Rape and Domestic Violence: The law specifically criminalizes rape. Spousal rape is explicitly considered rape with “aggravated circumstances.” When police receive a report of rape, they are required to open an investigation. Criminal penalties for rape range from four years to life imprisonment. Through August police initiated 56 criminal charges for rape, of which six were sent to the prosecutor’s office and five to court. According to the Ministry of Justice, however, no spousal rape case has ever been prosecuted in the country.
The most recent study by the Ministry of Welfare, published in December 2016, showed that half of all hospitalized female trauma victims had injuries inflicted by their partners. Domestic violence is an aggravating factor in certain criminal offenses. There are penalties for causing even “minor” bodily harm when the victim and perpetrator are spouses, former spouses, or civil partners. Domestic violence remained a matter of concern, and authorities prosecuted a number of cases. The NGO Marta Resource Center for Women (Marta Center) received complaints from 168 women during the first eight months of the year. Through August the ombudsman received five complaints of domestic violence.
The law allows victims of domestic violence to request police officers to issue restraining orders and requires police and judges to respond to such requests within one business day. Once a restraining order is issued, it is in force until a court revokes it. The law requires perpetrators to leave the home where the victim resides. It provides a broad definition of violence that includes physical, sexual, psychological, or economic violence.
State and municipal police may issue a decision on separation for eight days. In 2015 courts granted temporary protection to 71 women and one man.
In the first eight months of the year, police initiated 182 criminal proceedings for domestic violence and detained 54 persons; in the first eight months of the year, police issued 394 restraining orders. NGOs complained that, in some domestic violence cases, police were reluctant to act. In his report Commissioner Muiznieks stated that, although police received an average of 13 telephone calls a day reporting cases of “family conflicts,” 97 percent of the cases did not result in criminal proceedings, mostly because police did not qualify them as criminal offenses. Muiznieks quoted police data that in 2014, 144 women were subjected to domestic violence. In the same year, at least five women were killed by their spouses or partners, and four more were killed by other relatives. In some cases, police hesitated to evict alleged perpetrators despite restraining orders. NGOs also criticized police for not arresting perpetrators until the victim signed paperwork, even if officers witnessed abuse. According to the Marta Center, courts rejected two applications for restraining orders during the year.
No government shelters were designated specifically for battered and abused women. There was one government-funded victim support hotline and several NGO-managed crisis hotlines; none was dedicated exclusively to rape or assault.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is prosecuted under discrimination statutes, and penalties range from a reprimand to imprisonment. Victims have the right to submit complaints to the ombudsman and the State Labor Inspectorate. As in 2016 the ombudsman received no complaints of sexual harassment.
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 equal treatment of women under family, property, nationality, and inheritance laws.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents, and only one parent must be a citizen to transmit nationality to a child. Children born in the country to resident noncitizen parents are eligible for citizenship provided one parent requests it when the birth is registered. According to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, through June, 84 children born to noncitizens received automatic citizenship and 20 were granted noncitizen status. In June there were 4,836 noncitizen children younger than 16.
Child Abuse: Violence against children was a problem. Police effectively enforced laws against child abuse, although NGOs observed that coordination among agencies involved in the protection of children’s rights was weak, in particular due to a failure to share information. The law empowers courts to remove vulnerable and abused children from violent homes if parents or guardians cannot do so or are themselves perpetrators of the violence.
In the first eight months of the year, the State Inspectorate for Children’s Rights organized four nationwide hotline campaigns. They received 17,589 calls and provided 9,444 consultations in response to inquiries about cases of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of children. Approximately 81 of the calls involved the sexual abuse of children, 369 dealt with physical violence, and 791 concerned emotional violence (the remaining calls involved psychological consultations). During the first nine months of the year, the inspectorate investigated 154 cases of alleged violations of children’s rights.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Persons younger than 18 may legally marry only with parental permission and if one party is at least 16 and the other is at least 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities generally enforced the law. Through August police initiated 99 criminal proceedings for the sexual exploitation of minors younger than 16.
The purchase, display, reproduction, or distribution of child pornography is punishable by up to three years in prison. Involving a minor in the production of pornography is punishable by up to 12 years in prison, depending on the age of the child. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.
Institutionalized Children: The ombudsman and several NGOs raised concerns about the continued use of orphanages despite the provision in the law providing that “every child has the inalienable right to grow up in a family.” During the year approximately 1,216 children remained in orphanages. While the government had a deinstitutionalization plan for these children, NGOs criticized the plan for being unclear and not specifying how or when it would be implemented. There were 1,193 children living with foster families and 4,548 children living with guardians.
In the first eight months of the year, the State Inspectorate for Children’s Rights reported five cases of peer-on-peer physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in government-run orphanages and boarding schools for children with special needs. The inspectorate believed the actual figure was much higher, but cases were underreported due to infrequent visits by social workers and limited opportunities for observation.
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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The CSB reported that there were 4,873 Jewish residents in the country. The 2016 Human Rights Country Report erroneously reported that the CSB agreed with the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs that the Jewish population was 8,659. The CSB actually reported the 2016 Jewish population as 5,013. There were no reports of anti-Semitic attacks against individuals, although there were some anti-Semitic incidents and public references to stereotypes on the internet by some fringe groups.
Three members of parliament from the “All for Latvia” party attended the annual march held on March 16 to commemorate Latvians who fought in German Waffen SS units against the Soviet Army in World War II. No Nazi symbols or insignia were in evidence at the march. Domestically, the march was generally viewed as a commemoration of national identity and remembrance of those who fought for independence rather than as a glorification of Nazism.
On July 4, Jewish community representatives, government officials, and foreign diplomats attended the Holocaust commemoration ceremony in Riga.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions.
Although the law mandates access to public buildings for persons with disabilities, most were not accessible. The NGO Apeirons reported that approximately 80 percent of new and renovated buildings in the country were not accessible to persons with disabilities, and only 2 percent of all buildings were fully accessible. The State Audit Office and NGOs criticized the rules and regulations governing government provision of personal assistance services.
The law grants additional assistance to children with disabilities, allowing them and their caretakers to use public transportation free of charge. The law also permits families of children with disabilities to receive government-funded counseling. Children with disabilities generally attended school, the majority attending specialized schools. While they were also allowed to attend regular schools that could accommodate their needs, very few schools outside of Riga were able to accommodate them. The government provided eligible children with disabilities with assistants in schools. COE Human Rights Commissioner Muiznieks reported that, during the 2015/16 school year, 11,846 students with disabilities attended mainstream schools.
While health and labor services are provided as stipulated by law, NGOs stated that the majority of persons with disabilities had limited access to work and health care due to a lack of personal assistants, poor infrastructure, and the absence of specialized programs for such persons. NGOs also expressed concerns about the technical aid procurement service, which did not allow persons with disabilities to choose their own equipment, such as wheelchairs.
NGOs representing minority groups claimed that discrimination and harassment of national minorities was underreported to authorities. Through August the ombudsman did not receive any written complaints of racial or ethnic discrimination.
In the first eight months of the year, police initiated three criminal cases for incitement of social hatred and enmity, one of which was referred to prosecutors. Complaints generally involved hate speech on the internet.
The Romani community continued to face widespread societal discrimination and high levels of unemployment and illiteracy. According to the CSB, 5,191 Roma were in the country. Observers criticized the government’s action plan to address unemployment and educational problems in the Romani community as underfunded and insufficient to bring about substantial improvements.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The country’s antidiscrimination laws do not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but the labor law does. NGOs expressed concerns about the lack of explicit protection in criminal law against incitement to hatred and violence on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Credible NGOS reported that intolerance of LGBTI persons and discrimination against them continued to be widespread.