Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or sexual assault. If the victim is a minor, the sentence ranges from three to 15 years in prison. According to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and media sources, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem, with many rapes going unreported due to social stigma, victims’ fears of retaliation, and lack of training among law enforcement officials. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and sometimes obtained convictions. Prosecutors reported difficulties obtaining convictions for rape due to victims’ reluctance to testify or submit to medical examinations. Meanwhile, due to the slow pace of the judicial system, cases often reached their statute of limitations before prosecutors could obtain a conviction.
Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including psychological abuse, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine, the law requires the abuse to be habitual and the aggressor and victim to be “cohabitating or lodging together.” Judges typically issued fines, but in some cases, they sentenced offenders to prison to provide for the safety of the victim. In some instances the courts mediated domestic violence cases.
According to NGOs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, domestic violence was widespread. Government statistics from January to May showed a 30 percent decrease in calls to a hotline for victims of domestic violence, compared with the same period in 2020. The Public Ministry reported domestic violence was the most reported crime during the year, with more than 13,000 cases reported between January and July. In many instances victims asked prosecutors to drop cases against their attackers due to fear of reprisals, allowing their attackers’ crimes to go unpunished.
Femicide remained a serious problem. The law criminalizes femicide and mandates a sentence of between 10 and 30 years in prison. Officials generally enforced the law and prosecuted femicide cases, but impunity in these cases remained high, consistent with generalized impunity levels.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs promoted a national 24-hour telephone hotline for victims. The ministry also operated a shelter and coordinated victim assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training. The ministry’s Woman City in Asuncion, an integrated service center for women, aided focusing on prevention of domestic violence and on reproductive health, economic empowerment, and education. As of October 12, the National Police had nine specialized units to assist victims of domestic violence and 39 officers dedicated exclusively to responding to domestic violence situations.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine. Sexual harassment remained a problem for many women, especially in the workplace. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove due to victims’ fear of workplace retaliation and societal pressures against victims. Many dropped their complaints or were unwilling to cooperate with prosecutors. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs carried out a campaign to build public awareness regarding sexual harassment. The ministry’s Woman City initiative attended to complaints of sexual harassment and provided legal guidance and emotional support for victims.
In September the Public Ministry indicted lawyer Diego Lansac for extorting a female client by demanding sex in exchange for not releasing her sensitive photographs. As of October 18, Lansac was under house arrest while awaiting trial.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Women’s rights advocates reported cases of doctors at public hospitals refusing to perform tubal ligation procedures on women younger than age 30 without children, or without consent from the patient’s spouse. These criteria were not based on law or Ministry of Health guidance.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services, including for survivors of sexual violence. A Ministry of Health protocol for survivors of sexual violence, which included provision of reproductive health services, applied to all health-care institutions. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape. Follow-up psychiatric care and legal referrals were also available for victims. In practice, however, health-care institutions did not provide access to reproductive health services evenly and in some cases denied such services to sexual violence survivors.
Reproductive health services were concentrated in cities; rural areas faced significant gaps in coverage. According to World Health Organization estimates, the country’s maternal mortality and morbidity rate in 2017 was 84 in 100,000 live births. According to UN Population Fund estimates, in 2019 the adolescent birth rate remained high at 72 births per 1,000 girls and women between ages 15 and 19. The Ministry of Health reported a daily average of two births for girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence authorities attributed the high adolescent birth rate to a lack of adequate sexual education in schools, noting conservative and religious groups effectively quashed the ministry’s December 2020 attempt to improve sexual education in public schools.
While menstrual period stigma was not sufficiently strong to prevent women and girls from participating in society, lack of sexual education and limited access to hygiene products may have dissuaded some students from going to class during their periods. In addition, women’s rights advocates reported some pregnant adolescents were barred from private schools.
Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, but the government did not effectively enforce this provision. There is no comprehensive law against discrimination. There is a law specifically against workplace discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, age, religion, political opinion, disability, HIV-positive status, or social origin, but it was rarely enforced.
Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. Nonetheless, gender-related discrimination persisted, and employers were sometimes reluctant to hire female employees who might require maternity leave as set forth in the labor code.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law protects members of ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination, but not racial minorities or groups. The government did not enforce the law effectively, most often in cases involving indigenous communities. The Public Ministry is responsible for investigating crimes against ethnic minorities. The Ombudsman’s Office is charged with safeguarding the rights of indigenous communities, although it often failed to do so. NGOs also performed independent investigations.
The Afro-descendant community was subject to discrimination and marginalization. While distinct Afro-descendant communities were few, the Ministry of Culture estimated in 2018 there were 12,000 persons of African descent. Afro-descendant communities faced high rates of racial profiling and violence by police, as well as discrimination in the legal system. Afro-descendant communities had limited access to quality education, health services, housing, and social security, as well as low rates of political participation.
On October 14, the lower house of Congress rejected a bill to recognize Afro-descendants as an ethnic minority and create procedures to protect citizens of African descent from racism and discrimination on the grounds that it did not believe there was any discrimination against Afro-descendants in the country. As of December 10, the Senate was discussing the law.
The law provides indigenous persons the right to participate in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of the country, but the law was not effectively enforced. Discrimination, coupled with a lack of access to employment, education, health care, shelter, water, and land, hindered the ability of indigenous persons to progress economically while maintaining their cultural identity. Indigenous workers engaged as laborers on ranches typically earned low wages, worked long hours, received pay infrequently, and lacked medical and retirement benefits. This situation was particularly severe in the Chaco region.
The National Institute for Indigenous Affairs (INDI), Public Ministry, Ministry of Justice, Labor Ministry, and Ombudsman’s Office are responsible for protecting and promoting indigenous rights. The law mandates that INDI negotiate, purchase, and register land on behalf of indigenous communities who claim lack of access to their ancestral lands. Land rights activists reported INDI was unable to fulfill its mandate due to lack of government support.
The law authorizes indigenous persons to determine how to use communal land. There were insufficient police and judicial protections from encroachments on indigenous lands. This often resulted in conflict and occasional violence between indigenous communities and large landowners in rural areas. Indigenous rights NGO Tierraviva and media reported indigenous communities were often victim to threats, intimidation, and violence from large agrobusinesses in land disputes, often resulting in forced displacement. Agrobusinesses frequently employed private security guards to intimidate indigenous communities. The NGO and media reported law enforcement failed to protect victims in such cases.
The NGO Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator and Tierraviva expressed concern regarding the widespread cases of rape, sexual harassment, and physical abuse of women in indigenous communities. Perpetrators were often male members of the community, workers, or employees from neighboring ranches and farms. There were also credible reports of trafficking in persons in indigenous communities. NGO representatives also alleged agrobusiness operations exploited and violated the rights of indigenous workers. Security officials reported that the Paraguayan People’s Army actively recruited minors from indigenous communities.
INDI reported in August that an unknown number of evangelical leaders associated with three different churches raped and impregnated 10 adolescent girls from the Yvy Pyte indigenous community in Amambay Department earlier in the year. The Vice Ministry of Worship reported none of the three churches involved were registered with the government. As of November 29, the Public Ministry was investigating the case.
On August 13, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled in favor of a complaint from the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, finding that the government failed to protect the community’s traditional lands from toxic contamination by agrobusiness pesticides. A court had previously ruled against the community’s suit. As of November 29, the government had not taken any steps to pursue judicial proceedings against the responsible parties, make reparations to the victims, or repair the environmental damage.
Birth Registration: Nationality derives from birth within the country’s territory, from birth to government employees in service abroad, or from birth to a citizen residing temporarily outside the country. Hospitals immediately register births, but registration was difficult for many parents of children born in rural areas and in indigenous communities with limited access to health-care facilities. Birth certificates and national identity documents are a prerequisite to access government services, including obtaining a passport.
Child Abuse: The NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence stated that violence against children was widespread. The Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence received reports of physical and psychological child abuse through its child abuse hotline.
The government did not have a shelter exclusively for child victims of sexual abuse; victims were usually assigned to an extended family member or referred to general-purpose youth shelters. Several such shelters existed, including one comanaged by the government and a Roman Catholic organization. In many cities the municipal council for children’s rights assisted abused and neglected children.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but the law permits marriage for persons ages 16 to 18 with parental consent, and for those younger than age 16 only with judicial authorization under exceptional circumstances. There were no reports of forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: According to the Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence and the NGO Coalition for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, child trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced domestic servitude was a problem. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation; sale, offering, or procuring children for prostitution; and child pornography. The law provides a penalty of eight years’ imprisonment for persons responsible for pimping or brokering victims younger than 17, which is significantly lower than the penalties described under the antitrafficking law. The government generally enforced the law.
The minimum age of consent is 14 when married and 16 when not married. The law sets the penalty for sexual abuse in cases involving violence or intercourse to at least 15 years in prison if the victim is younger than 18, and up to 20 years in prison if the victim is younger than 10. The penal code also provides for fines or up to three years in prison for the production, distribution, and possession of pornography involving children or adolescents younger than 18. Authorities may increase this penalty to 10 years in prison depending on the age of the child and the child’s relationship to the abuser. The law prohibits the publication of names, images, or audio recordings of underage sexual abuse victims or witnesses, and it stipulates fines and one year in prison for offenders.
In the first eight months of the year, the Public Ministry received hundreds of reports of sexual abuse of children. Indictments and convictions for child sexual abuse were common. The Public Ministry’s office in Ciudad del Este on September 19 received a report that a man raped his 11-year-old stepdaughter earlier in the year. When the man learned he had impregnated the girl, he allegedly hired two women to kidnap the girl and perform a home abortion. The Public Ministry raided the location where the women performed the abortion and detained the two women. As of October 18, the man was at large, and the Public Ministry continued to investigate the case.
The Ministry of Childhood and Adolescence in January began redrafting its 2020-24 National Plan for Childhood and Adolescence after its initial proposal drew fierce criticism from socially conservative and religious groups. Such groups alleged in late 2020 the plan’s emphasis on sexual education and gender equality would destroy traditional family values. Some government officials, including Vice Minister of Worship Fernando Griffith, spoke out publicly against teaching “gender ideology” to children, stating such content encouraged tolerance of abortion and LGBTQI+ lifestyles.
International Child Abductions: The country is 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.
The Jewish community had fewer than 1,000 members. There were 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 nominally prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Most of the country’s buildings, communications, public transportation, and health services remained inaccessible.
Many persons with disabilities faced significant discrimination in employment; some were unable to seek employment because of a lack of accessible public transportation. The law mandates the allocation of 5 percent of all available civil servant positions to persons with disabilities; in practice persons with disabilities occupied less than 1 percent of civil service positions. As of April, of 422 public institutions, only 11 hired enough persons with disabilities to fill at least 5 percent of their positions while complying with all regulations regarding accessibility. According to UNESCO’s Profiles Enhancing Education Reviews, as of June only 36 percent of persons with disabilities between the ages of six and 18 attended educational institutions. Only 17 percent of students with disabilities completed elementary school, and only 2 percent of students with disabilities enrolled in higher education. Most children with disabilities who attended school were enrolled in the public school system. Some specialized schools served specific disabilities, such as deafness.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits discrimination based on HIV-positive status and protects the privacy of medical information. The law also specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees based on HIV-positive status. Labor Ministry regulations forbid employers from requiring HIV testing prior to employment, but many companies reportedly did so.
NGOs, including the Paraguayan Human Rights Coordinator and the HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Counseling and Reporting Center, noted that persons with HIV or AIDS who sought access to health care and employment opportunities faced discrimination based on their sexual orientation, demand for HIV testing, and gender identity. NGOs reported discrimination of students with HIV or AIDS decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic as schools employed virtual curricula. Discrimination reportedly continued to occur, however, in awarding scholarships. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected access to HIV/AIDS-specific health care and testing. Public officials lacked awareness of HIV/AIDS-related human rights issues, in some cases resulting in privacy violations.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons, and cases of violence and discrimination occurred.
On November 11, transgender woman Gabi Cabrera was killed in San Lorenzo Municipality, which borders Asuncion. Cabrera’s partner found her body hanging from a tree. Media reported Cabrera had previously been violently attacked by a group of men on November 6 for being transgender. As of November 29, authorities continued to investigate Cabrera’s death.
As of October the Public Ministry continued to investigate allegations from July 2020 that coast guard sailors in Ciudad del Este targeted three transgender women for torture and abuse because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The law does not allow individuals to officially change their birth names to anything that could “cause confusion over the person’s sex.” As a result, transgender individuals must maintain names on their vital documents that do not match their gender identity. LGBTQI+ rights activists report this created difficulties for transgender individuals when accessing essential services, including denial of those services.