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. Families of the victim and perpetrator usually settled rape cases using the traditional justice system. Women rarely reported rape cases to law enforcement officials, and reliable statistics were not available.
Domestic violence against women was common, but few cases were reported. While the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, it prohibits “torture and barbaric acts” against a spouse and specifies penalties up to 20 years’ imprisonment for perpetrators. Rather than the courts, families and clans handled cases of violence against women. Police rarely intervened in domestic violence incidents, and the media reported only the most extreme cases, usually involving death of the victim.
The UNFD operated a walk-in counseling center (Cellule d’Ecoute) in Djibouti City that provided services and referrals for women and men. With the support of UNHCR, the UNFD also provided legal assistance to victims of sexual or gender-based violence in the refugee camps.
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 years had undergone FGM/C; in 2006 the figure was 93 percent. Infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM/C, with a prevalence of 67.2 percent, according to UNFD, continued, although with declining frequency. The law punishes perpetration of FGM/C by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million Djibouti francs (DJF) ($5,650), and NGOs could 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.
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. The media featured frequent and prominent coverage of events organized to educate the public on the negative consequences of FGM/C. According to government ministries, NGOs, and informal conversations with women, efforts by the UNFD and other groups to educate women were reportedly effective in lessening the incidence of FGM/C in the capital, changing perceptions of the practice, and empowering young girls themselves to say no to FGM/C. In collaboration with UNICEF, UNFD celebrated the Zero Tolerance Day for FGM/C in January, culminating in communities across the country and government officials declaring their support for ending FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, but anecdotal information suggested such harassment was widespread, although seldom reported. According to UNFD, there were 168 documented cases of sexual harassment in 2015.
Reproductive Rights: Couples 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. Clinics under the Ministry of Health operated freely in disseminating information on family planning. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, and a 2012 Ministry of Health survey estimated 22 percent of women of reproductive age used modern contraceptives. Misinformation about contraceptives, combined with a cultural preference for large families (between five and eight children), discouraged the use of contraceptives, especially in rural areas, where the coverage was only 12.9 percent.
The government provided childbirth services. Ninety-eight percent of childbirths in urban areas took place in health facilities, while 53 percent of childbirths in rural areas did, according to a 2012 Djibouti Family Health Survey study. The same study reported 88 percent of women received appropriate prenatal care. Although there was a large disparity between women in the capital and in rural areas, 53 percent of women received postpartum care. The UN Population Fund estimated the maternal mortality rate in 2015 at 292 deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 338 in 2001. The lack of facilities outside the capital and overall dearth of services contributed to poor maternal health outcomes.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal treatment of citizens without distinction concerning gender, but custom and traditional societal discrimination, including in education, resulted in a secondary role for women in public life and fewer employment opportunities in the formal sector. The law does not require equal pay for equal work (see section 7.d.). In accordance with sharia, men inherit a larger proportion of estates than do women. Many women owned and ran small businesses, although mostly in the informal sector, where they did not receive the same benefits or access to credit available in the formal sector. 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. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning is responsible for promoting the rights of women and conducted awareness-raising events and workshops to combat discrimination.
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 going without proper documentation. While most births in Djibouti City were ultimately registered, births in rural areas often were registered late or not at all. The birth registration fee of 2,000 DJF ($11.30) deterred some parents from registering births. Lack of birth registration did not result in denial of public services, but lack of such documentation prevented youth from completing their higher studies and adults from voting.
Education: Although primary education is compulsory, only an estimated 60 percent of children reportedly were enrolled in school. Primary and middle school are tuition free, but other expenses could be prohibitive for poor families. Although the educational system did not discriminate against girls, societal attitudes resulted in lower school enrollment rates for girls in some regions.
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, where it was considered a traditional practice rather than a problem. 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.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under 18 years old in women’s subsection above.
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 under laws prohibiting attacks on “good morals,” 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 March, which prohibits trafficking and outlines definitions distinguishing trafficking and smuggling. Contrary to the international definition of trafficking, the law requires the use of force, fraud, or coercion for a finding of child sex trafficking.
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. Children were vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation after reaching Djibouti City or the Ethiopia-Djibouti trucking corridor.
Displaced Children: More than 12, 078 children under the age of 18 years lived as registered refugees or asylum seekers in refugee camps or as urban refugees. Statistics on children living on the streets and on 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.
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 labor code prohibits discrimination in employment against such persons (see section 7.d.). Both the Ministry of National Solidarity and the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning had responsibility specifically to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Nevertheless, due to resource constraints 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; however, the law was not enforced. The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in air travel and other transportation.
Authorities held prisoners with mental disabilities separately from other pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. They received minimal psychological treatment or monitoring. Families could request to have relatives with mental disabilities who had not been convicted of any crime, but who were considered a danger to themselves or those around them, confined in prison. There were no mental health treatment facilities and only one practicing psychiatrist in the country.
Societal discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred. The National Human Rights Commission 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 governing coalition included all of the country’s major clan and ethnic groups, with minority groups also represented in senior positions. Twelve ministers were of the Afar minority group. 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 LGBTI individuals. There were no reported incidents of societal violence or discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, although this was likely due to victims being unwilling to report such abuse. Societal norms do not allow for the public discussion of homosexuality, and 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.