Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties for conviction of two to 12 years in prison; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law permits prosecution of rape only when reported by the victim, which observers noted was rare due to victims’ fear of social stigma and retribution.
Although the law prohibits domestic violence, abuse was widespread. The government did not undertake specific measures to counter social pressure against reporting domestic violence, rape, incest, and other mistreatment of women.
Cases of domestic violence and child abuse were commonly resolved within the household. Limited access to institutions of justice also contributed to the preference for customary law as a way of solving societal problems. Recourse to the formal justice system was poorly understood, expensive, and seldom used.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, without reference to age of the victims. FGM/C was practiced on girls younger than age five. Conviction for its practice is punishable by a fine of up to five million Central African (CFA) francs ($8,490) and five years in prison. Muslim preachers and scholars called for the eradication of FGM/C. The Joint Program on FGM/C of the UN Population Fund and UNICEF worked with the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the dissemination and application of the law by building the capacities of officials responsible for program implementation.
The 2017 UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau’s Report on the Right of Health in Guinea-Bissau estimated 45 percent of the female population had undergone the FGM/C procedure.
Sexual Harassment: There is no law prohibiting sexual harassment, and it was widespread. The government undertook no initiatives to combat the problem.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The constitution grants men and women equal rights. Gender discrimination, however, prevailed due to society’s norms based on traditional customs and rules of ethnic groups and religious communities that perpetuated inequalities. For example, although the formal law attributes equal rights for all children in cases of inheritance, the customary law across different communities denies those rights to many children. The land-tenure law recognizes equal rights for men and women to access the land, yet it also recognizes the customary law that favors men as a way of acquiring tenure rights.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country or from citizen parents. Birth registration does not occur automatically at hospitals; parents must register births with a notary. Lack of registration resulted in denial of public services, including education.
Education: Most school-aged children frequently remained at home because schools opened only intermittently due to strikes by teachers.
Child Abuse: There are no laws regarding child abuse specifically. Violence against children was widespread but seldom reported to authorities.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 16 for both genders. Early and forced marriage occurred among all ethnic groups. Girls who fled arranged marriages often were trafficked into commercial sex. The buying and selling of child brides also occurred. There were no government efforts to mitigate the problems. According to UNICEF, 6 percent of all girls were married by age 15 and 24 percent by age 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: There is a statutory rape law prohibiting sex with a person younger than age 16. The rape law carries a penalty for conviction of two to 12 years in prison. The law also prohibits child pornography. The law criminalizes commercial sexual exploitation of children and prescribes penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. When pedophilia and sexual harassment were reported, police at times blamed victims.
There were reports child sex tourism occurred in the isolated Bijagos Islands.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Displaced Children: The national nongovernmental organization (NGO) Association of the Friends of Children estimated up to 500 children, mostly from neighboring Guinea, lived on the streets of urban centers including Bissau, Bafata, and Gabu. The government provided no services to street children. The government worked with Senegal to return 171 children sent to Quranic schools in Senegal back to Guinea-Bissau. These children usually ended up begging and being mistreated.
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.
There were small communities of Jews in the country and no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government did not counter discrimination against persons with disabilities or provide access for them to buildings, information, and communications. The government made some efforts to assist military veterans with disabilities through pension programs, but these did not adequately address health care, housing, or food needs. Provisions existed to allow blind and illiterate voters to participate in the electoral process, but voters with proven severe intellectual disabilities could be prohibited from voting.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were no reported violent incidents or other human rights abuses targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation or identity.