Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a substantial fine. Violence against women and girls, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. A UN study reported 64 percent of reproductive-age women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lives. Physical or sexual intimate partner violence in the last 12 months was 42 percent; lifetime nonpartner sexual violence was 18 percent. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussing such matters.
Police often charged persons suspected of domestic violence and assault against women. As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape victims. Police have a sexual assault unit, staffed mostly by female officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges. In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts dealt with physical abuse of women as with any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and cultural bias against women.
For victims of domestic violence, the law provides for access to counseling and medical services, legal support, and a safe place within the community if they cannot return home. The government has a referral system in place to coordinate these services, but referral agencies often lacked funding, especially in rural areas. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility for abused women provided counseling and other support services for women.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments remained common and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was not illegal and was a widespread problem.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Although the National Population Policy 2017–26 includes a goal to improve access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, this goal appeared to be aspirational only and no such services were available; nor was emergency contraception for rape survivors available.
According to the World Bank, the maternal mortality ratio was 104 per 100,000 live births in 2017 due to factors including a high adolescent birth rate (79 per 1,000 ages 15-19 years), minimal access to antenatal care, and a high rate of unmet need for contraception.
Discrimination: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for work of equal value (see section 7.d.). The government did not enforce equal rights laws effectively.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law and constitution protect racial and ethnic minorities from discrimination; the government enforced them effectively.
The country has more than 27 major islands with approximately 70 language groups. Many islanders saw themselves first as members of a clan, next as inhabitants of their natal island, and only third as citizens of the nation. Tensions and resentment between the Guadalcanalese and the Malaitans on Guadalcanal culminated in violence lasting from 1998 to 2003. Underlying problems between the two groups remained, including issues related to jobs and land rights.
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship through their parents. The law does not allow dual citizenship for adults, and persons who acquire dual citizenship at birth must decide by age 18 which citizenship to retain. Registration delays did not result in the denial of public services to children.
Education: Education was neither free nor compulsory. Government policy was to cover operational costs for children ages six to 15 years to attend school, but it rarely covered all costs and allowed schools to request additional contributions from families in the form of cash or labor. These additional costs prevented some children from attending school.
Child Abuse: Child sexual and physical abuse remained significant problems. In February police arrested a 17-year-old boy for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl. The matter was reported to the police after a medical practitioner confirmed that the victim was pregnant. In May police arrested six persons suspected of raping a 13-year-old girl in Choiseul Province. In July police charged two male suspects for two separate incidents of sexual abuse of a child. The first occurred on June 1, where a 28-year-old man allegedly masturbated his four-year-old stepson during a fishing trip; the second occurred on June 10, involving a 76-year-old male allegedly having sexual intercourse with his seven-year-old granddaughter. Both cases were still under investigation.
The law grants children the same general rights and protections as adults, with some exceptions. The law mandates the Social Welfare Division of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to coordinate child protection services and authorizes the courts to issue protection orders in cases of serious child abuse or neglect. Laws do not specifically prohibit the use of children in illicit activities such as drug trafficking.
The government did not effectively enforce laws designed to protect children from sexual abuse, child labor, and neglect (see section 7.c.). The law criminalizes domestic violence including violence against children, but there was poor public awareness, and the law was not well enforced.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Both boys and girls may legally marry at age 15, and the law permits marriage at age 14 with parental and village consent. Marriage at such young ages was not common.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15 years. The maximum penalty for sexual relations with a girl younger than age 13 is life imprisonment, and for sexual relations with a girl 13 to 15 years of age, the penalty is 15 years’ imprisonment. Consent is not a permissible defense under these provisions; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was age 16 or older is a permissible defense. Selling or hiring minors younger than 18 for commercial sexual exploitation is punishable as a criminal offense. There were reports of workers in logging camps sexually exploiting girls as young as age 12, but in most cases official charges were not filed.
Child pornography is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and participation in or use, distribution, or storing of sexually exploitative materials involving children. Commercial sexual exploitation of children carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
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.
The Jewish community was very small, and 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
No law or national policy prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and no legislation mandates access to buildings, information, or communications for such individuals. Very few buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. The law requires electoral officials to provide special accommodation for voters with disabilities.
The country had one separate educational facility, supported almost entirely by the International Committee of the Red Cross, for children with disabilities. Children with physical disabilities could attend mainstream schools, but inaccessible facilities and a lack of resources often made it difficult for them to do so. No law requires reasonable accommodations in the workplace, and high unemployment nationwide made it difficult for persons with disabilities to find work, particularly in rural areas.
There were very limited government facilities or services for persons with mental disabilities.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
“Sodomy” is illegal, as are “indecent practices between persons of the same sex.” The maximum penalty for the former is 14 years’ imprisonment and for the latter five years. There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons under these provisions during the year, and authorities generally did not enforce these laws.
There are no specific antidiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although stigma may hinder some from reporting.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Sorcery-related violence was reported. Such violence typically targeted the most vulnerable persons: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly. In February a 50-year-old man was killed after being accused of using sorcery to kill a child and poison the child’s mother. The court case was still underway.
Nongovernmental organizations operate 11 safe houses throughout the country. The safe houses receive funding from church groups and international donors, but do not receive government funding or support. One safe house in Honiara provides professional training and workshops and paralegal counseling for victims of gender-based violence.