Togo is a republic governed by President Faure Gnassingbe, whom voters re-elected in 2015 in a process international observers characterized as generally free and fair. On December 20, parliamentary elections took place under peaceful conditions. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) considered them reasonably free and transparent, despite a boycott by the opposition. On December 31, the country’s Constitutional Court announced the ruling Union for the Republic party (UNIR) won 59 of 91 seats; the government-aligned party, Union of Forces for Change (UFC), won seven seats; independent candidates aligned with the government and smaller parties split the remaining 25 seats.
Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers; criminal libel; interference with freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; violence against women and inadequate government efforts to investigate, prosecute, or otherwise hold perpetrators accountable; criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct; trafficking in persons; and forced child labor.
The government took limited steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses. Impunity was a problem.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often met with human rights groups and participated in NGO-sponsored public events but typically were not responsive to NGO recommendations.
Government Human Rights Bodies: A permanent human rights committee exists within the National Assembly, but it did not play a significant policy-making role or exercise independent judgment. The National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) is the government body charged with investigating allegations of human rights abuses. CNDH representatives visited prisons, documented prison conditions, and advocated for prisoners, especially those in need of hospital medical attention. The CNDH also provided training in the preparation and submission of cases for investigation and redress.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but authorities did not generally enforce it effectively. The law does not specifically address domestic violence. The law provides for five to 10 years’ imprisonment for conviction of rape and a fine of two million to 10 million CFA francs ($3,610 to $18,050). Conviction of spousal rape is punishable by up to 720 hours of community service and a fine of 200,000 to one million CFA francs ($361 to $1,805). A prison term for conviction of 20 to 30 years applies if the victim is younger than age 14, was gang raped, or if the rape resulted in pregnancy, disease, or incapacitation lasting more than six weeks. Neither the government nor any group compiled statistics on the incidence of rape or arrests for rape.
Domestic violence against women was widespread. Police generally did not intervene in abusive situations, and many women were not aware of the formal judicial mechanisms designed to protect them. Although there were no official efforts to combat rape and domestic violence, several NGOs actively educated women on their rights.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for girls and women. According to UNICEF data, FGM/C had been performed on 5 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49. The most common form of FGM/C was excision, usually performed a few months after birth.
Penalties for those convicted of FGM/C range from five to 10 years’ imprisonment as well as substantial fines; repeat offenders face longer sentences. The law was rarely enforced, however, because most cases occurred in rural areas where awareness of the law was limited or traditional customs among certain ethnic groups took precedence over the legal system. The practice was most common in isolated Muslim communities in the sparsely populated Central Region.
The government sponsored educational seminars on FGM/C. Several domestic NGOs, with international assistance, organized campaigns to educate women on their rights and on how to care for victims of FGM/C. NGOs also worked to create alternative labor opportunities for former FGM/C perpetrators.
For more information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem. While the law states harassment is illegal and may be prosecuted in court, no specific punishment for conviction is prescribed, and authorities did not enforce the law.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Discrimination: Although by law women and men are equal, women experienced discrimination in education, pay, pension benefits, inheritance, and transmission of citizenship (see section 6, Children). In urban areas women and girls dominated market activities and commerce. Harsh economic conditions in rural areas, where most of the population lived, left women with little time for activities other than domestic tasks and agricultural fieldwork. While the formal legal system supersedes the traditional system, it is slow, distant, and expensive to access; rural women were effectively subject to traditional law.
There are no restrictions on women signing contracts, opening bank accounts, or owning property. Women did not experience formal-sector economic discrimination in access to employment, credit, or managing a business. By traditional law a wife has no maintenance or child support rights in the event of divorce or separation. The formal legal system provides inheritance rights for a wife upon the death of her husband. Polygyny was practiced and recognized by formal and traditional law.
Birth Registration: According to the constitution, citizenship is derived either from birth within the country’s borders or, if abroad, from a Togolese parent. Conflicting nationality laws, however, discriminated against women. While the constitution provides that a child born of one citizen parent, be it the father or the mother, is a citizen, the nationality code states that a woman may pass her nationality to a child only if the father is stateless or unknown. The child code, however, has gender-neutral nationality provisions that conflict with the nationality code. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Authorities registered and issued birth certificates to approximately 80 percent of children, but the percentage was lower in rural areas. Birth certificates are required to obtain an identity card, which is needed to enroll in school, inherit or buy property, and travel outside the country.
Education: School attendance is compulsory for boys and girls until age 15, and the government provides tuition-free public education from nursery through primary school. Parents must pay for books, supplies, uniforms, and other expenses. There was near gender parity in primary school attendance. Girls were more likely than boys to complete primary school but less likely to attend secondary school.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a widespread problem. While there is no statutory rape law, by law the minimum age of consensual sex is 16 for both boys and girls. The government worked with local NGOs on public awareness campaigns to prevent exploitation of children.
The government maintained a toll-free telephone service for persons to report cases of child abuse and to seek help. The service provided information on the rights of the child and legal procedures and access to social workers who could intervene in emergencies. The government worked with UNICEF to train teachers on children’s rights and included human rights education in elementary school curricula.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal ages for marriage are 18 for girls and 20 for boys, although both may marry at younger ages with parental consent. For additional information, see Appendix C.
The government and NGOs engaged in a range of actions to prevent early marriage, particularly through awareness raising among community and religious leaders. The Ministries of Education, Gender, and Health led development of the National Program against Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. Multiple initiatives focused on helping girls stay in school. Messages broadcast through mass media, particularly local radio, stressed avoiding early marriage and the importance of educating girls. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides penalties for those convicted of between one and five years’ imprisonment and fines of 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($180 to $1,805). For conviction of violations involving children younger than age 15, prison sentences may be up to 10 years. The law was not effectively enforced. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 for boys and girls.
The law prohibits child pornography and penalties for conviction are five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The government conducted a survey and assessment of reports of child sex tourism in 2013 as part of its effort to address the problem of minors subjected to prostitution, but it had yet to release its findings.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
There is 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 physical, mental, intellectual, and sensory disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. The law does not mandate accessibility to public or private facilities for persons with disabilities, although some public buildings had ramps. Children with disabilities attended schools at all levels, with some attending schools specifically for those with disabilities. Information regarding possible abuse in these facilities was unavailable. The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and participate in civic affairs, although lack of accessible buildings and transportation posed barriers.
The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Social Action, Women’s Promotion, and Elimination of Illiteracy were responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Action, Women’s Promotion, and Elimination of Illiteracy held awareness campaigns to fight discrimination and promote equality; it also distributed food and clothing and provided skills training to persons with disabilities.
Northern ethnic groups, especially the Kabye tribe, dominate the civil and military services, while southern ethnic groups, especially the Ewe, dominate the private commercial sector. Relative dominance was a recurring source of political tension.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The penal code prohibits “acts against nature committed with an individual of one’s sex,” widely understood as a reference to same-sex sexual activity. The law provides that a person convicted of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity may be sentenced to one to three years’ imprisonment and fined one million to three million CFA francs ($1,805 to $5,415), but the law was not enforced. On those occasions when police arrested someone for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity, the charge was usually for some other violation as justification for the arrest, such as disturbing the peace or public urination. The media code forbids promotion of immorality. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced societal discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. Existing antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTI persons. No laws allow transgender persons to change gender markers on government-issued identity documents.
LGBTI groups could register with the Ministry of Territorial Affairs as health-related groups, particularly those focused on HIV/AIDS prevention. Activists reported violence against LGBTI persons was common, but police ignored complaints. Most human rights organizations, including the CNDH, refused to address LGBTI concerns.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS, and the government sponsored broadcasts aimed at deterring discrimination. Persons infected with HIV/AIDS, nonetheless, faced some societal discrimination, including reports of family members refusing to share eating utensils with infected persons.