Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or sexual assault. If the victim is a minor, the sentence ranges from a minimum of three years to 15 years in prison. According to the Attorney General’s Office, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem, with many rapes going unreported. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and sometimes obtained convictions.
Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine if convicted, it requires the abuse to be habitual and the aggressor and victim to be “cohabitating or lodging together.” Judges typically issued fines, but in some cases they sentenced offenders to jail to provide for the safety of the victim. In some instances the courts mediated domestic violence cases. According to NGOs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, domestic violence was widespread, and thousands of women received treatment for injuries sustained in domestic altercations. The ministry promoted a national 24-hour telephone hotline for victims. The ministry also operated a shelter and coordinated victim assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training.
In February the Ministry of Women’s Affairs launched Ciudad Mujer in Asuncion, an integrated service center for women, focusing on prevention of domestic violence, reproductive health, economic empowerment, and education. The ministry indicated the center had served 24,000 visitors as of July 31.
As of August the National Police had 17 specialized units to assist victims of domestic violence, and 137 officers were assigned to these stations.
Femicide remained a serious problem. A 2016 law criminalizes femicide and mandates a sentence of between 10 and 30 years in prison upon conviction. In 2017 there were 53 cases of femicide, an increase of 15 from 2016, according to the Supreme Court’s gender office. As of August 24, the office reported 32 cases of femicide.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine, although sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for many women, especially in the workplace environments. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove because of victims’ fear of workplace retaliation and societal pressures against victims. Many dropped their complaints or were unwilling to continue cooperating with prosecutors.
In July the Civil Service Secretariat approved a protocol for addressing sexual misconduct involving government workers. This protocol streamlines the filing of complaints for misconduct and harassment. To facilitate the enforcement of the protocol, the Civil Service Secretariat trained public servants and adopted guidance to include gender perspective in all public agencies’ internal resolutions.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. There is no comprehensive law against discrimination and thus no legal basis for enforcement of the constitutional clause against discrimination.
Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. Nonetheless, gender-related discrimination was widespread. Women experienced more difficulty than men in securing employment and occupation.
Birth Registration: Nationality derives from birth within the country’s territory, from birth to government employees in service abroad, or from birth to a citizen residing temporarily outside the country. Hospitals immediately register births, but this is not the case for many children born in rural areas and in indigenous communities with limited access to health-care facilities. Birth certificates and national identity documents are a prerequisite to access government services, including obtaining a passport.
Education: Education is free, compulsory, and universal from kindergarten through secondary school, although in many parts of the country parents had to pay fees to make sure the school could pay operational expenses. According to the government, girls from rural families tended to leave school at a younger age than did boys. Approximately 10 percent of children from poor families did not have access to schooling, due to economic hardship, geographic isolation, or early entry into the workforce.
Child Abuse: The NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Ministry of Children and Youth, formerly the Secretariat of Children and Adolescents, stated that violence against children was widespread and equally prevalent among rural and urban families.
On August 21, a criminal court convicted priest Felix Miranda Gamarra of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. Rather than sentencing Miranda to jail time, the court ordered him to donate Gs. five million ($850) to a local hospital.
The government does not have a shelter exclusively for child victims of sexual abuse; victims are usually assigned to an extended family member or referred to other general-purpose youth shelters. Several general-purpose youth shelters existed, including a shelter comanaged by the government and a Roman Catholic organization. In many cities the municipal council for children’s rights assisted abused and neglected children. An insufficient number of orphanages operated in the country.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18, but the law permits marriage for those ages 16 to 18 with parental consent, and for those younger than age 16 only with judicial authorization under exceptional circumstances. There were no reports of forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: According to the Ministry of Children and Youth, child trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced domestic servitude remained problematic. The law provides penalties of up to eight years of imprisonment for persons responsible for pimping or brokering victims younger than 17 years of age.
The minimum age of consent is 14 when married and 16 when not married. A December 2017 amendment to the penal code establishes mandatory sentences for sexual abuse of children. The amendment increases the penalty for sexual abuse in cases involving violence or intercourse to at least 15 years in prison if the victim is under 18 and to 20 years in prison if the victim is under 10 years old. The penal code also provides for fines or up to three years in prison for the production, distribution, and possession of pornography involving children or adolescents younger than age 18. Authorities can increase this penalty to 10 years in prison depending on the age of the child and the child’s relationship to the abuser. A 2018 law prohibits the publication of names, images, or audios of underage sexual abuse victims or witnesses and stipulates fines and one year in prison for offenders.
In the first nine months of the year, the Ministry of Children and Youth received more than 2,000 reports of sexual abuse against children. In early September a prosecutor with the Attorney General’s Office placed in pretrial detention 13 navy officers who had sexually abused a 13-year-old girl at a navy garrison.
Child Soldiers: While the government as well as NGOs, including the Coordinator for the Rights of Infants and Adolescents and the Peace and Justice Service, alleged in previous years that the EPP recruited children into logistical support roles that later grew into combatant roles, there were no such reports during the year. The entire size of the EPP was estimated to be 20 to 50 members.
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 Jewish community has fewer than 1,000 members. 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 law nominally prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law mandates accessibility in all public offices, but it does not specifically provide for access to information or communications, and most of the country’s buildings remained inaccessible, although some municipalities made progress.
Many persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment; others were unable to seek employment because of a lack of accessible public transportation. The law mandates the allocation of 5 percent of all available public-employee positions to persons with disabilities; in practice less than 1 percent were so employed. The Ministry of Education and Sciences estimated more than 50 percent of children with disabilities did not attend school because of lack of access to public transportation capacity.
Anecdotally, ethnic minorities faced discrimination in finding employment, accessing credit, receiving equal pay, owning or managing businesses, accessing education, and accessing housing.
The law provides indigenous persons the right to participate in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the country, but the law was not effectively enforced. Discrimination, coupled with a lack of access to employment, education, health care, shelter, and sufficient land, hindered the ability of indigenous persons to progress economically while maintaining their cultural identity.
Indigenous workers engaged as laborers on ranches typically earned low wages, worked long hours, received pay infrequently, and lacked medical or retirement benefits. This situation was particularly severe in the Chaco region.
The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INDI), the Attorney General’s Office; the Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Security; the Social Action Secretariat; and the Ombudsman’s Office are responsible for protecting and promoting indigenous rights. The law mandates that INDI negotiate, purchase, and register land on behalf of indigenous communities who claim lack of access to their ancestral lands. In some instances INDI claimed it lacked sufficient funding to purchase land on behalf of indigenous persons or required them to register land in the Asuncion office rather than locally.
The law authorizes indigenous persons to determine how to use communal land. There were insufficient police and judicial protections from encroachments on indigenous lands. This often resulted in conflict between indigenous communities and large landowners in rural areas, which at times led to violence.
CODEHUPY and other NGOs documented widespread trafficking in persons, rape, sexual harassment, and physical abuse of women in indigenous communities. Perpetrators were often workers and employers from neighboring ranches and farms. NGOs also alleged agribusiness operations in the Chaco exploited and violated the rights of indigenous workers.
The cases of Marcos Torales, Javier Torales, Robert de Souza, and Ismael Barrios were pending as of September 5. In 2017 the Attorney General’s Office charged them for organizing and participating in the May 2017 eviction of 20 families of the Ava Guarani indigenous community from 740 acres on the disputed Colonia Colorado’i property near Itakyry, Alto Parana Department.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTI persons, and discrimination occurred frequently. Several NGOs, including SomosGay, the Center for Studies and Documentation, and Aireana, reported police harassment and discrimination against LGBTI persons.
According to press and NGO reporting, during the year police officers beat, robbed, and implicated transgender individuals as suspects in serious crimes, including drug trafficking and armed robbery.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV-positive status and protects the privacy of medical information. The law also specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees based on their HIV-positive status. Labor ministry regulations forbid employers from requiring HIV testing prior to employment, but many companies reportedly still did so.
NGOs, CODEHUPY, and the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Counseling and Reporting Center noted that persons with HIV/AIDS who sought access to health care, education, and employment opportunities faced discrimination based on their sexual orientation, demand for HIV testing, or gender identity.