Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence. Rape is punishable with penalties of up to 22 years in prison. The criminal code includes spousal rape under crimes against sexual and reproductive integrity. The penalty for rape where death occurred is from 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment.
A 2011 government study found that 60 percent of women suffered from gender-based violence at some point during their lifetimes. Rates of abuse were highest among indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian communities. On August 15, citing figures from the Coordinating Ministry of Security, El Comercio newspaper stated that 2,368 sexual attacks were reported between January and July, compared with 2,803 attacks during the same period in 2015.
According to local experts, reporting rapes and other forms of violence continued to be a traumatic process, particularly for female minors. For example, a rape victim must file a complaint at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the victim must submit to gynecological evaluations akin to rape kits administered by medical experts. Many individuals did not report cases of rape and sexual assault because of the victims’ fear of retribution from the perpetrator or social stigma.
Domestic violence is punishable with penalties ranging from four days to seven years in prison. The law provides penalties for physical violence, psychological violence, and sexual violence. According to the law, a prosecutor must investigate the victim’s complaint of domestic abuse before issuing a restraining order. There were reports that in some cases victims waited 10 days or more for a response from the Prosecutor’s Office. According to the law, domestic violence may be punished with a fine for “damages, pain, and suffering” ranging from $350 to $5,300, depending on the severity of the crime. The law also gives family courts the power to remove an abusive spouse from the home if continued cohabitation creates a risk to the victim of abuse. The law requires public hospitals to provide “first reception halls” to handle cases of sexual violence and domestic violence. The specialized halls–under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and staffed by physicians, psychologists, and social workers–offer immediate attention to the victim. The Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion, together with some local and provincial governments and NGOs, also provides psychosocial services to victims of sexual and domestic violence. The ministry subsidizes shelters and other initiatives, including medical services at care centers and private clinics. The ministry does not publish public data on the number of shelters it funds, which were primarily located in the largest cities. According to NGO Fundacion Maria Amor, as of March there were five shelters nationwide for women who had suffered violence. Several women’s rights organizations stated that the government did not have the resources to support victims of sexual and domestic violence. Fundacion Maria Guare reported that the city of Guayaquil, with a population of more than three million, had only one shelter for abused women and children, with a capacity for 40 persons.
Based on 2016 statistics, there were 50 judicial units and 78 courts specializing in gender-based violence. The judicial units have responsibility for collecting complaints and assisting victims may order arrest warrants for up to 30 days of detention against the aggressor. The units forward serious abuse cases to prosecutors for criminal prosecution. Human rights activists stated that 16,000 cases of domestic violence were pending in the court system. They argued that the court system was not sufficiently staffed to deal with the caseload and that judges lacked specialized training for dealing with gender-based violence.
Sexual Harassment: The criminal code criminalizes sexual harassment and provides penalties of three to five years in prison. Despite the legal prohibition of sexual harassment, women’s rights organizations described harassment in public spaces as common. There were reports of sexual harassment on public transportation.
Reproductive Rights: The law acknowledges the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Some women’s rights activists complained of the lack of formal sexual education, the ineffective distribution of birth control, and the social stigma that discouraged women from seeking family planning services.
Discrimination: The constitution affords women the same legal status and rights as men. The law also provides that the government should formulate and implement policies to achieve gender equality, incorporate a gender focus into plans and programs, and provide technical assistance to implement the law in the public sector. Nevertheless, discrimination against women was prevalent, particularly with respect to economic opportunities for older women and for those in the lower economic strata. According to a government study published in March 2015, women’s average monthly income was $444, compared with men’s average monthly income of $548.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired through birth in the country, birth to an Ecuadorian mother or father abroad, or by naturalization. In 2013 a study by the vice presidency revealed that 5.5 percent of the population were not registered at birth. According to 2014 statistics, ethnic minority families with limited economic resources continued to show registration rates significantly lower than those of other groups. Government brigades traveled to remote rural areas to register families and persons with disabilities. While the law prohibits schools from requesting civil registration documents for children to enroll, some schools, mostly public schools, continued to require them. Human rights organizations reported that the problem particularly affected refugee children. Other government services, including welfare payments and free primary health care, require some form of identification.
Education: According to the constitution, education is obligatory through ninth grade and free through 12th grade. Nonetheless, costs for school-related items, such as uniforms and books, as well as a lack of space in public schools, continued to prevent many adolescents from attending school. In some provinces children were assigned to schools outside their neighborhood, and school buses were not made available.
Child Abuse: According to 2015 figures from the Office of the Public Prosecutor, family members of the victim perpetrated the sexual abuse in 98 percent of the cases. Police estimated that more than 40 percent of child abuse cases were not reported to authorities. According to media reports, one in four children suffered sexual violence in 2013. A 2013 study by Plan International found that 69 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 15 were victims of violence. NGOs reported that children living in the streets or in rural parts of the country, many from poor indigenous families, suffered from exploitative conditions.
Bullying remained a problem in schools and increasingly occurred on social media.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18. In June 2015 a procedural code went into effect that repeals provisions that had allowed marriage before the age of 18, with the exception that legally emancipated minors can marry at age 16.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, with penalties of 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment. The age of consent is 14. The penalty for commercial sexual exploitation of children under the age of 18 is 13 to 16 years in prison. Commercial sexual exploitation of minors remained a problem, despite government enforcement efforts.
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.
There was a small Jewish community, including an estimated 250 families in Quito and 120 families in Guayaquil, according to local synagogues. Isolated instances of anti-Semitism occurred. In September the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Worship sanctioned the director and chief of security of the Quito Provisional Detention Center for allowing the use of an official stamp with a Nazi swastika for visitors entering the facility. The ministry condemned the use of any offensive symbol that could compromise one’s human rights.
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, or the provision of other government services. The National Council on Disability Equality oversees government policies regarding persons with disabilities. Although the law mandates access to buildings and promotes equal access to health, education, social security, employment, transport, and communications for persons with disabilities, the government did not fully enforce it. The law requires that 4 percent of employees in all public and private enterprises with more than 25 employees be persons with disabilities.
The law grants persons with disabilities the right to cost and fee reductions from several public and private entities, including utilities, transportation, and taxes. It also stipulates rights to health facilities and insurance coverage, increases access and inclusion in education, and creates a new program for scholarships and student loans for persons with disabilities. In 2015 the government-owned newspaper El Telegrafo cited a study by the Technical Secretariat for the Inclusive Management of Disabilities that 65 percent of persons with disabilities finished primary education and 7 percent pursued university studies. The law provides for special job security for those with disabilities or those who care for a person with disabilities, and it entitles employees who acquire a disability to rehabilitation and relocation. A national system evaluates and registers persons with disabilities. Many of the benefits in the law are transferable to a parent or primary caregiver. The law also gives the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman responsibility for following up on alleged violations of the rights of persons with disabilities and stipulates a series of fines and punishments for lack of compliance with the law.
Advocates for persons with disabilities reported procedural regulations that went into effect in 2013 reduced coverage, protection, and the legal recognition of some persons with disabilities. For example, individuals with disabilities considered less inhibitive–those that restrict their capacity to perform less than 40 percent of essential everyday activities–lost access to certain economic benefits, including subsidized health care, home loans, special retirement and disability payments, and reduced fees in utility services. Advocates for persons with disabilities noted that the regulations contradicted labor laws, which require companies with at least 25 employees to hire persons with disabilities that restricted their capacity to perform less than 30 percent of essential everyday activities. Citing official figures, they argued that the 2013 regulations could affect access to economic benefits for up to 98,000 persons with disabilities of between 30 and 39 percent.
The government continued a campaign to create jobs for persons with disabilities, provide funding to municipalities to improve access to public buildings, and open training and rehabilitation centers. The initiative also monitored the degree of compliance by companies that hire persons with disabilities. The caregivers of persons with more significant disabilities received a monthly government subsidy of $240. The Technical Secretariat for Disabilities reported that between 2010 and 2014, there were 353,000 persons with disabilities registered, and 73,500 were incorporated into the labor market. According to a government study, the poverty rate for persons with disabilities fell from 42 percent in 2006 to 28 percent during the year.
The law directs the electoral authorities to provide access to voting and to facilitate voting for persons with disabilities, and international observers commended the government’s accommodations for persons with disabilities in the 2014 local elections. The CNE initiated a program to allow in-home voting for those with more significant disabilities.
The constitution declares the state to be plurinational and affirms the principle of nondiscrimination by recognizing the rights of indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, and Montubio (an independent ethnic group of persons with a mixture of Afro-Ecuadorian, indigenous, and Spanish ancestry) communities. It also mandates affirmative action policies to provide for the representation of minorities. In 2009 the government began implementing a national plan to eradicate racial discrimination and exclusion based on ethnic and cultural differences.
Afro-Ecuadorian citizens, who accounted for approximately 7 percent of the population according to the 2010 census, suffered pervasive discrimination, particularly with regard to educational and economic opportunity. Afro-Ecuadorian organizations noted that, despite the absence of official discrimination, societal discrimination and stereotyping in media continued to result in barriers to employment, education, and housing. Afro-Ecuadorians continued to assert that police stopped them for document checks more frequently than they stopped other citizens.
The constitution strengthens the rights of indigenous persons and recognizes Kichwa and Shuar as “official languages of intercultural relations.” The law provides indigenous persons the same civil and political rights as other citizens. The constitution grants indigenous persons and communities the right to prior consultation before the execution of projects that affect their rights. It also provides for their right to participate in decisions about the exploitation of nonrenewable resources located on their lands and that could affect their culture or environment. The constitution also allows indigenous persons to participate in the economic benefits that natural resource extraction projects may bring and to receive compensation for any damages that result.
In the case of environmental damage, the law mandates immediate corrective government action and full restitution from the responsible company, although some indigenous organizations asserted a lack of consultation and remedial action. The law recognizes the rights of indigenous communities to hold property communally, although the titling process remained incomplete in parts of the country.
Indigenous groups continued to challenge government decisions and laws covering mining, water resources, and hydrocarbon resources that did not consider indigenous viewpoints, their right to prior consultation, or intruded upon indigenous autonomy over their lands and resources. On July 11, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concerns over reports that the government granted natural resource concessions in indigenous territories without prior consultation and the potential negative impact of natural resource exploitation projects on indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.
On August 11, the criminal court of Morona Santiago sentenced indigenous leader Tomas Jimpikit, president of the Shuar Bomboiza Association, to one year in prison for paralyzing public services during a social protest on August 14, 2015. Five other individuals were found not guilty. On that same day, human rights organizations and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) reported that police and military forcibly evicted residents of indigenous community Shuar Nankints, in the province of Morona Santiago, in relation to a mining project. On November 21, Minister of Interior Diego Fuentes reported that Shuar members attacked a Chinese-owned mining camp in the southern Amazon region of Morona Santiago. Fuentes announced that charges of attempted murder would be brought against those involved in the attack. President Correa denounced the violence and stated that 14 police officers were injured, one critically. CONAIE and CEDHU called on the interior and defense ministries to halt incursions by security forces into Shuar communities to avoid further bloodshed. The Ministry of Defense rejected allegations by CONAIE that soldiers attacked the Shuar Nankints community and killed two Shuar.
On December 14, Coordinating Minister of Security Cesar Navas announced a 30-day state of emergency in the Amazon province of Morona Santiago, declaring that a police officer died during an attack by “illegal armed groups.” On December 14, members of the Shuar community ‘Nankints attacked police officers and military who were patrolling the mining camp La Esperanza in Morona Santiago Province, killing one police officer and injuring five other police officers and two servicemen. The Shuar attack followed months of militarization of canton San Juan Bosco and police and military forcibly evicting the indigenous community from their ancestral territory to facilitate the establishment of Chinese company Explorcobres S.A. mining project. Human rights organizations and indigenous confederations stated that the government carried out the evictions without respecting the constitutional rights of indigenous communities, such as the right to consultation prior to the prospection, exploitation, and commercialization of nonrenewable resources located in their ancestral land.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The constitution includes the principle of nondiscrimination and the right to decide one’s sexual orientation as a right. The law also prohibits hate crimes. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, LGBTI persons continued to suffer discrimination from both public and private bodies, particularly in education, employment, and access to health care. LGBTI organizations reported that transgender persons suffered more discrimination because they were more visible. A study by the National Statistics Institute in 2013 on LGBTI persons’ social inclusion and rights found that 66 percent of transgender individuals suffered violence in public spaces.
In December 2015 the National Assembly approved a law on identity and civil data that enables individuals above the age of 18 to choose if they want to include their sex or gender on their government-issued identity cards. On August 3, the regulation allowing individuals to select gender on their identity cards entered into force. During the year the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations and the CNE met to define actions that would protect transgender voters from discrimination during the February 2017 national elections
The government, led by the human rights ombudsman, was generally responsive to concerns raised by the LGBTI community. Nevertheless, LGBTI groups claimed police and prosecutors did not thoroughly investigate deaths of LGBTI individuals, including when there was suspicion that the killing was because of sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI activists reported that law enforcement agencies had only resolved approximately 30 percent of the murder cases they had presented to authorities during the year. According to Silueta X, a Guayaquil-based NGO, transgender women were particularly vulnerable to violence motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI advocates estimated only 33 percent of cases involving violence due to sexual orientation or gender identity were reported to police and only one-third of reported cases were processed through the legal system. They noted that authorities had started to recognize these crimes as hate crimes.
LGBTI persons continued to report that the government sometimes denied their right of equal access to formal education. LGBTI students, particularly in the transgender community, sometimes were discouraged from attending classes (particularly in higher education). A 2015 UNESCO report stated that 25 percent of LGBTI students had been excluded from school activities because of their sexual orientation, while 26 percent had suffered physical violence during their studies. In June a representative in the office of equal opportunities at the University of Cuenca reported to media that she received 15 complaints from LBGTI students who had suffered discrimination during the previous quarter. LGBTI students, particularly transgender individuals, were more susceptible to bullying in schools, but human rights activists argued that the Ministry of Education and school administrators were slow to respond to complaints. The LGBTI population involved in the commercial sex trade reported abusive situations, extortion, and mistreatment by security forces.
LGBTI organizations and the government continued to report that private treatment centers confined LGBTI persons against their will to “cure” or “dehomosexualize” them, although such treatment is illegal. The clinics reportedly used cruel treatments, including rape, in an attempt to change LGBTI persons’ sexual orientation. According to a local LGBTI organization, law enforcement officials closed at least two such clinics in Guayaquil during the year.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The constitution specifically prohibits discrimination directed at persons with HIV/AIDS. There was limited societal violence against such persons. NGOs reported, however, that individuals with HIV/AIDS complained that they experienced discrimination, including in equal employment opportunities and access to appropriate health care. Civil society organizations criticized a lack of coordination between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, and local government institutions. They noted that testing centers existed but estimated that only 10 percent of persons with HIV/AIDS had been tested.