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Syria

Executive Summary

President Bashar Assad has ruled the Syrian Arab Republic since 2000. The constitution mandates the primacy of Baath Party leaders in state institutions and society, and Assad and Baath party leaders dominate all three branches of government. An uprising against the government that began in 2011 continued throughout the year. The 2014 presidential election and the April 2016 parliamentary elections resulted in the election of Assad and 200 People’s Council (Syrian parliament) seats for the Baath Party-led National Progressive Front, respectively. Both elections took place in an environment of widespread government coercion, and many Syrians residing in opposition-held territory did not participate in the elections. Observers did not consider the elections free or fair.

The government maintained control over its uniformed military, police, and state security forces, but it did not maintain effective control over foreign and domestic military or paramilitary organizations. These included Russian armed forces; Hizballah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; nonuniformed progovernment militias, such as the National Defense Forces; and the Bustan Charitable Association, or “shabiha.”

The most significant human rights abuses included unlawful and arbitrary killings by the government and its allies resulting from atrocities they committed during the conflict, including the repeated use of chemical weapons, including sarin and chlorine, against civilians, widespread “barrel bombing” of civilians and residential areas, systematic attacks on civilian infrastructure, attacks on medical facilities, extrajudicial executions, rape, including of children, as a weapon of war; massacres, starvation and displacement of local civilian populations; mass forced disappearances; thousands of cases of torture, including sexual violence; harsh and life threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers, including deliberate denial of medical care; widespread arbitrary arrest and detention; tens of thousands of political prisoners; pervasive interference with privacy; recruitment and use of child soldiers; severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, including internet access, assembly, association, and movement; denial of humanitarian access to civilians, including displaced persons; rampant corruption; criminalization of same sex sexual activity and violence against LGBTI persons by government and extremist forces; and severe restrictions on workers’ rights.

The government took no steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights violations or abuses. Impunity was pervasive and deeply embedded in the security forces and elsewhere in the government.

Government-linked paramilitary groups reportedly engaged in frequent violations and abuses, including massacres, indiscriminate killings, kidnapping of civilians, arbitrary detentions, and rape as a war tactic. Government-affiliated militias, including the terrorist organization Lebanese Hizballah, supported by Iran, repeatedly targeted civilians. Armed terrorist groups, such as the al-Qa’ida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), also committed a wide range of human rights abuses, including massacres, bombings, and kidnappings; unlawful detention; torture; unlawful killings; and forced evacuations from homes based on sectarian identity. While the government and its allies were responsible for most of the killings, the Islamic State extremist group ISIS committed massive abuses in territories it controlled in the Raqqa and Deir al-Zour Governorates. Human trafficking and the forcible recruitment and use of children in the conflict increased. There were reports of systematic rape and forced marriages of women and girls for sexual slavery among ISIS fighters. On August 15, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled. ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.”

There also were reports of Kurdish forces displacing Arab residents after liberating areas from ISIS. During the year reports from local media and Syrian human rights groups indicated that Kurdish authorities arrested local civil council leaders, journalists, and other civilians. There were reports alleging that some members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Syrian Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other minorities that included members of the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG), engaged in forced conscription, to include limited conscription of children, as well as reports alleging isolated incidents of torture and at least one incident of extrajudicial killing of persons suspected of ISIS affiliation by those who appeared to belong to the SDF based on their statements or their uniforms.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a felony, subject to punishment by at least 15 years in prison, but the government did not enforce the law. The law further stipulates that if the rapist marries the victim, the rapist receives no punishment. The victim’s family sometimes agreed to this arrangement to avoid the social stigma attached to rape. There are no laws against spousal rape. Observers of the refugee crisis reported women, men, and community leaders consistently identified sexual violence as a primary reason their families fled the country. The COI reported rape was widespread, and government and progovernment forces used rape to terrorize and punish women, men, and children perceived as associated with the opposition (see section 1.g. for additional information, including on abuses committed by extremist groups). The COI concluded that underreporting and delayed reporting of sexual violence was endemic, rendering an assessment of its magnitude difficult. Reports by the SNHR, HRW, and other NGOs included interviews with female former prisoners, who reported that rape by guards and security forces was common in detention facilities.

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, and violence against women was extensive and generally went unpunished. Victims did not report the vast majority of domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Security forces consistently treated violence against women as a social rather than a criminal matter. Observers reported that when some abused women tried to file a police report, police did not investigate their reports thoroughly, if at all, and that in other cases police officers responded by abusing the women, including by sexual harassment, verbal abuse, hair pulling, and slapping.

In previous years several domestic violence centers operated in Damascus, and the government licensed and affiliated them with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Local NGOs reported, however, that many centers no longer operated due to the conflict. There were no known government-run services for women outside Damascus. According to local human rights organizations, local coordination committees and other opposition-related groups offered programming specifically for protection of women; NGOs did not integrate these programs throughout the country, and none reported reliable funding.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law permits judges to reduce legal penalties for murder and assault if the defendant asserts an “honor” defense, which often occurred. The government kept no official statistics on use of this defense in murder and assault cases. There were no officially reported honor killings during the year, but local human rights groups asserted the practice continued, reportedly at previous levels, despite or even because of the continuing violence. NGOs working with refugees reported families killed some rape victims inside the country, including those raped by government forces, for reasons of honor. NGOs also reported the conflict led to a significant rise in honor killings due to the pervasive use of rape by government forces and sexual slavery and exploitation by ISIS.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender but does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were reports that ISIS transferred some Yezidi women captives from Iraq to Syria (see section 1.g.). There was limited information available regarding their treatment in 2017; however, previous reports from Iraq found that ISIS forced Yezidi women whom they had impregnated to have abortions. There were no reports of involuntary sterilization. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equality between men and women and the “right of every citizen to earn his wage according to the nature and yield of the work,” the law does not explicitly stipulate equal pay for equal work. Moreover, a number of sections of family and criminal law do not treat men and women equally. Before the conflict began, 16 percent of women participated in the formal labor force, compared with 72 percent of men. Female employment participation decreased as violence and insecurity increased.

The Commission for Family Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor shared responsibility for attempting to accord equal legal rights to women. Governmental involvement in civil rights claims, including cases against sexual discrimination, was stagnant, and most claims went unanswered.

Personal status, retirement, citizenship, and social security laws discriminate against women. By law if a man and a woman separately commit the same criminal act of adultery, the woman’s punishment is double that of the man’s. The law generally permits women to initiate divorce proceedings against their spouses. For Muslims personal status law treats men and women differently. Some personal status laws mirror Islamic law regardless of the religion of those involved in the case. The law does not entitle a divorced woman to alimony in some cases, such as if she gave up her right to alimony to persuade her husband to agree to the divorce. Additionally, under the law a divorced mother loses the right to guardianship and physical custody of her sons when they reach age 13 and of her daughters at age 15, when guardianship transfers to the paternal side of the family.

The government’s interpretation of Islamic law is the basis of inheritance law for all citizens except Christians. Accordingly, courts usually granted Muslim women half of the inheritance share of male heirs. In all communities male heirs must provide financial support to female relatives who inherit less. If they do not, women have the right to sue.

Women participated in public life and in most professions, including the armed forces, although violence in many regions reduced women’s access to the public sphere. Women and men have equal legal rights in owning or managing land or other property, although cultural and religious norms impeded women’s rights, especially in rural areas. Various sources observed that women constituted a minority of lawyers, university professors, and other professions.

Some opposition groups and extremist elements reportedly banned women from teaching and girls from attending school, particularly in ISIS-controlled areas of Deir al-Zour Governorate. According to activists from Raqqa Governorate, ISIS segregated classrooms and removed women from the local councils in territories it controlled.

According to several groups, including HRW, extremist armed groups placed discriminatory restrictions on women and girls in Aleppo, al-Hasakah, Idlib, and Raqqa Governorates.

In areas under its control, ISIS published a “Civilization Document” with 16 points that a woman must follow or face the death penalty. They included staying at home and not leaving it without an immediate male relative (mahram); wearing a wide cloak, full face veil, and headscarf; closing hair salons; not sitting on chairs in public; and not seeing male doctors. ISIS established the “al-Khanssaa” brigade, an all-female police force in the city of Raqqa, composed mostly of noncitizen women who enforced these regulations, sometimes violently, among women.

According to media reports, the SDF trained 210 women to participate in the battle against ISIS in Raqqa. This was in addition to the 8,000-strong Women’s Protection Units, widely reported on in the media, and originally formed with the aim of defending the Kurdish population from regime oppression, but eventually transitioning to broader anti-ISIS efforts. Volunteers joined this force from Syria and also from Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and other points of origin.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship solely from their father. In large areas of the country where civil registries were not functioning, authorities did not register births. The government did not register the births of Kurdish noncitizen residents, including stateless Kurds (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons). Failure to register resulted in deprivation of services, such as diplomas for high school-level studies, access to universities, access to formal employment, and civil documentation and protection.

Education: The government provided free public education to citizen children from primary school through university. Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of six and 12. Noncitizen children could also attend public schools at no cost but required permission from the Ministry of Education.

The conflict increasingly hampered the ability of children to attend school.

According to several reports, ISIS segregated classrooms (including teachers) by gender, dismissed students for dress code violations, imposed its curriculum on teachers, and closed private schools and educational centers. According to local sources, ISIS forces prevented young women in Raqqa Governorate from traveling to complete their university exams. ISIS also banned several basic education subjects, such as chemistry.

While Palestinians and other noncitizens, including stateless Kurds, could generally send their children to school and universities, stateless Kurds were ineligible to receive a degree documenting their academic achievement.

Child Abuse: The country lacked a formal law protecting children from abuse. There were reports of government forces sexually assaulting, torturing, detaining, and killing children (see sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., and 1.g.). HRW reported that government teachers and principals interrogated and, in some cases, beat students who expressed antigovernment sentiments. Additionally, the United Nations, HRW, and local news sources reported that government forces used children as human shields.

ISIS subjected children to extremely harsh punishment, including execution (see section 1.g.).

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 for men and 17 for women. A boy as young as 15 or a girl as young as 13 may marry if a judge deems both parties willing and “physically mature,” and if the fathers or grandfathers of both parties consent.

ISIS systematically abducted and sexually exploited Yezidi girls in Iraq and transported them to Syria for systematic rape and forced marriage (see section 1.g. and section 6, Women).

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law stipulates penalties for those found guilty of certain forms of child abuse associated with trafficking crimes, including kidnapping and forced prostitution, both of which carry a penalty of up to three years in prison. The law considers child pornography a trafficking crime, but the punishment for child pornography was set at the local level with “appropriate penalties.” It was also unclear if there had been any prosecutions for child pornography or if authorities enforced the law.

The age of sexual consent by law is 15. Premarital sex is illegal, but observers reported authorities did not enforce the law. Rape of a child under the age of 15 is punishable by up to 21 years in prison. There were no reports of government prosecution of child rape cases.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

NGOs estimated fewer than 20 Jews remained in the country. According to media and the Syrian American Council, in 2014 government forces destroyed the Eliyahu Hanabi synagogue, the country’s oldest, in an artillery attack on Jobar, a rebel-held neighborhood in Damascus. Government and opposition forces accused each other of burning and looting the Jobar synagogue.

The national school curriculum did not include materials on tolerance education or the Holocaust.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and seeks to integrate them into the public-sector workforce, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. The law protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in education, access to health care, and provision of other state services, and it reserves 4 percent of government-sector jobs and 2 percent of private-sector jobs for persons with disabilities. Private businesses are eligible for tax exemptions after hiring persons with disabilities.

Authorities did not fully document the number of persons with disabilities, but the conflict negatively affected persons with disabilities and increased their numbers through injuries.

The government did not effectively work to provide access for persons with disabilities to buildings, communication, or information.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for assisting persons with disabilities and worked through dedicated charities and organizations to provide assistance.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

As in previous years, the government actively restricted national and ethnic minorities from conducting traditional, religious, and cultural activities. The Kurdish population, citizens and noncitizens, faced official and societal discrimination and repression as well as government-sponsored violence. Government forces arrested, detained, and reportedly tortured numerous Kurdish activists during the year.

The government continued to limit the use and teaching of the Kurdish language. It also restricted publication of books and other materials in Kurdish, Kurdish cultural expression, and at times the celebration of Kurdish festivals. Authorities continued enforcement of a 2009 government rule requiring that at least 60 percent of the words on signs in shops and restaurants be in Arabic (see section 2.a.).

The Alawite community, to which Bashar Assad belongs, enjoyed privileged status throughout the government and dominated the state security apparatus and military leadership. Nevertheless, the government reportedly also targeted Alawite opposition activists for arbitrary arrest, torture, detention, and killing. Extremist opposition groups targeted Alawite communities on several occasions for their perceived progovernment stance.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits homosexual relations, defined as “carnal relations against the order of nature,” and provides for at least three years’ imprisonment for violations. The law specifically criminalizes any sexual act that is “contrary to nature.” In previous years police used this charge to prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals. There were no reports of prosecutions under the law during the year, although NGO reports indicated the government arrested dozens of gay men and lesbians over the past several years on charges such as abusing social values; selling, buying, or consuming illegal drugs; and organizing and promoting “obscene” parties.

Although there were no known domestic NGOs focused on LGBTI matters, there were several online networking communities, including an online LGBTI-oriented magazine. Human rights activists reported there was overt societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all aspects of society. There were also reports of extremist groups threatening LGBTI activists.

Local media reported numerous instances in which security forces used accusations of homosexuality as a pretext to detain, arrest, and torture civilians. The frequency of such instances was difficult to determine, since police rarely reported their rationale for arrests. According to Outright International, in May 2016 ISIS’s media office issued a “photo report about the imposition of sharia punishment” on those suspected of belonging to the LGBTI community. The photographs included images of a boy pushed from the top of a building.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, but human rights activists believed such cases were widely underreported. The government, World Bank, and World Health Organization did not maintain data on the number of persons infected with HIV/AIDS living in the country. Observers expected the HIV/AIDS rate of infection to rise with increased sexual violence in the country.

Taiwan

Executive Summary

Taiwan is a democracy governed by a president and a parliament selected in multiparty elections. In 2016 voters elected President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party to a four-year term in an election considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included corruption and exploitation of foreign workers including forced labor.

Authorities enforced laws prohibiting human rights abuses and prosecuted officials who committed them. There were no reports of impunity.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. Many victims did not report the crime for fear of social stigmatization, and various NGO and academic studies estimated the total number of sexual assaults was seven to 10 times the number reported to police.

The law provides protection for rape survivors. Rape trials are not open to the public unless the victim consents. The law permits a charge of rape even if the victim chooses not to press charges.

In June the legislature approved a pension reform bill for public school teachers, which stipulates that retired teachers and staff must return pension payments received if convicted of sexual assault that occurred while they were employed as teachers.

Amendments to the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act went into effect stipulating that experts will assist in questioning and appear in court as witnesses when rape victims are minors or mentally disabled, and authorize the use of one-way mirrors, video conferencing, or other practices to protect victims during questioning and at trial.

The law establishes the punishment for rape as a minimum of five years’ imprisonment, and courts usually sentenced individuals convicted of rape to five to 10 years in prison.

Courts typically sentenced individuals convicted in domestic violence cases to less than six months in prison. Some abused women chose not to report incidents to police due to social pressure not to disgrace their families. The law allows prosecutors to investigate complaints of domestic violence even in cases where the victim has not filed a formal complaint.

The law requires all cities and counties to establish violence prevention and control centers to address domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment (see section 7.d.). In most cases, perpetrators were required to attend classes on gender equality and counseling sessions.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women experienced some discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from that of either parent. Births must be registered within 60 days; failure to do so results in the denial of national health care and education benefits. Registration is not denied on a discriminatory basis.

Child Abuse: Central and local authorities coordinated with private organizations to identify and assist high-risk children and families and to increase public awareness of child abuse and domestic violence. The law stipulates that persons learning of cases of child abuse or neglect must notify police or welfare authorities. An official 24-hour hotline accepted complaints of child abuse and offered counseling. Courts are required to appoint guardians for children of parents deemed unfit.

Children’s rights advocates pointed out that juvenile correctional facilities were usually understaffed and their personnel were not adequately trained to counsel and manage teenage inmates. They also called attention to growing numbers of bullying, violence, and sexual assault cases at correctional institutions.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for men and 16 for women.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities effectively enforced the law domestically; however, authorities did not investigate or prosecute any cases of child sexual exploitation committed by citizens while traveling abroad.

NGOs raised concerns about online sexual exploitation of children and reported that sex offenders were increasingly using cellphones, web cameras, live streaming, apps, and other new technologies to deceive and coerce young girls and boys into sexual activity.

The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16. Persons who engage in sex with children younger than age 14 face sentences of three to 10 years in prison. Those who engage in sex with minors between 14 and 16 receive a mandatory prison sentence of three to seven years. Solicitors of sex with minors older than 16 but younger than 18 face up to one year in prison or hard labor or a maximum fine of NT$3.0 million ($98,300). There were reports of minors in prostitution.

International Child Abductions: Due to its unique political status, Taiwan is not eligible to become a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, estimated at 300 individuals who meet regularly, and consisted predominately of foreign residents. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities.

Authorities enacted and made efforts to implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. Taiwan has incorporated the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into its laws.

In April the Ministry of Labor issued an administrative rule to specify that persons with minor disabilities who had not applied for proof of disability from the government were nonetheless protected against employment discrimination. The rule imposes fines of between NT$300,000 ($9,830) and NT$1.5 million ($49,200) on employers who discriminate against this category of disabled workers or job seekers; 1.17 million persons in Taiwan have received proof of disability.

Persons with disabilities have the right to vote and participate in civic affairs. NGOs contended the lack of barrier-free spaces and accessible transportation systems continued to limit civic engagement by persons with disabilities, particularly outside Taipei.

The law stipulates that authorities must provide services and programs to persons with disabilities. Most children with disabilities attended mainstream schools, but separate primary, secondary, and vocational schools were also available for students with disabilities. NGOs asserted that services for students with disabilities remained largely inadequate. There were occasional reports of sexual assaults against disabled persons in educational and mental health facilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

As of July spouses born in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and the PRC accounted for approximately 1 percent of the population. Foreign and PRC-born spouses were reportedly targets of social discrimination outside and, at times, inside the home.

In December 2016 the legislature passed amendments to the Nationality Act that eased restrictions on naturalization of foreign spouses married to Taiwan passport holders. Some PRC-born spouses complained it was discriminatory that they must wait six years to apply for Taiwan residency, whereas foreign-born spouses from other countries may apply after three years. Unlike non-PRC spouses, PRC-born spouses have permission to work in Taiwan immediately on arrival. The amended Nationality Act does not apply to PRC-born spouses.

h2>Indigenous People

Authorities officially recognize 16 indigenous tribes, accounting for approximately 2.3 percent of the population. The law provides indigenous people equal civil and political rights and stipulates that authorities should provide resources to help indigenous groups develop a system of self-governance, formulate policies to protect their basic rights, and promote the preservation and development of their languages and cultures.

Following President Tsai’s 2016 formal apology to Taiwan’s indigenous peoples for past injustices, her office set up an Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Commission led by the president. The Executive Yuan convened the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law Promotion Committee and released its first annual report on progress in addressing historical injustices.

The Indigenous Languages Development Act took effect in June, designating the languages of Taiwan’s 16 indigenous tribes as national languages. The act follows the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law of 2005 and the Indigenous Traditional Intellectual Creations Protection Act of 2007. The Languages Act entitles indigenous peoples to use their languages in official settings.

In February the Executive Yuan’s Council of Indigenous Peoples announced guidelines on the delineation of government-owned traditional indigenous territories. Indigenous rights advocates argued that a large amount of indigenous land was seized and privatized decades ago and that the exclusion deprived indigenous communities of the rights to participate in the development of these traditional territories.

Existing law stipulates that authorities and the private sector should consult with indigenous people and obtain their consent to and/or participation in, as well as share with them the benefits of, land development, resource utilization, ecology conservation, and academic research in indigenous areas. There are, however, no regulations in place for obtaining this consent with respect to private land.

Indigenous people participated in decisions affecting their land through the political process. The law sets aside six of the 113 seats in the legislature for indigenous tribal representatives elected by indigenous voters. In addition to the six legislators, the current Legislative Yuan has two indigenous legislators elected on proportional representation party lists.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law stipulates that employers cannot discriminate against job seekers based on sexual orientation and also prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on their gender temperament, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights said discrimination against LGBTI persons was more widespread than suggested by the number of court cases, due to victims’ reluctance to lodge formal complaints. Reported instances of violence against LGBTI individuals were rare, and the police response was adequate.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits potential employers from requesting health examination reports from job candidates to prove they do not have HIV or other communicable diseases. There was reported discrimination, including employment discrimination, against persons with HIV/AIDS (see section 7.d.).

Tajikistan

Executive Summary

Tajikistan is an authoritarian state dominated politically by President Emomali Rahmon and his supporters. The constitution provides for a multiparty political system, but the government has historically obstructed political pluralism and continued to do so during the year. Constitutional amendments approved in a 2016 national referendum outlawed nonsecular political parties and removed any limitation on President Rahmon’s terms in office as the “Leader of the Nation,” allowing him to further solidify his rule.

Civilian authorities only partially maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included torture and abuse of detainees by security forces; arbitrary arrest or detention, including of family members; harsh prison conditions; politically motived prosecutions of human rights lawyers; restrictions on freedoms of expression, media, and the free flow of information, including through the repeated blockage of several independent news and social networking websites; freedom of association, including repression, harassment, and incarceration of civil society and political activists; poor religious freedom conditions; restrictions on political participation; nepotism and corruption throughout the government; violence and discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity; and forced labor.

There were very few prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses. Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment. There was no separate statute for spousal rape. The government did not provide statistics on the number of cases or convictions. Law enforcement officials usually advised women not to file charges but registered cases at the victim’s insistence. Most observers believed the majority of cases were unreported because victims wished to avoid humiliation.

Domestic violence does not have its own statute in the criminal code. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a widespread problem. Women underreported violence against them due to fear of reprisal or inadequate response by police and the judiciary, resulting in virtual impunity for the perpetrators. Authorities wishing to promote traditional gender roles widely dismissed domestic violence as a “family matter.”

The government Committee for Women’s Affairs had limited resources to assist domestic violence victims, but local committee representatives referred women to crisis shelters for assistance.

In April 2016 the government adopted official implementing instructions for the Ministry of Internal Affairs on how to refer and register cases of domestic violence, while not having a particular criminal statute to draw from to do so. Domestic violence incidents were registered under general violence and hooliganism, with a special notation in paperwork indicating a distinction for domestic violence.

Authorities seldom investigated reported cases of domestic violence, and they prosecuted few alleged perpetrators. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is authorized to issue administrative restraining orders, but police often gave only warnings, short-term detentions, or fines for committing “administrative offenses” in cases of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: No specific statute bans sexual harassment in the workplace. Victims often did not report incidents because of fear of social stigma. Women reporting sexual harassment faced retaliation from their employers as well as scrutiny from their families and communities.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control measures. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Although the law provides for men and women to receive equal pay for equal work, cultural barriers restricted women’s professional opportunities.

The law protects women’s rights in marriage and family matters, but families often pressured female minors to marry against their will. Religious marriages were common substitutes for civil marriages, due to the high marriage registration fees associated with civil marriages and the power afforded men under religious law.

The 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa prohibiting Hanafi Sunni women–constituting the vast majority of the female population–from praying in mosques remained in effect. Religious ceremonies also made polygyny possible, despite the illegality of the practice. NGOs estimated that up to 10 percent of men practiced polygyny. Many of these polygynous marriages involved underage brides. Unofficial second and third marriages were increasingly common, with neither the wives nor their children having legal standing or rights.

Children

Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth within the country’s territory or from their parents. The government is required to register all births.

Education: Free and universal public education is compulsory until age 16 or completion of the ninth grade. UNICEF reported that school attendance generally was good through the primary grades, but girls faced disadvantages.

Child Abuse: The Committee on Women and Family Affairs and regional child rights protection departments are responsible for addressing problems of violence against children. In 2016 the government established the Office of the Ombudsman on Children’s Rights. Its limited staff and budget constrained its capacity to address children’s issues.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage of men and women is 18 years. Under exceptional circumstances, which a judge must determine, such as in the case of pregnancy, a couple may also apply to a court to lower the marriageable age to 17. Underage religious marriage was more widespread in rural areas.

The law expressly prohibits forced marriages of girls under age 18 or entering into a marriage contract with a girl under 18. Early marriage carries a fine orprison sentence of up to six months, while forced marriage is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. Because couples may not register a marriage where one of the would-be spouses is under age 18, many simply have a local religious leader perform the wedding ceremony. Without a civil registration certificate, the bride has few legal rights.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 years. According to an NGO working with victims of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking, there were several cases in which family members or third parties forced children into prostitution in nightclubs and in private homes.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at www.travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. The small Jewish community had a place of worship and faced no overt pressure from the government or other societal pressures. Emigration to other countries continued.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law on social protection of persons with disabilities applies to individuals having physical or mental disabilities, including sensory and developmental disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and provision of other state services, but public and private institutions generally did not commit resources to implement the law. The law requires government buildings, schools, hospitals, and transportation, including air travel, to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the government did not enforce these provisions.

Many children with disabilities were not able to attend school because doctors did not deem them “medically fit.” Children deemed medically unfit could attend special state-run schools specifically for persons with physical and mental disabilities. Doctors decided which subjects students were capable of studying, and directors of state-run schools could change the requirements for students to pass to the next grade at their discretion.

The government charges the Commission on Fulfillment of International Human Rights, the Society of Invalids, and local and regional governmental structures with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Although the government maintained group living and medical facilities for persons with disabilities, funding was limited, and facilities were in poor condition.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were occasional reports that some law enforcement officials harassed ethnic Afghans and Uzbeks.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

While same-sex sexual conduct is legal in the country, and the age of consent is the same as for heterosexual relationships, the law does not provide legal protection against discrimination. Throughout the country there were reports that LGBTI individuals faced physical and psychological abuse, harassment, extortion, and exploitation for revealing their LGBTI status to their families.

There is no law against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and LGBTI persons were victims of police harassment and faced threats of public beatings by community members. LGBTI representatives claimed law enforcement officials extorted money from LGBTI persons by threatening to tell their employers or families of their activities and in some cases subjected LGBTI persons to sex trafficking. Hate crimes against members of the LGBTI community reportedly went unaddressed. LGBTI representatives claimed health-care providers discriminated against and harassed LGBTI persons. LGBTI advocacy and health groups reported harassment from government officials and clergy, to include violent threats, as well as obstruction of their activities by the Ministry of Health.

Government authorities reportedly compiled a registry of hundreds of persons in the LGBTI community as part of a purported drive to promote moral behavior and protect vulnerable groups in society. The Interior Ministry General Prosecutor’s Office and drew up the list, which comprised 319 men and 48 women.

It was difficult for transgender persons to obtain new official documents from the government. The law allows for changing gender in identity papers if a medical organization provides an authorized document. Because a document of this form does not exist, it was difficult for transgender persons to change their legal identity to match their gender. This created internal problems involving any activity requiring government identification, including the acquisition of a passport for international travel.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was societal discrimination against individuals with HIV/AIDS, and stigma and discrimination were major barriers for persons with HIV to accessing prevention, treatment, and support.

The government offered HIV testing free of charge at 140 facilities, and partner notification was mandatory and anonymous. The World Health Organization noted officials systematically offered HIV testing to prisoners, military recruits, street children, refugees, and persons seeking visas, residence, or citizenship.

Women remained a minority of those infected with HIV, although their incidence of infection was increasing.

Tanzania

Executive Summary

The United Republic of Tanzania is a multiparty republic consisting of the mainland region and the semiautonomous Zanzibar archipelago, whose main islands are Unguja (Zanzibar Island) and Pemba. The union is headed by a president, who is also the head of government. Its unicameral legislative body is the National Assembly (parliament). Zanzibar, although part of the union, has its own government with a president, court system, and legislature and exercises considerable autonomy. In 2015 the country held its fifth multiparty general election. Voting in the union and Zanzibari elections was judged largely free and fair, resulting in the election of a union president (John Magufuli). The chair of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission, however, declared the parallel election for Zanzibar’s president and legislature nullified after only part of the votes had been tabulated, precipitating a political crisis on the islands. New elections in Zanzibar in March 2016 were neither inclusive nor representative; the incumbent (Ali Mohamed Shein) was declared the winner with 91 percent of the vote.

Union security forces reported to civilian authorities, but civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary deprivation of life and excessive use of force by security forces; lengthy pretrial detention; violence against and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedom of assembly; lack of accountability in cases involving gender-based violence and child abuse; criminalization and arrest of persons in consensual same-sex sexual relationships; and child labor.

In some cases the government took steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed abuses, but impunity in the police and other security forces and civilian branches of government was widespread.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law provides for life imprisonment for persons convicted of rape, including spousal rape during periods of legal separation. The law stipulates a woman wishing to report a rape must do so at a police station where she must receive a release form before seeking medical help. This process contributed to medical complications, incomplete forensic evidence, and failure to report rapes. Victims often feared that cases reported to police would be made public.

The law prohibits assault but does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Domestic violence against women remained widespread, and police rarely investigated such cases.

The LHRC stated there were 7,474 reported cases of gender-based violence in the first half of 2016, and 2,059 cases of rape in the first quarter of 2017 (the latest figures available). See Appendix C for data on the incidence of domestic violence.

Authorities rarely prosecuted persons who abused women. Persons close to the victims, such as relatives and friends, were most likely to be the perpetrators. Many who appeared in court were set free because of corruption in the judicial system, lack of evidence, poor investigations, and poor evidence preservation.

There were some government efforts to combat violence against women. Police maintained 417 gender and children desks in regions throughout the country to support victims and address relevant crimes. In Zanzibar, at One Stop Centers in both Unguja and Pemba, victims could receive health services, counseling, legal assistance, and a referral to police.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C from being performed on girls under the age 18, but it does not provide for protection to women ages 18 or older. For information on the incidence of FGM/C, see Appendix C.

Prosecutions were rare. Many police officers and communities were unaware of the law, victims were often reluctant to testify, and some witnesses feared reprisals from FGM/C supporters. Some villagers reportedly bribed local leaders not to enforce the law in order to carry out FGM/C on their daughters.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment of women in the workplace. There were reports women were asked for sexual favors in return for promotions. According to the Women’s Legal Aid Center, police rarely investigated reported cases. Those cases that were investigated, were often dropped before they got to court–in some instances by the plaintiffs due to societal pressure and in others by prosecutors due to lack of evidence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men; the law, however, also recognizes customary practices that often favor men. In particular, women faced discriminatory treatment in the areas of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and nationality.

Overt discrimination in areas such as education, credit, business ownership, and housing was uncommon. Nevertheless, women, especially in rural areas, faced significant disadvantages due to cultural, historical, and educational factors.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country if at least one parent is a citizen, or if abroad, also if at least one parent is a citizen. Registration within three months of birth is free; parents who wait until later must pay a fee. Public services were not withheld from unregistered children. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Tuition-free primary education is compulsory and universal on both the mainland and Zanzibar until age 15. Secondary school is tuition-free, but not compulsory.

Girls represented approximately half of all children enrolled in primary school but were absent more often than boys due to household duties. At the secondary level, child marriage and pregnancy often caused girls to be expelled or otherwise prevented girls from finishing school.

The Center for Reproductive Rights reported in 2013 that more than 55,000 girls over the previous decade had been expelled from school for being pregnant. Regional authorities reported that it was common practice for school administrators to subject girls to hands-on external abdominal examinations for pregnancy. Under the Education and Training Policy launched by the government in 2015, pregnant girls may be reinstated in schools. In June President Magufuli declared that girls would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth. Human rights NGOs criticized the policy as contrary to the country’s constitution and laws.

Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children were major problems. Corporal punishment was employed in schools and the law allows head teachers to cane students. The National Violence against Children Survey, conducted in 2009 (the most recent data available), found that almost 75 percent of children experienced physical violence prior to age 18. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, between July 2016 and June, 37,888 cases were reported through the program’s hotline.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age for marriage at age 18 for boys but does not set an age for girls. In 2016 the government amended the Law of the Child to make it illegal to marry a primary or secondary school student. To circumvent these laws, individuals reportedly bribed police or paid a bride price to the family of the girl to avoid prosecution. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), girls as young as seven were married. Zanzibar has its own law on marriage, but it does not specifically address early marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child prostitution and child pornography. Those convicted of facilitating child prostitution or child pornography are subject to a fine ranging from TZS one million ($460) to TZS 500 million ($230,000), a prison term of one to 20 years, or both. There were no prosecutions based on this law during the year.

The law provides that sexual intercourse with a child under 18 is rape unless within a legal marriage. The law was not always enforced.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide continued, especially among poor rural mothers who believed themselves unable to afford to raise a child. Nationwide statistics were not available.

Displaced Children: According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, large numbers of children were living and working on the street, especially in cities and near the borders. According to the National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children in Tanzania 2017/18-2021/22, an estimated 36,000 children were living and working on the streets. These children had limited access to health and education services, because they lacked a fixed address or money to purchase medicines, school uniforms, and books. They were also vulnerable to sexual abuse.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions.

Few public buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. New public buildings, however, were built in compliance with the law. The law provides for access to information and communication, but not all persons with disabilities had such access.

There were six members of the union parliament with disabilities. Persons with disabilities held three appointed seats in the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

Limits to the political participation of persons with disabilities included inaccessible polling stations, lack of accessible information, limited inclusion in political parties, the failure of the National Electoral Commission to implement directives concerning disability, and stigma toward persons with disabilities.

According to the 2008 Tanzanian Disability Survey, an estimated 53 percent of children with disabilities attended school. There were no significant reported patterns of abuse in educational or mental health facilities.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal in the country. The law on both the mainland and Zanzibar punishes “gross indecency” by up to five years in prison or a fine. The law punishes any person convicted of having “carnal knowledge of another against the order of nature or permits a man to have carnal knowledge of him against the order of nature” with a prison sentence of 30 years to life on the mainland and imprisonment up to 14 years in Zanzibar. In Zanzibar the law also provides for imprisonment up to five years or a fine for “acts of lesbianism.” The burden of proof in such cases is significant, and according to a 2013 HRW report, arrests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons rarely led to prosecutions. They usually were a pretext for police to collect bribes or coerce sex from vulnerable individuals. Nonetheless, the CHRAGG’s prison visits in 2014 revealed that “unnatural offenses” were among the most common reasons for pretrial detention of minors. In the past courts charged individuals suspected of same-sex sexual conduct with loitering or prostitution. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Police often harassed persons believed to be LGBTI based on their dress or manners. In March police in Dar es Salaam arrested a 19-year-old man suspected of being gay based upon a video he had posted on Instagram. The man was interrogated about his sexual history and taken to a government hospital where he was forcibly subjected to an anal exam seeking proof of homosexual conduct.

During the year government officials publicly stated opposition to improved safeguards for the rights of LGBTI persons, which it characterized as contrary to the law of the land and the cultural norms of society. Senior government officials made several anti-LGBTI statements. In March the deputy minister of health, community development, gender, seniors, and children tweeted “The war against promotion and normalization of homosexuality in Tanzania is real.” LGBTI persons were often afraid to report violence and other crimes, including those committed by state agents, due to fear of arrest. LGBTI persons faced societal discrimination that restricted their access to health care, including access to information about HIV, housing, and employment. There were no known government efforts to combat such discrimination.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The 2013 People Living with HIV Stigma Index Report indicated persons with HIV/AIDS experienced significant levels of stigma countrywide (39.4 percent), with stigma particularly high in Dar es Salaam (49.7 percent). The most common forms of stigma and discrimination experienced were gossip, verbal insults, and exclusion from social, family, and religious activities. More than one in five persons with HIV/AIDS experienced a forced change of residence or inability to rent accommodations. In Dar es Salaam, nearly one in three of these persons experienced the loss of a job or other source of income.

The law prohibits discrimination against any person “known or perceived” to be HIV positive and establishes medical standards for confidentiality to protect persons with HIV/AIDS. HRW reported in 2013 that HIV-positive persons, particularly in three key populations (sex workers, drug users, and LGBTI persons) experienced discrimination by law enforcement officials and in accessing health services. Police abuses of these persons included arbitrary arrest, extortion, and refusal to accept complaints from victims of crime. In the health sector, key populations experienced denial of services, verbal harassment and abuse, and violations of confidentiality. In 2016 the government announced a ban on the distribution of lubricants and threatened to deregister and ban NGOs serving the LGBTI community, including those providing health services to counter HIV/AIDS, for “promoting homosexuality.” In response to government threats, several NGOs suspended services to the LGBTI community. In April community-based services for key populations were reinstated following the release of revised guidelines.

Gender Desks at police stations throughout the country were established to help address mistrust between members of key populations and police. The Tanzania AIDS Commission in 2013 established a Key Populations Task Force to enable members of marginalized communities to have a say in government policies affecting them.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Despite efforts by the government and NGOs to reduce mob violence through educational outreach and community policing, mob violence spiked early in the year, reversing several years of decline. According to the LHRC, there were 479 cases of mob violence from January to June, a 255-percent increase over the same period in 2016. In April, for example, a person suspected of being an armed robber was killed by a mob in Dar es Salaam.

Witchcraft-related killings continued to be a problem, but the LHRC reported a 62-percent decline in such killings from the same period in 2016 (from 303 to 115).

Attacks on persons with albinism declined, and from January through June there were no reported cases of persons with albinism being killed or attacked. There was one reported incident in Tabora of an attempted abduction of two children with albinism. According to the UN Human Rights Council, however, persons with albinism remained at risk of violence. Some ritual practitioners, particularly in the Lake Zone region, sought albino body parts in the belief they could be used to create power and wealth. Schools used as temporary shelters in some cases evolved into long-term accommodation, with many students with albinism afraid to return to their homes. In 2015 the government outlawed witchdoctors in an attempt to curtail killings of persons with albinism.

Farmers and pastoralists sometimes argued over traditional animal grazing areas, and violence continued to break out during some disputes.

Thailand

Executive Summary

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, with a king serving as head of state. King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun ascended to the throne in December 2016, following the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In a 2014 bloodless coup, military and police leaders, taking the name National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and led by then army chief general Prayut Chan-o-cha, overthrew the civilian government administered by the Puea Thai political party, which had governed since 2011 following National Assembly lower house elections that were generally considered free and fair. The 2017 constitution sets a framework for a return to elected government, but as of year’s end, no elections had been formally scheduled, and the NCPO and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha continued to govern the country.

The military-led NCPO maintained control over the security forces and all government institutions.

An interim constitution, promulgated by the NCPO in 2014, was in place until April, when the king promulgated a new constitution, previously adopted by a popular referendum in August 2016. The 2017 constitution stipulates the NCPO remain in office and hold all powers granted by the interim constitution until establishment of a new council of ministers and its assumption of office following the first general election under the new charter. The 2017 constitution also stipulates that all NCPO orders are “constitutional and lawful” and are to remain in effect until revoked by the NCPO, an order from the military-appointed legislative body, the prime minister, or cabinet resolution. The interim constitution granted immunity to coup leaders and their subordinates for any coup or post-coup actions ordered by the ruling council, regardless of the legality of the action. The immunity remains in effect under the 2017 constitution. Numerous NCPO decrees limiting civil liberties, including restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press, remained in effect during the year. NCPO Order No. 3/2015, which replaced martial law in March 2015, grants the military government sweeping power to curb “acts deemed harmful to national peace and stability.”

In addition to limitations on civil liberties imposed by the NCPO, the other most significant human rights issues included: excessive use of force by government security forces, including harassing or abusing criminal suspects, detainees, and prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detention by government authorities; abuses by government security forces confronting the continuing ethnic Malay-Muslim insurgency in the southernmost provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani, and parts of Songkhla; corruption; sexual exploitation of children; and trafficking in persons.

Authorities took some steps to investigate and punish officials who committed human rights abuses. Official impunity, however, continued to be a problem, especially in the southernmost provinces, where the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in the State of Emergency (2005), hereinafter referred to as “the emergency decree,” and the 2008 Internal Security Act remained in effect.

Insurgents in the southernmost provinces committed human rights abuses and attacks on government security forces and civilian targets.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, although the government did not always enforce the law effectively. The law permits authorities to prosecute spousal rape, and prosecutions occurred. The law specifies penalties for conviction of rape or forcible sexual assault ranging from four years’ imprisonment to the death penalty as well as fines.

NGOs asserted that rape was a serious problem, and noted a measure in the law allows offenders younger than 18 to avoid prosecution by choosing to marry their victim. They also maintained that victims underreported rapes and domestic assaults, in part due to a lack of understanding by authorities that impeded effective implementation of the law regarding violence against women.

According to NGOs the government underfunded agencies tasked with addressing the problem, and victims often perceived police as incapable of bringing perpetrators to justice.

Domestic violence against women was a significant problem. The Ministry of Public Health operated one-stop crisis centers that provide information and services to victims of physical and sexual abuse throughout the country. The law establishes measures designed to facilitate both the reporting of domestic violence complaints and reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. Moreover, the law restricts media reporting on domestic violence cases in the judicial system. NGOs expressed concern the law’s family unity approach puts undue pressure on a victim to compromise without addressing safety issues and led to a low conviction rate.

Authorities prosecuted some domestic violence crimes under provisions for assault or violence against a person, where they could seek harsher penalties. Women’s rights groups reported domestic violence frequently went unreported, however, and police often were reluctant to pursue reports of domestic violence. The government operated shelters for domestic violence victims, one in each province. The government’s crisis centers, located in all state-run hospitals, cared for abused women and children.

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security continued to develop a community-based system, operating in all regions of the country, to protect women from domestic violence. The program focused on training representatives from each community on women’s rights and abuse prevention to increase community awareness.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No specific law prohibits this practice. NGOs reported that FGM/C occurred in the Muslim-majority south, although statistics were unavailable. There were no reports of governmental efforts to prevent or address the practice.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal in both the public and private sectors. The law specifies maximum fines of 20,000 baht ($612) for those convicted of sexual harassment, while abuse categorized as an indecent act may result in a maximum 15 years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of 30,000 baht ($919). The law governing the civil service also prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates five levels of punishment: probation, docked wages, salary reduction, suspension, and termination. NGOs claimed the legal definition of harassment was vague and prosecution of harassment claims difficult, leading to ineffective enforcement of the law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The interim constitution purported to protect “all human dignity, rights, liberties, and equality of the people.” The 2017 constitution provides that “men and women shall enjoy equal rights and liberties. Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education or political view, shall not be permitted.”

Women generally enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, but sometimes experienced discrimination particularly in employment. The law imposes a maximum jail term of six months or a maximum fine of 20,000 baht ($612) or both, for anyone committing gender discrimination. The law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender and sexual identity in policy, rule, regulation, notification, project, or procedures by government, private organizations, and any individual, but it also stipulates two exceptions criticized by civil society groups: religious principles and national security.

Women were unable to confer citizenship to their noncitizen spouses in the same way as male citizens.

Women accounted for approximately 20,700 of the country’s 230,000 military personnel. Ministry of Defense policy limits the percentage of female officers to not more than 25 percent in most units, with specialized hospital/medical, budgetary, and finance units permitted 35 percent. Military academies (except for the nursing academy) refused admission to female students, although a significant number of instructors were women.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is conferred at birth if at least one parent is a citizen. Birth within the country does not automatically confer citizenship, but regulations entitle all children born in the country to birth registration, which qualifies them for certain government benefits regardless of citizenship (see section 2.d.). NGOs reported that hill tribe members and other stateless persons sometimes did not register births with authorities, especially births occurring in remote areas, because administrative complexities, misinformed or unscrupulous local officials, language barriers, and restricted mobility made it difficult to do so.

Education: The 2017 constitution provides that all children receive free “quality education for 12 years, from preschool to the completion of compulsory education,” which is defined as through grade nine. NGOs reported that children of registered migrants, unregistered migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers also had limited access to government schools.

Child Abuse: The law provides for the protection of children from abuse, and laws on rape and abandonment carry harsher penalties if the victim is a child. The law provides for protection of witnesses, victims, and offenders younger than 18 in abuse and pedophilia cases. According to advocacy groups, police showed reluctance to investigate abuse cases, and rules of evidence made prosecution of child abuse difficult.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 17, while anyone younger than 20 requires parental consent. A court may grant permission for children between the ages of 15 and 16 to marry.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides heavy penalties for persons who procure, lure, compel, or threaten children younger than 18 for the purpose of prostitution, with higher penalties for persons who purchase sexual intercourse with a child younger than 15. Authorities may punish parents who allow a child to enter into prostitution and revoke their parental rights. The law prohibits the production, distribution, import, or export of child pornography. The law also imposes heavy penalties on persons convicted of sexually exploiting persons younger than 18, including for pimping, trafficking, and other sexual crimes against children.

Child sex trafficking remained a problem and the country continued to be a destination for child sex tourism, although the government initiated new programs to combat the problem. Children from migrant populations, ethnic minorities, and poor families remained particularly vulnerable, and police arrested parents who forced their children into prostitution. Citizens and foreign sex tourists committed pedophilia crimes, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The government made efforts throughout the year to combat the sexual exploitation of children, including opening two new child advocacy centers in Pattaya and Phuket that allow for developmentally appropriate interviews of child victims and witnesses. The centers allowed both forensic interviewing and early social service intervention in cases of child abuse, trafficking, and exploitation. The multiagency Thailand Internet Crimes against Children Task Force also accelerated its operations, leveraging updated regulations and investigative methods to track internet-facilitated child exploitation.

Displaced Children: Authorities generally referred street children to government shelters located in each province, but foreign undocumented migrants avoided the shelters due to fear of deportation. The government generally sent citizen street children to school, occupational training centers, or back to their families with social worker supervision. The government repatriated some street children who came from other countries.

Institutionalized Children: There were limited reports of abuse in orphanages or other institutions.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The resident Jewish community is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. Nazi symbols and figures were sometimes displayed on merchandise and used in advertising.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The 2017 constitution prohibits discrimination based on disability and physical or health conditions.

The government modified many public accommodations and buildings to accommodate persons with disabilities, but government enforcement was not consistent. The law mandates persons with disabilities have access to information, communications, and newly constructed buildings, but authorities did not uniformly enforce these provisions. The law entitles persons with disabilities who register with the government to free medical examinations, wheelchairs, and crutches.

The government’s Community-based Rehabilitation Program and the Community Learning Center for People with Disabilities project operated in all provinces. The government provided five-year, interest-free, small-business loans for persons with disabilities.

The government maintained dozens of separate schools and education centers for students and persons with disabilities. The law requires all government schools nationwide to accept students with disabilities, and a majority of schools taught students with disabilities during the year. The government also operated shelters and rehabilitation centers specifically for persons with disabilities, including day-care centers for autistic children.

The tax revenue code provided special income tax deductions to promote employment of persons with disabilities. Some employers subjected persons with disabilities to wage discrimination.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Two groups–former Chinese civil war belligerents and their descendants living in the country for several decades, and children of Vietnamese immigrants residing in 13 northeastern provinces–lived under laws and regulations restricting their movement, residence, education, and access to employment. A law confines the Chinese group to residence in the northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Mae Hong Son.

Indigenous People

Noncitizen members of hill tribes faced restrictions on their movement, could not own land, had difficulty accessing bank credit, and faced discrimination in employment. Although labor laws give them the right to equal treatment as employees, employers often violated those rights by paying them less than their citizen coworkers and less than minimum wage. The law also limits noncitizens in their choice of occupations. The law further bars them from government welfare services, such as universal health care.

The law provides citizenship eligibility to certain categories of hill tribes who were not previously eligible (see section 2.d.). The government supported efforts to register citizens and educate eligible hill tribe members about their rights.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No laws criminalize expression of sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

The LGBTI community reported that police treated LGBTI victims of crime the same as other persons except in the case of sexual crimes, where there was a tendency to downplay sexual abuse or not to take harassment seriously.

The law does not permit transgender persons to change their gender on identification documents, which, coupled with societal discrimination, limited their employment opportunities. The law prohibits discrimination “due to the fact that the person is male or female or of a different appearance from his/her own sex by birth.” There was some commercial discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Some social stigma remained for persons with HIV/AIDS despite intensive educational efforts by the government and NGOs. There were reports some employers refused to hire persons who tested positive for HIV.

Togo

Executive Summary

Togo is a republic governed by President Faure Gnassingbe, whom voters re-elected in 2015 in a process international observers characterized as generally free and fair. In 2013 the ruling Union for the Republic party (UNIR) won 62 of 91 seats in the National Assembly. International and national observers declared it generally free, fair, transparent, and peaceful, although there were logistical shortcomings.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary deprivation of life and use of excessive force by security forces; lack of due process; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; executive influence on the judiciary; government restrictions on freedom of assembly; official corruption; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, although not enforced; and trafficking in persons.

The government took limited steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses. Impunity was a problem.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but if reported, the law was often not enforced effectively by authorities. The law does not specifically address domestic violence. The law provides for five to 10 years’ imprisonment for conviction of rape and a fine of two million to 10 million CFA francs ($3,400 to $17,010). Conviction of spousal rape is punishable by up to 720 hours of community service and a fine of 200,000 to one million CFA francs ($340 to $1,701). A prison term for conviction of 20 to 30 years applies if the victim is under age 14; is gang raped; or if the rape results in pregnancy, disease, or incapacitation lasting more than six weeks. Neither the government nor any group compiled statistics on rape or arrests for rape.

Domestic violence against women was widespread. Police generally did not intervene in abusive situations, and many women were not aware of the formal judicial mechanisms designed to protect them. Although there were no official efforts to combat rape and domestic violence, several NGOs actively educated women on their rights.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for girls and women. According to UNICEF 2015 data, FGM/C had been performed on 3 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 and on 1 percent of girls and young women ages 15 to 19. The most common form of FGM/C was excision, usually performed a few months after birth.

Penalties for those convicted of FGM/C range from five to 10 years’ imprisonment as well as substantial fines; repeat offenders face longer sentences. The law was rarely enforced, however, because most cases occurred in rural areas where awareness of the law was limited or traditional customs among certain ethnic groups took precedence over the legal system. The practice was most common in isolated Muslim communities in the sparsely populated Central Region.

The government sponsored educational seminars on FGM/C. Several domestic NGOs, with international assistance, organized campaigns to educate women on their rights and on how to care for victims of FGM/C. NGOs also worked to create alternative labor opportunities for former FGM/C perpetrators.

For more information, see data.unicef.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-country-profiles/ .

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem. While the law states harassment is illegal and may be prosecuted in court, no specific punishment is prescribed, and authorities did not enforce the law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Although by law women and men are equal, women experienced discrimination in education, pay, pension benefits, inheritance, and transmission of citizenship (see section 6, Children.) In urban areas women and girls dominated market activities and commerce. Harsh economic conditions in rural areas, where most of the population lived, left women with little time for activities other than domestic tasks and agricultural fieldwork. While the formal legal system supersedes the traditional system, it is slow, distant, and expensive to access; rural women were effectively subject to traditional law.

There are no restrictions on women signing contracts, opening bank accounts, or owning property. Women did not experience formal-sector economic discrimination in access to employment, credit, or managing a business. By traditional law a wife has no maintenance or child support rights in the event of divorce or separation. The formal legal system provides inheritance rights for a wife upon the death of her husband. Polygyny was practiced and recognized by formal and traditional law.

Children

Birth Registration: According to the constitution, citizenship is derived either from birth within the country’s borders or, if abroad, from a Togolese parent. Conflicting nationality laws, however, discriminated against women. While the constitution provides that nationality be acquired by a child born of one citizen parent, be it the father or the mother, the nationality code states that a woman may pass her nationality to a child only if the father is stateless or unknown. The child code, however, has gender-neutral nationality provisions that conflict with the nationality code. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: School attendance is compulsory for boys and girls until age 15, and the government provides tuition-free public education from nursery through primary school. Parents must pay for books, supplies, uniforms, and other expenses. There was near gender parity in primary school attendance. Girls were more likely than boys to complete primary school but less likely to attend secondary school.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a widespread problem. While there is no statutory rape law, by law the minimum age of consensual sex is 16 for both boys and girls. The government worked with local NGOs on public awareness campaigns to prevent exploitation of children.

The government maintained a toll-free telephone service for persons to report cases of child abuse and to seek help. The service provided information on the rights of the child and legal procedures and access to social workers who could intervene in emergencies. The government worked with UNICEF to train teachers on children’s rights and included human rights education in elementary school curricula.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal ages for marriage are 18 for girls and 20 for boys, although both may marry under these ages with parental consent. For additional information, see Appendix C.

The government and NGOs engaged in a range of actions to prevent early marriage, particularly through awareness raising among community and religious leaders. The Ministries of Education, Gender, and Health led development of the National Program against Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy. Multiple initiatives focused on helping girls stay in school. Messages broadcast through mass media, particularly local radio, stressed avoiding early marriage and the importance of educating girls. (For more information, see UNICEF’s website.)

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides penalties for those convicted of between one and five years’ imprisonment and fines from 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($170 to $1,701). For conviction of violations involving children under age 15, prison sentences may be up to 10 years. The law was not effectively enforced. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 for boys and girls.

The law prohibits child pornography and penalties for conviction are five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The government conducted a survey and assessment of reports of child sex tourism in 2013 as part of its effort to address the problem of minors subjected to prostitution, but it had yet to release the reports.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There is no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, mental, intellectual, and sensory disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. The law does not mandate accessibility to public or private facilities for persons with disabilities, although some public buildings had ramps. Children with disabilities attended schools at all levels, with some attending schools specifically for those with disabilities. Information regarding possible abuse in these facilities was unavailable. The law does not restrict the right of persons with disabilities to vote and participate in civic affairs, although lack of accessible buildings and transportation posed barriers.

The Ministries of Health, Education, and Social Action, Women’s Promotion, and Elimination of Illiteracy were responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Action, Women’s Promotion, and Elimination of Illiteracy held awareness campaigns to fight discrimination and promote equality; it also distributed food and clothing and provided skills training to persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Northern ethnic groups, especially the Kabye tribe, dominate the civil and military services, while southern ethnic groups, especially the Ewe, dominate the private commercial sector. Relative dominance was a recurring source of political tension.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The penal code forbids “acts against nature committed with an individual of one’s sex,” widely understood as a reference to same-sex sexual activity. The law provides that a person convicted of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity may be sentenced to one to three years’ imprisonment and fined one million to three million CFA francs ($1,701 to $5,102), but the law was not enforced. On those occasions when police arrested someone for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity, the charge was usually for some other violation as justification for the arrest, such as disturbing the peace or public urination. The media code forbids promotion of immorality. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced societal discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. Existing antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTI persons. No laws allow transgendered persons to change gender markers on government-issued identity documents.

LGBTI groups could register with the Ministry of Territorial Affairs as health-related groups, particularly those focused on HIV/AIDS prevention. Activists reported violence against LGBTI persons was common, but police ignored complaints. Most human rights organizations, including the CNDH, refused to address LGBTI concerns.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS, and the government sponsored broadcasts aimed at deterring discrimination. Persons infected with HIV/AIDS, nonetheless, faced some societal discrimination, including reports of family members refusing to share eating utensils with infected persons. The 2015 Demographic and Health Survey did not address social stigma towards persons infected with HIV/AIDS.

Tonga

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. King Tupou VI, popularly elected parliamentary leaders, the nobility and their representatives, prominent commoners, and democratic reform figures dominated political life. The most recent parliamentary election occurred on November 16. Observers characterized the election as generally free and fair. On December 18, parliament re-elected Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva to serve as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: government corruption; domestic violence; and the criminalization of same-sex sexual activities, although the law was not enforced.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison. The law recognizes spousal rape. Police investigated reported rape cases, and the government prosecuted these cases under the law. As of July the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC) reported four rape cases.

The law makes domestic violence a crime punishable by a maximum of 12 months in prison, a fine of 2,000 pa’anga ($940), or both. Repeat offenders face a maximum of three years in prison or a maximum fine of 10,000 pa’anga ($4,700). The law provides for protection from domestic violence, including protection orders; clarifies the duties of police; and promotes the health, safety, and well-being of domestic violence victims.

The police domestic violence unit has a “no-drop” policy in complaints of domestic assault, and once filed, domestic violence cases cannot be dropped (withdrawn) and must proceed to prosecution in the magistrates’ courts. Police work with the National Center for Women and Children as well as with the WCCC to provide shelter for abused women, and girls and boys younger than 14 years. Both centers operated a safe house for victims. As of June the WCCC reported 505 domestic violence cases.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a crime under the law, but physical sexual assault can be prosecuted as indecent assault. Sexual harassment within a domestic relationship is an offense. Complaints received by the police domestic violence unit indicated that sexual harassment of women sometimes occurred.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Inheritance laws, especially those concerned with land, discriminate against women. Women can lease land, but inheritance rights pass through male heirs only; a male child born out of wedlock has precedence over the deceased’s widow or daughter. If there are no male relatives, a widow is entitled to remain on her husband’s land as long as she does not remarry and remains celibate. The inheritance and land rights laws also reduced women’s ability to access credit and to own and operate businesses.

Discrimination against women with respect to employment and wages occurred (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Birth in the country does not confer citizenship. Individuals acquire citizenship at birth automatically if at least one parent is a citizen.

Child Abuse: As of September the WCCC reported 19 cases of physical assault on female children (up to 20 years old) and two cases of assault on male children. The WCCC implemented a variety of child abuse awareness programs at schools from primary to tertiary levels.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 15 years. There were 52 reported cases of child marriages in 2016. According to NGOs child marriages were a result of several factors, including parental pressure, teenage pregnancy, or forced marriage to rapists.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography with penalties of a maximum fine of 100,000 pa’anga ($46,950) or a maximum of 10 years in prison for individuals and a maximum fine of 250,000 pa’anga ($117,370) for corporations. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15 years. Violators who sexually abuse children may be charged with “carnal knowledge of a child under age 12,” which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, or “carnal knowledge of a child under 15,” which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. There were anecdotal reports of children being subjected to domestic sex trafficking.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known resident Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on disability, but no laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and there were no legally mandated provisions for services or government programs for adults with disabilities, including building accessibility or access to communications and information.

A Ministry of Education and Training program to bring children with disabilities into primary schools continued during the year. Many school buildings, however, were not accessible to students with physical disabilities, and attendance rates of children with disabilities at all educational levels were lower than those of students without disabilities.

The government established a National Council on Disability and designated the Ministry of Internal Affairs to work on disability-related problems.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation, and Labor, the law restricts to citizens ownership and operation of food retail stores in the country. Nonetheless, many Chinese nationals obtained Tongan citizenship, and these dual citizens dominated the retail sector in many towns. There were reports of crime and societal discrimination targeted at members of the Chinese minority.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

By law “sodomy with another person” is a crime with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but there were no reports of prosecutions under this provision for consensual sexual conduct between adults, regardless of the gender of the parties. No law specifically prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or address hate crimes. No criminal justice mechanisms existed to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community. Society accepted a subculture of transgender dress and behavior, and a prominent NGO’s annual festival highlighted transgender identities. There was one report of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of other incidents of discrimination or violence.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of discrimination or violence against persons based on HIV/AIDS status, but social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of incidents of discrimination or violence.

Trinidad and Tobago

Executive Summary

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy governed by a prime minister and a bicameral legislature. The island of Tobago’s House of Assembly has some administrative autonomy over local matters. In elections in2015, which observers considered generally free and fair, the opposition People’s National Movement, led by Keith Rowley, defeated the ruling People’s Partnership, led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and the political transition was smooth.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included police and prison officials’ mistreatment of detainees; refoulement of refugees due to poor training of officials; official corruption; laws that criminalize same-sex sexual activity, although such laws were not enforced during the year; and continued criminalization of the status or conduct of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

The government took some steps to punish security force members and other officials charged with killings or other abuse, but open-ended investigations and the generally slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings created a climate of impunity.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to life imprisonment, but the courts often imposed considerably shorter sentences. Police channeled resources to the Victim and Witness Support Unit in an effort to encourage reporting.

The law provides for protection orders separating perpetrators of domestic violence, including abusive spouses and common-law partners, from their victims. Courts may also fine or imprison abusive spouses, but it was rarely done.

The NGO Coalition against Domestic Violence charged that police often hesitated to enforce domestic violence laws and asserted that rape and sexual abuse against women and children remained a serious and pervasive problem.

Sexual Harassment: No laws specifically prohibit sexual harassment. Related statutes could be used to prosecute perpetrators of sexual harassment, and some trade unions incorporated anti-harassment provisions in their contracts.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men. No laws or regulations require equal pay for equal work.

Children

Birth Registration: Every person born in the country is a citizen at birth, unless the parents are foreign envoys accredited to the country. Children born outside the country can become citizens at birth if on that date one or both of the parents is, or was, a citizen. The law requires registration of every child born alive within 42 days of birth.

Child Abuse: Child abuse cases continued to increase; from October 1, 2015, to September 30, 2016, the Children’s Authority received and investigated 5,522 reports of abuse. More than one-half of all cases involved female children. Neglect and sexual abuse accounted for 27 percent and 25 percent of the cases, respectively. The law prohibits both corporal punishment of children and sentencing a child to prison. According to NGOs, however, abuse of children in their own homes or in institutional settings remained a serious problem.

Early and Forced Marriage: Child marriage is illegal. On June 9, parliament passed legislation changing the legal marriage age to 18. The president formally proclaimed the enactment of the Marriage Act on September 28.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law defines a child as less than 18 years of age. The age of sexual consent is 18, and the age of consent for sexual touching is 16. Sexual penetration of a child is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. The law creates specific offenses such as sexual grooming of a child (gaining the trust of a child, or of a person who takes care of the child, for the purpose of sexual activity with the child) and child pornography. The law prescribes penalties of 10 years’ to life imprisonment for subjecting a child to prostitution.

International Child Abductions: The government is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were fewer than 100 Jews in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

Disability rights advocates were aware of no efforts by the government to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which it ratified in 2015. Prior to the ratification, the law prohibited discrimination based on disability but did not mandate equal access for persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities faced discrimination and denial of opportunities. Such discrimination could be traced to architectural barriers, employers’ reluctance to make necessary accommodations that would enable otherwise qualified job candidates to work, an absence of support services to assist students with disabilities to study, lowered expectations of the abilities of persons with disabilities, condescending attitudes, and disrespect.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Although the law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, providing penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment, the government generally did not enforce such legislation, except in conjunction with more serious offenses such as rape. Immigration laws also bar the entry of “homosexuals” into the country, but the legislation was not enforced during the year.

The law identifying classes of persons protected from discrimination does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The 2012 Children Act decriminalizes sexual exploration between minors close in age but specifically retains language criminalizing the same activity among same-sex minors. Other laws exclude same-sex partners from their protections.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Stigmatization of those with HIV persisted, especially among high-risk groups, including men who have sex with men. There were reports of discrimination against this group but no clear evidence of violence. The government’s HIV and AIDS Unit coordinates the national response to HIV/AIDS, and the government employed HIV/AIDS coordinators in all ministries as part of its multisector response.

Turkey

Executive Summary

Turkey is a constitutional republic with a multiparty parliamentary system and a president. A unicameral parliament (the Grand National Assembly) exercises legislative authority. The most recent national parliamentary elections took place in 2015; Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers expressed concern regarding restrictions on media reporting and a campaign environment that restricted candidates’ ability to campaign freely. The most recent presidential election took place in 2014; OSCE observers concluded that candidates were generally able to campaign freely but noted an uneven campaign playing field that benefited then prime minister Erdogan, among other issues. In the April constitutional referendum, voters narrowly approved significant amendments to the country’s constitution intended to eventually transition the country from a parliamentary system to a presidential system following the next joint parliamentary/presidential election, projected to take place in 2019.

Civilian leaders maintained effective control over security forces and dismissed thousands of additional police and military personnel on terrorism-related grounds using state of emergency decrees as part of the government’s response to the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

The country experienced significant political challenges during the year. The continuing state of emergency–imposed following the July 2016 coup attempt, renewed once in 2016 and an additional four times during the year–had far-reaching effects on the country’s society and institutions, restricting the exercise of many fundamental freedoms. By year’s end authorities had dismissed or suspended more than 100,000 civil servants from their jobs, arrested or imprisoned more than 50,000 citizens, and closed more than 1,500 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on terrorism-related grounds since the coup attempt, primarily for alleged ties to cleric Fethullah Gulen and his movement, whom the government accused of masterminding the coup attempt.

The most significant human rights issues included alleged torture of detainees in official custody; allegations of forced disappearance; arbitrary arrest and detention under the state of emergency of tens of thousands, including members of parliament and two Turkish-national employees of the U.S. Mission to Turkey, for alleged ties to terrorist groups or peaceful legitimate speech; executive interference with independence of the judiciary, affecting the right to a fair trial and due process; political prisoners, including numerous elected officials; severe restriction of freedoms of expression and media, including imprisonment of scores of journalists, closing media outlets, and criminalization of criticism of government policies or officials; blocking websites and content; severe restriction of freedoms of assembly and association; interference with freedom of movement; and incidents of violence against LGBTI persons and other minorities.

The government continued to take limited steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish members of the security forces and other officials accused of human rights abuses; impunity for such abuses was a problem.

Clashes between security forces and the PKK terrorist organization and its affiliates continued throughout the year, although at a reduced level from 2016, and resulted in the injury or deaths of security forces, PKK terrorists, and an unknown number of civilians. The government declined to provide information on efforts to investigate or prosecute personnel for any wrongful or inadvertent deaths of civilians linked to counter-PKK security operations.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits sexual assault, including rape and spousal rape, with penalties of two to 10 years’ imprisonment for conviction of attempted sexual violation and at least 12 years’ imprisonment for conviction of rape or sexual violation. In some cases the government did not effectively or fully enforce these laws or protect victims. The law prohibits violence against women, but human rights organizations claimed the government did not effectively enforce it.

The law covers all women and requires police and local authorities to grant various levels of protection and support services to survivors of violence or those at risk of violence. It also requires government services, such as shelter and temporary financial support, for victims and provides for family courts to impose sanctions on perpetrators. According to press reports, as of September 11, the MOFSP reported 300 women changed their identities legally to escape abusive situations.

The law provides for the establishment of violence-prevention and monitoring centers to offer economic, psychological, legal, and social assistance. Women’s NGOs asserted there were not enough shelters to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of women applying for assistance and that shelter staff did not provide adequate care and services.

The government operated a nationwide domestic-violence hotline. NGOs asserted that the quality of services provided in calls was inadequate for victims of domestic violence. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious and widespread problem both in rural and urban areas. Spousal rape is a criminal offense, and the law also provides criminal penalties for conviction of crimes such as assault, wrongful imprisonment, or threats. Despite these measures, the number of killings and other forms of violence against women remained high.

Courts regularly issued restraining orders to protect victims, but human rights organizations reported that police rarely enforced them effectively. A women’s rights NGO alleged that capacity constraints as a result of the government’s response to the failed coup in 2016 kept some authorities “too busy” to address complaints of violence against women. Women’s associations also charged that government counselors sometimes encouraged women to remain in abusive marriages at their own personal risk rather than break up families.

Courts gave reduced sentences to some men found guilty of committing violence against women, citing good behavior during the trial or “provocation” by women as an extenuating circumstance of the crime, and in some cases dismissed rape charges if the suspect married the victim. For example, in August a court reduced the life imprisonment sentence of Kadri Tekin to 15 years for his conviction of the 2011 murder of his wife due to “good conduct.”

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: So-called honor killings of women remained a problem. Human rights activists and academics alleged that the practice continued across the country.

Individuals convicted of honor killings may receive life imprisonment, but NGOs reported that actual sentences often were reduced due to mitigating factors. The law allows judges, when establishing sentences, to take into account anger or passion caused by the “misbehavior” of the victim.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides for up to five years’ imprisonment for sexual harassment. If the victim is a child, the recommended punishments are longer. Women’s rights activists reported that authorities rarely enforced these laws.

During the year there were several high-profile instances of violence against women in public, including on public transit, because of their clothing. On September 30 in the Atasehir neighborhood of Istanbul, a man punched a women wearing a headscarf; video footage showed the man hitting the victim and walking away. Authorities apprehended the perpetrator and sentenced him to five-plus months of imprisonment. He was subsequently released on probation.

Some women’s rights NGOs asserted that weak legal enforcement of existing laws designed to protect women and light sentencing of violent perpetrators of crimes against women contributed to a climate of permissiveness for potential offenders. State of emergency provisions amended the Criminal Procedural Law to increase the number of crimes, including crimes involving threats to women, which may be resolved through mediation instead of the court system. Critics complained the move lowered the severity of potential criminal punishments of perpetrators of violence against women, undermining women’s safety and potentially enabling impunity.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: While women enjoy the same rights as men by law, societal and official discrimination were widespread. Women faced discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.).

The constitution permits measures, including positive discrimination, to advance gender equality. To encourage the hiring of women, the state paid social services insurance premiums on behalf of employers for several months for any female employee above age 18.

Children

Birth Registration: There was universal birth registration, and births were generally registered promptly. A child receives citizenship from his or her parents, not through birth in the country. Only one parent needs to be a citizen to convey citizenship to a child. In special cases in which a child born in the country cannot receive citizenship from any other country due to the status of his or her parents, the child is legally entitled to receive Turkish citizenship.

Education: Human rights NGOs and others expressed concern that the law on compulsory education allows some female students to be kept at home and married early. Ministry of National Education statistics for 2016 indicated that 49 percent of all students at state schools were girls. The Education Reform Initiative, an NGO focusing on education, reported in its Education Monitoring Report for 2016-17 that the government took important positive steps to expand girls’ access to education, including by providing conditional cash transfers to incentivize poor families to continue education for their daughters.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in its Education at a Glance Report for 2016, showed there were gaps between girls’ and boys’ access to education and that nearly 25 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 19 neither continued their education nor joined the labor market.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a problem. The law authorizes police and local officials to grant various levels of protection and support services to victims of violence or to those at risk of violence. It requires the government to provide services to victims, such as shelter and temporary financial support, and empowers family courts to impose sanctions on those responsible for the violence.

By law, if the victim of abuse is between ages 12 and 18, molestation results in a three-to-eight-year prison sentence, sexual abuse in an eight-to-15-year sentence, and rape in a sentence of at least 16 years. If the victim is younger than 12, molestation results in a minimum five-year prison sentence, sexual abuse in a minimum 10-year sentence, and rape in a minimum 18-year sentence.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law defines 18 as the minimum age for marriage, although children may marry at 17 with parental permission and at 16 with court approval. NGOs reported children as young as 12 were at times married in unofficial religious ceremonies, particularly in poor and rural regions and among the Syrian population living in the country.

Early and forced marriage was particularly prevalent in the southeast, and women’s rights activists reported the problem remained serious. Media noted that official marriages only captured a fraction of underage marriages, since many such marriages were concluded as religious marriages only. A May 2015 Constitutional Court decision legalized the right to be religiously married without obtaining a civil marriage. On December 2, a law (colloquially known as the “mufti” marriage law) entered into force, allowing government-employed religious authorities (muftis) to perform and register marriages.

Separately, women’s rights groups stated that forced marriages and bride kidnapping persisted, particularly in rural areas. According to media reports, in August a 16-year-old girl in Kilis jumped from a second-floor window in an attempted suicide to avoid being forcibly married by her family. After sustaining serious injuries from the fall, the girl was beaten by her brother and returned home. Police detained the mother and brother; the whereabouts of the victim was unknown at year’s end.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The constitution requires the state to take measures to protect children from exploitation. The law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children and mandates a minimum sentence of eight years in prison. The penalty for conviction of encouraging or facilitating child prostitution is up to 10 years’ imprisonment; if violence or pressure is involved, the sentence may be doubled.

The age of consent for sex is 18. In July 2016 the Constitutional Court annulled a provision in the criminal code that punished all acts involving children under the age of 15 as “sexual abuse.” The law prohibits producing or disseminating child pornography and stipulates a prison sentence of up to two years as well as a fine for violations.

Incest involving children remained a problem, although prosecutions remained minimal. The law provides prison sentences of up to five years for incest.

A global study conducted by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism) International in 2016 identified the country as a major hotspot for the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. Many women’s and migrant rights NGOs reported that displaced children, mostly Syrian, remained vulnerable to economic and sexual abuse.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to the Chief Rabbinate in Istanbul, there were approximately 16,000 Jews living in the country. Some emigrated due to anti-Semitism.

Jewish citizens expressed concern regarding anti-Semitism and security threats in the country. A popular television series, The Last Emperor, featured an anti-Semitic storyline.

In July a group of approximately 100 members of the Alperen Hearths group protested outside Neve Salom Synagogue in response to security measures that Israel implemented at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Alperen Hearths Istanbul chair Kursat Mican accused the Israeli government of blocking Palestinians’ freedom of worship and threatened the Jewish community: “If you prevent our freedom of worship there, then we will prevent your freedom of worship here and you will not be able to enter here.” Protesters voluntarily dispersed after throwing stones and kicking the synagogue’s doors. Senior government officials telephoned community leaders to express support, and several days later President Erdogan, Prime Minister Yildirm, and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu issued statements demonstrating support for the country’s Jewish community.

Anti-Semitic rhetoric continued in print media and on social media throughout the year. In January columnist Yusuf Kaplan in the progovernment newspaper Yeni Safak claimed the country had been under Jewish influence for the last two centuries and described the result as a “tumor.” In January a columnist in the Islamist Yeni Soz daily claimed that ISIS, al-Qa’ida, the PKK, the Gulen movement, and other similar groups were products of an alliance between the devil and Jews.

The government took a number of positive steps to combat anti-Semitism during the year. Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin and Ivo Molinas, the editor of the country’s main Jewish newspaper, Salom, jointly condemned an anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in a humor magazine in February. On January 27, Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes attended the Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration Ceremony at Ankara University.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution permits “positive discrimination” favoring persons with disabilities, and the law prohibits discrimination against them. NGOs that advocate for persons with disabilities asserted the government did not enforce the law effectively.

The law requires all governmental institutions and businesses to provide persons with disabilities access to public areas and public transportation and allows for the establishment of review commissions and fines for noncompliance. The government, nonetheless, made little progress implementing the law, and access in most cities remained extremely limited.

The Disabled and Senior Citizens Directorate General, under the MOFSP, is responsible for protecting persons with disabilities. The MOFSP reported there were social service centers assisting vulnerable individuals, including persons with disabilities. The ministry stated there were special education students in schools (prekindergarten through high school). The majority of children with disabilities were “mainstreamed” in public schools. The Ministry of National Education reported there were special education centers for students whose disability precluded them from participating in regular public schools.

The law requires all public schools to accommodate students with disabilities, although activists reported instances of such students being refused admission or encouraged to drop out of school. According to disability activists, a large number of school-age children with disabilities did not receive adequate access to education. UNESCO’s October Global Education Monitoring Report noted that 69 percent of school principals with children with disabilities at their schools said their schools had physical access problems. A MOFSP program allowed individuals with autism to stay in government-run houses and offered state resources to families who were unable to attend to all the needs of their autistic children.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution provides a single nationality designation for all citizens and does not expressly recognize national, racial, or ethnic minorities except for three non-Muslim minorities–Armenian Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Greek Orthodox Christians. Other national or ethnic minorities, including Assyrians, Jaferis, Yezidis, Kurds, Arabs, Roma, Circassians, and Laz, were not permitted to exercise their linguistic, religious, and cultural rights fully.

More than 15 million citizens were estimated to be of Kurdish origin and to speak Kurdish dialects. Kurdish communities were disproportionately affected by violence between the PKK and security forces, which took place primarily in rural areas throughout much of the year. Some predominantly Kurdish communities experienced government-imposed curfews, generally in connection with government security operations aimed at clearing areas of PKK terrorists (see section 1.g.).

Kurdish and pro-Kurdish civil society organizations and political parties reported increasing problems exercising freedoms of assembly and association (see section 2.b.). Hundreds of Kurdish civil society organizations and Kurdish-language media outlets closed by government decree in 2016 after the coup attempt remained closed. On December 11, the Diyarbakir branch of the HRA reported more than 3,000 persons had lost their lives during government-PKK clashes in the southeast since 2015 and that many citizens could not continue their daily lives in areas in which the government had declared special security zones (see section 1.g.).

The law allows citizens to open private institutions to provide education in languages and dialects they traditionally used in their daily lives, on the condition that schools were subject to the law and inspected by the Ministry of National Education. Some universities offered elective Kurdish-language courses, and two universities had Kurdish language departments. The law also allows reinstatement of former non-Turkish names of villages and neighborhoods and provides political parties and their members the right to campaign and use promotional material in any language; this right was not protected in practice.

The law restricts the use of languages other than Turkish in government and public services. For example, in January the government-appointed trustee mayor of the Edremit District of Van Province removed Armenian and Kurdish. Authorities also ordered Arabic signs removed in certain areas. In April municipal authorities in Adana ordered the removal of Arabic-language signs from store fronts to “protect [the] Turkish language.”

Although Kurdish is officially allowed in private education and in public discourse, the government did not extend permission for Kurdish-language instruction to public education.

Romani communities reported being subjected to disproportionate police violence and housing loss due to urban transformation projects that extended into their traditional areas of residence. The Romani community also faced problems with access to education, health care, and employment. Roma reported difficulty in taking advantage of government offers to subsidize rent on apartments due to discriminatory rental practices.

In line with a national Romani strategy adopted by the cabinet in 2016, the government started to implement pilot projects to enhance social inclusion of Romani citizens. Among other things, the government’s employment agency, Is-Kur, organized vocational courses for Roma in cities with sizable Romani populations throughout the year.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law does not include specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law allows for up to three years in prison for hate speech or injurious acts related to language, race, nationality, color, gender, disability, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, or sectarian differences. Human rights groups criticized the law’s failure to include protections based on gender identity and noted the law was sometimes used to restrict freedom of speech rather than to protect minorities. LGBTI definitions were not included in the law, but authorities reported that protections for LGBTI individuals are provided under a general “gender” concept in the constitution. KAOS-GL, a domestic NGO focused on LGBTI rights, maintained that due to the law’s failure to recognize the existence of LGBTI individuals, authorities did not provide them social protection.

Numerous LGBTI organizations reported a heightened sense of vulnerability under the state of emergency, as well as growing restrictions on their freedom of speech, assembly, and association. In November the Ankara governor’s office banned all public LGBTI events in the province indefinitely, citing public safety concerns. LGBTI groups initiated a legal appeal that continued at year’s end. Later the same month, Istanbul’s Beyoglu municipality banned an LGBTI film screening and a protest march, “in order to secure public order and safety, to protect the rights and freedom of other people and to prevent crime.”

KAOS-GL reported some LGBTI individuals were unable to access health services or faced discrimination. LGBTI individuals complained they felt the need to hide their identities, faced mistreatment by health-service providers (in many cases preferring not to request any service), and noted that prejudice against HIV-positive individuals negatively affected perceptions of the LGBTI community.

In June an Edirne judge petitioned the Constitutional Court to revoke a provision in the Civil Code requiring the compulsory sterilization of transgender persons prior to the formal gender reassignment, asserting it was a human rights violation. In December the Constitutional Court supported the request and annulled the provision for the case before it. Nonetheless, the sterilization requirement remained in force at year’s end.

While the law does not explicitly discriminate against LGBTI individuals, legal references to “offenses against public morality,” “protection of the family,” and “unnatural sexual behavior” sometimes served as a basis for discrimination by employers and abuse by police.

During the year LGBTI individuals experienced discrimination, intimidation, and violent crimes. LGBTI individuals in prostitution, particularly transgender individuals, reported that police detained them to extract payoffs. LGBTI advocates accused courts and prosecutors of creating an environment of impunity for attacks on transgender persons involved in prostitution. Human rights attorneys reported that police and prosecutors frequently failed to pursue cases of violence against transgender persons aggressively. Police often did not arrest suspects or hold them in pretrial detention, as was common with other defendants. When arrests were made, defendants could claim “unjustifiable provocation” under the penal code and request a reduced sentence. Judges routinely applied the law to reduce the sentences of those who killed LGBTI individuals. Courts of appeal upheld these verdicts based, in part, on the “immoral nature” of the victim.

Violence against LGBTI individuals continued throughout the year.

Prior to pride week in June, the country’s LGBTI community reported receiving hate messages and threats from a variety of sources. Istanbul security officials provided police protection for some pride week events. The Istanbul governor’s office did not permit the June 25 pride march or the July 2 transgender march to take place, citing security reasons. Police dispersed crowds using tear gas and rubber bullets, prevented peaceful demonstrators from gathering, and detained more than 28 persons cumulatively, including LGBTI activists and four lawyers who were present to provide legal assistance to protesters. The government did not respond to allegations of disproportionate use of force by police against LGBTI activists, police intimidation, or calls by groups for anti-LGBTI violence. In September the Istanbul prosecutor’s office indicted the detained protesters for trying to join a parade banned by the governorship and claimed the police intervention involved “adequate/sufficient…use of force.” The case continued at year’s end.

Some LGBTI groups reported harassment by police, government, and university authorities. University groups in cities across the country complained that rectors had denied them permission to organize. LGBTI organizations reported the government used regular and detailed audits against them to create administrative burdens and threatened the possibility of large fines.

When a private foreign secondary school organized a series of LGBTI awareness activities on March 27, the Ministry of Education opened an investigation against the school. In a March 31 column, the conservative daily Yeni Akit stated the school was exposing students to homosexuality and “immoral movies” and that its activities were “a perversion choir to present the homosexuality sickness as a normal human condition in society.” The investigation continued at year’s end.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Many persons with HIV/AIDS reported discrimination in access to employment, housing, public services, benefits, and health care. The Positive Living Association noted the country lacked laws protecting persons with HIV/AIDS from discrimination and that there were legal obstacles to anonymous HIV testing. Due to pervasive social stigma against those infected by HIV/AIDS, many individuals feared that the results of tests for HIV would be used against them and avoided testing.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Armenians, Alevis, and Christians remained the subject of hate speech and discrimination. The term “Armenian” remained a common slur. On September 17, Agos newspaper reported Armenians leaving Narli Kapi Church in Istanbul were stoned by a group of youths shouting “death to Armenians.” On September 14, police arrested three persons involved in an attack during the funeral of an ethnically Kurdish Alevi former HDP member of parliament’s mother, Hatun Tugluk. After a service at an Alevi house of worship, more than a dozen persons tried to block the burial and attacked mourners, shouting: “You will not bury her here. We will not allow Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, and terrorists [to be] buried in this cemetery.” Police stopped the attack, and the minister of interior intervened to facilitate the burial.

Atheists also remained the subject of intimidation in progovernment media, albeit at a lower level relative to other religious minorities. Progovernment Yeni Akit newspaper in July, for example, targeted self-proclaimed atheists and those who believed in evolution, including artists and academics, claiming they insulted Islam and Muslims.

Turkmenistan

Executive Summary

Although the 2016 constitution declares Turkmenistan to be a secular democracy, the country has an authoritarian government controlled by the president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and his inner circle. Berdimuhamedov has been president since 2006 and remained president following a February 2017 presidential election. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights determined that the election involved limited choice between competing political alternatives. In May the country conducted interim parliamentary elections that were not subject to international observation, to replace two parliamentary members. The 2016 constitution extended the presidential term in office from five to seven years, cancelled a maximum age limit of 70 years, and failed to reintroduce earlier term limits.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

There most significant human rights issues included torture; arbitrary arrest and detention; involuntary confinement; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement; restrictions on access to the internet; and citizens’ inability to choose their government through free and fair elections that include real political alternatives; and endemic corruption. There was also trafficking in persons, including use of government-compelled forced labor during the annual cotton harvest; restrictions on the free association of workers; and forced destruction of domiciles of Ashgabat residents. Same-sex sexual conduct between men remained illegal.

Officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government acted with impunity. There were no reported prosecutions of government officials for human rights abuses.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and penalties range from three to 10 years in prison. Rape of a victim under 14 years of age is punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison. A cultural bias against reporting or acknowledging rape made it difficult to determine the extent of the problem.

The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse, through provisions in the criminal code that address intentional infliction of injury. Penalties range from fines to 15 years in prison, based on the extent of the injury, although enforcement of the law varied. Anecdotal reports indicated domestic violence against women was common; most victims of domestic violence kept silent because they were unaware of their rights or afraid of increased violence from husbands and relatives.

Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, and reports suggested sexual harassment existed in the workplace.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: By law, women have full legal equality with men, including equal pay, access to loans, the ability to start and own a business, and access to government jobs. Nevertheless, women continued to experience discrimination due to cultural biases, and some of these laws were not consistently enforced. The government restricted women from working in some dangerous and environmentally unsafe jobs. The government did not acknowledge, address, or report on discrimination against women.

Children

Birth Registration: By law, a child derives citizenship from his/her parents. A child born to stateless persons possessing permanent resident status in the country is also a citizen.

According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2017 report, 100 percent of children had their births registered.

Education: Education was free, compulsory, and universal through grades 10 or 11, depending on what year a child started school. There were reports that, in some rural communities, parents removed girls from school as young as age nine to work at home.

Child Abuse: In 2015 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the government to improve its collection of data on children’s rights, remove restrictions on civil society organizations working on children’s rights, provide for children’s access to internet and international media, create a mechanism to which children deprived of liberty in all areas can address complaints, consider creation of a centralized system for registration of adoptions, and ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2017 report, 6 percent of women aged 20-24 years old were first married before they were 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The legal age of consent is 16. The law forbids the production of pornographic materials or objects for distribution, as well as the advertisement or trade in text, movies or videos, graphics, or other objects of a pornographic nature, including those involving children.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There is no organized Jewish community in the country. It was estimated that 200 to 250 Jews resided in Ashgabat. There were no reports of anti-Semitic activity.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of state services in other areas. Despite the law, persons with disabilities encountered discrimination and denial of work, education, and access to health care and other state services because of strong cultural biases.

The government provided subsidies and pensions for persons with disabilities, but the assistance was inadequate to meet basic needs. The government considered persons with disabilities who received subsidies as being employed and therefore ineligible to compete for jobs in the government, the country’s largest employer.

According to Chronicles, state doctors were unofficially instructed not to extend people’s disability status. Reportedly, the main reason was to decrease government expenditures on social welfare benefits. Chronicles reported that those with disabilities were asked to wait until 2018 for their disability status to be extended. The disabled had to pass through a special commission on an annual basis for their disability status to be extended, unless they were disabled from birth or had passed the commission review 10 years in a row.

Some students with disabilities were unable to obtain education because there were no qualified teachers, and facilities were not accessible for persons with disabilities.

Although the law requires new construction projects to include facilities that allow access by persons with disabilities, compliance was inconsistent and older buildings remained inaccessible. The law provides for the right to vote for all, including for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law provides for equal rights and freedoms for all citizens.

The law designates Turkmen as the official language, although it also provides for the rights of speakers of minority languages. Russian remained prevalent in commerce and everyday life in the capital, even as the government continued its campaign to conduct official business solely in Turkmen. The government required ministry employees to pass tests demonstrating knowledge of professional subjects in Turkmen, and the government dismissed those employees who failed the examination. The government dedicated resources to provide Turkmen instruction for non-Turkmen speakers only in primary and secondary schools.

Non-Turkmen speakers in government noted that some avenues for promotion and job advancement were not available to them, and only a handful of non-Turkmen occupied high-level jobs in government. In some cases, applicants for government jobs had to provide information about their ethnicity going back three generations.

Minority groups tried to register as NGOs to have legal status to conduct cultural events, but no minority group succeeded in registering during the year.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sexual contact between men is illegal under a section of the criminal code on pederasty, with punishment of up to two years in prison and the possible imposition of an additional two- to five-year term in a labor camp. The law also stipulates sentences of up to 20 years for repeated acts of pederasty, homosexual acts with juveniles, or the spread of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections through same-sex contact. The law does not mention same-sex sexual contact between women. Enforcement of the law was selective. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. Society does not accept transgender individuals, and the government provided no legal protection or recognition of their gender identity.

There were reports of detention, threats, and other abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Social stigma prevented reporting of incidents affecting members of the LGBTI community.

In May ANT posted a video allegedly made by Ashgabat police recording the interrogation of a transgender individual. The video purported to show a transgender individual dressed in female clothing enduring an abusive and humiliating interrogation for alleged involvement in prostitution.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were reports of discrimination and violence against some religious minority groups, many of which the government officially referred to as “sects,” including Jehovah’s Witnesses. The government generally perpetrated or condoned these actions.

Tuvalu

Executive Summary

Tuvalu is a constitutional parliamentary democracy. The parliamentary election held in 2015 was generally free and fair, with three new members elected into the 15-member parliament. There were no formal political parties. Parliament selected Enele Sopoaga for a second term as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included the criminalization of sexual activities between men, although the law was not enforced.

Government officials took steps to investigate abuses, and impunity was not a problem.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime punishable by a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, but spousal rape is not included in the legal definition of this offense. The law recognizes domestic violence as a criminal offense. Under the law, domestic violence offenses are punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of Australian dollars (AUD) 1,000 ($794), 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, five years’ imprisonment.

Police have a Domestic Violence Unit, a “no-drop” evidence-based prosecution policy in cases of violence against women, and operate a 24-hour emergency telephone line for victims of domestic violence. The law recognizes the existence of domestic violence and gives express powers for police involvement and intervention, including the power to enter private property. Police may also issue orders for a person who has committed an act of domestic violence to vacate property, whether or not that individual has rights to that property, if a person at risk of further violence occupies it. The Women’s Crisis Center provided counseling services, but there were no shelters for abused women. 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.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment but prohibits indecent behavior, including lewd touching. Reports of sexual harassment are uncommon, and there were no cases reported during the year.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Aspects of the law contribute to an unequal status for women, for example in land inheritance and child custody rights. No laws prevent employment discrimination based on gender or require equal pay for equal work, and such discrimination occurred (see section 7.d.). Women held a subordinate societal position, constrained in some instances by both law and traditional cultural practices. Nonetheless, women increasingly held positions in the health and education sectors, headed a number of NGOs, and were more active politically.

Children

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.

Child Abuse: The government did not compile child abuse statistics, and there were no reports of child abuse during the year. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicated child abuse occurred. The law confirms the right of parents, teachers, and others having lawful control of a child to use corporal punishment, and reports indicated this occurred in schools and homes.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for both girls and boys is 18 years.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent for sexual relations is 15 years. Sexual relations with a girl younger than 13 years carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Sexual relations with a girl older than 12 but younger than 15 years carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. The victim’s consent is irrelevant under both these provisions; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was 15 years or older is a permissible defense. No provision of law pertains specifically to child pornography, although the penal code prohibits obscene publications in general.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

There were no confirmed reports during the year that Tuvalu was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.

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.

Children with disabilities reportedly had lower school attendance rates at all levels than other children. Some students with disabilities attended government-run public primary schools both in Funafuti and in several outer islands. Parents decide which school a child with disabilities attends after consultation with an FAA Tuvalu adviser.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sexual conduct between men is illegal, with penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment, but there were no reports of prosecutions of consenting adults under these provisions. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There are no hate crime laws, nor are there criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community. There were no reports of violence against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but social stigma or intimidation may prevent reporting of incidents of discrimination or violence.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced some societal and employment discrimination (see section 7.d.). The government and NGOs cooperated to inform the public regarding HIV/AIDS and to counter discrimination.

Uganda

Executive Summary

Uganda is a constitutional republic led since 1986 by President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. In February 2016 voters re-elected Museveni to a fifth five-year term and returned an NRM majority to the unicameral parliament. The elections fell short of international standards and were marred by allegations of disenfranchisement and voter intimidation, harassment of the opposition, closure of social media websites, and lack of transparency and independence in the Electoral Commission. The periods before, during, and after the elections were marked by a closing of political space, intimidation of journalists, and widespread use of torture by the security agencies.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

On December 20, Parliament passed a bill removing presidential age limits from the constitution, and on December 27, President Museveni signed the bill, thereby paving the way for him to run for another term. During the period before passage of the bill, the government limited freedoms of speech and assembly.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful killings and torture by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary detention; restrictions on freedoms of press, expression, assembly, and political participation; official corruption; and criminalization of same-sex consensual sexual conduct, including security force harassment and detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons.

The government was reluctant to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed human rights violations, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government, and impunity was a problem.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, which is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. The law does not address spousal rape. The penal code defines rape as “unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or a girl without her consent.” Men accused of raping men are tried under section 145(a) of the penal code that prohibits “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.” The law also criminalizes domestic violence and provides up to two years’ imprisonment for conviction.

Rape remained a common problem throughout the country, and the government did not effectively enforce the law. The 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reported women were more than twice as likely as men to experience sexual violence. Local media reported numerous incidents of rape, often committed by persons in positions of authority, including police officers, employers, local government leaders, religious leaders, teachers, and soldiers. In many rape cases, the perpetrator also killed the victim.

According to the NGO Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA), incidents of rape and statutory rape were not commonly reported, in part due to societal factors. Parents, husbands, local leaders, religious leaders, police, prosecutors, and sometimes courts pressured victims to settle cases out of court, supposedly to “spare” the victim and her family from the social stigmatization. Of the cases brought to trial, few were completed.

Gender-based violence (GBV) was also common. The UPF recorded 163 deaths of women due to domestic violence in 2016, almost a 50 percent increase from 2010. International NGO FHI 360 reported in April that cultural factors fueled GBV. Its study found that 54 percent of women said it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she cheated on him, and 21 percent said it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife if she denied him sex.

FIDA reported it worked with the judiciary to organize two weeks of special court sessions between November and December 2016 focused solely on GBV cases in eight districts in northern and eastern areas. The sessions concluded 326 GBV cases. On June 20, the World Bank announced a $40 million (144 billion shillings) loan to the government to implement its 2016 Elimination of Gender Based Violence Policy. The loan, for which a memorandum of understanding was signed in October, focused on promoting behavioral change to prevent GBV and improving referral mechanisms and assistance services for GBV victims.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and establishes a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted perpetrators, or life imprisonment if the victim dies. According to UNICEF statistics from February 2016, 1 percent of women under age 50 had undergone FGM/C. Local NGOs reported that many girls who had undergone FGM/C were discouraged from delivering in health centers to avoid revealing they had been cut.

On May 15, the UPF told local media that it conducted a radio campaign to raise communities’ awareness of the dangers of FGM/C. Local NGOs Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA) and Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda (LAW) reported that the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development worked with civil society organizations to train UPF and judiciary personnel on FGM/C practices and how to handle such cases.

On May 30, local media reported the UPF had insufficient resources to monitor adequately the remote areas of the northeast where FGM/C was prevalent, which allowed many practitioners to continue working with impunity. DENIVA and LAW reported the absence of courts in Amudat and Kween Districts and a shortage of clinics that could provide medical evidence made it difficult to prosecute perpetrators. Local NGOs conducted training for practitioners in communities where FGM/C was prevalent to encourage them to end the practice.

According to Deniva, the government also built an unspecified number of girls-only boarding schools in northeastern and eastern areas to provide shelter for girls who fled their homes due to familial pressure to undergo FGM/C, or those who fled after being cut.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Media and local NGOs reported several cases of ritual child killings, violence against widows, and acid attacks. According to local media, traditional healers kidnapped and killed children to use their organs for ancestral worship. Local NGOs reported cases in which wealthy entrepreneurs paid traditional healers to sacrifice children to ensure their continued wealth and then bribed police officers to stop the investigations. On February 6, local media reported that the UPF arrested traditional healer Godfrey Lukeera in the South after security forces found the mutilated body of a five-year-old boy at his shrine. The state charged Lukeera with murder on March 8 and remanded him to Masaka Prison. The case continued at year’s end.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides for penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but authorities did not effectively enforce the law. Sexual harassment was a widespread problem in homes, schools, universities, and workplaces. FIDA reported that most women declined to report sexual harassment due to fear of social stigmatization, and that those who did report it tended only to do so in conjunction with other violations. According to FIDA, the UPF recorded 548 cases of sexual harassment from January through March.

Local media and civil society also reported that the UPF often refused to investigate accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace or educational institutions. Most of these cases involved supervisors or teachers exploiting their authority; other cases were between peers.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men. Local NGOs reported numerous cases of discrimination against women, including in divorce, employment, education, and owning or managing businesses and property. Many customary laws discriminate against women in adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Under customary laws in many areas, women could not own or inherit property or retain custody of their children if they were widowed. Traditional divorce law in many areas required women to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men to prove adultery. In some ethnic groups, men could “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers. The law does not recognize cohabiting relationships, and women involved in such relationships had no judicial recourse to protect their rights.

Children

Birth Registration: The law accords citizenship to children born in or outside the country if at least one parent or grandparent is a citizen at the time of birth. Abandoned children under the age of 18 with no known parents are considered citizens, as are children under 18 adopted by citizens.

The law requires citizens to register a birth within three months. According to the 2011 DHS, only 29 percent of rural and 38 percent of urban births were registered. Lack of birth registration generally did not result in denial of public services. Some primary schools, however, required birth certificates for enrollment, especially those in urban centers. Enrollment in public secondary schools, university, and tertiary institutions required birth certificates. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: The law provides for compulsory education through the completion of primary school at age 12, and the government provided tuition-free education to four children per family in select public primary and secondary schools (ages six to 18 years). Parents, however, were required to provide lunch and schooling materials for their children.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a common problem, including sexual assault, physical abuse, ritual killings, early marriage, human trafficking, drug and substance abuse, involvement in social unrest, and forced engagement in criminal activities. The Uganda Child Helpline received 1,607 reports of children’s rights violations from January through June, with denial of education being the most prevalent, followed by statutory rape and child marriage.

The law defines “statutory rape” as any sexual contact outside marriage with a child under the age of 18, regardless of consent or age of the perpetrator, carrying a maximum penalty of death. Victims’ parents, however, often opted to settle cases out of court for a cash or in-kind payment. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18.

The government continued to work with UNICEF and NGOs–including Save the Children, Child Fund, and the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect–to combat child abuse. The UPF provided free rape and statutory rape medical examination kits to hospitals and medical practitioners throughout the country to assist with investigations.

Corporal punishment was illegal but remained a problem in schools and sometimes resulted in serious injuries. The 2015 Children Amendment Act made corporal punishment in schools illegal and punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The amendment also sought to protect children from hazardous employment and harmful traditional practices, including child marriage and FGM/C.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but authorities generally did not enforce this law in rural areas. Some parents commonly arranged marriages for their underage daughters. UNICEF’s 2016 State of the World’s Childrenreport estimated that 10 percent of girls married before age 15 and 40 percent before age 18. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development reported that from January through June, it annulled 35 child marriages and stopped five from taking place. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, the sale and procurement of sexual services, and practices related to child pornography. The government did not enforce the law effectively, however, and the problem was pervasive.

Child Soldiers: The Lord’s Resistance Army continued to hold Ugandans, including children, against their will beyond Uganda’s borders.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The Uganda Child Helpline received two reports of infanticide from January through June.

Displaced Children: Families in the remote North East Karamoja Region sent many children to Kampala during the dry season to find work and beg on the streets. Authorities worked with civil society organizations to return Karamojong street children to their families. Local media, however, reported that police often found those same children back on Kampala’s streets soon thereafter.

Institutionalized Children: Local NGOs reported that the UPF often detained child and adult suspects in the same cells and held them beyond the legal limit of 48 hours prior to arraignment. The local NGO Uganda Child’s Rights Network reported that some juvenile detention centers in the east denied their inmates the right to education.

By regulations an approved orphanage “shall only receive children in an emergency from a police officer or under an interim care order from a judge.” All approved homes are required to keep proper accounts, employ a qualified warden and registered nurse, keep health records for each child, provide adequate sleeping facilities, and provide for an appropriate education. Nevertheless, the government lacked the resources to register and monitor orphanages.

In 2015 the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development estimated there were more than 50,000 children in approximately 1,000 orphanages, of which only 83 were licensed by the ministry. More than half of all orphanages did not meet minimal standards and housed children illegally. Nearly 70 percent of orphanages maintained inadequate records.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community had approximately 2,000 members centered in Mbale District, in the eastern part of the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. The law provides for access to all buildings “where the public is invited,” and information and communications for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. The Equal Opportunities Commission reported in February that most public buildings in Kampala were inaccessible to persons with disabilities, due to a lack of ramps or elevators.

Persons with disabilities faced societal discrimination, limited job and educational opportunities, and most schools did not accommodate persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development and the National Council on Disability were the government agencies responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Local media reported most schools did not make accommodations for students with disabilities. Local media said that due to discriminatory behavior by students and teachers, a lack of trained special education teachers, and limited specialized learning resources, children with disabilities were often absent from school.

The National Union for Disabled Persons of Uganda, media, and government officials said there was insufficient government funding for welfare programs for persons with disabilities. Due to continued decreases in government funding for training “Special Needs Education” teachers, the Ministry of Education certified seven new teachers in 2016, compared with approximately 30 per year a decade before. The Ministry of Education’s principal officer for inclusive education stated that, despite funding limitations, the government provided an additional two to three million shillings ($550-$825) each quarter to schools known to have children with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were reports of violence among ethnic groups over land, grazing rights, water access, border demarcations, and other matters. On June 9, local media reported that unidentified individuals attacked members of the Acholi and Madi communities living in Apaa, killing nine persons with poison arrows. Local leaders said businesspersons hired the attackers to scare the residents off disputed ancestral land in order to claim it for themselves. The government deployed the UPDF and UPF to Apaa to stop the violence, and the Prime Minister’s Office donated food to the communities. Local government officials and traditional, civil society, and religious leaders criticized the government’s response as inadequate and accused it of tacitly supporting the businesspersons.

On April 29, opposition politicians asserted the UPDF and UPF hired only members of ethnic groups from the southwest, where the president is from, for senior positions, discriminating against other ethnic groups (see section 7). The UPDF denied any discrimination in recruitment and stated that all of its officers possessed the requisite qualifications for their assignments. In a May newspaper editorial, however, a government spokesperson criticized the UPF for ethnic discrimination in recruitment, deployment, and promotions, which “threatens to erode the (UPF’s) constitutional requirement of being national in character and composition.”

Indigenous People

The local NGO Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) reported that ethnic minorities did not participate in political leadership and decision-making processes affecting them. The CCFU reported that by year’s end, the government had not yet resettled the Batwa and Benet communities it had displaced from ancestral land claiming its actions were in the national interest, leaving them effectively landless and unable to maintain their livelihoods. In August the CCFU reported the 160-person Batwa community, which the government displaced to create a forest reserve in a western area in 1992, lived on two acres of land, in semipermanent buildings with inadequate sanitary facilities. The government displaced the Benet from their land in 1983 to create a forest reserve. The CCFU reported that although the High Court ruled in 2005 that the Benet could return to their land, authorities had not yet allowed them to do so.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal according to a colonial era law that criminalized “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and provided for a penalty of up to life imprisonment. LGBTI persons faced discrimination, legal restrictions, societal harassment, violence, and intimidation.

The HRAPF reported numerous incidents of societal and government-led harassment and violence against LGBTI persons. Between February and April, the HRAPF reported 11 cases in which attackers physically assaulted persons because of suspicions they were LGBTI individuals. In one case a mob doused a suspected LGBTI person with gasoline and set him on fire before police rescued him. The HRAPF also reported 14 cases of police arresting persons on suspicion of being LGBTI. In five of these cases, police officers conducted forced anal examinations on the detainees. In August government pressure forced the LGBTI community to cancel its annual Pride Week. Officials threatened to arrest anyone who participated in Pride Week activities and coerced the Sheraton Hotel to cancel the opening gala the morning of the event.

Sexual Minorities Uganda’s (SMUG) 2016 suit against the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) stalled because the judiciary transferred the judge handling the case but did not reassign it to another judge. SMUG had sued the URSB in 2016 for rejecting its application to reserve a name under which SMUG could officially register. The case continued at year’s end.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, discrimination was common and inhibited these persons from obtaining treatment and support. In cooperation with the government, international and local NGOs sponsored public awareness campaigns to eliminate the stigma of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS counselors encouraged clients to be tested and share information about HIV/AIDS with their partners and family. Persons with HIV/AIDS formed support groups to promote awareness in their communities.

Police and the UPDF regularly refused to recruit persons who tested positive for HIV, claiming their bodies would be too weak for the rigorous training and subsequent deployment.

HIV/AIDS-infected persons faced discrimination in employment, and some reported having been fired because of their HIV status. According to local media, some employers forced their staff and job applicants to undergo HIV tests and dismissed those who tested positive. On July 26, local media reported that Chinese construction company China Communications Construction Company, a contractor on multiple government infrastructure projects, forced its staff to take an HIV test and then fired two persons who tested positive. The two staff sued the company for wrongful dismissal and the health center for violating their right to personal privacy. The case continued at year’s end.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Mob violence remained a problem. Mobs attacked and killed persons suspected of robbery, murder, rape, theft, ritual sacrifice, and witchcraft, among other crimes. Communities often resorted to mob violence due to a lack of confidence in the UPF and judiciary to deliver justice. Mobs often beat, lynched, burned, and otherwise brutalized their victims. On July 7, local media reported that a mob in the eastern part of the country stoned a 17-year-old boy to death for allegedly stealing a goat. The police had yet to arrest any suspects by year’s end.

Ukraine

Executive Summary

Ukraine is a republic with a semipresidential political system composed of three branches of government: a unicameral legislature (Verkhovna Rada), an executive led by a directly elected president and a prime minister chosen through a legislative majority, and a judiciary. The country held presidential and legislative elections in 2014; international and domestic observers considered both elections free and fair.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces in the territory controlled by the government.

The most significant human rights issues included unlawful killings and politically motivated disappearances in the context of the conflict in the Donbas region; torture; and harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest and detention; and lack of judicial independence. Other abuses included widespread government corruption; censorship; blocking of websites; government failure to hold accountable perpetrators of violence against journalists and anti-corruption activists; and violence against ethnic minorities, and LGBTI persons.

Russia-led forces in the Donbas region engaged in politically motivated disappearances, torture, and unlawful detention; restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and association; restricted movement across the line of contact in eastern Ukraine; and restricted humanitarian aid. The most significant human rights issues in Russian-occupied Crimea included politically motivated disappearances; torture; and restrictions on expression and association.

The government generally failed to take adequate steps to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity. Human rights groups and the United Nations noted significant deficiencies in investigations into human rights abuses committed by government security forces, in particular into allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and other abuses reportedly perpetrated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). The perpetrators of the 2014 Euromaidan shootings in Kyiv have not been held to account.

Investigations into alleged human rights abuses related to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the continuing aggression in the Donbas region remained incomplete due to lack of government control in those territories and the refusal of Russia and Russia-led forces to investigate abuse allegations.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape of men or women but does not explicitly address spousal rape or domestic violence. The courts may use a law against “forced sex with a materially dependent person” as grounds to prosecute spousal rape. Under the law, authorities may detain a person for up to five days for offenses related to domestic violence and spousal abuse. The penalty for rape is three to 15 years’ imprisonment. Sexual assault and rape continued to be significant problems.

Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. Spousal abuse was common. According to the PGO, 874 cases of domestic violence were registered during the first nine months of the year. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, police issued approximately 41,097 domestic violence warnings and protection orders during the first nine months of the year. Punishment included fines, administrative arrest, and community service. Human rights groups noted the ability of agencies to detect and report cases of domestic violence was limited, and preventive services remained underdeveloped. Human rights groups asserted that law enforcement authorities did not consider domestic violence to be a serious crime but rather a private matter to be settled between spouses.Research showed that most authorities believed that, in domestic violence cases, familial reconciliation was more important than punishing the perpetrator or protecting the victim.

La Strada operated a national hotline for victims of violence and sexual harassment. As of June, more than 15,512 individuals had called the hotline for assistance; 95 percent of the calls concerned domestic or sexual violence while more than one-half the calls involved psychological violence. The NGO reported that expanded public awareness campaigns increased the number of requests for assistance it received each year.

According to the NGO La Strada, the conflict in the Donbas region led to a surge in violence against women across the country. Human rights groups attributed the increase in violence to posttraumatic stress experienced by IDPs fleeing the conflict and by soldiers returning from combat. According to monitoring of conflict-related gender-based violence conducted by the Justice for Peace in Donbas coalition, the situation in eastern Ukraine combined with the general discriminatory policies and lack of access to judicial services in the self-styled “republics” to create an environment conducive to gross violation of women’s rights. IDPs reported instances of rape and sexual abuse; many claimed to have fled areas controlled by Russia-led forces because they feared sexual abuse.

Although the law requires the government to operate a shelter in every major city, it did not do so. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, as of July 1, government centers provided domestic violence-related services, in the form of sociopsychological assistance, to 8,483 families with 8,529 children. Social services centers monitored families in matters related to domestic violence and child abuse. NGOs operated additional centers for victims of domestic violence in several regions, but women’s rights groups noted that many nongovernment shelters closed due to lack of funding.

Sexual Harassment: The law puts sexual harassment in the same category as discrimination and sets penalties from a fine up to three years in prison, but women’s rights groups asserted there was no effective mechanism to protect against sexual harassment. They reported continuing and widespread sexual harassment, including coerced sex, in the workplace. Women rarely sought legal recourse because courts declined to hear their cases and rarely convicted perpetrators.

While the law prohibits coercing a “materially dependent person” to have sexual intercourse, legal experts stated that safeguards against harassment were inadequate.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides that women enjoy the same rights as men and are entitled to receive equal pay for equal work. In practice, women received lower salaries than men and were prohibited from working in nearly 500 occupations (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Either birth in the country or to Ukrainian parents conveys citizenship. A child born to stateless parents residing permanently in the country is a citizen. The law requires that parents register a child within a month of birth, and failure to register sometimes resulted in denial of public services.

Registration of children born in Crimea or areas in Donbas controlled by Russia-led forces remained difficult. Authorities required hospital paperwork to register births. Russia-backed “authorities” routinely kept such paperwork if parents registered children in territories under their control, making it difficult for the child to obtain a Ukrainian birth certificate. In addition, authorities did not recognize documents issued by Russian occupation authorities in Crimea or “authorities” in territories controlled by Russia-led forces and sometimes refused to issue birth certificates to children born in those areas.

Child Abuse: Human rights groups noted authorities lacked the capability to detect violence against children and refer victims for assistance. Preventive services remained underdeveloped. There were also instances of forced labor involving children (see section 7.c.).

Authorities did not take effective measures at the national level to protect children from abuse and violence and to prevent such problems. The ombudsman for human rights noted the imperfection of mechanisms to protect children who survived or witnessed violence, in particular violence committed by their parents. According to the law, parents were the legal representatives of their children, even if they perpetrated violence against them. There is no procedure for appointing a temporary legal representative of a child during the investigation of alleged parental violence.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. If it finds marriage to be in the child’s interest, a court may grant a child as young as 16 permission to marry. Romani rights groups reported that early marriages involving girls under the age of 18 were common in the Romani community.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. The minimum prison sentence for child rape is 10 years. Molesting a child under the age of 16 is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years. The same offense committed against a child under the age of 14 is punishable by imprisonment for five to eight years. The age of consent is 16.

Sexual exploitation of children, however, remained significantly underreported. Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem.

Domestic and foreign law enforcement officials reported that a significant amount of child pornography on the internet continued to originate in the country. The International Organization for Migration reported that children from socially disadvantaged families and those in state custody continued to be at high risk of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation and the production of pornography.

Displaced Children: The majority of IDP children were from Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, authorities registered more than 232,000 children as IDPs. Human rights groups believed this number was low. UNICEF estimated the conflict has affected 1.7 million children including non-IDPs who remained in conflict areas.

Children living in areas controlled by Russia-led forces did not receive nutritional and shelter assistance. Human rights groups reported that children who experienced the conflict or fled from territory controlled by Russia-led forces suffered psychological trauma.

Institutionalized Children: The child welfare system continued to rely on long-term residential care for children at social risk or without parental care, although the number of residential-care institutions continued to drop. Government policies to address the abandonment of children reduced the number of children deprived of parental care. In August the government approved a national strategy for 2017-18 that was intended to transform the institutionalized childcare system into one that provides a family-based or family-like environment for children.

Human rights groups and media reported unsafe, inhuman, and sometimes life-threatening conditions in some institutions. Officials of several state-run institutions and orphanages were allegedly complicit or willfully negligent in the sex and labor trafficking of girls and boys under their care.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to census data and international Jewish groups, an estimated 103,600 Jews lived in the country, constituting approximately 0.2 percent of the population. According to the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (VAAD), there were approximately 300,000 persons of Jewish ancestry in the country, although the number might be higher. Before the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, according to VAAD, approximately 30,000 Jewish persons lived in the Donbas region. Jewish groups estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Jewish residents lived in Crimea before Russia’s attempted annexation.

According to the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group (NMRMG) supported by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and VAAD, one case of suspected anti-Semitic violence was recorded in 2016, compared with one case of anti-Semitic violence in 2015 and four cases in 2014. The NMRMG identified 18 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2016, as compared with 22 in 2015 and 23 in 2014. Graffiti swastikas continued to appear in Kyiv, Lviv, and other cities. On January 13, arsonists damaged a Jewish cemetery in Kolomiya, where there were similar attacks in 2015. Jewish organizations expressed concern about the continued existence of Krakivsky Market and new construction atop a historic Jewish cemetery in Lviv. There were reportedly several anti-Semitic incidents targeting the Babyn Yar memorial during the year.

In other manifestations of anti-Semitism during the year, nationalists in Kyiv chanted “Jews out” in German at a New Year’s Day march celebrating the birthday of Stepan Bandera. In a televised interview in March, Nadiya Savchenko, a member of the parliament, used a derogatory word to describe Jews and stated that Jews possess “80 percent of the power when they only account for 2 percent of the population.”

In line with the country’s 2015 decommunization and denazification law, authorities continued to rename Communist-era streets, bridges, and monuments in honor of 20th century Ukrainian nationalists, some of whom were associated with anti-Semitism. A new monument in Uman honors Ivan Gonta, an 18th century Cossack involved in a massacre of Jews, Poles, and Greek Catholics.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions. The law requires the government to provide access to public venues and opportunities for involvement in public, educational, cultural, and sporting activities for persons with disabilities. The law also requires employers to take into account the individual needs of employees with disabilities. The government generally did not enforce these laws.

Advocacy groups maintained that, despite the legal requirements, most public buildings remained inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Access to employment, education, health care, transportation, and financial services remained difficult (see section 7.d.).

Authorities often did not integrate students with disabilities into the general student population. Only secondary schools offered classes for students with disabilities.

Government policy favored the institutionalization of children with disabilities over placement with their families. Persons with disabilities in areas controlled by Russia-led forces in the east of the country suffered from a lack of appropriate care. Patients in mental health facilities remained at risk of abuse, and many psychiatric hospitals continued to use outdated methods and medicines.

By law employers must set aside 4 percent of employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. NGOs noted that many of those employed to satisfy the requirement received nominal salaries but did not actually perform work at their companies.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Mistreatment of members of minority groups and harassment of foreigners of non-Slavic appearance remained problems. NGOs dedicated to combating racism and hate crimes observed that overall xenophobic incidents declined slightly during the year.

Human rights organizations stated that the requirement to prove actual intent, including proof of premeditation, to secure a conviction made it difficult to apply the laws against offenses motivated by racial, national, or religious hatred. Authorities did not open any criminal proceedings under the laws on racial, national, or religious offenses during the year. Police and prosecutors continued to prosecute racially motivated crimes under laws against hooliganism or related offenses.

Roma continued to face governmental and societal discrimination. Roma experienced significant barriers accessing education, health care, social services, and employment.

There were reports of societal violence against Roma during the year, including instances in which police declined to intervene to stop violence. For example, on May 18, an argument in the village of Olshany, Kharkiv Oblast, between village residents and visiting Romani individuals turned violent. Three Romani men received injuries, and one died. Regional police opened an investigation, which continued at year’s end.

There were several reports during the year that police arbitrarily detained Romani individuals, at times beating or mistreating them.

According to the Romani women’s foundation, Chirikli, local authorities erected a number of barriers to prevent issuing national identification documents to Roma. Authorities hampered access to education for persons who lacked documents and segregated Romani children into special schools or lower-quality classrooms.

During the year many Roma fled settlements in areas controlled by Russia-led forces and moved elsewhere in the country. According to Chirikli, approximately 10,000 Roma were among the most vulnerable members of the country’s IDP population. Because many Roma lacked documents, obtaining IDP assistance, medical care, and education was especially difficult.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The labor code prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. No law, however, prohibits such discrimination in other areas, and discrimination was reportedly widespread in employment, housing, education, and other sectors.

There was sporadic violence against LGBTI persons, and authorities often did not adequately investigate these cases or hold perpetrators to account. For example, there was no investigation following events on July 9, when the speaker, organizers, and attendees of a Kyiv lecture on transgender problems were attacked by 10 masked individuals. Several lecture attendees pushed the attackers from the room, and one organizer pursued them and caught three individuals at the Khreshchatyk metro station. Police then intervened and detained the perpetrators. Lawyers and two members of parliament came to the police station where the attackers were detained, and they were soon released.

Crimes and discrimination against LGBTI persons remained underreported, and law enforcement authorities opened only 17 cases related to such acts.

The LGBTI rights group Nash Mir stated that extortion remained a problem and that anti-LGBTI groups employed social media to entrap LGBTI persons.

Although leading politicians and ministers condemned attacks on LGBTI gatherings and individuals, local officials sometimes voiced opposition to LGBTI rights and failed to protect LGBTI persons.

Transgender persons continued to face discrimination and stereotyping. In one case a municipal transportation company in Kharkiv fired a transgender woman because of her appearance.

While individuals no longer had to undergo sex reassignment surgery to change their names and genders officially and could do so with counseling and hormone therapy, regulations still prevent reassignment for married individuals and those with minor children. Transgender persons claimed to have difficulty obtaining official documents reflecting their gender.

According to Nash Mir, the situation of LGBTI persons in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts under the control of Russia-led forces was very poor. Most LGBTI persons either fled or hid their gender identity.

Overall, LGBTI groups enjoyed greater freedom to assemble than in past years. In most cases, security forces and local officials deployed adequate security forces to prevent violence and protect conferences and marches. On June 18, for example, security forces provided protection to an equality march in Kyiv. Authorities deployed more than 6,000 security personnel to protect up to 3,500 marchers, including members of parliament and the diplomatic community. Police adequately protected the equality festivals in Kyiv in May, in Dnipro in July, and a flash mob of tolerance in Zaporizhzhia in May.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Stigma and discrimination in health-care centers were a barrier to HIV-positive individuals’ receiving counseling, testing, and treatment services. UNICEF reported that children with HIV/AIDS were at high risk of abandonment, social stigma, and discrimination. Authorities prevented many children infected with HIV/AIDS from attending kindergartens or schools. Persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination in housing and employment. Injection drug users and their sexual partners were also particularly at risk of discrimination.

United Kingdom

Executive Summary

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is a constitutional monarchy with a multiparty, parliamentary form of government. Citizens elect representatives to the House of Commons, the lower chamber of the bicameral Parliament. They last did so in free and fair elections in June 2017. Members of the upper chamber, the House of Lords, occupy appointed or hereditary seats. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Bermuda each have elected legislative bodies and devolved administrations, with varying degrees of legislative and executive powers. The UK has 14 overseas territories, including Bermuda. Each of the overseas territories has its own constitution, while the UK government is responsible for external affairs, security, and defense.

Civilian authorities throughout the UK and its territories maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included violence motivated by anti-Semitism and against members of minorities on racial or ethnic grounds. Authorities generally investigated, and where appropriate prosecuted, such cases.

The government investigated, prosecuted, and punished allegations of official abuse, including by police, with no reported cases of impunity.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Uruguay

Executive Summary

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is a constitutional republic with an elected president and a bicameral legislature. In 2014 in a free and fair runoff election, Tabare Vazquez won a five-year presidential term, and his Frente Amplio coalition won a majority in parliament.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included poor and potentially life-threatening conditions in some prisons, widespread use of extended pretrial detention, and violence against women and children.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, and there were no reports of impunity during the year.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The law allows for sentences of two to 12 years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of rape, and authorities effectively enforced the law. The law criminalizes domestic violence, including physical, psychological, and sexual violence.

The Ministry of Interior reported 117 cases of rape and 19 cases of attempted rape in 2016. The number of rape cases and attempted rape cases increased 29 percent in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2016. There were 31,854 reports of domestic violence in the first 10 months of the year. In the first half of the year, reports of domestic violence increased by 12 percent, compared with the same period in 2016. In the first 10 months of the year, 23 women died because of domestic violence perpetrated by their partners or family members. During the year the government applied the electronic bracelet program in 526 cases to address domestic violence.

The law allows sentences of six months’ to two years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of committing an act of violence or making continued threats of violence. Civil courts decided most domestic cases, and judges in these cases often issued restraining orders, which were difficult to enforce. The judiciary and the Ministry of Interior continued the use of double ankle-bracelet sets (one bracelet for the victim and one for the aggressor) to track the distance between the two. The ministry reported having trained 15,000 police officers on domestic violence issues since 2012.

The Ministry of Social Development, some police stations in the interior, the National Institute for Children and Adolescent Affairs (INAU), and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operated shelters where abused women and children could seek temporary refuge. NGOs and government actors reported the shelters were often overcrowded. The Montevideo municipal government and the state-owned telephone company, Antel, funded a free nationwide hotline operated by trained NGO employees for victims of domestic violence.

The government’s 2016-19 Action Plan For a Life Free of Gender-Based Violence provides for interagency coordination on violence prevention, access to justice, victim protection and attention, and punishment of perpetrators. It also promoted social and cultural awareness and provided training for public servants. The Prosecutor General’s Office established a specialized gender unit in September 2016 to incorporate a gender perspective in the agency’s work, promote greater respect for women’s rights, combat gender-based violence, and enhance interagency coordination.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and punishes it by fines or dismissal. The law establishes guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as in student-professor relations, and provides damages for victims. In September the government passed a decree regulating the 2009 law against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women, however, faced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, housing, and business ownership. The law does not require equal pay for equal work. In April the National Institute of Statistics reported the salary of women in the labor market ranged from 10 to 30 percent below that of men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory and/or from one’s parents. The government immediately registered all births.

Child Abuse: A total of 2,198 cases of violence against children and adolescents were entered into the INAU information system as of October. INAU reported an increase in its nationwide hotline hours of operation by 45 percent in 2016. The System for the Protection of Childhood and Adolescence Against Violence (SIPIAV) and the NGO Claves implemented awareness campaigns. SIPIAV coordinated interagency efforts regarding the protection of children’s rights. In June Jorge Cardona of the UN Committee for the Rights of Children raised concern over high poverty affecting children in the country.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but with parental consent it is 12 for girls and 14 for boys.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography; some children were victims, and authorities made efforts to enforce the law. The law does not specifically criminalize prostitution of children as child sex trafficking. The law establishes the minimum age for consensual sex as 12. When a sexual union takes place between an adult and a minor under age 15, violence is presumed and statutory rape law, which carries a penalty of two to 12 years in prison, may be applied. Minors between 12 and 15 may legally engage in consensual sex with each other. Penalties for trafficking children range from four to 16 years in prison. The penalty for child pornography ranges from one to six years in prison, and the law was effectively enforced

In 2016 the National Committee for the Eradication of the Commercial and Noncommercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents approved a national plan of action for 2016-21.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Central Jewish Committee reported that the Jewish community had an estimated population of 15,000.

In January the government allocated media network time to broadcast a commemorative message for International Holocaust Day issued by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Parliament also commemorated International Holocaust Day at a widely attended ceremony.

In March the municipality of Paysandu inaugurated a plaque on the corner where Jewish businessman and community leader David Fremd was stabbed to death in March 2016 by a schoolteacher allegedly aligned with anti-Jewish movements. Parliament paid homage to Fremd during a special session. Representatives from Fremd’s family, the Red Cross, the Catholic Church, the Jewish community, and social organizations, as well as the Israeli ambassador, attended the ceremonies. The Central Jewish Committee organized a workshop on antidiscrimination legislation attended by government officials, Supreme Court of Justice representatives, and Argentine religious officials.

The Ministry of Defense met with the Central Jewish Committee and political leaders to discuss how to dispose of an 800-pound bronze eagle remnant of the Nazi German World War II-era cruiser Admiral Graf Spee that sank off the coast in 1939. While some suggested displaying the piece along with other remnants of the ship in a museum, the Central Jewish Committee and politicians feared that exhibiting the piece could attract and embolden foreign and domestic neo-Nazi supporters.

The Holocaust Memorial in Montevideo was vandalized twice in the span of a week with anti-Semitic graffiti. The memorial was defaced with messages denying the Jewish genocide during World War II. On both occasions local authorities immediately removed the graffiti, condemned the act of vandalism, announced the monument would be monitored, and asked citizens to practice good sense, tolerance, and peace. There were also reports of anti-Semitic graffiti around bus stops.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law prohibits abuse of persons with disabilities in educational and mental facilities. The law also grants persons with disabilities the right to vote and participate in civic affairs without restriction. The government in general did not monitor compliance and did not effectively enforce provisions or promote programs to provide for access to buildings, information, public transportation, and communications.

PRONADIS is the governmental entity responsible for developing actions, programs, and regulations to provide building and facilities access; cultural, sports and recreational opportunities; education; and employment to persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Development continued to train government employees on dealing with persons with disabilities.

The law reserves no less than 4 percent of public-sector jobs for persons with physical and mental disabilities. In July a report of the National Office of Civil Service of the Presidency of the Republic stated that only 0.66 percent of government job vacancies in 2016 were filled by persons with disabilities. Representative Camila Ramirez (an alternate in the National Party), the country’s first deaf member of parliament, stated in August she was not allowed to enter the Chamber of Representatives with an interpreter.

Government decrees certify and regulate the use of canes and establish provisions for extending adequate training in their use. Guide dogs legally have full access to public and private premises and transportation. Most public buses did not have provisions for passengers with disabilities other than one reserved seat, although airports and ports offered accessibility accommodations. The law also provides tax benefits to private-sector companies and grants priority benefits to small and medium-sized companies owned by persons with disabilities.

The law grants children with disabilities the right to attend school (primary, secondary, and higher education). Ramps built at public elementary and high schools facilitated access. The state-funded University of the Republic offered sign-language interpreters for deaf students. Some government buildings, commercial sites, movie theaters, and other cultural venues lacked access ramps. Plan Ceibal continued to offer specially adapted laptops to children with disabilities.

In March the government enacted a protocol for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in public education centers. In May a civil court ruling obligated the state to ensure that local television channels have sign language interpretation or subtitles for all local programs.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country’s Afro-Uruguayan minority continued to face societal discrimination and high levels of poverty. The interagency antidiscrimination committee and the National Institution of Human Rights continued to receive complaints of racism. In June, as head of the government’s ethnic and racial equality efforts, the Ministry of Social Development and NGOs jointly commemorated the second annual month of Afro-descendant heritage with cultural and awareness activities. The ministry trained 295 persons on Afro-descendent issues in 2016. The National Police Academy, National School for Peacekeeping Operations of Uruguay, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ School of Diplomacy included discrimination awareness training as part of their curricula.

NGOs reported “structural racism” in society and noted that the percentage of Afro-Uruguayans working as unskilled laborers was much higher than for other groups. Afro-Uruguayans were underrepresented in government (two representatives in parliament and the president of the National Postal Service were Afro-Uruguayan), academia, and in the middle and upper echelons of private-sector firms. The law grants 8 percent of state jobs to Afro-Uruguayan minority candidates who comply with constitutional and legal requirements. Unemployment of Afro-Uruguayan women remained high. The National Employment Agency is required to include Afro-Uruguayans in its training courses. The law also requires that all scholarship and student support programs include a quota for Afro-Uruguayans, and it grants financial benefits to companies that hire them.

In November the domestic NGO Jovenes Afro-Uruguayos filed a formal complaint regarding a case of racial discrimination involving BSE, a state-owned bank. According to petitioners, the bank kept a list with the names of Afro-Uruguayan customers marked in red, required them to wear a red ribbon on their clothes, and seated them together in one area. Bank officials later publicly apologized for the incident and committed to improving its processes.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Authorities generally protected the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, although civil society representatives asserted that generally government mechanisms for protection were weak and ineffective. Leaders of civil society organizations reported that despite the legal advancement of LGBTI issues, societal discrimination remained high. In 2016 the Ministry of Social Development launched a Consultative Council on Sexual Diversity represented by members of various NGOs, which provides recommendations to the government on sexual diversity policies. The ministry reported that 30 percent of transgender persons were unemployed, 65 percent worked in prostitution, and the majority had low levels of education. Members of the transgender community claimed to suffer social discrimination in society and within their families. Michelle Suarez, who in October joined parliament as the country’s first transgender senator, vowed to use her position to expand and protect the rights of transgender persons.

In May the Ministry of Tourism launched an international tourism campaign based on the country’s respect for diversity.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were isolated reports of societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Uzbekistan

Executive Summary

Uzbekistan is a constitutional republic with a political system dominated by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his supporters. On December 4, 2016, former prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev won the presidential elections with 88 percent of the vote. The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODHIR), in its final election observation report, noted, “the campaign lacked competitiveness and voters were not presented with a genuine choice of political alternatives,” with OSCE/ODIHR observers “citing serious irregularities inconsistent with national legislation and OSCE commitments, including proxy voting and indications of ballot box stuffing.” At the same time, the report also identified positive changes, such as the election’s increased transparency, service to voters with disabilities, and unfettered access for more than 500 international observers. Parliamentary elections took place in December 2014. According to the OSCE’s observer mission, those elections did not meet international commitments or standards.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces, but security services permeated civilian structures, and their interaction was opaque, making it difficult to define the scope and limits of civilian authority.

The most significant human rights issues included torture and abuse of detainees by security forces, arbitrary arrest, and incommunicado and prolonged detention. Prison conditions were harsh and sometimes life-threatening. Authorities subjected human rights activists, journalists, and others who criticized the government, as well as their family members, to physical abuse and politically motivated prosecution and detention. There were restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, including through the enforcement of repressive criminal libel laws; restrictions on assembly, association; and restrictions on civil society; widespread restrictions on religious freedom, including imprisonment of believers of all faiths; and restrictions on freedom of movement. Citizens were unable to choose their government in free, fair, and periodic elections, and corruption was endemic. Human rights problems also included human trafficking, including government-compelled forced labor, and incarceration of LGBTI individuals based on laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct.

Government prosecutions of officials were rare, selective, but often public, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including rape of a “close relative,” but the criminal code does not specifically prohibit spousal rape, and the courts did not try any rape cases, according to human rights activists. Cultural norms discouraged women and their families from speaking openly about rape, and the press rarely reported it.

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, which remained common. While the law punishes physical assault, police often discouraged women in particular from making complaints against abusive partners, and officials rarely removed abusers from their homes or took them into custody. Local authorities emphasized reconciling the husband and wife, rather than addressing the abuse.

There are government-run shelters for victims of domestic abuse.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Polygamy is practiced in some parts of the country. The law punishes polygamy with up to three years of imprisonment and fines, and does not penalize the women in such cases.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment, but it is illegal for a male supervisor to coerce a woman who has a business or financial dependency into a sexual relationship. Social norms, lack of reporting, and lack of legal recourse made it difficult to assess the scope of the problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were reports government doctors pressured women to accept birth control or employ medical measures, such as sterilization purportedly to control the birth rate and reduce infant and maternal mortality. Contacts in the human rights and health-care communities confirmed there was anecdotal evidence suggesting that sterilizations without informed consent occurred, although it was unclear whether the practice was widespread and whether senior government officials directed it.

Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Legal status and rights are the same for men and women, except the labor code prohibits women from working in many industries open to men. The government provided little data that could be used to determine whether women experienced discrimination in access to employment or were paid less for substantially similar work.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or from one’s parents. The government generally registered all births immediately.

Medical Care: While the government provided equal subsidized health care for boys and girls, those without an officially registered address, such as street children and children of migrant workers, did not have regular access to government health facilities.

Child Abuse: Society generally considered child abuse to be an internal family matter; little official information was available on the subject.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 17 for women and 18 for men, although a district may lower the age by one year in exceptional cases. In some rural areas, girls as young as 15 were married in religious ceremonies not officially recognized by the state.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law seeks to protect children from “all forms of exploitation.” Involving a child in prostitution is punishable by a fine of 25 to 50 times the minimum monthly salary and imprisonment for up to five years.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The punishment for statutory rape is 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The production, exhibition, and/or distribution of child pornography (involving persons younger than age 21) is punishable by fine or by imprisonment for up to three years.

Institutionalized Children: According to UNICEF, almost 20,000 children with disabilities are currently in institutions for the disabled. The rest of these children, an estimated 60 percent, receive no form of education. UNICEF reported that many of these children could be with their families if support were given to the families and inclusive education facilities provided.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts or patterns of discrimination against Jews. The Jewish community was unable to meet the registration requirements necessary to have a centrally registered organization, but there were eight registered Jewish congregations. Observers estimated the Jewish population at 10,000, concentrated mostly in Tashkent, Samarkand, the Fergana Valley, and Bukhara. Their numbers continued to decline due to emigration, largely for economic reasons.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but societal discrimination based on disability occurred.

The government continued efforts to confirm the disability levels of citizens who received government disability benefits, claiming it did so to ensure the legitimacy of disability payments. Unconfirmed reports suggested, however, that in the process authorities unfairly reduced benefits to some individuals.

The law allows for fines if buildings, including private shops and restaurants, are not accessible, and activists reported authorities fined individuals or organizations in approximately 2,500 cases during the year. Disability activists reported accessibility remained inadequate, noting, for example, that many of the high schools constructed in recent years had exterior ramps but no interior modifications to facilitate access by wheelchair users.

The Ministry of Health controlled access to health care for persons with disabilities, and the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations facilitated employment of persons with disabilities. No information was available regarding patterns of abuse in educational and mental health facilities.

Disability rights activists reported that discrimination occurred and estimated that 90 percent of persons with disabilities were unemployed. The government indicated 17,000 jobs were set aside for persons with disabilities and during 2016, and the authorities provided employment for more than 4,000 citizens with disabilities. The government mandates that social infrastructure sites, urban and residential areas, airports, railway stations, and other facilities must allow for disabled access, although there were no specific government programs implemented and activists reported particular difficulties with access.

Students with disabilities studied braille books published during Soviet times, but there were some computers adapted for persons with vision disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law does not require Uzbek language ability to obtain citizenship, but language often was a sensitive issue. Uzbek is the state language, and the constitution requires that the president speak it. The law also provides that Russian is “the language of interethnic communication.”

Officials reportedly reserved senior positions in the government bureaucracy and business for ethnic Uzbeks, although there were numerous exceptions.

Complaints of societal violence or discrimination against members of ethnic minority groups were rare.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Sexual relations between men are punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The law does not criminalize same-sex sexual activity between women. On December 3, Eurasianet.org reported that two men had been arrested in Tashkent under the charges of engaging in illegal sexual relations. According to the report, the police told media they had conducted intrusive medical examinations to confirm that the men had engaged in sexual intercourse. According to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, police and other law enforcement personnel used the threat of arrest or prosecution to extract heavy bribes from gay men.

Same-sex sexual activity was generally a taboo subject in society, and there were no known LGBTI organizations. Observers attributed the absence of reports of discrimination against the LGBTI community to the social taboo against discussing same-sex relationships.

On September 29, Ozodlik reported that several months previously a group of Fergana men stripped, beat, and abused a person who they claimed was gay. The beating and humiliation was video-taped and distributed via social media. According to the radio’s sources, five men were detained and the investigation was in process as of the end of year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law protects those infected with HIV from discrimination and provides for free health care. As of 2015, UNAIDS estimated 33,000 individuals were living with HIV. Persons known to be HIV positive reported social isolation and discrimination by public agency workers, health personnel, law enforcement officers, landlords, and employers after their HIV status became known. The military summarily expelled recruits in the armed services found to be HIV positive. Some LGBTI community activists reported that hospital wards reviewed the personal history of HIV-infected patients and categorized them as being drug addicts, homosexuals, or engaged in prostitution. Those whose files were marked as “homosexual” were referred to the police for investigation, because homosexuality between men is a criminal act.

Vanuatu

Executive Summary

Vanuatu is a multiparty parliamentary democracy with a freely elected government. The president is head of state. Parliament elected Tallis Obed Moses president in July after the former president died in June. Following a snap election in 2016, which observers considered generally free and fair, parliament elected Charlot Salwai as prime minister.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: police abuses; violence against women; and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

The government made efforts to prosecute and punish abuses by officials, although a degree of police impunity persisted.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The law does not specifically criminalize spousal rape, but it can be prosecuted under related statutes that cover assault and domestic violence. Police, however, were frequently reluctant to intervene in what they considered domestic matters.

Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, was common. According to the most recent survey data available, 60 percent of women in a relationship experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime. Most cases, including rape, were not reported to authorities because women, particularly in rural areas, were ignorant of their rights or feared further abuse.

The law criminalizes domestic violence and seeks to protect the rights of women and children. Violators could face maximum prison terms of five years, a maximum fine of 100,000 vatu ($928), or both. The law also calls for police to issue protection orders for as long as there is a threat of violence. Police have a “no drop,” evidence-based policy under which they do not drop reported domestic violence cases.

There were no nationwide government information programs designed to address domestic violence. Although media attention to domestic violence and abuse was generally limited, the murders of two women by their partners in Port Vila received significant attention. In June Alice Karis died after sustaining head injuries inflicted by her boyfriend during a fight, and in August Flora Charley was found dead in her home after being stabbed by her partner. In both cases, the perpetrators were arrested and are awaiting trial.

The Department of Women’s Affairs played a role in implementing family protection. The Police Academy and the New Zealand government provided training for police in responding to domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)played an important role in educating the public about domestic violence and helping women access the formal justice system, but they lacked sufficient funding to implement their programs fully.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued to increase and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it was a problem. Sexual harassment was widespread in the workplace (see section 6.d.).

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The constitution provides women the same personal and religious rights as men. Laws regarding marriage, criminal procedures, and employment further enshrine women’s rights as being equal to those of men. Although the law does not prohibit women from owning or inheriting property or land, tradition generally bars women from land ownership or property inheritance. The country’s nationality law discriminates against citizen mothers who may not alone transmit citizenship to their children.

While women have equal rights under the law, they were only slowly emerging from a traditional culture characterized by male dominance, and women experienced discrimination in access to employment, credit, and pay equity for substantially similar work (see section 7.d.). The Department of Women worked with regional and international organizations to increase women’s access to the formal justice system and educate women about their rights under the law.

Children

Birth Registration: A citizen father may transmit citizenship to his child regardless of where the child is born. A citizen single mother may not transmit citizenship to her child, but the child may apply for citizenship at age 18 years. This lack of citizenship at birth can lead to a child being denied passports and other citizen rights and services. Parents usually registered the birth of a child immediately, unless the birth took place in a very remote village or island. Failure to register does not result in denial of public services.

Education: The government stressed the importance of children’s rights and welfare, but significant problems existed with access to education. Although the government stated a commitment to free and universal education, school fees and difficult geography were a barrier to school attendance for some children.

School attendance is not compulsory. Boys tended to receive more education than girls. Although attendance rates were similar in early primary grades, proportionately fewer girls advanced to higher grades. An estimated 50 percent of the population was functionally illiterate.

Child Abuse: Observers did not believe child abuse to be extensive, and the government did little to combat the problem. NGOs and law enforcement agencies reported increased complaints of incest and rape of children in recent years, but no statistics were available. The traditional extended family system generally protected children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 21 years, although boys as young as 18 years and girls as young as 16 years may marry with parental permission. In rural areas and outer islands, some children married at younger ages. In 2016 UNICEF reported that approximately 21 percent of children married before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law addresses statutory rape, providing a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment if the child is older than 12 years but younger than 15 years, or 14 years’ imprisonment if the child is younger than 12 years. The law also prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, and the offering or procuring of a child for the purpose of prostitution or pornography. Pornography penalties include up to a two-year prison sentence. These laws were enforced, but there were no criminal cases dealing with pornography during the year.

Child pornography is illegal. The maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment if the child is 14 years or older, and seven years’ imprisonment if the child is younger than 14 years. Under the law the age of consensual sex is 16 years regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Some children younger than 18 years engaged in prostitution.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community was limited to a few foreign nationals, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

There were no confirmed reports during the year that the country was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.

Persons with Disabilities

No law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Although the building code mandates access for persons with disabilities in existing and new facilities, they could not access most buildings. The government did not effectively implement national policy designed to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. The government generally relied upon the traditional extended family and NGOs to provide services and support to persons with disabilities. The high rate of unemployment in the general population, combined with social stigma attached to disabilities, meant few jobs were available to persons with disabilities (see section 7.d.). Access to services through the Ministry of Health’s mental health policy was very limited. Schools were generally not accessible to children with disabilities.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There are no laws criminalizing sexual orientation or same-sex sexual conduct, but there were reports of discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons. LGBTI groups operated freely, but there are no antidiscrimination laws to protect them. In May the country’s first LGBTI advocacy group officially registered as an NGO.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Traditional beliefs in sorcery fueled violence against persons marginalized in their communities. Women were often targets of opportunity.

Venezuela

Executive Summary

Venezuela is formally a multiparty, constitutional republic, but for more than a decade, political power has been concentrated in a single party with an increasingly authoritarian executive exercising significant control over the legislative, judicial, citizens’, and electoral branches of government. The Supreme Court determined Nicolas Maduro to have won the 2013 presidential elections amid allegations of pre- and postelection fraud, including government interference, the use of state resources by the ruling party, and voter manipulation. The opposition gained super majority two-thirds control of the National Assembly in the 2015 legislative elections. The executive branch, however, used its control over the Supreme Court (TSJ) to weaken the National Assembly’s constitutional role to legislate, ignore the separation of powers, and enable the president to govern through a series of emergency decrees.

Civilian authorities maintained effective, although politicized, control over the security forces.

Democratic governance and human rights deteriorated dramatically during the year as the result of a campaign of the Maduro administration to consolidate its power. On March 30, the TSJ annulled the National Assembly’s constitutional functions, threatened to abolish parliamentary immunity, and assumed significant control over social, economic, legal, civil, and military policies. The TSJ’s actions triggered large-scale street protests through the spring and summer in which approximately 125 persons died. Security forces and armed progovernment paramilitary groups known as “colectivos” at times used excessive force against protesters. Credible nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported indiscriminate household raids, arbitrary arrests, and the use of torture to deter protesters. The government arrested thousands of individuals, tried hundreds of civilians in military tribunals, and sentenced approximately 12 opposition mayors to 15-month prison terms for alleged failure to control protests in their jurisdictions.

On May 1, President Maduro announced plans to rewrite the 1999 constitution, and on July 30, the government held fraudulent elections, boycotted by the opposition, to select representatives to a National Constituent Assembly (ANC). On August 4, the ANC adopted a “coexistence decree” that effectively neutralized other branches of government. Throughout the year the government arbitrarily stripped the civil rights of opposition leaders to not allow them to run for public office. On October 15, the government held gubernatorial elections overdue since December 2016. The ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) maintained it won 17 of the 23 governors’ seats, although the election was fraught with deficiencies, including a lack of independent, credible international observers, last-minute changes to polling station locations with limited public notice, manipulation of ballot layouts, limited voting locations in opposition neighborhoods, and a lack of technical audit for the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) tabulation. The regime then called for mayoral elections on December 10, with numerous irregularities favoring government candidates.

The most significant human rights issues included extrajudicial killings by security forces, including government sponsored “colectivos”; torture by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; widespread arbitrary detentions; and political prisoners. The government unlawfully interfered with privacy rights, used military courts to try civilians, and ignored judicial orders to release prisoners. The government routinely blocked signals, interfered with the operations, or shut down privately owned television, radio, and other media outlets. The law criminalized criticism of the government, and the government threatened violence and detained journalists critical of the government, used violence to repress peaceful demonstrations, and placed legal restrictions on the ability of NGOs to receive foreign funding. Other issues included interference with freedom of movement; establishment of illegitimate institutions to replace democratically elected representatives; pervasive corruption and impunity among all security forces and in other national and state government offices, including at the highest levels; violence against women, including lethal violence; trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

The government took no effective action to combat impunity that pervaded all levels of the civilian bureaucracy and the security forces.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, making it punishable by a prison term of eight to 14 years. A man legally may avoid punishment by marrying (before he is sentenced) the person he raped. The law allows authorities to consider alternative forms of punishment, including work release, for those convicted of various crimes, including rape, if they have completed three-quarters of their sentence.

The law criminalizes physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the home or community and at work. The law punishes perpetrators of domestic violence with penalties ranging from six to 27 months in prison. The law requires police to report domestic violence to judicial authorities and obligates hospital personnel to notify authorities when admitting patients who are victims of domestic abuse. Police generally were reluctant to intervene to prevent domestic violence and were not properly trained to handle such cases. The law also establishes women’s bureaus at local police headquarters and tribunals specializing in gender-based violence, and two-thirds of states had specialized courts. The Public Ministry’s Women’s Defense Department employed a team of lawyers, psychiatrists, and other experts who dealt exclusively with cases of femicide, gender-related violence, and other crimes against women.

Some 108 individuals were charged and 50 convicted for 122 femicides and 57 attempted femicides.

Many advocates observed there was a lack of public awareness among women regarding resources and support available to prevent and combat domestic violence. The government offered some shelter and services for victims of domestic and other violence, but NGOs provided the majority of domestic abuse support services.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years. The law establishes a fine between 5,400 bolivars ($2.04 at the Dicom exchange rate) and 10,800 bolivars ($4.09 at the Dicom rate) for employers convicted of sexual harassment. Although allegedly common in the workplace, sexual harassment cases were rarely reported.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men under the constitution. Women and men are legally equal in marriage, and the law provides for gender equality in exercising the right to work. The law specifies that employers must not discriminate against women with regard to pay or working conditions. According to the Ministry of Labor and the Confederation of Workers, regulations protecting women’s labor rights were enforced in the formal sector, although according to the World Economic Forum, women earned 36 percent less on average than men doing comparable jobs.

The law provides women with property rights equal to those of men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory. According to UNICEF, 81 percent of children under the age of five were registered at birth.

Child Abuse: According to UNICEF and NGOs working with children and women, child abuse, including incest, occurred but was rarely reported. According to a National Institute for Statistics survey, 5 percent of victims of sexual abuse were children. Although the judicial system acted to remove children from abusive households, the press reported that public facilities for such children were inadequate.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and men, but with parental consent the minimum age is 16.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: By law sexual relations with a minor under the age of 13, with an “especially vulnerable” person, or with a minor under the age of 16 when the perpetrator is a relative or guardian, are punishable with a mandatory sentence of 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits the forced prostitution and corruption of minors. Penalties range from 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment in the case of sex trafficking of girls, although the law requires force, fraud, or coercion in its definition of sex trafficking of children. The law prohibits the production and sale of child pornography and establishes penalties of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Displaced Children: Leading advocates and the press estimated that 10,000 children lived on the streets. With institutions filled to capacity, hundreds of children accused of infractions, such as curfew violations, were confined in inadequate juvenile detention centers.

On March 19, 12 children, ranging in age from six to 15, robbed two soldiers in civilian clothing. The soldiers chased the boys, who in turn attacked them and stabbed them to death. The case received widespread media attention and raised concerns regarding Caracas’s influx of street children.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, including anti-Semitism.

The Confederation of Jewish Associations in Venezuela estimated there were 7,000 Jews in the country. Jewish community leaders expressed concern about anti-Semitic statements made by high-level government officials and anti-Semitic pieces in progovernment media outlets. The community leaders noted that many other anti-Semitic incidents occurred during the year.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities, but the government did not make a significant effort to implement the law, inform the public of it, or combat societal prejudice against persons with disabilities. The law requires that all newly constructed or renovated public parks and buildings provide access, but persons with disabilities had minimal access to public transportation, and ramps were almost nonexistent. Online resources and access to information were generally available to persons with disabilities, although access to closed-captioned or audio-described online videos for persons with sight and hearing disabilities was limited. Separately, leading advocates for persons with hearing disabilities lamented difficult access to public services due to a lack of government-funded interpreters in public courts, health-care facilities, and legal services, as well as a lack of other public accommodations.

The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CONAPDIS), an independent agency affiliated with the Ministry for Participation and Social Development, advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities and provided medical, legal, occupational, and cultural programs. According to CONAPDIS, fewer than 20 percent of persons with disabilities who registered with government health programs were fully employed. Beginning in May monthly subsidies of 70,000 bolivars ($26.50 at the Dicom exchange rate) were provided by Mission Hogares de la Patria, a government social service program, to heads of households for each child or adult with disabilities they supported.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race. The law prohibits all forms of racial discrimination and provides for a maximum of three years’ imprisonment for acts of racial discrimination. As mandated by law, signage existed outside commercial and recreational establishments announcing the prohibition against acts of racial discrimination.

On May 18, demonstrators in a neighborhood in Caracas known as a rally point for antiregime activities surrounded Afro-Venezuelan Jose Rafael Noguera and his sister, accusing them of being government sympathizers based on their race. They beat Noguera, doused him with gasoline, and set him ablaze, causing severe burns over much of his body. In a similar incident later that month, demonstrators set on fire another Afro-Venezuelan man who was also accused of being “chavista” based on his race; the man died two weeks later.

Indigenous People

The law prohibits discrimination based on ethnic origin. The constitution provides for three seats in the National Assembly for deputies of indigenous origin to “protect indigenous communities and their progressive incorporation into the life of the nation,” but some indigenous communities had been without representation in the national legislature since the TSJ annulled the 2015 election of Amazonas State’s indigenous representative.

On May 7, the governor of Amazonas, Liboro Guarulla, stated the government had administratively barred him from political participation for 15 years, allegedly for corrupt practices. Guarulla stated that the disqualification was in response to his accusations of fraud in previous regional elections.

NGOs and the press reported that local political authorities seldom took account of indigenous interests when making decisions affecting indigenous lands, cultures, traditions, or allocation of natural resources. Indigenous groups continued to call for faster implementation of the demarcation process.

Indigenous groups regularly reported violent conflicts with miners and cattle ranchers over land rights. There were reports of harassment, attacks, and forced evictions against indigenous persons living in areas included as part of government mining concessions.

Border disputes with Colombia affected indigenous groups living in border regions. While the president proclaimed indigenous persons on the border could cross freely, there were many reported cases in which indigenous groups were restricted.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The constitution provides for equality before the law of all persons and prohibits discrimination based on “sex or social condition,” but it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. According to a TSJ ruling, no individual may be subject to discrimination because of sexual orientation, but the ruling was rarely enforced. On January 5, the TSJ ruled that children born of same-sex couples should be granted full rights of citizenship under the law as children of heterosexual parents.

Media and leading advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons noted that since the law does not define a hate crime, official law enforcement statistics do not reflect LGBTI-related violence. Incidents of violence were most prevalent against members of the transgender community. Leading advocates noted that law enforcement authorities did not properly investigate to determine the motives for such crimes.

Local police and private security forces allegedly prevented LGBTI persons from entering malls, public parks, and recreational areas. NGOs reported the government systematically denied legal recognition to transgender and intersex persons by preventing them from obtaining identity documents required for accessing education, employment, housing, and health care. This vulnerability often led transgender and intersex persons to become victims of human trafficking or prostitution.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law provides for the equal rights of persons with HIV/AIDS and their families. Nevertheless, leading advocates alleged discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Vietnam

Executive Summary

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), and led by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President Tran Dai Quang, and Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in May 2016, were neither free nor fair, despite limited competition among CPV-vetted candidates.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; arbitrary arrest and detention of persons peacefully expressing dissent; systemic abuses in the legal system, including denial of access to an attorney, visits from family, and fair and expeditious trial; government interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence; limits on freedom of speech, assembly, association, movement and religion, including censorship of the press, and restrictions on internet freedom; corruption; domestic violence; child abuse; and limits on workers’ rights to form and join independent unions.

The government sometimes took corrective action, including prosecutions, against officials who violated the law, and police officers sometimes acted with impunity.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits using or threatening violence against women or taking advantage of a person who cannot act in self-defense. It also criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, for men and women. The law subjects rapists to two to seven years’ imprisonment, or up to 15 years in severe cases, including organized rape, a repeat offense, or extreme harm to a victim. Authorities prosecuted rape cases but did not release arrest, prosecution, conviction, or punishment statistics.

Authorities treated domestic violence cases as civil cases unless the victim suffered injuries involving more than 11 percent of the body. The law specifies acts constituting domestic violence and stipulates punishments for perpetrators ranging from warnings and probation to imprisonment for three months to three years.

Domestic violence against women was common. One November 2015 NGO survey reported 59 percent of married women had suffered physical or sexual abuse at least once in their lives, typically from a male partner or member of the family. Another study revealed 83 percent of women and girls in Hanoi and 91 percent of those in Ho Chi Minh City had experienced at least one form of sexual harassment during their lives.

Officials acknowledged domestic violence as a significant social concern, and the media discussed it openly. Social stigma prevented many survivors from coming forward due to fear of harassment from their spouses or family. While police and legal systems generally remained unequipped to deal with cases of domestic violence, the government, with the help of international and domestic NGOs, continued to train police, lawyers, community advocates, and legal system officials in the law and continued to support workshops and seminars that aimed to educate women and men about domestic violence and women’s rights and highlight the problem through public awareness campaigns.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Publications and training on ethical regulations for government and other public servants did not mention the problem of sexual harassment. In serious cases, victims may sue offenders under a provision that deals with “humiliating other persons” and specifies punishments that include a warning, noncustodial reform for up to two years, or a prison term ranging from three months to two years. Nevertheless, there were no known prosecutions or sexual harassment lawsuits.

Coercion in Population Control: The government continued to encourage couples to have no more than two children. While the law does not prohibit or provide penalties for those having more than two children, some CPV members reported informally administered repercussions for doing so, including restrictions on job promotion (see section 1.f). Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The law provides for gender equality, but women continued to face societal discrimination. Despite the large body of law and regulation devoted to the protection of women’s rights in marriage and the workplace, as well as provisions that call for preferential treatment, women did not always receive equal treatment in employment, education, or housing, particularly in rural areas.

Gender gaps in education declined, but certain gaps remained. According to a 2013 UN Women-funded report, professional qualifications of female workers were lower than those of male workers. There were substantial differences in the education profile of men and women at the postsecondary level. The number of female students enrolled in higher education applied technology programs was much smaller than the number of men enrolled.

Although the law provides for equal inheritance rights for men and women, women continued to face cultural discrimination. A son was more likely to inherit property than was a daughter, unless otherwise specified by a legal document, and even then authorities did not split the land equitably between son and daughter

The Women’s Union and the government’s National Committee for the Advancement of Women continued to promote women’s rights, including political, economic, and legal equality, and protection from spousal abuse.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the Ministry of Health, the national average male-female sex ratio at birth for the first half of the year was 113.4 to 100. The government acknowledged the problem, highlighted reduction of the ratio as a goal in the national program on gender equality, and continued to take steps to address it.

Children

Birth Registration: By law the government considers anyone born to at least one citizen parent to be a citizen. Persons born to non-Vietnamese parents may also acquire citizenship under certain circumstances. The law requires a birth certificate to access public services, such as education and health care, and the choice by some parents, especially ethnic minorities, not to register their children affected their ability to enroll them in school and receive government-sponsored health care.

Education: Education is free, compulsory, and universal through age 14, although many families were required to pay a variety of school fees. Under a government subsidy program, ethnic-minority students were exempt from paying school fees. Nevertheless, authorities did not always enforce the requirement or enforce it equally for boys and girls, especially in rural areas, where government and family budgets for education were limited, and children’s contributions as agricultural laborers were valuable.

Child Abuse: The government did not effectively enforce existing laws on child abuse and physical and emotional mistreatment was common.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for girls and 20 for boys, and the law criminalizes organizing marriage for, or entering into marriage with, an underage person.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children under age 16 is illegal. The law criminalizes all acts of sale or deprivation of liberty of children as well as all acts related to child prostitution and forced child labor. Sentences range from three years’ to life imprisonment, and fines range from five million to 50 million VND ($220 to $2,200). The law also specifies prison sentences for acts related to child prostitution, including harboring prostitution (12 to 20 years), brokering prostitution (seven to 15 years), and buying sex with minors (three to 15 years). The law similarly prohibits all acts of cruel treatment, humiliation, abduction, sale, and coercion of children into any activities harmful to their healthy development and provides for the protection and care of disadvantaged children.

The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Statutory rape is illegal and may result in life imprisonment or capital punishment. Penalties for sex with minors between the ages of 16 and 18, depending upon the circumstances, vary from five to 10 years in prison. The penalty for rape of a child between the ages of 13 and 16 carries a sentence of imprisonment from seven to 15 years. If the victim becomes pregnant, the rape is incestuous, or the offender is in a guardianship position to the victim, the penalty increases to 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment. The law considers all cases of having sexual intercourse with children less than 13 years of age to be rape of children, with sentences including 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment, life imprisonment, or capital punishment. The government enforced the law, and convicted rapists received harsh sentences. The production, distribution, dissemination, or selling of child pornography is illegal and carries a sentence of three to 10 years’ imprisonment. The country is a destination for child sex tourism.

Displaced Children: Media reported that approximately 21,000 children lived on the streets and sometimes experienced police harassment or abuse.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at www.travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were small communities of Jewish foreigners in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution provides for the protection of persons with mental and physical disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against or mistreatment of persons with physical and mental disabilities. Overall, the national government continued to increase coordination with foreign governments, international organizations, NGOs, and private companies to review legal provisions governing implementation of the treaty, conduct feasibility studies, share international best practices, conduct informational workshops, promote the hiring of persons with disabilities, and hold awareness activities.

A majority of persons with disabilities still faced challenges in exercising their rights and could not access government services due to lack of policy implementation and social stigma.

In recent years representatives from a broad range of ministries–construction, finance and planning, transport–have begun incorporating considerations for persons with disabilities in joint planning. The government budgeted 18 billion VND ($790,000) during the fiscal year to support persons with disabilities, a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

While the law requires that the construction of new or major renovations of existing government and large public buildings include access for persons with disabilities, enforcement continued to be sporadic, particularly for projects outside of major cities. During the year the Ministry of Transportation’s Civil Aviation Authority installed elevators and accessibility improvements in several airports and started developing additional services for passengers with disabilities.

Access to education for children with disabilities, particularly deaf children and children with intellectual disabilities, remained extremely limited. The Ministry of Education and Training estimated 500,000 children with disabilities had some access to education at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.

There is no legal restriction on the right to vote for persons with disabilities, although many polling stations were not accessible, especially to persons with physical disabilities.

While the provision of social services to persons with disabilities remained limited, the government made some efforts to support the establishment of organizations of persons with disabilities and consulted them in the development or review of national programs, such as the National Poverty Reduction Program, vocational laws, and various education policies. The National Coordination Committee on Disabilities, the Vietnam Federation on Disability, and their members from various ministries continued to work with domestic and foreign organizations to provide protection, support, physical access, education, and employment. The government operated a small network of rehabilitation centers to provide long-term, inpatient physical therapy.

NGOs reported they continued to face challenges applying for funding and offering training for disability-related programs from certain provincial governments, who hampered access for international staff to conduct training.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits discrimination against ethnic minorities, but societal discrimination was longstanding and persistent. Local officials in some provinces, notably in the highlands, acted in contravention of national laws and discriminated against members of ethnic and religious minority groups. Despite the country’s significant economic growth, the economic gap between many ethnic minority communities and ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) communities persisted, although ethnic minority group members constituted a sizable percentage of the population in certain areas, including the Northwest and Central Highlands and portions of the Mekong Delta.

International human rights organizations and refugees continued to allege authorities harassed and intimidated members of certain ethnic minority groups, including a group collectively described as “Montagnards” and ethnic minority Christians in the Central Highlands. There were multiple reports that members of these groups fled to Cambodia and Thailand, seeking refugee status as victims of persecution; the government claimed these individuals were illegal migrants who left Vietnam in pursuit of economic opportunities. Human rights groups alleged the government pressured Cambodia and Thailand to refuse to grant these individuals refugee or temporary asylum-seeker status and to return them to Vietnam.

According to a report submitted to the UN special rapporteur on torture, commune police in Ea So arrested Giang A Lang, an ethnic minority member, and his uncle on April 30 because they suspected them of trying to find a new Christian homeland. His uncle later died in custody.

On October 11, the Communist Party disbanded regional steering committees through which it had implemented policies in regions with significant ethnic minorities, including the Northwest Region, the Central Highlands, and the Southwest Region committees, reportedly in an effort to streamline the political system. The government continued to monitor certain highland minorities closely, particularly several ethnic groups in the Central and Northwest Highlands.

Authorities used national security provisions of the penal code to impose lengthy prison sentences on members of ethnic minorities for their connections to overseas organizations that the government claimed espoused separatist aims. In addition, activists often reported an increased presence of Ministry of Public Security agents during sensitive occasions and holidays throughout the region.

The government continued to address the socioeconomic gap between ethnic minority and ethnic Kinh communities through programs to subsidize education and health facilities and expand road access and electrification to rural communities and villages. The government also continued to allocate land to ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands.

The law provides for universal education for children regardless of religion or ethnicity. Members of ethnic minority groups were not required to pay regular school fees. The government operated 300 boarding schools in 50 provinces for ethnic minority children, mostly in the Northwest and Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta. The government also worked with local officials to develop local-language curricula. Implementation was more comprehensive in the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta than in areas of the Northwest Highlands. The government also subsidized several technical and vocational schools for ethnic minorities.

The government granted preferential treatment to domestic and foreign companies that invested in highland areas populated predominantly by ethnic minorities. The government also maintained infrastructure development programs that targeted poor, largely ethnic-minority areas and established agricultural extension programs for remote rural areas.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuse Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The civil code, which took effect on January 1, gives individuals who have undergone a “sex change” the right to register their new status. Sexual orientation and gender identity were still a basis for stigma and discrimination.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV and AIDS social stigma and discrimination hindered HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

According to the 2015 Stigma Index study, 11.2 percent of persons with HIV, 16.6 percent of female sex workers, 15.5 percent of persons who inject drugs, and 7.9 percent of men who have sex with men reported having experienced rights violations within the 12 months prior to the survey. Multiple indicator cluster surveys taken in 2014 showed stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive persons was widespread, with approximately 70 percent of female respondents reporting having faced some form of stigma and discrimination. Individuals with HIV continued to face barriers accessing and maintaining employment.

Yemen

Executive Summary

Yemen is a republic with a constitution that provides for a president, a parliament, and an independent judiciary. In 2012 former vice president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was chosen by the governing and opposition parties as the sole consensus candidate for president. Two-thirds of the country’s eligible voters went to the polls to confirm Hadi as president, with a two-year mandate. The transitional government he headed sought to expand political participation to excluded groups, including women, youth, and minorities. In 2014 Houthi forces aligned with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh occupied the capital Sana’a, igniting a three-year civil war between Houthi forces and the Hadi government that continued through year’s end.

Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces. Houthi-Saleh rebels controlled most of the security apparatus and state institutions. Competing family, tribal, party, and sectarian influences also reduced government authority.

In 2014 the Houthi uprising compelled the Hadi government to sign a UN-brokered peace deal calling for a “unity government.” The Hadi government resigned after Houthi forces seized the presidential palace in January 2015. In February 2015 Houthi-Saleh forces dissolved parliament, replacing it with the Supreme Revolutionary Committee, allied with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party. Hadi escaped house arrest and fled to Aden, where he declared all actions taken in Sana’a unconstitutional, reaffirmed his position as president, pledged to uphold the principles of the 2014 National Dialogue Conference, and called on the international community to protect Yemen’s political process. In March 2015 Houthi forces launched an offensive in southern Yemen and entered Aden, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. In March 2015 a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia initiated Operation “Decisive Storm” on behalf of the Hadi government. The Saudi-led coalition continued air and ground operations against the Houthi-Saleh rebels throughout 2017. On December 2, Saleh publicly split from the Houthis and welcomed cooperation with the coalition; he was killed by Houthi forces two days later.

The most significant human rights issues attributable to the Houti-Saleh rebels, and sometimes to the government authorities or various armed actors in the country, included extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances and kidnappings; reports of torture; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; arbitrary infringements on privacy rights; repression of the freedoms of expression, the press, assembly, and association; the inability of citizens to choose their government through free and fair elections; pervasive corruption; criminalization of same sex sexual conduct, although the law was not enforced; recruitment and use of child soldiers; and trafficking in persons, including forced labor.

The Hadi government took steps to investigate, prosecute and punish officials who committed human rights abuses; however, impunity was persistent and pervasive. Houthi-Saleh influence over government institutions severely reduced the Hadi government’s capacity to conduct investigations.

Nonstate actors, including Houthi-Saleh rebels, tribal militias, militant secessionist elements, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and a local branch of ISIS, reportedly committed significant abuses. Few actions led to prosecutions. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure on multiple occasions. Hadi government and coalition delays or denials of permits for commercial and aid shipments bound for rebel-held ports, as well as actions by Houthi rebels and others, disrupted aid delivery on the ground.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but it does not criminalize spousal rape because the law states a woman may not refuse sexual relations with her husband. The punishment for rape is imprisonment for up to 25 years. The government did not enforce the law against rape effectively.

There were no reliable rape statistics. By law authorities can prosecute rape victims on charges of fornication if authorities do not charge a perpetrator. There were no known cases of rape during the year. According to law, without the perpetrator’s confession, the rape survivor must provide four male witnesses to the crime.

The law states that authorities should execute a man if convicted of killing a woman. The penal code, however, allows leniency for persons guilty of committing an “honor” killing or violently assaulting or killing a woman for perceived “immodest” or “defiant” behavior. The law does not address other types of gender-based abuse, such as beatings, forced isolation, imprisonment, and early and forced marriage.

The law provides women with protection against domestic violence, except spousal rape, under the general rubric of protecting persons against violence, but authorities did not enforce this provision effectively. Victims rarely reported domestic abuse to police and criminal proceedings in cases of domestic abuse were rare.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), although a 2001 ministerial directive banned the practice in government institutions and medical facilities, according to HRW. The 2013 Demographic and Health Survey, administered by the Ministry of Public Health and Population, found that 19 percent of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 had undergone some form of FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Cases of “honor” killing–the murder of a daughter or sister who “shamed” the family–occurred, particularly in rural areas. Authorities investigated very few instances.

Sexual Harassment: No laws specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although the penal code criminalizes “shameful” or “immoral” acts. Authorities, however, rarely enforced the law. Sexual harassment in the streets was a major problem for women.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: Women faced deeply entrenched discrimination in both law and practice in all aspects of their lives. Mechanisms to enforce equal protection were weak, and the government could not implement them effectively.

Women cannot marry without permission of their male guardians; do not have equal rights in inheritance, divorce, or child custody; and have little legal protection. They experienced discrimination in areas such as employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing (see section 7.d.). The estimated 55 percent female literacy rate, compared with 85 percent for men, accentuated this discrimination.

A male relative’s consent was often required before a woman could be admitted to a hospital, creating significant problems in a humanitarian context in which the men of the household were often absent or dead.

Women also faced unequal treatment in courts, where the testimony of a woman equals half that of a man’s.

A husband may divorce a wife without justifying the action in court. In the formal legal system, a woman must provide justification.

Any citizen who wishes to marry a foreigner must obtain the permission of the Ministry of Interior (see section 1.f.). A woman wishing to marry a foreigner must present proof of her parents’ approval. A foreign woman who wishes to marry a male citizen must prove to the ministry that she is “of good conduct and behavior.”

Women experienced economic discrimination (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from a child’s parents. A child of a Yemeni father is a citizen. Yemeni women may confer citizenship on children born of a foreign-born father if the child is born in the country. If the child is not born in the country, in rare cases the Ministry of Interior may permit a woman to transmit citizenship to the child if the father dies or abandons the child.

There was no universal birth registration, and many parents, especially in rural areas, never registered children or registered them several years after birth. The requirement that children have birth certificates to register for school was not universally enforced, and there were no reports of authorities denying educational or health-care services and benefits to children based on lack of registration.

Education: The law provides for universal, compulsory, and tuition-free education from ages six to 15. Public schooling was free to children through the secondary school level, but many children, especially girls, did not have easy access. For school attendance statistics, see the May 2016 Humanitarian Situation Report from UNICEF.

Medical Care: Due to social discrimination, male children received preferential medical treatment.

Child Abuse: The law does not define or prohibit child abuse, and there was no reliable data on its extent. Authorities considered violence against children a family affair.

Early and Forced Marriage: Early and forced marriage was a significant, widespread problem. The conflict likely exacerbated the situation, and local and international NGOs reported an increase in forced marriage and child marriage for financial reasons due to economic insecurity. There is no minimum age for marriage, and girls married as young as eight years of age.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law does not define statutory rape and does not impose an age limit for consensual sex. The law prohibits pornography, including child pornography, although there was no information available on whether the legal prohibitions were comprehensive. Article 161 of the Child Rights Law criminalizes the prostitution of children.

Child Soldiers: See section 1.g., Child Soldiers.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Approximately 50 Jews remained in the country; according to media reports, most lived in a closed compound in Sana’a after the Israeli Jewish Agency succeeded in transporting 19 Jews to Israel in March 2016. The continuing conflict further weakened law enforcement, putting the Jewish community at risk. Many fled the country as a result.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

Anti-Semitic material was rare. Media coverage of the country’s Jewish population was generally positive. The Houthi movement, however, adopted anti-Semitic slogans, including “death to Israel, a curse on the Jews,” and anti-Israeli rhetoric at times blurred into anti-Semitic utterances. Houthis continued to propagate such materials and slogans throughout the year, including adding anti-Israeli slogans and extremist rhetoric into elementary education curriculum and books.

Members of the Jewish community are not eligible to serve in the military or federal government. Authorities forbid them from carrying the ceremonial Yemeni dagger.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

Several laws mandate the rights and care of persons with disabilities, but the government was unable to enforce them. The law permits persons with disabilities to exercise the same rights as persons without disabilities, but this did not happen in practice. Social stigma and official indifference were obstacles to implementation.

The law reserves 5 percent of government jobs for persons with disabilities and mandates the acceptance of persons with disabilities in universities, exempts them from paying tuition, and requires that schools be accessible to persons with disabilities. The extent to which any authority implemented these laws was unclear.

Children with disabilities may attend public schools, although schools made no special accommodations for them.

Although the law mandates that new buildings have access for persons with disabilities, compliance was poor.

Information about patterns of abuse of persons with disabilities in educational and mental health institutions was not publicly available.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Hadi government could not continue collaboration with the World Bank to administer a social development fund; the ministry was also unable to oversee the Fund for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled, which provided limited basic services and supported more than 60 NGOs assisting persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although racial discrimination is illegal, some groups, such as the Muhamasheen or Akhdam communities, and the Muwaladeen (Yemenis born to foreign parents), faced social and institutional discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and social status. The Muhamasheen, who traditionally provided low-prestige services such as street sweeping, generally lived in poverty and endured persistent societal discrimination. Muhamasheen women were particularly vulnerable to rape and other abuse because of the general impunity for attackers due to the women’s low-caste status.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced discrimination and could face the death penalty, although there were no known executions of LGBTI persons in more than a decade. The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, with the death penalty as a sanction under the country’s interpretation of Islamic law.

Due to the illegality of and possible severe punishment for consensual same-sex sexual conduct, there were no LGBTI organizations. Because the law does not prohibit discrimination, the government did not consider LGBTI problems “relevant” for official reporting, and few LGBTI persons were open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. The government blocked access to LGBTI internet sites.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

While there were no reports of social violence against persons with HIV/AIDS, the topic was socially sensitive and infrequently discussed. Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS is a criminal offense, and information was not available on whether there were reports of incidents of discrimination occurring during the year.

Zambia

Executive Summary

Zambia is a constitutional republic governed by a democratically elected president and a unicameral national assembly. In August 2016 the country held elections under an amended constitution for president, national assembly seats, and local government, as well as a referendum on an enhanced bill of rights. The incumbent, Patriotic Front (PF) President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, was re-elected by a tight margin. A legal technicality saw the losing main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, unsuccessfully challenge the election results. International and local observers deemed the election as having been credible but cited a number of irregularities. The pre-election and postelection periods were marred by limits on press freedom and political party intolerance resulting in sporadic violence across the country. Although the results ultimately were deemed a credible reflection of votes cast, media coverage, police actions, and legal restrictions heavily favored the ruling party and prevented the election from being genuinely fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. In accordance with the constitution, all security and defense service chiefs reported to the president through the minister of defense.

The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary killings which were prosecuted by authorities; excessive use of force by police; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest; interference with privacy; restrictions on freedoms of the press, speech, and assembly; high-level official corruption; trafficking in persons; and criminalization and arrest of persons engaged in consensual same-sex sexual relationships.

The government selectively applied the law to prosecute or punish individuals who committed abuses and mostly targeted those who opposed the ruling party. In addition impunity remained a problem, as ruling party supporters were either not prosecuted for serious crimes or, if prosecuted, released after serving small fractions of prison sentences.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and other sexual offenses, and courts have discretion to sentence convicted rapists to life imprisonment with hard labor.

The 2010 Anti-Gender-based Violence Act criminalizes spousal rape, and the penal code criminalizes domestic violence between spouses and among family members living in the same home. The law provides for prosecution of most crimes of gender-based violence, and penalties for conviction range from a fine to 25 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of injury and whether a weapon was used. The law provides for protection orders for victims of domestic and gender-based violence, and such orders were issued and enforced. Despite this legal framework, rape remained widespread.

During the year the NGO Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and its member organizations engaged traditional marriage counselors on gender-based violence and women’s rights. The Young Women’s Christian Association continued its “good husband” campaign and, in collaboration with other women’s movements, the “I Care about Her” campaign to promote respect for women and to end spousal abuse. Other efforts to combat and reduce gender-based violence included the establishment of shelters for victims of gender-based violence, training of police officers in the handling of cases of gender-based violence, roadshows to sensitize the public to gender-based violence, and instruction on how to file complaints and present evidence against perpetrators.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The NGOCC and several of its member organizations observed that the country’s dual system of customary and statutory law made it difficult to end injustices against women. The practice of “sexual cleansing,” in which a widow is compelled to have sexual relations with her late husband’s relatives as part of a cleansing ritual, continued to decline. The penal code prohibits “sexual cleansing” of girls under age 16.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was common, but the government took few steps to prosecute harassment during the year. The penal code contains provisions under which some forms of sexual harassment of women may be prosecuted. The NGOCC stated it received many reports of sexual harassment in the workplace but expressed concern that stringent evidence requirements in courts of law prevented victims from litigating. The families of perpetrators often pressured victims to withdraw complaints, especially if they were members of the same family, which hampered prosecution of offenders.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: In contrast to customary law, the constitution and statutory law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, and nationality laws. The government did not adequately enforce the law, and women experienced discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents or, with the exception of refugees, by birth within the country’s territory. Failure to register births did not result in the denial of public services, such as education or health care, to children. Both state and nonstate institutions accepted alternative documents to access other basic services. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Although government policy provides for tuition-free education through grade seven, education was not compulsory. The numbers of girls and boys in primary school were approximately equal, but fewer girls attended secondary school. According to UNICEF, girls tended to leave school at younger ages than did boys because of early marriage or unplanned pregnancies.

Child Abuse: The punishment for conviction of causing bodily harm to a child is five to 10 years’ imprisonment, and the law was generally enforced. Beyond efforts to eliminate child marriage, there were no specific initiatives to combat child abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 16 for boys and girls with parental consent and 21 without consent. There is no minimum age under customary law. According to the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey 2013/2014, 31 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before 18. According to UNICEF, child marriage is largely between peers rather than forced.

The government, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and donors worked together to fight early and forced marriages. The Ministries of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs and Gender and Child Development, in collaboration with traditional leaders, NGOs, diplomatic missions, and other concerned persons, increasingly spoke out against early and forced marriages. Some leaders nullified forced and early marriages and placed the girls removed from such marriages in school. In April 2016 the government adopted a national action plan to end child marriage. The action plan sets a five-year goal of reducing child marriage rates by 40 percent with an ultimate target to build “a Zambia free from child marriage by 2030.” During the year implementation of the strategy focused on girls remaining in school and promoting the prohibition by village chiefs of child marriage in customary law and practice. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16. The law provides penalties of up to life imprisonment for conviction of statutory rape or defilement, which the law defines as the unlawful carnal knowledge of a child under age 16. The minimum penalty for conviction of defilement is 15 years’ imprisonment.

The law criminalizes child prostitution and child pornography and provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment for convicted perpetrators. The law provides for prosecution of child prostitutes age 12 years and older, but authorities did not enforce the law, and child prostitution was common.

Displaced Children: Orphaned children faced greater risks of child abuse, sexual abuse, and child labor. The 2013 Zambia Orphanhood and Fosterhood Report stated 13 percent of the 6.6 million children ages newborn to 17 were orphans. It attributed the high numbers of orphans to the loss of parents from HIV-related illnesses, malaria, and tuberculosis.

On September 20, the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services began implementing guidelines for the Alternative Care Act to promote deinstitutionalization of orphans and support family preservation.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were fewer than 500 persons in the Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination in general, but no law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other government services.

The Ministry of Gender and Child Development oversees the government’s implementation of policies that address general and specific needs of persons with disabilities in education, health care, accessibility to physical infrastructure, and electoral participation.

A lack of consolidated data was a major impediment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in government programming and policy. Persons with disabilities had limited access to education and correspondingly low literacy levels. While the government did not restrict persons with physical or mental disabilities from voting or otherwise participating in most civic affairs, progress in providing for their participation remained slow. Persons with mental disabilities could not hold public office. Persons with disabilities also faced significant societal discrimination in employment and education.

By law the government must provide reasonable accommodation for all persons with disabilities seeking education and provide that “any physical facility at any public educational institution is accessible.” Public buildings, schools, and hospitals rarely had facilities to accommodate such persons, however. Five schools were designated for children with disabilities. Some children with physical disabilities attended mainstream schools.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are seven major ethnic/language groups–Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Ngoni, and Tonga–and 66 smaller ethnic groups, many of which are related to the larger tribes. The government generally permitted autonomy for ethnic minorities and encouraged the practice of local customary law. Some political parties maintained political and historical connections to tribal groups and promoted their interests. The general election was marred by rhetoric that contributed to division among tribal groups.

The government grants special recognition to traditional leaders but does not recognize the 1964 Barotseland Agreement that granted the Lozi political autonomy and was signed by the United Kingdom, Northern Rhodesia, and the Barotse Royal Establishment immediately prior to the country’s independence. Some Lozi groups demanded official recognition of the Barotseland Agreement while others demanded independence.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, and penalties for conviction of engaging in “acts against the order of nature” are 15 years’ to life imprisonment. Conviction of the lesser charge of gross indecency carries penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment. The government enforced laws against same-sex sexual activity and did not address societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

Societal violence against persons based on gender, sex, and sexual orientation occurred. LGBTI persons in particular were at risk of societal violence due to prevailing prejudices, misperceptions of the law, lack of legal protections, and inability to access health-care services. Some politicians, media figures, and religious leaders expressed opposition to basic protection and rights for LGBTI persons in arguing against same-sex marriage.

Rather than submit cases for trial, police on several occasions arrested suspected LGBTI persons on bogus charges, forcing them to spend at least one night in jail. In most cases police demanded bribes before releasing the individuals. Police increasingly charged transgender persons with “impersonation” and subjected them to verbal abuse and harassment while in detention. The charges generally could not be successfully prosecuted, and detainees were released. For example, on August 30, police in Kapiri Mposhi town arrested and charged two men for same-sex sexual conduct. The case was being tried at year’s end.

According to LGBTI advocacy groups, societal violence occurred, as did discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care. LGBTI groups reported frequent harassment of LGBTI persons and their families, including threats via text message and email, vandalism, stalking, and outright violence. Activists stated several LGBTI persons committed suicide.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government actively discouraged discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Most employers adopted nondiscriminatory HIV/AIDS workplace policies. Training of the public sector including the judiciary on the rights of persons with HIV/AIDS increased public awareness and acceptance, but societal and employment discrimination against such individuals persisted. The government made some headway in changing entrenched attitudes of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In August 2016 the country’s first openly HIV-positive person was elected to parliament.

Zimbabwe

Executive Summary

Zimbabwe is constitutionally a republic. In November a military intervention, public demonstrations calling for President Robert Mugabe’s removal, the ruling party’s vote of no confidence, and impeachment proceedings led to Mugabe’s resignation after ruling the country since independence in 1980. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) nominated former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe as both president of ZANU-PF and the government. On November 24, Mnangagwa was sworn in as president with the constitutional authority to complete the remainder of former president Mugabe’s five-year term, scheduled to end in 2018. Presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2013 were free of the widespread violence of the 2008 elections, but the process was neither fair nor credible. Numerous factors contributed to a deeply flawed election process: a hastily convened and politically compromised Constitutional Court that unilaterally declared the election date before key electoral reforms were in place; heavily biased state media; a voter registration process that did not comply with the law and that skewed registration towards supporters of the ruling party; partisan statements and actions by security forces, including active-duty personnel running for office in contravention of the law; limitations on international observers; failure to provide a publicly useful voters register; and a chaotic, separate voting process for the security sector. The elections resulted in the formation of a unitary ZANU-PF government led by President Mugabe and ZANU-PF supermajorities in both houses of parliament. ZANU-PF again used intimidation and targeted violence to retain some parliamentary seats during by-elections.

Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights issues included government-targeted abductions, arrests, torture, abuse, and harassment, including of members of civil society and political opponents; harsh prison conditions; executive political influence on and interference in the judiciary; government-sponsored evictions of farms, private businesses, and property; invasions and demolition of informal marketplaces and settlements; restrictions on freedoms of expression, press, assembly, association, and movement; government corruption, including at the local level; trafficking of men, women, and children; and criminalization of LGBTI status or conduct, including arrests.

The government took limited steps to punish security-sector officials and ZANU-PF supporters who committed violations, but impunity was a problem.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law criminalizes sexual offenses, including rape and spousal rape, these crimes remained widespread problems. Spousal rape received less attention than physical violence against women. Almost a quarter of married women who had experienced domestic violence reported sexual violence, while 8 percent reported both physical and sexual violence.

Although conviction of sexual offenses is punishable by lengthy prison sentences, women’s organizations stated that sentences were inconsistent. Rape victims were not consistently afforded protection in court.

Social stigma and societal perceptions that rape was a “fact of life” continued to inhibit reporting of rape. In the case of spousal rape, reporting was even lower due to women’s fear of losing economic support or of reprisal, lack of awareness that spousal rape is a crime, police reluctance to be involved in domestic disputes, and bureaucratic hurdles. Most rural citizens were unfamiliar with laws against domestic violence and sexual offenses. A lack of adequate and widespread services for rape victims also discouraged reporting.

Government officials sometimes acted on reported rape cases if the perpetrators were security force members or aligned with ZANU-PF. For example, in August police arrested police deputy commissioner Cosmas Mushore and Zimbabwe National Army lieutenant-colonel Rangarirai Kembo on charges of rape in two separate incidents.

According to a credible NGO, there were no official reports of rape being used as a political weapon during the year, but female political leaders were targeted physically or through threats and intimidation. On August 6, MDC-T supporters reportedly attacked MDC-T vice president Thokozani Khupe at MDC-T’s Bulawayo provincial headquarters, accusing her of convening an unsanctioned meeting. In September MDC member of parliament Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga received death threats following a radio interview in which she appeared to attack MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Children born from rape suffered stigmatization and marginalization. The mothers of children resulting from rape sometimes were reluctant to register the births, and such children did not have access to social services.

The adult rape clinics in public hospitals in Harare and Mutare were run as NGOs and did not receive a substantial amount of financial support from the Ministry of Health. The clinics received referrals from police and NGOs. They administered HIV tests, provided medication for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and provided medical services for pregnancy. Although police referred for prosecution the majority of reported rapes of women and men who received services from the rape centers, very few individuals were prosecuted.

Despite the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2006 that criminalized acts of domestic violence, domestic violence remained a serious problem, especially intimate partner violence perpetrated by men against women. Although conviction of domestic violence is punishable by a fine and a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, authorities generally considered it a private matter, and prosecution was rare.

The joint government-NGO Anti-Domestic Violence Council as a whole was ineffective due to lack of funding and the unavailability of information on prevailing trends of domestic violence, although its members were active in raising domestic violence awareness.

The government continued a public awareness campaign against domestic violence. Several women’s rights groups worked with law enforcement agencies and provided training and literature on domestic violence as well as shelters and counseling for women. The law requires victims of any form of violence to produce a police report to receive treatment without cost at government health facilities. This requirement prevented many rape victims from receiving necessary medical treatment, including post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent victims from contracting HIV.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Virginity testing, although reportedly decreasing, continued to occur in some parts the country during the year.

Sexual Harassment: No specific law criminalizes sexual harassment, but labor law prohibits the practice in the workplace. Media reported that sexual harassment was prevalent in universities, workplaces, and parliament. The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community Development acknowledged that lack of sexual harassment policies at higher education institutions was a major cause for concern. This occurred after a student advocacy group, the Female Students Network, revealed incidents of gender-based violence and sexual harassment against students. Female college students reported they routinely encountered unwanted physical contact from male students, lecturers, and nonacademic staff, ranging from touching and inappropriate remarks to rape. Of the 3,425 students interviewed, 94 percent indicated they had experienced sexual harassment, while 16 percent reported having been forced into unprotected sex with lecturers or other staff.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The constitution’s bill of rights, in the section on the rights of women, states that all “laws, customs, traditions, and practices that infringe the rights of women conferred by this constitution are void to the extent of the infringement.” There is also an institutional framework to address women’s rights and gender equality through the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community Development and the Gender Commission–one of the independent commissions established under the constitution. Despite the appointment of commissioners in 2015, the commission received only minimal funding from the government and lacked sufficient independence from the ministry.

In July the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender, and Community, with support from the UN Development Program and UN Women, unveiled a revised National Gender Policy calling for greater gender equality and demanding an end to gender discrimination. Despite laws aimed at enhancing women’s rights and countering certain discriminatory traditional practices, women remained disadvantaged in society.

The law recognizes a woman’s right to own property, but very few women owned property due to the customary practice of patriarchal inheritance. Less than 20 percent of female farmers were official landowners or named on government lease agreements. Divorce and maintenance laws were equitable, but many women lacked awareness of their rights.

Women have the right to register their children’s births, although either the father or another male relative must be present. If the father or other male relative refuses to register the child, the child may be deprived of a birth certificate, which limits the child’s ability to acquire identity documents and enroll in school. Discrimination with respect to women’s employment also occurred.

Women and children were adversely affected by the government’s forced evictions, demolition of homes and businesses, and takeover of commercial farms. Widows, when forced to relocate to rural areas, were sometimes “inherited” into marriages with an in-law after the deaths of their spouses.

The government gave qualified women access to training in the armed forces and national service, where they occupied primarily administrative positions. Women comprised 35 percent of deployed personnel to peacekeeping missions.

The United Kingdom Department for International Development’s 2011 Gender and Social Exclusion Analysis Report indicated women experienced extensive economic discrimination, including in access to employment, credit, pay, and owning or managing businesses.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country and from either parent, and all births are to be registered with the Births and Deaths Registry. The 2012 population census data showed that just one in three children under age five possessed a birth certificate. Of urban children under age five, 55 percent possessed a birth certificate, compared with 25 percent of rural children. Lack of birth certificates impeded access to public services, such as education and health care, resulting in many children being unable to attend school and increasing their vulnerability to exploitation. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Primary education is not compulsory, free, or universal. The constitution states that every citizen and permanent resident of the country has a right to a basic state-funded education but adds a caveat that the state “must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it.” According to the 2012 population census, 87 percent of all children attended primary school. School attendance was only slightly higher in urban than in rural areas, and enrollment for children older than 14 was in decline. Urban and rural equity in primary school attendance rates disappeared at the secondary school level. Rural secondary education attendance (44 percent) trailed behind urban attendance (72 percent) by a wide margin.

Child Abuse: Child abuse, including incest, infanticide, child abandonment, and rape, continued to be serious problems. In 2016 the NGO Childline received more than 11,300 reports of child abuse via its national helpline. Childline managed nearly 7,000 in-person cases at its drop-in facilities across the country and counseled more than 4,500 children. More than half of all reported cases of abuse concerned a child who had been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused, neglected, or forced into marriage. Approximately twice as many girls reported abuse as boys.

It is legal for parents and schools to inflict corporal punishment on boys but not on girls. The constitution provides that “no person may be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” but the courts had not interpreted the clause nor determined whether it applied to corporal punishment. In addition, the Constitutional Court deferred ruling on the constitutionality of caning juvenile offenders as judicial punishment. While the issue remained pending, magistrates may impose corporal punishment on juvenile offenders.

Government efforts to combat child abuse continued to be inadequate and underfunded. The government continued to implement a case management protocol developed in 2013 to guide the provision of child welfare services. In addition, there were facilities that served underage victims of sexual assault and abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The constitution declares anyone under age 18 a child. In 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled no individual under age 18 may enter into marriage, including customary law unions. The court also struck down a provision of the Marriage Act that allowed girls but not boys to marry at age 16.

Despite legal prohibitions, mostly rural families continued to force girls to marry. According to the 2012 population census, almost one in four teenage girls were married. Child welfare NGOs reported evidence of underage marriages, particularly in isolated religious communities or among HIV/AIDS orphans who had no relatives willing or able to take care of them. High rates of unemployment, the dropout of girls from school, and the inability of families to earn a stable income were major causes of child marriage.

Families gave girls or young women to other families in marriage to avenge spirits, as compensatory payment in interfamily disputes, or when promised to others–to provide economic protection for the family. Some families sold their daughters as brides in exchange for food, and younger daughters at times married their deceased older sister’s husband as a “replacement” bride. An NGO study published in 2014 found that because of the cultural emphasis placed on virginity, any loss of virginity–real or perceived, consensual or forced–could result in marriage, including early or forced marriage. In some instances family members forced a girl to marry a man based on the mere suspicion that the two had had sexual intercourse. This cultural practice even applied in cases of rape, and the study found numerous instances in which families concealed rape by facilitating the marriage between rapist and victim.

For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Conviction of statutory rape, legally defined as sexual intercourse with a child under age 12, carries a fine of $2,000, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. A person in possession of child pornography may be charged with public indecency and if convicted faces a fine of $600, imprisonment up to six months, or both. A person convicted of procuring a child under age 16 for purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct is liable to a fine up to $5,000, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. Persons charged with facilitating the prostitution of a child often were also charged with statutory rape. A parent or guardian convicted of allowing a child under age 18 to associate with or become a prostitute may face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Girls from towns bordering South Africa, Zambia, and Mozambique were subjected to prostitution in brothels that catered to long-distance truck drivers. Increasing economic hardships coupled with the effects of drought also led more girls to turn to prostitution.

Displaced Children: Approximately 10,000 children were displaced from the Tokwe-Mukosi dam area in Masvingo Province (see section 2.d.). The disruption of their parents’ livelihoods negatively affected the children’s access to health care and schooling.

The UNICEF 2005-10 report estimated 25 percent of children had lost one or both parents to HIV or other causes. The proportion of orphans in the country remained very high. Many orphans were cared for by their extended family or lived in households headed by children.

Orphaned children were more likely to be abused, not enrolled in school, suffer discrimination and social stigma, and be vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDS. Some children were forced to turn to prostitution for income. Orphaned children often were unable to obtain birth certificates because they could not provide enough information regarding their parents or afford to travel to offices that issued birth certificates. Orphans were often homeless.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 150 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, access to public places, and the provision of services, including education and health care. The constitution and law do not specifically address air travel or other transportation. They do not specify physical, sensory, mental, or intellectual disabilities. NGOs continued to lobby to broaden the legal definition of “disabled” to include persons with albinism, epilepsy, and other conditions. NGOs also petitioned the government to align the Disabled Persons Act with the constitution. Government institutions often were uninformed and did not implement the law. The law stipulates that government buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but implementation was slow.

The National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) reported that access to justice in courts was compromised for persons with hearing disabilities due to a lack of sign language interpreters. Persons with disabilities living in rural settings faced even greater challenges.

Although two senators were elected to represent persons with disabilities, parliament rarely addressed problems especially affecting persons with disabilities. Parliament does not provide specific line items for persons with disabilities in the various social service ministry budgets.

Most persons holding traditional beliefs viewed persons with disabilities as bewitched, and in extreme cases families hid children with disabilities from visitors. According to NASCOH, the public considered persons with disabilities to be objects of pity rather than persons with rights. NASCOH reported that 75 percent of children with disabilities had no access to education.

There were very few government-sponsored education facilities dedicated to persons with disabilities. Educational institutions discriminated against children with disabilities. Essential services, including sign language interpreters, Braille materials, and ramps, were not available and prevented children with disabilities from attending school. Many schools refused to accept children with certain disabilities. Schools that accepted students with disabilities offered very little in the way of nonacademic facilities for those accepted as compared with their counterparts without disabilities. Many urban children with disabilities obtained informal education through private institutions, but these options were generally unavailable for persons with disabilities in rural areas. Government programs, such as the basic education assistance module intended to benefit children with disabilities, failed to address adequately the root causes of their systematic exclusion.

Women with disabilities faced compounded discrimination, resulting in limited access to services, reduced opportunities for civic and economic participation, and increased vulnerability to violence.

Persons with mental disabilities also suffered from inadequate medical care and a lack of health services. There were eight centralized mental health institutions in the country with a total capacity of more than 1,300 residents, in addition to the three special institutions run by the ZPCS for long-term residents and those considered dangerous to society. Residents in the eight centralized institutions received cursory screening, and most waited for at least one year for a full medical review.

A shortage of drugs and adequately trained mental health professionals resulted in persons with mental disabilities not being properly diagnosed and not receiving adequate therapy. There were few certified psychiatrists working in public and private clinics and teaching in the country. NGOs reported that getting access to mental health services was slow and frustrating. They reported persons with mental disabilities suffered from extremely poor living conditions, due in part to shortages of food, water, clothing, and sanitation.

Prison inmates in facilities run by the ZPCS were not necessarily convicted prisoners. Two doctors examined inmates with psychiatric conditions. The doctors were required to confirm a mental disability and recommend an individual for release or return to a mental institution. Inmates with mental disabilities routinely waited as long as three years for evaluation.

There were minimal legal or administrative safeguards to allow participation in the electoral processes by persons with disabilities. Administrative arrangements for voter registration at relevant government offices were burdensome, involving long queues, several hours or days of waiting, and necessary return visits that effectively served to disenfranchise some persons with disabilities. Advocacy groups petitioned the government in September, demanding the government protect persons with disabilities’ constitutional rights by considering their electoral needs. The law permits blind persons to bring an individual with them in marking their ballots.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to government statistics, the Shona ethnic group made up 82 percent of the population, Ndebele 14 percent, whites and Asians less than 1 percent, and other ethnic and racial groups 3 percent. ZANU-PF leaders often encouraged hatred of whites through public speeches and broadcasts. This created tension between ZANU-PF supporters and whites. In public remarks President Mugabe encouraged ZANU-PF supporters to seize all land that remained in the hands of white farmers. He also discouraged supporters from doing business with white farmers who sought partnerships in farming.

Historical tension between the Shona majority and the Ndebele minority resulted in marginalization of the Ndebele by the Shona-dominated government. During a February rally in Chiweshe, ZANU-PF supporters ignited tensions between two Shona subgroups, the Zezuru and the Karanga. The Zezuru, who dominated the government, sang “Zezuru Unconquerable,” reportedly offending the Karanga. During the year senior ZANU-PF leaders attacked each other, calling on their own ethnic group for support against the other in party in-fighting.

The government continued its attempts to blame the country’s economic and political problems on the white minority and western countries. Police seldom arrested ZANU-PF supporters or charged them with infringing upon minority rights, particularly the property rights of the minority white commercial farmers or wildlife conservancy owners targeted in the land redistribution program.

The government enforced few of the provisions or timelines in the 2007 indigenization law, and no businesses were forced to transfer ownership. The law defines an indigenous Zimbabwean as any person, or the descendant of such person, who before the date of the country’s independence in 1980 was disadvantaged. The official purpose of the indigenization law was to increase the participation of indigenous citizens in the economy, including at least 51 percent indigenous ownership of all businesses. Legal experts criticized the law as unfairly discriminatory and a violation of the constitution.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the criminal code, “any act involving physical contact between men that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act” carries a penalty if convicted of up to one year in prison or a fine up to $5,000. Despite that, there were no known cases of prosecutions of consensual same-sex sexual activity. Common law prevents gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians from fully expressing their sexual orientation. In some cases it criminalizes the display of affection between men.

President Mugabe and ZANU-PF leaders publicly criticized the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, rejecting the promotion of LGBTI rights as contrary to the country’s values, norms, traditions, and beliefs.

The police reportedly detained and held persons suspected of being gay for up to 48 hours before releasing them. LGBTI advocacy groups also reported police used extortion and threats to intimidate persons based on their sexual orientation. Members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, the primary organization dedicated to advancing the rights of LGBTI persons, experienced harassment and discrimination.

Religious leaders in this traditionally conservative and Christian society encouraged discrimination against LGBTI persons. Also, LGBTI persons reported widespread societal discrimination based on sexual orientation. In response to social pressure, some families subjected their LGBTI members to “corrective” rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct. Women in particular were subjected to rape by male family members. Victims rarely reported such crimes to police.

LGBTI persons often left school at an early age due to discrimination. Higher education institutions reportedly threatened to expel students based on their sexual orientation. Members of the LGBTI community also had higher rates of unemployment and homelessness. Many persons who identified themselves as LGBTI did not seek medical care for sexually transmitted diseases or other health problems due to fear that health-care providers would shun them or report them to authorities. Since the completion of a nationwide sensitization program for health-care workers, however, the LGBTI community reported an improvement in health-service delivery.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The government has a national HIV/AIDS policy that prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, and the law prohibits discrimination against workers with HIV/AIDS in the private sector and parastatals. Despite these provisions, societal discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS remained a problem. Local NGOs reported persons affected by HIV/AIDS faced discrimination in health services, education, and employment. Although there was an active information campaign to destigmatize HIV/AIDS by international and local NGOs, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, and the National AIDS Council, such ostracism and criticism continued.

In the 2015 DHS, 22 percent of women and 20 percent of men reported they held discriminatory attitudes towards those living with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Inexplicable disappearances and killings, sometimes involving mutilation of the victim, often were attributed to customary or traditional rituals, in some cases involving a healer who requested a human body part to complete a required task. Police generally rejected the “ritual killing” explanation, despite its being commonly used in society and the press.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

Throughout the year government-controlled media continued to vilify white citizens and blame them for the country’s problems. President Mugabe was complicit in vilifying white citizens and urged the eviction of remaining white farmers.