Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties for conviction of two to six years in prison; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law permits prosecution of rape only when reported by the victim, which observers noted was rare due to victims’ fear of social stigma and retribution. This problem was exacerbated in the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Fula rural eastern regions of Gabu and Bafata, where the culture dictates the resolution of such problems within the family and community. There were no statistics available on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished for rape.
Domestic violence, including wife beating, was widespread. No law prohibits domestic violence. Although police intervened in domestic disputes if requested, the government did not undertake specific measures to counter social pressure against reporting domestic violence, rape, incest, and other mistreatment of women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. Conviction of the practice is punishable by a fine of up to five million CFA francs ($8,500) and five years in prison. Muslim preachers and scholars have called for the eradication of FGM/C. The Joint Program on FGM/C of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) worked with the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the dissemination and application of the law by building the capacities of officials responsible for program implementation.
Among certain ethnic groups, especially the Fula and Mandinka, FGM/C was performed on girls from as young as age four months to adolescence. The 2014 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) reported 50 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 and 30 percent of girls ages 10-15 in the country underwent the procedure from 2002 through 2014.
In 2014, 54 percent of public health-care facilities integrated FGM/C prevention into prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services. The Ministry of Health validated and disseminated the Manual for Norms, Procedure, and Protocols on Reproductive Health in connection with FGM/C and integrated FGM/C into two other key documents, the Strategic Plan for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula and the Peer Educators’ Manual on Reproductive Health.
Sexual Harassment: There is no law prohibiting sexual harassment, and it was widespread. The government undertook no initiatives to combat the problem.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but they often lacked the information and means to do so. The UNFPA reported 114 health centers offered family planning services but that the availability of birth control services offered varied from center to center. The 2014 MICS reported 14.4 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups discouraged use of modern contraception.
According to UN estimates, the maternal mortality rate was 560 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 36. Major factors causing high maternal mortality were poor health infrastructure and service delivery as well as high rates of adolescent pregnancy. The health system’s obstetric care capacity was low, and emergency care was available only in Bissau. Emergency health care was available for the management of complications arising from abortion only in Bissau, which had the only two functioning hospitals in the country. Skilled health-care providers attended 93 percent of pregnant women at least once during pregnancy; however, skilled health-care workers attended only 44 percent of live births.
Discrimination: By law women have the same legal status and rights as men, but discrimination against women was a problem, particularly in rural areas where traditional and Islamic laws dominated. Women experienced discrimination in employment and pay, obtaining credit, and owning or managing businesses. Although urban women may manage land and inherit property, rural women in certain ethnic groups could do neither. Women performed most work on subsistence farms.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or from citizen parents. Birth registration does not occur automatically at hospitals; parents must register births with a notary. The government suspended collection of fees for registration in 2014 in an effort to improve compliance. The 2014 MICS indicated only 24 percent of children were registered before age five. Lack of registration resulted in denial of public services, including education, although authorities generally waived the requirement of a birth certificate at the primary school level. During the year UNICEF supported the Ministries of Health and Justice in establishing birth registration facilities in six hospitals around the country as well as in the Bissau-based national immunization center.
Education: Most children remained at home because schools were rarely open. Higher education did not function during the year. Even when schools were open, children in rural areas lacked educational opportunities because they often worked in family subsistence farming. Some children were partially or completely withdrawn from school to work in the fields during the annual cashew harvest.
Child Abuse: Violence against children was widespread but seldom reported to authorities. During the year a working group comprised of social workers from the Ministries of Health, Justice, and Women and Children updated a 2012 agreement to address sexual abuse of minors to clarify the respective roles and financial responsibilities of the three ministries in handling these cases.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 17. According to UNICEF, 7 percent of girls were married or in a union before age 15. Early and forced marriage occurred among all ethnic groups. Girls who fled arranged marriages often were trafficked into commercial sex. The buying and selling of child brides also occurred. There were no government efforts to mitigate the problem. Organizations such as the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund worked to provide legal, social, medical, and educational services to fight child marriage and protect its victims in some locations. Working with the NGO Tostan, 157 communities have publically declared their abandonment of child marriage since 2012. Tostan implemented its Community Empowerment Program of education and engagement on child marriage and other harmful traditional practices in partnership with the government, UNICEF, the UNFPA, and local NGOs.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Information on FGM/C is provided in the Women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: There is a statutory rape law prohibiting sex with a person under age 16. The rape law carries a penalty for conviction of two to six years in prison. There is no law against child pornography. When pedophilia and sexual harassment were reported, police typically blamed victims. Many families hid sexual abuse within the family to avoid shame and stigma.
Poverty led many parents to send their children to live with family members or acquaintances who could provide an education or better living conditions. Children in such situations often were vulnerable to rape, abuse, and exploitation.
Displaced Children: The national NGO Association of the Friends of Children estimated that up to 500 children, mostly from neighboring Guinea, lived on the streets of urban centers including Bissau, Bafata, and Gabu. The government provided no services to street children.
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 community in the country and 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 does not specifically 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 other provision of state services. The government did not counter discrimination against persons with disabilities or provide access to buildings, information, and communications. The government made some efforts to assist military veterans with disabilities through pension programs, but these programs did not adequately address health care, housing, or food needs. Provisions existed to allow blind and illiterate voters to participate in the electoral process, but voters with intellectual disabilities could be restricted from voting.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex individuals. There were no reported violent incidents or other human rights abuses targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation or identity. There was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment or access to education and health care. According to government guidelines for civil servants’ housing allowances, only heterosexual married couples qualified for family-size housing, while same-sex couples received the single person allotment. Social taboos against homosexuality sometimes restricted freedom to express sexual orientation, yet society was relatively tolerant of consensual same-sex conduct, according to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center.