Rape and Domestic Violence: Spousal abuse and other forms of violence against women were significant problems. Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime, with a maximum penalty of life in prison, but sentences typically were much shorter. The Te Rau N Te Mwenga Act (also referred to as the Family Peace Act), criminalizes domestic violence, and the government, in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team and development partners, continued training for police, public prosecutors, health, social welfare, education, elected officials, and NGO workers to implement this legislation effectively. The law provides for penalties of up to six months in prison for common assault and up to five years in prison for assault involving bodily harm. While cultural taboos on reporting rape and domestic abuse and police attitudes encouraging reconciliation rather than prosecution existed, prosecutions for these crimes occurred during the year.
The government continued implementing the Eliminating Sexual and Gender-based Violence Policy through a 10-year national action plan launched in 2011. The police force has a Domestic Violence and Sexual Offenses Unit, in which officers participated in a capacity-building program, funded by a foreign government, that provided training in handling such cases. From January through March, there were 33 protection orders issued in South Tarawa out of 179 domestic violence cases throughout the country. Police also ran a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. The Catholic Church operated a shelter for women and children in Tarawa. The Ministry of Health operated a clinic in the main hospital in Tarawa for victims of domestic violence and sexual offenses, and an NGO also provided domestic violence victims with counselling and referral services.
Sexual Harassment: The Employment and Industrial Relations Code 2015 prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes an AUD 1,000 ($794) fine for anyone found guilty of the offense. There were no official reports of sexual harassment. The Ministry of Labor is implementing a three-year Gender Access and Equality Plan to promote a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in workplaces and training institutes.
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 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in employment but not in other areas (see section 7.d.). Women have equal access to education. Property ownership rights are generally the same for men and women, but land inheritance laws are patrilineal, and sons often inherited more land than daughters. The citizenship law contains some discriminatory provisions. For example, the foreign wife of a male citizen acquires citizenship automatically through the marriage, but the foreign husband of a female citizen does not. Mothers cannot confer nationality to their children.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth in the country, unless the child acquires the citizenship of another country at birth through a noncitizen parent. Citizenship may also be acquired through the father. The law requires registration of births within 10 days.
Child Abuse: Child abuse, both physical and occasionally sexual and often exacerbated by chronic alcohol abuse, continued to be a serious problem. The law covers the care and protection of minors and charges the Ministry of Women, Youth, and Social Affairs with implementing the law. The government developed the curriculum and counselling guidelines for teachers to help students.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 21, or 17 with the permission of a parent or guardian.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the procurement of any girl under 18 for the purpose of prostitution and prohibits using a child of either gender under 15 for prostitution. In both cases the maximum penalty is two years in prison. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Sexual relations with a girl under 13 carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and sexual relations with a girl age 13 to 14 carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The victim’s consent is not a permissible defense under either provision; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was 15 or older is a permissible defense. While this provision applies only to female children, male-on-male sexual exploitation of children can be prosecuted under provisions against “unnatural” offenses (which cover both male and female persons) and acts of “gross indecency between males,” with maximum penalties of 14 and five years in prison, respectively. The penal code has no specific provision concerning child pornography.
Anecdotal information from local government and nongovernment sources suggested that a small number of underage girls were among groups of women alleged to be engaged in commercial sex with crewmembers from foreign fishing vessels.
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 Abductionat travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There is no permanent 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 Employment and Industrial Code 2015 prohibits discrimination only in employment against persons with disabilities but does not specify physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Public infrastructure and essential services did not provide for the specific needs of persons with disabilities. Accessibility of buildings, communications, and information for persons with disabilities is not mandated, and there were no specific accommodations for persons with disabilities.
Most children with disabilities did not have access to education. Seven schools in the outer islands, the teacher’s college, and the Ministry of Education headquarters were accessible for children and staff with physical disabilities.
The Ministry of Women, Youth, and Social Welfare is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual sexual conduct between men is illegal, with a maximum penalty of five to 14 years’ imprisonment depending on the nature of the offense. There were no reports of prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons under these provisions.
No law specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.