Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison. The law recognizes spousal rape. The law makes domestic violence a crime punishable by a maximum of 12 months in prison, a fine of 2,000 pa’anga ($860), or both. Repeat offenders face a maximum of three years in prison or a maximum fine of 10,000 pa’anga ($4,300). The law provides for protection from domestic violence, including protection orders; clarifies the duties of police; and promotes the health, safety, and well-being of domestic violence victims.
Police investigated reported rape cases, and the government prosecuted these cases under the law. In January, for example, a man was sentenced to nine years and nine months in jail for domestic violence, sexual assault, and incest. The police domestic violence unit has a “no-drop” policy in complaints of domestic assault, and once filed, domestic violence cases cannot be withdrawn and must proceed to prosecution in the magistrates’ courts. Tonga Police Force and the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC) conducted a workshop on gender bias training in the Police Force. Gender bias was an issue that hindered the performance of officers in the field.
An estimated 40 percent of women have faced domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime and 80 percent of domestic violence victims are believed to be women. Police work with the National Center for Women and Children as well as with the WCCC to provide shelter for abused women, and girls and boys younger than 14 years. Both centers operated a safe house for victims. The Center reported an increase in sexual abuse cases involving teenagers ages 14 to 16.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a crime under the law, but physical sexual assault can be prosecuted as indecent assault. Sexual harassment within a domestic relationship is an offense. Complaints received by the police domestic violence unit indicated that sexual harassment of women is a common problem.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Inheritance laws, especially those concerned with land, discriminate against women. Women can lease land, but inheritance rights pass through male heirs only; a male child born out of wedlock has precedence over the deceased’s widow or daughter. If there are no male relatives, a widow is entitled to remain on her husband’s land as long as she does not remarry and remains celibate. The inheritance and land rights laws also reduced women’s ability to access credit and to own and operate businesses.
Discrimination against women with respect to employment and wages occurred (see section 7.d.).
Birth Registration: Individuals acquire citizenship at birth automatically if at least one parent is a citizen. Birth in the country per se does not confer citizenship.
Child Abuse: The WCCC implemented a variety of child abuse awareness programs at schools from primary to tertiary levels.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 15 years. According to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), child marriages were a result of several factors, including parental pressure, teenage pregnancy, or forced marriage to rapists.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography with penalties of a maximum fine of 100,000 pa’anga ($43,000) or a maximum of 10 years in prison for individuals and a maximum fine of 250,000 pa’anga ($108,000) for corporations. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. Violators who sexually abuse children may be charged with “carnal knowledge of a child under age 12,” which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, or “carnal knowledge of a child under 15,” which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. There were anecdotal reports of children being subjected to domestic sex trafficking.
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 known resident 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 based on disability, but no laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. There were no legally mandated services or government programs for adults with disabilities, including for building accessibility or access to communications and information.
A Ministry of Education and Training program to bring children with disabilities into primary schools continued during the year, with 18 students enrolled. Many school buildings, however, were not accessible to students with physical disabilities, and attendance rates of children with disabilities at all educational levels were lower than those of students without disabilities.
As of September the National Council on Disability, established in 2017, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs had implemented a program to assist disabled individuals. Each qualifying individual receives 75 pa’anga ($32.30) monthly.
The law restricts ownership and operation of retail food stores to citizens. Ethnic Chinese citizens dominated the retail sector in many towns. There were reports of crime and societal discrimination directed at members of the Chinese minority.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Sodomy is a crime with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but there were no reports of prosecutions under this provision for consensual sexual conduct between adults. No law specifically prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or addresses hate crimes. No criminal justice mechanisms exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) individuals. Society accepted a subculture of transgender dress and behavior, and a prominent NGO’s annual festival highlighted transgender identities. There was one report of violent assault against LGBTI individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of other incidents of violence or discrimination.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There were no reports of discrimination or violence against persons based on HIV/AIDS status, but social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of incidents of discrimination or violence.