Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including of men. Although the law does not mention spousal rape, it stipulates that a spouse cannot force or threaten the other partner into a sexual act “from which the spouse or the other person has the right to abstain.”
Police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law, according to local NGOs that worked with domestic violence survivors. The penalty for rape is up to 20 years’ imprisonment, with a substantial fine. Rape cases rarely made the headlines unless they were egregious in nature.
The law criminalizes domestic violence, but it remained a major problem. The law covers married and unmarried heterosexual couples, defines “domestic violence” to include verbal, psychological, economic, and sexual abuses, and empowers officers to act on behalf of the survivor instead of waiting for a formal complaint from the survivor. The government did not consistently enforce the law. According to the NGO SOS Femme, police were not always effective in protecting domestic violence survivors to whom authorities had granted court protection orders. Authorities prosecuted crimes including assault, aggravated assault, threats, and blows under the law, but law enforcement recordkeeping did not always indicate whether they were linked to domestic violence.
The law provides for protection and housing rights for survivors, as well as counseling for the abuser; however, counseling for the abuser is not mandatory, and there were few shelters available to survivors. Local policy favors the placement of survivors in shelters rather than the removal of domestic violence perpetrators from the home, resulting in social and schooling disruptions for the survivors. By law the penalty for violating a protection order is a fine and imprisonment not to exceed one year for the first offense, two years for a second offense, and up to five years’ imprisonment for subsequent offenses. The government operated a mobile phone application, the Family Welfare App, to facilitate reporting of domestic violence and child abuse.
Media reported that off-duty police officer Tayrish Buldy was arrested for killing his estranged partner, Sanjana Khoodeeram, on November 12 after a domestic dispute and later setting fire to the vehicle in which he had placed her body.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, which is punishable by up to two years in prison, but sexual harassment continued to be a problem due to lax enforcement and because survivors often did not believe filing a complaint would resolve anything.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health. They had access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. No legal, social, or cultural barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraception, and all types of contraception were available at retail stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. There were no reports of legal, social, and cultural barriers or government policies that impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services. Individuals younger than age 18 required parental permission to access health services. Individuals were able to access contraception and skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as essential obstetric and postpartum care that the state provided free of charge in government hospitals. Emergency health care was available, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Medical staff, however, must report any postabortion complications, which meant many women did not seek medical assistance. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available over the counter.
There were no reports of legal, social, or cultural barriers, including harmful practices, related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene that impacted women and girls’ ability to participate equally in society, including any limits on a girl’s access to education. There was no legal restriction stopping girls from continuing their education while pregnant or in motherhood status.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution and law. The courts upheld these rights. Nonetheless, cultural and societal barriers prevented women from fully exercising their legal rights, especially in some cases involving inheritance. Women faced some discrimination in employment and occupation (see section 7.d.). Members of the transgender community reportedly faced discrimination related to employment and housing.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The constitution and the law protect members of racial or ethnic minorities or groups from violence and discrimination, but the government was not always effective in enforcing the law. For example, the government generally refused to release demographic information concerning civil service recruitment when it faced allegations that certain ethnic groups received preferential treatment.
Poverty continued to be more common among citizens of African descent (Creoles) than among those in any other community. There were allegations of discrimination in employment and occupation based on race or ethnicity (see section 7.d.). There were racist comments, including calls for violence, on social media.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory if one or both parents are citizens of the country. Birth registration was not denied on a discriminatory basis. Authorities register births, and the law provides for late registration. Failure to register births resulted in denial of some public services.
Child Abuse: The law criminalizes certain acts compromising the health, security, or morality of a child. Although the government was unable to ensure complete compliance, such as in child labor cases, it generally enforced the law. NGOs asserted child abuse was more widespread than the government acknowledged or than survivors reported to authorities.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal marriage age for boys and girls is 18, but marriages of younger children were reported in the past.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, or using children for commercial exploitation. The law criminalizes child sex trafficking. The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a monetary fine for each offense, and the government enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.
The government assisted victims of child abuse and survivors of child sex trafficking. Medical treatment and psychological support were available at public clinics and NGO centers.
Institutionalized Children: The law provides that a simple oath before a magistrate allows parents to have their children placed in the care of the Rehabilitation of Youth Center on the basis that they are “children beyond control.” Once admitted, the children, some as young as eight or nine, could remain in detention until they reached the age of 18.
The Jewish community consisted of approximately 120 persons, predominantly foreign residents. There were no reports of antisemitic acts during the year.
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: A colonial-era law criminalizes sodomy for both same-sex and heterosexual couples. Authorities rarely used it except in cases of sexual assault. In November 2021 the Supreme Court heard evidence in a case challenging the constitutionality of the sodomy statute, which activists argued violates constitutional rights to privacy and can be an obstacle to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons accessing health care. A ruling had not been made by year’s end.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: LGBTQI+ victims of verbal abuse or violence generally did not file complaints with police due to ostracism or, in some cases, fear of reprisal from family members.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination by state and nonstate actors against LGBTQI+ persons, particularly with respect to essential goods and services such as housing, employment, and access to government services such as health care. The government generally enforced such laws. The National Blood Transfusion Service, however, disqualified men who have had anal or oral sex with other men from donating blood, and members of the transgender community reportedly experienced discrimination related to employment and housing.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: There is no legal provision for individuals to change their gender identity marker on legal and identifying documents to bring them into alignment with their gender identity. There were no developments in an April 2021 case in which the Passport and Immigration Office denied a transgender citizen living in France a new passport because the law did not recognize her as a woman after complete transition surgery.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no reports of so-called conversion therapy during the year.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no reports of restrictions of freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly regarding the LGBTQI+ community during the year.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, or transportation on an equal basis with others. Authorities did not effectively enforce the law that requires equal access to public conveyances. Many buildings also remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities despite a legal requirement for public buildings to be accessible for them. The government implemented programs to provide persons with disabilities with access to information and communications, such as captions and sign language interpretation of news broadcasts. The state-run television station broadcasts a weekly sign-language news program for persons with hearing disabilities. There is no provision, however, to make government websites accessible to persons with disabilities.
The law prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and there were no reported actions under the law. The law stipulates that persons with disabilities must constitute at least 3 percent of a workforce of 35 or more employees, but authorities did not effectively enforce these provisions (see section 7.d.).
Children with physical disabilities have the right to attend mainstream schools, but, according to students with disabilities and their parents, schools often turned them away because they could not be accommodated. There is a regulatory authority to address and advocate for individuals with special needs, including children. Children with mental disabilities attended separate schools that received minimal government funding.
The government did not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote or participate in civic activities, although lack of accessible transportation posed a barrier to some voters with disabilities. The government provided wheelchairs to make polling stations more accessible to persons with disabilities and to elderly persons.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
The law provides that persons with HIV and AIDS should be free from stigmatization and discrimination. There were no pending cases of discrimination against such persons or their relatives.
The local NGO Aide Infos Liberte Solidarite reported that authorities did not automatically grant HIV and AIDS patients social aid unless accompanied by a social worker to advocate their cases.