Rape and Domestic Violence: The law includes sentences of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for rape of women or men but does not address spousal rape. The law prohibits “torture and barbaric acts” against a spouse, specifying penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. The law specifically enumerates protection against domestic violence, harmful cultural practices, sexual harassment, and discrimination. The government enforced these laws effectively.
The government continued to address problems of gender-based violence. The National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD), a nonprofit organization chaired by the first lady, worked with the government to empower and protect women from violence. UNFD’s Cellule d’Ecoute (Listening Committee) addressed gender-based violence against women and girls and worked in partnership with the Ministries of Health, Justice, Defense, Women and Family, Interior, and Islamic and Cultural Affairs. The committee referred cases of abuse to the Ministry of Justice and divorce cases to the council on sharia. In 2021, the Cellule d’Ecoute recorded 1,263 reports of acts of gender-based violence, including 375 cases of physical abuse, 411 cases of psychological abuse, 16 cases of sexual assault, four cases of rape, one case of FGM/C, and one case of forced marriage.
The National Gendarmerie had a special unit for cases of gender-based violence. Nonetheless, officials at the Ministry of Justice reported survivors of rape and domestic violence often avoided the formal court system in favor of settlements between families. The government maintained a support fund for survivors of violence and integrated care centers to provide them with medical care and psychosocial support.
UNFD placed a full-time staff member in each refugee settlement to provide support for domestic violence survivors in these communities.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but rates remained high. The government enforced the law when cases were reported to authorities. In 2012, the UN Population Fund completed the most recent comprehensive study of FGM/C in the country. It stated that 78.4 percent of girls and women older than 15 had been subjected to FGM/C, a drop from previous studies that put the rate at more than 90 percent. A 2019 preliminary study from the Ministry of Women showed a significant decrease of the FGM/C prevalence rate for girls from birth through age 10, from 94 percent in 1994 to 21.2 percent in 2019. According to the study, the prevalence rate remained higher in rural than in urban areas, with 37.9 percent and 13.2 percent prevalence rates in those areas, respectively. In 2021, the Cellule D’Ecoute documented one case of FGM/C reported through its hotline.
The law sets the punishment of FGM/C at five years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine, and NGOs may file charges on behalf of victims. The law also provides for up to one year’s imprisonment and a substantial fine for anyone failing to report a completed or planned FGM/C to the proper authorities.
The government was supportive of efforts by international and national NGOs to provide training and education concerning the harmful effects of FGM/C. Additionally, the country’s religious leaders took a stance against FGM/C, declaring the belief that the practice “purifies young girls” had no basis in Islam. Despite the government’s efforts, major obstacles included high rates of illiteracy, difficulty of enforcement, and deep-seated societal traditions.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Anecdotal information suggested such harassment continued, and victims were reluctant to report cases. Although the government made statements to underscore harassment is illegal, it did not effectively enforce the law.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. In rural areas, however, individuals were subject to the pressures of tradition, religion, and custom.
Women could obtain birth control without the consent of their husbands or male partners. Sixteen percent of women of reproductive age used modern methods for family planning. As a matter of law, the government offered access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception, but there was no information available on survivor use of reproductive health information or health facilities.
UNICEF’s 2017 statistics, the latest available data, indicated a maternal death rate of 248 deaths per 100,000 live births, with rates higher outside of Djibouti City, especially in makeshift urban developments around the city and in rural areas where malnutrition was high. A lack of facilities impacted access to skilled health personnel. Skilled health personnel attended 28.6 percent of births between 2006 and 2014; more recent statistics for health personnel attendance were unavailable. Home births were the norm in rural areas. There were no social, legal, or cultural barriers related to menstruation or access to menstruation hygiene, and they had a limited impact on women and girls’ ability to participate in society, particularly education. Pregnancy or motherhood status did not represent a barrier to girls’ education.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal treatment of citizens regardless of gender, but women experienced legal discrimination in areas such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Harassment and discrimination resulted in a secondary role for women in public life and fewer employment opportunities in the formal sector. The government made women’s empowerment one of its top priorities as illustrated by increasing the number of women in high-profile government positions.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The governing coalition included representatives of all the country’s major clans and ethnic groups, with minority groups also represented in senior positions. Nonetheless, there was discrimination based on ethnicity in employment and job advancement. The Somali Issas, the majority ethnic group, controlled the ruling party, the Union for a Presidential Majority, and shared political power with the Afar ethnic group. There were multiple rival subclans, and discrimination based on ethnicity and clan affiliation remained a factor in business and politics.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from a child’s parents. The government encouraged prompt registration of births, but confusion regarding the process sometimes left children without proper documentation. Lack of birth registration did not result in denial of most public services but prevented some youth from completing higher-level studies and adults from voting.
Education: Although primary education is compulsory, only an estimated 75 percent of children were enrolled in school. Primary and middle schools were tuition free, but other expenses were often prohibitive for poor families. There was no significant difference between boys and girls in school enrollment, attendance, and completion.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse. Child abuse existed but was not frequently reported or prosecuted.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Although the law fixes the minimum legal age of marriage at 18, it provides that “marriage of minors who have not reached the legal age of majority is subject to the consent of their guardians.” Child, early, and forced marriage occasionally occurred in rural areas. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Family Planning, as well as UNFD, worked with women’s groups throughout the country to protect the rights of girls, including the right to decide when and whom to marry.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for three years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The law does not specifically prohibit statutory rape, and there is no legal minimum age of consent. The sale, manufacture, or distribution of all pornography, including child pornography, is prohibited, punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a substantial fine. The government enforced these laws effectively.
The law criminalizes sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The law considers child sex trafficking as an aggravating circumstance for which the penalties significantly increased. The law was enforced.
Displaced Children: There was a significant population of unaccompanied migrant children due to the country’s location as a transit point for migrants, especially from Ethiopia, who sought to transit to Yemen and ultimately to the Arabian Peninsula. An NGO operated the only facility in the country caring for these unaccompanied migrant children.
On June 20, Prime Minister Mohamed and the minister of women and families inaugurated a shelter for vulnerable children and migrants in Djibouti City. In addition to assisting the vulnerable migrant population, the shelter was planned to be a formal point of entry and referral for identified trafficking victims while providing shelter, food, and medical and psychological support.
Observers estimated the Jewish community at fewer than 30 persons, the majority of whom were foreign military members stationed in the country. There were no reports of antisemitic acts. The indigenous Jewish community emigrated to Israel in 1947 during the French colonial period.
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: The law does not explicitly criminalize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) status or sexual conduct between consenting adults. Nonetheless, LGBTQI+ status and conduct were considered taboo.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: There was a societal pattern of discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons, although no official cases of violence were available for citation. Social and religious intolerance of LGBTQI+ status was so pervasive that LGBTQI+ persons feared social shunning and extreme discrimination from family members or the community if their sexual orientation were to be disclosed.
Discrimination: There was a societal pattern of discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons, although no official cases were available for citation.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Legal gender recognition, by which a government allows individuals to change their gender identity marker on legal and identifying documents to bring them into alignment with their gender identity, was not available.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: Although no official cases were available for citation, strong societal taboos against LGBTQI+ conduct or identity made it difficult to accurately assess the scope or nature of such practices, or whether they took place at all.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no LGBTQI+ specific groups among the country’s fledgling civil society organizations, and strong social discrimination made it difficult for LGBTQI+ persons to assemble, associate, or express themselves freely and publicly.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities could not routinely access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The government did not mandate access to government services and accessibility to buildings for persons with disabilities, and buildings were often inaccessible. The law provides persons with disabilities access to health care and education, but it was not effectively enforced. Although the government did not always provide information and communication on disability concerns in accessible formats, the CNDH and the Ministry of Justice began implementing mandatory sign language interpretation for deaf persons during judicial proceedings.
The constitution does not prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government’s National Agency of Handicapped Persons is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and improving their access to social services and employment. Authorities held prisoners with mental disabilities separately from other pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners and provided some psychological treatment or monitoring. Families could request confinement in prison for relatives with mental disabilities who had not been convicted of any crime but were considered a danger to themselves or those around them. Aside from psychiatric services administered to prisoners with mental disabilities in Gabode Prison, there were no mental disability treatment facilities and only one practicing psychiatrist in the country.
The agency conducted awareness-raising campaigns, coordinated with NGOs to organize seminars and other events, and encouraged social service providers to improve their systems to serve persons with disabilities better.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were no reported cases of violence or discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS, although stigma against individuals with the disease was widespread.