Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The law recognizes spousal rape. Police investigated reported rape cases, and the government prosecuted these cases under the law. As of October the Women and Children Crisis Center reported four rape cases.
The law makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to 12 months in prison, a fine of 2,000 pa’anga ($940), or both. Repeat offenders face up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of 10,000 pa’anga ($4,700). The law provides for protection from domestic violence, including protection orders; clarifies the duties of police; and promotes the health, safety, and well-being of domestic violence victims.
The police domestic violence unit has a “no-drop” policy in complaints of domestic assault–once filed, domestic violence cases cannot be dropped and proceed to prosecution in the magistrates’ courts. Following reports of abuse, the unit’s officers counsel victims. Male officers also counsel perpetrators. Police work with the National Center for Women and Children as well as with the Women and Children Crisis Center to provide shelter for abused women, and girls and boys under age 14. Both centers operated a safe house for victims. As of June the Women and Children Crisis Center reported 505 domestic violence cases. The Free Wesleyan Church operated a hotline for women in trouble, and the Salvation Army provided counseling and rehabilitation programs.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a crime under the law, but physical sexual assault can be prosecuted as indecent assault. Sexual harassment within a domestic relationship is an offense. Complaints received by the police domestic violence unit indicated that sexual harassment of women sometimes occurred.
Reproductive Rights: In general couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and to have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Public hospitals, health centers, and several local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) provided free information about and access to contraception; however, under a Ministry of Health policy, a woman does not have permission to undergo a tubal ligation at a public hospital without the consent of her husband or, in his absence, her male next of kin. Spousal consent is not required for men to undergo a vasectomy. Public hospitals and health centers provide free prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care. Many pregnant women reportedly did not seek these services, which are also less available in the outer islands, contributing to a maternal mortality rate of 120 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to data published by the World Health Organization, skilled health personnel attend 99 percent of births, excluding the outer islands.
Discrimination: Inheritance laws, especially those concerned with land, discriminate against women. Women can lease land, but inheritance rights pass through the male heirs only. Under the inheritance laws, the claim to a father’s estate by a male child born out of wedlock takes precedence over the claim of the deceased’s widow or daughter. If there are no male relatives, a widow is entitled to remain on her husband’s land as long as she does not remarry and remains celibate. The inheritance and land rights laws also reduced women’s ability to access credit and to own and operate businesses.
Discrimination with respect to employment and wages occurred with respect to women (see Section 7.d.). Women who rose to positions of leadership often had links with the nobility. Some female commoners held senior leadership positions in businesses and government.
Birth Registration: Birth in the country does not confer citizenship. Individuals acquire citizenship at birth automatically if at least one parent is a citizen.
Child Abuse: As of June the Women and Children Crisis Center reported 32 cases of physical assault on female children (up to age 20) and nine cases of assaults on male children. The Women and Children Crisis Center have implemented various child abuse awareness programs at schools from primary to tertiary levels. On March 8, the Women and Children Crisis Center launched a weekly community radio talk show program.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 15; observers believed that the rate of marriage for children under 18, while not known, was low.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography with penalties of a fine of up to 100,000 pa’anga ($46,950) or up to 10 years in prison for individuals and a fine of up to 250,000 pa’anga ($117,370) for corporations. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Violators may be charged with “carnal knowledge of a child under age 12,” which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, or “carnal knowledge of a child under 15,” which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. There were anecdotal reports of children being subjected to domestic sex trafficking.
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 resident 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 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, but no laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and there are no legally mandated provisions for services or government programs for adults with disabilities, including regarding building accessibility or access to communications and information.
A Ministry of Education, Women, and Culture program to bring children with disabilities into primary schools continued during the year. Many school buildings, however, were not accessible to students with physical disabilities, and attendance rates of children with disabilities at all educational levels were lower than those of students without disabilities. Children with more severe disabilities generally attended a school operated by the Tonga Red Cross Society, which also conducted occasional home visits.
Under the National Policy on Disability Inclusive Development 2014 to 2018 and the Action Plan for the National Policy on Disability Inclusive Development, the government established a National Council on Disability and designated the Ministry of Internal Affairs to work on disability-related problems.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism, and Labor, the law restricts to citizens ownership and operation of food retail stores in the country. Despite this policy, Chinese nationals dominated the retail sector in many towns. There were reports of crime and societal discrimination targeted at members of the Chinese minority.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
By law “sodomy with another person” is a crime with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but there were no reports of prosecutions under this provision for consensual sexual conduct between adults, regardless of the gender of the parties. No laws specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or address hate crimes. No criminal justice mechanisms exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community. Society accepted a subculture of transgender dress and behavior, and a prominent NGO’s annual festival highlighted transgender identities. There were no reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of incidents of discrimination or violence.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were no reports of discrimination or violence against persons based on HIV/AIDS status, but social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of incidents of discrimination or violence.