Rape and Domestic Violence: The law specifically criminalizes rape. Spousal rape is explicitly considered rape with “aggravated circumstances.” According to the Ministry of Justice, however, no spousal rape case had ever been prosecuted in the country. 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 July police initiated 36 criminal charges for rape, of which 11 were sent to the prosecutor’s office and nine to court.
Domestic violence remained a serious problem, and authorities prosecuted a number of cases. 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. Through August the ombudsman received six 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 permits national and municipal police to require perpetrators to leave the home where the victim resides for eight days. It provides a broad definition of violence that includes physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence.
On average police received approximately 8,000 calls per year on domestic abuse; these calls, however, rarely resulted in separation orders. In a pilot project in the town of Tukums, police use of protocols to report and investigate gender-based violence resulted in 17 family separations, compared with one a year before.
In the first six months of the year, police initiated 120 criminal proceedings for domestic violence and detained 52 persons; in the same period, police issued 402 restraining orders, which was similar to 2017. According to the Marta Center, courts rejected one application for a restraining order during the year. NGOs complained that, in some domestic violence cases, police were reluctant to act. 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.
There were no government shelters 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 was prosecuted under discrimination statutes, and penalties range from a reprimand to imprisonment. Victims have the right to submit complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman and the State Labor Inspectorate. In 2017 the ombudsman received three complaints of sexual harassment.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for equal treatment of women. The government enforced its antidiscrimination laws effectively.
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.
Child Abuse: Violence against children was a problem. The law provides for protection of children against violence, exploitation, sexual abuse, involvement in prostitution, and serious threats to the life, health, or development of the child, such as hazardous conditions. Violation of the law is punishable by imprisonment, community service, or a fine and supervised probation for a period of up to three years. 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. 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.
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 prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities generally enforced the law. Through July police initiated 78 criminal proceedings for the sexual exploitation of minors younger than 16, a 20 percent drop, compared with the previous 12 months. 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: In the first six 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.
In February the ombudsman reported serious violations at the Ainazi children’s psychiatric clinic, where, among other forms of abuse, children were found bound to beds for prolonged periods. As a result of the report, authorities initiated two criminal investigations for corruption, fraud, misuse of drugs, and violence against patients. The criminal case remained under review at year’s end.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
The CSB reported that there were 4,721 Jewish residents in the country. 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.
On March 16, five members of parliament from the National Alliance party attended the annual march to commemorate Latvians who fought in German Waffen SS units against the Soviet Army in World War II. No Nazi symbols or insignia were seen at the march. Police arrested a man on the margins of the march for displaying a poster of soldiers killing Jews. 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 disabilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions.
Although the law mandates access to public buildings for persons with disabilities, there was no corresponding law for private buildings, and most public buildings were not accessible. The NGO Apeirons reported that since 2016 all new public buildings in the country were accessible to persons with disabilities. New private buildings were not always accessible to persons with disabilities. Apeirons reported that only 3 percent of all buildings were fully accessible. Accessibility to state and local government buildings generally extended only to the first floor.
While children with disabilities were allowed to attend regular schools that could accommodate their needs, very few schools outside of Riga could accommodate them.
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 July the ombudsman did not receive any written complaints of racial or ethnic discrimination.
In the first six months of the year, police initiated two criminal cases for incitement of social hatred and enmity; both remained under investigation.
The Romani community continued to face widespread societal discrimination and high levels of unemployment and illiteracy. According to the CSB, there were 5,082 Roma in the country.
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.
NGOs reported that intolerance of and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons continued to be widespread.