Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of 12 to 15 years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine. The government enforced the law effectively, including applying its provisions in cases involving rape of men. Authorities investigated and prosecuted all reported cases of sexual abuse.
Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. As of September, 12 cases of manslaughter, murder, or abuse resulting in death were linked to domestic abuse.
The Victim Assistance Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and Police provided resources and counseling for victims of domestic violence and continued to raise awareness about domestic violence through public television programs. There were victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie. Authorities trained police units in dealing with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The Victim Assistance Bureau managed a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and children up to age 12 where victims can stay for up to three months. Use of the shelter was, however, far below its capacity, at a time when police reported 149 cases, a 100 percent increase of cases of domestic abuse for the first half of the year, compared with the first half of 2019.
The Office of Gender Affairs of the Ministry of Home Affairs continued its awareness programs on domestic violence against women and girls throughout the year. While COVID-19 precautionary measures limited in-person programming, awareness messaging continued. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, funding initially allocated for the UN’s Enabling Gender-Responsive Disaster Recovery, Climate, and Environmental Resilience in the Caribbean (EnGenDER) program, which initially focused on enabling gender-responsive disaster recovery in the Caribbean, was reallocated to strengthen the responsiveness of organizations that provide support on domestic violence during the pandemic.
In August the NGO Women’s Rights Center called for extra alertness in society for cases of domestic violence, which were exacerbated by persons being required to remain in the same spaces for longer periods of time during COVID-19 restrictions.
Sexual Harassment: There is no specific legislation criminalizing sexual harassment, but prosecutors cited various penal code articles in filing sexual harassment cases. There were no reported court cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace.
Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without filing a formal complaint. Pending investigation, police may issue temporary restraining orders limiting contact between victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders can receive prison sentences ranging from four to 12 years and a large fine. The government enforced the law effectively.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals were free to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children without discrimination, coercion, or violence. Information on reproductive health was widely available.
No legal barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraceptives. In some rural areas, skilled healthcare workers were sometimes not readily available due to the distances between villages.
Survivors of sexual violence had access to government-supported health insurance that arranged services for sexual and reproductive health. Survivors requested assistance either through the Ministry of Social Affairs, which was primarily responsible for issuing government-supported health insurance, or through the Bureau of Victim Care of the Ministry of Justice and Police, which provided counseling and health-care assistance to victims.
The maternal death rate in 2017 was 120 per 100,000 live births. Complications because of hypertension or during the delivery were the primary causes of this high rate. An average of 57 percent of women married or in a union with a demand for family planning had their family planning needs met through a modern method. The adolescent birth rate for girls ages 15 to 19 was 65 per 1,000.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Discrimination: The law provides for the protection of women’s right to equal access to education, employment, and property. Nonetheless, women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work as men.
Birth Registration: The law on citizenship and residency provides that citizenship transmits to a child when either the father or mother has Surinamese citizenship at the time of birth, when the parent is Surinamese but has died before birth, or if the child is born in the country’s territory and does not automatically acquire citizenship of another country. Births must be registered with the Civil Registry within one week. Failure to do so within the mandated period results in a more cumbersome process of registration.
Child Abuse: Police registered 53 cases of physical abuse and 226 cases of child sexual abuse as of September. Subject-matter experts believed the actual number of abuse cases was significantly higher than reported. To avoid intimidation by perpetrators, there were arrangements for children to testify in special chambers at legal proceedings. The Youth Affairs Office continued to raise awareness about sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol through a weekly television program. The government operated a telephone hotline for children and provided confidential advice and aid to children in need. Authorities reported an average of 80 calls per day.
UNICEF continued to cooperate with the government to provide training to officials from various ministries dealing with children and children’s rights. The Ministry of Justice and Police operated three child protection centers in different parts of the country.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Parental permission to marry is required until the age of 21. The marriage law sets the age of marital consent at 15 for girls and 17 for boys, provided parents of the parties agree to the marriage. Children in certain tribal communities often marry at an age younger than that set forth by the law.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities investigated all reported violations. While the legal age of sexual consent is 14, trafficking-in-persons legislation makes illegal the sexual exploitation of a person younger than age 18. Criminal law penalizes persons responsible for recruiting children into prostitution and provides penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment and a significant fine for pimping. The law also prohibits child pornography, which carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and a fine. Violations are punishable by prison terms of up to 12 years.
Lack of economic opportunities led to an increasing number of adolescent boys and girls entering prostitution to support family or to pay for education. One NGO reported commercial sexual exploitation of children as young as 14. While not generally marketed as a destination for child sex tourism, in prior years cases were reported of tourists involved in sexual exploitation of children. Cases were also reported of parents forcing their young children into prostitution.
Several cases of sexual exploitation, sexual and physical abuse, and neglect came to trial. Victims included both boys and girls. Sentences range up to 10 years in prison.
Institutionalized Children: A lack of financial support from the Ministry of Social Affairs for orphanages and other shelters for children significantly affected these institutions’ ability to care for children adequately. There were reported cases of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in some shelter facilities.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of 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 was a declared Jewish community of approximately 95 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts or discrimination.
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
No laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive general health benefits, but the process can be cumbersome. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and services. Authorities provided some training programs for persons with impaired vision or other disabilities. No laws or programs provide that persons with disabilities have access to buildings. A judge may rule to deny a person with a cognitive disability the right to vote, take part in business transactions, or sign legal agreements. There was secondary and technical education for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons but not for those with visual disabilities. The Foundation for the Blind teaches persons who are visually impaired braille and life skills. Children with disabilities attended school at a far lower rate than their peers without a disability. Depending on the disability, children could attend regular schools. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
The law affords no special protection for, or recognition of, indigenous peoples. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) identified the Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the interior, approximately 22 percent of the population) as tribal peoples and thus entitled to the same rights as the indigenous Amerindian communities (approximately 4 percent of the population).
Maroons and Amerindians living in the remote and undeveloped interior had limited access to education, employment, and health and social services. Both groups participated in decisions affecting their tradition and culture, but they had limited influence in decisions affecting exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, and other natural resources on their lands. Both Maroons and Amerindians took part in regional governing bodies, as well as in the National Assembly, and were part of the governing coalition.
The government recognizes the different Maroon and indigenous tribes, but they hold no special status under national law, and there was no effective demarcation of their lands. Because authorities did not effectively demarcate or police Amerindian and Maroon lands, these populations continued to face problems with illegal and uncontrolled logging and mining. No laws grant indigenous peoples the right to share in the revenues from the exploitation of resources on their traditional lands. Organizations representing Maroon and Amerindian communities complained that small-scale mining operations, mainly by illegal gold miners, dug trenches that cut residents off from their agricultural land and threatened to drive them away from their traditional settlements. Many of these miners were themselves tribal or supported by tribal groups. Mercury runoff from these operations as well as riverbank erosion also contaminated sources of drinking water and threatened traditional food sources, especially freshwater fish.
Maroon and Amerindian groups complained about the government granting land within their traditional territories to third parties, who sometimes prevented the villagers from engaging in their traditional activities on those lands.
As of October the government did not take any action to carry out the orders of several Inter-American Court of Human Rights rulings against it dating back to 2005. These included a 2015 ruling ordering the government to recognize the Kalina and Lokono collective juridical personality; delimit, demarcate, and title the territory to the peoples; establish a community development fund; and rehabilitate areas affected by third-party mining. The court also ordered similar recognition and protection of the rights of all indigenous and tribal peoples within three years. The government likewise did not act in the 2005 Moiwana Community and 2007 Saramaka People rulings, in which the court ruled that the rights of these Maroon populations to property and judicial protection were violated. In addition to monetary compensation and other provisions, the rulings also called for the recognition of the rights of these groups to their lands.
As part of the 2018 Multi-Step Plan for the Legal Recognition of the Land Rights of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Suriname, the demarcation of indigenous and Maroon tribal lands was completed along with the draft law on land rights in September 2019. The government failed to send the necessary legislation for recognition of these lands and other rights to the National Assembly for approval as outlined in the project.
During the year no steps were taken to implement any of the orders of the IACHR.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There were few official reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, primarily due to fear of retribution against the alleged victims, and because authorities reportedly did not take seriously complaints filed by members of the LGBTI community. There were reports of societal discrimination against the LGBTI community in areas of employment and housing.
The law prohibits discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation, specifically protecting the LGBTI community. Violations are punishable by a fine or prison sentence of up to one year. The law does not set standards for determining what constitutes such discrimination or hate speech. The law on retirement benefits specifically excludes same-sex couples from benefits granted to heterosexual couples.
Among the LGBTI community, the transgender community faced the most stigmatization and discrimination. Transgender women arrested or detained by police were placed in detention facilities for men, where they faced harassment and other violence from other detainees.
An appeals case involving the Civil Registration Office concerning the ability of transgender individuals to update legal documents to reflect their gender identity in the public registry continued.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV and AIDS continued to experience discrimination in employment, housing, and medical services. Medical treatment is free for HIV/AIDS patients covered under government insurance, but private insurers did not cover such treatment. NGOs reported discriminatory testing, and subsequent denial, when applying for housing assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Chinese shop owners continued to be targets of violent armed robberies. Violence in the goldmining areas of the interior occurred primarily among and within the Brazilian community, where the government exercised little authority.