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Afghanistan

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

Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism

There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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

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

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

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

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

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

Albania

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime. Penalties for rape and assault depend on the age of the victim. For rape of an adult, the prison term is three to 10 years. The law includes provisions on sexual assault and sexual harassment and makes the criminalization of spousal rape explicit. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Officials did not prosecute spousal rape. The concept of spousal rape was not well understood, and authorities often did not consider it a crime.

Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. Police often did not have the training or capacity to deal effectively with domestic violence cases. The government operated three shelters to protect survivors of domestic violence, and NGOs operated six others

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, although officials rarely enforced it. The commissioner for protection against discrimination generally handled cases of sexual harassment and may impose fines of up to 80,000 leks ($700) against individuals or 600,000 leks ($5,300) against enterprises.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women were underrepresented in many fields at the highest levels. The law mandates equal pay for equal work, although many private employers did not fully implement this provision. In many communities, women experienced societal discrimination based on traditional social norms depicting women as subordinate to men. There were reports of discrimination in employment.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the government’s statistical agency, the ratio of boys to girls at birth in 2016 was 107 to 100, which indicated that gender-biased sex selection was possibly occurring. The government did not take any steps to address the imbalance.

Children

Birth Registration: An individual acquires citizenship by birth within the country’s territory or from a citizen parent. There were no reports of discrimination in birth registration, but onerous residency and documentation requirements for registration made it more difficult for the many Romani and Balkan-Egyptian parents who lacked legally documented places of residence to register their children.

Children born to internal migrants, including some Romani families, or those returning from abroad frequently had no birth certificates or other legal documents and consequently were unable to attend school or have access to services.

Education: School attendance is mandatory through the ninth grade or until the age of 16, whichever occurs first, but many children, particularly in rural areas, left school earlier to work with their families. Parents must purchase supplies, books, uniforms, and space heaters for some classrooms; these were prohibitively expensive for many families, particularly Roma and other minorities. Many families also cited these costs as a reason for not sending girls to school.

Child Abuse: Observers believed that child abuse was increasing, especially in schools. Services for victims of abuse were not readily available.

Child protection units in municipalities reported 104 cases of physical violence against children in 2016.

Early and Forced Marriage: Although the legal minimum age for marriage is 18, authorities did not always enforce the law. Underage marriages occurred mostly in rural areas and within Romani communities. According to data released by the Albanian Institute of Statistics, the number of early marriages (under the age of 19) decreased significantly in 2016 from 2015.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for the commercial sexual exploitation of a child range from eight to 15 years’ imprisonment. The country has a statutory rape law, and the minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The penalty for statutory rape is a prison term of five to 15 years. In aggravated circumstances, the penalty may increase to life imprisonment. The law prohibits making or distributing child pornography; penalties are a prison sentence of three to 10 years. Possession of child pornography is illegal.

Authorities generally enforced laws against the rape and sexual exploitation of minors effectively, but NGOs reported that they rarely enforced laws prohibiting child pornography. The government reported that, as of July, six children had been sexually exploited, but there were no cases involving pornography. A total of 39 child victims of trafficking and potential victims of trafficking were identified through October.

Displaced Children: There continued to be numerous displaced and street children, particularly in the Romani community. Street children begged or did petty work. These children were at highest risk of trafficking, and some became trafficking victims. Since the law prohibits the prosecution of children under age 14 for burglary, criminal gangs at times used displaced children to burglarize homes.

The State Agency for the Protection of Children’s Rights reported that by June, authorities had assisted 441 children in a street situation. Some 64 children were referred to shelters while 15 were referred to prosecutors for having been mistreated.

Institutionalized Children: The migrant detention facility in Karrec was considered unsuitable for children. The government made efforts to avoid sending children there.

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

Anti-Semitism

There were reportedly only a few hundred Jews living in the country. 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 laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Nevertheless, employers, schools, health-care providers, and providers of other state services at times engaged in discrimination. The law mandates that new public buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the government only sporadically enforced the law. During the year the government adapted the premises of eight schools to accommodate persons with disabilities and eight others were in progress.

The government sponsored social services agencies to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, but these agencies traditionally lacked funding to implement their programs. Resource constraints and lack of infrastructure made it difficult for persons with disabilities to participate fully in civic affairs. Voting centers often were located in facilities lacking accommodations for such persons.

The government opened two new development centers for persons with disabilities in Pogradec and Bulqiza, supported by the UN Development Program, and three day-care centers for children with disabilities in Pogradec, Saranda, and Bulqiza.

The ombudsman regularly inspected mental health institutions. Both the admission and release of patients at mental health institutions were problematic due to inadequate psychiatric evaluations. There was societal discrimination and stigmatization of persons with mental and other forms of disability.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were allegations of discrimination against members of the Romani and Balkan-Egyptian communities, including in housing, employment, health care, and education. Some schools resisted accepting Romani and Balkan-Egyptian students, particularly if they appeared to be poor. Many mixed schools that accepted Romani students marginalized them in the classroom, sometimes by physically setting them apart from other students.

Romani rights NGOs criticized the Tirana municipal government for delaying the building of new homes for Romani families removed from their homes in 2016. In December 2016 the municipality evicted 76 Romani families from the Bregu i Lumit neighborhood of Tirana, which is prone to flooding in the winter. Sixty of the families were moved into a temporary warehouse, where NGOs reported they lived in dire conditions without sanitation or electricity. The municipality delayed the transfer of the families to more permanent housing until the final week of December.

In October the government adopted new legislation on minorities. The law provides official minority status for nine national minorities without distinguishing between national and ethnolinguistic groups. The government defined Greeks, Macedonians, Aromanians (Vlachs), Roma, Balkan-Egyptians, Montenegrins, Bosnians, Serbs, and Bulgarians as national minorities. The new legislation provides minority language education and dual official language use for local administrative units in which minorities traditionally reside, or in which a minority makes up 20 percent of the total population. The ethnic Greek minority complained about the government’s unwillingness to recognize ethnic Greek communities outside communist-era “minority zones.”

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, including in employment. Enforcement of the law was generally weak.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are among the classes protected by the country’s hate-crime law. Despite the law and the government’s formal support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights public officials sometimes made homophobic statements. The NGO Streha reported that many young LGBTI individuals had experienced domestic violence upon coming out.

As of August, the Commission for Protection from Discrimination (CPD) had received three complaints alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity during the year. The CPD ruled in favor of one of the cases.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. The Albanian Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS reported that discrimination and stigmatization of persons with HIV/AIDS was widespread in the country.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Alleged incidents of societal killings, including both “blood-feud” and revenge killings, occurred during the year, but as of August authorities had reported only one case of a blood-feud killing. The ombudsman reported that authorities’ efforts to protect families or prevent blood-feud deaths were insufficient, although the government increased efforts to prosecute such crimes.

Algeria

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not address spousal rape. Prison sentences for rape range from five to 10 years, and authorities generally enforced the law. A provision of the penal code allows an adult accused of “corruption of a minor” to avoid prosecution if he subsequently marries his victim and if the crime did not involve violence, threats, or fraud.

Domestic violence remains a society-wide problem. The law states that a person claiming domestic abuse must visit a “forensic physician” for an examination to document injuries and that the physician must determine that the injuries suffered “incapacitated” the victim for 15 days.

According to statistics from women’s advocacy groups published in the local press, between 100 and 200 women died each year from domestic violence. The government maintained two regional women’s shelters and was building three additional shelters. The Information and Documentation Center on the Rights of Children and Women (CIDDEF), a network of local organizations that promoted the rights of women, managed call centers in 15 provinces.

The law provides for sentences of one to 20 years’ imprisonment for domestic violence and six months to two years’ incarceration for men who withhold property or financial resources from their spouses.

Sexual Harassment: The punishment for sexual harassment is one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 50,000 to DZD 100,000 ($438 to $877); the punishment doubles for a second offense. Women’s groups reported that the majority of reported cases of harassment occurred in the workplace. Women also reported harassment by men when walking in public.

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

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for gender equality, aspects of the law and traditional social practices discriminated against women. In addition, some religious elements advocated restrictions on women’s behavior, including freedom of movement. The law prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although authorities did not always enforce this provision.

Women may seek divorce for irreconcilable differences and violation of a prenuptial agreement. In a divorce the law provides for the wife to retain the family’s home until the children reach age 18. Authorities normally awarded custody of children to the mother, but she may not make decisions about education or take the children out of the country without the father’s authorization. The government provided a subsidy for divorced women whose former husbands failed to make child support payments.

The law affirms the religiously based practice of allowing a man to marry as many as four wives. The law permits polygamy only upon the agreement of the first wife and the determination of a judge as to the husband’s financial ability to support an additional wife. It was unclear whether authorities followed the law in all cases since local authorities had significant discretion and the government did not maintain nationwide statistics.

Women suffered from discrimination in inheritance claims and were entitled to a smaller portion of an estate than male children or a deceased husband’s brothers. Women did not often have exclusive control over assets that they brought to a marriage or that they earned.

Women may own businesses, enter into contracts, and pursue careers similar to those of men. The Ministry of Solidarity said 60 percent of the recipients of government microcredit loans for small businesses were women. Women enjoyed rights equal to those of men concerning property ownership, and property titles listed female landowners’ names.

Women faced discrimination in employment. Leaders of women’s organizations reported that discrimination was common and women were less likely to receive equal pay for equal work or promotions.

Children

Birth registration: The mother or father may transmit citizenship and nationality. By law children born to a Muslim father are Muslim, regardless of the mother’s religion. The law did not differentiate between girls and boys in registration of birth.

Education: Education was free, compulsory, and universal through the secondary level to age 16. The United Nations estimated primary school enrollment at more than 98 percent.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was illegal but was a serious problem. The government devoted increasing resources and attention to it. A national ombudsperson was responsible for monitoring and publishing an annual report on the rights of children. The government supported the country’s Network for the Defense of Children’s Rights (NADA). The DGSN said it received reports of 1,173 instances of physical abuse and 600 cases of sexual abuse against children between January and September.

Laws prohibiting parental abduction do not penalize mothers and fathers differently, and the punishment for convicted kidnappers includes the death penalty.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 19 for both men and women, but minors may marry with parental consent, regardless of gender. The law forbids legal guardians from forcing minors under their care to marry against the minor’s will. The Ministry of Religious Affairs required that couples present a government-issued marriage certificate before permitting imams to conduct religious marriage ceremonies.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits solicitation for prostitution and stipulates prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years when the offense is committed against a minor under age 18. By law the age for consensual sex is 16. The law stipulates a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years for rape when the victim is a minor.

The law established a national council to address children’s issues, gives judges authority to remove children from an abusive home, and allows sexually abused children to provide testimony on video rather than in court.

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

Anti-Semitism

Some religious leaders estimated that the country’s Jewish population numbered fewer than 200 persons.

Religious and civil society leaders reported that the Jewish community faced unofficial, religion-based obstacles to government employment and administrative difficulties when working with government bureaucracy.

In August the private newspaper, Echourouk El Youmi published a cartoon depicting a Jewish man with a Star of David on his sleeve clutching the surface of a globe, appearing to promote stereotypes of Jewish world domination. Also in August, Echourouk El Youmi published an article claiming that Jews had been plotting against Muslims for centuries, that Jews were responsible for most of the disasters that have befallen Muslims, and that Jews controlled the media, cinema, art, and fashion.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, although the government did not always effectively enforce these provisions. Few government buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. Few businesses abided by the law that they reserve 1 percent of jobs for persons with disabilities. NGOs reported that the government did not enforce payment of fines. The Ministry of National Solidarity, Family, and the Status of Women provided some financial support to health-care-oriented NGOs, but for many NGOs, such financial support represented a small fraction of their budgets. The government provided disability benefits to persons with disabilities who registered.

The Ministry of Solidarity reported that it ran 242 centers throughout the country that provided support for persons with intellectual, auditory, vision, and physical disabilities. The ministry stated that it worked with the Ministry of Education to integrate children with disabilities into public schools to promote inclusion. The majority of the ministry’s programs for children with disabilities remained in social centers for children with disabilities rather than in formal educational institutions. Advocacy groups reported that children with disabilities rarely attended school past the secondary level. Many schools lacked teachers trained to work with children with disabilities, threatening the viability of efforts to mainstream children with disabilities into public schools.

Many persons with disabilities faced challenges in voting due to voting centers that lacked accessible features.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations by men or women and public indecency with penalties that include imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of DZD 1,000 to DZD 10,000 ($9 to $92). The law also stipulates penalties that include imprisonment of two months to two years and fines of DZD 500 to DZD 2,000 ($4 to $17) for anyone convicted of having committed a “homosexual act.” If a minor is involved, the adult may face up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 10,000 ($87).

LGBTI activists reported that the vague wording of laws identifying “homosexual acts” and “acts against nature” permitted sweeping accusations that resulted during the year in multiple arrests for same-sex sexual relations but no known prosecutions. LGBTI persons were reportedly arbitrarily detained and physically and sexually abused by police officers during the year.

Government officials did not take measures specifically to prevent discrimination against LGBTI persons.

LGBTI persons faced discrimination in accessing health services. Some organizations maintained a list of “LGBTI-friendly” hospitals, and several NGOs operated mobile clinics specifically for vulnerable communities.

Employers refused jobs to LGBTI persons, particularly men perceived as effeminate. Community members said that obtaining legal assistance was also a challenge due to similar discrimination. Members of the LGBTI community reported that forced marriage was a problem, particularly for lesbians.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Strong social stigma towards the vulnerable groups in which HIV/AIDS was most concentrated–commercial sex workers, men who have sexual relations with men, and drug users–deterred testing of these groups. The government said it did not take measures to specifically prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in the LGBTI community.

The government’s National AIDS Committee met twice during the year. The committee brought together various government and civil society actors to discuss implementation of the national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Academics and activists said that sub-Saharan African migrants sometimes faced discrimination and that there were tensions in some communities between the native and migrant populations.

Andorra

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, both of which are punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. It penalizes domestic physical or psychological violence with a prison sentence of up to three years. Authorities enforced the law effectively. As of July 31, the prosecutor’s office initiated 51 criminal proceedings related to gender violence and 36 related to domestic violence. The prosecutor’s office concluded 13 cases of gender violence and six cases of domestic violence. Almost all the cases involved elements of psychological abuse and mistreatment. Some cases also involved injuries, sexual aggression, and threats.

The Department of Equality Policies within the Ministry of Social Affairs, Justice, and Interior (designed to promote and develop programs to prevent and fight against gender and domestic violence as well as any other forms of inequality), was consolidated during the year. The Department was restructured and grew in resources as it increased the services provided to victims.

Additionally, to address domestic violence in a comprehensive manner, the National Commission for the Prevention of Domestic and Gender-based Violence comprised of members of the Ministries of Social Affairs, Justice, and Interior; Health; and Education and Higher Instruction, as well as the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office continued to meet regularly.

The government’s Service for the Assistance of Victims of Gender Violence and the Service of Domestic and Family Violence provided medical and psychological services as well as legal assistance to victims of gender violence and domestic violence. In addition the government placed abused women and their children in a shelter, in a hotel, or with voluntary foster families. During the year the government made the national hotline for victims a 24-hour service. Since July female victims of gender and domestic violence have had access to a free lawyer.

As of the end of August, the Service for the Assistance of Victims of Gender Violence assisted 156 cases of domestic violence against women. Of the 156 domestic violence cases, 79 were new ones. These cases involved psychological, physical, and sexual violence, as well as social and economic mistreatment.

Victims of domestic violence could also request help from the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Andorran Women’s Association (ADA), which works for women’s rights.

The Department of Equality Policies prioritized school outreach programs and organized 32 prevention training sessions at schools throughout the country. Additionally it organized workshops on tools for the prevention of gender violence for workers in the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Fire Department, and law enforcement agencies, as well as for the University of Andorra.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment under the provisions for other sexual aggressions, punishable by three months’ to three years’ imprisonment. As of the end of August, one case of sexual harassment was reported.

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

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination against women privately or professionally with fines up to 24,000 euros ($28,800). There were no reports of discrimination during the year.

The government worked with civil society associations in the elaboration of a study on equality that mapped the situation facing women and other vulnerable groups. The recommendations, which included the adoption of a law on equality and nondiscrimination, the establishment of an observatory on equality, training, and awareness campaigns, were presented in July.

Children

Birth Registration: According to the law, citizenship is acquired at birth in the following circumstances: a child is born in the country to an Andorran parent or born abroad to an Andorran parent born in the country; a child is born in the country if either parent was born in the country and is living there at the time of birth, or if born in the country and both parents are stateless or of unknown identity. A child of foreign parents may acquire Andorran nationality by birth in the country if at the time of birth one of the parents completed 10 years’ in the country. Otherwise, the child may become a citizen before attaining the age of majority or a year after reaching the age of majority if his/her parents have been permanently resident in the country for 10 years or if the person can prove that he/she has lived in the country permanently and continuously for the last five years. In the meantime the child has a provisional passport.

Children are registered at birth.

Child Abuse: As of July 31, the prosecutor’s office initiated 35 criminal proceedings related to child abuse and concluded two cases of violence against children.The government’s Specialized Children’s Assistance Office intervened in situations where children and young persons were at risk or lacked protection.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 16 for girls and boys and as early as 14 with judicial authorization.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law against rape also covers statutory rape. Child pornography is illegal and carries a prison sentence of up to four years. The minimum age of sexual consent is 14 years. The penalty for statutory rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, the same as for rape in general.

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

Anti-Semitism

Unofficial estimates placed the size of the Jewish community at 100 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

There were no confirmed reports during the year that Andorra 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 law mandates access to public buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities, and the government generally enforced this provision.

The Andorran Federation of Associations for Persons with Disabilities represented that accessibility for persons with disabilities and their entry into the workforce, are the two areas in which the country was not fully compliant with international standards.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The government effectively enforced the provisions of the constitution for the most part. Complaints on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, nationality, or language may be brought before the civil and administrative courts.

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

The law considers sexual orientation an “aggravating circumstance” for crimes motivated by hate or bias. No cases of violence, discrimination, or other abuses based on sexual identity were registered during the year.

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Justice, and Interior together with the local LGTBI NGO Som com Som launched an awareness campaign and organized roundtables, talks at schools, as well as specialized training sessions on equality and prevention of LGTBI-phobia throughout the year. Complaints on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation may be brought before the civil and administrative courts.

Angola

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 eight years’ imprisonment. Limited investigative resources, poor forensic capabilities, and an ineffective judicial system prevented prosecution of most cases. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights worked with the Ministry of Interior to increase the number of female police officers and to improve police response to rape allegations.

The law criminalizes domestic violence and penalizes offenders with prison sentences of up to eight years and monetary fines, depending on the severity of their crime. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights maintained a program with the Angolan Bar Association to give free legal assistance to abused women and established counseling centers to help families cope with domestic abuse.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There were anecdotal reports that some communities abused women and children due to accusations they practiced witchcraft. The Ministry of Culture and the National Institute for Children (INAC) had educational initiatives and emergency programs to assist children accused of witchcraft.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common and not illegal. Such cases may be prosecuted under assault and battery and defamation statutes.

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

Discrimination: Under the constitution and law, women enjoy the same rights and legal status as men, but societal discrimination against women remained a problem, particularly in rural areas. Customary law prevailed over civil law, particularly in rural areas, and at times negatively impacted a woman’s legal right to inherit property.

The law provides for equal pay for equal work, although women generally held low-level positions.

In an interministerial effort led by the Ministry of Family and Protection of Women, the government undertook multiple information campaigns on women’s rights and domestic abuse and hosted national, provincial, and municipal workshops and training sessions.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or from one’s parents. The government does not register all births immediately, and activists reported many urban and rural children remained undocumented. Pursuant to a 2013 plan, the government waived birth registration fees for all persons, including adults, through the end of 2016.

For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education is tuition-free and compulsory for documented children through the sixth grade, but students often faced significant additional expenses such as books or fees paid to education officials. When parents were unable to pay the fees, their children were often unable to attend school. On November 9, the newly appointed governor of Luanda Province announced that students would no longer be charged enrollment fees in that province.

There were reports that parents, especially in more rural areas, were more likely to send boys to school rather than girls. According to UNESCO, enrollment rates were higher for boys than for girls, especially at the secondary level.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Reports of physical abuse within the family were commonplace, and local officials largely tolerated abuse. A 2012 law significantly improved the legal framework protecting children, but problems remained in its implementation and enforcement.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage with parental consent is 15 years for girls and 16 years for boys. The government did not enforce this restriction effectively, and the traditional age of marriage in lower income groups coincided with the onset of puberty. In September the Ministry of Family and Protection of Women reported that four in 10 children in the country between the ages of 12 and 17 entered annually into legal or common-law marriages, citing rural areas within the provinces of Lunda Sul, Moxico, Huambo, Bie, and Malanje as places where early marriage was most prevalent. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: All forms of prostitution, including child prostitution, are illegal. Police did not actively enforce laws against prostitution, and local NGOs expressed concern over child prostitution, especially in Luanda, Benguela, and Cunene Provinces. The law does not prohibit the use, procurement, offering, and financial benefit of a child for the production of pornography and pornographic performances. The law does not criminally prohibit either the distribution or the possession of child pornography.

Sexual relations between an adult and a child under the age of 12 are considered rape and carry a potential legal penalty of eight to 12 years’ imprisonment. Sexual relations with a child between the ages of 12 and 17 is considered sexual abuse, and convicted offenders may receive sentences from two to eight years in prison. The legal age for consensual sex is 18 years. Limited investigative resources and an inadequate judicial system prevented prosecution of most cases. There were reports of prosecutions during the year.

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

Anti-Semitism

There is a Jewish community of approximately 500 persons, primarily expatriate Israelis. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. The constitution grants persons with disabilities full rights without restriction and calls on the government to adopt national policies to prevent, treat, rehabilitate, and integrate persons with disabilities to support their families; remove obstacles to their mobility; educate society about disability; and encourage learning and training opportunities for persons with disabilities. In October 2016 the Law of Accessibilities entered into force, requiring changes to public buildings, transportation, and communications to increase their accessibility to persons with disabilities.

On April 22, the Platform for Inclusion, an activist group for persons with disabilities, held a protest in Luanda to raise awareness of discrimination against persons with disabilities. Police, however, intercepted and forbade demonstrators in wheelchairs from using placards and continuing on the planned route. According to Amnesty International, police subjected the protesters to violence. A member of the Platform for Inclusion, Adao Ramos, criticized the government for failing to implement the Law of Accessibilities and provide adequate protection for persons with disabilities. According to police, they halted the protest because the Platform for Inclusion did not comply with the legal requirement to inform authorities 72 hours in advance of a protest.

Persons with disabilities included more than 80,000 victims of land mines and other explosive remnants of war. The NGO Handicap International estimated that as many as 500,000 persons had disabilities. Because of limited government resources and uneven availability, only 30 percent of such persons were able to take advantage of state-provided services such as physical rehabilitation, schooling, training, or counseling.

Persons with disabilities found it difficult to access public or private facilities, and it was difficult for such persons to find employment or participate in the education system. Women with disabilities were reported to be vulnerable to sexual abuse and abandonment when pregnant. The Ministry of Assistance and Social Reintegration sought to address problems facing persons with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, and several government entities supported programs to assist individuals disabled by landmine incidents.

Indigenous People

The constitution does not make specific reference to the rights of indigenous persons, and there is no specific law that protects their rights and ecosystems. The estimated 14,000 San lacked adequate access to basic government services, including medical care, education, and identification cards, according to a credible NGO. The government reportedly permitted businesses and well-connected elites to take traditional land from the San. During the year there were reports of discrimination against the San. In May, according to a credible NGO, two San men were admitted in the Central Hospital of Menongue, in Kuando Kubango Province, with acute tuberculosis. The men were denied treatment based on their ethnicity, and after two days, they died.

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

The constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination but does not specifically address sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the law does not criminalize sexual relations between persons of the same sex. The constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and same-sex marriage is prohibited. Local and international NGOs reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals faced discrimination and harassment, but reports of violence against the LGBTI community based on sexual orientation were rare. The government, through its health agencies, instituted a series of initiatives to decrease discrimination against LGBTI individuals.

Discrimination against LGBTI individuals was rarely reported, and when reported, LGBTI individuals asserted that sometimes police refused to register their grievances. In 2014 a group of LGBTI individuals formed the first openly gay association in civil society. The association continued to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and the National Institute to Fight HIV/AIDS to improve access to health services and sexual education for the LGBTI community.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS is illegal, but lack of enforcement allowed employers to discriminate against persons with the condition or disease. There were no news reports of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS. Reports from local and international health NGOs suggested discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS was common. The government’s National Institute to Fight HIV/AIDS includes sensitivity and antidiscrimination training for its employees when they are testing and counseling HIV patients.

Antigua and Barbuda

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women is illegal and carries sentences ranging from 10 years’ to life imprisonment. The rape law does not prohibit male rape, but the government used an anti-buggery law to prosecute victims of male rape. The Directorate of Gender Affairs reported the number of rape survivors coming forward increased as a result of a crisis hotline and the directorate’s awareness campaign.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem. The law prohibits and provides penalties for domestic violence.

New legislation targets perpetrators of domestic violence. Several domestic violence programs provided training for law enforcement officers, health-care professionals, counselors, social workers, immigration officers, and army officers,

Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically define sexual harassment. According to the Ministry of Labor, there was a high incidence of sexual harassment in the private and public sectors. The labor court requires a safe working environment for all persons, thus enabling the court to address harassment cases, although no such cases were filed during the year.

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

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. Legislation requires equal pay for equal work. The labor code stipulates it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of his or her gender.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth in the country, and the government registers all children at birth. Children born to citizen parents abroad can be registered by either of their parents.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious problem. Neglect was the most common form of child abuse, followed by physical abuse, although according to the press, rape and sexual abuse of children, including of girls as young as eight years of age, was also a problem. In extreme cases the government removes the children from their home and puts them in foster care or into a government or private children’s home.

The government held public outreach events concerning detection and prevention of child abuse and also offered training for foster parents regarding how to detect child abuse and how to work with abused children. The government’s welfare office also provided counseling services for children and parents and often referred parents to the National Parent Counseling Center. A family court handled child abuse cases, providing faster prosecution and more general handling of family and welfare cases. The law governs the investigation and assessment of child abuse cases. It also includes provisions on orders of care and child-care services.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women. Children between 15 and 18 may marry with parental consent; however, underage marriage was rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. Authorities brought charges against few offenders. Child pornography is illegal and subject to fines of up to 250,000 eastern Caribbean dollars (XCD) ($92,600) and 10 years in prison.

International Child Abductions: The government is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution contains antidiscrimination provisions, but no specific laws prohibit discrimination against or mandate accessibility for persons with disabilities. There were anecdotal cases of children with disabilities who were unable to take themselves to the restroom and thus were denied entry to school. Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggested support for persons with mental disabilities was lacking. Public areas, including government buildings, often lack wheelchair accessibility. The government improved access to workplaces for persons with disabilities by revising building codes and included disabled persons in youth education programs.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity for males is illegal under indecency statutes; however, the law was not strictly enforced. Consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adult men carries a maximum penalty of 15 years.

Although improved, societal attitudes toward homosexuality impeded operation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations. The government commenced an initiative to facilitate dialogue between LGBTI groups. There were limited reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in a variety of settings. There were no reports of violence committed against LGBTI persons due to their real or perceived sexual orientation.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Some persons claimed that fear, stigma, and discrimination impaired the willingness of HIV-positive persons to obtain treatment, and HIV-positive persons reported several incidents of discrimination from health-care professionals and police. Anecdotal evidence also suggested employers dismissed and discriminated against employees with HIV/AIDS.

The Ministry of Health supported local NGO efforts to register human rights complaints and seek assistance in cases of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. The ministry also trained a number of health care professionals and police officers in antidiscriminatory practices. The Ministry of Labor encouraged employers to be more sensitive to employees with HIV/AIDS, and the ministry conducted sensitivity training for employers who requested it. The ministry reported that stigmatization of HIV-positive persons, while still a significant problem, had decreased, especially among police.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Rastafarians complained of discrimination, especially in hiring and in schools, but the government took no specific action to address such complaints.

Argentina

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women, including spousal rape, is a crime. The penalties range from six months’ to 20 years’ imprisonment. There were anecdotal reports of police or judicial reluctance to act on rape cases; women’s rights advocates claimed that the attitudes of police, hospitals, and courts toward survivors of sexual violence sometimes victimized them again.

The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse. Survivors may secure protective measures. The law imposes stricter penalties on those who kill their spouses, partners, or children as a consequence of their gender. According to local NGOs, lack of police and judicial vigilance often led to a lack of protection for victims.

In September hearings began in the April kidnapping, rape, and femicide of Micaela Garcia in Entre Rios Province. Sebastian Wagner, who confessed to Garcia’s killing, was previously convicted and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment on two counts of sexual abuse and rape but was released on parole in 2016. The judge who approved Wagner’s parole release was under investigation and faced calls to resign as of year’s end.

The National Register of Femicides, maintained by the Supreme Court’s Women’s Office, recorded that 230 women died as a result of domestic or gender-based violence during 2016. Media reported one femicide per day during the month of April. A local NGO reported 245 femicides from January to November 14, an increase from the previous year. The same source reported 18 percent of these victims had filed a police report and that 12 percent had active protection orders from authorities.

The Supreme Court’s Office of Domestic Violence provided around-the-clock protection and resources to victims of domestic violence. The office received approximately 2,590 cases of domestic violence in the city of Buenos Aires during the first three months of the year, an estimated 60 percent of which involved violence against women. The office also carried out risk assessments necessary to obtain a restraining order.

Public and private institutions offered prevention programs and provided support and treatment for abused women.

During the first six months of the year, more than 10 shelters were under construction, with a limited number already open and functioning. More than 2,800 officials and service providers received training in preventing gender-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the public sector and imposes disciplinary or corrective measures. In some jurisdictions, such as the city of Buenos Aires, sexual harassment might lead to the abuser’s dismissal, whereas in others, such as Santa Fe Province, the maximum penalty is five days in prison. In September a poll by the city of Buenos Aires ombudsman’s office reported that 80 percent of women suffered from harassment or violence in the street at least once during the year, and that 97 percent of these abuses were not reported to authorities. Under a 2016 law against street harassment in the city of Buenos Aires, violators may be fined or given court-ordered public service for making catcalls and other forms of street harassment.

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

Discrimination: Although women enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, they continued to face economic discrimination and held a disproportionately high number of lower-paying jobs. Women also held significantly fewer executive positions in the private sector than men, according to several studies. Although equal payment for equal work is constitutionally mandated, women earned approximately 27 percent less than men earned for similar or equal work.

The Supreme Court’s Office of Women trained judges, secretaries, and clerks to handle court cases related to women’s problems and to ensure equal access for women to positions in the court system. The office also trained judges, prosecutors, judicial staff, and law enforcement agents to increase awareness of gender-related crimes and develop techniques to address gender-related cases and victims.

Children

Birth Registration: The government provides universal birth registration, and citizenship is derived both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Parents have 40 days to register births, and the state has an additional 20 days to do so. The Ministry of Interior and Transportation may issue birth certificates to children under the age of 12 whose births were not previously registered.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was common; the Supreme Court’s Office of Domestic Violence reported that 29 percent of the complaints it received involved children as of September. The government launched a 24/7 hotline staffed by professional child psychologists for free consultations and advice. The hotline received 1,487 calls to report child abuse from November 2016 to February, with 80 percent of the complaints involving abuse by a father or stepfather.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for men and women is 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children, including in prostitution, was a problem. The minimum age of consensual sex is 13, but there are heightened protections for persons ages 13 to 16. A statutory rape law provides for penalties ranging from six months to 20 years in prison, depending on the age of the victim and other factors.

Several prominent cases of child sexual abuse were reported during the year. In May police arrested a nun and charged her with helping priests sexually abuse children at the Antonio Provolo Institute for the hearing impaired in Mendoza Province from 2004 to 2012.

The law prohibits the production and distribution of child pornography, with penalties ranging from six months to four years in prison. While the law does not prohibit the possession of child pornography by individuals for personal use, it provides penalties ranging from four months to two years in prison for possession of child pornography with the intent to distribute it. The law also provides penalties ranging from one month to three years in prison for facilitating access to pornographic shows or materials for minors under the age of 14.

During the year prosecutors from the nationwide Point of Contact Network against Child Pornography on the Internet pursued cases of internet child pornography. The network reported improvements on the national level in the ability to punish offenders.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community consists of approximately 250,000 persons. Sporadic acts of anti-Semitic discrimination and vandalism continued. The Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations received 351 complaints of anti-Semitism in 2016, with more than 60 percent occurring online. The most commonly reported anti-Semitic incidents were slurs posted on various websites, graffiti, verbal slurs, and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries.

In October, Interpol renewed Red Notices on five Iranians, one Lebanese, and one Colombian suspected in the 1994 bombing of the Argentina Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 persons.

On September 20, the Gendarmerie concluded forensically that the death of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor in charge of the AMIA bombing investigation, was a homicide. Previous analyses had maintained that there was insufficient evidence to prove foul play. The investigation continued without conclusion as to the motive for his death. In 2015 Nisman was found dead in his apartment from a gunshot wound to the head. Nisman was scheduled to testify the next day before a congressional committee concerning his allegations that then president Kirchner and associates conspired to convey impunity to the Iranians suspected of planning and executing the AMIA bombing.

Hearings in the AMIA bombing cover-up trial, which accused former government and law enforcement officials and a leader of the country’s Jewish community of complicity and false testimony to cover up the 1994 AMIA bombing, continued during the year.

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 laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law also mandates access to buildings by persons with disabilities. According to media reports, the ombudsman of the city of Buenos Aires reported that 33 percent of the metropolitan subway stations had elevators or escalators and that only 29 percent of the stations were equipped with bathrooms for persons with disabilities.

While the federal government has protective laws, many provinces had not adopted such laws and had no mechanisms to ensure enforcement. An employment quota law reserves 4 percent of federal government jobs for persons with disabilities, but NGOs and advocacy groups claimed the level of disability employment achieved during the year was less than 1 per cent.

Indigenous People

The constitution recognizes the ethnic and cultural identities of indigenous peoples and states that congress shall protect their right to bilingual education, recognize their communities and the communal ownership of their ancestral lands, and allow for their participation in the management of their natural resources.

Indigenous people did not fully participate in the management of their lands or natural resources, in part because responsibility for implementing the law is delegated to the 23 provinces, the constitutions of only 11 of which recognize indigenous rights.

Projects carried out by the agricultural and extractive industries displaced individuals, limited their access to traditional means of livelihood, reduced the area of lands on which they depended, and caused pollution that in some cases endangered the health and welfare of indigenous communities. Conflict occurred when authorities evicted indigenous peoples from ancestral lands then in private ownership. The disappearance of indigenous rights supporter Santiago Maldonado (see section 1.b.) renewed attention to the land demands of indigenous communities.

The lack of trained teachers hampered government efforts to offer bilingual education opportunities to indigenous peoples.

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

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons generally enjoyed the same legal rights and protections as heterosexual persons. No laws criminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults. LGBTI persons could serve openly in the military.

The law gives transgender persons the right legally to change their gender and name on identity documents without prior approval from a doctor or judge. It also requires public and private health-care plans to cover some parts of hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, although the Ministry of Health did not effectively enforce this requirement.

National antidiscrimination laws do not specifically include the terms “sexual orientation or gender identity” as protected grounds, only “sex.” There was no official discrimination, however, based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care. Media and NGOs reported cases of discrimination, violence, and police brutality toward LGBTI individuals, especially transgender persons.

Armenia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense, and conviction carries a maximum sentence of 15 years; general rape statutes applied to the prosecution of spousal rape. Domestic violence was prosecuted under general statutes dealing with violence, although Authorities did not effectively investigate or prosecute allegations of domestic violence. Domestic violence against women was widespread.

There were reports that police, especially outside Yerevan, were reluctant to act in such cases and discouraged women from filing complaints. A majority of domestic violence cases were considered under the law as offenses of low or medium seriousness, and the government has not hired female police officers and investigators to address these crimes.

Shelters were insufficient to meet the needs of all victims in the country. Between 2010 and 2016, the NGO Coalition to Stop Violence against Women recorded the killing of 40 women by an existing or former partner or a family member. According to a 2016 coalition study, many of these women had sought help from family or state institutions

NGOs that promoted women’s rights were criticized for breaking “Armenian traditional families” and spreading “Western values.” The clergy of the Armenian Apostolic Church as well as state officials reinforced the stereotypes. In November 2016 the Ministry of Sport and Youth sponsored a public-service announcement claiming that “foreigners” wanted to ruin the country by destroying the model of an Armenian family.

In September the government presented for public discussion a draft law, “On Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence.” While women’s rights groups considered the bill a good first step in the direction of stopping domestic violence, other NGOs and groups, some reportedly affiliated with Russia, attacked the draft as a threat to traditional family structure and used both online and broadcast media to criticize itl, often disseminating false information about its contents and the civil society representatives who supported it. Following these criticisms, the government presented an amended draft bill entitled, “Law on Prevention of Family Violence, Protection of Persons Subjected to Family Violence, and the Restoration of Family Cohesion,” which parliament adopted on December 13.

Sexual Harassment: Although the law addresses lewd acts and indecent behavior, it does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment. Observers believed sexual harassment of women in the workplace was widespread.

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

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy equal legal status, but discrimination based on gender was a continuing problem in both the public and private sectors. There were reports of discrimination against women with respect to occupation and employment. Women remained underrepresented in leadership positions in all branches and at all levels of government.

A 2015 World Bank study examined teaching materials and textbooks of high school classes and found the books gave strong preference to men in all forms of representation, including texts and illustrations, while women were less visible or portrayed in stereotypical way.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the National Statistical Service, the boy to girl sex-at-birth ratio decreased from 114 to 100 in 2014 to 110 to 100 for the first half of the year. In 2015 the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs approved a midterm program to prevent gender-selective abortions and established a working group to coordinate governmental efforts in this regard.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from one or both parents. During the year the government finalized a large-scale e-governance reform, by which a centralized system generates a medical certificate of birth to make avoidance of birth registration almost impossible. A low percentage of registered births occurred mainly in Yezidi and Kurdish communities practicing homebirths.

Education: Although education is free and compulsory through grade 12, in practice it was not universal. Children from disadvantaged families and communities lacked access to early learning programs, despite government efforts to raise preschool enrollment. Enrollment and attendance rates for children from ethnic minority groups, in particular Yezidis, Kurds, and Molokans, were significantly lower than average, and dropout rates after the eighth grade were higher. UNICEF expressed concern about the integration into the local community of an increasing number of refugee children from Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine.

Child Abuse: Irregular exchanges of gunfire between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces put children living in border areas at risk of injury or death. According to UNICEF, the lack of official, unified data on violence against children limited the government’s ability to design adequate national responses and preventive measures. There were no official referral procedures for children who were victims of violence, including sexual violence, and referrals were not mandatory for professionals working with children, except for doctors who are required to report any injury of children to police.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Early marriage of girls was reportedly more frequent within Yezidi communities, but the government took no measures to document the scale or address the practice.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the sexual exploitation of children and provides for prison sentences of seven to 15 years for violations. Child pornography is punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography noted in a February 2016 report that although official statistics showed relatively few cases of sexual exploitation and sale of children, there were numerous undetected and unreported cases caused by gaps in terms of legislation, training, awareness-raising, detection, and reporting.

Institutionalized Children: According to UNICEF and other observers, institutionalized children were at risk of physical and psychological violence by peers and by staff. According to a February 22 report by Human Rights Watch, government policies on deinstitutionalization and inclusive education did not guarantee the rights of children with disabilities on an equal basis with other children and were discriminatory. There were reports on social media that the government’s closure of boarding schools without the timely establishment of proper alternative social care services and provision of basic necessities, jeopardizing children’s well-being and access to education.

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

Anti-Semitism

Observers estimated the country’s Jewish population to be between 500 and 1,000 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 any disability in employment, education, and access to health care and other state services, but discrimination remained a problem. The law and a special government decree require both new buildings and those under renovation, including schools, to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Very few buildings or other facilities were accessible, even if newly constructed or renovated. Many public buildings, including schools and kindergartens, were inaccessible. This inaccessibility also deterred persons with disabilities from voting, since these buildings often served as polling stations during elections. According to the OSCE/ODIHR election observation report on the April 2 parliamentary elections, 69 percent of polling stations observed were not accessible to persons with physical disabilities or reduced mobility.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities but failed to carry out this mandate effectively. In September the government approved a decision to issue vouchers to persons with disabilities to purchase hearing aids and wheelchairs, instead of providing the actual devices. There were reports, however, the vouchers failed to cover the market price of hearing aids and wheelchairs, resulting in financial strain on the persons who needed them.

In 2014 the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights reported that, despite state efforts to expand the network of inclusive schools, officials did not fully implement the policy. The law requires all public schools to become inclusive by 2025.

Persons with all types of disabilities experienced discrimination in every sphere, including access to health care, social and psychological rehabilitation, education, transportation, communication, employment, social protection, cultural events, and use of the internet. Lack of access to information and communications was a particularly significant problem for persons with sensory disabilities. Women with disabilities faced further discrimination, including in social acceptance and access to health and reproductive care, employment, and education, due to their gender.

Hospitals, residential care, and other facilities for persons with more significant disabilities remained substandard.

In 2015 the government introduced mandatory quotas for the employment of persons with disabilities for both public and private firms with more than 100 employees. In May, however, it decided to suspend the quota system.

Disability status determines eligibility for various social benefits. Media reports alleged corruption and arbitrary rulings on the part of the Medical-Social Expertise Commission, a governmental body under the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs that determines a person’s disability status. In December 2016 the NSS arrested and charged the head of the commission, Armen Soghoyan, and 16 other officials with soliciting bribes. The case was sent to court in September.

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

Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no hate crime laws or other criminal judicial mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of crimes against members of the LGBTI community. Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity negatively affected all aspects of life, including employment, housing, family relations, and access to education and health care. Transgender persons were especially vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse and harassment.

During the year the NGO Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK Armenia) documented 27 cases of alleged human rights violations against LGBTI persons, but only four victims sought help from the ombudsperson’s office and none from law enforcement bodies.

On August 23, according to media reports, 30 to 35 civilian men, allegedly led by a municipality employee, attacked a group of transgender sex workers in a park near the municipality office. Police stopped the attack and opened a criminal investigation into the incident. Lawyers from the NGO New Generation, who represented the transgender persons and the sex workers, claimed that such group attacks happened at least once a month and individual attacks happened almost daily. In most cases, police were ineffective in either preventing such cases or apprehending perpetrators.

On May 25, PINK Armenia placed three LGBTI-themed social advertising banners in downtown Yerevan. On May 27, the advertising company tore them down following a highly negative public reaction. Shortly after the posters were removed, an official from the Yerevan municipality announced on his Facebook page that the three banners promoting tolerance were posted illegally and without the permission of the municipality. According to PINK Armenia, the banners did not contain any material prohibited by the law, the installation was made in accordance with existing practices, and the Yerevan municipality violated the NGO’s freedom of expression. After the removal of the posters, anti-LGBTI groups launched cyberattacks on PINK Armenia’s website. The physical address of PINK Armenia was posted on Facebook with a message encouraging attacks on the organization. On July 9, the Golden Apricot International Film festival opened amid controversy over the organizers’ canceling the screening of several noncompetitive films, including two with LGBTI themes. One of the festival’s partners, the Union of Cinematographers, demanded that the two films be removed from the program. The festival organizers responded by canceling the screening of all noncompetitive-category films immediately before the festival’s opening. According to an assessment conducted by the NGO New Generation in 2016, transgender individuals desiring to undergo sex-change procedures faced medical and other problems related to the administration of hormones without medical supervision, underground surgeries, and problems obtaining documents reflecting a change in gender identity.

On July 4, the NGO Right Side, which focuses on the transgender population, reported that a local municipal employee came to their location to harass and assault its president. In September the president reported that the organization’s landlord decided not to renew their lease.

Openly gay men are exempt from military service. An exemption, however, requires a medical finding based on a psychological examination indicating an individual has a mental disorder; this information appears in the individual’s personal identification documents and is an obstacle to employment and obtaining a driver’s license. Gay men who served in the army reportedly faced physical and psychological abuse as well as blackmail.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

According to human rights groups, persons regarded as vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, such as sex workers (including transgender sex workers) and drug users, faced discrimination and violence from society as well as mistreatment by police.

Australia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. The laws of individual states and territories provide the penalties for rape. Maximum penalties range from 12 years’ to life imprisonment, depending on the jurisdiction and aggravating factors.

The law prohibits violence against women, including domestic abuse, and the government enforced the law. Violence against women remained a problem, particularly in indigenous communities.

Females were more likely than males to be victims of domestic violence, including homicide, across all states and territories. A 2015 policy initiative to address domestic violence included A$100 million ($75 million) for federal and state government programs to provide support for victims, including funding for numerous women’s shelters. Police received training in responding to domestic violence. Federal, state, and territorial governments collaborated on the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-22, the first effort to coordinate action at all levels of government to reduce violence against women. In October 2016 the Third Action Plan 2016-2019 of the National Plan set 36 practical actions in six priority areas.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C occurred infrequently. The practice is a criminal act in all states and territories of the country, and these laws apply extraterritoriality to protect citizens or residents from being subjected to FGM/C overseas. Penalties vary greatly across states and territories, ranging from imprisonment from seven to 21 years.

During the year the Australian Pediatric Surveillance unit at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney reported that pediatricians and health officials saw nearly 60 girls with FGM/C since 2010, many having undergone the most severe form of FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Complaints of sexual harassment can lead to criminal proceedings or disciplinary action against the defendant and compensation claims by the plaintiff. The HRC receives complaints of sexual harassment as well as sex discrimination. The penalties vary across states and territories.

An independent review of the Victoria Police Department released in 2015 found workplace sexual harassment to be an endemic problem despite more than 30 years of legislation prohibiting sex based discrimination. The review found evidence of chronic underreporting with victims afraid of negative professional and personal consequences resulting from making a complaint.

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

Discrimination: The law provided for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under laws related to family, religion, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance, as well as employment, credit, pay, owning and/or managing businesses, education, and housing. Employment discrimination against women occurred, and there was a much-publicized “gender pay gap” (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Children are citizens if at least one parent is a citizen or permanent resident at the time of the child’s birth. Children born in the country to parents who are not citizens or permanent residents acquire citizenship on their 10th birthday, if they lived the majority of their life within the country. Failure to register does not result in denial of public services. In general births were registered promptly.

Child Abuse: State and territorial child protection agencies investigate and initiate prosecutions of persons for child neglect or abuse. All states and territories have laws or guidelines that require members of certain designated professions to report suspected child abuse or neglect. The federal government’s role in the prevention of child abuse includes funding for research, carrying out education campaigns, developing action plans against commercial exploitation of children, and funding community-based parenting programs.

During the year the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final recommendations on what institutions and governments should do to address child sexual abuse and ensure justice for victims. As of October 25, the Royal Commission has not submitted its final report to the Governor-General.

The rate of indigenous children on care and protection orders was nearly seven times greater than the nonindigenous rate.

In 2016 the United Nations investigated dozens of incidents at schools in which children with disabilities were allegedly assaulted, locked in dark rooms, and restrained. Despite education department rules that allow such measures to be used only as a “last resort,” reports show that teachers regularly grabbed schoolchildren by their wrists, held their arms behind their backs, forcibly pinned them to ground, and locked them in small, dark rooms.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls. A person between 16 and 18 years may apply to a judge or magistrate in a state or territory for an order authorizing marriage to a person who has attained 18 years, but the marriage of the minor still requires parental or guardian consent. Two persons younger than 18 years may not marry each other; reports of marriages involving a person younger than 18 years were rare. The government reported an increase in the number of forced marriage investigations, but the practice remains rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment for commercial sexual exploitation of children, and the law was effectively enforced. There were documented cases of children younger than 18 years subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.

The law prohibits citizens and residents from engaging in, facilitating, or benefiting from sexual activity with children overseas who are younger than 16 years and provides for a maximum sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment for violations. The government continued its awareness campaign to deter child sex tourism through distribution of pamphlets to citizens and residents traveling overseas.

The legal age for consensual sex ranges from 16 to 18 by state. Penalties for statutory rape vary across jurisdictions. Defenses include reasonable grounds for believing the alleged victim was older than the legal age of consent and situations in which the two persons are close in age.

All states and territories criminalize the possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. Maximum penalties for these offenses range from four to 21 years’ imprisonment. Federal laws criminalize using a “carriage service” (for example, the internet) for the purpose of possessing, producing, and supplying child pornography. The maximum penalty for these offenses is 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of A$275,000 ($206,000), or both. Under federal law suspected pedophiles can be tried in the country regardless of where the crime was committed.

The government largely continued federal emergency intervention measures to combat child sexual abuse in aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. These measures included emergency bans on sales of alcohol and pornography, restrictions on the payment of welfare benefits in cash, linkage of support payments to school attendance, and medical examinations for all indigenous children younger than 16 in the Northern Territory.

While public reaction to the interventions remained generally positive, some aboriginal activists asserted there was inadequate consultation and the measures were racially discriminatory, since nonindigenous persons in the Northern Territory were not initially subject to such restrictions.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to the 2011 census, the country’s Jewish community numbered 97,300 persons. During the 12-month period ending on September 30, 2016, the nongovernmental Executive Council of Australian Jewry reported 210 anti-Semitic incidents logged by the council, Jewish community umbrella groups in each state, and the Australian Capital Territory, and community security groups. These incidents included vandalism, threats, harassment, and physical and verbal assaults.

In May unknown persons spray-painted swastikas on a playground near a synagogue in Canberra and were reported to local police. Canberra City Services removed the graffiti in August.

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 effectively enforced the law.

The disability discrimination commissioner of the HRC promotes compliance with federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law also provides for HRC mediation of discrimination complaints, authorizes fines against violators, and awards damages to victims of discrimination.

Schools are required to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, and children with disabilities generally attended school. The government provided funding for early intervention and treatment services and cooperated with state and territorial governments that ran programs to assist students with disabilities.

In May 2016 two deaf Australians in NSW could not perform their jury duties because the NSW Sheriff’s Office denied them access to sign language interpreters and real-time steno-captioning services, citing cost burdens and jury confidentiality as reasons.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Of complaints received by the HRC under the Racial Discrimination Act during 2015-16, 21 percent involved employment, 18 percent involved provision of goods and services, and 15 percent alleged “racial hatred.” Of the remaining 46 percent, two percent involved education, two percent involved housing, one percent involved “access to places,” and 41 percent was listed as “other.”

In August 2016 a Sydney resident was the victim of a racist attack near Macquarie University in which the aggressor demanded she take off her niqab and called her a terrorist. The NSW court fined the aggressor A$750 ($596) and ordered supervision by Community Corrections.

Indigenous People

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders constitute the country’s indigenous population. Despite federal and state government initiatives, indigenous people and communities continued to have high incarceration rates, high unemployment rates, relatively low levels of education, and high incidences of domestic and family violence, substance abuse, and limited access to health services in comparison with other groups. The Ministry for Indigenous Affairs has responsibility for policy and programs related to indigenous peoples and communities. The prime minister reports annually to parliament on the government’s progress on eliminating indigenous inequalities.

Indigenous groups hold special collective native title rights in limited areas of the country and federal and state laws enable indigenous groups to claim unused government land. Indigenous ownership of land was predominantly in nonurban areas. Indigenous-owned or -controlled land constituted approximately 20 percent of the country’s area (excluding native title lands) and nearly 50 percent of the land in the Northern Territory. The National Native Title Tribunal resolves conflicts over native land title applications through mediation and acts as an arbitrator in cases where the parties cannot reach agreement about proposed mining or other development of land. Native title rights do not extend to mineral or petroleum resources and, in cases where leaseholder rights and native title rights are in conflict, leaseholder rights prevail but do not extinguish native title rights.

As part of the intervention to address child sexual abuse in Northern Territory indigenous communities (see section 6, Children), the Indigenous Advancement Strategy allowed the government to administer directly indigenous communities. The strategy and a number of other programs provide funding for indigenous communities.

According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS), while indigenous people make up less than three percent of the total population, they constitute 27 percent of the full-time adult prison population. Nearly half of the imprisoned indigenous persons were serving sentences for violent offenses. Indigenous youth make up 64 percent of Queensland’s juvenile detainees, despite accounting for just eight percent of the state’s population aged between 10 and 17.

The ABS reported in 2016 that indigenous individuals experienced disproportionately high levels of domestic violence, with hospitalization for family-related assault 28 times more likely for indigenous men and 34 times more likely for indigenous women than the rest of the country’s population.

The HRC has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner.

According to a May Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report, although the government adopted numerous policies to address the socio-economic disadvantage of indigenous peoples, it still fails to respect their rights to self-determination and full and effective participation in society.

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

There are no laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by law in a wide range of areas, including in employment, housing, family law, taxes, child support, immigration, pensions, care of elderly persons, and social security.

The law provides protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status.

The HRC received 54 complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation, 29 on gender identity, and two on intersex during 2015-16.

Austria

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. The government generally enforced the law. Law enforcement response to rape and domestic violence was effective. Women’s NGOs estimated charges were filed in 10 percent of rape cases and only 13 percent of those led to convictions, due to lack of credible evidence.

Domestic violence is punishable under the criminal code provisions for murder, rape, sexual abuse, and bodily injury. Police can issue, and courts may extend, an order barring abusive family members from contact with survivors.

Under the law, the government provided psychosocial care in addition to legal aid and support throughout the judicial process to survivors of gender-based violence. Police training programs addressed sexual or gender-based violence and domestic abuse. The government funded privately operated intervention centers and hotlines for victims of domestic abuse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the government generally enforced the law. Labor courts may order employers to compensate victims of sexual harassment; the law entitles a victim to a minimum of 1,000 euros ($1,200) in compensation. The women’s ministry and the labor chamber regularly provided information to the public on how to address sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: Coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods did not occur. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men but were subject to discrimination in employment and occupation.

Children

Birth Registration: By law, children derive citizenship from one or both parents. Officials register births immediately.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, which may be extended to 10 years. Severe sexual abuse or rape of a minor is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased to life imprisonment if the victim dies because of the abuse.

The government continued its efforts to monitor child abuse and prosecute offenders. The Ministry for Economics, Family, and Youth estimated close family members or family friends committed 90 percent of incidents of child abuse. Officials noted a growing readiness to report cases of such abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 may legally contract a marriage by special permit and parental consent or court action. NGOs estimated there were approximately 200 cases of early marriage annually, primarily in the Muslim and Romani communities.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides up to 15 years’ imprisonment for an adult convicted of sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 14, the minimum age for consensual sex. It is a crime to possess, trade, or privately view child pornography. Possession of or trading in child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to figures compiled by the Austrian Jewish Community (IKG), there are between 12,000 and 15,000 Jews in the country, of whom an estimated 8,000 were members of the IKG.

The IKG expressed concerns that anti-Semitism remained at a “high but stable” level. The NGO Forum against Anti-Semitism reported 477 anti-Semitic incidents during 2016. These included seven physical assaults in addition to name-calling, graffiti and defacement, threatening letters, dissemination of anti-Semitic texts, property damage, and vilifying letters and telephone calls. Of the reported incidents, 153 involved anti-Semitic internet postings. The government provided police protection to the IKG’s offices and other Jewish community institutions in the country, such as schools and museums. The IKG noted that anti-Semitic incidents typically involved neo-Nazi and other related right-wing extremist perpetrators. The IKG continued to note concerns about anti-Semitism on the part of some members of the Freedom Party (FPOe). In July, FPOe member of parliament Johannes Huebner announced he would not seek reelection in the October parliamentary election, following widespread protests over statements that critics said contained anti-Semitic undertones he had made in 2016 and which had surfaced in July. In a speech on “mass migration to Austria,” he referred to “so-called Holocaust victims” who were criticizing the FPOe.

Bishop Manfred Scheuer resigned as president of the Catholic peace organization Pax Christi, reportedly because of expressions of anti-Semitism within the NGO and at a Pax Christi event.

In January the Supreme Court upheld a preliminary injunction against a publication for slandering Holocaust survivors, forbidding German author Manfred Duswald from calling Mauthausen concentration camp survivors “criminals and a widespread nuisance.” Duswald made the statements in a 2015 article that appeared in the monthly Aula, considered an extreme right-wing publication by the Vienna-based Documentation Center of the Austrian Resistance Movement, an NGO that monitors right-wing extremism. Holocaust survivors and Green party member of parliament Harald Walser submitted a collective lawsuit after a Graz court in early 2016 closed investigations against the paper (under the country’s anti-neo-Nazi law) without legal consequences, sparking protests among the Mauthausen survivors community.

School curricula included discussion of the Holocaust, the tenets of different religious groups, and advocacy of religious tolerance. Chancellor Christian Kern visited Israel to emphasize his country’s responsibility for the “darkest chapters in Austria’s history,” and his country’s commitment to learn from its Nazi past and to combat anti-Semitism. The Education Ministry offered special teacher training seminars on Holocaust education and conducted training projects with the Anti-Defamation League. The cabinet adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism on April 25. On the day of the adoption, Foreign Minister Kurz termed the decision an important signal to identify and combat anti-Semitism more easily, and Jewish Community President Oskar Deutsch described the decision as a “milestone in combatting 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 prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government did not always effectively enforce these provisions. Employment discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred.

While federal law mandates access to public buildings for persons with physical disabilities, NGOs complained many public buildings lacked such access. The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Consumer Protection handled disability-related problems. The government funded a wide range of programs for persons with disabilities, including transportation and other assistance to help integrate schoolchildren with disabilities into regular classes and employees with disabilities into the workplace.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Interior Ministry statistics cited 953 neo-Nazi extremist, or anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 directed against minorities.

An NGO operating a hotline for victims of racist incidents reported receiving 1,107 complaints in 2016. It reported that racist internet postings had risen by one third from 2015 and were, in particular, directed against migrants and asylum seekers, refugee shelters, and the NGOs assisting them.

The Islamic Faith Community’s documentation center, established for reporting anti-Muslim incidents, reported receiving 253 complaints in 2016, an increase of 156 from the previous year.

Human rights groups continued to report that Roma faced discrimination in employment and housing. Government programs, including financing for tutors, helped school-age Romani children move out of “special needs” programs and into mainstream classes. NGOs reported that Africans living in the country were verbally harassed or subjected to violence in public.

The Labor and Integration Ministries continued efforts to improve German-language instruction and skilled-labor training to young persons with immigrant backgrounds. Compulsory preschool programs, including some one- and two-year pilot programs, sought to remedy language deficiencies for nonnative German speakers.

The government continued training programs to combat racism and educate police in cultural sensitivity. The Interior Ministry renewed an annual agreement with a Jewish group to teach police officers cultural sensitivity, religious tolerance, and the acceptance of minorities.

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

Antidiscrimination laws apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. There was some societal prejudice against LGBTI persons but no reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI organizations generally operated freely. Civil society groups, however, criticized the lack of a mechanism to prevent service providers from discriminating against LGBTI individuals.

Azerbaijan

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Spousal rape is also illegal, but observers stated police did not effectively investigate such claims.

The law establishes a framework for the investigation of domestic violence complaints, defines a process to issue restraining orders, and calls for the establishment of a shelter and rehabilitation center for survivors. Some critics of the domestic violence law asserted that a lack of clear implementing guidelines reduced its effectiveness. Female members of the National Assembly and the head of the State Committee for Family, Women, and Children Affairs (SCFWCA) continued their activities against domestic violence. The committee conducted public awareness campaigns and worked to improve the socioeconomic situation of domestic violence survivors.

The government provided limited protection to women who were victims of assault. The government and an independent NGO each ran a shelter providing assistance and counseling to victims of trafficking and domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The government rarely enforced the prohibition of sexual harassment. The SCFWCA worked extensively to organize and host several conferences that raised awareness of sexual harassment and domestic violence.

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

Discrimination: Although women nominally enjoyed the same legal rights as men, societal and employment-based discrimination was a problem. There was discrimination against women in employment. The SCFWCA conducted public media campaigns to raise awareness of women’s rights.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The gender ratio of children born in the country in 2016 was 111 boys for 100 girls, according to the World Factbook. Local experts reported gender-biased sex selection was widespread, predominantly in rural regions. The SCFWCA conducted seminars and public media campaigns to raise awareness of the problem.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country or from their parents. Registration at birth was routine for births in hospitals or clinics. Some children born at home were not registered. The Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice registered undocumented children after identifying them as a population vulnerable to trafficking.

Education: While education was compulsory, free, and universal until the age of 17, large families in impoverished rural areas sometimes placed a higher priority on the education of boys and kept girls in the home to work. Some poor families forced their children to work or beg rather than attend school.

Child Abuse: To address the problem of child abuse, the State Committee on Family, Women, and Children conducted training programs for judges and children rights advocates and organized seminars for municipal officials on combatting child abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law provides that a girl may marry at the age of 18 or at 17 with local authorities’ permission. The law further states a boy may marry at the age of 18.

The Caucasus Muslim Board defines 18 as the minimum age for marriage as dictated by Islam, but the pronouncement failed to reduce greatly the number of early marriages. The law establishes fines of 3,000 to 4,000 manat ($1,750 to $2,340) or imprisonment for up to four years for conviction of the crime of forced marriage with underage children. Girls who married under the terms of religious marriage contracts were of particular concern, since these were not subject to government oversight and do not entitle the wife to recognition of her status in case of divorce.

The SCFWCA conducted activities in IDP and refugee communities to prevent early marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Recruitment of minors for prostitution (involving a minor in immoral acts) is punishable by up to eight years in prison. The law prohibits pornography; its production, distribution, or advertisement is punishable by three years ’ imprisonment. Statutory rape is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.

Displaced Children: A large number of refugee and internally displaced children lived in substandard conditions. In some cases, these children were unable to attend school. A Baku group working with street children reported boys and girls at times engaged in prostitution and street begging.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community was estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals. 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, but the government did not enforce these provisions effectively.

A common belief persisted that children with disabilities were ill and needed to be separated from other children and institutionalized. Children with certain disabilities, including autism, received no education benefits or allowances. A local NGO reported there were approximately 60,000 children with disabilities in the country, of whom 6,000 to 10,000 had access to specialized educational facilities, while the rest were educated at home or not at all. The Ministry of Education, in coordination with UNICEF, took steps to increase inclusion of children with disabilities into regular classrooms, particularly at the primary education level. No laws mandate access to public or other buildings, information, or communications for persons with disabilities, and most buildings were not accessible. Conditions in facilities for persons with mental and other disabilities varied. Qualified staff, equipment, and supplies at times were lacking.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Citizens of Armenian descent reported discrimination in employment. In 2016 the Council of Europe’s Committee against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) reported that an entire generation has grown up listening to political leaders, educational institutions, and media using hate speech against Armenians. Authorities sentenced human rights activists working on reconciliation with Armenia to long prison terms on controversial accusations. Hate speech was also directed against the Talysh minority. Some groups, including Talysh in the south, Lezghi in the north, and Meskhetians and Kurds, reported dissatisfaction with the lack of adequate provision of official textbooks in their local native languages.

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

Antidiscrimination laws exist but do not specifically cover lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.

In October media and human rights lawyers reported that since mid-September police had arrested and tortured 83 men presumed to be gay or bisexual as well as transgender women. Once in custody, police beat the detainees and subjected them to electric shocks to obtain bribes and information about other gay men (see section 1.c.). By October 3, many of the detainees had been released, many after being sentenced to 20-45 days in jail, fined up to 200 manat ($117), or both. On October 2, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Office of the Prosecutor General issued a joint statement that denied the arrests were based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

A local NGO reported there were numerous incidents of police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation and noted that authorities did not investigate or punish those responsible. There were also reports of family-based violence against LGBTI individuals, hate speech against LGBTI persons, and hostile Facebook postings on personal online accounts. Activists reported that LGBTI individuals were regularly fired by employers if their sexual orientation/gender identity became known. One individual reported the military did not allow LGBTI individuals to serve and granted them deferment from conscription on the grounds of mental illness.

LGBTI individuals generally refused to file formal complaints of discrimination or mistreatment with law enforcement bodies due to fear of social stigma or retaliation. Activists reported police indifference to investigating crimes committed against members of the LGBTI community.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

In the country’s most recent demographic and health survey (2006), 80 percent of women and 92 percent of men reported discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV. The Azerbaijan National Strategic Plan for HIV 2016-2020 sought to increase public awareness of HIV/AIDS to reduce stigma and discrimination.

Bahrain

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, although the criminal code allows an alleged rapist to marry his victim to avoid punishment. The law does not address spousal rape. Penalties for conviction of rape include life imprisonment and execution in cases where the victim is a minor younger than age 16 or when the rape leads to the victim’s death. The Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) temporarily sheltered at least one woman who reported being raped.

No government policies or laws explicitly address domestic violence. According to the BCHR, 30 percent of women had experienced some form of domestic abuse. Authorities devoted little public attention to the problem. The government maintained the Dar al-Aman Shelter for women and children who were victims of domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence had difficulty knowing whom to contact or how to proceed when filing a complaint.

The Ministry of Justice reported 3,825 cases of physical or sexual abuse as of September. Of these cases, 469 cases involved children and 46 cases resulted in conviction. Nineteen cases of rape were reported, two of which were referred to court; the proceedings for both cases were underway as of September.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: By law “honor” killings are punishable, but the penal code provides a lenient sentence for conviction of killing a spouse caught in the act of adultery, whether male or female.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, including insulting or committing an indecent act towards a woman in public, with penalties for conviction of imprisonment and fines. Although the government sometimes enforced the law, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for women, especially foreign women domestic workers.

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

Discrimination: Women have the right to initiate divorce proceedings, but Shia and Sunni religious courts may refuse the request. In divorce cases the courts routinely granted mothers custody of daughters younger than age nine and sons younger than age seven, with fathers typically gaining custody once girls and boys reached ages nine and seven, respectively. Regardless of custody decisions, the father retains guardianship, or the right to make all legal decisions for the child until age 21. A noncitizen woman automatically loses custody of her children if she divorces their citizen father “without just cause.”

The basis for family law is sharia as interpreted by Sunni and Shia religious experts. On July 19, King Hamad ratified the Shia portion of the Unified Family Law codifying the rights of Shia citizens, in particular women, according to the civil code on issues such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Shia and Sunni family law is enforced by separate judicial bodies composed of religious authorities charged with interpreting sharia, rather than the principal civil court. It was not always clear which courts have jurisdiction in mixed Sunni-Shia marriages.

Women may own and inherit property and represent themselves in all public and legal matters. In the absence of a direct male heir, Shia women may inherit all of their husband’s property, while Sunni women inherit only a portion, with the brothers or other male relatives of the deceased also receiving a share.

Labor laws prohibit discrimination against women, but discrimination against women was systemic, especially in the workplace, although the law prohibits wage discrimination based on gender.

Children

Birth Registration: Individuals derive citizenship from their father or by decree from the king. Women do not transmit their nationality to their children, rendering stateless some children of citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers.

Authorities do not register births immediately. From birth to age three months, the mother’s primary health-care provider holds registration for the children. Upon reaching three months, authorities register the birth with the Ministry of Health’s Birth Registration Unit, which then issues the official birth certificate. Children not registered before reaching their first birthday must obtain a registration by court order. The government does not provide public services to a child without a birth certificate.

Education: Schooling is compulsory for children until age 15 and is provided free of charge to citizens and legal residents through grade 12. Authorities segregated government-run schools by gender, although girls and boys used the same curricula and textbooks. Islamic studies based on Sunni doctrine are mandatory for all Muslim public school students and are optional for non-Muslim students.

Child Abuse: Sharia courts, not civil courts, address crimes involving child abuse, including violence against children. NGOs expressed concern over the lack of consistently written guidelines for prosecuting and punishing offenders and the leniency of penalties in child abuse conviction cases.

There were reports police approached children outside schools and threatened or coerced them into becoming police informants.

Early and Forced Marriage: According to the law, the minimum age of marriage is age 15 for girls and age 18 for boys, but special circumstances allow marriages below these ages with approval from a sharia court.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits exploitation of a child for various crimes, including prostitution. Penalties for conviction include imprisonment of no less than three months if the accused used exploitation and force to commit the crime and up to six years if the accused exploited more than one child, as well as penalties of at least 2,000 dinars ($5,400) for individuals and at least 10,000 dinars ($27,000) for organizations. The law also prohibits child pornography. The Ministry of Justice reported two cases of sexual exploitation of children as of September.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to community members, there were between 36 and 40 Jewish citizens (six families) in the country. Some anti-Jewish political commentary and editorial cartoons occasionally appeared in print and electronic media, usually linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without government response.

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 stipulates equal treatment for persons with disabilities with regard to employment, and violations of the law are punishable with fines. The government administered a committee to care for persons with disabilities that included representatives from all relevant ministries, NGOs, and the private sector. The committee is responsible for monitoring violations against persons with disabilities. During the year the government prosecuted two cases for violations against persons with disabilities.

Authorities mandated a variety of governmental, quasi-governmental, and religious institutions to support and protect persons with disabilities. New public buildings in the central municipality must include facilities for persons with disabilities. The law does not mandate access to other nonresidential buildings for persons with disabilities.

No information was available on the responsibilities of government agencies to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. According to anecdotal evidence persons with disabilities routinely lacked access to education and employment. The one government school for children with hearing disabilities did not operate past the 10th grade. Some public schools had specialized education programs for children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, speech disabilities, and Down syndrome.

Eligible voters may vote either in their regular precincts or in a general polling station. The local precincts, which are mostly in schools, sometimes posed problems to those with mobility disabilities. General polling stations in public spaces such as malls allow for assistance devices. There was no absentee ballot system.

The law requires the government to provide vocational training for persons with disabilities who wish to work. The law also requires employers of more than 100 persons to hire at least 2 percent of its employees from the government’s list of workers with disabilities. The government did not monitor compliance. Some persons with disabilities were employed in the public sector.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development continued to work with the UN High Committee for Persons with Disabilities in cooperation with the UN Development Program.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law grants citizenship to ethnic Arab applicants who have resided in the country for 15 years and non-Arab applicants who have resided in the country for 25 years. There were numerous reports authorities did not apply the citizenship law uniformly. Human rights and civil society groups stated the government allowed foreign Sunni employees of the security services who had lived in the country less than 15 years to apply for citizenship. There were also reports authorities had not granted citizenship to Arab Shia residents who had resided in the country for more than 15 years and non-Arab foreign residents who had resided more than 25 years. Rights groups reported discrimination, especially in employment, against Shia citizens of Persian ethnicity (Ajam).

Although the government asserted the labor code for the private sector applies to all workers, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and international NGOs noted foreign workers faced discrimination in the workplace.

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

The law does not criminalize same-sex sexual activity between consenting persons who are at least age 21, but discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity occurred. On rare occasions, courts approved the issuance of new legal documents for those who have undergone gender reassignment surgeries. On November 23, the courts denied a citizen who underwent gender reassignment surgery the right to change his name and identity documents to match his sex; the case was still pending final appeal before the Court of Cassation as at year’s end.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no known cases involving societal violence or discrimination against persons based on HIV/AIDS status, but medical experts acknowledged publicly that discrimination existed. The government mandated screening of newly arrived migrant workers for infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. In prior years the government deported migrant workers found to be HIV/AIDS positive, but the status of deportations during the year was unclear.

Bangladesh

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape of a female by a male and physical spousal abuse, but the law excludes marital rape if the female is above 13. Rape can be punished by life imprisonment or the death penalty.

There were reports of sexual violence with impunity. On April 2, female police constable Halima Begum of Gouripur Police Station in Mymensingh committed suicide after her alleged rape by Sub-Inspector (SI) Mizanul Islam of the same police station. Halima’s diary, which included an entry about her rape by SI Islam, contained also a written complaint to the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Gouripur Police Station against SI Islam regarding the rape, which the OC did not accept when she submitted it. After Halima’s suicide, police arrested SI Islam.

According to human rights monitors, many victims did not report rapes due to lack of access to legal services, social stigma, or fear of further harassment and the legal requirement to furnish witnesses.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Some NGOs reported violence against women related to disputes over dowries. During the year ASK documented 221 women who were victims of dowry-related violence.

A Supreme Court Appellate Division ruling allows the use of “fatwas” (religious edicts) only to settle religious matters; fatwas may not be invoked to justify punishment, nor may they supersede secular law. Islamic tradition dictates that only those religious scholars with expertise in Islamic law may declare a fatwa. Despite these restrictions, village religious leaders sometimes made such declarations. The declarations resulted in extrajudicial punishments, often against women, for perceived moral transgressions.

Incidents of vigilantism against women occurred, sometimes led by religious leaders enforcing fatwas. The incidents included whipping, beating, and other forms of physical violence.

Assailants threw acid in the faces of victims–usually women–leaving them disfigured and often blind. Acid attacks were often related to a woman’s refusal to accept a marriage proposal or were related to land disputes.

The law seeks to control the availability of acid and reduce acid-related violence directed toward women, but lack of awareness of the law and poor enforcement limited its effect. The Commerce Ministry restricted acid sales to buyers registered with relevant trade organizations.

Sexual Harassment: Although sexual harassment is prohibited by a 2009 High Court guideline, a June 2016 Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) document noted that harassment remained a problem and monitoring and enforcement of the guidelines were poor, which sometimes prevented girls from attending school or work.

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

Discrimination: The constitution declares all citizens equal before the law with entitlement to equal protection of the law. It also explicitly recognizes the equal rights of women to those of men “in all spheres of the state and of public life.” Nevertheless, women do not enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in family, property, and inheritance law. Under traditional Islamic inheritance law, daughters inherit only half of what sons do. Under Hindu inheritance law, a widow’s rights to her deceased husband’s property are limited to her lifetime and revert to the male heirs upon her death.

Children

Birth Registration: Individuals are born citizens if their parents were Bangladeshi citizens, if the nationality of the parents is unknown and the child is born in Bangladeshi territory, or if their fathers or grandfathers were born in the territories that are now part of the country. If a person qualifies for citizenship through ancestry, the father or grandfather must have been a permanent resident of these territories in or after 1971. Birth registration is required to obtain a national identity card or passport. For more information, see http://www.data.unicef.org .

Education: Education is free and compulsory through eighth grade by law, and the government offered subsidies to parents to keep girls in class through 10th grade. Despite free classes, teacher fees, books, and uniforms remained prohibitively costly for many families, and the government distributed hundreds of millions of free textbooks to increase access to education. Enrollments in primary schools showed gender parity, but completion rates fell in secondary school, with more girls than boys completing that level. Early and forced marriage was a factor in girls’ attrition from secondary school.

Child Abuse: Many forms of child abuse, including sexual abuse, physical and humiliating punishment, child abandonment, kidnapping, and trafficking, continued to be serious and widespread problems. Children were vulnerable to abuse in all settings: home, community, school, residential institutions, and the workplace. In October 2016 the government, with support from UNICEF, launched “Child Helpline–1098,” a free telephone service designed to help children facing violence, abuse, and exploitation.

Despite advances, including establishing a monitoring agency in the Ministry of Home Affairs, trafficking of children and inadequate care and protection for survivors of trafficking continued to be problems. Child labor and abuse at the workplace remained problems in certain industries, mostly in the informal sector, and child domestic workers were vulnerable to all forms of abuse at their informal workplaces.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men. On February 27, parliament passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which includes a provision for marriages of women and men at any age in “special circumstances.” The government ignored the recommendations and concerns raised by child rights organizations, human rights organizations, and development partners concerning this act. On April 10, the High Court ruled that the government should explain why the provision allowing the marriage of a minor should not be declared illegal in response to a writ petition filed by BNWLA. BNWLA’s petition argued that the Muslim Family Law describes marriage as a “contract” and a minor could not be a party to a contract.

In an effort to reduce early and forced marriages, the government offered stipends for girls’ school expenses beyond the compulsory fifth-grade level. The government and NGOs conducted workshops and public events to teach parents the importance of their daughters waiting until age 18 before marrying

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalty for sexual exploitation of children is 10 years’ to life imprisonment. Child pornography and the selling or distributing of such material is prohibited.

Displaced Children: See section 2.d.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no Jewish community in the country, but politicians and imams reportedly used anti-Semitic statements to gain support from their constituencies. In one high-profile case, ruling party politicians leveraged anti-Semitic sentiment for political gain by accusing an opposition leader of colluding with Israeli intelligence services. A high-profile grand imam was also known for issuing fatwas and publishing text on Zionist conspiracies to garner support for the AL-led government.

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 provides for equal treatment and freedom from discrimination for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

Although the law requires physical structures be made accessible to those with disabilities, the government did not implement the law effectively. A report prepared by several NGOs in 2016 highlighted negligence in areas such as accessibility in physical structures, access to justice, rights of women with disabilities, freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse, the right to education and health and a decent work place, the right to employment, and political rights and representation.

The law requires persons with disabilities to register for identity cards to track their enrollment in educational institutions and access to jobs. This registration allows them to be included in voter lists, to cast votes, and to participate in elections. It states that no person, organization, authority, or corporation shall discriminate against persons with disabilities and allows for fines) or three years’ imprisonment for giving unequal treatment for school, work, or inheritance based on disability, although implementation of the law was uneven. The law also created a 27-member National Coordination Committee charged with coordinating relevant activities among all government organizations and private bodies to fulfill the objectives of the law. Implementation of the law was slow, delaying the formation and functioning of Disability Rights and Protection Committees required by the legislation.

According to the NGO Action against Disability, 90 percent of children with disabilities did not attend public school. The government trained teachers about inclusive education and recruited disability specialists at the district level. The government also allocated stipends for students with disabilities.

The law affords persons with disabilities the same access to information rights as nondisabled persons, but family and community dynamics often influenced whether these rights were exercised.

The law identifies persons with disabilities as a priority group for government-sponsored legal services. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Department of Social Services, and National Foundation for the Development of the Disabled are the government agencies responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

Government facilities for treating persons with mental disabilities were inadequate. The Ministry of Health established child development centers in all public medical colleges to assess neurological disabilities. Several private initiatives existed for medical and vocational rehabilitation as well as for employment of persons with disabilities. National and international NGOs provided services and advocated for persons with disabilities. The government established 103 disability information and service centers in all 64 districts, where local authorities provided free rehabilitation services and assistive devices. The government also promoted autism research and awareness.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Violent attacks against religious minority communities continued, apparently motivated by transnational violent extremism as well as economic and political reasons. For example, on November 11, media reports indicated that approximately 30 Hindu houses were vandalized and burned in Rangpur by local Muslims in response to a rumored Facebook post demeaning Islam.

NGOs reported that national origin, racial, and ethnic minorities faced discrimination. For example, some Dalits (lowest-caste Hindus) had restricted access to land, adequate housing, education, and employment.

Indigenous People

The CHT indigenous community experienced widespread discrimination and abuse despite nationwide government quotas for participation of indigenous CHT residents in the civil service and higher education. These conditions also persisted despite provisions for local governance in the 1997 CHT Peace Accord, which had not been implemented. Indigenous persons from the CHT were unable to participate effectively in decisions affecting their lands due to disagreements regarding the structure and policies of the land commission.

The central government retained authority over land use. The land commission, designed to investigate and return all illegally acquired land, did not resolve any disputes during the year.

Indigenous communities in areas other than the CHT reported the loss of land to Bengali Muslims, and indigenous peoples’ advocacy groups reported continued land encroachment by Rohingya settlers from Burma. The government continued construction projects on land traditionally owned by indigenous communities in the Moulvibazar and Modhupur forest areas.

On February 7, the High Court ordered the government to relieve Ashraful Islam, superintendent of police of Gaibandha District, of his duties for failure to cooperate with a judicial inquiry into the November 2016 arson attacks on the Santal tribe in Gobindaganj Upazila. A police probe identified two law enforcement officers as responsible for setting fire to Santal homes. Leaders among the Santal, a mostly Christian indigenous group that numbers approximately 500,000, alleged that many other police personnel were involved in the clash over land ownership with the workers of a sugar mill. The Santal community blamed several local Awami League leaders for the attack on the Santal village.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal under the law. LGBTI groups reported police used the law as a pretext to bully LGBTI individuals, as well as those considered effeminate regardless of their sexual orientation, and to limit registration of LGBTI organizations. Some groups also reported harassment under a suspicious behavior provision of the police code. The transgender population has long been a marginalized, but recognized, part of society, but it faced continued high levels of fear, harassment, and law enforcement contact in the wake of violent extremist attacks against vulnerable communities.

Members of LGBTI communities received threatening messages via telephone, text, and social media, and some were harassed by police.

In May, RAB forces raided the Chayaneer Community Center in Keranigan during a dinner organized by the LGBTI community from that area. According to witnesses, 28 individuals were arrested of the 120 persons present at the time of the raid. The witnesses also stated RAB separated the diners into small groups and beat them before identifying individuals for arrest. During the raid RAB announced to the media the raid was conducted based on suspicion of homosexual activity and allowed the media to photograph some of the arrested individuals. RAB later announced the attendees were not engaged in “illegal sexual activities” at the time of the raid and were instead arrested for possession of narcotics–specifically “yaba” (a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine) and cannabis. The court system remanded four of the individuals. Of the remaining 24 individuals, 12 were detained for further questioning and 12 were sent directly to jail.

Following these events and continued harassment, many members of LGBTI communities, including the leadership of key support organizations, continued to reduce their activities and sought refuge both inside and outside of the country. This resulted in severely weakened advocacy and support networks for LGBTI persons. Organizations specifically assisting lesbians continued to be rare. Strong social stigma based on sexual orientation was common and prevented open discussion of the subject.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Social stigma against HIV and AIDS and against higher-risk populations could be a barrier for accessing health services, especially for the transgender community and men who have sex with men.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Vigilante killings occurred. Local human rights organizations acknowledged the number of reported cases probably represented only a small fraction of the actual incidents. Illegal fatwas and village arbitration, which a prominent local NGO defined as rulings given by community leaders rather than religious scholars, also occurred. According to Odhikar, 21 individuals suffered from vigilante killing from January through June, primarily by public lynching.

Barbados

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Separate legislation addresses male rape. There are legal protections against spousal rape for women holding a court-issued divorce decree, separation order, or non-molestation order.

The law prohibits domestic violence and provides protection to all members of the family, including men and children. The law applies equally to marriages and to common-law relationships. The law empowers police to make an arrest after receiving a complaint, visiting the premises, and having some assurance that a crime was committed.

Penalties depend on the severity of the charges and range from a fine for first-time offenders (unless the injury is serious) up to the death penalty for cases resulting in death of a victim. Victims may request restraining orders, which the courts often issued. The courts may sentence an offender to jail for breaching such an order.

Violence and abuse against women continued to be significant social problems. Police have a victim support unit, but reports indicated the services provided were inadequate.

There were public and private counseling services for victims of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse. The government provided funding for a shelter, for women who had faced violence. The shelter also served victims of human trafficking and others forms of gender-based violence.

The Bureau of Gender Affairs cited a lack of specific information and inadequate Human rights activists noted a decrease in the number of reported cases of rape in which the victim did not know the perpetrator. They also praised the government’s programs and noted a marked improvement in societal attitudes and efforts to improve reporting.

Sexual Harassment: No law contains penalties specifically for sexual harassment except in the workplace. Human rights activists reported sexual harassment continued to be a serious concern.

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

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, except that Barbadian women not born in Barbados do not transfer citizenship to their children. Women actively participated in all aspects of national life and were well represented at all levels of the public and private sectors, although some discrimination persisted. The law does not mandate equal pay for equal work, and reports indicated that women earned significantly less than men for comparable work.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained by birth in the country or to a person born outside the country to Barbadian parents. There was universal birth registration.

Child Abuse: The law does not prohibit violence or abuse against children, and such abuses appeared to be on the rise. Government officials participated in a UNICEF-sponsored campaign to sensitize the community about child sexual abuse. A telephone hotline was available to report child abuse.

The Child Care Board has a mandate for the care and protection of children, which involved investigating daycare centers and allegations of child abuse or child labor, as well as providing counseling services, residential placement, and foster care.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years. Persons between the ages of 16 to 18 can be married with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse and makes child pornography illegal. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. The Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, and Community Development acknowledged child prostitution occurred; however, there were no official statistics to document the problem. Newspaper reports suggested the number of young teenage girls engaged in transactional sex was increasing.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The 2017 Employment (Prevention of Discrimination) Act provides for nondiscrimination of all persons. The legislation prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, but it does not extend to education or the provision of other state services. A separate law provides for employers to ensure the safety and health of persons with disabilities.

The government and council offered free bus services for children with disabilities; nonetheless, transportation difficulties at public schools continued to be a serious concern.

The Barbados Council for the Disabled, the Barbados National Organization for the Disabled, and other NGOs indicated that transportation remained the primary challenge facing persons with disabilities.

Although many public areas lacked the necessary ramps, railings, parking, and bathroom adjustments to accommodate persons with disabilities, the council implemented the Fully Accessible Barbados initiative, which had some success in improving accessibility. The Town and Country Planning Department set provisions for all public buildings to include accessibility for persons with disabilities. As a result most new buildings had ramps, reserved parking, and accessible bathrooms.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, with penalties up to life imprisonment, but there were no reports of the law being enforced during the year. The law does not prohibit discrimination against a person based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, education, or health care.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that LGBTI persons faced discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. Activists claimed that while many individuals lived open LGBTI lifestyles, police disapproval and societal discrimination made LGBTI persons more vulnerable to threats, crime, and destruction of property. NGOs claimed that LGBTI women were particularly vulnerable to discrimination and unequal protection under the law.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government continued a countrywide media campaign to discourage discrimination against HIV/AIDS-infected persons and others living with them, and it reported that the campaign had decreased social stigma against HIV/AIDS. While there was no systematic discrimination, HIV/AIDS-infected persons did not commonly disclose the condition due to lack of social acceptance.

Belarus

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape in general but does not include separate provisions on marital rape. Rape was a problem. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there were 108 registered cases of rape or attempted rape from January to June 2017.

Domestic violence was a significant problem, and the government took measures to prevent it during the year. The government directed efforts to combat gender-based violence mainly by preventing such crimes and not by protecting or assisting victims, although crisis rooms provided limited psychological and medical assistance to victims.

The law on crime prevention establishes a separate definition of domestic violence and provides for implementation of protective orders, which are from three to 30 days in duration. The law requires authorities to provide victims and abusers with temporary accommodation until the protective orders expire. In addition, the code on administrative offenses prescribes a large fine or detention for up to 15 days for battery, intended infliction of pain, and psychological or physical suffering committed against a close family member.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment reportedly was widespread, but no specific laws, other than those against physical assault, address the problem.

Coercion in Population Control: Women with disabilities, as well as pregnant women whose children were diagnosed with potential disabilities in utero, reported that some doctors insisted they terminate their pregnancies. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides for equal treatment of women with regard to property ownership and inheritance, family law, equal pay for equal work (although in practice women were often paid less), and in the judicial system, and the law was generally respected.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived either by birth within the country or from one’s parents. A child of a citizen is a citizen regardless of place of birth, even if one parent is not a citizen. Births were generally registered immediately.

Child Abuse: Authorities intervened to prevent child abuse stemming from domestic violence and identified families in vulnerable conditions, providing foster care to children who could not remain with their immediate families while preventive work was underway. Although the government increased prosecution of child abusers, its efforts to address the causes of child abuse were inadequate. The government instituted a 2017-21 comprehensive national plan to improve childcare and the protection of children’s rights, including for victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and commercial sexual exploitation, and acknowledged a lack of funding and inefficiency in executing certain protective measures. With assistance from NGOs that promote children’s rights, authorities extensively employed procedures for on-the-record, one-time interviewing of child abuse victims in the framework of investigations or criminal cases at specialized facilities under the direct supervision of psychologists. Courts used recorded testimony to avoid repeatedly summoning child abuse victims for hearings. Cases that affected the rights and legitimate interests of minors were generally heard by more experienced judges with expertise in developmental psychology, psychiatry, and education. The government failed to resume operations of a national hotline for assisting children despite various NGOs’ requests to support the hotline.

As of January the Ministry of Education ran 138 social-educational centers nationwide for minor victims of any type of violence or minors finding themselves in vulnerable and dangerous conditions. General health-care institutions provided a wide range of medical aid to child abuse victims free of charge.

Rape or sexual assault of a person known to be a minor is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. Sexual acts between a person older than 18 and a person known to be younger than 16 carry penalties of up to five years imprisonment.

According to the Interior Ministry, from January to November authorities registered 533 pedophilia and related crimes, including 76 cases of rape of prepubescent children, 173 cases of sexual violence against minors and prepubescent children, 250 cases of sexual intercourse and sexual molestation of minors under age 16, and 34 cases of sexual molestation of minors, and identified 396 victims of these crimes.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls is 18, although girls as young as 14 may marry with parental consent. There were reports of early marriage in which girls as young as 14 and boys as young as 16 married with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Prostitution of children was a problem. From January to November, the Internal Affairs Ministry investigated 63 cases of the production and distribution of child pornography. Twenty-nine minors were victims of sexual exploitation, including 25 in child pornography, and four in prostitution. The law provides penalties of up to 13 years in prison for production or distribution of pornographic materials depicting a minor. The law generally was enforced.

Institutionalized Children: There was no system for monitoring child abuse in orphanages or other specialized institutions. Authorities did not publicly report on any child abuse incidents in institutions. There were allegations of abuse in foster families. The government opened or continued investigations into some of these cases.

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

Anti-Semitism

Jewish groups estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 persons identified themselves as Jews.

Anti-Semitic incidents continued. Jewish community and civil society activists expressed concern regarding pan-Slavic nationalism professed by some extremist groups. Neo-Nazis such as the Russian National Unity group and supporters of similar groups were widely believed to be behind anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Anti-Semitic and xenophobic newspapers, literature, digital video discs, and videotapes, frequently imported from Russia were widely available. The government did not promote antibias and tolerance education.

Authorities in Mahilyou convicted local 26-year-old resident Andrei Kuzmin of inciting ethnic hatred against Russians and Jews, including calling for their annihilation, and sharing ethnically and religiously hateful beliefs and Nazi symbols through his social networking pages, and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment. Kuzmin reportedly pled guilty in court.

In July media reported that many Holocaust memorials built in Soviet times and more recently do not acknowledge Jewish victims. The Jewish community was working with local authorities to erect new monuments that specifically commemorate Jewish victims.

On February 20, a Mahilyou district court sentenced three individuals for spraying black paint in November 2016 on a monument commemorating thousands of Jews who were killed by Nazis in the local ghetto during the Holocaust. Two of the three young men were sentenced to up to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and one received a two-year suspended sentence due to his minor age. All three pleaded guilty and admitted to expressing Nazi ideas and to belonging to a local skinhead group. A higher court dismissed their appeal to challenge their convictions on May 16.

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 specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities; discrimination was common.

The law mandates that transport, residences, and businesses be accessible to persons with disabilities, but few public areas were wheelchair accessible or accessible for hearing and vision-impaired persons. The National Association of Disabled Wheelchair Users estimated that more than 90 percent of persons with physical disabilities were unable to leave their places of residence without assistance and stated their residences were not suitable to accommodate persons with physical disabilities. While authorities claimed that 30 percent of the country’s total infrastructure was accessible, disability rights organizations considered this figure inflated although the situation slightly improved during the year.

The country’s lack of independent living opportunities left many persons with disabilities no choice but to live in state-run institutions. Approximately 80 such institutions across the country housed more than 17,000 persons. Disability rights organizations reported that the quality of care in these facilities was low, and instances of fundamental human rights violations, harassment, mistreatment, and other abuse were reported. Authorities frequently placed persons with physical and mental disabilities in the same facilities and did not provide either group with specialized care.

Public transportation was free to persons with disabilities, but the majority of subway stations in Minsk and the bus system were not wheelchair accessible. In September experts of the ACT NGO released a monitoring report indicating that 3.3 percent of all educational institutions across the country were accessible to persons with disabilities, including with vision and hearing disabilities, and most of these facilities were recently constructed.

Disability rights organizations reported difficulty organizing advocacy activities due to impediments to freedom of assembly, censorship, and the government’s unwillingness to register assistance projects (see section 2.b.).

Persons with disabilities, especially those with vision and hearing disabilities, often encountered problems with access to courts and obtaining court interpreters. Women with disabilities often faced discrimination, and there were reports of authorities attempting to take children away from families in which parents had disabilities, claiming that they would not appropriately care for their children. Women with disabilities, as well as pregnant women whose children were diagnosed with potential disabilities in utero, reported that some doctors insisted they terminate their pregnancies.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Governmental and societal discrimination against Roma persisted. According to leaders of the Romani communities, security and law enforcement agencies arbitrarily detained, investigated, and harassed Roma, including by forced fingerprinting, mistreatment in detention, and ethnic insults.

Authorities continued to harass the independent and unregistered Union of Poles of Belarus, while supporting a progovernment organization of a similar name.

Official and societal discrimination continued against the country’s 7,000 (according to the 2009 census) to 60,000 Roma (according to Romani community estimates). The Romani community continued to experience marginalization, various types of discrimination, high unemployment, low levels of education, and lack of access to social services. Roma generally held citizenship, but many lacked official identity documents and refused to obtain them.

In July, Aliaksandr Burakou, a human rights advocate in Mahilyou, filed a complaint with a local prosecutor’s office asking it to study online reports from local police describing a number of suspects in various cases as Roma. Burakou asserted that such reports incited interethnic discord and hatred towards a certain minority group. The office forwarded Burakou’s complaint to Mahilyou police. On August 1, Mahilyou police dismissed Burakou’s claims and stated that the reports noted ethnicity in order to “promptly identify suspects and investigate their committed crimes and to raise the public’s vigilance.”

There were also expressions of societal hostility toward proponents of the national culture that the government often identified with actors of the democratic opposition, repeatedly labeled by the president as “the fifth column.” Because the government viewed many proponents of the Belarusian language as political opponents, authorities continued to harass and intimidate academic and cultural groups that sought to promote Belarusian and routinely rejected proposals to widen use of the language.

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

Consensual same-sex conduct between adults is not illegal, but discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons was widespread, and harassment occurred. Societal discrimination against LGBTI activists persisted with the tacit support of the regime. Police continued to mistreat LGBTI persons and refused to investigate crimes against them.

On May 13, police disrupted a party organized by an LGBTI group at a nightclub in Minsk and wrote down everyone’s names as well as their places of employment or education. Police also briefly detained approximately 10 individuals who either refused to show identification or were identified by police as organizers of the party. Officers reportedly claimed they received notices of possible drug trafficking and abuse of minors at the club. All those detained were released without charge.

The government provides transgender persons with new national identification documents but retains old identification numbers that include a digit that signifies gender. Transgender persons reportedly were refused jobs when potential employers noted the “discrepancy” between the applicant’s identification number and the stated gender. Banks also refused to open accounts for transgender persons on the same grounds.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remained a problem, and the illness carried a heavy social stigma. The Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS reported there were numerous reports of HIV-infected individuals who faced discrimination, especially at workplaces and during job interviews. There were also frequent reports of family discrimination against HIV/AIDS-positive relatives, including preventing HIV/AIDS-positive parents from seeing their children or requiring HIV/AIDS-positive family members to use separate dishware.

The government continued to broadcast and post public service advertisements raising awareness concerning HIV/AIDS and calling for greater tolerance toward persons infected with the virus.

Belgium

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government prosecuted such cases. A convicted rapist may receive 10 to 30 years in prison.

The law prohibits domestic violence and provides for fines and incarceration. Legal sanctions for domestic violence are based on the sanctions for physical violence against a third person; the latter range from eight days to 20 years in prison. In cases of domestic violence, these sanctions are doubled. A number of government-supported shelters and telephone helplines were available across the country for victims of domestic abuse.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls. Reported cases were primarily filed by recent immigrants or asylum seekers. Criminal sanctions apply to persons convicted of FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law aims to prevent violence and harassment at work, obliging companies to set up internal procedures to handle employee complaints. Sexist remarks and attitudes targeting a specific individual are illegal; fines for violations range from 50 to 1,000 euros ($60 to $1,200). The government generally enforced antiharassment laws. Politicians and organizations such as the Federal Institute for the Equality of Men and Women worked to raise awareness of the problem.

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

Discrimination: Women have the same legal rights as men. The law requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, or motherhood as well as in access to goods, services, social welfare, and health care.

Children

Birth Registration: The government registered all live births immediately. Citizenship is conferred on a child through a parent’s (or the parents’) Belgian citizenship.

Child Abuse: The government continued to prosecute cases of child abuse and punish those convicted.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law provides that both (consenting) partners must be at least 18 to marry.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation, abduction, and trafficking and includes severe penalties for child pornography and possession of pedophilic materials. Authorities enforced the law. The penalties for producing and disseminating child pornography range up to 15 years’ imprisonment and up to one year in prison for possessing such material. Belgian girls and foreign children were subjected to sex trafficking within the country.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. Statutory rape carries penalties of imprisonment for up 30 years.

Displaced Children: Authorities provided adequate housing and services to unaccompanied minors who filed asylum claims as minors.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community was estimated at 40,000 persons. There were 109 reports of anti-Semitic acts in 2016, a steep increase from the 57 notifications in 2015. Anti-Semitic acts included some physical attacks but consisted mainly of verbal harassment of Jews and vandalism of Jewish property. Authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate prosecuted, such cases. Online hate speech continued to be a problem. Jewish groups reported anti-Semitic statements and attitudes in the media and in schools, especially but not exclusively related to the government of Israel and the Holocaust.

The law prohibits public statements that incite national, racial, or religious hatred, including denial of the Holocaust. The government prosecuted and convicted individuals under this law (see section 2.a.). The government also provided enhanced security at Jewish schools and places of worship.

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 generally enforced the provisions.

While the government mandated that public buildings erected after 1970 must be accessible to persons with disabilities, many older buildings were still inaccessible. Although the law requires that prison inmates with disabilities receive adequate treatment in separate, appropriate facilities, there were still many such inmates incarcerated in inadequate facilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic minorities continued to experience discrimination in access to housing, education, and employment. Discriminatory acts primarily took place over the internet, at work, or when individuals attempted to gain access to various public and private services, such as banking and restaurants.

Discrimination against women who wore a headscarf was common in the labor market. The law also prohibits the wearing of a full-face veil (niqab) in public places. Authorities may punish persons who discriminate on the basis of ethnic origin with a fine of up to 137.50 euros ($165) and a jail sentence of up to seven days. There were reports of discrimination against persons of African and Middle Eastern ancestry. Government efforts to address such problems included internal training of officials and police officers and enforcement of laws prohibiting such discrimination.

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

The country has a well developed legal structure for the protection of LGBTI rights, which are included in the country’s antidiscrimination laws. Despite some progress, the underreporting of crimes against the LGBTI community remained a problem.

LGBTI persons from immigrant communities reported social discrimination within those communities. The government supported NGOs working to overcome the problem.

The law provides adequate protections for transgender persons. On May 24, the Federal House approved a law removing the requirement for persons to undergo gender reassignment surgery before they are allowed to change their gender legally. Under the new law, an individual who is at least 16 may make an official statement regarding their gender to officer of the civil status registry, who would notify the general prosecutor. Absent objection from the Office of the General Prosecutor, the person’s birth certificate would be amended within three months.

During the year the government, in cooperation with the regional entities, implemented an antihomophobia action plan. The plan requires government entities to conduct awareness campaigns to combat homophobic stereotypes in schools, youth movements, places of work, and the sports community.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In the aftermath of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and the March 2016 bombing attacks in Brussels, there was an upsurge in anti-Islamic incidents across the country, including demonstrations and attempted demonstrations against Islam in Brussels, Ghent, and Antwerp that were attended by hundreds of protesters. There were reports of individual cases of violence directed against Muslims.

Restrictions on Islamic clothing in public and private sector employment, schools, and public spaces affected Muslim women in particular.

Unia received complaints of discrimination based on physical characteristics, political orientation, social origin, or status.

Belize

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The criminal code criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape. The code states that a person convicted of rape shall be sentenced to imprisonment for eight years to life, although sentences were sometimes much lighter. Challenges to the wider justice system generally resulted in poor conviction rates for rape.

Domestic violence was often prosecuted with charges such as harm, wounding, grievous harm, rape, and marital rape, but charges were treated as civil matters. Police, prosecutors, and judges recognized both physical violence and mental injury. Penalties include fines or imprisonment for violations. The law empowers the Family Court to issue protection orders against accused offenders.

According to data provided by a government ministry in 2016, there were 731 cases of domestic violence filed by women and 123 by men; 460 followed through with court action. The government ran awareness campaigns against gender-based and domestic violence, a domestic violence hotline, and shelters, and major police stations had designated domestic abuse officers, although these measures were not always effective.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides protection from sexual harassment in the workplace, including provisions against unfair dismissal of a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. The Women’s Department recognizes sexual harassment as a subset of sexual violence, but no cases have ever been brought under the sexual harassment protections.

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

There were reports of Mayan women receiving involuntary caesarian sections to discourage large families. There were uncorroborated anecdotes of Mayan women being sterilized unnecessarily because of irregularities found during annual checkups.

For additional information on maternal mortality and other health issues, see the see the World Health Organization website at www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law also mandates equal pay for equal work, but the labor commissioner verified that men earned on average $90 Belize dollars ($45) more per month than women did because they held higher managerial positions. The law provides generally for the continuity of employment and protection against unfair dismissal, including for sexual harassment in the workplace, pregnancy, or HIV status.

The BDF and Belize Coast Guard maintain a 5 percent and 10 percent limit, respectively, on the number of female service members allowed to serve. Despite legal provisions for gender equality and government programs aimed at empowering women, NGOs and other observers reported that women faced social and economic discrimination. Although participating in all spheres of national life and outnumbering men in university classrooms and high school graduation rates, women held relatively few top managerial or government positions.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory, regardless of the parents’ nationality. Citizenship may also be acquired by descent if at least one parent is a citizen of the country. The standard provision is for births to be registered no later than a week after birth; registration after a month is considered late and includes a minimal fine. Failure to register does not result in any denial of public service, but it slows the process for receiving a social security card and therefore accessing health care.

Education: Primary education is free, and education is compulsory between the ages of six and 14; however, primary schools may incorporate other fees, and parents may be required to pay for textbooks, uniforms, and meals.

Child Abuse: Abuse of children occurred, and as of December 2016 (the most recent date for which statistics were available), 1,407 cases were reported to authorities of which 78 cases were considered either trafficking or cases of unaccompanied minors.

In June, two 13-year-old primary school girls reported to police (in the company of their parents) that the principal of their school had sexually assaulted them. Police arrested and charged the principal. The investigation continued at year’s end.

The law allows authorities to remove a child from an abusive home environment and requires parents to maintain and support children until the age of 18. There were publicized cases of underage girls being victims of sexual abuse and mistreatment, in most cases in their own home or in a relative’s home.

The Family Services Division in the Ministry of Human Development is the government office with the lead responsibility for children’s problems. The division coordinated programs for children who were victims of domestic violence, advocated remedies in specific cases before the Family Court, conducted public education campaigns, investigated cases of trafficking in children, and worked with local and international NGOs and UNICEF to promote children’s welfare.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age to marry is 18, but persons between ages 16 and 18 may marry with the consent of parents, legal guardians, or judicial authority. According to UNICEF, 26 percent of women ages 20 to 24 were married or cohabitating before age 18. The government did not undertake any prevention or mitigation efforts to reduce the rate of early marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law establishes penalties for child prostitution, child pornography, child sexual exploitation, and indecent exhibition of a child. It defines a “child” as anyone under age 18. The law stipulates that the offense of child prostitution does not apply to persons exploiting 16- and 17-year-old children in sexual activity in exchange for remuneration, gifts, goods, food, or other benefits.

The legal age for consensual sex is 16, but prostitution is not legal under 18. Sexual intercourse with a girl under age 14 is an offense punishable by 12 years’ to life imprisonment. Unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl ages 14-16 is an offense punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment.

There were anecdotal reports that boys and girls were exploited in child prostitution, including the “sugar daddy” syndrome whereby older men provided money to young women and/or their families for sexual relations. Similarly, there were reports of increasing exploitation of minors, often to meet the demand of foreign sex tourists in tourist-populated areas or where there were transient and seasonal workers. The law criminalizes the procurement or attempted procurement of “a person” under age 18 to engage in prostitution; an offender is liable to eight years’ imprisonment. The government did not effectively enforce laws prohibiting child sex trafficking.

The law establishes a penalty of two years’ imprisonment for persons convicted of publishing or offering for sale any obscene book, writing, or representation.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population was small, 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 expressly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the constitution provides for the protection of all citizens from any type of discrimination. The law does not provide for accessibility accommodations for persons with disabilities, and most public and private buildings and transportation were not accessible to them. Certain businesses and government departments had designated clerks to attend to the elderly and persons with disabilities. There were no policies to encourage hiring of persons with disabilities in the public or private sectors.

Mental health provisions and protections generally were poor. Informal government-organized committees for persons with disabilities were tasked with public education and advocating for protections against discrimination. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sports maintained an educational unit offering limited special education programs within the regular school system. There were two schools and four special education centers for children with disabilities.

The special envoy for women and children continued advocacy campaigns on behalf of persons with disabilities, especially children, and supported efforts to promote schools that took steps to create inclusive environments for persons with disabilities.

Indigenous People

No separate legal system or laws cover indigenous persons, since the government maintains that it treats all citizens the same. Employers, public and private, generally treated indigenous persons equally with other ethnic groups for employment and other purposes.

The Maya Leaders’ Alliance, composed of the Toledo Maya Council, Q’eche Council of Belize, Toledo Alcaldes Association, Julian Cho Society, and Tumul K’in Center of Learning, monitored development in the Toledo District with the goal of protecting Mayan land and culture. While the government noted the need to respect and consult the Mayan communities when issuing oil exploration licenses in the south, the alliance believed it was not properly consulted before decisions were made.

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

In 2016 the Supreme Court struck down the interpretation of Section 53 of the criminal code, which criminalized sexual acts “against the order of nature.” The government partially appealed the ruling in September, conceding the decriminalization of homosexuality but questioning a section of the decision that made “sexual orientation” a protected class. The Roman Catholic Church appealed the entire ruling in September. The Court of Appeals had not heard the case as of November.

The Immigration Act prohibits homosexual persons from entering the country, but immigration authorities did not enforce the law. A Venezuelan man intending to visit a Belizean man was harassed by immigration officers, and eventually denied entry and returned to Venezuela, allegedly due to a lack of travel funds.

The extent of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity was difficult to ascertain due to a lack of official reporting. The NGO United Belize Advocacy Movement (UniBAM) registered four killings or attempted killings based on sexual orientation and gender identity from January to September.

According to UniBAM, lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons were denied medical services and education and encountered family-based violence.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was some societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, and the government worked to combat it through public education efforts of the National AIDS Commission under the Ministry of Human Development.

The law provides for protection of workers against unfair dismissal, including for HIV status. The government provided free antiretroviral medication and other medical services to persons with HIV registered in the public health system; however, the government sometimes had insufficient supplies of medication.

Benin

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, but enforcement was weak due to police ineffectiveness, official corruption, and victims’ unwillingness to report cases due to fear of social stigma and retaliation. Prison sentences for rape convictions range from one to five years. The law explicitly prohibits spousal rape and provides the maximum penalty for conviction of raping a domestic partner. Because of the lack of police training in collecting evidence associated with sexual assaults, ignorance of the law, and inherent difficulties victims faced in preserving and presenting evidence in court, judges reduced most sexual offense charges to misdemeanors.

Penalties for conviction of domestic violence range from six to 36 months’ imprisonment. Domestic violence against women was common, however. Women remained reluctant to report cases, and judges and police were reluctant to intervene in domestic disputes.

The Ministry of Labor, Civil Service, and Social Affairs’ Social Promotion Center in Aplahoue, in the southeast, reported that it addressed 148 gender-based violence cases during the first half of the year.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and provides penalties for conviction of performing the procedure, including prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines of up to six million CFA francs ($10,050). Nevertheless, FGM/C occurred, and enforcement was rare due to the code of silence associated with this crime. The practice was largely limited to remote rural areas in the north. According to the UNICEF, 7 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 underwent FGM/C.

The government, in conjunction with NGOs and international partners, made progress in raising public awareness of the dangers of the practice. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and offers protection for victims, but sexual harassment was common, especially of female students by their male teachers. Persons convicted of sexual harassment face sentences of one to two years in prison and fines ranging from 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($168 to $1,675). The law also provides penalties for persons who are aware of sexual harassment and do not report it. Victims seldom reported harassment due to fear of social stigma and retaliation, however, and prosecutors and police lacked the legal knowledge and skills to pursue such cases. Although laws prohibiting sexual harassment were not widely enforced, judges used other provisions in the penal code to deal with sexual abuses involving minors.

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

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equality for women in political, economic, and social spheres, women experienced extensive discrimination in obtaining employment, credit, equal pay, and in owning or managing businesses.

The law on persons and the family bans all discrimination against women in marriage and provides for the right to equal inheritance.

The government and NGOs educated the public on women’s inheritance and property rights and their increased rights in marriage, including prohibitions on forced marriage, child marriage, and polygyny.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country to a citizen father. By law the child of a Beninese father is automatically considered a citizen, but the child of a Beninese woman is considered Beninese only if the child’s father is unknown, has no known nationality, or is also Beninese. Particularly in rural areas, parents often did not declare the birth of their children, either from lack of understanding of the procedures involved or because they could not afford the fees for birth certificates. This could result in denial of public services such as education and health care.

The government cooperated with donors on programs to increase the number of registered children through vital records staff capacity building. (For additional information, see Appendix C.)

Education: Primary education was compulsory for all children between ages six and 11. Public school education was tuition-free for primary school students and for female students through grade nine in secondary schools. Girls did not have the same educational opportunities as boys and the literacy rate for women was approximately 18 percent, compared with 50 percent for men. In some parts of the country, girls received no formal education.

Child Abuse: Children suffered multiple forms of abuse, including rape, sexual harassment, and abduction. The Child Code bans a wide range of harmful practices. The law provides for heavy fines and penalties with up to life imprisonment for convicted violators. Government authorities arrested suspects, referred them to judicial authorities, and provided temporary shelter to victims of abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits marriage under age 18 but grants exemptions for children ages 14 to 17 with parental consent and authorization of a judge. Early and forced marriage included barter marriage and marriage by abduction, in which the groom traditionally abducts and rapes his prospective child bride. The practice was widespread in rural areas, despite government and NGO efforts to end it through information sessions on the rights of women and children. Local NGOs reported some communities concealed the practice.

On June 16, the government, in partnership with UNICEF, launched a nationwide “Zero Tolerance for Child Marriage” campaign to change social norms and create a protective environment for children and their communities. (For additional information, see Appendix C.)

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penal code provides penalties for conviction of rape, sexual exploitation, corruption of minors, and procuring and facilitating prostitution, and it increases penalties for cases involving children under age 15. The child trafficking law provides penalties for conviction of all forms of child trafficking, including child prostitution, prescribing penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The act, however, focuses on prohibiting and punishing the movement of children rather than their ultimate exploitation. Individuals convicted of involvement in child prostitution, including those who facilitate and solicit it, face imprisonment of two to five years and fines of one million to 10 million CFA francs ($1,675 to $16,750). The law does not specifically prohibit child pornography.

Courts meted out stiff sentences to persons convicted of crimes against children, but many such cases never reached the courts due to lack of awareness of the law and children’s rights, lack of access to courts, or fear of police involvement.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Traditional practices of killing breech babies, babies whose mothers died in childbirth, babies considered deformed, and one of each set of newborn twins (because they were considered sorcerers) continued in the north of the country.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in education, access to health care, or provision of other state services; the law, however, provides that the government should care for persons with disabilities. There were no legal requirements for the construction or alteration of buildings to permit access for persons with disabilities. Legislation that addresses equality, equity, and nondiscrimination among all citizens is general in nature. Several laws, however, including the labor code, the social security code, the persons and family code, and elections law, contain specific references to persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities had no access to the conventional educational system.

The government operated few institutions to assist persons with disabilities. The Office for the Rehabilitation and the Integration of Persons with Disabilities under the Ministry of Labor, Civil Service, and Social Affairs coordinated assistance to persons with disabilities through the Aid Fund for the Rehabilitation and Insertion of Persons with Disabilities (Fonds Ariph).

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

There were no reports of criminal or civil cases involving consensual same-sex sexual conduct. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community reported instances of discrimination and social stigma based on sexual orientation.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Police generally ignored vigilante attacks, and incidents of mob violence occurred, in part due to the perceived failure of local courts to punish criminals adequately. Such cases generally involved mobs killing or severely injuring suspected criminals, particularly thieves caught stealing. On the night of May 1, local residents in Ouesse, a village in the central region, burned to death an 84-year-old woman accused of “sorcery” after her son, with whom she was living, died. The mob killing was under police investigation at year’s end.

Bhutan

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: In cases of rape involving minors, sentences range from five to 15 years in prison. In extreme cases a person convicted of rape may be imprisoned for life. Spousal rape is illegal and prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

The law prohibits domestic violence. Penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence range from a prison sentence of one month to three years. Offenders also are fined the daily national minimum wage for 90 days. Three police stations housed women and child protection units to address crimes involving women and children, and eight police stations housed desks with officers specifically devoted to women and children’s issues. The government passed rules and regulations clarifying the Domestic Violence Act, trained police on gender issues, and allowed civil society groups to undertake further efforts, including operation of a crisis and rehabilitation center.

Sexual Harassment: The Labor Employment Act has specific provisions to address sexual harassment in the workplace. NGOs reported that these provisions were generally enforced.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for equal inheritance for sons and daughters. Traditional inheritance laws stipulate that inheritance is matrilineal and that daughters inherit family land and daughters do not assume their father’s name at birth or their husband’s name upon marriage.

The law mandates the government take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination and exploitation of women, including trafficking, abuse, violence, harassment, and intimidation, at work and at home. The government generally enforced this law.

Children

Birth Registration: Under the constitution, only children whose parents are both citizens of Bhutan acquire Bhutanese citizenship at birth. Parents must register a birth before a child turns one year old.

Education: The government provides 11 years of universal free education to children although education is not compulsory. Gender parity at the primary level has been achieved. Girls have unequal access to the country’s secondary and tertiary schools because of their distance, their lack of adequate sanitation, and transportation difficulties.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse and provides for a minimum penalty of one year’s imprisonment for perpetrators. Schools have banned corporal punishment, and there were no reported incidents in monasteries.

Early and Forced Marriage: The statutory minimum age of marriage for both men and women is 18. Statistics from the 2010 BMIS (the latest available) indicated that 31 percent of marriages occurred before age of 18 and 7 percent before age of 15.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation, including child pornography, child prostitution, the sale of children, and child trafficking. The legal age of consent is 16 for both boys and girls.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country does not have a Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution specifically protects the rights of citizens with disabilities. Legislation directs the government to attend to the security of all citizens in the “event of sickness and disability.” The law requires that new buildings allow access for persons with disabilities, but the government did not enforce this legislation consistently. There were reports that hospitals were generally accessible to persons with disabilities, but residential and office buildings were not.

No government agency had specific responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The government claimed Nepali speakers were proportionally represented in civil service and government jobs. English was the medium of instruction in all government schools.

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

The constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws and application of rights but does not explicitly protect individuals from discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity. Laws against “sodomy or any other sexual conduct that is against the order of nature” exist. The penal code imposes penalties of up to one year in prison for engaging in prohibited sexual conduct.

Members of the LGBTI community reported instances of discrimination and social stigma based on sexual orientation.

The law does not provide any distinct legal status to transgender individuals, nor does it provide explicit protections.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

While NGOs claimed that persons with HIV/AIDS faced no widespread stigma, observers noted that such persons feared being open about their condition.

Persons with HIV/AIDS received free medical and counseling services, and the government maintained programs meant to prevent discrimination.

Bolivia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law establishes penalties of imprisonment for 15 to 20 years for the rape of an adult (man or woman). Domestic abuse resulting in injury is punishable by three to six years’ imprisonment, and the penalty for serious physical or psychological harm is a five- to 12-year prison sentence. Despite these legal provisions, conviction rates were low.

In 2013 the government passed the Law Guaranteeing Women a Life Free from Violence, but a lack of resources and training on the law and slow judicial processes continued to prohibit the law’s full implementation, according to the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and human rights groups.Domestic violence was endemic.

The law criminalizes femicide, the killing of a woman based on her identity as a woman, with 30 years in prison. Activists said that corruption, lack of adequate crime scene investigation, and a dysfunctional judiciary hampered convictions for femicide. According to the state attorney general, there were 73 cases of femicide between January 1 and September 30.

Women’s rights organizations reported that police units assigned to the FELCV did not have sufficient resources and that frontline officers lacked proper training about their investigatory responsibilities under the law. Women’s organizations also reported the law’s stringent penalties discouraged some women from reporting domestic abuse by their spouses, in part because of economic dependence.

The law calls for the construction of women’s shelters in each of the country’s nine departments. The municipalities of La Paz and Santa Cruz both had temporary shelters for victims of violence and their children.

Sexual Harassment: The law considers sexual harassment a civil offense. There were no comprehensive reports on the extent of sexual harassment, but observers generally acknowledged it was widespread.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, but women generally did not enjoy a social status equal to that of men. While the minimum wage law treats men and women equally, women generally earned less than men for equal work.

The rate of female participation in government was high, but there were reports that female policymakers faced discrimination, violence, and harassment.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both through birth within the country’s territory (unless the parents have diplomatic status) and from parents. The 2015 civil registry–the most recent available–indicated that 56 percent of citizens were registered within one year of their birth and 97 percent by age 12.

Child Abuse: Rape of a child younger than 14 carries a penalty of 20 to 25 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for consensual sex with an adolescent 14 to 18 years old is two to six years’ imprisonment. The Attorney General’s Office reported at least 34 cases of infanticide between January and November 2016. The penal code defines infanticide as the killing of a child younger than 13 years old. (For additional information, see UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey at data.unicef.org .)

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 14 for girls and 16 for boys. Minors’ parents or guardians must approve marriages between adolescents under 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children is punishable with 15- to 20-year prison sentences but remained a serious problem. The law also prohibits child pornography, punishable with 10- to 15-year sentences.

Displaced Children: UNICEF reported in 2015 that 20,000 to 32,000 minors lived in shelters after their parents abandoned them.

Institutionalized Children: Child advocacy organizations reported that many government-run shelters housed both child-abuse victims and juvenile delinquents. There were reports of abuse and negligence in some shelters. The La Paz Department Social Work Service confirmed that, of the region’s 380 shelters, including centers for abuse victims, orphans, and students, only 30 had government accreditation for meeting minimal standards.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population numbered fewer than 500. Jewish leaders reported the public often conflated Jews with Israelis.

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 requires access for wheelchair users to all public and private buildings, duty-free import of orthopedic devices, and a 50 percent reduction in public transportation fares for persons with disabilities. The constitution and law also require communication outlets and government agencies to offer services and publications in sign language and braille. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

A national law to protect the rights of persons with disabilities exists, but it lacked full implementation and budgetary support.

Architectural and infrastructure barriers prohibited ease of movement in La Paz and other urban areas for individuals with physical disabilities.

On August 11, the Legislative Assembly approved a law that provides 250 bolivianos ($37) per month to those who have “serious and severe” disabilities. The law requires both public and private institutions to employ a certain percentage of workers with disabilities. Municipalities that cannot find work for these individuals must pay them the bonus as an alternate form of compensation.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The 2012 census established the existence of 23,300 Afro-Bolivians. Afro-Bolivians in rural areas experienced the same type of problems and discrimination as indigenous persons who lived in these areas. Afro-Bolivian community leaders reported that employment discrimination was common and that public officials, particularly the police, discriminated in the provision of services. Afro-Bolivians also reported the widespread use of discriminatory language. The government made little effort to address such discrimination.

Indigenous People

In the 2012 census, approximately 41 percent of the population over the age of 15 identified themselves as indigenous, primarily from the Quechua and Aymara communities. The government facilitated major advances in the inclusion of indigenous peoples in governmental posts and in society writ large. In 2016 the government carried out programs to increase access to potable water and sanitation in rural areas where indigenous persons predominated.

Indigenous communities were well represented in government and politics, but they continued to bear a disproportionate share of poverty and unemployment. Government educational and health services remained unavailable to many indigenous groups living in remote areas.

Indigenous lands were not fully demarcated, and land reform remained a central political problem. Historically, some indigenous persons shared lands collectively under the “ayllu” system, which did not receive legal recognition during the transition to private property laws. Despite laws mandating reallocation and titling of lands, recognition and demarcation of indigenous lands were not completed.

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

The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The human rights ombudsman reported in May that the government registered 64 killings of LGBTI individuals in the last 10 years. The government investigated 14 cases, but the courts had not sentenced anyone for these crimes.“

A 2016 gender identity law allows members of the transgender community to change their name, sexual identification, and picture on all legal identity cards and birth certificates. Following the promulgation of the law, more than 140 persons officially changed the identity documents to reflect their gender.” On June 27, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal expanded the law by granting transsexual and transgender persons the right to marry legally. On November 9, however, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled a portion of the 2016 law unconstitutional, specifically the article that allows transgender individuals to “exercise all fundamental, political, labor, civil, economic and social rights.” On November 24, the court stated that the Legislative Assembly must specifically address the issue of marriage and adoption for transgender individuals.

According to the LGBTI activist community, “biological women” often failed to include transsexual women in advocacy efforts when fighting for greater rights for women in society.

According to activist sources in the LGBTI community, violence against transgender persons decreased due in part to better community awareness of LGBTI issues. For example, the Santa Cruz police commander regularly received updates from LGBTI activists about the violence and social problems the community faced. Moreover, the commander allowed transgender individuals that were incarcerated to be held in areas in accordance to their chosen sex. Police continued to be a threat to transgender individuals engaged in sex work.

LGBTI persons faced discrimination in the work place, at school, and when seeking to access government services, especially in the area of health care. Transgender individuals remained particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence. The Bolivian Coalition of LGBT Collectives reported in 2016 that 72 percent of transgender individuals abandoned their secondary school studies due to intense discrimination. Transgender activists said a majority of the transgender community was forced to seek employment in the commercial sex sector because of discrimination in the job market and unwillingness on the behalf of employers to accept their credentials.

Elderly LGBTI persons faced high rates of discrimination when attempting to access health-care services, and there were no legal mechanisms in place to transfer power of attorney to a same-sex partner.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, pervasive discrimination persisted. Ministry of Health authorities reported that discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS was most severe in indigenous communities, where the government was also least successful in diagnosing cases.

Activists reported discrimination forced HIV-positive persons to seek medical attention outside the country.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence in lieu of justice was a consequence of limited police resources and an inefficient judicial system. Supporters of mob violence in lieu of justice claimed limited policing and lack of faith in the justice system properly to punish criminals justified their actions. Although official statistics did not exist, media reports suggested mob violence in lieu of justice led to 30-40 deaths each year. The government took no formal action to combat acts of mob violence couched as vigilante justice.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The maximum penalty for rape, regardless of gender, including spousal rape, is 15 years in prison. The failure of police to treat spousal rape as a serious offense inhibited the effective enforcement of the law. Women victims of rape did not have regular access to free social support and assistance, and continued to confront prejudice and discrimination in their communities and from representatives of public institutions.

While laws in both entities empower authorities to remove the perpetrator from the home, officials rarely, if ever, made use of these provisions. Law enforcement officials were frequently under the mistaken impression that they needed to concern themselves with where the perpetrator would live. As a result, women in danger were compelled to go to safe houses. NGOs reported that authorities often returned offenders to their family homes less than 24 hours after a violent event. In the Federation, authorities prosecuted domestic violence as a felony, while in the RS it can be reported as felony or misdemeanor. Even when domestic violence resulted in prosecution and conviction, offenders were regularly fined or given suspended sentences, even for repeat offenders.

The country undertook several initiatives to combat rape and domestic violence. In June a Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees report on the prevention and combat of domestic violence noted that more than 2,200 professionals working in administration, police agencies, health care, and social service institutions had received training on gender-based violence. In addition, the BiH Gender Equality Agency has a memorandum of understanding with the country’s nine safe houses run by NGOs, which could collectively accommodate up to 200 victims at a time. In the RS, 70 percent of financing for safe houses came from the RS budget, while 30 percent was covered by the budgets of local communities. In the Federation, 30 percent of the financing came from cantonal budgets, while the Federation covered the remaining 70 percent. The financing of safe houses remained a problem throughout the country, especially in the Federation, where the Federation and the cantons failed to honor their obligations to safe houses.

Although police received specialized training in handling cases of domestic violence, NGOs reported widespread reluctance among officers in both entities to break up families by arresting offenders.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but it was a serious problem. NGOs reported that those who experienced sexual harassment almost never filed complaints with authorities.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, and authorities generally treated women equally. The law does not explicitly require equal pay for equal work, but it forbids gender discrimination. Women and men generally received equal pay for equal work at government-owned enterprises but not at all private businesses. NGOs reported little real progress in advancing equality between men and women in the labor market, noting instead widespread discrimination against women in the workplace, including the regular unwarranted dismissal of women because they were pregnant or new mothers. There is no official legal mechanism for the protection of women during maternity leave, and social compensation during leave is unequally regulated in different parts of the country. Many job announcements openly advertised discriminatory criteria, such as age and physical appearance, for employment of female applicants. Women remained underrepresented in law enforcement agencies.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The boy-to-girl birth ratio for the country was 107 boys per 100 girls. There were no reports the government took steps to address the imbalance.

Children

Birth Registration: By law, a child born to at least one citizen parent is a citizen regardless of the child’s place of birth. A child born on the territory of the country to parents who are unknown or stateless is entitled to citizenship. Parents generally registered their children immediately after they were born, but there were exceptions, particularly in the Romani community. The NGO Vasa Prava estimated there were slightly fewer than 49 unregistered children in the country, mainly Roma. UNHCR, with the legal assistance of a domestic NGO, registered the births of children whose parents failed to register them.

Education: Education was free through the secondary level but compulsory only for children of the ages of six through 15.

More than 50 schools across the Federation were segregated by ethnicity and religion. Although a “two schools under one roof” system was instituted following the 1992-95 conflict as a way to bring together returnee communities violently separated by conflict, the system calcified under the divisive and prejudicial administration of leading political parties. These parties controlled school administration through the country’s 13 different ministries of education and often enforced education policies based upon patronage and ethnic exclusion. Where students, parents, and teachers choose to resist segregation, they were met frequently with political indifference and sometimes intimidation.

Returnee students throughout the country continued to face barriers in exercising their language rights. For the fourth year in a row, parents of more than 500 Bosniak children in returnee communities throughout the RS continued to boycott public schools in favor of sending their children to alternative schooling financed and organized by the Federation Ministry of Education, with support from the Sarajevo Canton municipal government and the Islamic community. The boycott was based on the refusal of the RS Ministry of Education to approve a group of national subjects (specific courses to which either Bosniak, Serb, and Croat students are entitled, and taught in their constituent language according to their ethnicity) and its insistence instead on formally calling the language children learn in their respective public schools the “language of Bosniak people” instead of the “Bosnian language,” as described in the country’s constitution. In the Federation, Serb students likewise were denied language rights as provided in the Federation constitution, particularly in Canton 10, where authorities prevented the use of Serbian language and textbooks in the Serbian area were not available. Human rights activists noted that many textbooks reinforced stereotypes of the country’s ethnic groups and others missed opportunities to dispel stereotypes by excluding any mention of some ethnic groups, particularly Jews and Roma. State and entity officials generally did not act to prevent such discrimination.

Human Rights Watch asserted that ethnic quotas used by the Federation and the RS to allocate civil service jobs disproportionately excluded Roma and other minorities. The quotas were based on the 1991 census, which undercounted these minorities.

Child Abuse: Family violence against children was a problem. Police investigated and prosecuted individual cases of child abuse. The country’s Agency for Gender Equality estimated that one in five families experienced domestic violence. Municipal centers for social work are responsible for protecting children’s rights but lacked resources and the ability to provide housing for children who fled abuse or who required removal from abusive homes.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 but may be as young as 16 with parental consent. In certain Romani communities, girls married between the ages of 12 and 14. Children’s rights and antitrafficking activists noted that prosecutors were reluctant to investigate and prosecute arranged marriages involving Romani minors. The government did not have programs specifically designed to reduce the incidence of child marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The Federation, the RS, and the Brcko District have laws criminalizing sex trafficking, forced labor, and organized human trafficking. The state-level penalty for sexual exploitation of children is imprisonment for up 20 years under certain aggravating circumstances. At the entity level, penalties range from three to 15 years’ imprisonment. Under entity criminal codes, the abuse of a child or juvenile for pornography is a crime that carries a sentence of one to five years in prison. Authorities generally enforced these laws. The law prohibits sexual acts with a person younger than 18.

Girls were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, and there were reports that Romani girls as young as 12 endured early and forced marriage and domestic servitude. Children were used in the production of pornography.

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

Anti-Semitism

There were no reports of anti-Semitic violence against members of the Jewish community, which authorities estimated to number fewer than 1,000 persons.

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 in both entities and at the state level prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Discrimination in these areas continued, however. The government lacked a uniform legal definition of disabilities, which complicated access to benefits for those that would readily qualify, and normally prioritized support for war veterans.

The laws of both entities require increased accessibility to buildings for persons with disabilities, but authorities rarely enforced the requirement. Human rights NGOs complained that the construction of public buildings without access for persons with disabilities continued. In July 2016 the Federation government adopted a strategy that established benchmarks for the advancement of the rights of the disabled in areas of health, education, accessibility, professional rehabilitation and employment, social welfare, and culture and sports. The RS had no specific strategy regarding the rights of persons with disabilities.

NGOs complained that the government did not effectively implement laws and programs to help persons with disabilities. A special report by the human rights ombudsman released in December 2016 concluded, however, that significant progress had been made in the previous year towards increased accessibility and integration of the disabled into state-level legislative bodies in the country.

The law enables children with disabilities to attend regular classes when feasible. Due to lack of financial and physical resources, schools often reported that they were unable to accommodate them. Children with disabilities either attended classes using regular curricula in regular schools or attended special schools. Parents of children with significant disabilities reported receiving limited to no financial support from the government, notwithstanding that many of them were unemployed because of the round-the-clock care required for their dependents.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Members of minorities continued to experience discrimination in employment and education in both the government and private sectors. While the law prohibits discrimination, human rights activists frequently complained that authorities did not adequately enforce the law.

Harassment and discrimination against minorities continued throughout the country, although not as frequently as in previous years. The Interreligious Council of BiH reported, for example, that the number of attacks against religious objects has decreased significantly over the past year.

Violence and acts of intimidation against ethnic minorities at times focused on symbols and buildings of that minority’s predominant religion. For more information, see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

Roma experienced discrimination in access to housing, health care, education, and employment opportunities, and almost 99 percent of them remained unemployed. A significant percentage were homeless or without water or electricity in their homes. Many dwellings were overcrowded, and residents lacked proof of property ownership. Approximately three-fourths lived in openly segregated neighborhoods.

Authorities frequently discriminated against Roma, which contributed to their exclusion by society. Many human rights NGOs criticized law enforcement and government authorities for widespread indifference toward Romani victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, even though the majority of registered trafficking victims in recent years were Roma.

The country has an established legal framework for protection of minorities. State and entity-level parliaments had national minority councils that met on a regular basis but generally lacked resources and political influence on decision-making processes.

On July 19, the Council of Ministers adopted a 2017-20 action plan to improve employment, housing, and health care for the Romani population that included approximately 24.2 million marks ($14.8 million) in budgetary allocations.

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

While law at the state level prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, authorities did not fully enforce it. Both entities and the Brcko District have laws that criminalize any form of hate crime committed on the basis of the gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity of the victim.

LGBTI persons faced frequent harassment and discrimination, including termination of employment. Local advocacy NGOs reported increasing levels of documented domestic and peer violence committed against LGBTI individuals during the year. NGOs also reported that schools have become increasingly hostile environments, where LGBTI persons regularly experienced harassment and violence. In some cases, dismissal letters from work explicitly stated that sexual orientation was the cause of termination, making it extremely difficult for those dismissed to find another job. In the face of such risks, LGBTI persons rarely reported discrimination to police.

The prosecution of assault and other crimes committed against members of the LGBTI community remained delayed and generally inadequate. In the first four months of the year, the Sarajevo Open Center registered five cases of domestic violence perpetrated by immediate family members as well as threats, blackmail, , physical assaults, and forced medical treatment. In March the Sarajevo University Student Senate condemned a homophobic speech delivered by the former president of the Student Parliament in March 2016.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Significant social stigma and employment discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remained among members of the public as well as health workers. A Sarajevo-based NGO reported that infected persons experienced the greatest stigma and discrimination when seeking dental treatment.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Societal discrimination and occasional violence against ethnic minorities at times took the form of attacks on places symbolic of those minorities, including religious buildings. According to the Interreligious Council, an NGO that promotes dialogue among the four “traditional” religious communities (Muslim, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish), attacks against religious symbols, clerics, and property significantly decreased in the first eight months of the year, compared with the same period in 2016.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

There were widespread instances of media coverage and public discourse designed to portray members of other ethnic groups in negative terms, usually in connection with the 1992-95 conflict. During the year the RS president and senior officials in his political party as well as other officials and leaders in the RS repeatedly denied that Serb forces committed genocide at Srebrenica in 1995, despite the opposite findings of multiple local and international courts.

Botswana

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

Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Semitism

There was a very small Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

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

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

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

Indigenous people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

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

Brazil

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. The Maria da Penha Law criminalizes physical, psychological, and sexual violence against women, as well as defamation and damage to property or finances by someone with whom the victim has a marriage, family, or intimate relationship. Persons convicted of killing a woman or girl in cases of domestic violence may be sentenced to 12 to 30 years in prison.

The federal government maintained a toll-free nationwide hotline for women to report instances of intimate partner violence. Hotline operators have the authority to mobilize military police units to respond to such reports and follow up regarding the status of the case. In 2016 the hotline received 1,133,345 calls reporting domestic violence, a 51 percent increase over 2015.

Each state secretariat for public security operated police stations dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women. State and local governments also operated reference centers and temporary women’s shelters.

The law requires health facilities to contact police regarding cases in which a woman was harmed physically, sexually, or psychologically and to collect evidence and statements should the victim decide to prosecute.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison. NGOs reported that sexual harassment was a serious concern.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. According to the recruitment agency Catho, women received 70 percent of the amount men received for equal work in 2016.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country or from a parent. The National Council of Justice, in partnership with the Secretariat of Human Rights (SDH), acted to reduce the number of children without birth certificates by registering children born in maternity wards.

Child Abuse: Abuse and neglect of children and adolescents were problems. For additional information on this topic see www.unicef.org/protection/ .

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 (16 with parental or legal representative consent). According to 2016 data from UNICEF, 11 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 15, and 36 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children, adolescents, and other vulnerable persons is punishable by four to 10 years in prison. The law defines sexual exploitation as child sex trafficking, sexual activity, production of child pornography, and public or private sex shows. The law sets a minimum age of 14 for consensual sex, with the penalty for conviction of statutory rape ranging from eight to 15 years in prison.

While no specific laws address child sex tourism, it is punishable under other criminal offenses. The country was a destination for child sex tourism.

The law criminalizes child pornography. The penalty for conviction of possession of child pornography is up to four years in prison and a fine.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to the Jewish Federation, there were approximately 120,000 Jewish citizens, of whom approximately 50,000 were in the state of Sao Paulo and 25,000 in Rio de Janeiro State.

Several leaders of the Jewish and interfaith communities stated overt anti-Semitism was limited. Neo-Nazi groups operated in the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Parana.

In June vandals spray-painted a swastika inside a Star of David on the entrance wall of the Brazilian Israelite Club in Rio de Janeiro. Police opened an investigation into the incident.

In July, Congressman Darcisio Perondi criticized the introduction of charges against President Temer for passive corruption as “an apology for Nazism and Fascism.” Perondi later issued an apology for his comments.

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 and mental disabilities, and the federal government generally enforced these provisions. While federal and state laws mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities, states did not enforce them effectively.

The Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Act, a legal framework on the rights of persons with disabilities, seeks to promote greater accessibility through expanded federal oversight of the City Statute (a law intended to foster the safety and well-being of urban citizens, among other objectives), harsher criminal penalties for conviction of discrimination based on disability, and inclusive health services with provision of services near residences and rural areas.

The National Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the National Council for the Rights of the Elderly have primary responsibility for promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. The lack of accessible infrastructure and schools significantly limited the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in the workforce.

Civil society organizations acknowledged that monitoring and enforcement of disability policies remained weak and criticized a lack of accessibility to public transportation, weak application of employment quotas, and a limited medical-based definition of disability that often excludes learning disabilities. The government improved access for persons with disabilities in its infrastructure development and in retrofitting public sports venues to hold sporting events such as the 2016 Paralympic Games.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits racial discrimination, specifically the denial of public or private facilities, employment, or housing, to anyone based on race. The law also prohibits the incitement of racial discrimination or prejudice and the dissemination of racially offensive symbols and epithets, and it stipulates prison terms for such acts.

Approximately 52 percent of the population identified themselves as belonging to categories other than white. Despite this high representation within the general population, darker-skinned citizens, particularly Afro-Brazilians, frequently encountered discrimination.

Afro-Brazilians were underrepresented in the government, professional positions, and middle and upper classes. They experienced a higher rate of unemployment and earned average wages below those of whites in similar positions. There was also a sizeable education gap. Afro-Brazilians were disproportionately affected by crime.

The 2010 Racial Equality Statute continued to be controversial, due to its provision for nonquota affirmative action policies in education and employment. In 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of racial quota systems at universities. The 2010 law requires 20 percent of federal public administration positions be filled by Afro-Brazilians.

In 2016 the Ministry of Planning established a requirement for government ministries to set up internal committees to validate the self-declared ethnicity claims of public-service job applicants by using phenotypic criteria, essentially assessing “blackness” in an attempt to reduce abuse of affirmative action policy and related laws. Universities also set up race evaluation committees.

Indigenous People

According to data from the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) and the 2010 census, there were approximately 896,900 indigenous persons, representing 305 distinct indigenous ethnic groups and speaking 274 distinct languages. The law grants the indigenous population broad protection of their cultural patrimony, exclusive use of their traditional lands, and exclusive beneficial use of their territory. Congress must consult with the tribes involved when considering requests to exploit mineral and water resources, including ones with energy potential, on indigenous lands. (According to the constitution, all aboveground and underground minerals as well as hydroelectric-power potential belong to the government.) Human rights groups expressed concerns that most of the requirements for indigenous consultation were not met.

Illegal logging, drug trafficking, and mining, as well as changes in the environment caused by large infrastructure projects, forced indigenous tribes to move to new areas or make their demarcated indigenous territories smaller than established by law.

According to FUNAI, the federal government established rules for providing financial compensation following the occupation in good faith of indigenous areas, as in the cases of companies that won development contracts affecting indigenous lands. Various indigenous groups protested the slow pace of land demarcations.

In Maranhao State on April 30, ranchers attacked and injured at least 13 members of the Gamela indigenous group who were occupying land they claimed was stolen from them during the 2013 Terra Legal program. In September reports appeared that a group of illegal miners bragged about killing a group of indigenous persons from an uncontacted tribe in August when they accidentally encountered the group near the border with Colombia and Peru. Federal prosecutors opened an investigation, the second such investigation into a reported killing of uncontacted indigenous persons during the year.

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

Federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but several states and municipalities have administrative regulations that prohibit such discrimination and provide for equal access to government services. The criminal code states offenses subject to criminal prosecution fall under federal statutes, leaving hate crimes subject to administrative, not criminal penalties. Sao Paulo was the only state to codify punishments for hate-motivated violence and speech against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, the law penalizes commercial establishments that discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. In Brasilia the law penalizes both individuals and businesses for discrimination against LGBTI persons. In both Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, sanctions vary from warnings and fines to the temporary suspension or termination of a business license.

In September a federal court judge, Waldemar Claudio de Carvalho, ruled that homosexuality could be considered a disease. His ruling authorized psychologists to treat homosexuality with sexual orientation conversion therapies.

Social discrimination, especially against the transgender population, remained a problem. Violence against LGBTI individuals was a serious concern. According to the local NGO Gay Group of Bahia, 117 LGBTI persons were killed in the first trimester of the year. In February in Fortaleza, Ceara State, a transgender woman, Dandara dos Santos, was taken from her home, beaten, and then shot in the face before being bludgeoned to death. Authorities arrested five individuals; as of October their trial was pending.

The National LGBT Council, composed of representatives from civil society and government agencies, combatted discrimination and promoted the rights of LGBT persons. Meetings were open to the public and broadcast over the internet. During LGBT Pride Day on June 27, the Ministry of Human Rights launched a civic education campaign that used print, television, and radio messages to highlight the importance of respect for LGBT persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS is punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine. Civil society organizations and the press reported discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

According to the Catholic NGOs Pastoral Land Commission and Global Witness, rural violence, death threats, and killings of environmentalists continued to take place. On May 24, local police in Pau D’Arco, in the northern state of Para, while carrying out an eviction order, shot and killed 10 rural workers who were members of the League of Poor Campesinos, a group of landless activists and families seeking agrarian reform in the area. Media reported the police claimed they shot in self-defense. Authorities arrested 13 military and civil police officers allegedly involved in the case while an investigation was underway. In August a substitute judge released the 13 police officers.

The Brazilian Committee of Human Rights Defenders and Amnesty International reported 58 killings of human rights defenders between January and August. The Pastoral Land Commission reported a total of 61 killings of human rights defenders in land conflicts in all of 2016 and 1,079 violent conflicts related to land disputes in 2016, the most since the NGO began tracking data in 1985.

Brunei

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law stipulates maximum imprisonment of 30 years and caning with a minimum of 12 strokes for rape. In July Chapter 22 of the Penal Code Order was amended to increase the minimum sentence for rape from eight years to 10-20 years. The law does not criminalize spousal rape and explicitly states that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape, as long as she is not younger than 14 years (15 years if she is ethnic Chinese). Islamic family law provides protections against spousal abuse and for the granting of protection orders, and it has been interpreted to cover sexual assault. The penalty for violating a protection order is a maximum fine of BND 2,000 ($1,460), maximum imprisonment of six months, or both. The government reported rape cases, but the crime did not appear prevalent.

There is no specific domestic violence law, but authorities arrested individuals in domestic violence cases under the law related to protection of women and girls. Police investigated domestic violence only in response to a report by a victim. The criminal penalty for a minor domestic assault is one to two weeks in jail and a fine. An assault resulting in serious injury is punishable by caning and a longer prison sentence.

A special police unit staffed by female officers investigated domestic abuse and child abuse complaints. The Department of Community Development in the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports provided counseling for women and their spouses. Some female and minor victims were placed in protective custody at a government-sponsored shelter while waiting for their cases to be scheduled in court.

Islamic courts staffed by male and female officials offered counseling to married couples in domestic violence cases. Islamic courts recognized assault as grounds for divorce.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law criminalizes FGM/C. There were no reports of FGM/C being performed on women older than 18.

There were no statistics on the prevalence of FGM/C, but the government reported that in general it was done within 40 days of birth based on religious belief, health, and custom. The Ministry of Religious Affairs declared circumcision for Muslim girls (sunat) a religious rite obligatory under Islam and described it as the removal of the hood of the clitoris (Type I per World Health Organization (WHO) classification). The government does not consider this practice to be FGM/C and expressed support for WHO’s call for the elimination of FGM and the call for member countries to enact and enforce legislation to protect girls and women from all forms of violence, including FGM/C. The government claimed the practice rarely resembled the Type I description and had not caused medical complications or complaints.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates that whoever assaults or uses criminal force, intending thereby to outrage, or knowing the act is likely to outrage the modesty of a person, shall be punished by caning and a maximum imprisonment of five years. There were reports of sexual harassment, but the crime did not appear to be prevalent.

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

Discrimination: In accordance with the government’s interpretation of the Quran’s precepts, Muslim women and men are accorded different rights.

Secular civil law permits female citizens to own property and other assets, including business properties. Noncitizen husbands of citizens may not apply for permanent resident status until they reside in the country for a minimum of seven years, whereas noncitizen wives may do so after two years of marriage. Although citizenship is automatically inherited from citizen fathers, citizen mothers may pass their nationality to their children only through an application process in which children are first issued a COI (and considered stateless).

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from the father, or, following an application process, the mother. Birth registration is universal and equal for girls and boys, except among indigenous Dusun and Iban people in rural areas. Stateless parents must apply for a special pass for a child born in the country. Failure to register a birth is against the law, and later makes it difficult to enroll the child in school.

Child Abuse: Child abuse occurred and was prosecuted, but the crime did not appear prevalent. The Royal Brunei Police Force hosts a specialized Woman and Child Abuse Crime Investigation Unit, and the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports provided shelter and care to victims.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both boys and girls is 14 years with parental and participant consent, unless otherwise stipulated by religion or custom under the law, which generally set a higher minimum age. The Islamic Family Act sets the minimum marriageable age at 16 years for Muslim girls and 18 years for Muslim men and makes it an offense to use force, threat, or deception to compel a person to marry against his or her own will. Ethnic Chinese must be 15 years or older to marry, according to the Chinese Marriage Act, which also stipulates sexual intercourse with an ethnic Chinese girl younger than 15 years is considered rape even if it is with her spouse.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law, sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 14 years constitutes rape and is punishable by imprisonment for a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 30 years and a minimum of 12 strokes of the cane. The law provides for protection of women, girls, and boys from exploitation through prostitution and “other immoral purposes,” including pornography. The government applied the law against “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” to prosecute rape of male 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish community in the country. Comments disparaging Jewish persons collectively were posted online and on social media.

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 disabilities or mandate accessibility or other assistance for them. The government provided “inclusive” educational services for children with disabilities in both government and religious schools. All persons regardless of disability received the same rights and access to health care. The Department for Community Development conducted several programs targeted at promoting awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities.

Nine registered NGOs worked to supplement services provided by the three government agencies that support persons with disabilities. Public officials, including the sultan, called for persons with disabilities to be included in everyday activities. Access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities was inconsistent.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The government favors ethnic Malays in society through its national Malay Islamic Monarchy philosophy, which is enshrined in the constitution. Under the constitution, ministers and most top officials must be Malay Muslims, although the sultan has the discretion to make exceptions. Members of the military must be indigenous Malay, a member of a specified indigenous group, or nonindigenous Malay Muslim. The government pressured both public and private sector employers to increase hiring of Malay citizens. Land Code amendments published in June ban noncitizens from holding land via the power of attorney, trust deeds, or long-term leases and retroactively declared all such contracts null and void with no specified recourse or restitution. The amendments, which primarily affect ethnic Chinese and some indigenous minorities, had not been implemented as of year’s end.

Indigenous People

Some indigenous persons were stateless. In rural areas some indigenous persons did not register births, creating difficulties in school enrollment, access to health care, and employment. Indigenous lands were not specifically demarcated, and there were no specially designated representatives for indigenous groups in the LegCo or other government entities. Indigenous persons generally had minimal participation in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, and traditions and in the exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, or other natural resources on and under indigenous lands.

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

Secular law criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” In July Chapter 22 of the Penal Code Order was amended to increase the minimum sentence for such carnal intercourse to between 20 and 50 years’ incarceration. The amendment was primarily applied in cases of rape or child abuse wherein both attacker and victim are male, because existing law covers only assault of a woman by a man. The SPC bans “liwat” (anal intercourse) between men or between a man and a woman who is not his wife. If implemented, this law would impose death by stoning. The SPC also prohibits men from dressing as women or women dressing as men “without reasonable excuse” or “for immoral purposes.” There were no known convictions during the year.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community reported unofficial and societal discrimination in public and private employment, housing, recreation, and in obtaining services including education from state entities. LGBTI individuals reported intimidation by police, including threats to make public their sexuality, to hamper their ability to obtain a government job, or to bar graduation from government academic institutions. Members of the LGBTI community reported the government monitored their activities and communications. Events on LGBTI topics were subject to restrictions on assembly and expression. The LGBTI community reported that the government would not issue permits for such events.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV and HIV-related stigma and discrimination occurred. By law foreigners infected with HIV are not permitted to enter or stay in the country, although no medical testing is required for short-term tourists.

Bulgaria

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and authorities generally enforced its provisions when violations came to their attention. Sentences for rape convictions range up 20 years in prison. While authorities could prosecute spousal rape under the general rape statute, they rarely did so.

According to the local NGO Alliance for Protection against Gender-based Violence, the law does not criminalize all forms of violence against women, and the government does not implement consistent policies with adequate funding for prevention and protection of women from violence. The CAT also expressed concern about an insufficient number of state-run shelters for victims of domestic violence. The law defines domestic violence as any act, or attempted act, of sexual violence or physical, psychological, emotional, or economic pressure against members of one’s family or between cohabiting persons. It empowers courts to impose fines, issue restraining or eviction orders, or require special counseling. Noncompliance with a restraining order may result in imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of 5,000 levs ($3,000).

NGOs continued to express concern that the country does not maintain official statistics on cases of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. They noted that institutions were not considering femicide–the killing of women or girls because of their gender–when documenting and analyzing homicides of women. The Animus Association Foundation and other NGOs provided short-term protection and counseling to victims in 22 crisis centers and shelters throughout the country. Police and social workers referred victims of domestic violence to NGO-run shelters. Women’s rights organizations continued to insist that the government lacked strong gender equality and domestic violence policies.

Sexual Harassment: The law identifies sexual harassment as a specific form of discrimination rather than a criminal offense, although prosecutors may identify cases in which harassment involves coercion combined with sexual exploitation. If prosecuted as coercion, sexual harassment is punishable by up to six years in prison.

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

Discrimination: While the law provides women the same legal status and rights as men, including equal pay for equal work, women faced some discrimination in economic participation and political empowerment. A 2016 gender equality law establishes equal opportunities in all spheres of public, economic, and political life; equal access to public resources; equal treatment; exclusion of gender-based discrimination and violence; balanced representation of men and women in decision-making authorities; and overcoming of gender-based stereotypes.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents. The law requires the registration of births within seven days without discriminating between boys and girls.

Education: While public education is universal and compulsory until the age of 16 and free through the 12th grade, authorities did not effectively enforce attendance requirements. In August the government identified more than 206,000 children between the ages of five and 18 who had either dropped out or never attended school. In September teams composed of police officers, social workers, education experts, and school officials visited thousands of homes throughout the country to encourage parents to send their children to school.

Child Abuse: Violence against children continued to be a problem. In June the ombudsman reported that the number of reported cases of violence against children in schools had doubled in two years. The ombudsman initiated a national coalition against violence and physical punishment of children. In February the government adopted a four-year National Program for Prevention of Violence and Abuse against Children.

There were five correctional boarding schools, accommodating approximately 165 children between the ages of eight and 18. In September the education ministry closed the social-pedagogical boarding school in Dragodanovo following reports of violations in 2016.

In March the Social Assistance Agency reported that in 2016 authorities banned 235 foster families from providing foster care and relocated the children with other foster parents due to inadequate care and mistreatment of the child.

The government funded an NGO-operated 24-hour free helpline that children could call for counseling, information, and support as well as to report abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. In exceptional cases, a person can enter into marriage at 16 with permission from the regional court. NGOs criticized authorities for treating early marriages as an ethnic Romani rather than a gender problem but acknowledged that child marriage was pervasive in Romani communities.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law differentiates between forcing children into prostitution, for which it provides for up to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 15,000 levs ($9,000), and child sex trafficking, for which it provides up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 20,000 levs ($12,000). The legal minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The law prohibits child pornography and provides for up to six years in prison and a fine of up to 8,000 levs ($4,800) for violations.

Displaced Children: The number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum dropped more than 80 percent from 2016. The ombudsman called on authorities to stop placing migrant children in detention centers for irregular migrants and reported that medical services at those centers continued to be inadequate due to lack of interpretation and health services for the large number of children accommodated there.

Institutionalized Children: The government closed all residential care institutions for children with disabilities as part of a plan to close all such institutions by 2025 and replace them with community-based care. NGOs expressed concern over delays in the implementation of the plan and criticized the system of financing new centers by paying them on a per child/per day basis, as it motivated them to fill centers to capacity without regard to the individual needs of the child. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee expressed concern that, despite its deinstitutionalization policy, the government continued to place children in institutions.

In its December report the CAT expressed “grave concern” about “the absence of investigations into the deaths of 238 children with mental disabilities who died in the period 2000-2010” and “dismay by the statement that 22 inspections of the institutions in question did not establish inhuman treatment of children by the personnel of the specialized institutions.”

The government inspected the institutions and the new centers, uncovering malpractice and mistreatment of the children placed in them. For example, in October 2016 the ombudsman found that despite the change in leadership at the correctional boarding school in Podem, the staff continued to impose unauthorized punishments and there was violence among students.

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

Anti-Semitism

The 2011 census indicated there were 1,130 Jews living in the country, but local Jewish organizations estimated the actual number as 5,000.

Anti-Semitic rhetoric continued to appear regularly on social networking sites and as comments under online media articles. The Organization of Bulgarian Jews Shalom indicated that during the year there were no extreme acts of anti-Semitism but expressed concern over government inaction and political leaders’ passivity in addressing minor acts. The organization complained that authorities stopped paying attention to fan groups’ displaying Nazi symbols during soccer games or treated them as sports hooliganism instead of hate crimes. Souvenirs with Nazi insignia were widely available in tourist areas around the country.

In February the mayor of Sofia declined to approve a rally in honor of a World War II general, Hristo Lukov, known for his anti-Semitic views and pro-Nazi activities. While the decision did not stop the event, it limited its scope. A few days before the rally, 30 activists and students demonstrated against it, carrying banners rejecting Nazis, fascism, and antirefugee and antimigrant sentiments.

In March the government approved the country’s candidacy for full membership in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). On June 30, the country’s status was promoted from “observer” to “liaison.” On October 18, the government adopted the working definition of anti-Semitism agreed in 2016 by IHRA and appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev to be the national coordinator on combating anti-Semitism.

On May 17, the deputy regional development minister, Pavel Tenev, resigned after a picture of him saluting a wax statue of a Nazi officer in a Paris museum nine years earlier was circulated on social media. Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov defended Tenev, commenting that, as a student in the 1970s, he himself visited the Buchenwald concentration camp and might have taken “fun-poking pictures” there. Shalom condemned Simeonov’s comments, expressing “regret and concern that such people are holding leadership posts in the government.” In June a popular television show revealed similar pictures of presidential advisor Plamen Uzunov wearing a Nazi uniform. Uzunov refused to resign, explaining that he had dressed that way for a Christmas party.

In September vandals desecrated graves at the Jewish Cemetery in Sofia, knocking down gravestones and breaking grave slabs. As of October, authorities were investigating the incident. Representatives of the national and local governments helped Shalom repair the damage.

In November, Sofia Globe journalist Imanuel Marcus received a racist death threat email.

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 but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. The government focused most of its efforts on providing disability pensions, social services, and institutional care.

In September the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy complained of numerous cases of TELK decisions regarding children, citing whole villages in which nearly all the children have disability status. NGOs criticized the Labor Expert Medical Commission (TELK) model for assessing disabilities. They asserted that the system labeled persons with disabilities as “unfit for work” and ultimately subjected them to poverty. In September the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy alleged corruption in TELK decisions regarding children, citing whole villages in which nearly all the children have disability status.

According to the ombudsman, the government did not make enough efforts to integrate persons with disabilities into society.

While the law requires improved access to buildings for persons with disabilities, enforcement lagged in some new public works projects as well as in existing, unrenovated buildings.

The law promotes the employment of persons with disabilities and provides employers with subsidies covering 30 to 50 percent of the cost of insurance and the full cost of adjusting and equipping workplaces to accommodate them. According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, however, the government did not provide real opportunities, for professional training or free-market employment.

Individuals with mental and physical disabilities often were housed in institutions located in remote areas.

According to the National Statistical Institute, approximately 17 percent of students with special education needs were enrolled in 55 “special schools,” while the rest attended mainstream schools. Those studying in the special schools received diplomas that higher-level learning establishments did not recognize as qualifying them for further education. According to NGOs and the State Agency for Child Protection, the prevailing practice of considering childhood disability a medical issue, the lack of an inclusive social environment, and insufficient support infrastructure encouraged institutionalization.

The law provides specific measures for persons with disabilities to have access to the polls, including mobile ballot boxes, voting in a polling station of their choice, and assisted voting. According to ODIHR, those measures were “not sufficient to ensure equal participation, especially for persons with visual impairments who cannot vote independently.”

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported a general rise in acts of racial discrimination against Roma. The media often described Roma and other minority groups using discriminatory, denigrating, and abusive language. Nationalist parties, such as Ataka and the Patriotic Front, based their political campaigns on strong anti-Roma, anti-Turkish, and anti-Semitic slogans and rhetoric. On October 25, the Burgas Regional Court convicted Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov over statements he made in 2014 while he was a member of the National Assembly. The court ruled that Simeonov’s statements against Roma represented abuse and degrading treatment and sentenced him to cease his breach-of-law behavior and refrain from similar infractions in the future.

In June citizens, journalists, academics, and human rights activists signed a petition to the prime minister protesting Simeonov’s appointment in charge of demographic policy and ethnic integration and demanding his resignation. In June an incident in which ethnic Roma and members of the local youth rowing club clashed in Asenovgrad sparked a series of protests that lasted more than two months.

NGOs accused the government of being unwilling to address anti-Roma attitudes and hate speech. The May CERD report expressed deep concern at the increase in incidents of hate speech and hate crime “targeting Turks, Roma, Muslims, Jews, persons of African descent, and migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.”

The lack of prosecutions for hate crimes remained a problem, as did short and suspended sentences given to those convicted. An exception was the conviction of Ivan Nikolov, by the Pazardjik District Court on June 30, for the racially motivated murder of an elderly Romani couple. Nikolov was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In November the prosecution service indicted a 21-year-old man for the killing of 47-year-old Hristomir Vladimirov. In January skinheads beat Vladimirov, who was walking his dog in a Romani neighborhood of Veliko Turnovo. His family believed he was assaulted because the skinheads thought he was Romani.

In April the European Court of Human Rights ordered the government to freeze the planned razing of Romani homes in Plovdiv’s Arman Mahala neighborhood until authorities provided adequate alternative accommodation for pregnant women, children, the elderly, and sick persons.

The law prohibits ethnic segregation in multiethnic schools and kindergartens but allows segregation of whole schools. Romani children often attended de facto segregated schools where they received inferior education. There were instances of ethnic Bulgarian students withdrawing from desegregated schools, thereby effectively resegregating them.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the government did not effectively enforce this prohibition. The law does not recognize hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. NGOs asserted that because homophobia and transphobia were not recognized as crime motives calling for stricter punishment, authorities often refused to investigate and prosecute such crimes.

While reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons were rare, societal prejudice and discrimination, particularly in employment, remained a problem.

NGOs stated that it was common for persons suspected of being gay to be fired, and such individuals were reluctant to seek redress in court due to fear of being identified as belonging to the LGBTI community. NGOs complained that most parties in the National Assembly, government ministers, and municipal authorities were reluctant to engage in a dialogue on the challenges facing the LGBTI community and the related policy issues. On June 10, the 10th annual LGBTI pride parade took place in downtown Sofia, attracting more than 2,000 participants. The municipality allowed an antipride counterevent that drew approximately 70 participants to proceed next to the parade starting point, but heavy police presence prevented any attacks on parade participants.

In July the Sofia Appellate Court lengthened the prison sentences given to Alexander Georgiev and Radoslav Kirchev (to 15 years and six years, respectively) for the homophobic murder of student Mihail Stoyanov, on the basis that the lower court had unduly lowered the original sentences due to the defendants’ young age and the protracted trial.

HIV and AIDS Societal Stigma

According to the national program for HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention and control, “despite the enormous medical progress in HIV treatment, little has been achieved in terms of overcoming the stigma and discrimination [associated with HIV]. Negative societal attitudes have a strong impact on persons with HIV/AIDS.”

There were reports that persons with HIV/AIDS faced inadequate conditions in medical facilities and discrimination from doctors, who refused to provide treatment due to fear of contracting the disease. Patients typically did not contest these incidents in court because of the social stigma attached to having HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

As of October there was no progress in the investigation into the assault on the president of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Krasimir Kanev, in October 2016. Kanev suffered minor injuries. Many human rights organizations and individuals stated the incident was the consequence of an atmosphere that permitted widespread hate speech and was conducive to violent acts. NGOs also identified an overall rise in the occurrence of hate speech and hate crimes. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported that certain print and online media increasingly targeted human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists and deliberately covered the organization’s press releases in a distorted way to portray it as treacherous, biased, and anti-Bulgarian. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee staff also reported receiving frequent threats.

Anti-immigrant protests took place in several locations. In February the residents of Shiroka Luka protested against the accommodation of two Afghan unaccompanied minors placed by the State Agency for Refugees in the local parentless children’s center. The local residents expressed concerns about their own and their children’s security and possible negative impact on tourism. The government first moved the Afghan boys from Shiroka Luka to Plovdiv, and then to Haskovo, where they were also rejected by local residents. Eventually, one ended up in Svilengrad, the other in Sofia.

Burkina Faso

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: In 2015 the government passed the Law on the Prevention and Repression of Violence Against Women and Girls and Support for Victims. Conviction of rape is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment, but the 2015 law includes fines of 100,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($183 to $919). According to human rights NGOs, rape occurred frequently. Although authorities prosecuted rape cases during the year, no statistics were available on the number of cases reported or prosecuted.

Domestic violence against women occurred frequently, primarily in rural areas. For example, a man raped a 14-year-old girl on July 31 in Bittou, Center-East Region. Local media reported the girl was taken to a health center for medical examination and the perpetrator was released after his arrest by the local police.

Victims seldom pursued legal action due to shame, fear, or reluctance to take their spouses to court. For the few cases that went to court, the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion could provide no statistics on prosecutions, convictions, or punishment. A government-run shelter for women and girls who were victims of gender-based violence was set up in 2015 and welcomed victims regardless of nationality. In Ouagadougou the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family assisted victims of domestic violence at four centers. The ministry sometimes provided counseling and housing for abused women.

The ministry has a legal affairs section to educate women on their rights, and several NGOs cooperated to protect women’s rights. To raise awareness of gender discrimination and reduce gender inequalities, the ministry organized numerous workshops and several awareness campaigns mainly in the North, Sahel, East, and Center-West Regions.

The law makes conviction of “abduction to impose marriage or union without consent” punishable by six months to five years in jail. Conviction of sexual abuse or torture or conviction of sexual slavery is punishable by two to five years in prison. Conviction of the foregoing abuses may also carry fines of 500,000 to one million CFA francs ($919 to $1,838).

The law requires police to provide for protection of the victim and her minor children and mandates the establishment of chambers in the High Court with exclusive jurisdiction over cases of violence against women and girls. The law requires all police and gendarmerie units to designate officers to assist female victims of violence–or those threatened by violence–and to respond to emergencies; however, some units had not complied by year’s end. It also mandates the creation of care and protection centers in each commune for female victims of violence and a government support fund for their care. The centers receive victims on an emergency basis, offer them security, provide support services (including medical and psychosocial support), and, when possible, refer the victims to court.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but it was practiced widely in rural areas, and at an early age. Perpetrators, if convicted, are subject to a fine of 150,000 to 900,000 CFA francs ($278 to $1,654) and imprisonment of six months to three years, or up to 10 years if the victim dies.

Security force members and social workers from the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family arrested four perpetrators in Orodara, Bobo Dioulasso, Tenkodogo, and Leo between January 4 and February 16. Two of them were tried and convicted, one was awaiting trial as of September 5, and one was at large. Twenty-nine accomplices were also sentenced to pay fines or given suspended fines. Of the 49 cases of FGM/C recorded during the year, there was only one case in which the victim was more than 30 years old. For the remaining cases, the victims’ age range from 30 months to 15 years.

For example, in April, an 89-year-old woman age from Sissili Province, described as a professional practitioner of FGM/C, was sentenced by an open court to 12 months in prison and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs ($920). She was accused of performing FGM/C on her six-year-old granddaughter on February 21.

The government also integrated FGM/C prevention in prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services at 35 percent of public health facilities. Government measures taken during the year to combat FGM/C included: the establishment of mobile courts in Tuy Province to try persons accused of FGM/C; creation of a public education Facebook page; distribution to public and private health centers of 322 treatment kits; training 164 Ministry of Education and Literacy officials on ending FGM/C; establishing five high school social networks to address FGM/C in Houet, Kadiogo, and Sanmatenga Provinces; and holding an international day of “zero tolerance for FGM/C.” The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family conducted 3,016 awareness activities, including educational and communication campaigns for the local population in rural areas, traditional leaders, and local elected representatives. Approximately 107,350 persons benefited from these activities.

The ministry also trained 60 police officers and 60 gendarmes in efforts to prevent FGM/C.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law makes the conviction of physical or moral abuse of women or girls accused of witchcraft punishable by one to five years in prison and/or a fine of 300,000 to 1.5 million CFA francs ($551 to $2,757). Elderly women, and less frequently men, without support, living primarily in rural areas, and often widowed in the case of women, were sometimes accused of witchcraft by their neighbors and subsequently banned from their villages, beaten, or killed. Actions taken by the government to protect elderly persons accused of witchcraft included financial support and the organization of an International Women’s Day advocacy event on March 8, The Moral Value of the Human Being: Responsibility of the Communities in Combatting the Social Exclusion of Women.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides for sentences of three months to one year in prison and a fine of 300,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($551 to $919) for conviction of sexual harassment; the maximum penalty applies if the perpetrator is a relative, in a position of authority, or if the victim is “vulnerable.” The government was ineffective in enforcing the law.

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

Discrimination: Although the law generally provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men–including under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws–discrimination frequently occurred. Labor laws provide that all workers–men and women alike–should receive equal pay for equal working conditions, qualifications, and performance. Women nevertheless generally received lower pay for equal work, had less education, and owned less property.

Although the law provides equal property and inheritance rights for women and men, land tenure practices emphasized family and communal land requirements more than individual ownership rights. As a result, authorities often denied women the right to own property, particularly real estate. Many citizens, particularly in rural areas, held to traditional beliefs that did not recognize inheritance rights for women and regarded a woman as property that could be inherited upon her husband’s death.

The government conducted media campaigns to change attitudes toward women. It sponsored a number of community outreach efforts and awareness campaigns to promote women’s rights.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives either by birth within the country’s territory or through a parent. Parents generally did not register many births immediately; lack of registration sometimes resulted in denial of public services, including access to school. To address the problem, the government periodically organized registration drives and issued belated birth certificates. (For data, see UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.)

Child Abuse: Authorities tolerated light corporal punishment, and parents widely practiced it. The government conducted seminars and education campaigns against child abuse. The penal code mandates a one- to three-year prison sentence and fines ranging from 300,000 to 900,000 CFA francs ($551 to $1,654) for conviction of inhuman treatment or mistreatment of children.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. None of the calls to report violence against children, which led to intervention of security force members, resulted in an arrest or prosecution.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 17 for girls and 20 for boys, but early and forced marriage was a problem. The law prohibits forced marriage and prescribes penalties of six months to two years in prison for violators, and a three-year prison term if the victim is under age 13. There were no reports of prosecutions during the year. A government toll-free number allowed citizens to report forced marriages.

The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family conducted information sessions for 120 teenagers from the provinces with the highest child marriage rates, including Comoe, Leraba, Kossi, and Souro, as well as advocacy sessions on child marriage by bringing together approximately 300 community leaders. The ministry also paid the school fees for 600 girls and supported the socio-professional training of 500 young persons at risk of early and forced marriage.

According to media reports, the traditional practice persisted of kidnapping, raping, and impregnating a virgin minor girl and then forcing her family to consent to her marriage to her violator. (For data, see the UNICEF website.)

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides penalties for conviction of child prostitution or child pornography of five to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 1.5 to three million CFA francs ($2,750 to $5,500), or both. The minimum age of consensual sex is 15. In 2014 the National Assembly enacted a law criminalizing the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Children from poor families were particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law provides for a sentence of 10 years’ to life imprisonment for infanticide. Newspapers reported several cases of abandonment of newborn babies.

Displaced Children: There were numerous street children, primarily in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. Many children ended up on the streets after their parents sent them to the city to study with an unregistered Quranic teacher or to live with relatives and go to school. Government action to contain the increase in children living on the streets and to achieve their social reintegration included education campaigns for Quranic teachers in Nouna, Tougan, Dori, and Po.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no known 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 law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. There is legislation to provide persons with disabilities less costly or free health care and access to education and employment. The law also includes building codes to provide for access to government buildings. Authorities did not implement all of these measures effectively.

Persons with disabilities encountered discrimination and reported difficulty finding employment, including in government service.

The government had limited programs to aid persons with disabilities, but NGOs and the National Committee for the Reintegration of Persons with Disabilities conducted awareness campaigns and implemented integration programs.

The government continued to arrange for candidates with vision disabilities to take the public administration recruitment exams by providing the tests in Braille. Additionally, authorities opened specific counters at enrollment sites to allow persons with disabilities to register more easily for public service admission tests.

In an attempt to better provide for youths with disabilities and advance women’s economic empowerment, the government provided loans at zero percent interest to help women and youth carry out economic activities. The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family also provided agricultural assistance to 500 women with disabilities living in rural areas to help them strengthen their agricultural production activities. Finally, the government organized a special session to recruit 41 persons with disabilities into the public service after providing them with vocational training.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Longstanding conflicts between Fulani herders and sedentary farmers of other ethnic groups sometimes resulted in violence. Herders commonly triggered incidents by allowing their cattle to graze on farmlands or farmers attempting to cultivate land set aside by local authorities for grazing. Government efforts at dialogue and mediation contributed to a decrease in such incidents.

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

Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons was a problem and was exacerbated by religious and traditional beliefs. LGBTI individuals were occasionally victims of verbal and physical abuse, according to LGBTI support groups. There were no reports the government responded to societal violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.

The country has no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of bias-motivated crimes against the LGBTI community.

LGBTI organizations had no legal status in the country but existed unofficially. The Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Internal Security did not approve repeated requests by LGBTI organizations to register, and it provided no explanation for the refusals. There were no reports of government or societal violence against such organizations, although incidents were not always reported due to stigma or intimidation.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS was a problem, and persons who tested positive were sometimes shunned by their families. Families sometimes evicted HIV-positive wives from their homes, although families did not evict their HIV-positive husbands. Some property owners refused to rent lodgings to persons with HIV/AIDS. The government distributed free antiretroviral medication to some HIV-positive persons who qualified according to national guidelines.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Vigilante groups across the country operated detention facilities. Media reported cases of torture and killing that took place in these facilities. For example, on January 6, a suspected thief named Bindi Kouldiaty died in Diapaga (East Region) after being tortured by local vigilante members in December 2016. Also, on March 28, a suspected thief was found dead in Pama (Kompienga Province) after being tortured by local vigilantes for 48 hours. Authorities did not arrest or charge the perpetrators in the majority of cases involving vigilante groups.

Burma

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal but remained a significant problem, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Spousal rape is not a crime unless the wife is younger than 13 years. Police generally investigated reported cases of rape, but there were reports police investigations were not sensitive to victims. Civil society groups continued to report police in some cases verbally abused women who reported rape, and women could be sued for impugning the dignity of the perpetrator.

Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. Abuse within families was prevalent and considered socially acceptable. Spousal abuse or domestic violence was difficult to measure because the government did not maintain statistics and victims typically did not report it. Laws prohibit committing bodily harm against another person, but there are no laws specifically against domestic violence or spousal abuse unless the wife is younger than 14. Punishment for violating the law includes sentences ranging from one year to life in prison, in addition to possible fines. Overlapping and at times contradictory legal provisions complicated implementation of these limited protections.

The United Nations, media, and NGOs reported continued allegations of rape by military and security officials in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine States. The military rejected all allegations rape was an institutionalized practice in the military but admitted in 2014 its soldiers had committed 40 known rapes of civilian women since 2011.

Sexual Harassment: The penal code prohibits sexual harassment and imposes fines or a maximum of one-year’s imprisonment for verbal harassment and a maximum of two years’ imprisonment for physical contact. There was no information on the prevalence of the problem because these crimes were largely unreported. Local civil society organizations reported police investigators were not sensitive to victims and rarely followed through with investigations or prosecutions.

Coercion in Population Control: Coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization did not occur. In 2015, however, the government enacted the Population Control and Health Care Law, which contains provisions that, if enforced, could undermine protections for reproductive and women’s rights, including imposing birth-spacing requirements. Under the law the president or the national government may designate “special regions” for health care following consideration of factors such as population, natural resources, birth rates, and food availability. Once a special region is declared, the government allows the creation of special health-care organizations to perform various tasks, including establishing regulations related to family planning methods. The government has not designated any such special regions since the law’s enactment.

A two-child local order issued by the government of Rakhine State pertaining to the Rohingya population in two northern townships remained in effect, but the government and NGOs reported it was not consistently enforced (see section 1.f.).

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: By law women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, including property and inheritance rights and religious and personal status, but it was not clear if the government enforced the law. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but it was not clear if the formal sector respected this requirement. NGOs reported sectors such as the garment industry did not comply. Poverty affected women disproportionately. The law governing hiring of civil service personnel states nothing shall prevent the appointment of men to “positions that are suitable for men only,” with no further definition of what constitutes positions “suitable for men only.”

Customary law was widely used to address issues of marriage, property, and inheritance, and it differs from the provisions under statutory law.

Children

Birth Registration: The 1982 Citizenship Law automatically confers full citizenship status to 135 recognized national ethnic groups as well as to persons who met citizenship requirements under previous citizenship legislation. Moreover, the government confers full citizenship to second-generation children of both parents with any citizenship, as long as at least one parent has full citizenship. Third-generation children of associate or naturalized citizens can acquire full citizenship. Residents derive full citizenship through parents, both of whom must be one of the 135 officially recognized “national races.” Under the law the government does not officially recognize Rohingya as an ethnic group.

A prominent international NGO noted significant rural-urban disparities in birth registration. In major cities (for example, Rangoon and Mandalay), births were registered immediately. In larger cities parents must register births to qualify for basic public services and obtain national identification cards. In smaller towns and villages, however, birth registration often was informal or nonexistent. For the Rohingya community, birth registration was a significant problem (see section 2.d.). The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State noted in its interim report nearly half of all residents in Rakhine State lacked birth documentation and recommended the government introduce a comprehensive birth registration campaign.

A birth certificate provided important protections for children, particularly against child labor, early marriage, and recruitment into the armed forces and armed groups. Sometimes a lack of birth registration, but more often a lack of availability, complicated access to public services in remote communities.

Education: By law education is compulsory, free, and universal through the fourth grade. The government continued to allocate minimal resources to public education, and schools charged informal fees. Many child rights activists in Rangoon noted such fees were decreasing and were less often mandatory.

Education access for internally displaced and stateless children remained limited.

Child Abuse: Laws prohibit child abuse, but they were neither adequate nor enforced. NGOs reported corporal punishment was widely used against children as a means of discipline. The punishment for violations is a maximum of two years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of 10,000 kyats ($7.50). There was anecdotal evidence of violence against children occurring within families, schools, in situations of child labor and exploitation, and in armed conflict. The MSWRR expanded its child protection pilot programs. In Rakhine State continued violence left many families and children displaced or with restrictions on their movement, which in turn exposed them to an environment of violence and exploitation. Armed conflict in Kachin and Shan States had a similar adverse effect on children in those areas.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law stipulates different minimum ages for marriage based on religion and gender: the minimum age for Buddhists is 18 years, and the minimum age for Christian boys is 16 and 15 for girls, but child marriage still occurred. According to the 2014 census, more than 13 percent of women married between ages 15 and 19. There were no reliable statistics on forced marriage. A review conducted by a UN organization in February found child marriage remained an important and underaddressed problem in rural areas.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Children were subjected to sex trafficking in the country, and a small number of foreign child sex tourists exploited children. The law does not explicitly prohibit child sex tourism, but it prohibits pimping and prostitution, and the penal code prohibits sex with a minor younger than 14 years. The penalty for the purchase and sale of commercial sex acts from a child younger than 18 is 10 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits pornography and specifies a penalty of two years’ minimum imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 kyats ($7.50). If a victim is younger than 14, the law considers the sexual act statutory rape. The maximum sentence for statutory rape is two years’ imprisonment when the victim is between 12 and 14, and 10 years’ to life imprisonment when the victim is younger than 12.

Displaced Children: The mortality rate of internally displaced children in conflict areas was significantly higher than in the rest of the country (see section 2.d.).

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

Anti-Semitism

There was one synagogue in Rangoon serving a small Jewish congregation. 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, hearing, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in air travel and other forms of transportation, but directs the government to assure that persons with disabilities have easy access to public transportation. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

The Ministry of Health is responsible for medical rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, and the MSWRR is responsible for vocational training, education, and social protection strategies. The government recognized the Myanmar Federation of Persons with Disabilities to serve as an umbrella group for organizations that serve persons with disabilities. The National Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disability is the ministerial committee formed to monitor the implementation of the law; for the second consecutive year, it did not convene.

Civil society groups reported that often children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at a significantly lower rate than other persons, and many never attended school due to stigma and lack of any accommodation for their needs.

According to the Myanmar Physical Handicap Association, a significant number of military personnel, armed group members, and civilians had a disability because of conflict, including because of torture and landmine incidents. There were approximately 12,000 amputees in the country–two-thirds believed to be landmine survivors–supported by five physical rehabilitation centers throughout the country. Persons with disabilities reported stigma, discrimination, and abuse from civilian and government officials. Students with disabilities cited barriers to inclusive education as a significant disadvantage.

Military veterans with disabilities received official benefits on a priority basis, usually a civil service job at equivalent pay, but both military and ethnic-minority survivors in rural areas typically did not have access to livelihood opportunities or affordable medical treatment. Official assistance to nonmilitary persons with disabilities in principle included two-thirds of pay for a maximum of one year for a temporary disability and a tax-free stipend for permanent disability. While the law provides job protection for workers who become disabled, authorities did not implement it.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic minorities constituted 30 to 40 percent of the population. The seven ethnic minority states composed approximately 60 percent of the national territory, and significant numbers of minorities also resided within the country’s other regions. Wide-ranging governmental and societal discrimination against minorities persisted, including in areas such as education, housing, employment, and access to health services. International observers noted significant wage discrepancies based on religious and ethnic backgrounds were common.

Burmese generally remained the mandatory language of instruction in government schools. Civil society organizations expressed disappointment the government’s National Education Strategic Plan, which was released in April, did not cover issues related to mother tongue instruction and was not adequately informed by consultations with ethnic stakeholders. In schools controlled by ethnic groups, students sometimes had no access to the national curriculum. There were very few domestic publications in indigenous-minority languages.

Tension between the military and ethnic minority populations, while somewhat diminished in areas with cease-fire agreements, remained high, and the military stationed forces in some ethnic groups’ areas of influence and controlled certain cities, towns, and highways. Ethnic armed groups, including the Kachin Independence Organization and the KNU, pointed to the increased presence of army troops as a major source of tension and insecurity. Reported abuses included killings, beatings, torture, forced labor, forced relocations, and rapes of members of ethnic groups by government soldiers. Some groups also committed abuses (see section 1.g.).

The Rohingya in Rakhine State faced severe discrimination based on their ethnicity. Most Rohingya faced severe restrictions on their ability to travel, avail themselves of health-care services, engage in economic activity (see section 7.d.), obtain an education, and register births, deaths, and marriages (see section 2.d.). Most of those displaced in 2012 remained confined to semipermanent camps with severely limited access to education, health care, and livelihoods.

In early August the military deployed in parts of northern Rakhine State reportedly committed serious human rights violations and abuses, including enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests. On August 25, ARSA claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks against 30 security outposts in northern Rakhine State. The security forces, as well as vigilante groups acting in concert with security forces, then reportedly committed widespread atrocities against Rohingya villagers, including extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest, and burning of hundreds of villages, religious structures, and other buildings. These atrocities and associated events forced more than 655,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh as of December and constituted ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.

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

Political reforms in recent years made it easier for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community to hold public events and openly participate in society, yet discrimination, stigma and a lack of acceptance among the general population persisted. Consensual same-sex sexual activity remains illegal under the penal code, which contains a provision against “unnatural offenses” with a penalty of a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine or “transportation for life.” Laws against “unnatural offenses” apply equally to both men and women; these laws were rarely enforced. LGBTI persons reported police used the threat of prosecution to extort bribes. While the penal code is used more for coercion or bribery, LGBTI persons, particularly transgender women, were most frequently charged under so-called shadow and disguise laws. These laws use the justification that a person dressed or acting in a way that is perceived as not being in line with their biological gender is in “disguise.” According to a report by a local NGO, transgender women reported higher levels of police abuse and discrimination than other members of the LGBTI community.

There were reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment. LGBTI persons reported facing discrimination from medical-care providers.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The constitution provides for the individual’s right to health care in accordance with national health policy, prohibits discrimination by the government on the grounds of “status,” and requires equal opportunity in employment and equality before the law. Persons with HIV/AIDS could theoretically submit a complaint to the government if a breach of their constitutional rights or denial of access to essential medicines occurred, such as antiretroviral therapy, but there were no reports of individuals submitting complaints on these grounds. There are no HIV-specific protective laws or laws that specifically address the human rights aspects of HIV.

There were continued reports of societal violence and discrimination, including employment discrimination, against persons with HIV/AIDS. Negative incidents such as exclusion from social gatherings and activities; verbal insults, harassment, and threats; and physical assaults continued to occur. Laws that criminalize behaviors linked to an increased risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS remain in place, directly fueling stigma and discrimination against persons engaged in these behaviors and impeding their access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.

Law enforcement practices contributed to high levels of stigma and discrimination against female sex workers and transgender women that in turn hindered their access to HIV prevention, treatment, and social protection services. Police harassment of sex workers deterred the workers from carrying condoms.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were reports of other cases of societal violence, and anti-Muslim sentiment and discrimination persisted. Members of Bamar Buddhist nationalist groups, including members of Ma Ba Tha, continued to denigrate Islam and called for a boycott of Muslim businesses.

Muslim communities complained about unequal treatment by police, pressures to practice Islam in private, difficulty in obtaining citizenship cards, close monitoring of their travel by local government, and restrictions to education opportunities. Religious groups noted the January assassination of Ko Ni had a chilling effect on Muslims fighting for improved treatment under the law (see section 1.a.).

In April, 12 nationalist monks and dozens of local residents in Rangoon forced two madrassahs to be chained shut. The group alleged the structures were illegal and demanded local officials close them. Muslim leaders noted the madrassahs had been used for prayers for many years and told local media they believed nationalists bullied them because of their religion.

In May nationalist monks claimed Rohingya were hiding illegally in Mingala Taungnyunt Township in Rangoon. Media reports indicated the monks informed local police about their suspicions, and when local police investigated and found no one to be living illegally in the neighborhood, the monks and Buddhist laypersons instigated violence against the Muslim community in the neighborhood. Media also reported two Muslim residents were injured before police intervened by firing warning shots into the air. Police arrested eight persons for their involvement in the violence.

On October 30, Buddhist leader Sitagu Sayadaw gave a sermon to soldiers, live-streamed on Facebook to more than 250,000 persons, at a military training school in Kayin State, where he quoted a parable in which a Buddhist king is told by his advisors that the killing of millions of Hindu Tamils only added up to one and a half real human beings. In his sermon the Sitagu Sayadaw also noted the need for Buddhist leaders and the military to work together for national unity. The remarks were generally interpreted as condoning the military’s abuses against members of religious minority groups and suggesting that in the course of battle, it is less of a sin for soldiers to kill non-Buddhists than to kill Buddhists.

Multiple sources noted that restrictions against Muslims and Christians impeded their ability to pursue higher education opportunities and assume high-level government positions and that Muslims were unable to invest and trade freely.

Burundi

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, with penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits domestic abuse of a spouse, with punishment ranging from fines to three to five years’ imprisonment. The government did not enforce the law uniformly, and rape and other domestic and sexual violence continued to be serious problems. On April 8, following the inauguration of a CNDD-FDD party office in the eastern province of Ruyigi, an estimated 200 persons, including Imbonerakure, chanted a song urging impregnation of female opposition members so that more Imbonerakure would be born, which was widely interpreted as threatening rape.

In September 2016 the government adopted a law that provides for the creation of a special gender-based crimes court, makes gender-based violence crimes unpardonable, and provides stricter punishment for police officers and judges who conceal violent crimes against women and girls. As of October the special court had not been created, and no police or judges had been prosecuted under the new law.

The Unit for the Protection of Minors and Morals in the Burundian National Police is responsible for investigating cases of sexual violence and rape, as well as those involving the trafficking of girls and women. The government, with financial support from international NGOs and the United Nations, continued civic awareness training throughout the country on domestic and gender-based violence and on the role of police assistance. Those trained included police, local administrators, and grassroots community organizers. The government-operated Humura Center in Gitega provided a full range of services, including legal, medical, and psychosocial services, to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. As of early December, the center had received 197 cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Reports by Amnesty International and the IRRI stated that some female refugees had fled Burundi after surviving SGBV, including violence perpetrated by authorities.

Credible observers stated many women were reluctant to report rape, in part due to fear of reprisal.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, including the use of threats of physical violence or psychological pressure to obtain sexual favors. Punishment for sexual harassment may range from a fine to a prison sentence of one month to two years. The sentence for sexual harassment doubles if the victim is younger than 18. The government did not actively enforce the law. There were reports of sexual harassment but no data on its frequency or extent.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for equal status for women and men, including under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women continued to face legal, economic, and societal discrimination, including with regard to inheritance and marital property laws.

By law women must receive the same pay as men for the same work, but they did not (see section 7.d.). Some employers suspended the salaries of women on maternity leave, and others refused medical coverage to married female employees.

In May, President Nkurunziza signed into law new regulations requiring unmarried couples to legalize their relationships through church or state registrations.

Children

Birth Registration: The constitution states that citizenship derives from the parents. The government registers, without charge, the births of all children if registered within a few days of birth and an unregistered child may not have access to some public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education is tuition-free, compulsory, and universal through the secondary level, but students are responsible for paying for books and uniforms. Throughout the country provincial officials charged parents fees for schooling.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits violence against or abuse of children, with punishment ranging from fines to three to five years’ imprisonment, but child abuse was a widespread problem. The penalty for rape of a minor is 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment.

The traditional practice of removing a newborn child’s uvula (the flesh that hangs down at the rear of the mouth) continued to cause numerous infections and deaths of infants.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. Forced marriages are illegal and were rare, although they reportedly occurred in southern, more heavily Muslim, areas. The Ministry of Interior continued an effort to convince imams not to officiate over illegal marriages. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. The penalty for commercial sexual exploitation of children is five to 10 years in prison and a fine of between 20,000 and 50,000 Burundian francs ($11 and $28). The law punishes child pornography by fines and three to five years in prison. There were no prosecutions during the year.

Women and girls were smuggled to other countries in Africa and the Middle East, sometimes using falsified documents, putting them at high risk of exploitation.

Displaced Children: Thousands of children lived on the streets throughout the country, some of them HIV/AIDS orphans. The government provided street children with minimal educational support and relied on NGOs for basic services, such as medical care and economic support. Independent Observers reported that children living on the streets faced brutality and theft by police and judged that police were more violent toward them during the 2015 political unrest than previously. A government campaign to “clean the streets” by ending vagrancy and unlicensed commerce, begun in 2016, resulted in the detention of hundreds of persons living or working on the streets. The campaign continued during the year and intensified as the government established a goal of having no children or adults living on the streets by the end of the year. The Council of Ministers approved a roadmap for ending vagrancy that would require the return of detained children and adults to their commune of origin; as of October this provision was not implemented.

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

Anti-Semitism

No estimate was available on the size of 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 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not promote or protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Although persons with disabilities are eligible for free health care through social programs targeting vulnerable groups, authorities did not widely publicize or provide benefits. Employers often required job applicants to present a health certificate from the Ministry of Public Health stating they did not have a contagious disease and were fit to work, a practice that sometimes resulted in discrimination against persons with disabilities.

No legislation mandates access to buildings, information, or government services for persons with disabilities. The government supported a center for physical therapy in Gitega and a center for social and professional inclusion in Ngozi for persons with physical disabilities.

Indigenous People

The Twa, the original hunter-gatherer inhabitants of the country, numbered an estimated 80,000, or approximately 1 percent of the population, according to the OHCHR. They generally remained economically, politically, and socially marginalized. By law local administrations must provide free schoolbooks and health care for all Twa children. Local administrations largely fulfilled these requirements. The constitution provides for three appointed seats for Twa in each of the houses of parliament, and Twa parliamentarians (including one woman) took their seats in August 2015.

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

Since 2009 Burundi has criminalized consensual same-sex conduct. Article 567 of the penal code penalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations by adults with up to two years in prison. There were no reports of prosecution for same-sex sexual acts during the year. There were cases, however, of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and demands for bribes by police officers and members of the Imbonerakure targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Criminals sometimes murdered persons with albinism, particularly children, for their body parts to be used for ritual purposes. Most perpetrators were reportedly citizens of other countries who came to kill and then departed the country with the body parts, impeding government efforts to arrest them. According to the Albino Women’s Hope Association chairperson, society did not accept persons with albinism, and they were often unemployed and isolated. Women with albinism often were “chased out by their families because they are considered as evil beings.”

Cabo Verde

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women is a crime punishable if convicted by eight to 16 years’ imprisonment, and domestic violence is punishable by one to five years’ imprisonment. Spousal rape is implicitly covered by the gender-based violence law; penalties for conviction range from one to five years’ imprisonment. This 2001 law focuses on increasing protection of victims, strengthening penalties for convicted offenders, and raising awareness regarding gender-based violence. The law calls for establishing several care centers, with financial and management autonomy, but implementation lagged due to inadequate staffing and financial resources. Violence and discrimination against women remained significant problems.

The National Police accompanied victims of sexualand gender based violence to the hospital and escorted them to their homes to collect their belongings. Police officers helped victims go to a location where they believed they would be safe (often a family member; there was no official shelter on Fogo). Very often, however, victims returned to their abusers due to economic and social pressures.

The government enforced the law against rape and domestic violence somewhat effectively. Nongovernmental sources lamented the lack of social and psychological care for perpetrators and survivors alike.

Sexual Harassment: The criminal code and the law criminalize sexual harassment. Penalties for conviction include up to one year in prison and a fine equal to up to two years of the perpetrator’s salary. Although authorities generally enforced the law, sexual harassment was common and widely accepted in the culture.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Cultural norms and traditions, however, imposed gender roles that hindered the eradication of gender-based discrimination. The government enforced the law in providing for the same legal status and rights for women as for men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or from one’s parents. Birth registration was not denied or provided on a discriminatory basis. Failure to register births did not result in denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The government provided tuition-free and universal education for all children between ages six and 14. Education is compulsory until age 15. Secondary education was free only to children whose families had an annual income below 147,000 escudos ($1,482).

Child Abuse: Violence against children, including sexual violence, remained a problem. The government tried to combat it through a national network that included the Cabo Verdean Institute of Childhood and Adolescence (ICCA), various police forces, the Attorney General’s Office, hospitals, local civil society organizations, and health centers. The government attempted to reduce sexual abuse and violence against children through several programs such as Dial a Complaint, the Children’s Emergency Program, Project Our House, Welcome Centers for Street Children, Project Safe Space, Project Substitute Family, and the creation during 2014 of five ICCA offices. ICCA services, however, were not permanently present on every island, and ICCA employees struggled to meet the needs of the local populations.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law punishes those that foment, promote, or facilitate prostitution or sexual exploitation of children age 16 and under with a penalty if convicted of four to 10 years’ imprisonment. If the victim is age 17 or 18, the penalty is two to six years’ imprisonment, which is inconsistent with international law on trafficking in persons. The law punishes those that induce, transport, or provide housing or create the conditions for sexual exploitation and prostitution of children age 16 and under in a foreign country with a penalty if convicted of five to 12 years’ imprisonment. If the victim is age 17 or 18, the penalty for conviction is two to eight years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits the use of children under age 18 in pornography, with penalties for conviction of up to three years’ imprisonment. The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16. Sexual relations with a child under age 14 are considered a public crime and invoke mandatory reporting from anyone who becomes aware of the crime. Between ages 14 and 16, sexual relations are a semipublic crime and may be reported by any involved party (the minor or the minor’s parents or guardians). Sexual abuse was widely reported around the country, and alleged perpetrators often were released from detention pending trial. There were limited reports of commercial sex, often involving tourists, but no confirmed cases involving minors.

The government also continued efforts to prevent the sexual exploitation of children through the creation of a national coordinating committee in 2016 and the development of a code of ethics for the tourism industry.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and the government generally enforced these provisions, with problems remaining in a number of areas. For example, physical accessibility, communication means, and public transport appropriate for persons with disabilities often were lacking. The government worked with civil society organizations to implement programs to provide access for wheelchair users, including building ramps to enhance access to transportation and buildings.

According to the Ministry of Education, Family, Equality, and Inclusion, the ministry had enrolled an estimated 1,200 children and youths with special educational needs in primary, secondary, and higher education through the years. Persons with intellectual or mental disabilities, as determined by the Ministry of Health, are not allowed to vote, according to the National Commission for Elections, if the person was deemed not to have the mental capacity to exercise that right.

The government has a quota system for granting scholarships and tax benefits to companies that employ individuals with disabilities. NGOs recognized these measures as partially effective in better integrating these citizens into society but also noted nonenforcement and inadequate regulations were obstacles.

Public television station Cabo Verde Television (TCV), through a partnership with the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship, Handicap International, and the Cabo Verdean Federation of Associations of People with Disabilities, included in its nightly news a sign language interpreter for deaf persons able to sign.

The law stipulates a quota of 5 percent of educational scholarships be allocated to persons with disabilities, but this percentage had not been reached.

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

Antidiscrimination laws exist, and state employers may not discriminate based on sexual orientation. Laws do not prohibit consensual sexual conduct between persons of the same sex.

In 2015 the United Nations launched in the country the “Free and Equal” campaign to promote educational programs to shape public attitudes concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons’ equality and increase awareness of homophobic violence and discrimination.

Cambodia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and assault. Rape is punishable by five to 30 years’ imprisonment. Spousal rape is not specifically mentioned in the penal code, but the underlying conduct can be prosecuted as “rape,” “causing injury,” or “indecent assault.” Charges for spousal rape under the penal code and the domestic violence law were rare. The domestic violence law criminalizes domestic violence but does not set out specific penalties. The penal code can be used to punish domestic violence offenses, with penalties ranging from one to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Local and international NGOs reported violence against women, including domestic violence and rape, was common. Rape and domestic violence were likely underreported due to the victims’ fear of reprisal by perpetrators, discrimination from the community, and their distrust of the judiciary system. NGOs reported authorities did not aggressively enforce domestic law on perpetrators and avoided involvement in domestic disputes.

In July the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs began to implement a code of conduct for all media outlets for reporting on violence against women. The code banned publication of information, including pictures of victims; depictions of women’s death, injury, or nudity; and the use of certain offensive or disparaging words against women. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs first announced a reporting system within the government to increase accountability and transparency in the government’s response to violence against women. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs also coordinated with several NGOs and local media outlets to produce radio and television programming on topics related to women.

Sexual Harassment: The penal code criminalizes sexual harassment, imposing penalties of six days’ to three months’ imprisonment and fines of 100,000-500,000 riels ($25-$125). A study conducted during the year by CARE International found that nearly one-third of female garment workers experienced sexual harassment at their workplace during the last 12 months.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, and equal status in marriage. For the most part, women had equal property rights, the same legal status to initiate divorce proceedings, and equal access to education and some jobs; however, cultural traditions and child rearing responsibilities limited the ability of women to reach senior positions in business or even participate in the workforce.

Children

Birth Registration: By law a child derives citizenship by birth to a mother and father who are not ethnic Khmer if both parents were born and were living legally in the country or if either parent acquired citizenship through other legal means. Indigenous Khmer are considered citizens. The Ministry of Interior administered an updated birth registration system, but not all births were registered immediately, primarily due to parental delay. It was common not to register children until a need arose.

Failure to register births resulted in discrimination, including the denial of public services. Children of ethnic minorities and stateless persons were disproportionately unlikely to be registered. NGOs that service disenfranchised communities reported authorities often denied books and access to education and health care for children without birth registration. NGOs stated such persons often were unable to access employment, own property, vote, or access the legal system.

Education: Education was free, but not compulsory, through grade nine. Many children left school to help their families in subsistence agriculture, worked in other activities, began school at a late age, or did not attend school at all. The government did not deny girls equal access to education, but families with limited resources often gave priority to boys, especially in rural areas. According to international organization reports, enrollment dropped significantly for girls after primary school in urban areas, while postprimary school enrollment for boys dropped significantly in rural areas.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was common and legal action against perpetrators was rare, according to observers. Child rape continued to be a serious problem.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both men and women is 18 years; however, children as young as 16 years may legally marry with parental permission. Child marriage was not considered a problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 15 years is illegal. The government continued to raid brothels to identify and remove child sex trafficking victims, although the majority of child sex trafficking was clandestine, occurring indirectly in beer gardens, massage parlors, beauty salons, karaoke bars, and noncommercial sites. Police continued to investigate cases of child sex trafficking occurring in brothels or cases where victims filed complaints directly but did not typically pursue more complicated cases. The government did not issue formal guidance allowing the use of undercover investigation techniques in trafficking investigations, and the lack of explicit authority continued to impede officials’ ability to hold child sex traffickers accountable.

The country remained a destination for child sex tourism. The government used the law to prosecute both sex tourists and citizens for exploiting children through sex trafficking. The law provides penalties ranging from two to 15 years in prison for commercial sexual exploitation of children. The law also prohibits the production and possession of child pornography.

According to a local human rights organization, perpetrators with ties to the government were not held accountable under the law, and local experts reported concern regarding the government’s failure to impose appropriate punishments on foreign residents and tourists who purchase sex with children. Endemic corruption at all levels of the government severely limited the ability of individual officials to make progress in holding child sex traffickers accountable, and the government took no action to investigate or prosecute complicit officials.

Displaced Children: The government offered limited, inadequate services to street children at a rehabilitation center. A local NGO estimated the number of displaced at about 1,200 to 1,500 street children in Phnom Penh with no relationship with their families and 15,000 to 20,000 children who worked on the streets but returned to families in the evenings. NGOs and other observers alleged many private orphanages were mismanaged and populated by sham orphans to lure donations from foreigners.

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

Anti-Semitism

A small Jewish foreign resident community lived in Phnom Penh. 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, neglect, exploitation, or abandonment of persons with disabilities. It includes persons with mental and intellectual disabilities in the definition of persons with disabilities. The law does not address accessibility with respect to air travel or other transportation. The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth has overall responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, although the law assigns specific tasks to other ministries, including the ministries of health, education, public works and transport, and national defense. The government requested all television stations to adopt sign-language interpretation for all programming. As of June, two major television stations–one state run and one private–had done so in their news programming, up from one state station in 2016.

Persons with disabilities faced significant societal discrimination, especially in obtaining skilled employment.

Children with limited physical disabilities attended regular schools. According to a Ministry of Education report, approximately 19,000 children with disabilities attended primary schools in the academic year 2015-16. The ministry worked on training teachers how to integrate students with disabilities into the class with nondisabled students.

Children with more significant disabilities attended separate schools sponsored by NGOs in Phnom Penh; education for students with more significant disabilities was not available outside of Phnom Penh.

There are no legal limitations on the rights of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs, but the government did not make any concerted effort to assist their civic engagement.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The rights of minorities under the nationality law are not explicit; constitutional protections extend only to “Khmer people.” Citizens of Chinese and Vietnamese ethnicity constituted the largest ethnic minorities. Ethnic Chinese citizens were generally accepted in society, but societal animosity continued toward ethnic Vietnamese, who were widely deemed a threat to the country’s political system, security, and culture. During the year officials conducted roundups of ethnic Vietnamese they alleged were illegal migrants. The government also initiated a review of a number of ethnic Vietnamese persons, many of whom had been living in the country for decades, with the aim of deporting those who could not prove Cambodian citizenship. An inability to speak Khmer was considered prima facie evidence a person was not a citizen.

Indigenous People

In support of efforts by indigenous communities to protect their ancestral lands and natural resources, the Ministry of Land issued new communal land titles to seven indigenous communities during the year. As of June the CCHR reported only 18 of 458 indigenous communities had received land titles from the government.

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

No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct, nor was there official discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, although some societal discrimination and stereotyping persisted, particularly in rural areas.

In general LGBTI persons had limited job opportunities due to discrimination and exclusion. LGBTI persons were frequently harassed and bullied because of their appearance and their work in the entertainment and commercial sex sectors. There were no reports of government discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, citizenship, access to education, or health care. The general population, however, typically treated persons involved in consensual same-sex relationships with fear and suspicion.

A local LGBTI rights organization reported more than 100 incidents of violence or abuse against LGBTI persons, including domestic violence by family members. Stigma or intimidation may have inhibited further reporting of incidents.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Studies showed a significant share of the population held discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV/AIDS.

Cameroon

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women and provides penalties of between five and 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted rapists. Police and courts, however, rarely investigated or prosecuted rape cases, especially since victims often did not report them. The law does not address spousal rape.

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, although assault is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment and fines.

The DGSN, in partnership with UN Women, also carried out activities to combat rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV). From January 30 to March 31, the two organizations trained 250 police officers in the Far North region on the protection of rights of women and children vis-a-vis national and international legal frameworks. Following the training, four special units referred to as “gender desks” were established in four divisions where Boko Haram was active: Diamare, Mayo-Tsanaga, Mayo-Sava, and Logone and Chari. The units were intended to serve as counseling centers for victims of GBV.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law protects the physical and bodily integrity of persons, and the 2016 penal code prohibits genital mutilation of all persons. Whoever mutilates the genitals of a person is subject to imprisonment from 10 to 20 years, and imprisonment for life if the offender habitually carries out this practice, does so for commercial purposes, or if the practice causes death. FMG/C remained a problem, but its prevalence remained low. As in the previous year, children were reportedly subjected to FGM/C in isolated areas of the Far North, East, and Southwest regions and in the Choa and Ejagham tribes, although the practice continued to decrease. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Widows were sometimes forcibly married to one of the deceased husband’s relatives to secure continued use of property left by the husband, including the marital home. To protect women, including widows, better, the government included provisions in the 2016 penal code addressing the eviction of one spouse from the marital home by any person other than the other spouse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. The penal code provides for imprisonment from six months to one year and fines from 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($187-$1,865) for whoever takes advantage of the authority conferred on them by their position to harass another using orders, threats, constraints, or pressure to obtain sexual favors. The penalty is imprisonment for one to three years if the victim is a minor and from three to five years if the offender is in charge of the education of the victim. Despite these legal provisions, sexual harassment was widespread.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men; however, in law women did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men. Although local government officials including mayors claimed women had access to land in their constituencies, the overall sociocultural practice of denying women the right to own land, especially through inheritance, was prevalent in most regions.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from parents, and it is the parents’ responsibility to register births. Because many children were not born in formal health facilities and many parents were unable to reach local government offices, many births were unregistered. (For data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.

Education: The law provides for tuition-free compulsory primary education but does not set an age limit. Children were generally expected to complete primary education at age 12. Secondary school students had to pay tuition and other fees in addition to buying uniforms and books. This rendered education unaffordable for many children.

Teachers and students from the Northwest and Southwest regions boycotted classes as part of broader Anglophone protests during the year. In the Far North region, the 2016-17 academic year was largely lost for many children due to the fight against Boko Haram. Stand Up For Cameroon, a Cameroon People’s Party platform for political leaders, civil society activists, and engaged citizens, stated in August that the Boko Haram conflict had made approximately 114,000 school-aged children IDPs.

Child Abuse: Boko Haram continued to abduct children and, according to reports, used 83 children, including 55 girls, as “suicide bombers” between January 1 and July 31. News reports also cited cases of child rape and the kidnapping of children for ransom. (For additional data, see the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.)

Security force abuse of children was also a problem. In March a gendarme in Boumba and Ngoko Division, East region, raped a 10-year-old girl after breaking into her home. The child’s parents filed complaints with the gendarmerie brigade commander, the company commander, and the DO, but the officials allegedly took no immediate action. On March 27, the prosecutor at the local military court allegedly transferred the case to the gendarmerie commander in Bertoua, East region, for preliminary investigations. The suspect and a person considered to be his facilitator were arrested and detained at the Bertoua Central Prison pending the preliminary investigation. On September 19, the government commissioner at the Bertoua Military Court reportedly ordered their release, and as of November no information was publicly available on the reason for the release. Since then, the suspect reportedly threatened the victim’s family with reprisal.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. The law punishes anyone who compels another to marry with imprisonment for five to 10 years, and with fines of 25,000 CFA francs ($47) to 1,000,000 CFA francs ($1,865). When victims are minors, punishment may not be less than a two-year prison sentence, regardless of mitigating circumstances. The court may also take away custody from parents who give away their underage children in marriage. Despite these legal provisions, some families reportedly tried to marry their girls before age 18. (For data, see the UNICEF website.)

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as practices related to child pornography. A conviction, however, requires proof of the use of a threat, fraud, deception, force, or other forms of coercion. Penalties include imprisonment of 10 to 20 years and a fine of 100,000 to 10 million CFA francs ($187-$18,656). The law does not specifically provide a minimum age for consensual sex. Children under age 18 were exploited in prostitution, especially by restaurant and bar promoters, although no statistics were available.

Child Soldiers: The government did not recruit or use child soldiers, but Boko Haram continued to utilize child soldiers, including girls, in their attacks on civilian and military targets. There were also limited reports that some vigilance committees in the Far North region incorporated children in their ranks to combat Boko Haram. For example, Child Soldiers International reported that vigilance committees in Amchide, Fotokol, Kolofata and Maroua used children. The NGO further stated the children were mostly between the ages of 15 and 17 and accounted for 10 percent of vigilance committee membership. UN agencies and NGOs operating in the region could not confirm these numbers.

Displaced Children: The International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 11 estimated that 67 percent of IDPs and refugees were children. Many children lived on the streets of major urban centers, although their number apparently declined as a result of stringent security measures against Boko Haram and the amended penal code that criminalizes vagrancy.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, and 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 does not specifically address discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the constitution explicitly forbids all forms of discrimination, providing that “everyone has equal rights and obligations.” Secondary public education is tuition free for persons with disabilities and children born of parents with disabilities, and initial vocational training, medical treatment, and employment must be provided “when possible,” and public assistance “when needed.”

The majority of children with disabilities attended schools. The curriculum of the Government Teacher Training College in Buea, Southwest region, was modified to include training in inclusive education skills for teaching the deaf, blind, and developmentally disabled, among others. The government aimed to introduce inclusive education nationwide.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population consists of an estimated 286 ethnic groups. Members of the president’s Beti/Bulu ethnic group from the South region held key positions and were disproportionately represented in the government, state-owned businesses, security forces, and CPDM.

Indigenous People

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Baka, including Bakola and Bagyeli, resided primarily in (and were the earliest known inhabitants of) the forested areas of the South and East regions. The government did not effectively protect the civil or political rights of either group. Other groups often treated the Baka as inferior and sometimes subjected them to unfair and exploitative labor practices. There were credible reports the Mbororos, itinerant pastoralists living mostly in the North, East, Adamawa, and Northwest regions, were subject to harassment, sometimes with the complicity of administrative or judicial authorities.

The government continued long-standing efforts to provide birth certificates and national identity cards to Baka. Most Baka did not have these documents, and efforts to reach them were impeded by the difficulty in accessing their homes deep in the forest.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($37-$373).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights organizations such as the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Humanity First Cameroon, Alternatives Cameroun, National Observatory of the Rights of LGBTI Persons and Their Defenders, and others reported several arrests of LGBTI persons. LGBTI individuals received anonymous threats by telephone, text message, and email, including of “corrective” rape, but authorities did not investigate allegations of harassment. Police were generally unresponsive to requests to increase protection for lawyers who received threats because they represented LGBTI persons. Both police and civilians reportedly continued to extort money from presumed LGBTI individuals by threatening to expose them.

Humanity First Cameroon and Alternatives Cameroun claimed in their joint 2017 annual report that eight LGBTI persons remained imprisoned for homosexuality in the Kondengui central prison in Yaounde. The two NGOs also documented 578 other cases of human rights abuses related to homosexuality, including 27 arbitrary arrests.

On August 11, police summoned CAMFAIDS’ leadership to the DGSN for “promotion of homosexual practices.” On August 16, police interrogated four members of CAMFAIDS. While some questions concerned the legal status of the advocacy group and its funding sources, police also requested a list of its members and a list of similar organizations.

Some LGBTI persons had difficulty accessing birth registration and other identification documents. Officials at identification units refused to issue identification cards for persons whose physical characteristics were not consistent with their birth certificate.

In 2016 Johns Hopkins University, Metabiota Cameroon, and Care USA, in collaboration with the National AIDS Coordinating Council, conducted an Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey on gay men, using a sample of 1,323 men. The preliminary report released in March showed inter alia that 14.7 percent were arrested for being homosexual. (For more information, see jhu.pure.elsevier.com) .

Human rights and health organizations continued to advocate for the LGBTI community by defending LGBTI individuals under prosecution, promoting HIV/AIDS initiatives, and working to change laws prohibiting consensual same-sex activity. Organizations undertaking these activities faced obstacles securing official registration, as well as, limited or non-existent responses from police when they experienced harassment.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons afflicted with HIV or AIDS often suffered social discrimination and were isolated from their families and society due to social stigma and lack of education about the disease.

Unlike previous years, there were no credible reports of specific cases of discrimination in employment.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Several cases of vigilante action and other attacks were reported during the year.

Several arson attacks were also recorded, involving the destruction of both public and private property. On March 30, unidentified individuals set fire to the Old Market in Limbe, Southwest region. The fire lasted about four hours and destroyed at least fifty shops.

The law provides for sentences of between two and 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 5,000 and 100,000 CFA francs ($9-$187) for witchcraft. There were no reported arrests or trials for alleged witchcraft reported during the year.

Canada

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, as sexual assault, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for sexual assault carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison, up to 14 years for sexual assault with a restricted or prohibited firearm, and between four years and life for aggravated sexual assault with a firearm or committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization. Most victims of sexual assault were women.

The law prohibits domestic violence against men or women, although most victims were women. Although the criminal code does not define specific domestic violence offenses, an abuser can be charged with an applicable offense, such as assault, aggravated assault, intimidation, mischief, or sexual assault. Persons convicted of assault receive up to five years in prison. Assaults involving weapons, threats, or injuries carry terms of up to 10 years. Aggravated assault or endangerment of life carry prison sentences of up to 14 years. The government enforced the law effectively.

According to the government’s statistical agency, indigenous women were three times more likely than nonindigenous women to experience violent abuse and, according to the RCMP, were four times more likely to be victims of homicide. Civil society groups also claimed the government failed to allocate adequate resources to address these cases.

The federal government launched an independent national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in 2016 with a budget of C$53.8 million ($42.1 million) and a mandate to report by the end of 2018. By August the inquiry had held only one public hearing, and one of the five commissioners and a number of senior staff had resigned. In response to criticism, the commissioners widened the scope of the mandate to consider the conduct of policing services and policies across the country.

Police received training in treating victims of domestic violence, and agencies provided hotlines to report abuse. The RCMP, Ontario and Quebec provincial police services, and various municipal police forces announced reviews of their handling of sexual assault allegations. This review followed an investigative media report analyzing 870 police jurisdictions between 2010 and 2014 that found police dismissed complaints of sexual assault as “unfounded” without laying charges at an average national rate of 19 percent, with reported rates as high as 60 percent in some jurisdictions. The government’s Family Violence Initiative involved 15 federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations, including Status of Women Canada, Health Canada, and Justice Canada. These entities worked with civil society organizations to eliminate violence against women and advance women’s human rights. In June the government launched a national strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence, budgeting C$101 million ($79 million) over five years to create a center of excellence within Status of Women Canada for research, data collection, and programming. Provincial and municipal governments also sought to address violence against women, often in partnership with civil society.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C of women and girls and prosecutes the offense as aggravated assault with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons committing or aiding another person to commit the offense may be charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm (maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment) or criminal negligence causing death (maximum penalty of life imprisonment). Persons convicted of removing or assisting the removal of a child who is ordinarily a resident in the country to have FGM/C performed on the child may face a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Refugee status may be granted on the grounds of threatened FGM/C that may be considered gender-related persecution. Provincial child protection authorities may intervene to remove children from their homes if they suspect a risk of FGM/C.

Internal government reports obtained by media organizations asserted FGM/C practitioners travelled to a third country to provide the illegal procedure. The government instructed border services officers to monitor baggage for FGM/C equipment and to be aware of young female nationals returning from travel in regions where they may be subjected to the practice.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The criminal code does not specifically refer to “honor” killings, but it prosecutes such cases as murder. Murder convictions in the first or second degree carry minimum penalties of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole. The law limits the defense of “provocation” to prevent its application to cases of “honor” killing and cases of spousal homicide. The government enforced the law effectively. The government’s citizenship guide for new immigrants explicitly states “honor” killings and gender-based violence carry severe legal penalties. The government trains law enforcement officials on issues of “honor”-based violence and maintains an interdepartmental working group focusing on forced marriage and “honor”-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not contain a specific offense of “sexual harassment” but criminalizes harassment (defined as stalking), punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and sexual assault, with penalties ranging from 10 years for non-aggravated sexual assault to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. The government generally enforced these prohibitions. Federal and provincial labor standards laws provide some protection against harassment, and federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions have responsibility for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers, companies, unions, educational facilities, professional bodies, and other institutions had internal policies against sexual harassment, and federal and provincial governments provided public education and advice.

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

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights in the judicial system as men, and the government enforced the rights effectively. Seven provinces and two territories require private-sector companies to report annually on their efforts to increase the number of women appointed to executive corporate boards. The government’s statistical agency reported that hourly wages for women were, on average, lower than for men but that the wage gap had narrowed over the past two decades.

Indigenous women living on reservations (where land is held communally) have matrimonial property rights. First Nations may choose to follow federal law or enact their own rules related to matrimonial real property rights and interests that respect their customs.

Indigenous women and men living on reserves are subject to the Indian Act, which defines status for the purposes of determining entitlement to a range of legislated rights and eligibility for federal programs and services. Indigenous women do not enjoy equal rights with indigenous men to transmit officially recognized status to their descendants.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Births are registered immediately and are not denied or not provided on a discriminatory basis. There were no reports of the government denying public services, such as education or health care, to those who failed to register.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes violence and abuse against children, including assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography, abandonment, emotional maltreatment, and neglect. Provincial and territorial child welfare services investigate cases of suspected child abuse and may provide counseling and other support services to families, or place children in child welfare care, when warranted. For additional information, see UNICEF child protection at www.unicef.org/protection/ .

Early and Forced Marriage: The law establishes 16 years as the legal minimum age of marriage. Early marriages were not known to be a major problem. The law criminalizes the removal of a child from the country for the purpose of early and forced marriage and provides for court-ordered peace bonds, which may include surrendering of a passport, to disrupt an attempt to remove a child for that purpose.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, and offering or procuring a child for child prostitution and practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law effectively. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 years. Persons convicted of living from the proceeds of the prostitution of a child younger than 18 face between two and 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons who aid, counsel, compel, use, or threaten to use violence, intimidation, or coercion in relation to a child younger than 18 engaging in prostitution face between five and 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons who solicit or obtain the sexual services of a child younger than 18 face between six months’ and five years’ imprisonment. Children, principally teenage females, were exploited in sex trafficking.

The law prohibits accessing, producing, distributing, and possessing child pornography. Maximum penalties range from 18 months’ imprisonment for summary offenses to 10 years’ imprisonment for indictable offenses.

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

Anti-Semitism

Approximately 1 percent of the population is Jewish.

The B’nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights received 1,728 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, a 26 percent increase from 2015. The greatest number of reports (490) came from the province of Ontario. Some university students reported anti-Semitic attacks on campus. For example, in January in Sackville, New Brunswick, an unidentified person carved a large swastika in the school’s field. In January unknown individuals left a rock with anti-Semitic messages written on it on the doorstep of a Jewish person’s home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. City authorities and university officials denounced both incidents publicly.

In March Ryerson University officials fired Imam Ayman Elkasrawy, a teaching assistant, for making anti-Semitic comments that were captured on video during prayers at a Toronto mosque. Elkasrawy apologized for the comments, but the Toronto police and the Muslim Association of Canada were investigating the incident. The Muslim Association of Canada apologized for the incident and suspended Elkasrawy for preaching an unauthorized sermon.

In July unknown individuals left anti-Semitic graffiti on a car in Montreal. Montreal police reportedly refused to open an investigation into the incident and advised the car owner to remove the graffiti herself. Following public pressure, the Montreal police apologized and opened an investigation into the incident.

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, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions. The federal minister of families, children, and social development, supported by the minister of persons with disabilities, provides federal leadership on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and provincial governments also have ministerial-level representation. Federal and provincial governments effectively implemented laws and programs mandating access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities, but regulation varies by jurisdiction. No comprehensive federal legislation protects the rights of persons with disabilities, creating a situation where accessibility provisions are unevenly implemented and enforced throughout the country.

Children with disabilities attended primary, secondary, and higher education, and the majority attended classes with nondisabled peers or in a combination of nondisabled and special education classes with parental consent.

Disability rights NGOs reported that persons with disabilities experienced higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, lower rates of job retention, and higher rates of poverty and economic marginalization than the broader population.

Federal and provincial human rights commissions protected and promoted respect for the rights of persons with disabilities. The government provided services and monetary benefits. Facilities existed to provide support for persons with mental health disabilities, but mental disability advocates asserted that the prison system was not sufficiently equipped or staffed to provide the care necessary for those in the criminal justice system, resulting in cases of segregation and self-harm.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits discrimination because of race. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions investigated complaints and raised public awareness. The federal Canadian Race Relations Foundation coordinates and facilitates public education and research and develops recommendations to eliminate racism and promote harmonious race relations.

According to the government’s statistical agency, 1,362 incidents of hate crimes were reported to police in 2015, of which 641 were motivated by race or ethnic bias, and 38 percent involved violence, including assault and uttered threats. Blacks constituted the most commonly targeted racial group, accounting for 224 incidents, and Jews 178. According to the report, there were 49 police-reported hate crimes against East or Southeast Asians, 48 against South Asians, and 92 against Arab or West Asians.

Indigenous People

Indigenous peoples constituted approximately 4 percent of the national population and much higher percentages in the country’s three territories: Yukon, 23 percent; Northwest Territories, 52 percent; and Nunavut, 86 percent. Disputes over land claims, self-government, treaty rights, taxation, duty-free imports, fishing and hunting rights, and alleged police harassment were sources of tension. Indigenous peoples remained underrepresented in the workforce, leadership positions, and politics; overrepresented on welfare rolls and in prison populations; and more susceptible than other groups to suicide, poverty, chronic health conditions, and sexual violence. According to the government’s statistical agency, the overall violent victimization rate (which includes sexual assault, assault, and robbery) for indigenous persons in 2014 was 163 incidents per 1,000 persons, more than double the rate of 74 incidents per 1,000 among nonindigenous persons.

The law recognizes individuals registered under the Indian Act based on indigenous lineage and members of a recognized First Nation as Status Indians and thereby eligible for a range of federal services and programs. Status and services are withheld from unregistered or non-Status indigenous persons who do not meet eligibility criteria for official recognition or who may have lost status through marriage to a nonindigenous person or other disenfranchisement. According to the government’s statistical agency, in 2011 indigenous children accounted for almost 50 percent of the approximately 30,000 children younger than 14 in foster care. A Supreme Court ruling in 2016 confirmed that some federal government responsibilities do exist for non-Status First nations and Metis peoples (descendants of historical unions between indigenous and European persons).

The law recognizes and specifically protects indigenous rights, including rights established by historical land claims settlements. Treaties with indigenous groups form the basis for the government’s policies in the eastern part of the country, but there were legal challenges to the government’s interpretation and implementation of treaty rights. Indigenous groups in the western part of the country that had never signed treaties continued to claim land and resources, and many continued to seek legal resolution of outstanding issues. As a result, the evolution of the government’s policy toward indigenous rights, particularly land claims, depended on negotiation or legal challenges.

The law imposes statutory, contractual, and common-law obligations to consult with indigenous peoples on the development and exploitation of natural resources on land covered by treaty or subject to land claims by First Nations. According to a Supreme Court ruling, the federal government has the constitutional duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate indigenous peoples when the government contemplates actions that may adversely affect potential or established indigenous and treaty rights. This law was yet to be uniformly implemented.

The Supreme Court has affirmed that indigenous title extends to territory used by indigenous peoples for hunting, fishing, and other activities prior to contact with Europeans, as well as to settlement sites. Provincial and federal governments may develop natural resources on land subject to indigenous title but are obliged to obtain consent of the indigenous titleholders in addition to existing constitutional duties to consult, and where necessary, accommodate indigenous peoples in matters that affect their rights. If governments cannot obtain consent, they may proceed with resource development only based on a “compelling and substantial objective” in the public interest, in which the public interest is proportionate to any adverse effect on indigenous interests. The court has established that indigenous titles are collective in nature.

In January 2016 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the federal government discriminated against indigenous children when it failed to fund welfare services for children living on reserves at the same level of services for off-reserve populations. While the government dedicated new funds to address inequities in welfare services for children living on reserve, the tribunal issued three noncompliance orders, most recently in May. The government filed an application for judicial review of two parts of the tribunal’s ruling in June.

In February the Ontario Metis signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government to initiate discussions toward an agreement to set up negotiations on Metis self-government, lands, rights, and other outstanding claims against the government. In April the government and Metis leaders signed an additional agreement to start negotiations on shared priorities in a permanent forum chaired by the prime minister. In 2016 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously the Metis and non-Status Indians are Indians under the Constitution Act and fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Nearly 600,000 Canadians identify as Metis.

In February an Ontario judge ruled the federal government was liable for the “Sixties Scoop,” during which child welfare services removed an estimated 20,000 indigenous children, 16,000 of them in Ontario, from their parents’ custody and placed them with nonindigenous foster families in Canada and the United States. In October, Ontario plaintiffs and the federal government announced they had reached a settlement of C$800 million ($63 million); individual plaintiffs will receive between C$25,000 ($20,000) and C$50,000 ($39,000) in compensation. The government also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees (estimated at C$75 million [$59 million]), and provide C$50 million ($39 million) for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation, which had been a key demand of the plaintiffs.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the criminal code provides penalties for crimes motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, New Brunswick, and British Columbia prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. Nunavut and Yukon territories prohibit such discrimination implicitly based on “sex” or “gender.”

In June parliament amended the federal human rights act to add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Provinces and territories have different requirements for persons to change their legal gender marker in documents such as birth certificates and identifications. Some provinces require one or more physicians to certify the applicant has completed gender reassignment surgery before an applicant may change the legal gender marker. The provincial governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta allow residents to change their gender marker with a personal and/or physician’s declaration indicating the individual’s gender identity.

There were occasions of violence and abuse against individuals based on sexual orientation, but in general, the government effectively implemented the law criminalizing such behavior. NGOs reported that stigma or intimidation was a known or likely factor in the underreporting of incidents of abuse. Some police forces employed liaison officers for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex communities.

In January the federal government settled a case with a transgender individual who sought to remove a gender identification from the individual’s social insurance card. The government pledged to review its policy on collecting personally identifiable gender information and further pledged to do so only if there are “legitimate purposes.”

In August the government permitted transgender citizens to add an observation to their passports to indicate that they do not identify as either male or female. The change is an interim measure pending the availability of passports allowing individuals to designate their gender as “x.”

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were reports of societal violence and discrimination against members of other minority, racial, and religious groups, but the government generally implemented the law criminalizing such behavior effectively.

Central African Republic

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, although it does not specifically prohibit spousal rape. Rape is punishable by imprisonment with hard labor, but the law does not specify a minimum sentence. The government did not enforce the law effectively.

In June the Rapid Reaction and Repression of Sexual Violence Mixed Unit received from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) two cars and three motorcycles to carry out its work. The unit, officially established in 2015, consisted of gendarmes, police, and medical and social service personnel whose objective is to reduce the number of incidents of sexual violence against women and children. MINUSCA, UNDP, and the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic also organized a workshop on cooperation between the unit and the Special Criminal Court.

Between January and October 2015, the UN Population Fund reported the gender-based violence Information Management System, established in 2014, recorded 60,208 victims who received medical or psychosocial care or both. Among those were 29,801 cases of sexual violence, including rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation and abuse, and sexual aggression.

Although the law does not specifically mention spousal abuse, it prohibits violence against any person and provides for penalties of up to 10 years in prison. Domestic violence against women was common, although there are laws and instrument prohibiting violence against women. The government took no known action to punish perpetrators.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls, which is punishable by two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($176 to $1,760), depending on the severity of the case.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but the government did not effectively enforce the law, and sexual harassment was common. The law prescribes no specific penalties for the crime.

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

Discrimination: The formal law does not discriminate against women in inheritance and property rights, but a number of discriminatory customary laws often prevailed. Women’s statutory inheritance rights often were not respected, particularly in rural areas. Women experienced economic and social discrimination. Customary law does not consider single, divorced, or widowed women, including those with children, to be heads of households. By law men and women are entitled to family subsidies from the government, but several women’s groups complained about lack of access to these payments for women.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth in the national territory or from one or both parents. Birth registration could be difficult and less likely to occur in regions with little government presence. Parents did not always register births immediately. Unregistered children faced restrictions on access to education and other social services. The courts issued more than 7,000 birth certificates. They were not delivered, however, because court clerks demanded payment for printing the certificates. The lack of routine birth registration also posed long-term problems. (For more data, see UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.)

Education: Education is compulsory from six to 15 years of age. Tuition is free, but students have to pay for items such as books and supplies and for transportation. Human Rights Watch documented the continued occupation of schools for military purposes, such as for barracks or bases. Further, it documented that abuses by fighters in and around schools threatened the safety of students and teachers, and impeded children’s ability to learn. In 2015, according to UNICEF, 38 percent of schools were attacked or looted during the crisis, and one-third of school-age children did not go to school. Girls did not have equal access to primary or secondary education. Few Ba’aka, the earliest known inhabitants of the forests in the south, attended primary school. There was no significant government assistance for efforts to increase Ba’aka enrollment.

According to an NGO nationwide survey in 2015, between 78 and 88 percent of schools were open. According to the United Nations, an estimated 10,000 children were prevented from attending school during the year, mostly due to schools being occupied by armed groups.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes parental abuse of children under age 15. Nevertheless, child abuse and neglect were widespread, although rarely acknowledged. The government did not take steps to address child abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law establishes 18 as the minimum age for civil marriage. The practice of early marriage was more common in the Muslim community. There were reports during the year of forced marriages of young girls to ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka members. The government did not take steps to address forced marriage. (For more data, see UNICEF website.)

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There are no statutory rape or child pornography laws to protect minors. The family code prescribes penalties for the commercial exploitation of children, including imprisonment and financial penalties. The minimum age of sexual consent is 18, but it was rarely observed. A legal aid center in Bimbo for sexual and gender-based crimes reported cases involving minor victims.

During the year NGOs reported the LRA continued to target and abduct children. Abducted girls often were kept as sex slaves.

Armed groups committed sexual violence against children and used girls as sex slaves (see sections 1.g. and 2.d.).

There were reports of sexual abuse of children and the inappropriate use of force by international and MINUSCA peacekeeping forces during the year (see section 1.c.).

Child Soldiers: Child soldiering was a problem (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: Armed conflict resulted in forced displacement, with the number of persons fleeing in search of protection fluctuating based on local conditions. Observers believed that HIV/AIDS and societal belief in sorcery, particularly in rural areas, contributed to the large number of street children.

The country’s instability had a disproportionate effect on children, who accounted for 60 percent of IDPs. Access to government services was limited for all children, but displacement reduced it further. Nevertheless, according to a humanitarian NGO, an estimated 140,000 displaced and vulnerable children participated in psychosocial activities, armed groups released 3,000 children, and approximately 3,500 survivors of sexual violence received comprehensive support.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no significant 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 both mental and physical disabilities but does not specify other forms of disabilities. It requires that in any company employing 25 or more persons, at least 5 percent of staff must consist of sufficiently qualified persons with disabilities, if they are available. The law states that at least 10 percent of newly recruited civil service personnel should be persons with disabilities. There are no legislated or mandated accessibility provisions for persons with disabilities.

The government did not enact programs to ensure access to buildings, information, and communications. The Ministry of Labor, of Employment and Social Protection’s Labor Inspectorate has responsibility for protecting children with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Violence by unidentified persons, bandits, and other armed groups against the Mbororo, primarily nomadic pastoralists, was a problem. Their cattle wealth made them attractive targets, and they continued to suffer disproportionately from civil disorder in the North. Additionally, since many citizens viewed them as inherently foreign due to their transnational migratory patterns, the Mbororo faced occasional discrimination with regard to government services and protections. In recent years the Mbororo began arming themselves against attacks from farmers who objected to the presence of the Mbororo’s grazing cattle. Several of the resulting altercations resulted in deaths.

Indigenous People

Discrimination against the Ba’aka, who constituted 1 to 2 percent of the population, remained a problem. The Ba’aka continued to have little influence in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the exploitation of natural resources. Forest-dwelling Ba’aka, in particular, experienced social and economic discrimination and exploitation, which the government did little to prevent.

The Ba’aka, including children, were often coerced into agricultural, domestic, and other types of labor. They were considered slaves by members of other local ethnic groups, and even when they were remunerated for labor, their wages were far below those prescribed by the labor code and lower than wages paid to members of other groups.

Refugees International reported the Ba’aka were effectively “second-class citizens,” perceived as barbaric and subhuman and excluded from mainstream society.

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

The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity. The penalty for “public expression of love” between persons of the same sex is imprisonment for six months to two years or a fine of between 150,000 and 600,000 CFA francs ($265 and $1,060). When one of the participants is a child, the adult could be sentenced to two to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of 100,000 to 800,000 CFA francs ($176 and $1,413); however, there were no reports police arrested or detained persons under these provisions.

While official discrimination based on sexual orientation occurred, there were no reports the government targeted gays and lesbians. Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons was entrenched due to a high degree of cultural stigmatization. There were no reports of LGBTI persons targeted for acts of violence, although the absence of reports could reflect cultural biases and stigma attached to being an LGBTI individual. There were no known organizations advocating for or working on behalf of LGBTI persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS were subjected to discrimination and stigma, and many individuals with HIV/AIDS did not disclose their status due to social stigma.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Violent conflict and instability in the country had a religious cast. Many, but not all, members of the ex-Seleka and its factions were Muslim, having originated in neighboring countries or in the remote Muslim north, a region former governments often neglected.

During the worst of the crisis, some Christian communities formed anti-Seleka militias that targeted Muslim communities, presumably for their association with the Seleka. The Catholic archbishop of Bangui, local priests, and an imam worked with communities to defuse tensions by making radio broadcasts urging members of their religious communities to call for tolerance and restraint. Local leaders, including the bishop of Bossangoa, and internationally based academics warned against casting the conflict in religious terms and thus fueling its escalation along religious lines.

Ethnic killings often related to transhumance movements occurred. The major groups playing a role in the transhumance movements were social groups centering on ethnic identity. These included Muslim Fulani/Peuhl herders, Muslim farming communities, and Christian/animist farming communities. These ethnic groups committed preemptive and/or reactionary killings in protection of perceived or real threats to their property (cattle herds or farms). Initial killings generated reprisal killings and counter killings.

According to the UNHCR independent expert, there were numerous credible reports that “persons accused of witchcraft were detained, tortured, or killed by individuals or members of armed groups, particularly in the west of the country.”

The law provides for sentences of between two and 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 5,000 and 100,000 CFA francs ($9-$187) for witchcraft. There were no reported arrests or trials for alleged witchcraft reported during the year.

Chad

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment. Nevertheless, rape–including rape of female refugees–was a problem (see section 2.d.). The law does not specifically address spousal rape. Police often detained alleged perpetrators, but rape cases usually were not tried. Authorities fined and released most rape suspects. Communities sometimes compelled rape victims to marry their attackers.

Although the law prohibits violence against women, domestic violence was widespread. Police rarely intervened, and women had limited legal recourse.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FCM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for girls and women, but the practice remained widespread, particularly in rural areas.

By law FGM/C may be prosecuted as a form of assault, and charges may be brought against the parents of victims, medical practitioners, or others involved. Nevertheless, the lack of specific penalties hindered prosecution, and authorities prosecuted no cases during the year.

The Ministry of Women, Early Childhood Protection, and National Solidarity is responsible for coordinating activities to combat FGM/C. The government, with assistance from the UN Population Fund, conducted public awareness campaigns to discourage FGM/C and highlight its dangers.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, which occurred. A new criminal code, however, enacted in August, provides penalties for sexual harassment ranging from six months to three years in prison and fines from 100,000 to 2,000,000 CFA francs ($176 to $3,533).

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

Discrimination: Although property and inheritance laws provide the same legal status and rights for women as for men, family law discriminates against women, and discrimination against and exploitation of women were widespread. Local leaders settled most inheritance disputes in favor of men, according to traditional practice.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. The government did not register all births immediately. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Although primary education is tuition-free, universal, and compulsory between ages six and 16, parents were required to pay for textbooks, except in some rural areas. Parents often were required to pay tuition for public secondary education. According to the most recent World Bank Development Indicators database, six girls attended primary school for every 10 boys. Most children did not attend secondary school.

Human rights organizations cited the problem of the “mouhadjirin,” migrant children who attended certain Islamic schools and whose teachers forced them to beg for food and money. There was no reliable estimate of the number of mouhadjirin.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the minimum age for marriage at 18. The law precludes invoking the consent of the minor spouse to justify child marriage and prescribes sentences of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 500,000 to five million CFA francs ($883 to $8,833) for persons convicted of perpetrating child marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the prostitution of children, with punishments of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines up to one million CFA francs ($1,766) for conviction. The law prohibits sexual relations with girls under age 14, even if married, but authorities rarely enforced the ban. The law criminalizes the use, procuring, or offering of a child for the production of pornography, but no cases of child pornography were reported during the year.

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

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, although it does not specify the type of disability. The government did not effectively enforce the law. There are no laws that provide for access to public buildings for persons with disabilities. The government operated education, employment, and therapy programs for persons with disabilities.

Children with physical disabilities may attend primary, secondary, and higher education institutions. The government supported schools for children with vision or mental disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were approximately 200 ethnic groups speaking more than 120 languages and dialects.

Conflict between pastoralists (herders) and farmers continued, particularly in the southern part of the country, and resulted in deaths and injuries. For example, on October 6, three persons were killed in a conflict between famers and herders in the region of Wadi-Fira.

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

The law prohibits but does not define “unnatural acts.” In August the president signed a revision to the penal code making same-sex relations illegal. The code punishes same-sex relations by three months’ to two years’ imprisonment and fines ranging from 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($88 to $883).

There were no lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex organizations in the country.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law provides individuals with HIV/AIDS the same rights as other persons and requires the government to provide information, education, and access to tests and treatment for HIV/AIDS, but officials did not always do so. According to the Chadian Women Lawyers’ Association, women sometimes were accused of passing HIV to their husbands and were threatened by family members with judicial action or banishment.

Chile

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. Penalties for rape range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, and the government generally enforced the law when violations were reported. The law criminalizes both physical and psychological domestic violence and protects the privacy and safety of the victim making the charge of rape or domestic violence.

Family courts handle cases of domestic violence and penalize offenders with fines up to 556,680 pesos ($850). Additional sanctions include eviction of the offender from the residence shared with the survivor, restraining orders, confiscation of firearms, and court-ordered counseling. Cases of habitual psychological abuse and physical abuse cases in which there are physical injuries are prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Penalties are based on the gravity of injuries and range from 61 to 540 days’ imprisonment.

The government continued launched a national video campaignagainst femicide, and operatedshelters and a hotline.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a criminal offense but is classified as a misdemeanor, with penalties outlined exclusively in the labor code. By law sexual harassment is cause for immediate dismissal from employment. The law requires employers to define internal procedures, or a company policy, for investigating sexual harassment, and employers may face fines and additional financial compensation to victims if it is shown that the company policy on sexual harassment was not followed. The law provides protection to those affected by sexual harassment by employers and coworkers. The law provides severance pay to individuals who resign due to sexual harassment if they have completed at least one year with the employer.

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

Discrimination: Although women possess most of the same legal rights as men, discrimination in employment, pay, owning and managing businesses, and education persisted. The default and most common marital arrangement is “conjugal society,” which provides that a husband has the right to administer joint property, including his wife’s property, without consultation or written permission from his spouse, but a wife must demonstrate that her husband has granted his permission before she is permitted to make financial arrangements. Legislation remained pending years after a 2007 agreement with the IACHR to modify the conjugal society law to give women and men equal rights and responsibilities in marriage. The commercial code provides that, unless a woman is married under the separate estate regime or a joint estate regime, she may not enter into a commercial partnership agreement without permission from her husband, while a man may enter into such an agreement without permission from his wife.

Despite a law providing for equal pay for equal work, the average woman’s annual income was 32 percent less than that of men, according to the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality. The ministry is in charge of protecting women’s legal rights and is specifically tasked with combatting discrimination against women.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents or grandparents. Births are registered immediately.

Child Abuse: Intrafamily violence, including violence against children, remained a persistent problem. The law renders persons convicted of child sexual abuse permanently ineligible for any position, job, career, or profession in educational settings requiring direct and habitual contact with children under age 18. The law also includes a public registry of these sex offenders.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 (16 with parental consent).

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents was a problem, and children were exploited in prostitution with and without third-party involvement. Law 20,507 prohibits all forms of human trafficking, prescribing penalties ranging from five years and one day to 15 years in prison, plus fines, for trafficking offenses. Nevertheless, internal child sex trafficking cases were often prosecuted under a different law, Article 367 of the penal code, which provides lesser penalties. Due to sentencing guidelines for first-time offenders or those sentenced to less than five years’ confinement, many convicted traffickers were given weak and inadequate sentences for the crime, which continued to hamper efforts to deter and hold traffickers accountable.

Heterosexual sexual relations with minors between the ages of 14 and 18 may be considered statutory rape depending on the circumstances; sex with a child under age 14 is considered rape, regardless of consent or the victim’s gender. Penalties for statutory rape range from five to 20 years in prison. Child pornography is a crime. Penalties for producing child pornography range from 541 days to five years in prison.

Institutionalized Children: On June 27, the second special congressional committee in a span of five years to investigate the situation of SENAME issued a report that claimed widespread lack of oversight of its child protective programs. The report also found that the service had long waiting lists for its programs, lack of training for its personnel, and “an [organizational] culture lacking in the protection of [children’s] rights.”

On July 12, the INDH released the results of a year-long study of 171 SENAME child-service centers. Among the 405 children interviewed, 195 reported negligent treatment by child services workers; physical, mental, or psychological abuse; and sexual abuse or exploitation.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbers approximately 18,000 persons. Jewish community leaders reported concern over the tone of social media postings they perceived as threatening. The commentary leaders found offensive primarily referenced frustration with Israeli government policies and did not specifically mention either Jewish individuals or Chilean Jews.

A June soccer game between Israeli-Chilean and Palestinian-Chilean clubs ended in physical violence. Jewish community leaders filed a complaint with the public prosecutor over anti-Semitic chants by Palestinian fans. Palestinian leaders complained to authorities that the entrance to their community’s soccer field was marked with graffiti of the Star of David and the words “Palestine doesn’t exist, Arabs are terrorists.”

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 mostly enforced these provisions. On June 8, the government made concerted efforts to improve workforce participation and further eliminate all forms of discrimination by passing the Employment Inclusion Act for Persons with Disabilities. Nevertheless, persons with disabilities suffered forms of de facto discrimination.

The law provides for universal and equal access to buildings, information, and communications. Most public buildings did not comply with legal accessibility mandates. The public transportation system, particularly outside Santiago, did not adequately provide accessibility for persons with disabilities. In recent years, however, TranSantiago, the main system of public transportation within Santiago, instituted changes to improve compliance with the law, including new ramp systems and elevators at certain metro stations as well as improved access to some buses. Nevertheless, many metro stations and most buses remained inaccessible to persons with physical disabilities.

The Ministry of Social Development’s National Service for the Disabled (SENADIS) reported that children with disabilities attended primary and secondary school but noted difficulties in ensuring equal access to schooling at private institutions. SENADIS also reported that persons with disabilities had fewer opportunities to continue their education beyond secondary school.

In its annual report, the INDH noted concerns over the prolonged or forced institutionalization of persons with mental disabilities in psychiatric hospitals or other types of residency centers. The government, along with SENADIS, worked to expand access to legal justice for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Equal treatment and nondiscrimination are explicitly protected in the constitution, and the labor code specifically prohibits discrimination. According to a June survey by the National Center for Migration Studies at the University of Talca, 48 percent of immigrants surveyed, most of whom were from other Latin American countries or from the Caribbean, reported experiencing discrimination.

Indigenous People

Although the constitution does not specifically protect indigenous groups, indigenous people have the right to participate in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, and traditions, including the exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, or other natural resources on indigenous lands. The Citizen’s Observatory reported, however, that indigenous people encountered serious obstacles to exercising these civil and political rights. Indigenous persons experienced societal discrimination, including in employment, and there were reports of incidents in which they were attacked and harassed.

There were numerous reports of police abuse against Mapuche individuals and communities, including against children. The INDH brought petitions to protect the constitutional rights of Mapuche individuals, including children and adolescents, in cases of excessive use of force by security forces. In February, Amnesty International’s annual report cited constant reports of excessive use of force and arbitrary detention during police operations in Mapuche communities.

Indigenous lands are demarcated, but some indigenous Mapuche communities demanded restitution of privately and publicly owned traditional lands.

The Law on Indigenous Peoples’ Protection and Development recognizes nine indigenous groups in the country and creates an administrative structure to provide specialized programs and services to promote economic, social, and cultural development of these peoples.

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

The law sets the age of consent at 18 for homosexual sexual activity; heterosexual activity is permitted, under some circumstances, at age 14. Antidiscrimination laws exist and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In March the NGO Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH) reported that it tracked 332 cases of discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity during 2016.

Violence against LGBTI individuals continued. MOVILH, a leading gay rights NGO, reported that, on September 12, a lesbian couple presented a criminal lawsuit against their former neighbors for discriminatory threats under the country’s antidiscrimination law. The couple had been subject to verbal slurs for two years, which escalated to death threats and vandalism of their property. The criminal case was pending at year’s end. According to MOVILH, in 2016 (the year for which the most recent data is available) four persons were killed and 39 were physically assaulted in homophobic attacks. The most common discriminatory acts reported to MOVILH were verbal abuse and discrimination in the workplace, such as difficulty obtaining promotions.

Law enforcement authorities appeared reluctant to use the full recourse of a 2012 antidiscrimination law, including charging assailants of LGBTI victims with a hate crime, which would elevate criminal penalties as permitted under the law.

Laws prevent transgender persons from changing gender markers on government-issued identity documents, including national identity cards and university diplomas, to match their outward appearance or chosen expression.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination against persons based on their HIV status and provides that neither public nor private health institutions may deny access to health-care services on the basis of a person’s serological status.

As the majority of citizens with HIV and AIDS were men, NGOs reported that government-sponsored outreach campaigns were oriented to a male audience, particularly men who have sex with men.

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women is illegal, and carries a sentence of three years in prison to death. The law does not safeguard same-sex couples or victims of marital rape. In 2015 a separate law on sexual assault was broadened to include male victims, but it has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Of the reported cases, most allegations of rape were closed through private settlement rather than prosecution. Some persons convicted of rape were executed.

Domestic violence remained a significant problem. The government took a significant step to protect women from domestic abuse through the passage of the Family Violence Law, which took effect in March 2016. NGOs stated that because of the law, more women were willing to report domestic violence incidents to police. Nevertheless, implementation and enforcement of the law remained inconsistent. In February the Washington Post reported that elements of the law, including those related to court protective orders, were not being implemented correctly.

Some scholars said that even under the new law, victims were still encouraged to attempt to resolve domestic violence through mediation. Societal sentiment that domestic violence was a personal, private matter contributed to underreporting and inaction by authorities when women faced violence at home. One government study of divorce records publicized during the year indicated that only 9.5 percent of victims made police reports.

The government supported shelters for victims of domestic violence, and some courts provided protections to victims, including through court protective orders prohibiting a perpetrator of domestic violence from coming near a victim. Nonetheless, official assistance did not always reach victims, and public security forces often ignored domestic violence. Legal aid institutions working to provide counseling and defense to victims of domestic violence were often pressured to suspend public activities and cease all forms of policy advocacy, an area that was reserved only for government-sponsored organizations.

According to women’s rights activists, a recurring problem in the prosecution of domestic violence cases was a failure by authorities to collect evidence–including photographs, hospital records, police records, or children’s testimony. Witnesses seldom testified in court.

Courts’ recognition of domestic violence improved, making spousal abuse a mitigating factor in crimes committed in self-defense.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment against women; however, there is no clear definition of sexual harassment under the law. Offenders are subject to a penalty of up to 15 days in detention, according to the Beijing Public Security Bureau. It remained difficult for victims to file a sexual harassment complaint and for judges to reach a ruling on such cases. Many women remained unwilling to report incidents of sexual harassment, believing that the justice system was ineffectual, according to official media. Several prominent media reports of sexual harassment went viral on social media, helping to raise awareness of the problem, particularly in the workplace.

The Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests empowers victims to file a sexual harassment complaint with their employer, authorities, or both. Employers who failed to take effective measures to prevent sexual harassment could be fined.

Some women’s NGOs that sought to increase public awareness of sexual harassment reported harassment by public security and faced challenges executing their programs. In May police searched the houses of feminists suspected of printing clothing with antisexual harassment slogans. In September 2016 women’s rights activist Shan Lihua was found guilty by the Gangzha District People’s Court in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” The indictment specifically cited Shan’s activism on a rape case in Hainan Province as evidence, according to media reports.

Coercion in Population Control: There were reports of coerced abortions and sterilizations, though government statistics on the percentage of abortions that were coerced during the year was not available. The CCP restricts the rights of parents to choose the number of children they have and utilizes family planning units from the provincial to the village level to enforce population limits and distributions. A two-child policy was officially implemented as of January 2016. The Population and Family Planning Law permits married couples to have two children and allows couples to apply for permission to have a third child if they meet conditions stipulated in local and provincial regulations. State media claimed the number of coerced abortions had declined in recent years in the wake of loosened regulations, including the implementation of the two-child policy. Citizens are subject to hefty fines for violating the law, while couples who have only one child receive a certificate entitling them to collect a monthly incentive payment and other benefits that vary by province–from approximately six to 12 yuan (one to two dollars) per month up to 3,000 yuan ($450) for farmers and herders in poor areas. Couples in some provinces are required to seek approval and register before a child is conceived.

Under the law and in practice, there are financial and administrative penalties for births that exceed birth limits or otherwise violate regulations. The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced it would continue to impose fines, called “social compensation fees,” for policy violations. The law, as implemented, requires each woman with an unauthorized pregnancy to abort or pay the social compensation fee, which can reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income. The exact amount of the fee varied widely from province to province. Those with financial means often paid the fee so that their children born in violation of the birth restrictions would have access to a wide array of government-provided social services and rights. Some parents avoided the fee by hiding children born in violation of the law with friends or relatives. In localities with large populations of migrant workers, officials specifically targeted migrant women to ensure that they did not exceed birth limitations. Minorities in some provinces, however, were entitled to higher limits on their family size.

The law maintains that “citizens have an obligation to practice birth planning in accordance with the law” and also states that “couples of child-bearing age shall voluntarily choose birth planning contraceptive and birth control measures to prevent and reduce unwanted pregnancies.” After the transition to a two-child limit, the available mix of contraceptives shifted from mainly permanent methods like tubal ligation or IUDs toward other reversible methods.

Single women are entitled to reproductive rights, and their children are entitled to the same rights as those born to married parents, according to both the Civil Law and Marriage Law. Since the national family planning law mentions only the rights of married couples, local implementation was inconsistent, and unmarried persons must pay for contraception. Children born to single mothers or unmarried couples are considered “outside of the policy” and subject to the social compensation fee and the denial of legal documents, such as birth documents and the “hukou” residence permit. Single women can avoid those penalties by marrying within 60 days of the baby’s birth.

As in prior years, population control policy continued to rely on social pressure, education, propaganda, and economic penalties, as well as on measures such as mandatory pregnancy examinations and, less frequently, coerced abortions and sterilizations. Officials at all levels could receive rewards or penalties based on whether or not they met the population targets set by their administrative region. With the higher birth limit, and since most persons wanted to have no more than two children, it was easier to achieve population targets, and the pressure on local officials was considerably less than before. Those found to have a pregnancy in violation of the law or those who helped another to evade state controls could face punitive measures, such as onerous fines or job loss.

Regulations requiring women who violate the family planning policy to terminate their pregnancies still exist and were enforced in some provinces, such as Hubei, Hunan, and Liaoning. Other provinces, such as Guizhou, Jiangxi, Qinghai, and Yunnan, maintained provisions that require “remedial measures,” an official euphemism for abortion, to deal with pregnancies that violate the policy.

The law mandates that family planning bureaus administer pregnancy tests to married women of childbearing age and provide them with basic knowledge of family planning and prenatal services. Under the law schools are required to provide adolescent and sexual health education at an appropriate level, but in practice information is quite limited. Some provinces fined women who did not undergo periodic state-mandated pregnancy tests.

Family planning officials face criminal charges and administrative sanction if they are found to violate citizens’ human or property rights, abuse their power, accept bribes, misappropriate or embezzle family planning funds, or falsely report family planning statistics in the enforcement of birth limitation policy. Forced abortion is not specifically listed as a prohibited activity. The law also prohibits health-care providers from providing illegal surgeries, ultrasounds to determine the sex of the fetus that are not medically necessary, sex-selective abortions, fake medical identification, and fake birth certificates. By law citizens may submit formal complaints about officials who exceed their authority in implementing birth-planning policy, and complaints are to be investigated and dealt with in a timely manner.

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The constitution states “women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.” The law provides for equality in ownership of property, inheritance rights, access to education, and equal pay for equal work. However, women reported that discrimination, unfair dismissal, demotion, and wage discrepancies were significant problems.

On average, women earned 35 percent less than men who did similar work. This wage gap was greater in rural areas. Women also continued to be underrepresented in leadership positions, despite their high rate of participation in the labor force.

Authorities often did not enforce laws protecting the rights of women; according to legal experts, it was difficult to litigate sex discrimination suits because of vague legal definitions. Some observers noted that the agencies tasked with protecting women’s rights tended to focus on maternity-related benefits and wrongful termination during maternity leave rather than on sex discrimination, violence against women, and sexual harassment; others pointed to the active role played by the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF) in passing the new domestic violence legislation.

Women’s rights advocates indicated that in rural areas women often forfeited land and property rights to their husbands in divorce proceedings. Rural contract law and laws protecting women’s rights stipulate that women enjoy equal rights in cases of land management, but experts asserted this was rarely the case due to the complexity of the law and difficulties in its implementation.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the sex ratio at birth was 113 males to 100 females in 2016. Sex identification and sex-selective abortion are prohibited, but the practices continued because of the traditional preference for male children and the birth-limitation policy.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from parents. Parents must register their children in compliance with the national household registration system within one month of birth. Unregistered children could not access public services, including education.

Education: Although the law provides for nine years of compulsory education for children, many children did not attend school for the required period in economically disadvantaged rural areas, and some never attended. Public schools were not allowed to charge tuition, but many schools continued to charge miscellaneous fees because they received insufficient local and central government funding. Such fees and other school-related expenses made it difficult for poorer families and some migrant workers to send their children to school. The gap in education quality for rural and urban youth remained extensive, with many children of migrant workers attending unlicensed and poorly equipped schools.

Child Abuse: The physical abuse of children is ground for criminal prosecution. The Domestic Violence Law also protected children. Sexual abuse of minors, particularly of rural children, was a significant problem. In 2016 the Economistreported that millions of children suffered from sexual abuse. The government increasingly encouraged state media to report on the problem and allowed NGOs to combat child sexual abuse. Pilot programs were underway in three major provinces to develop and implement child protection laws and protocols for protection and treatment, including mandatory reporting.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 22 for men and 20 for women. Child marriage was not known to be a problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 14. Persons who forced girls under the age of 14 into prostitution could be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison in addition to a fine or confiscation of property. In especially serious cases, violators could receive a life sentence or death sentence, in addition to having their property confiscated. Those who visited girls forced into prostitution under age 14 were subject to five years or more in prison in addition to paying a fine.

Pornography of any kind, including child pornography, is illegal. Under the criminal code, those producing, reproducing, publishing, selling, or disseminating obscene materials with the purpose of making a profit could be sentenced to up to three years in prison or put under criminal detention or surveillance in addition to paying a fine. Offenders in serious cases could receive prison sentences of three to 10 years in addition to paying a fine.

The law provides that persons broadcasting or showing obscene materials to minors under the age of 18 are to be “severely punished.”

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The law forbids infanticide and it was unknown if the practice continued. Parents of children with disabilities frequently left infants at hospitals, primarily because of the cost of medical care. Gender-biased abortions and the abandonment and neglect of baby girls were believed to be in decline, but continued to be a problem in some circumstances due to the traditional preference for sons and the birth-limitation policy.

Displaced Children: The number of street children was unknown (estimates as high as 1.5 million), but governmental efforts to identify and provide care for these children greatly intensified. In 2013 the ACWF estimated that more than 61 million children under the age of 17 were left behind by their migrant-worker parents in rural areas. The most recent government census found approximately nine million rural children who were left behind by both parents who migrated to urban areas for work.

Institutionalized Children: The law forbids the mistreatment or abandonment of children. According to some sources, by the end of 2015, the country had 502,000 orphans, of which 92,000 were up for adoption. The vast majority of children in orphanages were girls, many of whom were abandoned. Boys in orphanages usually had disabilities or were in poor health. The government denied that children in orphanages were mistreated or refused medical care but acknowledged that the system often was unable to provide adequately for some children, particularly those with serious medical problems. Adopted children were counted under the birth-limitation regulations in most locations. As a result couples who adopted abandoned infant girls were sometimes barred from having additional children. The law allowed children who are rescued to be made available for adoption within one year if their family is not identified.

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

Anti-Semitism

The government does not recognize Judaism as an ethnicity or religion. According to information from the Jewish Virtual Library, the country’s Jewish population was 2,600 in 2016. In September 2016 the New York Times reported that members of the Kaifeng Jewish community in Henan Province came under pressure from authorities. Approximately 1,000 Kaifeng citizens claimed Jewish ancestry. Media reports stated that authorities forced the only Jewish learning center in the community to shut down, blocked the community’s ritual bath, and barred foreign tour groups from visiting.

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 protects the rights of persons with disabilities and prohibits discrimination, but in many instances conditions for such persons lagged behind legal requirements and the government failed to provide persons with disabilities access to programs intended to assist them. The Ministry of Civil Affairs and the China Disabled Persons Federation (CDPF), a government-organized civil association, are the main entities responsible for persons with disabilities.

According to the law, persons with disabilities “are entitled to enjoyment of equal rights as other citizens in political, economic, cultural, and social fields, in family life, and in other aspects.” Discrimination against, insult of, and infringement upon persons with disabilities is prohibited. The law prohibits discrimination against minors with disabilities and codifies a variety of judicial protections for juveniles.

The Ministry of Education reported there were more than 2,000 separate education schools for children with disabilities, but NGOs reported that only 2 percent of the 20 million children with disabilities had access to education that met their needs.

Individuals with disabilities faced difficulties accessing higher education. The law permits universities to exclude candidates with disabilities who would otherwise be qualified. A regulation mandates accommodations for students with disabilities when taking the national university entrance exam.

In May the government revised the 20-year-old law covering access to education for persons with disabilities. The revisions reaffirmed a commitment to ensure education for children with disabilities, broadened vocational education for persons with disabilities, and aimed to prevent discrimination in school admissions. The updated law encourages schools to accept more students, and places the responsibility to expand school access at the county level, calling on local governments to prioritize establishing special education resources in mainstream schools.

Some observers said the law was aspirational and vague, but still an improvement over prior regulations. Others noted that parents too often were forced to resort to bribing school officials to have their child with a disability accepted into mainstream schools.

Nearly 100,000 organizations existed, mostly in urban areas, to serve those with disabilities and protect their legal rights. The government, at times in conjunction with NGOs, sponsored programs to integrate persons with disabilities into society.

Misdiagnosis, inadequate medical care, stigmatization, and abandonment remained common problems. Parents who chose to keep children with disabilities at home generally faced difficulty finding adequate medical care, day care, and education for their children. According to the government, many persons with disabilities lacked adequate rehabilitation services.

Unemployment among adults with disabilities, in part due to discrimination, remained a serious problem. The law requires local governments to offer incentives to enterprises that hire persons with disabilities. Regulations in some parts of the country also require employers to pay into a national fund for persons with disabilities when employees with disabilities do not make up a statutory minimum percentage of the total workforce.

Standards adopted for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the Law on the Handicapped, which calls for their “gradual” implementation; compliance was limited.

The law forbids the marriage of persons with certain mental disabilities, such as schizophrenia. If doctors find a couple is at risk of transmitting congenital disabilities to their children, the couple may marry only if they agree to use birth control or undergo sterilization. In some instances officials continued to require couples to abort pregnancies when doctors discovered possible disabilities during prenatal examinations. The law stipulates that local governments must employ such practices to raise the percentage of births of children without disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Government policy called for members of recognized minorities to receive preferential treatment in birth planning, university admission, access to loans, and employment. A government white paper about development in Xinjiang published in June asserted that cultural and religious rights were provided for, including the use of minority languages and the protection of cultural heritage and religious practice. The substance and implementation of ethnic minority policies nonetheless remained poor, and discrimination against minorities remained widespread. Xi Jinping directed the Communist state to “sinicize” the country’s ethnic and religious minorities: ethnically based restrictions on movement curtailed the ability of ethnic Uighurs to travel freely or obtain travel documents; authorities in Xinjiang increased surveillance and the presence of armed police; and new legislation restricted cultural and religious practices.

Minority groups in border and other regions had less access to education than their Han Chinese counterparts, faced job discrimination in favor of Han Chinese migrants, and earned incomes well below those in other parts of the country. Some claims cited the banning of minority language education, including the Uighur language in the XUAR, as signs of progress in the provision of basic education for some ethnic groups involved. Government development programs and job provisions disrupted traditional living patterns of minority groups and in some cases included the forced relocation of persons and the forced settlement of nomads. Han Chinese benefited disproportionately from government programs and economic growth in minority areas. As part of its emphasis on building a “harmonious society” and maintaining social stability, the government downplayed racism and institutional discrimination against minorities, which remained the source of deep resentment in the XUAR, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the TAR, and other Tibetan areas.

The government’s policy to encourage Han Chinese migration into minority areas significantly increased the population of Han in the XUAR. Han Chinese officials continued to hold the majority of the most powerful CCP and many government positions in minority autonomous regions, particularly the XUAR. The rapid influx of Han Chinese into the XUAR in recent decades has provoked Uighur resentment.

According to a 2015 government census, 9.5 million, or 40 percent, of the XUAR’s official residents were Han Chinese. Uighur, Hui, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other ethnic minorities constituted 14.1 million XUAR residents, or 60 percent of the total population. Official statistics understated the Han Chinese population because they did not count the more than 2.7 million Han residents on paramilitary compounds (bingtuan) and those who were long-term “temporary workers,” an increase of 1.2 percent over the previous year, according to a 2015 government of Xinjiang report. As the government continued to promote Han migration into the XUAR and filled local jobs with domestic migrant labor, local officials coerced young Uighur men and women to participate in a government-sponsored labor transfer program to cities outside the XUAR, according to overseas human rights organizations.

The law states that “schools (classes and grades) and other institutions of education where most of the students come from minority nationalities shall, whenever possible, use textbooks in their own languages and use their languages as the medium of instruction.” Despite provisions to ensure cultural and linguistic rights, in June state media reported that the Department of Education in Hotan, a Uighur-majority prefecture, issued a directive requiring full instruction in Mandarin beginning in preschool and banning the use of Uighur in all educational activities and management. Similar measures were implemented throughout the XUAR, according to international media. There were reports private Uighur-language schools were shut by authorities without any transparent investigation under the pretense that they promoted radical ideologies.

Officials in the XUAR intensified efforts to crack down on the government-designated “three evil forces” of religious extremism, ethnic separatism, and violent terrorism, including a concentrated re-education campaign to combat what it deemed to be separatism. XUAR Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo, former Communist leader in the TAR, replicated in the XUAR policies similar to those credited with reducing opposition to CCP rule in Tibet, increasing the security budget by more than 300 percent and advertising more than 90,800 security-related jobs. Authorities cited the 2016 XUAR guidelines for the implementation of the national Counterterrorism Law and a “people’s war on terrorism” in its increased surveillance efforts and enhanced restrictions on movement and ethnic and religious practices.

In April the XUAR government also implemented new “Deradicalization Regulations,” codifying efforts to “contain and eradicate extremism,” according to Xinhua. The broad definition of extremism resulted in the disappearance, jailing, or forced attendance at re-education classes of tens of thousands of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, according to international media. This included many of those ordered to return to China from studying abroad. The regulations prohibit “abnormal” beards, the wearing of veils in public places, and the refusal to watch state television, among other behaviors. The regulations banned the use of some Islamic names when naming children and set punishments for the teaching of religion to children. Authorities also conducted daily house-to-house checks to distribute a list of banned books to local residents in Karamay City while confiscating the actual books, overseas Uighur media reported in May. In March, Radio Free Asia reported that Uighurs in Hotan were required to turn in to authorities “unsanctioned” religious publications, items with the Islamic star and crescent logo, and religious attire, such as burkas. Authorities searched Uighur homes and punished those still in possession of items on a list of “illegal items,” according to the report. Banned items include any Quran published before 2012.

Some security raids, arbitrary detentions, and judicial punishments, ostensibly directed at individuals or organizations suspected of promoting the “three evil forces,” appeared to target groups or individuals peacefully seeking to express their political or religious views. Detention and punishment extended to expression on the internet and social media, including the browsing, downloading, and transmitting of banned content. Authorities arrested a woman in May for posting Quranic verses to a chat site; local officials confirmed it was illegal to post to the internet anything from the Quran or mentioning Allah. Officials continued to use the threat of violence as justification for extreme security measures directed at the local population, journalists, and visiting foreigners. According to Xinhua news, officials used surveillance and facial recognition software, biodata collection, and big data technology to create a database of Uighurs in Xinjiang for the purpose of conducting “social-instability forecasting, prevention, and containment.” Security forces frequently staged large-scale parades involving thousands of armed police in cities across the XUAR, according to state media.

Uighurs and other religious minorities continued to be sentenced to long prison terms and in some cases executed without due process on charges of separatism and endangering state security. The government constructed new prisons in Xinjiang in order to alleviate the overcapacity of existing facilities, according to credible sources. Hundreds of police recruits were hired to staff the new prisons, according to government reports. Economist Ilham Tohti remained in prison, where he was serving a life sentence after his conviction on separatism-related charges in 2014.

The law criminalizes discussion of “separatism” on the internet and prohibits use of the internet in any way that undermines national unity. It further bans inciting ethnic separatism or “harming social stability” and requires internet service providers and network operators to set up monitoring systems to detect, report, and delete religious content or to strengthen existing systems and report violations of the law. Authorities reportedly searched cell phones at checkpoints and during random inspections of Uighur households, and those in possession of alleged terrorist material, including digital pictures of the East Turkistan flag, could be arrested and charged with crimes.

Authorities increased surveillance and the collection of personal information as part of overall security measures in the XUAR. The government enhanced efforts to build archives of voiceprint information, facial recognition, fingerprints, blood samples, and DNA samples, according to Xinhua news and overseas media. Monitoring of social media and the internet increased, and officials described their use of “big data” to forecast, prevent, and contain social instability in Xinjiang. In July, Xinjiang residents were ordered to install on mobile phones a surveillance application to report the viewing of “terrorist information” and prevent them from accessing it, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. The application monitors “illegal religious” activity and “harmful information,” according to authorities.

Huang Shike, a Hui Muslim living in Xinjiang, was sentenced to two years in prison for discussing Islam on the social media platform Wechat.

Ethnic Kazakh Chinese were also targeted, RFA and other international media reported in August. In August, Kazakh students were arrested in Xinjiang for wearing Islamic clothing and praying at a university. Kazakhs were also prevented from moving freely between China and neighboring Kazakhstan, and some were detained when returning to China.

The government pressured foreign countries to repatriate or deny visas to Uighurs who had left the country, and repatriated Uighurs faced the risk of imprisonment and mistreatment upon return. Some Uighurs who were forcibly repatriated disappeared after arrival. Family members of Uighurs studying overseas were also put under pressure to convince students to return to China, and returning students were detained or forced to attend re-education camps, according to overseas media. In July, Egyptian authorities detained scores of Chinese Uighur students to be interrogated by Chinese security personnel, and some of them were repatriated against their will, according to Uighur activists outside of China. In August state media reported that Hebibulla Tohti, a member of the Chinese Islamic Association, was arrested upon his return from studying at Egypt’s al-Azhar University. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for unauthorized preaching, attending a conference in Saudi Arabia in 2015, giving speeches on the importance of Uighur culture, and failing to endorse the government’s policies in the Uighur region.

Freedom of assembly was severely limited during the year in the XUAR. For information about abuse of religious freedom in Xinjiang, see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

For specific information on Tibet, see the Tibet Annex.

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

No laws criminalize private consensual same-sex activities between adults. Due to societal discrimination and pressure to conform to family expectations, however, most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons refrained from publicly discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Individuals and organizations working on LGBTI issues continued to report discrimination and harassment from authorities similar to that experienced by other organizations that accept funding from overseas.

Despite reports of domestic violence among LGBTI couples, the regulations on domestic violence and the Family Violence Law do not include same-sex partnerships, giving LGBTI victims of domestic violence less legal recourse than heterosexual victims.

A court in Henan Province in July ruled that a mental hospital in Zhumadian City owed a gay man named Wu 5000 yuan ($735) in compensation over being forced against his will in 2015 into “conversion therapy.” Hospital employees forced Wu to take medicine and injections for 19 days after diagnosing him with a “sexual preference disorder.”

NGOs working on LGBTI issues reported that although public advocacy work became more difficult for them in light of the Foreign NGO Management Law and the Domestic Charity Law, they made some progress in advocating for LGBTI rights through specific antidiscrimination cases. In July a court ruled in favor of a transgender man in his suit against his former employer for wrongful termination.

Xi’an police detained nine members of the gay advocacy group Speak Out hours before the conference it was hosting was slated to start.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Discrimination against persons with HIV remained a problem, impacting individuals’ employment, educational, and housing opportunities and impeding access to health care. The law allows employers and schools to bar persons with infectious diseases and does not afford specific protections based on HIV status. During the year state media outlets reported instances of persons with HIV/AIDS who were barred from housing, education, or employment due to their HIV status.

In June a Guangzhou court ruled against a food inspection laboratory for violating the contract of an employee upon learning he was HIV positive by sending him home “to rest” indefinitely. While he was still paid his full salary, he sued, asserting it was not lawful for his employer to prevent him from working. After he sued, his contract expired and was not renewed. The court ruled that the employee did not consent to this change in his contract, making it a violation of the Employment Contract Law. They also ruled that his employer had to allow him to return to work.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

The law prohibits discrimination against persons carrying infectious diseases and allows such persons to work as civil servants. The law does not address some common types of discrimination in employment, including discrimination based on height, physical appearance, or ethnic identity.

Despite provisions in the law, discrimination against hepatitis B carriers (including 20 million chronic carriers) remained widespread in many areas, and local governments sometimes tried to suppress their activities.

Despite a 2010 nationwide rule banning mandatory hepatitis B virus tests in job and school admissions applications, many companies continued to use hepatitis B testing as part of their preemployment screening.

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Hong Kong

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Activists expressed concerns that rape was underreported, especially within the ethnic minority community, and that conviction rates were low, according to a South China Morning Post report.

The law does not directly criminalize domestic violence, but the government regarded domestic violence against women as a serious concern and took measures to prevent and prosecute offenses. The law allows survivors to seek a three-month injunction, extendable to six months, against an abuser. Abusers may be liable for criminal charges, depending on what acts constituted the domestic violence. The government effectively enforced the law regarding domestic crimes and prosecuted violators.

The law covers abuse between married couples, heterosexual and homosexual cohabitants, former spouses or cohabitants, and immediate and extended family members. It protects victims younger than 18, allowing them to apply for an injunction in their own right, with the assistance of an adult guardian, against abuse by their parents, siblings, and specified immediate and extended family members. The law also empowers the court to require that the abuser attend an antiviolence program. In cases in which the abuser caused bodily harm, the court may attach an arrest warrant to an existing injunction and extend both injunctions and arrest warrants to two years.

The government maintained programs that provided intervention, counseling, and assistance to domestic violence victims and abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, and pregnancy. The law applies to both men and women, and police generally enforced the law effectively, though the EOC reported it saw signs that sexual harassment was underreported in the social services sector.

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

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The SAR’s sexual discrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex or pregnancy status, and the law authorizes the EOC to work towards the elimination of discrimination and harassment as well as to promote equal opportunity for men and women. While the government generally enforced these laws, women faced discrimination in employment, salary, welfare, inheritance, and promotion.

Children

Birth Registration: All Chinese nationals born in the SAR, on the mainland, or abroad to parents, of whom at least one is a PRC national and Hong Kong permanent resident, acquire both PRC citizenship and Hong Kong permanent residence, the latter allowing the right of abode in the SAR. Children born in the SAR to non-Chinese parents, at least one of whom is a Hong Kong permanent resident, acquire SAR permanent residence and qualify to apply for naturalization as PRC citizens. Registration of all such statuses was routine.

Child Abuse: The law mandates protection for victims of child abuse (battery, assault, neglect, abandonment, and sexual exploitation), and the government enforced the law. The law allows for the prosecution of certain sexual offenses, including against minors, committed outside the territory of the SAR.

The government provided parent-education programs through its maternal and child health centers, public education programs, clinical psychologists for its clinical psychology units, and social workers for its family and child protective services units. Police maintained a child abuse investigation unit and, in collaboration with the Social Welfare Department, ran a child witness support program.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 16; parents’ written consent is required for marriage before the age of 21.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There were reports girls younger than 18 from some countries in Asia were subjected to sex trafficking in the SAR.

The legal age of consensual sex is 16. Under the law, a person having “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a victim younger than 16 is subject to five years’ imprisonment, while having unlawful sexual intercourse with a victim younger than 13 carries a sentence of life imprisonment.

The law makes it an offense to possess, produce, copy, import, or export pornography involving a child younger than 18 or to publish or cause to be published any advertisement that conveys or is likely to be understood as conveying the message that a person has published, publishes, or intends to publish any child pornography. Authorities generally enforced the law. The penalty for creation, publication, or advertisement of child pornography is eight years’ imprisonment, while possession carries a penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

International Child Abductions: The SAR is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered 5,000 to 6,000 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 and the government generally enforced these provisions. The government generally implemented laws and programs to provide persons with disabilities access to buildings, information, and communications, although there were reports of some restrictions.

The law on disabilities states that children with separate educational needs must have equal opportunity in accessing education. Some human rights groups reported that the SAR’s disability law was too limited and its implementation did not promote equal opportunities. Activists said that ethnic minority students with disabilities had a particularly high dropout rate. There were occasional media reports about alleged abuses in educational, correctional, and mental health facilities.

The Social Welfare Department provided training and vocational rehabilitation services to assist persons with disabilities, offered subsidized resident-care services for persons considered unable to live independently, offered places for preschool services to children with disabilities, and provided community support services for persons with mental disabilities, their families, and other local residents.

The law calls for improved building access and sanctions against those who discriminate. Access to public buildings (including public schools) and transportation remained a serious problem for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although ethnic Chinese made up 94 percent of the population, the SAR is a multi-ethnic society with persons from a number of ethnic groups recognized as permanent residents with full rights under the law. The law prohibits discrimination, and the EOC oversees implementation and enforcement of the law. The EOC maintained a hotline for inquiries and complaints concerning racial discrimination. Although the government took steps to reduce discrimination, there were frequent reports of discrimination against ethnic minorities.

The government has a policy to integrate non-Chinese students into SAR schools. Nonetheless, the EOC reported it continued to receive complaints from ethnic minority parents who found it difficult to enroll their children in kindergarten because school information and admissions interviews at some schools were provided only in Cantonese. Students who did not learn Chinese had significant difficulty entering university and the labor market, according to government and NGO reports.

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

No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. While the SAR has laws that ban discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, disability, and family status, no law prohibits companies or individuals from discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are also no laws that specifically aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community.

In April a court ruled that a gay civil servant’s husband, whom he had married in a foreign country, was entitled to the same benefits as a heterosexual spouse. In May the government appealed that decision, and the appeal was pending.

LGBTI professionals are permitted to bring foreign partners to the SAR only on a “prolonged visitor visa.” Successful applicants, however, cannot work, obtain an identification card, or qualify for permanent residency.

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Macau

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, but same-sex couples were not covered by the domestic violence law. The government effectively enforced these laws. The domestic violence law stipulates that a judge may order urgent coercive measures imposed upon the defendant individually or cumulatively, and the application of these measures does not preclude the possibility of prosecuting the perpetrators for criminal responsibilities as stipulated in the criminal code.

The government made referrals for victims to receive medical treatment, and medical social workers counseled victims and informed them of social welfare services. The government funded NGOs to provide victim support services, including medical services, family counseling, and housing, until their complaints were resolved. The government also supported two 24-hour hotlines, one for counseling and the other for reporting domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: In June the Legislative Assembly passed a sex crime bill that amended the Penal Code to make sexual harassment a crime. Under the new law, police may take action against a suspect if the victim files a criminal complaint and a convicted offender may be sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison.

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

Discrimination: Equal opportunity legislation mandates that women receive equal pay for equal work. The law prohibits discrimination in hiring practices based on gender or physical ability and allows for civil suits. Penalties exist for employers who violate these guidelines. Gender differences in occupation existed, with women concentrated in lower-paid sectors and lower-level jobs. However, per government statistics, between 2011 and 2016, the wage gap between men and women dropped from 2,500 patacas ($312) in 2011 to 1,700 patacas ($212) in 2016.

Children

Birth Registration: According to the Basic Law, children of Chinese national residents of the SAR who were born inside or outside the SAR and children born to non-Chinese national permanent residents inside the SAR are regarded as permanent residents. There is no differentiation between these categories in terms of access to registration of birth. Most births were registered immediately.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 16 years; however, children between 16 and 18 years who wish to marry must obtain approval from their parents or guardians.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law specifically provides for criminal punishment for sexual abuse of children and students, statutory rape, and procurement involving minors. The criminal code sets 14 years as the age of sexual consent. In June the Legislative Assembly outlawed procurement for prostitution of a person younger than 18 years. The law also prohibits child pornography.

International Child Abductions: The SAR is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population was extremely small. 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 buildings, public facilities, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. The government enforced the law effectively and has a plan running through 2025 to improve services and access for persons with disabilities. The Social Welfare Bureau was primarily responsible for coordinating and funding public assistance programs to persons with disabilities. There was a governmental commission to rehabilitate persons with disabilities, with part of the commission’s scope of work addressing employment.

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

There are no laws criminalizing sexual orientation or same-sex sexual contact and no prohibition against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons forming organizations or associations. There were no reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The law prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation.

China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Tibet

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: There was no confirmed information on the incidence of rape or domestic violence.

Coercion in Population Control: Population and birth planning policies permitted Tibetans and members of some other minority groups to have more children than Han Chinese. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. Nevertheless they were underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of government.

Children

Many rural Tibetan areas have implemented China’s nationwide “centralized education” policy, which forced the closure of many village and monastic schools and the transfer of students, including elementary school students, to boarding schools in towns and cities. Reports indicated many of the boarding schools did not adequately care for and supervise their younger students. This policy also resulted in diminished acquisition of the Tibetan language and culture by removing Tibetan children from their homes and communities where the Tibetan language is used.

According to observers, by November the government had replaced the European founders and assumed management control of the Lhasa-based Braille without Borders preparatory school for blind students and its associated vocational farm. Observers speculated the change was part of China’s wider effort to crackdown on foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Trafficking in Persons

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the 2010 TAR census figures showed that Tibetans made up 90.5 percent of the TAR’s permanently registered population, official figures did not include a large number of long-, medium-, and short-term ethnic Chinese migrants, such as cadres, skilled and unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their respective dependents. Tibetans continued to make up nearly 98 percent of those registered as permanent residents in rural areas, according to official census figures.

Migrants to the TAR and other parts of the Tibetan Plateau were overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas. Government policies to subsidize economic development often benefited ethnic Chinese migrants more than Tibetans. In many predominantly Tibetan cities across the Tibetan Plateau, ethnic Chinese or Hui migrants owned and managed most of the small businesses, restaurants, and retail shops.

Observers continued to express concern that development projects and other central government policies disproportionately benefited non-Tibetans and resulted in a considerable influx of Han Chinese and Hui persons into the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Many major infrastructure projects across the Tibetan Plateau were engineered and implemented by large state-owned enterprises based in other provinces, and they were managed and staffed by professionals and low-wage temporary migrant workers from other provinces rather than by local residents.

Economic and social exclusion was a major source of discontent among a varied cross section of Tibetans. Some Tibetans continued to report discrimination in employment. Some Tibetans reported it was more difficult for Tibetans than ethnic Chinese to obtain permits and loans to open businesses, and that many Chinese, especially retired soldiers, were given incentives to move to Tibet. Restrictions on both local NGOs that received foreign funding and international NGOs that provided assistance to Tibetan communities increased during the year, resulting in a decrease of beneficial NGO programs in the TAR and other Tibetan areas.

The government continued its campaign to resettle Tibetan nomads into urban areas and newly created communities in rural areas across the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Improving housing conditions, health care, and education for Tibet’s poorest persons were among the stated goals of resettlement, although there was a pattern of settling herders near townships and roads and away from monasteries, which were the traditional providers of community and social services. A requirement that herders bear a substantial part of the resettlement costs often forced resettled families into debt.

Although a 2015 media report noted that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 70 percent of government employees in the TAR, the top CCP position of TAR party secretary continued to be held by a Han Chinese, and the corresponding positions in the vast majority of all TAR counties were also held by Han Chinese. Within the TAR, Han Chinese also continued to hold a disproportionate number of the top security, military, financial, economic, legal, judicial, and educational positions. Han Chinese were party secretaries in eight of the nine TAPs, which are located in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces. One TAP in Qinghai Province had a Tibetan party secretary. Authorities strictly prohibited Tibetans holding government and CCP positions from openly worshipping at monasteries or otherwise publicly practicing their religion.

Government propaganda against alleged Tibetan “pro-independence forces” contributed to Chinese societal discrimination against ordinary Tibetans. Many Tibetan monks and nuns chose to wear nonreligious clothing to avoid harassment when traveling outside their monasteries and throughout China. Some Tibetans reported that taxi drivers throughout China refused to stop for them and hotels refused to provide rooms.

Colombia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. The law provides for sentences ranging from eight to 30 years’ imprisonment for violent sexual assault. For acts of spousal sexual violence, the law mandates prison sentences of six months to two years. By law femicide is punishable with penalties of 21 to 50 years in prison, longer than the minimum sentence of 13 years for homicide.

Violence against women, and impunity for perpetrators, continued to be a problem. Members of illegal armed groups, including former paramilitary members, and guerrillas also continued to rape and abuse women and children sexually.

The government continued to employ the Elite Sexual Assault Investigative Unit interagency unit in Bogota, which was dedicated to the investigation of sexual assault cases. Through the end of July, the Attorney General’s Office opened 14,249 investigations for sexual abuses.

The law requires the government to provide victims of domestic violence immediate protection from further physical or psychological abuse.

The Ministry of Defense continued implementing its protocol for managing cases of sexual violence and harassment involving members of the military.

The law augments both jail time and fines if a crime causes “transitory or permanent physical disfigurement,” such as acid attacks.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but isolated incidents were reported in several indigenous communities.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides measures to deter and punish harassment in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, verbal abuse or derision, aggression, and discrimination, which carries a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment. Nonetheless, NGOs reported sexual harassment remained a pervasive and underreported problem.

Coercion in Population Control: Coerced abortion was not permitted under the law, although the government reported illegal armed groups carried out forced abortions. Forced surgical sterilization of children with cognitive and psychosocial disabilities in certain cases is legal.

Through July 31, the Attorney General’s Office reported it opened 400 investigations related to cases of forced abortion, 13 of which had occurred during the year. A two-year Attorney General’s Office investigation that concluded in 2016 documented 214 cases of girls who were subjected to rape, forced sterilization, forced abortion, and other forms of sexual violence by the FARC. In January, Spain extradited a Colombian man–Hector Albeidis Arboleda, known as “the Nurse”–who was accused of performing up to 500 forced abortions for the FARC between 1998 and 2003. According to media reports, Arboleda was to be tried on various charges, including torture, homicide, attempted homicide, and forced abortion.

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Although women have the same legal rights as men, serious discrimination against women persisted. The Office of the Advisor for the Equality of Women has primary responsibility for combating discrimination against women, but advocacy groups reported that the office remained seriously underfunded. The government continued its national public policy for gender equity.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory. Most births were registered immediately. If a birth is not registered within one month, parents may be fined and denied public services.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a serious problem. The ICBF reported 6,157 cases of sexual abuse against children in the first seven months of the year.

Early and Forced Marriage: Marriage is legal at age 18. Boys older than 14 and girls older than 12 may marry with the consent of their parents.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children remained a problem. Sexual exploitation of a minor or facilitating the sexual exploitation of a minor carries a penalty of 14 to 25 years in prison, with aggravated penalties for perpetrators who are family members of the victim and for cases of sexual tourism, forced marriage, or sexual exploitation by illegal armed groups. The law prohibits pornography using children under age 18 and stipulates a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The penalty for sexual activity with a child under 14 ranges from nine to 13 years in prison. According to the ICBF, in 2016 through July, there were 206 reported cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Since 2009 the NGO Renacer Foundation certified 300 tourism-related businesses as committed to the fight against the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. In cooperation with the government, Renacer trained 20,823 employees of these businesses in how to identify and fight sexual exploitation.

Displaced Children: The NGO Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement estimated in 2016 that 31 percent of persons registered as displaced since 1985 were minors at the time they were displaced (see also section 2.d.).

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community, which had an estimated 5,000 members, continued to report instances of anti-Israeli rhetoric connected to events in the Middle East, accompanied by anti-Semitic graffiti near synagogues, as well as demonstrations in front of the Israeli embassy that were sometimes accompanied by anti-Semitic comments on social media. In particular, the Colombian Confederation of Jewish Communities expressed concern over the presence of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Colombia, which aggressively promotes the boycott of Israeli products, culture, and travel and does not actively counter the conflation of anti-Israeli policies with anti-Semitic rhetoric.

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 and mental disabilities but not sensory or intellectual disabilities. No law mandates access to information and telecommunications for persons with disabilities. A 2015 law punishes those who arbitrarily restrict the full exercise of the rights of persons with disabilities or harass persons with disabilities.

The Office of the Presidential Advisor for Human Rights under the High Counselor for Post-Conflict, Public Security, and Human Rights, along with the Human Rights Directorate at the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. According to Somos Defensores (We Are Defenders) and other NGOs, these laws were seldom enforced.

Although children with disabilities attended school at all levels, advocates noted the vast majority of teachers and schools were neither trained nor equipped to educate children with disabilities successfully. Advocacy groups also stated children with disabilities entered the education system later than children without disabilities and dropped out at higher rates. Persons with disabilities were unemployed at a much higher rate than the general population.

Forced surgical sterilization of children with cognitive and psychosocial disabilities in certain cases is legal.

In 2013 the State Council ordered all public offices to make facilities accessible to persons with disabilities and asked public officials to include requirements for accessibility when granting licenses for construction and occupancy. The State Council also asked every municipality to enforce rules that would make all public offices accessible to persons with disabilities “in a short amount of time.”

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the most recent (2005) national census, approximately 4.5 million persons, or 10 percent of the country’s population, described themselves as being of African descent. A 2011 UN report estimated Afro-Colombians made up 15 to 20 percent of the population, while human rights groups and Afro-Colombian organizations estimated the proportion to be 20 to 25 percent.

Afro-Colombians are entitled to all constitutional rights and protections, but they faced significant economic and social discrimination. According to a 2016 UN report, 32 percent of the country’s population lived below the poverty line, but in Choco, the department with the highest percentage of Afro-Colombian residents, 79 percent of residents lived below the poverty line.

In 2010 the government approved a policy to promote equal opportunity for black, Afro-Colombian, Palenquera, and Raizal populations. (Palenquera populations inhabit some parts of the Caribbean coast, Raizal populations live in the San Andres archipelago, and Blacks and Afro-Colombians are Colombians of African descent who self-identify slightly differently based on their unique linguistic and cultural heritages.) The Ministry of Interior continued to provide technical advice and funding for social projects presented by Afro-Colombian communities.

The National Autonomous Congress of Afro-Colombian Community Councils and Ethnic Organizations for Blacks, Afro-Colombians, Raizales, and Palenqueras, consisting of 108 representatives, continued to meet with government representatives on problems that affected their communities.

Indigenous People

The constitution and law give special recognition to the fundamental rights of indigenous persons, who make up approximately 3.4 percent of the population (1,392,623 indigenous), and require the government to consult beforehand with indigenous groups regarding governmental actions that could affect them.

The law accords indigenous groups perpetual rights to their ancestral lands, but indigenous groups, neighboring landowners, and the government often disputed the demarcation of those lands. Traditional indigenous groups operated 710 reservations, accounting for approximately 28 percent of the country’s territory. Illegal armed groups often violently contested indigenous land ownership and recruited indigenous children to join their ranks.

The law provides for special criminal and civil jurisdictions within indigenous territories based on traditional community laws. Legal proceedings in these jurisdictions were subject to manipulation and often rendered punishments more lenient than those imposed by regular civilian courts.

Some indigenous groups continued to assert that they were not able to participate adequately in decisions affecting their lands. The constitution provides for this “prior consultation” mechanism for indigenous communities, but it does not require the government to obtain the consent of those communities in all cases.

The government stated that for security reasons it could not provide advance notice of most military operations, especially when in pursuit of enemy combatants, and added that it consulted with indigenous leaders when possible before entering land held by the communities.

Despite special legal protections and government assistance programs, indigenous persons continued to suffer discrimination and often lived on the margins of society. They belonged to the country’s poorest population and had the highest age-specific mortality rates. As of the end of July, the Attorney General’s Office reported there were 17 active investigations of military members and members of the CNP accused of violating the rights, culture, or customs of indigenous groups.

Killings of members and leaders of indigenous groups remained a problem. Through September 1, the NGO National Indigenous Organization of Colombia reported 30 indigenous persons were killed. For example, on October 24, the ELN shot and killed indigenous governor Aulio Isarama Forastero in Choco.

Despite precautionary measures ordered by the IACHR, ethnic Wayuu children continued to die of malnutrition. NGOs and civil society leaders reported during the year that members of the Wayuu community received threats and were targeted by gunmen.

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

There was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care. A 2015 Constitutional Court decision required that the Ministry of Education modify its educational materials to address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools. In May a proposed constitutional referendum to prevent same-sex couples from adopting failed in a congressional committee vote.

Transgender individuals cited barriers to public services when health-care providers or police officers refused to accept their government-issued identification. Some transgender individuals stated it was difficult to change the gender designation on national identity documents and that transgender individuals whose identity cards listed them as male were still required to show proof they had performed mandatory military service or obtained the necessary waivers from that service. NGOs claimed discrimination and violence in prisons against persons due to their sexual orientation and gender identity remained a problem.

Despite government measures to increase the rights and protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, there were reports of societal abuse and discrimination, as well as sexual assault. NGOs claimed transgender individuals, particularly transgender men, were often sexually assaulted in so-called corrective rape. The Constitutional Court pronounced in 2016 that transgender persons faced discrimination and social rejection within the LGBTI community and recommended measures to increase respect for transgender identities in the classrooms.

As of July 31, the Attorney General’s Office was investigating at least eight alleged homicides of LGBTI individuals that had occurred since January 1. Seven of the cases were in the investigation stage, and one was in the trial stage.

The NGO Colombia Diversa also reported three cases, involving four victims, of police abuse of persons due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, with the majority of complaints coming from transgender individuals. According to NGOs working on LGBTI problems, these attacks occurred frequently, but victims did not pursue cases due to fear of retaliation. NGOs also reported several cases of threats against human rights defenders working on LGBTI issues, as well as a high level of impunity for crimes against members of the LGBTI community. Such organizations partially attributed impunity levels to the failure of the Attorney General’s Office to distinguish and effectively pursue crimes against the LGBTI community.

The manual of administrative procedures for blood banks issued by the Ministry of Health states that, to protect the recipient of a transfusion from HIV/AIDS, the ministry excludes those donors who had “male homosexual relations in the past 15 years.” In 2012 the Constitutional Court ordered the ministry to remove selection criteria based on the sexual orientation of donors, but the regulation reportedly was not changed as of September.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no confirmed reports of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In the most recent demographic and health survey (2010), the government reported the responses of 85 percent of those surveyed indicated discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV/AIDS, reflecting low levels of social acceptance throughout the country.

Comoros

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape regardless of age or gender is illegal and punishable if convicted by five to 10 years’ imprisonment or up to 15 years if the victim is younger than 15. Authorities prosecuted perpetrators if victims filed charges. There were reports that families or village elders settled many allegations of sexual violence informally through traditional means and without recourse to the formal court system.

The law treats domestic violence as an aggravating circumstance that includes crimes committed by one domestic partner against an existing or former partner. Penalties for conviction include prison sentences up to five years and fines up to two million Comorian francs ($4,500). Courts rarely sentenced or fined convicted perpetrators. No reliable data were available on the extent of the problem. Women rarely filed official complaints. Although officials took action (usually the arrest of the spouse) when reported, domestic violence cases rarely entered the court system.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal, and conviction is punishable by fines and imprisonment. It is defined in the labor code as any verbal, nonverbal, or bodily behavior of a sexual nature that has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or humiliating work environment for a person. Although rarely reported due to societal pressure, such harassment was nevertheless a common problem, and authorities did not effectively enforce the law.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for equality of persons without regard to gender, creed, belief, origin, race, or religion. Nevertheless, inheritance and property rights practices favor women. Local cultures are traditionally matrilineal, and all inheritable property is in the legal possession of women. Societal discrimination against women was most apparent in rural areas, where women were mostly limited to farming and child-rearing duties, with fewer opportunities for education and wage employment.

Children

Birth Registration: Any child having at least one Comorian parent is considered a citizen, regardless of where the birth takes place. Any child born in the country is a citizen unless both parents are foreigners, although these children may apply for citizenship if they have at least five years’ residency at the time they apply. Authorities did not withhold public services from unregistered children. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Universal education is compulsory until age 12. No child under age 14 may be prevented from attending school. An approximately equal number of girls and boys attended public schools at the primary and secondary levels, but fewer girls graduated.

Child Abuse: Official statistics revealed cases of abuse when impoverished families sent their children to work for relatives or wealthy families, usually in the hope of obtaining a better education for their children. The NGO Listening and Counseling Service, funded by the government and UNICEF, had offices on all three islands to provide support and counseling for abused children and their families. The NGO routinely referred child abuse cases to police for investigation. Police conducted initial investigations of child abuse and referred cases to the Morals and Minors Brigade for further investigation and referral for prosecution if justified by evidence. If evidence was sufficient, authorities routinely prosecuted cases.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls. In the sole reported case of attempted forced marriage involving a minor, the police Morals and Minors Brigade investigated and intervened to stop the marriage before it took place. For additional information, see Appendix C.

In October as part of the implementation of the 2017 National Child Protection Policy Action Plan, the National Commission for Solidarity, Social Protection, and Gender Promotion, with the financial support of UNICEF, organized awareness-raising and training workshops on child marriage for religious leaders.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law considers unmarried persons under age 18 to be minors and prohibits their sexual exploitation, prostitution, and involvement in pornography. Anyone convicted of facilitating the sex trafficking of children is subject to a prison term of two to five years and a fine of 150,000 to one million Comorian francs ($338 to $2,250). Conviction of child pornography is punishable by fines or imprisonment. There were no official statistics regarding these matters and no reports in local media of cases, prosecutions, or convictions relating to either child sex trafficking or 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and applicable laws, particularly the labor code, prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The law mandates access to buildings, information, communication, education, and transportation for persons with disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Despite the absence of appropriate accommodation for children with disabilities, such children attended mainstream schools, both public and private. In October the Ministry of National Education, Research, and Arts held a workshop to validate and adopt the Basic Education Action Plan for Children with Disabilities for 2017-26. In June 2016 the National Assembly ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and a government policy on persons with disabilities for integration into the National Action Plan.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal, and conviction is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to one million Comorian francs ($113 to $2,250). Authorities reported no arrests or prosecutions for same-sex sexual activity during the year. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons generally did not publicly reveal their sexual orientation due to societal pressure. There were no local LGBTI organizations.

Costa Rica

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 domestic violence, and provides penalties from 10 to 18 years in prison for rape. The judicial branch generally enforced the law.

The National Institute for Women reported that 16 women were killed (including seven femicides) during the first six months of the year. The law prohibits domestic violence and provides measures for the protection of domestic violence victims. Criminal penalties range from 10 to 100 days in prison for aggravated threats and up to 35 years in prison for aggravated homicide, including a sentence of 20 to 35 years for persons who kill their partners.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security generally enforced this prohibition. The law imposes penalties ranging from a letter of reprimand to dismissal, with more serious incidents subject to criminal prosecution.

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

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The law prohibits discrimination against women and obligates the government to promote political, economic, social, and cultural equality. The law requires women and men receive equal pay for equal work. In 2014 the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) estimated earnings for women were 92 percent of earned income for men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained from birth within the country’s territory or can be derived if either parent is Costa Rican. Birth registration was not always automatic, and migrant children were especially at risk of statelessness since they did not have access to legal documents to establish their identity if their parents did not seek birth registration for them.

Child Abuse: The autonomous National Institute for Children (PANI) reported violence against children and adolescents continued to be a concern. For additional information, see www.unicef.org/protection/ .

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 18. The legislative assembly approved the Prohibition of Inappropriate Relations law, which entered into force on January 13, increasing penalties for sex with minors and more clearly outlawing child marriage. The crime carries a penalty of up to three years in prison for an adult having sex with a person under age 15, or under 18 if the age difference is more than five years. The law bans marriage for anyone under 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 years. The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides sentences of up to 16 years in prison for violations. The law provides for sentences of two to 10 years in prison for statutory rape and three to eight years in prison for child pornography. The government identified child sex tourism as a serious 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish Zionist Center estimated there were 3,000 Jews in the country. 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, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law establishes a clear right to employment for persons with disabilities and sets a hiring quota of 5 percent of vacant positions in the public sector.

Although the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, the government did not enforce this provision, and many buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Both the government policy on education and the national plan for higher education establish the right to education for students with disabilities.

The Supreme Elections Tribunal took measures (voting procedures, facilities, materials, and trained personnel) to provide for fully accessible elections for all persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution establishes that the country is a multiethnic and multicultural nation. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, however, the country lacked an adequate legal framework to ensure adequate mechanisms to combat discrimination, facilitate the adoption of affirmative action for individuals who suffer discrimination, and establish sanctions for those who commit discriminatory acts.

Indigenous People

Land ownership continued to be a problem in most indigenous territories. The law protects reserve land as the collective, nontransferable property in 24 indigenous territories; however, 38 percent of that land was in nonindigenous hands. On August 10, an indigenous person was injured during a dispute with nonindigenous persons over a farm located in the Cabagra reservation.

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

The constitution establishes that all persons are equal before the law and no discrimination contrary to human dignity shall be practiced. Discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by a series of executive orders and workplace policies but not by national laws. Transgender persons were able to change their gender on their identity documents through an administrative law judge’s decision and later registration in the Civil Registry Office.

There were cases of discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation, ranging from employment, police abuse, and education to access to health-care services. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations operated freely and lobbied for legal reforms.

On June 15, the board of directors of the Social Security Agency approved the provision of hormone replacement and psychological therapy for transgender patients.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on HIV/AIDS in health care, housing, employment, and education, some discrimination was reported.

Côte d’Ivoire

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and provides for prison terms of five to 20 years for perpetrators. The law does not specifically penalize spousal rape. A life sentence can be imposed in cases of gang rape if the rapists are related to or hold positions of authority over the victim, or if the victim is under 15 years of age. Most rape cases were tried on the lesser charge of “indecent assault,” which carries a prison term of six months to five years.

The government made some efforts to enforce the law, but local and international human rights groups reported rape remained widespread.

Relatives, police, and traditional leaders often discouraged female survivors from pursuing a criminal case, with their families accepting payment for compensation. Rape victims were no longer required to obtain a medical certificate, which could cost up to 50,000 CFA francs ($92), to move a legal complaint forward. As a practical matter, however, cases rarely proceeded without one since it often served as the primary form of evidence.

The law does not specifically outlaw domestic violence, which was a serious and widespread problem. According to the Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs, more than 36 percent of women reported being victims of physical or psychological abuse at some time. Victims seldom reported domestic violence due to cultural barriers and because police often ignored women who reported rape or domestic violence.

The Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs assisted victims of domestic violence and rape, including counseling at government-operated centers.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law specifically forbids FGM/C and provides penalties for practitioners of up to five years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to two million CFA francs ($662 to $3,680). Double penalties apply to medical practitioners. The government successfully prosecuted some FGM/C cases during the year. Nevertheless, FGM/C remained a serious problem.

For more information, see:

https://data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ 

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Societal violence against women included traditional practices, such as dowry deaths (the killing of brides over dowry disputes), levirate (forcing a widow to marry her dead husband’s brother), and sororate (forcing a woman to marry her dead sister’s husband).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes penalties of between one and three years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($662 to $1,840). Nevertheless, the government rarely enforced the law, and harassment was widespread and routinely tolerated.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in labor law but not under religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. In 2012 parliament passed a series of laws to reduce gender inequality in marriage, including laws to allow married women to benefit from an income tax deduction and to be involved in family decisions. Many religious and traditional authorities rejected these laws, however, and there was no evidence the government enforced them.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. At least one parent must be a citizen for a child to acquire citizenship at birth. For births that occur outside health clinics, the law provides parents a three-month period to register their child’s birth for a fee of 500 CFA francs ($0.92). For births that occurred in health clinics, the government charged no registration fee if parents submitted the appropriate documentation within 30 days of birth. Children without documents could not continue their studies after primary school. The government, with UNICEF and UNHCR, launched a special operation to ensure the civil registration of 1.2 million school-going children. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education was free and compulsory for children ages six to 16. Parents of children not in compliance with the law are subjected to fines up to 500,000 CFA francs ($920) or jail time of two to six months. In principle, students do not have to pay for books, uniforms, or fees, but some reportedly did because the government did not cover these expenses for every student. Some schools expected parents to contribute to the teachers’ salaries and living stipends, particularly in rural areas.

Educational participation of girls was lower than that of boys, particularly in rural areas. Although girls enrolled at a higher rate, participation rates for them dropped below that of boys because of the tendency to keep girls at home to do domestic work or care for younger siblings.

Child Abuse: The penalty for statutory rape or attempted rape of a child under age 16 is a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($662 to $1,840). Nevertheless, children were victims of physical and sexual violence and abuse. Authorities reported rapes of girls as young as age three during the year. Authorities often reclassified claims of child rape as indecent assault since penalties were less severe. Judges exercised discretion in deciding whether to reclassify a claim from child rape to indecent assault, and they can only do so when there is no clear medical proof or testimony to support rape charges. There were some prosecutions and convictions during the year. To assist child victims of violence and abuse, the government cooperated with UNICEF to strengthen the child protection network.

Although the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training; Ministry of Justice and Human Rights; Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs; and Ministry of Education were responsible for combating child abuse, they were ineffective due to lack of coordination between the ministries and inadequate resources.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits the marriage of men under age 20 and women under age 18 without parental consent. The law specifically penalizes anyone who forces a minor under age 18 to enter a religious or customary matrimonial union. Nevertheless, traditional marriages were performed with girls as young as 14 years old. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. The law prohibits the use, recruitment, or offering of children for prostitution or pornographic films, pictures, or events. Violators can receive prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years and fines of five million to 50 million CFA francs ($9,200 to $92,000). Statutory rape of a minor carries a punishment of one to three years in prison and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($662 to $1,840).

The country was a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to trafficking in persons, including sex trafficking. During the year the antitrafficking unit of the national police made several arrests of suspected child-sex traffickers.

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

Displaced Children: Local NGOs reported thousands of children countrywide living on the streets. No known government program specifically addressed the problem of children living on the streets. In September authorities arrested 2,200 persons and seized 922 weapons, including knives and machetes, during a security operation conducted in Abidjan and its surroundings. Many youth were arrested in this operation, which aimed in part to crack down on young persons in trouble with the law, many of whom were not living with families. These youth sometimes were victims of vigilante-style attacks.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community numbered fewer than 100 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 requires the government to educate and train persons with physical, mental, visual, auditory, and cerebral motor disabilities; hire them or help them find jobs; design houses and public facilities for wheelchair access; and adapt machines, tools, and work spaces for access and use by persons with disabilities as well as to provide them access to the judicial system. The law prohibits acts of violence against persons with disabilities and the abandonment of such persons, but there were no reports the government enforced these laws.

Persons with disabilities reportedly encountered serious discrimination in employment and education. While the government reserved 800 civil service jobs for persons with disabilities, government employers sometimes refused to employ such persons. Prisons and detention centers provided no accommodations for persons with disabilities.

The government financially supported separate schools, training programs, associations, and artisans’ cooperatives for persons with disabilities, but many persons with disabilities begged on urban streets and in commercial zones for lack of other economic opportunities. Although public schools did not bar persons with disabilities from attending, such schools lacked the resources to accommodate students with disabilities. Persons with mental disabilities often lived on the street.

The Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training and the Federation of the Handicapped are responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 60 ethnic groups, and ethnic discrimination was a problem. Authorities considered approximately 25 percent of the population foreign, although many within this category were second- or third-generation residents. Disputes among ethnic groups, often related to land, resulted in sporadic violence, particularly in the western region. Despite a 2013 procedural update that allows putative owners of land an additional 10 years to establish title, land ownership laws remained unclear and unimplemented, resulting in conflicts between native populations and other groups.

The law prohibits xenophobia, racism, and tribalism and makes these forms of intolerance punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. There were instances in which police abused and harassed non-Ivoirian Africans residing in the country. Harassment by officials reflected the common belief that foreigners were responsible for high crime rates and identity card fraud.

According to NGOs, at least 10 persons were killed, six disappeared, several wounded, two young women raped, and between 2,000 and 6,000 persons displaced, when violence erupted following an ethnic-fueled dispute over disputed lands in western part of the country in October and early November.

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

The law’s only mention of same-sex sexual activity is as a form of public indecency that carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, the same prescribed for heterosexual acts performed in public. Antidiscrimination laws exist, but they do not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In February authorities released from prison two men who had been arrested in November 2016 and imprisoned for three months for violating laws against public indecency after a relative reported their same-sex sexual activity, even though they had not publicly engaged in any such activity.

Societal discrimination and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community were problems.

Law enforcement authorities were at times slow and ineffective in their response to societal violence targeting the LGBTI community. The few LGBTI organizations in the country operated freely but with caution.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was no official discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status. A 2014 law expressly condemns all forms of discrimination against persons with HIV and provides for their access to care and treatment. The law also prescribes fines for refusal of care or discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status.

The Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene managed a program to assist vulnerable populations at high risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS (including but not limited to men who have sex with men, sex workers, persons who inject drugs, prisoners, and migrants). The Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs oversaw a program that directed educational, psychosocial, nutritional, and economic support to orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS.

Croatia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction of rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment. Police and prosecutors were generally responsive to crimes and accusations associated with domestic violence and rape, but there were isolated reports that local police departments did not consistently adhere to national guidelines regarding the treatment of victims of sexual assault.

Conviction of domestic violence is punishable by up to three years imprisonment. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a problem.

On October 6, Prime Minister Plenkovic removed Pozesko-Slavonska County prefect Alojz Tomasevic from his party leadership position after police detained Tomasevic on October 3 on domestic violence allegations. Plenkovic called on Tomasevic to resign from his elected position if criminal charges were filed against him.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides a maximum prison sentence of one year for conviction of sexual harassment. The ombudsman for gender equality repeatedly expressed concerns that victims of sexual harassment dropped official complaints due to fear of reprisal.

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

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The law requires equal pay for equal work. In practice, women experienced discrimination in employment and occupation.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth in the country’s territory or from at least one parent who is a citizen. Authorities registered all births at the time of birth within the country or abroad.

Child Abuse: Child abuse including violence and sexual abuse was a problem. The government had an active ombudsman for children. Police and prosecutors generally were responsive in investigating such cases.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18; children older than 16 may marry with a judge’s written consent. NGOs cited early and forced marriage as a problem in the Romani community.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The Ministry of the Interior conducted investigative programs and worked with international partners to combat child pornography. The ministry operated a website known as Red Button for the public to report child pornography to police. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.

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

Anti-Semitism

According to the Coordination of Jewish Communities in Croatia, the country’s Jewish community numbered between 2,000 and 2,500 persons. Jewish community leaders reported evidence of Holocaust denial and publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s response to a veterans group’s placement of a plaque bearing the World War II-era Ustasha salute “Za Dom Spremni” (For the Homeland, Ready) near the World War II-era Jasenovac death camp in 2016. President Grabar-Kitarovic and Prime Minister Plenkovic both condemned the placement of the plaque in Jasenovac. In September the government relocated the plaque from Jasenovac to a veterans’ cemetery in the nearby town of Novska but did not make a legal determination on the use of the controversial Ustasha-era salute.

In February approximately 30 members of the A-HSP staged a march during which party members waved flags bearing an unofficial coat of arms associated with the World War II fascist Ustasha movement and their A-HSP party flag with the slogan “Za Dom Spremni.” According to the police, the actions were intended to “incite fear and intolerance in society.” Police arrested A-HSP leader Drazen Keleminec during the rally for disturbing the peace.

On April 23, Prime Minister Plenkovic, the speaker of parliament, the special envoy from the Office of the President, and government ministers attended the annual official commemoration at Jasenovac. For the second consecutive year, the country’s two Jewish communities boycotted the government’s commemoration and organized their own, citing concerns about the controversial plaque near Jasenovac as well as efforts by nationalists to glorify the country’s Nazi-collaborationist Ustasha regime. Serb and other organizations also held separate commemorations.

In March, Prime Minister Plenkovic announced the creation of a special council of legal experts, academics, and historians to provide the government with legal, institutional, and legislative recommendations regarding the use of symbols of totalitarian regimes. The government directed the council to issue its recommendations by March 2018.

On October 17, the Constitutional Court ruled that the naming of a street in the town of Slatinski Drenovac after the date of establishment (April 10) of the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was unconstitutional. The court stated its decision could be applied to cases regarding the use of other Ustasha-related slogans and symbols and represented the court’s legal opinion that the character of the NDH contradicted the values of the constitution.

In August singer Marko “Thompson” Perkovic led pro-Ustasha chants during a concert commemorating the country’s Victory and Homeland Day in Slunj. Police filed misdemeanor charges against him for violating public peace and order.

On November 18, members of the veterans group Croatian Defense Forces (HOS) marched in a commemorative parade in Vukovar, marking the 26th anniversary of the siege of that city. The HOS members flew flags and displayed insignia bearing the World War II-era Ustasha salute “Za Dom Spremni.”

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, but the government did not always enforce these provisions effectively. While the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, building owners and managers did not always comply, and there were no reported sanctions.

Children with disabilities attended all levels of school, although NGOs stated the lack of laws mandating equal access for persons with disabilities limited the access of students with disabilities to secondary and university education.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

While constitutional protections against discrimination applied to all minorities, there was discrimination against ethnic Serbs and Roma. The November ombudsman’s report noted that ethnic discrimination, particularly against the Serb and Romani minorities, dominated unequal treatment complaints in 2016.

On September 2, an estimated 20 members of the A-HSP staged a demonstration in front of the Serbian National Council (SNV) offices in Zagreb, protesting the government’s decision to relocate the plaque bearing the phrase “Za Dom Spremni” from Jasenovac. A-HSP leader Drazen Keleminac burned a copy of the SNV newsletter Novosti, calling it an anti-Croatia publication. After a second incident in which members of the A-HSP burned Novosti (see section 2), police filed criminal charges against Keleminec for “public incitement of violence and hatred.”

The government allocated funds and created programs to assist in development and integration of Romani communities, but widespread discrimination and social exclusion of Roma remained a problem. The government supported Roma education initiatives, but Romani children faced obstacles to education, including discrimination in schools.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community reported, however, that discrimination remained a problem. The government decided to revise the 2016-20 National Plan for Combating Discrimination, a strategic document that set out priorities and targets and directed government efforts towards a comprehensive system of protection against discrimination, following criticism from groups that objected to aspects of the plan that addressed LGBTI and gender equality and other issues.

LGBTI NGOs noted uneven performance by the judiciary on discrimination cases. LGBTI activists reported that members of their community had limited access to justice, with many reluctant to report violations of their rights due to concerns regarding an inefficient judicial system and fear of further victimization during trial proceedings.

Two significant incidents of violence against LGBTI persons occurred. In February an unidentified attacker released tear gas at an LGBTI party at a Zagreb nightclub, affecting approximately 300 persons. In June, approximately one week before the Zagreb pride march, a Brazilian citizen suffered physical injuries from the security guards at a popular Zagreb club after he was seen being intimate with another man.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remained a problem. The NGO Croatian Association for HIV (HUHIV) reported some physicians and dentists refused to treat HIV-positive patients. HUHIV reported violations of confidentiality of persons diagnosed with HIV, with some facing discrimination including employment discrimination after disclosure of their status. There were reports that transplant centers refused to place HIV-positive patients on their lists of potential organ recipients.

HUHIV reported that the recently implemented National Plan for Fighting HIV helped combat the stigmatization and discrimination of persons with HIV/AIDS. In addition, HUHIV reported that an HIV diagnosis was no longer listed on government-supplied sick leave forms, protecting the privacy of HIV-positive individuals.

Cuba

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law specifically criminalizes rape of women, including spousal rape, and separately criminalizes “lascivious abuse” against both genders. The government enforced both laws. Penalties for rape are at least four years’ imprisonment.

The law does not recognize domestic violence as a distinct category of violence but prohibits threats and violence, including those associated with domestic violence. Penalties for domestic violence range from fines to prison sentences of varying lengths, depending on the severity of the offense.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides penalties for sexual harassment, with potential prison sentences of three months to five years. The government did not release any statistics on arrests, prosecutions, or convictions for offenses related to sexual harassment during the year.

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

Discrimination: The law accords women and men equal rights, the same legal status, and the same responsibilities with regard to marriage/divorce, parental duties, home maintenance, and professional careers.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is normally derived by birth within the country’s territory, and births were generally registered promptly. Those who emigrate abroad and have children must request a Cuban passport for the child before re-entering Cuba.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of consent for marriage is 18. Marriage for girls as young as 14 and for boys as young as 16 is permitted with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Prostitution is legal for those age 16 and older. There is no statutory rape law, although penalties for rape increase as the age of the victim decreases. The law imposes seven to 15 years’ imprisonment for involving minors under 16 in pornographic acts. The punishment may increase to 20 to 30 years or death under aggravating circumstances. The law does not criminalize the possession of pornography, but it punishes the production or circulation of any kind of obscene graphic material with three months’ to one year’s imprisonment and a fine. The offer, provision, or sale of obscene or pornographic material to minors under 16 is punishable with two to five years in prison. Child trafficking across international borders is punishable with seven to 15 years’ imprisonment.

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

Anti-Semitism

There were between 1,000 and 1,500 members of 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

No known law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is in charge of the Employment Program for Persons with Disabilities. The law recommends that buildings, communication facilities, air travel, and other transportation services accommodate persons with disabilities, but these facilities and services were rarely accessible to persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Afro-Cubans often suffered racial discrimination, and some were subject to racial epithets while undergoing unlawful beatings at the hands of security agents in response to political activity. Afro-Cubans also reported employment discrimination, particularly in sought-after positions within the tourism industry and at high levels within the government.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care.

Throughout the year the government promoted the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, including nonviolence and nondiscrimination, in regional and international fora. Several unrecognized NGOs promoted LGBTI rights and faced government harassment, not for their promotion of such topics, but for their independence from official government institutions.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government operated four prisons exclusively for inmates with HIV/AIDS; some inmates were serving sentences for “propagating an epidemic.” Special diets and medications for HIV patients were routinely unavailable.

Cyprus

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum sentence of life in prison for violations. The government enforced the law effectively.

There were reports of violence against women, including spousal abuse, and the number of cases reportedly increased in recent years. The law establishes clear mechanisms for reporting and prosecuting family violence and provides for the imprisonment of persons found guilty of abusing family members. A court can issue a same-day restraining order against suspected or convicted domestic-violence offenders.

Survivors of domestic violence had two shelters, each funded primarily by the government.

Police conducted detailed educational programs for officers on the proper handling of domestic violence, including training focused on child abuse. NGOs noted, however, that police dismissed claims of domestic abuse by foreign women and children.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): While the practice was not a problem locally, the government received and granted asylum applications from migrant women subjected to FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides a penalty of up to six months in prison and/or a 12,000 euro ($14,440) fine. The ombudsman and NGOs reported that authorities did not investigate sexual harassment complaints submitted by foreign domestic workers.

Sexual harassment was reportedly a widespread problem.The office of the ombudsman provided training to police, social workers, health care providers, teachers, prosecutors, labor and immigration service personnel, and journalists.

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

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law requires equal pay for equal work or work of equal value. The government generally enforced these laws. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as hiring, career advancement, conditions of employment, and pay.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents, and there was universal registration at the time of birth.

Child Abuse: From January to October 15, police investigated 134 cases of child abuse, 47 of which were filed in court.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18, but persons between the ages of 16 and 18 may marry, provided there are serious reasons justifying the marriage and their legal guardians provide written consent. A district court can also allow the marriage of persons between the ages of 16 and 18 if the parents unjustifiably refuse consent or in the absence of legal guardians.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, offering or procuring a child for prostitution, and engaging in or promoting a child in any form of sexual activity. The penalty for violations is up to life in prison. Authorities enforced these laws. Possession of child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sex is 17. The penalty for sexual abuse and exploitation of a child between the ages of 13 and 17 is a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for sexual abuse and exploitation of a child under 13 is up to life 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 3,000 persons in the Jewish community, which consisted of a very small number of native Jewish Cypriots and a greater number of expatriate Israeli, British, and other Jews.

There were reports of verbal harassment of members of the Jewish community along with incidents of property damage.

Holocaust-era restitution is no longer a significant issue in the Republic of Cyprus. Since 2009 the country has included International Holocaust Remembrance Day among important historical events observed in public secondary schools and regularly organizes teacher and student participation in Holocaust-related lectures, cultural events, and projects. This year the Honorary President of the Greek-Jewish Association of Holocaust Survivors gave lectures to secondary education teachers and students at the Ministry of Education (MOE) in cooperation with the Embassy of Israel. Teachers and MOE officials also participated in an educational visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.

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 in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or in the provision of other state services. The law provides persons with disabilities the right to participate effectively and fully in political and public life, including by exercising their right to vote and to stand for election. The government generally enforced these provisions.

Problems facing persons with disabilities included access to natural and constructed environments, transportation, information, and communications.

The state provided facilities to enable children with disabilities to attend all levels of education. The MOE has adopted a code of good practices, prepared in collaboration with the ombudsman, regarding attendance of students with disabilities in special units of public schools. Authorities provided a personal assistant for students with disabilities attending public schools but not private ones.

In a March 13 report assessing the 2016 deinstitutionalization program for persons with mental disabilities, the ombudsman noted that authorities failed to handle effectively matters related to the rights, needs, and abilities of these persons, and did not meet the main objective, which was the enjoyment of the right of independent living within society.

The Cyprus Paraplegics Organization reported that several public buildings were still not accessible to wheelchair users

The Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance’s Service for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Observers did not consider fines for violating the law against employment discrimination sufficient to deter employers from discriminating against persons with disabilities (see also section 7.d.).

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Minority groups in the government-controlled area of Cyprus included Latins, Maronites, Armenians, and Roma. Although legally considered one of the two main communities of Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots constituted a relatively small proportion of the population in the government-controlled areas and experienced discrimination.

There were incidents of violence against Turkish Cypriots as well as some incidents of verbal abuse or discrimination against non-Greek Cypriots. On April 14, a married Turkish Cypriot couple driving a car with Turkish Cypriot license plates were forced off the road by a taxi and another vehicle bearing Republic of Cyprus Cypriot plates. The Greek Cypriot drivers of the two vehicles beat the husband and caused damage to the couple’s car. The victims reported the attack to police. A police investigation is ongoing.

The MOE applied a code of conduct against racism in schools that provided schools and teachers with a detailed plan on handling, preventing, and reporting racist incidents.

On May 12, CERD reported that the Romani community continued to face discrimination and stigmatization as well as challenges such as low school attendance and high dropout rates of Romani children, difficulty accessing adequate housing, unemployment, and racist attacks. The 2014 EU Roma Health Report  (PDF 2 MB) also noted that the Romani population faced difficulty obtaining housing, education, and employment.

In 2015 the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of Minorities noted incidents of racial prejudice against Romani and migrant children in schools and of Greek Cypriot parents removing their children from certain schools where there were a large number of non-Greek Cypriot students.

The ombudsman continued to receive complaints that the government delayed approval of citizenship to children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots

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

Antidiscrimination laws exist and prohibit direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Antidiscrimination laws cover employment and the following activities in the public and private domain: social protection, social insurance, social benefits, health care, education, participation in unions and professional organizations, and access to goods and services. An LGBTI NGO noted in February that equality and antidiscrimination legislation remained fragmented and failed to adequately address discrimination against LGBTI persons. NGOs dealing with LGBTI matters claimed that housing benefits favored “traditional” families. Hate crime laws criminalize incitement to hatred or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Despite legal protections, LGBTI individuals faced significant societal discrimination. As a result, many LGBTI persons were not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor did they report homophobic violence or discrimination. There were reports of employment discrimination against LGBTI applicants (see section 7.d.).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The president of the HIV-Positive Persons Support Center stated that HIV-positive persons faced prejudice from society and their own families, largely due to lack of public awareness. She also claimed that raising public awareness of this problem was low in the government’s priorities.

Czech Republic

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides a penalty of two to 15 years in prison for violations. The government effectively enforced these provisions.

NGOs noted in particular the underreporting of violence against women in immigrant communities, where victims often feared losing their immigration status. Some NGOs continued to offer increased social, legal, and psychological services to rape victims.

Domestic violence is punishable by up to three years in prison, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. Police have the authority to remove violent abusers from their homes for 10 days. The law limits to six months the total time, including extensions, a removal order can remain in effect. The Ministry of Interior reported that, in the first six months of the year, police removed 1,022 offenders from their homes.

The law also provides protection against domestic violence to other persons living in the household, especially children and seniors.

Sexual Harassment: The antidiscrimination law prohibits sexual harassment and treats it as a form of direct discrimination. Penalties for conviction may include fines, dismissal from work, or imprisonment for up to eight years. Police often delayed investigations until the perpetrator committed serious crimes, such as sexual coercion, rape, or other forms of physical assault.

Offenders convicted of stalking may receive sentences of up to three years in prison.

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

Discrimination: The law grants men and women the same legal status and rights, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women sometimes experienced discrimination in the area of employment (see section 7.d.)

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive their citizenship from their parents. Any child with at least one citizen parent is automatically a citizen. Children born to noncitizens, such as asylum seekers or migrants, retain only the citizenship of their parents. Authorities registered births immediately.

Child Abuse: NGOs estimated that 40,000 children experienced some form of violence each year. According to police and the Ministry of Interior, there were 259 cases filed in the first six months of the year, including for sexual abuse and commercial sex exploitation. Nine children died due to abuse or mistreatment in 2016. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs reported that in 2016 authorities removed 892 children from families and placed them in children’s homes due to abuse or mistreatment.

Prison sentences for persons found guilty of child abuse range from five to 12 years in the case of the death of a child.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Some members of the Romani community married before reaching legal age. The law allows for marriage at the age of 16 with court approval; no official marriages were reported of anyone under 16.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to eight years. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Sexual relations with a child younger than 15 is punishable by a prison term of up to eight years or up to 18 years in the case of the death of the child. The law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of up to 16 years’ imprisonment for violations. These laws are effectively enforced. There were reports of children subjected to sex trafficking in the commercial sex industry.

In addition to strict punishments, the Ministry of Interior combats sexual exploitation of minors through seminars and lectures at schools and programs on public radio and television.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish population numbered approximately 10,000. Public expressions of anti-Semitism were rare, but small, fairly well-organized right-wing groups with anti-Semitic views were active around the country. The Ministry of Interior continued to monitor the activities of such groups, increase cooperation with police from neighboring countries, and shut down unauthorized rallies.

In 2016 the Ministry of Interior recorded 28 criminal offenses with anti-Semitic motives compared with 47 in 2015. A well-known anti-Semitic blogger continued his internet postings, including statements denying the Holocaust. In March he was sentenced to one year in prison with a two-year probation for incitement to hatred.

The Ministry of Culture designated as items of cultural heritage 12 tombstones and tombstone fragments from a former Jewish cemetery in Prostejov (in Eastern Czech Republic) which was designated as a cultural monument in 2016. A foreign philanthropist led efforts to restore the cemetery, which the Nazis had destroyed and which was later turned into a public park. A local school director’s messages to parents, which mischaracterized the proposed restoration, alarmed them and led to 10 percent of the city’s voters signing a petition against the project. The local mayor supported the petition, claiming the park provided needed access to a nearby school and residential parking. Soon thereafter, anti-Semitic hate speech appeared in social media and a local tabloid characterized the dispute as an orthodox Jewish attack on the city. Prime Minister Sobotka appointed his chief advisor, Vladimir Spidla, to mediate the dispute. In April a group of minors vandalized a symbolic tombstone of Rabbi Zvi Horowitz at Prostejov Cemetery; the case was dismissed due to the age of the perpetrators.

The government had an antiextremism strategy emphasizing prevention and education to combat hostility and discrimination toward the Romani community as well as address anti-Semitism and Holocaust education.

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 generally enforced these provisions. Nevertheless, persons with disabilities faced a shortage of public accommodations and were unemployed at disproportionately high rates. Most children with disabilities were able to attend mainstream primary and secondary schools and universities.

According to the law, only children with significant disabilities should attend special schools with specially trained teachers.

The ombudsperson is required to make regular visits to all governmental and private workplaces employing incarcerated or institutionalized persons, including persons with disabilities, to examine conditions, assure respect for fundamental rights, and advocate for improved protection against mistreatment. The ombudsperson’s office conducted such visits throughout the year. According to a report by the Ministry for Human Rights, during 2016 government ministries were not complying with the law that requires 4 percent of the staff of companies and institutions with more than 25 employees to be persons with physical disabilities. Only four of 25 government ministries and their branches met the requirement. Instead of employing persons with disabilities, many companies and institutions paid fines or bought products from companies that employed persons with disabilities, a practice that the National Disability Council criticized.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In the first half of the year, the Ministry of Interior reported 95 extremists were charged with criminal acts of violence or instigation of violence against national minorities, most often Roma. The authorities indicted 92 individuals.

The approximately 300,000 Roma in the country faced varying levels of discrimination in education, employment, and housing and have high levels of poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy.

In early 2016 a Romani NGO filed more than 10 criminal complaints against several social media sites for hate speech that targeted Roma and other minorities. The Prague 1 District Public Prosecution Office and police investigators opened investigations into four such cases; the cases are pending. According to the Ministry of Interior, Roma were the victims of 25 criminal acts in 2016, compared with 33 in 2015.

In June the Czech Constitutional Court rejected a complaint filed by the town of Vsetin over its protracted dispute with Roma whom it evicted and forced to take up residence outside of the Zlin Region. The Romani evictees were seeking compensation from the town. The case was pending.

A white supremacist webpage registered outside the country listed the names and addresses of Romani activists and several high-profile individuals who either worked on Romani issues or expressed support for Roma in the past.

Only 24.3 percent of Romani children attended mainstream elementary school. The remaining Romani children attended special schools, which effectively segregated them into a substandard educational system.

Approximately one-third of Roma lived in “excluded localities” or ghettos. According to a 2015 report by the Ministry for Labor and Social Affairs, the number of ghettos doubled to 606 since 2006, and their population grew from 80,000 to 115,000.

While the law prohibits housing discrimination based on ethnicity, NGOs stated that some municipalities discriminated against certain socially disadvantaged groups, primarily Roma, basing their decisions not to supply housing on the allegedly bad reputation of Romani applicants from previous residences.

The Agency for Social Inclusion is responsible for implementing the government’s strategy to combat social exclusion, mainly among the Romani population. The minister for human rights and the minister for labor and social affairs made public statements in support of socially disadvantaged groups, in particular Roma, and advocated policies favorable to them within the government.

In July the owners of a controversial pig farm located on the site of a WWII Roma concentration camp in Lety announced that they had come to an agreement with the government to sell the farm for an undisclosed sum. According to the Ministry of Culture, the Museum of Roma Culture will build a memorial on the site.

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

The country has antidiscrimination laws that cover sexual orientation. In its report published in 2015, the European Commission against Racial Intolerance criticized the country for not having specific hate crime provisions covering sexual orientation and gender identity.

NGO contacts reported the number of incidents of violence based on sexual orientation was very low. Local LGBTI activists stated that citizens were largely tolerant of LGBTI persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced societal discrimination, although there were no reported cases of violence. The Czech AIDS Help Society reported a number of cases of discrimination, primarily in access to health and dental care, and wrongful termination of employment or discrimination during the hiring process. The government took no action in most cases, since individuals with HIV/AIDS often preferred to keep their status confidential rather than file a complaint. HIV/AIDS is classified as a disability under the anti-discrimination law, which contributes to the stigmatization of and discrimination against HIV-positive individuals.

Other Societal Violence and Discrimination

According to BIS (Security Intelligence Service) there were no violent anti-Muslim protests or demonstrations in 2016 or the first half of 2017. Anti-Muslim protests and sentiments largely shifted to social media. NGOs reported instances of hate speech related to migration. Some politicians, including the president, the deputy prime minister, members of parliament, senators, and local politicians across the political spectrum, used antimigrant rhetoric with Muslims the main target.

Although the government publicly condemned anti-Islamic rhetoric, President Zeman continued to criticize Islam, calling it a “religion of death, and Islamic anticivilization.”

NGOs actively worked to combat anti-Islamic attitudes, and several events promoting tolerance took place during the year.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The government appeared to criminalize rape, but no information was available on details of the law or how it was enforced. The UN COI report found the subjugation of inmates and a general climate of impunity created an environment in which guards and other prisoners in privileged positions raped female inmates. When cases of rape came to light, the perpetrator often escaped with mere dismissal or no punishment. According to the 2017 KINU white paper, the Law for the Protection of Women’s Rights includes a provision prohibiting domestic violence but no legal provisions stipulating penalties for domestic violence. Defectors reported violence against women was a systematic problem both inside and outside the home. According to the 2015 KINU survey of defectors conducted from 2011-15, 81 percent of respondents believed domestic violence was “common.”

Sexual Harassment: Despite the 1946 Law on Equality of the Sexes, defectors reported the populace generally accepted sexual harassment of women due to patriarchal traditions, and reported there was little recourse for women who had been harassed.

Coercion in Population Control: Defectors reported that the state security officials subjected women to forced abortions although it was done for political purposes and not population control. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The constitution states, “women hold equal social status and rights with men”; however, few women reached high levels of the party or the government and defectors said gender equality was nonexistent. KINU reported that discrimination against women emerged in the form of differentiated pay scales, promotions, and types of work assigned to women. The foreign press and think tanks reported that, while women were less likely than men to be assigned full-time jobs, they had more opportunity to work outside the socialist economy.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from one’s parents and, in some cases, birth within the country’s territory.

Education: The law provides for 12 years of free compulsory education for all children. Reports indicated that authorities denied some children educational opportunities and subjected them to punishments and disadvantages as a result of the loyalty classification system and the principle of “collective retribution” for the transgressions of family members. NGO reports also noted some children were unable to attend school regularly because of hidden fees or insufficient food. NGOs reported that children in the total control zones of political prisons did not receive the same curriculum or quality of education.

Foreign visitors and academic sources reported that from the fifth grade, schools subjected children to several hours a week of mandatory military training and that all children received political indoctrination.

Medical Care: There was no verifiable information available on whether boys and girls had equal access to state-provided medical care. Access to health care largely depended on loyalty to the government.

Child Abuse: Information about societal or familial abuse of children remained unavailable. The law states that a man who has sexual intercourse with a girl under age 15 shall be “punished gravely.” There was no reporting on whether the government upheld this law.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law provides that the minimum age for marriage is 18 years old for men and 17 years old for women.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: As many girls and young women attempt to flee repressive and malnourished conditions for their own survival or the betterment of their family, the 2014 Commission of Inquiry noted they often become subjected to sexual exploitation by traffickers. Traffickers promised these young girls jobs in other parts of the country or in China but then sold them into forced marriages, domestic servitude, or made them work in prostitution after being smuggled out of the country.

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

Displaced Children: According to NGO reports, there were numerous street children, many of them orphans, who had inconsistent access to education.

Institutionalized Children: There were reports of children born into kwanliso political prison camps as a result of “reward marriages” between inmates. Guards subjected children living in prison camps to torture if they or a family member violated the prison rules. Reports noted authorities subjected children to forced labor for up to 12 hours per day and did not allow them to leave the camps. Prisons offered them limited access to education.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

In 2013 the country announced that it modified its Person with Disability Protection Law to meet the international standards of rights for persons with disabilities. However, in a 2016 National Human Rights Commission of Korea survey, 89 percent of defectors said there was no consideration for persons with disabilities.

While a 2003 law mandates equal access to public services for persons with disabilities, the state has not enacted the implementing legislation. Traditional social norms condone discrimination against persons with disabilities, including in the workplace (also see section 7.d.). While the state treated veterans with disabilities well, they reportedly sent other persons with physical and mental disabilities from Pyongyang to internal exile, quarantined within camps, and forcibly sterilized. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in accessing public life.

The UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, visited the DPRK for the first time in May and noted most infrastructure, including new buildings, was not accessible to persons with physical disabilities. She also said more efforts were needed on information and communication access for blind people.

State media reported in July 2016 that the government launched a website for the protection of persons with disabilities, and they improved educational content in schools for children with disabilities to provide professional skills training. Independent observers were unable to verify the report.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child repeatedly expressed concern about de facto discrimination against children with disabilities and insufficient measures taken by the state to ensure these children had effective access to health, education, and social services.

The Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights 2013 report on the Status of Women’s Rights in the Context of Socio-Economic Changes in the DPRKfound that the birth of a baby with disabilities–regardless of circumstances–was considered a “curse,” and doctors lacked training to diagnose and treat such persons. The report stated there were no welfare centers with specialized protection systems for those born with disabilities. Citizens’ Alliance also cited reports that the country maintained a center (Hospital 8.3) for abandoned individuals with disabilities, where officials subjected residents to chemical and biological testing.

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

There are no laws against consensual same-sex activity, but little information was available on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2014 the Korean Central News Agency, the state news agency, denied the existence of consensual same-sex activity in the country and reported, “The practice can never be found in the DPRK boasting of sound mentality and good morals.”

Democratic Republic of the Congo

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law on sexual violence criminalizes rape, but the offense was not always reported by victims and the law was not always enforced. Rape was common. The legal definition of rape does not include spousal rape. It also prohibits extrajudicial settlements (for example, a customary fine paid by the perpetrator to the family of the victim) and forced marriage, allows victims of sexual violence to waive appearance in court, and permits closed hearings to protect confidentiality. The minimum penalty prescribed for rape is a prison sentence of five years, and courts regularly imposed such a sentence in rape convictions.

According to media, members of the FARDC raped as many as 25 women in Makobola, 14 miles south of Uvira, in late September and mid-October after the withdrawal of a Mai Mai group that had been operating in the area.

In December, UNJHRO reported that at least 170 women were victims of extrajudicial killings, at least 420 women were victims of SGBV, and at least 528 women were victims of arbitrary arrest during the year. UNJHRO stated that perpetrators were primarily police for arbitrary arrest and the FARDC with regard to extrajudicial killings and SGBV. UNJHRO stated that RMGs, including the FPRI and Twa militias, also targeted women during the year. Implementation, including promulgation of the text of the amended family code adopted in June 2016, had not begun by year’s end.

The SSF, RMGs, and civilians perpetrated widespread sexual violence (see section 1.g.). During the year the United Nations documented 267 adult victims and 171 child victims, including two boys, of sexual violence in conflict. Crimes of sexual violence were sometimes committed as a tactic of war to punish civilians for having perceived allegiances to rival parties or groups. The crimes occurred largely in the conflict zones in North Kivu Province and in the Kasai region, but also throughout the country. The 2013-14 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) found that more than one in four women nationwide (27 percent) had experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, up from 22 percent in 2007.

Some prosecutions occurred for rape and other types of sexual violence. In June 2016 at least 57 persons, including a provincial member of parliament, were arrested in connection with a local militia allegedly responsible for a surge in sexual violence against children in Kavumu, South Kivu Province. Many individuals were subsequently released, although 14 persons, including the parliamentarian, were ultimately charged in military court with crimes against humanity, rape, murder, assault, and participation in an insurrectional movement. On December 13, a provincial military court convicted parliamentarian Frederic Batumike and 10 others associated with Batumike’s RMG to life in prison for murder and crimes against humanity for the rape of 37 girls ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years.

Most survivors of rape did not pursue formal legal action due to insufficient resources, lack of confidence in the justice system, fear of subjecting themselves to humiliation and/or reprisal, or family pressure.

The law does not provide any specific penalty for domestic violence despite its prevalence. Although the law considers assault a crime, police rarely intervened in perceived domestic disputes. There were no reports of judicial authorities taking action in cases of domestic or spousal abuse.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law describes FGM/C as a form of sexual violence, provides a sentence of two to five years in prison, and levies fines of up to 200,000 Congolese francs ($125); in case of death due to FGM/C, the sentence is life imprisonment.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: UNICEF and MONUSCO attributed some abuses of children, including mutilation of children and use of children in combat in the Kasais, to harmful traditional and religious practices. The United Nations reported that Kamuina Nsapu militias often put children, particularly young girls, on the front lines of battle, believing they have powers that could protect them as well as other fighters. For example, it reported Kamuina Nsapu militias often believed young girls could trap bullets fired at them and fling them back at attackers. The Kamuina Nsapu also reportedly slashed children’s stomachs as part of an initiation ritual to see if they would survive and how the wound would heal.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment occurred throughout the country. Legislation passed in 2006 prohibits sexual harassment with a minimum sentence of one year, but there was little or no effective enforcement of the law.

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

Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender, but the law does not provide women the same rights as men. A 2015 women’s parity law provides women a number of protections. It permits women to participate in economic domains without approval of male relatives, provides for maternity care, disallows inequities linked to dowries, and specifies fines and other sanctions for those who discriminate or engage in gender-based abuse. Women, however, experienced economic discrimination.

According to UNICEF, many widows were unable to inherit their late husbands’ property because the law states that in event of a death in which there is no will, the husband’s children, including those born out of wedlock (provided that they were officially recognized by the father), rather than the widow, have precedence with regard to inheritance. Courts may sentence women found guilty of adultery to up to one year in prison, while adultery by men is punishable only if judged to have “an injurious quality.”

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides for the acquisition of citizenship through birth within the country or from either parent being of an ethnic group documented as having been located in the country in 1960. The government registered 25 percent of children born in some form of medical facility. Lack of registration rarely affected access to government services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free and compulsory primary education. It was not, however, compulsory or tuition free, and the government inconsistently provided it across the provinces. Public schools generally expected parents to contribute to teachers’ salaries. These expenses, combined with the potential loss of income from their children’s labor while they attended class, rendered many parents unable or unwilling to enroll their children.

Primary and secondary school attendance rates for girls were lower than for boys due to financial, cultural, or security reasons, including early marriage and pregnancy for girls. Additionally, children in school were not particularly safe. Teachers subjected one in four children to corporal punishment and pressured one in five girls to exchange sexual favors for high grades.

Many of the schools in the east were dilapidated and closed due to chronic insecurity. The government used other schools as housing for IDPs. Parents in some areas kept their children from attending school due to fear of RMG forcible recruitment of child soldiers.

Schools were sometimes targeted in attacks, particularly by Kamuina Nsapu militants in the Kasai region. From August 2016 to June, UNICEF documented more than 404 attacks on schools in the Kasai region, including more than 300 by RMGs that sometimes targeted schools as symbols of the government and as sources of child recruitment.

Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits all forms of child abuse, it regularly occurred.

The constitution prohibits parental abandonment of children accused of sorcery. Nevertheless, parents or other care providers sometimes abandoned or abused such children, frequently invoking “witchcraft” as a rationale. The law provides for the imprisonment of parents and other adults convicted of accusing children of witchcraft. Authorities did not implement the law.

Many churches conducted exorcisms of children accused of witchcraft. These exorcisms involved isolation, beating and whipping, starvation, and forced ingestion of purgatives. According to UNICEF some communities branded children with disabilities or speech impediments as witches. This practice sometimes resulted in parents’ abandoning their children.

Many children suffered abuse from militia groups that recruited children and believed they possessed magic powers. The United Nations reported that Kamuina Nsapu militants forced children to undergo a “baptism” ritual of a deep knife cut to the stomach. Those children who did not die of these wounds were reportedly recruited to the militia and used as combatants, often put on the front lines as “fetish keepers” due to their supposed powers. These practices resulted in the deaths of many children during the Kasai conflict.

Early and Forced Marriage: While the law prohibits marriage of boys and girls under the age of 18, many marriages of underage children took place. Bridewealth (dowry) payment made by a groom or his family to the relatives of the bride to ratify a marriage greatly contributed to underage marriage, as parents forcibly married daughters to collect bridewealth or to finance bridewealth for a son.

The constitution criminalizes forced marriage. Courts may sentence parents convicted of forcing a child to marry to up to 12 years’ hard labor and a fine of 92,500 Congolese francs ($58). The penalty doubles when the child is under 15. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 for both males and females, and the law prohibits prostitution by anyone under 18. The penal code prohibits child pornography, with imprisonment of 10 to 20 years for those convicted. During the year UNICEF assisted 4,627 victims of sexual exploitation, including 1,671 children, of whom 228 reported being victims of sexual violence by armed men. According to a 2010 World Bank report, 26 percent of children living on the streets were girls, of whom 70 percent were victims of rape and 90 percent were victims of child sex trafficking. There were also reports that child soldiers, particularly girls, faced sexual exploitation (see section 1.g.).

There was an increase in sexual violence against children and infants in Kavumu, South Kivu Province, during 2016 (see section 6). While targeted sexual violence against children decreased during the year in the region following arrests and charges against some militia members responsible, many of the survivors continued to face stigmatization from their communities.

Child Soldiers: Armed groups recruited boys and girls (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: According to the 2007 Rapid Assessment, Analysis, and Action Planning Report, the most recent data available, there were an estimated 8.2 million orphans and other vulnerable children in the country. Of these, 91 percent received no external support of any kind and only 3 percent received medical support. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 children lived on the streets, with the highest concentration in Kinshasa. The families of many of these children forced them out of their homes, accusing them of witchcraft and bringing misfortune to their families.

Since 2016 the conflict in the Kasais displaced more than 1.4 million persons, including many children who were kidnapped by militia members or otherwise separated from their families. The government was not equipped to deal with such large numbers of homeless children. The SSF abused and arbitrarily arrested street 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

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

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and provides specific government protection for them. The constitution states all persons should have access to national education. The law states that private, public, and semipublic companies may not discriminate against qualified candidates based on disabilities. The government did not enforce these provisions effectively, and persons with disabilities often found it difficult to obtain employment, education, and government services.

The law does not mandate access to government buildings or services for persons with disabilities. While persons with disabilities may attend public primary and secondary schools and have access to higher education, no special provisions are required of educational facilities to accommodate their specific needs. Consequently, 90 percent of adults with disabilities do not achieve basic literacy. The Ministry of Education increased its special education outreach efforts but estimated it was educating fewer than 6,000 children with disabilities.

Disability groups reported extensive social stigmatization, including children with disabilities being expelled from their homes and accused of witchcraft. Families sometimes concealed their children with disabilities from officials to avoid being required to send them to school.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Twa persons frequently faced severe societal discrimination and had little protection from government officials (see section 1.g.).

There were reports of societal discrimination and violence against foreign minority groups. For example, protesters attacked businesses owned by ethnic Chinese during the January protests.

Indigenous People

Estimates of the country’s indigenous population (Twa, Baka, Mbuti, Aka, and others believed to be the country’s original inhabitants) varied greatly, from 250,000 to two million. Societal discrimination against these groups was widespread, and the government did not effectively protect their civil and political rights. Most indigenous persons took no part in the political process, and many lived in remote areas. Fighting in the east between RMGs and the SSF, expansion by farmers, and increased trading and excavation activities caused displacement of some indigenous populations.

While the law stipulates that indigenous populations receive 10 percent of the profits gained from use of their land, this provision was not enforced. In some areas, surrounding tribes kidnapped and forced indigenous persons into slavery, sometimes resulting in ethnic conflict (see section 1.g.). Indigenous populations also reported high instances of rape by members of outside groups, which contributed to HIV/AIDS infections and other health complications.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal, and conviction is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to one million Comorian francs ($113 to $2,250). Authorities reported no arrests or prosecutions for same-sex sexual activity during the year. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons generally did not publicly reveal their sexual orientation due to societal pressure. There were no local LGBTI organizations.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV status, but social stigma continued.

The 2013-14 DHS captured a proxy indicator measuring the level of tolerance of respondents towards an HIV-positive person (either family member, businessperson, or teacher) and the necessity of hiding the HIV-positive status of a family member. A total of 72 percent of respondents said they were ready to take care of an HIV-positive parent, but only 47 expressed willingness to purchase produce from a HIV-positive seller. A total of 49 percent of respondents would accept having an HIV-positive teacher teach their children, and 26 percent said it would not be necessary to hide the HIV status of a family member. The study estimated a global tolerance level towards HIV-positive persons at 4 percent in women and 12 percent in men.

According to the survey, the adult HIV prevalence rate was 1.2 percent, and according to UNAIDS, an estimated 560,798 persons of all ages in the country had HIV in 2015.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Discrimination against persons with albinism was widespread and limited their ability to marry and to obtain employment, health care, and education. Families and communities frequently ostracized persons with albinism. There were also reports of spontaneous mobs responding to crimes and perceived attacks.

Longstanding ethnic tensions also fueled some community violence. Small-scale conflicts in the Rutshuru and Lubero territories of North Kivu conflict exacerbated longstanding tensions between Hutu, on the one hand, and the Kobo, Nyanga, and Nande ethnic communities, on the other hand. On January 9, the Nande-affiliated Mai Mai Mazembe RMG attacked the town of Kibirizi, decapitating one Hutu, burning one woman to death, and burning 16 homes. In April intercommunity tensions between Tshokwe and Pende (accused of being affiliated with the Congolese security forces) and Luba and Lulua communities (accused of being Kamuina Nsapu militia sympathizers) turned violent, particularly in Kamonia territory, Kasai Province. From April 13 to 25, Tshokwe youths armed with rifles and machetes killed at least 38 persons, including eight women and eight children, mainly of Lulua ethnicity, in several parts of the territory.

Denmark

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against women or men (the statute is gender neutral), including spousal rape, and domestic violence. Penalties for rape include imprisonment for up to 12 years. The government effectively prosecuted persons accused of rape.

Faroese law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 12 years. The law considers nonconsensual sex with a victim in a “helpless state” to be sexual abuse rather than rape. In certain instances it also reduces the level of penalty for rape and sexual violence within marriage.

Greenlandic law criminalizes rape but reduces the penalty for rape and sexual violence within marriage. Persons convicted of rape in Greenland typically receive a prison sentence of 18 months.

In February, UN Women  reported approximately 32 percent of women in the kingdom experienced domestic violence in the course of their lifetime.

The government and NGOs operated 24-hour hotlines, counseling centers, and shelters for female survivors of violence. The royal family supported a variety of NGOs that worked to improve conditions and services at shelters and to assist families afflicted with domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides that authorities may order a perpetrator or an employer who allowed or failed to prevent an incident of harassment to pay monetary compensation to victims. The law considers it an unsafe labor condition and gives labor unions or the Equal Treatment Board the responsibility of to resolve it. The government enforced the law effectively. Beginning in January a Ministry of Justice directive permits the director of the National Police to issue expedited restraining orders against accused stalkers or harassers in order to protect their victims from further harassment.

A 2016 report from the Danish Labor Rights think-tank found that 5 percent of women reported being sexually harassed in the workplace during the previous year.

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

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Little discrimination was reported in employment, ownership and management of businesses, or access to credit, education, or housing.

Children

Birth Registration: Most children acquire citizenship from their parents. Stateless persons and certain persons born in the country to noncitizens may acquire citizenship by naturalization, provided, in most cases, that they apply for citizenship before their 21st birthday. The law requires medical practitioners to register promptly the births of children they deliver, and they generally did so.

Child Abuse: The National Police and Public Prosecutor’s Office actively investigated child abuse cases. In 2016 authorities in Denmark received 116 reports of rape involving a child 12 years and younger as well as 185 reports of sexual intercourse with a child 15 years and younger. In the same year, authorities received 178 reports of sexual relations with a child 12 years and younger and 137 reports of sexual relations with a child 15 years and younger.

In Greenland child abuse and neglect remained a significant problem. According to the DIHR’s most recent statistics, approximately 11 percent of sexual assaults in Greenland were committed against victims under the age of 15. A study by the Danish National Center for Social Research commissioned by the Greenlandic government and published in 2015 reported that every other woman and every third man experienced sexual contact with an adult before they turned 15.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The government generally enforced these laws. In 2016 authorities prosecuted 133 cases of child pornography, up from 110 cases in 2015. The minimum age for consensual sexual activity is 15. The purchase of sexual services from a person under the age of 18 is illegal.

Displaced Children: The government considered refugees and migrants who were unaccompanied minors as vulnerable, and the law includes special rules regarding them. A personal representative is appointed for all unaccompanied children who seek asylum or who stay in the country without permission (see section 2.d.).

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish Community (Mosaiske) estimated between 6,000 and 8,000 Jews lived in the country.

The Jewish Community called on police to investigate a possible case of incitement to hatred after a March sermon by an imam at the Masjid al-Faruq Mosque in a Copenhagen suburb posted on YouTube in May appeared to call for the killing of Jews. A translation of the Arabic transcript of the sermon included, “Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.” Minister of Immigration and Integration Inger Stojberg described the imam’s address as “horrible, antidemocratic, and abominable.”

In May, 17-year-old Natascha Colding-Olsen was sentenced to six-years’ incarceration for her role planning a terrorist attack against two schools, including a Jewish private school in Copenhagen. After an appeals process, in November her sentence was increased to eight years in prison. Charges against her alleged accomplice, a 24-year-old man who had recently returned from Syria, were dropped.

Representatives of Copenhagen’s Jewish community reported 22 anti-Semitic acts against Copenhagen’s Jewish community, its community center, or synagogue. The acts included one attempted murder, two cases of threats or intimidation, 17 cases of anti-Semitic slurs or language, and one case of vandalism (graffiti) and occurred despite increased police protection and physical security improvements.

During the year the government cooperated with the Jewish community to provide police protection for the Great Synagogue of Copenhagen as well as other locations of importance to the Jewish community. Jewish community leaders reported continued good relations with police and the ability to communicate their concerns to authorities, including the minister of justice.

Concerns remained in the Jewish community regarding a growing movement to prohibit infant male circumcision. Some organizations and individuals, including members of parliament, continued to campaign to have the practice banned (see also section 6, Other Societal Violence or Discrimination).

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 . It also mandates access by persons with disabilities to government buildings, education, information, and communications. The government enforced these provisions. The DIHR reported that the enforcement of antidiscrimination laws was well established for the workplace but less so in other areas, such as laws on accessibility, coercive measures in psychiatric treatment, self-determination, political participation, inclusion in the labor market, and equal access to healthcare. In addition outside the labor market there is no express prohibition of discrimination against persons with disabilities.

The DIHR reported that the practice of using of physical force and restraints during psychiatric treatment for periods in excess of 48 hours continued. According to Ministry of Health statistics from March, physical force or restraints were used on approximately 30 percent of patients undergoing psychiatric treatment in facilities.

The right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic affairs was generally not restricted, but some persons with disabilities reported problems in connection with elections, including ballots that were not accessible to blind persons or persons with mental disabilities. The country maintained a system of guardianship for persons considered incapable of managing their own affairs due to psychosocial or mental disabilities. Persons under guardianship who do not possess legal capacity have the right to vote in local and regional elections as well as elections to the European Parliament.

According to the DIHR, persons with disabilities in Greenland, including children, had limited access to support, including physical aids, counselling, educated professionals, and appropriate housing. Persons with severe disabilities were often placed in foster homes far from their families or relocated to Denmark because of lack of resources in Greenland.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The National Police reported that in 2016 race was a factor in 140 crimes. The government effectively investigated hate crimes and prosecuted the perpetrators.

Indigenous People

The law protects the rights of the indigenous Inuit inhabitants of Greenland, all of whom are Danish citizens and whose legal system seeks to accommodate their traditions. Through their elected internally autonomous government, they participated in decisions affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and the exploitation of energy, minerals, and other natural resources.

Indigenous Greenlandic people in Denmark remained undereducated, underrepresented in the workforce, overrepresented on welfare rolls, and more susceptible to suicide, homelessness, poverty, chronic health conditions including substance abuse, and sexual violence.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation. The law allows transgender persons to obtain official documents reflecting their new gender identity without requiring a diagnosis for a mental disorder or undergoing surgery.

The law allows individuals to determine their gender, but government guidelines require that hormone treatment for gender reassignment be conducted only in one designated clinic located in Copenhagen. Transgender activists continued to highlight this policy as evidence of discrimination against transgender persons.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

During the year no overt acts of discrimination against Muslims were reported., Spokespersons from Muslim Council of Copenhagen reported that Muslims in the country lived with a sense of increased scrutiny from the government and society. For example, in January the Jewish and Muslim communities worked together to engage society on the topic of (ritual) circumcision and counter public comments by some politicians that the practice should be outlawed. Leaders from the two communities believed the proposed ban specifically targeted them (see also section 6, Anti-Semitism).

The National Police reported that in 2016 religion was a factor in 88 crimes. The government effectively investigated hate crimes and prosecuted the perpetrators.

Djibouti

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law includes sentences of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for rape but does not address spousal rape. The government did not enforce the law effectively.

Domestic violence against women was common. While the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, it prohibits “torture and barbaric acts” against a spouse and specifies penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for perpetrators. Police rarely intervened in domestic violence incidents.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but it was a problem. According to a 2012 Ministry of Health survey, 78 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 had undergone FGM/C. According to UNFD, infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM/C, with a prevalence rate of 67.2 percent, continued, although with declining frequency. The law sets punishment for FGM/C at five years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million DJF ($5,650) and NGOs may file charges on behalf of victims. In late 2014 the government convicted two women for the first time on charges of committing FGM/C. Both women, one the excisor (cutter) and the other the mother of the victim, received six-month suspended sentences. This was reportedly the only conviction. The law also provides for up to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 DJF ($565) for anyone convicted of failing to report a completed or planned FGM/C to the proper authorities; however, the government had punished no one under this statute by year’s end.

The government continued efforts to end FGM/C with a high-profile national publicity campaign, public support from the president’s wife and other prominent women, and outreach to Muslim religious leaders.

For more information, see:

https://data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ 

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and anecdotal information suggested such harassment was widespread.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal treatment of citizens without distinction concerning gender, but custom and traditional societal discrimination resulted in a secondary role for women in public life and fewer employment opportunities in the formal sector. In accordance with sharia, men inherit a larger proportion of estates than do women. The government continued to promote female leadership in the small business sector, including through expanded access to microcredit.

A presidential decree requires that women hold at least 20 percent of all high-level public service positions, although the government has never implemented the decree.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from a child’s parents. The government continued to encourage the immediate registration of births, but confusion over the process sometimes resulted in children without proper documentation. Lack of birth registration did not result in denial of public services but did prevent youth from completing their higher studies and adults from voting. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Although primary education is compulsory, only an estimated three of every four children reportedly were enrolled in school. Primary and middle school are tuition free, but other expenses could be prohibitive for poor families.

Child Abuse: Child abuse existed but was not frequently reported or prosecuted, and the government made only limited efforts to combat it.

Early and Forced Marriage: Although the law fixes the minimum legal age of marriage at 18 years, it provides that “marriage of minors who have not reached the legal age of majority is subject to the consent of their guardians.” Child marriage occasionally occurred in rural areas. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning worked with women’s groups throughout the country to protect the rights of girls, including the right to decide when and whom to marry. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for three years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million DJF ($5,650) for the commercial exploitation of children. The law does not specifically prohibit statutory rape, and there is no legal minimum age of consent. The sale, manufacture, or distribution of all pornography, including child pornography, is prohibited and violations are punishable with a year in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 DJF ($1,130).

The government also passed and promulgated a new anti-trafficking-in-persons (TIP) law in 2016, which prohibits trafficking and outlines definitions distinguishing trafficking and smuggling. The law provides language that the “means” element generally needed to prosecute TIP cases is not required when the victim is a child.

Despite government efforts to keep at-risk children off the streets and to warn businesses against permitting children to enter bars and clubs, children were vulnerable to prostitution on the streets and in brothels.

Displaced Children: Statistics about children living on the streets and unaccompanied migrant children were unavailable, although NGOs reported an increasing number of unaccompanied minors living in Djibouti City or traveling through the country en route to the Middle East.

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

Anti-Semitism

Observers estimated the Jewish community at fewer than 30 persons, the majority of whom were foreign military members stationed in the country. 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 does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities, although the law prohibits such discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.). Both the Ministry of National Solidarity and the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning have responsibility specifically to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, the law was not enforced. The government did not mandate access to government services and accessibility to buildings for persons with disabilities, and buildings were often inaccessible. The law provides persons with disabilities access to health care and education, but the law was not enforced.

Authorities held prisoners with mental disabilities separately from other pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. They received minimal psychological treatment or monitoring. Families could request confinement in prison for relatives with mental disabilities who had not been convicted of any crime, but who were considered a danger to themselves or those around them. There were no mental health treatment facilities and only one practicing psychiatrist in the country.

Government agencies conducted awareness raising campaigns, and NGOs continued to organize seminars and other events that drew attention to the need for enhanced legal protections and better workplace conditions for persons with disabilities.

The state secretary for social affairs completed a census to document the number of persons with disabilities in the country.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The governing coalition included all of the country’s major clans and ethnic groups, with minority groups also represented in senior positions. Nonetheless, there continued to be discrimination based on ethnicity in employment and job advancement (see section 7.d.). Somali Issas, the majority ethnic group, controlled the ruling party and dominated the civil service and security services. Discrimination based on ethnicity and clan affiliation remained a factor in business and politics.

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

The law does not directly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct, but authorities prosecuted the public display of same-sex sexual conduct under laws prohibiting attacks on “good morals.” No antidiscrimination law exists to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were no reported incidents of societal violence or discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, although LGBTI persons generally did not openly acknowledge their sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no known LGBTI organizations.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reported cases of violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, although stigma against individuals with the disease was widespread. Several local associations worked in collaboration with the government to combat social discrimination. In April the National Assembly and UNAIDS signed a memorandum of understanding to work on raising awareness of the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS and to fight against HIV/AIDS.

Dominica

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. Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape or incest) is 25 years’ imprisonment, the usual sentence was five to seven years. Police generally were not reluctant to arrest or prosecute offenders; whenever possible, female police officers handled rape cases.

Sexual violence and domestic violence cases were common, and the government recognized it as a problem. Although no specific laws criminalize spousal abuse, spouses were able to bring charges against their partners for battery.

The law allows abused persons to appear before a magistrate without an attorney and request a protective order.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it continued to be a serious and persistent problem.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides women with the same legal rights as men, but property continued to be deeded to heads of households, who were usually men. The law establishes pay rates for civil service jobs without regard to gender.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or to a citizen parent. Birth certificates were provided to parents on a timely basis. Failure to register resulted in denial of access to public services except emergency care.

Child Abuse: Child abuse continued to be a pervasive problem. For additional information, see Appendix C.

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

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent for sexual relations is 16. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children for purposes of prostitution, and related activity may be prosecuted under laws against prostitution or trafficking. The law protects all persons from “unlawful sexual connection,” rape, procurement for prostitution, and incest. It prohibits sexual intercourse with a child by an adult, and it increases the penalty to 25 years’ imprisonment for an adult who rapes a child whom the adult employs or controls, or to whom the adult pays wages. The October 2016 Sexual Offenses Act Amendment criminalizes behaviors such as voyeurism.

The maximum sentence for sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 14 years is 25 years in prison. When victims are between 14 and 16 years of age, the maximum sentence is 14 years.

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

Anti-Semitism

There is no organized Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports of discrimination or 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 does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. There is no legal requirement mandating access to buildings for such persons. Although persons with disabilities have the right to vote, polling stations were often inaccessible.

The government funded one special education school for children with intellectual or mental disabilities. Children with physical disabilities and those with hearing and vision disabilities were integrated into mainstream schools.

Indigenous People

The Kalinago (Carib) population was estimated at 3,000 persons, most of whom lived in the 3,782-acre Kalinago Territory. The government recognizes their special status, and their rights are protected in law and practice.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity for both sexes is illegal under indecency statutes. The law also prohibits anal intercourse between males. The government reported rare enforcement of both statutes, and there were no instances of the law being enforced through October. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adult men carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. No laws prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, education, or health care.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that strong societal and employment discrimination against persons due to their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity was common. Furthermore, civil society organizations reported that LGBTI victims of violence or harassment avoided notifying police of abuse because of social stigma. Stigma and fear of abuse and intimidation prevented LGBTI organizations from developing their membership or executing activities such as gay pride marches.

Dominican Republic

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 other forms of violence against women, such as incest and sexual aggression. The sentences for conviction of rape range from 10 to 15 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 pesos ($2,100 to $4,200).

Rape was a serious and pervasive problem. Despite government efforts, violence against women was pervasive. The Attorney General’s Office oversees the specialized Violence Prevention and Attention Unit, which had 19 offices in the country’s 32 provinces. The Attorney General’s Office instructed its officers not to settle cases of violence against women and to continue judicial processes, even in cases in which victims withdrew charges. District attorneys provided assistance and protection to victims of violence by referring them to appropriate institutions for legal, medical, and psychological counseling.

The Ministry of Women actively promoted equality and the prevention of violence against women through implementing education and awareness programs and the provision of training to other ministries and offices. It also operated shelters and provided counseling services, though NGOs argued these efforts were inadequate.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a misdemeanor, and conviction carries a sentence of one year in prison and a fine equal to the sum of three to six months of salary. Union leaders reported that the law was not enforced and that sexual harassment remained a problem.

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

Discrimination: Although the law provides women and men the same legal rights, women did not enjoy social and economic status or opportunity equal to that of men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship comes with birth in the country, except to children born to diplomats, to those who are “in transit,” or to parents who are illegally in the country (see section 2.d.). A child born abroad to a Dominican mother or father may also acquire citizenship. A child not registered at birth remains undocumented until parents file a late declaration of birth.

Education: The constitution stipulates free, compulsory public education through age 18, however, not all children attended. A birth certificate is required to register for high school, which discouraged some children from attending or completing school, particularly children of Haitian descent. Children who lacked documentation also were restricted from attending secondary school (past the eighth grade) and faced problems accessing other public services.

Child Abuse: Abuse of children, including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, was a serious problem. For additional information, see Appendix C.

The law contains provisions concerning child abuse, including physical and emotional mistreatment, sexual exploitation, and child labor. The law provides for sentences of two to five years’ incarceration and a fine of three to five times the monthly minimum wage for persons convicted of abuse of a minor. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage with parental consent is 16 for boys and 15 for girls. Marriage, particularly of women, before age 18 was common. According to a 2014 UNICEF survey, 10 percent of girls were married by age 15 and 37 percent by age 18. The government conducted no known prevention or mitigation programs. Girls often married much older men. Child marriage occurred more frequently among girls who were uneducated, poor, and living in rural areas.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law defines statutory rape as sexual relations with anyone under age 18. Penalties for conviction of statutory rape are 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 pesos ($2,100 to $4,200).

The commercial sexual exploitation of children generally occurred in tourist locations and major urban areas. The government conducted programs to combat the sexual exploitation of minors.

Displaced Children: Large populations of children, primarily Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent, lived on the streets and were vulnerable to trafficking. See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community comprised approximately 350 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

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, these individuals encountered discrimination in employment, education, the judicial system, and in obtaining health care and transportation services. The law provides for access to basic services and physical access for persons with disabilities to all new public and private buildings. It also specifies that each ministry should collaborate with the National Disability Council to implement these provisions. Authorities worked to enforce these provisions, but a gap in implementation persisted. Very few public buildings were fully accessible.

The Dominican Association for Rehabilitation received support from the Secretariat of Public Health and from the Office of the Presidency to provide rehabilitation assistance to persons with physical and learning disabilities as well as to run schools for children with physical and mental disabilities. Lack of accessible public transportation was a major impediment.

The law states that the government should provide for persons with disabilities to have access to the labor market as well as to cultural, recreational, and religious activities, but it was not consistently enforced. There were three government centers for care of children with disabilities–in Santo Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros, and San Juan de la Maguana. In May 2016 the Ministry of Education reported that 80 percent of registered students with disabilities attended school.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There was evidence of racial prejudice and discrimination against persons of dark complexion, but the government denied such prejudice or discrimination existed and, consequently, did little to address the problem. Civil society and international organizations reported that officials denied health care and documentation services to persons of Haitian descent.

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

The constitution upholds the principles of nondiscrimination and equality before the law, but it does not specifically include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories. It does prohibit, however, discrimination on the grounds of “social or personal condition” and mandates that the state “prevent and combat discrimination, marginalization, vulnerability, and exclusion.” The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity only for policies related to youth and youth development.

Discrimination limited the ability of LGBTI individuals to access education, employment, health care, and other services.

NGOs reported police abuse, including arbitrary arrest, police violence, and extortion, against LGBTI persons. According to civil society organizations, authorities failed to properly document or investigate the incidents that were reported. According to a report presented by Dominican civil society before the UN Human Rights Committee, the law does not provide for the prosecution of hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

NGOs reported widespread discrimination against LGBTI persons, particularly transgender individuals and lesbians, in such areas as health care, education, justice, and employment. LGBTI individuals often faced intimidation and harassment.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits the use of HIV testing to screen employees, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that workers in various industries faced obligatory HIV testing. Workers were sometimes tested without their knowledge or consent. Many workers found to have the disease were not hired, and those employed were either fired from their jobs or denied adequate health care.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

On a number of occasions, citizens attacked and sometimes killed alleged criminals in vigilante-style reprisals for theft, robbery, or burglary.

Ecuador

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 domestic violence. Rape is punishable with penalties of up to 22 years in prison.

A 2011 government study found that 60 percent of women suffered from gender-based violence at some point during their lifetimes. Domestic violence is punishable with penalties ranging from four days to seven years in prison. The law provides penalties for physical violence, psychological violence, and sexual violence. According to the law, a prosecutor must investigate the victim’s complaint of domestic abuse before issuing a restraining order. There were reports that, in some cases, victims waited 10 days or more for a response from the Prosecutor’s Office. The law requires public hospitals to provide “first reception halls” to handle cases of sexual violence and domestic violence. The specialized halls–under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and staffed by physicians, psychologists, and social workers–offer immediate attention to the victim.

Based on 2016 statistics, there were 50 judicial units and 78 courts specializing in gender-based violence. The judicial units have responsibility for collecting complaints and assisting victims in ordering arrest warrants for up to 30 days of detention against the aggressor. The units forward serious abuse cases to prosecutors for criminal prosecution. Human rights activists stated that 16,000 cases of domestic violence were pending in the court system. They argued that the court system was insufficiently staffed to deal with the caseload.

Sexual Harassment: The penal code criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of one to five years in prison. Despite the legal prohibition of sexual harassment, women’s rights organizations described harassment in public spaces as common.

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

Discrimination: The constitution affords women the same legal status and rights as men. Nevertheless, discrimination against women was prevalent, particularly with respect to economic opportunities for older women and for those in the lower economic strata.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired through birth in the country, birth to an Ecuadorian mother or father abroad, or by naturalization. A 2013 study by the vice presidency revealed that 5.5 percent of the population was not registered at birth.

Education: According to the constitution, education is obligatory through ninth grade and free through 12th grade. Nonetheless, costs for school-related items, such as uniforms and books, as well as a lack of space in public schools, continued to prevent many adolescents from attending school.

Child Abuse: On October 12, the Ministry of Education reported it received 882 complaints of sexual assault in schools between 2014 and 2017, with approximately 64 percent of the cases perpetrated by persons associated with the education system. On June 1, citing UNICEF, El Comercio reported that one of 10 women was sexually abused during childhood.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18. There were reports of early and forced marriage in indigenous communities, particularly in cases of sexual abuse. A Plan International study cited the testimony of public officials who reported that in many cases sexual aggressors compensated violence with payment or exchange of animals, but in some cases victims were forced to marry the aggressors.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, with penalties of 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment. The age of consent is 14. The penalty for commercial sexual exploitation of children under the age of 18 is 13 to 16 years in prison. Commercial sexual exploitation of minors remained a problem, despite government enforcement efforts.

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

Anti-Semitism

There is a small Jewish community, including an estimated 250 families in Quito and 120 families in Guayaquil, according to local synagogues. Isolated instances of anti-Semitism occurred.

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 National Council on Disability Equality oversees government policies regarding persons with disabilities. Although the law mandates access to buildings and promotes equal access to health, education, social security, employment, transport, and communications for persons with disabilities, the government did not fully enforce it. The law requires that 4 percent of employees in all public and private enterprises with more than 25 employees be persons with disabilities.

The law stipulates rights to health facilities and insurance coverage. The law provides for special job security for those with disabilities or those who care for a person with disabilities, and it entitles employees who acquire a disability to rehabilitation and relocation. The law also gives the Ombudsman’s Office responsibility for following up on alleged violations of the rights of persons with disabilities and stipulates a series of fines and punishments for lack of compliance with the law.

The government continued a campaign to create jobs for persons with disabilities, provide funding to municipalities to improve access to public buildings, and open training and rehabilitation centers.

The law directs the electoral authorities to provide access to voting and to facilitate voting for persons with disabilities, and international observers commended the government’s accommodations for persons with disabilities in the 2014 local elections. The CNE initiated a program to allow in-home voting for those with more significant disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution declares the state to be plurinational and affirms the principle of nondiscrimination by recognizing the rights of indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, and Montubio (an independent ethnic group of persons with a mixture of Afro-Ecuadorian, indigenous, and Spanish ancestry) communities. It also mandates affirmative action policies to provide for the representation of minorities

Afro-Ecuadorian organizations noted that, despite the absence of official discrimination, societal discrimination and stereotyping in media continued to result in barriers to employment, education, and housing. Afro-Ecuadorians continued to assert that they are more frequently stopped by police for document checks than are other citizens.

Indigenous People

The constitution strengthens the rights of indigenous persons and recognizes Kichwa and Shuar as “official languages of intercultural relations.” The law provides indigenous persons the same civil and political rights as other citizens. The constitution grants indigenous persons and communities the right to prior consultation before the execution of projects that affect their rights. It also provides for their right to participate in decisions about the exploitation of nonrenewable resources located on their lands and that could affect their culture or environment. The constitution also allows indigenous persons to participate in the economic benefits that natural resource extraction projects may bring and to receive compensation for any damages that result.

In the case of environmental damage, the law mandates immediate corrective government action and full restitution from the responsible company, although some indigenous organizations asserted a lack of consultation and remedial action. The law recognizes the rights of indigenous communities to hold property communally.

On September 5, the Ombudsman’s Office reported that it monitored economic activity that may harm local communities, particularly Afro-Ecuadorians and indigenous peoples.

In November 2016 Shuar members attacked a Chinese-owned mining camp in Morona Santiago. In December 2016 members of the indigenous Shuar community Nankints attacked police officers and military who were patrolling the mining camp La Esperanza in Morona Santiago Province, killing one police officer and injuring five other police officers and two servicemen. Then-coordinating minister of security Cesar Navas announced a 30-day state of emergency in the Amazon province of Morona Santiago, declaring that a police officer died during an attack by “illegal armed groups.” The Ministry of Interior extended the December 14, 2016, state of emergency until February 15. The Shuar attack followed months of militarization of canton San Juan Bosco and police and military forcibly evicting the indigenous community from their ancestral territory to facilitate the establishment of Chinese company Explorcobres S.A. mining project.

On January 27, approximately 100 police officers raided the indigenous radio station La Voz de Arutam in Morona Santiago after it broadcast on January 26 a message by the president of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers. According to a statement from the federation, police officers seized communications equipment and shut down the station.

On May 2, civil society and indigenous groups led by CONAIE launched the “Amnesty First” campaign and presented a proposal to then president-elect Moreno to pardon 111 indigenous protesters. On May 25, newly inaugurated President Moreno suggested the potential for amnesty for indigenous protesters charged with criminal offenses during the Correa administration. CONAIE claimed that the convictions against the indigenous protesters violated their rights to freedom of expression. On May 30, a group of indigenous persons led by CONAIE marched to the National Assembly, where they asked National Assembly President Jose Serrano to pardon 177 imprisoned indigenous protesters. Serrano stated that a committee of legislators would review each case on an individual basis. As of July 5, President Moreno had pardoned five imprisoned indigenous protesters, including indigenous leader Tomas Jimpikit.

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

The constitution includes the principle of nondiscrimination and the right to decide one’s sexual orientation as a right. The law also prohibits hate crimes. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons continued to suffer discrimination from both public and private bodies, particularly in education, employment, and access to health care. LGBTI organizations reported that transgender persons suffered more discrimination because they were more visible.

In August 2016 a law allowing individuals to select gender on their identity cards entered into force. In August a local LGBTI organization reported that 270 individuals had successfully changed their gender on their identity cards but explained that the law further perpetuated discrimination and social stigma against transgender individuals, since the identity cards revealed their decision to substitute sex with gender on their identity cards.

The government, led by the Ombudsman’s Office, was generally responsive to concerns raised by the LGBTI community. Nevertheless, LGBTI groups claimed police and prosecutors did not thoroughly investigate deaths of LGBTI individuals, including when there was suspicion that the killing was because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBTI persons continued to report that the government sometimes denied their right of equal access to formal education. LGBTI students, particularly in the transgender community, sometimes were discouraged from attending classes (particularly in higher education). LGBTI students, particularly transgender individuals, were more susceptible to bullying in schools, and human rights activists argued that the Ministry of Education and school administrators were slow to respond to complaints. The LGBTI population involved in the commercial sex trade reported abusive situations, extortion, and mistreatment by security forces.

LGBTI organizations and the government continued to report that private treatment centers confined LGBTI persons against their will to “cure” or “dehomosexualize” them, although such treatment is illegal. The clinics reportedly used cruel treatments, including rape, in an attempt to change LGBTI persons’ sexual orientation. According to a local LGBTI organization, law enforcement officials closed at least two such clinics in Guayaquil during the year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The constitution specifically prohibits discrimination directed at persons with HIV/AIDS. There was limited societal violence against such persons.

Egypt

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, prescribing criminal penalties of 15 to 25 years’ imprisonment, or life imprisonment for cases of rape involving armed abduction. Spousal rape is not illegal. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Civil society organizations reported police pressure not to pursue charges.

Domestic violence was a significant problem. The law does not prohibit domestic violence or spousal abuse, but authorities may apply provisions relating to assault with accompanying penalties. The law requires that an assault victim produce multiple eyewitnesses, a difficult condition for domestic abuse victims. Police often treated domestic violence as a social rather than criminal matter.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity supported eight women’s shelters. The Interior Ministry includes a unit responsible for combating sexual and gender-based violence. The NCW, a quasi-governmental body, was responsible for coordinating government and civil society efforts to empower women. In 2015 the NCW launched a five-year National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women with four strategic objectives: prevention, protection, intervention, and prosecution.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but it remained a serious problem. According to the 2015 Egypt Health Issues Survey, published during 2016 by the Ministry of Health and Population, 70 percent of girls between ages 15 and 19 had undergone FGM/C, a decrease from 81 percent in 2008.

A 2016 amendment to the law designates FGM/C a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor as it was previously, and assigns penalties for conviction of five to seven years’ imprisonment for practitioners who perform the procedure, or 15 years if the practice led to death or “permanent deformity.” The law granted exceptions in cases of “medical necessity,” which rights groups identified as a problematic loophole that allowed the practice to continue. According to international and local observers, the government did not effectively enforce the FGM/C law.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law does not specifically address “honor” crimes, which authorities treated as any other crime. There were no reliable statistics regarding the incidence of killings and assaults motivated by “honor,” but local observers stated such killings occurred, particularly in rural areas.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a serious problem.

The government prioritized efforts to address sexual harassment. The penal code defines sexual harassment as a crime, with penalties including fines and sentences of six months to five years’ imprisonment if convicted. Media and NGOs reported that sexual harassment by police was also a problem, and the potential for further harassment further discouraged women from filing complaints.

In April as part of a focus on sexual harassment during the holiday of Sham el-Nessim, police reportedly detained dozens of men in connection with accusations of sexual harassment. Police forces, including female officers, were deployed in public gardens, parks, and streets, and government hotlines were available for reporting incidents.

On July 30, a Cairo court convicted a male tuk-tuk (covered moped taxi) driver of “harassment” after he sexually assaulted a woman in September 2016 while she was walking in a street and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. According to the NCW, the ruling was the first conviction under the sexual harassment law.

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

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for male and female citizens. Women did not enjoy the same legal rights and opportunities as men, and discrimination was widespread. Aspects of the law and traditional societal practices disadvantaged women in family, social, and economic life.

Women faced widespread societal discrimination, threats to their physical security, and workplace bias in favor of men that hindered their social and economic advancement.

Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally corresponded to an individual’s religious group. A female Muslim citizen cannot legally marry a non-Muslim man. If she were to do so, authorities could charge her with adultery and consider her children illegitimate. Under the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, any children from such a marriage could be placed in the custody of a male Muslim guardian. “Khula” divorce allows a Muslim woman to obtain a divorce without her husband’s consent, provided she forgoes all her financial rights, including alimony, dowry, and other benefits. The Coptic Orthodox Church permits divorce only in rare circumstances, such as adultery or conversion of one spouse to another religion. Other Christian churches sometimes permitted divorce on a case-by-case basis.

The law follows Islamic sharia in matters of inheritance; therefore, a Muslim female heir generally receives one-half the amount of a male heir’s inheritance, and Christian widows of Muslims have no inheritance rights. A sole Muslim female heir receives one-half her parents’ estate, and the balance goes to the siblings of the parents or the children of the siblings if the siblings are deceased. A sole male heir inherits his parents’ entire estate. A court case suing for the right of a Christian family to divide property equally among sons and daughters was pending appeal.

In marriage and divorce cases, a woman’s testimony must be judged credible to be admissible. Usually the woman accomplishes credibility by conveying her testimony through an adult male relative or representative. The law assumes a man’s testimony is credible unless proven otherwise.

The law makes it difficult for women to access formal credit. While the law allows women to own property, social and religious barriers strongly discouraged women’s ownership of land, a primary source of collateral in the banking system.

Labor laws provide for equal rates of pay for equal work for men and women in the public but not the private sector. Educated women had employment opportunities, but social pressure against women pursuing a career was strong. Large sectors of the economy controlled by the military excluded women from high-level positions.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship through the citizenship of their parents. The mother or the father transmits citizenship and nationality. The government attempted to register all births soon after birth, but some citizens in remote and tribal areas, such as the Sinai Peninsula, resisted registration or could not document their citizenship. In some cases failure to register resulted in denial of public services, particularly in urban areas where most services required presentation of a national identification card.

Education: Education is compulsory, free, and universal until the ninth grade. The law provides this benefit to stateless persons and refugees. Public schools enrolled Syrian refugees, but they largely excluded refugees of other nationalities.

Child Abuse: The constitution stipulates the government shall protect children from all forms of violence, abuse, mistreatment, and commercial and sexual exploitation. According to a local rights group, authorities recorded hundreds of cases of alleged child abuse each month. No dedicated government institution addressed child abuse, although several civil society organizations assisted runaway and abandoned children.

In March the Department of Family and Children at the Ministry of Social Solidarity investigated complaints of child abuse in the Ishraqa orphanage in Six October City. According to a ministry official, orphanage employees beat and sexually assaulted the children; moreover, they did not receive adequate food or supervision. One orphanage employee told the press the abuse had continued for years. Police arrested the former orphanage supervisor as part of a continuing investigation.

Rights organizations reported children faced mistreatment in detention, including torture, sharing cells with adults, denial of their right to counsel, and authorities’ failure to notify their families. According to a local rights group, police sometimes charged street children with unsolved crimes to increase perceived police effectiveness. On January 31, authorities released Mazen Mohamed Abdallah pending investigation of charges of belonging to a banned group, protesting without authorization, and printing flyers inciting protests. Security forces detained then 14-year-old Abdallah in 2015. AI reported authorities held him for seven days without contacting his family and that authorities tortured Abdallah, including by raping him with a wooden stick and subjecting him to electric shocks. The Interior Ministry denied these claims. No further information was available on the case as of year’s end.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18. According to UNICEF 17 percent of girls married before age 18, and 2 percent of girls were married by age 15. According to NCW statistics, nearly 36 percent of marriages in rural areas in the southern part of the country included a partner who was not yet age 18. Families reportedly sometimes forced adolescent girls to marry wealthy foreign men in what were known locally as “tourism” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of sexual exploitation, prostitution, or forced labor. According to the law, a foreign man who wants to marry an Egyptian woman more than 25 years younger than he is must pay a fine of EGP 50,000 ($2,830). Women’s rights organizations argued that allowing foreign men to pay a fine to marry much younger women represented a form of trafficking and encouraged child marriage. They called on the government to eliminate the system altogether. The Antitrafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), a governmental body, is responsible for raising awareness of the problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for sentences of not less than five years’ imprisonment and fines of up to EGP 200,000 ($11,315) for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The government did not adequately enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is age 18.

Displaced Children: The CAPMAS and the National Council for Motherhood estimated the number of street children to be 16,000, while civil society organizations estimated the number to be in the millions. The ministry offered shelters to street children, but many chose not to use them because staff treated the children as if they were criminals, according to local rights groups. According to rights groups, the incidence of violence, prostitution, and drug dealing in these shelters was high. Religious institutions and NGOs provided services for street children, including meals, clothing, and literacy classes. The Ministry of Health and Population offered mobile health clinics staffed by nurses and social workers. In July the Ministry of Social Solidarity launched an initiative in which 17 mobile units in 10 governorates provided emergency services, including food and health care, to street 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community reportedly numbered less than 20 individuals. Criticism of Israel rarely reached the level of anti-Semitism in public discourse. State-owned and private media greatly reduced the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric, including by academics, cultural figures, and clerics, with cartoons demonizing Jews. There were a few reports of imams using anti-Semitic rhetoric in their sermons. Societal anti-Semitism remained widespread.

In praise of a UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem, Grand Mufti of Dar al-Ifta Shawky Allam called al-Aqsa Mosque “a holy site dedicated only for Muslims without any right for Jews,” according to press reports.

The chairman of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Alaa Abed, said the “Zionist Lobby” funded an HRW report on torture in Egyptian jails.

For the seventh consecutive year, authorities cancelled the Abu Hassira celebrations scheduled for January, preventing an annual Jewish pilgrimage, which in previous years had included many Israelis, to the shrine of 19th-century scholar Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hassira. The cancellation followed a 2014 administrative court decision to ban the festival permanently, stating the festival was a “violation of public order and morals” and “incompatible with the solemnity and purity of religious sites.”

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 states persons with disabilities are equal without discrimination before the law, but no laws explicitly prohibited discrimination, nor mandate access to buildings, information, communication, or transportation.

The law provides for persons with disabilities to gain access to vocational training and employment. Government policy sets a quota for employing persons with disabilities of 5 percent of workers with disabilities for companies with more than 50 employees. Authorities did not enforce the quota requirement, and companies often had persons with disabilities on their payroll to meet the quota without actually employing them. Government-operated treatment centers for persons with disabilities, especially children, were of poor quality.

The Ministries of Education and Social Solidarity share responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities rode government-owned mass transit buses without charge, but the buses were not wheelchair accessible. Persons with disabilities received subsidies to purchase household products, wheelchairs, and prosthetic devices.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits discrimination on any grounds. Nevertheless, dark-skinned Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans faced discrimination and harassment, as did Nubians from Upper Egypt.

According to the constitution, the state should make efforts to return Nubians to their original territories and develop such territories within 10 years of the constitution’s 2014 ratification.

On September 3, security forces in Aswan arrested 25 Nubians who were participating in a protest to commemorate the 2011 detention of Nubians during a sit-in. The charges against them included protesting illegally and receiving funds from foreign sources. Several of the original detainees undertook hunger strikes in protest of their continued detention, including activist Gamal Sorour, who died on November 6 after falling into a diabetic coma. The death of Sorour triggered another protest on November 9 by members of the Nubian community outside the detention facility where Sorour had been held. Authorities reportedly arrested as many as 13 protesters at the event. On November 12, a court ordered the original 24 detainees released, pending their next hearing in 2018.

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

While the law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, it allows police to arrest LGBTI persons on charges such as “debauchery,” “prostitution,” and “violating the teachings of religion” and provides for prison sentences if convicted of up to 10 years. According to a local rights group, there were more than 250 reports of such arrests since 2013. Authorities did not use antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBTI individuals. Legal discrimination and social stigma impeded LGBTI persons from organizing or advocating publicly in defense of their rights. 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. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.

There was an increase in reports of arrests and harassment of LGBTI individuals, particularly after a rainbow flag was raised on September 22, at a concert by the rock band “Mashrou Leila.” Intimidation and the risk of arrest greatly restricted open reporting and contributed to self-censorship. Rights groups and activists reported harassment by police, including physical assault and forced payment of bribes to provide information concerning other LGBTI individuals or to avoid arrest. The government has the authority to deport or bar entry to the country of LGBTI foreigners.

There were credible reports that authorities used social media, dating websites, and cell phone apps to entrap persons they suspected of being gay or transgender, a method that LGBTI advocates described as especially effective as LGBTI-friendly public spaces had largely closed during the past two years.

On September 25, police arrested seven persons for raising the rainbow flag at the “Mashrou Leila” concert. According to news reports, police also arrested a person for filming and promoting the concert on his Facebook page. By December 4, the number of arrests had risen to more than 70, including one minor. Of those arrested and convicted, 49 received sentences ranging from three months’ to six years’ imprisonment. Two detainees were released on probation and three acquitted. According to media reports, charges included “promoting sexual deviancy” and “habitual debauchery.”

On September 26, the Dokki court convicted and sentenced one man to six years’ imprisonment for practicing debauchery and being openly gay on social media. Press reports indicated the charges stemmed from police searches of LGBTI social media pages and linked the conviction to the rainbow flag incident.

Rights groups alleged that authorities, including the Forensic Medical Authority, subjected individuals detained on suspicion of debauchery to forced anal examinations.

On October 1, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation issued an order to ban all forms of promotion or sympathy toward LGBTI individuals on media outlets in addition to banning their appearance on media outlets.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV-positive individuals faced significant social stigma and discrimination in society and the workplace. The health-care system provided anonymous counseling and testing for HIV, free adult and pediatric antiretroviral therapy, and support groups.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were incidents of mob violence and vigilantism, particularly sectarian violence against Coptic Christian Egyptians. On September 14, a mob of Muslim residents of Minya’s Ezbat el-Sheikh Nageim village attacked Coptic Christians, injuring three persons and destroying several shops and vehicles. The mob also pelted a church with stones, according to press reports. Police detained 19 persons in connection with the violence. Police also charged two Coptic Christian men with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islamic leaders

El Salvador

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, and the criminal code’s definition of rape may apply to spousal rape, at the judge’s discretion. The law requires the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute rape cases whether or not the victim presses charges, and the law does not permit the victim to withdraw the criminal charge. The penalty for rape is generally imprisonment for six to 10 years. Laws against rape were not effectively enforced.

The law prohibits domestic violence and generally provides for sentences ranging from one to three years in prison, although some forms of domestic violence carry higher penalties. The law also permits restraining orders against offenders. Laws against domestic violence remained poorly enforced, and violence against women, including domestic violence, remained a widespread and serious problem.

As of October the Office of the Inspector General reported five cases of alleged rape by police officers and six cases of sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides imprisonment of up to five years if the victim is an adult and up to eight years if the victim is a minor. Courts may impose fines in addition to a prison term in cases where the perpetrator maintains a position of trust or authority over the victim. The law also mandates that employers take measures against sexual harassment, violence against women, and other workplace harassment. The law requires employers to create and implement preventive programs to address violence against women, sexual abuse, and other psychosocial risks. The government, however, did not enforce sexual harassment laws effectively.

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

Discrimination: The constitution grants women and men the same legal rights, but women did not enjoy equal treatment. The law establishes sentences of one to three years in prison for public officials who deny a person’s civil rights based on gender and six months to two years for employers who discriminate against women in the workplace, but employees generally did not report such violations due to fear of employer reprisals.

While the law prohibits discrimination based on gender, women suffered from cultural, economic, and societal discrimination. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but according to the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, the average wage paid to women for comparable work was 54 percent, down from 60 percent in 2015, of the compensation paid to men.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country and from their parents. The law requires parents to register a child within 15 days of birth or pay a $2.85 fine. Failure to register resulted in denial of school enrollment.

Education: Education is free, universal, compulsory through the ninth grade, and nominally free through high school. Rural areas, however, frequently did not provide required education to all eligible students due to a lack of resources and because rural parents often withdrew their children from school by the sixth grade, requiring them to work.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a serious and widespread problem. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. On August 17, legislators approved a ban on child marriage to prevent child abusers from using legal technicalities to avoid imprisonment.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child sex trafficking is prohibited by law. On March 29, the Legislative Assembly approved a reform to the penal code to increase prison sentences for convicted traffickers from four to eight years, to six to 10 years.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. The law classifies statutory rape as sexual relations with anyone under the age of 18 and includes penalties of four to 13 years’ imprisonment for violations.

The law prohibits paying anyone under the age of 18 for sexual services. The law prohibits participating in, facilitating, or purchasing materials containing child pornography and provides for prison sentences of up to 16 years for violations. Despite these provisions, sexual exploitation of children 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community totaled approximately 150 persons. 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 against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The National Council for Comprehensive Attention to Persons with Disability (CONAIPD), composed of representatives from multiple government entities, is the governmental agency responsible for protecting disability rights, but lacks enforcement power. According to CONAIPD, the government did not allocate sufficient resources to enforce prohibitions against discrimination effectively, particularly in education, employment, and transportation. The government did not effectively enforce legal requirements for access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. Few access ramps or provisions for the mobility of persons with disabilities existed.

According to CONAIPD, there is no mechanism to verify compliance with the law requiring businesses and nongovernment agencies to hire one person with disabilities for every 25 hires. CONAIPD reported employers frequently fired persons who acquired disabilities and would not consider persons with disabilities for work for which they qualified. Further, some academic institutions would not accept children with disabilities due to a lack of facilities and resources. No formal system existed for filing a discrimination complaint involving a disability with the government. The Ministry of Labor’s General Directorate for Labor Inspection imposed 403 fines on businesses between 2014 and 2017 for violations of the labor law that requires the hiring of persons with disabilities.

Indigenous People

According to the 2007 census, the most recent for which this data was available, 0.4 percent of citizens identified as indigenous. A 2014 constitutional amendment recognizes the rights of indigenous people, but no laws provide indigenous people rights to share in revenue from exploitation of natural resources on historically indigenous lands. The government did not demarcate any lands as belonging to indigenous communities. Because few possessed title to land, opportunities for bank loans and other forms of credit remained extremely limited.

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

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. On November 13, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced new guidelines to protect LGBTI persons from discrimination at election polls. Under the guidelines, individuals cannot be denied the right to vote because the photo on their identification card does not match their physical appearance or gender expression.

On August 30, the attorney general filed charges against eight Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members for the aggravated homicides of three transgender persons. The in-depth police investigation by a specialized unit produced credible evidence that the victims had been involved in gang-related extortion activities. On February 18, two of the victims arrived at a party in San Luis Talpa, La Paz Department, when perpetrators fired shots from a vehicle. Authorities reported that the gangs killed a third transgender victim on February 21 in Cuyultitan, in La Paz, in retaliation for her participation in the killings of the first two victims. In March the PNC assigned its High Visibility Crimes Unit to investigate the homicides of the three transgender women, and the Secretary for Social Inclusion met with activists to hear their concerns about LGBTI hate crimes. While the crimes themselves were later determined to be gang related, the government and the PDDH issued statements against hate crimes in response to concerns expressed immediately after the crimes by the LGBTI community.

A March 21 hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights focused on anti-LGBTI violence and hate crimes. One NGO told commissioners that at least 600 persons had experienced hate crimes based on their sexual orientation or gender identity since 2004. As of August 31, the PDDH had received six complaints for crimes against LGBTI persons.

NGOs reported that public officials, including police, engaged in violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons. Members of the LGBTI community stated that PNC and Attorney General’s Office personnel ridiculed them when they applied for identification cards or reported cases of violence against LGBTI persons. The NGO Association for Communication and Training of Transgender Women with HIV in El Salvador (COMCAVIS Trans) reported that, as of September, a total of 28 LGBTI persons were attacked or killed because of their sexual orientation.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of HIV/AIDS status, Entre Amigos, an LGBTI nongovernmental organization, reported that discrimination due to HIV was widespread. As of August 31, the PDDH reported one case of discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS. The Ministry of Labor reported one case of discrimination against an HIV-positive employee based on the illness in 2016.

Equatorial Guinea

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and punishable by 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment and additional fines if convicted. The law does not address spousal rape. The government did not enforce the law effectively, in part due to reluctance of victims and their families to report rape. Even when victims reported rape, police and judicial officials were reluctant to act, particularly if alleged perpetrators were politically connected.

Domestic violence is illegal. The penalty for conviction of assault ranges from one to 20 years’ imprisonment. Victims were reluctant to report cases, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Authorities treated domestic violence as a private matter to be resolved in the home. Police and the judiciary were reluctant to prosecute domestic violence cases. No statistics were publicly available on prosecutions, convictions, or punishments during the year.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality mediated some domestic disputes but had no enforcement powers. Police organized several workshops on family violence during the year. The government-controlled media regularly broadcast public service announcements regarding domestic violence.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although not widespread, levirate marriage, the practice by which a man is required to marry his brother’s widow, occurred.

Sexual Harassment: No law prohibits sexual harassment and it was a problem. The government made no effort to address the problem.

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

Discrimination: While the constitution provides for equality between men and women, the country follows the Spanish civil code that applied when the country gained independence in 1968. The code discriminates against women in matters of nationality, real and personal property, and inheritance. According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the prevalence of negative stereotypes and adverse cultural norms and customs resulted in discrimination against women..

Custom confined women in rural areas largely to traditional roles. Women in urban areas experienced less overt discrimination but did not enjoy pay or access to employment and credit on an equal basis with men (see section 7.d.).

The government provided courses, seminars, conferences, and media programs to sensitize the population and government agencies to the needs and rights of women. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality held events around International Women’s Day to raise public awareness of these rights. The ministry also provided technical assistance and financial support to rural women.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from (at least) one Equatoguinean parent whether born in the country or abroad. The Ministry of Health requires parents to register all births, and failure to register a child may result in denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education is tuition-free and compulsory until age 13, although all students are required to pay for textbooks and other materials. Most children attended school through the primary grades. Boys generally completed secondary or vocational schooling. The Ministry of Education required teenage girls to take a pregnancy test and that those who tested positive were not allowed to attend school. Domestic work and childbearing also limited girls’ access to secondary education, especially in rural areas.

Child Abuse: Abuse of minors is illegal, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Physical punishment was a culturally accepted method of discipline.

Early and Forced Marriage: There is no minimum age for marriage. Forced marriage occurred, especially in rural areas, although no statistics were available. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality operated programs to deter child marriage but did not address forced marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of sexual consent is 18. Child prostitution is illegal, but underage girls engaged in prostitution, particularly in urban areas of Malabo and Bata. Conviction of the commercial sexual exploitation of children is punishable by fines and imprisonment, but authorities generally did not prosecute offenders. The law does not 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was small, and 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 does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, nor does it mandate access to buildings or transportation for persons with disabilities (see section 7.d.). Persons with disabilities may vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, but lack of physical access to buildings posed a barrier to full participation. Inaccessible public buildings and schools were an obstacle for persons with disabilities, including some newly constructed government buildings that lacked such access.

Children with disabilities attended primary, secondary, and higher education, although no accommodations were made for their disabilities.

There were no legal restrictions on the right of persons to vote or participate in civic affairs based on their disability, but lack of access posed a barrier to full participation.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Societal discrimination, harassment by security forces, and political marginalization of minorities were problems (see section 7.d.).

The predominant ethnic group, the Fang, dominated political and economic power. Foreigners were often victimized. Documented and irregular immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Mali, Benin, Togo, Gabon, and other African countries represented a significant portion of the labor force. Officials routinely stopped foreigners at checkpoints, asked them to provide documentation, and often abused and extorted them. The government delayed its renewal of residence and work permits, leaving immigrants vulnerable to such abuse.

In public speeches President Obiang frequently referred to foreigners as a security and terrorist threat and warned of a renewal of colonialism. Reports of drunken security forces harassing and extorting foreigners at gunpoint increased, including an incident directed at foreign medical professionals and their families, whom they accused of being colonialists.

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

There are no laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct, but societal stigmatization of and discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community (LGBTI) community were problems, and the government made no effort to combat them. The government does not formally recognize the existence of LGBTI persons or groups. Its position is that such sexual orientation or gender identity was abnormal.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Despite frequent public statements and radio campaigns advocating nondiscrimination, persons with HIV/AIDS were stigmatized, and many individuals kept their illness hidden. In the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey, the most recent available, 38 percent of women and 42 percent of men surveyed reported holding discriminatory attitudes toward persons with HIV.

Eritrea

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The law does not specifically criminalize spousal rape.

The COI reported in 2015 that sexual violence against women and girls was widespread in military training camps, the sexual violence by military personnel in camps and the army amounted to torture, and the forced domestic service of women and girls in training camps amounted to forced sexual slavery. In a 2015 report, CEDAW expressed concern about reports that women in national service frequently were subjected to sexual violence, including rape.

Domestic violence is punishable as assault and battery. Authorities rarely intervened.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. Government efforts to reduce FGM/C included public awareness campaigns at the local level targeting religious and community leaders. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) worked with the government and other organizations, including the National Union of Eritrean Women and the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students, on a variety of education programs to discourage the practice.

For more information, see:

https://data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ 

Sexual Harassment: The transitional penal code does not criminalize sexual harassment. There was no record of any person ever being charged or prosecuted for sexual harassment.

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

Discrimination: Family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws provide men and women the same status and rights. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Nevertheless, women, particularly in rural areas, continued to face economic and social discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from having at least one citizen parent, whether the person is born in the country or abroad. Registration of a birth within the first three months requires only a hospital certificate. CEDAW reported that authorities registered almost all children born in urban hospitals but not those born in rural areas, where there were few hospitals. If not registered a child may not be allowed to attend school but may receive medical treatment at hospitals. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Education through grade seven is compulsory and tuition free, although students’ families were responsible for providing uniforms, supplies, and transportation. Access to education was not universal. In rural areas parents enrolled fewer daughters than sons in school, but the percentage of girls in school continued to increase.

The government requires all students who reach grade 12 to complete their secondary education at the Sawa National Education and Training Center. Some persons who attempted to leave the country did so to avoid going to Sawa because of obligatory military training and poor living conditions at the school.

Child Abuse: Local social welfare teams investigated circumstances reported to be abusive and counseled families when child abuse was evident. Child Wellbeing Committees existed at the district and community levels that provide mitigation and assistance for abused and neglected children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both men and women is 18, although religious entities may condone marriages at younger ages. Girls in rural areas were particularly at risk for early marriage. Female ministers spoke publicly on the dangers of early marriage and collaborated with UN agencies to educate the public regarding these dangers, and many neighborhood committees actively discouraged the practice. In June 2016 the government and the United Nations launched a national campaign to end child marriage in the country. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child prostitution and includes penalties relating to obscene or indecent publications. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. Penalties for conviction of the commercial sexual exploitation of children include imprisonment. Such crimes were seldom reported, and punishment was rarely applied.

Child Soldiers: The law prohibits the recruitment of children under age 18 into the armed forces. Children under age 18, however, were detained during round-ups and sent to Sawa National Training and Education Center, which is both an educational and military training school where living conditions are Spartan and health care very basic. Those who refused to attend and participate in military training were often unable to get a job.

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

Anti-Semitism

There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts, and the country’s sole remaining Jew maintained the sole synagogue.

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 and unimplemented constitution prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities, but they do not specify the types of disabilities against which discrimination is prohibited. The government implemented programs to assist persons with disabilities, especially combat veterans, and dedicated substantial resources to support and train thousands of persons with physical disabilities. No laws mandate access for persons with disabilities to public or private buildings, information, and communications. There were separate schools for children with hearing, vision, mental, and intellectual disabilities. Most of these schools were private. The government provided some support to them.. The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, including mental disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Governmental and societal discrimination was believed to continue against ethnic minorities, particularly against the nomadic Kunama and the Afar, two of nine ethnic groups in the country.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable if convicted by 10 days’ to three years’ incarceration. The government did not actively enforce this law. Antidiscrimination laws relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons do not exist.

There were no known LGBTI organizations in the country.

Estonia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and physical abuse, including domestic violence. The penalty for rape, including spousal rape, is imprisonment for up to 15 years. According to the NGO Sexual Health Union, 13 percent of women have suffered sexual abuse, including rape.

According to NGOs and shelter managers, violence against women, including domestic violence, was a problem. More than 80 percent of the victims of domestic violence registered by the police were women.

NGOs, local governments, and others could seek assistance for victims from the national government. There was a network of shelters for women, and women with children, who were victims of gender-based violence as well as hotlines for domestic violence and child abuse. Police officers, border guards, and social workers received training related to domestic and gender violence from NGOs, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Justice.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but there were reports of such harassment in the workplace. By law sexual harassment complaints may be resolved in court, before the legal chancellor, by the Labor Dispute Committee, or by the gender-equality and equal-treatment commissioner. An injured party may demand termination of the harmful activity and compensation for damages. In July the penal code was amended and sexual harassment became a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,400) or detention for up to 30 days.

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

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government generally enforced such laws. There were reports of discrimination in employment and occupation, and unequal treatment, due to gender, age, disability, and sexual preference (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives primarily from the citizenship of at least one parent. Either citizen parent may pass citizenship to a child regardless of the other parent’s citizenship status. On January 1, an amendment to the law became effective which provides that children born to parents who are not citizens of Estonia or of any other country and have lived in the country for five years, acquire citizenship at birth. Registration of births occurred in a timely manner.

Child Abuse: In 2016 approximately 89 percent of sexual crimes were committed against persons under the age of 18. The Police and Border Guard Board worked to combat child abuse, including sexual abuse. The legal chancellor acted as children’s ombudsman. Police provide training to officers on sexual abuse in cooperation with the justice, education, and social ministries and local and international organizations.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. A court may extend the legal capacity of a person at least 15 years of age for the purpose of marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. Conviction of engaging in child pornography carries punishment ranging from a fine to three years in prison. Girls are more frequently exploited than boys.

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 Parent Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered an estimated 2,500 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

A political hopeful from the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia posted a platform for 2019 European Parliament elections that included decriminalizing Holocaust denial and implementing the “correct teaching of the history of the Third Reich.” Although his statements received coverage from international media, he received only 91 votes (0.6 percent of the total votes cast in the district in which he competed) in the October local elections and was not supported by his party.

On January 27, the government held an annual memorial event on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Rahumae Jewish Cemetery in Tallinn. Schools participated in commemorative activities throughout the country. On January 27, the Ministry of Education and Research in cooperation with the foundation Unitas, the Estonian NATO Association, the Jewish community, and other organizations, sponsored a seminar for history and civics teachers from across the country to introduce them to best practices in the classroom for Holocaust commemoration.

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. The government generally enforced these provisions.

Persons with disabilities may avail themselves of government assistance in accessing information and may request individual personal assistants when necessary. The law provides that buildings constructed or renovated after 2002 must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Few older buildings were accessible, but new or renovated ones generally were. According to the legal chancellor, measures to safeguard the fundamental rights of individuals in mental health facilities remained inadequate. Problems included abusive use of physical restraints, documentation thereof, and inadequate medical care. NGOs complained that, while services typically were accessible in the capital, persons with disabilities in some rural areas had difficulty receiving appropriate care. There were reports of discrimination in occupation or employment (also see section 7.d.).

The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and local governments are responsible for the provision of social welfare services to persons with disabilities. The government implemented the Work Ability Reform, which was intended for persons with reduced working ability and whose ability to be active in the society was assessed individually. The government focused on developing rehabilitation services to improve the ability of those with disabilities to cope independently. The government also provided compensation for some additional expenses incurred by persons with disabilities.

In 2016 police recorded one case of physical abuse, which included hatred against a person with a disability.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In 2016 police registered 10 cases of physical abuse or breach of public order based on grounds that included hatred against racial/ethnic minorities; of these, three crimes had to do with race, six with religion, and one with descent.

Knowledge of Estonian is required to obtain citizenship, and all public servants and public-sector employees, service personnel, medical professionals, and other workers who have contact with the public must possess a minimum competence in the language.

Russian speakers alleged that Estonian language requirements resulted in job and salary discrimination.

In districts where more than half the population spoke a language other than Estonian, the law entitles inhabitants to receive official information in their language, and authorities respected the law.

Roma, who numbered fewer than 1,000, reportedly faced discrimination in several areas, including employment. The government took steps to emphasize the importance of education for Romani children, but their dropout rate remained high.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. While the law is not specific regarding the forms of sexual orientation and gender identity covered, the general understanding is that all are included. Advocacy groups reported that harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons remained routine.

Ethiopia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and conviction provides for a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case. The law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law.

Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of laws in this sphere was inconsistent. Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. A 2013 government report stated 50-60 percent of all women had experienced domestic violence. Depending on the severity of injury inflicted, penalties for conviction range from small fines to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but the government did not actively enforce this prohibition. It was less common in urban areas. The penal code criminalizes the practice of clitoridectomy and provides for three months or a fine of at least 500 birr ($22) for convicted perpetrators. Conviction of infibulation of the genitals (the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM/C) is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. According to government sources, there has never been a criminal charge regarding FGM/C, but media reported limited application of the law. For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Forced sexual relationships accompanied most marriages by abduction, and women often experienced physical abuse during the abduction. Abductions led to conflicts among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the victim agreed to marry the perpetrator.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes penalties for conviction of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce harassment laws.

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

Discrimination: Discrimination against women was a problem. It was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 80 percent of the population lived. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children more than five years old. Courts generally did not consider domestic violence by itself a justification for granting a divorce. Irrespective of the number of years married, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months’ financial support if a relationship ended. There was limited legal recognition of common-law marriage. A common-law husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family, and consequently women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Traditional courts continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships.

All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws also enable widows to inherit joint property acquired during marriage.

Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was limited by their lower levels of educational attainment and by traditional attitudes. There were a number of initiatives in progress aimed at increasing women’s access to these critical economic empowerment tools.

Children

Birth Registration: A child’s citizenship derives from its parents. The law requires all children to be registered at birth. Children born in hospitals were registered; most of those born outside of hospitals were not. The overwhelming majority of children, particularly in rural areas, were born at home. During the year the government initiated a campaign to increase birth registrations by advising that failure to register would result in denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The law does not make education compulsory. As a policy primary education was universal and tuition free; however, there were not enough schools to accommodate the country’s youth, particularly in rural areas. The cost of school supplies was prohibitive for many families. The most recent data showed the net primary school enrollment rate was 90 percent of boys and 84 percent of girls.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was widespread. Uvula cutting, tonsil scraping, and milk tooth extraction were amongst the most prevalent harmful traditional practices. The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013, published by the African Child Policy Forum, found the government had increased punishment for sexual violence against children. “Child friendly” benches heard cases involving violence against children and women. There was a commissioner for women and children’s affairs in the EHRC.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age of marriage for girls and boys at 18; however, authorities did not enforce this law uniformly, and rural families sometimes were unaware of this provision. The government strategy to address underage marriage focused on education and mediation rather than punishment of offenders. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 18, but authorities did not enforce this law. The law provides for three to 15 years’ imprisonment for conviction of sexual intercourse with a minor. The law provides for one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 birr ($444) for conviction of trafficking in indecent material displaying sexual intercourse by minors. Traffickers recruited girls as young as age 11 to work in brothels. Young girls were trafficked from rural to urban areas and exploited as prostitutes in hotels, bars, resort towns, and rural truck stops.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Ritual and superstition-based infanticide, including of infants with disabilities, continued in remote tribal areas, particularly in South Omo. Local governments worked to educate communities against the practice.

Displaced Children: According to a 2010 report of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, approximately 150,000 children lived on the streets; 60,000 of them were in the capital. The ministry’s report stated the inability of families to support children due to parental illness or insufficient household income exacerbated the problem. Research in 2014 by the ministry noted rapid urbanization, illegal employment brokers, high expectations of better life in cities, and rural-urban migration were adding to the problem. These children begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector. A large number of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea continued to arrive in the country (see section 2.d.).

Institutionalized Children: There were an estimated 4.5 million orphans in the country in 2012, 4.9 percent of the population, according to statistics published by UNICEF. The vast majority lived with extended family members. Government and privately run orphanages were overcrowded, and conditions often unsanitary. Institutionalized children did not receive adequate health care.

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

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 2,000 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 constitution does not mandate equal rights for persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment and mandates access to buildings but does not explicitly mention intellectual or sensory disabilities. It is illegal for deaf persons to drive.

The law prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. It also makes employers responsible for providing appropriate working or training conditions and materials to persons with disabilities. The law specifically recognizes the additional burden on women with disabilities. The government took limited measures to enforce these laws; for example, by assigning interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing civil service employees (see section 7.d.). The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Public Servants Administration Commission are responsible for the implementation of employment laws for individuals with disabilities.

The law mandates building accessibility and accessible toilet facilities for persons with physical disabilities, although without specific regulations that define accessibility standards. Buildings and toilet facilities were usually not disability accessible. Property owners are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground-floor apartments, and generally did so.

Women with disabilities faced more disadvantages in education and employment. According to the 2010 Population Council Young Adult Survey, 23 percent of girls with disabilities were in school, compared with 48 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys without disabilities. Girls with disabilities also were much more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse than were girls without disabilities.

Nationally there were several schools for persons with hearing and vision disabilities and several training centers for children and young persons with intellectual disabilities. There was a network of prosthetic and orthopedic centers in five of the nine regional states.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs worked on disability-related problems. The CSO law hindered several domestic NGOs active in supporting persons with disabilities, particularly those focused on accessibility and vocational training.

The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although continued accessibility challenges could make participation difficult. Most polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities and these individuals as well as the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers received priority.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 80 ethnic groups, of which the Oromo, at approximately 35 percent of the population, is the largest. The federal system drew boundaries approximately along major ethnic group lines. Most political parties remained primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties are coalitions of several ethnically based parties.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and conviction is punishable by three to 15 years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting was limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the investigation of abuses against LGBTI individuals. Individuals did not identify themselves as LGBTI persons due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Activists in the LGBTI community reported surveillance and at times feared for their safety. There were no reports of persons incarcerated for engaging in same-sex sexual activities.

The AIDS Resource Center in Addis Ababa reported the majority of self-identified gay and lesbian callers, most of whom were men, requested assistance in changing their behavior to avoid discrimination. Many gay men reported anxiety, confusion, identity crises, depression, self-ostracism, religious conflict, and suicide attempts.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Societal stigma and discrimination against persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS continued in education, employment, and community integration. Persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS reported difficulty accessing various services. There were no statistics on the scale of the problem.

Federated States of Micronesia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Sexual assault, including rape, is a crime. There is no specific law against spousal rape. Sexual assault involving a dangerous weapon or serious physical or psychological harm to the victim is punishable by a maximum nine years’ imprisonment in Chuuk and 10 years’ imprisonment in the other three states, and a maximum fine of $20,000 (the U.S. dollar is the national currency) in Kosrae and $10,000 in the other states. If neither a dangerous weapon nor serious physical harm is involved, the assault is punishable in all states by a maximum five years’ imprisonment and a fine. Due in part to social stigma, such crimes were underreported, and authorities prosecuted few cases. According to police and women’s groups, there were several reports of physical and sexual assaults against women, both citizens and foreigners, outside the family context.

Reports of domestic violence, often severe, continued during the year. Although assault is a crime, effective prosecution of