Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of 12 to 15 years’ imprisonment and a substantial fine. The government enforced the law effectively, including applying its provisions in cases involving rape of men. Authorities investigated and prosecuted all reported cases of sexual abuse.
Gender-based violence remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. The Victim Assistance Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and Police provided resources and counseling for victims of domestic violence and raised awareness of domestic violence through public television programs. There were victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie. Authorities trained police units to assist survivors of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The Victim Assistance Bureau managed a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and children up to age 12 where victims can stay for up to three months. Use of the shelter was far below its capacity.
A second shelter existed for women in crisis situations with the capacity to provide temporary housing for 13 women and their children for up to six months. The shelter received both government and private-sector support.
The Office of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Home Affairs continued its awareness programs on gender-based violence throughout the year. It also supported other organizations that assisted victims of domestic violence. The office had an active “Orange Day” campaign in which it highlighted the problem of gender-based and domestic violence on the 25th of every month. In September, the office released the results of a 2019 study of women ages 15 to 64 that showed more than 32 percent of respondents had encountered at least one act of physical or sexual violence with their intimate partner.
Sexual Harassment: In October, the National Assembly passed the Law against Violence and Harassment in the Workplace. The law is applicable only to the private sector. One case of sexual harassment in the workplace during the year involved multiple women, currently or previously employed at the primarily state-owned Hakrinbank, who filed complaints of sexual harassment against the CEO of the bank. Following an investigation, the Attorney General’s Office concluded in July that it found insufficient facts to qualify him as a suspect.
Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without a formal complaint. Pending investigation, police may issue temporary restraining orders limiting contact between the victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders may receive prison sentences ranging from four to 12 years and a large fine. The government enforced the law effectively.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Information on reproductive health was widely available, including the use of emergency contraception for family planning purposes, and no legal barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraceptives. In some rural areas, however, skilled health-care workers were sometimes not readily available due to the distances between villages.
Survivors of sexual violence had access to government-supported health insurance that arranged services for sexual and reproductive health. Emergency contraception in cases of rape was available during medical treatment of the victim. Survivors requested assistance either through the Ministry of Social Affairs, which was primarily responsible for issuing government-supported health insurance, or through the Bureau of Victim Care in the Ministry of Justice and Police, which provided counseling and health-care assistance to victims.
The maternal death rate in 2017 was 120 per 100,000 live births. Of maternal mortality cases, 63 percent occurred postpartum. A 2021 study reported that postnatal care was weak, as women often did not return to the doctor until six weeks after delivery for their child’s first doctor’s visit. Complications resulting from pregnancy or delivery were often not identified on a timely basis.
Due to COVID-19, maternal mortality increased in 2021, as pregnant women suffered a much higher rate of infection and increased chances of death than other persons infected. In most cases, underlying medical conditions played a significant role, leading to more than double the number of women dying during pregnancy than normal.
The adolescent birth rate for girls ages 15 to 19 was 65 per 1,000. There was a high rate of adolescent pregnancy in low-income city neighborhoods and in the interior of the country. Most adolescents in this age group claimed to have an unmet need for comprehensive sexual education. These pregnancies often led to girls to drop out of school. Research released in July 2021 showed that the children from these early births themselves had children at a very early age.
Discrimination: The law provides for the protection of a woman’s right to equal access to education, employment, and property. The government did not always enforce the law effectively. Women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work as men. No law prohibits gender discrimination for access to credit.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law states that every person has equal rights to the protection of person and goods. It further states that nobody may be discriminated against based on his or her birth, gender, race, language, religion, descent, education, political beliefs, economic position, social circumstance, or any other status. The government enforced these protections effectively.
While there were no reported cases of governmental or societal violence against members of racial, ethnic, or national minorities, there was an increase in racial discrimination and ethnically focused messaging on social media.
The law affords no special protection for, or recognition of, Indigenous persons. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights identified the Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the interior, approximately 22 percent of the population) as tribal peoples and thus entitled to the same rights as the Indigenous Amerindian communities (approximately 4 percent of the population).
Maroons and Amerindians living in the remote and undeveloped interior had limited access to education, employment, and health and social services. Both groups participated in decisions affecting their traditions and cultures, but they had limited influence in decisions affecting exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, or other natural resources on their lands. Maroons and Amerindians took part in regional governing bodies, as well as in the National Assembly, and were part of the governing coalition.
The government recognizes the different Maroon and Indigenous tribes, but the tribes hold no special status under national law, and there was no effective demarcation of their lands. Because authorities did not effectively demarcate or police Amerindian and Maroon lands, these populations faced problems with illegal and uncontrolled logging and mining. No laws grant Indigenous persons the right to share in the revenues from the exploitation of resources on their traditional lands. Organizations representing Maroon and Amerindian communities complained that small-scale mining operations, mainly by illegal gold miners, dug trenches that cut residents off from their agricultural land and threatened to drive these communities away from their traditional settlements. Many of these miners were themselves tribal or supported by tribal groups. Mercury runoff from these operations, as well as riverbank erosion, contaminated drinking water and threatened traditional food sources, especially freshwater fish.
Maroon and Amerindian groups complained that the government granted land within traditional Indigenous persons’ territories to third parties, who sometimes prevented the villagers from engaging in their traditional activities on those lands.
Birth Registration: The law provides that citizenship transmits to a child when either the father or mother has Surinamese citizenship at the time of birth, when the parent is Surinamese but has died before the birth, or if the child is born in the country’s territory and does not automatically acquire citizenship of another country. There were reports of children born in Suriname to non-Surinamese parents who were denied Surinamese citizenship. Births must be registered with the Civil Registry within one week. Failure to do so within the mandated period results in a more cumbersome process of registration.
Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, and the government enforced the law. Children suffered a high rate of physical and mental abuse. According to the most recent (2018) UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 88 percent of children ages two to 14 suffered either physical or mental abuse. In rural areas, the rate was even higher, at 92 percent. Results of a study released in March showed that while an estimated 70,000 children encountered some form of abuse each year, only approximately 400 cases were reported.
To avoid intimidation by perpetrators, there were arrangements for children to testify in special chambers at legal proceedings. The Youth Affairs Office continued to raise awareness regarding sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol through a weekly television program. The Youth Support Hotline, which received government support, maintained a 24-hour service, with access to services through its social media pages as well. The hotline provided confidential advice and aid to children in need. UNICEF continued to cooperate with the government to train officials from various ministries dealing with children and children’s rights. The Ministry of Justice and Police operated three child protection centers in different parts of the country.
With the support of UNICEF, the Academic Hospital Paramaribo maintained a social pediatric unit for abused children. The unit provided child victims of abuse with medical, social, and psychological guidance and worked with authorities to identify abusers.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Parental permission to marry is required until the age of 21. The marriage law sets the minimum age of marriage at 15 for girls and 17 for boys, provided parents of the parties agree to the marriage. Children in certain tribal communities often married at an age younger than that set by the law.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for commercial child sexual exploitation, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities investigated all reported abuses. While the legal age of sexual consent is 14, the law prohibits the sexual exploitation of a person younger than 18. Criminal law penalizes persons responsible for recruiting children into commercial sex and provides penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment and a significant fine for pimping. The law also prohibits child pornography, which carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and a fine. Lack of economic opportunities led to an increasing number of adolescent boys and girls trafficked for sex, sometimes by their parents, to support the family or to pay for education. One NGO reported commercial sexual exploitation of children as young as 14. While the country was not generally considered a destination for child sex tourism, in prior years there were cases of tourists involved in sexual exploitation of children.
Institutionalized Children: Orphanages and other shelters for children are not government facilities and relied on private funds and charitable donations. As a result, care for children was unequal and often inadequate. In September, one person was detained for allegedly sexually abusing up to 11 children in a day-care facility. The facility also operated without the proper licensing of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
There is a Jewish community of approximately 100 persons. There were no reports of antisemitic acts or discrimination.
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: There are no laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: Activists stated there were few official reports of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, primarily due to fear of retribution and because authorities did not take seriously complaints filed by members of the LGBTQI+ community.
In October, authorities launched an investigation into the beating of a boy, age 15, by fellow middle schoolers, allegedly over his sexual orientation. The case came to light when a video of the attack was shared on social media. The Ministry of Education ordered the suspension of the student responsible for the attack, while the Youth Department of the Police was investigating the attack.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation, specifically protecting the LGBTQI+ community. Violations are punishable by a fine or prison sentence of up to one year. The law does not set standards for determining what constitutes such discrimination or hate speech. Same-sex couples cannot marry, since the civil code recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman. The law on retirement benefits specifically excludes same-sex couples from benefits granted to heterosexual couples. These were reports that members of the LGBTQI+ community faced discrimination in housing and employment.
Within the LGBTQI+ community, the transgender community faced the most stigmatization and discrimination. Transgender women arrested or detained by police were placed in detention facilities for men, where they faced harassment and violence from other detainees.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: In January, the Appellate Chamber of the Court of Justice sided with the ruling of a lower court that ordered the Civil Registration Office to register the name and gender change of a transgender person in the country’s official registry. While the ruling sets a precedent, changes to the official registries may be implemented only through amendment of the civil code, which did not occur during the year.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no reported cases of so-called conversion therapy to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, nor were there reports of unnecessary surgeries performed on intersex persons.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There are no restrictions on freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly related to speaking out on LGBTQI+ matters or holding events.
Persons with Disabilities
No laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. No law or program require access to buildings for persons with disabilities. There is also no law that requires government information and communication to be provided in accessible formats. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive general health benefits, but the process can be cumbersome. Access to other government services was also difficult and often inadequate to meet the needs of the disabled person. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and services. A judge may rule to deny a person with a cognitive disability the right to vote, to take part in business transactions, or to sign legal agreements.
Children with disabilities attended school at a far lower rate than their peers without a disability. There was secondary and technical education for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons, but not for those with visual disabilities. The Foundation for the Blind taught braille and life skills to persons who were visually impaired.
Other Social Violence or Discrimination
Persons with HIV and AIDS experienced discrimination in employment, housing, and medical services. Medical treatment was free for persons with HIV or AIDS covered under government insurance, but private insurers did not cover such treatment. NGOs reported discriminatory testing and subsequent denial of assistance for persons with HIV or AIDS who applied for housing assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs.