Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime under the law, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of SBD 30,000 ($3,863). In May the government officially launched a National Policy to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls, 2016-2020. Aims of the policy include strengthening the referral network for survivors of domestic violence in rural areas and better coordination among all stakeholders for public awareness about domestic violence.
Violence against women, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussion of such matters.
A 2011 World Health Organization report revealed that more than half of the women in the country had experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner and 64 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 regularly experienced violence in the home.
Police made efforts to charge offenders for domestic violence and assault against women. As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape victims. Police have a Sexual Assault Unit, staffed mostly by female officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges.
In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts dealt with physical abuse of women as with any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and to cultural bias against women.
The Family Protection Act requires that victims of domestic violence have access to counseling and medical services, legal support, and a safe place within the community if they cannot return home. The government has a referral system in place to coordinate these services, but referral agencies are often underfunded, especially in rural areas. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility for abused women provided counseling and other support services for women.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued to increase and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread problem.
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: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for equal work (see section 7.d.).
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship through their parents. The laws do not allow dual citizenship for adults, and persons who acquire dual citizenship at birth must decide by age 18 years which citizenship to retain. The creation of an electronic registration system in 2015 helped bridge infrastructure that delayed the registration of births. Delays did not result in denial of public services to children.
Education: Education was neither free nor compulsory. The government continued to implement the Free Fee Basic Education (FFBE) Policy, which covers the operational costs for children to attend school but allows school management to request additional contributions from families such as cash, labor, and school fundraising. The FFBE Policy is intended to increase educational access by subsidizing school fees for grades one through nine, but this rarely covers all costs for schools. Additional school fees and other costs prevented some children from attending school. According to 2013 data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 75 percent of boys who entered primary school reached the last grade, whereas only 69 percent of girls did. According to the ADB, gender imbalance in education improved from earlier years.
Child Abuse: The law grants children the same general rights and protections as adults, with some exceptions. Parliament passed the Child and Family Welfare Act in February. The law mandates the social welfare division to coordinate child protection services and authorizes the courts to issue protection orders in cases of serious child abuse or neglect. Laws do not specifically prohibit the use of children in illicit activities such as drug trafficking.
The government did not provide sufficient resources to enforce laws designed to protect children from sexual abuse, child labor, and neglect (see section 7.c.). The law criminalizes domestic violence including violence against children, but lacked public awareness and enforcement. Child sexual and physical abuse remained significant problems. Nonetheless, the traditional extended-family system generally respected and protected children in accordance with a family’s financial resources and access to services.
Early and Forced Marriage: Both boys and girls may legally marry at 15, and the law permits marriage at 14 with parental and village consent. Marriage at such young ages was not common.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The maximum penalty for sexual relations with a girl younger than 13 is life imprisonment, and for sexual relations with a girl between the ages of 13 and 15, the penalty is five years’ imprisonment. Consent is not a permissible defense under these provisions; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was 15 or older is a permissible defense. Selling or hiring minors younger than 15 and girls younger than 18 for prostitution is punishable as a criminal offense. Prostitution laws do not cover boys between the ages of 15 and 18 and therefore leaves them without legal protection. These laws are enforced when reported; there were no reported cases this year.
Child pornography is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Amendments to the penal code passed in May criminalize commercial sexual exploitation of children and participation in or use, distribution, and storing of sexually exploitative materials with children, and some forms of internal child trafficking. Within the country girls and boys were exploited in prostitution and sexual servitude.
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 Jewish community was very small, 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
No law or national policy prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and no legislation mandates access to buildings, information, or communications for such individuals. Very few buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities.
The country had one educational facility, supported almost entirely by the International Committee of the Red Cross, for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities could attend mainstream schools, but inadequate facilities and other resource constraints often made it impractical. A center for persons with disabilities in Honiara assisted persons with disabilities in finding employment, although with high unemployment nationwide and no laws requiring reasonable accommodations in the workplace, most persons with disabilities, particularly those in rural areas, did not find work outside the family structure.
The government relied upon families to meet the needs of persons with mental disabilities, and there were very limited government facilities or services for such persons.
The country has more than 27 major islands with approximately 70 language groups. Many islanders saw themselves first as members of a clan, next as inhabitants of their natal island, and only third as citizens of their nation. Tensions and resentment between the Guadalcanalese and the Malaitans on Guadalcanal culminated in violence beginning in 1998. The presence of RAMSI greatly reduced ethnic tension between the two groups, and reconciliation ceremonies organized during the year led to further easing of tensions. Underlying problems between the two groups remained, however, including issues related to jobs and land rights.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
“Sodomy” is illegal, as are “indecent practices between persons of the same sex.” The maximum penalty for the former is 14 years’ imprisonment and for the latter five years. There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons under these provisions during the year, and authorities generally did not enforce these laws. There are no specific antidiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although stigma may hinder some from reporting.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There was societal discrimination toward persons with HIV/AIDS, but there were no specific reports of disownment by families as reported in the past and no reports of violence targeting persons with HIV/AIDS.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were two reported cases of sorcery-related violence during the year. In both cases, violence was related to alleged involvement in sorcery and witchcraft and typically targeted the most vulnerable persons: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly.