Rape and Domestic Violence: Sexual assault, including rape, is a crime. There is no specific law against spousal rape. Sexual assault involving a dangerous weapon or serious physical or psychological harm to the victim is punishable by a maximum nine years’ imprisonment in Chuuk and 10 years’ imprisonment in the other three states, and a maximum fine of $20,000 (the U.S. dollar is the national currency) in Kosrae and $10,000 in the other states. If neither a dangerous weapon nor serious physical harm is involved, the assault is punishable in all states by a maximum five years’ imprisonment and a fine. Due to social stigma, such crimes were underreported, and authorities prosecuted few cases. The police academy curriculum included programs to train police officers to recognize the problem. According to police and women’s groups, there were several reports of physical and sexual assaults against women, both citizens and foreigners, outside the family context.
Reports of domestic violence, often severe, continued during the year. Although assault is a crime, effective prosecution of offenses was rare. In many cases victims decided not to initiate legal charges against a family member because of family pressure, fear of further assault, or the belief that police would not involve themselves actively in what is seen as a private family problem. The traditional extended family unit deemed violence, abuse, and neglect directed against spouses or children as offenses against the entire family, not just the individual victims, and addressed them by a complex system of familial sanctions. Traditional methods of coping with family discord were breaking down with increasing urbanization, monetization of the economy, and greater emphasis on the nuclear family in which victims were isolated from traditional family support. No institution, including the police, has succeeded in replacing the extended family system or in addressing directly the problem of family violence.
There were no governmental facilities to provide shelter and support to women in abusive situations. Chuuk has a private facility for women, funded by a foreign government. In Yap a multipurpose facility, including a shelter, was under construction. The Pohnpei Department of Public Safety’s program of domestic violence education included a hotline and training of police officers to handle domestic violence cases.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and anecdotal reports suggested it occurred.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, to manage their reproductive health short of abortion, and to have access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Access to contraception, prenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, and postpartum care was widely available through private and public medical facilities. According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality ratio was 100 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. The United Nations Population Fund estimated the prevalence of modern contraceptives was more than 30 percent of women in 2015. The government conducted public information campaigns on reproductive health through posters and billboards. Other types of local media were not readily available.
Discrimination: Women have equal rights under the law, including the right to own property, and there were no institutional barriers to education or employment for women. The largest employers were the national and state governments, and female employees received equal pay for equal work. Societal discrimination against women continued, however, and cultural mores encouraged differential treatment for women. Nonetheless, women were active and increasingly successful in private business. For example a number of women ran successful retail businesses in all four states.
Birth Registration: A child acquires citizenship if at least one parent is a citizen. Individual states maintain birth records. Kosrae State requires registration within two weeks after a birth. In the other three states, registration takes place for hospital births, but on remote outer islands, there were no hospitals, and authorities do not register children until and unless they come to a main island for education.
Education: By law education is free and compulsory for children from six through 14 years, or upon completion of eighth grade; however, many students left school before that.
Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal, although the constitution provides for a right of parental discipline. Cultural attitudes regarding parental discipline limited the reporting of abuse, and there were anecdotal reports of child abuse and neglect. The government made no efforts to combat child abuse or neglect. There were no shelters for child victims of domestic abuse. Traditional mediation usually involved agreement among male elders and did not provide support for child victims.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 years for boys and 16 years for girls, except girls younger than 16 years may marry with parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The national law against trafficking in persons sets a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment and a $50,000 fine for child trafficking. The states’ statutory rape laws apply to children 13 years or younger in Yap and Kosrae and 15 years or younger in Pohnpei. On September 23, Chuuk State passed a law increasing the age of consent to 18 years. The maximum penalties vary by state. On Chuuk and Pohnpei, it is five years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine, while on Kosrae and Yap, it is 10 years’ imprisonment and a $20,000 fine. Only Pohnpei has a statute prohibiting child pornography. Both Chuuk and Pohnpei have provisions against filming explicit movies of underage children, but Yap and Kosrae have no such provisions. Both Chuuk and Pohnpei impose a penalty of six months’ imprisonment for violations. Child trafficking anecdotally occurred in Chuuk and Pohnpei. Four cases of trafficking by family members in Pohnpei resulted in acquittals due to improper legal preparation.
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
There was no known Jewish community in the country, 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
The law prohibits discrimination in public service employment against persons with physical disabilities. No law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in private-sector employment, education, air travel and other public transportation; access to health care; or provision of other state services (see section 7.d.). Neither laws nor regulations mandate accessibility to public buildings or services for persons with disabilities, although many buildings had ramps. No policies or programs provided access to information and communications for persons with disabilities.
By law children with disabilities have the right to special education and training until they attain 21 years. There were no separate special education schools. The government provided children with disabilities, including learning disabilities, special education in mainstream schools, and instruction at home if necessary and if foreign funding was available. Funding was available, but special education programs had difficulties serving all eligible children, with transportation problems cited as one factor impeding participation.
Due to a lack of facilities and community-based support services for treating persons with mental disabilities, the government housed some individuals with mental disabilities but no criminal background in jails. Authorities continued to provide separate rooms in jails for persons with mental disabilities, and state health departments provided medication as part of their programs to provide free treatment to all residents with mental disabilities.
The Department of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities but does not provide significant services.
Each of the country’s four states has a different language and culture. Traditionally the state of Yap had a caste-like social system with high-status villages, each of which had an affiliated low-status village. In the past those who came from low-status villages worked without pay for those with higher status in exchange for care and protection by those of higher status. The traditional hierarchical social system has gradually broken down, and capable persons from low-status villages could rise to senior positions in society. Nonetheless, the traditional system affected contemporary life. Persons from low-status backgrounds tended to be less assertive in advocating their communities’ needs, and authorities sometimes continued to underserve low-status communities.
The national and state constitutions prohibit noncitizens from purchasing land, and foreign investment laws limit the types of businesses they can own and operate. The national congress grants citizenship to non-Micronesians only in rare cases. There is no permanent residency status.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. No laws prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in employment, housing, or access to education and health care. There were no reports of violence, official or societal discrimination, or workplace discrimination against LGBTI persons. The culture stigmatized public acknowledgement or discussion of certain sexual matters, including sexual orientation and gender identity. It was rare for individuals to identify themselves publicly as LGBTI persons.