Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women is punishable by a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. A perpetrator of “indecent assault” on a man is “liable to imprisonment for seven years.” The law recognizes spousal rape. The law recognizes domestic violence as a criminal offense. Under the law domestic violence offenses are punishable by a maximum five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Under the assault provisions of the penal code, the maximum penalty for common assault is six months’ imprisonment, and for assault with actual bodily harm, it is five years.
Police have a Domestic Violence Unit, employed a “no-drop” evidence-based prosecution policy in cases of violence against women, and operated a 24-hour emergency telephone line for victims of domestic violence. The law gives police explicit powers to intervene in violent circumstances, including the power to enter private property and order a person who has committed an act of domestic violence to vacate property, regardless of whether that individual has rights to that property, if another person at risk of further violence occupies it. The Women’s Crisis Center provided counseling services, but there were no shelters for abused women. Cases of rape and domestic violence often went unreported due to lack of awareness of women’s rights and traditional and cultural pressures on victims, although the Attorney General’s Office and police conducted nationwide awareness campaigns.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment but prohibits indecent behavior, including lewd touching. The Tuvalu Study on People with Disability report, released by the government in 2018, found that women with disabilities were subject to abuse and harassment, including sexual abuse.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities, although NGOs continued to raise awareness to assist persons with disabilities and provide them with greater opportunity to make informed decisions on reproductive and health issues.
There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers, including women’s reluctance to utilize modern contraceptives and the stigma attached to certain health issues, limited the use of contraceptives. Limited reproductive health services were available in the outer islands and skilled health attendance during childbirth was available only at the main hospital in the capital, Funafuti. The government provides access to health care, including emergency contraception, for victims of sexual violence. The government also provides financial support to NGOs that assist victims of sexual violence.
Discrimination: Aspects of the law contribute to an unequal status for women, for example in land inheritance and child custody rights. No law prevents employment discrimination based on gender or requires equal pay for equal work, and such discrimination occurred. Nonetheless, women increasingly held positions in the health and education sectors and headed several NGOs.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
There are no laws to protect members of racial or ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination.
The country is relatively homogeneous, with a large Tuvaluan majority and small Tuvaluan/I-Kiribati and other minority groups. There were no reports of discrimination or violence against members of minority groups.
Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship at birth, whether born in the country or abroad, if either parent is a citizen. The law requires registration of births within 10 days, a practice generally observed.
Education: Education is compulsory until age 15. No law specifically mandates free basic education, but government policy generally provided free basic education for all.
Child Abuse: The government does not collect or publish data on child abuse, and there were no reports of child abuse during the year. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicated child abuse occurred. The law prohibits corporal punishment.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both girls and boys is 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent for sexual relations is 15. Sexual relations with a girl younger than 13 carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Sexual relations with a girl older than 12 but younger than 15 carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment; however, no law prohibits the use, procurement, or offering of boys from age 15 through 17 for sex. The victim’s consent is irrelevant under both these provisions; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was 15 or older is a permissible defense. No provision of law pertains specifically to child pornography, although the penal code prohibits obscene publications in general. Although child trafficking is prohibited, the law prescribes a harsher punishment for the trafficking of adults than of children.
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 was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
There were no confirmed reports during the year that Tuvalu was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Government services to address the specific needs of persons with disabilities were very limited. There were no mandated building accessibility provisions for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities had limited access to information and communications, including participation in civic life, and were subject to discrimination in employment (section 7.d.).
A 2018 government report found that abuse and discrimination against persons with disabilities was prevalent, and women with disabilities were particularly vulnerable to abuse. There were no reports of investigations or punishment by the government for violence and abuses against persons with disabilities, but societal norms may limit the reporting of such incidents particularly against women and girls with disabilities.
In April the government, as part of its Disability-Inclusive Education Policy, opened its first and newly built inclusive Education Resource Center. The center, operating with the support of a foreign development partner, provided children with disabilities a safe learning space. Children with disabilities reportedly had lower school attendance rates at all levels than other children. Some students with disabilities attended public primary schools both in Funafuti and in the outer islands. Parents decided which school a child with disabilities attended after consultation with an adviser from the Fusi Alofa Association, a disabilities-focused NGO.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV or AIDS faced some societal and employment discrimination. The government and NGOs cooperated to inform the public regarding HIV and AIDS and to counter discrimination.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits consensual sexual conduct between men, with penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment, but there were no reports the government enforced these provisions of the law. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There are no hate crime laws, nor are there criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTQI+ community. There were no reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but social stigma or intimidation may inhibit reporting of such discrimination or violence.