Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of a person, regardless of gender, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for rape survivors.
The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for domestic violence varies from three years to 20 years in prison and a substantial fine.
The government sponsored and funded programs for survivors of gender-based violence, including shelters, counseling, hotlines, free mobile phones, and a media campaign. The government also supported the work of 25 associations and NGOs dedicated to addressing domestic violence.
To protect domestic violence survivors, the law authorizes doctors to waive medical confidentiality and report to police if a patient’s life is in “immediate danger.” The law reinforces harassment penalties and includes a 10-year prison sentence in cases where violence led to a victim’s suicide. The law also makes it possible for authorities to suspend parental rights in cases of domestic violence.
Judges in five courts (Bobigny, Pontoise, Douai, Angouleme, and Aix-en-Provence) may order domestic violence offenders to wear electronic tracking bracelets with a monitor that alerts survivors and police if the abuser comes within a certain distance of the survivor. Judges may order trackers for men charged with assault, even if not yet convicted, provided sufficient grounds are met and the suspect accepts. If a suspect refuses a tracker, the judge may order prosecutors to open a criminal inquiry. Survivors will be given a warning device, and alleged offenders must submit to restraining orders as defined by judges.
The government estimated more than 200,000 women were survivors of marital violence each year, with many cases never reported. Official statistics published on August 26 showed that 122 women were killed in domestic violence cases in 2021, up from 102 in 2020. Among those killed, 32 percent had previously faced domestic violence; 64 percent had reported the abuse to the police and 84 percent had filed a complaint. As of September 30, the feminist collective Nous toutes (All of us) estimated that 98 women were killed in cases involving domestic violence during the year.
On January 4, six police officers appeared before two disciplinary boards in Bordeaux and Paris for “administrative failings” concerning the 2021 murder investigation of Chahinez Daoud. Daoud was burned alive by her former husband after police failed to respond to her reports. One of the officers was removed from the police force in January. In response to the mishandling of Daoud’s complaint and the officer’s violent past, Minister of Interior Gerard Darmanin declared in August 2021 that any police officer convicted of domestic abuse should no longer be in contact with the public. On September 23, the Ministry of Interior announced that 158 police officers and gendarmes convicted of domestic violence charges were removed from their duties and banned from interacting with the public.
In June 2021, the government announced a series of measures to offer women better protection, to include evaluating the danger posed by a perpetrator prior to any easing of sentences. As November 25, police gave 4,300 emergency telephones to survivors of abuse to make calls in case of immediate danger. The government also announced the “reinforcement of the control and possession” of weapons and the creation of a committee to monitor the measures, as well as the introduction of a conjugal violence file, shared and updated each time the police are called in to deal with a case of conjugal violence or when a formal complaint is lodged.
On February 1, a decree making it mandatory to notify survivors of domestic violence when their former partners are released from jail became effective. The decree calls for the court to assess the need to monitor the offender to protect women and children by fitting abusers with an electronic bracelet (a tracking device).
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was practiced in the country, particularly within diaspora communities. Various laws prohibit FGM/C and include extraterritorial jurisdiction, allowing authorities to prosecute FGM/C, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, even if it is committed outside the country, and up to 30 years if the FGM/C leads to the death of the victim. The government provided reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C survivors.
According to the latest statistics available from the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, 53,000 FGM/C survivors resided in the country; the majority were from sub-Saharan African countries where FGM/C was prevalent, and the procedure was performed. According to the most recent statistics released in 2016 by the Group against Sexual Mutilation, 350 excisions were performed in the country each year. In 2019 the National Public Health Agency estimated the number of survivors of FGM/C rose from 62,000 in the early 2000s to 124,000 in the middle 2010s.
On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilations/Cutting, former Minister of Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination Elisabeth Moreno announced the allocation of €300,000 ($321,000) to implement a key provision of the 2019 national action plan to eradicate FGM/C. The funds will support the expansion of a study on the prevalence of FGM/C in the country.
On March 31, a Le Mans criminal court sentenced a mother to a five-year suspended sentence for circumcising her three eldest daughters during trips to Djibouti. The court found the mother to be willfully complicit in a violent act resulting in permanent mutilations of her daughters.
The country offers asylum for women who are survivors of sexual mutilation. In 2021, OFPRA granted refugee status to approximately 1,350 women and girls on these grounds. As of December 2021, OFPRA protected 14,123 minors on grounds of risk of FGM/C, including 3,216 from Ivory Coast.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based violence, including sexual harassment of both women and men in the workplace. Sexual harassment is defined as “subjecting an individual to repeated acts, comments, or any other conduct of a sexual nature that are detrimental to a person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, thereby creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.” The government enforced the law.
The law provides for on-the-spot fines for persons who sexually harass others on the street (including wolf whistling), and substantial fines if there are aggravating circumstances. The law covers sexual or sexist comments and behavior that is degrading, humiliating, intimidating, hostile, or offensive and provides for increased sanctions for cyberstalking and prohibits taking pictures or videos under someone’s clothes without consent, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and a substantial fine.
Under a government plan, court proceedings for street harassment cases are fast-tracked. The plan also established a program under which businesses that choose to participate can serve as refuge shelters for women subjected to street harassment. Participating locations are identified by a label displayed in the window. The government operated a “barometer” program to assess the street harassment phenomenon and map “red areas” of concern.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
In September 2021, then Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that contraception would be free for women up to the age of 25 beginning in 2022, extending a program under which girls ages 15 to 18 could receive free contraception. The minister stated that 25 was chosen as the age limit because “this age corresponds with more economic and social autonomy,” adding that “it’s also the age limit for coverage under one’s family health plan.”
On September 20, Health Minister François Braun announced that emergency contraception would be free for all women. Women now have access to the pill from pharmacies without a prescription. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.
On February 19, the government eased access to abortion medication as an alternative to more invasive surgical procedures by permitting the provision of abortion medication up to the seventh week of pregnancy via telemedicine, rather than requiring visits to health facilities. On February 23, parliament voted to extend the legal timeframe for abortion from the 12th to the 14th week of pregnancy.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors, but this prohibition does not apply to relationships between peers. The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, employment, property, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to inheritance, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property in line with the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Diversity, the Fight against Discrimination and Equal Opportunities is responsible for protecting the legal rights of women. The constitution and law provide for equal access to professional and social positions, and the government generally enforced the laws.
There was discrimination against women with respect to employment and occupation (see section 7.d.), and women were underrepresented in most levels of government leadership.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The country’s laws protect members of racial or ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination, and the government generally enforced them effectively. The criminal code punishes the authors of violence committed against individuals, and the penalties are increased when they have been committed for racial and ethnic reasons. Discrimination law bears on everyday measures and practices. Discrimination is defined as the unequal and unfavorable treatment of an individual or group of individuals based on prohibited grounds and in a specific area defined by law such as employment, education, housing, or health care. Nearly 25 discrimination grounds are stipulated in the criminal code and associated laws, including origin, gender, physical appearance, or the economic circumstances of an individual.
On July 5, the Defender of Rights reported registering 2,508 complaints based on racial discrimination against the security forces’ intervention methods in 2021. The Defender of Rights noted a 6.1 percent increase in complaints related to the “ethics of security” in 2021 compared with the previous year.
In its annual report on the fight against racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia, published on July 18, the CNCDH underlined the “continued prevalence of discriminatory behaviors” based on real or assumed background, religion, or skin color. Societal violence and discrimination, including in employment and occupation (see section 7.d.), against immigrants of North African origin, Roma, and other ethnic minorities remained a problem. Many observers, including the Defender of Rights and the CNCDH, expressed concern that discriminatory hiring practices in both the public and private sectors deprived minorities from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and Asia of equal access to employment.
On March 11, the Ministry of Interior announced the government registered 1,803 racist and xenophobic hate crimes involving threats or violence in 2021, a 23 percent increase from the number recorded in 2020 with 1,461 acts. On March 29, the Central Territorial Intelligence Service reported 1,659 antireligious acts were recorded in 2021, including 857 antichristian acts, 589 antisemitic acts, and 213 anti-Muslim acts, representing a 20 percent increase from 2020, when 1,386 antireligious acts were recorded. The Ministry of Justice reported it reviewed 7,759 cases related to racism in 2020 (compared with 7,405 in 2019) and 955 racist offenses were punished with convictions.
Government observers and NGOs, including the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), reported several anti-Muslim incidents during the year, including slurs against Muslims, attacks on mosques, and physical assaults. The total number of anti-Muslim acts decreased by 10 percent, from 234 in 2020 to 213 in 2021. Violent acts against Muslims constituted 41 percent of all the anti-Muslim acts, while threats constituted 59.1 percent of all anti-Muslim acts reported in 2021. During the April presidential elections, NGO SOS Racism called attention to the increasing tolerance of racist and anti-Muslim language expressed by then far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, who stated that France should remain “the landscape of churches” and that he “rejects huge mosques.”
On June 13, the Rennes prosecutor announced the opening of an investigation after a fire had partially destroyed a mosque in the western city of Rennes on June 12. The initial findings suggested the fire was of criminal origin. The investigation was ongoing at year’s end.
Societal hostility against Roma, including Romani migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, continued to be a problem. There were reports of anti-Roma violence by private citizens. Romani individuals, including migrants, experienced discrimination in employment. Government data estimated there were 20,000 Roma in the country.
On July 18, the CNCDH stated in its annual report that intolerance of Roma remained particularly stark and had changed little since 2016. The CNCDH 2021 report showed the Romani community remained the community regarded most negatively in public opinion. The report, however, pointed out that Roma were less often used as scapegoats by political, social, and media elites than in previous years. Roma and unaccompanied minors were at risk for forced labor trafficking, specifically forced begging and forced theft.
Authorities continued to dismantle camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma. According to the Observatory for Collective Expulsions from Informal Living Places, authorities evicted persons from 1,330 places between November 2020 and the end of October 2021, versus 1,079 for the period between November 2019 and the end of October 2020. Among those experiencing expulsions, 1,024 places were in Calais and its area and 306 in the rest of the country. Among those 306 places, 106 were targeting places occupied by persons “mainly coming from Eastern Europe, (who were) Romani or perceived as such.”
On September 21, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published a report calling on the country to improve minority groups’ rights and to introduce a system of recording “stop and account” actions by law enforcement officials, as well as to recognize the caravans of “travellers,” or nomadic groups, as a type of housing. ECRI further called for a review of the restrictions on where and for how long caravans could be parked. ECRI also recommended authorities step up their efforts to ensure that adequate assessments of accommodation, placement, and social service needs are completed prior to any clearance of illegal settlements, including those of Roma or travellers, that the resources available are increased accordingly, and that no legitimate residence applications are rejected.
Citizens, asylum seekers, and migrants may report cases of discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity to the Defender of Rights. According to the most recent data available, the office received 7,096 discrimination claims in 2021, 15.2 percent of which concerned discrimination based on ethnic origin. The government attempted to combat racism and discrimination through programs that promoted public awareness and brought together local officials, police, and citizens. Some public-school systems also managed antidiscrimination education programs. The Interministerial Delegation to Fight Against Racism, Antisemitism, and Anti-LGBT Hate, an organization reporting to the prime minister, coordinated the government’s efforts to combat racism, antisemitism, and homophobia.
Birth Registration: The law confers nationality to a child born to at least one parent with citizenship or to a child born in the country to stateless parents or to parents whose nationality does not transfer to the child. Parents must register births of children regardless of citizenship within three days at the local city hall. Parents who do not register within this period are subject to legal action.
Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse, including against rape, sexual assault, corruption of a minor, kidnapping, child pornography, and human trafficking, including both child sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The government actively worked to combat child abuse. Penalties were generally severe.
On January 25, parliament adopted a law that reinforced the national strategy for the prevention of child abuse and protection of children by updating the legal definition of abuse, decentralizing the decision making of care and prevention programs, and enhancing protections for unaccompanied minors. The law also bans the use of hotels to temporarily house minors, an action NGOs criticized in the past. Finally, the law established a National Child Protection Council to coordinate policy at the national level.
On March 3, former Secretary of State to the Prime Minister in charge of Children Adrien Taquet, in conjunction with Minister of National Education Pap Ndiaye, launched a campaign to increase awareness of the three emergency hotlines dedicated to children’s issues. According to a 2020 French Institute of Public Opinion poll, one in 10 persons in the country reported experiencing sexual violence during childhood. In 80 percent of the cases, the abuses were committed by family members. In 2021, the emergency hotline number to respond to child violence concerns received 39,867 calls, and 22,224 requests were transferred to the departmental unit for collection of treatment and evaluation for follow-up, and 17,643 received immediate assistance. Approximately 18 percent of the callers were minors, and in 81.6 percent of the cases parents were presumed to be the principal perpetrators of violence. Sex with children younger than 15 is legally considered rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, unless there is a small gap between the two partners. The law also makes it illegal for an adult to have sex with a relative younger than age 18.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Early marriage was a problem mainly for communities from the Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. The law provides for the prosecution of forced marriage cases, even when the marriage occurred abroad. Penalties for violations are up to three years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine. Women and girls could seek refuge at shelters if their parents or guardians threatened them with forced marriage. The government offered educational programs to inform young women of their rights.
In July 2021, parliament adopted the bill Upholding Republican Values, which makes it illegal for medical professionals to issue virginity certificates, as the government considered those certificates usually preceded a forced marriage. The bill also allows city hall officials to interview couples separately when there were concerns the relationship may be a forced marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children. The minimum age of consent is 15, and sexual relations with a minor between the ages of 15 and 18 are illegal when the adult is in a position of authority over the minor. For rape of a minor younger than 15, the penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased in the event of aggravating circumstances. Other sexual abuse of a minor younger than 15 is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a substantial fine. The law provides that underage rape victims may file complaints up to 30 years after they turn 18.
The government enforced these laws effectively. The law also criminalizes child sex trafficking with a minimum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine. The law prohibits child pornography; the maximum penalty for its use and distribution is five years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine.
Given the significant increase in children exploited in commercial sex in the past few years, which the Ministry of Solidarities and Health estimated to be between 7,000 and 10,000 predominantly French girls, in April 2021 the CNCDH, the national rapporteur, publicly urged the government to adopt a clear criminal policy against the sexual exploitation of children. The rapporteur recommended improving the identification of child trafficking victims by increasing training and data collection, targeting online platforms, and increasing national awareness campaigns. In 2021, the government established a new unit of eight investigators specializing in the exploitation of children in commercial sex, which included child sex trafficking, as well as a cooperation mechanism for victim assistance on police operations with a civil society network.
In July 2021, then Junior Minister for Child Protection, Adrien Taquet, stated that a report by experts in education, the judiciary, law enforcement, health care, and child protection NGOs noted a 70 percent increase in the number of minors in commercial sex in the previous five years, based on Ministry of Interior statistics. They were typically girls between the ages of 15 and 17 from all social classes, often vulnerable due to family situations, who were recruited via social media and did not self-identify as victims, according to the report.
In October 2021, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, established in 2018 by the French Catholic Church, released its report on child abuse committed by Catholic priests in the country since the 1950s following a two-and-a-half-year investigation. The report found that 216,000 minors were victims of abuse from 1950 to 2020. Deceased victims were not counted, and according to the report, the number of victims could climb to 330,000 when claims against lay members of the church, such as teachers at Catholic schools, were included. The report found that 80 percent of the victims were boys, typically between the ages of 10 and 13 and from a variety of social backgrounds. The commission president, Jean-Marc Sauve, said the abuse was systemic and the church had shown “deep, total and even cruel indifference for years.” As of September 29, some 1,004 requests have been sent to the Independent National Instance for Recognition and Reparation (INIRR) since its establishment in January. One hundred and fifty individuals are in touch with an INIRR case worker. Around 60 cases have resulted in a decision, 42 of which included financial compensation of up to €60,000 ($64,200), according to a first report published by the INIRR president.
Displaced Children: By law unaccompanied migrant children are taken into the care of the country’s child protection system. NGOs continued to assess that border police summarily returned unaccompanied migrant children attempting to enter via Italy, rather than referring them to the child protection system. In February, the Defender of Rights, a government ombudsman, stated that more than 10 percent of the child rights referrals the office received in 2020 concerned foreign minors, most of whom were unaccompanied. According to the latest data available, in 2021 child welfare services aided 9,524 unaccompanied minors. Roma and unaccompanied minors were at risk for forced labor trafficking, specifically forced begging and forced theft.
The government did not report taking steps to address the 3,000 to 4,000 unaccompanied Comorian minors who were at risk for sex and labor trafficking in the French department of Mayotte by offering them medical, shelter, education, or other protection services.
To promote equality and prevent discrimination, the law prohibits the collection of data based on race, ethnicity, and religion. A 2018 report by the Berman Jewish Data Bank estimated there were 453,000 Jews in the country.
NGO and government observers reported numerous antisemitic incidents, including physical and verbal assaults on individuals and attacks on synagogues, cemeteries, and memorials, particularly in the Alsace-Lorraine region. Minister of Interior Gerard Darmanin stated during a speech at the inauguration of a synagogue in Paris on September 14 that the number of antisemitic acts during the first six months of the year decreased by 25 percent. The Ministry of Interior recorded 227 antisemitic acts between January and June, compared to 298 during the same period in 2021.
According to the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), 436 antisemitic acts were recorded in the year versus 589 in 2021, a 26 percent reduction. Incidents targeting individuals – as opposed to buildings and institutions – accounted for 53 percent of all incidents; 10 percent were violent physical assaults. According to the Ministry of Interior, 61 percent of antireligious acts targeting individuals were directed against Jews, despite representing less than 1 percent of the population. The American Jewish Council’s January report stated that 48 percent of French individuals believed that rejection of Israel (53 percent) and Islamist ideas (48 percent) were the two main causes of antisemitism. The survey results also indicate that Jews in France are more likely to feel threatened because of their ethnic origins (19 percent compared to 10 percent of the French population). According to the survey, 70 percent of French Jews indicated they have been victims of at least one antisemitic act in their lifetime.
According to statistics released by the Ministry of Armed Forces in March 2021, the government continued to deploy 3,000 military personnel throughout the country to patrol sensitive sites, including vulnerable Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim sites and other places of worship. This number could go up to as many as 10,000 personnel at times of high threat. Some Jewish leaders requested the government also provide static armed guards at Jewish places of worship.
On April 4, the family of a young Jewish man killed by a tram in a Paris suburb February 16 released a video of the incident indicating the incident could have been triggered by an assault, possibly antisemitic. The video showed Jeremy Cohen, age 31, assaulted by a group of 15 persons and fleeing from the attack before being killed by an oncoming tram. While it was not certain the victim was wearing his kippa when assaulted, the antisemitism watchdog National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism reported the religious head covering was found at the scene. Authorities opened an investigation for “willful violence resulting in death unintentionally,” and on April 13 police arrested two individuals. The investigation was ongoing at year’s end.
On May 17, the body of René Hadjadj was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, and his neighbor was arrested. Investigators did not initially charge the neighbor with a racist crime. On May 27, a prosecutor in the case told the media that the state is considering charging the suspect with a hate crime after the suspect posted several antisemitic messages on his social media, aggravating the circumstances of the act.
Antisemitic vandalism targeted Jewish sites, including Holocaust memorials. On March 31, the Union of Jewish Students in France shared images on social media of antisemitic tags discovered in the bathroom of the University of Paris Nanterre, including an inscription that said, “Hitler, you are the best.” The president of the university said in a Twitter statement that the university “strongly condemns these acts.” He added that the vandalism was being cleaned up and an investigation had been launched.
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 criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: Homophobic violence and hate speech in the country increased by 36 percent in 2021, with 2,170 acts compared to 1,590 in 2020, according to Ministry of Interior statistics released May 16, on the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. The number of lawsuits for insults, threats and attacks has doubled during the 2016-2021 period, the ministry noted. Insults constituted 59 percent of the offenses. Victims were mainly men (73 percent) and under the age of 30 (51 percent). The Ministry of Interior stressed the statistics were based on reported cases and actual figures were likely higher. A 2012-2018 survey showed “only about 20 percent of victims of anti-LGBTQI+ threats or violence and only 5 percent of victims of anti- LGBTQI+ insults file complaints,” the ministry reported. In a separate report released May 16, the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights noted that while the rights of LGBTQI+ persons have made progress in the country over the past 20 years, stereotypes persist. The LGBTQI+ population is “tolerated but not integrated,” the commission said.
On March 23, six gay rights groups announced they had filed a lawsuit against then presidential candidate Eric Zemmour over denial of crimes against humanity after he denied in his book published in September 2021 that homosexuals were rounded up and deported during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II.
On May 18, the Aix-en-Provence criminal court sentenced two former members of the French Foreign Legion responsible for the 2017 rape and physical assault of Algerian LGBTQI+ activist Zak Ostmane in a hotel room in Marseille. One of the two former soldiers was sentenced to 18 years in prison and the second to five years in prison. For the rape, as for the violence, the court accepted the aggravating circumstance of homophobia because of the sexual orientation of the victim.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics and recognizes LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and their families. The law prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services. The government enforced these laws. Authorities pursued and punished perpetrators of violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
On August 4, on the 40th anniversary of the country’s abolition of a World War II-era law discriminating against homosexual individuals, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced the creation of a new position of ambassador for LGBTQI+ rights to fight discrimination across the world. Ambassador Jean-Marc Berthon was appointed to this new office on October 26.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Human rights organizations such as Inter-LGBT continued to criticize the government for requiring transgender persons to secure a judge’s concurrence before obtaining legal recognition of their gender identity.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: On January 25, parliament approved a law banning the practice of so-called gay-conversion therapy. The new law introduced prison sentences and fines for any citizen who attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQI+ persons. Those found guilty of so-called gay conversion therapy could face two years’ imprisonment and a significant fine. The punishment could rise to three years in prison and a larger fine for attempts involving children or other particularly vulnerable persons.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no restrictions on the freedoms of association, assembly, or expression during the year.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution and law protect the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, public buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services on an equal basis with others. Adults with disabilities received an allowance from the government. Government information and communication on disability concerns is provided in accessible formats. The government did not always enforce these provisions effectively.
While the law requires companies with more than 20 workers to hire persons with disabilities, many such companies failed to do so and paid penalties.
The law requires that buildings, education, and employment be accessible to persons with disabilities. According to the latest government estimates available, 40 percent of establishments in the country were accessible. On October 5, the Prime Minister’s Office announced the creation of an interministerial delegate in charge of advancing accessibility to buildings opened to the public.
According to statistics released in September by the Education Ministry, 430,000 children with disabilities attended schools in the country, including 67,000 in hospitals or social health-care institutions and 363,000 in “ordinary” schools. The government did not provide detailed statistics on how many of those 363,000 children attended class full time or for only a few hours a week, or whether they had the help of assistants for children with disabilities, as required.
On August 24, the Office of the Defender of Rights announced that 20 percent of referrals received concerning children’s rights related to difficulties in accessing education for children with disabilities.
In 2018 the government began implementing a four-year strategy to give autistic children access to education. The plan included increasing diagnosis and early years support for children with autism, increasing scientific research, and training doctors, teachers, and staff. In 2018, the cabinet council appointed an Interministerial Delegate for the National Strategy for Autism and Developmental Disorders, who is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the government’s five-year strategy (2018-2022). In March, the government assessed the plan’s progress and announced it had allocated €636 million ($681 million) to the plan. It reported 42,000 autistic children attended schools in 2021 and that 422 specific classes for autistic children had been created.