Rape and Domestic Violence: The penalty for rape is life imprisonment; however, rape was a widespread problem. The maximum penalty for attempted rape is seven years’ imprisonment without an option of a fine. Spousal rape is not illegal and was widespread;, police generally considered it a domestic issue outside its jurisdiction. A 40-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping and impregnating a 14-year-old girl in August. Most cases of domestic violence went unreported due to victims’ fear of reprisal, unequal power relations, stigma, discrimination, and pressure from family and friends not to report. Conviction of domestic violence carries a fine of D50,000 ($1,060), imprisonment of two years, or both.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a deeply rooted practice in society, and many are hesitant to report FGM/C cases, either because they do not agree with the law or because they are uncomfortable reporting family members or neighbors. Legislation passed in 2015 bans FGM/C . The law stipulates imprisonment of not more than three years, a fine of D50,000 ($1,060), or both, for anyone found to have circumcised a female child; if the child dies, the penalty is life imprisonment. Failure to report the practice may lead to a fine of D10,000 ($210). Despite the law the practice was very prevalent, with approximately 76 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15-49 believed to have undergone FGM/C. NGOs, including the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, Wassu Gambia Kafo, Safe Hands for Girls, and Think Young Women, were at the forefront of combatting FGM/C in the country. (For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ ).
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and conviction provides for a one-year mandatory prison sentence. Sexual harassment was widely prevalent, but not commonly reported due to social pressures and unwillingness to challenge the offenders.
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 provides for equality of all persons before the law, and it stipulates that no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner irrespective of their race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Its provisions against discrimination do not apply to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, and devolution of property upon death. Employment in the formal sector was open to women at the same salary rates as men. No statutory discrimination existed in other kinds of employment, access to credit, owning and managing a business, or in housing or education.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory or through either parent. Not all parents registered births, but this did not preclude their children from receiving public health services. Birth certificates were easily obtained in most cases. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Education: The constitution and law mandate compulsory, tuition-free education through the secondary level. Under the tuition-free education plan, however, families often must pay fees for books, uniforms, lunch, school fund contributions, and examination fees. An estimated 75 percent of primary school-age children enrolled in primary schools. Girls constituted approximately half of primary school students and a third of high school students.
Child Abuse: The Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2010revealed that approximately 90 per cent of children between ages two and 14 were subjected to at least one form of psychological and/or physical abuse, while 18 percent were severely punished physically. Authorities generally enforced the law when cases of child abuse or mistreatment came to their attention and imposed criminal penalties in serious cases.
Early and Forced Marriage: In 2016 the National Assembly made the marriage of children under 18 illegal under the Children’s (Amendment) Act 2016. Approximately 33 percent of girls below the age of 18 were married, and 8.6 percent before the age of 15. Government sensitization campaigns were undertaken in several areas of the country, particularly in remote villages, to create awareness of the act. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for 14 years’ imprisonment for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children and five years for involvement in child pornography. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18 years. Local NGOs believed criminals exploited children, who were often seeking to support their families, in prostitution in brothels and that tourists staying in remote guesthouses and motels were involved in the sexual exploitation of children. Authorities instructed security officers in the tourism development area to turn away all minors who approached the main resort areas without an acceptable reason. NGOs largely blamed many of the difficulties in reporting and prosecuting sexual abuse on a national culture of secrecy with regard to intimate family issues and a penchant for resolution outside of the formal system.
Displaced Children: In August immigration officials in the capital, Banjul, repatriated 70 Senegalese children ages 11 to 16 to Senegal after a raid. According to immigration officials, the children lived on the streets of the capital without supervision or proper documents.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There was no known 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 constitution prohibits discrimination against or exploitation of persons with disabilities, although it does not expressly reference the kinds of disabilities protected, particularly as regards access to health services, education, and employment. Authorities effectively enforced these provisions. There is no explicit legal guarantee of access to transportation, nor any requirement to provide for access to buildings for persons with disabilities. No law or program stipulates persons with disabilities should have access to information or communications. The law requires judicial proceedings involving a person with disabilities to take into account the disabilities.
The Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Health is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and worked with the Gambia Organization for the Visually Impaired and the School for the Deaf and Blind to help educate children with disabilities and to develop relevant skills. Most children with disabilities, however, did not attend school. The department also worked with international donors to supply wheelchairs to some persons with disabilities. The NHRU, a unit of the Office of the Ombudsman, sought to promote the rights of women with disabilities. Persons with disabilities received priority access to polling booths on election days.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In 2014 then president Jammeh signed into law an amendment to the criminal code making “aggravated homosexuality” a crime punishable by life imprisonment. The bill defines “aggravated homosexuality” to include serial offenders or persons with a previous conviction for homosexual activity, persons having same-sex relations with someone under the age of 18 or with members of other vulnerable groups, or a person with HIV having same-sex relations.
President Barrow dismissed homosexuality as a nonissue in the country, citing more pressing priorities. As a result the government had not articulated its intention whether it would attempt to reverse or change the aggravated homosexuality bill. The provisions of the bill were not enforced.
There was strong societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were no LGBTI organizations in the country.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Societal discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS sometimes hindered identification and treatment of persons with the disease and resulted in their rejection by partners and relatives when their condition became known. The government took a multisectoral approach to fighting HIV/AIDS through its national strategic plan, which provided for care, treatment, and support for persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The plan, enacted in 2015, also included HIV-prevention programs for high-risk populations.
There were no reports on HIV-related stigma and discrimination in employment, housing, or access to education or health care.