Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and provides for prison terms of five to 20 years for perpetrators. The law does not specifically penalize spousal rape. A life sentence can be imposed in cases of gang rape if the rapists are related to or hold positions of authority over the victim, or if the victim is under 15 years of age. Most rape cases were tried on the lesser charge of “indecent assault,” which carries a prison term of six months to five years.
The government made some efforts to enforce the law, but local and international human rights groups reported rape remained widespread.
Relatives, police, and traditional leaders often discouraged female survivors from pursuing a criminal case, with their families accepting payment for compensation. Rape victims were no longer required to obtain a medical certificate, which could cost up to 50,000 CFA francs ($92), to move a legal complaint forward. As a practical matter, however, cases rarely proceeded without one since it often served as the primary form of evidence.
The law does not specifically outlaw domestic violence, which was a serious and widespread problem. According to the Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs, more than 36 percent of women reported being victims of physical or psychological abuse at some time. Victims seldom reported domestic violence due to cultural barriers and because police often ignored women who reported rape or domestic violence.
The Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs assisted victims of domestic violence and rape, including counseling at government-operated centers.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law specifically forbids FGM/C and provides penalties for practitioners of up to five years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to two million CFA francs ($662 to $3,680). Double penalties apply to medical practitioners. The government successfully prosecuted some FGM/C cases during the year. Nevertheless, FGM/C remained a serious problem.
For more information, see:
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Societal violence against women included traditional practices, such as dowry deaths (the killing of brides over dowry disputes), levirate (forcing a widow to marry her dead husband’s brother), and sororate (forcing a woman to marry her dead sister’s husband).
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes penalties of between one and three years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($662 to $1,840). Nevertheless, the government rarely enforced the law, and harassment was widespread and routinely tolerated.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in labor law but not under religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. In 2012 parliament passed a series of laws to reduce gender inequality in marriage, including laws to allow married women to benefit from an income tax deduction and to be involved in family decisions. Many religious and traditional authorities rejected these laws, however, and there was no evidence the government enforced them.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. At least one parent must be a citizen for a child to acquire citizenship at birth. For births that occur outside health clinics, the law provides parents a three-month period to register their child’s birth for a fee of 500 CFA francs ($0.92). For births that occurred in health clinics, the government charged no registration fee if parents submitted the appropriate documentation within 30 days of birth. Children without documents could not continue their studies after primary school. The government, with UNICEF and UNHCR, launched a special operation to ensure the civil registration of 1.2 million school-going children. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Education: Education was free and compulsory for children ages six to 16. Parents of children not in compliance with the law are subjected to fines up to 500,000 CFA francs ($920) or jail time of two to six months. In principle, students do not have to pay for books, uniforms, or fees, but some reportedly did because the government did not cover these expenses for every student. Some schools expected parents to contribute to the teachers’ salaries and living stipends, particularly in rural areas.
Educational participation of girls was lower than that of boys, particularly in rural areas. Although girls enrolled at a higher rate, participation rates for them dropped below that of boys because of the tendency to keep girls at home to do domestic work or care for younger siblings.
Child Abuse: The penalty for statutory rape or attempted rape of a child under age 16 is a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($662 to $1,840). Nevertheless, children were victims of physical and sexual violence and abuse. Authorities reported rapes of girls as young as age three during the year. Authorities often reclassified claims of child rape as indecent assault since penalties were less severe. Judges exercised discretion in deciding whether to reclassify a claim from child rape to indecent assault, and they can only do so when there is no clear medical proof or testimony to support rape charges. There were some prosecutions and convictions during the year. To assist child victims of violence and abuse, the government cooperated with UNICEF to strengthen the child protection network.
Although the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training; Ministry of Justice and Human Rights; Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs; and Ministry of Education were responsible for combating child abuse, they were ineffective due to lack of coordination between the ministries and inadequate resources.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits the marriage of men under age 20 and women under age 18 without parental consent. The law specifically penalizes anyone who forces a minor under age 18 to enter a religious or customary matrimonial union. Nevertheless, traditional marriages were performed with girls as young as 14 years old. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. The law prohibits the use, recruitment, or offering of children for prostitution or pornographic films, pictures, or events. Violators can receive prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years and fines of five million to 50 million CFA francs ($9,200 to $92,000). Statutory rape of a minor carries a punishment of one to three years in prison and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($662 to $1,840).
The country was a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to trafficking in persons, including sex trafficking. During the year the antitrafficking unit of the national police made several arrests of suspected child-sex traffickers.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Displaced Children: Local NGOs reported thousands of children countrywide living on the streets. No known government program specifically addressed the problem of children living on the streets. In September authorities arrested 2,200 persons and seized 922 weapons, including knives and machetes, during a security operation conducted in Abidjan and its surroundings. Many youth were arrested in this operation, which aimed in part to crack down on young persons in trouble with the law, many of whom were not living with families. These youth sometimes were victims of vigilante-style attacks.
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’s Jewish community numbered fewer than 100 persons. 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 requires the government to educate and train persons with physical, mental, visual, auditory, and cerebral motor disabilities; hire them or help them find jobs; design houses and public facilities for wheelchair access; and adapt machines, tools, and work spaces for access and use by persons with disabilities as well as to provide them access to the judicial system. The law prohibits acts of violence against persons with disabilities and the abandonment of such persons, but there were no reports the government enforced these laws.
Persons with disabilities reportedly encountered serious discrimination in employment and education. While the government reserved 800 civil service jobs for persons with disabilities, government employers sometimes refused to employ such persons. Prisons and detention centers provided no accommodations for persons with disabilities.
The government financially supported separate schools, training programs, associations, and artisans’ cooperatives for persons with disabilities, but many persons with disabilities begged on urban streets and in commercial zones for lack of other economic opportunities. Although public schools did not bar persons with disabilities from attending, such schools lacked the resources to accommodate students with disabilities. Persons with mental disabilities often lived on the street.
The Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training and the Federation of the Handicapped are responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
The country has more than 60 ethnic groups, and ethnic discrimination was a problem. Authorities considered approximately 25 percent of the population foreign, although many within this category were second- or third-generation residents. Disputes among ethnic groups, often related to land, resulted in sporadic violence, particularly in the western region. Despite a 2013 procedural update that allows putative owners of land an additional 10 years to establish title, land ownership laws remained unclear and unimplemented, resulting in conflicts between native populations and other groups.
The law prohibits xenophobia, racism, and tribalism and makes these forms of intolerance punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. There were instances in which police abused and harassed non-Ivoirian Africans residing in the country. Harassment by officials reflected the common belief that foreigners were responsible for high crime rates and identity card fraud.
According to NGOs, at least 10 persons were killed, six disappeared, several wounded, two young women raped, and between 2,000 and 6,000 persons displaced, when violence erupted following an ethnic-fueled dispute over disputed lands in western part of the country in October and early November.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law’s only mention of same-sex sexual activity is as a form of public indecency that carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, the same prescribed for heterosexual acts performed in public. Antidiscrimination laws exist, but they do not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In February authorities released from prison two men who had been arrested in November 2016 and imprisoned for three months for violating laws against public indecency after a relative reported their same-sex sexual activity, even though they had not publicly engaged in any such activity.
Societal discrimination and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community were problems.
Law enforcement authorities were at times slow and ineffective in their response to societal violence targeting the LGBTI community. The few LGBTI organizations in the country operated freely but with caution.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There was no official discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status. A 2014 law expressly condemns all forms of discrimination against persons with HIV and provides for their access to care and treatment. The law also prescribes fines for refusal of care or discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status.
The Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene managed a program to assist vulnerable populations at high risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS (including but not limited to men who have sex with men, sex workers, persons who inject drugs, prisoners, and migrants). The Ministry of Women, Child Protection, and Social Affairs oversaw a program that directed educational, psychosocial, nutritional, and economic support to orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS.