Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison, depending on the circumstances and age of the victim. Rape was a widespread problem. Most rape cases went unreported due to victims’ fear or shame. According to the prime minister, surveys on sex-based violence in 2010 showed that 43.2 percent of women nationwide had experienced physical violence at some point in their lives, while 28.3 percent had experienced sexual violence.
The law does not explicitly recognize spousal rape, and authorities seldom prosecuted it. Victims often sought to deal with the rape within the family or were pressured to do so, and many victims did not report spousal rape due to fear of retribution, including loss of economic support.
Domestic violence against women was reportedly widespread, although reliable statistics were not available regarding numbers of incidents, prosecutions, or convictions. Husbands commonly beat their wives.
While the law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence, a woman may sue her husband or lodge criminal charges for battery, penalties for which range from two months in prison and a fine of 10,000 CFA francs ($17) to 30 years’ imprisonment. The government tried with limited success to enforce these laws, and courts prosecuted cases of domestic violence when they received complaints. Charges stemming from family disputes often were dropped in favor of traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms. While women have the right to seek redress for violence in the customary or formal courts, few did so due to ignorance of redress offered by the legal system and fear of spousal or familial repudiation, further violence, or stigmatization. Through several events receiving widespread media coverage–such as International Women’s Day (March 8), National Women’s Day (May 13), and International Day of the Girl (October 11)–the Ministry of Women’s Promotion and Children’s Protection, international organizations, NGOs, and women’s organizations conducted public awareness campaigns on violence against women and legal recourse available to them.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, which is punishable by six months to three years in prison. If an FGM/C victim dies, the practitioner may be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. There were no reports of FGM/C perpetrated on women who were 18 and over. FGM/C was practiced on young girls, with clitoridectomy the most common form. Dangouria, a form of FGM/C found only in the country, also was common. It consisted of cutting away the hymen of newborn girls by traditional barbers known as wanzam. Certain ethnic groups–predominantly the Fulani (Peuhl) and Djerma in the west–practiced FGM/C. According to demographic and health surveys, the FGM/C rate nationwide was 2 percent in 2012, the most recent available information.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice continued of taking a “fifth wife,” or “wahaya,” in which girls and women were sold into slavery to perform labor and sexual services. Polygyny is legal and was practiced widely.
There continued to be serious stigma associated with being the descendant of a slave.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime punishable by prison sentences of three to six months and fines of 10,000 to 100,000 CFA francs ($17 to $170). If the violator is in a position of authority over the victim, the prison sentence is three months to one year and the fine is increased to 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($34 to $340). Nevertheless, sexual harassment was common. Courts enforced applicable laws in the small percentage of cases reported.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but they often lacked the information and means to do so. Information regarding reproductive rights was not readily available.
Due to a shortage of skilled health professionals and limited resources, many women used traditional midwives during childbirth and were referred to hospitals only when the mother or child suffered health complications. According to the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 30 percent of births took place in health centers, and skilled personnel attended 29 percent of births. According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) was 553 in 2015, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 20. Major factors influencing maternal mortality included lack of prenatal care, high rates of adolescent pregnancy, diseases during pregnancy, infections after birth, malnutrition, and lack of access to emergency obstetric care. According to the 2012 DHS, only 6 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 19 and 12 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. The UN Population Division estimated 13.9 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equal legal status and rights regardless of sex, women do not have the same rights as men under family law, which customary courts usually adjudicate. In customary law, legal rights as head of household typically apply only to men. Customary law does not consider a divorced or widowed woman, even with children, to be a head of household. Traditional and religious beliefs resulted in discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment (see section 7.d.), credit, pay, owning or managing a business or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. Discrimination was worse in rural areas, where women helped with subsistence farming and did most of the childrearing, cooking, water- and wood-gathering, and other work. In the absence of a formal will stating otherwise, a daughter’s share of a deceased parent’s property is half the size of a son’s share. In the east there were reports some husbands cloistered their wives and prevented them from leaving their homes unless escorted by a male relative, usually even then only after dark.
The Ministry of Women’s Promotion and Children’s Protection and the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service implemented the government policies against discrimination.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents, as long as one parent is a citizen. Birth registration, especially in remote rural areas and in nomadic communities, did not take place promptly due to parental poverty, lack of awareness, and distance from government services. With support from UNICEF, the government worked to address this problem, and several NGOs encouraged birth registration. The government’s failure to register births did not result in denial of public services, although it complicated the process of qualifying as a candidate for public office. According to the 2012 DHS, 64 percent of children under the age of five had their births registered and 29 percent had a birth certificate; percentages were significantly higher in urban areas and lower elsewhere.
Education: Six years of elementary education are compulsory, tuition free, and universal from the age of six. Students often had to buy their own books and supplies. According to the National Institute of Statistics, in 2012 the primary school completion rate for children in school was 71 percent for girls and 88 percent for boys. Many parents kept young girls at home to work, and girls rarely attended school for more than a few years.
Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were common. The law prescribes penalties for child abuse. For example, parents of minors who usually engage in begging, or any person who encourages children to beg or profits from their begging, may be sentenced to six months to one year’s imprisonment. The abduction of a minor less than 18 years of age is punishable by two to 10 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for abduction for ransom is life imprisonment.
Each district court and magistrate court had at least one judge who addressed children’s issues, including child labor. All judicial police sections at the regional and district levels may handle cases involving juveniles and refer them to judges. The government also collaborated with UNICEF and the International Labor Organization (ILO) on programs designed to improve enforcement of the law and to sensitize civil servants, parents, traditional chiefs, and other key actors to children’s rights.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law allows a girl deemed to be “sufficiently mature” to marry at age 15. Some families entered into marriage agreements under which rural girls who were 12 or even younger were sent to their husband’s families to be under the “supervision” of their mothers-in-law. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 28 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 married before the age of 15 and 76 percent married before the age of 18. According to the 2012 DHS, 36 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were first married or in union before they were 15. Prevalence of child marriage was highest in the south, in the Diffa, Zinder, Maradi, and Tahoua Regions. According to the 2012 DHS, 44.8 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 49 had given birth before they were 18 and 8.7 percent before they were 15.
The Ministry of Women’s Promotion and Children’s Protection cooperated with women’s associations to sensitize traditional chiefs and religious leaders in rural communities to the problem of early marriage. The UNFPA was working at the community level with the Association of Traditional Chiefs to raise awareness of the problem, including the risk of maternal death and disability.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information for girls under 18 in the women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although the law criminalizes the procurement of a minor for the purpose of prostitution, child prostitution was a problem. The minimum age of consensual sex is 13 for both boys and girls.
The law provides that “exploitation shall include, at minimum, slavery or practices similar to slavery” and adds that the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring, or receiving of a minor under the age of 18 for the purposes of exploitation shall be considered trafficking in persons. The penalty for violators is five to 10 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 to five million CFA francs ($850 to $8,500). If the victim is under the age of 18, the penalty is 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment. If the victim dies, the penalty is life imprisonment.
The penal code provides for two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($85 to $850) for the prostitution of children. The law prohibits “indecent” acts against victims under the age of 18. It leaves to judges to determine what constitutes an indecent act. Such activity and a related statute against “the incitement of minors to wrongdoing” are punishable by three to five years in prison. This provision also applies to child pornography. Girls, in particular, reportedly were trafficked for forced prostitution along the main East-West highway, particularly between the cities of Birni n’Konni and Zinder along the border with Nigeria. Families of victims were often complicit in child prostitution.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide occurred, and authorities incarcerated a sizeable proportion of the female prison population for this crime, which was often committed to hide pregnancies out of wedlock.
Displaced Children: Many displaced boys from rural areas were indentured to Islamic schools, where they were forced to beg on the streets of larger cities. Displaced children had access to government services. Unaccompanied migrant children transited Niger en route to Libya, Algeria, and Europe. Some unaccompanied migrant children travelled to the Djado gold fields to find work in unregulated gold mines.
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 significant 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 constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, mental, and sensory disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care, the judicial system, and other government services. The government generally enforced these provisions. The law does not specifically mention air travel and other transportation. There were no specific regulations in place mandating accessibility to buildings, transportation, and education for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities suffered from social stigma, low levels of education, and fewer job opportunities than the average citizen. The law mandates that new government buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but often architects and construction firms ignored this requirement; the law was not enforced.
Societal discrimination also existed against persons with disabilities, particularly those with mental disabilities or physical disabilities caused by leprosy. Children with disabilities attended school but faced difficulties, including a lack of adapted instruction and materials as well as with the evaluation system. There were three schools for children with hearing disabilities, one school for blind children, and five inclusive classes for blind children in mainstream public schools.
Members of the Buduma and Bororo Fulani minority ethnic groups faced governmental and societal discrimination due to a widespread perception that the two groups supported or facilitated Boko Haram’s activities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There was strong societal stigma against same-sex sexual activity, but there are no laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity in general. The law states an “unnatural act” with a person under the age of 21 of the same sex is punishable by six months to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 CFA francs ($17 to $170).
Gay men and lesbians experienced societal discrimination and social resentment. Two gay rights associations reportedly conducted their activities secretly, in part because they were not officially registered. Due to societal pressure, many LGBTI individuals married and had families, often while pursuing LGBTI relationships in secret. There were no reports of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. International organizations and NGOs continued efforts to raise awareness of LGBTI issues and the problem of social stigma.
There were no documented cases of discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation. Observers believed stigma or intimidation impeded individuals from reporting such abuse.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV/AIDS experienced societal discrimination, although strong government efforts discouraged such discrimination. In conjunction with several other organizations working on HIV/AIDS issues, the government continued its antidiscrimination campaign. The labor code provides for protection against discrimination for persons suffering from diseases such as HIV/AIDS and sickle cell anemia.