Rape and Domestic Violence: Spousal abuse and other forms of violence against women were significant problems. Alcohol abuse frequently was a factor in attacks on women. Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime, with a maximum penalty of life in prison, but sentences typically were much shorter. The Te Rau N Te Mwenga Act (also referred to as the Family Peace Act), criminalizes domestic violence, and the government, in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team, continued training for police, public prosecutors, health, social welfare, education, elected officials, and NGO workers to implement this legislation effectively. The law provides for penalties of up to six months in prison for common assault and up to five years in prison for assault involving bodily harm.
While cultural taboos on reporting rape and domestic abuse and police attitudes encouraging reconciliation rather than prosecution existed, prosecutions for these crimes occurred during the year.
The government continued implementing the Eliminating Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Policy through a 10-year national action plan launched in 2011. The police force has a Domestic Violence and Sexual Offenses Unit, and unit officers participated in a capacity-building program, funded by a foreign government, that provided training in handling such cases. Police also ran a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. The Catholic Church operated a shelter for women and children in Tarawa. The Ministry of Health operated a clinic in the main hospital in Tarawa for victims of domestic violence and sexual offenses. The NGO Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) also provided domestic violence victims with counselling and referral services.
Sexual Harassment: The Employment and Industrial Relations Code 2015 prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes a A$1,000 ($760) fine for anyone found guilty of the offense. There were no official reports of sexual harassment. The Ministry of Labor was implementing a three-year Gender Access and Equality Plan to promote a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in workplaces and training institutes.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to contraception, as well as prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal care, was available from public health hospitals and centers. The KFHA also offered mobile reproductive health clinical services, undertook public campaigns, and provided information and counseling on family planning, although cultural and religious influences remained barriers to access and utilization of services. In 2013, the World Health Organization estimated that the maternal mortality ratio was 90 deaths per 100,000 live births, a decrease of more than 50 percent since 1995. Skilled health personnel attended 80 percent of live births. According to UN Population Division, an estimated 22 percent of married women ages 15 to 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in employment but not in other areas (see section 7.d.). Women have equal access to education. Property ownership rights are generally the same for men and women, but land inheritance laws are patrilineal, and sons often inherited more land than did daughters. The citizenship law contains some discriminatory provisions. For example, the foreign wife of a male citizen acquires citizenship automatically through the marriage, but the foreign husband of a female citizen does not.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth in the country, unless the child acquires the citizenship of another country at birth through a non-citizen parent. Citizenship may also be acquired through the father. The law requires registration of births within 10 days.
Child Abuse: Child abuse, both physical and occasionally sexual, and often exacerbated by chronic alcohol abuse, continued to be a serious problem. The law covers the care and protection of minors and mandates the Ministry of Women, Youth, and Social Affairs with implementing the law. The government developed the curriculum and counselling guidelines for teachers to help students. In 2015, 26 head teachers from South and North Tarawa received training in a code of ethics to promote child protection issues.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 21, or 17 with the permission of a parent or guardian. According to the Kiribati Demographic and Health Survey (2009), the median age of marriage for women was 20.1, while the median age of marriage for men was 23.6. The 2010 census estimated 9 percent of persons between the ages of 14 and 19 were married.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the procurement of any girl under 18 for the purpose of prostitution, and prohibits using a child of either gender under 15 for prostitution. In both cases the maximum penalty is two years in prison. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Sexual relations with a girl under 13 carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and sexual relations with a girl age 13 to 14 carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The victim’s consent is not a permissible defense under either provision; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was 15 or older is a permissible defense. While this provision applies only to female children, male-on-male sexual exploitation of children can be prosecuted under provisions against “unnatural” offenses (which cover both male and female persons) and acts of “gross indecency between males,” with maximum penalties of 14 and five years in prison, respectively. The penal code has no specific provision concerning child pornography.
Anecdotal information from local government and nongovernment sources suggested that a small number of underage girls were among groups of women alleged to be engaged in commercial sex with crewmembers from foreign fishing vessels. The girls reportedly received cash, alcohol, food, or goods and engaged in sexual activity with the fishermen. Sources noted that the young women engaged in this activity appeared to participate voluntarily, were not coerced into participating, and did not consider the activity to be commercial sex but rather a relationship. Sources, however, also indicated girls as young as 14 were involved in this activity and some I-Kiribati, including family members, older women, and hotel and bar workers, may have facilitated child sex trafficking by providing the girls with transportation or a meeting place with the fishermen. Others failed to alert authorities to situations of adult men engaging in sexual activity with underage girls.
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 is no permanent Jewish community, 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 does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, including in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. Public infrastructure and essential services were rudimentary and did not provide for the specific needs of persons with disabilities. Accessibility of buildings, communications, and information for persons with disabilities is not mandated, and there were no specific accommodations for persons with disabilities.
Two NGOs were the principal supports and advocates for persons with disabilities: Te Toa Matoa (Disabled Persons’ Organization) and the School for the Disabled. The school offered special elementary education classes and programs for children with disabilities from ages six to 14. Aside from this school, most children with disabilities did not have access to education. A small number of children with disabilities pursued schooling in Fiji. Seven schools in the outer islands, the teacher’s college, and the Ministry of Education headquarters were accessible for children and staff with physical disabilities.
The Ministry of Women, Youth, and Social Welfare is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual sexual conduct between men is illegal, with a maximum penalty of five to 14 years’ imprisonment depending on the nature of the offense. There were no reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons under these provisions.
No law specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no reports of societal discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were no reports of societal discrimination or violence against persons with HIV/AIDS.