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China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) – Tibet

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

Women

Coercion in Population Control: As in the rest of China, there were reports of coerced abortions and sterilizations, although government statistics on the percentage of abortions coerced during the year were not available. The CCP restricts the rights of parents to choose the number of children they have and utilizes family planning units from the provincial to the village level to enforce population limits and distributions.

Discrimination: There were no formal restrictions on women’s participation in the political system, and women held many lower-level government positions. Nevertheless, they were underrepresented at the provincial and prefectural levels of government.

Children

Many rural Tibetan areas have implemented China’s nationwide “compulsory” and “centralized education” policy, which forced the closure of many village and monastic schools and the transfer of students, including elementary school students, to boarding schools in towns and cities. Reports indicated many of the boarding schools did not adequately care for and supervise their younger students. This policy also resulted in diminished acquisition of the Tibetan language and culture by removing Tibetan children from their homes and communities where the Tibetan language is used. It has also led to the removal of young monks from monasteries, forcing them instead into government-run schools.

Trafficking in Persons

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

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the 2010 TAR census figures showed that Tibetans made up 90.5 percent of the TAR’s permanently registered population, official figures did not include a large number of long-, medium-, and short-term ethnic Chinese migrants, such as cadres, skilled and unskilled laborers, military and paramilitary troops, and their respective dependents. Tibetans continued to make up nearly 98 percent of those registered as permanent residents in rural areas of the TAR, according to official census figures.

Migrants to the TAR and other parts of the Tibetan Plateau were overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas. Government policies to subsidize economic development often benefited ethnic Chinese migrants more than Tibetans. In many predominantly Tibetan cities across the Tibetan Plateau, ethnic Chinese or Hui migrants owned and managed most of the small businesses, restaurants, and retail shops.

Observers continued to express concern that major development projects and other central government policies disproportionately benefited non-Tibetans and resulted in a considerable influx of ethnic Chinese and Hui persons into the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Large state-owned enterprises based outside the TAR engineered or implemented many major infrastructure projects across the Tibetan Plateau, with ethnic Chinese professionals and low-wage temporary migrant workers from other provinces, rather than local residents, managing and staffing the projects.

Economic and social exclusion was a major source of discontent among a varied cross section of Tibetans. Some Tibetans continued to report discrimination in employment. Some Tibetans reported it was more difficult for them than ethnic Chinese to obtain permits and loans to open businesses, and the government gave many ethnic Chinese, especially retired soldiers, incentives to move to Tibet. Restrictions increased during the year on both local NGOs that received foreign funding and international NGOs that provided assistance to Tibetan communities, resulting in a decrease of NGO programs in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Throughout the year there were no known Tibetan Plateau-based international NGOs operating in the country.

The government continued its campaign to resettle Tibetan nomads into urban areas and newly created communities in rural areas across the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Improving housing conditions, health care, and education for Tibet’s poorest persons were among the stated goals of resettlement, although there was a pattern of settling herders near townships and roads and away from monasteries, which were the traditional providers of community and social services. A requirement that herders bear a substantial part of the resettlement costs often forced resettled families into debt. The government’s campaign resulted in many resettled herders losing their livelihoods and living in impoverished conditions in urban areas.

Although a 2015 media report noted that Tibetans and other minority ethnic groups made up 70 percent of government employees in the TAR, the top CCP position of TAR party secretary continued to be held by an ethnic Chinese, and the corresponding positions in the vast majority of all TAR counties were also held by ethnic Chinese. Within the TAR, ethnic Chinese also continued to hold a disproportionate number of the top security, military, financial, economic, legal, judicial, and educational positions. The law requires Party secretaries and governors of ethnic minority autonomous prefectures and regions to be from that ethnic minority; however, ethnic Chinese were party secretaries in eight of the nine TAPs located in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan Provinces. One TAP in Qinghai Province had a Tibetan party secretary. Authorities strictly prohibited Tibetans holding government and CCP positions from openly worshipping at monasteries or otherwise publicly practicing their religion.

Government propaganda against alleged Tibetan “proindependence forces” contributed to Chinese societal discrimination against ordinary Tibetans. Many Tibetan monks and nuns chose to wear nonreligious clothing to avoid harassment when traveling outside their monasteries and throughout China. Some Tibetans reported that taxi drivers throughout China refused to stop for them and hotels refused to provide rooms.

READ A SECTION: CHINA | TIBET (ABOVE) | HONG KONG | MACAU

Saint Lucia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only when a couple is divorced or separated or when there is a protection order from the Family Court. Roungement–the practice of parents’ accepting monetary compensation to settle rape and sexual assault cases out of court–is prohibited by law, but it was rarely prosecuted and commonly practiced.

Sexual assault remained a problem. High-level government officials publicly expressed support for enacting family law legislation and strengthening avenues of recourse for victims of gender-based violence.

Domestic violence was also a significant problem, but there were no prosecutions of crimes of gender-based violence during the year. While police were willing to arrest offenders, the government prosecuted crimes of violence against women only when the victim pressed charges. The Gender Relations Department cited a lack of training in trauma-specific interview techniques as a major problem for evidence collection.

The law provides penalties for domestic violence ranging from five years’ to life imprisonment. Shelters, a hotline, police training, and a national protocol were used to deal with the problem, but the lack of financial security for victims was a key impediment. The maximum amount of child support the court may award a custodial parent is XCD 250 ($93) per month per child. Police also faced problems, such as a lack of transportation, which at times prevented them from responding to a call in a timely manner. The Saint Lucia Crisis Center, a nongovernmental organization receiving government assistance, maintained a facility for female victims of domestic violence and their children and a hotline for support. The only residential facility for victims of domestic abuse, the Women’s Support Center operated by the Department of Gender Relations, also received government funding.

The Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development assisted victims. Authorities referred most cases to a counselor, and police facilitated the issuance of court protection orders in some cases. The Department of Gender Relations operated a number of gender-based violence prevention programs in schools and community-based groups.

The Family Court hears cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children. The court can issue a protection order prohibiting an abuser from entering or remaining in the residence of a specified person. The court remands perpetrators to an intervention program for rehabilitation. The court employed full-time social workers to assist victims of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but it remained a problem, since government enforcement was not an effective deterrent. Most cases of sexual harassment were handled in the workplace rather than prosecuted under the law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in the labor force, had higher levels of unemployment than men, and sometimes received lower pay or faced additional informal hurdles gaining access to credit. The law provides equal treatment for family property, nationality, and inheritance. Civil society groups reported the government did not enforce family property or inheritance laws effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Children receive citizenship by birth to a parent with citizenship. Women can equally pass on citizenship to their children, but the foreign husband of a Saint Lucian woman does not automatically receive Saint Lucian citizenship, unlike the foreign wife of a Saint Lucian man. Authorities provided birth certificates to parents without undue administrative delay.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem. The Department of Human Services and Family Affairs handled cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological abuse. Although the government condemned the practice, parents of sexually abused children sometimes declined to press sexual assault charges against the abuser in exchange for financial contributions toward the welfare of the victims. Nonetheless, courts heard some child sexual abuse cases, and convicted and sentenced offenders.

The human services division provided services to victims of child abuse, including a home for severely abused and neglected children, counseling, facilitating medical intervention, finding foster care, providing family support services, and supporting the child while working with police and attending court.

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

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Laws on sexual offenses cover rape, unlawful sexual connection, and unlawful sexual intercourse with children under 16. The age of consent is 16, but a consent defense may be cited if the victim is between 12 and 16. The law prohibits forced labor or sex trafficking of children under the age of 18. There were limited indications that unorganized commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred. No separate law defines or specifically prohibits child pornography.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no organized 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 does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Government regulations require access for persons with disabilities to all public buildings, but only a few government buildings had access ramps. The Ministry of Health operated a community-based rehabilitation program in residents’ homes.

Children with physical and visual disabilities were not mainstreamed into the wider student population. Five schools were available for persons with mental disabilities and for children who were hard of hearing, deaf, or blind; or had vision disabilities. Children with disabilities faced barriers in education, and there were few opportunities for such persons when they became adults.

While there were no official reports of discrimination, employers generally did not make accommodations for workers with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have the right to vote, and selected polling stations are accessible for mobility-impaired voters, but many polling stations were inaccessible.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal under indecency statutes, and some consensual same-sex sexual activity between men is also illegal under anal intercourse laws. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, and anal intercourse carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.

While the indecency statutes and anal intercourse laws were rarely enforced, civil society reported there was widespread societal discrimination against LGBTI persons. The few openly LGBTI persons faced daily verbal harassment and, at times, physical threats. Civil society groups reported LGBTI persons were denied access to rental homes or forced to leave rental homes and were denied jobs or left jobs due to a hostile work environment.

There were few reported incidents of violence or abuse during the year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Nongovernmental organizations reported there was some stigma and discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS. Civil society reported that health-care workers did not respect patient confidentiality with respect to HIV/AIDS status. Civil society conducted an HIV testing training for health-care workers, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, color, sex, religion, national extraction, social origin, ethnic origin, political opinion or affiliation, age, disability, serious family responsibility, pregnancy, marital status, or HIV/AIDS but not sexual orientation or gender identity. The law prohibits termination of employment for sexual orientation. Civil society groups received reports of LGBTI persons being denied jobs or leaving jobs due to a hostile work environment. There are no specific penalties for discrimination, but discrimination is covered under the general penalties section of the labor code that provide for one year’s imprisonment, a fine of XCD 5,000 ($1,850), or both. The government effectively enforced applicable law. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government generally enforced the law when victims came forward. Sentences for rape begin at 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities referred allegations of rape or any abuse against women to the police. Police were generally responsive to these complaints. Police and human rights groups reported that perpetrators commonly made payoffs to victims of rape or sexual assault in exchange for victims not pressing charges.

Civil society groups reported that rape and violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The Division of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of National Mobilization offered different programs to assist women and children. The ministry maintained a crisis center for survivors of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although authorities could prosecute such behavior under other laws. Local human rights groups and women’s organizations considered enforcement ineffective.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights to family, nationality, and inheritance as men. Women received an equitable share of property following separation or divorce. The law requires equal pay for equal work and authorities generally enforced it.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or from either parent. There was universal birth registration, which usually occurred within a few days of a child’s birth.

Child Abuse: The law provides a legal framework for the protection of children, including within domestic violence laws. The Family Services Division of the Ministry of Social Development monitored and protected the welfare of children. The division referred all reports of child abuse to the police for action and provided assistance in cases where children applied for protection orders with the family court. Reports of unlawful sexual intercourse with children under age 15 remained a problem, and these reports were in some cases linked to transactional sex with minors. Government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) interlocutors indicated that child abuse, including neglect, incest, and physical, sexual, and emotional abuse were significant problems.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. Parental consent is required for underage marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law does not specify a minimum age for consensual sex but stipulates punishment for persons who have sexual relations with a girl under age 15. The law prohibits statutory rape, with special provisions for those under age 13. Observers noted that male and female teenagers engaged in prostitution and transactional sex. NGO and government sources reported some mothers pressured their daughters to have sexual relations with older men as a way to supplement family income. Government officials conducted sensitization workshops in the community and schools to address the problem.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no organized 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, sensory, mental, and intellectual disabilities, and the government generally observed these prohibitions. The law does not mandate access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and access for such persons generally was difficult. NGOs reported government funding for organizations supporting persons with disabilities was insufficient to meet the needs of persons with disabilities. NGOs reported subtle discrimination in hiring practices throughout the workforce but noted the government’s strong attempt to recruit and hire persons with disabilities through programs such as the Youth Employment Service.

Education was provided until age 21 for persons with disabilities, and the government partially supported a separate school for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities also could attend public schools. A separate rehabilitation center treated an average of five persons daily.

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

Consensual same-sex conduct between adults is illegal under indecency statutes, and some sexual activity between adult men is illegal under anal intercourse laws. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, and anal intercourse acts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, although these laws were rarely enforced. No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Anecdotal evidence suggested there was societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, although local observers believed such attitudes of intolerance were slowly improving. Members of professional and business classes were more inclined to conceal their LGBTI status.

There were two acts of violence on individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Both cases were under investigation as of October. In one case two men dressed in female clothing were chased and beaten by a crowd, all of which was captured and posted to social media. No individuals from the crowd were arrested. In the second incident, authorities suspected a man was killed during a same-sex encounter. Police detained a suspect, who later admitted to the killing.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Anecdotal evidence suggested there was some societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, especially in employment. The government provided monthly financial assistance to persons with HIV/AIDS. The SVGHRA, which serves as coordinator for these NGOs, reported that funding continued to be a problem since each organization must find its own funding sources.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination based on sex or disability, but no laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on race, religion, political opinion, national origin, social origin, age, or language. Whether the constitutional provision covers sexual orientation and gender identity, or HIV-positive status is a matter of interpretation untested in court. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws prohibiting employment discrimination. It was unclear if penalties were sufficient to deter violations.

Samoa

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The constitution prohibits the abuse of women. Rape is a crime, but there is no legal provision against spousal rape. The penalties for rape range from two years’ to life imprisonment, but the court has never imposed a life sentence.

When police received complaints from abused women, authorities investigated and punished the offender, including imprisonment. Authorities charge domestic violence as common criminal assault, with a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment. Village councils typically punished domestic violence offenders only if they considered the abuse extreme, such as when there were visible signs of physical harm. The courts treated rape seriously, and the conviction rate generally was high.

The government acknowledged that rape and domestic abuse were of significant concern. The National Public Inquiry into Family Violence, released in September, revealed that 86 percent of women have experienced some form of physical violence from an intimate partner, and 24 percent had experienced choking. Many cases of rape and domestic abuse went unreported because societal attitudes discouraged such reporting and tolerated domestic abuse. Social pressure and fear of reprisal typically caused such abuse to go unreported.

The Ministry of Police has a nine person Domestic Violence Unit that works in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and focuses on combatting domestic abuse.

Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, and there were no reliable statistics on its incidence. The lack of legislation and a cultural constraint against publicly shaming or accusing someone, even if justifiable, reportedly caused sexual harassment to be underreported. Victims had little incentive to report instances of sexual harassment, since doing so could jeopardize their career or family name.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women and men have equal rights under the constitution and statutory law, and the traditionally subordinate role of women continued to change, albeit slowly. To integrate women into the economic mainstream, the government sponsored numerous programs, including literacy and training programs.

Children

Birth Registration: A child is a citizen by birth in the country if at least one parent is a citizen. The government also may grant citizenship by birth to a child born in the country if the child would otherwise be stateless. Citizenship also derives by birth abroad to a citizen parent who either was born in the country or resided there at least three years. By law children without a birth certificate may not attend primary schools, but authorities did not strictly enforce this law.

Child Abuse: Law and tradition prohibit abuse of children, but both tolerate corporal punishment. The law prohibits corporal punishment in schools; a teacher convicted of corporal punishment of a student may face a maximum one year prison term.

The government aggressively prosecuted reported cases of child abuse.

Press reports indicated an increase in child abuse reports, especially of incest and indecent assault cases; the rise appeared to be due to citizens’ increased awareness of the importance of reporting physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is age 21 for a man and age 19 for a woman. Consent of at least one parent or guardian is necessary if either party is younger than the minimum. Marriage is illegal if a woman is younger than age 16 or a man is younger than age 18. Early marriage did not generally occur.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years. Under the law the maximum penalty for sexual relations with children younger than age 12 is life imprisonment and for children between ages 12 and 15 the maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment. The law contains a specific criminal provision regarding child pornography. The law specifies a seven-year prison sentence for a person found guilty of publishing, distributing, or exhibiting indecent material featuring a child. Because 16 is the age of majority, the law does not protect 16- and 17-year-old persons.

Although comprehensive date on the sexual abuse of children was not available, the sexual abuse of children remained a widespread problem. In the National Public Inquiry into Family Violence, nearly 10 percent of female respondents reported they were raped as children by a family member.

The Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration and the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with NGOs, carried out educational activities to address domestic violence, inappropriate behavior between adults and children, and human rights awareness.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country had no Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

While no law prohibits discrimination against physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in the provision of public services, the law does prohibit disability-based discrimination in employment.

Many public buildings were old, and only a few were accessible to persons with disabilities. Most new buildings provided better access, including ramps and elevators in most multistory buildings.

Tradition dictates that families care for persons with disabilities, and the community observed this custom widely.

Some children with disabilities attended regular public schools, while others attended one of three schools created specifically to educate students with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There were no new reports of bans on setting up Chinese-owned retail shops on customary land within villages during the year; four villages banned Chinese-owned shops in 2017. These actions followed the rapid spread of ethnic Chinese-owned retail shops throughout Apia and into rural villages. The bans apply only on village-owned land (approximately 80 percent of land in the country), not to government or freehold land.

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

“Sodomy” and “indecency between males” are illegal, with maximum penalties of seven and five years’ imprisonment, respectively, but authorities did not enforce these provisions with regard to consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

Although there were no reports of societal violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, there were isolated cases of discrimination. Society publicly recognized the transgender Fa’afafine community; however, members of the community reported instances of social discrimination.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination, direct or indirect, against an employee or an applicant for employment in any employment policies, procedures, or practices based on ethnicity, race, color, sex, gender, religion, political opinion, national extraction, sexual orientation, social origin, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibilities, real or perceived HIV status, and disability.

The government effectively enforced the law, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The labor ministry received one complaint regarding unfair hiring practices during the year. The hiring and recruiting process for the private sector is outside of the scope of the Labor and Employment Relations Act. No cases drew public attention.

San Marino

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense, and the government effectively prosecuted persons accused of such crimes. The penalty for rape is two to six years in prison. In aggravated circumstances, the sentence is four to 10 years. No cases of rape or domestic violence were reported in the first 10 months of the year.

The law prohibits domestic violence, and the government effectively enforced it. Domestic violence is a criminal offense; the penalty for spousal abuse is two to six years in prison. In aggravated circumstances, the prison term is four to eight years.

Sexual Harassment: The government effectively enforced the law prohibiting sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law regarding domestic violence and domestic abuse also prohibits gender-based discrimination. In May the parliament passed a law regarding the functioning of the Authority for Equal Opportunities.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parent (either mother or father) or, if both parents are unknown or stateless, by birth in the country’s territory. Births must be registered within 10 days.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child pornography, including performances, works, and material, and provides for punishment of anyone trading in, providing, or in any way distributing child pornography. The law includes punishment for providing information aimed at enticing or sexually exploiting children younger than age 18, the minimum age of consent for sex. The penalty for this type of crime is imprisonment for two to six years, increased to four to 10 years if it involves sexual intercourse or if it has been committed to the detriment of a child younger than age 14 or a child younger than 18 who has physical or mental disabilities.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18, but a judge can authorize the marriage of minors at age 16 in special cases.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child pornography, including performances, works, and material, and provides for punishment of anyone trading in, providing, or in any way distributing child pornography. The law includes punishment for providing information aimed at enticing or sexually exploiting children younger than age 18, the minimum age of consent for sex.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population is small. 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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these prohibitions effectively, but not all public buildings were accessible to persons with physical disabilities. Following numerous requests by the San Marino Commission on Disabilities to implement laws passed in 2015 to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, in February the parliament passed a law providing support for the disabled and their families. There were no reported cases of discrimination against a person with disabilities.

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

While the law forbids discrimination based on sex or personal, economic, social, political, or religious status, it does not extend specific antidiscrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The law provides that, when a person commits an offense motivated by hostility toward the victim’s sexual orientation, courts should consider such motivation as an aggravating circumstance when imposing sentence. The law prohibits persons from committing or encouraging others to commit discriminatory acts on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, or HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. There were no official cases of discrimination in employment or occupation brought during the first 10 months of the year.

Sao Tome and Principe

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and conviction is punishable by two to 12 years’ imprisonment. The prosecution of rape occurred most often in cases in which there was evidence of violent assault or the victim was a minor. Government prosecutors won convictions, and judges imposed sentences of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for rape if the victim died, but the full extent of the problem was undocumented. A government family planning clinic and NGOs sought to combat rape by raising awareness of the problem. According to the National Institute for Equality and Gender Equality, there were cases of rape committed by youth using drugs and assaults in the early hours of the morning. The extent of the problem, however, was undocumented.

There were widespread reports of domestic violence. Although women have the right to legal recourse in cases of domestic violence, including against spouses, many were reluctant to take legal action because of the cost, a general lack of confidence in the legal system to address their concerns effectively, and fear of retaliation. Women often were uninformed of their legal rights. The law prescribes penalties ranging from imprisonment for three to eight years in cases of domestic violence resulting in harm to the health of the victim to incarceration for eight to 16 years when such violence leads to loss of life. There was no data on the number of prosecutions or convictions for domestic violence.

The Office of Women’s Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Office and UNICEF maintained a counseling center and small shelter with a hotline for domestic violence. The Gender Equality Institute within the Office of Women’s Affairs also conducted awareness workshops and seminars during the year to educate women on their rights. It also trained police and other actors, such as medical professionals, court officials, and lawyers, on how to recognize and respond to cases of domestic abuse.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment occurred, but no data were available on its extent. In cases of sexual harassment that involved violence or threats, the law prescribes penalties for conviction of one to eight years’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty for conviction in other cases of sexual harassment is three years’ imprisonment. The government sometimes enforced the law during the year.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Discrimination: The constitution stipulates and the law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, but they do not specifically recognize these rights as they pertain to the family, child custody, labor, employment, owning or managing businesses or property, nationality, or inheritance. Economic discrimination did not generally occur in the areas of credit or housing.

While many women had access to opportunities in education, business, and government, women–particularly older women and those living in rural areas–generally encountered significant societal discrimination. Traditional beliefs left women with most child-rearing responsibilities. Younger women increasingly had access to educational and professional opportunities compared with the older generation, although a high teenage pregnancy rate reduced economic opportunities for many. Government regulations prohibiting pregnant teenagers from attending high school with their peers increased the likelihood that teenage mothers would not finish secondary education.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship either through parents or by being born within the country. Either parent, if a citizen, may confer citizenship on a child born outside the country. By law children born in the country’s hospitals have their births registered at those hospitals. If not born in a hospital, the child must be registered at the nearest precinct office. Parents who fail to register a birth may be fined. According to UNICEF, since 2010 approximately 94 percent of children younger than age five have had their births registered. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Child Abuse: Mistreatment of children was not widespread; however, there were few protections for orphans and abandoned children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage without parental consent is 18. With parental consent, girls could marry at age 14 and boys at age 16. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: There were reports of children engaged in prostitution. The law prohibits statutory rape and child pornography. The government also uses proscription of kidnapping or unlawful forced labor to enforce the law against sexual exploitation of children. The penalty for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of minors younger than age 14 is two to 10 years’ imprisonment, and the penalty for conviction of commercial sexual exploitation of minors between ages 14 and 17 is up to three years’ imprisonment. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18, although societal norms only consider sex under age 14 to raise concerns of consent.

Displaced Children: The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs operated a social services program that placed street children in three centers where they attended classes and received vocational training.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There is 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 the country was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.

Persons with Disabilities

The law generally prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law, however, does not mandate access to most buildings, transportation, or other services for persons with disabilities. A law passed in 2014 mandates access to school buildings for persons with disabilities, and a few schools were undertaking building upgrades to provide access. During the year UNICEF, a foreign embassy, and the government built two classrooms for students with auditory and visual disabilities. Most children with disabilities attended the same schools as children without disabilities.

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

The law does not criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Antidiscrimination laws do not explicitly extend protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics. There were occasional reports of societal discrimination, primarily rejection by family and friends, based on an individual’s LGBTI status. While there were no official impediments, LGBTI organizations did not exist.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Communities and families often rejected and shunned persons with HIV/AIDS. NGOs held awareness-raising campaigns and interventions with employers to address discrimination against employees with HIV/AIDS.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, sex, and religious belief. Additionally, the constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination based on political affiliation, social origin, and philosophical conviction. The law, however, does not prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation based on color, age, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases. There were anecdotal instances of discrimination against HIV-positive employees, and advocacy groups conducted awareness campaigns to address discrimination.

There were no reports of gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation (see section 6, Women). The law allows women to request permission to retire at age 57 or older and men at age 62 but does not oblige them to do so. During the year there were no reports the government subjected women to discriminatory early termination from employment.

The law does not distinguish between migrant workers and citizens in terms of protections, wages, and working conditions.

Saudi Arabia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense under sharia with a wide range of penalties from flogging to execution. The law does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The government enforced the law based on its interpretation of sharia, and courts often punished victims as well as perpetrators for illegal “mixing of genders,” even when there was no conviction for rape. Victims also had to prove that the rape was committed, and a woman’s testimony in court was not always accepted.

Due to these legal and social obstacles, authorities brought few cases to trial. Statistics on incidents of, and prosecutions, convictions, or punishments for rape were not available, but press reports and observers indicated rape was a serious problem. Moreover, most rape cases were likely unreported because victims faced societal and familial reprisal, including diminished marriage opportunities, criminal sanction up to imprisonment, or accusations of adultery or sexual relations outside of marriage, which are punishable under sharia.

The law against domestic violence provides a framework for the government to prevent and protect victims of violence in the home. The law defines domestic abuse broadly and criminalizes domestic abuse with penalties of one month to one year of imprisonment or a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 riyals ($1,330 to $13,300), unless a court provides a harsher sentence.

Researchers stated it was difficult to gauge the magnitude of the problem, which they believed to be widespread. The National Family Safety Program (NFSP), a quasi-governmental organization under the Ministry of National Guard, was founded in 2005 to spread awareness of and combat domestic violence, including child abuse, and continued to report abuse cases.

Officials stated the government did not clearly define domestic violence and procedures concerning cases, including thresholds for investigation or prosecution, and thus enforcement varied from one government body to another. Some women’s rights advocates were critical of investigations of domestic violence, claiming investigators were hesitant to enter a home without permission from the male head of household, who may also be the perpetrator of violence. Some activists also claimed that authorities often did not investigate or prosecute cases involving domestic violence, instead encouraging victims and perpetrators to reconcile in order to keep families intact regardless of reported abuse. There were reports of police or judges returning women directly to their abusers, most of whom were the women’s legal guardians.

On March 8, a woman from Sabya Governorate in the southwestern Jazan Province appeared in a video pleading for help after her older brother and his family allegedly beat her and threw her out of a house she shared with them, along with her ill mother and her two children. She explained that when she went to report the abuse to police, they asked her to bring her male guardian. When the video went viral on social media, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced its Social Protection Unit in Jazan intervened and was studying her case. At year’s end there were no known updates to this case.

The government made efforts to combat domestic violence. During the year the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue held workshops and distributed educational materials on peaceful conflict resolution between spouses and within families. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development administered government-supported family-protection shelters. The HRC received complaints of domestic abuse and referred them to other government offices. The HRC advised complainants and offered legal assistance to some female litigants. The organization provided services for children of female complainants and litigants and distributed publications supporting women’s rights in education, health care, development, and the workplace.

Saudi women reported that domestic abuse in the form of incest was common but seldom reported to authorities due to fears over societal repercussions, according to local contacts.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was not a common practice in the country, as the official government interpretation of sharia prohibits the practice.

Sexual Harassment: The extent of sexual harassment was difficult to measure, with little media reporting and no government data. The government’s interpretation of sharia guides courts on cases of sexual harassment. On May 29, the Council of Ministers passed the antisexual harassment law, which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 300,000 riyals ($80,000). No statistics were available on the incidence of sexual harassment due to past reluctance to report violations. On August 8, the public prosecutor stated that the number of reported harassment cases was low and claimed the law was effective in limiting this crime. Employers in many sectors maintained separate male and female workspaces where feasible, in accordance with law.

On July 14, authorities arrested a young woman who jumped on stage to hug a male singer during a concert in the western city of Taif. Prosecutors announced that the woman would face charges pursuant to the antisexual harassment law, under which she could face two years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 riyals ($26,700) if convicted.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women continued to face significant discrimination under law and custom, and many remained uninformed about their rights.

The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, and since there is no codified personal status law, judges made decisions regarding family matters based on their interpretations of Islamic law. Although they may legally own property and are entitled to financial support from their guardian, women have fewer political or social rights than men, and they often are not treated as equal members in the political and social spheres. The guardianship system requires that every woman have a close male relative as her “guardian” with the legal authority to approve her travel outside of the country. In September a personal status court in Jeddah ordered a father to obtain a passport for his 24-year-old daughter so that she could resume her studies abroad. Women also require a guardian’s permission to exit prisons after completing their terms.

Women, however, can make their own determinations concerning hospital care. Women can work without their guardian’s permission, but some employers required women to have such permission, even though the law prohibits the practice. On February 15, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment announced women no longer need their male guardian’s permission to start a business.

On June 24, the government lifted its ban on women driving. The New York Times reported long delays in placement of female students in driving schools due to a limited number of teaching facilities and female staff for gender-segregated programs, and long delays obtaining driver’s licenses. On July 4, two men were arrested in Mecca for setting fire to a female motorist’s car. The motorist, Salma Al-Sherif, subsequently posted a widely circulated video on social media documenting the incident, claiming that her car was deliberately set alight by men “opposed to women drivers,” and that she had been repeatedly threatened and harassed by young men from her village of Samad in Mecca Province. On October 28, the Mecca Criminal Court acquitted the two defendants for lack of sufficient evidence. Al-Sherif appealed the verdict. On December 17, arsonists reportedly set fire to another car of a Jeddah woman, Nurhan Bassam, who was reportedly burned by arsonists.

Nationality law discriminates against women, who cannot directly transmit citizenship to their children, particularly if the children’s father is a noncitizen (see section 2.d. and section 6, Children). The country’s interpretation of sharia prohibits women from marrying non-Muslims, but men may marry Christians and Jews. Women require government permission to marry noncitizens; men must obtain government permission if they intend to marry citizens from countries other than Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates). Regulations prohibit men from marrying women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad, and Burma. The government additionally requires Saudi men wishing to marry a second wife who is a foreigner to submit documentation attesting to the fact that his first wife was disabled, had a chronic disease, or was sterile.

Widespread societal exclusion enforced by, but not limited to, state institutions restricted women from using many public facilities. The law requires women to sit generally in separate, specially designated family sections in public places. They frequently cannot consume food in restaurants that do not have such sections. Women risk arrest for riding in a private vehicle driven by a male who is not an employee (such as a hired chauffeur or taxi driver) or a close male relative. Cultural norms enforced by state institutions require women to wear an abaya (a loose-fitting, full-length cloak) in public. The CPVPV also generally expected Muslim women to cover their hair and non-Muslim women from Asian and African countries to comply more fully with local customs of dress than non-Muslim Western women.

In June a female television presenter, Shireen al-Rifaie, fled the country after authorities launched an investigation into claims that she wore an outfit deemed “indecent” by the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media. Al-Rifaie was reporting on the end of the ban on women driving when her white abaya was blown open by the wind, revealing her clothes underneath.

Women also faced discrimination in courts, where in some cases the testimony of one man equals that of two women. All judges are male, and women faced restrictions on their practice of law (see section 3, Participation of Women and Minorities). In divorce proceedings women must demonstrate legally specified grounds for divorce, but men may divorce without giving cause, citing “irreconcilable differences.” In doing so, men must pay immediately an amount of money agreed at the time of the marriage that serves as a one-time alimony payment. Men may be forced, however, to make subsequent alimony payments by court order. The government began implementing an identification system based on fingerprints designed to provide women, such as those wearing a niqab, more access to courts.

Women faced discrimination under family law. For example, a woman needs a guardian’s permission to marry or must seek a court order in the case of adhl (male guardians refusing to approve the marriage of women under their charge). In such adhl cases, the judge assumes the role of the guardian and may approve the marriage. During the year courts adjudicated as many as 72 adhl cases and executed marriage contracts for women whose male custodians refused to approve their marriage, according to informed judicial sources quoted by local media.

Courts often award custody of children when they attain a specified age (seven years for boys and nine years for girls) to the divorced husband or the deceased husband’s family. In numerous cases former husbands prevented divorced noncitizen women from visiting their children. In March Justice Minister Sheikh Walid Al-Samaani directed all courts to drop the requirement for divorced women to file a lawsuit in order to gain custody of their children. Provided there were no disputes between the parents, mothers may now simply submit a request to the relevant court, without the need for legal action.

Inheritance laws also discriminate against women, since daughters receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers.

According to recent surveys, women constituted 52 percent of public education and higher education students. Segregated education through university level was standard. The only exceptions to segregation in higher education were medical schools at the undergraduate level and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a graduate-level research university, where women worked jointly with men, were not required to wear an abaya, and drove cars on campus. Other universities, such as al-Faisal University in Riyadh, offered partially segregated classes with students receiving instruction from the same teacher and able to participate together in class discussion, but with the women and men physically separated by dividers.

On March 12, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women urged the country to end discriminatory practices against women, including its system of male guardianship, and give women full access to justice.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from the father, and only the father may register a birth. There were cases of authorities denying public services to children of citizen parents, including education and health care, because the government failed to register the birth entirely or had not registered it immediately, sometimes because the father failed to report the birth or did not receive authorization to marry a foreigner. Children of women who were married to foreign spouses receive permanent residency, but their residency status is revocable in the event of the death of the Saudi mother (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons).

Child Abuse: Abuse of children occurred. In 2016 the NFSP started a Child Helpline dedicated to assisting children in matters ranging from bullying to abuse. The helpline provided counseling, tracking, and referrals to social services. In January NFSP official Maha al-Muneef reported that the child helpline received 270,000 calls annually, including 2,990 cases of abuse and neglect, 2,589 cases related to family violence, and 1,050 cases of school violence. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development had 17 Social Protection Units across the country providing social protection to children younger than 18 and vulnerable populations suffering domestic violence and abuse.

On July 17, authorities arrested a Saudi-based Yemeni mother who beat and tortured her six-month-old twin girls on camera for money. Video footage of the two babies being slapped and strangled went viral and sparked outrage.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law does not specify a minimum age for marriage, although Ministry of Justice guidelines referred marriage applications to sharia courts to determine the validity of a marriage when the bride was younger than 16. Families sometimes arranged such marriages to settle family debts without the consent of the child. The HRC and NSHR monitored cases of child marriages, which they reported were rare or at least rarely reported, and took steps to prevent consummation of the marriage. Media reports quoted judges as saying the majority of child marriage cases in the country involved Syrian girls, followed by smaller numbers of Egyptians and Yemenis. There were media reports that some men who traveled abroad to find brides sought to marry minors. The application for a marriage license must record the bride’s age, and registration of the marriage is a legal prerequisite for consummation. The government reportedly instructed marriage registrars not to register marriages involving children.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The anti-cybercrimes law stipulates that punishment for such crimes, including the preparation, publication, and promotion of material for pornographic sites, may be no less than two and one-half years’ imprisonment or a fine of 1.5 million riyals ($400,000) if the crime includes the exploitation of minors. The law does not define a minimum age for consensual sex.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no known data on Jewish citizens and no statistics available concerning the religious denominations of foreigners.

Cases of government-employed imams using anti-Jewish language in their sermons were rare and occurred without authorization by government authorities. The law requires government-employed imams to give all sermons delivered in mosques in the country. They must deliver sermons vetted and cleared by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. During the year the ministry issued periodic circulars to clerics and imams in mosques directing them to include messages on the principles of justice, equality, and tolerance and to encourage rejection of bigotry and all forms of racial discrimination in their sermons.

Anti-Semitic material remained in school textbooks and online in private web postings, and some journalists, academics, and clerics made anti-Israel comments that sometimes strayed into anti-Semitism.

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 does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services or other areas. The law does not require public accessibility to buildings, information, and communications. Newer commercial buildings often included such access, as did some newer government buildings. Children with disabilities could attend government-supported schools.

Persons with disabilities could generally participate in civic affairs, and there were no legal restrictions preventing persons with disabilities from voting in municipal council elections. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development was responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation projects and social care programs increasingly brought persons with disabilities into the mainstream. Persons with disabilities were elected and appointed to municipal councils in 2015, and two individuals with disabilities served on the consultative Shura Council, which was reconstituted in 2016.

On June 12, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Development Tamadur al-Rammah stated the government was working on a national strategy for persons with disabilities, including 23 initiatives designed to serve them, adding that a special commission was established to oversee the affairs of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although racial discrimination is illegal, societal discrimination against members of national, racial, and ethnic minorities was a problem. There was also discrimination based on tribal or nontribal lineage. Descendants of former slaves in the country, who have African lineage, faced discrimination in both employment and society. There was formal and informal discrimination, especially racial discrimination, against foreign workers from Africa and Asia. On February 5, the NSHR said it had noted several instances of racial discrimination on the basis of nationality at some service facilities where some customers were denied services based on their nationality. A tolerance campaign by the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue sought to address some of these problems, and it provided training during the year to combat discrimination against national, racial, or ethnic groups.

The government’s multi-year Tatweer project to revise textbooks, curricula, and teaching methods to promote tolerance and remove content disparaging religions other than Islam began in 2007. In November the Anti-Defamation League issued a report asserting that Saudi textbooks still contained anti-Semitic language.

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

Under sharia as interpreted in the country, consensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death or flogging, depending on the perceived seriousness of the case. It is illegal for men “to behave like women” or to wear women’s clothes, and vice versa. Due to social conventions and potential persecution, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations did not operate openly, nor were there LGBTI rights advocacy events of any kind. There were reports of official and societal discrimination, physical violence, and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, and health care. Stigma or intimidation acted to limit reports of incidents of abuse.

There were no government efforts to address discrimination. In 2016 newspapers quoted PPO officials as stating the bureau would seek death sentences for anyone using social media to solicit homosexual acts. There were no reports, however, that the PPO sought death sentences in LGBTI cases during the year (see section 1.a.).

On January 8, police reported they arrested and referred to prosecutors several young men who appeared in a video described as a “gay wedding scene.” No updates on the case were publicly available.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. By law the government deported foreign workers who tested positive for HIV/AIDS upon arrival or who tested positive when hospitalized for other reasons. There was no indication that HIV-positive foreigners failed to receive antiretroviral treatment or that authorities isolated them during the year. The Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS program worked to fight stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Social, legal, economic, and political discrimination against the country’s Shia minority continued. HRW claimed that some state clerics and institutions “incited hatred and discrimination against religious minorities, including the country’s Shia Muslim minority.”

To address the problem, the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Guard included antidiscrimination training in courses run by the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue for police and other law enforcement officers (see section 6, Other Societal Violence and Discrimination).

In August the public prosecutor ordered the arrest of a Saudi man who appeared in a video carrying machine guns and threatening to kill Shia citizens in the southern city of Najran.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations do not prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, language, or HIV-positive status. Discrimination with respect to employment and occupation occurred with respect to all these categories.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development explicitly approved and encouraged the employment of women in specific sectors, particularly in government, but women faced many discriminatory regulations. The first-quarter Labor Market Report by the General Authority for Statistics found that Saudi girls and women (15 years of age and above) constituted 8 percent of the country’s total labor force (Saudi and non-Saudi, 15 years of age and above). The same report estimated that women and girls, both Saudi and foreign, represented 21 percent of all employed persons (15 years of age and above) in the country. Most non-Saudi women were employed as domestic workers. Rules limited the type of work women were allowed to perform and required them to wear a veil. In practice gender segregation continued to take place in the workplace.

There is no regulation requiring equal pay for equal work. In the private sector, the average monthly wage of Saudi women workers was 58 percent of the average monthly wage of Saudi men. Labor dispute settlement bodies did not register any cases of discrimination against women.

Regulations ban women from 24 professions, mostly in heavy industry, but create guidelines for women to telework. Nevertheless, some factories and manufacturing facilities, particularly in Eastern Province, employed men and women, who worked separate shifts during different hours of the day. The law grants women the right to obtain business licenses without the approval of their guardians, and women frequently obtained licenses in fields that might require them to supervise foreign workers, interact with male clients, or deal with government officials. It is illegal for a potential employer to ask a female applicant for her guardian’s permission when she applies for a job. In medical settings and the energy industry, women and men worked together, and in some instances women supervised male employees. Women who work in establishments with 50 or more female employees have the right to maternity leave and child care.

Discrimination with respect to religious beliefs occurred in the workplace. Members of the Shia community complained of discrimination based on their religion and had difficulty securing or being promoted in government positions. Shia were significantly underrepresented in national security-related positions, including the Ministries of Defense and Interior and the National Guard. In predominantly Shia areas, Shia representation was higher in the ranks of traffic police, municipalities, and public schools. A very small number of Shia occupied high-level positions in government-owned companies and government agencies (see section 3, Participation of Women and Minorities). Shia were also underrepresented in employment in primary, secondary, and higher education.

Discrimination against Asian and African migrant workers occurred (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities). The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue continued programs that sought to address some of these problems and provided training during the year to combat discrimination against national, racial, or ethnic groups. There were numerous cases of assault on foreign workers and reports of worker abuse.

Informal discrimination in employment and occupation occurred on the basis of sex, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation or gender identity.

In November 2017 the Ministry of Interior’s General Directorate of Passports announced a national campaign to identify, arrest, fine, and deport individuals found in violation of the country’s residency laws under the title of “Nation Without Violators.” The campaign began with a 90-day grace period or general amnesty to allow irregular migrants to depart the country “without penalty,” after which authorities extended the grace period in coordination with international organizations. In September the Ministry of Interior stated more than 1.77 million foreign nationals were arrested between November 2017 and September 2018 for violating work, residence, and entry rules. Approximately 449,220 violators were deported during the cited period, according to the ministry. The Human Rights Committee reported that law enforcement agencies had been trained in screening vulnerable populations for human trafficking indicators and the campaign was being carried out in accordance with protections against trafficking in persons.

Senegal

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, which is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment. Nevertheless, the government rarely enforced the law, and rape was widespread. The law does not address spousal rape. The law allows the common practice of using a woman’s sexual history to defend men accused of rape.

The law criminalizes assaults and provides for punishment of one to five years in prison and a fine. Domestic violence that causes lasting injuries is punishable with a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years. If an act of domestic violence causes death, the law prescribes life imprisonment. Nevertheless, the government did not enforce the law, particularly when violence occurred within the family. Police usually did not intervene in domestic disputes. Several women’s groups and the Committee to Combat Violence against Women and Children (CLVF) reported a rise in violence against women.

NGOs, including the CLVF, criticized the failure of some judges to apply domestic violence laws, citing cases in which judges claimed lack of adequate evidence as a reason to issue lenient sentences. NGOs also criticized the government’s failure to permit associations to bring suits on behalf of victims and the lack of shield laws for rape.

The number of incidents of domestic violence, which many citizens considered a normal part of life, were much higher than the number of cases reported. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for combating domestic violence, but it did not make public any programs to address rape and domestic violence. The government-run Ginddi Center in Dakar provided shelter to women and girls who were survivors of rape or early and forced marriage as well as to street children.

In August a court in Diourbel sentenced a man who physically attacked his wife to three months in jail, along with a 21-month suspended sentence. The court also sentenced him to pay his wife one million CFA francs (approximately $1,800) in damages.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law provides criminal penalties for the perpetration of FGM/C on women and girls, but no cases were prosecuted during the year.

Sexual Harassment: The law mandates prison terms of five months to three years and fines of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($90 to $900) for sexual harassment, but the problem was widespread. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Nevertheless, women faced pervasive discrimination, especially in rural areas where traditional customs and discriminatory rules of inheritance were strongest.

The family code’s definition of paternal rights also remained an obstacle to equality between men and women. The code considers men to be heads of household, preventing women from taking legal responsibility for their children. Additionally, any childhood benefits are paid to the father. Women can become the legal head of household only if the husband formally renounces his authority before authorities or if he is unable to act as head of household.

While women legally have equal access to land, traditional practices made it difficult for women to purchase property in rural areas. Many women had access to land only through their husbands, and the security of their rights depended on maintaining the relationship with their husbands.

The Ministry of Women, Family, and Gender has a directorate for gender equality that implements programs to combat discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth or naturalization. The law provides for equal rights for mothers and fathers automatically to transmit citizenship to their children. The law does not make birth declaration mandatory. Registering births required payment of a small fee and travel to a registration center, which was difficult for many residents of rural areas.

Education: The law provides for tuition-free and compulsory education for children between the ages of six and 16, although many children did not attend school. While children generally could attend primary school without a birth certificate, they needed one to take national exams.

Approximately one-third of primary school-age children were not in school, in many cases because of a lack of resources or available facilities. Students often had to pay for their own books, uniforms, and other school supplies.

Girls encountered greater difficulties in continuing in school beyond the elementary level. Sexual harassment by school staff and early pregnancy also caused the departure of girls from school. An October 18 report by Human Rights Watch documented incidents of school-related sexual exploitation, harassment, and abuse in Dakar and the Casamance. Girls interviewed for the report said some teachers sexually harassed them, asking for favors or phone numbers and punishing them with bad grades if they did not comply. Teachers engaged in sexual relations with girls younger than 18. Where school directors were aware of sexual harassment or exploitation, they generally tried to resolve the situation on their own without reporting it to higher authorities or police and often stigmatized and faulted the behavior of the girls rather than the teacher in the process. Girls were generally unsure of what constitutes consent and harassment and did not know where to report exploitation. If girls became pregnant, they dropped out of school and were often shunned by their families.

Many parents opted to keep their middle- and high-school-aged daughters home to work or to marry rather than sending them to school. In recent years, however, gender disparity at the middle- and high-school level has significantly lessened.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained common, particularly of boys sent to Dakar and other cities to beg under threat of punishment. Many of these boys were sent by their parents to study in Quranic schools or daaras. At some daaras Quranic instructors exploited, physically abused, and forced children to beg on the street. Approximately 70 percent of trafficked child beggars on the streets of Dakar were forced to beg by a Quranic instructor or someone pretending to be one, while the rest begged of their own volition due to poverty. A 2018 daara-mapping study found an estimated 28,000 Quranic students in the Dakar region (15 percent of the total) were forced to beg up to five hours per day. Most children exploited in forced begging appeared to be ages five to 10; some reportedly were as young as two.

The National Task Force Commission Against Trafficking, as well as the recently created Ministry of Good Governance and Child Protection, have committed to continue to address these issues throughout the country.

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

A talibe is a boy in Senegal and other West African countries who studies the Quran at a daara. In March 2017, a Quranic teacher in Pikine was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the rape of three talibes, all approximately 12 years old. The teacher had repeatedly raped all three boys over an extended period of time. He had fractured the skull of one of the boys for protesting the rape. In November five individuals were arrested in Dakar for abusing talibes. Overall, government efforts to address the abuse of talibes remained weak.

Early and Forced Marriage: By law women have the right to choose when and whom they marry, but traditional practices often restricted a woman’s choice. The law prohibits the marriage of girls younger than 16, but this law generally was not enforced in most communities where marriages were arranged. Under certain conditions a judge may grant a special dispensation to a man to marry a girl below the age of consent.

According to women’s rights groups and officials from the Ministry of Women, Family, and Gender, child marriage was a significant problem, particularly in the more rural areas in the south, east, and northeast. The ministry conducted educational campaigns to address the problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that convicted sexual abusers of children receive five to 10 years’ imprisonment. If the offender is a family member, the maximum is applied. Procuring a minor for prostitution is punishable by imprisonment for two to five years and a fine of 300,000 to four million CFA francs (approximately $550 to $7,200). If the crime involves a victim younger than 13, the maximum penalty is applied. The law was not effectively enforced, but when cases were referred to law enforcement, authorities conducted follow-up investigations. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18.

Pornography is prohibited, and pornography involving children under age 16 is considered pedophilia and punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and fines of up to 300,000 CFA francs (approximately $550).

Exploitation of women and girls in prostitution was a problem, particularly in the southeast gold-mining region of Kedougou. Although there were no reports of child sex tourism during the year, the country was considered a destination for child sex tourism for tourists from France, Belgium, and Germany, among other countries.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide, usually due to poverty or embarrassment, continued to be a problem. In some cases women’s families shamed them into killing their babies. Domestic workers and rural women working in cities sometimes killed their newborns if they could not care for them. Others, married to men working outside the country, killed their infants out of shame. According to the African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights, infanticide also occurred when a woman became pregnant with the child of a man from a prohibited occupational caste. If police discovered the identity of the mother, she faced arrest and prosecution for infanticide. A 2015 UN report indicated approximately 16 percent of females in detention in 2013 were imprisoned for infanticide, and that infanticide was the grounds for imprisonment for 64 percent of girls and young women ages 13 to 18.

Displaced Children: Many children displaced by the Casamance conflict lived with extended family members, neighbors, in children’s homes, or on the streets. According to NGOs in the Casamance, displaced children suffered from the psychological effects of conflict, malnutrition, and poor health.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 100 Jewish residents 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

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government did not enforce these provisions adequately. The law also mandates accessibility for persons with disabilities, but the government did not effectively enforce the law.

The government provided grants, managed vocational training in regional centers, and offered funding for persons with disabilities to establish businesses. Due to a lack of special education training for teachers and facilities accessible to children with disabilities, authorities enrolled only 40 percent of such children in primary school. Support for persons with mental disabilities was not generally available, and incidents of abuse of persons with mental disabilities were common.

Persons with disabilities experienced difficulty registering to vote as well as accessing voting sites, due to physical barriers such as stairs as well as the lack of provisions such as Braille ballots or sign-language interpreters for persons who are visually or hearing-impaired, or unable to speak. A 2012 law reserves 15 percent of new civil service positions for persons with disabilities, but this quota has never been enforced. In regions outside Dakar, in particular, persons with disabilities were still effectively excluded from access to these positions.

The Ministry for Health and Social Action is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic groups generally coexisted peacefully. In the Casamance incidents of conflict between the Diola, the region’s largest ethnic group, and the mostly Wolof Senegalese in the north continued to decline.

Discrimination against individuals of lower castes continued, and intellectuals or businesspersons from lower castes often tried to conceal their caste identity.

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

Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, referred to in law as an “unnatural act,” is a criminal offense, and penalties range from one to five years’ imprisonment and fines of between 100,000 and 1.5 million CFA francs ($180 and approximately $2,700); however, the law was rarely enforced. No laws prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, nor are there hate crime laws that could be used to prosecute crimes motivated by bias against LGBTI persons.

LGBTI persons faced widespread discrimination, social intolerance, and acts of violence. LGBTI individuals were subject to frequent threats, mob attacks, robberies, expulsions, blackmail, and rape. LGBTI activists also complained of discrimination in access to social services.

In what appeared to be an isolated incident, on June 8, police raided a home in Keur Massar without a warrant after being alerted the inhabitants were LGBTI persons. Eleven individuals were present at the time of the raid, of whom two–both asylum seekers from The Gambia–were arrested. Eyewitnesses alleged the two were subjected to torture while in police custody, including beatings and electric shocks. The two were allegedly denied food, water, legal counsel, and medical assistance. On June 9, four other individuals who had been present in the house–two Senegalese and two Gambian asylum-seekers–visited police station to inquire about their detained friends. The four were arrested upon arrival at the station. Three of the four were released after 24 hours. The fourth, in addition to the two individuals arrested on June 8, was brought to court on June 12. All three were acquitted of all charges for lack of evidence.

Aside from this one outlying case, LGBTI activists indicated the overall situation in the country remained calm with respect to the LGBTI community for a second consecutive year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits all forms of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, and the government and NGOs conducted HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns to increase social acceptance of persons with HIV or AIDS and increase HIV testing and counseling nationwide. Nevertheless, human rights activists reported HIV-positive individuals and those with AIDS suffered from social stigma due to the widespread belief that such status indicated homosexuality. HIV-positive men sometimes refrained from taking antiretroviral drugs due to fear their families would discover their sexual orientation.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on national origin, race, gender, disability, and religion; violators are officially subjected to fines and imprisonment, but these laws were not regularly enforced and were not sufficient to deter violations. The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The government did not effectively enforce the antidiscrimination provisions of the law. Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred and was the most prevalent form of discrimination. Men and women have equal rights to apply for a job. Women represented 52 percent of the population, but they performed 90 percent of domestic work and 85 percent of agricultural work. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but women experienced discrimination in employment and operating businesses (see section 6).

Serbia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women, including spousal rape, is punishable by up to 40 years in prison. The government did not enforce the law effectively.

Domestic violence is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. While the law provides women the right to obtain a restraining order against abusers, the government did not enforce the law effectively. According to the Ministry of Interior, 25 women were killed in domestic violence through August 15. The number of victims of domestic violence for the first four months of the year doubled compared with the same period in 2017. In May Jelena Grbic was killed in the Kosjeric municipality in front of her three minor children. Her alleged killer and common law partner, Ivan Radovanovic, was arrested, indicted for aggravated murder, and is currently in pretrial confinement. The alleged killer had previously been convicted of domestic violence. According to the Ministry of the Interior, seven men were also killed in family violence through July 25.

The Law on the Prevention of Family Violence strengthens protective measures for domestic violence victims by temporarily removing the perpetrator from a home from a minimum of 48 hours to a maximum of 30 days. This law requires that police, prosecutors’ offices, courts, and social welfare centers maintain an electronic database on individual cases of family violence and undertake emergency and extended measures.

Women’s groups were critical of the implementation of the law, citing lack of precision in statistical reporting as well as very few actual detentions.

Throughout 2017 and the first half of the year, the Justice Ministry conducted training for prosecutors, police officers, and centers for social welfare on the implementation of the law.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of men and women is a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to six months in cases that do not involve domestic abuse or a power relationship, and for up to one year for abuse of a subordinate or dependent. The Autonomous Woman’s Center published polling data indicating that one in three women in the country has experienced unwanted physical contact, and 80 percent of the young men and women have been sexually harassed. While the legal framework was generally in place, the law was rarely enforced and did not provide an adequate deterrent to prevent sexual harassment. In October, the police charged a man with sexually harassing and inappropriately touching a teenage girl who was riding public transportation in Belgrade. Woman’s organizations contended that cases of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching were rarely investigated.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in all areas, including family, religion, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance, but the government did not always enforce these laws. Women were discriminated against both at home and in the labor force; in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process and housing. According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, women did an average of over twice as many hours of domestic work as men.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from a child’s parents. The law on birth records provides for universal birth registration. Some Romani children were not registered at birth. Subsequent birth registration was possible but complicated (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons). Children who were not registered did not have access to public services, such as health care.

Education: Education was free through the secondary level, but compulsory only from preschool through age 15. Ethnic discrimination and economic hardship discouraged some children from attending school. In Romani and poor rural communities, girls were more likely than boys to drop out of school and normally did so at an earlier age.

Child Abuse: There are laws prohibiting child abuse, and the penalties ranged from two to 10 years of imprisonment. According to research and reports, children were exposed to direct and interpersonal violence, physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, and neglect. Children in the country also suffered structural violence, stemming from existing patriarchal social structures that enabled marginalization; this problem was manifested through different types of discrimination, child marriage, and child labor. Children in historically marginalized groups, such as Roma, suffered various types of social exclusion and were more prone to marginalization. According to the ombudsman, one-third of complaints filed with his office had to do with child abuse. Serbia’s efforts to prevent child abuse have largely focused on protection of victims rather than prevention of child abuse through targeted intervention; these programs have included training for police, schools, and social workers as well as hotlines and other platforms for reporting violence.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. A court can allow a minor older than 16 to marry if the minor is mature enough to “enjoy the rights and fulfill the responsibilities of marriage.” Child marriages occurred in Romani communities, but these marriages were not legal marriages, and statistics on their prevalence did not exist. Romani activists anecdotally reported a decline in number of child marriages, but this decline could not be verified.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, to include selling, offering, or procuring for prostitution, and practices related to child pornography; the government enforced the law, but, nonetheless, these activities occurred. Evidence was limited, and the extent of the problem was unknown. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

Displaced Children: According to local NGOs and media reports, an estimated 2,000 homeless children lived on Belgrade’s streets.

Institutionalized Children: Children in orphanages and institutions were sometimes victims of physical and emotional abuse by caretakers and guardians and of sexual abuse by their peers. The law on social protection prioritizes the deinstitutionalization of children, including those with developmental problems, and their placement in foster families. Children with disabilities who were housed in institutions faced problems including isolation, neglect, and a lack of stimulation. Institutions were often overcrowded, and children were mixed with adults in the same facility. The Mental Disability Rights Initiative Serbia expressed concern over the violation of rights of institutionalized children, noting that 60 percent of institutionalized children with disabilities were excluded from the educational system.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to the 2011 census, 787 persons in the country identified as Jewish. While the law prohibits hate speech, Jewish community leaders reported that translations of anti-Semitic literature were available from ultranationalist groups and conservative publishers. Anti-Semitic literature was available in some bookstores, and the Jewish community reported incidents of anti-Semitic comments in online media.

Holocaust education continued to be a part of the school curriculum at the direction of the Ministry of Education, including in the secondary school curriculum. The role of the collaborationist National Salvation government run by Milan Nedic during the Nazi occupation was debated. Some commentators continued to seek to minimize and reinterpret the role of the national collaborators’ movements during World War II and their role in the Holocaust. On July 11, the High Court in Belgrade ruled against the rehabilitation of wartime Prime Minister Milan Nedic, holding that the petition to the court by his family and several organizations representing political prisoners and victims of the communist regime was unfounded. The court document stated that the presumption that “Milan Nedic was arrested without any court or administrative decision and was a victim of persecution for political or ideological reasons” was groundless.

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 supporting laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and other state services. The government did not enforce these laws effectively. Persons with disabilities and their families experienced stigmatization and segregation because of deeply entrenched prejudices and a lack of information. The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality’s 2017 annual report highlighted a case in which the city of Zajecar failed to provide a personal assistant to a disabled schoolchild in accordance with the child’s individual support plan.

Persons with disabilities were exposed to discrimination in almost every aspect of life, including access to justice, health services, education, employment, and political participation. The 2017 annual report by the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality noted that 20 percent of all complaints filed with the office were cases of discrimination on disability grounds. According to the report, as a category women with disabilities experienced the most severe multiple discrimination. According to the World Health Organization, persons with disabilities represented 15 percent of the country’s population. The law requires all public buildings to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but public transportation and many older public buildings were not accessible. Many children and adults with intellectual disabilities remained in institutions, sometimes restrained or isolated.

The law also prohibits physical, emotional, and verbal abuse in schools. NGOs and journalists reported that thousands of children with disabilities (institutionalized and noninstitutionalized) were not enrolled in school.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans, and Social Issues, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health had sections with responsibilities to protect persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Labor had a broad mandate to engage with NGOs, distribute social assistance, manage residential institutions, and monitor laws to provide protection for the rights of persons with disabilities. The labor minister told media on May 17 that his ministry’s priority was to develop partner relations with disability organizations and provide expert and financial support to associations that implement programs that promote rights of persons with disabilities.

According to the National Employment Agency (NEA), the number of unemployed persons with disabilities in early June was approximately 15,500; approximately 6,500 persons with disabilities registered with NEA became employed in 2017. The agency had a budget of 550 million dinars ($5.29 million) for the employment of persons with disabilities.

The media reported that 51 companies throughout the country employed 5,000 persons with disabilities. The trade union Nezavisnost reported in September that persons with disabilities who worked for several companies employing persons with disabilities were receiving salaries under 16,000 dinars per month ($154), which was below the national minimum wage (approximately $240).

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the commissioner for the protection of equality, Roma were subject to discrimination in many ways; independent observers and NGOs stated that systemic segregation and discrimination of Roma continued. A Human Rights Defender’s report noted that Roma often considered such treatment normal and noted that hate crimes against Roma were not prosecuted. According to the report, a significant number of Romani citizens were without personal documents and experienced discrimination in the labor market and in schools. The report condemned the situation as “particularly appalling” in housing, health, and access to justice.

National Minority Councils (NMC) represented the country’s ethnic minority groups and had broad competency over education, media, culture, and the use of minority languages. Amendments to the Law on National Minority Councils and the Law on Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities were adopted on June 20. On November 4, regular elections were held for national minority council seats; 22 of Serbia’s 23 recognized national minorities participated in these elections; the Jewish NMC elects leadership on a different cycle in accordance with its bylaws.

Ethnic Albanian leaders in the southern municipalities of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, along with Bosniaks in the southwestern region of Sandzak, complained they were underrepresented in state institutions at the local level.

According to the director of the Government Office for Human and Minority Rights, more than 60,000 minority schoolchildren attended education in their mother tongue. The government made some progress in approving new mother tongue textbooks, although not all the textbooks in minority languages were available at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

The government took some steps to counter violence and discrimination against minorities. The stand-alone government Office for Human and Minority Rights supported minority communities. Civic education classes, offered by the government as an alternative to religion courses in secondary schools, included information on minority cultures and multiethnic tolerance.

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

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the law does not describe specific areas in which discrimination is prohibited but is generally interpreted as applying to housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. The government did not enforce these laws effectively, and violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTI community were serious problems. Transgender individuals were not permitted to update legal identity documents to reflect their gender identity unless they had undergone sex reassignment surgery.

According to civil society organizations, there were 500,000 LGBTI persons in the country. Credible NGOs noted a lack of significant progress in establishing dialogue, educating the public on LGBTI issues, and addressing hate crimes and bias-motivated violence.

According to NGOs, activists, and independent institutions, discrimination against members of the LGBTI community continued. The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality found that LGBTI persons seldom reported instances of violence and discrimination because they lacked trust in relevant institutions, and feared stigmatization and secondary victimization. Data available from a number of research papers and reports indicated that homophobia and transphobia were deeply rooted in society.

According to data from the Equal Rights Association, 26 percent of the country’s population would cease contact with a person if they learned that person was LGBTI; 38 percent of population believed that homosexuality was a disease; 48 percent of parents would try medical treatment for their LGBTI child; 70 percent opposed the right of an LGBTI person to inherit the property of their deceased partner, and 90 percent opposed child adoption by LGBTI persons. The NGO Let It Be Known recorded eight hate crimes involving violence against LGBTI persons from January through November 2017. The organization also reported 11 cases of psychological violence and threats, five cases of hate speech, and two discriminatory incidents during the study period.

On April 29, a transgender person was severely injured in an attack in front of a Belgrade nightclub. Police identified three of five attackers, two of whom were minors, and filed criminal charges against them. Police also initiated internal control procedures against a police officer for unprofessional conduct when the survivor was reporting the attack at the police station.

In October a man who attacked a transgender woman in 2014 was sentenced to one year of probation. Activists criticized the sentence as being too light, because the attacker was not prosecuted under a provision of the criminal code that mandates harsher punishment for hate crimes.

On September 16, the Belgrade Pride parade was held for a fifth consecutive year after police stopped several dozen counterprotesters walking towards the parade route; no security incidents were reported. Police shut a portion of central Belgrade to secure the route and prevent harassment of the nearly 1,000 participants who marched through central Belgrade. The law enforcement presence was significantly less than in previous years. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, other ministers, and Belgrade’s mayor attended the march. Organizers of Pride Week demanded the protection of human rights of LGBTI individuals.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

According to government officials and NGOs, there was significant prejudice against persons with HIV/AIDS in all aspects of public life, including employment, housing, and access to public services. According to a survey performed by the Union of Persons Living with HIV and Aids of Serbia, 92 percent of Serbians have a discriminatory attitude towards persons living with HIV/AIDS. The commissioner for protection’s 2017 annual report noted that the majority of persons with HIV/AIDS did not disclose their health status to anyone besides their attending physician, and only approximately half of persons with HIV/AIDS disclosed their status to family members. The government adopted a strategy for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS for 2018-25 that promotes the protection from discrimination and human rights of persons with HIV/AIDS.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws prohibit direct and indirect discrimination in employment and occupation and the government enforced these laws with varying degrees of effectiveness. Penalties and enforcement were not sufficient to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation reportedly occurred with respect to race, sex, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, and HIV-positive status. In 2017 labor inspectors issued 19 decisions regarding discrimination at work and none related to gender equality. In the labor force, women experienced discrimination in hiring, under representation in management, and lower compensation than their male counterparts.

The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality’s 2017 annual report showed 149 discrimination complaints in the area of labor and employment in 2017: 24.8 percent based on gender; 13.4 percent on membership in political, trade union, or other organizations; 13.4 percent on marital or family status; 12.8 percent on disability; 9.4 percent on national or ethnic origin; 8.1 percent on age; 6.7 percent on health status; 4 percent on religious and political beliefs; and 2.7 percent on sexual orientation.

The EC’s Serbia 2018 Report identified Roma, LGBTI persons, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS as the groups most subject to discrimination. A study by the Center for Free Elections and Democracy found discrimination was most frequent in hiring and employment, with the state and its institutions as the major discriminators. The law provides for equal pay, but employers frequently did not observe these provisions. According to a 2017 report by the country’s statistics office, women earned on average 22 percent less per month than their male counterparts. Other reports showed their career advancement was slower, they were underrepresented in most professions, and they faced discrimination related to maternity leave.

The International Labor Organization noted allegations that the law restricting the maximum age of employees in the public sector, adopted in 2015, is discriminatory because it obliges women workers in the public sector to retire at age 62, whereas male workers can work up to the age of 65. The law states that the retirement age for women will continue to increase incrementally until the retirement age is 65 for both men and women. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring and access to the workplace.

Seychelles

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, spousal rape, and domestic abuse are criminal offenses for which conviction is punishable by a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. Nevertheless, rape was a problem, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Most victims did not report rape due to fear of reprisal or social stigma.

Domestic violence against women was a widespread problem. Police rarely responded to domestic disputes, although media continued to draw attention to the problem. Police maintained a specialized unit, the Family Squad, to address domestic violence and other family problems.

The Social Affairs Division of the Ministry of Family Affairs and NGOs provided counseling services to victims of rape and domestic violence. The ministry’s Gender Secretariat conducted outreach campaigns to end gender-based violence. On November 9, the first shelter for victims of gender-based violence opened and was operated by CEPS.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but enforcement was rare. The penal code provides no penalty for sexual harassment, although the court may order a person accused of such conduct to “keep a bond of peace,” which allows the court to assess a fine if the harasser fails to cease the harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Although society is largely matriarchal, the law provides for the same legal status and rights for men as for women, including equal treatment under family, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. While unwed mothers were the societal norm, the law requires fathers to support their children financially. The Employment Act, as amended in 2015, provides fathers with five days of paid paternity leave upon the birth of a child.

There was no officially sanctioned economic discrimination against women in employment, access to credit, equal pay for equal work, or owning or managing a business. Women were well represented in both the public and private sectors. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth in the country or from parents, and births were generally registered immediately.

For additional information, see Appendix C.

Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits physical abuse of children, child abuse was a problem. Physical abuse of children was prevalent. The strongest public advocate for young victims was a semiautonomous agency, the National Council for Children. A December 2017 amendment to the Education Act prohibits corporal punishment in schools.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 15 years for girls with parental consent. The legal age for a girl to get married without parental consent is 18. Boys may legally marry at 18, and the law does not provide for parental consent before that age. Child marriage was not a significant problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penal code, the Children’s Act, and other laws criminalize the prostitution and sexual exploitation of children and specifically prohibit the procurement, recruitment, or exploitation of children younger than age 18 for the purpose of prostitution. The law also prohibits the detention of any child against his or her will with the intent to engage the child in sexual conduct. The law provides for a sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment for a first conviction of sexual assault on a person younger than age 15 and 28 years’ imprisonment for a second conviction, but the presiding judge may reduce these sentences.

The 2014 Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons Act prescribes penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment and a fine up to 800,000 Seychellois rupees ($59,000) for a child trafficking conviction. There were previous credible reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children. No cases of child pornography, which is illegal, were reported during the year.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered fewer than 10 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

Although the constitution and law provide for the right of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities to special protection, including reasonable provisions for improving quality of life, no laws provide for access to public buildings, transportation, or government services, and the government does not provide such services. Unlike in previous years, employed persons with disabilities were paid their salaries in full. Most children with disabilities were segregated in specialized schools. The National Council for the Disabled, a government agency under the Ministry of Family Affairs, developed work placement programs for persons with disabilities, although few employment opportunities existed.

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

In 2016 consensual same-sex sexual activity between men was decriminalized. There were few reports of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons although activists claimed that discrimination and stigma was common.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Unlike in previous years, foreign citizens marrying a Seychellois were no longer required to undergo an HIV test. An independent National AIDS Council oversees all laws, policies, and programs related to HIV and AIDS.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, gender, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, or social status. The law does not address age or color.

The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations. Penalties levied came in the form of fines and were sufficient to deter violations.

Employment discrimination generally did not occur. Women received equal pay for equal work, as well as equal access to credit, business ownership, and management positions.

Sierra Leone

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both men and women and a conviction is punishable by between five and 15 years’ imprisonment. Rape was common and viewed more as a societal norm than a criminal problem. The law specifically prohibits spousal rape. Indictments were rare, especially in rural areas. A reluctance to use the judicial system by both victims and law enforcement officials, combined with women’s lack of income and economic independence, helped perpetuate violence against women and impunity for offenders. Despite the establishment of the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the SLP and the existence of applicable legislation, reports of rapes, especially involving child victims, steadily increased.

Violent acts against women, especially wife beating and spousal rape, were common and often surrounded by a culture of silence. Conviction of domestic violence is punishable by a fine not exceeding five million leones ($685) and two years’ imprisonment. Victims seldom reported domestic violence due to their fear of social stigma and retaliation. First Lady Fatima Jabbie-Bio, and NGOs such as the Rainbo Center actively promoted public awareness, calling on men to refrain from violence against women.

The HRCSL observed that the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence continued to rise while arrests and convictions of perpetrators were negligible. A psychosocial worker of the NGO Rainbo Center blamed the structure of the justice system and lengthy court processes for the delay in accessing justice.

In May Rainbo Center reported low conviction rates in prosecuting perpetrators of rape and sexual violence. In May the spokesperson for the country’s judiciary reported that most of the viable cases in the last two criminal sessions of the High Court were for rape.

Medical and psychological services for rape victims were limited. Police often required victims to obtain a medical report for the filing of charges, but most government doctors charged fees that were prohibitively expensive for the victims. Although the law provides that the victim of a sexual offense shall be entitled to free medical treatment and medical reports, many victims had to pay for these medical services.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C for women and girls. UNICEF data from 2014, the most recent available, reported that nine of 10 women and girls had undergone the procedure. In the lead up to the March elections, the minister of local government and rural development banned secret society initiation activities, including female genital mutilation (FGM/C), until after the elections. The government stated that the ban was to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections. In July the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs signed a memorandum of understanding with the Soweis and other traditional leaders who practice FGM/C, whereby the traditional leaders committed not to initiate minors younger than 18 years of age. The FSU reported no new cases of FGM/C during initiation of girls younger than 18 years of age from August 2017 through the year’s end, although anecdotal evidence suggests that the practice has not been entirely abandoned.

For more information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment, but authorities did not always effectively enforce it. It is unlawful to make unwanted sexual advances, repeatedly follow or pursue others against their will, initiate repeated and unwanted communications with others, or engage in any other “menacing” behavior. Conviction of sexual harassment is punishable by a fine not exceeding 14.3 million leones ($1,660) or imprisonment not exceeding three years. No reliable data was available on the prevalence of sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. See Appendix C for information on maternal mortality.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws. Women continued to experience discriminatory practices. Their rights and positions are largely contingent on customary law and the ethnic group to which they belong. The law provides for both Sierra Leonean fathers and mothers to confer nationality to children born abroad. The law provides for equal remuneration for equal work without discrimination based on gender. Either spouse may acquire property in their own right, and women may obtain divorce without being forced to relinquish dowries.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs reported that women faced widespread societal discrimination, particularly in matters of marriage, divorce, property, and inheritance, which are guided by customary law in all areas except Freetown. Formal laws apply in customary as well as formal courts, but customary judges had limited or no legal training and often were unaware of formal laws or chose to ignore them. Women’s rights and status under customary law varied significantly depending upon the ethnic group to which they belonged, but such rights and status were routinely inferior to those of men. Under customary law, women’s status in society is equal to that of a minor. Women were frequently perceived to be the property of their husbands, to be inherited on his death with his other property.

Discrimination occurred in access to credit, equal pay for similar work, and the ownership and management of a business. Women did not have equal access to education, economic opportunities, health facilities, or social freedoms. In rural areas, women performed much of the subsistence farming and had little opportunity for formal education. Women also experienced discrimination in access to employment, and it was common for an employer to dismiss a woman if she became pregnant during her first year on the job. The law does not prohibit dismissal of pregnant workers based on pregnancy.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs has a mandate to protect the rights of women, but most international and domestic NGOs asserted the ministry did not have the resources, infrastructure, and support of other ministries to handle its assigned projects effectively. The ministry routinely relied on the assistance of international organizations and NGOs to help combat women’s rights violations.

Children

Birth Registration: Although the constitution states that it prohibits discrimination based on race, tribe, gender, place of origin, political opinion, color, and religion, the constitution denies citizenship at birth to persons who are not of “Negro-African descent.” Non-Africans who have lived in the country for at least eight years (two years for foreigners married to Sierra Leonean citizens) may apply for naturalization, subject to presidential approval. Citizenship derived by birth is restricted to children with at least one parent or grandparent of Negro-African descent who was born in Sierra Leone. Children not meeting the criteria must be registered in their parents’ countries of origin.

Birth registration was not universal due to outdated birth registration laws and inadequate staffing of government registry facilities. Lack of registration did not affect access to public services or result in statelessness. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Despite President Maada Bio’s Free and Quality Education Program enacted in August as part of his attempt to follow through on campaign promises, pregnant girls continued to be prohibited from attending classes and taking examinations with other students on the grounds that they were a “bad moral influence.”

Child Abuse: A pattern of violence against and abuse of children existed, and according to the FSU, it increased between January and August compared with previous years. The FSU reported the following forms of child abuse to be on the increase: sexual violence, abandonment, and trafficking. FSU personnel were trained in dealing with sexual violence against children, and cases of child sexual abuse generally were taken more seriously than adult rape cases.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. According to UNICEF, child marriage is a major restriction on girls’ education. According to UNICEF’s world children report of 2017, 39 percent of girls in the country are married before their 18th birthday. The report stated that child marriage in the country is linked to poverty, lack of education, and geographical area. On August 9, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children, LAB, and the Sierra Leone Police interrupted an underage marriage and arrested parents who acted contrary to law. The government is currently implementing “Let Girls be Girls, Not Mothers,” a two-year national strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy. On July 17, the Inter-Religious Council promised not to conduct any marriage when members think the bride is younger than the age of 18.

According to UNICEF the country is one of 12 selected to be part of the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF’s global program to accelerate action to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy, which are still major challenges.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Although the law criminalizes sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, and child trafficking, including child pornography, enforcement remained a problem and conviction numbers remained low. In many cases of sexual assault of children, parents accepted payment instead of taking the perpetrator to court due to difficulties dealing with the justice system, fear of public shame, and economic hardship.

According to a UNICEF case study in 2017, the FSU of the Sierra Leone Police estimated more than 1,000 children experience sexual violence in the country each year. The World Vision 2017 Research report confirms that sexual violence, including verbal and emotional abuse, inappropriate touching, physical harassment, and rape, continued to surge and affects 13.2 percent of boys and 21.5 percent of girls. The same study stated that the perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation are normally persons who live in the same community and are known to the children, with more than one-third being either a close relative or an extended relative.

Displaced Children: The NGO Needy Child International reported that during the year approximately 50,000 children worked and lived on the street, with 45,000 of them engaged in artisanal gravel production in the Western Area.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no 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 Persons With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment and provision of state services, including judicial services. The government did not effectively implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. The government-funded Commission on Persons with Disabilities is charged with protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of persons with disabilities. Given the high rate of general unemployment, work opportunities for persons with disabilities were limited, and begging was commonplace. Children with disabilities were also less likely to attend school than other children.

There was considerable discrimination against persons with mental disabilities. The vast majority of persons with mental disabilities received no treatment or public services. The Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital in Kissy, the only inpatient psychiatric institution that served persons with mental disabilities, was underfunded. Authorities reported that only one consulting psychiatrist was available, patients were not provided sufficient food, and restraints were primitive and dehumanizing. The hospital lacked running water and had only sporadic electricity. Only basic medications were available.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is responsible for providing free primary health-care services to persons with polio and diabetic retinopathy as well as those who are blind or deaf. The ministry did not provide these services consistently, and organizations reported many persons with disabilities had limited access to medical and rehabilitative care. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs has a mandate to provide policy oversight for issues affecting persons with disabilities but had limited capacity to do so.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population included 18 ethnic groups of African origin. In addition there were significant Lebanese and Indian minorities and small groups of European and Pakistani origin. Little ethnic segregation was apparent in urban areas, where interethnic marriage was common. The two largest ethnic groups were the Themne in the North and the Mende in the South. Each group constituted approximately 30 percent of the population. Strong ethnic loyalties, bias, and stereotypes existed among all ethnic groups. Ethnic loyalty was an important factor in the government, the armed forces, and business. Complaints of ethnic discrimination in government appointments, contract assignments, and military promotions were common.

Residents of non-African descent faced some institutionalized discrimination, particularly in the areas of citizenship and nationality (see sections 3, Participation of Women and Minorities, and 6, Children, Birth Registration).

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

A law from 1861 prohibits male-to-male sexual acts, but there is no legal prohibition against female-to-female sex. The 1861 law, which carries a penalty of life imprisonment for “indecent assault” upon a man or 10 years for attempting such an assault, was not enforced. The constitution does not offer protection from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Sexual orientation and gender-identity civil society groups alleged that because the law prohibits male-to-male sexual activity, the law limits lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons from exercising their freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. The law, however, does not restrict the rights of persons to speak out on LGBTI human rights. No hate crime laws cover bias-motivated violence against LGBTI persons. The law does not address transgender persons.

A few organizations, including Dignity Association, supported LGBTI persons, but they maintained low profiles. LGBTI groups alleged that police were biased against them.

The NGO Dignity Association reported that the LGBTI community faced challenges ranging from violence, stigma, discrimination, blackmailing, and public attack to denial of public services such as healthcare and justice. The NGO reported nine cases of discrimination against two staff members and a police officer in Bo during the year. It reported that three LGBTI persons were subjected to physical violence, denied medical service, and evicted from their houses due to their LGBTI status.

In the areas of employment and education, sexual orientation or gender identity were bases for abusive treatment, which led individuals to leave their jobs or courses of study. It was difficult for LGBTI individuals to receive health services–many chose not to seek medical testing or treatment due to fear their right to confidentiality would be ignored. Obtaining secure housing was also a problem for LGBTI persons. Families frequently shunned their LGBTI children, leading some to turn to sex work to survive. Adults could have their leases terminated if their LGBTI status became public. Women in the LGBTI community reported social discrimination from male LGBTI persons and the general population. On June 9, authorities expelled two female secondary school students for kissing each other in public. Dignity Association reported that after NGOs expressed concerns to school authorities about the expulsions, the authorities agreed to allow the girls to return to the school.

As of August there was no information regarding any official action by government authorities to investigate or punish public entities or private persons complicit in abuses against LGBTI persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on actual, perceived, or suspected HIV status, but society stigmatized persons with HIV/AIDS. The Network of HIV Positive in Sierra Leone (NETHIP-SL) in December 2017 informed stakeholders and government officials that HIV/AIDS stigma was on the increase. NETHIP-SL reported that adults with HIV/AIDS lacked employment and promotion opportunities. There were also reports men often divorced their wives due to HIV/AIDS status, leaving the latter without financial support. Authorities from the National AIDS Secretariat reported that 3,352 children were infected with HIV. NETHIP-SL reported children were denied access to education because of their HIV status and the issue of children with HIV/AIDS had been missing in the HIV/AIDS prevention process.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits most discrimination with respect to employment and occupation. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, age, language, HIV status or that of other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, or gender identity. NGOs at times expressed concerns that discrimination appeared to occur based on sex, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity with respect to employment and occupation.

As of August 31, there was no information available on whether the government enforced the applicable provisions regarding combatting discrimination at workplaces.

Singapore

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime, with maximum penalties of 20 years’ imprisonment and the possibility of caning. By law only a man can commit rape. A man cannot legally be a victim of rape but may be the victim of unlawful sexual penetration, which carries the same penalties as rape. Spousal rape is generally not a crime, but husbands who force their wives to have intercourse may be prosecuted for other offenses, such as assault. Spousal rape is a criminal offense when the couple is separated, subject to an interim divorce order that has not become final, or subject to a written separation agreement, as well as when a court has issued a protection order against the husband. Domestic violence is a crime. Victims may obtain court orders restraining the respondent and barring the spouse or former spouse from the home until the court is satisfied the spouse has ceased aggressive behavior.

Twenty-one women’s and social sector groups issued a joint press release signaling their strong support for repealing marital immunity for rape.

In March parliament amended the Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act to increase protection for victims of sexual crimes and child abuse within the judicial system. Identity protection orders became mandatory from the time a police report is lodged. Victims of sexual crimes may video-record their testimony instead of having to recount it in person. Victims may testify in closed-door hearings, with physical screens to shield them from the accused person. Lawyers may not ask questions about a victim’s sexual history, unless the court grants them permission to do so.

Several voluntary welfare organizations that assisted abused women noted that gender-based violence was under-reported, which they said was the result of social stigma and a lack of understanding among the population at large as well as among police. The press gave prominent coverage to several instances of abuse or violence against women.

Welfare and advocacy organization AWARE, which operated a specialized care service for survivors of sexual violence, collaborated with police to develop a training video. The video, first used in the reporting year, helped police understand how victims of sexual crime feel, why they behave in certain ways, and how police and other first responders can assist them effectively.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Type I (a) (as classified by the World Health Organization) female genital mutilation/cutting was practiced among a small portion of the Muslim population. Referred to locally as “ceremonial” female circumcision, it was undertaken as a standardized procedure by designated doctors under the supervision of the Muslim Healthcare Professionals Association. There was no legislation banning FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: Harassment is a crime and the law includes harassment within and outside the workplace, cyberbullying, and bullying of children. The law also prescribes mandatory caning and minimum of two years’ imprisonment on conviction on any charge of “outraging modesty” that causes the victim to fear death or injury. The law also subjects persons convicted of using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior to maximum fines of 5,000 SGD ($3,650). It also provides a range of self-help measures, civil remedies, and enhanced criminal sanctions to protect against harassment. Additionally, stalking is an offense punishable with a maximum fine of 5,000 SGD ($3,650), imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.

In February police highlighted sexual molestation on public transport as a concern. Outrage of modesty advisory posters were placed in buses and in subway stations, and public education videos screened on subway platforms. The police “Citizens on Patrol” program expanded its presence to the subway system, where volunteers gave out flyers raising awareness about molestation. In February and again in May, media reported cases in which a woman who was molested while traveling by bus enlisted the help of the bus driver and commuters to detain the alleged perpetrator until police arrived.

According to police statistics, outrage of modesty incidents increased by more than 21 percent in the first six months of the year (compared to the same period in 2017 (from 685 to 832 cases). AWARE reported that government campaigns encouraging women to report sexual molestation led to the increase. Media gave significant coverage to sexual harassment convictions throughout the year, and several members of parliament urged the government to address sexual harassment in the workplace more actively.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including civil liberties, employment, commercial activity, and education. Women were well represented in many professions (see section 7.d.).

No laws mandate nondiscrimination in hiring based on gender; prohibit employers from asking questions about a prospective employee’s family status during a job interview; require flexible or part-time work schedules for employees with minor children; or establish public provision of childcare. The Ministry of Manpower set aside 30 million SGD ($21.9 million) to help employers implement flexible workplace practices.

Polygyny is permitted for Muslim men but is limited and strictly regulated by the Syariah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages, which oversees Muslim marriages and other family law matters. Polygynous marriages constituted 0.2 percent of Muslim marriages.

Both men and women have the right to initiate divorce proceedings.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents. The law requires that all births be registered within 14 days.

Child Abuse: The law criminalizes mistreatment of children, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The government enforced the law and provided support services for child-abuse victims.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law characterizes unmarried persons younger than 21 years as minors and persons younger than 14 as children. Individuals younger than 21 who wish to marry must obtain parental consent, and the couple must attend a mandatory marriage preparation program. Individuals younger than 18 also require a special license from the Ministry of Social and Family Development to wed or, if they are marrying under Muslim law, they require permission from the kadi (a Muslim judge appointed by the president), who will grant permission only under special conditions.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes human trafficking, including child sex trafficking, and authorities enforced the law.

The age of consent for noncommercial sex is 16 years. Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 16 is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, a fine, or both, and if the victim is 14 or younger punishable by as long as 20 years in prison and a fine or caning.

Authorities may detain (but generally do not prosecute) persons younger than 18 whom they believe to be engaged in prostitution. They prosecute those who organize or profit from prostitution, bring women or girls to the country for prostitution, or coerce or deceive women or girls into prostitution. The law is ambiguous regarding employment of persons ages 16 to 18 in the production of pornography.

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/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

Although estimates varied widely, the government estimated there were approximately 2,500 members in the Jewish community. 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

There is no comprehensive legislation addressing equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in education or employment. Electoral law allows voters who are unable to vote in the manner described by law to receive assistance from election officials to mark and cast their ballots.

In December 2017 a couple was imprisoned after the severe abuse they inflicted on their intellectually disabled roommate over a period of eight months resulted in her death. Tan Hui Zhen was jailed for 16 years and six months and her husband, Pua Hak Chuan, was jailed for 14 years and given 14 strokes of the cane for causing grievous hurt with a weapon to Annie Ee Yu Lian. The case gained national attention due to the victim’s vulnerability, and a national petition called for harsher punishments for the pair.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and coordinates implementation of the government’s 2017-2021 policy plan for programs and services in the disability sector, which focuses on greater inclusiveness. The ministry began implementing the policy plan in January.

The government maintained a comprehensive code on barrier-free accessibility, established standards for facilities for persons with physical disabilities in all new buildings, and mandated the progressive upgrading of older structures. SG Enable, established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, administered several assistance schemes for persons with disabilities, and provided a job training and placement program for them.

The Disabled People’s Association, an advocacy group, reported private discrimination against persons with disabilities who were seeking employment.

The country provided a high level of educational support for children and minors with disabilities from preschool to university. Elementary and secondary levels both included mainstreaming programs and separate education schools. All primary schools and the majority of secondary schools had specialist support for students with mild disabilities. Mainstreaming programs catered primarily to children with physical disabilities. Separate education schools, which focused on children who required more intensive and specialized assistance, were operated by social service organizations and involved a means-tested payment of fees. The Special Educational Needs Support Offices, established in all publicly funded tertiary education institutions including universities, provided support for students. Informal provisions permitted university matriculation for those with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities through assistive technology devices and services such as note taking.

In the 2015 general election, voters with visual disabilities could cast their vote independently with stencils. The Disabled People’s Association recommended that persons with disabilities be permitted to choose who would assist them to mark and cast their ballots.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Malays constituted approximately 13 percent of the population. The constitution recognizes them as the indigenous persons of the country and charges the government to support and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social, cultural, and language interests. The government took steps to encourage greater educational achievement among Malay students and upgrading of skills among Malay workers, including through subsidies for tertiary education fees for poorer Malays. Malay educational performance has improved, although ethnic Malays have not yet reached the educational or socioeconomic levels achieved by the ethnic Chinese majority, the ethnic Indian minority, or the Eurasian community. Malays remained underrepresented at senior corporate levels and, some asserted, in certain sectors of the government and the military. This reflected their historically lower educational and economic levels, but some argued it also was a result of employment discrimination.

The Presidential Council on Minority Rights examines all pending bills to ensure they do not disadvantage any particular group. It also reports to the government on matters that affect any racial or religious community.

Government policy designed to facilitate interethnic harmony and prevent the formation of racial enclaves enforced ethnic ratios, applicable for all ethnic groups, to all forms of public housing.

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

Section 377A of the penal code criminalizes male-to-male sexual relations, subject to up to two years’ imprisonment. The law does not criminalize female-to-female sexual relations. Authorities have not enforced the section for several years and stated that they will not do so. The prime minister and the minister for home affairs and law have said they personally are not opposed to male-to-male sexual relations. There were no indications the law was used intentionally to intimidate or coerce. The law’s existence, however, intimidates some gay men, particularly those who are victims of sexual assault but who will not report it to the police for fear of being charged with violating Section 377A.

No laws explicitly protect the LGBTI community from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, since single persons are prevented from purchasing government housing reserved for married couples until age 35, LGBTI persons, were unable to receive certain government services and benefits available to other citizens before reaching 35.

In September disc jockey Johnson Ong filed a constitutional challenge to Section 377A on the grounds it violates the right to “life and personal liberty” and the right to equality. The challenge argues that sexual orientation “is unchangeable or suppressible at unacceptable personal cost” and that the law applies only to sex between two men and not between two women. The High Court held a pretrial conferences in September.

LGBTI persons may experience discrimination in the military, which classifies individuals by sexual orientation and evaluates them on a scale of “effeminacy” to determine fitness for combat training and other assignments. Openly gay servicemen faced threats and harassment from their peers and were often ostracized.

A requirement that applicants for government employment declare their sexual orientation on job applications is no longer required.

Individuals were prohibited from updating their gender on official unless they underwent sex reassignment surgery.

Media censorship perpetuated negative stereotypes of LGBTI individuals by restricting portrayals of LGBTI life. The IMDA censored films and television shows with LGBTI themes. According to the IMDA website, authorities allow the broadcast of LGBTI themes on television “as long as the presentation does not justify, promote, or glamorize such a lifestyle” (see section 2.a.).

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Some persons with HIV/AIDS claimed that they were socially marginalized and faced employment discrimination or possible termination if they revealed their HIV/AIDS status. There is no law to prevent employers from firing a person based on their HIV status. Because of the above, many persons living with HIV fear losing their jobs if they disclose their HIV status. Some HIV-positive persons seek diagnosis and treatment outside the country.

The government discouraged discrimination, supported initiatives that countered misperceptions about HIV/AIDS, and publicly praised employers that welcomed workers with HIV/AIDS. HIV-positive foreigners are barred from obtaining work permits, student visas or immigrant visas.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution provides for equality in employment. No specific antidiscrimination legislation exists, although some statutes prohibit certain forms of discrimination. For example, employers may not dismiss female employees during pregnancy or maternity leave, and employers may not dismiss employees solely due to age.

The Ministry of Manpower’s Fair Consideration Framework requires all companies to comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices and have employment practices that are open, merit based, and nondiscriminatory. These guidelines call for eliminating language referring to age, race, gender, religion, marital status, family responsibility, and disability in employment advertisements. Employers are required to provide explanations for putting requirements such as specific language skills in the job advertisement. Penalties for violation of government guidelines are at the discretion of the ministry. There were no similar government guidelines with respect to political opinion, sexual orientation, or HIV or other communicable disease status.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices received complaints of employment discrimination, largely due to the preference to hire foreigners over citizens.

In 2017 the gender wage gap was 9.2 percent, and women were underrepresented in managerial and executive positions. The country’s Diversity Action Committee reported that women’s representation on boards of companies listed on the Singapore Exchange was 11.2 percent as of June. For the first time, as of June, a majority (51 percent) of listed companies had at least one female board member.

Some ethnic Malays and Indians reported discrimination limited their employment and promotion opportunities. There were also reports of discrimination based on disability, pregnancy, and sexual orientation/gender identity. Pregnancy is a breach of the standard work permit conditions for foreign workers, and the government cancels work permits and requires repatriation of foreign domestic workers who become pregnant.

Slovakia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and sexual violence, which carry a penalty of five to 25 years in prison. The law does not specifically define spousal rape, but the criminal code covers spousal rape and spousal sexual violence under the crime of rape and sexual violence. NGOs and rape victims criticized police for sometimes failing to enforce the law effectively and for often failing to communicate appropriately with rape victims. Rape and domestic violence victims had access to shelters and counseling offered by NGOs and government-funded programs. NGO service providers complained that authorities provided only a small portion of necessary funding, forcing many centers to close or fundraise additional resources from private and international donors.

Domestic violence against women is punishable by three to eight years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence was widespread, and activists claimed official statistics failed to capture the magnitude of the issue. NGOs also asserted the government did not enforce the law effectively. Experts complained there were no written procedures for referring battered women to counselling centers or shelters and no services for batterers. The lack of affordable public housing or rent-controlled housing often forced victims to return to abusive households.

In January the regional court in Kosice confirmed a 23-year prison sentence for a former police officer who in 2016 stabbed his fiancee to death and burned her remains in Spisska Nova Ves.

In March a 22 year-old man attacked his girlfriend and her three friends, breaking her nose and causing other injuries. The woman immediately reported the incident to police, who reportedly failed to provide first aid to the victims, downplaying the incident. The assailant was later found guilty and sentenced to a fine. After intense media coverage, the regional prosecutor’s office in Banska Bystrica announced it would reexamine the case.

In September the regional court in Banska Bystrica confirmed a 16-year prison sentence for a man who stabbed his wife to death in July 2017 while she sat in the back seat of a police patrol car that had responded to her domestic disturbance call. The man gained access to the patrol car by telling police he wanted a chance to apologize to his wife. As of October the two police officers who failed to prevent the attack awaited trial on charges of criminal negligence.

According to a 2017 report on gender equality and domestic violence by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family, more than 21 percent of adult women had experienced violence at the hand of their partner.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as unlawful discrimination, subject to civil penalties. Victims usually avoided legal action due to fear of reprisal, lengthy court proceedings, and lack of accessible legal services. A coordination center for gender-based and domestic violence under the Labor, Social Affairs and Family Ministry implements and coordinates countrywide policy to prevent and eliminate violence against women (including sexual harassment) and coordinates education and training efforts for the public and professionals. The government operates a 24/7 hotline for women subjected to violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status for women as for men. Discrimination against women remained a problem, particularly in the labor market, where women were less likely to be offered employment than men with equal qualifications, and faced a 20 percent gender pay gap.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth to at least one citizen parent, regardless of where the child is born. Each domestic birth is recorded at the local vital statistics office, including for children born to asylum seekers, stateless persons, and detained migrants.

Child Abuse: Child abuse remained a problem according to child advocates. A 2013 government study (the latest available) showed that 23 percent of 13- to 15-year-old persons suffered physical abuse, 20 percent emotional abuse, and 7 percent sexual abuse. Domestic abuse carries basic penalties of three to eight years’ imprisonment.

The government continued implementing and annually updating the National Action Plan for Children for 2013-22, funded through the government budget. Government bodies provided financial support to crisis centers for abused children and to NGOs that worked on child abuse. The Labor and Social Affairs Office had dedicated departments for overseeing childcare and operated a national coordination body for dealing with violence against children, which collected data, provided information on domestic violence and abuse of minors, helped refer victims to service providers, and ran a national helpline.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18. In exceptional cases, based upon request of one of the marrying couple, a competent court may allow marriage of a person as young as 16, if both parents consent. Women from marginalized Romani communities were transported to the United Kingdom by force or deception to marry foreign citizens attempting to avoid deportation by marrying an EU citizen and might consequently have been subjected to trafficking in persons.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Rape and sexual violence against a child carry basic penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law establishes 15 as the minimum age for consensual sex. In addition to prohibiting trafficking in persons, the law criminalizes the prostitution of children. These abuses were not common, and there were no obstacles to enforcement of the law.

The production, distribution, or possession of child pornography is a crime with penalties ranging from two to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Institutionalized Children: Reports published by the ombudsperson during the year and in 2013 found that juvenile offenders at educational rehabilitation centers regularly endured hunger and were subjected to degrading treatment, including compulsory gynecological examinations of girls after their trips outside the facility. The reports also found substandard levels of education at the centers.

In February the regional prosecutor in Trencin indicted a former employee of the private juvenile rehabilitation facility Cisty Den for sexual abuse and causing bodily harm to a minor. The facility lost its official Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family accreditation in September 2017 after a series of allegations of severe malpractice and misconduct. Experts criticized the labor minister for failing to protect the children housed in Cisty Den after suspicions regarding the facility first surfaced more than a year before the center’s accreditation was revoked.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

Jewish community leaders estimated, and the 2011 census data indicated, the size of the Jewish community was 2,000 persons.

Organized neo-Nazi groups with an estimated 500 active members and several thousand sympathizers occasionally spread anti-Semitic messages. Latent anti-Semitic attitudes characterizing Jewish people as greedy or secretly influencing world affairs were widespread, even beyond neo-Nazi groups and their sympathizers. Polls revealed increased support for the neo-Nazi LSNS, polling at 11 percent or higher.

In July the Special Prosecutor’s Office indicted LSNS leader and MP Marian Kotleba for his charitable donation of 1,488 euros ($1,710) to three families at a 2017 event marking the founding of the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state (The number 1,488 refers to a white supremacist 14-word slogan and a numeric representation of HH, for “Heil Hitler.”). Also in July, the Specialized Criminal Court acquitted LSNS MP Stanislav Mizik of extremism charges in a case concerning a January 2017 Facebook post in which he criticized President Kiska for giving state awards to persons of Jewish origin. The judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove that Mizik wrote the statement. The Special Prosecutor’s Office appealed the verdict, and the case remained pending. In February LSNS MP Milan Mazurek verbally attacked an expert witness during a court hearing at his trial, saying the witness was “not impartial, since he is a Jew.”

While direct denial of the Holocaust was relatively rare, expressions of approval for the World War II-era Slovak fascist state, which deported tens of thousands of Jews, Roma, and others to death camps, occurred frequently. Throughout the year, far-right groups organized small events to commemorate dates associated with the Slovak fascist state and its president, Jozef Tiso. On March 14 and April 19, the LSNS organized commemorations of the creation of the fascist Slovak state in 1939 and Tiso’s execution in 1947.

On September 9, government officials commemorated the Day of the Victims of the Holocaust and of Racial Violence at the Holocaust Memorial in Bratislava. The coalition government undertook initiatives to promote Holocaust education in schools and funded school field trips to Auschwitz and the Slovak Holocaust Museum in Sered. Government leaders including President Kiska and Speaker of Parliament Danko denounced the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the far right.

Representatives of the Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia noted the number of anti-Semitic comments and hate speech on the internet and social media increased following statements in March by then prime minister Robert Fico (Smer-SD), in which he accused philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, of instigating a coup against his government.

In January the ministers of finance and culture commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by visiting the Holocaust Museum in Sered where they announced a subsidy of one million euros ($1.15 million) to complete the museum’s campus.

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, the judicial system, other transportation, or the provision of other public services.

Psychiatric institutions and hospitals, which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Health, used cage beds to restrain patients. The law prohibits both physical and nonphysical restraints in social care homes managed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family.

No broadcaster complied with laws requiring television stations to provide audio descriptions for viewers who are blind or have impaired vision. While the law defines mandatory standards for access to buildings, NGOs noted they were not fully implemented, although access to privately owned buildings improved more rapidly than access to public buildings.

The government’s Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a committee on persons with disabilities. The council served as a governmental advisory body and included representation from NGOs working on disability problems. The country’s first national human rights strategy included a chapter on the rights of persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the 2011 census, approximately 458,000 ethnic Hungarians lived in the country. The law provides for the imposition of fines on government institutions, civil servants, and legal entities that do not provide information required by law in Slovak. Members of the ethnic Hungarian minority criticized the provision as discriminatory and a restriction on their right to free speech. The Ministry of Transport and Construction continued placing dual language signs at train stations serving Hungarian minority populations. In February the ministry changed a decree to allow the use of dual-language traffic signs.

Societal discrimination against Roma and individuals of non-European ethnicity was common. As much as 53 percent of the Romani population resided in marginalized communities. The UN Development Program has identified 231 segregated rural settlements located, on average, less than one mile from neighboring municipalities.

There were reports of violence against members of ethnic minorities during the year. In May a Filipino man with permanent residency status died after being brutally beaten for protecting his female colleagues from unwanted sexual advances on the streets of Bratislava. Authorities initially released the attacker from custody after the prosecutor’s office stated it saw no risk of him committing similar attacks. Following intense public pressure, the prosecutor reversed the decision and detained the alleged attacker, who faces a possible 12 years in prison. Media cited witnesses who reported the attacker was likely motivated by the victim’s skin color and perceived sexual orientation.

In July, three Romani boys from the northern city of Zilina were chased and attacked by a group of violent hooligans. Police pressed charges against three individuals, who remained in pretrial detention. Police and prosecutors initially refused to confirm the attack was racially motivated, but media outlets published testimony of eyewitnesses who claimed the assailants shouted, “Gypsies, we will kill you!” while hurling stones and bottles and chasing the boys.

Marginalized Romani communities continued to be subjected to controversial police raids and brutality. In November 2017 media reported on a police raid in the Romani community in the village of Jarovnice. Several police officers, including a special operations unit and a K9 unit, allegedly ransacked a house looking for three men wanted for petty larceny. While no one was injured during the raid, human rights activists questioned the appropriateness and proportionality of the police response. In May the Ministry of Interior Inspection Service terminated an investigation into the 2017 police raid in Zborov and concluded police officers did not break the law. Released video footage from the Zborov raid appeared to show police chasing, threatening, and beating numerous community residents, including children and elderly persons, who did not appear to be resisting police. Three residents required medical assistance.

Authorities’ investigation of violent incidents involving police was inconsistent and varied by jurisdiction. In 2016 the Ministry of Interior Inspection Service Department brought charges against the police officer who commanded a 2015 raid in a Romani community in the village of Vrbnica. According to reports, a group of 15 officers entered the community, allegedly to locate and arrest individuals evading arrest warrants, and severely beat, mistreated, and harassed a number of Romani residents. The investigation remained pending. At the same time, the investigation into several other police officers involved in the raid was halted, allegedly due to lack of evidence.

In November 2017 the Constitutional Court dismissed a motion protesting police brutality during a 2013 raid in a Romani settlement in the town of Moldava nad Bodvou as unsubstantiated. Six witnesses who had testified about excessive force used by police faced prosecution on charges of perjury. In June the district court in Kosice found two of the witnesses guilty in an accelerated procedure and sentenced them to suspended sentences. Both appealed the ruling and the cases remained pending. An expert testifying for the prosecution claimed the witnesses had a “Romani mentality,” which he claimed made them less trustworthy.

In May the Kosice regional court overturned for the second time a lower court ruling that acquitted all of the police officers accused in the 2009 case of police abuse against a group of six Romani boys between the ages of 11 and 15. The case was returned to the Kosice district court for the third time.

The LSNS continued to organize marches and gatherings against “asocial Gypsies.”

Police generally responded quickly to gatherings targeting the Romani community and prevented crowds from entering Romani communities or inciting confrontations.

In January during a visit to a Romani settlement in eastern Slovakia, then interior minister Robert Kalinak (Smer-SD) announced a new legislative package that included collecting statistics on “Roma crime,” greater police powers, and a constitutional amendment eliminating social benefits for persons who did not take appropriate care of their children. NGOs and the government plenipotentiary for Romani communities criticized the interior minister, claiming he incited hatred against the minority by portraying the Roma as a security and public order threat.

There were instances of public officials at every level defaming minorities and making derogatory comments about Roma. In April, MP Milan Mazurek (LSNS) was found guilty of anti-Roma hate speech for his remarks during a public radio broadcast in 2016. The Specialized Criminal Court in Banska Bystrica fined Mazurek 5,000 euros ($5,750) and gave him a suspended six-month prison sentence that he would serve should he fail to pay the fine.

Widespread discrimination against Roma continued in employment, education, health care, housing, loan practices, restaurants, hair salons, and public transportation.

In April the Kosice regional court issued a final decision affirming lower court rulings in favor of a Romani woman who was unjustly denied a job as a social worker in the town of Spisska Nova Ves, which must pay the woman 2,500 euros ($2,880) in compensation. In July a Presov district court ruled that the Sabinov municipality and the Transport Ministry had discriminated against local Sabinov Roma by moving them out of public housing in the center of the town and into substandard housing on the city’s periphery.

In May a Romani mother with her children was not allowed to participate in a celebration of Children’s Day in the eastern Slovak village of Velka Ida due to her ethnicity. The local mayor stated this was not discrimination because there were separate events for Roma and a separate Children’s Day event in a preschool. He implied that diseases in the local Romani settlement made it unsuitable for Romani children to attend the larger Children’s Day celebration.

Local authorities continued to use regulatory obstacles, such as withholding of construction permits, to discourage the legal establishment of Romani settlements. In August the Partizanske municipality demolished a dilapidated apartment building inhabited by Roma. NGOs criticized the city leadership for failing to provide replacement housing and pushing Roma inhabitants out of the city limits. The Kosice municipality advanced plans of demolitions of apartment buildings in the marginalized Romani district of Lunik IX but finalized documentation for new housing for the Lunik inhabitants.

NGOs reported Romani women faced multiple forms of discrimination in reproductive health care, including segregation in maternity departments, verbal harassment, and maltreatment by medical personnel. The hospitals claimed they grouped persons according to their levels of hygiene and adaptability, not by race. While there were no reported cases of forced or coerced sterilizations, NGOs continued to express concerns over the way in which medical personnel obtained informed consent from patients. Romani women continued to pursue compensation through the courts for past involuntary sterilization, and NGOs called on the government to establish an independent investigative body to determine the scope of the practice.

Romani children from socially excluded communities faced educational segregation and were disproportionately enrolled in “special” schools or placed in segregated classrooms within mainstream schools. A report issued during the year by the ombudsperson established that Romani children received an inferior education compared with their non-Romani peers. The report found a disproportionately high share (88 percent) of Romani children in “special” primary schools for children with mental disabilities and schools with special classes for Romani children. Only 15 percent of the Romani children surveyed had received preschool education, compared with 78 percent for the general population. The ombudsperson’s investigation also confirmed systemic discrimination against Romani children in academic and psychological testing, where authorities failed to consider personal and special circumstances of the individuals who were tested.

The Government Council on Human Rights, National Minorities, and Gender Equality operated a Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, and Other Forms of Intolerance.

The law bans the spreading of profascist propaganda and hatred in public, including on social media and hate speech against LGBTI individuals.

In June parliament adopted a resolution expressing deep concern over growing extremism and hatred in the country and stressing that the country must remain “built on values such as democracy, freedom and tolerance.”

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 in employment, education, state social services, health care, and access to goods and services and identifies sexual orientation as a hate crime motivation that warrants stiffer sentences.

LGBTI organizations reported the law requires that persons seeking legal gender recognition provide confirmation from a medical practitioner that a person has undergone a “gender change” to obtain new identity documents; however, the law does not define “gender change.” In practice authorities required confirmation that a person had undergone permanent sterilization before issuing new identity documents.

The law does not allow educational establishments to reissue educational certificates with a new first name and surname to transgender individuals after they have transitioned. The law does allow institutions to issue such individuals new birth certificates reflecting the name with which they identify.

NGOs reported violence and online harassment of LGBTI persons. In June a group of 10 men attacked two gay 17-year-old boys for holding hands in public in the western Slovak city of Trencin. The group attacked the teenagers in front of a nightclub, kicking and punching them while shouting homophobic slurs. Afraid to reveal their names, the boys refused to report the incident to police or press charges. A widely publicized attack on a Filipino man, who died in June after being brutally beaten for protecting his female colleagues from unwanted sexual advances in Bratislava, was also reportedly accompanied by antigay slurs.

In July SNS deputy chair Anton Hrnko criticized ombudsperson Maria Patakyova for giving a speech at Bratislava Rainbow Pride and accused her of contributing to the spread of “neoliberal gender ideology” which aimed “to dismantle the traditional family.”

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

NGOs reported violence and online hate speech towards refugees.

Government officials at all levels and leaders from across the political spectrum, including the opposition, engaged in rhetoric portraying refugees and Muslims as a threat to society.

In January then prime minister Fico stated he rejected the creation of Muslim communities in the country. On another occasion, Fico remarked that tourists wanted to come to the country because they did not have to fear explosions and know Muslims will not bother them in public squares.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination regarding age, religion, ethnicity, race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, social status, or “other status” but does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on HIV status. Relevant inspection bodies provide for the protection of migrant workers against abuses from private employment agencies. The Central Office of Labor, Social Affairs and Family and the Trade Business Office may cancel or suspend the business license of violators and impose a penalty of more than 30,000 euros ($34,500). Employers discriminated against members of the Romani minority (see section 6).

The government continued implementing a program to increase the motivation of the long-term unemployed Roma to find jobs. The Operational Program–Human Resources for 2014-20 included as one of its priorities the integration of marginalized Romani communities in the labor market through educational measures. Activists frequently alleged that employers refused to hire Roma, and an estimated 80 to 90 percent of Roma from socially excluded communities were unemployed. NGOs working with Roma from such communities reported that, while job applications by Roma were often successful during the initial phase of selection, in a majority of cases employers rejected the applicants once they found they were Roma. Rejected job applicants rarely pursued discrimination cases through the courts.

Despite having higher levels of educational attainment compared to men, women faced an employment gap of approximately 13 percent and only 33 percent of entrepreneurs were female. Experts noted motherhood negatively affected career prospects due to long maternity and parental leave and a lack of preschool facilities and flexible work arrangements. Women earned on average 18 percent less than their male colleagues according to a 2017 survey by personnel agency Trexima.

Slovenia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence, is illegal. Sexual violence is a criminal offense and the penalty for conviction is six months’ to eight years’ imprisonment. The penalty for conviction of rape is one to 10 years’ imprisonment. Police actively investigated accusations of rape and courts tried accused offenders.

The law provides from six months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment for aggravated and grievous bodily harm. Upon receiving reports of spousal abuse or violence, police generally intervened and prosecuted offenders, but local NGOs reported that victims of sexual violence often did not report crimes to police.

There was a network of maternity homes, safe houses, and shelters for women and children who were victims of violence. The police academy offered annual training on domestic violence. Local NGOs reported women lacked equal access to assistance and support services and that free psychosocial assistance from NGOs was unavailable in many parts of the country. NGOs also reported a lack of practical training and educational programs for professionals who are legally bound to offer services to survivors of violence. NGOs highlighted the lack of systematic and continuous prevention programs for domestic violence and rape and reported there were no specialized support programs for Romani women, elderly women, or other vulnerable groups.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense carrying a penalty if convicted of up to three years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual harassment, psychological violence, mistreatment, or unequal treatment in the workplace that causes “another employee’s humiliation or fear.” Authorities did not prosecute any sexual harassment cases during the year.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. Despite legal provisions for equal pay, inequities persisted.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from the parents with certain limitations. A child is granted citizenship at birth if the child’s mother and father were citizens, or one of the child’s parents was a citizen and the child was born on the territory of the country, or one of the child’s parents was a citizen while the other parent was unknown or of unknown citizenship and the child was born in a foreign country. Naturalization is possible. Children of migrants and asylum seekers do not qualify for citizenship if they are born in Slovenia, although their parents may file for asylum or refugee status on their behalf.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is a criminal offense and conviction carries a penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment. In the first half of the year, police reported 48 cases of child abuse and 179 cases of negligence. The number of reported cases is roughly on track with 2017 cases. In October authorities closed the Kengurujcki (“Little Kangaroos”) child-care facility following allegations of child abuse. After alerting staff to the inappropriate treatment of children, a newly hired employee at “Little Kangaroos” recorded a video showing children ages 11 months to four years subjected to force-feeding and life-threatening ways to prevent toddlers from crying. The video showed a baby with her head and body tightly wrapped in sheets with a mattress on top of her. The employee showed the video to parents, and they jointly reported the case to the police. A police and educational inspectorate investigation was underway.

There were 10 crisis centers for youth, with a combined capacity for 86 children. The government allowed children to stay at these centers until they reached age 21, if they were still in school.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. Centers for social service may approve marriage of a person younger than age 18, together with the approval of parents or legal guardians. Child marriage occurred within the Romani community but was not a widespread problem.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Statutory rape carries a prison sentence of one to eight years in prison. The law sets the minimum age of consent for sexual relations at 15. The government generally enforced the law.

The possession, sale, purchase, or propagation of child pornography is illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. The penalty for conviction of violations ranged from six months to eight years in prison.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 300 Jews in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic violence or overt discrimination.

In November, in the city of Velenje, police arrested a juvenile for public incitement of hatred and intolerance for hanging in June of six Nazi-themed posters in public places. The president and prime minister strongly condemned the act, and the case remained pending. The government promoted antibias and tolerance education in primary and secondary schools, and the Holocaust was a mandatory topic in the history curriculum.

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 mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but modification of public and private structures to improve access continued at a slow pace, and some buildings–particularly older buildings–were not accessible. The law provides social welfare assistance and early-childhood, elementary, secondary, and vocational education programs for children with disabilities. It also provides vocational and independent living resources for adults with disabilities. The government continued to implement laws and programs to provide persons with disabilities with access to education, employment, health services, buildings, information, communications, the judicial system, transportation, and other state services. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.

Changes to the electoral law require all polling stations to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the National Electoral Commission estimated that as of the presidential election in fall 2017, only 56 percent of local polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities. In the June 3 parliamentary elections, the National Electoral Commission used seven mobile ballot boxes to provide for equal access of voters with disabilities. Voters with disabilities who are unable to reach a polling station on election day may also vote by mail.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Three officially recognized ethnic minorities live in the country: Roma (estimated at 7,000 to 11,000), Hungarians (approximately 8,000), and Italians (approximately 4,000). The approximately 2,000 ethnic Germans are not recognized as an official minority group.

Discrimination against socially marginalized Roma persisted in some parts of the country. Organizations monitoring conditions in the Romani community noted that Roma faced difficulties securing adequate housing in traditional housing markets. Many Roma lived apart from other communities in illegal settlements lacking basic utilities, such as electricity, running water, sanitation, and access to transportation. Government officials emphasized that the illegality of settlements remained the biggest obstacle to providing Roma access to adequate housing, water, and sanitation. By law only owners or persons with another legal claim to land, such as legal tenants, may obtain public services and infrastructure, such as water, electricity, and sanitation.

While visiting the country in April, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues said Roma continued to be the most vulnerable community in Slovenia and called on authorities to address recurrent problems within the Romani community. He noted Romani homes were often built without permits and highlighted difficulties Roma encountered in finding employment and accessing public services.

Organizations monitoring conditions in the Romani community and officials employed in schools with large Romani student populations unofficially reported that high illiteracy rates among Roma persisted. While education for children is compulsory through grade nine, school attendance and completion rates by Romani children remained low. Silvo Mesojedec, head of Novo Mesto’s Civil Initiative for Roma Issues, said less than 1 percent of inhabitants in Zabjak-Brezje (the country’s largest illegal Romani settlement with approximately 700 inhabitants) have finished primary school.

The Centre for School and Outdoor Education continued its 2016-22 project on Romani education, which the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport and the European Social Fund financed. The project helps Romani children succeed in the educational system through mentoring and support, including extracurricular activities and preschool education at community multipurpose centers. Although segregated classrooms are illegal, a number of Roma reported to NGOs their children attended segregated classes and that school authorities selected them disproportionately to attend classes for students with special needs.

In May the government adopted the National Program of Measures for Roma for 2017-21 to improve the Romani community through 41 specific measures, such as promoting education, employment, and social inclusion, improving health-care access, reducing poverty, and providing antidiscrimination training. The Office for National Minorities is to coordinate this program and monitor its implementation. NGOs observed that, although government consulted Romani community representatives in preparing the National Program, it focused too much on project-based initiatives and did not adequately adopt the Romani community’s suggestions to address systemic issues, such as a lack of electricity, running water, sanitation, and access to transportation.

A government-established commission to safeguard the rights of Roma continued to function. The commission included representatives from the Romani community, municipalities, and the government.

Representatives of the Romani community participated in a program that improved communication between police and individual Roma through discrimination prevention training for police officers working in Romani communities. The government provided medical equipment to health-care facilities and supported programs, workshops, and educational initiatives to provide best practices for health-care professionals working in Romani communities.

The NGO Roma Academic Club organized lectures and workshops for high school and university students on Romani culture and discrimination towards the Romani community.

In March the German-speaking community called on the government to begin the process of officially recognizing the community as a minority in the constitution. They called on the government to address fields of education in German, recognition of the minority language in radio and television programming, and the provision of funds.

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

The law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services. The government enforced such laws effectively, but societal discrimination was widespread.

The law considers crimes against LGBTI persons to be hate crimes and prohibits incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation. The Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs, and Equal Opportunities, as well as NGOs and law enforcement authorities, recorded incidents, but they did not track the number of cases of violence against LGBTI persons.

While the law and implementing regulations establish procedures for legal gender recognition, LGBTI NGOs maintained the provisions are too general; subject to misinterpretation; and insufficiently protect the rights to health, privacy, and physical integrity of transgender persons. For example, NGOs reported only two psychologists were authorized to provide documentation required for individuals to begin the process, which resulted in waiting times up to one year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

NGOs reported HIV-positive individuals often faced stigma and discrimination in access to health care. For example, Activists for the Rights of People Living with HIV and medical experts from the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions reported 90 percent of individuals living with HIV experienced discrimination in medical institutions due to their HIV status. In one case, an HIV-positive patient said a dentist refused to provide dental services to him due to his HIV status. This patient filed a suit against the dentist, and the court ruled the dentist did discriminate against him due to his HIV-positive status. Local activists hailed the case as a landmark ruling in legal protections of HIV-positive persons.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law establishes a general framework for equal treatment and prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation based on race or ethnic origin, sex, color, religion, age, citizenship, disability, or sexual orientation. The law specifically prohibits discrimination based on language or HIV-positive status. The government effectively enforced these laws. Penalties for violations range widely, depending on the type and size of the employing organization, and were sufficient to deter violations. Women’s earnings were 68 percent those of men; in comparable positions women’s earnings were 97 percent those of men.

There were few formal complaints of discrimination, although there were some reports of employment discrimination based on gender, age, and nationality. In certain sectors, foreign workers are required to remain employed with their initial employer for a minimum of one year. Some employers lobbied to change this to a minimum of five years, which local NGOs criticized as enabling labor exploitation through lower salaries, poor living conditions, and longer working hours. Migrant workers enjoyed the same labor rights as citizens but faced discrimination. Many migrants worked in the hospitality sector or in physically demanding jobs. Some migrant workers were not aware of local labor laws regarding minimum wage, overtime, health care, and other benefits, a problem compounded by language barriers. An NGO contact estimated only 2 percent of Roma in the southeastern part of the country worked in the formal economy. Employment in informal sectors made Roma vulnerable to labor law violations, particularly in terms of benefits and procedures for termination of employment. Employment discrimination against Roma was not limited to a specific sector. The government attempted to address issues experienced by Roma (see also section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

Solomon Islands

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of SBD 30,000 ($3,630).

Police made efforts to charge offenders for domestic violence and assault against women. In June, for example, three male nurses at Kilu’ufi Hospital Psychiatric Unit allegedly raped a 15-year-old mentally ill female patient. Police were investigating the allegation, but as of September, police had not arrested or charged the three suspects. As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape victims. Police have a Sexual Assault Unit, staffed mostly by female officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges. In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts dealt with physical abuse of women as with any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and cultural bias against women.

With donor funding and support, the government conducted training workshops for local court officials in how to process cases of domestic violence and rape. The training focused on how to apply relevant laws and policies and use referral networks to support victims.

Violence against women, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussing such matters.

A 2011 World Health Organization report revealed more than half of the women in the country had experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner and that 64 percent of women age 15 to 49 years regularly experienced violence in the home.

The Family Protection Act requires that victims of domestic violence have access to counseling and medical services, legal support, and a safe place within the community if they cannot return home. The government has a referral system in place to coordinate these services, but referral agencies often lacked funding, especially in rural areas. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility for abused women provided counseling and other support services for women.

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

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for work of equal value (see section 7.d.). The government did not provide sufficient resources to enforce equal rights laws effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship through their parents. The laws do not allow dual citizenship for adults, and persons who acquire dual citizenship at birth must decide by age 18 years which citizenship to retain. Registration delays did not result in denial of public services to children.

Education: Education was neither free nor compulsory. The government continued to implement its Free Fee Basic Education Policy, which covers the operational costs for children to attend school but allows school management to request additional contributions from families in the form of cash, labor, or school fundraising. The policy is intended to increase educational access by subsidizing school fees for students age six to 15 years in grades one through nine, but it rarely covered all costs. The additional school fees and other costs or required contributions prevented some children from attending school. According to 2013 data from the Asian Development Bank, 75 percent of boys who entered primary school reached the final grade, whereas only 69 percent of girls did. According to the bank, gender imbalance in education decreased from earlier years.

Child Abuse: The law grants children the same general rights and protections as adults, with some exceptions. The law mandates the Social Welfare Division of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to coordinate child protection services and authorizes the courts to issue protection orders in cases of serious child abuse or neglect. Laws do not specifically prohibit the use of children in illicit activities such as drug trafficking.

The government did not provide sufficient resources to enforce laws designed to protect children from sexual abuse, child labor, and neglect (see section 7.c.). The law criminalizes domestic violence including violence against children, but lacked public awareness and enforcement. Child sexual and physical abuse remained significant problems. Nonetheless, the traditional extended-family system generally respected and protected children in accordance with a family’s financial resources and access to services.

Early and Forced Marriage: Both boys and girls may legally marry at age 15 years, and the law permits marriage at age 14 with parental and village consent. Marriage at such young ages was not common.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is age 15 years. The maximum penalty for sexual relations with a girl younger than age 13 is life imprisonment, and for sexual relations with a girl age 13 to 15, the penalty is five years’ imprisonment. Consent is not a permissible defense under these provisions; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was age 15 years or older is a permissible defense. Selling or hiring minors younger than age 15 and girls younger than age 18 for prostitution is punishable as a criminal offense. Prostitution laws do not cover boys age 15 to 18 and therefore leaves them without legal protection. There were reports of workers in logging camps sexually exploiting girls as young as age 12, but in most cases, official charges were not filed.

Child pornography is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Amendments to the penal code passed in 2017 criminalize commercial sexual exploitation of children and participation in or use, distribution, and storing of sexually exploitative materials with children, and some forms of internal child trafficking. Within the country girls and boys were exploited in prostitution and sexual servitude.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was 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

No law or national policy prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and no legislation mandates access to buildings, information, or communications for such individuals. Very few buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. In August parliament passed changes to the Electoral Act that require electoral officials to provide special accommodation for voters with disabilities.

The country had one separate educational facility, supported almost entirely by the International Committee of the Red Cross, for children with disabilities. Children with disabilities could attend mainstream schools, but inaccessible facilities and a lack of resources often made it difficult for them to access education. No law requires reasonable accommodations in the workplace and high unemployment nationwide made it difficult for persons with disabilities to find work, particularly in rural areas.

The government relied upon families to meet the needs of persons with mental disabilities, and there were very limited government facilities or services for such persons.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 27 major islands with approximately 70 language groups. Many islanders saw themselves first as members of a clan, next as inhabitants of their natal island, and only third as citizens of their nation. Tensions and resentment between the Guadalcanalese and the Malaitans on Guadalcanal culminated in violence beginning in 1998. Reconciliation ceremonies organized during the year led to further easing of tensions between the two groups. Underlying problems between the two groups remained, however, including issues related to jobs and land rights.

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

“Sodomy” is illegal, as are “indecent practices between persons of the same sex.” The maximum penalty for the former is 14 years’ imprisonment and for the latter five years. There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons under these provisions during the year, and authorities generally did not enforce these laws.

There are no specific antidiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although stigma may hinder some from reporting.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was societal discrimination toward persons with HIV/AIDS, but unlike in the past, there were no specific reports of disownment by families and no reports of violence targeting persons with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were three reported cases of sorcery-related violence during the year. The violence typically targeted the most vulnerable persons: young women, widows without male sons, and the elderly.

In February, Prime Minister Houenipwela launched the second phase of the UN Peacebuilding Project aimed at consolidating peace, stability, and social cohesion. With support from the UN Peacebuilding Project, the government hosted stakeholder dialogues targeting women and youth as key agents for peacebuilding efforts.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

No laws regarding employment and occupation prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation. Under the Public Service Code of Conduct, public officers have a responsibility to ensure their workplace is “free from harassment, including sexual harassment.” Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to women, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, and HIV-positive status.

Women experienced discrimination especially in the attainment of managerial positions. Employed women were predominantly engaged in low-paying and low-skilled jobs. A 2013 government report, the most recent data available, presented evidence of a significant gender gap in senior positions, using public service as an example. According to the report, women continued to dominate the lower administrative level on the public service workforce, but very few women held senior management positions. A shortage of jobs compounded the limited entry and opportunities of women in the workforce. A program funded by the International Finance Corporation and implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children, and Family Affairs worked with businesses for four years to provide tools to recruit, retain, and promote women throughout domestic companies. The ministry is also responsible for implementation of the National Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy, which aims to remove barriers to women’s participation in formal employment.

Somalia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, providing penalties of five to 15 years in prison for violations. Military court sentences for rape included death. The government did not effectively enforce the law. There are no federal laws against spousal violence, including rape, although in 2016 the Council of Ministers approved a national gender policy that gives the government the right to sue anyone convicted of committing gender-based violence, such as the killing or rape of a woman. On August 28, the Somaliland president signed into law the Sexual Offenses Bill, which provides punishment up to 20 years’ imprisonment for perpetrators and compensation for victims. Puntland enacted a state law against sexual offenses in 2016 that provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty for offenses such as rape using a weapon. In 2017 Puntland opened its first forensic laboratory, and the attorney general hired 10 female lawyers to serve as experts in rape and sexual violence cases.

Somali NGOs documented patterns of rape perpetrated with impunity, particularly of female IDPs and members of minority clans.

Government forces, militia members, and men wearing uniforms raped women and girls. While the army arrested some security force members accused of such rapes, impunity was the norm.

IDPs and members of marginalized clans and groups suffered disproportionately from gender-based violence. Police were reluctant to investigate and sometimes asked survivors to do the investigatory work for their own cases. Some survivors of rape were forced to marry perpetrators.

Authorities rarely used formal structures to address rape. Survivors suffered from subsequent discrimination based on the attribution of “impurity.”

In April following a clan conflict, an opposing clan member raped and attacked a 13-year-old girl, causing grievous bodily injuries. The Galmudug government had not prosecuted the alleged perpetrator.

Local civil society organizations in Somaliland reported that gang rape continued to be a problem in urban areas, primarily perpetrated by youth gangs and male students. It often occurred in poorer neighborhoods and among immigrants, returned refugees, and displaced rural populations living in urban areas.

Domestic and sexual violence against women remained serious problems despite the provisional federal constitution provision prohibiting any form of violence against women. While both sharia and customary law address the resolution of family disputes, women were not included in the decision-making process.

Al-Shabaab also committed sexual violence, including through forced marriages. Al-Shabaab sentenced persons to death for rape.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the provisional federal constitution describes female circumcision as cruel and degrading, equates it with torture, and prohibits the circumcision of girls, FGM/C was almost universally practiced throughout the country.

After a 10-year-old girl died following the FGM/C process in July, Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir promised to carry out an investigation and to bring responsible parties to court. Two sisters, ages 10 and 11, bled to death in Arawda North village in Galdogob district, Puntland in September after undergoing FGM/C. No charges had been filed in either case.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Adultery in al-Shabaab-controlled areas was punishable by death. In May a woman was stoned to death in the town of Sablale, Lower Shabelle Region after al-Shabaab members accused her of polygamy.

Sexual Harassment: The provisional federal constitution states that workers, particularly women, shall have a special right of protection from sexual abuse and discrimination. Nevertheless, sexual harassment was believed to be widespread.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women did not have the same rights as men and experienced systematic subordination to men, despite provisions in the federal constitution prohibiting such discrimination. Women experienced discrimination in credit, education, politics, and housing. In 2016, five months after the Council of Ministers approved a national gender policy to increase women’s political participation, economic empowerment, and the education of girls, the Somali Religious Council publicly warned the government against advocating for women in politics. The council called the 30 percent quota for women’s seats in parliament “dangerous” and against Islamic religious tenets and predicted the policy would lead to disintegration of the family. When the minister for human rights and women tabled the sexual offenses bill, religious clerics called for her to be criminally charged.

Only men administered sharia, which often was applied in the interests of men. According to sharia and the local tradition of blood compensation, anyone found guilty of the death of a woman paid to the victim’s family only half the amount required to compensate for a man’s death.

The exclusion of women was more pronounced in al-Shabaab-controlled areas, where women’s participation in economic activities was perceived as anti-Islamic.

While formal law and sharia provide women the right to own and dispose of property independently, various legal, cultural, and societal barriers often obstructed women from exercising such rights. By law girls and women could inherit only half the amount of property to which their brothers were entitled.

Children

Birth Registration: The provisional federal constitution provides that there is only one Somali citizenship and calls for a special law defining how to obtain, suspend, or lose it. As of year’s end, parliament had not passed such a law.

According to UNICEF data from 2010 to 2015, authorities registered 3 percent of births in the country. Authorities in Puntland and in the southern and central regions did not register births. Birth registration occurred in Somaliland, but numerous births in the region were unregistered. Failure to register births did not result in denial of public services, such as education.

Education: The provisional constitution provides the right to a free education up to the secondary level, but education was not free, compulsory, or universal. In many areas, children did not have access to schools. Nearly one-half of the student-age population remained out of school due to barriers such as poverty in rural areas, poor school safety, exorbitant school fees, and competing household and labor demands. NGOs and nonstate private actors attempted to fill this gap, but with different curricula, standards, and languages of instruction. Preprimary Islamic education continued to be prevalent, and often led to late primary student enrollment. Girls faced additional challenges of early marriage and low prioritization of girls’ education, leading to even lower attendance. There was an insufficient supply of qualified teachers, particularly female teachers.

The government lacked funds to provide effective education countrywide, a gap partially filled by NGOs and nonstate private actors, and its reach was often limited to more secure urban areas.

Child Abuse: Child abuse and rape of children were serious problems and there were no known efforts by the government or regional governments to combat child abuse. Children remained among the chief victims of continuing societal violence.

The practice of “asi walid,” whereby parents placed their children in boarding schools, other institutions, and sometimes prison for disciplinary purposes and without any legal procedure, continued throughout the country.

Early and Forced Marriage: The provisional federal constitution requires both marriage partners to have reached the “age of maturity” and defines a child as a person younger than 18. It notes marriage requires the free consent of both the man and woman to be legal. Early marriages frequently occurred. In areas under its control, al-Shabaab arranged compulsory marriages between its soldiers and young girls and used the lure of marriage as a recruitment tool. There were no known efforts by the government or regional authorities to prevent early and forced marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child prostitution is illegal in all regions. There is no statutory rape law or minimum age for consensual sex. The law does not expressly prohibit child pornography. The law on sexual exploitation was rarely enforced, and such exploitation reportedly was frequent.

Child Soldiers: The use of child soldiers remained a problem (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: There was a large population of IDPs and children who lived and worked on the streets.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was 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 provisional federal constitution provides equal rights before the law for persons with disabilities and prohibits the state from discriminating against them. Authorities did not enforce these provisions. The provisional federal constitution does not discuss discrimination by nongovernmental actors.

The needs of most persons with disabilities were not addressed. According to Amnesty International, persons with disabilities faced daily human rights abuses, such as unlawful killings, violence including rape and other forms of sexual violence, forced evictions, and lack of access to health care or an adequate standard of living. Children and adults with all types of disabilities were often not included in programs aimed at supporting people in the country, including humanitarian assistance. IDPs were often victims of multiple forced evictions. Domestic violence and forced marriage were prevalent practices affecting persons with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities faced an increased risk of rape and other forms of sexual violence, often with impunity, due to perceptions that their disabilities were a burden to the family or that such persons were of less value and could be abused.

Without a public health infrastructure, few services existed to provide support or education for persons with mental disabilities. It was common for such persons to be chained to a tree or restrained within their homes.

Local organizations advocated for the rights of persons with disabilities with negligible support from local authorities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

More than 85 percent of the population shared a common ethnic heritage, religion, and nomad-influenced culture. In most areas, the predominant clan excluded members of other groups from effective participation in governing institutions and subjected them to discrimination in employment, judicial proceedings, and access to public services.

Minority groups, often lacking armed militias, continued to be disproportionately subjected to killings, torture, rape, kidnapping for ransom, and looting of land and property with impunity by faction militias and majority clan members, often with the acquiescence of federal and local authorities. Many minority communities continued to live in deep poverty and to suffer from numerous forms of discrimination and exclusion.

In September an ethnically Bantu man in Mogadishu was burned to death by the family of his recently married nephew’s wife because they belonged to a higher-ranking clan.

Fighting between clans resulted in deaths and injuries (see section 1.g.).

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

Same-sex sexual contact is punishable by imprisonment for three months to three years. The country’s penal code classifies sexual violence as an “offense against modesty and sexual honor” rather than as a violation of bodily integrity, and punishes same-sex intercourse. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There were no known lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations and no reports of events. There were few reports of societal violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity due to severe societal stigma that prevented LGBTI individuals from making their sexual orientation or gender identity known publicly. There were no known actions to investigate or punish those complicit in abuses. Hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms do not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against members of the LGBTI community.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS continued to face discrimination and abuse in their local communities and by employers in all regions. The United Nations reported that persons with HIV/AIDS experienced physical abuse, rejection by their families, and workplace discrimination and dismissal. Children of HIV-positive parents also suffered discrimination, which hindered access to services. There was no official response to such discrimination.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, sex, disability, political opinion, color, language, or social status, but the government did not effectively enforce those laws and regulations. The labor code requires equal pay for equal work. According to the 1972 labor code, penalties included imprisonment up to six months and/or a fine of not more than 1,000 Somali shillings (less than one dollar). Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, age, national origin, social origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, or HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases.

Bantu communities, primarily living between the Juba and Shabelle rivers in southern Somalia, continued to face discrimination, including verbal abuse, and being forced to adopt Arabic names. The discrimination was renewed in IDP camps, where Bantu women were not protected by traditional clan structure. Ethnic Bantu Federal Parliamentarian Mohamed Nur spoke before the Parliament about his experiences confronting prejudice in the country.

South Africa

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 remained a serious and pervasive problem. The minimum sentence for conviction of rape is 10 years in prison for the first offense. Under certain circumstances, such as second or third offenses, multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities, conviction requires a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence.

In most cases attackers were acquaintances or family members of the victim, which contributed to a reluctance to press charges, as did a poor security climate and societal attitudes. In June, Khensani Maseko, a Rhodes University student, committed suicide after being raped by her boyfriend. In response the Department of Higher Education drafted a policy that requires institutions to expand support for victims of sexual violence and that perpetrators be prosecuted. From April 2017 through March, 40,525 cases of rape were reported. According to the 2017-2018 NPA Annual Report, the conviction rate for sexual offense crimes was 73 percent based on a sample of 6,879 cases that were “finalized” or investigated first as rape cases before being passed to the NPA and tried. A Medical Research Council study on the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of reported rape cases concluded that only 18.5 percent of cases reported went to trial and only 8.6 percent of cases resulted in a verdict of guilty. Prosecutors chose not to prosecute many cases due to insufficient evidence. Poor police training, insufficient forensic lab capacity, a lack of trauma counseling for victim witnesses, and overburdened courts contributed to the low conviction rate.

The Department of Justice operated 58 dedicated sexual-offenses courts throughout the country. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist as a basis for imposing lighter sentences.

The NPA operated 55 rape management centers, or TCCs (Thuthuzela Care Centers). All TCCs were located at hospitals. Of rape cases brought to TCCs, 47 percent went to trial and were terminated–by either conviction or acquittal–within nine months from the date a victim reported the case.

Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking. The government prosecuted domestic violence cases under laws governing rape, indecent assault, damage to property, and violating a protection order. The law requires police to protect victims from domestic violence, but police commanders did not always hold officers accountable. Conviction of violating a protection order is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, or up to 20 years if additional criminal charges apply. Penalties for conviction of domestic violence include fines and sentences of between two and five years’ imprisonment.

The government financed shelters for abused women, but NGOs reported a shortage of such facilities, particularly in rural areas, and that women were sometimes turned away from shelters. The government conducted rape and domestic violence awareness campaigns, including a first-of-its-kind GBV summit. In August the government hosted numerous events focused on empowering women in business, government, health, sports, and the arts; however, many civil society organizations were critical of the Ministry of Women’s general focus on women’s economic empowerment while neglecting the issue of GBV.

On August 1, women across the country participated in #TotalShutdown, a one-day protest against violence against women. According to SAPS, the number of incidents of violence against women and children drastically increased nationwide during the year. In November, SAPS arrested two suspects in connection with the killing of three women and four children from one family in Vlakfontein (south of Johannesburg).

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C of girls and women, but girls in isolated zones in ethnic Venda communities in Limpopo Province were subjected to the practice. The government continued initiatives to eradicate the practice, including national research and sensitization workshops in areas where FGM/C was prevalent. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Harassment: Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, it remained a widespread problem. With criminal prosecution a rare secondary step that the complainant must request, the government left enforcement primarily to employers. The Department of Labor issued guidelines to employers on how to handle workplace complaints that allow for remuneration of a victim’s lost compensation plus interest, additional damages, legal fees, and dismissal of the perpetrator in some circumstances.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of forced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Discrimination: Discrimination against women remained a serious problem despite legal equality in family, labor, property, inheritance, nationality, divorce, and child custody matters. Women experienced economic discrimination in wages, extension of credit, and ownership of land.

Traditional patrilineal authorities, such as a chief or a council of elders, administered many rural areas. Some traditional authorities refused to grant land tenure to women, a precondition for access to housing subsidies. Women could challenge traditional land tenure decisions in courts, but access to legal counsel was costly.

According to the Employment Equity Amendment Act, any difference in the terms or conditions of employment among employees of the same employer performing the same, substantially similar, or equal value work constitutes discrimination. The act expressly prohibits unequal pay for work of equal value and discriminatory practices, including unequal pay and separate pension funds for different groups in a company.

The minister of women in the Presidency, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Commission for Employment Equity, and a number of other government bodies monitored and promoted women’s rights, as did numerous NGOs and labor unions.

Children

Birth Registration: The law provides for citizenship by birth (if at least one parent is a permanent resident or citizen), descent, and naturalization. Nevertheless, registration of births was inconsistent, especially in remote rural areas or among parents who were unregistered foreign nationals. Children without birth registration had no access to free government services such as education or health care, and their parents had no access to financial grants for their children. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Education: Public education is compulsory and universal until age 15 or grade nine. Public education is fee-based and not fully subsidized by the government. Nevertheless, the law provides that schools may not refuse admission to children due to a lack of funds; disadvantaged children, who were mainly black, were eligible for assistance. Even when children qualified for fee exemptions, low-income parents had difficulty paying for uniforms and supplies. In violation of law, noncitizen children were sometimes denied access to education.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal. The penalties for conviction of child abuse include fines and up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Violence against children, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, remained widespread.

Some teachers and other school staff harassed, abused, raped, and assaulted students in schools, according to reports. The law requires schools to disclose sexual abuse to authorities, but administrators sometimes concealed sexual violence or delayed disciplinary action.

In April a Hermanus (Western Cape) schoolteacher was tried for the rape and kidnapping at gunpoint of a female pupil. The trial continued at year’s end.

Early and Forced Marriage: By law parental or judicial consent to marry is required for individuals younger than 18. Nevertheless, ukuthwala, the practice of abducting girls as young as age 12 and forcing them into marriage, occurred in remote villages in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces. The law prohibits nonconsensual ukuthwala and classifies it as a trafficking offense. According to the 2016 State of the World’s Children Report of the UN Children’s Fund, 6 percent of girls in the country were married before age 18. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for conviction of sexual exploitation of a child include fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years. By law the age of consent is 16. The statutory sentence for conviction of rape of a child is life in prison, although the law grants judicial discretion to issue sentences that are more lenient.

The law prohibits child pornography and provides for penalties including fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years. The Film and Publications Board maintained a website and a toll-free hotline for the public to report incidents of child pornography.

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

Anti-Semitism

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies estimated the Jewish community at 75,000 to 80,000 persons. There were reports of verbal abuse, hate speech, harassment, and attacks on Jewish persons or property. Government and political representatives made anti-Semitic statements.

Twin brothers Brandon Lee Thulsie and Tony Lee Thulsie, arrested in 2016 for allegedly planning to set off explosives at Jewish establishments, continued to await trial at year’s end. They were charged with contravening the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terror and Related Activities law and with having ties to a foreign terrorist organization.

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 based on physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disability in employment or access to health care, the judicial system, and education. Persons identified by the courts as having a mental disability, however, are prohibited by law from voting. Department of Transportation policies on providing services to persons with disabilities were consistent with the constitution’s prohibition on discrimination. The Department of Labor ran vocational centers at which persons with disabilities learned skills to earn a living. Nevertheless, government and private-sector discrimination existed. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but such regulations were rarely enforced, and public awareness of them remained minimal.

According to the 2017-2018 Annual Report of the Department of Basic Education, there were numerous barriers to education for students with disabilities, primarily a policy of channeling students into specialized schools at the expense of inclusive education. Separate schools frequently charged additional fees (making them financially inaccessible), were located long distances from students’ homes, and lacked the capacity to accommodate demand. Children often were housed in dormitories with few adults, many of whom had little or no training in caring for children with disabilities. When parents attempted to force mainstream schools to accept their children with disabilities–an option provided for by law–schools sometimes rejected the students outright because of their disabilities or claimed there was no room. Many blind and deaf children in mainstream schools received only basic care rather than education.

The law prohibits harassment of persons with disabilities and, in conjunction with the Employment Equity Act, provides guidelines on the recruitment and selection of persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, and guidelines on proper handling of employees’ medical information. Enforcement of this law was limited.

Persons with disabilities were sometimes subject to abuse and attacks, and prisoners with mental disabilities often received no psychiatric care. According to the 2016 Optimus Study, children with disabilities were 78 percent more likely than children without disabilities to have experienced sexual abuse in the home. According to media reports, in June a mute 11-year-old boy was raped at the Golden Hours Special Needs School in Durban North.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Incidents of racism continued. In March, Vicki Momberg was convicted of crimen injuria (see section 2.a.) for repeatedly addressing black police officers with a racial slur and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment without parole. She was recorded on video using the “K-word” 48 times at the officers who were trying to assist her after she was a victim of a theft in Johannesburg. Momberg’s conviction was the first under the 2000 Promotion of Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.

Some advocacy groups asserted that white farmers were targeted for burglaries, home invasions, and killing because of their race. Some analysts attributed the incidents to the country’s high and growing crime rate. According to the Institute for Security Studies, “farm attacks and farm murders have increased in recent years in line with the general upward trend in South Africa’s serious and violent crimes.” A report by the NGO AgriSA stated that killings on farms during the year were at their lowest level in the past 19 years. According to SAPS 2017/2018 crime statistics, farm killings represented only 0.3 percent of all killings in the country (62 of 20,336).

Xenophobic attacks on foreign African migrants and ethnic minorities occurred and sometimes resulted in death, injury, and displacement. Incidents of xenophobic violence generally were concentrated in areas characterized by poverty and lack of services. Citizens blamed immigrants for increased crime and the loss of jobs and housing. According to researchers from the African Center for Migration and Society, perpetrators of crimes against foreign nationals enjoyed relative impunity. In August, Soweto and other Johannesburg-area townships saw a spate of looting and violence targeted against small foreign-owned convenience shops. SAPS confirmed that four residents died and at least 27 were arrested on charges of murder, possession of firearms, and public disorder in connection with the violence. At year’s end their trial date had yet to be set.

Local community or political leaders who sought to gain notoriety in their communities allegedly instigated some attacks. The government sometimes responded quickly and decisively to xenophobic incidents, sending police and soldiers into affected communities to quell violence and restore order, but responses were often slow and inadequate. Since 2013 the government significantly reduced the number of assaults and deaths by evacuating foreign nationals from communities affected by xenophobic violence, although little was done to protect their property. Civil society organizations criticized the government for failing to address the causes of violence, for not facilitating opportunities for conflict resolution in affected communities, for failing to protect the property or livelihoods of foreign nationals, and for failing to deter such attacks by vigorous investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.

Indigenous People

The NGO Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa estimated there were 7,500 indigenous San and Khoi in the country, some of whom worked as farmers or farm laborers. By law the San and Khoi have the same political and economic rights as other citizens, although the government did not always effectively protect those rights or deliver basic services to indigenous communities. Indigenous groups complained of exclusion from land restitution, housing, and affirmative action programs. They also demanded formal recognition as “first peoples” in the constitution. Their lack of recognition as “first peoples” excluded them from inclusion in government-recognized structures for traditional leaders. Their participation in government and the economy was limited due to fewer opportunities, lack of land or other resources, minimal access to education, and relative isolation.

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

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law prohibits discrimination against LGBTI persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care.

Despite government policies prohibiting discrimination, there were reports of official mistreatment or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Security force members, for example, reportedly raped LGBTI individuals during arrest. A 2018 University of Cape Town report underscored violence and discrimination, particularly against lesbians and transgender individuals. The report documented cases of “secondary victimization” of lesbians, including cases in which police harassed, ridiculed, and assaulted victims of sexual violence and GBV who reported abuse. LGBTI individuals were particularly vulnerable to violent crime due to anti-LGBTI attitudes within the community and among police. Anti-LGBTI attitudes among junior members of SAPS affected how they handled complaints by LGBTI individuals.

The multisector network of civil society organizations Hate Crimes Working Group analyzed 945 cases of hate crimes from across five provinces and found that 17 percent of victims were targeted due to their sexual orientation. According to the NGO, approximately 66 percent of hate crimes were not reported to police. Of those reported there were numerous abuses similar to the following example. In February media reported that during the annual gathering in Tongaat of pastors of the Shembe Nazareth Church, 50 male parishioners were beaten for being gay.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV and HIV-related social stigma and discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education and health care remained a problem, especially in rural communities. In 2015 the South African National AIDS Council–a joint body composed of government, academic, and civil society representatives–released a landmark People Living with HIV Stigma Index. The council surveyed a representative sampling of more than 10,000 HIV-positive individuals regarding their experiences with social stigma. The survey revealed a large majority of respondents had never been excluded from social gatherings. Nevertheless, those who reported exclusion cited their HIV status as the main reason. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were reports that persons accused of witchcraft were attacked, driven from their villages, and in some cases killed, particularly in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, and Eastern Cape Provinces. Victims were often elderly women. Traditional leaders generally cooperated with authorities and reported threats against persons suspected of witchcraft.

Persons with albinism faced discrimination and were sometimes attacked in connection with ritual practices.

Ritual (muthi) killings to obtain body parts believed by some to enhance traditional medicine persisted. Police estimated organ harvesting for traditional medicine resulted in 50 deaths per year.

Incidents of vigilante violence and mob killings occurred. For example, in August, two men were killed in separate incidents of mob justice in Brits (North West Province). In one case the victim of an armed robbery caught the perpetrator and took him to the night vigil of the victim’s congregation, where he was assaulted and later died of his injuries. In the second case, police arrested a man for assault. Hundreds of community members surrounded the police vehicle in which the suspect was being held, poured hot wax on the vehicle, pelted police with stones, and removed the suspect, whom they set on fire and killed.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The Employment Equity Act protects all workers against unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, age, gender, religion, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, disability, conscience, belief, political, opinion, culture, language, HIV status, birth, or any other arbitrary ground. The legal standard used to judge discrimination in all cases is whether the terms and conditions of employment between employees of the same employer performing the same or substantially similar work, or work of equal value, differ directly or indirectly based on any of the grounds listed above. Employees have the burden of proving such discrimination. The amendment increases fines incrementally for noncompliance to 2 percent of company revenue, or 1.5 million rand ($116,000), for a first offense. Authorities may fine up to 10 percent of company revenue, or 2.7 million rand ($208,000), for a fourth offense on the same provision within three years. The government has a regulated code of conduct to assist employers, workers, and unions to develop and implement comprehensive, gender-sensitive, and HIV/AIDS-compliant workplace policies and programs.

The government did not consistently enforce the law and penalties were insufficient to deter violations. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, HIV status, and country of origin (see section 6).

Discrimination cases were frequently taken to court or the Commission for Conciliation, Arbitration, and Mediation.

In its 2017-18 annual report containing the results of 27,163 employment equity reports submitted by designated employers (representing almost half of the country’s employed), the Commission for Employment Equity cited data indicating discrimination by ethnicity, gender, age, and disability in all sectors of the economy. According to the report, whites–who constituted only 9.9 percent of the economically viable population–held 67 percent of top management positions in the private sector. Blacks–who constituted 77 percent–held only 14 percent of top management positions in the private sector. The implementation of the Black Economic Empowerment law, which aims to promote economic transformation and enhance participation of blacks in the economy, continued. The public sector better reflected the country’s ethnic and gender demographics. Traditional gender stereotypes, such as “mining is a man’s job” and “women should be nurses” persisted. Bias against foreign nationals was common in society and the workplace. In 2016-17 labor department officials reportedly reviewed 849 companies for compliance with the employment equity law. The Department of Labor inspected 4,747 employers for compliance with the employment equity law. It found and “dealt with” (the official term) violations at 877 locations. No further information was provided as to the nature of the violation or enforcement.

South Sudan

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and rape was widespread. The law defines sexual intercourse within marriage as “not rape.” No information was available on the number of persons prosecuted, convicted, or punished for rape, and convictions of rape seldom were publicized. According to observers, sentences for persons convicted of rape were often less than the maximum. Since the conflict began in 2013, conflict-related sexual violence was widespread. The targeting of girls and women reached epidemic proportions following skirmishes and attacks on towns in conflict zones, and sex was often used as a weapon of war (see section 1.g.). Women and girls also faced the threat of rape while living in UN PoC sites and when leaving PoC sites to conduct daily activities.

The law does not prohibit domestic violence. Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was common, although there were no reliable statistics on its prevalence. According to NGOs, some women reported police tried to charge them SSP 20 ($0.16) or more when they attempted to file the criminal complaints of rape or abuse. While not mandatory, police often told women they needed to complete an official report prior to receiving medical treatment. Families of rape victims encouraged marriage to the rapist to avoid public shaming.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a criminal offense under the penal code, but little data existed to determine its prevalence. The law prohibits subjecting children to negative and harmful practices that affect their health, welfare, and dignity. Although not a common practice, FGM/C occurred in some regions, particularly along the northern border regions in Muslim communities. Several NGOs worked to end FGM/C, and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare raised awareness of the dangers of FGM/C through local radio broadcasts.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice of girl compensation–compensating the family of a crime victim with a girl from the perpetrator’s family–occurred. Victims were generally between ages 11 and 15, did not attend school, and often were physically and sexually abused and used as servants by their captors. Local officials complained the absence of security and rule of law in many areas impeded efforts to curb the practice. Dowry practices were also common. NGOs reported fathers often forced daughters, generally minors, to marry older men in exchange for cattle or money.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine. The government rarely enforced the law, and NGOs reported most women were unaware it was a punishable offense. Observers noted sexual harassment, particularly by military and police, was a serious problem throughout the country.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: While the transitional constitution provides for gender equality and equal rights for women, deep cultural prejudices resulted in widespread discrimination against women. High illiteracy rates also impeded women’s ability to understand and defend their rights. Communities often followed customary laws and traditional practices that discriminated against women. For example, authorities arrested and detained women for adultery.

Despite statutory law to the contrary, under customary law, a divorce is not final until the wife and her family return the full dowry to the husband’s family. As a result, families often dissuaded women from divorce. Traditional courts usually ruled in favor of the husband’s family in most cases of child custody, unless children were between three and seven years of age.

Women also experienced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, education, inheritance, housing, and ownership and management of businesses or land. Although women have the right to own property and land under the transitional constitution, community elders often sought to prevent women from exercising these rights because they contradicted customary practice.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived through birth if a person has any South Sudanese parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent on either the mother’s or the father’s side, or if a person is a member of one of the country’s indigenous ethnic communities. Individuals may also derive citizenship through naturalization. Birth in the country is not sufficient to claim citizenship. The government did not register all births immediately.

Education: The transitional constitution and the 2012 Education Act provide for tuition-free, compulsory basic education through grade eight. Armed conflict and violence, however, were key factors preventing children from attending school throughout the year. UNICEF estimated nearly three-quarters of the country’s children were not attending school. The expansion of conflict also resulted in the displacement of many households and widespread forced recruitment of children, particularly boys, by armed groups (see section 6), making it difficult for children to attend school and for schools to remain in operation. NGOs reported government and opposition forces, and militias associated with both, looted numerous schools in conflict zones. In addition, the government did not give priority to investments in education, particularly basic education, and schools continued to lack trained teachers, educational materials, and other resources. Girls often did not have equal access to education. Many girls did not attend school or dropped out of school due to early marriage, domestic duties, and fear of gender-based violence at school. According to the 2015 Education for All national review, girls constituted only 39 percent of primary school students and 32 percent of secondary school students, although this figure may be even lower due to continuing violence and displacement because of the conflict.

Child Abuse: Abuse of children included physical violence, abduction, and harmful traditional practices such as “girl compensation” (see Other Harmful Traditional Practices). Child abuse, including sexual abuse, was reportedly widespread. Child rape occurred frequently in the context of child marriage and within the commercial sex industry in urban centers, and armed groups perpetrated it. Authorities seldom prosecuted child rape due to fear among victims and their families of stigmatization and retaliation. Child abduction also was a problem. Rural communities often abducted women and children during cattle raids (see section 1.g.).

Early and Forced Marriage: The law provides that every child has the right to protection from early marriage but does not explicitly prohibit marriage before age 18. Child marriage was common. According to the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare, nearly half of all girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 19 were married, and some brides were as young as 12. Early marriage sometimes reflected efforts by men to avoid rape charges, which a married woman cannot bring against her husband. In other cases families of rape victims encouraged marriage to the rapist to avoid public shaming. Many abducted girls, often repeatedly subjected to rape (see section 1.g.), were forced into marriage. For additional information, see Appendix C.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law designates a minimum age of 18 years for consensual sex, although commercial sexual exploitation of children occurred. Perpetrators of child prostitution and child trafficking may be punished by up to 14 years’ imprisonment, although authorities rarely enforced these laws. Child prostitution and child trafficking both occurred, particularly in urban areas.

Child Soldiers: The law prohibits recruitment and use of children for military or paramilitary activities and prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Opposition and government forces and affiliated armed militia groups recruited and used child soldiers throughout the year (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: During the year conflict displaced numerous children, both as refugees and IDPs (see section 1.g.).

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were no statistics concerning the number of 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

The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other government services. NGOs reported community and family routinely subjected persons with disabilities to discrimination. The government did not enact or implement programs to provide access to buildings, information, or communications public services. The Transitional Constitution and the 2012 Education Act stipulate primary education be provided to children with disabilities without discrimination. Very few teachers, however, were trained to address the needs of children with disabilities, and very few schools were able to provide a safe, accessible learning environment for children with disabilities. There were no legal restrictions on the right of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, although lack of physical accessibility constituted a barrier to effective participation. There were no mental health hospitals or institutions, and persons with mental disabilities were often held in prisons. Limited mental health services were available at Juba Teaching Hospital.

There were no reports of police or other government officials inciting, perpetuating, or condoning violence against persons with disabilities, or official action taken to investigate or punish those responsible for violence against persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities also faced disproportional hardship during famine conditions and continuing violence throughout the year. Human Rights Watch reported persons with disabilities were often victimized by both government and opposition forces. Persons with disabilities faced difficulty fleeing areas under attack and accessing humanitarian assistance in displacement camps. Since 2013 the conflict itself disabled an unknown number of civilians, who experienced maiming, amputation, sight and hearing impairment, and trauma. The World Health Organization estimated 250,000 persons with disabilities were living in displacement camps, while the estimated number of persons with disabilities in the country could be more than one million.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Interethnic fighting and violence by government, opposition forces, and armed militias affiliated with the government and the opposition targeting specific ethnic groups resulted in human rights abuses throughout the year (see section 1.g.). The country has at least 60 ethnic groups and a long history of interethnic conflict. Ethnic groups were broadly categorized into the Nilotic (Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk ethnic groups), Nilo-Hamitic, and Southwestern Sudanic groups. For some ethnic groups, cattle represented wealth and status. Competition for resources to maintain large cattle herds often resulted in conflict. Longstanding grievances over perceived or actual inequitable treatment and distribution of resources and political exclusion contributed to conflict.

Interethnic clashes occurred throughout the year. Insecurity, inflammatory rhetoric–including hate speech–and discriminatory government policies led to a heightened sense of tribal identity, exacerbating interethnic differences.

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

The law does not prohibit same-sex sexual acts, but it prohibits “unnatural offenses,” defined as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” which are punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment if committed with consent and up to 14 years if without consent. There were no reports authorities enforced the law.

There were reports of incidents of discrimination and abuse. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons reported security forces routinely harassed and sometimes arrested, detained, tortured, and beat them. Because of actively hostile government rhetoric and actions, most openly LGBTI citizens fled the country.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

While there were no reports filed regarding discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, discrimination was widely believed to be both pervasive and socially acceptable. Key groups especially vulnerable to stigma and discrimination included commercial sex workers and LGBTI persons. This stigma often presented a barrier to seeking and receiving services for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence and Discrimination

Throughout the year disputes between Dinka herders and agrarian youths over cattle grazing in the Equatorias at times deteriorated into violent and retaliatory events, leaving numerous dead and injured, and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

Civilian casualties and forced displacements occurred in many parts of the country when raiders stole cattle, which define power and wealth in many traditional communities. Land disputes often erupted when stolen cattle were moved into other areas, also causing civilian casualties and displacement. SPLA and police sometimes engaged in revenge killings both between and within ethnic groups.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation based on race, tribe, national extraction, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, disability, age, or HIV/AIDS-positive status. It does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Discrimination occurred on all the bases listed above. Discrimination in employment and occupation led to less hiring of particular ethnic groups such as the Murle, who were under-represented in both the public and private sector. Dinka and Nuer occupied most leadership positions within the national government. Persons from Equatoria were historically over-represented in the civil service at lower ranks. Across the country, local authorities often manipulated the hiring practices of NGOs to favor fellow tribesmen and fire rivals. Disabled persons faced discrimination in hiring and access to work sites. Women had fewer economic opportunities due to employer discrimination and traditional practices.

Spain

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is six to 12 years in prison. The law also prohibits violence against women and sets prison sentences of six months to a year for domestic violence, threats of violence, or violations of restraining orders, with longer sentences if serious injuries result.

On December 5, a provincial court confirmed the conviction for sexual abuse of Jose Angel Prenda, Alfonso Jesus Cabazuelo, Jesus Escudero, Angel Boza, and Antonio Manuel Guerrero, who called themselves “the Wolfpack” and who in 2016 allegedly raped an 18-year-old woman in Pamplona. On April 26, the court found the defendants guilty of the lesser crime, citing insufficient evidence of violence or intimidation, which is required to determine a rape verdict. Feminist associations responded by leading nationwide protests.

According to the government’s delegate for gender violence, as of June 30 partners or former partners were responsible for the deaths of 17 women. According to the General Council of the Judiciary, 49,165 cases of gender-based violence were prosecuted in 2017. The Observatory against Domestic and Gender Violence reported 166,260 complaints of gender-based violence in 2017. There were 39,586 allegations of gender-based violence in the first quarter of 2018. Independent media and government agencies generally paid close attention to gender-based violence.

In September a husband killed his wife in Bilbao, nine months after she had reported him to police for domestic abuse and making death threats. The judge who reviewed the abuse charges refused to issue a restraining order and acquitted the husband of all charges on the grounds that his wife and children were planning to move to a new apartment.

On May 10, the Ministry of the Interior reported a 28.4-percent increase in the number of reported rapes during the first three months of the year. In January the Ministry of Health reported that 6,300 men were imprisoned in 2017 for crimes related to gender-based violence.

A 24-hour toll-free national hotline advised battered women on finding shelter and other local assistance. Police also alerted female victims of gender-based violence of any changes in prison sentences of their attackers.

In September 2017 congress approved the State Plan against Gender Violence, with a budget of one billion euros ($1.15 billion) over five years, to support efforts to counter the problem. On August 3, the government approved the distribution of the first 100 million euros ($115 million) for the year.

The government allocated more than 5.26 million euros ($6.05 million) to combat gender-based violence, trafficking, and childhood sexual abuse within the existing framework of the State Plan against Gender Violence.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and authorizes courts to prosecute residents of the country who committed this crime in the country or anywhere in the world. Doctors must ask parents residing in the country who originate from countries that practice FGM/C to sign a declaration promising their daughter(s) will not undergo FGM/C when they visit countries where the practice is common. Once a family returns to the country, a doctor must examine the girl(s) again and may start legal action against the parents if examination finds that the minors underwent FGM/C during their trip.

The State Plan against Gender Violence includes FGM/C as a form of gender-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but few cases came to trial. The punishment in minor cases may be between three and five months in jail or fines of six to eight months’ salary. Harassment continued to be a problem, according to media reporting.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of government coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

On February 6, the NGOs “Cermi Mujeres” and the European Forum of Disabilities alleged that each year approximately 100 women and girls with intellectual disabilities are sterilized in the country without their knowledge.

Discrimination: Under the law women enjoy the same rights as men. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. All children born in the country, except children of diplomats and children whose parents’ country of origin gives them nationality, are registered as citizens. When a child does not acquire the parents’ nationality, the government may grant it.

Child Abuse: The law provides protections for various forms of child abuse. Those accused of sexual abuses involving minors receive larger penalties. For example, in cases of sexual abuse, instead of one to four years of jail time, the penalty increases to four to 10 years when the victim is a child. Cases of sexual aggression, which normally receive six to 12 years in jail, are punished with 12 to 15 years in cases involving minors.

As of June 30, either a parent or a parent’s partner killed one minor.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 16 years for minors living on their own.

As of September 15, Catalan police assisted six victims of forced marriage, one of whom was a minor.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the “abuse and sexual attack of minors” younger than age 13 and sets the penalty at imprisonment from two to 15 years, depending on the nature of the crime. Individuals who contact children younger than age 13 through the internet for the purpose of sexual exploitation face imprisonment for one to three years. Authorities enforced the law.

The minimum age for consensual sex in the country is 16. The law defines sexual acts committed against persons younger than age 16 as nonconsensual sexual abuse, and provides for sentences from two to 15 years in prison, depending on the circumstances.

The penalty for recruiting children or persons with disabilities into prostitution is imprisonment from one to five years. The penalty for subjecting children to prostitution is imprisonment from four to six years.

The commercial sexual exploitation of trafficked teenage girls remained a problem (see also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/).

The law prohibits using a minor “to prepare any type of pornographic material” as well as producing, selling, distributing, displaying, or facilitating the production, sale, dissemination, or exhibition of “any type” of child pornography by “any means.” The penalty is one to five years’ imprisonment; if the child is younger than age of 13, the length of imprisonment is five to nine years. The law also penalizes knowingly possessing child pornography.

There is a registry for sex offenders to bar them from activities in which they could be in the presence of minors.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 40,000-45,000 persons. The law provides descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country 500 years ago right of return as full Spanish citizens. In March the Council of Ministers reported that 1,910 Sephardic Jews had obtained Spanish nationality under that law. The Jewish community noted that burdensome financial and administrative requirements such as a self-funded trip to the country made the process more difficult.

The law considers denial and justification of genocide as a crime if it incites violence, with penalties that range from one to four years in prison.

The Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience reported that, as of September, there were five instances of religiously motivated aggression targeting Jews (one case of destruction of property, four cases of verbal abuse).

According to Jewish community leaders and the NGO Movement against Intolerance, anti-Semitic incidents included graffiti on Jewish institutions. In February anti-Semitic graffiti with the word “pigs” written in English followed by a sentence in Catalan reading “Get out of the country” was spray-painted on the walls of a synagogue in Barcelona, which now serves as a cultural center and a museum.

In June authorities in the Canary Islands arrested an illegal immigrant from Morocco allegedly for inciting hatred against Jews on Facebook and YouTube.

Government institutions promoted religious pluralism, integration, and understanding of Jewish communities and history, but their efforts did not reach all of the country’s autonomous regions.

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, with fines of up to one million euros ($1.15 million), discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.

The law requires private companies with more than 50 employees to hire persons with disabilities for at least 2 percent of their jobs. In 2016 the NGO Leialta estimated that 81 percent of the companies did not comply with the obligation. In July the government approved a Plan for Decent Work, which warrants labor inspectors to guarantee that companies implement their obligation for persons with disabilities under the law.

The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities. While the government generally enforced these provisions, levels of assistance and accessibility varied among regions.

On October 18, the legislature approved reforms of the electoral law that will allow approximately 100,000 persons with intellectual disabilities to vote.

The Randstad Foundation reported that between January and October, the private sector signed 98,378 contracts with persons with disabilities, 6.3 percent more than during the same period in 2017.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Ministry of the Interior reported 416 hate crimes linked to racism (38 percent) in 2016, the most recent year for which data were available, a decrease of 17.6 percent from 2015. The regions of Catalonia, Madrid, Andalusia, the Basque Country, and Valencia had the highest numbers of hate crimes according to the ministry’s data.

In February, ECRI reported that only 45 percent of Romani children finish secondary school.

During 2017 the Federation of SOS Racism Associations recorded 309 complaints, 82 of them were institutional racism, while 46 were perpetrated by law enforcement officials. Most of the cases of discrimination go unreported, due to victims’ lack of resources and lack of trust in the system.

In its report published on February 28, ECRI welcomed the government’s refinement of crime statistics “to obtain a realistic picture” of the extent of hate crimes. The commission noted, however, serious underreporting of hate crimes.

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

The country’s antidiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the government enforced the law. The law penalizes those who provoke discrimination, hate, or violence based on sexual orientation with up to three years’ imprisonment. The law also prohibits denial or disqualification of employment based on sexual orientation and the formation of associations that promote discrimination, hate, or violence against others based on their sexual orientation. The law may consider an anti-lesbian, -gay, -bisexual, -transgender, and -intersex hate element an aggravating circumstance in crimes.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 1,272 hate crimes were reported in 2016, the latest year for which data were available, a 4.2-percent decline from 2015. Of these, 240 cases involved physical injuries and 205 involved threats. The NGO Movement against Intolerance estimated that 80 percent of hate crimes in the country were unreported.

According to a report from the Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience, as of September there were 142 instances of religiously motivated violence (122 such cases in the same period for 2017).

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation and the government effectively enforced the law, although discrimination in employment and occupation still occurred with respect to race and ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. The government requires companies with more than 50 workers to reserve 2 percent of their jobs for persons with disabilities.

According to Eurostat, female workers earned 14.9-percent less per hour than their male counterparts. Gross salary, according to Eurostat, was 20 percent lower.

On International Women’s Day on March 8, an estimated 5.3 million individuals took part in a work stoppage to demand gender equality and equal pay.

Sri Lanka

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and domestic violence, but enforcement of the law was inconsistent. Section 363 of the penal code does not explicitly criminalize rape of men. Section 365 B (1), which is gender neutral, criminalizes “grave sexual abuse.” The prescribed penalties for rape are seven to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least 200,000 Rs ($1,160). For domestic violence, a victim can obtain a protection order for one year and request a maintenance allowance. The law prohibits spousal rape only if the spouses are legally separated.

In February two men reportedly raped a nurse at a private hospital in Narahenpita. Police in Narahenpita arrested the suspects five days after receiving the report, and their trial was underway at year’s end.

Women’s organizations reported police and judiciary responses to rape and domestic violence incidents and cases were inadequate. The police Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Women and Children conducted awareness programs in schools and at the grassroots level to encourage women to file complaints. Police continued to establish women’s units in police stations. Services to assist survivors of rape and domestic violence, such as crisis centers, legal aid, and counseling, were generally scarce nationwide due to a lack of funding.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The country’s Muslims historically practiced FGM/C, but it was not a part of public discourse until recent years when media articles drew attention to the practice. There were no statistics on the current prevalence of FGM/C in the country, which does not have laws against FGM/C. In May the director general of health services from the Ministry of Health issued a circular prohibiting medical practitioners from carrying out FGM, but FGM/C itself is not criminalized.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sexual harassment was common and was a particularly widespread problem in public transport.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women have equal rights to men under civil and criminal law. Adjudication of questions related to family law, including marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, varied according to the customary law of each ethnic or religious group, resulting in discrimination.

Children

Birth Registration: Children obtain citizenship from their parents.

Child Abuse: According to reports and evidence from fundamental rights applications and complaints filed with police during the year, school authorities frequently violate government regulations on banning corporal punishment in schools. There was also growing public concern about the high incidence of violence, including sexual violence, against children in the family and community despite successful efforts to reform the penal code, the basic criminal law, and other laws on child abuse, cruelty to children and their exploitation in trafficking, and child labor. Penalties vary based on the type and degree of child abuse, but trials tended to drag on for years.

Most child abuse complaints received by the National Child Protection Authority related to violence inflicted on children, and the rest of the complaints addressed related issues such as cruelty to children, deprivation of a child’s right to education, sexual abuse, and child labor. Teachers, school principals, and religious instructors reportedly sexually abused children. In a number of child rape cases, government officials were the suspected perpetrators. Civil society organizations working on children’s issues asserted children had insufficient mechanisms to report domestic violence or abuse safely. Although police stations are supposed to have an officer dedicated to handling abuse complaints from women and children, the government did not consistently implement this practice nationwide.

Early and Forced Marriage: Civil law sets the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 for both men and women, although girls may marry at age 16 with parental consent. According to the penal code, sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 16 years, with or without her consent, amounts to statutory rape. The provision, however, does not apply to married Muslim girls older than 12. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, which applies only to Muslims, permits the marriage of girls as young as 12 at the consent of the bride’s father or other male relative. The bride’s consent is not required.

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, but authorities did not always enforce the law. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16.

Child sex tourism remained a problem.

Displaced Children: IDP welfare centers and relocation sites exposed children to the same difficult conditions as adult IDPs and returnees in these areas.

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 Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population remained very small. 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

Various laws forbid discrimination against any person with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel, other public transportation, and access to health care. In practice, however, discrimination occurred in employment, education, and provision of state services, including public transportation. Children with disabilities attended school at a lower rate than other persons. There were regulations on accessibility, but accommodation for access to buildings and public transportation for persons with disabilities was rare.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Both local and Indian-origin Tamils maintained they suffered longstanding, systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, housing, health services, language laws, and procedures for naturalization of noncitizens. Throughout the country, but especially in the north and east, Tamils reported security forces regularly monitored and harassed members of their community, especially activists and former or suspected former LTTE members.

The government had a variety of ministries and presidentially appointed bodies designed to address the social and development needs of the Tamil minority. The government implemented a number of confidence-building measures to address grievances of the Tamil community. It also replaced military governors of the Northern and Eastern Provinces with civilians. The Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, established by the president in 2016, continued to coordinate the government’s reconciliation efforts. The office focuses on promoting social integration to build an inclusive society, securing language rights for all citizens, supporting a healing process within war-affected communities via the government’s proposed Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, and non-recurrence of the violence. The Tamil National Alliance and Defense Ministry continued to meet in accordance with a formal dialogue on returning military-held lands in the Northern and Eastern Provinces inaugurated in 2017. On October 4, President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as minister of defense, publicly ordered the security forces to release all remaining private land in their possession by December 31. Observers noted that implementation by the deadline was logistically improbable.

Extremist Buddhist monks instigated violent attacks on Muslims and their property. In March Sinhalese mobs led by Buddhist monks attacked Muslim civilians, shops, homes, and mosques that resulted in two confirmed deaths, 28 injured, and extensive property damage. Observers blamed local government and law enforcement officials for failing to stop the riots, with some claiming police personnel took part in the anti-Muslim rioting. The central government responded by declaring a 10-day state of emergency, sending in the army to restore order, restricting social media, and arresting more than 150 alleged perpetrators.

Indigenous People

The country’s indigenous people, known as Veddas, reportedly numbered fewer than 1,000. Some preferred to maintain their traditional way of life, and the law generally protected them. They freely participated in political and economic life without legal restrictions, but some did not have legal documents.

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Although prosecutions were rare, human rights organizations reported police used the threat of arrest to assault, harass, and sexually and monetarily extort LGBTI individuals. Those convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual activity in private or in public face 10 years’ imprisonment. Antidiscrimination laws do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Transgender persons continued to face societal discrimination, including arbitrary detention, mistreatment, and discrimination accessing employment, housing, and health care.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons who provided HIV prevention services and groups at high risk of infection reportedly suffered discrimination. In addition hospital officials reportedly publicized the HIV-positive status of their clients and occasionally refused to provide health care to HIV-positive persons.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Sources stated some Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship on the grounds they lacked the Ministry of Buddha Sasana’s approval. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka documented 65 cases of attacks on churches, intimidation and violence against pastors and their congregations, and obstruction of worship services as of September.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution prohibits discrimination, including with respect to employment and occupation, on the basis of race, religion, language, caste, sex, political opinion, or place of birth. The law did not prohibit employment or occupational discrimination on the basis of color, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, age, HIV-positive status, or status with regard to other communicable diseases.

The government did not always effectively enforce these laws, and discrimination based on the above categories occurred with respect to employment and occupation. For example, some employers specified particular positions as requiring male or female applicants, and women sometimes earned less than men for equal work.

Sudan

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape and sexual harassment are criminal offenses, and a rape victim cannot be prosecuted for adultery. Marital rape is not recognized.

There were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of rape and domestic violence. The international expert on the human rights situation in Sudan and UNAMID’s human rights section reported that they received regular reports of incidents of rape and sexual and gender-based violence (see section 1.g.). Monitoring groups reported that the incidence of rape and sexual assault increased as the economic situation worsened during the year. Human rights organizations cited substantial barriers to reporting sexual and gender-based violence, including cultural norms, police reluctance to investigate, and the widespread impunity of perpetrators.

On April 19, a criminal court in Omdurman convicted 19-year-old Noura Hussein of the murder of her husband under article 130 of the 1991 Criminal Code. Hussein was sentenced to death on May 3, but an appeals court later reduced the sentence to five years’ imprisonment and payment of blood money to her deceased husband’s family. Hussein became engaged at the age of 15 under pressure from her family and was married three years later. Her defense team and supporters report that she was raped by her husband with the help of male family members after she refused to consummate the marriage, and claimed Hussein acted in self-defense. The case generated substantial attention to the country’s family and marriage laws and provoked a national movement calling for legal reform and an end to child marriage.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C remained a problem throughout the country. No national law prohibits FGM/C, and the procedure continued to be used on women and girls throughout the country. The government launched a national campaign in 2008 to eradicate FGM/C by 2018; since 2008 five states passed laws prohibiting FGM/C: South Kordofan, Gedaref, Red Sea, South Darfur, and West Darfur. The government, with the support of the first lady, continued to prioritize the “saleema” (uncut) campaign, which raised public awareness. The government continued to work with UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Health Organization to end FGM/C.

According to UNICEF and UNFPA, the prevalence rate of FGM/C among girls and women between 15 and 49 years old was 87 percent. Prevalence varied geographically and depended on the local ethnic group.

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

Sexual Harassment: There were frequent reports of sexual harassment by police. The government did not provide any information on the number of sexual harassment reports made. NGOs, not the government, made most efforts to curb sexual harassment.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law, including many traditional legal practices and certain provisions of Islamic jurisprudence as interpreted and applied by the government, discriminates against women. In accordance with Islamic judicial interpretation, a Muslim widow inherits one-eighth of her husband’s estate; of the remaining seven-eighths, two-thirds goes to the sons and one-third to the daughters. In certain probate trials, a woman’s testimony is not considered equal to a man’s; the testimony of two women is required. In other civil trials, the testimony of a woman equals that of a man.

By law a Muslim man may marry a Jewish or Christian woman. A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man and may be charged with adultery if she does so.

Various government institutions required women to dress according to Islamic or cultural standards, including wearing a head covering. In Khartoum Public Order Police occasionally brought women before judges for allegedly violating Islamic standards. One women’s advocacy group estimated that in Khartoum, Public Order Police arrested an average of 40 women per day. Islamic standards for dress generally were not legally enforced for non-Muslims, but were culturally enforced.

Children

Birth Registration: The Interim National Constitution states persons born to a citizen mother or father have the right to citizenship. The law, however, granted citizenship only to children born to a citizen father by descent until July 2017, when the Supreme Court recognized the right of mothers to confer citizenship on their children.

Most newborns received birth certificates, but some in remote areas did not. Registered midwives, dispensaries, clinics, and hospitals could issue certificates. Failure to present a valid birth certificate precludes enrollment in school. Access to health care was similarly dependent on possession of a valid birth certificate, but many doctors accepted a patient’s verbal assurance that he or she had one.

Education: The law provides for tuition-free basic education up to grade eight, but students often had to pay school, uniform, and examination fees to attend. Primary education is neither compulsory nor universal.

Child Abuse: The government tried to enforce laws criminalizing child abuse and was more likely to prosecute cases involving child abuse and sexual exploitation of children than cases involving adults. Some police stations included “child friendly” family and child protection units and provided legal, medical, and psychosocial support for children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage was 10 years for girls and 15 years or puberty for boys. The government and the president’s wife continued to work to end child marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Penalties for the sexual exploitation of children vary and can include imprisonment, fines, or both. The government tried to enforce laws criminalizing child sexual exploitation.

There is no minimum age for consensual sex or a statutory rape law. Pornography, including child pornography, is illegal. Statutes prescribe a fine and period of imprisonment not to exceed 15 years for child pornography offenses.

Displaced Children: Internally displaced children often lacked access to government services such as health and education due to both security concerns and an inability to pay related fees. In July UNICEF reported that approximately 960,000 children were internally displaced.

Institutionalized Children: Police typically sent homeless children who had committed crimes to government camps for indefinite periods. Health care, schooling, and living conditions were generally very basic. All children in the camps, including non-Muslims, had to study the Quran.

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

A very small Jewish community remained in the country, predominantly in the Khartoum area. Societal attitudes were generally not tolerant of Jewish persons, although anti-Semitic acts were rare.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

Although the law and the Interim National Constitution, provides protection for persons with disabilities, social stigma and a lack of resources hindered the government’s enforcement of disability laws. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities.

Social stigma and lack of resources often prevented government and private entities from accommodating persons with disabilities in education and employment. Appropriate supports were especially rare in rural areas.

The government had not enacted laws or implemented effective programs to provide for access to buildings, information, and communication for persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population includes more than 500 ethnic groups, speaking numerous languages and dialects. Some of these ethnic groups self-identify as Arab, referring to their language and other cultural attributes. Northern Muslims traditionally dominated the government.

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

The law does not specifically prohibit homosexuality but criminalizes sodomy, which is punishable by death. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons are not considered a protected class under antidiscrimination laws. Antigay sentiment was pervasive in society. LGBTI organizations increasingly felt pressured to suspend or alter their activities due to threat of harm. Several LGBTI persons felt compelled to leave the country due to fear of persecution, intimidation, or harassment.

There were no reports of official action to investigate or punish those complicit in LGBTI-related discrimination or abuses.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Clashes sometimes resulted from conflicts over land rights, mineral ownership, and use of gold-mining areas, particularly in the Jebel Amer area in North Darfur. Observers believed those clashes resulted in deaths and displacement. Largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining activities continued in all of the Darfur states, although it was a lesser source of tension between communities than in previous years. Claims to land rights continued to be mostly ethnic and tribal in nature.

Promotion of Acts of Discrimination

The government, government-supported militias, and rebel groups reportedly promoted hatred and discrimination, using standard propaganda techniques. The government often used religiously charged language to refer to suspected antigovernment supporters.

The government did not take measures to counter hate speech.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Law and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, tribe, and language, but they are unevenly applied. There is no legal protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, HIVor other communicable disease status, political opinion, social or national origin, age, or social status. The law does provide protection based on religion or ethnicity, but provides for accommodations based on Islamic practices, including reduced working hours during the month of Ramadan and paid leave to perform Hajj pilgrimage. Labor laws apply to migrant workers with legal contracts, but foreign workers who are not considered to have legal status also are not provided legal protections from abuse and exploitation.

The government did not effectively enforce antidiscrimination laws and regulations in the workplace; penalties in the form of fines were rarely imposed and were insufficient to deter violations. Discrimination occurred in employment and occupation based on gender, religion, and ethnic, tribal, or party affiliation. Ethnic minorities often complained that government hiring practices discriminated against them in favor of “riverine” Arabs from northern Sudan. Ethiopians, Eritreans, and other refugees or migrants were often exposed to exploitative work conditions.

There were reports that some female refugees and migrants working as domestic workers or tea sellers were not compensated for their work, required to pay “kettle taxes” to police, sexually exploited, or trafficked. More than 10,000 women in the informal sector depended on selling tea on the streets of Khartoum State for their livelihoods, most after having fled conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas. Despite the collective activism of many tea sellers, harassment of tea sellers and confiscation of their belongings continued as in previous years.

Due to their uncertain legal status, many refugees and migrants did not report discrimination or abuse due to fear of imprisonment or repatriation.

Migrant workers and some ethnic minorities were unaware of their legal rights, suffered from discrimination, and lacked ready access to judicial remedies. The International Organization of Migration established a migrants’ reception center in Khartoum that included workshops on workers’ rights and the hazards of migration.

Suriname

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of between 12 and 15 years’ imprisonment and fines up to 100,000 Surinamese dollars (SRD) ($13,300). The government enforced the law effectively, including applying its provisions in cases involving rape of men. Police received 513 reports of sexual abuse as of September. Authorities investigated and prosecuted all reported cases.

Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. Through September police reported to have received 102 cases of domestic abuse, compared with 421 for the same period in 2017. Domestic abuse played a role in four of the 18 homicides committed through September; prosecutions were pending.

The Victim Assistance Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and Police provided resources for victims of domestic violence and continued to raise awareness about domestic violence through public television programs. There were victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie. Authorities trained police units in dealing with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The Victim Assistance Bureau managed a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and children up to age 12 and served an average of 40 clients per year. The Office for Gender Affairs of the Ministry of Home Affairs launched an awareness campaign in May against domestic violence nationwide.

Sexual Harassment: There is no specific legislation on sexual harassment, but prosecutors cited various penal code articles in filing sexual harassment cases. There were no reported court cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace.

Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without the filing of a formal complaint. Pending investigation, police may issue temporary restraining orders limiting contact between victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders can receive prison sentences ranging from four to 12 years and fines from SRD 50,000 to SRD 150,000 ($6,650 to $19,950).

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The law provides for protection of women’s rights to equal access to education, employment, and property. Nonetheless, women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work. In August the National Assembly passed labor legislation that protects pregnant women from being fired.

Children

Birth Registration: The law on citizenship and residency provides that citizenship transmits to a child when either the father or mother has Surinamese citizenship at the time of birth, when the parent is Surinamese but has died before birth, or if the child is born in the country’s territory and does not automatically acquire citizenship of another country. Births must be registered with the Civil Registry within one week. Failure to do so within the mandated period results in a more cumbersome process of registration.

Child Abuse: Police registered 47 cases of physical abuse and 256 cases of child sexual abuse as of September. Subject-matter experts believed the actual number of abuse cases was significantly higher than reported. To avoid intimidation by perpetrators, there were arrangements for children to testify in special chambers at legal proceedings. The Youth Affairs Office continued to raise awareness about sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol through a weekly television program. The government operated a telephone hotline for children and provided confidential advice and aid to children in need. Authorities reported an average of 80 calls per day.

UNICEF continued cooperating with the government in providing training to officials from various ministries dealing with children and children’s rights. The Ministry of Justice and Police operated three child protection centers in different parts of the country.

Early and Forced Marriage: Parental permission to marry is required until the age of 21. The marriage law sets the age of marital consent at 15 for girls and 17 for boys, provided parents of the parties agree to the marriage. Children in certain tribal communities often marry at an age below that set forth by the law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities prosecuted all reported violations. While the legal age of sexual consent is 14, trafficking-in-persons legislation makes illegal the sexual exploitation of a person younger than age 18. Criminal law penalizes persons responsible for recruiting children into prostitution and provides penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of SRD 100,000 ($13,300) for pimping. The law also prohibits child pornography, which carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and maximum fine of SRD 50,000 ($6,650). Violations are punishable by prison terms of up to 12 years.

Lack of economic opportunities led to an increasing number of adolescent boys and girls entering prostitution to support family or to pay for education. One NGO reported commercial sexual exploitation of children as young as 14. While not generally marketed as a destination for child sex tourism, cases were reported of tourists involved in sexual exploitation of children. Cases were also reported of parents forcing their young children into prostitution.

Several cases of sexual exploitation, sexual and physical abuse, and neglect came to trial. Victims included both boys and girls. Sentences range up to 10 years in prison.

Institutionalized Children: A lack of financial support from the Ministry of Social Affairs for orphanages and other shelters for children significantly affected these institutions’ ability to care for children adequately. There were reported cases of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse in some shelter facilities.

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

Anti-Semitism

There was a declared Jewish community of approximately 150 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts or discrimination.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

No laws specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive general health benefits, but the process can be cumbersome. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and services. Authorities provided some training programs for persons with impaired vision or other disabilities. No laws or programs provide that persons with disabilities have access to buildings. A judge may rule to deny a person with a cognitive disability the right to vote, take part in business transactions, or sign legal agreements. Primary education was available for persons with disabilities and, depending on the type of disability, secondary and higher education were also available. There was secondary and technical education for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons but not for those with visual disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive a stipend from the government until they marry or turn 60. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

In October the Ministry of Social Affairs supported an NGO-led workshop on developing awareness for the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as identifying issues of concern.

Indigenous People

The law affords no special protection for, or recognition of, indigenous peoples. The IACHR identified the Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the interior–approximately 22 percent of the population) as tribal peoples and thus entitled to the same rights as the indigenous Amerindian communities (approximately 4 percent of the population).

Maroons and Amerindians living in the remote and undeveloped interior had limited access to education, employment, and health and social services. Both groups participated in decisions affecting their tradition and culture, but they had limited influence in decisions affecting exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, and other natural resources on their lands. Both Maroons and Amerindians took part in regional governing bodies, as well as in the National Assembly, and were part of the governing coalition.

The government recognizes the different Maroon and indigenous tribes, but they hold no special status under national law, and there was no effective demarcation of their lands. Because authorities did not effectively demarcate or police Amerindian and Maroon lands, these populations continued to face problems with illegal and uncontrolled logging and mining. No laws grant indigenous peoples the right to share in the revenues from the exploitation of resources on their traditional lands. Organizations representing Maroon and Amerindian communities complained that small-scale mining operations, mainly by illegal gold miners, some of whom were themselves tribal or supported by tribal groups, dug trenches that cut residents off from their agricultural land and threatened to drive them away from their traditional settlements. Mercury runoff from these operations as well as riverbank erosion also contaminated sources of drinking water and threatened traditional food sources, especially freshwater fish.

Maroon and Amerindian groups complained about the government granting land within their traditional territories to third parties, who sometimes prevented the villages from engaging in their traditional activities on those lands.

In July the government translated and published the summary of the Kalina and Lokono Peoples vs. Suriname Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling announced in 2015. The court declared the state responsible for violating the rights to recognition of juridical personality, to collective property, to political rights, and to cultural identity, and reminded the state of its duty to adopt appropriate domestic legal provisions. The court ordered the government to recognize the Kalina and Lokono collective juridical personality legally; delimit, demarcate, and title the territory to the peoples; establish a community development fund; and rehabilitate areas affected by mining by third parties. The court also ordered similar legislative changes to be made for recognizing the rights of all indigenous and tribal peoples and to have this effective legal recognition and protection within three years. As of October the government had not taken action to carry out the court’s orders. The final deadline for the government to implement the ruling was January 2019.

The government also took no action to implement precautionary measures requested by the IACHR in 2016 regarding a 2009 petition from the Kalina Indigenous Community of Maho. In 2014, despite the continuing litigation, the government continued to grant concession rights to third parties in the area of the Maho community. In 2016 the Maho community requested that the IACHR forward the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Throughout the year the community continued to report infringements on its lands.

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

The constitution prohibits many forms of discrimination but does not address sexual orientation or gender identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals could associate freely, were socially very active, and advocated within society under the same laws that pertain to the assembly and association of other groups. The law prohibits discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation, specifically protecting the LGBTI community. Violations are punishable by a fine or prison sentence of up to one year. The law does not set standards for determining what constitutes such discrimination or hate speech. The law was in effect but had not been used in any case.

The LGBT Platform, a collective of NGOs, reported improvements in acceptance of the LGBTI community by society. Despite legal protections, the government itself discriminated against same-sex couples, since 2014 legislation on retirement benefits specifically excludes same-sex couples from benefits granted to heterosexual couples. Among the LGBTI community, the transgender community faced the most stigmatization and discrimination. Transgender women arrested or detained by police were placed in detention facilities for men, where they faced harassment and other violence from other detainees.

There were few official reports of violence against LGBTI persons, primarily due to fear of retribution and because authorities reportedly did not take seriously complaints filed by members of the LGBTI community. There were reports of societal discrimination against the LGBTI community in areas of employment and housing.

An appeals case involving the Civil Registration Office concerning the ability of transgender individuals to update legal documents to reflect their gender identity in the public registry was ongoing.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS continued to experience discrimination in employment and medical services. Medical treatment is free for HIV/AIDS patients covered under government insurance, but private insurers did not cover such treatment. NGOs reported discriminatory testing, and subsequent denial, when applying for housing assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Chinese shop owners continued to be targets of violent armed robberies. Violence in the gold-mining areas of the interior occurred primarily among and within the Brazilian community, where the government exercised little authority.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on birth, sex, race, language, religious origin, education, political beliefs, economic position, or any other status. The penal code prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Enforcement of the law was selective as there was reported discrimination in employment with regard to disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV/AIDS status. Women’s pay lagged behind men’s pay. Persons with disabilities faced discrimination in access to the workplace and LGBTI persons faced discrimination in hiring.

Sweden

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence, are illegal, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties range from two to 10 years in prison.

Amnesty International alleged that “rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread but there were few convictions.” In 2017 only 111 cases of the 3,430 reported were prosecuted. Authorities apprehended and prosecuted abusers in most cases of domestic violence reported to them. On October 2, the Malmo district court sentenced a man to four years and 10 months in prison for aggravated rape of a woman in a massage salon.

The law provides for protection of survivors from contact with their abusers. When necessary, authorities helped survivors protect their identities or obtain new identities and homes. Both national and local governments helped fund volunteer groups that provided shelter and other assistance for abused women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. The government developed a national action plan to prevent FGM/C and work with victims.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence often involved immigrants from the Middle East or South Asia. In 2017 the Swedish Prison and Probation Services estimated that 97 persons were in prison for committing honor-related violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for criminal penalties from a fine to up to two years in prison. The government generally enforced this law. During the year a flood of stories of assault and harassment forced the resignations of several high-profile persons.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law. Women were underrepresented in high-ranking positions in both the public and the private sectors.

Gender-based discrimination with respect to access to credit, owning or managing a business, and access to education and housing is prohibited and was not commonly reported. The government enforced the laws effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. The tax authority immediately registered in the national population register all children born in the country, regardless of their parents’ citizenship or immigration or residency status in the country.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits parents or other caretakers from abusing children mentally or physically. Penalties for such range from a fine up to 10 years in prison. Cases of child abuse were reported. Authorities may remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. The children’s ombudsman published a number of reports and publications for children and those working to protect children from abuse.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18, and it is illegal for anyone under 18 to marry. The government will legally recognize as valid the marriage of anyone who comes to the country after the age of 18, even if they were married abroad before the age of 18. The country does not recognize a foreign child marriage if either of the parties was a Swedish citizen or resident in the country at the time of marriage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes “contact with children under 15 for sexual purposes,” including internet contact intended to lead to sexual assault. Penalties range from fines to one year in prison. The law prohibits the sale of children; penalties range from two to 10 years in prison. It also bans child pornography with penalties ranging from fines to six years in prison. Authorities enforced the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.

Displaced Children: Stockholm police reported underage children, mainly from Morocco, Algeria, and other countries in North Africa, lived on the streets. Many of these children had sought asylum in the country, but did not qualify and were at risk of removal. Social Services offered accommodation for children or foster families regardless of asylum status.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

Leaders of the Jewish community estimated there were 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in the country and approximately 6,000 registered members of Jewish congregations. The National Council for Crime Prevention (NCCP) registered 182 anti-Semitic crimes in 2016, the latest year available, compared with 277 in 2015, a decrease of approximately 34 percent. Anti-Semitic crimes included threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, and harassment in schools. Anti-Semitic incidents were often associated with neo-Nazi movements and events in the Middle East and the actions of the Israeli government. Swedish Jews were often blamed for Israeli policies.

The most common forms of anti-Semitism were unlawful threats or harassment (49 percent of complaints), hate speech (27 percent), vandalism or graffiti (10 percent), and defamation (5 percent). Ten violent anti-Semitic hate crimes were reported in 2016, the latest year available, an increase from eight such crimes in 2015. Authorities initiated an investigation in 58 percent of the complaints of anti-Semitism reported in 2015; 37 percent were directly dismissed due to lack of evidence. Formal charges were brought in only 4 percent of the cases.

Police, politicians, media, and Jewish groups have stated that anti-Semitism has been especially prevalent in Malmo. The Simon Wiesenthal Center left in place its travel warning, first issued in 2010, regarding travel in southern Sweden, because Jews in Malmo could be “subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment.”

On June 21, three men in their early 20s (one Syrian, and two Palestinians) were sentenced for attempting to firebomb the synagogue in Gothenburg in December 2017. One of the Palestinian men was sentenced to two years in prison and expulsion; the others were sentenced to two years and 15 months in prison. The man facing expulsion appealed his sentence. The appellate court ruled on September 12 that he would not be expelled after serving his prison sentence due to his “special refugee status.” The prosecutor general appealed the decision not to extradite the Palestinian to the Supreme Court in October.

The newspaper Expressen reported on August 31 that a number of Sweden Democrats candidates in the general election had made anti-Semitic comments on social media. Martin Sihlen, a candidate for the municipal government in Orkelljunga, questioned the number of people murdered in the Holocaust, referred to the “Jewish plague,” and wrote online that “Hitler did not lie about the Jews” and that “Hitler was not bad.” Per Olsson, a candidate for the municipal government in Oskarshamn, shared an image of Anne Frank wearing a shirt reading “Coolest Jew in the Shower Room,” as well as a photo of Adolf Hitler. Raghu Jacobssen, a candidate for the municipal government in Stenungsund, wrote: “As long as the Rothschilds run the economy, and as such the modern slavery on this planet, there will be antisemitism. #Jews #Israel.” He also shared an image stating: “What’s the difference between a cow and the Holocaust? You can’t milk a cow for 70 years straight.” The Sweden Democrats expelled the three candidates in response to media reports about their activities online.

The government allocated 22 million kronor ($2.5 million) for grants to increase security for threatened places of worship and other parts of civil society. All religious communities and civil society actors who feel they have been threatened may apply for the grant.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency continued to cooperate with religious communities on a national level to promote dialogue and prevent conflicts leading to anti-Semitic incidents. It continued to train police officers to detect hate crimes and visited high schools to raise awareness of such crimes and encourage more victims to report abuses. The government made information available in several languages for victims of hate crimes and provided interpreters to facilitate reporting. Police hate-crime officers operated throughout the country.

The Living History Forum is a public authority commissioned to address societal problems related to religious and ethnic tolerance, democracy, and human rights using the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as its starting point. The Forum sensitized the public, and particularly the young, to the need to respect the equal value of all persons, with a specific focus on teaching about the Holocaust as a means of fighting Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.

The Media Council initiated a No Hate Speech Movement campaign and worked to stop anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The government allocated five million kronor ($575,000) annually for 2018-20 to strengthen the opportunities for study visits to Holocaust memorial sites, which allowed more students and teachers to visit them.

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. In May new legislation expanded these protections to cover businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The government effectively enforced these provisions and held accountable those responsible for violations.

Government regulations require new buildings and public facilities to be fully accessible. Observers reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as apartments, restaurants, and bars. Some means of public transportation remained inaccessible.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Societal discrimination and violence against immigrants and Roma continued to be problems during the year.

Police registered reports of xenophobic crimes, some of which were linked to neo-Nazi or white supremacy ideology. Police investigated and the district attorney’s office prosecuted race-related crimes. The Security Service estimated the violent extreme right-wing group at 500 persons. Expo, a private foundation that researches and maps antidemocratic, right-wing extremists and racist tendencies in the country, noted increased radicalization and activities in the white supremacist groups. Neo-Nazi groups operated legally (see section 2.a.). The NRM was the largest white supremacy group with approximately 160 active members, strengthened by several hundred additional supporters who attend rallies. The NRM registered as a political party and participated in the general elections in September. It did not win any seats in any of the elections.

The Red Cross estimated that 4,700 “vulnerable EU citizens,” the vast majority of whom were Roma from Romania and Bulgaria, resided in the country in abject poverty at any given time. As EU citizens, they are allowed to stay in the country without permission for up to three months, but authorities did not enforce this limit. The police stated that most Roma were in the country voluntarily but that there were cases of trafficking and forced begging.

In its report published on February 27, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance noted a de facto segregation of the Rinkeby-Kista district of Stockholm, where 80 percent of the population was of immigrant origin or parentage, from the rest of the country’s society. The result was lower levels of education, higher levels of unemployment, and separation from the country’s mainstream culture mainly due to poor Swedish-language skills.

In December 2017 the Civil Right Defenders together with Stockholm University concluded in a report that being singled out by police due to ethnicity was a common experience for members of certain ethnic groups, including Afro-Swedes, Muslims, and Roma, mainly from marginalized residential areas of major cities.

Indigenous People

The approximately 20,000 Sami in the country are full citizens with the right to vote in elections and participate in the government, including as members of the country’s parliament. They are not, however, represented as a group in parliament. A 31-member elected administrative authority called the Sami parliament (Sametinget) also represented Sami. The Sami parliament acted as an advisory body to the government and had limited decision-making powers in matters related to preserving the Sami culture, language, and schooling. The national parliament and government regulations governed the Sami parliament’s operations.

Longstanding tensions between the Sami and the government over land and natural resources persisted, as did tensions between the Sami and private landowners over reindeer grazing rights. Certain Sami have grazing and fishing rights, depending on their tribal history.

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

Antidiscrimination laws exist; apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and were enforced. In 2017 the NCCP reported 550 hate crimes based on sexual orientation and 80 reports of transphobic hate crimes.

Effective June 1, transphobia was defined as a hate crime.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In 2016 the NCCP identified 6,415 police reports with a hate crime motive, a majority with xenophobic motives.

In May the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) raised concerns in its periodic review over the level of racist hate crimes towards Afro-Swedes, Jews, Muslims, and Roma. The CERD also expressed concern over racist and extremist organizations’ right to arrange public demonstrations.

An inquiry of all the country’s Muslim congregations by Uppsala University showed that vandalism against mosques was common. During 2017 at least one Muslim place of worship was vandalized every week.

The police established democracy and hate crime groups in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo. In January the government opened a National Center for Preventing Violent Extremism under the auspices of the NCCP. The center serves as a clearinghouse for information, best practices, and support of municipalities, agencies, and other actors.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The government effectively enforced applicable law, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred. The discrimination ombudsman investigated complaints of gender discrimination in the labor market. In 2017 the ombudsman received 706 complaints of discrimination in the labor market, of which 128 were related to gender. Workers with disabilities faced workplace access discrimination. Of the complaints of ethnic discrimination, 227 involved the labor market. Complaints may also be filed with the courts or with the employer. Labor unions generally mediated in cases filed with the employer.

Switzerland

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, are statutory offenses for which penalties range from one to 10 years in prison. The government effectively prosecuted individuals accused of such crimes.

NGOs such as Terre des Femmes, Vivre Sans Violence, and the umbrella organization for women’s shelters noted that violence against women remained a serious problem. Domestic violence against migrant women was four times higher than against nonmigrant women. The law penalizes domestic violence and stalking. A court may order an abusive spouse to leave the family home temporarily.

Specialized government agencies, numerous NGOs, and nearly a dozen private or government-sponsored hotlines provided help, counseling, and legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence. According to the NGO Umbrella Organization for Swiss Women’s Shelters, more than 1,000 women and children were unable to be housed by shelters due to a lack of space and financing. Most cantonal police forces included specially trained domestic violence units.

The women’s NGO Alliance F observed a rise in violence against women and an increase in violent messages and images on social media directed at women. In one prominent case, on August 8, a group of men assaulted five young women in the early morning hours outside a nightclub in Geneva. Two of the women suffered severe head injuries, with one reportedly left in a coma. Public shock and outcry over the attack sparked protests in Geneva, Zurich, Bern, Basel, and Lausanne. According to press reports, in September, French authorities arrested three suspects in the attack, all of whom were French nationals, and took over investigation of the case.

On November 25, the NGO Feminist Peace Organization organized a campaign supported by several cantonal governments on the influence of gender stereotypes on violence against women. Approximately 50 organizations participated, and they sponsored 70 public awareness events across the country.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The first-ever criminal sentence under the anti-FGM/C law was handed down during the year. In July the criminal court of Boudry in the canton of Neuchatel issued an eight-month suspended prison sentence against a Neuchatel-based Somali woman who ordered between 2013 and 2015 the full or partial removal of her six- and seven-year-old daughters’ genitalia while in Somalia and Ethiopia.

According to the latest available statistics, the University Hospital of Zurich treated up to 30 cases of FGM/C each year, while the women’s clinic in the canton of St. Gallen recorded approximately five cases each year. Hospitals in Basel also confirmed cases of FGM/C in their clinics. According to government and NGO estimates, approximately 15,000 women and girls, primarily from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, were affected by, or at risk of, FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and facilitates legal remedies for those claiming discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Special legal protection against the dismissal of a claimant expires after six months. Employers failing to take reasonable measures to prevent sexual harassment are liable for damages up to the equivalent of six months’ salary.

The cantonal police of Bern, the Zurich city police, and the city government of Lausanne conducted public information campaigns against sexual harassment during the year. Lausanne city officials also established an online platform for victims to record instances of sexual harassment and provided extra training to police officers and teachers on the matter.

A national survey published in April 2017 by local newspaper 20 Minuten found that 44 percent of 2,700 surveyed women had experienced sexual assault at least once in their lives, while 41 percent had experienced sexual harassment, and 3 percent were victims of rape.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The constitution and the law generally provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. A study commissioned by the Federal Office for Gender Equality and published in June 2017 by the University of Geneva found that lawsuits regarding salary discrimination were the most numerous.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives from one’s parents; either parent may convey citizenship. Authorities registered births immediately.

Child Abuse: Child abuse was a significant problem. A study by the UBS Optimus Foundation found that up to 50,000 children are registered with child protection authorities each year due to child abuse. According to statistics by the Swiss Society of Pediatrics, child abuse cases rose 10 percent in 2017, to 1,730 cases. The most common form of child abuse was neglect, with cases almost doubling to a total of 657 cases in 2017.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18. The law prohibits forced marriage and provides penalties of up to five years in prison for violations. The federal government announced in January it would financially support the NGO Organization against Forced Marriage in its prevention activities over the next four years, including maintaining a website where at-risk individuals could declare their unwillingness to be married while on foreign travel. The website enabled authorities either to stop vulnerable individuals from leaving the country or to pronounce the marriages as invalid upon their return.

In 2017 the NGO Organization against Forced Marriage recorded 107 child marriages, of which 43 cases concerned children younger than the age of 16. The NGO partly attributed the rise in child marriages to the growing numbers of Syrian refugees who reportedly arrange marriages for their daughters in refugee camps to protect them from sexual assault, as well as to the increasing social awareness of the problem in schools and asylum centers.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The production, possession, distribution, or downloading of internet pornography that involves children is illegal and punishable by fines or a maximum sentence of one year in prison. With few exceptions, the law designates 16 as the minimum age for consensual sex. The maximum penalty for statutory rape is imprisonment for 10 years. The mandate of the federal police Cybercrime Coordination Unit included preventing and prosecuting crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children online.

The law prohibits prostitution of persons younger than the age of 18 and punishes pimps of children subjected to trafficking in commercial sex with prison sentences of up to 10 years. It provides for sentences of up to three years in prison for persons engaging in commercial sex with 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG/FSCI), approximately 18,000 Jewish individuals resided in the country.

The 2017 Anti-Semitism Report, produced jointly by the SIG/FSCI and the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism, cited 39 anti-Semitic incidents (excluding anti-Semitic online hate speech) in the German-speaking part of the country in 2017. The SIG/FSCI attributed the increase in recorded anti-Semitic statements and acts to a potential improvement in the reporting behavior of the public. The report documented four physical assaults against Jews.

In 2017 the Geneva-based Intercommunity Center for Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation reported 150 anti-Semitic incidents in the French-speaking region. The report noted an increase in right-wing extremist activities and anti-Semitic incidents motivated by the myth of a global Jewish conspiracy controlling the world. The report also observed a steep rise in anti-Semitic incidents on social media and a growing trivialization of the Holocaust. In July the federal government decided to allocate 500,000 Swiss francs ($500,000) annually to education and awareness efforts aimed at improving the protection of religious minorities, notably the Jewish and Muslim communities. The decision followed an October 2017 report by the Ministry of Interior, in which the government described the protection of Jewish institutions as an “issue of national importance.”

In July a German national armed with a knife yelled anti-Semitic statements while following three Jews on their way to a Zurich synagogue. Police arrested the man the same evening and released him shortly afterwards.

In August the leadership of the centrist Conservative Democratic Party (BDP) expelled a Thurgau cantonal politician from the party after he tweeted that Adolf Hitler could not have been “endlessly bad” and that he did not just see an “evil tyrant” in Hitler. He later apologized for his tweet. The BDP stated any minimization of Nazi atrocities is unacceptable.

In October a kosher butcher shop in Basel was vandalized four times in one month. Police were investigating what the community president called “anti-Semitic attacks,” and the secretary general of the SIG/FSCI told the press the incidents were “generating concern” among members of the community.

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 federal law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and the government generally enforced the prohibition. The law mandates access for disabled persons to education, employment, health services, information, communications, buildings, transportation, the judicial system, and government services. The government generally enforced these provisions.

One of the country’s largest disability organizations, Procap, stated that persons with mental disabilities faced increasing difficulties finding employment. Procap also observed a growing number of disabled persons living in poverty, due to disability insurance benefits falling short of allowing disabled persons to live above the poverty income level. The NGO Humanrights.ch alleged that patients were incarcerated in regular detention centers for up to 23 hours a day and that they were denied their right to free legal counsel. In its 2016 report, the CPT stated that some mentally disabled persons were hospitalized in inappropriate conditions.

The Federal Equal Opportunity Office for Persons with Disabilities promoted awareness of the law and respect for the rights of individuals with disabilities through counseling and financial support for projects to facilitate their integration in society and the labor market. In May the government published a report on the situation of disabled persons, which concluded that disabled individuals still lacked equal access to the labor market, health care services, and housing, as well as to recreational and cultural activities. In response to the findings, the government ordered two new staff members to be added to the Federal Equal Opportunity Office for Persons with Disabilities in order to assist with the implementation of two new programs, one to increase disabled persons’ employment opportunities and the other to enable a more independent life style by better addressing disabled persons’ individual needs.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Extremists, including skinheads, who expressed hostility toward foreigners, ethnic and religious minorities, and immigrants, continued to be active.

In May the Federal Court confirmed the cantonal court of Vaud’s sentencing of a man for breaching the antiracism law after he asked on Twitter in 2015 who would join him in “torching Muslims” in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in France. In April the Consulting Network for Racism Victims, a partnership between the NGO Humanrights.ch and the Federal Commission against Racism, released its report for 2017, again documenting an increase in racism against dark-skinned individuals and persons of Arab background. Anti-Muslim incidents were the third most-recorded cases of racism, after general xenophobia and racism against persons with dark skins. The report noted that most incidents of racial discrimination were verbal and occurred primarily in the workplace and at school. Unlike the previous year’s report, no physical attacks were reported.

In 2017 the Romani association Romano Dialogue and the Roma Foundation reported discrimination against Roma in the housing and labor markets and that many Roma routinely concealed their identity to prevent professional and private backlash. Romani representatives told local media that perceptions of uncleanliness, criminality, street begging, and lack of education continued to dominate the public’s view of Roma. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples, itinerant Roma, Sinti, and Yenish regularly faced arbitrary stops by police. In June the government rejected an official request submitted by Romani organizations to recognize Roma as a national minority. According to the government, Roma did not sufficiently display determination to “safeguard a common Swiss identity” nor did enough members have Swiss citizenship or longstanding ties to the country. The Society for Threatened Peoples called the decision discriminatory in light of the government’s recognition of the Sinti as a national minority in 2016.

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

The law does not specifically ban discrimination in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. There were occasional reports of societal violence or discrimination based on opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) status.

The umbrella organization for gay men, Pink Cross, reported that bullying in the work place remained a problem for LGBTI persons and noted that there were instances of discrimination against LGBTI individuals in the housing market. The organization also noted that authorities did not specifically prosecute hate crimes. In September Pink Cross initiated criminal proceedings against right-wing extremist leader Florian Signer of the Party of Nationally Oriented Swiss for publishing an article on the party’s website that described gay men as doing “pioneering work for pedophiles” and that the adoption of children by LGBTI persons is an “emotional time bomb.”

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There were occasional reports of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. To combat harassment and unfair behavior, the Swiss AIDS Federation conducted multiple campaigns to sensitize the public to the problem.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The equality law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment on the basis of sex (including pregnancy). There is no labor law that explicitly prohibits discrimination with respect to employment on the grounds of sex, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, language, political opinion, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, gender identity, age, national and social origin, or refugee or stateless status.

Violations of the law may result in the award of compensation to a prospective or dismissed employee equal to a maximum of three months’ salary in the public sector and six months’ salary in private industry. The government did not effectively enforce this provision. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The ILO observed that the country lacked easily accessible mechanisms for workers to seek remedy or compensation for discrimination in employment and vocational training.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to national, racial, and ethnic minorities as well as based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, HIV-positive status, and age. For example, an employer refused to renew the work contract of an HIV-positive person after the employee informed his workplace of his HIV-positive status.

Discrimination against women in the workplace is illegal, but a disproportionate share of women held jobs with lower levels of responsibility. Employers promoted women less frequently than they did men, and women were less likely to own or manage businesses. Women were severely underrepresented in top-level management positions, particularly in private industry. The law entitles women and men to equal pay for equal work, but this was not enforced effectively. In 2016 the median monthly income for women in the public sector was 7,404 Swiss francs ($7,400), while men earned 8,466 Swiss francs ($8,500). The median monthly income for women in the private sector was 5,632 Swiss francs ($5,600), while men earned 6,593 Swiss francs ($6,600).

The Federal Office for Gender Equality financed projects that promoted equal pay and equal career opportunities in the amount of 4.5 million Swiss francs ($4.5 million). The projects were geared towards assisting businesses and counseling offices in eliminating sex-based discrimination.

According to Procap, one of the country’s largest organizations for persons with disabilities, problems remained in integrating individuals with disabilities into the labor market, and many persons with disabilities lacked adequate support from social insurance after taking a job, which made sustained employment difficult. (Also see section 6, Persons with Disabilities.)

In 2016 a Swiss Center for Human Rights study on discrimination protection found that LGBTI persons experienced workplace discrimination, predominantly in the private sector.

According to a July study by the Bern University of Applied Sciences, only 14 percent of unemployed people older than the age of 50 found a stable job again after losing their previous employment, with many requiring social assistance after the expiration of their unemployment benefits. The Romani association Romano Dialogue reported that Roma were subjected to discrimination in the labor market and that many Roma concealed their identity to prevent professional backlash.

There were reports of labor discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. In 2016 the Swiss AIDS Federation registered 118 cases of discrimination against individuals with HIV, the highest-ever number of discrimination cases recorded. Approximately 10 of those complaints concerned employment discrimination or other discrimination in the workplace. Examples of workplace discrimination included refusals to award jobs because of a person’s HIV-positive status and the experience of workplace bullying.

According to several organizations, including the International Organization for Migration, Trafficking.ch, and Au Coeur des Grottes, migrant workers in low-wage jobs were more likely than other workers to face exploitative labor practices and poor working conditions. This was especially true in the construction, hospitality, tourism, domestic work, health care, and agricultural sectors.

Syria

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and sexual assault of women, men, and children, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape is punishable by imprisonment and hard labor of at least 15 years (at least nine years in mitigating circumstances), which is aggravated if the perpetrator is a government official, religious official, or has legitimate or actual authority over the victim; male rape is punishable by imprisonment up to three years. The law specifically excludes spousal rape, and it reduces or suspends punishment if the rapist marries the victim. The victim’s family sometimes agreed to this arrangement to avoid the social stigma attached to rape.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and other UN agencies, NGOs, and media characterized rape and sexual violence as endemic, underreported, and uncontrolled in the country. Humanitarian organizations reported that women, men, and community leaders consistently identified sexual violence as a primary reason their families fled the country. In March the COI reported that government and progovernment forces regularly used rape and sexual violence to terrorize and punish women, men, and children perceived as associated with the opposition, as did terrorist groups such as HTS and ISIS. There were instances, comparatively far fewer, of armed opposition groups reportedly raping women and children. HTS and ISIS also reportedly forced women and girls into sexual slavery (see sections 1.a., 1.c., and 1.g.).

The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, but it stipulates that men may discipline their female relatives in a form permitted by general custom. According to a November 2017 UNFPA report, violence against women and children was pervasive and increasing due to conflict and the lack of economic opportunity for men. Victims did not report the vast majority of 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.

In previous years several domestic violence centers operated in Damascus; the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor licensed them. 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 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 and reportedly rarely pursued prosecution of so-called honor crimes. There were no officially reported honor killings during the year, but UNFPA reported in November 2017 that honor killings increased since the onset of the crisis in 2011 due to increased sexual violence and lawlessness. For example, UNFPA cited an adolescent girl in Mare, Aleppo, whose friend reportedly was killed by her father when she returned after being kidnapped. To protect their daughters, UNFPA reported that many families arranged for them to marry earlier, leading to an increase in early and forced marriage. NGOs working with refugees reported families killed some rape victims inside the country, including those raped by government forces, for reasons of honor.

The terrorist groups ISIS and HTS permitted and committed so-called honor killings in territories under their control (see section 1.g.).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender but does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Sexual harassment was pervasive, uncontrolled, and increasing, according to a November 2017 report by UNFPA. For example, UNFPA cited an adolescent girl from Saraqab, Idlib, who said she formerly returned from university in Aleppo at night without any problems but that harassment of girls has spread, even in the daytime; her parents became worried and prevented her from leaving home.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization by the government, but previous reports from Iraq and NGOs such as Yazda and the Free Yezidi Foundation found that ISIS forced Yezidi women whom they had impregnated to have abortions. There were reports that ISIS transferred some Yezidi women captives from Iraq to Syria, and the COI reported in March that some ISIS fighters were seen fleeing Raqqa and Deir al-Zour in 2017 with women believed to be Yezidi captives (see section 1.g.).

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equality between men and women, the law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Criminal, family, religious, personal status, labor, nationality, inheritance, retirement, and social security laws discriminate against women.

For example, if a man and a woman separately commit the same criminal act of adultery, then by law the woman’s punishment is double that of the man’s. The law generally permits women to initiate divorce proceedings against their spouses, but the law does not entitle a divorced woman to alimony in some cases. 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. For Muslims in particular, personal status law discriminates against women. Church law governs personal status issues for Christians, in some cases barring divorce. Some personal status laws mirror sharia regardless of the religion of those involved in the case. While the constitution provides 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. Women cannot pass citizenship to their children. The government’s interpretation of sharia 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.

The law provides women and men equal rights in owning or managing land or other property, but cultural and religious norms impeded women’s property rights, especially in rural areas.

Before the conflict began, 13 percent of women participated in the formal labor force, compared with 73 percent of men. Both male and female employment participation decreased as violence and insecurity increased, (The International Labor Organization estimated female employment fell by slightly more than 1 percent while male employment fell by almost 3 percent from 2011 to 2017). UNFPA reported local female employment participation increased in Damascus, Raqqa, Daraa, and elsewhere since the need to support the family forced women to work because many men could no longer do so.

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.

Women participated in public life and in most professions, including the armed forces, although UNFPA reported that violence and lawlessness in many regions reduced women’s access to the public sphere. Various sources observed that women constituted a minority of lawyers, university professors, and other professions.

The terrorist groups ISIS and HTS reportedly placed similar discriminatory restrictions on women and girls in the territories they controlled. For example, in March the COI reported that HTS or ISIS or both: forced women and girls into marriage; imposed a dress code on women and girls; banned women and girls from wearing makeup; required that women and girls must be accompanied by a “mahram” or male member of their immediate family; forbade women from speaking with unrelated men or hosting men who were not their husband; forbade widows from living alone; banned women’s centers; banned meetings with mixed male and female participation; and segregated classrooms. Both ISIS and HTS maintained all-female police units to support the Hisbah in enforcing these regulations, sometimes violently, among women. Summary punishments for infractions ranged from corporal punishment such as lashing to execution.

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. Enrollment, attendance, and completion rates for boys and girls generally were comparable. Noncitizen children could also attend public schools at no cost but required permission from the Ministry of Education. 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.

The conflict and widespread destruction continued to hamper the ability of children to attend school. In June the Assistance Coordination Unit, a local NGO, reported that only 9 percent of the assessed functional schools provided upper secondary education, 36 percent offered lower secondary education, 56 percent offered primary education, and almost one-third of the assessed schools did not separate the various teaching levels.

The terrorist groups, ISIS and HTS, reportedly imposed their interpretation of sharia on schools and discriminated against girls in the territories they controlled. For example, in March the COI reported that HTS and ISIS: segregated classrooms by gender, dismissed students for dress code violations, imposed their curriculum on teachers, and closed private schools and educational centers. ISIS also banned several basic education subjects, such as chemistry and philosophy.

Child Abuse: The law does not specifically prohibit child abuse, but it stipulates that parents may discipline their children in a form permitted by general custom. According to a November 2017 UNFPA report, violence against children, especially girls, was pervasive and increasing due to conflict and the lack of economic opportunity for men.

There were reports of government and progovernment forces, as well as the terrorist groups HTS and ISIS, sexually assaulting, torturing, detaining, killing, and otherwise abusing children (see sections 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., and 1.g.). In July Urnammu reported extensively on such abuses.

The terrorist groups HTS and ISIS subjected children to extremely harsh punishment, including execution, in the territories they controlled (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. Early and forced marriages were increasingly common, as were abusive temporary marriages.

In November 2017 UNFPA reported early marriage had evolved from a cultural practice to an increasingly used coping mechanism during the war. Many families reportedly arranged marriages for girls, including at younger ages than pre-2011, believing that it would protect them and ease the financial burden on the family.

There were instances of early and forced marriage of girls to members of government, progovernment, and armed opposition forces.

In previous years ISIS abducted and sexually exploited Yezidi girls in Iraq and transported them to Syria for rape and forced marriage; many of those Yezidi women and girls remained captive during the year (see section 1.g. and section 6, Women). In March the COI reported that ISIS perceived unmarried women and girls older than the age of puberty as a threat to social order. As a result, from 2014 onwards, ISIS began to marry forcibly Sunni (also minority) girls and women living in territories under its control. Some of those forced to marry ISIS members were adults, including widows, but the vast majority of cases the COI documented revealed that girls between 12 and 16 years old were victims of forced marriage. Many women and girls reportedly were passed among multiple ISIS fighters, some as many as six or seven times within two years. HTS also reportedly forced Druze and other minority women and girls into marriage, as well as Sunni women and girls.

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 with no close-in-age exemption. 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 not less than 21 years’ imprisonment and hard labor. There were no reports of government prosecution of child rape cases.

Child Soldiers: Several sources documented the continued unlawful recruitment and use of children in combat (see section 1.g.).

Displaced Children: There was a large population of IDP children and some refugee children as well. These children reportedly experienced increased vulnerability to abuses, including by armed forces (see sections 1.c., 1.g., and 2.d.).

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

In 2016 NGOs estimated fewer than 20–perhaps fewer than 10–Jews remained in the country. The national school curriculum did not include materials on tolerance education or the Holocaust. There is no designation of religion on passports or national identity cards, except for Jews.

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

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for assisting persons with disabilities, and it worked through dedicated charities and organizations to provide assistance. Authorities did not fully document the number of persons with disabilities, but the NGO Humanity and Inclusion (HI, formerly Handicap International) reported in April that 30,000 new conflict-related trauma cases per month were leading to thousands of permanent disabilities. According to the local NGO Syria Relief, persons with disabilities remained among the most hidden, neglected, and socially excluded of all displaced persons in the country. They reportedly were not often recognized or calculated in record-keeping and data-collection exercises, contributing to neglect.

The destruction of schools and hospitals, most often by government and progovernment forces, limited access to education and health services for persons with disabilities, but government and nongovernment social care institutes reportedly existed for blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, and physical and intellectual disabilities. The government did not effectively work to provide access for persons with disabilities to information, communications, building, or transportation. In its November 2017 report, UNFPA detailed how educational institutions, early childcare centers, Quranic schools, and women’s centers often were easily accessible to community members with the exception of the elderly and persons with disabilities. UNFPA further stated that persons with disability were sometimes denied aid, as they could not access it, and some distribution centers required presence in person.

According to a 2017 report by the Syria Reliance Consortium of HI and other international NGOs, 50 percent of households surveyed, who counted a member with a disability, suffered from poor food consumption, compared with 34 percent for households without persons with a disability. In April HI reported that women and girls with disabilities were three times more likely to experience gender-based violence compared with nondisabled women. For example, in a November 2017 report, UNFPA cited the case of a young man in Sweida who lured and raped a disabled girl playing in the street by offering her candy. There was no indication that the government effectively investigated or punished those responsible for violence and abuses against persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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 and progovernment forces, as well as ISIS and armed opposition forces such as the Turkish-backed FSA, reportedly arrested, detained, tortured, killed, and otherwise abused numerous Kurdish activists and individuals, as well as members of the SDF, during the year (see section 1.g.).

The government continued to limit the use and teaching of the Kurdish language. It also restricted publication in Kurdish of books and other materials, Kurdish cultural expression, and at times the celebration of Kurdish festivals.

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.

In March the COI reported that armed opposition groups detained hundreds of women and girls belonging to minority groups, particularly Alawites, and used them as bargaining chips for initiating prisoner swaps with government and progovernment forces.

The terrorist groups ISIS and HTS violently oppressed and discriminated against all non-Sunni Arab ethnic minorities in the territories they controlled (see section 1.g.).

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

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, defined as “carnal relations against the order of nature,” and punishable by imprisonment up to three years.

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, but NGO reports indicated the government arrested dozens of LGBTI persons since 2011 on charges such as abusing social values; selling, buying, or consuming illegal drugs; and organizing and promoting “obscene” parties. Local media and NGOs reported instances in which government and progovernment forces used accusations of homosexuality as a pretext to detain, arrest, torture, and kill civilians. The frequency of such instances was difficult to determine, since police rarely reported their rationale for arrests.

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.

The terrorist groups ISIS and HTS regularly detained, tortured, and killed LGBTI individuals in the territories they controlled (see section 1.g.). For example, in its March report, the COI described how in 2016 HTS predecessor Jabhat al-Nusra accused two men of being homosexuals, tied their hands behind their backs, announced the accusations of homosexuality over loudspeakers, and threw the two men from the third floor of a building in Sheikhoun, Idlib. Similarly, the COI reported that ISIS executed males, including boys raped by older men, on charges of sodomy and widely circulated videos of the executions to terrorize populations under their control. For example, in its March report, the COI reported that Hisbah belonging to ISIS arrested a teenage boy in Raqqa, charged him with sodomy, and threw him off 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 underreported and the UN Development Program (UNDP) noted that stigma affected access to health care. The Ministry of Health claimed in December 2017 there were 35 known cases of HIV/AIDS in the country, while UNDP estimated there were 450 persons with HIV/AIDS. The UNDP and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria assessed that the incapability of the health-care sector to identify newly infected persons or offer medical support in a hostile environment posed a major problem and added to the risk of further spread of the disease among the general population.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Yezidis, Druze, Christians, and other religious minorities were subject to violence and discrimination by ISIS (see section 1.g.).

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation, age, or HIV-positive status. Since the law criminalizes homosexuality, many persons faced discrimination due to their sexual orientation. Discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred in hiring and access to worksites. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to certain minority groups (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

Taiwan

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence and provides protection for rape survivors. Rape trials are not open to the public unless the victim consents. Amendments to the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act stipulate that experts will assist in questioning and appear in court as witnesses when rape victims are minors or mentally disabled, and they authorize the use of one-way mirrors, video conferencing, or other practices to protect victims during questioning and at trial. The law permits a charge of rape even if the victim chooses not to press charges and allows prosecutors to investigate complaints of domestic violence even if the victim has not filed a formal complaint.

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.

In August the Supreme Court upheld a jail sentence of 39 years and two months for Justin Lee, the son of a wealthy banking tycoon. Lee was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women and filming sex acts with them between 2009 and 2011.

Many victims did not report the crime for fear of social stigmatization, and various nongovernmental organization (NGO) and academic studies estimated the total number of sexual assaults was seven to 10 times higher than the number reported to police. Some abused women chose not to report incidents to police due to social pressure not to disgrace their families.

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, and when the victims agreed, to apologize to the victims.

Incidents of sexual harassment were reportedly on the rise in public spaces, schools, the legislature, and in the government.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

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: 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. In light of increasing child abuse cases in childcare centers, the legislature amended the Early Childhood Education and Care Act in May, imposing tougher punishments. Childcare center owners and teachers who physically abuse or sexually harass children may be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$500,000 ($1,950 and $16,300), and the names of perpetrators and their institutions will be made public. Owners who fail to verify the qualifications of teachers and employees face a maximum fine of NT$250,000 ($8,140).

Children’s rights advocates called on medical professionals to pay attention to rising numbers of infants and young children sent to hospitals with unusual injuries and to take the initiative to report suspected abuse to law enforcement while treating these children. Advocates also called attention to growing numbers of bullying, violence, and sexual assault cases at correctional institutions, while pointing out that these facilities were usually understaffed and their personnel were inadequately trained to counsel and manage teenage inmates.

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.

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

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. In November 2017 lawmakers amended the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act (CYSEPA) to stiffen penalties against child pornographers. The amendment stipulates that a perpetrator who films an underage person engaging in sexual intercourse or obscene acts or produces pictures, photographs, films, videotapes, compact discs, electronic signals, or other objects that show an underage person engaging in sexual intercourse or obscene acts, shall be subject to imprisonment for between one and seven years, and could face a maximum fine of NT$1.0 million ($32,600). Prior to the amendment, the CYSEPA prescribed prison sentences ranging from six months to five years, and the maximum fine was NT$500,000 ($16,300).

The minimum age for consensual sexual relations is 16 years. Persons who engage in sex with children younger than 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 a maximum of one year in prison or hard labor or a maximum fine of NT$3.0 million ($97,700).

While authorities generally enforced the law domestically, elements of the law that treat possession of child pornography as a misdemeanor rather than a felony hampered enforcement in some cases. Authorities also did not investigate or prosecute any cases of child sexual exploitation committed by citizens while traveling abroad, although the law permits this.

In February police arrested two men in connection with an international child pornography distribution ring. Police uncovered mobile hard drives that contained an estimated 2,500 pornographic videos of minors, including infants. The suspects face charges of violating the CYSEPA.

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

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, estimated at 1,000 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. The law stipulates that authorities must provide services and programs to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities have the right to vote and participate in civic affairs. Taiwan has incorporated the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into its laws.

Authorities enacted and made efforts to implement laws and programs to provide access to buildings, information, and communications. NGOs contended the lack of barrier-free spaces and accessible transportation systems continued to limit civic engagement by persons with disabilities, particularly outside Taipei. A prominent NGO leader, however, spoke positively about notable improvements in transportation during the year, such as the increase of low-floor buses across Taiwan, especially in Taoyuan City. Citing Taoyuan as an example, the advocate encouraged local governments proactively to put forward proposals and solicit subsidies from central authorities to improve the accessibility of transportation networks and other facilities.

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 persons with disabilities in educational and mental health facilities. In May a nurse at a center for persons with mental disabilities in Hualien County uncovered evidence that a senior administrator at the center had molested or sexually assaulted at least four female residents and that the center had tried to cover up the abuses. The nurse reported the case to the Hualien Social Affairs Department and police. The perpetrator, surnamed Chang, was suspended from his position and was under investigation for aggravated sexual assault and abuse of authority.

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.

The Nationality Act allows non-PRC-born foreign spouses of Taiwan passport holders to apply for Taiwan residency after three years, while PRC-born spouses must wait six years. Unlike non-PRC spouses, however, PRC-born spouses may work in Taiwan immediately on arrival. The status and rights of PRC-born spouses are governed by the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area.

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 annual reports on progress in addressing historical injustices.

The Indigenous Languages Development Act of 2017 designates the languages of Taiwan’s 16 indigenous tribes as national languages and entitles indigenous peoples to use their languages in official settings. The act follows the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law of 2005 and the Indigenous Traditional Intellectual Creations Protection Act of 2007. As part of a pilot program, authorities established a number of schools designed exclusively for indigenous children to ensure that they grow up in their native cultural and linguistic environment.

In March the Legal Aid Foundation funded by the Judicial Yuan launched Taiwan’s first indigenous legal service center in Hualian to provide legal assistance to indigenous persons.

In 2017 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 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.

Indigenous rights advocates protested the 2017 20-year renewal of permits for the Asia Cement Corporation’s mining operations near a Truku community in Hualien County. They criticized the Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Committee for failing to protect indigenous land rights. The Bureau of Mines renewed the permit without the consent of the Truku community. The original permit expired in November 2017.

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 prohibits schools from discriminating against students based on their gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

In June the Control Yuan reprimanded the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of the Interior for ignoring intersex people and failing to protect their right to health. The Control Yuan pointed out that parents may be pressured to allow intersex infants to undergo “normalizing” surgery because of insufficient medical guidelines and pressure on parents to register their child’s gender at birth. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced discrimination in accessing sensitive health services, and the Control Yuan found the lack of accessible care a violation of the principle of equality.

Activists for 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.).

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation. The law prohibits potential employers from requesting medical reports from job candidates to prove they do not have HIV or other communicable diseases. The law forbids termination of employment because of pregnancy or marriage.

Workers who encounter discrimination can file complaints with two independent committees composed of scholars, experts, and officials in city and county departments of labor affairs. Local labor affairs bureaus are empowered to intervene and investigate complaints of employment discrimination. Authorities enforced decisions made by those committees. Employers can appeal rulings to the Ministry of Labor and the Administrative Court.

Latest available statistics showed that among the 214 sex discrimination cases reported in 2016, the majority were forced resignation due to pregnancies. There were 146 sexual harassment cases and 135 unfair treatment or work equality cases. Scholars said these numbers significantly understated the problem due to workers’ fear of retaliation from employers and difficulties in finding new employment if the worker has a history of making complaints.

Studies conducted by a women’s NGO and Cheers Magazine found women were promoted less frequently, occupied fewer management positions, and worked for lower pay than men. According to a survey by the Ministry of Finance, the median monthly income for women was NT$30,685 ($1,000), earning on average 77 percent of the amount their male counterparts earned in 2017.

Persons with “minor” disabilities who have not applied for proof of disability from the government are nonetheless protected against employment discrimination. The Ministry of Labor imposes fines of between NT$300,000 and NT$1.5 million ($9,770 and $48,900) on employers who discriminate against this category of disabled workers or job seekers.

The law requires 3 percent of the workforce in the public sector and 1 percent of the workforce in the private sector to be persons with disabilities. As of March, 4.4 percent of the public-sector workforce were persons with disabilities; the private sector continued to fall short of the regulated target. The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities was three times higher than that for persons without disabilities.

Tajikistan

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. 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 2016 the government adopted official guidelines 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 or involuntary sterilization.

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 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. There were no reports of birth registration being denied or not provided on a discriminatory basis. 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 as parents often give priority in education to their sons whom they regard as future breadwinners.

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.

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 or prison 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; however, inconsistent with international law, article 130.1 required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.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” were segregated into 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 those of Afghan nationality 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. In September, Khurshed Kunghurotov, the government’s chief physician, told the media that he thinks transgender individuals and gays are mentally ill, and those who do not recognize their illness are mentally ill themselves.

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. In February the government’s anticorruption agency detained three police officers for blackmailing a gay man in order to extort money from him. The man had on previous occasions been forced to give money to buy the officers’ silence regarding his sexual orientation. The police officers were charged with extortion and abuse of office, and in April a Dushanbe court found them guilty and fined each 55,000 Somoni ($6,500).

In some cases LGBTI persons were subjected 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. In 2017 the Interior Ministry and General Prosecutor’s Office drew up the list, which included 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.

As of April 1, the Ministry of Health officially registered 7,827 HIV infected individuals, including 2,933 women and 4,894 men. During the first quarter of the year, the ministry registered 321 new HIV positive individuals, including 114 women and 207 men.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, HIV-positive status, other communicable diseases, or social status. The law does not expressly prohibit worker discrimination on the basis of color, religion, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, or age.

In February a dance teacher at a choreography school in Dushanbe was reportedly fired from her job for not listening to President Rahmon’s annual televised address to the nation. Saida Rustamova told the media that the official documents she received stated she lost her job because she was not present in the school auditorium where students and teachers were gathered to listen to the president’s live televised address. Rustamova claims she left the auditorium because there were no available seats. The school principal told reporters that Rustamova was fired because of her poor work performance and her failure to follow her supervisor’s orders.

In June 2017 parliament approved amendments to the Law on Police, which bans persons with dual citizenship, foreign nationals, and stateless persons from serving in the police force. In 2016 lawmakers approved amendments to the law banning individuals with dual citizenship from serving in the country’s security services and requiring knowledge of the Tajik (state) language. In March 2017 the Council of Majlisi Namoyandagon, the lower house of parliament, approved amendments to the Law on Public Service prohibiting dual citizenship for any persons in public service.

Employers discriminated against individuals based on sexual orientation and HIV-positive status, and police generally did not enforce the laws. LGBTI persons and HIV-positive individuals opted not to file complaints due to fear of harassment from law enforcement personnel and the belief that police would not take action.

The law provides that women receive equal pay for equal work, but cultural barriers continued to restrict the professional opportunities available to women. Employers often forced women to work overtime without additional pay.

Tanzania

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’s 2018 Mid-Year Human Rights Report cited 1,218 incidents of women being raped in the country, and 13,895 incidents of violence against women from January to June. The same report cited and 6,376 cases of violence against children.

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. The Ministry of Health reported that approximately 10 percent of women had undergone FGM/C.

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 or in order to secure employment. 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 or involuntary sterilization.

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.

According to a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum, Tanzanian men earn 39 percent more than women.

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 and lack of sanitary facilities. According to the Ministry of Regional Government and Local Governance, primary school enrollment increased in 2018 to 1,751,221 students (880,391 males and 870,830 females), up from 1,345,636 in 2017. At the secondary level, child marriage and pregnancy often caused girls to be expelled or otherwise prevented girls from finishing school.

In January authorities arrested five school girls ages 16 to 19 in the southeastern town of Tandahimba for being pregnant. 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 2017 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 other abuse of children were major problems. Corporal punishment was employed in schools, and a 1979 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 2017 and June, 18,464 cases were reported through the program’s hotline. In August a 13-year-old student in Kagera Region was beaten to death by a teacher, who erroneously claimed the student stole another teacher’s bag.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the legal age for marriage at 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, 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 sex trafficking and child pornography. Those convicted of facilitating child pornography are subject to a fine ranging from TZS one million ($440) to TZS 500 million ($218,000), a prison term of one to 20 years, or both. Those convicted of child sex trafficking are subject to a fine ranging from TZS five million ($2,180) and TZS 150 million ($65,400), a prison term of 10 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 younger than 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. The ministry reported there were 6,132 children living in hazardous conditions during the year. 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.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. The Prime Minister’s Office includes a ministerial position that covers disabilities.

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 prejudice 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.” 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 November Amnesty International reported that police arrested 10 men in Zanzibar on suspicion of being gay after receiving a tip-off. They were detained for several days before being released.

Authorities filed a case against two women in Mwanza who were recorded on a video posted on social media exchanging rings in an engagement ceremony in December 2017; the case had not been heard. In October 2017 police arrested 12 individuals, including two South African lawyers and a Ugandan, allegedly for preparing a case challenging the government’s decision to ban drop-in centers serving key populations. The manager of the hotel hosting the event was also arrested. In September 2017 police arrested 20 persons in Zanzibar who participated in an HIV/AIDS education training course provided by an officially registered international NGO. There were several reports of tourists being denied entry into Zanzibar if authorities suspected they were LGBTI.

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 October the regional commissioner of Dar es Salaam created a government taskforce to round up persons who engage in acts that go against the country’s laws and morals, including same-sex sexual conduct. After widespread international condemnation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed the commissioner’s comments and taskforce were not reflective of government policy. This crackdown caused widespread fear among the LGBTI community and forced some to move out of the country. 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. Police abuses of HIV-positive persons, particularly in three key populations (sex workers, drug users, and LGBTI 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 2017 the government allowed community-based services for key populations to be reinstated following the release of revised guidelines, although the distribution of lubricants is still banned. NGOs and CSOs serving these key populations continued to face occasional backlash and harassment from law enforcement. There was continuing fear among these NGOs to operate freely and openly, as well as among LGBTI persons to freely seek health services, including HIV prevention and treatment.

Gender Desks at police stations throughout the country were established to help address mistrust between members of key populations and police.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Despite efforts by the government and NGOs to reduce mob violence through educational outreach and community policing, mob violence continued. According to the LHRC, there were 395 cases of mob violence from January to June, a decline from the same period in 2017, when 482 mob-related killings were reported. In June, for example, a man in the Geita Region accused of armed robbery was killed by an angry mob. Human rights groups reported that the prevalence of mob violence in the country resulted from a lack of faith in police and the justice system.

Witchcraft-related killings continued to be a problem. The LHRC reported 106 witchcraft-related killings from January to June, a slight decline from the same period in 2017.

Attacks on persons with albinism were declining, and from January through June there were no reported cases of persons with albinism being killed or attacked. Persons with albinism remained at risk of violence, however, especially during election times, as some ritual practitioners sought albino body parts in the belief they could be used to bring power, wealth, and good fortune. Schools used as temporary shelters in some cases evolved into long-term accommodations, 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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The employment and labor relations law prohibits workplace discrimination, directly or indirectly, against an employee based on color, nationality, tribe, or place of origin, race, national extraction, social origin, political opinion or religion, sex, gender, pregnancy, marital status or family responsibility, disability, HIV/AIDS, age, or station in life. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, language, citizenship, or other communicable disease status. The law distinguishes between discrimination and an employer hiring or promoting based on affirmative action measures consistent with the promotion of equality, or hiring based on an inherent requirement of the job. The government in general did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.

Women have the same status as men under labor law on the mainland. According to TUCTA, gender-based discrimination in terms of wages, promotions, and legal protections in employment continued to occur in the private sector. It was difficult to prove and often went unpunished. While employers in the formal sector were more attentive to laws against discrimination, problems were particularly acute in the informal sector, in which women were disproportionately employed. Women often were employed for low pay and in hazardous jobs, and they reported high levels of bullying, threats, and sexual harassment. A 2015 study by the LHRC found that women faced particular discrimination in the mining, steel, and transport industries.

Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred. They often faced difficulties in seeking documented employment outside of the informal sector. The Noncitizens Employment Regulation Act of 2015 gives the labor commissioner authority to deny work permits if a Tanzanian worker with the same skills is available. During the year foreign professionals, including senior management of international corporations, frequently faced difficulties obtaining or renewing work permits. Because refugees lived in camps and could not travel freely (see section 2.d.), few worked in the formal sector. While efforts by nongovernment and government actors had been made to curb discrimination and violence against persons with albinism, the LHRC reported that this population still lived in fear of their personal security and therefore could not fully participate in social, economic, and political activities. The LHRC also stated that persons with disabilities also faced discrimination in seeking employment and access to the workplace.

Thailand

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 rape was a serious problem, and noted a measure in the law allows offenders younger than 18 years 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.

In June a female British tourist claimed she was raped while she was vacationing on the resort island of Koh Tao. Initially the police rejected her claim and refused to investigate the incident. Following the incident, authorities arrested 12 Thai persons and charged them with violating the Computer Crimes Act for sharing information about the alleged inadequate police investigation on Facebook.

Domestic violence against women was a significant problem. The Ministry of Public Health operated one-stop crisis centers to 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 ($600) 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 ($900). 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 or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: 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.”

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security took steps to implement the Gender Equality Act by allocating funding to increase awareness about the Act, and hearing from complainants who experienced gender discrimination. Since the Act became law in 2015, the Ministry of Social Development has received more than 25 complaints, and issued judgement in four cases. The majority of cases related to transgender persons facing discrimination (see subsection on Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity below). Human rights advocates expressed concern about the act’s implementation, given lengthy delays in reviewing individual discrimination complaints, and a lack of awareness about the act among the public and within the ministry’s provincial offices.

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 ($600) or both, for anyone convicted of 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 comprised approximately 9 percent of the country’s 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.

In August women were banned from applying to the Royal Thai Police Academy. The RTP did not provide an explanation for the decision. Activists criticized the decision as contrary to the aims of the Gender Equality Act. Activists also formally petitioned the Office of the Ombudsman to urge the decision be revisited. Separately, the RTP listed “being a male” as a requirement in an employment announcement for new police investigators. The NHRCT and the Association of Female Police Investigators objected publicly to this announcement. In media reports the RTP cited the need for this requirement given that police investigations require hard work and the perception that female officers take frequent sick leave or abruptly resign.

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: NCPO Order No. 28/2559 provides that all children receive free “quality education for 15 years, from preschool to the completion of compulsory education,” which is defined as through grade nine. NGOs reported 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 years 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: According to the Civil and Commercial Code, the minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 17 years, while anyone younger than 20 requires parental consent. A court may grant permission for children between 15 and 16 years to marry.

According to the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the country has the second-highest rate of child marriage in Southeast Asia. UNICEF further reported that one in seven Thai teens from 15 to 19 years, is married.

In the Muslim majority southernmost provinces, families may use Sharia (Islamic law) to allow marriages of young girls after their first menstrual cycle, with parental approval. According to media reports, public hospital records in Narathiwat Province indicated that 1,100 married teenage girls gave birth in 2016. In August an 11-year-old Thai girl was returned to Thailand after marrying a 41-year-old Malaysian man. They resided in northern Malaysia but were married in Thailand. Child rights advocates and journalists reported it was common for Malaysian men to cross into Southern Thailand to engage in underage marriages for which getting approval in Malaysia would be impossible or a lengthy process. In December the Islamic Committee of Thailand raised the minimum age for Muslims to marry from 15 to 17 years old. Under the new regulation, however, a Muslim younger than the age of 17 can still marry with a written court order or written parental consent, which will be considered by a special subcommittee of three members, of which at least one member must be a woman with knowledge of Islamic laws. Islamic law is used in place of the Civil Code for family matters and inheritance in the country’s predominantly Muslim southern provinces.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides heavy penalties for persons who procure, lure, compel, or threaten children younger than 18 years 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 years, 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

The resident Jewish community is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. During the year 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 Persons with Disabilities and Empowerment Act establishes the National Commission for the Promotion and Development of Disabled Persons’ Life Quality and sets out its compositions, functions, and powers. The law also establishes an office to implement recommendations of the commission, as well as a fund to be managed by the Office for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons. The law provides tax benefits to employers employing a certain number of disabled persons. 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.

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.

Disability rights organizations reported difficulty in accessing information about a range of public services, as well as political platforms in advance of elections.

In May the Disabilities Council, together with 100 activists, filed 430 complaints in the Central Administrative Court in Bangkok demanding financial compensation for the city hall’s failure to provide disabled-friendly access to the Bangkok Mass Transit System’s green electric train network. The Disabilities Council indicated Bangkok’s Metropolitan Administration failed to implement the Central Administrative Court ruling of January 2015, which stated that the company must upgrade 23 of its stations and improve access for persons with disabilities in all its train stations within one year after the ruling.

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 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (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 United Nations Development Program and NGOs reported that LGBTI persons experienced discrimination, particularly in rural areas. The United Nations Development Program also reported media represented LGBTI persons in stereotypical and harmful ways resulting in discrimination.

The Gender Equality Act prohibits discrimination “due to the fact that the person is male or female or of a different appearance from his or her own sex by birth.” The Act is the first law in Thailand to protect transgender students from discrimination. The country’s Third National Human Rights Plan 2014-2018 includes a “sub-human rights plan” on “persons with different sexual orientation/gender identities.”

NGOs and the United Nations reported transgender persons faced discrimination in various sectors, including in the military conscription process, while in detention, and because of strict school and university uniform policies, which require students to wear uniforms that align with their biological gender. If university or school uniform codes are not followed, students may be denied graduation documents, have their grades deducted, or both. In January the Gender Equality Act’s judicial committee ruled Chiang Mai University had discriminated against transgender students by not allowing them to wear uniforms that correspond to their identified gender in graduation ceremonies. Following the committee’s ruling, the individual students were allowed to wear uniforms that aligned with their identified gender, but the overall policy remained unchanged and in place.

The NHRCT provided advice and support to transgender individuals who faced discrimination during the military conscription process. The NHRCT also represented transgender individuals who faced discrimination in society, including a transgender person who was refused entry to a Bangkok pub.

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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws did not specifically prohibit discrimination in the workplace. The law does impose penalties of imprisonment, fines, or both for anyone committing gender or gender identity discrimination, including in employment decisions. Another law requires workplaces with more than 100 employees to hire at least one worker with disabilities for every 100 workers.

Discrimination with respect to employment occurred against LGBTI persons, women, and migrant workers (also see section 7.e.). Government regulations require employers to pay equal wages and benefits for equal work, regardless of gender. Union leaders stated the wage differences for men and women were generally minimal and were mostly due to different skills, duration of employment, types of jobs, as well as legal requirements, which prohibit the employment of women in hazardous work. Nonetheless, a 2016 ILO report on migrant women in the country’s construction sector found female migrant workers consistently received less than their male counterparts, and more than one-half were paid less than the official minimum wage, especially for overtime work.

Union leaders reported pregnant women were dismissed unfairly, although reinstatements occurred after unions or NGOs filed complaints. In May, for example, the Eastern Labor Union Group, an affiliate of the Thai Labor Solidarity Committee, helped a pregnant woman to file a grievance with the Rayong provincial labor protection and welfare office alleging that her employer had forced her to resign. She was reinstated.

In September the police cadet academy announced it would no longer admit female cadets. This decision was widely criticized as discriminatory and detrimental to the ability of the police force to identify some labor violations against women. Discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred in employment, access, and training.

Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities faced frequent discrimination in the workplace, partly due to common prejudices and a lack of protective laws and policies on discrimination. Transgender workers reportedly faced even greater constraints, and their participation in the workforce was often limited to a few professions, such as cosmetology and entertainment.

Timor-Leste

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including marital rape, is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The law broadly covers all forms of domestic violence. Penalties for “mistreatment of a spouse” include two to six years’ imprisonment; however, prosecutors frequently used a different article in domestic violence cases (“simple offenses against physical integrity”), which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Failures to investigate or prosecute cases of alleged rape and sexual abuse were common. The PNTL’s vulnerable persons units generally handled cases of domestic violence and sexual crimes, but they did not have enough staff to provide a significant presence in all areas of the country.

Nevertheless, the formal justice system addressed an increasing number of reported domestic and sexual abuse cases. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, domestic violence offenses were the second-most commonly charged crimes in the criminal justice system, after simple assault. Prosecutors, however, routinely charged cases involving aggravated injury and use of deadly weapons as low-level simple assaults. Judicial observers also noted judges were lenient in sentencing in domestic violence cases. Several NGOs criticized the failure to issue protection orders and overreliance on suspended sentences, even in cases involving significant bodily harm.

Police, prosecutors, and judges routinely ignored many parts of the law that protect victims. NGOs noted that fines paid to the court in domestic violence cases often came from shared family resources, hurting the victim economically.

Gender-based violence remained a serious concern. In 2016 an Asia Foundation study found that 59 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 had experienced sexual or physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner and that 14 percent of girls and women had been raped by someone other than a partner. In this context, local NGOs viewed the law as having a positive effect by encouraging victims of domestic violence to report their cases to police.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion is charged with assisting victims of domestic violence. Due to staff shortages, the ministry had difficulty responding to all cases. To deal with this problem, the ministry worked closely with local NGOs and service providers to offer assistance. Local NGOs dependent on budget transfers from the government reduced their activities because of a nine-month delay in approving the state budget for the year.

Sexual Harassment: The labor code prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but workplace and public harassment reportedly was widespread. Relevant authorities processed no such cases during the year (see section 7.d.).

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The constitution states, “women and men shall have the same rights and duties in all areas of family life and political, economic, social, cultural life,” but it does not specifically address discrimination. Some customary practices discriminate against women, including traditional inheritance systems that tend to exclude women from land ownership.

Some communities continued to practice the payment of a bride price as part of marriage agreements (barlake); this practice has been linked to domestic violence and to the inability to leave an abusive relationship. Some communities also continued the practice of forcing a widow either to marry one of her husband’s family members or, if she and her husband did not have children together, to leave her husband’s home.

The secretary of state for equality and inclusion is responsible for the promotion of gender equality. More than 30 NGOs focused and collaborated on women’s issues. Early in the parliamentary election campaign, this advocacy network signed pacts with the leaders of major political parties to uphold and defend the rights of women and children in the program for the new government.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country or from a citizen parent or grandparent. A central civil registry lists a child’s name at birth and issues birth certificates. Birth registration rates are high, with no discernible difference in the rates of registration for girls and boys. While access to services such as schooling does not depend on birth registration, it is necessary to acquire a passport. Registration later in life requires only a reference from the village chief.

Education: The constitution stipulates that primary education shall be compulsory and free. The law requires nine years of compulsory education beginning at age six; however, there is no system to ensure that the provision of education is free. Public schools were tuition free, but students paid for supplies and uniforms. According to 2017 government statistics, the net access rate for primary education was 88 percent, while the net access rate for secondary education was 32 percent. Nonenrollment was substantially higher in rural than in urban areas. While initial attendance rates for boys and girls were similar, girls often were forced to leave school if they became pregnant and faced difficulty in obtaining school documents or transferring schools. Lack of sanitation facilities at some schools also led some girls to drop out upon reaching puberty. Overall, women and girls had lower rates of education than men and boys.

Child Abuse: The law protects against child abuse; however, abuse in many forms was common. Sexual abuse of children remained a serious concern. Despite widespread reports of child abuse, few cases entered the judicial system. Observers criticized the courts for handing down shorter sentences than prescribed by law in numerous cases of sexual abuse of children during the year. Incest between men and children in their immediate and extended family was a serious problem, and civil society organizations called for laws to criminalize it as a separate crime. Victims of incest faced a range of challenges such as limited information on the formal justice system, limited protection for the victims, threats and coercion from defendants, and social stigmatization from the family and community. A local NGO monitored 49 cases of incest between 2012 and May 2018 and claimed the actual number was far higher.

While the Ministry of Education has a zero tolerance policy for corporal punishment, there is no law on the issue, and reports indicated the practice was common.

Early and Forced Marriage: Although a marriage cannot be registered until the younger spouse is at least age 16, cultural, religious and civil marriages were recognized in the civil code. Cultural pressure to marry, especially if a girl or woman becomes pregnant, was strong. Underage couples cannot officially marry, but they are often married de facto once they have children together. Forced marriage rarely occurred, although reports indicated that social pressure sometimes encouraged victims of rape to marry their attacker or persons to enter into an arranged marriage when a bride price was paid. According to the most recent information from UNICEF (2015), an estimated 19 percent of girls married prior to the age of 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual assault against children was a significant, but largely unaddressed, problem. The age of consent is 14, according to the Penal Code. Some commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred. The penal code makes sexual conduct by an adult with anyone younger than age 17 a crime and increases penalties when such conduct involves victims younger than age 14. The penal code also makes both child prostitution and child pornography crimes. It defines a “child” for purposes of those provisions as a “minor less than 17 years of age.” The penal code also criminalizes abduction of a minor.

There were reports that child victims of sexual abuse were sometimes forced to testify in public fora despite a witness protection law that provides for video link or other secure testimony.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no indigenous Jewish population, 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 grants equal rights to and prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in addition to requiring the state to protect them. No specific legislation addresses the rights or support of persons with disabilities.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Health is responsible for treating mental disabilities. In many municipalities, children with disabilities were unable to attend school due to accessibility problems. The Council of Ministers approved a national inclusive education policy; however, the government did not implement the policy during the year. Schools lacked wheelchair access and other infrastructure for inclusive education, according to a national disabilities NGO.

Electoral regulations provide accommodations, including personal assistance, to enable persons with disabilities to vote. Civil society election monitors and the National Election Commission identified inconsistencies in the accessibility of polling places and accommodations for voters with disabilities in the May parliamentary elections.

Service providers noted domestic violence and sexual assault against persons with disabilities was a growing concern. They indicated the police and judiciary were slow to respond to such incidents. Persons with mental disabilities accused of crimes are entitled to special protections by law.

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

The constitution and law are silent on same-sex relations and other matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. The PDHJ worked with civil society organization CODIVA (Coalition on Diversity and Action) to increase awareness in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community of processes available for human rights complaints. While physical abuse in public or by public authorities was uncommon, LGBTI persons were often verbally abused and discriminated against in some public services, including medical centers. CODIVA noted transgender members of the community were particularly vulnerable to harassment and discrimination. A 2017 study conducted for Rede Feto, a national women’s advocacy network, with lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men in Dili and Bobonaro documented the use by family members of corrective rape, physical and psychological abuse, ostracism, discrimination, and marginalization against LGBTI individuals.

Access to education was limited for some LGBTI persons who were removed from the family home or who feared abuse at school. Transgender students were more likely to experience bullying and drop out of school at the secondary level.

In July members of civil society groups organized Timor-Leste’s second-ever Pride March in Dili. The march included participation from civil society, students, activists, nuns, and government officials and represented progress towards exercising freedom of association for all persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The National AIDS Commission is responsible for providing information and programming on HIV/AIDS; however, no government body was tasked with providing specific services. According to civil society organizations, HIV and AIDS patients experienced social stigma and were ostracized by their families and communities.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation, although it does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on sexual orientation. The code also mandates equal pay. The government did not effectively enforce the code’s provisions.

Employers may only require workers to undergo medical testing, including HIV testing, with the worker’s written consent. Work visa applications require medical clearance.

Discrimination against women reportedly was common throughout the government, but it sometimes went unaddressed. NGO workers noted this was largely due to lack of other employment opportunities and fear of retaliation among victims. Women also were disadvantaged in pursuing job opportunities due to cultural norms, stereotypes, and an overall lower level of qualifications or education. Some reported that pregnant women did not receive maternity leave and other protections guaranteed by the labor code.

Togo

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but authorities did not generally enforce it effectively. 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 ($3,610 to $18,050). 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 ($361 to $1,805). A prison term for conviction of 20 to 30 years applies if the victim is younger than age 14, was gang raped, or if the rape resulted in pregnancy, disease, or incapacitation lasting more than six weeks. Neither the government nor any group compiled statistics on the incidence of 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 data, FGM/C had been performed on 5 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49. 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 Appendix C.

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

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.

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 a child born of one citizen parent, be it the father or the mother, is a citizen, 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.

Authorities registered and issued birth certificates to approximately 80 percent of children, but the percentage was lower in rural areas. Birth certificates are required to obtain an identity card, which is needed to enroll in school, inherit or buy property, and travel outside the country.

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 at younger 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 additional information, see Appendix C.

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 of 100,000 to one million CFA francs ($180 to $1,805). For conviction of violations involving children younger than 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 its findings.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.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 Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of 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 prohibits “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 ($1,805 to $5,415), 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 transgender 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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment and occupation based on race, gender, disability, citizenship, national origin, political opinion, and language but does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases. Penalties for violations include a fine of up to one million CFA francs ($1,805) and a sentence of up to six months in prison.

The government, in general, did not effectively enforce the law. Evidence of hiring discrimination ranged from job advertisements that specified gender and age to requiring an applicant’s photograph. Gender-based discrimination in employment and occupation occurred (see section 6, Women). Although the law requires equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, this provision generally was observed only in the formal sector.

By traditional law, which applies to the vast majority of women, a husband legally may restrict his wife’s freedom to work and may control her earnings.

Societal discrimination against persons with disabilities was a problem. Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred.

Tonga

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. The law makes domestic violence a crime punishable by a maximum of 12 months in prison, a fine of 2,000 pa’anga ($860), or both. Repeat offenders face a maximum of three years in prison or a maximum fine of 10,000 pa’anga ($4,300). 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.

Police investigated reported rape cases, and the government prosecuted these cases under the law. In January, for example, a man was sentenced to nine years and nine months in jail for domestic violence, sexual assault, and incest. The police domestic violence unit has a “no-drop” policy in complaints of domestic assault, and once filed, domestic violence cases cannot be withdrawn and must proceed to prosecution in the magistrates’ courts. Tonga Police Force and the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC) conducted a workshop on gender bias training in the Police Force. Gender bias was an issue that hindered the performance of officers in the field.

An estimated 40 percent of women have faced domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime and 80 percent of domestic violence victims are believed to be women. 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. The Center reported an increase in sexual abuse cases involving teenagers ages 14 to 16.

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 is a common problem.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

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

Child Abuse: 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. According to nongovernmental organizations (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 ($43,000) or a maximum of 10 years in prison for individuals and a maximum fine of 250,000 pa’anga ($108,000) for corporations. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.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. There were no legally mandated services or government programs for adults with disabilities, including for 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, with 18 students enrolled. 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.

As of September the National Council on Disability, established in 2017, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs had implemented a program to assist disabled individuals. Each qualifying individual receives 75 pa’anga ($32.30) monthly.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law restricts ownership and operation of retail food stores to citizens. Ethnic Chinese citizens dominated the retail sector in many towns. There were reports of crime and societal discrimination directed at members of the Chinese minority.

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

Sodomy 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. No law specifically prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or addresses hate crimes. No criminal justice mechanisms exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) individuals. Society accepted a subculture of transgender dress and behavior, and a prominent NGO’s annual festival highlighted transgender identities. There was one report of violent assault against LGBTI individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Social stigma or intimidation may have prevented reporting of other incidents of violence or discrimination.

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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on any particular personal characteristic, feature, or group affiliation. Discrimination against women in employment and wages occurred. Women participated in the work force at a lower rate than men, were generally employed in lower-skilled jobs, and earned measurably less than men earn.

Trinidad and Tobago

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 antiharassment provisions in their contracts.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

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. During the fiscal year 2017, the Children’s Authority received and investigated more than 4,200 reports of child abuse and maltreatment. More than half (55 percent) of all cases involved female children. Neglect and sexual abuse accounted for 24 percent and 26 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. The law defines a child as younger than age 18. In June 2017 parliament passed legislation changing the legal marriage age to 18. The president formally proclaimed the enactment of the Marriage Act in September 2017.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: 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 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were fewer than 100 Jewish persons 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 not aware of any 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, and social stigma accompanied by 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

On September 20, the High Court issued a final ruling on the country’s Sexual Offenses Act, removing an “antibuggery” law and effectively decriminalizing same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults. High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad first ruled in April that the law was unconstitutional and expressed his intent to amend the law, which criminalized same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults. Although the legislation was not struck out completely, the ruling provides that consenting adults will not be liable to criminal charges if engaging in consensual sexual acts. 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 or gender identity. The 2012 Children Act decriminalizes sexual exploration between minors who are 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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of political opinion, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, age, disability, or HIV status or other communicable disease. The government effectively enforced those laws and regulations. Discrimination in employment occurred with respect to disability, and women’s pay lagged behind men’s, especially in the private sector.

Tunisia

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: In 2017 parliament unanimously passed a comprehensive law addressing all forms of gender-based violence, which went into effect in February 2018. The law broadly defines violence against women as “any restriction denying women equality in the civil, political, economic, social, or cultural domains.” The law, which enjoyed widespread support from both political parties and civil society organizations, adds or updates articles in the Penal Code to meet international best practices. It criminalizes previously uncovered acts of incest, sexual harassment of women in public places, and gender discrimination.

Rape remained a taboo, and cultural pressures often dissuaded victims from reporting sexual assault. Several civil society groups urged the government to improve implementation of the new law condemning gender-based violence, including by providing better protection and legal remedies for victims of sexual assault.

In one case that received extensive national-level attention, on August 28, the minister of health visited a 15-year-old girl at the hospital after she had been allegedly gang raped and her relatives physically assaulted by five men over the course of several days. Media reported that her neighbor, who had led the attack, was a police officer. In the course of the attack, both the girl’s mother and grandmother died from their injuries. The minister told media the government would provide the girl and her family with all necessary medical and psychological assistance. Upon her release from the hospital, the girl was reportedly transferred to a child protection center. Media reported that the National Guard arrested the perpetrators in “record time.”

Laws prohibiting domestic violence provide penalties for assault committed by a spouse or family member that are double those of an unrelated individual for the same crime, but enforcement was rare, and domestic violence remained a serious problem. The 2018 law strengthens the penalties for domestic violence and allows women to seek restraining orders against their abusers without filing a criminal case or filing for divorce. The Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood Affairs established a national hotline for victims of violence. While the service hours were limited, the ministry reported that between early 2017 and August 2018, 4,727 women called the hotline and were referred to the ministry’s services and assistance. There were five centers dedicated to providing assistance to women victims of violence, one of which was managed by the ministry and four by civil society organizations.

There were no government public education programs on domestic violence, including rape. Victims received services at two dozen social centers throughout the country.

Sexual Harassment: The 2018 gender-based violence law includes a revised article related to sexual harassment. It allows up to a two-year sentence for the harasser and a 5,000-dinar ($2,040) fine, instead of the previous one year in prison. The law further clarifies that sexual harassment can include any act, gesture, or words with sexual connotation. The punishment is doubled if the victim is a child or the perpetrator has authority over the victim.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: The constitution and law explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. Women faced societal rather than statutory barriers to their economic and political participation. Codified civil law is based on the Napoleonic code, although on occasion, judges drew upon interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) as a basis for customary law in family and inheritance disputes.

Newly married couples must state explicitly in the marriage contract whether they elect to combine their possessions or to keep them separate. In 2017 the government cancelled the 1973 decree law that prevented the marriage of Muslim female citizens with non-Muslim men unless the men presented proof of conversion to Islam. Sharia requires men, but not women, to provide for their families. Because of this expectation, in some instances, sharia inheritance law provides men with a larger share of an inheritance. Some families avoided the application of sharia by executing sales contracts between parents and children to ensure that daughters received shares of property equal to those given sons. Non-Muslim women and their Muslim husbands may not inherit from each other, unless they seek a legal judgement based on the rights enshrined in the 2014 constitution. The government considers all children of those marriages to be Muslim and forbids those children from inheriting from their mothers. Spouses may, however, freely give up to one-third of their estate to whomever they designate in their will.

On August 10, the Ministry of Health issued a circular to all public hospitals requiring that they inform authorities upon receiving cases of pregnancy outside of marriage, children born to unmarried couples, or single mothers wishing to abandon their newborns. In response, the National Council of the Medical Order issued a statement calling the circular unacceptable as it violates professional secrecy, basic individual rights, and the protection of personal data. The Ministry of Health later withdrew this guidance.

The law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work, and the government generally enforced it. The law allows female employees in the public sector to receive two-thirds of their full-time salary for half-time work, provided they have at least one child under 16 or a child with special needs, regardless of age. Qualifying women may apply for the benefit for a three-year period, renewable twice for a maximum of nine years. Societal and cultural barriers significantly reduced women’s participation in the formal labor force, particularly in managerial positions. Women in the private sector earned on average one-quarter less than men for similar work. The new law on gender-based violence contains provisions aimed at eliminating the gender-based wage gap.

The government initiated a “Council of Peers” during the year, with participation of each ministry and the major labor organizations, to institutionalize changes to promote gender sensitivity and integration at all levels of public administration, including budget proposals and government programs.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth from one’s parents, and the law provides for a period of 10 days to register a newborn. Thereafter, parents have 30 days to explain why they failed to register a newborn and complete the registration. Female citizens can transmit citizenship on an equal basis with male citizens, and there is no discrimination between a mother and father regarding passport application and authorization to leave the country.

The Ministry of Women, Family, and Childhood designated 21 psychologists to treat victims of child abuse and announced its collaboration with civil society to provide increased services for child victims in shelters in Sousse, Sfax, and Tunis.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage for both sexes is 18, but the courts may, in certain situations, authorize the marriage of persons younger than 18 upon the request and approval of both parents.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Anyone who has sexual relations with a girl under age 10 is subject to the death penalty. The 2018 law against gender-based violence addresses all forms of gender-based violence. Under previous laws, intercourse with a girl under the age of 15 without the use of violence was punishable by six years in prison; the 2018 law raised the age of consent to 16, and removed a clause in the legal code that allowed the court to drop the charges of sex with a minor if the perpetrator agreed to marry the victim, with the approval of her parents. The law prohibits child pornography.

International Child Abductions: The country is not 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

An estimated 1,400 Jews lived in the country. During widespread, violent protests against government austerity in January, vandals threw incendiary devices into the courtyard of a synagogue and at a Jewish school on the island of Djerba. There were no injuries. Observers said the attackers took advantage of reduced police presence around the institutions due to the protests. According to media reports, police arrested five suspects in connection with the incident, and members of the Jewish community described security officials as being responsive.

On May 1-4, an annual Jewish pilgrimage took place on the island of Djerba. Local media estimated participation at 3,000 persons, including approximately 400 Israelis. The event took place without incident and included the participation of several government ministers. Leaders in the Jewish community and government publicly praised the pilgrimage as a sign of the excellent relationship between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

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 or mental disabilities. It mandates that at least 2 percent of public- and private-sector jobs be reserved for persons with disabilities. NGOs reported authorities did not widely enforce this law, and many employers were not aware of it.

Since 1991, the law requires all new public buildings to be accessible to persons with physical disabilities, and the government generally enforced the law. Persons with physical disabilities did not have access to most buildings built before 1991. The government did not ensure information and communications were accessible for persons with disabilities.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The government issued cards to persons with disabilities for benefits such as unrestricted parking, free and priority medical services, free and preferential seating on public transportation, and consumer discounts. The government provided tax incentives to companies to encourage the hiring of persons with physical disabilities. There were approximately 300 government-administered schools for children with disabilities, at least five schools for blind pupils, one higher-education school, and one vocational training institution. The Ministry of Social Affairs managed centers that provided short- and long-term accommodation and medical services to persons with disabilities who lacked other means of support.

The Ibsar Association, which works to promote rights for all persons with disabilities, estimated that fewer than one-third of persons with disabilities hold a government-issued disability card, which entitles the holder to a monthly government stipend of 120 dinars ($44).

One of the biggest challenges for persons with disabilities, according to Ibsar, was a lack of access to information through education, media, or government agencies. There were very limited education options or public-sector accommodations for persons with hearing or visual disabilities. There were no schools for children with hearing disabilities, and Ibsar estimated that more than 90 percent of persons with hearing disabilities were illiterate. For children with physical disabilities, infrastructure continued be a major hurdle to their social inclusion, as few buildings or cities are accessible to persons with physical disabilities or reduced mobility.

For the municipal elections, while ISIE prepared electoral handbooks in Braille and ensured sign language interpretation for most of its press conferences, civil society observer groups noted that ISIE did not provide effective, timely outreach and voter education programs to reach persons with disabilities.

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

The law criminalizes sodomy. Convictions carry up to a three-year prison sentence. According to NGOs, authorities occasionally used the law against sodomy to detain and question persons about their sexual activities and sexual orientation, reportedly at times based on appearance alone. In some instances, NGOs reported that LGBTI individuals were targeted under the article of the penal code that criminalizes “infringement of morality or public morals,” which carries a penalty of six months in prison and a fine of 1,000 dinars ($370). ADLI, a civil society organization, reported that 120 individuals had been arrested and accused of homosexuality during the first 10 months of the year.

In 2017 the National Council of the Medical Order in Tunisia issued a statement calling for doctors to cease conducting forced anal and genital examinations, which the World Health Organization and United Nations have said can constitute acts of torture. Human rights organizations and LGBTI-focused NGOs stated that the statement has neither deterred these exams nor reduced the rate of individuals being sentenced to jail under the sodomy law, since judges often assumed guilt of individuals who refused to submit voluntarily to an exam. Tunisian LGBTI-rights NGO Shams Association reported a decrease in the use anal examination through physical force by the police but an increase in coerced anal examinations as police and judicial officials frequently used the individuals’ refusal to submit to the exam as “proof” of their homosexuality.

LGBTI individuals continued to face discrimination and violence, including death and rape threats, although societal stigma and fear of prosecution under sodomy laws discouraged individuals from reporting problems. LGBTI-rights associations collaborated to publish a study in May that surveyed 300 LGBTI individuals about the types of violence experienced as well as the perpetrators and location of this violence. According to this study, more than 50 percent of those surveyed reported they had been insulted more than once in public spaces due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation; 24 percent reported that within the previous six years they had been the victim of a physical threat or attack for the same reason.

Although there continued to be no information on official discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care, this survey found widespread anecdotal evidence of systemic denial of services and socio-economic discrimination targeting LGBTI individuals. Approximately 25 percent of the respondents reported they had been refused a job due to their LGBTI status, and 10 percent reported being denied medical treatment or tests, at least once, due to LGBTI status.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit employment discrimination regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, HIV-positive status or presence of other communicable diseases, or social status. The government did not always effectively enforce those laws and regulations due to lack of resources and difficulty in identifying when employers’ traditional attitudes toward gender identity or sexual orientation resulted in discriminatory employment practices (see section 6).

Turkey

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 some human rights organizations claimed the government did not effectively enforce it. On February 28, Gamse Kuru was murdered by her ex-husband, after authorities failed to provide her protection. In 2017 Kuru applied for protection from the state, but her request was denied. Following repeated threats, she applied again and the court granted her protection on the same day she was murdered.

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.

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. Some NGOs noted the lack of services was more acute for women in certain categories, such as elderly and LGBTI women as well as women with older children.

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. According to public opinion polling conducted annually by Kadir Has University’s Gender and Women’s Studies Research Center, violence continued to be the biggest concern for women in the country with 61 percent of respondents citing the issue. 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. According to We will Stop Femicide Association’s November report, 363 women were murdered between January and November.

Courts regularly issued restraining orders to protect victims, but human rights organizations reported that police rarely enforced them effectively. For example, on September 19, Gonul Demir was murdered by her husband despite a restraining order. 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 in some cases 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. For example, in April, an Istanbul court reduced the aggravated life imprisonment sentence for Abdullah Melih Baris to life in prison with possibility of parole due to his good conduct at his hearings. Courts had convicted Baris in 2016 of murdering his girlfriend, Nurcan Arslan. We will Stop the Femicide Association announced that in the first 11 months of the year, courts finalized/reached a verdict in 24 femicide cases. In 10 cases, the court ordered reduced sentences due to the suspect’s “good conduct” or because there had been “severe provocation” to justify the crime.

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. In the eastern province of Igdir, a woman was killed by her two brothers in October. Authorities arrested the suspects and charged them with “voluntary manslaughter by killing a sibling with the intention of honor.”

Individuals convicted of honor killings may receive life imprisonment, but NGOs reported that courts often reduced actual sentences 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.

Gender equality organizations indicated that incidents of verbal harassment and physical intimidation of women in public occur with regularity, and cited a permissive social environment in which harassers feel emboldened as the cause.

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 in 2017 increased 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 or forced sterilization.

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 older than the age of 18. Laws introduced as a gender justice initiative provided for maternity leave, breastfeeding time during work hours, flexibility in work hours, and required childcare by large employers. However, rights organizations, contended that these changes in the legal framework discouraged employers from hiring women and negatively impacted their promotion potential.

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 citizenship.

Education: Human rights NGOs and others expressed concern that the law on compulsory education continued to allow some female students to be kept at home and married early. Ministry of National Education statistics cited in June by the Children’s Rights Commission of the Istanbul Bar Association for 2017 indicated that 97.4 percent of students who said they could not continue education were girls. The Education Reform Initiative, an NGO focusing on education, reported in its Education Monitoring Report for 2017-18 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. According to European Statistics Office data, drop-out rates in Turkey were 34 percent for girls and 31 percent for boys in 2017, an improving trend.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in its Education at a Glance report for the year, identified gaps between girls’ and boys’ access to education and reported that nearly 40 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 29 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 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.

Government authorities increased attention on the problem of child abuse. According to a May 27 report by the Acibadem Crime and Violence Research Center, Child Abuse in Turkey Report-2, the documented number of child sexual abuse victims increased by 33 percent between 2011 and 2016. According to the report, between 2011 and 2016, 21,068 applications were made to children monitoring centers. In 2016 alone, 2,487 girls and 1,124 boys younger than the age of 12 faced sexual abuse. The women’s NGO We Will Stop Femicides reported that, in just the month of July, there were 433 reported cases of child sexual abuse. According to Ministry of Justice statistics, there were 16,348 child sex abuse cases filed in 2017.

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. The law acknowledges civil and religious marriages, but the latter were not always registered with the state.

NGOs reported that 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.

Separately, women’s rights groups stated that forced marriages and bride kidnapping persisted, particularly in rural areas, although it was not as widespread as in previous years.

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, a judge may double the sentence.

The age of consent for sex is 18. In 2016 the Constitutional Court annulled a provision in the criminal code that punished all acts involving children younger than 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.

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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

According to the Chief Rabbinate in Istanbul, there were approximately 14,000 Jews living in the country. Some emigrated due to anti-Semitism.

Jewish citizens expressed concern regarding anti-Semitism and security threats in the country. Anti-Semitic rhetoric continued in print media and on social media throughout the year. According to a 2017 Hrant Dink Foundation report on hate speech, there were 1,251 published instances of anti-Jewish rhetoric in the press depicting Jews as violent, conspiratorial, and enemies of the country. The Middle East Media Research Institute documented a significant number of anti-Jewish social media posts in Turkish during May praising Hitler, promoting violence against Jews and the State of Israel, and espousing the involvement of Jews in conspiracies to undermine the country.

The government took a number of positive steps to combat anti-Semitism during the year. On January 25, Ankara University hosted an event to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which also issued a written statement commemorating the event. In September and December, President Erdogan sent the Jewish Community a public message celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah that highlighted religious diversity as part of the country’s wealth.

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. NGOs that advocate for persons with disabilities asserted the government did not enforce the law effectively. In July the Disabled Rights Platform reported that disabled persons continued to face major obstacles in the country.

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 Ministry of Labor, Social Services, and Family is responsible for protecting persons with disabilities. The ministry maintained social service centers assisting marginalized individuals, including persons with disabilities. The majority of children with disabilities were “mainstreamed” in public schools and 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. The Education Reform Initiative’s Education Monitoring Report for 2017-2018 reported that according to Ministry of National Education statistics on primary, middle and high schools, a total of 349,896 students with disabilities were in school, with 255,169 studying in regular schools and the remainder in either state-run or privately owned special education schools. A Ministry of Labor, Social Services, and Family 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 spoke Kurdish dialects. Security force efforts against the PKK disproportionately affected Kurdish communities 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 and 2017, after the coup attempt remained closed. On December 10, the HRA reported that 2,854 persons including military, police, village guards, PKK members, and civilians, had lost their lives during government-PKK clashes in the southeast since 2016.

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, although several instructors in these departments were among the thousands of university personnel fired under official decrees, leaving the programs unstaffed. 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 August, the Adana Metropolitan Municipality removed Arabic signage on the grounds it did not comply with official regulations.

Although the government officially allows the use of Kurdish in private education and in public discourse, it 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, housing, health care, and employment. Roma reported difficulty in taking advantage of government offers to subsidize rent on apartments due to discriminatory rental practices. According to Member of Parliament Ozcan Purcu, despite positive changes in perceptions, 96 percent of Roma were unemployed, although many worked in jobs in the informal economy. In line with a national Romani strategy adopted by the cabinet in 2016, the government carried out a number of pilot projects to enhance social inclusion of Romani citizens, including vocational courses offered by the government’s employment agency, IsKur. Roma advocates complained that there was little concrete advancement for Roma. They also complained that, under the state of emergency, NGOs that offered literacy courses to Roma either were shut down or faced severe restrictions.

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

While the law does not explicitly criminalize LGBTI status or conduct, provisions of law concerning “offenses against public morality,” “protection of the family,” and “unnatural sexual behavior” sometimes served as a basis for abuse by police and discrimination by employers.

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. During the year the Ankara governor’s office continued its indefinite 2017 ban on all public LGBTI events in the province, citing public safety concerns. In addition to prohibiting the annual pride march, the ban also prevented a screening of the film “Pride” at the Ankara Bar Association’s training center on May 29. The Constitutional Court rejected a request by LGBTI groups for an injunction on the ban without rendering a decision on the case itself. Based on the court’s action, LGBTI organizations appealed the case to the ECHR.

The criminal code 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 it was sometimes used to restrict freedom of speech rather than to protect minorities. LGBTI definitions were not included in the law, but authorities reported a general “gender” concept in the constitution provides for protections for LGBTI individuals. 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.

KAOS-GL reported that some LGBTI individuals were unable to access health services or faced discrimination. LGBTI individuals reported 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.

As of March 2018, individuals were no longer required to undergo compulsory sterilization as a legal precondition to legal recognition of their gender identity.

During the year LGBTI individuals experienced discrimination, intimidation, and violent crimes. 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 persons who killed LGBTI individuals. Courts of appeal upheld these verdicts based, in part, on the “immoral nature” of the victim. LGBTI advocates reported that police detained transgender individuals engaged in sex work to extract payoffs and that courts and prosecutors created an environment of impunity for attacks on transgender persons involved in sex work.

Violence against LGBTI individuals continued throughout the year. On July 13, a 24-year-old transgender woman was killed in Samsun in an act of bias-motivated violence. Authorities arrested and sentenced him to prison.

On May 30, a refugee transgender woman was attacked by a group of men in Yalova. LGBTI activists stated it was the fourth attack in one week in that city.

For the fourth year in a row, the governor’s office banned Istanbul’s pride march, citing public safety concerns. Despite the ban and heavy police presence, several hundred activists and supporters took part in the event. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up crowds and prevent participants from entering areas in and around Taksim Square, detaining 11 participants. Organizers did not hold a transgender march during the year due to security concerns.

Additional pride marches took place in Mersin, where approximately 100 persons participated despite an official ban, and Izmir, where more than 2,000 marched on June 11. The Adana governor’s office banned the city’s first pride march based on concerns about social sensitivities and public safety.

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.

KAOS-GL reported in its 2017 Hate Crime Report that out of 117 cases of violence reported to the organization, only 19 were reported to the police and only seven resulted in a court hearing.

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 that 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 persons with HIV/AIDS, many individuals feared the results of HIV tests would be used against them and avoided testing.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Armenians, Alevis, and other Christians remained the subject of hate speech and discrimination. The term “Armenian” remained a common slur. Attacks on Christian and Jewish places of worship were rare, but on April 29, vandals scrawled nationalist graffiti and dumped trash outside an Armenian church in Istanbul. Government authorities, including Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, condemned the attack and opened an investigation, resulting in the detention of a suspect. Between March 16 and 24, courts reportedly arrested 16 members of the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association (PSDAK), the largest Alevi organization in the country, who were accused of “aiding a terrorist organization.” PSDAK stated that all indictments of its members failed to associate them with any violence and claimed that they were arrested due to their religious activities.

According to the Hrant Dink Foundation’s Media Watch on Hate Speech Report, an analysis of national and local newspapers between January and April, found 3,076 instances of published hate speech that targeted national, ethnic, and religious groups. The most targeted groups were Armenians, Jews, Greeks, and Syrians.

Atheists also remained the subject of intimidation in progovernment media, albeit at a lower level relative to other religious minorities.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law does not explicitly address discrimination due to sexual orientation, gender identity, color, national origin or citizenship, social origin, communicable disease status, or HIV positive status. The labor code does not apply to discrimination in the recruitment phase. Discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with regard to sex, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, HIV-positive status, and presence of a disability. Sources also reported frequent discrimination based on political affiliation/views. Penalties, generally monetary fines, were insufficient to prevent violations.

Women faced discrimination in employment and generally were underrepresented in managerial-level positions in business, government, and civil society. According to the Turkish Statistics Institute, women’s employment in 2016 was 28 percent, corresponding to 8.4 million women. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017, 33.8 percent of women participated in the labor force.

For companies with more than 50 workers, the law requires that at least 3 percent of the workforce consists of persons with disabilities; in the public sector, the requirement is 4 percent. Despite these government efforts, NGOs reported examples of discrimination in employment of persons with disabilities.

LGBTI individuals faced particular discrimination in employment. Some statutes criminalize the vague practice of “unchastity.” Some employers used these provisions to discriminate against LGBTI individuals in the labor market, although overall numbers remained unclear.

Turkmenistan

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 younger than age 14 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 or involuntary sterilization.

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 the law was 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 or her parents. A child born to stateless persons possessing permanent resident status in the country is also a citizen.

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 ages 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.

Anti-Semitism

There is no organized Jewish community in the country. In 2016 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 disability status of individuals. 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. Individuals with disabilities had to pass through a special commission on an annual basis for their disability status to be extended, unless they were born with the disability or had passed the commission review for 10 consecutive years.

Some students with disabilities were unable to obtain education because there were no qualified teachers or accessible facilities.

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.

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. In 2017 the government required ministry employees to pass tests demonstrating knowledge of professional subjects in Turkmen, and the government dismissed 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

By law sexual contact between men is illegal under Article 135 of the criminal code, 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, same-sex 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 did 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.

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.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination based on nationality, race, gender, origin, language, religion, disability, HIV status or other communicable diseases, political beliefs, and social status. The government did not always effectively enforce the law, which does not specify penalties for discrimination on these grounds, with the exception of disability; discrimination against persons with disabilities is punishable by fines ranging from 203 manat to 2,000 manat ($58 to $570) and suspension for up to three months. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Discrimination in employment and occupation based on gender, language, and disability (see section 6) was widespread across all sectors of the economy and government. Certain government positions required language exams, and all government positions required a family background check going back three generations. Civil society members reported the country retained a strong cultural bias against women in positions of power and leadership, making it difficult for some women to secure managerial positions based on their gender. Although the 2013 Code on the Social Protection of the Population defines social protection policies for persons with disabilities and establishes quotas and work places for persons with disabilities, it was not broadly enforced. Members of the disability rights community reported that persons with disabilities were generally unable to find satisfactory employment due to unofficial discrimination. There was no information on discrimination against internal migrant workers.

In January the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection issued regulations requiring companies to set aside up to 5 percent of job vacancies for persons with disabilities and for single parents with large families whose children were younger than age 18 or have disabilities.

Tuvalu

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 five years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of Australian dollars (AUD) 1,000 ($720), 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.

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 explicit 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 another person at risk of further violence occupies it. The Women’s Crisis Center provided counseling services, but there were no shelters for abused women. 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. The Tuvalu Study on People with Disability report, released by the government in July, found that women with disabilities were subject to abuse and harassment, including sexual abuse.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Discrimination: Aspects of the law contribute to an unequal status for women, for example in land inheritance and child custody rights. No law prevents employment discrimination based on gender or requires equal pay for equal work, and such discrimination occurred. Nonetheless, women increasingly held positions in the health and education sectors and headed a number of NGOs.

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.

Education: Education is compulsory until age 15 years. No law specifically mandates free basic education, but government policy generally provides free basic education for all.

Child Abuse: The government does not collect or publish data on child abuse, and there were no reports of child abuse during the year. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicated child abuse occurred. The Education (Amendment) Act 2017 prohibits corporal punishment.

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; however, no law prohibits the use, procurement, or offering of boys from 15 through 17 years for sex. 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 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.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, including participation in civic life.

The government released the findings of the Tuvalu Study on People with Disability in July. The report found that abuse and discrimination against persons with disabilities was prevalent and women with disabilities were particularly vulnerable to abuse. There were no reports of investigations or punishment by the government for violence and abuses against persons with disabilities, but societal norms may limit the reporting of such incidents particularly against women and girls with disabilities.

Children with disabilities reportedly had lower school attendance rates at all levels than other children. Some students with disabilities attended public primary schools both in Funafuti and in the outer islands. Parents decide which school a child with disabilities attends after consultation with an adviser from the Fusi Alofa Association, a disabilities-focused NGO.

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

The law prohibits sexual conduct between men, with penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment, but there were no reports the government enforced these provisions of the law. 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 inhibit reporting of such discrimination or violence.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Persons with HIV/AIDS faced some societal and employment discrimination. The government and NGOs cooperated to inform the public regarding HIV/AIDS and to counter discrimination.

Section 7. Worker Rights

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations do not prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national origin, age, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status, and these persons sometimes experienced discriminatory practices. There were no reports during the year of discrimination in employment and wages. In the wage economy, men held most higher-paying positions. Nonetheless, women increasingly held senior positions in government, particularly in the health and education sectors. Few women could access credit to start businesses. Local agents of foreign companies that hired local seafarers to work abroad also barred persons with HIV/AIDS from employment.