Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or sexual assault. If the victim is a minor, the sentence ranges from a minimum of three years to 15 years in prison. According to the Attorney General’s Office, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem, and it was believed that many rapes went unreported. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and sometimes obtained convictions. Police generally did not prioritize reports of rape.
Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine if convicted, it requires the abuse to be habitual and the aggressor and victim to be “cohabitating or lodging together.” Judges typically issued fines, but in some cases they sentenced offenders to jail to provide for the safety of the victim. In some instances the courts mediated domestic violence cases. According to NGOs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, domestic violence was widespread, and thousands of women received treatment for injuries sustained in domestic altercations. The ministry promoted a national 24-hour telephone hotline for victims.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs operated a shelter coordinated victim assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training.
According to the latest information available, the National Police had 16 specialized units to assist victims of domestic violence, and 118 officers were assigned to these stations.
Femicide remained a serious problem. In December 2016 President Cartes signed Law 5777 for the Comprehensive Protection of Women against Violence, including femicide. The law criminalizes femicide and assigns sentences of between 10 and 30 years in prison upon conviction. As of October 25, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs reported 34 cases of femicide, a significant increase from previously reported numbers.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine; however, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for many women, especially in workplace environments. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove because of victims’ fear of workplace retaliation and societal pressures against victims. Many dropped their complaints or were unwilling to continue cooperating with prosecutors.
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 constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. There is no comprehensive law against discrimination, thus no legal basis for enforcement of the constitutional clause against discrimination.
Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. Nonetheless, gender-related discrimination was widespread. Women experienced more difficulty than men did in securing employment and occupation.
Birth Registration: Nationality derives from birth within the country’s territory, from birth to government employees in service abroad, or from birth to a citizen residing temporarily outside the country. Hospitals immediately register births, but this is not the case for many children born in rural areas and in indigenous communities with limited access to health-care facilities. Citizenship conveys to all nationals who attain the age of 18 as well as to older persons upon naturalization. Birth certificates and national identity documents are a prerequisite to access government services, including obtaining a passport.
Education: Education is free, compulsory, and universal from kindergarten through secondary school. According to the government, girls from rural families tended to leave school at a younger age than did boys. Approximately 10 percent of children from poor families did not have access to schooling, due to economic hardship, geographic isolation, or early entry into the workforce.
Child Abuse: The NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Secretariat of Children and Adolescents (SNNA) stated that violence against children was widespread and equally prevalent among rural and urban families. As of October 13, the Attorney General’s Office reported 596 cases of child abuse.
There was one government shelter for abused children, mainly girls, comanaged by a Roman Catholic organization. In many cities the municipal council for children’s rights assisted abused and neglected children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, but the law permits marriage for those ages 16 to 18 with parental consent, and for those younger than age 16 only with judicial authorization under exceptional circumstances. There were no reports of forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: According to the SNNA, child trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced domestic service remained problematic. The law provides penalties of up to eight years of imprisonment for persons responsible for pimping or brokering victims younger than 17 years.
The minimum age of consent is 14 when married and 16 when not married. While there is a statutory rape law for those under 14, the maximum penalty is a fine for opposite-sex offenders and prison for same-sex offenders. The law was not effectively enforced. The penal code provides for fines or up to three years in prison for the production, distribution, and possession of pornography involving children or adolescents younger than age 18. Authorities may increase this penalty to 10 years in prison depending on the age of the child and the child’s relationship to the abuser.
For nonintercourse sexual abuse of a minor, the maximum sentence is up to three years or a fine. For cases involving intercourse, authorities can increase the sentence to 10 years. As of September 30, the Attorney General’s Office received 295 complaints of rape of minors.
Child Soldiers: The government as well as NGOs, including the Coordinator for the Rights of Infants and Adolescents and the Peace and Justice Service, alleged that the EPP continued recruitment of children, most of whom reportedly were relatives of adult EPP members. The children started in logistical support roles, carrying supplies to members in the field and serving as lookouts, before later being incorporated as full-time combatants, usually between 14 and 16 years of age. The number of youth recruited was unknown but expected to be relatively low, given the small size of the EPP, estimated to be 20 to 50 members in total.
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 Jewish community has fewer than 1,000 members. 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 nominally prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law generally does not mandate accessibility for persons with disabilities, nor does it specifically provide for access to information or communications, and most of the country’s buildings remained inaccessible, although some municipalities made progress.
Many persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment; others were unable to seek employment because of a lack of accessible public transportation. The law mandates the allocation of 5 percent of all available public-employee positions to persons with disabilities; in practice less than 1 percent were employed. The Ministry of Education and Sciences estimated more than 50 percent of children with disabilities did not attend school because of lack of access to public transportation.
The National Secretariat for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is responsible for certifying disability status.
Anecdotally, ethnic minorities reported discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, equal pay, owning and/or managing businesses, education, and housing.
The law provides indigenous persons the right to participate in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the country, but the law was not effectively enforced. Discrimination, coupled with a lack of access to employment, education, health care, shelter, and sufficient land, hindered the ability of indigenous persons to progress economically while maintaining their cultural identity.
Indigenous workers engaged as laborers on ranches typically earned low wages, worked long hours, received pay infrequently or not at all, and lacked medical or retirement benefits. This situation was particularly severe in the Chaco region.
The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INDI), the Attorney General’s Office; the Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security; the Social Action Secretariat; and the Ombudsman’s office are responsible for protecting and promoting indigenous rights. The law mandates that INDI negotiate, purchase, and register land on behalf of indigenous communities who claim lack of access to their ancestral lands. In some instances INDI claimed it lacked sufficient funding to purchase land on behalf of indigenous persons or required them to register land in the Asuncion office rather than locally.
The law authorizes indigenous persons to determine how to use communal land. There were insufficient police and judicial protections from encroachments on indigenous lands. This often resulted in conflict between indigenous communities and large landowners in rural areas, which at times led to violence.
CODEHUPY and other NGOs documented widespread trafficking in persons, rape, sexual harassment, and physical abuse of women in indigenous communities. Perpetrators were often neighboring workers and employers from ranches and farms. NGOs also alleged agribusiness operations in the Chaco exploited and violated the rights of indigenous workers.
On May 7-9, a group of 12 to 15 armed private security personnel forcibly evicted 20 families of the Ava Guarani indigenous community from 740 acres on the disputed Colonia Colorado’i property near Itakyry, Alto Parana Department. Press reports indicated the armed group, allegedly contracted by Paraguayan Alcohol Industries S.A., burned buildings and crops and destroyed the community school and temporary tents in the presence of idle police officers on the scene. The Attorney General’s Office charged three individuals associated with the Paraguayan Alcohol Industries S.A. (Marcos Torales, Javier Torales, and Robert de Souza) and one member of the Ava Guarani indigenous community (Ismael Barrios), for participating in and organizing the eviction operation. The case was pending as of October 5.
The government did not fully comply with obligatory rulings by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on access to land. In January it made the third and final payment to purchase 19,030 acres of land for the Xakmok Kasek community in accordance with a 2010 Inter-American Court ruling. The government had not, however, provided sufficient land and titles for the Sawhoyamaxa community pursuant to a 2006 ruling or suitable access to the Yakye Axa community pursuant to a 2005 ruling.
The government and representatives of the Ayoreo Totobiegosode People, a community in voluntary isolation, held a series of formal meetings to discuss the implementation of the February 2016 request by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the government adopt precautionary measures in favor of the rights of this indigenous community. The Ayoreo Totobiegosode People continued to allege local cattle ranchers conducted intrusions and deforestation activities on their land.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTI persons; discrimination, including societal discrimination, occurred frequently. Several NGOs, including SomosGay, the Center for Studies and Documents, and Aireana, reported police harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons.
On March 31, police allegedly assaulted patrons outside an LGBTI nightclub after the protests that led to the burning of the congress building. The nightclub was 1.2 miles from the site of the protests. Victims reported police officers approached the exterior of the nightclub and assaulted patrons with clubs and rubber bullets. The case was pending as of September 5.
According to press and NGO reporting, police officers regularly beat, robbed, and implicated transgender individuals as suspects in serious crimes, including drug trafficking and armed robbery.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV-positive status and protects the privacy of medical information. The law also specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees based on their HIV-positive status. Labor ministry regulations forbid employers from requiring HIV testing prior to employment, but many companies still did so.
NGOs, including CODEHUPY and the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Counseling and Reporting Center, noted that persons with HIV/AIDS who sought access to health care, education, and employment opportunities faced discrimination based on their sexual orientation, demand for HIV testing, or gender identity.