Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and punishable if convicted by imprisonment of five to 10 years or up to 15 years if the victim is younger than age 15. A 2014 law strengthened the punishment of violence against women, including by criminalizing spousal rape. The government enforced the laws on rape if victims filed charges. From January to September, the NGO Service d’Ecoute (listening and counseling service) branch in Grande Comore recorded 84 incidents of sexual aggression against minors; statistics were unavailable regarding convictions. The NGO recorded 24 cases of sexual abuse on Anjouan and 27 cases of sexual violence against minors and the arrest of 18 alleged perpetrators on Moheli. 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 prohibits domestic violence, but courts rarely fined or ordered the imprisonment of convicted perpetrators. No reliable data were available on the extent of the problem. The government took action to combat violence against women, but women rarely filed official complaints. While women may seek protection from domestic violence through the courts, the extended family or village elders addressed most cases. 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 up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Although rarely reported due to societal pressure, such harassment was nevertheless a common problem, and authorities did not effectively enforce the laws against it.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The prevalence of modern contraceptive use among married women and girls ages 15 to 49 was approximately 16 percent in 2014, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Existing health-care resources (including personnel, facilities, equipment, and drugs) were inadequate, making it difficult for the government to respond to the health needs of the population. According to the international NGO Population Reference Bureau, skilled personnel attended approximately 62 percent of births. The UNFPA estimated maternal mortality in 2013 to be 350 deaths per 100,000 live births. A general lack of adolescent reproductive health information and services contributed to unwanted pregnancies and increased morbidity and mortality among adolescent girls. These incidents generally were not reported for social and cultural reasons. No legal barriers prevent women from receiving treatment for sexually transmitted infections, but many hesitated to do so because of social and cultural stigma.
Discrimination: The law provides for equality of persons and, in general, inheritance and property rights practices do not discriminate against, but rather favor, women. The Ministry of Health, Solidarity, and Gender Promotion is responsible for promoting women’s rights. The local cultures on Grande Comore and Moheli are traditionally matrilineal, and all inheritable property is in the legal possession of women. This cultural practice leads, at times, to what might be seen as discrimination against men in the inheritance of homes and land. Men retain the head-of-household role in society, however. Throughout the country, including on the nonmatrilineal island of Anjouan, land and homes were usually awarded to women in case of divorce or separation. 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. In urban areas growing numbers of women were employed and generally earned wages comparable with those of men engaged in similar work. Few women held positions of responsibility in business, however, outside of elite families.
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 considered a citizen unless both parents are foreigners, although these children may apply for citizenship if they had lived in the country for at least five years at the time they apply. An estimated 15 percent of children were not officially registered at birth, although many of these situations were regularized subsequently. No public services were withheld from children who were not officially registered.
Education: Universal education is compulsory until age 12, but no child may be prevented from attending school before age 14. Tuition-free education was not always available. The public education system suffered from lack of physical infrastructure, shortage of teachers, and inadequate funding for instruction. An approximately equal number of girls and boys attended public schools at the primary and secondary levels, but fewer girls graduated. Private schools supplemented public education. When families paid private school tuition, boys generally were more likely to attend school than girls.
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 their obtaining a better education. Service d’Ecoute, funded by the government and the UN Children’s Fund, 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, which investigates further, and when appropriate, submits cases for prosecution. Through July the brigade investigated 84 child abuse cases. If evidence was sufficient, authorities routinely prosecuted cases.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 years for both boys and girls. According to a 2012 government survey, 31 percent of women ages 20 to 49 married before age 18. Of women ages 20 to 24, 31.6 percent married before age 18, and 10 percent married before age 15. The Service d’Ecoute in Anjouan estimated more than 50 percent of girls under age 18 on the island were married. In the sole reported case of attempted forced marriage involving a minor, the Morals and Minors Brigade investigated the case and intervened to stop the marriage before it took place.
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. Consensual sex outside of marriage is illegal. Anyone convicted of facilitating child prostitution is subject to a prison term of two to five years and a fine of 150,000 to one million Comorian francs ($344 to $2,290). 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 prostitution 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.
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. A 2014 law mandated improved access to buildings, information, communication, education, air travel, and other transportation for persons with disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce that law. Despite the absence of appropriate accommodation for children with disabilities, such children attended mainstream schools, both public and private. On June 16, the National Assembly ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and approved a government policy on persons with disabilities for integration into the National Action Plan.
Handicap Comores, the country’s nongovernmental center for persons with disabilities, on Grande Comore, was run by local NGO Shiwe, or Pillar.
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 ($115 to $2,290). 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.
On August 11, the media reported on the humiliation, beating, and shaving of the head of a man in Domoni on Anjouan by gendarmes because they believed he was gay.