Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes the rape of individuals–without reference to gender–and domestic violence. The penalty for conviction of rape is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for conviction of attempted rape is seven years’ imprisonment. Spousal rape was widespread and not illegal; police generally considered it a domestic issue outside its jurisdiction. Rape and domestic violence were widespread problems that often went unreported due to victims’ fear of reprisal, unequal power relations, stigma, discrimination, and pressure from family and friends not to report. Conviction of domestic violence carries a fine of 50,000 dalasi (D) ($1,055), two years’ imprisonment, or both.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law bans FGM/C of girls and women. The law stipulates imprisonment of not more than three years, a fine of D50,000 ($1,055), or both, for anyone convicted of circumcision of a female child; if the child dies, the penalty for conviction is life imprisonment. Failure to report the practice may lead to a fine of D10,000 ($211).
FGM/C is a deeply rooted practice in society. Many hesitated to report FGM/C cases, either because they did not agree with the law or because they were uncomfortable reporting family members or neighbors who engaged in the practice. According to NGOs, approximately 76 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 were subjected to FGM/C. NGOs, including the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, Wassu Gambia Kafo, Safe Hands for Girls, and Think Young Women, were at the forefront of combatting FGM/C in the country. Following the departure of former president Jammeh, rumors circulated that the law banning FGM/C would no longer be enforced. Authorities responded that the ban remained in effect. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and conviction provides for a one-year mandatory prison sentence. Sexual harassment was prevalent but not commonly reported due to discrimination, social stigma, and unwillingness to challenge the offenders due to unequal power relationships and fear of reprisal.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for equality of all persons; no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner because of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Legal provisions against discrimination do not apply to adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, and inheritance of property. The law prohibits discrimination in employment, access to credit, owning and managing a business, or in housing or education. During the year there were no reports that the government failed to enforce the law.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth in the country’s territory or through either parent. Not all parents registered births, but this did not preclude their children from receiving public health services. Birth certificates were easily obtained in most cases. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Education: The constitution and law mandate compulsory, tuition-free education through the secondary level. Under the tuition-free education plan, however, families often must pay fees for books, uniforms, lunches, school fund contributions, and examination fees. An estimated 75 percent of primary school-age children enrolled in primary schools. Girls comprised approximately half of primary school students but only one-third of high school students.
Early and Forced Marriage: By law children younger than age 18 may not marry; however, approximately 33 percent of girls younger than 18 were married, and 9 percent younger than 15 were married. Government sensitization campaigns in several areas of the country, particularly in remote villages, sought to create awareness of the act. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. The law provides for 14 years’ imprisonment for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children and five years for involvement in child pornography. Local NGOs stated criminals exploited children who were often seeking to support their families in prostitution in brothels and in remote guesthouses and motels frequented by tourists. Authorities instructed security officers in the tourism development area to turn away all minors who approached the main resort areas without an acceptable reason. NGOs attributed many of the difficulties in reporting and prosecuting sexual abuse on a national culture of secrecy with regard to intimate family issues and a penchant for resolution of problems outside of the formal system.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information, 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 known 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 prohibits discrimination against or exploitation of persons with disabilities, although it does not stipulate the kinds of disabilities protected, particularly as regards access to health services, education, and employment. Authorities effectively enforced these provisions. There is no explicit legal provision that requires access to transportation, nor any requirement to provide for access to buildings for persons with disabilities. No law or program provides for persons with disabilities to have access to information or communications.
There are three separate schools for students with visual, hearing, or learning disabilities respectively. Other students with disabilities may attend mainstream schools, but there are no programs or facilities to address special needs. Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at a lower rate than other children.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
By law, “aggravated homosexuality” is a crime for which conviction is punishable by life imprisonment. It includes serial offenders or persons with a previous conviction for homosexual activity, persons having same-sex relations with someone younger than age 18 or with members of other vulnerable groups, or a person with HIV having same-sex relations.
Citing more pressing priorities, President Barrow dismissed homosexuality as a nonissue in the country. On July 5, the country’s delegation to the UN Human Rights Council stated that the government had no immediate plans to reverse or change the law. The law, however, was not enforced.
There was strong societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Although there were no reports to authorities of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, it existed. Societal discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS and fear of rejection by partners and relatives sometimes hindered identification and treatment of persons with the disease. The government’s multisectoral national strategic plan provides for care, treatment, and support for persons with or affected by HIV/AIDS. The plan includes HIV-prevention programs for high-risk populations.