Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction of rape of women and men is punishable by eight to 16 years’ imprisonment, and conviction of domestic violence is punishable by one to five years’ imprisonment. Spousal rape is implicitly covered by the gender-based violence law; penalties for conviction range from one to five years’ imprisonment. The law focuses on increasing protection of victims, strengthening penalties for convicted offenders, and raising awareness regarding gender-based violence. The law calls for establishing several care centers, with financial and management autonomy, but implementation lagged due to inadequate staffing and financial resources. Violence and discrimination against women remained significant problems.
The National Police accompanied victims of sexual and gender-based violence to the hospital and escorted them to their homes to collect their belongings. Police officers helped victims go to a location where they believed they would be safe (often a family member’s home; there were only two official shelters, in Praia and Tarrafal de Santiago). Victims’ rights organizations stated police officers were sometimes not fully supportive or sensitive to the problems victims faced. Very often victims returned to their abusers due to economic and social pressures. As of September the Cabo Verdean Institute for Equality and Equity of Gender (ICIEG) received information on 325 cases of gender-based violence.
The government did not enforce the law against rape and domestic violence effectively. NGO sources lamented the lack of social and psychological care for perpetrators and survivors alike.
According to official data from the National Statistics Institute from 2017, 89 percent of victims of gender-based violence in the country were girls or women. Victims aged 22 to 30 represented 34.7 percent of the total and from 31 to 45 years represented 31 percent of the total. Most perpetrators of gender-based violence were men (89.5 percent) and aged 31 to 45 years (38.6 percent) and 22 to 30 years (32.3 percent).
Sexual Harassment: The penal code criminalizes sexual harassment. Penalties for conviction include up to one year in prison and a fine equal to up to two years of the perpetrator’s salary. Although authorities generally enforced the law, sexual harassment was common and widely accepted in the culture.
In April an appeals court reduced by one half the sentences of Rui and Flavio Alves, brothers convicted of committing cybercrimes involving the coercion of girls and young women into having sexual relations with them. Rui’s original sentence of 33 years’ imprisonment was very heavy by Cabo Verdean standards and was reduced to 18 years; Flavio’s original sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment was reduced to seven years. The court did not apply its trafficking in persons law in this case.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, and the government somewhat enforced the law. Cultural norms and traditions, however, imposed gender roles that hindered the eradication of gender-based discrimination.
A proposed law on gender parity stalled in the National Assembly when political parties could not agree that 50 percent of the names on candidate lists be composed of female candidates. Despite protests from ICIEG, the first lady, and others, the law received no further attention during the legislative year. Women held 23.6 percent of seats in the National Assembly; they held no mayoral seats.
Women suffered discrimination in equal pay for equal work. Women often worked in informal jobs and lacked access to social security. Women, especially the working poor, struggled to maintain their professional independence when they had children. Fathers were often not present in the nuclear family. Additionally, when girls became pregnant while still in school, they nearly always dropped out and did not resume their education.
Rural school district supervisors and local government officials spoke of “absent men,” lamenting the burden placed on women and noting the damage to existing and future generations of children growing up without male role models or with negative ones. According to the National Statistics Institute, 40 percent of children lived with only their mother.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents or grandparents or by birth within the country if the parents have been legal residents for five years. When those conditions are not met, and if the child does not receive citizenship from the country of at least one of its parents, the parents would need to get a lawyer to petition for an exception. Birth registration was not denied or provided on a discriminatory basis. Failure to register births did not result in denial of public services. For additional information, see Appendix C.
In June the director general of immigration flagged the issue of statelessness within the ECOWAS zone. She stated children born in the country should automatically acquire local citizenship, regardless of their parents’ citizenship or other status.
Education: The government provided tuition-free and universal education for all children through the eighth grade. Education is compulsory until age 15. Secondary education was tuition-free to children whose families’ annual income was below 147,000 escudos ($1,473). School is tuition-free from preschool through higher education for children with disabilities in both public and private schools. The government subsidizes kindergarten fees through municipal governments. As part of his government’s campaign for inclusivity, the prime minister called for the expansion of tuition-free and compulsory education through the 12th grade by 2021 to all children. The National Statistics Institute estimated 6.3 percent of children were not in school, the majority of whom were between ages 15 and 17.
Child Abuse: Laws prohibit physical, psychological, and moral violence against children, including sexual violence, but these remained problems. Penalties for child abuse include two to eight years in prison for sexual abuse of a child under age 14, increasing from five to 12 years’ imprisonment if the abuse included penetration. Those found guilty of engaging in transactional sex with a minor under age 18 faced two to eight years in prison, four to 12 years’ imprisonment if the sex involved penetration. The government tried to combat it through a national network that included the Cabo Verdean Institute of Childhood and Adolescence (ICCA), various police forces, the Attorney General’s Office, hospitals, local civil society organizations, and health centers. The government attempted to reduce sexual abuse and violence against children through several programs such as Dial a Complaint, the Children’s Emergency Program, Project Our House, Welcome Centers for Street Children, Project Safe Space, and the Project Substitute Family. ICCA services, however, were not permanently present on every island, and ICCA employees struggled to meet the needs of the local populations.
In July, Roque Estrela, from Boa Vista Island, received a five-year suspended sentence and a 200,000-escudo ($2,018) fine after a conviction for sexual abuse of a seven-year-old child.
For children and adolescents, as of July the ICCA registered 116 cases of sexual abuse, 148 cases of cruel treatment, 17 cases of child labor, and 243 cases of parental negligence.
In March the Ministry of Family and Social Inclusion, ICCA, and UNICEF hosted a public discussion on the preparation of a broad child protection law. Participants included members of the National Assembly from all three parties, diplomatic and international organization missions, NGOs, and semigovernmental and civil society organizations. The discussion covered concerns, ideas, and structures and provided information for the drafting of a robust child protection law. The draft law included penalties for conviction of crimes committed in cyberspace against children.
Legislation passed in 2015 enabling anyone who became aware of sexual violence against a child under age 14 to report the crime began to take root, and complaints continued to increase, most notably on the tourist island of Sal, although the majority of cases did not involve tourists. A string of highly public cases in which alleged perpetrators were released on bail, often to return to the home they shared with their victims, provoked increasingly sharp criticism from the public. After neighborhood protests on Sal, mostly led by women, the judge on Sal increasingly recommended preventive detention for alleged perpetrators of child sex abuse. The ICCA provided care for the child victims, but perpetrators and alleged perpetrators received minimal interventions or care while awaiting trial or while in prison. Child abuse cases may linger for years in the judicial process, often leaving child victims vulnerable to continued abuse.
In July the City of Praia and ICCA hosted the inaugural meeting of the Municipal Committee for the Defense of Children and Adolescents. The committee was replicated in nearly all of the country’s 22 municipalities and was designed to make child protection services more accessible.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law punishes those that foment, promote, or facilitate “prostitution” or sexual exploitation of children age 16 and under with a penalty if convicted of four to 10 years’ imprisonment. If the victim is age 17 or 18, the penalty is two to six years’ imprisonment, which is commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as kidnapping. The law punishes those who induce, transport, or provide housing or create the conditions for sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation of children age 16 and under in a foreign country with a penalty if convicted of five to 12 years’ imprisonment. If the victim is age 17 or 18, the penalty for conviction is two to eight years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits the exploitation of children under age 18 in pornography, with penalties for conviction of up to three years’ imprisonment. The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16. Sexual relations with a child under age 14 are considered a public crime and invoke mandatory reporting from anyone who becomes aware of the crime. By law, at ages 14 and 15, sexual relations are a semipublic crime and may be reported by any involved party (the minor or the minor’s parents or guardians). Sexual abuse was widely reported throughout the country. Alleged perpetrators often were released from detention pending trial. There were numerous unconfirmed reports of tourists engaging in transactional sex with minors and of minors engaging in prostitution for money or drugs.
The minister of education, family, and social inclusion called for special attention to the subject of sexual assault in the schools. She noted schools needed to improve and increase their messaging regarding appropriate behavior and to better protect children.
The government also continued efforts to prevent the sexual exploitation of children through a national coordinating committee and the development of a code of ethics for the tourism industry. The Observatory for Monitoring and Rapid Identification of Trafficking in Persons, which includes numerous government agencies, held three meetings and developed internal procedures and a list of priorities related to human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
Displaced Children: Approximately 50 children lived in the streets of Mindelo, the country’s second-largest city. An undetermined number likely lived in Praia as well. The ICCA and other organizations took steps to provide shelter to the children, ranging from day centers to 24-hour shelters. Officials worked with children, families, and communities to resolve intrafamily problems and return the children to the safety of their families. To reduce vulnerability to trafficking in persons and other crimes, the Ferry Authority launched a campaign prohibiting unaccompanied children from traveling between islands.
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/reported-cases.html.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions, with problems remaining in a number of areas. For example, physical accessibility, communication means, and public transport appropriate for persons with disabilities often were lacking. The government worked with civil society organizations to implement programs to provide access for wheelchair users, including ramps to enhance access to transportation and buildings.
According to the Ministry of Family and Social Inclusion, the ministry enrolled and subsidized children and youths with special educational needs in primary, secondary, and higher education. Persons with intellectual or mental disabilities, as determined by the Ministry of Health, are not allowed to vote, according to the National Commission for Elections, if they are deemed not to have the mental capacity to exercise that right. Crimes against persons with disabilities were investigated and processed when they were reported.
Many child victims of sexual abuse were persons with mental disabilities. Police investigated their cases with the same care they used on other cases, and the ICCA provided support to child victims.
The government has a quota system for granting scholarships and tax benefits to companies that employ individuals with disabilities. NGOs recognized these measures as partially effective in better integrating these citizens into society but also noted nonenforcement and inadequate regulations were obstacles.
The RTC, through a partnership with the CNDHC, Handicap International, and the Cabo Verdean Federation of Associations of People with Disabilities, included in its nightly news program a sign language interpreter for deaf persons able to sign.
The law stipulates a quota of 5 percent of educational scholarships be allocated to persons with disabilities, but this quota was not reached.
In June, Praia’s public bus company, Sol Atlantico, purchased five buses accessible to persons with disabilities for regular use in the city.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Antidiscrimination laws exist, and state employers may not discriminate based on sexual orientation, family situation, habits and dress, health status, or membership or nonmembership in any organization. Laws prohibit discrimination in the provision of a good or service, exercising normal economic activities, and employment. The government generally enforced these laws; penalties if convicted were up to two years in prison or a fine equal to 100-300 days’ salary. Laws do not prohibit consensual same-sex sexual conduct among adults.
Persistent social discrimination existed as the norm for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community and generally took the form of public mockery and appearance-based discrimination. A same-sex marriage was performed on Boa Vista and considered by many social media users as an important social and cultural advance for the country.