Rape and Domestic Violence: The law includes sentences of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for conviction of rape but does not address spousal rape. The government did not enforce the law effectively.
Domestic violence against women was common. While the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, it prohibits “torture and barbaric acts” against a spouse and specifies penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators. Police rarely intervened in domestic violence incidents. The Cellule d’Ecoute (Listening Committee) addresses domestic violence in a tripartite arrangement with the Ministry of Justice, law enforcement agencies, and the council on sharia. This committee refers cases to the Ministry of Justice when abuse is violent or to the council on sharia for divorce proceedings.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but it was a problem. According to a 2012 Ministry of Health survey, 78 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 had undergone FGM/C. According to the UNFD, infibulation, the most extreme form of FGM/C, with a prevalence rate of 67.2 percent, continued, although with declining frequency. Per government officials, new cases of FGM/C were rare in the country’s urban areas, but they also noted a small subsection of the population travels to surrounding countries to have FGM/C performed. The law sets punishment for conviction of FGM/C at five years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million DJF ($5,650), and NGOs may file charges on behalf of victims. The law also provides for up to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 100,000 DJF ($565) for anyone convicted of failing to report a completed or planned FGM/C to the proper authorities; however, the government had punished no one under this statute by year’s end. Government officials acknowledged their awareness-raising efforts to end FGM/C were less effective in remote regions of the country.
The government continued efforts to end FGM/C with a high-profile national publicity campaign, public support from the president’s wife and other prominent women, and outreach to Muslim religious leaders. During the year the government began drafting strategies to raise awareness among migrants, persons with disabilities, and youth.
For more information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and anecdotal information suggested such harassment was widespread.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available in Appendix C.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal treatment of citizens without distinction concerning gender, but custom and traditional societal discrimination resulted in a secondary role for women in public life and fewer employment opportunities in the formal sector. In accordance with sharia, men inherit a larger proportion of estates than do women. The government promoted female leadership in the small business sector, including through expanded access to microcredit.
A presidential decree requires that women hold at least 20 percent of all high-level public-service positions, although the government has never implemented the decree.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from a child’s parents. The government encouraged prompt registration of births, but confusion regarding the process sometimes left children without proper documentation. Lack of birth registration did not result in denial of public services but did prevent youth from completing their higher studies and adults from voting. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Education: Although primary education is compulsory, only an estimated three of every four children were enrolled in school. Primary and middle school are tuition-free, but other expenses are often prohibitive for poor families.
Child Abuse: Child abuse existed but was not frequently reported or prosecuted, and the government made only limited efforts to combat it.
Early and Forced Marriage: Although the law fixes the minimum legal age of marriage at 18, it provides that “marriage of minors who have not reached the legal age of majority is subject to the consent of their guardians.” Child marriage occasionally occurred in rural areas. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning worked with women’s groups throughout the country to protect the rights of girls, including the right to decide when and whom to marry. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for three years’ imprisonment and a fine of one million DJF ($5,650) for conviction of the commercial exploitation of children. The law does not specifically prohibit statutory rape, and there is no legal minimum age of consent. The minimum legal age of marriage is 18. The sale, manufacture, or distribution of all pornography, including child pornography, is prohibited, and violations if convicted are punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 200,000 DJF ($1,130).
The government enacted an anti-trafficking-in-persons (TIP) law in 2016 that prohibits trafficking and outlines definitions distinguishing trafficking and smuggling. The law provides language that the “means” element generally needed to prosecute TIP cases is not required when the victim is a child.
Despite government efforts to keep at-risk children off the streets and to warn businesses against permitting children to enter bars and clubs, children were vulnerable to prostitution on the streets and in brothels.
Displaced Children: During the year the government and NGOs in partnership commissioned an investigation and full qualitative and quantitative study of unaccompanied minors living on the streets. This report had not been released to the public. NGOs reported an increasing number of unaccompanied minors living in Djibouti City or traveling through the country en route to the Middle East.
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/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
Observers estimated the Jewish community at fewer than 30 persons, the majority of whom were foreign military members stationed in the country. 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 does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities, although the law prohibits such discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.). Both the Ministry of National Solidarity and the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning have responsibility specifically to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. The government also created the position of presidential advisor for persons living with disabilities. Nevertheless, the law was not enforced. The government did not mandate access to government services and accessibility to buildings for persons with disabilities, and buildings were often inaccessible. The law provides persons with disabilities access to health care and education, but the law was not enforced.
Authorities held prisoners with mental disabilities separately from other pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners. They received minimal psychological treatment or monitoring. Families could request confinement in prison for relatives with mental disabilities who had not been convicted of any crime, but who were considered a danger to themselves or those around them. There were no mental health treatment facilities and only one practicing psychiatrist in the country.
Government agencies conducted awareness-raising campaigns, and NGOs organized seminars and other events that drew attention to the need for enhanced legal protections and better workplace conditions for persons with disabilities.
The governing coalition included all of the country’s major clans and ethnic groups, with minority groups also represented in senior positions. Nonetheless, there was discrimination based on ethnicity in employment and job advancement (see section 7.d.). Somali Issas, the majority ethnic group, controlled the ruling party and dominated the civil service and security services. Discrimination based on ethnicity and clan affiliation remained a factor in business and politics.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not explicitly criminalize LGBTI status or conduct among consenting adults. No antidiscrimination law exists to protect LGBTI individuals. There were no reported incidents of societal violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, although LGBTI persons generally did not openly acknowledge their LGBTI status. There were no LGBTI organizations.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were no reported cases of violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, although stigma against individuals with the disease was widespread. Several local associations worked in collaboration with the government to combat social discrimination.