Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
f. Protection of Refugees
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The government did not cooperate with the UN refugee agency regarding treatment of refugees. The government defined refugee status differently than the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The government closed the Umkulu Refugee Camp on January 12.
Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government did not recognize Ethiopians, Sudanese, or South Sudanese as refugees, instead considering them economic migrants. The government, however, allowed these refugees to remain in the country.
Refoulement: According to observers, the approximately 53 remaining Somali refugees were returned to Mogadishu. The UN refugee agency stated that it was not involved in, nor informed of, this return of refugees.
Employment: Refugees were not granted formal work permits, but some worked informally.
Access to Basic Services: The UN refugee agency was no longer able to provide basic support for persons of Ethiopian and Sudanese origin.
Durable Solutions: Although the government did not grant persons of Ethiopian and Sudanese origin asylum or refugee status, authorities permitted them to remain in the country and to live among the local population instead of in a refugee camp. Authorities granted Sudanese and Ethiopians exit visas to leave the country for resettlement and study.
Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or up to 16 years in aggravated cases (such as those that inflict serious bodily injury, involve a minor or someone under the perpetrator’s care, or involve a group of perpetrators). The law makes no distinction based on the gender of the assailant or the victim. Rape between spouses is punishable only when the spouses have permanently separated.
While the law does not specifically criminalize domestic violence, assault carries a punishment that varies based on the seriousness of the crime, ranging from nine months to 19 years in prison. Authorities rarely intervened in domestic violence cases.
It is difficult to determine the extent of such abuses, as stigma prevents individuals from coming forward, and the government does not publicize statistics.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for both women and girls. Government efforts to reduce FGM/C included public awareness campaigns at the local level targeting religious and community leaders. Government reports stated certain regions and subzones were considered entirely free of FGM/C. Local UN representatives confirmed that the government took FGM/C seriously as a problem and acted credibly to combat the practice. The UN Population Fund worked with the government and other organizations, including the National Union of Eritrean Women and the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students, on a variety of education programs to discourage the practice.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically criminalize sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization by government authorities. Vulnerable populations can provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including sterilization.
The Ministry of Health promoted modern contraceptive means and took steps to inform women throughout the country of these means. Contraception was provided free of charge in many cases; however, in more rural areas, women still lacked access or information. The World Health Organization reported that from 2010 to 2019 only 21 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods.
Women in major population centers have access to prenatal and childbirth health-care services. Rural areas lack the same level of health care for pregnancy, and there is a lack of skilled health-care attendance at birth. According to the World Health Organization, only 34 percent of births from 2010 to 2019 were attended. Barriers included education and transportation.
Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion; however, in doing so they risked arrest and prosecution for the illegal abortion.
The government provided sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception and postexposure prophylaxis for HIV.
According to the World Health Organization, the maternal death rate was an estimated 480 deaths per 100,000 live births. The high maternal death rate was likely due to such factors as limited health-care services, particularly in rural areas. No information was available on the adolescent birth rate. While this has traditionally been a problem in the country and likely contributed to high maternal death rates, the government has made a concerted effort to convince individuals to delay marriage and childbirth.
Discrimination: Family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws provide men and women the same status and rights. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Nevertheless, women, particularly in rural areas, continued to face economic and social discrimination. The government did not enforce the law effectively.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The law prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity. There were reports that governmental discrimination continued against ethnic minorities, particularly against the Afar, one of nine ethnic groups in the country.
Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from having at least one citizen parent, whether the person is born in the country or abroad. Registration of a birth within the first three months requires only a hospital certificate. If not registered, a child may not be allowed to attend school but may receive medical treatment at hospitals.
Education: Education through grade seven is compulsory and tuition free, although students’ families were responsible for providing uniforms, supplies, and transportation. Access to education was not universal, but the government took steps to encourage attendance, including public awareness campaigns and home visits by school officials. In rural areas parents enrolled fewer daughters than sons in school, but the percentage of girls in school continued to increase.
Child Abuse: The law provides that assault of a person incapable of self-defense or against a person for whom the assailant has an obligation to give special care is an aggravated offense. The law also criminalizes child neglect, with a punishment between one- and six-months’ imprisonment.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both men and women is 18, unless the woman is pregnant or has already had a child, in which case the minimum for both is 16. The minister of justice or someone appointed by the minister may also waive the age requirement. There were no recent statistics on early marriage. Officials spoke publicly on the dangers of early marriage and collaborated with UN agencies to educate the public regarding these dangers, and many neighborhood committees actively discouraged the practice.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes most commercial sexual exploitation and practices related to child pornography. The use of a child for commercial sex, however, is not specifically prohibited by law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18.
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 .
Section 7. Worker Rights
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law does not prohibit the worst forms of child labor. The legal minimum age for employment is 14, although this restriction does not apply to children working outside of formal employment relationships, including self-employed workers. The government prohibits persons younger than 18 from employment between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and for more than seven hours per day. The government has not determined by law or regulation the types of hazardous work prohibited for children.
Labor inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but enforcement was inconsistent and did not extend to the informal sector. Inspections were infrequent, and penalties, if imposed, were arbitrary and not necessarily commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes.
Children in rural areas commonly worked on family farms, fetched firewood or water, worked in illegal mines, and herded livestock. In urban areas children worked as street vendors. Children also worked in small-scale garages, bicycle repair shops, metal workshops, and tea and coffee shops. They also transported grain or other goods via donkey cart or bicycle. Child domestic service occurred, as did begging by children, often under conditions of forced labor.
Secondary school students participated in the Summer Work Program, which mostly included planting trees. In past years, the program included school and hospital maintenance. Students worked for four to six hours a day, five days a week, and at least some students were given a small stipend for participating. Reports indicated students who did not participate in the work program in past years were fined, although waivers were sometimes available.
To graduate from high school and meet national service requirements, students complete their final year of schooling (12th grade) at the Sawa military complex. Nearly half the year is devoted to mandatory military training. Some students at Sawa were reportedly as young as 16. In addition, some students are forced to work on government-owned farms.
To enforce this system, the government conducted forcible roundups of students and young persons across the country who did not report to military training. Furthermore, the military occasionally performed identity checks that led to the imprisonment of children alleged to be attempting to evade compulsory national service.