Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction of rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by one to 15 years’ imprisonment. Police and prosecutors were generally responsive to crimes and accusations associated with domestic violence and rape. There were 21 indictments for rape during the year. Of 13 tried, nine resulted in convictions.
Conviction of domestic violence is punishable by up to three years imprisonment. While no individuals were charged with domestic violence during the year, an undetermined number of persons were charged with related offenses (e.g., assault, murder) associated with domestic violence cases. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a problem. The Office of the Ombudsman for Gender Equality reported that police regularly detained both spouses for questioning in domestic violence cases. Support for safe houses, vocational training, and financial stipends for domestic violence victims remained limited. NGOs and local governments operated a number of shelters. Although the government financed most services, NGOs operating shelters stated funding was insufficient and irregular. Hotlines, counseling, and legal assistance were available for survivors of domestic violence but were not fully utilized by them.
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.
Reproductive Rights: The government respected the right of couples and individuals 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.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, labor, religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws and in the judicial system. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women experienced discrimination in employment and occupation (see section 7.d.).
The ombudsman for gender equality noted most individual complaints involving women were related to labor and social discrimination, followed by family violence and complaints against the judiciary. These complaints were primarily directed against state institutions and other legal persons rather than individuals. Of 404 cases received by the ombudsman in 2015, 93 were associated with domestic violence.
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. Children born in the country who would otherwise be stateless are also eligible for citizenship.
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 age 16 may marry with a judge’s written consent. While statistics were unavailable, NGOs cited early and forced marriage as a problem in the Romani community. Common law marriages between minors age 16 and older were customary and often prompted by pregnancies. In some instances, these marriages were legalized when the partners reached adulthood.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. 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.
Institutionalized Children: The government has a multiyear effort to deinstitutionalize children. In 2015 Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported mental facility patients were physically restrained, forcibly medicated, or put in seclusion rooms for prolonged periods, including children, and noted there were no official guidelines for the use of restraints by facility staff. The HRW also stated children were not required to consent to treatment if the treatment was in the child’s “best interests,” which the HRW deemed a violation of fundamental individual rights.
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.
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 increased anti-Semitism during the year.
In March spectators chanted slogans associated with the Nazi-aligned WWII-era Ustasha regime during a soccer match between Croatia and Israel. Prior to the match, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic posted a call in Facebook for spectators to “show that we are fans who love our team but respect others, and say no to racism.”
On April 22, government ministers attended the annual official commemoration at the site of the World War II-era Jasenovac death camp. Before of the event, Jewish and Serbian leaders announced they would not participate. The president of the Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities stated his group boycotted because the government was “downplaying the crimes committed” by the Ustasha regime. The Jewish community held a separate commemoration at the site, and representatives of Serbian organizations and the anti-fascists’ league also held separate commemorations. President Grabar-Kitarovic met with the representatives of Jewish, Serbian, and Romani communities to hear their concerns, and Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic issued a statement condemning the Ustasha’s crimes.
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, and the provision of other government services, but the government did not always enforce these provisions effectively.
Funding for disability-related health care was inadequate as a result of the government’s reduction of funding for programs for persons with disabilities as part of government-wide budget cuts.
While the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, building owners and managers did not always comply, and there were no 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. According to the Office of the Ombudsman for Disabilities, the lack of access for persons with disabilities reduced both their attendance and the number of schools from which they could choose. Many buildings were not wheelchair accessible, and there was a lack of sign-language interpreters for deaf persons and digital screen reading equipment for blind persons.
While constitutional protections against discrimination applied to all minorities, there was some discrimination against ethnic Serbs and Roma. According to the 2011 census, Serbs were the largest minority ethnic group in the country, accounting for approximately 4 percent of the population.
There number of reports of discrimination and hate speech against Serbs increased. On April 19, the ombudsman for human rights expressed concern regarding “a noticeably harsher rhetoric in the public arena during the election in 2015” and called for “the regular and more consistent use of powers at the disposal of police and judicial staff in the prevention and punishment of hate speech and hate crimes.” The ombudsman’s office reported that 67 individuals filed discrimination complaints based on race, ethnicity, or national identity in the first half of the year, one less than the total number of such cases filed in all of 2015.
On June 1, the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities reported “a surge in nationalism and political radicalization is having a negative impact on the enjoyment of minority rights, in particular in those areas that were heavily affected by conflict.” On August 5, singer Marko Perkovic (“Thompson”) led pro-Ustasha chants and songs during a concert commemorating the country’s Victory and Homeland Day. He and several individuals were charged with misdemeanors.
Discrimination against and the social exclusion of Roma was a problem. While 16,974 persons identified as Roma in the 2011 census, officials and NGOs estimated the Romani population numbered between 30,000 and 40,000. Roma faced widespread discrimination, including in obtaining citizenship, documentation, education, housing, and employment (see section 7.d.). According to the Council of Europe, only 6.5 percent of Roma in the country held permanent jobs.
The Government Office for Human Rights engaged Romani community leaders and NGOs in an effort to improve opportunities for Roma. Romani and pro-Roma NGOs received state and EU funding for local development projects, provision of social services, and education programs, particularly preschools and primary schools. The Government Office for NGOs provided training for Romani civil society, particularly Romani women and youth. Parliament, together with several other parliaments in Europe, proclaimed August 2 a day to commemorate World War II-era persecution of Roma, and the government funded historical research focusing on that period.
While education was free and compulsory through the eighth grade, Romani children faced serious obstacles, including discrimination in schools and a lack of family support. A high dropout rate among Roma remained a problem. In the 2015-6 school year, the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports reported 5,420 Romani children were enrolled in primary school, 394 of whom were repeating grades. Preschools and kindergartens enrolled 1,026 Romani children. The government awarded 569 high school and 21 university-level scholarships to Romani high school and university students to cover fees, transportation, and housing allowances. The Ministry of Science, Education, and Sports promoted better adoption of the Croatian language among Romani children through funding for preschool education and training for teachers. In total, the ministry spent 9,900,000 kunas ($1,520,000) on Roma-targeted education initiatives. Romani community members participated in the development of Romani-as-a-second-language curriculum.
The government promoted the employment of Roma by reimbursing two years’ salary to employers that hired Romani workers and by subsidizing self-employed Roma at a total cost of 10,835,300 kunas ($1,670,000). The government concentrated efforts to improve housing on infrastructure and legalizing unregistered residences. The Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning provided 975,000 kunas ($150,000) to legalize 671 private Romani homes in eight settlements. Romani community organizations received approximately 655,000 kunas ($101,000) in support from the National Minority Council composed of Romani community representatives. The Ministry of Culture separately provided approximately 300,000 kunas ($45,600) for Romani publications. In 2015 the government allocated 28,405.000 kunas ($4,370,000) for the implementation of the national Action Plan for Roma Inclusion, while the EU contributed another 7,787,000 kunas ($1,200,000).
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. NGOs indicated police were responsive to reported violations against LGBTI persons, but did not handle such cases in a consistent manner. Municipal prosecutors rejected criminal charges associated with LGBTI discrimination in several cases. NGOs also noted ambiguity in the penal code regarding penalties for violent behavior towards such individuals. Authorities opened 20 investigations of public incitement to violence and hatred in response to the online bullying and harassment of LGBTI persons in the first three months of the year.
LGBTI NGOs noted uneven performance by the judiciary on LGBTI discrimination cases. LGBTI activists reported that members of the LGBTI 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.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS remained a problem. The NGO Croatian Association for HIV (HUHIV) reported that some physicians and dentists refused to treat HIV-positive patients. HIV-positive individuals were eligible to receive care at a specialized infectious disease hospital in Zagreb. While HUHIV representatives acknowledged a centralized system was the best safeguard of patient privacy, it reported violations of confidentiality of persons diagnosed with HIV, with some facing discrimination including employment discrimination after disclosure of their status. There were also reports transplant centers refused to place HIV-positive patients on their lists of potential organ recipients.
HUHIV operated the Zagreb Checkpoint, a facility providing free, anonymous quick-tests to screen for HIV to improve screening for the general population. HUHIV staff assessed that official data underestimated the number of HIV-positive residents in the country. HUHIV reported that an HIV diagnosis was no longer listed on government-supplied sick leave forms, enhancing the ability of HIV-positive individuals to keep their status private.