Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and provides penalties from 10 to 18 years in prison for rape. The judicial branch generally enforced the law effectively.
The law prohibits domestic violence and provides measures for the protection of domestic violence victims. Criminal penalties range from 10 to 100 days in prison for aggravated threats and up to 35 years in prison for aggravated homicide, including sentences of 20 to 35 years for persons who kill their partners. The government enforced the laws effectively.
Violence against women and girls remained a serious problem. As of August, the government reported that 30 women had been killed, including seven killed by a partner or spouse. Authorities visited the southern Caribbean coastal region and offered training to local police on domestic violence and violence against women and girls following an increase in the number of rapes in the region. Citizens were encouraged to report other sexual assaults in the region following the sexual assault of two foreign tourists on January 6.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions, and the government enforced the law effectively. The law imposes penalties ranging from a letter of reprimand to dismissal, with more serious incidents subject to criminal prosecution. On October 27, the Chaves administration signed a decree for the creation of a national strategy aimed at eliminating discrimination and harassment against women.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
According to human rights experts, problems related to access to reproductive health services remained for lesbian and bisexual, indigenous, and Afrodescendant women, and women with disabilities.
There were some barriers to accessing contraception. The COVID-19 pandemic especially affected vulnerable populations’ access to sexual and reproductive health services. A 2021 study by the UN Population Fund reported the country may have regressed by as much as five years with respect to access to short-term contraception caused by the lack of access to health services, either due to pandemic-related isolation measures, caregiving tasks that fall mainly on women (which increased during the pandemic), or lack of information. On May 5, health authorities announced that the public health system included emergency contraception as a method of family planning. Previously, emergency contraception was provided only to survivors of rape.
Some social barriers adversely affected access to skilled health-care providers during pregnancy and childbirth. Women in rural areas and indigenous women did not always have access to health care during childbirth due to geographic isolation. Some women had difficulty accessing prenatal care. Government regulations state that all pregnant women, including undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, have the right to health services. In practice, however, refugees and asylum seekers reported that access to health services and reproductive health management services was difficult. Refugee and migrant advocates said this population qualified for public health services only if they were minors, visibly pregnant, or facing a life-threatening emergency, but some individuals reported being denied services even in emergency situations.
There was access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion.
The government provided some access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Human rights experts identified problems such as revictimization and access to antiretroviral therapy.
The indigenous territory of Talamanca was one of the poorest cantons in the country. The birth rate of girls and adolescents in the Talamanca region was 19.7 births per 1,000 in 2021, compared with the national rate of 10.5 per 1,000 in 2021.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The law prohibits discrimination against women and obligates the government to promote political, economic, social, and cultural equality. The law requires that women and men receive equal pay for equal work. The government enforced the laws effectively, although an official study reported a pay gap of 13 percent for highly skilled jobs, which remained largely male dominated.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The constitution establishes that the country is a multiethnic and multicultural nation. The government enforced the law effectively. On June 22, the government appointed a commissioner for social inclusion for issues related to disability, the rights of Afrodescendants, indigenous individuals, and the LGBTQI+ community.
On April 25, then President Alvarado signed an amendment to the criminal code that increases prison sentences to between 20 and 35 years for hate-motivated crimes. The reform stipulates that crimes motivated by race, age, religion, nationality, political opinion, disability, or sexual orientation are to be considered as qualified homicide.
On March 2, a UN independent expert noted that women, Afrodescendants, indigenous individuals, and LGBTQI+ persons continued to face discrimination in many areas, and an increased inflow of migrants and refugees from neighboring countries led to the rise of xenophobic and hate speech, particularly on social media.
Land ownership continued to be a problem in most indigenous territories. The law protects reserve land as the collective, nontransferable property in 24 indigenous territories; however, 38 percent of that land was in nonindigenous hands.
In April authorities concluded the first studies of properties in the territories of Cabagra (southern zone) and Maleku (northern zone) as part of a plan for the recovery of indigenous territories, designed to comply with the 1977 indigenous law obligating the return of land to indigenous communities. As of April, authorities were awaiting a resolution from the Comptroller General’s Office to allow the government to compensate the current landholders of three properties, two of which were acquired after the 1977 indigenous law, and transfer registration to indigenous development associations.
On October 19, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ratified a prior ruling of the First Chamber of the Supreme Court stating the government was not obligated to compensate nonindigenous persons who acquired indigenous land after the entry into force of the 1977 indigenous law, and it considers such land acquisitions null and void. As of November, the government was waiting for the publication of the complete ruling from the Constitutional Chamber to assess the extent of the decision and then adjust the Plan to Recover Indigenous Territory accordingly.
On June 5, an unknown assailant shot at the car of the president of the indigenous development association of the Bajo Chirripo Cabecar indigenous community, Adrian Sanabria Payan. On June 7, the deputy prosecutor for indigenous affairs announced court-ordered measures against a nonindigenous person suspected of involvement in the attack. Authorities believed a land dispute was the motive for the shooting. In February another indigenous person, Leonel Garcia, denounced death threats against himself and his son-in-law by a nonindigenous landowner from the area. In 2021 nonindigenous persons attacked Garcia with a machete, sending him to intensive care for two weeks.
In May the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples expressed concern regarding reports of police use of tear gas against Cabecar indigenous persons in the China Kichá territory and failure to hold accountable perpetrators of violence against members of the community. More than 370 individuals from 150 organizations signed a petition to the authorities regarding the violence they suffered at the hands of police and nonindigenous persons. On April 30, Dario Rios, the son of Cabecar leader Doris Rios, was stabbed, and activists denounced several other attempted killings reportedly stemming from land conflicts between nonindigenous and indigenous persons. Activists condemned police inaction in the face of such attacks, arbitrary detentions, and beatings of persons from the Cabecar community.
A September 28 report by the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples regarding his December 2021 visit to the country emphasized the government needed to address structural problems to guarantee indigenous individuals’ rights to their lands, territories, and natural resources; respect their governance structures; create effective and appropriate government-indigenous community consultation mechanisms; and realize indigenous economic, social, and cultural rights. The special rapporteur expressed concerns regarding structural racism within the judiciary, especially at the local level, a lack of effective measures to protect human rights defenders, and impunity for crimes committed against land defenders.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is obtained from birth within the country’s territory or can be derived if either parent is Costa Rican. Birth registration was provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. Migrant children were at risk of statelessness because they did not have access to legal documents to establish their identity if their parents did not register their births.
Child Abuse: The autonomous National Institute for Children reported violence against children and adolescents continued to be a concern.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age of marriage is 18, and child marriage is prohibited.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides sentences of up to 16 years in prison for violations. The law provides for sentences of two to 10 years in prison for statutory rape and three to eight years in prison for child pornography. The law establishes penalties for sex with minors of up to three years in prison for an adult having sex with a person younger than age 15 or younger than 18 if the age difference is more than five years. The law establishes a statute of limitations of 25 years for sexual crimes against minors. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18 years. The country was a destination for child sex tourism.
The Jewish Zionist Center estimated there were between 3,000 and 3,500 Jewish persons in the country. There were isolated reports of antisemitic comments on social media.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: There are no laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults or so-called cross-dressing laws that target transgender and nonbinary persons.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: There were no reports that police or other government agents incited, perpetrated, condoned, or tolerated violence against LGBTQI+ individuals or those reporting such abuse. There were instances of nonstate actor violence targeting LGBTQI+ persons. In January, police opened an investigation into a possible hate crime motivated by the sexual orientation of an individual in Guanacaste.
Discrimination: No law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, or recognizes LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and their families. Discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by a series of executive orders and workplace policies but not by national laws. The government enforced such provisions. On June 15, a juvenile court approved the adoption of a child by a same-sex couple, establishing that the requirements for adoption are the same regardless of the sexual orientation of a couple.
There were cases of discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation, ranging from employment and discrimination by police to access to education and health-care services. LGBTQI+ individuals experienced discrimination within their own families due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and sex characteristics.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Legal gender recognition is available. The government allows individuals to change their gender identity marker on legal documents to bring them into alignment with their gender identity; however, the birth registration does not change. As of March 7, nonbinary persons may register as gender ‘X’ on their passports.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were isolated reports of the practice of so-called conversion therapy and the practice of performing unnecessary surgeries on intersex persons.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no restrictions against freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly regarding LGBTQI+ matters.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Although the law prohibits discrimination based on HIV and AIDS in health care, housing, employment, and education, some discrimination was reported.
Labor discrimination towards HIV patients continued; some persons reported losing their jobs due to discrimination, their deteriorating health, or both, although the problem was not widespread. The government took no concrete steps to combat discrimination based on HIV or AIDS status despite having adopted a national strategic plan on HIV and AIDS (2016-21).
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The law establishes that persons with disabilities can access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law also establishes a right to employment for persons with disabilities and sets a hiring quota of 5 percent of vacant positions in the public sector. The government did not effectively enforce the law.
Although the law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, the government did not enforce this provision, and many buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities. On August 5, the Constitutional Chamber ruled in favor of a petition for constitutional protection filed by a counselor with a disability from the municipality of Montes de Oca, who suffered discriminatory treatment. The elevator of the municipal building was out of service and to get to the room where the municipal sessions were held on the third floor of the building, she had to go upstairs. Due to the circumstances, she requested authorization to meet virtually until the elevator was repaired, but the municipality denied her request.