Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal and intimate partner rape, and domestic violence. The government enforced the law, although victims were sometimes reluctant to report these crimes. Rape is punishable with penalties of up to 22 years in prison. The law includes spousal rape under crimes against sexual and reproductive integrity. The penalty for rape where death occurred is 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence is punishable with penalties ranging from four days to seven years in prison and a substantial fine for “damages, pain, and suffering,” depending on the severity of the crime. Penalties for physical, psychological, and sexual violence were enforced.
According to local experts, reporting rapes and other forms of violence continued to be a traumatic process, particularly for female minors. For example, a rape victim must file a complaint at the Public Prosecutor’s Office and submit to gynecological evaluations akin to rape kits administered by medical experts. Many individuals did not report cases of rape and sexual assault due to fear of retribution from the perpetrator and social stigma.
The law provides for reparations to victims of gender-based violence. The law defines rape, including spousal rape or incest, forced prostitution, sexual harassment, and other analogous practices, as forms of sexual violence. It also entitles victims to immediate protective measures designed to prevent or stop violence, such as police surveillance, placement in shelters, and awareness programs for the victim and family. These measures were generally enforced.
According to human rights organizations, victims were generally reluctant to press domestic violence charges. Judges lacked specialized training for dealing with gender-based violence, and the court system was insufficiently staffed to deal with the caseload. Rights organizations also reported local protection-board officials at times discouraged victims from reporting their aggressors.
In June, the Attorney General’s Office, in cooperation with the Judicial Council, National Police, Human Rights Secretariat, and other relevant offices, launched an interactive tool to unify national femicide statistics. As of September 11, the Attorney General’s Office reported 61 femicides, on track to exceed the 70 total femicides in 2021. As of October 25, the Attorney General’s Office reported the judiciary had not issued sentences in any of the 61 cases. The NGO Latin American Association for Alternative Development counted 206 women killed (under any circumstances) through September 3. The difference between statistics was due to a broader definition of “femicide” used by the association and civil society groups that reported to it.
On September 11, Lieutenant Coronel German Caceres, a senior police officer, allegedly killed his spouse, Maria Belen Bernal, on the campus of the police academy in Quito. Authorities found the victim’s remains on September 21, buried on the slope of a volcano near the academy. The autopsy revealed the cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation. Investigators questioned Caceres on September 14 and then released him. Caceres disappeared soon afterwards and remained at large as of October 25. An investigation of the killing was underway.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of one to five years in prison. The law defines sexual harassment and other analogous practices as forms of sexual violence and mandates that judges prohibit contact between the aggressor and the victim to prevent revictimization and intimidation, and the law was generally enforced. Despite the legal prohibition of sexual harassment and government implementation of the law, women’s rights organizations said that victims tended not to report alleged harassment and that harassment remained common in public spaces.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Some women’s rights activists complained that a lack of comprehensive sex education limited individuals’ ability to manage their reproductive health and that ineffective distribution of birth control reduced access to contraception. Emergency contraception was available as part of methods for family planning; however, the Roman Catholic Church’s stance against contraceptive use and social stigma discouraged women from seeking family planning services.
A 2019 study found income status affected equity in sexual and reproductive health access and outcomes, with low income and rural individuals having significantly less access. UN agencies reported that vulnerable populations, including Afro-Ecuadorians, Indigenous groups, rural inhabitants, LGBTQI+ individuals, persons with disabilities, HIV-positive persons, and migrants faced, limited access and discrimination regarding the provision of reproductive health services.
CARE International observed there was less access to sexual and reproductive health resources for survivors of sexual violence than in previous years, and specifically, a lack of availability of emergency contraception as part of the clinical management of rape. International organizations said public hospitals were still restocking emergency contraception materials after a drop in national stock levels during the pandemic, caused by the government’s focus on pandemic-related issues.
In 2021, Secretary of Human Rights Bernarda Ordóñez stated 70 percent of girls ages 10 to 14 who became pregnant were most likely sexually violated. Ordóñez added that many of these adolescents also suffered from sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, and other health complications.
While the law prohibits discrimination against girls who become mothers, NGOs reported some faced discrimination and subsequently left school. A lack of resources also resulted in young mothers discontinuing their education to pursue work.
Discrimination: The constitution affords women the same legal status and rights as men. Nevertheless, discrimination against women was prevalent, particularly with respect to economic opportunities for older women and for those in the lower economic strata. Women continued to face wage disparities compared with men. NGOs said women also faced discrimination in job recruitment, housing access, and some judicial proceedings, namely, in reporting and filing charges in cases of alleged sexual abuse.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The constitution declares the state to be plurinational and affirms the principle of nonviolence and nondiscrimination by recognizing the rights of Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, and Montubio (an independent ethnic group of persons with a mixture of Afro-Ecuadorian, Indigenous, and Spanish ancestry) communities. It also mandates affirmative action policies to provide for the representation of minorities. NGOs and civil society representatives said those provisions were not effectively enforced.
Citing official data for 2021, media reported Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, and Montubio populations experienced the highest poverty rates in the country. Among those populations, the most affected were Indigenous children, followed by Montubio girls.
Afro-Ecuadorians, who accounted for approximately 7 percent of the population, according to the most recent census (2010), suffered pervasive discrimination, particularly regarding educational and economic opportunity. Afro-Ecuadorian organizations noted that, despite the absence of official discrimination, societal discrimination and stereotyping in media continued to result in barriers to employment, education, and housing. A national gender survey published in 2019 found Afro-Ecuadorian women were particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence and harassment based on racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes.
Attorney General Diana Salazar reported that on January 18, she received derogatory messages referencing her Afro-Ecuadorian ethnicity during a virtual meeting.
There were isolated reports of restrictions on Indigenous persons and their institutions in decisions affecting their property or way of life.
The law provides Indigenous persons the same civil and political rights as other citizens. The constitution recognizes Kichwa and Shuar as “official languages of intercultural relations.” The constitution obligates the state to consult local communities and Indigenous persons prior to initiation of projects on their lands through a process that is free, informed, and culturally appropriate, although Indigenous peoples’ organizations noted public- and private-sector actors often ignored prior consultation. Despite the legal obligation, the government had yet to pass a national community consultation law.
The constitution also allows Indigenous persons to participate in the economic benefits that natural resource extraction projects may bring and to receive compensation for any damages that result. In the case of environmental damage, the law mandates immediate corrective government action and full restitution from the responsible company, although some Indigenous organizations asserted a lack of consultation and remedial action. The law recognizes the rights of Indigenous communities to hold property communally, although the titling process remained incomplete in parts of the country.
A February 4 Constitutional Court ruling recognized the right of Indigenous communities to have the final decision over oil, mining, and other extractive projects that affect their lands. The ruling stems from the A’i Kofan community of Sinangoe’s 2018 lawsuit seeking the annulment of 52 gold-mining concessions granted by the government along the community’s most important river. Considering numerous violations of the right to prior consultation, the Constitutional Court selected this case to establish a precedent requiring the government to obtain the consent of the affected communities before undertaking oil, mining, or other extractive plans or projects, based on Indigenous persons’ rights to self-determination. The court also indicated in its ruling that reparation measures “are mandatory and immediately enforceable.”
Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired through birth in the country, birth to an Ecuadorian mother or father abroad, or by naturalization. Birth registration was provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. According to UNICEF, families with limited economic resources, especially in rural areas and in the northern border provinces, continued to show registration rates significantly lower than those of other groups, which led to a national 10 percent nonregistration rate. The main causes were the long distances that families had to travel to register their children and the lack of information available for parents that demonstrated the importance of registration. Government teams occasionally traveled to remote rural areas to register families and persons with disabilities. While the law prohibits schools from requesting civil registration documents for enrollment, some (mostly public) schools continued to require them. Other government services, including welfare payments and free primary health care, require some form of identification. Migrant children were particularly affected by this requirement, which prevented adequate access to these services.
Education: The lack of schools in some areas specifically affected Indigenous and refugee and migrant children, who must travel long distances to attend school.
Child Abuse: The law criminalizes child abuse and provides penalties of 30 days to 26 years in prison, depending on the severity of the abuse.
According to UNICEF, citing a 2019 national survey, more than 45 percent among adolescents between 15 and 17 years of age had suffered sexual violence in their lifetime. In 2020, the UN Human Rights Council study revealed that most of the gender-based violence against children and adolescents occurred in the family environment and that the aggressors were relatives and persons close to the family (65 percent) or linked with the education system (17 percent).
Bullying remained a problem in schools and increasingly occurred on social media. In April 2021, reforms to the Intercultural Education Law took effect, aiming to prevent and combat digital sexual violence and strengthen the fight against cybercrimes by making online bullying punishable. Despite regulations, media outlets covered several cases of bullying and cyberbullying that were reported to the Attorney General’s Office, which had not responded to them a year or more after receiving the report.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal marriage age is 18. There were reports of early and forced marriage in rural and poor areas. According to UNICEF and Plan International, poor girls and adolescents were at higher risk of child, early, or forced marriage. Both agencies also identified cases in which the girls’ parents promoted early marriages to improve their social and economic status. This practice commonly led to other social problems such as gender-based violence, early pregnancy, leaving school prematurely, and unemployment.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is 14. The law prohibits sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, with penalties of 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for human trafficking, including child sex trafficking, is 13 to 16 years in prison. Authorities did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. The criminal code requires proof of force, fraud, or coercion as essential elements of a trafficking crime, neglecting to recognize that anyone younger than age 18 is unable to provide informed consent.
Child sex trafficking remained a problem, despite government enforcement efforts. Between January and June, the Attorney General’s Office registered 53 reports of different forms of trafficking in persons, of which 93 percent involved children.
Infanticide, including Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: UNICEF and media outlets reported a case of infanticide of a baby age seven months in April in Ibarra. A provincial judge ordered pretrial detention for the three suspects in the crime.
Displaced Children: Humanitarian organizations expressed concern that an increasing number of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children entered the country via irregular crossings. International organizations remained concerned unaccompanied children and adolescents were vulnerable to harassment, exploitation, and trafficking by criminal groups. Under a presidential decree issued on June 1, unaccompanied migrant children have access to regularized migration status (see section 2.e.).
There is a small Jewish community, including an estimated 450 individuals in Quito, 40 individuals in Guayaquil, and 10 individuals elsewhere in the country. The Jewish community reported no attacks or aggression as of August 13.
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: No laws exist to criminalize same-sex conduct or gender identity or expression.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: LGBTQI+ organizations reported the killing of two LGBTQI+ individuals in January, one in Guayaquil and the other in the province of Cotopaxi. The NGO Silueta X characterized both deaths as transfemicides, defined as killings of transgender women by individuals motivated by antitransgender bias. The digital news outlet GK said one of the victim’s relatives reported the killing to the Attorney General’s Office but did not receive a response. LGBTQI+ organizations claimed government institutions in general failed to properly register and categorize violent acts against the LGBTQI+ community, leading to underreporting. LGBTQI+ groups claimed police and prosecutors did not thoroughly investigate deaths of LGBTQI+ individuals, including when there was suspicion that the killing was motivated by anti-LGBTQI+ bias. The NGO Fundación Ecuatoriana Equidad, a sexual health and LGBTQI+ advocacy group, cited police and prosecutors’ lax attitude and the lack of technical capacity and knowledge about LGBTQI+ individuals to explain insufficient investigations into crimes committed against LGBTQI+ persons.
Discrimination: The constitution includes the principle of nondiscrimination with respect to gender identity or sexual orientation. The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law also prohibits hate crimes, but LGBTQI+ activists asserted that since the legal codification of hate crimes in 2008, there had been no hate crime convictions for crimes against LGBTQI+ persons. LGBTQI+ persons continued to suffer discrimination from both public and private entities, particularly in education, employment, and access to health care. LGBTQI+ organizations reported transgender persons suffered more discrimination because they were more visible.
LGBTQI+ persons continued to report that the government sometimes denied them equal access to formal education. Fundación Ecuatoriana Equidad indicated the government did not comprehensively apply policy provisions to prevent and combat discrimination. LGBTQI+ students, particularly transgender students, sometimes were discouraged from attending classes and were more susceptible to bullying in schools. Human rights activists argued the Ministry of Education and school administrators were slow to respond to complaints regarding harassment, discrimination, or abuse against LGBTQI+ persons.
LGBTQI+ persons involved in the commercial sex trade reported abusive situations, extortion, and mistreatment by security forces.
In December 2021, the navy publicly apologized to Diocles Daniel García Zambrano for committing a discriminatory act by discharging him based on his sexual orientation without respecting the guarantees of due process. The navy assumed responsibility for the act and pledged not to discriminate based on sexual orientation, whether real or perceived, of all persons entering active service.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: The law prohibits changing gender on identity documents for LGBTQI+ persons younger than 18, even with parental consent. As of August 17, a decision remained pending in a case before the Constitutional Court to determine the age at which transgender underage individuals may change their identity information.
On May 5, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Office of the Civil Registry may change an individual’s sex on record at the person’s request without requesting any additional documents. An LGBTQI+ organization reported that despite the ruling, the Office of the Civil Registry had not yet implemented the ruling. The court also ordered the National Assembly to “discuss and approve a bill to regulate the procedure for changing the sex of transgender persons.” The legislature’s Constitutional Guarantees and Human Rights Committee members began drafting a law in July.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: An LGBTQI+ organization reported the existence of clandestine private treatment centers confining LGBTQI+ persons against their will to “cure” or “dehomosexualize” them despite the illegality of such treatment. LGBTQI+ organizations reported that the practice persisted under the guise of religious or “wellness” retreats or drug addiction treatment centers. According to one LGBTQI+ organization, the Ministry of Public Health had some success in identifying and closing such institutions. Another LGBTQI+ organization claimed the Attorney General’s Office had not taken any action against the individuals who ran these establishments.
According to the advocacy NGO Dialogo Diverso, many individuals confined to the “clinics” were afraid to report the activity because in most cases their own family members forced them into the “treatments.” LGBTQI+ organizations also reported relatives took LGBTQI+ persons to neighboring countries, where clinics reportedly used violent treatments, including rape, to attempt to change LGBTQI+ persons’ sexual orientation.
Additionally, an intersex organization reported infants and children born with nonbinary sex characteristics were subjected to unnecessary irreversible genital surgeries in an attempt to “normalize” their gender appearance.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: An LGBTQI+ organization claimed that despite the law protecting freedom of expression, major television networks systematically censored LGBTQI+ individuals and granted more space to conservative views.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law stipulates persons with disabilities have the right to health care and health insurance; to employment and job security; to education, including programs for scholarships and student loans; and to access buildings, transport, and communications. The government did not fully enforce its provisions.
By law, children with disabilities may attend specialized schools, but all educational establishments must accommodate students with disabilities. An advocacy NGO for persons with disabilities said nonspecialized institutions lacked the capacity and staff to accommodate the range of disabilities. The NGO said children with disabilities attended primary and secondary education at similar rates to other children, but they attended higher education at lower rates due to a lack of access to quality support and accessible infrastructure. According to the NGO, the lack of interagency coordination especially in the public sector hampered the possibility for persons with disabilities to transit smoothly from high school to universities or technical institutions and then to an independent life.
The law requires that 4 percent of employees in all public and private enterprises with more than 25 employees be persons with disabilities, and it gives the Ombudsman’s Office responsibility for following up on alleged violations of the rights of persons with disabilities, stipulating fines and punishments for lack of compliance. As of 2021, 52 percent of enterprises complied with the law, 3 percent fewer than in 2020.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Fundación Ecuatoriana Equidad said that although HIV-positive individuals were registered with the social security system, diagnosis, follow-up testing, and treatment continued to be inadequate due to perceived poor management by the Ministry of Health and general corruption.
Although Ministry of Labor regulations prohibit discrimination against hiring HIV-positive individuals and bans HIV tests as entry requirements for a job, LGBTQI+ organizations argued many employers continued requiring tests.