Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape without reference to gender and criminalizes domestic violence. The penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for attempted rape is seven years’ imprisonment. Spousal and intimate partner rape are not illegal. The penalty for domestic violence is two years’ imprisonment, a substantial monetary fine, or both. The government did not enforce these provisions effectively.
Rape and domestic violence were widespread problems that often went unreported due to survivors’ fear of reprisal, unequal power in relationships, stigma, discrimination, and pressure from family and friends not to report abuses.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Children, and Social Welfare operated a shelter and cooperated with UN agencies and civil society organizations to address sexual- and gender-based violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law bans FGM/C of girls and women. Authorities did not always enforce the law. Survivors and witnesses rarely reported abuses because they were uncomfortable implicating family or community members. According to UNICEF and NGOs, 76 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 had been subjected to FGM/C as of 2020. Authorities made no FGM/C arrests during the year.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a one-year mandatory prison sentence for abuses. Sexual harassment was prevalent but not commonly reported due to discrimination, social stigma, and unwillingness to challenge the offenders. The government did not enforce the law effectively.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
Barriers that impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services included religious reasons, cultural taboos, limited formal education with high illiteracy rates, low wages, and poor infrastructure, particularly in more rural areas of the country. Access to both routine and emergency health care, including access to emergency contraception as part of family planning method mix, was limited due to lack of capacity in all sectors of the health-care field.
The government attempted to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, but residents in rural areas had very limited access to basic health care. Emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape cases, but limited to urban areas, with inconsistent supply at pharmacies and medical centers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the country’s maternal mortality rate in 2020 was 597 per 100,000 live births. The WHO identified hemorrhage, anemia, early pregnancy, and obstructed labor as the main causes of maternal mortality. FGM/C negatively impacted reproductive and maternal morbidity (see the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information).
Girls often missed school if they were unable to afford menstruation products. Girls who became pregnant while in school were unlikely to return after giving birth.
Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for equality of all persons, including race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, and birth. The law prohibits discrimination in employment, access to credit, owning and managing a business, housing, or education. Nevertheless, the law does not provide the same legal status and rights for women regarding adoption, marriage, divorce, burial, and inheritance of property. The government enforced the law effectively.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law prohibits specific types of racial and ethnic discrimination. Political candidates are forbidden from stoking tribal or ethnic tensions. The government evenly and effectively administered these laws.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from a citizen parent. Birth registration was provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. Due to lack of access, parents in rural areas typically did not register births, but this did not preclude their children from receiving public health and education services.
Education: The constitution and law mandate compulsory, tuition-free primary- and lower-secondary-level education. Families often must pay fees for books, uniforms, lunches, school fund contributions, and examination fees. These costs often restricted the ability of low-income families to send children to school. Girls comprised approximately one-half of primary school students but only one-third of high school students.
Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: By law children younger than age 18 may not marry. Although government campaigns in several areas of the country, particularly in remote villages, sought to create awareness of the law, there were no reports of the government enforcing it.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, grooming, or using children for commercial sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking, and practices related to child pornography. NGOs attributed difficulties in enforcement of the law to a culture of secrecy regarding intimate family matters and a penchant for resolution of problems outside of the formal legal system. There was limited information on the nature and extent of the problem. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18.
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 criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults by punishing “aggravated homosexuality,” acts “against the order of nature,” and “gross indecency.” The law also punishes so-called cross-dressing. Authorities did not enforce these provisions.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: There was no government-reported violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. Members of the LGBTQI+ community, however, reported government-perpetrated violence, as they witnessed police beating 15 LGBTQI+ persons allegedly for being gay.
Discrimination: The law does not address discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons regarding essential goods and services such as housing, employment, and access to government services, including health care. There was strong societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. There was limited information on equal access to housing, employment, and education. LGBTQI+ community members reported a lack of access to HIV and AIDS care and treatment due to lack of privacy at health facilities and stigma by health-care workers.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: There was no process for legal gender recognition.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no reports of the practice of so-called conversion therapy.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no legal restrictions on addressing LGBTQI+ matters, but LGBTQI+ individuals did not engage in public messaging, public meetings, or organizational efforts due to heavy social pressure and the risk of violence and harassment.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities cannot access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The constitution prohibits discrimination against or exploitation of persons with disabilities, although it does not stipulate the kinds of disabilities protected, particularly regarding access to health services, education, and employment. There are no legal provisions that require access to transportation, buildings, or information or communications for persons with disabilities.
Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at a lower rate than other children.
An NHRC report in August 2021 detailed access problems for persons with disabilities trying to register to vote. There were no sign language interpreters present and documentation was not available in braille, but commission observers saw registration officials assisting a blind woman. Many registration sites were not at ground level and did not have ramps for persons with crutches or wheelchairs. Persons with disabilities found it very difficult to vote in the December 2021 elections, although some were seen navigating crowds and uneven ground to do so. Persons with disabilities joined observer teams during the April legislative elections.
Other Societal Violence and Discrimination
Although there were no documented incidents of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, stigma and discrimination existed. Societal discrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS and fear of rejection by partners and relatives sometimes hindered identification and treatment. The government response was unclear.