Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and punishable by 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment and additional fines. The law does not address spousal rape. The government did not enforce the law effectively, in part due to reluctance of victims and their families to report rape. Even when victims reported rape, police and judicial officials were reluctant to act, particularly if alleged perpetrators were politically connected.
Domestic violence is illegal but culturally accepted in some societal groups. Depending on severity and circumstances, the penalty for assault ranges from one to 20 years’ imprisonment. Local NGOs reported the problem was widespread. Victims were reluctant to report cases, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Police and the judiciary were reluctant to prosecute domestic violence cases, and no statistics were publicly available on prosecutions, convictions, or punishments during the year. Authorities treated domestic violence as a private matter to be resolved in the home. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality mediated some domestic disputes but had no enforcement powers.
On occasion police organized workshops on family violence. Government-controlled media refused to broadcast public service announcements produced by a local NGO about domestic violence.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although not widespread, levirate marriage, the practice by which a man may be required to marry his brother’s widow, resulted in discrimination against women and girls.
Sexual Harassment: No law prohibits sexual harassment, and NGOs reported it was a problem, although the extent of the problem was unknown. There were no government efforts to address sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly 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. Contraceptives were distributed free of charge.
According to the UN Population Fund, in 2015 the maternal mortality rate was 342 per 100,000 live births; in 2013 the rate was 290. Some prenatal and obstetric care was free in government clinics, but the availability and quality of care varied greatly and was limited primarily to Malabo and Bata, the two main cities.
Discrimination: While the constitution provides for equality between men and women, the country applies the Spanish civil code as it was when Equatorial Guinea adopted it upon gaining independence in 1968. The code discriminates against women in matters of nationality, real and personal property, and inheritance. According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the prevalence of negative stereotypes and adverse cultural norms and customs resulted in discrimination against women. Lack of legislation regulating traditional marriages and other aspects of family law also permitted discrimination against women, particularly with respect to polygyny, inheritance, and child custody.
Custom confined women in rural areas largely to traditional roles. There was less overt discrimination in urban areas, although women sometimes experienced discrimination in access to employment and credit and did not always receive equal pay for similar work (see section 7.d.).
The government provided courses, seminars, conferences, and media programs to sensitize the population and government agencies to the needs and rights of women. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality held events around International Women’s Day to raise public awareness of these rights. The ministry also provided technical assistance and financial support to rural women.
Both the civil code and traditional Fang law favor men over women in real and personal property rights and inheritance. Under Fang law women become members of the husband’s family and do not have any rights to inheritance. Primogeniture is applied to traditional inheritance, with the oldest male child receiving the inheritance. Under Bubi traditional law, which favors women, children belong to the woman’s family. Like Fang women, Bubi women become members of their husbands’ families upon marriage, but Bubi women remained the main inheritors of property. Such differences between traditional Bubi and Fang law impeded the passage of a unified family law code.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The Ministry of Health requires parents to register all births, and failure to register a child may result in denial of public services. Nevertheless, most citizens were unaware of the importance of birth registration. Birth registration was low, and the mechanisms for birth registration very limited. Civil registry officials were poorly trained and often took bribes to accelerate the issuance of certificates or to falsify information. In rural areas most of the registry offices did not have computers and relied on manual registration. Certificate issuance could take from one day to a few weeks depending on the amount paid for the process. On average the official cost per certificate, either for initial issuance or for reissuance, was 8,000 CFA francs ($14). Bribes ranged from 5,000 CFA francs ($9) to 30,000 CFA francs ($51). UNICEF, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, held a workshop in July 2015 to train civil registry officials on birth registration procedures.
Education: Education is tuition-free and compulsory until age 13, although all students are required to pay for textbooks and other materials. The overwhelming majority of children attended school through the primary grades. Boys generally completed an additional seven years of secondary school or attended a program of vocational study after primary education. Domestic work and childbearing limited secondary education attendance for many girls in rural areas. During the year the Ministry of Education ordered that all teenage girls who enroll in school must first take a pregnancy test and that those who tested positive would not be allowed to attend school.
Child Abuse: Abuse of minors is illegal, but the government did not enforce the law effectively, and child abuse occurred. Physical punishment was a culturally accepted method of discipline.
Early and Forced Marriage: There is no minimum age for marriage. Forced marriage occurred, especially in rural areas, although no statistics were available. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Gender Equality operated programs to deter child marriage but did not address forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child prostitution is illegal, but underage girls engaged in prostitution, particularly in urban centers such as Malabo and Bata, where oil and construction industries created demand for cheap labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The commercial sexual exploitation of children is punishable by fines and imprisonment, but authorities generally did not enforce the law. The law does not address child pornography. The minimum age for sexual consent is 18.
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.
The Jewish community was small, and there were no known 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 law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services, nor does it mandate access to buildings or transportation for persons with disabilities (see section 7.d.). Inaccessible public buildings and schools were an obstacle for persons with disabilities, and some newly constructed government buildings lacked such access.
Children with disabilities attended primary, secondary, and higher education, although no accommodations were made for their disabilities. The local Red Cross, with financial support from the government, managed a school for deaf children in Malabo. A privately run school for deaf children affiliated with a foreign religious group operated in Bata.
Two privately funded mental health clinics offered limited services in Bata. A private mental health facility, funded primarily by the Ministry of Health, operated in Malabo.
In 2015 an Office of Disabilities and the Elderly was created within the Department of Human Rights. The national social security program assists workers with disabilities, and the national health-care system provided some wheelchairs and promoted government employment for persons with physical disabilities. The first lady, through her personal civil society organization, also provided wheelchairs and assistance to persons with disabilities. In May 2015 a seminar of the National Organization of the Blind of Equatorial Guinea focused on improving conditions of persons with vision disabilities, including increasing employment opportunities.
There were no legal restrictions on the right of persons to vote or participate in civic affairs based on their disability, but lack of access posed a barrier to full participation.
Societal discrimination, harassment by security forces, and political marginalization of minorities were problems (see section 7.d.).
The predominant ethnic group, Fang, continued to dominate political and economic power. Foreigners were often victimized. Irregular immigrants from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Mali, Benin, Togo, Gabon, and other African countries represented a significant and growing portion of the labor force. Officials routinely stopped foreigners at checkpoints, asked them to provide documentation, and often abused and extorted them. The government delayed its renewal of residence and work permits, leaving immigrants vulnerable to such abuse.
In public speeches President Obiang frequently referred to foreigners as a security threat and warned of a new period of colonialism. Reports of drunken security forces harassing and extorting foreigners at gunpoint increased, including an incident directed at foreign medical professionals and their families, whom they accused of being colonialists.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There are no laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct, but societal stigmatization and discrimination against the LGBTI community were problems, and the government made no effort to combat it. There are no specific legal impediments to LGBTI organizations, but none existed at year’s end, due mainly to societal stigma. The official government position was that no LGBTI persons were present in the country and that such sexual orientation or gender identity was abnormal. Observers believed such stigma prevented the reporting of incidents of abuse.
There were, however, no publicized incidents of official discrimination against LGBTI persons. In what might indicate more government and public tolerance toward LGBTI individuals, in June a local organization held a weeklong series of events on LGBTI issues. Speakers flown in from abroad gave lectures, workshops, film screenings, and television and radio interviews on government-controlled stations. All activities during the week were well attended and covered by local media, with no reported violence or societal backlash.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Despite frequent public statements and radio campaigns advocating nondiscrimination, persons with HIV/AIDS were stigmatized, and many individuals kept their illness hidden. In the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey, the most recent available, 38 percent of women and 42 percent of men surveyed reported holding discriminatory attitudes toward persons with HIV.
During the year the president removed the minister of HIV/AIDS, a position created in 2015, and replaced him with the minister of health. The Ministry of Health provided free HIV/AIDS testing and treatment and supported public information campaigns to increase awareness of health risks, availability of testing, and the importance of practicing safe sex.