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Brazil

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government did not always respect this right.

The press maintained a confrontational relationship with the Bolsonaro administration. The press regularly published highly critical reporting on the government’s actions, and President Bolsonaro and members of his administration frequently criticized the press. According to Reporters Without Borders, President Bolsonaro criticized the press 87 times in the first half of the year, verbally or via social media – a 74 percent increase compared with the second half of 2020. Reporters Without Borders included the president in its 37-member “predators of the press freedom” gallery. The organization described the president’s tactics as “predatory methods” that used insults, humiliation, and vulgar threats against primarily women journalists, political analysts, and media networks. Despite these concerns, in general the press continued to operate freely.

In March media reported that police had subpoenaed more than 200 persons to provide depositions and, in some cases, arrested individuals after criticizing the president (including some who called for his assassination) using the 1983 National Security Law that was enacted during the military dictatorship. In February, STF minister Alexandre de Moraes used the same law to order the arrest of Federal Deputy Daniel Silveira for a video Silveira released defending the closing of the STF and expressing support for Institutional Act Number 5, the harshest instrument of repression during the military dictatorship, which removed mandates of antimilitary parliamentarians and suspended constitutional guarantees that eventually resulted in the institutionalization of torture. In September the president approved with five line-item vetoes a bill revoking the National Security Law and adding a series of crimes against democracy to the penal code – criminalizing attacks on national sovereignty, executing a coup d’etat, and spreading fake news during elections.

Violence and Harassment: Journalists were sometimes killed or subjected to harassment, physical attacks, and threats as a result of their reporting.

On April 4, a man riding a motorcycle fatally shot radio broadcaster Weverton Rabelo Froes in the Fazenda Guaribagion region of Planaltino, Bahia. On April 9, an unknown individual fatally shot television producer Jose Bonfim Pitangueiras in the Engenho Velho da Federacao district in Salvador, Bahia. As of October the Civil Police were investigating both crimes but had not identified a motive or suspect in either killing.

In August a journalist and a blogger were attacked in separate incidents less than one month apart in the municipality of Mage in Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area. In early August unidentified men set fire to blogger Eduardo César’s vehicle. Separately, on August 17, unidentified men opened fire on journalist Vinicius Lourenco’s vehicle. Neither victim was injured. Both were known for having previously exposed problems within the administration of Mage mayor Renato Cozolino.

In October the Public Ministry of Roraima State denounced state deputy Jalser Renier for eight crimes in the kidnapping of journalist Romano dos Anjos in October 2020. Renier, who was president of the Roraima state legislative assembly at the time, was charged as the mastermind of the kidnapping, for attempting to hinder the investigation, and for using his position to threaten the Roraima state governor. Eight additional military police officers and a former employee of the political party were also charged.

In instances of violence perpetrated by protesters or provocateurs during mass demonstrations, at times security forces injured journalists during crowd-control operations.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: National laws prohibit politically motivated judicial censorship, but there were reports of judicial censorship. In 2019, drawing on previous court precedent and in coordination with the National Police, the STF began using a law against defaming institutions to investigate cases of individuals or press criticizing the court’s members. These investigations expanded to numerous cases of investigating “fake news,” and on August 4, the STF added President Jair Bolsonaro to its investigation for spreading false statements related to the electoral process and the security of electronic voting machines.

Nongovernmental Impact: Nongovernmental criminal elements at times subjected journalists to violence due to their professional activities.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The government generally respected the right of freedom of peaceful assembly, but police occasionally intervened in citizen protests that turned violent.

Several news media reported a clash between protesters and military police officers during a march against President Jair Bolsonaro’s government in Sao Paulo on July 24. Six demonstrators accused of carrying dangerous objects were temporarily detained and released afterwards. Protesters accused police of using excessive force in a peaceful movement, while police accused them of vandalizing public properties.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. By law refugees are provided official documentation, access to legal protection, and access to public services. The law codifies protections for asylum claimants and provides for a humanitarian visa and residency status that serves as an alternative to refugee claims for some categories of regional migrants, particularly from Venezuela.

As of October there were almost 273,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the country who were highly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, many of whom arrived in the northern state of Roraima. The country had already officially recognized more than 61,000 refugees, of whom 48,800 were Venezuelans. The government continued the process of “interiorization” of Venezuelan refugees and asylum seekers, voluntarily relocating them from the border to other states to relieve pressure on the resource-strapped state of Roraima and provide increased opportunities for education and work.

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government closed its borders, including the border with Venezuela. During the border closure, migrants who arrived irregularly were unable to receive residency paperwork, limiting their ability to access social services and find work. On June 25, the government issued an ordinance permitting Venezuelan nationals to enter Brazil and to regularize their status through applications for asylum and residence permits, including the regularization of status for those who entered irregularly in the prior 15 months. As of October 15, the government had issued 22,033 entry permits pursuant to the ordinance.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: NGOs reported that refugees were susceptible to human trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution and forced labor.

Employment: The interiorization program provided economic opportunities for voluntarily resettled Venezuelans by placing them in economic hubs in larger cities. As of October more than 60,000 Venezuelans had been relocated to cities away from the border. Resettled Venezuelans seeking employment reported difficulty obtaining Brazilian accreditation for foreign academic degrees and professional licenses, restricting their ability to work. Civil society organizations raised concerns that business closures due to COVID-19 disproportionately affected migrants and refugees, many of whom depended on informal jobs or work in the service sector.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape. In addition, the law criminalizes physical, psychological, and sexual violence against women, as well as defamation and damage to property or finances by someone with whom the victim has a marriage, family, or intimate relationship. The law defines femicide as homicide of a woman due to her gender, including but not limited to, homicide that escalated from other forms of domestic violence, discrimination, or contempt for women. The law stipulates a sentence of 12 to 30 years. According to NGOs and official data, there were 1,350 femicides in 2020, compared with 1,326 in 2019. According to the National Council of Justice, the number of new cases involving the killing of a woman rose 39 percent in 2020 to 2,788 cases, and courts imposed sentences in 2,016 cases of femicide in 2020 – a 24 percent decrease from the 2,657 sentences in 2019, due to process difficulties in light of the pandemic. According to the Brazilian Public Security Forum, in cases of femicide, the killer was a partner or former partner of the victim 81.5 percent of the time.

The state of Rio de Janeiro had a total of 42 victims of femicide in the first five months of the year according to the Institute of Public Security. The state of Bahia had 64 cases of femicide in the first six months, according to the Bahian Public Security Secretariat. The Espirito Santo Public Security Secretariat recorded 13 victims in the first five months of the year. The state of Minas Gerais recorded 67 victims of femicide from January to June and 70,450 victims of domestic violence during the same period.

On April 2, justice prosecutor Andre Luiz Garcia de Pinho killed his wife, Lorenza Maria Silva de Pinho. In July the Minas Gerais Court of Justice decided that de Pinho would be brought to trial for aggravated homicide. He remained in pretrial detention after a request for habeas corpus was denied.

NGO and public security representatives reported that, culturally, domestic violence was often viewed as a private matter and that survivors and bystanders often did not report cases of violence. On July 14, police arrested Iverson de Souza Araujo (also known as DJ Ivis), in Fortaleza after videos of assaults against his former wife, Pamella Holanda, were posted by her on her social media account. The public release of the video led to widespread public condemnation, and distribution contracts and music collaborations were cancelled.

According to NGOs and public security data, gender-based violence was widespread. According to the 15th Public Safety Yearbook released annually by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, there were 60,460 cases of rape in 2020. Due to underreporting, the actual number of cases was likely much higher. The state of Sao Paulo recorded an average of 34 cases of rape per day in the first quarter of the year, 7 percent higher than the same period of 2020, according to a survey conducted by the NGO Instituto Sou da Paz. Data showed that 75 percent of the victims were girls younger than age 14.

Each state secretariat for public security operated police stations dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women. State and local governments also operated reference centers and temporary women’s shelters, and many states maintained domestic violence hotlines. In January, Rio de Janeiro State’s Civil Police announced a new hotline for victims of gender-based violence in an effort to reduce instances of feminicide. During the pandemic the court of justice in the state of Piaui invested in campaigns and online assistance to facilitate access for victims of violence. There were several ways to denounce domestic violence: through the Salve Maria application or calling the Francisca Trindade Center, Maria da Penha Patrol, Esperanca Garcia Institute, Ombudsman of the Public Ministry of Piaui, or Public Defender’s Office. In April in the state of Piaui, requests for protective measures for women victims of domestic violence increased more than 30 percent, compared with the same period in 2020.

During the first quarter of the year, the state of Rio Grande do Sul saw a 375 percent increase in preventive arrests for domestic violence, compared with the same period of 2020. A key factor contributing to this increase was the rise of information sharing with the government through electronic means, such as WhatsApp and Online Police. The state also inaugurated an additional 17 salas das margaridas, a dedicated space within police stations to receive women at risk, bringing the total in Rio Grande do Sul to 40.

In July 2020 Rio de Janeiro’s then governor Witzel signed a bill that temporarily authorized gun permit suspensions and weapons seizures in cases of domestic violence and femicide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities cited concerns that quarantine could lead to increases in domestic violence cases involving weapons. According to Rio de Janeiro’s Public Security Institute, as of June 2020 domestic violence calls to the military police aid hotline had increased by 12 percent, in comparison with the same period the previous year. In August 2020 a police operation resulted in the arrest of 57 suspects accused of domestic violence.

The law recommends health facilities contact police regarding cases in which a woman was harmed physically, sexually, or psychologically and instructs police to collect evidence and statements should the victim decide to prosecute. Despite these protections, allegations of domestic violence were not always treated as credible by police.

Sexual assault and rape of minors was widespread. In 2020, 44,400 cases of rape and rape of vulnerable minors were registered, representing 60.6 percent of the total number of rape cases. A “vulnerable” victim is defined as a person younger than age 14, or who is considered physically, mentally, and therefore legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. According to the 15th Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security, 54 percent of these victims were 11 years old or younger.

In Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, a group of five men (two adults and three adolescents) raped and killed an 11-year-old Kaiowa indigenous girl in August. Police arrested the perpetrators, who confessed the crimes, and indicted them on charges of rape of a vulnerable person, femicide, and aggravated homicide. One of them, the girl’s uncle, died in prison three days later, and police were investigating the case as a possible suicide.

On March 12, the STF unanimously decided to invalidate the use of the “legitimate defense of honor thesis” in cases of femicide. The 11 STF justices assessed this thesis contradicts constitutional principles of human dignity, protection of life, and gender equality and, therefore, cannot be applied in jury trials as a defense argument in cases of femicide. The legitimate defense of honor thesis was used in jury courts to largely absolve men who killed women to “protect their own honor,” for example in cases of betrayal in romantic relationships.

On July 28, the federal government approved a law that includes the crime of psychological violence against women in the penal code, assigning a punishment of six months’ to two years’ imprisonment and a fine. The text approved by Congress defines the crime as: “Causing emotional damage to women that can harm and disturb them, or their full development, or that aims to degrade or control their actions, behaviors, beliefs and decisions, through threat, embarrassment, humiliation, manipulation, isolation, blackmail, ridicule, limitation of the right to come and go, or any other means that harm their psychological health and self-determination.”

On May 10, the government of the state of Alagoas inaugurated A Casa da Mulher Alagoana. The center serves women victims of domestic violence and provides professional psychology, advocacy, and social care services. Victims may file a police report and request protective measures in-person at the facility, as well as receive temporary shelter.

In the state of Ceara, the Women’s Reference Center, which offers a psychologist, lawyer, and social worker service and partnership with the Maria da Penha Patrol, received 240 requests for assistance in 2020, but within the first four months of 2021 it responded to 142 requests. According to the center’s director, most victims were financially dependent on their partner, which deepened during the COVID pandemic.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison. The law includes actions performed outside the workplace. NGOs reported sexual harassment was a serious concern, and perpetrators were infrequently held accountable. A 2019 study conducted by research institutes Patricia Galvao and Locomotiva with support from Uber found that 97 percent of women had experienced sexual harassment on public transportation, in taxis, or while using a rideshare application.

On June 15, the National Council of Justice ruled that Judge Glicerio de Angiolis Silva from Rio de Janeiro’s Court of Justice should be removed from the bench for two years for morally and sexually harassing public workers and interns at the court of Miracema, in the northwestern part of the city of Rio de Janeiro, in 2015. The victims reported that the judge asked them to send him photographs of them in bikinis, asked them out, and requested them to work late with no reasonable purpose. By law the judge was still entitled to receive his salary while away from his regular duties.

In June the Rio Grande do Sul Civil Police opened an investigation into plastic surgeon Klaus Wietzke Brodbeck on suspicion of sexually abusing more than 95 women patients, including one sedated patient he allegedly raped after surgery.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraceptives and termination of pregnancy as provided for by law. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), persons in remote regions experienced difficulty accessing reproductive health services.

According to UNFPA, in 2020, 89 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods, and skilled health personnel attended to 99 percent of births from 2014 to 2019. UNFPA also reported that adolescent birth rate per 1,000 girls for those between the ages of 15 to 19 averaged 53 births for the period of 2003 to 2018. The Ministry of Health reported that the maternal mortality ratio averaged 59 deaths per 100,000 live births as of 2018 and was higher among Black women than among white women. Data published in May by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation found that the risk of death of pregnant brown and Black women from COVID-19 was almost twice that of white women and noted that Black women were less likely to have gynecological and prenatal care and travelled farthest to reach a maternity ward.

In May, UNICEF and UNFPA published a report on menstrual poverty experienced by Brazilian girls who lived in conditions of poverty and vulnerability, sometimes without access to basic sanitation services, hygiene resources, and minimal knowledge about the body. More than 700,000 girls had no access to a bathroom or shower in their homes. More than four million girls experienced at least one deprivation of hygiene in schools, including lack of access to feminine care products and basic facilities such as toilets and soap. Nearly 200,000 of these students were completely deprived of the minimum conditions to handle menstruation at school. A study from Girl Up Brazil, a network to end menstrual poverty in the country, found that one in four girls had missed school because they lacked access to feminine products.

In October, President Bolsonaro signed a law to create the Program for the Protection and Promotion of Menstrual Health, a strategy to promote health and attention to feminine hygiene and aims to combat lack of access to hygiene products related to menstruation. The president vetoed a provision contained in the measure to provide free basic hygiene products to low-income students, persons living on the streets, and prisoners because he said the legislation did not establish a funding source. In November the Foreign Trade Chamber reduced the import tax rate from 12 to 10 percent on sanitary pads and baby diapers to make the products more affordable to consumers.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in all circumstances. The law does not require equal pay for equal work. According to the International Labor Organization, women not only earned less than men but also had difficulties entering the workplace: 78 percent of men held paid jobs, compared with 56 percent of women. Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, but the law was not effectively enforced.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country or from birth to a Brazilian citizen parent. Parents are required to register their newborns within 15 days of the birth or within three months if they live more than approximately 20 miles from the nearest notary. Nevertheless, many children did not have birth certificates.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse and negligence, but enforcement was often ineffective, and abuse was widespread. According to data from the National Human Rights Ombudsman, in the first six months of the year, the country registered 47,416 reports of crimes against children and adolescents, compared with 53,525 in the first half of 2020. Of these, 121 were from mistreatment, and 52 were from sexual abuse, such as rape or harassment. The total number of reports in 2020 was 124,839 – a 47 percent increase over 2019 – and experts suspected that pandemic closures resulted in significant underreporting.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 (or 16 with parental or legal representative consent). The practice of early marriage was common. A study of child marriage in the northeastern states of Bahia and Maranhao found that pregnancy was the main motivation for child marriage in 15 of 44 cases. According to a 2020 UNICEF report, 26 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married by age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Sexual exploitation of children, adolescents, and other vulnerable persons is punishable by four to 10 years in prison. The law defines sexual exploitation as child sex trafficking, sexual activity, production of child pornography, and public or private sex shows. The government enforced the law unevenly. The law sets a minimum age of 14 for consensual sex, with the penalty for statutory rape ranging from eight to 15 years in prison.

The Alagoas state government invested in campaigns to raise public awareness of the increase of sexual abuse of children and adolescents, largely within the same family, during the pandemic. From January to March, 211 cases of child sexual abuse were registered in the state, an increase from 186 during the same period in 2020.

In Maranhao State, the Department of Health Care for Children and Adolescents carried out a campaign with the theme “You report it, we take care of it” to improve assistance for victims of child sexual abuse. The state registered 99 cases of pregnant children younger than age 14 in 2019 and again in 2020.

The country was a destination for child sex tourism. While no specific laws address child sex tourism, it is punishable under other criminal offenses. The country was a destination for child sex tourism. In addition girls from other South American nations were exploited in sex trafficking in the country.

The law criminalizes child pornography. The creation of child pornography carries a prison sentence of up to eight years and a fine. The penalty for possession of child pornography is up to four years in prison and a fine. In June the Ministry of Justice coordinated Brazil’s participation, carried out by state civil police forces, in an international operation to combat crimes of child sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet. The operation carried out 176 search and seizure warrants in 18 states and five countries and resulted in the arrests of 39 individuals in Brazil.

Displaced Children: According to UNICEF, in 2020 refugee support organizations identified more than 1,577 unaccompanied Venezuelan children and adolescents in Pacaraima, Roraima State, and in the first three months of the year the number reached 1,071. According to civil society contacts, some of these minors were at risk of being trafficked or sexually exploited. Local child protection services offices act as legal guardians so unaccompanied adolescents can go to school and obtain identification papers to access the public health system. In some areas, however, they could not accommodate the influx of children. State shelters in Roraima, the state where most migrants entered the country, could house a maximum of 15 adolescent boys and 13 adolescent girls. According to a 2019 Human Rights Watch report, some unaccompanied children ended up living on the streets, where they may be particularly vulnerable to abuse or recruitment by criminal gangs.

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/reported-cases.html.

Iceland

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Freedom of Expression: The law establishes fines and imprisonment for up to two years for “[a]nyone who publicly mocks, defames, denigrates, or threatens a person or group of persons by comments or expressions of another nature, for example, by means of pictures or symbols for their nationality, color, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, or disseminates such materials.”

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. It allows for an accelerated procedure by the Ministry of Justice’s Directorate of Immigration for applications involving unaccompanied minors, “manifestly unfounded claims,” fraudulent applications, applicants deemed dangerous to themselves or others, or when an application is filed following the issuance of a deportation order. An independent regulatory committee, the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board, adjudicated asylum cases rejected by the directorate.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country adheres to the EU’s Dublin III regulation, which allows for the return of asylum seekers to the country of entry into the EU. The country did not return asylum seekers to the EU member states Greece or Hungary unless they already received protection in these countries. In certain cases the country also did not return vulnerable asylum seekers to Italy or Greece, but civil society observers contended that the bar for asylum seekers to be considered vulnerable was often unnecessarily high.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement and provided for their local integration. The government committed to receiving 100 refugees for resettlement in 2020, but only 11 had arrived in the country as of August 16 due to COVID-19. The government remained committed to resettling the refugees. In June the Ministry of Social Affairs determined that the country would receive an additional 100 refugees for resettlement during the year. On August 24, the government announced it would resettle 120 refugees from Afghanistan.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees and as of December 22, according to official numbers published by the Directorate of Immigration in June, had provided asylum to 69 persons, subsidiary protection to 179, and humanitarian protection to 14 during the year. In addition, the government provided protection to 138 family members of asylum seekers.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction for rape, including of men, carries a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison. Judges typically imposed sentences of two to three years. The law does not explicitly address spousal rape.

The law criminalizes domestic violence and specifies a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison for violations.

Survivors of domestic violence can request police to remove perpetrators physically from the home for up to four weeks at a time. Police can also impose a 72-hour restraining order to prevent abusers from coming into proximity with the victim, and courts can extend this restraining order for up to a year. The law entitles survivors of sex crimes to a lawyer to advise them of their rights and to help them pursue charges against the alleged assailants. As of August 26, approximately 74 women and 64 children had sought temporary lodging during the year at shelters for women in Reykjavik and Akureyri.

The police procedure for handling domestic violence states that law enforcement should report to the location of the incident. If responding officers are unable to enter the premises and have reasonable suspicion that the life of an individual inside might be threatened, they are allowed to use force to enter. If a child is present, an official from the child protective services must be called to the scene. All parties present are questioned, and the case is entered into the police database. If the situation warrants, the responding officers can arrest the perpetrator and assist the survivor in seeking medical care and offer guidance on legal recourse. The victim can request a temporary restraining order be imposed on the perpetrator. In some cases officers, child protective services, or the family of the victim can request the restraining order. If officers deem the survivor to be in danger following the imposed restraining order, they provide an emergency services call device.

The government helped finance the women’s shelters in Reykjavik and Akureyri, the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence, the rape crisis center of the national hospital, and other organizations that assisted victims of domestic or gender-based violence. These organizations offered services free of charge, regardless of the victim’s citizenship. In addition, the government assisted immigrant women in abusive relationships, offering emergency accommodation, counseling, and information on legal rights.

Sexual Harassment: Under the general penal code, sexual harassment is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. In addition, the law on equal status defines sexual harassment more broadly as any type of unfair or offensive physical, verbal, or symbolic sexual behavior that is unwanted, affects the self-respect of the victim, and continues despite a clear indication that the behavior is undesired. The law requires employers and organization supervisors to make specific arrangements to prevent employees, students, and clients from becoming victims of gender-based or sexual harassment. The law establishes fines for violations, but more severe penalties could be applicable under other laws.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive services for sexual violence survivors, both on-site at hospitals, and via government-funded nongovernmental organizations that provide free counselling and psychiatric services. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men according to the constitution and the law. Although the government enforced the law effectively, employment discrimination occurred.

Children

Birth Registration: A child acquires the country’s citizenship at birth if both parents are citizens, if the mother is a citizen, or if the father is a citizen and is married to the child’s foreign mother. If a mixed-nationality couple had obtained a judicial separation at the time when the child was conceived, the child acquires the mother’s citizenship. A stateless child can become a citizen at the age of three. By law all children have access to social services regardless of citizenship. If a child is not legally domiciled in the country or is living in the country without legal guardians, a child protection committee in the municipality where the child is physically located assumes care if needed and takes measures to secure his or her best interests. Registrations of births were prompt.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal. The government is legally mandated to provide services for children, including a safe residence for children as well as specialized services. Under the law the general public has a duty to notify authorities if suspicion of any form of child abuse arises. The Government Agency for Child Protection is responsible for implementation of the law. The agency operated a diagnostic and short-term treatment center for abused and troubled minors and was responsible for one short-term treatment center in Reykjavik and two centers in other locations. The government maintained a children’s assessment center to secure their well-being, lessen the trauma experienced by children, coordinate victim protection, and accelerate prosecution in child sexual abuse cases. The prime minister appoints the ombudsman for children, who acts independently of the government. While the ombudsman’s recommendations are not binding on authorities, the government generally adopted them.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18 for both sexes. There were no reports of forced marriages during the year.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the payment or promise of payment or consideration of another type for the commercial sexual exploitation of a child younger than 18. Violations may be punished with fines or imprisonment for up to two years. The law punishes child pornography by up to two years in prison. The law criminalizes statutory rape with incarceration of one to 16 years. The government effectively enforced these laws.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The law includes a requirement for explicit consent for sexual acts, meaning that consent is not considered to be given freely if obtained through violence or the threat of violence, any kind of force, or the use of drugs or alcohol.

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/reported-cases.html.

Italy

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to safeguard freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Freedom of Expression: The law criminalizes insults against any divinity as blasphemy and penalizes offenders with fines. There were no reports of enforcement of this law or of convictions during the year.

Speech based on racial, ethnic, national, or religious discrimination is a crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Detention is legitimate only in the case of serious violation of fundamental rights and hate crimes. Holocaust denial is an aggravating circumstance carrying additional penalties in judicial proceedings.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law criminalizes defamation and libel with penalties of up to three years in prison. On June 22, the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional a law punishing libel and defamation with up to six years of imprisonment if committed through the press and consisting of “attribution of a specific fact.” Criminal penalties for libel were seldom carried out, but on April 21, a Rome judge sentenced a former editor and a journalist of daily newspaper La Repubblica to pay 50,000 euros ($57,500) to former interior minister Matteo Salvini as compensation for an article regarding a canceled trip to Israel.

Nongovernmental Impact: The NGO Reporters without Borders stated there was growing hostility toward reporters, mainly due to organized crime-affiliated threats. According to the NGO, approximately 20 journalists – mostly in Rome and the South – received around-the-clock police protection because of serious threats or murder attempts. In Rome reporters were at times harassed by neo-Fascist activists and became targets of criticism and harassment on social media platforms by private and political activists.

Police reported 123 cases of intimidation against journalists between January and July compared with 103 during the same period in 2020. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) alleged some attacks against reporters. It reported that on April 11, an unidentified man attacked Rete-4 TV reporter Carmen La Gatta and two support staffers while they were conducting interviews in the northwestern city of Cuneo, using physical force including a metal chain to attack the reporting team and the vehicle in which they were traveling. According to the CPJ, on August 28, a mob in Rome protesting the country’s measures against COVID-19 surrounded Antonella Alba, a journalist working for public broadcaster Rai News 24. The mob harassed her verbally, assaulted and injured her physically, and tried to steal her cell phone.

The CPJ also reported that on August 30, at another rally in Rome against the anti-COVID-19 measures, a protester threatened to leave Francesco Giovannetti, a video journalist for La Repubblica, “lying on the ground” unless he turned off his camera. The protester then punched Giovannetti in the face four or five times. One report stated police intervened and apprehended the attacker and that Giovannetti was taken to the hospital and treated for head injuries.

Reporters without Borders reported that journalists exposed to threats by criminal organizations increasingly chose to self-censor out of fear. In February and April, the editor of the Livorno-based daily Il Tirreno reported verbal attacks, threats, and a physical assault against journalists at the newspaper. The newspaper also received a tape recording threatening a violent attack against the newsroom.

On April 15, a Bari court convicted a member of an organized crime gang to 16 months in jail for violence and threats against Maria Grazia Mazzola, a journalist from the national broadcaster Rai.

The National Federation of Italian Press also reported 110 cases of threats made against journalists between January and June, 18 of which were made by organized crime gangs and 36 of which were made by extremist political organizations.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other international and humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection for refugees.

Through December 13, a total of 63,062 seaborne irregular migrants had entered the country, compared with 32,919 during the same period in 2020. The increase, together with the fear of possible COVID-19 transmission, affected the ability of authorities to provide housing and other services to migrants and asylum seekers. The Italian Red Cross was responsible for managing migrants during their period of COVID-19 quarantine.

Authorities regularly authorized disembarkation of migrants rescued by NGO ships despite an April 2020 decree by the minister for infrastructure and transportation stating that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Italian ports could not guarantee that they meet the requirements to qualify as places of safety for migrants who were rescued by foreign-flagged ships outside the Italian search and rescue area. NGOs and independent observers identified difficulties in asylum procedures, including inconsistencies in the application of standards in reception centers and insufficient referral rates of trafficking victims and unaccompanied minors to appropriate, adequate services. NGOs asserted authorities did not properly identify many of the victims on arrival, potentially leaving some trafficking victims unidentified within the system and classified instead as asylum seekers or undocumented immigrants subject to deportation.

Some territorial adjudication committees took more than one year to process asylum claims, due in part to preventive measures adopted in response to COVID-19. If a case was legally appealed, the process could last up to three years.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country is party to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation and its subsequent revisions, which identify the member state responsible for examining an asylum application based primarily on the first point of irregular entry.

Refoulement: Amnesty International and other NGOs accused the government of failing to protect migrants when, on February 7, it renewed with Libya the 2017 memorandum of understanding on illegal immigration. Italian authorities cooperated with the Libyan coast guard to seize vessels carrying migrants in Libyan waters to take them back to Libya. UNHCR did not consider Libya a “safe country” due to the absence of a functioning asylum system, the widely reported difficulties faced by refugees and asylum seekers in Libya including the lack of protection from abuses, the lack of durable solutions, and a heightened risk of trafficking facing migrants forced to remain in Libya.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: International humanitarian and human rights organizations accused the government of endangering migrants by encouraging Libyan authorities, through cooperation and resources, to seize migrants at sea and return them to reception centers in Libya. Aid groups and international organizations deemed the Libyan centers to have inhuman living conditions.

The IOM, UNHCR, and NGOs reported labor exploitation, including labor trafficking, of asylum seekers, especially in the agricultural and service sectors (see section 7.b.), and sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking, of unaccompanied migrant minors (see section 6, Children).

The government uncovered corruption and organized crime in the management of resources allotted for asylum seekers and refugees. On March 9, police arrested three persons and investigated another five accused of fraud and money laundering in Frosinone. They were suspected of holding migrants in overcrowded facilities in unhealthy conditions and inflating official reports of the center’s population in order to receive public funds.

Freedom of Movement: The law permits authorities to detain migrants and asylum seekers in identification and expulsion centers for up to 120 days if authorities decide they pose a threat to public order or if they may flee from a deportation order or predeportation jail sentence. The ombudsman for detainees noted that only half of the migrants in expulsion centers were repatriated in 2020 and lamented the lack of independent monitoring of the centers and judicial remedies for abuses. The government worked to reduce the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea on smuggler vessels and restricted their movement for up to 72 hours after they arrived at reception centers.

Employment: According to labor unions and NGOs, employers continued to discriminate against refugees in the labor market, taking advantage of weak enforcement of legal protections against exploitation of noncitizens. High unemployment in the country and the COVID-19 lockdown also made it difficult for refugees to find legal employment.

Access to Basic Services: UNHCR, the IOM, and other humanitarian organizations and NGOs reported that thousands of legal and irregular foreigners, including refugees, were living in abandoned, inadequate, or overcrowded facilities in Rome and other major cities. They also reported that these persons had limited access to health care, legal counseling, basic education, and other public services.

Some refugees working in the informal economy could not afford to rent apartments, especially in large cities. They often lived in makeshift shacks in rural areas or squatted in buildings in substandard conditions.

Durable Solutions: The government’s limited attempts to integrate refugees into society produced mixed results. Many asylum seekers moved to other European countries; based on conversations at welcome centers in Catania, Sicily, most Tunisians sought to move to France or Germany, while in contrast, most Bangladeshis sought to remain in the country. The government offered refugees resettlement services, while both the government and the IOM assisted migrants and refugees who opted to return to their home countries.

Temporary Protection: Between January and July, the government provided special protection to 185 persons and subsidiary protection to 2,258 persons.

g. Stateless Persons

According to UNHCR, at the end of 2020 approximately 3,000 stateless persons lived in the country. Most of them were children born in Italy to parents coming from the former Yugoslavia. The law gives Italian citizenship to children born in Italy to stateless individuals, both of whom must have obtained formal recognition of stateless status. Otherwise, Italian citizenship will not be conferred upon the child at birth, and the child will be born stateless. The law provides that individuals formally recognized as stateless may request to become naturalized citizens after five years of legal residence in the country.

According to the NGO Tavola Apolidia, many stateless individuals reported difficulty in obtaining their rights, due to the low level of knowledge in the country’s administrative bodies concerning statelessness. Individuals who are stateless but have not received stateless status do not receive fundamental rights such as the rights to work; to go to school; to own property; or to receive welfare, identity documents, and travel documents. They were also at risk of detention and expulsion.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law penalizes convicted perpetrators of rape of either gender, including spousal rape, with six to 12 years in prison. The law criminalizes the physical abuse of women (including by family members) and provides for the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women and assistance in shielding abused women from publicity. Judicial protective measures for violence occurring within a family allow for an ex parte application to a civil court judge in urgent cases. A specific law on stalking includes mandatory detention for acts of sexual violence, including by partners. Police officers and judicial authorities prosecuted perpetrators of violence against women, but survivors frequently declined to press charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have both caused and masked an increase in violence against women. The pandemic at times forced women into closer proximity with their abusers, leading to greater abuse, while restrictions on movement and decreased funding for civil society organizations and agencies lowered the level of social services and hampered the reporting of cases and the delivery of assistance to survivors.

Between August 2020 and July, 62 women were killed by domestic partners or former partners. In the same period, authorities reported 11,832 cases of stalking. On June 22, for example, police arrested a man accused of having abused his wife for more than 30 years in Catanzaro. The woman had been repeatedly stabbed, beaten, and raped.

The Department of Equal Opportunity operated a hotline for victims of violence seeking immediate assistance and temporary shelter. It also operated a hotline for stalking victims. Between January and March, the hotline received 7,974 calls, a 39 percent increase from the same period in 2020. In 72 percent of those cases of violence, the mistreatment occurred at home where, in 48 percent of the cases, children were present.

Sexual Harassment: By law gender-based emotional abuse is a crime. Minor cases of verbal sexual harassment in public are punishable by up to six months’ incarceration and a fine. The government effectively enforced the law. Police investigated reports of harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Independent observers and NGOs reported that government health authorities did not provide sufficient resources to adequately supply the public with reproductive health services and counseling.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape. NGOs reported that in some cases government personnel were not sufficiently trained to identify victims and refer them to the requisite sources of assistance.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, and the government enforced laws prohibiting discrimination in all sectors of society and economy. Women nonetheless experienced widespread discrimination, particularly with respect to employment (also see section 7.d. regarding pay disparities between genders).

Children

Birth Registration: A child acquires citizenship automatically when one of the parents is a citizen, when the parents of children born in the country are unknown or stateless, when parents are nationals of countries that do not provide citizenship to their children born abroad, when a child is abandoned in the country, or when the child is adopted. Local authorities require registration immediately after birth.

Child Abuse: Abuse of minors is punishable by six to 24 years in prison, depending on the age of the child. Child abuse within the family is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

On March 10, police arrested 29 persons and investigated another 64 suspected of exploiting minors by forcing them to commit robberies and other crimes in Rome. The press reported that most of the victims, who were Romani and younger than age 14, did not attend school.

On September 1, authorities reported a case of a mother abusing an 11-year-old child living in a facility shared by some Romani families. The victim was prevented from attending school and forced to collect reusable items from dumpsters. In 2020 the NGO Telefono Azzurro registered a 41 percent increase in the number of reports of abused minors. In 2020 there were 13,527 reports of missing minors, approximately 70 percent of whom were foreigners. The government implemented prevention programs in schools, promptly investigated complaints, and punished perpetrators.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18, but juvenile courts may authorize marriages for individuals as young as 16. Forced marriage is punishable by up to five years in prison, or six years if it involves a minor. Forced marriage for religious reasons is also penalized. On April 30, a Pakistani woman disappeared in Reggio Emilia after a meeting with her parents, who had attempted to force her to marry a cousin in Pakistan. Prior to her disappearance, she had contacted local social service centers and moved to a protected community. Her parents returned to Pakistan after her disappearance.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Authorities enforced laws prohibiting child sexual exploitation, the sale of children, child sex trafficking (offering or procuring a child for commercial sex), and practices related to child pornography. Independent observers and the government estimated at least 4,000 foreign minors were victims of sexual exploitation, including child sex trafficking. According to the Department of Equal Opportunity, the number of minor victims of trafficking who received assistance decreased from 160 in 2019 to 105 in 2020.

On July 26, police arrested a janitor working at a primary school in Brescia on charges of engaging in sexual acts with children. The man also allegedly engaged in child sex trafficking by attempting to force some of the child victims into commercial sex.

There were reports of child pornography. In July authorities arrested four persons and investigated three others in Lombardy for producing videos and photos of exploited minors having sexual intercourse with adults and animals. In 2020 Postal Police reported 1,578 cases of online pedophilia, representing a 232 percent increase compared with 2019. Save the Children Italy reported that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated sexual exploitation and other abuses of children, who were often forcibly trapped unprotected in overcrowded apartments without access to health care.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 14, or 13 if the age gap with the partner is less than three years.

Displaced Children: The Ministry of the Interior reported 5,101 unaccompanied minors arrived in the country between January and August 17. As of July 31, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies reported the presence in the country of 8,382 unaccompanied minors, of whom 97 percent were boys. It also stated that 325 minors previously registered at reception centers were reported missing between January and July, putting them at risk of labor and sexual exploitation, including trafficking.

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/reported-cases.html.

Netherlands

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the governments throughout the kingdom generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the press.

Freedom of Expression: It is a crime to “verbally or in writing or image deliberately offend a group of persons because of their race, their religion or beliefs, their sexual orientation, or their physical, psychological, or mental disability.” The statute in the Netherlands does not consider statements that target a philosophy or religion, as opposed to a group of persons, as criminal hate speech. The penalties for violating the law include imprisonment for a maximum of two years, a substantial fine, or both. In the Dutch Caribbean, the penalties for this offense are imprisonment for a maximum of one year or a fine. In the Netherlands there are restrictions on the sale of the book Mein Kampf and the display of the swastika symbol with the intent of referring to Nazism.

On July 6, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders’ 2016 conviction for “group insult” against Moroccans at a 2014 political rally. Wilders had filed the appeal following the September 2020 appellate court’s decision to uphold the original 2016 conviction. As was the case in the 2016 conviction, Wilders was not punished.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media in the kingdom were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. Restrictions on “hate speech” applied to media outlets but were only occasionally enforced.

Nongovernmental Impact: Several crime reporters and media outlets in the Netherlands faced threats, violence, and intimidation from criminal gangs. A June report commission by PersVeilig, a joint initiative by the Dutch Association of Journalists, the Dutch Association of Editors in Chief, and the national police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, found that eight out of 10 journalists surveyed had experienced some form of threat, mostly verbal, compared to six out of 10 in 2017. If required by circumstances, reporters receive temporary police protection.

Veteran investigative crime reporter Peter R. de Vries died on July 15, nine days after being shot in the head outside an Amsterdam television studio. Two suspects in De Vries’ killing remained in custody awaiting trial at year’s end. A public prosecutor stated that De Vries was killed for advising a major witness testifying against accused drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi, rather than for his journalism. De Vries, however, had been threatened in the past for his investigative reporting. Following the July 6 shooting, television channel RTL canceled its July 10 live broadcast of its show RTL Boulevard, on which De Vries had been a guest just before being shot outside the studio, over threats against the show’s studio in Amsterdam. An investigation by the Dutch Safety Board into whether De Vries should have been assigned personal protection, which he himself had refused, was ongoing at year’s end.

On July 19, a court in London charged Mohammed Gohir Khan, a United Kingdom citizen, with plotting to kill Pakistani blogger Ahmad Waqass Goraya. Goraya resided in Rotterdam and was the victim of an assault and threats in 2020.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The laws in the kingdom provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the governments generally respected these rights.

Amid the eviction of demonstrators at a March 15 anticoronavirus pandemic-related lockdown protest in The Hague, two police officers, while making an arrest, beat a demonstrator who appeared to be lying defenseless on the ground. A police dog also attacked the demonstrator during the arrest. Police reported the arrested demonstrator had thrown a jumper cable at an officer before the arrest and grabbed the dog’s ears while on the ground. The Hague police chief Paal van Musscher stated that during the protest, “significant violence [had] been used against the police.” The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced in December the involved officers would be prosecuted for their actions which it deemed were at a disproportionate level of violence. Chair of the Dutch Police Association Jan Struijs expressed his support for the two officers, who he alleged were confronted with “a lot of aggressive violence” during the incident.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The laws in the kingdom provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the governments generally respected these rights.

Citizenship: Since 2017 Dutch law has allowed revocation of Dutch citizenship for dual nationals suspected of joining a terrorist organization. During the year the government did not revoke any dual citizen’s citizenship on the basis of terrorism but affirmed in April that the revocation of citizenship for six nationals in 2017 was conducted on a lawful basis. In December the government stated that since the law’s inception, it had revoked the citizenships of 17 persons. Several human rights bodies, including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, and Netherlands-based human rights advocates and migration law experts, criticized the practice as being racially discriminatory. They noted those that have had their Dutch citizenship revoked were all of non-Western origin while those of Western origin who had committed similar crimes but only had one citizenship could not lose it or else they become stateless. On December 14, parliament voted to extend the law, set to expire in March 2022, until March 2027. Dutch intelligence and the Public Prosecutor’s Office opposed the extension, asserting that citizenship revocation did not reduce the threat to national security.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The governments of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten, and Aruba cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. Curacao expelled UNHCR in 2017 but allowed UNHCR to re-establish an office in 2020. In the meanwhile, it cooperated with the UNHCR office on Aruba.

Access to Asylum: The laws on asylum vary in different parts of the kingdom. In the Netherlands the law generally provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees.

The laws in Sint Maarten and Curacao do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Foreigners requesting asylum are processed as foreigners requesting a humanitarian residence permit. If an individual is unable to obtain a humanitarian residence permit, authorities deport the person to their country of origin or a country that agreed to accept them. Curacao requested and received guidance and training from the Netherlands on asylum-processing procedures and established an asylum policy based on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Amnesty International, however, found that Curacao’s new international protection procedure did not comply with international standards. Curacaoan immigration police routinely pressured Venezuelans in their custody to sign deportation orders irrespective of whether they needed international protection. On Aruba the law generally provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. Additionally, Aruba received capacity-building support and training from the Netherlands that further supports the development of an asylum-processing system and its relevant procedures.

Most asylum seekers in the Dutch Caribbean were from Venezuela. Authorities in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten generally considered most Venezuelan asylum seekers to be economic migrants ineligible for protection. There were an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Venezuelan migrants on Aruba and a similar number on Curacao, and another 1,000 on Sint Maarten. Approximately 25 percent of the migrants on Aruba requested asylum. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao deported undocumented displaced Venezuelans throughout the year. Local and international human rights organizations urged the governments of Aruba and Curacao to refrain from deporting or repatriating Venezuelan asylum seekers back to their home country. Local human rights organizations reported that Aruba and Curacao deported asylum seekers who had presented credible evidence suggesting that they would face abuse for their political beliefs if returned to Venezuela. Local authorities on Aruba denied the allegation, noting that all deportations were coordinated with international organizations. On Curacao, Venezuelans who have asked for protection were not deported and remained in detention, although those who decided not to proceed with the process under the European Convention on Human Rights (see Refoulement, below) were deported.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: Authorities in the Netherlands denied asylum to persons who came from so-called safe countries of origin or who had resided for some time in safe countries of transit. They used EU guidelines to define such countries. Applicants had the right to appeal all denials.

The highest court in the Netherlands, the Council of State, ruled July 28 that the government could not automatically deport two Syrian asylum seekers with Greek residence permits to Greece without examining the merits of their case. The council found that Greece was unable to provide for their basic needs. This ruling overturned the council’s 2018 verdict which found at the time the living conditions in Greece were suitable enough to allow for the automatic deportation of status holders.

Refoulement: On Curacao and Sint Maarten, there is no legal protection against returning a person who faces a well-founded fear of persecution to their country of origin. Curacao and Sint Maarten are, however, bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits in absolute terms torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Accordingly, persons may not be expelled if they face a real risk of abuse contrary to the convention in their country of origin. Both governments developed corresponding national procedures but did not amend their immigration statutes. Both the Netherlands and Aruba have legal protections to prevent refoulement. In Aruba, however, human rights organizations, including UNCHR, reported that Aruban authorities deported Venezuelans who claimed they would face abuse if returned to Venezuela without adjudicating their asylum claims. Authorities on Aruba dismissed these claims and stated that due process was followed.

In an August 11 letter to parliament, the Dutch government stated that all decisions on forced deportations and asylum applications of Afghan asylum seekers would be postponed for six months, due to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The letter followed criticism from coalition and opposition political parties regarding the Netherlands signing an August 5 letter with five other EU member states appealing to the European Commission to continue allowing deportations to Afghanistan.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: During the year Amnesty International reported that authorities in Curacao used excessive force against some detainees and criticized conditions in facilities for detainees (see section 1.c.). Human rights organizations criticized the government of Curacao for failing to provide a robust system for temporary status to Venezuelan refugees and other displaced Venezuelans. During the year Curacao implemented a new policy to arrange the integration of migrants under strict conditions. Most migrants, however, did not meet the stringent conditions and remained without legal status, living on the fringes of society.

Freedom of Movement: Government guidelines allow those whose asylum application has been denied and are to be deported to be detained for up to six months, during which a judge monthly examines the legitimacy of the detention. If authorities cannot deport the detained individual within this time period, the individual is released. Authorities can, however, detain the individual for up to a maximum of 18 months on exceptional grounds, such as security concerns, with approval from the court. Detainees have access to a lawyer and can appeal the detention at any time. The Ministry of Justice and Security estimated the average detention span is two months. In the Netherlands Amnesty International, the Dutch Refugee Council, and other NGOs asserted that persons denied asylum and irregular migrants were regularly subjected to lengthy detention before deportation, even when no clear prospect of actual deportation existed.

Durable Solutions: In the Netherlands the government accepted up to 500 refugees for resettlement through UNHCR, and the governments of the Dutch Caribbean accepted up to 250 each. Most of the persons granted residency permits or requested asylum on Curacao and Aruba were from Venezuela. The governments of Aruba and Curacao provided assistance to migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers who sought to return to their home country voluntarily. Sint Maarten does not receive a significant number of applications from refugees or asylum seekers for residency permits; of those, most were from the northern Caribbean, not Venezuela. The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for non-Dutch persons to gain citizenship.

Temporary Protection: The government of the Netherlands provided temporary protection to individuals who did not qualify as refugees. According to Eurostat data, in 2019 it provided subsidiary protection to 2,355 persons and humanitarian status to 680 others.

g. Stateless Persons

In 2020 Statistics Netherlands reported the registration of 45,947 persons under “nationality unknown,” which also included stateless persons. According to provisional UNHCR statistics, there were 2,006 stateless persons, including forcibly displaced stateless, in the Netherlands at the end of 2020. The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for stateless persons to gain citizenship.

Some newborns of undocumented Venezuelan parents on Curacao and Aruba risked becoming stateless, because neither the local government nor the Venezuelan consulate issues birth certificates to undocumented persons.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law in all parts of the kingdom criminalizes rape for both men and women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The penalty in the Netherlands for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years, a substantial fine, or both. In the case of violence against a spouse, the penalty for various forms of abuse can be increased by one-third. On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the penalty for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 15 years, a substantial fine, or both. Authorities effectively prosecuted such crimes.

The government estimated that each year, approximately 200,000 persons are confronted with serious and repeated domestic violence. Authorities used various tools to tackle and prevent domestic violence, including providing information, restraining orders for offenders, and protection of victims. Reliable crime statistics were not available for the islands.

The governmental Central Bureau of Statistics reported in September that one in five young persons between the ages of 16 and 24 had been a victim of domestic violence between March 2019 and April 2020. The bureau report identified girls were more vulnerable than boys and men were more likely to commit domestic violence, included physical and verbal attacks.

The government continued funding for Safe Home, a knowledge hub and reporting center for domestic abuse with 26 regional branches, as the national platform to prevent domestic violence and support victims. The center operated a national 24/7 hotline for persons affected by domestic violence. The government supported the organization Movisie, which assisted survivors of domestic and sexual violence, trained police and first responders, and maintained a website on preventing domestic violence.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence is treated as regular violence for the purposes of prosecution and does not constitute a separate offense category. Laws against violence were enforced effectively in honor-related violence cases, and survivors were permitted to enter a specialized shelter.

Sexual Harassment: The law penalizes acts of sexual harassment throughout the kingdom and was enforced effectively. The penalty in the Netherlands is imprisonment not exceeding eight years, a substantial fine, or both. The law requires employers to protect employees against aggression, violence, and sexual intimidation. In the Netherlands complaints against employers who failed to provide sufficient protection can be submitted to the NIHR. Victims of sexual assault or rape in the workplace can report the incidents to police as criminal offenses.

On Curacao the Victims Assistance Foundation assists survivors. On Sint Maarten there was no central institution handling sexual harassment cases. According to the law, substantive civil servant law integrity counselors must be appointed for each ministry. These integrity counselors advise civil servants on integrity matters, and the responsible minister must act on the complaint. Aruban law states the employer shall ensure the employee is not sexually harassed in the workplace. Employers are required to keep the workplace free from harassment by introducing policies and enforcing them. Sint Maarten and Curacao also have laws prohibiting stalking.

The Sint Maarten government established a victim support unit. Sexual harassment also qualifies as a criminal offense, in which case prosecution is possible and persons are eligible to receive support.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Some religious and cultural communities discouraged premarital sex, the use of contraception, or both. Although no government policies or legal, social, or cultural barriers adversely affect access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth in the Dutch Caribbean islands, there are barriers on Aruba and Curacao for the large population of undocumented migrants that do not have access to the public health insurance system. Migrants, however, do have access to generalized medical care. Hospitals provided medical emergency assistance, including regarding birth and accidents, to all.

On July 28, an Arnhem court ruled that the in vitro fertilization (IVF) tax benefit should also be available to same-sex couples and called upon politicians to adjust the law, which only allows the benefit on the grounds of a medical issue. The case involved the tax authority’s denial of a request from a same-sex male couple – both of whom were found fertile – for the IVF tax benefit for their surrogate’s treatment outside the country. The court stated that the law was discriminatory as same-sex male couples required additional services, such as surrogacy and IVF, for biological reproduction.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Under the law women throughout the kingdom have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The governments enforced the law effectively, although there were some reports of discrimination in employment (see section 7.d., Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation).

Children

Birth Registration: Throughout the kingdom citizenship can be derived from either the mother or the father, but not through birth on the country’s territory. Births are registered promptly.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse throughout the kingdom. A multidisciplinary task force in the Netherlands acts as a knowledge hub and facilitates interagency cooperation in combatting child abuse and sexual violence. The children’s ombudsman headed an independent bureau that safeguards children’s rights and calls attention to abuse. Physicians are required to report child abuse to authorities.

Aruba has a child abuse reporting center. On Curacao, while physicians were not required to report to authorities instances of abuse they encountered, hospital officials reported indications of child abuse to authorities. On Sint Maarten the law addresses serious offenses against public morality, abandonment of dependent persons, serious offenses against human life, and assault that apply to child abuse cases.

The Public Prosecutor Offices in the Dutch Caribbean provide information to victims of child abuse concerning their rights and obligations in the juvenile criminal law system.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 in all parts of the kingdom. In the Netherlands and on Aruba, there are two exceptions: if the persons concerned are older than 16 and the girl is pregnant or has given birth, or if the minister of justice and security in the Netherlands or the minister of justice on Aruba grants a dispensation based on the parties’ request.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Throughout the kingdom, the law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children as well as production, possession, and distribution of child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The age of consent is 16 throughout the kingdom.

International Child Abductions: The kingdom 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/reported-cases.html.

New Zealand

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and laws provide for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent media, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the media.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

After a terrorist attacked mosques in Christchurch in 2019, the government imposed an open-ended ban on publication via the internet and other means of the video footage of the attack and on the attacker’s “manifesto.” The government followed up with the Christchurch Call to Action, which called for other governments, civil society, and online service providers to do more to “eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.”

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

Legal challenges to COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions – in particular, the inability of citizens and permanent residents to re-enter the country due to insufficient capacity within the border quarantine system – continued.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. The country’s Refugee Resettlement Strategy is reviewed annually.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. Refugees can arrive in the country in three ways: 1) through the UNHCR resettlement program; 2) additional asylum seekers (also known as “protection claims,” see below) can be recognized as refugees; or 3) family members can be reunified with refugees already living in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic response reduced scheduled intakes.

While most persons claiming asylum were not detained at any stage, some were held in prisons because of security concerns or uncertain identity. Asylum seekers detained in prisons are subject to general prison standards. In July NGOs supporting asylum seekers, including Amnesty International, claimed many detained asylum seekers were held longer than the 28 days permitted by law “as a deterrent for asylum seekers” and that some had been sexually assaulted and attempted suicide while in prison. In response the government commissioned an independent review into whether Immigration New Zealand’s detention decisions over the last five years met its international obligations; the review will not cover treatment within prison, which falls to the Department of Corrections.

Durable Solutions: The country accepts approximately 1,500 refugees under the UNHCR resettlement program, although the UNHCR’s 2020 temporary, COVID-19-related suspension of refugee resettlements meant that quota was not met during the year. Refugees who arrive through this program are granted permanent residence status. When refugees arrive, they stay at a central refugee resettlement center in Auckland for six weeks; they also receive settlement support for up to 12 months, including help with English, health, education, and employment.

Temporary Protection: The country provided temporary protection to persons who did not qualify as refugees under its UN quota commitment. Given COVID-19-related international travel restrictions, few asylum seekers claimed refugee status during the year. Advocacy groups were concerned that the asylum seekers outside the UN quota system did not receive the same level of governmental support as quota refugees, specifically in finding work.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape. The government enforces this law. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment; however, preventive detention may occur in cases where the parole board, during its annual review, believes the prisoner poses a continuing threat to society.

Reported rates of violence against women remained at high levels, according to domestic and international observers. Ministry of Justice data for 2020-21 showed convictions for sexual offenses increased slightly from 2019-20. According to the ministry’s most recent annual Crime and Victims Survey (October 2019-September 2020) approximately 2 percent of adults had experienced sexual violence in the previous 12 months; this figure did not change significantly from previous years. The report, however, described “worryingly low levels” of reporting of sexual violence, noting that “94 percent of sexual assaults were not reported to Police.” Women were more than two times more likely than men to have experienced intimate partner violence and three times more likely to have experienced sexual violence.

Domestic violence is a criminal offense. Police were responsive to reports of domestic violence. The law provides victims with 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. The government partially funded women’s shelters, psychosocial services, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, family-violence victim support networks, and violence prevention services. Victim’s programs include: a crisis response plan for the 72 hours after a sexual assault; programs to reduce harmful sexual behavior, offending, and reoffending; programs focusing on adults who pose a risk to children; and services for male survivors of sexual abuse.

The law defines family violence to reflect how controlling behavior can be used over time to frighten victims and undermine their autonomy. It also names 10 government agencies and a range of social service practitioners as family violence agencies; provides principles to guide decision making and timely responses across agencies; and allows information sharing between agencies to increase victims’ safety.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, requires employers to ensure their workplace is free of behaviors that are unwelcome or offensive, and provides for civil proceedings in cases of workplace harassment. The government, through the Human Rights Commission, effectively enforced the law. Sexual contact induced by certain threats also carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The Human Rights Commission published a guide on making a complaint about sexual harassment. The guide includes access to the commission’s free, informal, and confidential service for questions or complaints about sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination. The commission also published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made regular sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments.

After media reports in June revealed incidents of alleged sexual harassment in the media industry, information released under the Official Information Act showed there had been numerous incidents of alleged sexual harassment at state broadcasters Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, as well as at several private broadcasters, in the last year. Two workers and one external contractor were asked to leave Television New Zealand due to sexual misconduct.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In 2020 the Human Rights Commission expressed concern about informed consent and the legal permissibility of nontherapeutic medical procedures including sterilization. Under the country’s Disability Action Plan 2019-2023, the Ministries of Health and of Social Development examined the legal framework that protects the bodily integrity of children and adults with disabilities for nontherapeutic medical procedures.

The government provides access to health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government effectively enforced the law. Although the law prohibits discrimination in employment and requires equal rates of pay for equal or similar work, in August Statistics New Zealand identified a gender pay gap of 9 percent between women and men. Academics and watchdog groups argued that the lack of pay transparency hindered pursuing pay discrimination claims.

Children

Birth Registration: Children born in the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen or legal permanent resident of the country. Children born outside the country attain citizenship if either parent is a citizen. The law requires notification of births by both parents as soon as “reasonably practicable,” deemed as being within two months of the child’s birth, and most births were registered within this period.

Child Abuse: The law defines and prohibits child abuse, and the government effectively enforced the law. The government promoted information sharing between the courts and health and child protection agencies to identify children at risk of abuse.

The law permits the Ministry for Children to act quickly to ensure the safety of newborn babies at immediate risk of serious harm, notably from parental substance abuse, family violence, or medical neglect. Admissions to Care and Protection Residences run by the ministry have declined over the past decade. A disproportionately high percentage of children (approximately 60 percent) entering children’s ministry homes were Maori. Children less than five years old made up 30 percent of all children entering into care.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, but persons between 16 and 18 may marry with family court approval. Marriages involving persons younger than 18 were rare. Watchdog groups believed that parents forced a small number of marriages of persons between the ages of 16 and 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides that any person who engages in sexual conduct with a person younger than 16 – the minimum age for consensual sex – is liable to a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Further, the law makes it an offense punishable by seven years’ imprisonment to assist a person younger than 18 in providing commercial sexual services; to receive earnings from commercial sexual services provided by a person younger than 18; or to contract for commercial sexual services from, or be a client of, a person younger than 18. While these statutes cover dealing in persons younger than 18 for sexual exploitation, the trafficking-in-persons statute requires a demonstration of deception or coercion to constitute a child sex-trafficking offense. The authorities may prosecute citizens who commit child sex offenses overseas, and they did so in cooperation with several foreign governments during the year.

Government statistics reported 363 convictions in 2020 for sexual offenses against children younger than age 16, down from more than 380 convictions during the previous year.

The law prohibits child pornography and provides for a maximum 14 years’ imprisonment as well as heavy fines if a person produces, imports, supplies, distributes, possesses for supply, displays, or exhibits an objectionable publication. The Censorship Compliance Unit in the Department of Internal Affairs polices images of child sex abuse on the internet and prosecutes offenders.

Institutionalized Children: In March inspectors from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner heard “serious allegations” of staff bullying, excessive use of force, and inappropriate use of isolation while visiting Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residences. The commissioner’s report stated there was not enough evidence to prove the allegations, but neither could they show the allegations were false.

In July the ministry announced the closure of the Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection Residence in Christchurch; media reported “a number of serious issues involving staff,” including physical restraint of children, were investigated. In September the children’s minister accepted the findings of a ministerial advisory board that he had appointed earlier in the year to recommend ways to improve the ministry’s “disconnected” relationship with Maori communities.

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/reported-cases.html.

Thailand

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media. This right, however, was restricted by laws and government actions. For example the government imposed legal restrictions on criticism of the government and monarchy, favored progovernment media organizations in regulatory actions, harassed antigovernment critics, monitored media and the internet, and blocked websites.

Freedom of Expression: The lese majeste prohibition makes it a crime, punishable by minimum of three years’ and a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment for each offense, to criticize, insult, or threaten the king, queen, royal heir apparent, or regent. The law also allows citizens to file lese majeste complaints against one other.

As of August lese majeste charges were filed against 102 individuals. Those so charged often also faced other charges, including for sedition and violating the COVID-19 emergency decree.

On January 19, the Bangkok criminal court sentenced a former civil servant to 43 years in prison on 29 separate counts of lese majeste for posting audio clips made by an activist which contained comments critical of the monarchy.

On March 30, police charged opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit with lese majeste after he livestreamed a Facebook event accusing the government of favoring a company owned by the palace-controlled Crown Property Bureau to produce the country’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines. The criminal court rejected a request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to remove the online footage of the event. In its ruling the court determined that the content was critical of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan but not of the royal institution itself.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media:  Independent media were active but faced significant impediments to operating freely.

The government owned all spectrum used in media broadcast and leased it to private media operators, allowing the government to exert indirect influence on the media landscape. Media firms sometimes practiced self-censorship. On August 13, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society announced it would require service providers and social media platforms such as Clubhouse and Telegram to collect and keep user data for government to access if requested, including user identities, user activity, records of attempts to access systems, accessed files, and transaction records.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Laws allow the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to suspend or revoke the licenses of radio or television operators broadcasting content deemed false, defamatory to the monarchy, harmful to national security, or unnecessarily critical of the government.  As of November there were no known cases of authorities revoking licenses.  Authorities monitored media content from all media sources, including international press.  Local practice leaned toward self-censorship, particularly regarding anything that might be critical of the monarchy or members of the royal family.

The emergency decree in the violence-affected southernmost provinces empowers the government “to prohibit publication and distribution of news and information that may cause the people to panic or with an intention to distort information.” It also authorizes the government to censor news it considers a threat to national security.

Libel/Slander Laws: In addition to the lese majeste laws, defamation is a criminal offense punishable by a fine and two years’ imprisonment. Military and business figures filed criminal defamation and libel cases against political and environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and politicians.

In July the Government Pharmaceutical Organization filed a defamation suit against Boon Vanasinpro, the chairman of a private hospital, and Loy Chunpongthong for criticizing the government’s procurement of the Moderna vaccine. The company alleged Boon and Loy provided false information by claiming that the company, as coordinator for Moderna vaccines for private hospitals, was reaping profits.

In August the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court accepted a defamation case brought in late 2019 by poultry firm Thammakaset against human rights defender Angkhana Neelaphaijitin. The complaint alleged that Angkhana defamed the company in two social media posts in 2018 and 2019 expressing support for other human rights defenders facing lawsuits brought by Thammakaset. In March NGOs reported that since 2016 Thammakaset filed civil and criminal defamation cases against 23 human rights defenders, journalists, and former employees (see section 7).

National Security: Various orders issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta continued to provide authorities the right to restrict distribution of material deemed to threaten national security.

Internet Freedom

The government continued to restrict internet access and penalize those who criticized the monarchy or shared information deemed false regarding the spread of COVID-19. The government also monitored social media and private communications for what it considered false content and “fake news.” There were reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

By law the government may impose a maximum five-year prison sentence and a substantial fine for posting false content on the internet found to undermine public security, cause public panic, or harm others, based on vague definitions.  The law also obliges internet service providers to preserve all user records for 90 days in case authorities wish to access them.  Any service provider that gives consent to or intentionally supports the publishing of illegal content is also liable to punishment.  By law authorities must obtain a court order to ban a website, although officials did not always respect this requirement.

Although individuals and groups generally were able to engage in peaceful expression of views via the internet, there were numerous restrictions on content. Civil society reported the government used prosecution or the threat of prosecution as a tool to suppress speech online. Authorities targeted for prosecution individuals posting a range of social media commentary, from COVID-19 updates to lese majeste, criticism of the government’s operations, reporting on government scandals, and warning of government surveillance.

The government closely monitored and blocked websites and social media posts and accounts critical of the monarchy. Newspapers restricted access to their public-comment sections to minimize exposure to possible lese majeste or defamation charges. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission also lobbied foreign internet content creators and service providers to remove or censor locally lese majeste content.

In April, petition site Change.org became available again after a six-month ban for hosting a petition that called for Germany to declare the king “persona non grata.” The petition attracted 130,000 signatures before the site was blocked in 2020.

In July a graduate student was arrested for editing the Wikipedia entry for virologist Yong Poovorawan to include that Yong is a “Sinovac salesman for the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration.” The student faced charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

University authorities, civil society groups, and media reported the regular presence of security personnel on campus, attending student political events or rallies. There were reports of authorities arresting students for exercising freedom of speech and expression, although these arrests generally occurred off campus and few resulted in formal charges. Universities reported self-censorship; with an increasing number of virtual classes, more academics reported fear of security personnel monitoring their instruction, leading to greater self-censorship. On March 8, amid antigovernment protests and local demonstrations against the coup in Myanmar, the Asian Institute of Technology warned that foreign students involved in any protests would face revocation of their visas and immigration blacklisting. The government denied any involvement.

In August the NGO iLaw reported 79 cases of harassment of high school and university students, both by police and school administrators, in schools across the country.

On August 4, the vice president of student affairs sent a letter threatening disciplinary action against Chulalongkorn University student union president Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal after he invited activists Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who were accused of lese majeste, to speak about freedom of expression on July 20. The student union’s new students’ handbook, which included material on freedom of speech and other social issues, was subsequently denounced by the university’s department of student affairs.

Large universities, including Kasetsart, Silpakorn, Srinakharinwirot, and Chulalongkorn Universities, generally allowed use of campuses for protests as long as the students received permission beforehand. Many high schools and universities, however, explicitly forbade protests calling for reform of the monarchy.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The country experienced numerous large-scale antigovernment protests throughout the year.  The government arrested and brought charges against hundreds of protesters under the COVID-19 emergency decree, sedition and lese majeste legislation, and other laws.  Critics alleged that the arrests constituted restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The constitution grants the freedom to assemble peacefully, subject to restrictions enacted to “protect public interest, peace and order, or good morals, or to protect the rights and liberties of others.” The NGO Mob Data Thailand reported that 1,852 student-led demonstrations occurred across the country between July 2020 and September. In September, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights documented 1,161 individuals arrested and prosecuted for participation in antigovernment protests between July 2020 and August, including 143 persons under age 18. The most common charges were violating the COVID emergency decree (893 individuals), illegal assembly of more than 10 persons (320 persons), and lese majeste (124 individuals).

The government continued to prosecute prodemocracy and other human rights activists for leading peaceful protests.

Authorities held several high-profile protest leaders charged with lese majeste, sedition, and other crimes in pretrial detention. In May following a two-month hunger strike, student protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak was granted bail on his 10th appeal after agreeing to submit to electronic monitoring, to not participate in demonstrations that criticize the king or that could provoke violence, and to not leave the country. Amid calls to reduce the prison population due to the COVID outbreak, approximately 17 of the 26 protesters in pretrial detention were released during April and May, including six detained for lese majeste, after agreeing to similar conditions.

Penguin, Arnon Nampa, and several others were reimprisoned in early August. They were charged with “leading an illegal assembly of more than 10 people” and violating the Emergency Decree and the Communicable Diseases Act. On September 15, four of the arrested protest leaders were granted bail subject to a court order requiring them to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. Penguin was immediately detained again when the criminal court revoked his bail in a separate case. As of September Arnon remained in prison following the denial of several bail requests.

There were numerous violent encounters between antigovernment protesters and authorities. In February protesters removed barricades near the Royal Thai Army barracks in Bangkok – a compound which includes the residence of the prime minister – and threw firecrackers, bottles, and rocks at police, who responded with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets; 80 persons were injured, including 33 police. An NGO reported that police arrested 18 protesters on a number of charges, including for violating the COVID-19 emergency decree and the law on communicable diseases.

A March demonstration near the Grand Palace in Bangkok resulted in 33 hospitalizations and 32 arrests, as police used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets after protesters pulled down shipping containers erected as barricades. Journalist groups released a joint statement of concern after three reporters were hit by rubber bullets during the demonstration. In August youth in the Din Daeng area of Bangkok clashed with riot police on an almost nightly basis. After an August 10 protest, two police kiosks were burned down and nine officers were wounded, including one seriously after being shot with what police described as a “homemade gun.” Police reported 48 arrests, including 15 minors, and seized 122 motorcycles. A 15-year-old protester who was shot during an August 16 melee in the same area by an unknown assailant, died on October 28.

After an August 22 clash in Din Daeng, police arrested 42 individuals, including 19 minors, and confiscated pistols, bombs, other weapons, and 20 motorcycles. Human rights advocates criticized what they called police heavy-handedness and posted videos of police batting a protester on the head; dragging a protester while kicking him in the head; and shooting rubber bullets at a motorcyclist at close range.

Freedom of Association

The constitution grants individuals the right to free association subject to restrictions by law enacted to “protect public interest, peace and order, or good morals.”

The law prohibits the registration of a political party with the same name or logo as a legally dissolved party.

In 2020 the Constitutional Court dissolved the opposition Future Forward Party, ruling that the party took an illegal loan from its leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, and banned the party’s executives, including Thanathorn, from participating in politics until 2030 (see section 3).

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; the government enforced some exceptions, which it claimed were for “maintaining the security of the state, public order, public welfare, town and country planning, or youth welfare.”

In-country Movement: The government restricted the internal movement of members of hill tribes and members of other minority groups who were not citizens but held government-issued identity cards, including those registered as stateless persons. Authorities prohibited holders of such cards from traveling outside their home provinces without a travel pass approved by the district chief. Offenders are subject to fines or a jail term of 45 to 60 days. Persons without cards may not travel at all. Human rights organizations reported that police at inland checkpoints often asked for bribes in exchange for allowing stateless persons to move from one province to another.

Foreign Travel: Local authorities required resident noncitizens, including thousands of ethnic Shan and other non-hill-tribe minority group members, to seek permission from the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior for foreign travel.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government usually cooperated with UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, although with many restrictions.

The government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers remained inconsistent, and on multiple occasions the government did not allow persons fleeing fighting or other violence in Burma to remain in Thailand. Nevertheless, authorities hosted significant numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, and in many other cases provided protection against their expulsion or forced return. Authorities permitted urban refugees and asylum seekers recognized by UNHCR and registered Burmese refugees in the nine camps on the border with Burma to resettle to third countries.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has no system for providing legal protection to refugees. The government continued to work towards implementation of a regulation (referred to as the National Screening Mechanism by UNHCR and NGOs) that provides individuals whom the government determines to be protected persons with temporary protection from deportation, in consultation with refugee advocates.

UNHCR’s ability to provide protection to some groups of refugees outside the official camps was limited. Its access to asylum seekers in the IDCs to conduct status interviews and monitor new arrivals varied throughout the year, in part due to COVID-19-related restrictions on visiting the IDCs. Authorities, citing COVID-19, also restricted resettlement countries from conducting processing activities in the IDCs and restricted humanitarian organizations’ ability to provide health care, nutritional support, and other humanitarian assistance. Access to specific asylum-seeker populations varied, reportedly depending on the preferences of each IDC chief, as well as central government policies restricting UNHCR and NGO access to certain politically sensitive groups.

The government periodically allowed UNHCR to monitor the protection status of approximately 92,000 Burmese refugees and asylum seekers living in nine camps along the border with Burma, but it restricted UNHCR’s access multiple times during the year due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The government facilitated third-country refugee resettlement or private sponsorship to multiple countries for nearly 900 Burmese refugees from the camps as of September. Refugees residing in the nine camps along the border with Burma who were not registered with the government were ineligible for third-country resettlement. The government’s effort to return to Burma registered camp residents who elected to participate in a voluntary repatriation program remained on pause during the year due to COVID-19 and the coup in Burma.

Refoulement: Persons from Burma, if arrested without refugee status or legal permission to be in the country, were often escorted back to the Burmese border. Authorities sometimes provided preferential treatment to members of certain Burmese ethnic minority groups such as Shan, allowing them greater leeway to remain in Thailand without formal authorization. Outside the nine camps along the border, government officials did not distinguish between asylum-seeking Burmese and other undocumented Burmese, regarding all as illegal migrants. In previous years authorities generally allowed registered and verified Burmese refugees caught outside the camps to return to their homes. Due to COVID-19, however, authorities did not always allow refugees to return to the camps during the year, with refugee advocates reporting multiple instances of authorities deporting such individuals to Burma, from where the refugees would cross back into Thailand.

There were cases during the year where authorities deported persons of concern holding valid UNHCR asylum-seeker or refugee status. In November the government refouled three Cambodian opposition activists who were UNHCR-registered refugees. In March and in May, the army returned to Burma approximately 6,000 individuals fleeing clashes between the Burmese military and ethnic armed organizations, after permitting the individuals to shelter along the Salween River in Mae Hong Son Province for five to 10 days. The government refused to allow UNHCR or NGOs formal access to deliver humanitarian assistance to these individuals, or to determine whether their returns were voluntary.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: The government continued to permit registered Burmese refugees in nine camps along the border with Burma to remain in the country temporarily and continued to refer to these refugee camps as “temporary shelters” even though they have been operated for decades. Authorities continued to treat all refugees and asylum seekers outside these camps without valid visas or other immigration permits as illegal migrants. Persons categorized as illegal migrants were legally subject to arrest, detention, and deportation. UNHCR reported, however, that authorities decreased the number of immigration-related arrests compared with the year prior, in part to prevent overcrowding in IDCs to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. In cities authorities permitted bail only for certain categories of detained refugees and asylum seekers, such as mothers, children, and persons with medical conditions. Immigration authorities relaxed restrictions on bail during the year after multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 in the IDCs. Authorities applied the criteria for allowing bail inconsistently, however, and NGOs, refugees, and asylum seekers reported numerous instances of immigration authorities demanding bribes in connection with requests for bail.

Humanitarian organizations reported concerns that migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers faced overcrowded conditions, lack of exercise opportunities, limited freedom of movement, lack of access to telephones and other means of communication, lack of sufficient health care, and abusive treatment by authorities in the IDCs.

As part of an overall policy to reduce the number of illegal immigrants and visa overstayers in the country, immigration police in Bangkok sometimes arrested and detained asylum seekers and refugees, including women and children. As of August there were 198 refugees and asylum seekers in the IDCs (compared with 320 a year earlier), including 140 Rohingya. In addition there were 38 Rohingya in government-run shelters. The government has detained more than 50 Uyghurs in the country since 2015.

Freedom of Movement: Refugees residing in the nine refugee camps on the border with Burma had no freedom of movement outside their camps. Humanitarian organizations reported that authorities, citing the need to prevent COVID-19, more strictly controlled movement of refugees in and out of the camps throughout the year. A refugee apprehended outside the official camps is subject to possible harassment, fines, detention, deregistration, and deportation. Authorities sometimes allowed camp residents limited travel outside of the camps for purposes such as medical care or travel to other camps for educational training.

For certain foreign victims of trafficking, including Rohingya refugees, the law permits the issuance of temporary stay permits while trafficking investigations are underway. Most such victims, however, were restricted to remaining in closed, government-run shelters with little freedom of movement.

Refugees and asylum seekers were not eligible to participate in the official nationality-verification process, which allows migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos with verified nationality and passports to travel throughout the country.

Employment: The law prohibits refugees from working in the country. The government allowed undocumented migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos to work legally in certain economic sectors if they registered with authorities and followed a prescribed process to document their status (see section 7.d.). The law allows victims of trafficking and witnesses who cooperate with pending court cases to work legally during their trial and up to two years (with possible extensions) after the end of their trial involvement. Work permits must be linked to a specific employer. For certain foreign victims of trafficking, including Rohingya, the government did not identify suitable employment opportunities for the issuance of work permits, citing a lack of local opportunities and immigration policy considerations. Registration, medical checkup, and health-insurance fees remained a deterrent for prospective employers of victims of trafficking.

Access to Basic Services: The international community provided basic services for refugees living inside the nine camps on the border with Burma. For needs beyond primary care, a medical referral system allows refugees to seek other necessary medical services. For the urban refugee and asylum-seeker population living in and around Bangkok, access to government-funded basic health services was minimal. NGOs funded in part by the international community provided or facilitated primary and mental health-care services and legal assistance. A UNHCR-led health panel coordinated referrals of the most urgent medical cases to local hospitals. Despite the government’s announcement in 2020 that it would provide free COVID-19 testing and treatment to all individuals, including migrants and refugees who met specific case criteria, vaccination and treatment at the provincial and district levels remained uneven, according to NGOs.

By law government schools must admit children of any legal status who can speak, read, and write Thai with some degree of proficiency, including refugee children. NGOs reported access to education for refugee children varied from school to school and often depended on the preferences of individual school administrators. Some refugee communities formed their own unofficial schools to provide education for their children. Others sought to learn Thai with support from UNHCR and other NGOs to prepare for admission to government schools. Since Burmese refugee children living in the camps generally did not have access to the government education system, NGOs continued to support camp-based community organizations in providing educational opportunities, and some were able to coordinate partially their curriculum with the Ministry of Education. NGOs paused or scaled back many educational activities for refugee children during the year due to COVID-19.

Temporary Protection: Authorities generally did not deport persons of concern holding valid UNHCR asylum-seeker or refugee status. The government continued to protect from deportation the majority of Rohingya refugees detained by authorities, including those who arrived in the country irregularly during the mass movement in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea in 2015. The government continued to conduct preliminary screenings of Rohingya migrants apprehended transiting Thailand for victim-of-trafficking status, although this policy was applied unevenly. As of September authorities had not granted such status to any Rohingya. Authorities determined 74 individuals were illegal migrants but placed 30 mothers and children into shelters run by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security as an alternative to detention in the IDCs. Other Rohingya determined to be illegal migrants were placed in the IDCs. UNHCR had access to the provincial shelters while authorities conducted formal screenings of the migrants’ eligibility for benefits as victims of trafficking. These Rohingya migrants, however, were in most cases confined to shelters without freedom of movement or access to work permits.

g. Stateless Persons

The government continued to identify stateless persons, provide documentation to preclude statelessness, and open paths to citizenship for certain longtime residents and students. As of June an estimated 553,969 persons, mainly residing in the northern region, were registered as stateless persons by the government, including members of ethnic minority groups registered with civil authorities and previously undocumented persons. From January to June, the government granted citizenship to 2,740 stateless persons and permanent residency to 260 others. Government officials acknowledged that these statistics fell short of their goal to reduce statelessness for 14,000 individuals from October 2020 to September and cited COVID-19 restrictions and ongoing, resource-intensive fraud investigations as the primary reason for slower processing. Authorities excluded Rohingya and Muslims from Burma, including individuals whose families had lived in Mae Sot near the Burmese border for multiple generations, from the statelessness recognition process. Without legal status, unregistered and undocumented stateless persons were particularly vulnerable to various forms of abuse including threat of deportation (see section 6, Children and Indigenous Peoples).

A government resolution to end statelessness and provide a pathway to Thai nationality for approximately 80,000 stateless children and young adults covers persons born in the country whose parents are ethnic minorities, who are registered with the government, and who have resided in the country for a minimum of 15 years. It also applies to stateless youths certified by a state agency to have lived in the country for 10 years whose parentage is unknown. The law provides a pathway for youth without known parents to apply for a birth certificate and obtain a Thai national identification card. If the person proves continuous residence in the country for 10 or more years and meets other qualifications, the person is eligible to apply for Thai nationality.

Birth within the country does not automatically confer citizenship. The law grants citizenship at birth to children with at least one citizen parent. Individuals may also acquire citizenship by means of special government-designated criteria implemented by the Ministry of Interior with approval from the cabinet or in accordance with nationality law (see section 6, Children). Ethnic Thai stateless persons and their children who meet the added definition of “displaced Thai” may apply for the status of “Thai nationality by birth.”

By law stateless members of hill tribes may not vote, and their travel is restricted to their home province. As noncitizens, they are unable to own land. Stateless persons are legally permitted to work in any occupation, but licenses for certain professions (including doctors, engineers, and lawyers) are provided only to citizens. Stateless persons had difficulty accessing credit and government services, such as health care. The law permits undocumented migrant and stateless children to enroll in schools alongside Thai national children, although access to education was uneven. There were reports that school administrators placed the term “non-Thai citizen” on these students’ high school certificates, severely limiting their economic opportunities. Stateless persons were permitted to enroll in tertiary education but did not have access to government educational loans.

Humanitarian organizations reported that village heads and district officials routinely demanded bribes from stateless persons to process their applications for official registration as stateless persons or to obtain permanent residency or citizenship. Police also demanded bribes from stateless persons at inland checkpoints in exchange for allowing them to move from one province to another.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women is illegal, although the government did not always enforce the law effectively. The law narrowly defines rape as acts in which male sex organs were used to physically violate victims, thereby leaving victims assaulted by perpetrators in other ways without legal remedies. 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 said rape was a serious problem and 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, agencies tasked with addressing the problem were underfunded, and victims often perceived police as incapable of bringing perpetrators to justice.

Domestic violence against women was a significant problem. The Ministry of Public Health operated one-stop crisis centers 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 that the law’s family unity approach put undue pressure on a victim to compromise without addressing safety problems 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. 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.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No specific law prohibits this practice. NGOs and international media reported Type IV 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 a fine and a jail term of one month for sexual harassment, while abuse categorized as an indecent act may result in a fine and a maximum 15 years’ imprisonment. Sexual harassment in the workplace may be punished by modest fines. 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.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information.)

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The 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.”

Human rights advocates expressed concern regarding lengthy delays in reviewing individual discrimination complaints and a lack of awareness among the public and within the ministry’s provincial offices.

Women generally enjoyed 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, a fine, 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 procedure 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 12 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 or 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.

Women are barred from applying to the police academy. The Royal Thai Police continued to list “being a male” as a requirement in an employment announcement for police investigators and other positions, although in 2020 police did permit 300 women (and 700 men) to take police investigator examinations.

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.g.). The law stipulates every child born in the country receive an official birth certificate regardless of the parents’ legal status. In remote areas some parents did not obtain birth certificates for their children due to administrative complexities and a lack of recognition of the importance of the document. In the case of hill-tribe members and other stateless persons, NGOs reported misinformed or unscrupulous local officials, language barriers, and restricted mobility made it difficult to register births.

Education: The constitution provides for 12 years of free education. NGOs reported children of registered migrants, unregistered migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers 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 penalties for raping a child younger than age 15 range from four to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines. Those convicted of abandoning a child younger than age nine are subject to a jail term of three years, a fine, or both. The law provides for protection of witnesses, victims, and offenders younger than age 18 in abuse and pedophilia cases. Advocacy groups stated police often ignored or avoided child-abuse cases.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 17, while anyone younger than 21 requires parental consent. A court may grant permission for children younger than 17 to marry.

In the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces, Islamic law used for family matters and inheritance allows the marriage of young girls after their first menstrual cycle with parental approval. The minimum age for Muslims to marry is 17. A Muslim younger than 17 may marry with a written court order or written parental consent, which is considered by a special subcommittee of three members, of which at least one member must be a woman with knowledge of Islamic law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The law provides heavy penalties for persons who procure, lure, compel, or threaten children younger than 18 for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, 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. The law prohibits the production, distribution, import, or export of child pornography. The law also imposes heavy penalties for sexually exploiting persons younger than 18, including for pimping, trafficking, and other sexual crimes against children.

Child sex trafficking remained a problem, and the country continued to be a destination for child sex tourism, although the government continued to make efforts to combat the problem. Children from migrant populations, ethnic minority groups, 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 and production and distribution of child pornography.

The Thai Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a police unit with 17 officers, received more than 260,000 tips from NGOs based abroad on potential cases of child sexual exploitation, a significant increase compared with approximately 117,000 tips received in 2019. The task force investigated 94 cases of internet crimes against children in 2020 (77 in 2019), including 22 cases of internet-facilitated child sex trafficking (26 in 2019).

There were numerous reported cases of rape and sexual harassment of girls in school environments. In February a male teacher in Amphoe Phanom Dongrak, Surin, was arrested for the sexual assault of at least 13 female students. The abuse took place over the year, and some were as young as seven. In March a male teacher in a public school in Amphoe Krasang, Buriram, was arrested for the sexual assault of multiple 14-year-old female students. The Ministry of Education operated a Protection and Assistance Center for the Sexually Abused Students to receive complaints and report sexual assault in schools. During the year the ministry produced the 14-page Manual for Prevention of Sexual Abuses in School to distribute to all schools.

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. As of August the government estimated there were 20,000 street children who sought shelter nationwide, 5,000 of whom received assistance from the government or private organizations. In October the NGO Foundation for the Better Life of Children reported approximately 50,000 children were living on the streets, 30,000 of them foreign born. 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.

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/reported-cases.html.

United Kingdom

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government routinely respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits expressions of hatred toward persons because of their color, race, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation as well as any communication that is deemed threatening or abusive and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress a person. The penalties for such expressions include fines, imprisonment, or both.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: The law’s restrictions on expressions of hatred apply to the print and broadcast media. In Bermuda the law prohibits publishing written words that are threatening, abusive, or insulting, but only on racial grounds; on other grounds, including sexual orientation, the law prohibits only discriminatory “notices, signs, symbols, emblems, or other representations.”

Violence and Harassment: On February 12, graffiti appeared in Belfast threatening Patricia Devlin, a reporter for the Irish newspaper Sunday World, with serious harm and even death. Devlin has been the target of continual threats since 2019.

On August 28, a group of demonstrators protesting the government’s COVID-19 restrictions surrounded journalist Phillip Norton and his crew in Scarborough and threatened to hang them.

In August charges were brought against two suspects for the killing of freelance reporter Lyra McKee in April 2019 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Libel/Slander Laws: In the British Virgin Islands the law criminalizes with imprisonment for up to 14 years and a fine “sending offensive messages through a computer.” The law applies to a message that is “grossly offensive or has menacing character” or that is sent “for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience.” Media freedom NGOs strongly criticized the law.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government routinely respected these rights. Under emergency COVID-19 legislation, the government banned mass gatherings. In April the government officially banned the Atomwaffen Division and its successor organization, the National Socialist Order, as criminal terrorist groups. Membership in either organization carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

c. Freedom of Religion

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

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government routinely respected these rights.

In-country Movement: The home secretary may impose terrorism prevention and investigation measures (TPIMs) based on a “balance of probabilities.” TPIMs are a form of house arrest applied for up to two years to those thought to pose a terrorist threat but who cannot be prosecuted or deported. The 14 measures include electronic tagging, reporting regularly to the police, and facing “tightly defined exclusion from particular places and the prevention of travel overseas.” A suspect must live at home and stay there overnight, possibly for up to 10 hours daily. Authorities may send suspects to live up to 200 miles from their normal residence. The suspect may apply to the courts to stay elsewhere. The suspect may use a mobile phone and the internet to work and study, subject to conditions.

Exile: The law permits the home secretary to impose “temporary exclusion orders” (TEOs) on returning UK citizens or legal residents if the home secretary reasonably suspects the individual in question is or was involved in terrorism-related activity and considers the exclusion necessary to protect individuals in the UK from a risk of terrorism. TEOs impose certain obligations on the repatriates, such as periodic reporting to police. The measure requires a court order and is subject to judicial oversight and appeal.

In May a UK high court issued a preliminary ruling that the restrictions imposed on individuals under TEOs must be in accordance with the provision of the European Convention on Human Rights providing for a fair trial. The ruling allows those under TEOs to know the evidence against them and to contest the terms of their obligations.

Citizenship: The law allows the home secretary to deprive an individual of citizenship if officials are satisfied this is “conducive to the public good,” but not if this renders a citizen stateless.

In 2019 the home secretary started the process of revoking the citizenship of Shamima Begum, a 22-year-old British citizen by birth of Bangladeshi extraction who left the UK to join ISIS. Because Begum was British by birth, the home secretary could only cancel her British citizenship if she were a dual national. The home secretary asserted that Begum held dual citizenship with Bangladesh. Begum’s lawyers disputed that she had Bangladeshi citizenship. In February the Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in July 2020 that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to appeal against being stripped of her British citizenship. The Supreme Court decided Begum cannot return to the UK to contest her case and ordered the appeal to be stayed until she is in a “position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised.”

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons:

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: In England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Asylum is a matter reserved for the UK government and is handled centrally by the Home Office. Bermuda’s constitution and laws do not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government does not have an established system for providing protection to refugees.

NGOs criticized the government’s handling of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel from France.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: Due to Brexit, the UK has not enacted a system to replace the EU’s Dublin III Regulation, making the transfer of migrants back to another country very difficult. Those claiming asylum must prove they cannot return to their home country because of fear of persecution. On November 22, the government announced that 23,000 persons arrived in the UK via small boats during the year, compared with 8,500 in 2020. Of those migrants arriving during the year, only five were returned to EU countries. For the duration of their asylum application, asylum seekers are eligible for government support at 30 percent below the normal rate for their family size, an amount that NGOs continued to deem inadequate. NGOs continued to criticize the government for cutting off benefits 28 days after a person is granted refugee status, which NGO stated left some persons destitute.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: Home Office officials have the power to detain asylum seekers and unauthorized migrants who do not enter the asylum system. There was no maximum time limit for the use of detention. Immigration detention was used to establish a person’s identity or basis of claim, to remove a person from the country, or to avoid a person’s noncompliance with any conditions attached to a grant of temporary admission or release.

In May authorities released two men detained in Glasgow by UK Immigration Enforcement following a day-long standoff between immigration officials and hundreds of local residents who had surrounded the officials’ van in a residential street, preventing the removal of the men. Observers criticized authorities’ “dawn raid” tactics and organizing the detention during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in a community with a large Muslim population.

Temporary Protection: The government may provide temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. In the year ending in June, the government granted humanitarian protection to 852 individuals (down 39 percent from 2020), 429 grants of alternative forms of leave (down 52 percent), and 644 grants of protection through resettlement schemes.

g. Stateless Persons

According to UNHCR, at the end of 2020, 4,662 stateless persons resided in the country. The government provides a route to legal residence for up to five years for stateless persons resident in the country. After the initial five-year period, stateless persons are able to apply for “settled status” or further extension of their residency. The government did not publish data on the number of habitual residents who are legally stateless.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape. The maximum legal penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The law also provides for injunctive relief, personal protection orders, and protective exclusion orders (similar to restraining orders) for survivors of gender-based violence. The government enforced the law effectively in reported cases. Courts in some cases imposed the maximum punishment for rape. The government provided shelters, counseling, and other assistance for survivors of rape or violence. NGOs warned that police and Crown Prosecutorial Services have raised the bar for evidence needed, causing survivors to drop out of the justice process. The Crown Prosecution Service was in the second year of a five-year plan for the prosecution of rape and serious sexual offenses (RASSO) to help reduce the gap between reported cases and prosecutions. The plan is committed to improving cooperation between police and prosecutors, fully resourcing RASSO units, and training to improve communication with victims.

The law criminalizes domestic violence. Those who abuse spouses, partners, or family members face tougher punishment than those who commit similar offenses in a nondomestic context. The government estimated that there were 2.3 million survivors of domestic abuse a year between the ages of 16 and 74 (two-thirds of whom were women), and more than one in 10 of all offenses recorded by the police were domestic abuse-related. On April 29, the Domestic Abuse Act became law. It creates a statutory definition of domestic abuse, establishes the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner, provided for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order, and requires local authorities in England to provide accommodation-based support to survivors of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation. The act no longer allows accused perpetrators to cross-examine witnesses in the courts and establishes a statutory presumption that survivors of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil, and family courts. It also widened the offense of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress, established nonfatal strangulation or suffocation of another person as a new offense, and clarified in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to his or her own death.

On July 21, the government published its Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to tackle the crimes of rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, stalking, harassment, and digital crimes such as cyberflashing, “revenge porn,” and “up-skirting.”

Domestic abuse incidents in Scotland reached a 20-year high over 2019/20, with Police Scotland recording 63,000 incidents. Government officials suggested an awareness campaign to encourage survivors to report abuse helped drive the increase.

Police in Northern Ireland recorded 31,174 domestic abuse incidents (19,612 crimes) from June 2020 to July 2021, the highest total for a 12-month period since 2004/05. In January the Northern Ireland Assembly passed domestic abuse legislation criminalizing coercive control in the region for the first time.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and requires health and social care professionals and teachers to report to police cases of FGM/C on girls younger than age 18. It is also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM/C or to help someone trying to do so. The penalty is up to 14 years in prison. An FGM/C protection order, a civil measure that can be applied for through a family court, offers the means of protecting survivors or at-risk women and girls from FGM/C under the civil law. Breach of an FGM/C protection order is a criminal offense carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.

FGM/C is illegally practiced in the country, particularly within some diaspora communities from countries where FGM/C is prevalent. The National Health Service reported 2,165 newly recorded cases between January and September.

The government took nonjudicial steps to address FGM/C, including awareness-raising efforts, a hotline, and requiring medical professionals to report FGM/C observed on patients.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment at places of work. Authorities used different laws to prosecute cases of harassment outside the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Health policy was devolved to constituent parts of the country.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The government enforced the law effectively. Women were subject to some discrimination in employment (see also section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a UK citizen or a legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for UK, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a UK overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. All births must be registered within 42 days in the district where the baby was born; unregistered births were uncommon.

Child Abuse: Laws make the abuse of children punishable by up to a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. Social service departments in each local authority in the country maintained confidential child protection registers containing details of children at risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. The registers also included child protection plans for each child.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 16. In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, persons younger than 18 require the written consent of parents or guardians, and the underage person must present a birth certificate. The legal minimum age to enter into a marriage in Scotland is 16 and does not require parental consent.

Forcing someone to marry against his or her will is a criminal offense throughout the country with a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Forcing a UK citizen into marriage anywhere in the world is a criminal offense in England and Wales. In 2020 the joint Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office and the Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) provided support in more than 759 cases of potential or confirmed forced marriage involving UK citizens, which represented a 44 percent decrease from 2019, attributable to restrictions on overseas travel and weddings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the cases that the FMU provided advice or support to in 2020, 199 cases (26 percent) involved victims younger than 18 years, 278 cases (37 percent) involved victims ages 18-25, 66 cases (9 percent) involved victims with mental capacity concerns, 603 cases (79 percent) involved female victims, and 156 cases (21 percent) involved male victims.

Assistance included safety advice as well as “reluctant spouse cases” in which the government assisted forced marriage victims in preventing their unwanted spouse from moving to the UK. The government offers lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more to come forward.

In Scotland, 12 cases of forced marriage were reported in 2020, down from 22 in 2018.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range up to life imprisonment. Authorities enforced the law. The law prohibits child pornography. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16.

International Child Abductions: The UK, including Bermuda, is 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.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future