Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, of men and women is illegal and punishable by two to 12 years’ imprisonment. Prosecution was most common when there was evidence of violent assault, or the survivor was a child.
The law prescribes penalties ranging from imprisonment for three to eight years for domestic violence resulting in harm to the health of the victim, to incarceration for eight to 25 years when such violence leads to loss of life. Although the number of reports was steadily increasing, there was no data on the number of prosecutions or convictions for domestic violence. The government changed the law to enhance penalties in domestic violence cases and to allow persons other than the victim to file a criminal complaint, giving police and prosecutors greater ability to pursue cases. The government did not enforce rape and domestic violence laws effectively.
There were widespread reports of domestic violence. According to a report by the National Institute of Statistics, the Ministry of Health, and the nongovernmental organization Inner City Fund Macro, approximately one-third of women experienced intimate-partner physical abuse, sexual violence, or both at least once in their lifetime. Many women were reluctant to take legal action because of the cost, a general lack of confidence in the legal system to address their concerns effectively, fear of retaliation, and, in many cases, ignorance of their legal rights.
The Office of Women’s Affairs, under the Prime Minister’s Office, and UNICEF maintained a counseling center and small shelter with a domestic violence hotline, but the facility was closed for part of the year due to lack of funding, and its future remained uncertain. In prior years the Gender Equality Institute within the Office of Women’s Affairs conducted awareness workshops and seminars to educate women on their rights, but lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of funding precluded these efforts. There was an increase in police reports of gender-based violence against both women and girls during COVID-19 lockdowns. The institute also trained police, medical professionals, court officials, and lawyers on how to recognize and respond to domestic abuse.
The government in November announced the creation of the Ministry of Women’s Rights.
Sexual Harassment: While the law prohibits sexual harassment, the government did not always enforce the law. In cases of sexual harassment involving violence or threats, the law prescribes penalties of one to eight years’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty for conviction in other cases of sexual harassment is three years’ imprisonment.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The country has no law, regulation, or government policy that interferes with couples’ or individuals’ right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children.
The government encouraged the use of contraception and family planning, but sociocultural barriers affected the use of family planning. There were reports that some men prevented their partners from using contraceptives, sometimes through intimidation. Emergency contraception was available as part of the mix of contraception methods.
The country had several healthcare centers, two of which were equipped to provide emergency obstetrical and neonatal care. These two centers served approximately 35 percent of the population. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reinforced the capacity of 37 of the country’s 38 health facilities to provide at least four modern contraceptive methods, as well as voluntary counseling and testing. UNFPA also supplied maternity wards with medicines and strengthened the capacity of 19 health centers to provide emergency obstetrical and neonatal care.
According to a UNFPA report, several indicators related to child and maternal health improved. For example, 93 percent of births were attended by a health professional and 97 percent of health facilities provided maternal and child health services and family planning. Many family-planning needs, however, remained unmet and early pregnancy remained high at 27 percent.
There were no special health services for survivors of sexual violence; the central hospital and health center was able to provide these services, including emergency contraception as part of the clinical management of rape. 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. In 2021, the government repealed regulations prohibiting pregnant teenagers from attending high school with their peers.
Discrimination: While the constitution and law nominally provide the same legal status and rights for women and men, the laws do not specifically recognize legal equality in family, child custody, businesses and property ownership or management, nationality, or inheritance matters. Discrimination did not generally occur in access to credit or housing.
While many women had access to opportunities in education, business, and government, women – particularly older women and those living in rural areas – generally encountered significant societal discrimination. Traditional beliefs left women with most childcare responsibilities. Nevertheless, younger women had increasing access to educational and professional opportunities compared with their elders.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law regardless of race or ethnicity. There were no reports of the government failing to enforce the law effectively.
Birth Registration: Children born in and outside the country acquire citizenship at birth if either parent is a citizen. By law, children born in a hospital are registered on site. If not born in a hospital, the child must be registered at the nearest precinct office. Parents who fail to register a birth may be fined, and failure to register a birth could hinder access to education because having a personal identification record was required to enroll in school.
Education: In 2021, the government repealed regulations prohibiting pregnant teenagers from attending high school with their peers (see Reproductive Rights, above). There were no significant differences in school attendance or completion between boys and girls, although girls attended and completed school at slightly higher rates than boys. The Ministry of Education mandates compulsory school attendance through the ninth grade, and the government granted some assistance to several thousand low-income families to keep their children in school.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, but it was not enforced effectively. The UN reported 84 percent of children experienced violent discipline, and 14 percent experienced severe physical punishment. Orphans and abandoned children were particularly vulnerable to abuse.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage without parental consent is 18. With parental consent, girls may marry at age 14 and boys at age 16. According to UNICEF, 35 percent of girls are married before age 18 and 8 percent married before age 15.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits statutory rape and child pornography, but there were no reports of enforcement of the law. The government also uses kidnapping and forced labor laws to prosecute sexual exploitation of children. The penalty for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of children younger than age 14 is two to 10 years’ imprisonment, and the penalty for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of minors between ages 14 and 18 is up to three years’ imprisonment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. In past years there were reports of children subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. There were reports of increased cases of child sexual abuse since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and prison officials reported approximately 30 percent of prisoners were being held for child sexual abuse crimes.
There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of antisemitic acts.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct. There were no reports of other laws being enforced to have an unequal effect on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no reports of violence targeting LGBTQI+ persons.
Discrimination: Antidiscrimination laws do not explicitly extend protections to LGBTQI+ persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. There were occasional reports of societal discrimination, primarily rejection by family and friends, against LGBTQI+ persons. There were occasional reports of employment discrimination based on LGBTQI+ status but were difficult to verify.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: The ability to update gender markers to match one’s gender identity was not available on legal or identifying documents.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no reports of so-called conversion therapy practices.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: While there were no official impediments, LGBTQI+ organizations did not exist, and societal norms were often not accepting of LGBTQI+ persons. An individual’s LGBTQI+ status was widely considered a taboo subject.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, or transportation on an equal basis with others. The law generally prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities; however, it does not mandate access to most buildings, transportation, or other services for persons with disabilities. By law, school buildings must be accessible to persons with disabilities, and renovations to bring schools into compliance were underway as of year’s end. The government did not provide information and communication on disability concerns in accessible formats. Most children with disabilities attended the same schools as children without disabilities, but many did not attend school due to lack of resources and teacher training.
Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in employment and occupation (see section 7.d.).
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Communities and families stigmatized and shunned persons with HIV and AIDS. Nongovernmental organizations held awareness-raising campaigns and interventions with employers to address discrimination against employees with HIV and AIDS.