Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenders, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape was a widespread problem. Authorities prosecuted only a small percentage of rape cases since victims seldom reported rapes due to societal pressure, particularly because attackers were frequently close relatives, and fear of retaliation. No law specifically prohibits spousal rape, but law enforcement officials stated criminal laws against rape apply to spousal rape. Police and judicial authorities were willing to pursue rape cases but stopped if parties reached an agreement prior to trial.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, was prevalent. Most cases went unreported. On December 28, Fanta Sekou Fofana was beaten and killed by her fiance. By year’s end, investigations were ongoing in the case, and the fiance remained in custody. Spousal abuse is a crime, but the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Assault is punishable by prison terms of one to five years and fines of up to 500,000 CFA francs ($919) or, if premeditated, up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Police were reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic violence. Many women were reluctant to file complaints against their husbands because they feared husbands would interpret such allegations as grounds for divorce, were unable to support themselves financially, sought to avoid social stigma, or feared retaliation or further ostracism. The governmental Planning and Statistics Unit, established to track prosecutions, did not produce reliable statistics.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is legal in the country and, except in certain northern areas, all religious and ethnic groups practiced it widely, particularly in rural areas. Although FGM/C is legal, authorities prohibited the practice in government-funded health centers.
Parents generally had FGM/C performed on girls between the ages of six months and nine years. The most recent comprehensive FGM/C survey, conducted by UNICEF in 2010, indicated 89 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 were excised, and 74 percent of girls and women in the same age group had at least one daughter who was excised. Government information campaigns regarding the dangers of FGM/C reached citizens throughout the country where security allowed, and human rights organizations reported decreased incidence of FGM/C among children of educated parents.
For more information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, which routinely occurred, including in schools, without any government efforts to prevent it. In June a group of three to five aggressors harassed and raped a girl in the Cercle (county equivalent) of Kati. The case was under investigation by year’s end. Some of the assailants remained in custody, while others fled and were not yet recaptured.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law does not provide the same legal status and rights for women as for men, particularly concerning divorce and inheritance. Women are legally obligated to obey their husbands and are particularly vulnerable in cases of divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Women had very limited access to legal services due to their lack of education and information as well as the prohibitive cost. The government effectively enforced the law.
While the law provides for equal property rights, traditional practices and ignorance of the law prevented women from taking full advantage of their rights. The marriage contract must specify if the couple wishes to share estate rights. If marriage certificates of Muslim couples do not specify the type of marriage, judges presume the marriage to be polygynous.
Women experienced economic discrimination due to social norms that favored men, and their access to education and employment was limited.
The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, the Family, and Children is responsible for ensuring the legal rights of women.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from either parent or by birth within the country, and the law requires registration within 30 days of birth. Girls were less likely to be registered.
The government did not register all births immediately, particularly in rural areas. According to UNICEF, the government registered 81 percent of births in 2014. The government conducted an administrative census in 2014 to collect biometric data and assign a unique identifying number to every citizen. The process allowed the registration of children not registered at birth, although the number of new birth certificates assigned was unknown. Several local NGOs worked with foreign partners during the year to register children at birth and to educate parents about the benefits of registration. In 2015 the government approved the issuance of birth certificates for 7,807 children born in the country to Afro-Mauritanian refugees as part of the government’s commitment to facilitate their local integration.
Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free universal education, and the law provides for compulsory schooling from ages six through 15. Nevertheless, many children did not attend school. Parents often had to pay their children’s school fees as well as provide their uniforms and supplies. Other factors affecting school enrollment included distance to the nearest school, lack of transportation, shortages of teachers and instructional materials, and lack of school feeding programs. Girls’ enrollment was lower than that of boys at all levels due to poverty, cultural preference to educate boys, early marriage of girls, and sexual harassment of girls.
The conflict resulted in the closure of schools in the regions of Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu, Mopti, and Segou, and many schools were damaged or destroyed because rebels sometimes used them as bases of operations. Jihadist groups threatened teachers and communities causing, as of March, the closure of 657 schools during the 2017-18 school year, up from 507 schools in the same period in 2016-17, according to UN independent observer Alioune Tine.
Child Abuse: Comprehensive government statistics on child abuse did not exist, but the problem was widespread. Citizens typically did not report child abuse, according to UNICEF. Police and the social services department in the Ministry of Solidarity and Humanitarian Action investigated and intervened in some reported cases of child abuse or neglect, but the government provided few services for such children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age to marry without parental consent is 18 for girls and 21 for boys. A 16-year-old girl may marry with parental consent if a civil judge approves. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law, particularly in rural areas, and underage marriage was a problem throughout the country. According to 2017 data from the UN Population Fund, 52 percent of women were married by age 18 and 17 percent before 15.
In some regions of the country, especially Kayes and Koulikoro, girls married as young as 10. It was common practice for a 14-year-old girl to marry a man twice her age. According to local human rights organizations, judicial officials frequently accepted false birth certificates or other documents claiming girls younger than age 15 were old enough to marry. NGOs implemented awareness campaigns aimed at abating child marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the sexual exploitation of children, including commercial sexual exploitation. Penalties for the sexual exploitation of both adults and children are six months to three years in prison and a fine of between 20,000 and one million CFA francs ($37 and $1,838). Penalties for convicted child traffickers are five to 20 years in prison. Penalties for indecent assault, including child pornography, range from five to 20 years in prison. The country has a statutory rape law that defines 18 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The law, which was inconsistent with the legal minimum marriage age of 15 for girls, was not enforced. Sexual exploitation of children occurred. The Division for Protection of Children and Morals of the National Police conducted sweeps of brothels to assure that individuals in prostitution were of legal age and arrested brothel owners found to be holding underage girls.
Child Soldiers: From April 2017 to October 2018, the National Directorate for the Promotion of Children and the Family registered 53 children associated with armed groups. In 2017, 29 were identified and 24 during the year. They were all assisted by the government and national and international NGOs. As of October, three children remained at the shelter centers in Bamako and Gao while all others were reunited with their families. Six of the children identified during the year were associated with jihadist groups operating in the Mopti Region. Two were identified in Kidal and four in Timbuktu.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Some prostitutes and domestic workers practiced infanticide, mainly due to lack of access to and knowledge about contraception. Authorities prosecuted at least two infanticide cases during the year.
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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
There were fewer than 50 Jews, 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 and law do not specifically protect the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or in the provision of other state services. There is no law mandating accessibility to public buildings. While persons with disabilities have access to basic health care, the government did not place a priority on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and few resources were available. Many such individuals relied on begging.
Persons with mental disabilities faced social stigmatization and confinement in public institutions. For cases in which an investigative judge believed a criminal suspect had mental disabilities, the judge referred the individual to a doctor for mental evaluation. Based on the recommendation of the doctor, who sometimes lacked training in psychology, the court then either sent the suspect to a mental institution in Bamako or proceeded with a trial.
The Ministry of Solidarity and Humanitarian Action is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The ministry sponsored activities to promote income-earning opportunities for persons with disabilities and worked with NGOs, such as the Malian Federation of Associations for Handicapped Persons, which provided basic services. Although the government was responsible for eight schools countrywide for deaf persons, it provided almost no resources or other support.
Societal discrimination continued against black Tuaregs, often referred to as “Bellah.” Some Tuareg groups deprived black Tuaregs of basic civil liberties due to traditional slavery-like practices and hereditary servitude relationships.
There were continued reports of slave masters kidnapping the children of their Bellah slaves, who had no legal recourse. Slaveholders considered slaves and their children as property and reportedly took slave children to raise them elsewhere without permission from their parents. The antislavery organization Temedt organized workshops throughout the country to convince communities to abandon the practice of keeping slaves. The government took no action to establish punishment for practicing slavery.
Intercommunal violence led to frequent clashes between members of the Fulani ethnic group and, separately, members of the Bambara and Dogon communities. Self-defense groups representing these communities were reportedly involved in attacks.
For example, on September 7, in Koro, Mopti Region, attacks by Donzo hunters against Fulani village, Koumboko, resulted in 12 deaths. In early September clashes between Dogon hunters and Fulani herders in Djenne resulted in at least 22 deaths.
According to MINUSMA, intercommunal conflict in Koro, Bandiagara, and Bankass Circles resulted in the forced displacement of at least 22,572 individuals as of July.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits association “for an immoral purpose.” There are no laws specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
NGOs reported LGBTI individuals experienced physical, psychological, and sexual violence, which society viewed as “corrective” punishment. Family members, neighbors, and groups of strangers in public places committed the majority of violent acts, and police frequently refused to intervene. Most LGBTI individuals isolated themselves and kept their sexual orientation or gender identity hidden. An NGO reported that LGBTI individuals frequently dropped out of school, left their places of employment, and did not seek medical treatment to hide their sexual identity and avoid social stigmatization.
There were no known LGBTI organizations in the country, although some NGOs had medical and support programs focusing specifically on men having sex with men.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS occurred. The government implemented campaigns to increase awareness of the condition and reduce discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Mob violence remains a problem. For example, in June a mob destroyed the town of Fana’s gendarmerie headquarters during a protest against the lack of security and the killing of a nine-year-old girl with albinism by a member of the community.
Discrimination continued against persons with albinism. Some traditional religious leaders perpetuated the widespread belief that such persons possessed special powers that others could extract by bringing a traditional spiritual leader the blood or head of one. In June a nine-year-old girl with albinism was kidnapped and beheaded in the town of Fana. As of November the assailant was in custody. The rights of persons with albinism organization run by prominent Malian singer Salif Keita noted that men often divorced their wives for giving birth to a child with albinism. Lack of understanding of the condition contributed to such persons’ lack of access to sunblock, without which they were highly susceptible to skin cancer.