Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal. Sentences for rape begin at 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities referred allegations of rape or physical or sexual abuse of women to police, who were generally responsive to these complaints.
The government occasionally offered sexual abuse awareness training, but civil society representatives argued such efforts were insufficient to address the root problems that perpetuated an environment of insensitivity to sexual abuse victims. Police and human rights groups reported that perpetrators commonly made payoffs to victims of rape or sexual assault in exchange for victims not pressing charges.
Civil society groups reported that domestic violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem that had increased due to the pandemic. There were some prosecutions of perpetrators during the year. The Division of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of National Mobilization offered programs to assist women and children. In the past, the ministry maintained a crisis center for survivors of domestic violence, but the center was closed for renovations throughout the year.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment; authorities could prosecute such behavior under other laws. Sexual harassment was reportedly widespread, particularly in the workplace. Local human rights groups and women’s organizations considered enforcement in the workplace ineffective, citing a lack of sensitivity by government officials, particularly towards economically vulnerable populations.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Contraception was widely available, including for the purpose of family planning. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage.
The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence through the Ministry of National Mobilization, Family, Gender Affairs, Youth, Housing, and Informal Human Settlement.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights to family, nationality, and inheritance as men. Women receive an equitable share of property following separation or divorce. The law requires equal pay for equal work, and authorities generally enforced it. The Equal Pay Act of 1994 prohibits some forms of discrimination based on sex. Women were legally restricted from working in some industries, including mining, construction, factory work, and energy.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law prohibits racial discrimination but does not specifically mention ethnicity. The country does not have a racially or ethnically diverse population. Approximately 71 percent of the population is Black and 23 percent is mixed, primarily of African descent; 3 percent is indigenous.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or by descent via either parent. Birth registration was provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. It usually took place within a few days of birth.
Child Abuse: The law provides a legal framework, including within domestic violence laws, for the protection of children. The Family Services Division of the Ministry of Social Development monitored and protected the welfare of children. The division referred all reports of child abuse to police for action and assisted in cases where children applied for protection orders with the Family Court. The police commissioner reported that officers received training in several areas, including child abuse and investigation of sexual offenses.
Child abuse cases were reported. Unlawful sexual intercourse with children younger than age 15 remained a problem, with some cases possibly linked to transactional sex. Government and NGO interlocutors indicated that child abuse remained a significant problem. NGOs reported there was an increase in sexual abuse of children, particularly girls. In some instances, children either remained in or were sent back to their abuser’s homes because they had no alternative. There also were reports of boys being sexually exploited by men. One civil society organization noted the law does not specifically prohibit same-sex statutory rape. Civil society representatives reported that the sentences of abusers were often lenient, citing a case of an individual sentenced to two years in prison after sexually abusing a child, age four.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Parental consent is required for underage marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial exploitation of children, including the posting and circulation of child pornography on the internet. The government enforced these laws and reminded citizens of the penalties – up to 20 years’ imprisonment – for violating them. The law prohibits girls younger than age 15 and boys younger than 16 from engaging in consensual sexual relations, and the government enforced the law. The law prohibits opposite-sex statutory rape, with special provisions for persons younger than age 13.
There was no organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of antisemitic acts.
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: Anal sex is illegal for men under a statute carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment; a separate “indecency law” prohibits other forms of same-sex conduct, with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. These laws were not enforced.
As of November 4, a local court case challenging laws prohibiting certain forms of same-sex conduct was moving to the scheduling phase.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: There were no reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals.
Discrimination: No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Some local civil society organizations reported that while hostility against this group had declined, members of the LGBTQI+ community continued to face abuse and discrimination as well as verbal harassment.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: There is no legislation providing for legal gender recognition in the country.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no reports of involuntary or coercive medical or psychological practices specifically targeting LGBTQI+ individuals.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association or Peaceful Assembly: There were no reports of restrictions of freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly regarding LGBTQI+ matters.
Persons with Disabilities
No significant reports of violence, harassment, intimidation, or abuses against persons with disabilities by government officials or employees were received during the year. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, mental, and intellectual disabilities, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. The law does not mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and access to buildings generally was difficult. NGOs reported subtle discrimination in hiring practices throughout the economy. The government reported that programs to improve recruitment and hiring of persons with disabilities such as the Youth Employment Scheme and the Secondary Education Training Program were no longer operational.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Anecdotal evidence suggested there was some societal discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS, especially in employment. The government provided food packages to some persons with HIV or AIDS, but civil society representatives reported that eligible participants had to preregister at health centers, which some individuals were reluctant to do due to fear of public identification and discrimination.