Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a substantial fine. Gender-based violence, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. While recent data were unavailable, past reports showed and most observers believed that most women of reproductive age experienced physical or sexual violence in their lives. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussing such matters.
As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape survivors. Police have a sexual assault unit, staffed mostly by women officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges. In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts treated physical abuse of women the same as any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and cultural bias against women.
In October 2021 a girl, age eight, was raped and killed on the island of Kolombaragara. As of August, no one had been arrested in the case, and the lack of progress prompted community outrage. The family, with the support of the Young Women’s Parliamentary Group, submitted a petition to parliament seeking an increase in the sentences for rape and all other sexual crimes. On September 12, a girl, age 14, was raped and killed in Temotu Province. As of December, police had not identified a suspect.
The law provides for access to counseling and medical services, legal support, and a safe place within the community for survivors of domestic violence if they could not return home. The government has a referral system in place to coordinate these services, but referral agencies often lacked funding, especially in rural areas.
Nongovernmental organizations operated 11 safe houses throughout the country. The safe houses received funding from church groups and international donors but did not receive government funding or support. One safe house in the capital, Honiara, provided professional training and workshops and paralegal counseling for survivors of gender-based violence. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility provided counseling and other support services for abused women.
Other Forms of Gender-based Violence: Customary bride-price payments remained common and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was not illegal but was a widespread problem visible daily to persons walking in the street.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Although the National Population Policy 2017–26 aims to improve access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, this goal appeared to be aspirational; because of the extreme weakness of the health-care system, no such services were available; nor was emergency contraception for survivors of sexual violence available.
The newspapers Solomon Star (in October) and The Island Sun (in November) reported on a Solomon Islands Planned Parenthood Association survey of three provinces and the capital. The survey revealed that contraception use by women of reproductive age “decreased over time” from 27 percent in 2013 but did not report rates during the year. According to the study, because contraception was frowned upon, women were given unreliable information, “leading to drastic situations” when they became pregnant. According to The Island Sun, “Participants in the report shared that unwanted pregnancies drive women to either seek unsafe termination methods, abandoning the baby, or suicide.” The report noted that women who were married or in a relationship were generally forbidden to use contraception because of their partner’s cultural or religious views.
According to the World Bank, the maternal mortality ratio was 104 per 100,000 live births in 2017 due to factors including a high adolescent birth rate (79 per 1,000 girls, ages 15 to 19), minimal access to antenatal care, and a high unmet need for contraception. More recent data were not available.
Discrimination: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for work of equal value (see section 7.d.). The government did not enforce equal rights laws effectively.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law and constitution protect racial and ethnic minorities from discrimination; the government enforced them effectively.
The country has more than 27 major islands with approximately 70 language groups. Many islanders saw themselves first as members of a clan, next as inhabitants of their natal island, and only third as citizens of the country. Tensions and resentment between Guadalcanalese and Malaitans on Guadalcanal Island persisted, including over jobs and land rights.
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship through their parents on a nondiscriminatory basis. The law does not allow dual citizenship for adults, and persons who acquire dual citizenship at birth must decide by age 18 which citizenship to retain. Registration delays did not result in the denial of public services to children. In July the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from the Attorney General Chambers against a High Court decision in favor of Member of Parliament Peter Kenilorea. The High Court had ordered authorities to issue Solomon Islands passports to Kenilorea’s two children, ruling that the U.S.-born children were citizens since the parent was a citizen. The Attorney General Chambers conceded during the hearing that its advice to the Immigration Division was wrong. Kenilorea declared that the country was “an inclusive nation and citizens born overseas should be accorded the same rights and privileges as those born in the country,” adding that he knew of many families facing similar situations, affected by poor legal advice given to the Immigration Division.
Education: Education was neither free nor compulsory. Government policy was to cover operational costs for children ages six to 15 to attend school, but it rarely covered all costs and allowed schools to request additional contributions from families in the form of cash or labor. These additional costs prevented some children from attending school. The government closed all schools with the outbreak of COVID-19 from December 2021 until June 2022. The government did not have an effective remote learning alternative.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse; however, child sexual and physical abuse remained significant problems. In October a community chief, age 48, was jailed for seven years and nine months for having sex with a girl, age six. On October 14, Police Commissioner Mangau announced the arrest of a man, age 40, charged with two counts of sexual intercourse with a child younger than 15; the first incident took place in 2021, the second on October 7. Mangau appealed to the public to stop sexual abuses that he described as continuing unabated.
On November 9, at the Inception Workshop of Economic Costs of Violence Against Children, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs declared that violence against children was prevalent in the country. On November 15, during a court hearing, a clergyman, age 55, pled guilty to one count of sexual intercourse with a child younger than 15 after sexually abusing a girl, age five, in 2020 in Russell Islands, Central Province. On November 22, a man, age 46, pled guilty to nine counts of sexual intercourse with a child and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The man admitted to having sex with a girl, age 15, who was a distant relative.
The law grants children the same rights and protections as adults, with some exceptions. The law mandates the Social Welfare Division of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to coordinate child protection services and authorizes courts to issue protection orders in cases of serious child abuse or neglect. Laws do not specifically prohibit the use of children in illicit activities such as drug trafficking.
Despite numerous prosecutions, government efforts were unable to effectively curb child sexual abuse or neglect and domestic violence against children.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Both boys and girls may legally marry at age 15, and the law permits marriage at age 14 with parental and village consent. Marriage at such young ages was not common.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The maximum penalty for an adult for having sexual relations with a girl younger than age 13 is life imprisonment, and for sexual relations with a girl 13 to 15 years of age, 15 years’ imprisonment. Consent is not a permissible defense under these provisions; however, a reasonable belief the victim was age 16 or older is a permissible defense. Selling or hiring minors for commercial sexual exploitation is a criminal offense. There were reports of workers in logging camps sexually exploiting girls as young as 12, but in most cases official charges were not filed.
Child pornography is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and participation in or use, distribution, or storing of sexually exploitative materials involving children. Commercial sexual exploitation of children carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. There was no reliable information on enforcement of the law.
The Jewish community was very small, 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: Sodomy is illegal, as are “indecent practices between persons of the same sex.” The maximum penalty for the former is 14 years’ imprisonment and five years’ imprisonment for the latter. There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons under these provisions, and authorities generally did not enforce these laws.
Violence Against LGBTQI+ Persons: There were no reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although stigma may have hindered reporting abuses.
Discrimination: There were no antidiscrimination ordinances that would protect LGBTQI+ persons. There were no reports of open discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons but lack of reports may be due to sociocultural pressure and stigma.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: There is no legal process for individuals to update their gender markers on identity documents.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no laws or regulations against such practices, and they were not reported as occurring.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: While there were no ordinances imposing such restrictions, sociocultural pressure and stigma effectively blocked any public discussion of LGBTQI+ problems.
Persons with Disabilities
No law or national policy prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and no legislation mandates access to buildings, information, communications, transportation, or health services for such individuals. Very few buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. The law requires electoral officials to provide special accommodation for voters with disabilities.
The country had one separate educational facility, supported almost entirely by the International Committee of the Red Cross, for children with disabilities. Children with physical disabilities could attend mainstream schools, but inaccessible facilities and a lack of resources often made it difficult for them to do so.
No law requires reasonable accommodations in the workplace, and high unemployment nationwide made it difficult for persons with disabilities to find work, particularly in rural areas.
On December 2, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services launched the Solomon Islands National Disability Development Policy 2022-2031 and the Rehabilitation Strategic Plan 2022-2031. At the launch, Permanent Secretary Pauline McNeil stated the policy document and strategic plan provide for access by persons with disabilities to social services, health and education, employment, and job opportunities equally with others.
Government facilities or services for persons with mental disabilities were very limited. The National Referral Hospital in Honiara treated mental disability on an outpatient basis and referred in-patients to the National Psychiatric Unit at Kilu’ufi Hospital in Malaita Province, which had a 20-person capacity.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Sorcery-related violence was reported. Such violence typically targeted the most vulnerable: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly. In May men appeared at a village in East Central Guadalcanal and burned down four houses in retaliation for a woman’s death that they believed was caused by an evil spirit. On October 31, a man chopped his brother’s hand off after accusing him of using witchcraft on his wife. The offender was also wounded.