Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, but there is no legal provision against spousal rape. The penalties for rape range from two years’ to life imprisonment, but the court has never imposed a life sentence. Many cases of rape went unreported because societal attitudes discouraged such reporting. In recent years, however, authorities noted a rise in the number of reported cases of rape. This development appeared to be a result of efforts by government ministries and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to increase awareness of the problem and the need to report rape cases to police. The courts treated rape seriously, and the conviction rate generally was high.
The constitution prohibits abuse of women, but societal attitudes tolerated their physical abuse within the home. Social pressure and fear of reprisal typically caused such abuse to go unreported. Village councils typically punished domestic violence offenders but only if they considered the abuse extreme, such as abuses involving visible signs of physical harm. Village religious leaders could also intervene in domestic disputes. When police received complaints from abused women, authorities investigated and punished the offender, including imprisonment. Authorities charge domestic violence as common criminal assault, with a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment. The government did not keep statistics on domestic abuse but acknowledged the problem was of significant concern. A 2011 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Samoa Family Health and Safety Study showed that more than 46 percent of women respondents experienced some form of partner abuse. The Ministry of Police and Prisons has a nine-person Domestic Violence Unit that works in collaboration with NGOs and focuses on combatting domestic abuse. NGO services for abused women included public antiviolence awareness programs, shelters, confidential hotlines, in-person counseling, and other support.
Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, and there were no reliable statistics on its incidence. The lack of legislation and a cultural constraint against publicly shaming or accusing someone, even if justifiable, reportedly caused sexual harassment to be underreported. Victims had little incentive to report instances of sexual harassment, since doing so could jeopardize their career or family name.
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, and violence. As part of its National Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy, the government set out to improve family planning services. According to the latest estimates by the UNFPA, only 31 percent of women between 15 and 49 years used a modern method of contraceptive, and 42 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning services. The unmet need among girls between 15 and 19 years was as high as 50 percent. The UNFPA also reported that skilled health personnel attended an estimated 83 percent of births.
Discrimination: Women have equal rights as men under the constitution and statutory law, and the traditionally subordinate role of women was changing, albeit slowly. The Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development oversees and helps secure the rights of women. To integrate women into the economic mainstream, the government sponsored numerous programs, including literacy and training programs for those who did not complete high school.
Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship by birth in the country if at least one parent is a citizen. The government also may grant citizenship by birth to a child born in the country if the child would otherwise be stateless. Citizenship also derives by birth abroad to a citizen parent who either was born in the country or resided there at least three years. Sometimes parents did not register immediately the births of their children, and sometimes they did not register their children’s births for many years. By law children without a birth certificate may not attend primary schools, but authorities did not strictly enforce this law.
Child Abuse: Law and tradition prohibit abuse of children, but both tolerate corporal punishment. Although no official statistics were available, press reports indicated an increase in reported cases of child abuse, especially of incest and indecent assault cases, which appeared to be due to citizens’ increased awareness of the importance of reporting physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children. The government aggressively prosecuted such cases.
The law prohibits corporal punishment in schools. In 2013 the Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture stated the minimum punishment for a teacher convicted of corporal punishment of a student would no longer be a fine but a one-year prison term. There were two corporal punishment cases reported to the ministry with one reaching the court.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 21 years for a man and 19 years for a woman. Consent of at least one parent or guardian is necessary if either is younger than the minimum age. Marriage is illegal if a woman is younger than 16 years or a man is younger than 18 years. Early marriage did not generally occur.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. Under the law the maximum penalty for sexual relations with children younger than 12 years is life imprisonment and for children between ages 12 and 15 years the maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment. The law contains a specific criminal provision regarding child pornography. The law specifies a seven-year prison sentence for a person found guilty of publishing, distributing, or exhibiting indecent material featuring a child. The law defines a child as younger than 16 years, which leaves 16-year-old children unprotected by the provision.
The Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration and the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with NGOs, carried out educational activities to address domestic violence, inappropriate behavior between adults and children, and human rights awareness. Sexual abuse of children remained a problem.
In August authorities jailed a male schoolteacher for 2.5 years for sexually abusing a 10-year-old student. Authorities charged several male schoolteachers with making sexual contact with teenage female students in separate incidents.
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.
The country had no Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
There were no confirmed reports during the year that the country was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.
Persons with Disabilities
No law prohibits discrimination against physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other public services. There is a law against discrimination with respect to employment based on disability (see section 7.d.). Tradition dictates that families care for persons with disabilities, and the community observed this custom widely.
The 2012 death in Tafaigata Prison of Hans Dalton, a man with mental disabilities, raised concerns about treatment of persons with mental disabilities while in police custody. Police charged a fellow inmate with Dalton’s murder and a panel of assessors found him guilty in 2014, but the judge overturned the verdict. The Dalton family sued the government for S$33 million ($12.8 million). The case had not gone to trial by year’s end.
Some children with disabilities attended regular public schools, while others attended one of three schools created specifically to educate students with disabilities. Many public buildings were old, and only a few were accessible to persons with disabilities. Most new buildings provided better access, including ramps and elevators in most multistory buildings.
The Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development has responsibility to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
“Sodomy” and “indecency between males” are illegal, with maximum penalties of seven and five years’ imprisonment, respectively, but authorities did not enforce these provisions with regard to consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Although there were no reports of societal violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there were isolated cases of discrimination. Society publicly recognized the transgender Fa’afafine community; however, members of the community reported instances of social discrimination.
Promotion of Acts of Discrimination
In May the general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), Reverend Ma’auga Motu, advocated for the government to ban the religion of Islam, saying it posed a threat to the country. The NCC is composed of 10 Christian denominations in the country, encompassing more than 85 percent of the population.