disabilities to vote. The Commission on Elections determines the capacity of persons with mental disabilities to vote during the registration process, and citizens may appeal exclusions and inclusions in court. A federal act authorizes the commission to establish accessible voting centers exclusively for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

Indigenous People

Although no specific laws discriminate against indigenous people, the geographical remoteness of the areas many inhabit and cultural bias prevented their full integration into society. Indigenous children often suffered from lack of health care, education, and other basic services. Government officials indicated that approximately 80 percent of the country’s government units complied with the long-standing legal requirement that indigenous peoples be represented in policy making bodies and local legislative councils.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, a government agency staffed by tribal members, was responsible for implementing constitutional provisions to protect indigenous peoples. It has authority to award certificates identifying “ancestral domain lands” based on communal ownership, thereby stopping tribal leaders from selling the land. Additionally, the commission studies “ancestral sea” claims, since some indigenous groups, such as the Sama-Bajau, who customarily lived in western Mindanao, traditionally practiced migratory fishing. No “ancestral sea” claims were approved, and the lack of access to traditional fishing grounds contributed to the displacement of many Sama-Bajau.

Armed groups frequently recruited from indigenous populations. Indigenous peoples’ lands were also often the site of armed encounters related to resource extraction or intertribal disputes, which sometimes resulted in displacement or killings. In December 2017, eight Lumad persons were killed in a firefight with the AFP in South Cotabato, Mindanao. An internal AFP investigation reported that the army had responded to valid reports of 25 armed NPA members encamped near the Lumad lands to recruit members from the group. The NGO network Karapatan filed a complaint with the CHR, alleging the AFP massacred the Lumads who were simply defending their ancestral lands. The CHR investigation was underway as of November.

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

National laws neither criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct among adults nor prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Eighteen cities, six provinces, three barangays, and one municipality have enacted a version of an antidiscrimination ordinance that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender–but not intersex–rights.

Officials prohibit transgender individuals from obtaining passports that reflect their gender identity. Authorities print the sex assigned at birth, as reported on the certificate of birth, in the individual’s passport, which posed difficulty for transgender persons seeking to travel, including instances of transgender individuals denied boarding.

NGOs reported incidents of discrimination and abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, including in employment (see section 7.d.), education, health care, housing, and social services. In August a restaurant denied entry to a transgender patron and her friends, allegedly because transgender individuals harassed customers the previous evening. The patron returned with local government officials to receive an explanation and posted a social media video about the confrontation. Afterwards Congresswoman Geraldine Roman said she would file a resolution in Congress to investigate the incident.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, including in access to basic health and social services. Nevertheless, there was anecdotal evidence of discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients in the government’s provision of health care, housing, employment, and insurance services (see section 7.d.).

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

From January to July, the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center recorded 18 children’s deaths in either police operations or vigilante-style killings connected to the antidrug campaign.

Poland

Executive Summary

Poland is a republic with a multiparty democracy. The bicameral parliament consists of an upper house, the senate (Senat), and a lower house (Sejm). The president and the Council of Ministers headed by the prime minister share executive power. Observers considered the October 21 nationwide regional and local elections free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included criminal defamation penalties and violence targeting members of ethnic minorities.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Authorities placed some asylum seekers in guarded centers for foreigners while they awaited deportation or decisions on their asylum applications. Border guards may place an individual in a guarded center only by court order. The law prohibits the placement of unaccompanied minors younger than age 15 in guarded centers. Border guards typically sought in this way to confine foreigners who attempted to cross the border illegally, lacked identity documents, or committed a crime during their stay in the country.

On April 10, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled the country violated the European Convention on Human Rights by placing a Chechen family with small children in a guarded detention center for six months. The ECHR also ruled that the country unnecessarily violated without sufficient justification the family’s right to respect of private and family life.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: In addition to the guarded centers for foreigners, the government operated 11 open centers for asylum seekers with an aggregate capacity of approximately 2,000 persons in the Warsaw, Bialystok, and Lublin areas. Some incidents of gender-based violence occurred, but UNHCR reported that local response teams involving doctors, psychologists, police, and social workers addressed these cases. UNHCR reported no major or persistent problems with abuse in the centers.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: On September 3, Amnesty International (AI) published a statement asserting that, on August 31, the Polish government unlawfully deported Azamat Baduyev, a Russian national granted asylum in Poland in 2007, to Russia. Baduyev had spent several years in Belgium before his deportation from there to Poland in 2017. After his deportation from Poland to Russia, AI reported that, according to eyewitnesses, on September 1, several dozen armed men wearing FSB and Ministry of Interior insignia took Baduyev from the house in Chechnya where he was staying to an unknown location with no explanation. In the statement, AI claimed that “by returning Azamat Baduyev to a country where his life and safety is at risk, the Polish government was clearly in breach of its international obligations.”

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The EU’s Dublin III Regulation, to which the country is subject, recognizes all EU countries as safe countries of origin and transit. The regulation also authorizes the governments of EU member states to return asylum seekers to the countries where they first entered the EU. The law permits denial of refugee status based on safe country of origin or safe country of transit but includes provisions that allow authorities to consider the protection needs of individuals in exceptional cases.

Employment: Asylum seekers are not allowed to work during the first six months of the asylum procedure. If the asylum procedure lasts longer than six months, they gain the right to work until the asylum decision is final.

Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers faced language and cultural barriers, and had limited access to higher education. Children in centers for asylum seekers had free access to public education, but those placed with relatives in guarded centers for foreigners did not.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to 241 individuals who may not qualify as refugees during the first 10 months of the year.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNHCR, there were 10,825 stateless persons in the country at the end of 2014, the most recent figures available.

The law affords the opportunity to gain nationality. The Halina Niec Legal Aid Center observed in its 2016 report on statelessness, however, that the government did not implement a formal procedure of identifying stateless persons, leading to protection gaps and exposing stateless persons to many negative consequences, including detention. In June a Helsinki Human Rights Foundation lawyer reported that the government had not implemented any specific procedures to facilitate the legalization of stateless persons in the country, resulting in difficulties in travel and personal transactions requiring identity documents.

UNHCR occasionally received complaints from stateless persons regarding problems with employment, mainly involving the lack of identity documents, which discouraged employers from offering employment to stateless persons.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

While courts may sentence a person convicted of domestic violence to a maximum of five years in prison, most of those found guilty received suspended sentences. The law permits authorities to place restraining orders without prior approval from a court on spouses to protect against abuse.

The Women’s Rights Center reported that police were occasionally reluctant to intervene in domestic violence incidents if the perpetrator was a police officer or if victims were unwilling to cooperate.

The law requires every municipality in the country to set up an interagency team of experts to deal with domestic violence. According to some NGOs, interagency teams focused on resolving the “family problem” rather than initially treating claims of domestic violence as criminal matters. In one case, on September 13, a woman who had made repeated reports to police that a former partner was threatening her was shot and killed. The main suspect was her former partner. At year’s end, prosecutors were investigating whether police took appropriate action in response to the victim’s prior complaints.

Centers for victims of domestic violence operated throughout the country. The centers provided social, medical, psychological, and legal assistance to victims; training for personnel who worked with victims; and “corrective education” programs for abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations carry penalties of up to three years in prison. According to the Women’s Rights Center, sexual harassment continued to be a serious and underreported problem.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women and prohibits discrimination against women, although few laws exist to implement the provision. The constitution requires equal pay for equal work, but discrimination against women in employment existed (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: A child acquires citizenship at birth if at least one parent is a citizen, regardless of where the birth took place. Children born or found in the country whose parents were unknown or stateless are also citizens. The government has a system of universal birth registration immediately after birth.

Child Abuse: A government ombudsman for children’s rights issued periodic reports on problems affecting children, such as the need for improved medical care for children with chronic diseases. The ombudsman’s office also operated a 24-hour free hotline for abused children. The government continued running public awareness campaigns, aimed at preventing physical violence or sexual abuse against children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18, although the guardianship court may grant permission for girls as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual intercourse with children younger than 15. The penalty for statutory rape ranges from two to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Child pornography is illegal. The production, possession, storage, or importation of child pornography involving children younger than 15 is punishable by imprisonment for a period of three months to 10 years. During the year police conducted several operations against child pornography and alleged pedophiles.

According to the government and the Children Empowerment Foundation, a leading NGO dealing with trafficking in children, trafficking of children for sexual exploitation remained a problem.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Union of Jewish Communities estimated the Jewish population at 20,000. Anti-Semitic incidents continued to occur, often involving desecration of significant property, including synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, and sometimes involving anti-Semitic comments on radio and social media. Jewish organizations expressed concern about their physical safety and security.

There were reports of an increase in anti-Semitic speech following some negative public reaction to the amendments to the IPN law adopted by the lower house of parliament on January 26. The director of state-run television station TVP-2, Marcin Wolski, stated on camera that Nazi death camps could be called “Jewish death camps” as Jews operated the crematoria. During the same program, author Rafal Ziemkiewicz stated, “Jews also were part of their own destruction.” A presidential advisor stated Israel’s negative reaction to the law stemmed from a “feeling of shame at the passivity of Jews during the Holocaust.” Several television commentators and opinion writers argued the Israeli government’s opposition to the IPN law was part of an effort to “soften up” Poland to get billions of dollars in property restitution for Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

On February 19, several Jewish organizations issued a joint statement expressing concern over a growing wave of intolerance, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism in the country. They warned of an increasing number of threats and insults directed at the country’s Jewish community and stated that they do not feel safe in the country. In April a Holocaust survivor of the Lviv (Ukraine) ghetto told those at a rally in Gdansk of her concern regarding the lack of reaction by the government.

In January authorities arrested and charged three individuals from a neo-Nazi group after an investigative television report showed members of the Pride and Modernity Association dressed in Nazi military uniforms celebrating Hitler’s birthday in April 2017. Senior officials strongly condemned the incident and called for dissolution of the association. On February 20, the government set up an interagency team for combatting promotion of fascism and other totalitarian ideologies. On April 10, the Gliwice district prosecutor filed a motion to dissolve the Pride and Modernity Association. On October 9, the Wodzislaw Slaski local court fined one of the participants in the April event 13,000 zlotys ($3,500) after he pled guilty to public promotion of a totalitarian ideology and illegal possession of weapon.

On July 19, the Bialystok District Prosecutor’s office discontinued the investigation into the alleged desecration of the Jewish cemetery in the town of Siemiatycze in December 2017. The prosecutors concluded there was no desecration as the construction was approved through the county permitting process, the human remains were hard to see, and the contractors carrying out the work did not intend to desecrate the cemetery.

In January Holocaust survivors, Prime Minister Morawiecki, and other political and religious leaders gathered to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In February the chairman of the Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, condemned anti-Semitism as a “disease of the mind and soul.”

On March 6, the lower house of parliament adopted a resolution condemning anti-Semitism to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968 purges in which thousands of Jews were exiled from Poland. The resolution condemned all manifestations of anti-Semitism and the communists who organized the 1968 purges. In March parliament also passed, and the president signed, legislation making March 24 a national holiday commemorating Poles who saved Jews during World War II.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. While the government effectively enforced these provisions, there were reports of some societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government restricted the right of persons with certain mental disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs.

The law states that buildings should be accessible for persons with disabilities, but many buildings remained inaccessible. Public buildings and transportation generally were accessible, although older trains and vehicles were often less so, and many train stations were not fully accessible.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

A number of xenophobic and racist incidents occurred during the year.

On July 2, a joint report by the human rights defender and the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concluded that only 5 percent of hate crimes against migrants from Muslim countries, sub-Saharan Africa, and Ukraine were reported to police.

On January 4, a man physically and verbally attacked a 14-year-old girl of Turkish origin in Warsaw. Prime Minister Morawiecki and Minister of Interior and Administration Blaszczak condemned the attack and declared there is no room for racism in the country, and prosecutors launched an investigation into the attack.

On January 13, Minister of Interior and Administration Joachim Brudzinski condemned xenophobic and aggressive behavior against those with differing their skin color, religion, or beliefs following an attack that day in which two men verbally assaulted two Syrian citizens in Wroclaw. Police detained the men, who were charged with public insulting on the basis of national origin. The men could face up to three-years in prison if convicted.

On January 15, the Lodz District Court sentenced two men to two years in prison for attacking a kebab restaurant owner in Lodz. The attack took place in April 2017, when the men verbally assaulted and threw chairs at the restaurant owner and his staff.

On March 15, police arrested a man who took part in an August 2017 attack against a black Polish boxer at a Szczecin nightclub, shouting racial insults and attacking him with an axe. The victim was hospitalized. Police were searching for the main suspect at year’s end.

On November 11, the government led a march through Warsaw in celebration of 100 years of Poland’s regained independence. The march took place concurrently with the annual Independence Day March organized by a coalition of groups widely considered extremist in their ideologies, including the National Radical Camp (ONR) and All-Polish Youth–Mlodziez Wszechpolska. While most of the marchers–estimates ranged up to 250,000–carried Polish flags in line with a government request to carry only red and white flags and banners, some participants displayed signs and banners depicting white-supremacy symbols. An Italian neo-Fascist group also participated in the Independence Day march. A smaller counter protest took place at the same time. The two marches were peaceful.

Societal discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem. The 2011 national census recorded 16,723 Roma, although an official government report on the Romani community estimated that 20,000 to 25,000 Roma resided in the country. Romani community representatives estimated that 30,000 to 35,000 Roma resided in the country.

Romani leaders complained of widespread discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, media, and education.

During the year the government allocated 10 million zlotys ($2.8 million) for programs to support Roma communities, including for educational programs. In addition, the Ministry of Education helped finance school supplies for Romani children. The Ministry of Interior and Administration provided school grants for Romani high school and university students, postgraduate studies on Romani culture and history in Krakow, and Romani-related cultural and religious events.

The Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities continued to experience harassment and discrimination. In April an extremist group called “Szturmowcy” (“storm troopers”) hung anti-immigrant posters around the town of Zyrardow near Warsaw. The posters asserted foreigners were taking jobs from Polish workers, and called for boycotting a local job agency for recruiting migrant workers from Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan and Bangladesh to work in Polish companies.

On August 1, the Warsaw city authorities revoked permission for a march by the ONR to commemorate the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. City officials said participants displayed symbols promoting totalitarian regimes. In response to the city’s order, police dispersed the assembly, although dozens of marchers continued down the planned route. Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Brudzinski criticized the Warsaw authorities for terminating the march.

Red Watch, a webpage run by a Polish neo-Nazi group Blood and Honor, listed politicians and activists by name, describing them as “traitors of the race.” The entries often included the home addresses and telephone numbers of the persons listed. Authorities stated they could do nothing because the site’s servers were located outside the country.

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

While the constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the specific grounds of sexual orientation, it prohibits discrimination “for any reason whatsoever.” The laws on discrimination in employment cover sexual orientation and gender identity, but hate crime and incitement laws do not. The prime minister’s plenipotentiary for civil society and equal treatment is charged with monitoring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and groups. LGBTI advocacy groups, however, criticized the plenipotentiary’s office for a lack of interest and engagement in LGBTI issues. The human rights defender also continues to work on LGBTI human rights cases.

NGOs and politicians reported increasing acceptance of LGBTI persons by society but also stated that discrimination was still common in schools, workplaces, hospitals, and clinics. NGOs maintained that most cases of such discrimination went unreported.

On August 19, unknown perpetrators verbally and physically attacked an LGBT couple near one of the Gdansk beaches because they were holding hands.

On June 14, the Supreme Court rejected Justice Minister and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro’s appeal against a 2016 lower court decision finding a printer who refused services to the LGBT Business Forum Foundation in 2016 guilty of a misdemeanor.

Qatar

Executive Summary

Qatar is a constitutional monarchy in which Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani exercises full executive power. The constitution provides for hereditary rule by men in the Amir’s branch of the Al Thani family. The most recent elections were in 2015 for the Central Municipal Council, an advisory and consultative body. Observers considered these elections free and fair. All cabinet members are appointed by the Amir, including the prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.

Human rights issues included criminalization of libel; restrictions on peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including prohibitions on political parties and labor unions; restrictions on the freedom of movement for migrant workers’ travel abroad; limits on the ability of citizens to choose their government in free and fair elections; and criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity. There were reports of forced labor that the government took steps to address.

The government took limited steps to prosecute those suspected of committing human rights abuses.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government did not fully respect these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to assist internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: Restrictions on in-country movement for citizens concerned sensitive military, oil, and industrial installations. Although there was less emphasis on setting and enforcing “family-only” times at entertainment areas in Doha, several local malls and markets continued to restrict access to certain areas to foreign workers on weekends and those dressed “immodestly.”

Foreign Travel: The government prevented the travel of its citizens only when they were involved in court cases in progress. In September new legislation abolished the exit requirements for 95 percent of the workforce in the private sector, with some exceptions including domestic workers. Government employees are also not exempted. Employers may still request exit permits for up to 5 percent of their workforce but must provide an explanation to the government for why they believe any employee should retain an exit permit restriction, such as access to sensitive information.

The law prohibits the practice of employers withholding workers’ passports and increases penalties for employers who continue to do so, but noncitizen community leaders and officials from labor-exporting countries confirmed it remained a common problem with insufficient enforcement.

Citizenship: The law allows for the revocation of citizenship. In September representatives from the Al-Ghufran tribe submitted a complaint to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, accusing the government of arbitrarily revoking the citizenship of 6,000 members of the tribe. Representatives from the government and the NHRC acknowledged that the citizenship of some of the tribe’s members was previously revoked but stated that revocations were only for dual-citizens, which the country does not recognize, and denied any new revocations during the year.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: In September the government passed legislation to grant political asylum status to asylum seekers. The new law stipulates the creation of a specialized committee within the Ministry of Interior to handle requests from asylum seekers. Once granted political asylum, the individual and his or her family have access to a range of free services provided by the government, including travel documents, jobs, monthly allowances, medical and educational services, and housing. Previously, the government accepted such individuals as “guests” on a temporary basis. The government legally classified the small number of persons granted residence on humanitarian grounds as visitors. The government provided housing and education to these de facto refugees. The Syrian Opposition Coalition office in Doha reported approximately 60,000 Syrians were living in Doha of which roughly 20,000 came to Doha after the start of the civil war and have been granted repeated extensions to their residency status to allow them to remain in country.

STATELESS PERSONS

Citizenship derives solely from the father, and women cannot transmit citizenship to their noncitizen spouse or children. A woman must obtain permission from authorities before marrying a foreign national but does not lose citizenship upon marriage.

The law allows long-term residents to apply for citizenship after living in the country for 25 consecutive years, but the government rarely approved citizenship applications, which were by law capped at 50 per year. Restrictions and inconsistent application of the law prevented stateless persons from acquiring citizenship. In September the government passed a new law to regulate granting permanent residencies to some categories of non-Qataris. The law caps the number of new permanent residents to 100 per year. The intended beneficiaries of the new law are the children of Qatari women with non-Qatari fathers, husbands of Qatari women, and individuals with special skills or who offered remarkable services to the country.

The NHRC estimated that during the year there remained between 1,000 and 2,000 Bidoon, stateless residents in the country, and that they suffered some social discrimination. The Bidoon, who are afforded residency with the sponsorship of a Qatari resident, were able to register for public services such as education and health care. Bidoon, however, are unable to own property in the country and cannot travel freely to other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Permanent residents have the right to own property, open businesses without Qatari partners, and receive free education and health services.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape. Spousal rape is not explicitly criminalized, but a woman may file a complaint. The penalty for rape is life imprisonment, regardless of the age or gender of the victim. If the perpetrator is a nonspousal relative, teacher, guardian, or caregiver of the victim, the penalty is death. The government enforced the law against rape.

No specific law criminalizes domestic violence. According to the NHRC, authorities may prosecute domestic violence as “general” violence under the criminal law. According to the Protection and Social Rehabilitation Center shelter (PSRC), rape and domestic violence against women continued to be a problem. Police treated domestic violence as a private family matter rather than a criminal matter and were reluctant to investigate or prosecute reports.

Human Rights Watch reported that extramarital sex is punishable by up to seven years in prison, flogging (for unmarried persons), or the death penalty (for married persons). A woman who gives birth to a baby out of wedlock receives a 12-month jail sentence, on average, which could also include deportation, and even corporal punishment (lashings), according to news reports. The PSRC reported there were a total of 366 cases of adult women and 78 cases of minors who suffered various forms of physical or physiological violence in 2017.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and carries penalties of imprisonment or fines. In some cases, sponsors sexually harassed and mistreated foreign domestic servants.

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

Discrimination: The constitution asserts equality between citizens in rights and responsibilities, but social and legal discrimination against women persisted. For example, the housing law, which governs the government housing system, discriminates against women married to noncitizen men and against divorced women.

Under the Nationality Law, female citizens face legal discrimination, since they are unable to transmit citizenship to their noncitizen husbands and to children born from a marriage to a noncitizen.

To receive maternity care, a woman must have a marriage certificate, although in practice hospitals will assist in the birth of children of unwed women.

Traditions of sharia also significantly disadvantage women in family, property, and inheritance law and in the judicial system generally. For example, a non-Muslim wife does not have the automatic right to inherit from her Muslim husband. She receives an inheritance only if her husband wills her a portion of his estate, and even then she is eligible to receive only one-third of the total estate. Sisters inherit only one-half as much as their brothers. In cases of divorce, young children usually remain with the mother, regardless of her religion, unless she is found to be unfit.

Women may attend court proceedings and represent themselves, but a male relative generally represented them. A woman’s testimony is deemed half that of a man’s.

A non-Muslim woman is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage to a Muslim, but many did so. The government documents children born to a Muslim father as Muslims. Men may prevent adult female family members from leaving the country, but only by seeking and securing a court order. There were no reports that the government prevented women over age 18 from traveling abroad.

By law women are entitled to equal pay for equal work, but this did not always happen in practice and they often lacked access to decision-making positions in management of private companies and in the public sector.

There was no specialized government office devoted to women’s equality.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from the father. The government generally registered all births immediately.

Education: Education is free and compulsory for all citizens through age 18 or nine years of education, whichever comes first. Education is compulsory for noncitizen children, but they pay a nominal fee. Islamic instruction is compulsory for Muslims attending state-sponsored schools.

Child Abuse: There were limited cases of reported child abuse, family violence, and sexual abuse. A PSRC report mentioned 78 cases of violence against minors in 2017.

Early and Forced Marriage: By law the minimum age for marriage is 18 years for boys and 16 years for girls. The law does not permit marriage of persons below these ages except with consent from the legal guardian and with permission from a judge. Underage marriage was rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: No specific law sets a minimum age for consensual sex. The law prohibits sex outside of marriage. In the criminal law, the penalty for sexual relations with a person younger than 16 years is life imprisonment. If the individual is the nonspousal relative, guardian, caretaker, or servant of the victim, the penalty is death; there were no reports this sentence was ever implemented. No specific law prohibits child pornography because all pornography is prohibited, but the law specifically criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country does not have an indigenous Jewish community. Sporadic cartoons in local papers carried anti-Semitic messages every few months, linking Israel or stereotypical Jewish figures to the decision by the Quartet (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt) to sever diplomatic ties and place an embargo on Qatar or to Palestinian issues. In May, for example, Al-Arab newspaper posted a cartoon depicting the Quartet as serving the “Palestinian cause” in the shape of a peace dove to a Jewish claw.

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–and requires the allocation of resources for–persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, the judicial system, and other government services or other areas. The government is charged with acting on complaints from individuals, and the NHRC has responsibility for enforcing compliance. The NHRC stated that they have received 17 complaints from those with disabilities in 2017. The NHRC report listed a number of challenges facing individuals with disabilities, including the lack of updated statistics for this group, the need for better legislation to ensure absolute equality in having access to government services and job opportunities, and the scarcity of efficient institutions that can provide services to disabled citizens and expats.

Private and independent schools generally provided most of the required services for students with disabilities, but government schools did not. Few public buildings met the required standards of accessibility for persons with disabilities, and new buildings generally did not comply with standards.

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

LGBTI persons faced discrimination under the law and in practice. The law prohibits consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men but does not explicitly prohibit same-sex sexual relations between women. Under the law, a man convicted of having sexual relations with a boy younger than 16 years is subject to a sentence of life in prison. A man convicted of having same-sex sexual relations with a man 16 years of age or older may receive a sentence of seven years in prison.

There were no public reports of violence against LGBTI persons, who largely hid their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics due to an underlying pattern of discrimination toward LGBTI. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination nor are there antidiscrimination laws that protect LGBTI individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

Due to social and religious conventions, there were no LGBTI organizations, Pride marches, or LGBTI rights advocacy events. Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The NHRC reported no LGBTI-related complaints in the past year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was discrimination against HIV-positive patients. Authorities deported foreigners found to be HIV positive upon arrival. Mandatory medical examinations were required for residents. Since health screenings are required for nonresidents to obtain work visas, some HIV-positive persons were denied work permits prior to arrival. The government quarantined HIV-positive citizens and provided treatment for them.

Romania

Executive Summary

Romania is a constitutional republic with a democratic, multiparty parliamentary system. The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, both elected by popular vote. The country held parliamentary elections in 2016 that observers generally considered to be free and fair and without irregularities. In 2014 the country held presidential elections in which electoral observers noted irregularities, including insufficient polling stations for the large diaspora community.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included endemic official corruption and police violence against the Roma.

The judiciary took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, but authorities delayed proceedings involving alleged police abuse. The result was that many of the cases ended in acquittals.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, which could include irregular migrants potentially in need of international protection.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: According to UNHCR, several incidents of harassment and crimes against refugees and migrants were reported throughout the year in Bucharest and other parts of the country, although many incidents were not reported because of fear, lack of information, inadequate support services, and inefficient redress mechanisms. Authorities consistently declined to investigate incidents of this kind as hate crimes.

In-country Movement: The internal movement of beneficiaries of international protection and stateless persons was generally not restricted. Asylum seekers may be subject to measures limiting their freedom of movement and to detention in specific circumstances. The law and implementing regulations provide that the General Inspectorate for Immigration may designate a specific place of residence for an applicant for asylum while authorities determine his or her eligibility or may take restrictive measures, subject to approval by the prosecutor’s office, that amount to administrative detention in “specially arranged closed areas.” According to UNHCR, as of September no cases of asylum detention were recorded during the year. Applicants who do not qualify for asylum were treated as aliens without a right to stay in the country who may be taken into custody pending deportation. According to the law, those applying for asylum while in public custody were released from detention if granted access to the ordinary procedure. Detention in public custody centers is subject to regular review and should not exceed six months unless there are specific circumstances, in which case detention may be extended for up to 18 months. Applicants for or beneficiaries of international protection in certain circumstances, particularly those declared “undesirable” for reasons of national security, may be subject to administrative detention in public custody centers.

The government may grant “tolerated status” to persons who do not meet the requirements for refugee status or subsidiary protection, but who cannot be returned for various reasons. These reasons include cases where stateless persons are not accepted by their former country of habitual residence or where the lives or well-being of returnees could be at risk. Persons with “tolerated status” have the right to work but not to benefit from any other social protection or inclusion provisions, and the government restricted their freedom of movement to a specific region of the country. According to UNHCR, 244 persons were holders of “tolerated status” as of January, of whom 141 had been granted “toleration” as an alternative to detention or following prolonged detention.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: The law establishes exceptions to the principle of nonrefoulement and the withdrawal of the right to stay following a declaration of a person as “undesirable.” This may occur, for example, when classified information or “well founded indications” suggest that aliens (including stateless persons), applicants for asylum, or persons granted asylum intend to commit terrorist acts or favor terrorism. Applicants for protection declared “undesirable” on national security grounds were taken into custody pending the finalization of their asylum procedure and then deported. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of the end of November, 390 persons had been subjected to refoulement.

Access to Asylum: The law provides access to asylum procedures to foreign nationals and stateless persons who express their desire for protection, which may be in the form of refugee status or temporary “subsidiary protection” status. The asylum law prohibits the expulsion, extradition, or forced return of any asylum seeker at the country’s border or from within the country’s territory, but this was not without exception, particularly in cases that fell under the country’s national security and terrorism laws.

UNHCR reported several allegations of denial of access to the country, pushbacks, and deviations from asylum procedures at border areas.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The law provides for the concept of safe countries of origin. This normally referred to EU member states but could also include other countries approved by the Internal Affairs Ministry at the recommendation of the General Inspectorate for Immigration. Procedurally, the government would normally reject applications for asylum by persons who had arrived from a safe country under accelerated procedures, except in cases where the factual situation or evidence presented by the applicant shows the existence of a well-founded fear of persecution. Between January and August, one asylum application by an EU national was rejected at the administrative level of the asylum procedure; no information regarding the legal basis for the rejection was available.

The law also refers to the concept of a safe third country. The law extends to irregular migrants who transited and were offered protection in a third country considered safe or who had the opportunity at the border or on the soil of a safe third country to contact authorities for the purpose of obtaining protection. In such cases authorities could deny access to asylum procedures if the designated safe third country agreed to readmit the applicant to its territory and grant access to asylum procedures.

Freedom of Movement: The law incorporates four “restrictive” measures under which the internal movement of applicants for asylum may be limited. The first two establish an obligation to report regularly to the General Inspectorate for Immigration or to reside at a regional reception center. A third restrictive measure allows authorities to place applicants in “specially arranged closed areas” for a maximum of 60 days, either to access the asylum procedure or if the asylum seeker is deemed to pose a danger to national security. There was no case of an asylum applicant being placed in a specially arranged closed area through September. Authorities may also place asylum applicants in administrative detention in a public custody center if they are subject to a transfer to another EU member state under the Dublin Regulations or if they have been declared “undesirable” for reasons of national security, pending their removal from the country.

Under provisions of the law to limit “abuse to the asylum procedure,” irregular migrants who submitted their first application for international protection while in custody were released from detention only if granted access to the ordinary asylum application procedure. The provisions raised concerns among UN agencies and civil society due to the ambiguity in the phrases “abuse of the asylum procedure” and “risk of absconding.”

The period of detention in a public custody center could be prolonged up to a maximum of 18 months.

Employment: Asylum seekers have the right to work starting three months after they submit their first asylum application, if the process was not completed. This period begins again if the applicant obtains access to a new asylum procedure. Even when granted permission to work, many asylum seekers faced problems finding legal work, mainly due to the limited validity of their identification documents and lack of awareness among potential employers of their right to work.

While persons granted protection have the legal right to work, job scarcity, low wages, lack of language proficiency, and lack of recognized academic degrees and other certifications often resulted in unemployment or employment without a legal contract and its related benefits and protections.

Access to Basic Services: Effective access by persons with refugee status or subsidiary protection to education, housing, lifelong learning and employment, public health care, and social security varied across the country, depending on the level of awareness of various public and private actors responsible for ensuring access to these services.

The government provides asylum seekers 16 lei ($4) per day in financial assistance, with slightly increased allowances for vulnerable persons. The allowance was low relative to the local cost of living, and persons with special needs or vulnerabilities were particularly affected. Supplementary financial support was provided under EU-sponsored projects, but timing gaps between these projects restricted funding availability. Applicants for asylum had limited options for meaningful activities, such as language classes, cultural orientation, and skills training. Romanian language classes were no longer available for adults. State-provided social, psychological, and medical assistance for asylum applicants remained insufficient, with many dependent on NGO-implemented projects for such help. Proper identification and assistance for victims of trauma and torture was lacking.

Durable Solutions: According to UNHCR, the country had become a resettlement country, having agreed to resettle small quotas of refugees every year. For 2018-19, the quota pledged by the government was 109 Syrian refugees, to be resettled from Turkey (69) and Jordan (40) with UNHCR and IOM support. As of September no arrivals had been recorded.

UNHCR reported that, as of August, 4,072 persons benefiting from any of several forms of legal protection were residing in the country. By the end of August, 1,406 persons had submitted new or repeat asylum applications.

Beneficiaries of international protection continued to face problems with local integration, including access to vocational training adapted to their specific needs, counseling programs, and naturalization. According to UNHCR, no municipality provided targeted support services or targeted integration and inclusion programs to refugees. Access to education was problematic, and several school inspectorates refused to organize Romanian language classes. According to several reports, schools across the country, including in large cities such as Bucharest or Timisoara, refused to enroll refugee children in school for several months. Obtaining a legal work contract remained difficult for various reasons, including tax concerns and the reluctance of employers to hire refugees. Recipients of subsidiary protection complained of problems regarding their freedom of movement to other countries due to the additional visa requirements. UNHCR reported that refugees saw citizenship acquisition as a cumbersome, costly, and difficult process, with some requirements, particularly related to the applicant’s financial situation, that were difficult to meet.

Temporary Protection: The government did not grant temporary protection to any individuals during the year.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNHCR, as of August there were 337 stateless persons with valid residence documents in the country. These included legal residents under the aliens’ regime, stateless persons of Romanian origin, as well as 120 persons granted some form of international protection. Data on stateless persons, including on persons at risk of statelessness and persons of undetermined nationality, were not reliable due to the absence of a procedure to determine statelessness, the absence of a single designated authority responsible for this purpose, and the lack of adequate identification and registration of persons with unknown or undetermined nationality.

The law includes favorable provisions for stateless persons of Romanian origin to reacquire citizenship. Nevertheless, a significant gap persisted due to the lack of safeguards against statelessness for children born in the country, who would be stateless because their parents either were themselves stateless or were foreigners unable to transmit their nationality.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal. The law provides for three to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape and two to seven years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. If there are no aggravating circumstances and the attack did not lead to death, police and prosecutors may not pursue a case on their own, but they require a victim’s complaint, even if there is independent physical evidence.

The criminal code classifies family violence as a separate offense and stipulates that when murder, battery, or other serious violence is committed against a family member, the penalty is increased. The code also states that, if the parties reconcile, criminal liability is removed.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem that the government did not effectively address. The law provides for the issuance of provisional restraining orders by police for a maximum of five days and restraining orders by a court for a maximum of six months upon the victim’s request or at the request of a prosecutor, the state representative in charge of protecting victims of family violence, or, if the victim agrees, a social service provider. Violation of a restraining order is punishable by imprisonment for one month to one year. The court may also order the abuser to undergo psychological counselling. The FILIA Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development–an NGO that aims to promote gender equality–stated that police lacked procedures for the implementation and monitoring of restraining orders.

Courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic abuse. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when the alleged victims dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abuser. Anais, an NGO that assists victims of domestic violence, reported the case of a victim who, since 2013, had obtained 10 restraining orders against her former husband. In spite of the restraining order, for the past five years, the former husband had been following and abusing her both verbally and physically and threatening to kill her. The victim pressed charges on multiple occasions for the violation of the restraining order, but the Prosecutor’s Office attached to Bucharest Sector 3 Court had not sent the case to trial.

Sexual Harassment: Criminal law prohibits sexual harassment, which it defines as repeatedly asking for sexual favors in a work or similar relationship. A victim complaint is necessary to initiate a criminal investigation. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment of three months to one year. The law on equal opportunities for men and women defines sexual harassment as the occurrence of unwanted behavior with a sexual connotation, which can be expressed physically, verbally, or nonverbally and has the effect or result of damaging a person’s dignity and, in particular, the creation of a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Civil fines range from 3,000 to 10,000 lei ($750 to $2,500).

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

Discrimination: Under the law women and men enjoy equal rights. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but there was a 4.5 percent gender pay gap according to EU data. Segregation by profession existed, with women overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. There were reports of discrimination in employment.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth from at least one citizen parent. Although birth registration is mandatory by law, it was not universal, and authorities denied some children public services as a result. Most unregistered children had access to schools, and authorities assisted in obtaining birth documents for unregistered children, but the education of unregistered children depended on the decision of school authorities. The law provides simplified birth registration for children whose mothers do not have proper documentation to register their children.

Child Abuse: Child abuse, including emotional, physical, and psychological violence and neglect, continued to be serious problems. Media reported several severe cases of abuse or neglect in family homes, foster care, and child welfare institutions. The government had not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for both men and women, but the law permits minors as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was reportedly common in certain social groups, particularly among some Romani communities. Child protection authorities did not always intervene in such cases. There were no public policies to discourage child marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides one- to 10-year prison sentences for persons convicted of sexual acts with minors, depending on the circumstances and the child’s age. Sexual intercourse with a minor who is 13 to 15 years of age is punishable by a one- to five-year prison sentence. Sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 13 is punishable by a two- to seven-year prison sentence and deprivation of some rights. The law also criminalizes sexual corruption of minors (which includes subjecting minors to sexual acts other than intercourse or forcing minors to perform such acts), luring minors for sexual purposes or child prostitution, and trafficking in minors. Pimping and pandering that involve minors increase sentences by one-half. The Ministry of Labor confirmed that authorities did not maintain a registry of individuals who had committed sexual offenses against children.

Child pornography is a separate offense and carries a sentence, depending on the circumstances, of up to seven years’ imprisonment, which may be increased by one-third if the perpetrator was a family member or someone in whose care the child was trusted or if the life of the child victim was endangered.

Institutionalized Children: During the year there were several media reports of abuses in placement centers for institutionalized children, including sexual abuse, physical violence by colleagues or staff, and trafficking in persons. Numerous reports noted a lack of adequate food, clothing, medical treatment, and counselling services. According to an investigation by Newsweek Romania, at least 362 children from placement centers and schools for persons with special needs died between 2013 and 2017, mostly because of accidents, suicide, or health problems. The investigation showed that the Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Adoptions did not centralize data on the causes of these deaths. In June media outlets reported that two mentally challenged children from a placement center in Peris, Ilfov County, were sexually abused by an older child in the center. According to a media investigation, the director of the center knew about the abuse but did not notify authorities. In 2016 prosecutors indicted members of an organized crime network who were recruiting girls from orphanages in Iasi for sexual exploitation. In December 2017 the Iasi Tribunal convicted the defendants to prison sentences ranging from three to seven years for trafficking in minors. The defendants appealed the ruling, and as of December the case was pending before the Iasi Court of Appeal.

By law unaccompanied migrant children are housed in placement centers, where they have access to education and benefits other children receive. The detention of families with children is allowed by law, with preservation of family unity used as justification. Several such cases were recorded during the year.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to the 2011 census, the Jewish population numbered 3,271. Acts of anti-Semitism occurred during the year.

The law prohibits public denial of the Holocaust and fascist, racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic language and symbols, including organizations and symbols associated with the indigenous Legionnaire interwar fascist movement. The oppression of Roma as well as Jews is included in the definition of the Holocaust.

Streets, organizations, schools, or libraries continued to be named after persons convicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity, according to the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania. For example, Radu Gyr was a commander and anti-Semitic ideologist of the fascist Legionnaire movement convicted of war crimes. The Wiesel Institute requested the renaming of Radu Gyr street in Cluj-Napoca. As of September the local government had not changed the name of the street.

Material promoting anti-Semitic views and glorifying legionnaires also appeared in media, including on the internet, while several government officials made trivializing comments about the Holocaust. In July Agriculture Minister Petre Daea stated on the Antena 3 news channel that the incineration of pigs in response to a swine flu outbreak was similar to what happened at Auschwitz.

During the night of August 3, anti-Semitic and other offensive messages were painted on the childhood home of Auschwitz survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel in Sighetu Marmatiei. The local office of the national police started an investigation of the incident and identified one suspect.

In April 2017 vandals destroyed 10 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Bucharest. Police identified three underage persons who were allegedly responsible for the crime and stated they had acted without any specific reason. As of September the case was pending before the Prosecutor’s Office.

In June 2017 the Jewish community in Cluj-Napoca notified police of anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial messages painted on the exterior wall of the Memorial Temple of Deported Jews synagogue in the city. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of September the case was pending before the prosecutor’s office attached to the court in Cluj-Napoca.

While not explicitly anti-Semitic, verbal attacks during the year holding a foreign Jewish philanthropist responsible for domestic problems had anti-Semitic connotations. Politicians and the media ascribed negative actions to him, such as controlling a “network of influencers” and paying for activities of opposition parties and antigovernment protesters.

The government continued to implement the recommendations of the 2004 International Commission on the Holocaust in Romaniareport. On October 9, National Holocaust Remembrance Day, the president honored several Holocaust survivors and condemned anti-Semitic hatred and legislation in the country during the Holocaust, stating they were “inconceivable for a society strongly attached to democratic principles and the rule of law.” On the same occasion, the prime minister pledged that the government would support initiatives “to counter anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” The Wiesel Institute continued to organize training courses for teachers and other professionals on the history of the Holocaust.

The Education Ministry did not include a mandatory class on the country’s Holocaust history as part of the general history curricula in force. The high school course History of the Jews–The Holocaust was optional. During the 2016-17 school year, 2,894 pupils from 75 schools took the course.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government did not fully implement the law, and discrimination against persons with disabilities remained a problem.

The law mandates that buildings and public transportation be accessible for persons with disabilities. The country continued to have an insufficient number of facilities specifically designed to accommodate persons with disabilities who could have extreme difficulty navigating city streets or gaining access to public buildings. Persons with disabilities reported a lack of access ramps, adapted public transportation, and adapted toilets in major buildings.

Discrimination against children with disabilities in education was a widespread problem due to lack of adequate teacher training on inclusion of children with disabilities and lack of investment to make schools accessible. Most children with disabilities were either placed in special schools or not placed in school at all. According to the NGO the European Center for the Rights of Children with Disabilities (ECRCD), abuses against children in special schools, including violence by staff, occurred frequently. Several reports by the ECRCD indicated that children with disabilities placed in regular schools faced abuse and discrimination from classmates and staff.

The Center for Legal Resources identified a series of problems in centers for persons with disabilities or psychiatric sections, including verbal and physical abuse of children, sedation, excessive use of physical restraints, lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, and lack of adequate medical care.

The National Authority for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, under the labor ministry, coordinated services for persons with disabilities and drafted policies, strategies, and standards in the field of disabilities rights.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Discrimination against Roma continued to be a major problem. Romani groups complained that police harassment and brutality, including beatings, were routine. Both domestic and international media and observers reported societal discrimination against Roma. NGOs reported that Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, many public places. Roma also experienced poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, and inadequate health care. A lack of identity documents excluded many Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. Roma had a higher unemployment rate and a lower life expectancy than non-Roma. Negative stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread.

Despite an order by the Ministry of Education forbidding segregation of Romani students, several NGOs continued to report that segregation along ethnic lines persisted in schools. In 2016 a house, annex, outbuildings, and agricultural storage belonging to Roma were burned and destroyed in the city of Gheorgheni. Media reported that, prior to the arson, police noticed mobs moving towards the area and observed several groups shouting anti-Roma statements. Following the incident the Gheorgheni mayor blamed Roma for triggering the attack. As of September an investigation was pending before the prosecutor’s office attached to the Harghita Tribunal.

Researchers and activists reported that a significant number of the remaining Romani Holocaust survivors who applied for a pension were denied because of unreasonable administrative barriers raised by the pension offices, problematic standards, lack of knowledge about the Holocaust, and burdensome requirements. According to researchers, despite historical evidence, in hundreds of cases authorities considered that Roma were resettled and not deported, and consequently granted them smaller pensions.

Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related mainly to the use of the Hungarian language. There were continued reports that local authorities did not enforce the law, which states that in localities where a minority constitutes at least 20 percent of the population, road signs must be bilingual. On January 11, Prime Minister Mihai Tudose stated on national television that if anyone raised the Szekler (Hungarian) flag on a public building, they would “wave beside it themselves” (a phrase in Romanian that implies hanging). The CNCD sanctioned Tudose with a warning. In April, during a soccer match in the city of Voluntari between teams from Bucharest and Sfantu Gheorghe, a city inhabited mostly by ethnic Hungarians, a song played through the loudspeakers included xenophobic expressions that incited violence against the Hungarian community. The Romanian Football Federation fined the host team 10,000 lei ($2,500).

Several politicians and government officials made derogatory remarks about ethnic Germans and equated German ethnicity with National Socialism and the Holocaust. On September 2, an advisor to Prime Minister Darius Valcov posted a video clip on his Facebook page that depicted the German Democrat Forum, an organization of ethnic Germans in the country, as a National Socialist organization and compared the country’s president, Klaus Iohannis, to Adolf Hitler. The ethnic German and Jewish communities, the Elie Wiesel Institute, several NGOs, and opposition political figures condemned Valcov’s behavior, and some of them called for his resignation. On August 23, Senator Liviu Pop stated during a television program that President Iohannis, a former chair of the German Democrat Forum, was the head of a successor group to a Nazi organization. After Iohannis condemned the excessive use of force by the gendarmerie against protesters on August 10, Labor Minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu criticized him with the comment, “Cheeky, as a German, to speak of attacking [people] with gas.”

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. NGOs reported that societal discrimination against LGBTI persons was common, and there were some reports of violence against them.

Discrimination in employment occurred against LGBTI persons. On June 9, a pride parade with more than 5,000 participants took place without incident in Bucharest. Before the event approximately 100 persons took part in a counterprotest.

On June 5, the European Court of Justice ruled that those EU states that do not permit same-sex marriage may nevertheless not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his/her same-sex spouse, even if he/she is a not an EU national, a derived right of residence in their territory. The ruling was issued in the case of Romanian citizen and a non-EU foreign citizen who were married in Belgium in 2010 and denied the right of permanent residence in Romania.

The law governing legal gender recognition for transgender persons was vague and incomplete. In some cases authorities refused legal gender recognition unless an individual had first undergone sex reassignment surgery. Access to adequate psychological services was also limited because some psychologists refused to accept transgender patients.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law provides that HIV-infected persons have the right to confidentiality and adequate treatment, authorities rarely enforced it. Authorities did not adopt regulations that were necessary to provide confidentiality and fair treatment, and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS impeded access to routine medical and dental care.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

Public figures, politicians, supporters of the Coalition for Family, and representatives of several religious denominations made discriminatory remarks concerning the LGBTI community. In July Vice-President of the Romanian Academy Razvan Theodorescu stated in an interview for Evenimentul Zilei newspaper that “all this fuss about homosexuals and lesbians is an aberration and we don’t need it. These are pathological aspects, certain people are sick.” In October, during the campaign for the revision of the constitutional definition of family, flyers distributed in Bucharest and Craiova by several supporters of the referendum referred to alleged cases of children sexually and emotionally abused by gay couples. Some members of parliament made offending or discriminatory comments about women.

Russia

Executive Summary

The Russian Federation has a highly centralized, authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin. The bicameral Federal Assembly consists of a directly elected lower house (State Duma) and an appointed upper house (Federation Council), both of which lack independence from the executive. The March 18 presidential election and the 2016 State Duma elections were marked by accusations of government interference and manipulation of the electoral process, including the exclusion of meaningful opposition candidates.

Except in rare cases, security forces generally reported to civilian authorities. National-level civilian authorities, however, had, at best, limited control over security forces in the Republic of Chechnya, which were accountable only to the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

The country’s occupation and purported “annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula continued to affect the human rights situation there significantly and negatively. The Russian government continued to arm, train, lead, and fight alongside forces in eastern Ukraine. Credible observers attributed thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, as well as numerous abuses, to Russian-led forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region (see the Country Reports on Human Rights for Ukraine). Authorities also conducted politically motivated arrests, detentions, and trials of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, many of whom claimed to have been tortured.

Human rights issues included extrajudicial killings, including of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Chechnya by local government authorities; enforced disappearances by government authorities; pervasive torture by government law enforcement personnel that sometimes resulted in death and sometimes involved punitive psychiatric incarceration; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons; arbitrary or unjust arrest and detention; political prisoners; severe arbitrary interference with privacy; severe suppression of freedom of expression and media, including the use of “antiextremism” and other laws to prosecute peaceful dissent; violence against journalists; blocking and filtering of internet content and banning of online anonymity; severe suppression of the right of peaceful assembly; increasingly severe suppression of freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on “foreign agents” and “undesirable foreign organizations;” severe restrictions on religious freedom; undue restrictions on freedom of movement of those charged with political offenses; credible reports of refoulement; severe limits on participation in the political process, including restrictions on opposition candidates’ ability to seek public office and conduct political campaigns, and on the ability of civil society to monitor election processes; widespread corruption at all levels and in all branches of government; trafficking in persons; government decriminalization of domestic abuse, which created an atmosphere of impunity for domestic violence against women; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence against LGBTI persons and members of ethnic minorities.

The government failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but in some cases, authorities restricted internal movement, foreign travel, and repatriation.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported it had a working relationship with the government on asylum and refugee problems. NGOs reported, however, that the government failed to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern. In one case NGOs reported that 102,944 refugees remained in the country, including 101,019 Ukrainians, of whom nearly 2,000 struggled to maintain legal status. The government considered Ukrainian asylum seekers to be separate from asylum seekers from other countries, such as Afghanistan, Georgia, Syria, and Yemen. According to NGOs, two Syrian refugees and 150 Ukrainian refugees received citizenship in during the year. In some cases temporary asylum holders who received refugee status from third countries were not granted exit visas or allowed to depart the country.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: NGOs reported that police detained, fined, and threatened with deportation migrants, refugees, and stateless persons. NGOs also reported racially motivated assaults by civilians.

In-country Movement: Although the law gives citizens the right to choose their place of residence, adult citizens must carry government-issued internal passports while traveling domestically and must register with local authorities after arriving at a new location. To have their files transferred, persons with official refugee or asylum status must notify the Ministry of Internal Affairs in advance of relocating to a district other than the one that originally granted them status. Authorities often refused to provide government services to individuals without internal passports or proper registration, and many regional governments continued to restrict this right through residential registration rules.

Authorities imposed travel restrictions on individuals facing prosecution for political purposes.

Foreign Travel: The law provides for freedom to travel abroad, but the government restricted this right for certain groups.

The law on procedures for departing from and entering the country stipulates that a person who violates a court decision does not have a right to leave the country. A court may prohibit a person from leaving the country for failure to satisfy debts; if the individual is suspected, accused, or convicted of a crime; or if the individual had access to classified material. The law allows for the temporary restriction of a bankrupt citizen’s right to leave the country. Authorities imposed travel restrictions on individuals facing prosecution for political purposes. For example, the government temporarily stopped opposition leader Navalny from leaving the country to attend an ECHR hearing on November 13 because he had an outstanding debt from embezzlement charges that most observers considered politically motivated. He was permitted to leave the country the following day.

According to press reports, since 2014 the government restricted the foreign travel of approximately five million of its employees. This included employees of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Federal Prison Service, the Federal Drug Control Service, the Federal Bailiff Service, the General Administration for Migration Issues, and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)

In 2017 the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) estimated the country was home to 19,000 internally displaced persons, down from 22,600 in 2016. Of the 19,000 IDPs, the IDMC asserted that 5,900 were new displacements. According to the government’s official statistics, the number of forced migrants decreased from 25,359 in the beginning of 2016 to 19,327 in January 2017. The government indicated that the majority of forced migrants came from former USSR republics, namely Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, with between 3,500 and 4,000 persons displaced due to the first Chechen conflict in 1995-96.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Refoulement: The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of persons to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The responsible agency, the Main Directorate for Migration Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (GAMI), did not maintain a presence at airports or other border points and did not adequately publicize that asylum seekers could request access to the agency. Asylum seekers had to rely on the goodwill of border guards and airline personnel to call immigration officials. Otherwise, they faced immediate deportation to neighboring countries or return to their countries of origin, including in some cases to countries where they may have had reasonable grounds to fear persecution. There were no known statistics on the number of persons subjected to such actions.

Human rights groups continued to allege that authorities made improper use of international agreements that permit them to detain, and possibly repatriate, persons with outstanding arrest warrants from other former Soviet states. This system, enforced by informal ties between senior law enforcement officials of the countries concerned, permitted authorities to detain individuals for up to one month while the Prosecutor General’s Office investigated the nature of the warrants. International organizations reported six cases of refoulement of asylum seekers during the year, and NGOs cited cases in which officials detained persons (most commonly from Central Asia) and returned them clandestinely to their country of origin.

Access to Asylum: The country’s laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. NGOs reported applicants commonly paid informal “facilitation fees” of approximately 33,000 rubles ($495) to GAMI adjudicators to have their application reviewed. Applicants who did not speak Russian often had to pay for a private interpreter. Human rights organizations noted that nearly all newly arrived refugees and temporary asylum seekers in large cities, in particular Moscow and St. Petersburg, were forced to apply in other regions, allegedly due to full quotas. With the exception of Ukrainians, GAMI approved a small percentage of applications for refugee status and temporary asylum.

Some observers pointed out that GAMI data failed to include asylum seekers who were forcibly deported or extradited before exhausting their legal remedies. Moreover, some individuals who might otherwise have sought international protection, especially those from Central Asia, reportedly chose not to make formal applications for asylum because doing so often led to criminal investigations and other unwanted attention from the security services.

Human rights organizations noted the country’s tendency during the year not to accept more Ukrainian and Syrian applicants for refugee status and temporary asylum. NGOs also reported that authorities encouraged applicants to return to their countries of origin. Authorities reportedly also had blanket authority to grant temporary asylum to Syrians, but local migration experts noted a decrease in the number of Syrians afforded temporary asylum, suggesting that GAMI had not renewed the temporary asylum of hundreds of Syrians and, in some cases, encouraged applicants to return to Syria.

Employment: Employers frequently refused to hire applicants who lacked residential registration.

Access to Basic Services: By law successful temporary asylum seekers and persons whose applications were being processed have the right to work, receive medical care, and attend school. NGOs reported authorities provided some services to Ukrainian asylum seekers, but there were instances in which applicants from other countries were denied the same service.

While federal law provides for education for all children, regional authorities occasionally denied access to schools to children of temporary asylum and refugee applicants who lacked residential registration. When parents encountered difficulties enrolling their children in school, authorities generally cooperated with UNHCR to resolve the problem.

Temporary Protection: A person who did not satisfy the criteria for refugee status, but who could not be expelled or deported for humanitarian reasons, could receive temporary asylum after submitting a separate application. There were reports, however, of authorities not upholding the principle of temporary protection.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to the 2010 population census, the country was home to 178,000 self-declared stateless persons. Official statistics did not differentiate between stateless persons and other categories of persons seeking assistance. Laws, policies and procedures allow stateless persons to gain nationality, and for their children born in the country to gain nationality. Some NGOs estimated there were approximately 500,000 stateless persons in the country and reported that authorities urged stateless persons to depart the country, but, in most cases, they failed to provide temporary legal status that would facilitate their departure.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, and the law provides the same punishment for a relative, including the spouse, who commits rape as for a nonrelative. The penalty for rape is three to six years’ imprisonment for a single offense, with additional time imposed for aggravating factors. According to NGOs, many law enforcement personnel and prosecutors did not consider spousal or acquaintance rape a priority and did not encourage reporting or prosecuting such cases. NGOs reported that local police officers sometimes refused to respond to rape or domestic violence calls unless the victim’s life was directly threatened.

For example, on June 1, online news portal Meduza published allegations by an actress that the director of the Vologorodskiy Drama Theater, Zurab Nanobashvili, had raped her in 2015. Three other actresses also accused Nanobashvili of attempted rape and sexual harassment. Two of the women, one of whom was 17 years old, filed a complaint with the local Investigative Committee that Nanobashvili had groped, licked, and attempted to rape them in April. On June 8, the local Ministry of Culture fired Nanobashvili from his position. On the same day, the Investigative Committee informed the women that, while Nanobashvili’s actions “bore the hallmarks of sexual abuse,” no criminal case would be opened against him because the women were older than age 16.

Domestic violence remained a major problem. There is no significant domestic violence provision in the criminal code and no legal definition of domestic violence. The laws that address bodily harm are general in nature and do not permit police to initiate a criminal investigation unless the victim files a complaint. The burden of collecting evidence in such cases typically falls on the alleged victims. Federal law prohibits battery, assault, threats, and killing, but most acts of domestic violence did not fall within the jurisdiction of the prosecutor’s office.

According to an HRW report on domestic violence published in October, when domestic violence offenses were charged, articles 115 and 116.1 under the country’s Criminal Procedure Code were usually applied, which use the process of private prosecution. These private prosecutions are launched only if the injured party or their guardian takes the initiative to file a complaint with a magistrate judge. In such cases the injured party bears the burden of gathering all evidence necessary for prosecution and must pay all costs of the prosecution, which HRW believed severely disadvantaged survivors.

According to NGOs, police were often unwilling to register complaints of domestic violence, often saying that cases are “family matters,” frequently discouraged victims from submitting complaints, and often pressed victims to reconcile with abusers. HRW’s report on domestic violence described the case of a woman from a small town in western Russia, who complained to police after her husband severely beat her. The police officer who arrived at her home joked with her husband, insulted her, advised her to reconcile with him, and left, after which her husband beat her again and broke her jaw. He then left for several months with their eight-year-old son. When she called police again, they suggested, mockingly, that she was bitter because the husband must have left her for another woman.

A 2017 law made beatings by “close relatives” an administrative rather than a criminal offense for first-time offenders, provided the beating does not cause serious harm requiring hospital treatment. According to official statistics released during the year, since this law was passed, the number of reported domestic violence cases has fallen by half, with 25,667 cases of domestic violence against women reported in 2017, compared with 49,765 cases reported in 2016. NGOs working on domestic violence noted that official reporting of domestic violence decreased because the decriminalization deterred women suffering domestic violence from going to the police. In contrast, HRW’s October report stated that women’s rights groups and crisis centers noted an increase in the number of domestic violence complaints after the 2017 amendments were enacted and said that they considered the increase to be a direct effect of decriminalization. HRW identified three major impacts of the 2017 decriminalization: fostering a sense of impunity among abusers, weakening protections for victims by reducing penalties for abusers, and creation of new procedural shortcomings in prosecuting domestic violence.

According to Ministry of Internal Affairs statistics cited by NGOs, approximately 12,000 women died annually from domestic violence in the country. The NGO Center for Women’s Support asserted that a majority of domestic violence cases filed with authorities were either dismissed on technical grounds or transferred to a reconciliation process conducted by a justice of the peace whose focus was on preserving the family rather than punishing the perpetrator.

HRW’s report noted there are few state-run shelters for victims of domestic violence, citing a study that found only 434 shelter spaces nationally reserved for women in crisis situations (which includes, but is not limited to, domestic violence). HRW noted that these shelters set a high entry threshold, require a daunting amount of paperwork and long wait times to determine whether a space may be granted, and often emphasize “preserving the family” and protecting children over women’s safety needs.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not specifically prohibit FGM/C. NGOs in Dagestan reported FGM/C was occasionally practiced in some villages. On November 27, Meduza reported that a Moscow clinic conducted FGM/C procedures on girls ages five and 12. After the report was published, the clinic ceased advertising FGM/C services.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Human rights groups reported that “honor killings” of women in Chechnya, Dagestan, and elsewhere in the North Caucasus were rarely prosecuted, although there were rare instances in which such killings led to convictions. For example, on September 5, a court in Ingushetia sentenced a man to eight years in prison for an “honor killing” of his 31-year-old daughter. The woman’s body had been found on the side of a highway on February 20, and her father confessed to strangling her. In some parts of the North Caucasus, women continued to face bride kidnapping, polygamy, forced marriage (including child marriage), legal discrimination, and forced adherence to Islamic dress codes.

Sexual Harassment: The criminal code contains a general provision against compelling a person to perform actions of a sexual character by means of blackmail, threats, or by taking advantage of the victim’s economic or other dependence on the perpetrator. Sexual harassment was reportedly widespread.

In early March, three female journalists accused a senior parliamentarian in the State Duma, Leonid Slutskiy, of sexual assault and harassment, including unwanted and inappropriate touching, kissing, and sexualized comments. On March 7, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin remarked that journalists who feel unsafe reporting from the Duma should “change jobs.” On the same day, Tamara Pletneva, the head of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women, and Children stated that female journalists seeking to avoid harassment should “look more decent and dress more appropriately” and that “if it’s frightening for them, if they are offended here, then they don’t have to come here.” On March 21, the parliamentary ethics committee cleared Slutskiy of any wrongdoing.

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

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide that men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights, but women often encountered significant restrictions, including bans on their employment in certain types of jobs in sectors like mining and construction.

Children

Birth Registration: By law citizenship derives from parents at birth or from birth within the country’s territory if the parents are unknown or if the child cannot claim the parents’ citizenship. Failure to register a birth resulted in the denial of public services.

Education: Education is free and compulsory through grade 11, although regional authorities frequently denied school access to the children of persons who were not registered local residents, including Roma, asylum seekers, and migrant workers.

Child Abuse: A 2013 estimate by the Ministry of Internal Affairs indicated that one in four children in the country was subjected to abuse by a parent or foster parent. According to a 2011 report published by the NGO Foundation for Assistance to Children in Difficult Life Situations, 2,000 to 2,500 children died annually from domestic violence. A 2017 law that makes beatings by “close relatives” an administrative rather than a criminal offense for first-time offenders, provided the beating does not cause serious harm requiring hospital treatment, applies to children also.

The country does not possess a law on child abuse, but its criminal code outlaws murder, battery, and rape. The range of penalties for such crimes can be from five to 15 years in jail and, if they result in the death of a minor, up to 20 years in jail.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Local authorities may authorize marriage from the age of 16 under certain circumstances and even earlier in some regions.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation, sale, offering or procuring for prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. The authorities generally enforced the law. The age of consent is 16. In 2015 the Investigative Committee reported filing charges in 1,645 cases of rape involving children and in more than 5,300 cases of sexual assault of children. For example, according to press reports, on February 1, police arrested a man in the Moscow region after his 13-year-old stepdaughter reported he had raped her on a regular basis for three years.

The law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and possession with intent to distribute child pornography, but possession without intent to distribute is not prohibited by law. Manufacture and distribution of pornography involving children younger than age 18 is punishable by two to eight years in prison or to three to 10 years in prison if it involves children younger than age 14. Authorities considered child pornography to be a serious problem.

Roskomnadzor has the power to shut down any website immediately and without due process until its owners prove its content does not include child pornography. In 2014 approximately 15 percent of the 45,700 links Roskomnadzor shut down related to child pornography.

Institutionalized Children: There were reports of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse in state institutions for children. Children with disabilities were especially vulnerable. For example, on February 19, press reported that law enforcement bodies in Chelyabinsk charged a man with child sexual abuse and charged the leadership of a local orphanage with negligence after the man reportedly sexually abused at least seven children with disabilities at the orphanage over several years. According to witness accounts in the press, several teachers may have been aware of and complicit in the abuse.

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

Anti-Semitism

The 2010 census estimated the Jewish population at slightly more than 150,000. In 2015, however, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia stated that the actual Jewish population was nearly one million.

One violent attack with possible anti-Semitic motives was reported. On October 15, the president of the Jewish community of Tatarstan, Mikhail Abramovich Skoblionok, and his aide, were injured by a bomb he received in the mail. Kazan police opened an investigation to determine if it was an anti-Semitic attack; the attack was being investigated as attempted murder.

A number of leading figures in the Jewish community reported the level of anti-Semitism in the country was decreasing but that during the year some political and religious figures made anti-Semitic remarks publicly.

In a March 10 interview, President Putin responded to a question concerning reports of Russian meddling in foreign elections, by suggesting that instead “Ukrainians, Tatars, and Jews” may have been involved.

On January 15, Russia Insider, an English language publication linked to progovernment oligarchs, published an anti-Semitic essay by its founder, Charles Bausman, that attacked dozens of Jewish writers and journalists, claiming Jews were the reason for “unreasonable hostility towards Putin’s Russia” and solicited anti-Semitic contributions.

On June 30, the FIFA fined the country’s soccer federation $10,100 after Russian fans displayed a neo-Nazi banner during a World Cup match in Samara. The banner reportedly featured the number 88, which is far-right code for “Heil Hitler.”

In early October the Supreme Court upheld the revocation of the foreigner residence permit and deportation of the chief rabbi of Omsk Oblast and the Siberian Federal District, Osher Krichevskiy, and his family for advocating “forcible and violent change” in the constitution and creating a security threat to citizens. According to Novaya Gazeta’s October 4 report on the decision, the country has deported eight rabbis who held foreign citizenships in recent years.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

While several laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, the government generally did not enforce these laws. The law provides protection for persons with disabilities, including access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. NGOs reported, however, that persons with disabilities still faced widespread discrimination in securing employment and access to some forms of transportation, as well as physical accessibility throughout the country.

The conditions of guardianship imposed by courts on persons with mental disabilities deprived them of almost all personal rights. Under the family code, individuals with mental disabilities were at times prevented from marrying without a guardian’s consent.

Federal law requires that buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but authorities did not enforce the law, and many buildings and modes of public transportation remained inaccessible.

Election laws do not specifically mandate that polling places be accessible to persons with disabilities, and the majority of them were not. Election officials generally brought mobile ballot boxes to the homes of voters with disabilities.

According to HRW, although the government began to implement inclusive education, most children with disabilities did not study in mainstream schools due to a lack of accommodations to facilitate their individual learning needs. The lack of reasonable accommodations left tens of thousands of children with disabilities isolated at home or in specialized schools, often far from their homes.

According to Ministry of Internal Affairs data, more than 45 percent of the country’s total population of children with disabilities were institutionalized. While the law mandates inclusive education for children with disabilities, authorities generally segregated them from mainstream society through a system that institutionalized them through adulthood. Graduates of such institutions often lacked the social, educational, and vocational skills to function in society.

There appeared to be no legal mechanism by which individuals could contest their assignment to a facility for persons with disabilities. The classification of children with mental disabilities by category of disability often followed them through their lives. The official designations “imbecile” and “idiot,” assigned by a commission that assesses children with developmental problems at the age of three, signified that authorities considered a child uneducable. These designations were almost always irrevocable. The designation “weak” (having a slight cognitive or intellectual disability) followed an individual on official documents, creating barriers to employment and housing after graduation from state institutions.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits discrimination based on nationality, but according to a 2017 report by the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, officials discriminated against minorities, including through “de facto racial profiling, targeting in particular migrants and persons from Central Asia, and the Caucasus.”

During the year there were 15 violent attacks against Central Asians and members of other ethnic minorities, resulting in the death of three persons and injury to 12. Typically the police opened investigations into these incidents but did not disclose their conclusions or apprehend assailants. For example, on January 12, a Kyrgyz man died from multiple stab wounds in Noginsk. Media reports alleged that the assailants, who fled the scene, may have belonged to an ultraright wing group.

According to a 2017 report by the human rights group ADC Memorial, Roma faced widespread discrimination in access to resources (including water, gas, and electricity services); demolitions of houses and forced evictions, including of children, often in winter; violation of the right to education (segregation of Romani children in low quality schools); and other forms of structural discrimination. Media outlets reported that Moscow police forcibly evacuated Romani persons from the city in advance of the June FIFA World Cup.

Indigenous People

The constitution and various statutes provide support for “small-numbered” indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East, permitting them to create self-governing bodies and allowing them to seek compensation if economic development threatened their lands. The government granted the status of “indigenous” and its associated benefits only to those ethnic groups numbering fewer than 50,000 and maintaining their traditional way of life. A 2017 report by the human rights group ADC Memorial noted the major challenges facing indigenous people included “seizure of territories where these minorities traditionally live and maintain their households by mining and oil and gas companies; removal of self-government bodies of indigenous peoples; and repression of activists and employees of social organizations, including the fabrication of criminal cases.”

Indigenous sources reported state-sponsored harassment, including interrogations by the security services, as well as employment discrimination (see section 7.d.). For example, on July 24, authorities in Khahasia charged Khahas activist Lidiya Bainova with extremism for a social media post in which she alleged that ethnic Russians subject Khahas people to discrimination. On November 26, authorities dropped the charges.

Since 2015 the Ministry of Justice has added several NGOs focusing on indigenous issues to the “foreign agents” list (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association), including the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North and the International Foundation for the Development of Indigenous and Small Numbered Peoples of the North, Siberia, and Far East, making it difficult for them to operate.

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

The law criminalizes the distribution of “propaganda” of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors and effectively limits the rights of free expression and assembly for citizens who wished to advocate publicly for rights or express the opinion that homosexuality is normal. Examples of what the government considered LGBTI propaganda included materials that “directly or indirectly approve of persons who are in nontraditional sexual relationships” (see section 2.a.). The law did not prohibit discrimination against LGBTI persons in housing or employment or in access to government services such as health care.

During the year there were reports of state actors committing violence against LGBTI individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in the Republic of Chechnya (see section 1.a.).

There were reports government agents harassed and threatened LGBTI activists. For example, on September 14, police in Pyatigorsk threatened a student activist after he complained about municipal denial of permission to host an LGBTI rally. Police summoned him to a meeting at the university where he studied, and demanded that he drop his request to hold the demonstration. They hinted at the homophobic “mentality of the Caucasus,” the “irritation” the request was causing the city administration, and mentioned that in the event “something should happen” during the demonstration, police might be unable to protect the participants. They also attempted to get the activist to disclose the names of other LGBTI activists and threatened to “out” him to his parents, family members, and acquaintances.

Openly gay men were particular targets of societal violence, and police often failed to respond adequately to such incidents. For example, according to LGBT Network, in June a Volgograd teenager, Vlad Pogorelov, filed a complaint with the local prosecutor’s office against the local police decision to close a criminal investigation into an attack he had suffered in November 2017. Pogorelov, then 17 years old, was lured into a meeting by homophobic persons posing as gay youth on a dating website. They beat and robbed Pogorelov, who filed a police report. Police opened a criminal investigation into the attack but closed it within a month, citing the “low significance” of the attack, and informing Pogorelov that police were unable to protect LGBTI persons. According to LGBT Network, the case was emblematic of authorities’ unwillingness to adequately investigate or consider homophobia as a motive in attacks on LGBTI persons.

On April 24, the LGBT Network released a report that documented 104 incidents of physical violence towards LGBTI persons in 2016-17, including 11 killings. The report noted the continuing trend of groups and individuals luring gay men on fake dates to beat, humiliate, and rob them. The report noted that police often claimed to have found no evidence of a crime or refused to recognize attacks on LGBTI persons as hate crimes, which impeded investigations and perpetrators’ being fully held to account. During investigations of attacks, LGBTI persons risked being “outed” by police to their families and colleagues. LGBTI persons often declined to report attacks against them due to fears police would subject them to mistreatment or publicize their sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBTI persons reported significant societal stigma and discrimination, which some attributed to official promotion of intolerance and homophobia.

High levels of employment discrimination against LGBTI persons reportedly persisted (see section 7.d.) Activists asserted that the majority of LGBTI persons hid their sexual orientation or gender identity due to fear of losing their jobs or homes as well as the threat of violence. The Russia LGBT Network recorded 13 incidents of discrimination against LGBTI teachers in 2016-17. In most cases homophobic activists wrote letters outing the teachers to the school’s administration, which then either fired the teacher, preventing his or her future employment in schools, or forced him or her to resign. The Russia LGBT Network recorded 18 cases of discrimination against LGBTI persons employed in other professions in 2016-17. Polling of LGBTI persons suggested that 17 percent had encountered employment discrimination.

Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or deny LGBTI persons health services due to intolerance and prejudice. The Russia LGBT Network’s report indicated that, upon disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBTI individuals often encountered strong negative reactions and the presumption they were mentally ill.

Transgender persons faced difficulty updating their names and gender markers on government documents to reflect their gender identity because the government had not established standard procedures, and many civil registry offices denied their requests. When documents failed to reflect their gender identity, transgender persons often faced harassment by law enforcement officers and discrimination in accessing health care, education, housing, transportation, and employment.

There were reports that LGBTI persons faced discrimination in the area of parental rights. The Russia LGBT Network reported that LGBTI parents often feared that the country’s ban on the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation” to minors would be used to remove custody of their children. In one example, on February 12, the Ordzhonikidzevskiy District Court of Yekaterinburg denied the return of two foster children to the Savinovskiy family on suspicion that the foster mother, Yulia Savinovskiy, was transitioning following breast reduction surgery and social media posts about transgender issues. According to the court, Savinovskiy was seeking the social role of a man, which the court said contradicted the prohibition of same-sex marriages in the country. Savinovskiy lost custody of the two foster children in August 2017. In September 2017 media outlets reported that Children’s Ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova said she would investigate the case, but the results of any action were unknown.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced significant legal discrimination, growing informal stigma-based barriers, employment discrimination (see section 7.d.), and were prohibited from adopting children.

According to NGO activists, men who have sex with men were unlikely to seek antiretroviral treatment, since treatment exposed the fact that these individuals had the virus, while sex workers were afraid to appear in the official system due to threats from law enforcement bodies. Economic migrants also concealed their HIV status and avoided treatment due to fear of deportation. By law foreign citizens who are HIV-positive may be deported. The law, however, bars the deportation of HIV-positive foreigners who have a Russian national or permanent resident spouse, child, or parents.

Prisoners with HIV/AIDS experienced regular abuse and denial of medical treatment and had fewer opportunities for visits with their children.

Although the law provides for treatment of HIV-positive persons, drug shortages, legal barriers, and lack of funds caused large gaps in treatment. In 2017 the Ministry of Health forbade the Federal AIDS Center in Moscow from dispensing antiretroviral drugs. The center served persons who could not get treatment at Moscow hospitals because they resided in the city without permanent registration.

On June 21, the Constitutional Court deemed it unconstitutional to prohibit HIV-positive parents from adopting children.

The Ministry of Justice continued to designate HIV-related NGOs as foreign agents; at least two such groups were so designated during the year (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association).

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

The lack of an internal passport often prevented homeless citizens from fully securing their legal rights and social services. Homeless persons faced barriers to obtaining legal documentation. Prior to the World Cup soccer tournament held in June and July, Moskovskiy Komsomolets reported that police rounded up homeless persons, beat them, and bussed them to camps and disused military bases.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

A homophobic campaign continued in state-controlled media in which officials, journalists, and others called LGBTI persons “perverts,” “sodomites,” and “abnormal” and conflated homosexuality with pedophilia. State-controlled media also promoted anti-Semitic conspiracies, such as the supposed control of the world economy by the Rothschild family.

Rwanda

Executive Summary

Rwanda is a constitutional republic dominated by a strong presidency. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led a governing coalition that included four smaller parties. In August 2017 voters elected President Paul Kagame to a third seven-year term with a reported 99 percent of the vote and a reported 98 percent turnout. One independent candidate and one candidate from an opposition political party participated in the presidential election, but authorities disqualified three other candidates. In the September elections for parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, candidates from the RPF coalition and two other parties that supported RPF policies won all except four of the open seats. For the first time, independent parties won seats in the chamber, with the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) and the Social Party Imberakuri (PS-Imberakuri) winning two seats each. In both the 2017 and the 2018 elections, international monitors reported numerous flaws, including irregularities in the vote tabulation process.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over state security forces (SSF).

Human rights issues included reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings by state security forces; forced disappearance by state security forces; torture by state security forces including asphyxiation, electric shocks, mock executions; arbitrary detention by state security forces; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; threats to and violence against journalists, censorship, website blocking, and criminal libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, such as overly restrictive nongovernmental organization (NGO) laws; and restrictions on political participation.

The government occasionally took steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, including within the security services, but impunity involving civilian officials and some members of the SSF was a problem.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women and spousal rape, and the government handled rape cases as a judicial priority. Penalties for conviction of rape range from 10 years’ to life imprisonment with fines of one to two million Rwandan francs ($1,150 to $2,300). Penalties for conviction of committing physical and sexual violence against one’s spouse range from three to five years’ imprisonment.

Domestic violence against women and children was common. For example, on August 4, hip-hop artist Jay Poly was arrested on charges of aggravated assault and battery after he struck his wife and broke three of her teeth. On August 24, he was sentenced to five months in prison.

Authorities encouraged reporting of domestic violence cases, although most incidents remained within the extended family and were not reported or prosecuted.

Police headquarters in Kigali had a hotline for domestic violence. Several other ministries also had free gender-based violence hotlines. Each of the 78 police stations nationwide had its own gender desk, an average of three officers trained in handling domestic violence and gender-based violence cases, and a public outreach program. The government operated 44 one-stop centers throughout the country, providing medical, psychological, legal, and police assistance at no cost to victims of domestic violence.

The government continued its whole-of-government, multi-stakeholder campaign against gender-based violence, child abuse, and other types of domestic violence. gender-based violence was a required training module for police and military at all levels and was included for all troops and police preparing for deployment to peacekeeping missions abroad.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for penalties for conviction of six months’ to one year’s imprisonment and fines from 100,000 to 200,000 Rwandan francs ($115 to $230). The penalties are increased when the offender is an employer or other person of authority and the victim is a subordinate. Nevertheless, advocacy organizations reported sexual harassment remained common.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion. There was one claim on social media of involuntary sterilization but it was found to be without merit.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and are entitled to the same rights as men, including under family, labor, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands, and couples may make their own legal property arrangements. Women experienced some difficulties pursuing property claims due to lack of knowledge, procedural bias against women in inheritance matters, multiple spousal claims due to polygyny, and the threat of gender-based violence. The law requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits discrimination in hiring decisions. In a Transparency Rwanda study of gender-based corruption in workplaces, only 1 percent of participants reported gender-based discrimination as a factor in hiring decisions, whereas 75 percent of respondents indicated they were unaware of such discrimination or were unwilling to discuss it. The study’s authors concluded that gender-based corruption was underreported, in part because victims of discrimination fear losing their employment.

After the 1994 genocide that left many women as heads of households, women assumed a larger role in the formal sector, and many operated their own businesses. Nevertheless, men owned the major assets of most households, particularly those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, making bank credit inaccessible to many women and rendering it difficult to start or expand a business.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents. Children born to two Rwandan parents automatically receive citizenship. Children with one Rwandan parent must apply for citizenship before turning 18. Children born in the country to unknown or stateless parents automatically receive citizenship. Minor children adopted by Rwandans, irrespective of nationality or statelessness, automatically receive citizenship. Children retain their citizenship in the event of dissolution of the parents’ marriage. Births were registered at the sector level upon presentation of a medical birth certificate. There were no reports of unregistered births leading to denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The government’s 12-year basic education program includes tuition-free universal public education for six years of primary and six years of secondary education. Education through grade nine is compulsory. Parents were not required to pay tuition fees, but they often had to pay high education fees for teachers’ incentives and meal expenses, according to domestic observers.

Child Abuse: While statistics on child abuse were unreliable, such abuse was common within the family, in the village, and at school. As in previous years, the government conducted a high-profile public awareness campaign against gender-based violence and child abuse. The government supported a network of one-stop centers and hospital facilities that offered integrated police, legal, medical, and counseling services to victims of gender-based violence and child abuse. In partnership with UNICEF, the National Commission for Children (NCC) maintained a corps of 29,674 community-based “Friends of the Family” volunteers (two for each of the country’s 14,837 villages) to help address gender-based violence and child protection concerns at the village level.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 21. Anecdotal evidence suggested child marriage was more common in rural areas and refugee camps than in urban areas. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law sexual relations with a child younger than age 18 constitutes child defilement for which conviction is punishable by 20 years to life in prison depending on the age of the victim.

The law prohibits sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, which are punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 15 million Rwandan francs ($11,500 to $17,240). Conviction statistics were not available. The 2018 Antitrafficking law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, conviction of which is punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of 15 million to 20 million Rwandan francs ($17,240 to $23,000).

Child Soldiers: The government supported the Musanze Child Rehabilitation Center in Northern Province that provided care and social reintegration preparation for children who previously served in armed groups in the DRC (see section 2.d., Freedom of Movement).

Displaced Children: There were numerous street children throughout the country. Authorities gathered street children in district transit centers and placed them in rehabilitation centers. Conditions and practices varied at 29 privately run rehabilitation centers for street children.

UNHCR continued to accommodate in the Mahama refugee camp unaccompanied and separated minors who entered the country as part of an influx of more than 87,000 refugees from Burundi since 2015. Camp staff provided additional protection measures for them.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was a very small Jewish community, consisting entirely of foreigners; there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions. The law mandates access to public facilities, accommodations for taking national examinations, provision of medical care by the government, and monitoring of implementation by the NCHR. Despite a continuing campaign to create a barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities, accessibility remained a problem throughout the country, including in public buildings and public transport.

There were no legal restrictions or extra registration steps for citizens with disabilities to vote, and registration could be completed online. Braille ballots were available for the September parliamentary elections. Observers noted some polling stations remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities and that some election volunteers appeared untrained on how to assist voters with disabilities.

Many children with disabilities did not attend primary or secondary school. Those who attended generally did so with nondisabled peers. Few students with disabilities reached the university level because many primary and secondary schools were unable to accommodate their disabilities.

Some citizens viewed disability as a curse or punishment that could result in social exclusion and sometimes abandoned or hid children with disabilities from the community.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution provides for the eradication of ethnic, regional, and other divisions in society and the promotion of national unity. Longstanding tensions in the country culminated in the 1994 state-orchestrated genocide that killed between 750,000 and one million citizens, including approximately three-quarters of the Tutsi population. Following the killing of the president in 1994, an extremist interim government directed the Hutu-dominated national army, militia groups, and ordinary citizens to kill resident Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The genocide ended later in 1994 when the predominantly Tutsi RPF, operating from Uganda and northern Rwanda, defeated the national army and Hutu militias and established an RPF-led government of national unity that included members of eight political parties.

Since 1994 the government has called for national reconciliation and abolished the policies of the former government that created and deepened ethnic cleavages. The government removed all references to ethnicity in official discourse–with the exception of references to the genocide that is officially termed “the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi”–and eliminated ethnic quotas for education, training, and government employment.

Some individuals stated the government’s reconciliation policies and programs failed to recognize Hutu victims of the genocide or crimes committed by the RPF after the end of the genocide.

Indigenous People

After the genocide the government banned identity card references to Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa ethnicity and prohibited social or political organizations based on ethnic affiliation. As a result the Twa, who numbered approximately 34,000, lost their official designation as an ethnic group. The government no longer recognizes groups advocating specifically for Twa needs, and some Twa believed this government policy denied them their rights as an indigenous ethnic group.

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

No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, or access to government services such as health care. Cabinet-level government officials expressed support for the human rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation, but LGBTI persons reported societal discrimination and abuse, including challenges to officially registering NGOs.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The penal code provides for imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to 500,000 Rwandan francs ($575) or both for persons convicted of stigmatizing a sick person without the intention to protect the sick person or others. There were no reports of prosecutions under this statute. Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred, although such incidents remained rare. The government actively supported relevant public education campaigns, including establishing HIV/AIDS awareness clubs in secondary schools and making public pronouncements against stigmatization of those with the disease.

The penal code also provides stiffer penalties for conviction of rape and defilement in cases of transmission of an incurable illness. In most cases of sexual violence, the victim and alleged perpetrator both undergo HIV testing.

According to RDF policy and in keeping with UN guidelines, the military did not permit its members with HIV/AIDS to participate in peacekeeping missions abroad but allowed them to remain in the RDF.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Executive Summary

Saint Kitts and Nevis is a multiparty parliamentary democracy and federation. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. The governor general is the queen’s representative in the country and certifies all legislation on her behalf. The constitution provides the smaller island of Nevis considerable self-government under a premier. In the 2015 national elections, Team Unity, a coalition of three opposition parties, won seven of the 11 elected seats in the legislature. Team Unity leader Timothy Harris was elected prime minister. Independent observers from the Organization of the American States (OAS) concluded the election was generally free and fair but called for electoral reform, noting procedural difficulties in the election process resulted in the slow transmission of results.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included child abuse and criminalization of same-sex activity between men, although the law was not enforced during the year.

The government took steps to prosecute and convict officials who committed abuses, but some cases remained unresolved.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and was prepared to cooperate with other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: While the law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status, the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no reported requests for asylum during the year.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law classifies sexual violence, rape, and incest as serious offenses, provides protection for victims of domestic violence, and establishes appropriate penalties for perpetrators. The law prohibits rape of women but does not address spousal rape. St. Kitts and Nevis continued to utilize an “unnatural offenses” statute to address male rape. Anecdotal evidence suggested that rape, including spousal rape, was a serious problem. Penalties for rape range from two years’ imprisonment for incest between minors to life imprisonment. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Those arrested and prosecuted for rape and indecent assault received strict sentences.

Violence against women continued to be a serious and underreported problem. The law criminalizes domestic violence, including emotional abuse, and provides penalties of up to $13,500 East Caribbean dollars (XCD) ($5,000) or six months in prison.

There was no crisis hotline. The Ministry of Gender Affairs continued to advocate for a more effective method of reporting domestic violence and sexual assault, including establishing a complaints and response protocol. The department also coordinated counseling for survivors of abuse and fielded officers who maintained contact with civil society organizations, prisons, and schools.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment falls within the purview of the Protection of Employment Act, but no law explicitly addresses sexual harassment. Anecdotal evidence suggested sexual harassment was a problem in the workplace, although the Ministry of Community Development, Culture, and Gender Affairs did not receive any cases under the act during the year.

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

Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men, and the government effectively enforced it. The law requires equal remuneration, and women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs. Women had equal access to leadership roles in the private and public sectors.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country, and all children are registered at birth. Children born to citizen parents abroad may be registered by either parent.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a major problem. According to the government, neglect was the most common form of abuse, while physical abuse, including sexual molestation, also remained prevalent.

In child abuse cases, the law allows children to testify against their alleged attackers using remote technologies such as Skype. Other solutions, such as placing a physical barrier in the courtroom, were also employed to assist victims. Moreover, the Ministries of Social Services and Education collaborated on programs to curb child abuse, including modifying the primary school curriculum and designating a child abuse awareness month in November.

The St. Christopher Children’s Home served abused and neglected children and received quarterly funding and logistical support from the government.

The government offered counseling for both adult and child victims of abuse. Additionally, the government developed a media campaign to help coaches, parents, and students recognize abuse and maintained a program to provide youth and their families with life skills, counseling, parenting skills, and mentorship.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women. Underage marriage was rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: NGOs reported that sexual exploitation and molestation of children remained a major problem. NGOs also reported that adolescent transactional sex remained a problem. The law sets the age of consent at 16 years. Having sexual relations with children under age 16 is illegal. Child pornography is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

While there were no confirmed reports during the year that St. Kitts and Nevis was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking, human rights activists alleged some sex workers were victims of trafficking and that human smugglers regularly transited the country. Some smuggled victims were allegedly labor trafficked.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and persons with disabilities experienced discrimination, particularly concerning accessibility. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but it was not consistently enforced. Children with disabilities attended school, although some parents of students with disabilities preferred to have their child stay at home. There was a separate school for students with disabilities. Although many local schools were able to accommodate students with physical disabilities, the public school system had limited resources for those students who wished to be mainstreamed.

The law allows authorities to declare persons with mental disabilities who commit crimes a menace to society and incarcerate them for life. Ministry of Health nurses in the various district health centers provided support services to persons with mental disabilities, and the general hospital had a wing dedicated to caring for patients with mental disabilities.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity among adult men under an “unnatural offenses” statute, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. There were no reports the government enforced the law. No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Negative societal attitudes towards LGBTI individuals impeded the operation of LGBTI organizations and the free association of LGBTI persons. Nonetheless, media reported some LGBTI organizations held outdoor, public gatherings without incident. Some considered sexual orientation a private matter; however, public displays were not common. Unofficial reports indicated violence and discrimination were problems. The government asserted it received no reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation, including transgender. Some observers suggested this was because the country did not have an enabling environment for reporting. During the year the LGBTI community and police conducted gender-sensitization training.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Anecdotal evidence suggested societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred. The Ministry of Labor enforced a specific antidiscrimination policy covering HIV/AIDS in the workplace.

Saint Lucia

Executive Summary

Saint Lucia is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy. In free and fair elections in 2016, the United Workers Party (UWP) won 11 of the 17 seats in the House of Assembly, defeating the previously ruling Saint Lucia Labor Party. UWP leader Allen Chastanet became prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included violence against suspects and prisoners by police and prison officers, and criminalization of consensual same-sex activity between adults, although the law was not enforced during the year.

Although the government took limited steps to prosecute officials and employees who committed abuses, the procedure for investigating police officers was lengthy, cumbersome, and often inconclusive.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Refugees had access to medical care and uneven access to education. Individuals claiming refugee status had access to the courts and protection by law enforcement. The government assisted the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their home countries.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only when a couple is divorced or separated or when there is a protection order from the Family Court. Roungement–the practice of parents’ accepting monetary compensation to settle rape and sexual assault cases out of court–is prohibited by law, but it was rarely prosecuted and commonly practiced.

Sexual assault remained a problem. High-level government officials publicly expressed support for enacting family law legislation and strengthening avenues of recourse for victims of gender-based violence.

Domestic violence was also a significant problem, but there were no prosecutions of crimes of gender-based violence during the year. While police were willing to arrest offenders, the government prosecuted crimes of violence against women only when the victim pressed charges. The Gender Relations Department cited a lack of training in trauma-specific interview techniques as a major problem for evidence collection.

The law provides penalties for domestic violence ranging from five years’ to life imprisonment. Shelters, a hotline, police training, and a national protocol were used to deal with the problem, but the lack of financial security for victims was a key impediment. The maximum amount of child support the court may award a custodial parent is XCD 250 ($93) per month per child. Police also faced problems, such as a lack of transportation, which at times prevented them from responding to a call in a timely manner. The Saint Lucia Crisis Center, a nongovernmental organization receiving government assistance, maintained a facility for female victims of domestic violence and their children and a hotline for support. The only residential facility for victims of domestic abuse, the Women’s Support Center operated by the Department of Gender Relations, also received government funding.

The Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development assisted victims. Authorities referred most cases to a counselor, and police facilitated the issuance of court protection orders in some cases. The Department of Gender Relations operated a number of gender-based violence prevention programs in schools and community-based groups.

The Family Court hears cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children. The court can issue a protection order prohibiting an abuser from entering or remaining in the residence of a specified person. The court remands perpetrators to an intervention program for rehabilitation. The court employed full-time social workers to assist victims of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but it remained a problem, since government enforcement was not an effective deterrent. Most cases of sexual harassment were handled in the workplace rather than prosecuted under the law.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in the labor force, had higher levels of unemployment than men, and sometimes received lower pay or faced additional informal hurdles gaining access to credit. The law provides equal treatment for family property, nationality, and inheritance. Civil society groups reported the government did not enforce family property or inheritance laws effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Children receive citizenship by birth to a parent with citizenship. Women can equally pass on citizenship to their children, but the foreign husband of a Saint Lucian woman does not automatically receive Saint Lucian citizenship, unlike the foreign wife of a Saint Lucian man. Authorities provided birth certificates to parents without undue administrative delay.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem. The Department of Human Services and Family Affairs handled cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological abuse. Although the government condemned the practice, parents of sexually abused children sometimes declined to press sexual assault charges against the abuser in exchange for financial contributions toward the welfare of the victims. Nonetheless, courts heard some child sexual abuse cases, and convicted and sentenced offenders.

The human services division provided services to victims of child abuse, including a home for severely abused and neglected children, counseling, facilitating medical intervention, finding foster care, providing family support services, and supporting the child while working with police and attending court.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for men and women, but 16 with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Laws on sexual offenses cover rape, unlawful sexual connection, and unlawful sexual intercourse with children under 16. The age of consent is 16, but a consent defense may be cited if the victim is between 12 and 16. The law prohibits forced labor or sex trafficking of children under the age of 18. There were limited indications that unorganized commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred. No separate law defines or specifically prohibits child pornography.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Government regulations require access for persons with disabilities to all public buildings, but only a few government buildings had access ramps. The Ministry of Health operated a community-based rehabilitation program in residents’ homes.

Children with physical and visual disabilities were not mainstreamed into the wider student population. Five schools were available for persons with mental disabilities and for children who were hard of hearing, deaf, or blind; or had vision disabilities. Children with disabilities faced barriers in education, and there were few opportunities for such persons when they became adults.

While there were no official reports of discrimination, employers generally did not make accommodations for workers with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have the right to vote, and selected polling stations are accessible for mobility-impaired voters, but many polling stations were inaccessible.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal under indecency statutes, and some consensual same-sex sexual activity between men is also illegal under anal intercourse laws. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, and anal intercourse carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

While the indecency statutes and anal intercourse laws were rarely enforced, civil society reported there was widespread societal discrimination against LGBTI persons. The few openly LGBTI persons faced daily verbal harassment and, at times, physical threats. Civil society groups reported LGBTI persons were denied access to rental homes or forced to leave rental homes and were denied jobs or left jobs due to a hostile work environment.

There were few reported incidents of violence or abuse during the year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Nongovernmental organizations reported there was some stigma and discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS. Civil society reported that health-care workers did not respect patient confidentiality with respect to HIV/AIDS status. Civil society conducted an HIV testing training for health-care workers, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Executive Summary

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy. The prime minister is the head of the government. In 2015 Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was elected to a fourth consecutive term. International observers assessed the election as generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included the criminalization of libel; the criminalization of consensual same-sex activity between men (which was not enforced during the year); two cases of violence against LGBTI persons; and child labor.

The government took steps to investigate and punish officials who committed abuses, and there was not a widespread perception of impunity for security force members.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status; each case is addressed on an individual basis. The government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government generally enforced the law when victims came forward. Sentences for rape begin at 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities referred allegations of rape or any abuse against women to the police. Police were generally responsive to these complaints. Police and human rights groups reported that perpetrators commonly made payoffs to victims of rape or sexual assault in exchange for victims not pressing charges.

Civil society groups reported that rape and violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The Division of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of National Mobilization offered different programs to assist women and children. The ministry maintained a crisis center for survivors of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although authorities could prosecute such behavior under other laws. Local human rights groups and women’s organizations considered enforcement ineffective.

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

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights to family, nationality, and inheritance as men. Women received an equitable share of property following separation or divorce. The law requires equal pay for equal work and authorities generally enforced it.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or from either parent. There was universal birth registration, which usually occurred within a few days of a child’s birth.

Child Abuse: The law provides a legal framework for the protection of children, including within domestic violence laws. The Family Services Division of the Ministry of Social Development monitored and protected the welfare of children. The division referred all reports of child abuse to the police for action and provided assistance in cases where children applied for protection orders with the family court. Reports of unlawful sexual intercourse with children under age 15 remained a problem, and these reports were in some cases linked to transactional sex with minors. Government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) interlocutors indicated that child abuse, including neglect, incest, and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse were significant problems.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Parental consent is required for underage marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law does not specify a minimum age for consensual sex but stipulates punishment for persons who have sexual relations with a girl under age 15. The law prohibits statutory rape, with special provisions for those under age 13. Observers noted that male and female teenagers engaged in prostitution and transactional sex. NGO and government sources reported some mothers pressured their daughters to have sexual relations with older men as a way to supplement family income. Government officials conducted sensitization workshops in the community and schools to address the problem.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, mental, and intellectual disabilities, and the government generally observed these prohibitions. The law does not mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and access for such persons generally was difficult. NGOs reported government funding for organizations supporting persons with disabilities was insufficient to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. NGOs reported subtle discrimination in hiring practices throughout the workforce but noted the government’s strong attempt to recruit and hire persons with disabilities through programs such as the Youth Employment Service.

Education was provided until age 21 for persons with disabilities, and the government partially supported a separate school for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities also could attend public schools. A separate rehabilitation center treated an average of five persons daily.

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

Consensual same-sex conduct between adults is illegal under indecency statutes, and some sexual activity between adult men is illegal under anal intercourse laws. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, and anal intercourse acts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, although these laws were rarely enforced. No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Anecdotal evidence suggested there was societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, although local observers believed such attitudes of intolerance were slowly improving. Members of professional and business classes were more inclined to conceal their LGBTI status.

There were two acts of violence on individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Both cases were under investigation as of October. In one case two men dressed in female clothing were chased and beaten by a crowd, all of which was captured and posted to social media. No individuals from the crowd were arrested. In the second incident, authorities suspected a man was killed during a same-sex encounter. Police detained a suspect, who later admitted to the killing.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Anecdotal evidence suggested there was some societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, especially in employment. The government provided monthly financial assistance to persons with HIV/AIDS. The SVGHRA, which serves as coordinator for these NGOs, reported that funding continued to be a problem since each organization must find its own funding sources.

Samoa

Executive Summary

Samoa is a constitutional parliamentary democracy that incorporates traditional practices into its governmental system. Although the unicameral parliament is elected by universal suffrage, only matai (heads of extended families) may be members. In 2016 voters elected a new parliament, confirming Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in office. The elections were free and fair on the day, but the matai requirement and the questionable disqualification of candidates caused some observers to question the fairness of the outcome.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included criminalization of same-sex conduct although the law was not enforced.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses. There were no reports of impunity.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting refugee status, but the government has not yet established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no requests for asylum or refugee status.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The constitution prohibits the abuse of women. Rape is a crime, but there is no legal provision against spousal rape. The penalties for rape range from two years’ to life imprisonment, but the court has never imposed a life sentence.

When police received complaints from abused women, authorities investigated and punished the offender, including imprisonment. Authorities charge domestic violence as common criminal assault, with a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment. Village councils typically punished domestic violence offenders only if they considered the abuse extreme, such as when there were visible signs of physical harm. The courts treated rape seriously, and the conviction rate generally was high.

The government acknowledged that rape and domestic abuse were of significant concern. The National Public Inquiry into Family Violence, released in September, revealed that 86 percent of women have experienced some form of physical violence from an intimate partner, and 24 percent had experienced choking. Many cases of rape and domestic abuse went unreported because societal attitudes discouraged such reporting and tolerated domestic abuse. Social pressure and fear of reprisal typically caused such abuse to go unreported.

The Ministry of Police has a nine person Domestic Violence Unit that works in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and focuses on combatting domestic abuse.

Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, and there were no reliable statistics on its incidence. The lack of legislation and a cultural constraint against publicly shaming or accusing someone, even if justifiable, reportedly caused sexual harassment to be underreported. Victims had little incentive to report instances of sexual harassment, since doing so could jeopardize their career or family name.

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

Discrimination: Women and men have equal rights under the constitution and statutory law, and the traditionally subordinate role of women continued to change, albeit slowly. To integrate women into the economic mainstream, the government sponsored numerous programs, including literacy and training programs.

Children

Birth Registration: A child is a citizen by birth in the country if at least one parent is a citizen. The government also may grant citizenship by birth to a child born in the country if the child would otherwise be stateless. Citizenship also derives by birth abroad to a citizen parent who either was born in the country or resided there at least three years. By law children without a birth certificate may not attend primary schools, but authorities did not strictly enforce this law.

Child Abuse: Law and tradition prohibit abuse of children, but both tolerate corporal punishment. The law prohibits corporal punishment in schools; a teacher convicted of corporal punishment of a student may face a maximum one year prison term.

The government aggressively prosecuted reported cases of child abuse.

Press reports indicated an increase in child abuse reports, especially of incest and indecent assault cases; the rise appeared to be due to citizens’ increased awareness of the importance of reporting physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is age 21 for a man and age 19 for a woman. Consent of at least one parent or guardian is necessary if either party is younger than the minimum. Marriage is illegal if a woman is younger than age 16 or a man is younger than age 18. Early marriage did not generally occur.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. Under the law the maximum penalty for sexual relations with children younger than age 12 is life imprisonment and for children between ages 12 and 15 the maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment. The law contains a specific criminal provision regarding child pornography. The law specifies a seven-year prison sentence for a person found guilty of publishing, distributing, or exhibiting indecent material featuring a child. Because 16 is the age of majority, the law does not protect 16- and 17-year-old persons.

Although comprehensive date on the sexual abuse of children was not available, the sexual abuse of children remained a widespread problem. In the National Public Inquiry into Family Violence, nearly 10 percent of female respondents reported they were raped as children by a family member.

The Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration and the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with NGOs, carried out educational activities to address domestic violence, inappropriate behavior between adults and children, and human rights awareness.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country had no Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

While no law prohibits discrimination against physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in the provision of public services, the law does prohibit disability-based discrimination in employment.

Many public buildings were old, and only a few were accessible to persons with disabilities. Most new buildings provided better access, including ramps and elevators in most multistory buildings.

Tradition dictates that families care for persons with disabilities, and the community observed this custom widely.

Some children with disabilities attended regular public schools, while others attended one of three schools created specifically to educate students with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were no new reports of bans on setting up Chinese-owned retail shops on customary land within villages during the year; four villages banned Chinese-owned shops in 2017. These actions followed the rapid spread of ethnic Chinese-owned retail shops throughout Apia and into rural villages. The bans apply only on village-owned land (approximately 80 percent of land in the country), not to government or freehold land.

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

“Sodomy” and “indecency between males” are illegal, with maximum penalties of seven and five years’ imprisonment, respectively, but authorities did not enforce these provisions with regard to consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

Although there were no reports of societal violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there were isolated cases of discrimination. Society publicly recognized the transgender Fa’afafine community; however, members of the community reported instances of social discrimination.

San Marino

Executive Summary

The Republic of San Marino is a multiparty democracy. The popularly elected, unicameral Great and General Council (parliament) selects two of its members to serve as captains regent (co-heads of state). They preside over meetings of the council and the Congress of State (cabinet), which has no more than 10 other members (secretaries of state), selected by the council. Observers considered the parliamentary elections in 2016 to be generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There were no reports of egregious human rights abuses.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

Although the country is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, the government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. Only one family (from Syria) was granted asylum in the country during the year.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The government may grant refugee status or asylum by an act of the cabinet.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense, and the government effectively prosecuted persons accused of such crimes. The penalty for rape is two to six years in prison. In aggravated circumstances, the sentence is four to 10 years. No cases of rape or domestic violence were reported in the first 10 months of the year.

The law prohibits domestic violence, and the government effectively enforced it. Domestic violence is a criminal offense; the penalty for spousal abuse is two to six years in prison. In aggravated circumstances, the prison term is four to eight years.

Sexual Harassment: The government effectively enforced the law prohibiting sexual harassment.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law regarding domestic violence and domestic abuse also prohibits gender-based discrimination. In May the parliament passed a law regarding the functioning of the Authority for Equal Opportunities.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parent (either mother or father) or, if both parents are unknown or stateless, by birth in the country’s territory. Births must be registered within 10 days.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child pornography, including performances, works, and material, and provides for punishment of anyone trading in, providing, or in any way distributing child pornography. The law includes punishment for providing information aimed at enticing or sexually exploiting children younger than age 18, the minimum age of consent for sex. The penalty for this type of crime is imprisonment for two to six years, increased to four to 10 years if it involves sexual intercourse or if it has been committed to the detriment of a child younger than age 14 or a child younger than 18 who has physical or mental disabilities.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18, but a judge can authorize the marriage of minors at age 16 in special cases.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography, including performances, works, and material, and provides for punishment of anyone trading in, providing, or in any way distributing child pornography. The law includes punishment for providing information aimed at enticing or sexually exploiting children younger than age 18, the minimum age of consent for sex.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population is small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these prohibitions effectively, but not all public buildings were accessible to persons with physical disabilities. Following numerous requests by the San Marino Commission on Disabilities to implement laws passed in 2015 to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, in February the parliament passed a law providing support for the disabled and their families. There were no reported cases of discrimination against a person with disabilities.

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

While the law forbids discrimination based on sex or personal, economic, social, political, or religious status, it does not extend specific antidiscrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The law provides that, when a person commits an offense motivated by hostility toward the victim’s sexual orientation, courts should consider such motivation as an aggravating circumstance when imposing sentence. The law prohibits persons from committing or encouraging others to commit discriminatory acts on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Sao Tome and Principe

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe is a multiparty constitutional democracy. In 2016 voters elected President Evaristo do Espirito Santo Carvalho as head of state. In legislative elections on October 7, the Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party of Prime Minister Patrice Emery Trovoada won 25 of 55 National Assembly seats, the Liberation Movement of STP/Social Democratic Party (MLSTP/PSD) won 23 seats, the coalition of the Democratic Convergence Party (PCD), Democratic Movement of Forces for Change/Liberal Party (MDFM) and Democratic Union for Development (UDD) won five seats, and the Independent Citizens’ Movement won two seats. International observers deemed the legislative election generally free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included an unlawful killing by police; excessive use of force, including beatings, by police; and widespread domestic violence against women, where government lack of action for prosecution and accountability contributed to an atmosphere of impunity.

While the government took some steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed abuses, authorities rarely punished those officials, and impunity was a problem.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and conviction is punishable by two to 12 years’ imprisonment. The prosecution of rape occurred most often in cases in which there was evidence of violent assault or the victim was a minor. Government prosecutors won convictions, and judges imposed sentences of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for rape if the victim died, but the full extent of the problem was undocumented. A government family planning clinic and NGOs sought to combat rape by raising awareness of the problem. According to the National Institute for Equality and Gender Equality, there were cases of rape committed by youth using drugs and assaults in the early hours of the morning. The extent of the problem, however, was undocumented.

There were widespread reports of domestic violence. Although women have the right to legal recourse in cases of domestic violence, including against spouses, many were reluctant to take legal action because of the cost, a general lack of confidence in the legal system to address their concerns effectively, and fear of retaliation. Women often were uninformed of their legal rights. The law prescribes penalties ranging from imprisonment for three to eight years in cases of domestic violence resulting in harm to the health of the victim to incarceration for eight to 16 years when such violence leads to loss of life. There was no data on the number of prosecutions or convictions for domestic violence.

The Office of Women’s Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Office and UNICEF maintained a counseling center and small shelter with a hotline for domestic violence. The Gender Equality Institute within the Office of Women’s Affairs also conducted awareness workshops and seminars during the year to educate women on their rights. It also trained police and other actors, such as medical professionals, court officials, and lawyers, on how to recognize and respond to cases of domestic abuse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment occurred, but no data were available on its extent. In cases of sexual harassment that involved violence or threats, the law prescribes penalties for conviction of one to eight years’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty for conviction in other cases of sexual harassment is three years’ imprisonment. The government sometimes enforced the law during the year.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Discrimination: The constitution stipulates and the law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, but they do not specifically recognize these rights as they pertain to the family, child custody, labor, employment, owning or managing businesses or property, nationality, or inheritance. Economic discrimination did not generally occur in the areas of credit or housing.

While many women had access to opportunities in education, business, and government, women–particularly older women and those living in rural areas–generally encountered significant societal discrimination. Traditional beliefs left women with most child-rearing responsibilities. Younger women increasingly had access to educational and professional opportunities compared with the older generation, although a high teenage pregnancy rate reduced economic opportunities for many. Government regulations prohibiting pregnant teenagers from attending high school with their peers increased the likelihood that teenage mothers would not finish secondary education.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship either through parents or by being born within the country. Either parent, if a citizen, may confer citizenship on a child born outside the country. By law children born in the country’s hospitals have their births registered at those hospitals. If not born in a hospital, the child must be registered at the nearest precinct office. Parents who fail to register a birth may be fined. According to UNICEF, since 2010 approximately 94 percent of children younger than age five have had their births registered. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Child Abuse: Mistreatment of children was not widespread; however, there were few protections for orphans and abandoned children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage without parental consent is 18. With parental consent, girls could marry at age 14 and boys at age 16. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There were reports of children engaged in prostitution. The law prohibits statutory rape and child pornography. The government also uses proscription of kidnapping or unlawful forced labor to enforce the law against sexual exploitation of children. The penalty for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of minors younger than age 14 is two to 10 years’ imprisonment, and the penalty for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of minors between ages 14 and 17 is up to three years’ imprisonment. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18, although societal norms only consider sex under age 14 to raise concerns of consent.

Displaced Children: The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs operated a social services program that placed street children in three centers where they attended classes and received vocational training.

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

Anti-Semitism

There is no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law generally prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law, however, does not mandate access to most buildings, transportation, or other services for persons with disabilities. A law passed in 2014 mandates access to school buildings for persons with disabilities, and a few schools were undertaking building upgrades to provide access. During the year UNICEF, a foreign embassy, and the government built two classrooms for students with auditory and visual disabilities. Most children with disabilities attended the same schools as children without disabilities.

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

The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Antidiscrimination laws do not explicitly extend protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. There were occasional reports of societal discrimination, primarily rejection by family and friends, based on an individual’s LGBTI status. While there were no official impediments, LGBTI organizations did not exist.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Communities and families often rejected and shunned persons with HIV/AIDS. NGOs held awareness-raising campaigns and interventions with employers to address discrimination against employees with HIV/AIDS.

Saudi Arabia

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is both head of state and head of government. The 1992 Basic Law sets out the system of governance, rights of citizens, and powers and duties of the government, and it provides that the Quran and Sunna (the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) serve as the country’s constitution. It specifies that the rulers of the country shall be male descendants of the founder, King Abdulaziz (Ibn Saud). In 2015 the country held its most recent municipal elections on a nonparty basis for two-thirds of the 3,159 seats in the 284 municipal councils around the country. Independent polling station observers did not identify significant irregularities with the elections. For the first time, women were allowed to vote and run as candidates in these municipal elections.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

Human rights issues included unlawful killings; executions for nonviolent offenses; forced renditions; forced disappearances; and torture of prisoners and detainees by government agents. There were also reports of arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy; criminalization of libel, censorship, and site blocking; restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and movement; severe restrictions of religious freedom; citizens’ lack of ability and legal means to choose their government through free and fair elections; trafficking in persons; violence and official discrimination against women, although new women’s rights initiatives were implemented; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity; and prohibition of trade unions.

Government agents carried out the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2. King Salman pledged to hold all individuals involved accountable, regardless of position or rank. Several officials were removed from their positions, and on November 15, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) announced the indictment of 11 suspects. The PPO announced it would seek the death penalty for five of the suspects charged with murder and added that an additional 10 suspects were under further investigation. At year’s end the PPO had not named the suspects nor the roles allegedly played by them in the killing, nor had they provided a detailed explanation of the direction and progress of the investigation. In other cases the government did not punish officials accused of committing human rights abuses, contributing to an environment of impunity.

The country continued air operations in Yemen as leader of a military coalition formed in 2015 to counter the 2014 forceful takeover of the Republic of Yemen’s government institutions and facilities by Houthi militias and security forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on a number of occasions, and the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, reported that some coalition airstrikes caused disproportionate collateral damage. Houthi-aligned militias carried out cross-border raids into Saudi territory and fired missiles and artillery into Saudi Arabia throughout the year, killing and injuring Saudi civilians. The coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team, established by the Saudi government and based in Riyadh, investigated allegations of civilian casualties, published recommendations, and in some cases promised to provide compensation to affected families, although no prosecutions occurred.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law does not contain provisions for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation.

The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: The government generally did not restrict the free movement of male citizens within the country, but it severely restricted the movement of female citizens. While the guardianship system does not require a woman to have the permission of her male guardian (normally a father, husband, son, brother, grandfather, uncle, or other male relative) to move freely within the country, courts sometimes ruled that women should abide by a male guardian’s request to stay at home by “occasionally upholding a guardian’s right to obedience from his female dependents,” according to a HRW report.

In April 2017 King Salman issued a royal decree ordering all government agencies to review their guardianship laws and to provide, within three months, their understanding of the legal basis for withholding services to women. The stated goal was to avoid denying government services to women who do not present a male guardian’s consent except when law or regulations explicitly require it. At year’s end the results of the government’s review of its guardianship laws had not been announced.

Authorities respected the right of citizens to change residence or workplace, provided they held a national identification card (NIC). The law requires all male citizens who are 15 or older to possess a NIC. In 2012 the Ministry of Interior announced it would start issuing NICs to all female citizens at the age of 15, phasing in the requirement over a seven-year period. There was minimal information available regarding whether this initiative was successfully implemented.

On June 24, the country lifted its longstanding ban on women driving. The process of issuing licenses, however, was slowed by the small number of training schools available to women and the high cost of driver’s education for women, which was four to five times as expensive as men’s fees. As a result, there were waiting lists for driving classes.

Foreign Travel: There are severe restrictions on foreign travel, including for women and members of minority groups. No one may leave the country without an exit visa and a passport. Females of any age, males younger than 21, and other dependents or foreign citizen workers under sponsorship require a male guardian’s consent to travel abroad. According to Ministry of Interior regulations, a male guardian must apply for and collect a passport for women and minors. A noncitizen wife needs permission from her husband to travel, unless both partners sign a prenuptial agreement permitting the noncitizen wife to travel without the husband’s permission. If a wife’s guardian is deceased, a court may grant the permission. Government entities can ban the travel of citizens and noncitizens without trial, and male family members can “blacklist” women and minor children, prohibiting their travel. In December the General Directorate of Passports announced that divorced Saudi women older than 21 who possess a NIC with at least three months’ validity may travel to other Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) without the consent of a male guardian.

Employers or sponsors controlled the departure of foreign workers and residents from the country; employers or sponsors were responsible for processing residence permits and exit visas on their behalf. Sponsors frequently held their employees’ passports against the desires of the employees, despite a law specifically prohibiting this practice. Foreign workers typically provided sponsors with their residence permit before traveling in exchange for their passport to ensure the worker’s return to their employer after their travel.

The government reportedly confiscated passports for political reasons and revoked the rights of some citizens to travel, often without providing them notification or opportunity to contest the restriction. Most travel bans reportedly involved individuals in court cases relating to corruption; state security concerns; or labor, financial, and real estate disputes. Many relatives of citizens detained in relation to the government’s anticorruption campaign, as well as relatives of detained clerics and human rights activists, were also reportedly under travel bans.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The law does not contain provisions for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation.

The government generally cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: The government generally did not restrict the free movement of male citizens within the country, but it severely restricted the movement of female citizens. While the guardianship system does not require a woman to have the permission of her male guardian (normally a father, husband, son, brother, grandfather, uncle, or other male relative) to move freely within the country, courts sometimes ruled that women should abide by a male guardian’s request to stay at home by “occasionally upholding a guardian’s right to obedience from his female dependents,” according to a HRW report.

In April 2017 King Salman issued a royal decree ordering all government agencies to review their guardianship laws and to provide, within three months, their understanding of the legal basis for withholding services to women. The stated goal was to avoid denying government services to women who do not present a male guardian’s consent except when law or regulations explicitly require it. At year’s end the results of the government’s review of its guardianship laws had not been announced.

Authorities respected the right of citizens to change residence or workplace, provided they held a national identification card (NIC). The law requires all male citizens who are 15 or older to possess a NIC. In 2012 the Ministry of Interior announced it would start issuing NICs to all female citizens at the age of 15, phasing in the requirement over a seven-year period. There was minimal information available regarding whether this initiative was successfully implemented.

On June 24, the country lifted its longstanding ban on women driving. The process of issuing licenses, however, was slowed by the small number of training schools available to women and the high cost of driver’s education for women, which was four to five times as expensive as men’s fees. As a result, there were waiting lists for driving classes.

Foreign Travel: There are severe restrictions on foreign travel, including for women and members of minority groups. No one may leave the country without an exit visa and a passport. Females of any age, males younger than 21, and other dependents or foreign citizen workers under sponsorship require a male guardian’s consent to travel abroad. According to Ministry of Interior regulations, a male guardian must apply for and collect a passport for women and minors. A noncitizen wife needs permission from her husband to travel, unless both partners sign a prenuptial agreement permitting the noncitizen wife to travel without the husband’s permission. If a wife’s guardian is deceased, a court may grant the permission. Government entities can ban the travel of citizens and noncitizens without trial, and male family members can “blacklist” women and minor children, prohibiting their travel. In December the General Directorate of Passports announced that divorced Saudi women older than 21 who possess a NIC with at least three months’ validity may travel to other Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates) without the consent of a male guardian.

Employers or sponsors controlled the departure of foreign workers and residents from the country; employers or sponsors were responsible for processing residence permits and exit visas on their behalf. Sponsors frequently held their employees’ passports against the desires of the employees, despite a law specifically prohibiting this practice. Foreign workers typically provided sponsors with their residence permit before traveling in exchange for their passport to ensure the worker’s return to their employer after their travel.

The government reportedly confiscated passports for political reasons and revoked the rights of some citizens to travel, often without providing them notification or opportunity to contest the restriction. Most travel bans reportedly involved individuals in court cases relating to corruption; state security concerns; or labor, financial, and real estate disputes. Many relatives of citizens detained in relation to the government’s anticorruption campaign, as well as relatives of detained clerics and human rights activists, were also reportedly under travel bans.

STATELESS PERSONS

The country had a number of habitual residents who were legally stateless, but data on the stateless population were incomplete and scarce.

Citizenship is legally derived only from the father. Children born to an unmarried citizen mother who is not legally affiliated with the citizen father may be considered stateless, even if the father recognized the child as his, or if the government did not authorize the marriage of a citizen father and a noncitizen mother prior to birth of the children. The nationality laws do not allow Saudi women married to foreign nationals to pass their nationality to their children, except in certain circumstances such as fathers who are unknown, stateless, of unknown nationality, or do not establish filiation. Sons of citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers may apply for citizenship once they turn 18 (if not already granted citizenship at birth under certain circumstances); daughters in such cases can obtain citizenship only through marriage to a Saudi man. A child may lose legal identification and accompanying rights if authorities withdraw identification documents from a parent (possible when a naturalized parent denaturalizes voluntarily or loses citizenship through other acts). Since there is no codified personal status law, judges make decisions regarding family matters based on their own interpretations of Islamic law.

Foreign male spouses of female citizens are entitled to permanent residency in the country without needing a sponsor, and they receive free government education and medical benefits. These spouses are also included in the quota of Saudis employed in private companies under the nitaqaat, or labor quota system, which improves their employment prospects. Female citizens must be between the ages of 30 and 50 in order to marry a non-Saudi man. Non-Saudi wives of Saudi men receive more rights if they have children resulting from their marriage with a Saudi man. Male citizens must be between the ages of 40 and 65 in order to marry a non-Saudi woman. The extent to which those strictures were enforced was unclear; there was anecdotal evidence that they were not uniformly enforced. Children of Saudi women who are married to foreign spouses receive permanent residency, but their residency status is revocable in the event of the death of the Saudi mother.

In past years UNHCR unofficially estimated there were 70,000 stateless persons in the country, almost all of whom were native-born residents known locally as Bidoon (an Arabic word that means “without” [citizenship]). Updated information on stateless persons was not available. Bidoon are persons whose ancestors failed to obtain nationality, such as descendants of nomadic tribes not counted among the native tribes during the reign of the country’s founder, King Abdulaziz; descendants of foreign-born fathers who arrived before there were laws regulating citizenship; and rural migrants whose parents failed to register their births. As noncitizens, Bidoon are unable to obtain passports. The government sometimes denied them employment and educational opportunities, and their marginalized status made them among the poorest residents of the country. In recent years the Ministry of Education encouraged them to attend school. The government issues Bidoon five-year residency permits to facilitate their social integration in government-provided health-care and other services, putting them on similar footing with sponsored foreign workers. The General Directorate of Passports issued special identification cards to Bidoon similar to residency permits issued to foreigners in the country, but with features entitling their holders to additional government services similar to those available to citizens.

There were also some Baloch, West Africans, and Rohingya Muslims from Burma, but only a small portion of these communities was stateless. Many Rohingya had expired passports that their home government refused to renew, or had entered the country with fraudulent travel documents. UNHCR estimated there were between 250,000 and 500,000 Rohingya in the country. Some of these individuals benefited from a prior program to correct their residency status; in 2014 the government issued nearly 200,000 four-year residency permits to Rohingya who entered the country prior to 2008. Rohingya who arrived in the country after 2008 were not eligible for residency permits, although NGOs reported that Rohingya, including those without legal residency, were generally not subject to deportation prior to 2018. Upon the expiration of Rohingya residency permits in 2018, media reported more than 100 Rohingya faced deportation to Bangladesh at year’s end and hundreds more were in detention at Shumaisi Detention Center near Mecca. Only an estimated 2,000 individuals of Rohingya origin had Saudi citizenship. There also were between 300,000 and 400,000 Palestinian residents not registered as refugees.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense under sharia with a wide range of penalties from flogging to execution. The law does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The government enforced the law based on its interpretation of sharia, and courts often punished victims as well as perpetrators for illegal “mixing of genders,” even when there was no conviction for rape. Victims also had to prove that the rape was committed, and a woman’s testimony in court was not always accepted.

Due to these legal and social obstacles, authorities brought few cases to trial. Statistics on incidents of, and prosecutions, convictions, or punishments for rape were not available, but press reports and observers indicated rape was a serious problem. Moreover, most rape cases were likely unreported because victims faced societal and familial reprisal, including diminished marriage opportunities, criminal sanction up to imprisonment, or accusations of adultery or sexual relations outside of marriage, which are punishable under sharia.

The law against domestic violence provides a framework for the government to prevent and protect victims of violence in the home. The law defines domestic abuse broadly and criminalizes domestic abuse with penalties of one month to one year of imprisonment or a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 riyals ($1,330 to $13,300), unless a court provides a harsher sentence.

Researchers stated it was difficult to gauge the magnitude of the problem, which they believed to be widespread. The National Family Safety Program (NFSP), a quasi-governmental organization under the Ministry of National Guard, was founded in 2005 to spread awareness of and combat domestic violence, including child abuse, and continued to report abuse cases.

Officials stated the government did not clearly define domestic violence and procedures concerning cases, including thresholds for investigation or prosecution, and thus enforcement varied from one government body to another. Some women’s rights advocates were critical of investigations of domestic violence, claiming investigators were hesitant to enter a home without permission from the male head of household, who may also be the perpetrator of violence. Some activists also claimed that authorities often did not investigate or prosecute cases involving domestic violence, instead encouraging victims and perpetrators to reconcile in order to keep families intact regardless of reported abuse. There were reports of police or judges returning women directly to their abusers, most of whom were the women’s legal guardians.

On March 8, a woman from Sabya Governorate in the southwestern Jazan Province appeared in a video pleading for help after her older brother and his family allegedly beat her and threw her out of a house she shared with them, along with her ill mother and her two children. She explained that when she went to report the abuse to police, they asked her to bring her male guardian. When the video went viral on social media, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced its Social Protection Unit in Jazan intervened and was studying her case. At year’s end there were no known updates to this case.

The government made efforts to combat domestic violence. During the year the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue held workshops and distributed educational materials on peaceful conflict resolution between spouses and within families. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development administered government-supported family-protection shelters. The HRC received complaints of domestic abuse and referred them to other government offices. The HRC advised complainants and offered legal assistance to some female litigants. The organization provided services for children of female complainants and litigants and distributed publications supporting women’s rights in education, health care, development, and the workplace.

Saudi women reported that domestic abuse in the form of incest was common but seldom reported to authorities due to fears over societal repercussions, according to local contacts.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was not a common practice in the country, as the official government interpretation of sharia prohibits the practice.

Sexual Harassment: The extent of sexual harassment was difficult to measure, with little media reporting and no government data. The government’s interpretation of sharia guides courts on cases of sexual harassment. On May 29, the Council of Ministers passed the antisexual harassment law, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 riyals ($80,000). No statistics were available on the incidence of sexual harassment due to past reluctance to report violations. On August 8, the public prosecutor stated that the number of reported harassment cases was low and claimed the law was effective in limiting this crime. Employers in many sectors maintained separate male and female workspaces where feasible, in accordance with law.

On July 14, authorities arrested a young woman who jumped on stage to hug a male singer during a concert in the western city of Taif. Prosecutors announced that the woman would face charges pursuant to the antisexual harassment law, under which she could face two years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 riyals ($26,700) if convicted.

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

Discrimination: Women continued to face significant discrimination under law and custom, and many remained uninformed about their rights.

The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, and since there is no codified personal status law, judges made decisions regarding family matters based on their interpretations of Islamic law. Although they may legally own property and are entitled to financial support from their guardian, women have fewer political or social rights than men, and they often are not treated as equal members in the political and social spheres. The guardianship system requires that every woman have a close male relative as her “guardian” with the legal authority to approve her travel outside of the country. In September a personal status court in Jeddah ordered a father to obtain a passport for his 24-year-old daughter so that she could resume her studies abroad. Women also require a guardian’s permission to exit prisons after completing their terms.

Women, however, can make their own determinations concerning hospital care. Women can work without their guardian’s permission, but some employers required women to have such permission, even though the law prohibits the practice. On February 15, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment announced women no longer need their male guardian’s permission to start a business.

On June 24, the government lifted its ban on women driving. The New York Times reported long delays in placement of female students in driving schools due to a limited number of teaching facilities and female staff for gender-segregated programs, and long delays obtaining driver’s licenses. On July 4, two men were arrested in Mecca for setting fire to a female motorist’s car. The motorist, Salma Al-Sherif, subsequently posted a widely circulated video on social media documenting the incident, claiming that her car was deliberately set alight by men “opposed to women drivers,” and that she had been repeatedly threatened and harassed by young men from her village of Samad in Mecca Province. On October 28, the Mecca Criminal Court acquitted the two defendants for lack of sufficient evidence. Al-Sherif appealed the verdict. On December 17, arsonists reportedly set fire to another car of a Jeddah woman, Nurhan Bassam, who was reportedly burned by arsonists.

Nationality law discriminates against women, who cannot directly transmit citizenship to their children, particularly if the children’s father is a noncitizen (see section 2.d. and section 6, Children). The country’s interpretation of sharia prohibits women from marrying non-Muslims, but men may marry Christians and Jews. Women require government permission to marry noncitizens; men must obtain government permission if they intend to marry citizens from countries other than Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates). Regulations prohibit men from marrying women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad, and Burma. The government additionally requires Saudi men wishing to marry a second wife who is a foreigner to submit documentation attesting to the fact that his first wife was disabled, had a chronic disease, or was sterile.

Widespread societal exclusion enforced by, but not limited to, state institutions restricted women from using many public facilities. The law requires women to sit generally in separate, specially designated family sections in public places. They frequently cannot consume food in restaurants that do not have such sections. Women risk arrest for riding in a private vehicle driven by a male who is not an employee (such as a hired chauffeur or taxi driver) or a close male relative. Cultural norms enforced by state institutions require women to wear an abaya (a loose-fitting, full-length cloak) in public. The CPVPV also generally expected Muslim women to cover their hair and non-Muslim women from Asian and African countries to comply more fully with local customs of dress than non-Muslim Western women.

In June a female television presenter, Shireen al-Rifaie, fled the country after authorities launched an investigation into claims that she wore an outfit deemed “indecent” by the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media. Al-Rifaie was reporting on the end of the ban on women driving when her white abaya was blown open by the wind, revealing her clothes underneath.

Women also faced discrimination in courts, where in some cases the testimony of one man equals that of two women. All judges are male, and women faced restrictions on their practice of law (see section 3, Participation of Women and Minorities). In divorce proceedings women must demonstrate legally specified grounds for divorce, but men may divorce without giving cause, citing “irreconcilable differences.” In doing so, men must pay immediately an amount of money agreed at the time of the marriage that serves as a one-time alimony payment. Men may be forced, however, to make subsequent alimony payments by court order. The government began implementing an identification system based on fingerprints designed to provide women, such as those wearing a niqab, more access to courts.

Women faced discrimination under family law. For example, a woman needs a guardian’s permission to marry or must seek a court order in the case of adhl (male guardians refusing to approve the marriage of women under their charge). In such adhl cases, the judge assumes the role of the guardian and may approve the marriage. During the year courts adjudicated as many as 72 adhl cases and executed marriage contracts for women whose male custodians refused to approve their marriage, according to informed judicial sources quoted by local media.

Courts often award custody of children when they attain a specified age (seven years for boys and nine years for girls) to the divorced husband or the deceased husband’s family. In numerous cases former husbands prevented divorced noncitizen women from visiting their children. In March Justice Minister Sheikh Walid Al-Samaani directed all courts to drop the requirement for divorced women to file a lawsuit in order to gain custody of their children. Provided there were no disputes between the parents, mothers may now simply submit a request to the relevant court, without the need for legal action.

Inheritance laws also discriminate against women, since daughters receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers.

According to recent surveys, women constituted 52 percent of public education and higher education students. Segregated education through university level was standard. The only exceptions to segregation in higher education were medical schools at the undergraduate level and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a graduate-level research university, where women worked jointly with men, were not required to wear an abaya, and drove cars on campus. Other universities, such as al-Faisal University in Riyadh, offered partially segregated classes with students receiving instruction from the same teacher and able to participate together in class discussion, but with the women and men physically separated by dividers.

On March 12, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women urged the country to end discriminatory practices against women, including its system of male guardianship, and give women full access to justice.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from the father, and only the father may register a birth. There were cases of authorities denying public services to children of citizen parents, including education and health care, because the government failed to register the birth entirely or had not registered it immediately, sometimes because the father failed to report the birth or did not receive authorization to marry a foreigner. Children of women who were married to foreign spouses receive permanent residency, but their residency status is revocable in the event of the death of the Saudi mother (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons).

Child Abuse: Abuse of children occurred. In 2016 the NFSP started a Child Helpline dedicated to assisting children in matters ranging from bullying to abuse. The helpline provided counseling, tracking, and referrals to social services. In January NFSP official Maha al-Muneef reported that the child helpline received 270,000 calls annually, including 2,990 cases of abuse and neglect, 2,589 cases related to family violence, and 1,050 cases of school violence. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development had 17 Social Protection Units across the country providing social protection to children younger than 18 and vulnerable populations suffering domestic violence and abuse.

On July 17, authorities arrested a Saudi-based Yemeni mother who beat and tortured her six-month-old twin girls on camera for money. Video footage of the two babies being slapped and strangled went viral and sparked outrage.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law does not specify a minimum age for marriage, although Ministry of Justice guidelines referred marriage applications to sharia courts to determine the validity of a marriage when the bride was younger than 16. Families sometimes arranged such marriages to settle family debts without the consent of the child. The HRC and NSHR monitored cases of child marriages, which they reported were rare or at least rarely reported, and took steps to prevent consummation of the marriage. Media reports quoted judges as saying the majority of child marriage cases in the country involved Syrian girls, followed by smaller numbers of Egyptians and Yemenis. There were media reports that some men who traveled abroad to find brides sought to marry minors. The application for a marriage license must record the bride’s age, and registration of the marriage is a legal prerequisite for consummation. The government reportedly instructed marriage registrars not to register marriages involving children.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The anti-cybercrimes law stipulates that punishment for such crimes, including the preparation, publication, and promotion of material for pornographic sites, may be no less than two and one-half years’ imprisonment or a fine of 1.5 million riyals ($400,000) if the crime includes the exploitation of minors. The law does not define a minimum age for consensual sex.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no known data on Jewish citizens and no statistics available concerning the religious denominations of foreigners.

Cases of government-employed imams using anti-Jewish language in their sermons were rare and occurred without authorization by government authorities. The law requires government-employed imams to give all sermons delivered in mosques in the country. They must deliver sermons vetted and cleared by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. During the year the ministry issued periodic circulars to clerics and imams in mosques directing them to include messages on the principles of justice, equality, and tolerance and to encourage rejection of bigotry and all forms of racial discrimination in their sermons.

Anti-Semitic material remained in school textbooks and online in private web postings, and some journalists, academics, and clerics made anti-Israel comments that sometimes strayed into anti-Semitism.

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 does not prohibit 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 or other areas. The law does not require public accessibility to buildings, information, and communications. Newer commercial buildings often included such access, as did some newer government buildings. Children with disabilities could attend government-supported schools.

Persons with disabilities could generally participate in civic affairs, and there were no legal restrictions preventing persons with disabilities from voting in municipal council elections. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development was responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation projects and social care programs increasingly brought persons with disabilities into the mainstream. Persons with disabilities were elected and appointed to municipal councils in 2015, and two individuals with disabilities served on the consultative Shura Council, which was reconstituted in 2016.

On June 12, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Development Tamadur al-Rammah stated the government was working on a national strategy for persons with disabilities, including 23 initiatives designed to serve them, adding that a special commission was established to oversee the affairs of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although racial discrimination is illegal, societal discrimination against members of national, racial, and ethnic minorities was a problem. There was also discrimination based on tribal or nontribal lineage. Descendants of former slaves in the country, who have African lineage, faced discrimination in both employment and society. There was formal and informal discrimination, especially racial discrimination, against foreign workers from Africa and Asia. On February 5, the NSHR said it had noted several instances of racial discrimination on the basis of nationality at some service facilities where some customers were denied services based on their nationality. A tolerance campaign by the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue sought to address some of these problems, and it provided training during the year to combat discrimination against national, racial, or ethnic groups.

The government’s multi-year Tatweer project to revise textbooks, curricula, and teaching methods to promote tolerance and remove content disparaging religions other than Islam began in 2007. In November the Anti-Defamation League issued a report asserting that Saudi textbooks still contained anti-Semitic language.

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

Under sharia as interpreted in the country, consensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death or flogging, depending on the perceived seriousness of the case. It is illegal for men “to behave like women” or to wear women’s clothes, and vice versa. Due to social conventions and potential persecution, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations did not operate openly, nor were there LGBTI rights advocacy events of any kind. There were reports of official and societal discrimination, physical violence, and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, and health care. Stigma or intimidation acted to limit reports of incidents of abuse.

There were no government efforts to address discrimination. In 2016 newspapers quoted PPO officials as stating the bureau would seek death sentences for anyone using social media to solicit homosexual acts. There were no reports, however, that the PPO sought death sentences in LGBTI cases during the year (see section 1.a.).

On January 8, police reported they arrested and referred to prosecutors several young men who appeared in a video described as a “gay wedding scene.” No updates on the case were publicly available.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. By law the government deported foreign workers who tested positive for HIV/AIDS upon arrival or who tested positive when hospitalized for other reasons. There was no indication that HIV-positive foreigners failed to receive antiretroviral treatment or that authorities isolated them during the year. The Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS program worked to fight stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Social, legal, economic, and political discrimination against the country’s Shia minority continued. HRW claimed that some state clerics and institutions “incited hatred and discrimination against religious minorities, including the country’s Shia Muslim minority.”

To address the problem, the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Guard included antidiscrimination training in courses run by the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue for police and other law enforcement officers (see section 6, Other Societal Violence and Discrimination).

In August the public prosecutor ordered the arrest of a Saudi man who appeared in a video carrying machine guns and threatening to kill Shia citizens in the southern city of Najran.