Women have low access to education and high rates of early marriage. They were underrepresented in school and employment. According to the UN 2018 Human Development Index Report, only 4.3 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education, compared with 8.9 percent of men. Fewer than seven women out of 10 were represented in the labor market compared to almost 10 for men. Women faced particular health challenges: for every 100,000 live births, 553 women die from pregnancy-related causes. The adolescent birth rate was 192 births per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison, depending on the circumstances and age of the victim. If there is a familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, aggravating circumstances apply to the sentencing. Rape was a widespread problem, and stigmatization of victims continued.
In August a family in a rural village reported to the gendarmerie that their daughter, a minor, had been raped. The gendarmerie declined to investigate because of the status of the alleged perpetrator. The family requested support from a Niamey-based NGO, SOS Women and Children Victims of Violence (SOS-FEVVF), which assisted in a physical investigation and the compilation of evidence, sending the material back to the gendarmerie to request an official investigation. At year’s end, the gendarmerie had not responded.
The law does not explicitly recognize spousal rape, and authorities seldom prosecuted it. Cultural views discounted spousal rape. Victims often sought to deal with the rape within the family or were pressured to do so, and many victims did not report spousal rape due to fear of retribution, including loss of economic support.
The law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence, and violence against women was reportedly widespread. Husbands commonly beat their wives.
A woman may sue her husband or lodge criminal charges for battery, penalties for which range from two months in prison and a fine of 10,000 CFA francs ($18) to 30 years’ imprisonment. The government tried with limited success to enforce these laws, and courts prosecuted cases of domestic violence when they received complaints. Charges stemming from family disputes often were dropped in favor of traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms. While women have the right to seek redress for violence in the customary or formal courts, few did so due to ignorance of redress offered by the legal system and fear of spousal or familial repudiation, further violence, or stigmatization.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, which is punishable by six months to three years in prison. If an FGM/C victim dies, the practitioner may be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. Government, NGO, and community efforts combined decreased the prevalence of FGM/C from 5 percent in 1998 to 2 percent in 2012. For more information, see Appendix C.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice reportedly continued whereby some men were able to buy or be gifted with a “fifth wife,” or wahaya. These unofficial wives (Islam allows a maximum of four wives) were the daughters of hereditary slaves, often sold at ages seven to 12. They were intended to perform manual labor for the household and provide sexual services. This practice was concentrated in a specific region in the center of the country. No statistics on its practice were available.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime punishable by prison sentences of three to six months and fines of 10,000 to 100,000 CFA francs ($18 to $180). If the violator is in a position of authority over the victim, the prison sentence is three months to one year and the fine is increased to 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($36 to $360).
Sexual harassment was widespread. Cultural attitudes limited women’s perception of what is harassment and encouraged acceptance. Cases were rarely reported, but when they were, courts enforced applicable laws. SOS-FEVVF estimated that eight out of 10 young female workers in small shops faced sexual harassment, and only two in 10 reported it. Poverty made women especially vulnerable to harassment in the workplace.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equal legal status and rights regardless of sex, women do not have the same rights as men under family law, which customary courts usually adjudicate. In customary law, legal rights as head of household typically apply only to men. Customary law does not consider a divorced or widowed woman, even with children, to be a head of household. Discrimination was worse in rural areas, where women helped with subsistence farming and did most of the childrearing, cooking, water- and wood-gathering, and other work. In the absence of a formal will stating otherwise, a daughter’s share of a deceased parent’s property is half the size of a son’s share.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents, as long as one parent is a citizen. Birth registration, especially in remote rural areas and in nomadic communities, did not take place promptly due to parental poverty, lack of awareness, and distance from government services. The government’s failure to register births at times resulted in citizens’ reduced access to some services. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Education: Although the law provides for education for all children from age four to 18, compulsory education for children of specific ages was not enforced. Students often had to buy their own books and supplies. Many parents kept young girls at home to work, and girls rarely attended school for more than a few years. Access to education for children nationwide was a challenge, due to a shortage of funding for teachers, classrooms, and supplies, especially in rural areas. The low quality of public education undermined parents’ estimation of the value of sending their children to school and contributed to low attendance rates. The total gross enrollment rate for primary education was 67.3 percent in 2016. The boys’ completion rate for primary school was 87.4 percent while the girls’ was 69.5 percent. Only an estimated four out of 10 female students in primary school reached the sixth grade. According to UN statistics for the year, the average boy spent 2.6 years in school. The average girl spent 1.5 years in school.
In December 2017 the cabinet approved a decree encouraging girls to stay in school through age 16. During the summer representatives of a government-formed Education Network toured the country to advocate for girls’ education, women’s rights, and equal opportunities for all.
Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were common. The law prescribes penalties for child abuse. For example, parents of minors who usually engage in begging, or any person who encourages children to beg or profits from their begging, may be sentenced to six months’ to one year’s imprisonment. The abduction of a minor younger than age 18 is punishable by two to 10 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for abduction for ransom is life imprisonment.
During the first quarter of the year, 2,175 children received services through the Protection Service within the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and the Protection of Children. Among these the government reported 473 combined cases of neglect and abuse, 196 cases of early marriage, and 161 cases of sexual abuse. Almost one-third of cases occurred in Maradi Region.
In September a 13-year-old girl reported to SOS-FEVVF that her father and stepmother regularly beat her, forced her to work as a domestic servant carrying out heavy tasks, limited her food, prevented her from leaving the house, and offered her to visitors for sex. Her biological mother had removed her from the father’s house and was seeking legal assistance to gain custody of the girl.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law allows a girl deemed to be “sufficiently mature” to marry at age 15. Some families entered into marriage agreements under which they sent rural girls who were age 12 or even younger to their “husband’s” families to be under the “supervision” of their mothers-in-law. According to UN statistics, 76 percent of girls married by age 18. The leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 was maternal hemorrhage (17 percent of all deaths in this age group).
The Ministry of Women’s Promotion and Children’s Protection cooperated with women’s associations to sensitize traditional chiefs and religious leaders in rural communities to the problem of early marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although the law criminalizes the procurement of a minor for the purpose of prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation of children was a problem. The minimum age of consensual sex is 13 for both boys and girls.
The law provides, “exploitation shall include, at minimum, slavery or practices similar to slavery” and adds that the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring, or receiving of a minor younger than age 18 for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered trafficking in persons. The penalty for violators is five to 10 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 to five million CFA francs ($900 to $9,000). If the victim is younger than age 18, the penalty is 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment. If the victim dies, the penalty is life imprisonment.
The penal code provides for two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($90 to $900) for the prostitution of children. The law prohibits “indecent” acts against victims younger than age 18. It leaves to judges to determine what constitutes an indecent act.
Girls reportedly were trafficked for forced prostitution along the main East-West highway, particularly between the cities of Birni n’Konni and Zinder along the border with Nigeria.
Child Soldiers: An unknown number of children were captured by security forces in Diffa and Tillabery Regions and detained in Niamey and Kollo prisons for alleged involvement with terrorist groups. Experts of the Ministry of Justice and the Child Protection Directorate within the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and the Protection of Children determined their ages and provided them services in one of the four Orientation and Transition Centers in Niamey, funded by UNICEF. They were progressively reunited with their families. Some of these detainees were Nigerian citizens (as opposed to Nigerien). The government reported that from 2016 to 2018, 72 juveniles, including one girl, were admitted in these centers and 62 had been reunited with their families by year’s end.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide occurred, and a sizeable proportion of the female prison population was incarcerated for this crime, which was often committed to hide pregnancies out of wedlock.
Displaced Children: Many displaced boys from rural areas were indentured to Islamic schools, where they were forced to beg on the streets of larger cities. Displaced children had access to government services, but services were limited. Unaccompanied migrant children transited Niger en route to Libya, Algeria, and Europe. Some unaccompanied migrant children travelled to the Djado gold fields to find work in unregulated gold mines.
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 was no significant 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 and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law defined the disabled as a person “unable to meet all or part of his needs for a normal life due to a physical, sensory, or mental deficiency.” The government made efforts to enforce these provisions. For example, regulations required that 5 percent of civil servants be persons with disabilities. Although the goal was not met, the government reported employing 512 persons with disabilities within a total civil service of 61,387. There were no specific regulations in place mandating accessibility to buildings, transportation, and education for persons with disabilities. The law mandates that new government buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the law was not enforced.
The national health system, which normally provides free medical care to children younger than age five, gives life-long free medical care to persons with disabilities.
Social stigma regarding disabilities resulted in neglect and even infanticide, according to the Federation for Handicapped Persons. A high percentage of persons with disabilities were forced by their families to spend their lives begging.
Children with disabilities were technically able to attend school but faced difficulties, including a lack of adapted instruction and materials, a shortage of specialists for working with children with special needs, and a lack of flexibility in the evaluation system. For example, the lack of professional sign language interpreters prevented deaf children from continuing their education past high school.
According to the Federation of Handicapped Persons, there were 61 schools with programs that accommodated students with disabilities. These included four specialized schools and 57 integrated schools where students with disabilities interact with other students. There were three schools for children with hearing disabilities, one school for blind children, and five inclusive classes for blind children in mainstream public schools.
The Electoral Code passed in 2017 does not contain clear provisions regarding voting registration for persons with disabilities.
Members of the Boudouma minority in the Diffa Region and the Fulani minority in the Tillabery Region faced governmental and societal discrimination due to a widespread perception that the two groups supported or facilitated terrorist activities.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There was strong societal stigma against same-sex sexual activity, but there are no laws criminalizing adult consensual same-sex sexual activity in general. The law states an “unnatural act” with a person younger than age 21 of the same sex is punishable by six months to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 to 100,000 CFA francs ($18 to $180).
Gay men and lesbians experienced societal discrimination and social resentment. Two lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex rights associations reportedly conducted their activities secretly, in part because they were not officially registered. There were no reports of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no documented cases of discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation. Observers believed stigma or intimidation impeded individuals from reporting such abuse.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV/AIDS experienced societal discrimination, although strong government efforts discouraged such discrimination. In conjunction with several other organizations working on HIV/AIDS issues, the government continued its antidiscrimination campaign. The labor code provides for protection against discrimination for persons suffering from diseases such as HIV/AIDS and sickle cell anemia.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There continued to be serious stigma associated with being the descendant of a slave. One NGO reported that in Denkila village, approximately 14 miles from Dosso, a court decision reportedly prevented a group of 274 families from farming their land for the past five years. A person with an alternate claim to the land had sued for a court injunction against the defendants’ use of the land based on an outdated law that forbids former slaves from owning or farming land in contradiction with the 2003 law banning slavery. The descendants of former slaves were fighting the decision in the courts.