Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women is punishable by a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. A perpetrator of “indecent assault” on a man is “liable to imprisonment for seven years.” The law recognizes spousal rape. The law recognizes domestic violence as a criminal offense. Under the law domestic violence offenses are punishable by a maximum five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Under the assault provisions of the penal code, the maximum penalty for common assault is six months’ imprisonment, and for assault with actual bodily harm, it is five years.
Police have a Domestic Violence Unit, employed a “no-drop” evidence-based prosecution policy in cases of violence against women, and operated a 24-hour emergency telephone line for victims of domestic violence. The law gives police explicit powers to intervene in violent circumstances, including the power to enter private property and order a person who has committed an act of domestic violence to vacate the property, regardless of whether that individual has rights to that property, if another person at risk of further violence occupies it. The Women’s Crisis Center provided counseling services, but there were no shelters for abused women. The government generally implemented the law effectively, but cases of rape and domestic violence often went unreported due to lack of awareness of women’s rights and traditional and cultural pressures on victims. The Attorney General’s Office, police, and NGOs conducted nationwide awareness campaigns.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment but prohibits indecent behavior, including lewd touching. The Tuvalu Study on People with Disability, released by the government in 2018, found that women with disabilities were subject to abuse and harassment, including sexual abuse.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The Tuvalu Family Health Association continued to raise awareness of cervical cancer and early screening with young mothers, expectant mothers, youths, and persons with disabilities in Funafuti and the outer islands of Nukufetau, Nui, Nanumaga, and Vaitupu. The purpose was to assist these groups and provide them with greater opportunity to make informed decisions on reproductive and health issues.
There were no legal barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers, including women’s reluctance to utilize modern contraceptives and the stigma attached to certain health issues, limited the use of contraceptives. Limited reproductive health services were available in the outer islands and skilled health attendance during childbirth was available only at the main hospital in the capital, Funafuti. According to a 2019-2020 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey of 880 households carried out by the government and supported by UNICEF, approximately 16 percent of girls and women ages 16-49 who reported menstruating in the previous 12 months also reported that they did not participate in social activities, school, or work due to their last menstruation. The government provided access to health care, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence. The government also provided financial support to NGOs that assist survivors of sexual violence.
Discrimination: Aspects of the law contribute to an unequal status for women, for example in land inheritance and child custody rights. No law bars employment discrimination based on gender or requires equal pay for equal work, and such discrimination occurred. Nonetheless, women increasingly held positions in the health and education sectors and headed several NGOs.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
There are no laws to protect members of racial or ethnic minority groups from violence and discrimination.
The country is relatively homogeneous, with a large Tuvaluan majority and small Tuvaluan/I-Kiribati and other minority groups. There were no reports of discrimination or violence against members of minority groups.
Birth Registration:A child derives citizenship at birth, whether born in the country or abroad, if either parent is a citizen. The law requires registration of births within 10 days, a practice generally observed.
Education: Education is compulsory until age 15. No law specifically mandates free basic education, but government policy generally provided free basic education for all.
Child Abuse: There are no laws against child abuse. The government does not collect or publish data on child abuse, and there were no reports of child abuse during the year. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicated child abuse occurred. The law prohibits corporal punishment.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both girls and boys is 18. According to the 2019-2020 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, 0.2 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 first married before age 15. The survey found that 8.6 percent of women ages 20-49 first married before age 18, while 1.8 percent of women in a younger cohort, ages 20-24, first married before age 18. According to a 2017 UNICEF report, Situation Analysis of Children in Tuvalu, the shame and stigma associated with teenage pregnancy forced some girls into marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent for sexual relations is 15. Sexual relations with a girl younger than 13 carry a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Sexual relations with a girl aged 13 or 14 carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. No law prohibits the use, procurement, or offering of boys from age 15 through 17 for sex. The victim’s consent is irrelevant under both these provisions; however, in the case of sexual exploitation of boys, reasonable belief the victim was 15 or older is a permissible defense. No provision of law pertains specifically to child pornography, although the penal code prohibits obscene publications in general. Although child trafficking is prohibited, the law prescribes a harsher punishment for the trafficking of adults than of children.
There was no known Jewish community, and there were no known reports of antisemitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
There were no confirmed reports during the year that traffickers exploited domestic or foreign victims in the country or that traffickers exploited victims from Tuvalu abroad.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization:The law prohibits consensual sexual conduct between men, with penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment. While there were no reports of prosecutions under the law, negative views towards all LGBTQI+ individuals made them vulnerable to discrimination and societal stigmatization.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons:There were no reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but social stigma or intimidation may inhibit reporting of such discrimination or violence.
Discrimination: The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics; nor does it recognize LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, or their families. There are no hate crime or antigay propaganda laws, nor are there criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTQI+ community.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Legal gender recognition, by which the government allows individuals to change their gender identity marker on legal and identifying documents to bring them into alignment with their gender identity, was not available.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: There were no known reports of involuntary or coercive medical practices targeting LGBTQI+ individuals.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no restrictions of freedom of expression, association, or peaceful assembly on those speaking out about LGBTQI+ issues.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Government services to address the specific needs of persons with disabilities were very limited. There were no mandated building accessibility provisions for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities had limited access to information and communications, including participation in civic life, and were subject to discrimination in employment (section 7.d.). Persons with disabilities had access to health services and most forms of transportation available, but there were no specific accommodations for persons with disabilities.
Abuse and discrimination against persons with disabilities were widely believed to be common, and women with disabilities were particularly vulnerable to abuse. There were no reports of investigations or punishment by the government for violence and abuses against persons with disabilities, but societal norms may limit the reporting of such incidents, particularly against women and girls with disabilities.
An inclusive Education Resource Center, operating as part of the government’s Disability-Inclusive Education Policy, and supported by a foreign development partner, provided children with disabilities a safe learning space. Children with disabilities reportedly had lower school attendance rates at all levels than other children. Some students with disabilities attended public primary schools both in Funafuti and in the outer islands. Parents decided which school a child with disabilities attended after consultation with an adviser from the Fusi Alofa (Hug in Love) Association, a disabilities-focused NGO.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Persons with HIV or AIDS faced some societal and employment discrimination. The government and NGOs cooperated to inform the public regarding HIV and AIDS and to counter discrimination.