Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or sexual assault. If the victim is a minor, the sentence ranges from a minimum of three years to 15 years in prison. According to the Attorney General’s office, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and sometimes obtained convictions; however, it is believed many rapes went unreported due to fear of stigma or retribution. The Attorney General’s office lacked a specialized unit for cases of gender violence and abuse of children and adolescents. The specialized unit for human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children of the Attorney General’s office was sometimes assigned cases, but it lacked sufficient resources to pursue them. Police generally did not prioritize reports of rape.
As of September, the Attorney General’s Office received 736 complaints of rape. The National Police reported receiving 543 rape complaints from January to July, of which they detained 307 alleged perpetrators. Victims often filed complaints with different institutions, depending on their level of trust in that institution.
Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine if convicted, it requires the abuse to be habitual and the aggressor and victim to be “cohabitating or lodging together.” Judges typically issued fines, but in some cases they sentenced offenders to jail to provide for the safety of the victim. Despite increased reports of domestic violence, individuals often withdrew complaints soon after filing due to spousal reconciliation or family pressure. In some instances, the courts mediated domestic violence cases. According to NGOs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, domestic violence was widespread, and thousands of women received treatment for injuries sustained in domestic altercations. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs promoted the national 24-hour telephone hotline for domestic abuse victims. The ministry offers domestic violence victims information, counseling, and psychological and legal support.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs operated a shelter for female victims of trafficking or domestic violence in Asuncion. The ministry also coordinated victim assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training with the National Police and healthcare units. The ministry, the Attorney General’s Office, and various NGOs provided health and psychological assistance, including shelter, to victims. The ministry also provided victims assistance courses for police, healthcare workers, and prosecutors.
The National Police has 16 specialized units to attend victims of domestic violence and 118 officers are assigned to these stations. As of August 31, the National Police reported 7,165 complaints of domestic violence, and its Unit for Intra-Family Violence assisted 4,060 victims.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine; however, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for many women, especially in workplace environments. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove because of victims’ fear of workplace retaliation and societal pressures against victims. Many dropped their complaints or were unwilling to continue cooperating with prosecutors. As of August 31, the National Police reported receiving 16 complaints of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide 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. Reproductive health services were concentrated in cities, and rural areas faced significant gaps in coverage. According to United Nations Population Fund estimates, adolescent birth rate remains high, at 63 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 2015. In 2015 UNICEF reported that two girls between the ages of 10 and 14 give birth every day in the country.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), maternal mortality is high with an estimated 132 deaths per 100,000 live births. WHO notes the risk of maternal death is four times higher among girls under 16 than among women in their 20s. Abortion is explicitly permitted if the mother’s life is deemed at risk.
Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. There is no comprehensive law against discrimination, thus no legal basis for enforcement of the constitutional clause against discrimination.
Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. Nonetheless, gender-related discrimination was widespread. Women experienced more difficulty than men in securing employment and occupation (see section 7.d.). Women generally obtained employment as domestic workers, secretaries, sales staff, and customer service representatives.
Birth Registration: Nationality derives from birth within the country’s territory, from birth to government employees in service abroad, or from birth to a citizen residing temporarily outside the country. Hospitals immediately register births. Citizenship conveys to all nationals who attain the age of 18 as well as to older persons upon naturalization. Birth certificates and national identity documents are a prerequisite to access government services, including obtaining a passport.
Education: Education is free, compulsory, and universal from kindergarten through secondary school. According to the government, girls from rural families tended to leave school at a younger age than did boys. Approximately 10 percent of children from poor families did not have access to schooling, due to economic hardship, geographic isolation, or early entrance into the workforce.
Child Abuse: The NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Secretariat of Children and Adolescents (SNNA) stated that violence against children was widespread and equally prevalent among rural and urban families. As of September 30, the Attorney General’s Office reported 596 cases of child abuse (compared to 973 cases in all of 2015) and 295 cases of rape of minors (compared to 491 cases in 2015).
There were no government shelters for abused children. Local Catholic charities operated several children’s homes and orphanages. In many cities the municipal council for children’s rights assisted abused and neglected children.
According to the SNNA and the NMPT, there were approximately 60 private children’s shelters housing more than 2,000 children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The government increased the minimum legal age for marriage from 16 to 18 through a law published in May 2015. The law permits marriage for those aged 16 to 18 with parental consent, and for those younger than age 16 only with judicial authorization under exceptional circumstances. There were no reports of forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: According to the SNNA, exploitation of children in prostitution or forced domestic service remained problematic. The law provides penalties of up to eight years of imprisonment for persons responsible for pimping or brokering victims younger than 17 years.
The minimum age of consent is 14 when married and 16 when not married. While there is a statutory rape law for those under 14, the maximum penalty is a fine for opposite-sex partners and prison for same-sex partners. The law was not effectively enforced. The penal code prohibits the production, distribution, and possession of pornography involving children or adolescents younger than age 18. Production of pornographic images of children may result in a fine or up to three years in prison. Authorities may increase this penalty to 10 years in prison depending on the age of the child and the child’s relationship to the abuser.
As of September 30, the Attorney General’s office reported 1,299 cases of sexual abuse against children, compared with 2,196 cases in 2015.
For non-intercourse sexual abuse of a minor, the maximum sentence is up to three years or a fine. For cases involving intercourse, authorities can increase the sentence to 10 years. As of September 30, the Attorney General’s Office received 295 complaints of rape of minors (compared to 491 cases in 2015).
Child Soldiers: The government as well as NGOs, including the Coordinator for the Rights of Infants and Adolescents and the Peace and Justice Service, alleged that EPP and ACA continued recruitment of children, most of whom reportedly were relatives of adult EPP and ACA members. The children started in logistical support roles, carrying supplies to members in the field and serving as lookouts, before later being incorporated as full-time combatants, usually between 14 and 16 years of age.
Institutionalized Children: The NMPT and the SNNA both have the responsibility and mandate to visit and inspect children’s shelters and ensure the well-being of institutionalized children. They both regularly made recommendations to close shelters.
An NMPT report on a June 5 inspection of the privately run Gotitas de Amor shelter in Ita, Central Department, highlighted deplorable conditions, with boys and girls residing together without adult supervision. According to the report, children lacked identity documents, and many did not attend school. The NMPT subsequently reported their findings to other state agencies to remedy the situation and move children to foster families.
International Child Abductions: The country is 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
The Jewish community has fewer than 1,000 members. 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 nominally prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, public transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. The law generally does not mandate accessibility for persons with disabilities, and most of the country’s buildings remained inaccessible, though some municipalities made minor progress.
Many persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment; others were unable to seek employment because of a lack of accessible public transportation. The law mandates the allocation of five percent of all available public employee positions, approximately 10,000 positions, to persons with disabilities. In 2016, government employees with disabilities constituted less than one percent of public-sector employees. The Ministry of Education estimated more than 50 percent of children with disabilities did not attend school because of lack of access to public transportation.
The National Secretariat for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is responsible for certifying disability status. No law specifically provides for access to information or communications.
Anecdotally, ethnic minorities reported discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, pay, owning and/or managing businesses, education, and housing.
The law provides indigenous persons the right to participate in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the country, but the law was not effectively enforced. Discrimination, coupled with a lack of access to employment, education, health care, shelter, and sufficient land, hindered the ability of indigenous persons to progress economically while maintaining their cultural identity (see section 7.d.). The government does not discriminate in the type of legal status or recognition it gives to each indigenous group.
Indigenous populations comprised a higher percentage of the population within the Chaco region, and communities there had more difficulty accessing government and judicial services and faced more severe political and economic exclusion.
Indigenous workers engaged as laborers on ranches typically earned low wages, worked long hours, received pay infrequently or not at all, and lacked medical or retirement benefits. This situation was particularly severe in the Chaco region.
The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INDI), the Attorney General’s office, Justice Ministry, Labor Ministry, the Social Action Secretariat, and the Ombudsman’s office are responsible for protecting and promoting indigenous rights. The law mandates that INDI negotiate, purchase, and register land on behalf of indigenous communities who claim lack of access to their ancestral lands. In some instances INDI claimed it lacked sufficient funding to purchase land on behalf of indigenous persons and/or required them to register land in Asuncion rather than locally.
The law authorizes indigenous persons to determine how to use communal land. In some cases indigenous citizens transferred or rented community land to nonindigenous persons, who illegally harvested fish or cleared land to cultivate crops. There were also several reported cases of illegal deforestation of indigenous lands for charcoal production and cattle ranching. There were insufficient police and judicial protections from encroachments on indigenous lands. This often resulted in conflict between indigenous communities and large landowners in rural areas, which at times led to violence.
CODEHUPY and other NGOs documented widespread trafficking in persons, rape, sexual harassment, and physical abuse of women in indigenous communities. Perpetrators were often neighboring workers and employers from ranches and farms.
During the year CODEHUPY alleged that rural landowners, acting in complicity with local authorities and security forces, harassed landless peasant groups, indigenous tribes, and land-reform activists.
On September 30, police forcibly evicted the Ava Guarani indigenous community from 1,047 hectares of ancestral land in Sauce, near Minga Pora, Alto Parana Department. CODEHUPY reported the police demolished and burned down homes, schools, places of worship, and crops, as well as stole domestic animals. CODEHUPY alleged German Hutz, the owner of adjacent agricultural land, leveraged his ties to Vice President Juan Afara to obtain a court order for the eviction. The community lobbied for the removal of Aldo Saldivar, head of INDI, for annulling a 2013 resolution stating the government owed a debt for relocating certain indigenous communities, including the Ava Guarani, during the construction of the Itaipu Dam.
On July 11, the government finalized the documents and made the first down payment to purchase land for the Xakmok Kasek indigenous community per a 2000 ruling by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR).
On February 3, the IACHR formally requested the government adopt precautionary measures in favor of the rights of the Ayoreo Totobiegosode People, especially of the communities in voluntary isolation, known as the Jonoine-Urasade. The request was based on allegations that local cattle ranchers had conducted a series of intrusions onto and deforestation activities on their land.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTI persons in employment, housing, access to education, or health care; all types of such discrimination, including societal discrimination, occurred frequently. Penalties for sex with a minor between ages 14 and 16 are more severe if the victim and perpetrator are of the same sex. Same-sex perpetrators are subject to up to two years in prison; the maximum penalty for opposite-sex perpetrators is a fine. CODEHUPY reported widespread police harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons (see section 7 d.).
According to reports, police officers regularly beat, robbed, and implicated transgender individuals as suspects in serious crimes, including drug trafficking and armed robbery. NGOs alleged transgender individuals were forced to work in the sex trade because of discrimination and lack of employment options.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV-positive status and protects the privacy of medical information. The law also specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees based on their HIV-positive status. Labor Ministry regulations forbid employers from requiring HIV testing prior to employment, but many companies still did so.
CODEHUPY noted that persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination as well as societal intimidation in health care, education, and employment based on their sexual orientation, serological state, demand for HIV testing, or gender identity. The NGO referred complaints to the Attorney General’s Office and National Police for investigation. The center also established hotlines to receive complaints.