Rape and Domestic Violence: The government appeared to criminalize rape, but no information was available on details of the law or how effectively it was enforced. According to the 2016 KINU white paper, the North Korean Law for the Protection of Women’s Rights includes a provision prohibiting domestic violence, but no legal provisions stipulating penalties for domestic violence. Defectors report that violence against women is a significant 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.” 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.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was not practiced in DPRK.
Sexual Harassment: Women who left the country reported that while citizens understood “sexual violation,” they did not define the term “sexual harassment” in the country. Despite the 1946 Law on Equality of the Sexes, defectors reported that the populace generally accepted sexual harassment of women due to patriarchal traditions. Defectors reported that there was little recourse for women who had been harassed.
Reproductive Rights: Obtaining accurate information regarding reproductive rights was difficult. The country’s initial report to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, submitted in 2002, claimed “family planning is mapped out by individual families in view of their actual circumstances and in compliance with laws, regulations, morality, and customs…women have the decision of the spacing of children in view of their own wish, health condition, and the like. But usually the spacing of children is determined by the discussion between the wife and the husband.” Independent sources were not able to substantiate this claim.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), a sociodemographic health survey conducted in 2014 estimated the contraceptive prevalence rate among married women was approximately 77 percent, up from 65 in 2010. The intrauterine device dominated almost all available methods of contraception. While 92 percent of demand for family planning was reportedly satisfied, contraceptive choice and access to counseling services were limited. Defector interviews indicate that those in prison camps or not in the privileged class do not share the same access as UNFPA respondents.
In 2014 more than 90 percent of pregnant women attended at least four antenatal clinic visits. While more than 90 percent of women delivered in health facilities, health infrastructure and the quality of services remain a concern. A needs assessment of emergency obstetric and neonatal care jointly undertaken by UNFPA and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2013 indicated that lower-level hospitals lacked sufficient medical instruments, equipment, and supplies. Surveyors identified a lack of knowledge and skills of health workers, as were gaps in the commodity logistics management system. The World Food Program found that 31 percent of women surveyed suffered from anemia, which increases the likelihood of maternal mortality and morbidity. A 2015 KINU survey of defectors found that 86 percent of respondents stated the family doctor system was “useless.”
The 2015 KINU white paper also cited very high levels of maternal and infant mortality. The state reportedly subjected pregnant women sentenced to detention centers following their repatriation to forced abortions.
Discrimination: The constitution states that “women hold equal social status and rights with men”; however, few women reached high levels of the party or the government. 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.
According to the KINU 2015 white paper, officials did not approve divorces without bribes.
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: We cannot confirm 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 North Korea or in neighboring countries, but then sold them into forced marriages, domestic servitude, or made to work as prostitutes after being smuggled out of the country. Other traffickers waited across the North Korean border for women and girls to cross, abducting them and forcing them into exploitative situations. Girls trapped in these relationships are routinely subjected to sexual and physical violence and rape. One trafficking survivor stated that after being sold to a man in China, she spent the first six months locked in his house and was forced to have sex with him. Despite having begged every time not to have sex, he beat her when she tried to resist.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The 2016 KINU report said there were forced abortions of pregnant midget persons, as well as testimonies of a “program of sterilization of midget persons.”
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 that 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.
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 in order to meet the international standards of rights for persons with disabilities. In the national report it presented during the May 2015 Universal Periodic Review, the government estimated persons with disabilities constituted 5.8 percent of the population.
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 Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled coordinated work with persons with disabilities countrywide. State media reported in July 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 DPRK found 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.
UNICEF noted that very high levels of malnutrition indicated serious problems for both the physical growth and psychosocial development of young children. Final results from the 2012 National Nutrition Survey estimated 475,868 children (28 percent) were stunted and 68,225 children (4 percent) acutely malnourished. The report concluded that the acute nutritional status of children had improved moderately since they last carried out a nationwide survey including nutrition indicators in 2009.
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 April 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.” In February defector Jang Yeong-jin published a memoir entitled “A Mark of Red Honor” in which he provided a first-person account of a homosexual person living in the DPRK. He noted there is no concept of homosexuality and no awareness of the issue among the populace. He could not enjoy an ordinary, regular life.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
No information was available regarding discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.