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Cote d’Ivoire

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports that government officials employed them.

According to a July report by UNOCI’s Human Rights Division, there were 1,129 reported rape cases with 1,149 victims from 2012-15. Of that number, 76 percent of victims were children, and 7 percent of alleged perpetrators were state agents, particularly members of FACI and teachers.

According to Amnesty International, police raped one student and sexually abused another during university protests in April. The government denied the allegations and did not take action against the accused.

The United Nations reported that between January 1 and December 20, it received four allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers deployed to UNOCI, with two alleged incidents occurring during the year, one in 2012, and one for which the date was unknown. These allegations involved military peacekeepers from Senegal, Niger, and Pakistan. Of the four allegations, two involved minors. The two allegations against Senegalese peacekeepers, one of which involved a minor, and the allegation against a Nigerien military observer, were being investigated by the United Nations. There was no result by the end of the year. The allegation against the Pakistani peacekeeper, which involved a minor, was being investigated by the government of Pakistan. There were no results by the end of the year.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh and sometimes life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, and lack of medical care.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding continued in many prisons. At the end of November, there were 11,192 prisoners, of whom an estimated 193 were minors and 237 were women. The central prison of Abidjan was built to hold approximately 1,500 prisoners but held 3,845 as of September 21. Reports from other prisons also indicated the number of inmates exceeded capacity.

Large prisons generally had doctors, while smaller prisons had nurses. Prisoners with health crises were supposed to be sent to health centers with doctors; however, critical health care for prisoners was not always available at local hospitals or clinics. Charities or religious organizations sometimes financed prisoners’ medical care.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided nutritional supplements to vulnerable prisoners, such as pregnant women and the elderly. Poor ventilation and high temperatures, exacerbated by overcrowding, were problems in some prisons.

According to government figures, 55 prisoners died through September 26. In February an armed confrontation between security forces and detainees at the central prison of Abidjan resulted in the deaths of a prison warden and 10 detainees, including Yacouba Coulibaly, alias “Yacou the Chinese,” who, with his men, had reportedly controlled parts of the prison. Two trials resulting from the confrontation continued at year’s end.

Authorities did not always hold men and women in separate prison wings, held juveniles with adults in the same cells in some prisons, and held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. The children of female inmates often lived with their mothers in prison, although prisons accepted no responsibility for their care or feeding. Inmate mothers received help from local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Wealthy prisoners reportedly could buy extra cell space, food, and other amenities as well as hire staff to wash and iron their clothes. The government allotted 500 CFA francs ($0.85) per person per day for food rations, which was insufficient. Families routinely supplemented rations if they lived within proximity of the prison or detention center.

No information on conditions at irregular or informal detention centers operated by the FACI or Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST) was available, as the government did not allow local or international NGOs to access them.

Administration: Prison records were destroyed during the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis, and the government did not take significant measures to restore records. Record keeping that resumed after the crisis was not always adequate. The law provides for work-release programs and alternatives to incarceration for youths. In May, for example, 63 young offenders arrested in 2014 graduated from an 18-month reinsertion program in Bonoua, where they learned carpentry and sewing. Although sentencing magistrates were responsible for alternatives to sentencing and facilitating conditional release for inmates, there were fewer than 20 of them across all courts and they did not function effectively. There was no prison ombudsman, but prisoners could submit complaints to judicial authorities. Prison authorities had limited incentive or capacity to investigate and redress allegations of poor detention conditions. Prison administrators continued to detain or release prisoners outside normal legal procedures. There were reports of pretrial detainees receiving convictions in their absence due to lack of transport from prison to court.

Authorities generally permitted visitors in formal prisons. Prisoners’ access to lawyers and families was allegedly intermittent or nonexistent in informal detention centers operated by the FACI and DST.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted the United Nations and international NGOs adequate access to formal prisons. The government did not grant them access to informal detention centers run by the FACI and DST. Local human rights groups reported sporadic access to prisons.

Improvements: Unlike in the previous year, potable water was available in all formal prisons and detention centers, both for drinking and bathing.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, but the government did not always respect these prohibitions. The law requires warrants for security personnel to conduct searches, the prosecutor’s agreement to retain any evidence seized in a search, and the presence of witnesses in a search, which may take place at any time. Police sometimes used a general search warrant without a name or address. The FACI and DST arrested individuals without warrants.

In some areas FACI units continued to occupy illegally businesses and homes, despite the government’s efforts to end such occupations.

Some leaders of opposition parties reported authorities froze their bank accounts, although they were not on any international sanctions list, and courts had not charged them with any offenses.

A government-opposition dialogue platform discussed occupied housing and frozen bank accounts, with some progress acknowledged by representatives from both sides. In March the government stated 43 bank accounts remained frozen after it reactivated four bank accounts belonging to associates of former president Gbagbo. In August the government reactivated 12 more bank accounts of FPI officials.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law do not specifically provide for freedom of movement, foreign travel, emigration, or repatriation, but the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: There were impediments to internal travel. Security forces and unidentified groups erected and operated roadblocks, primarily along secondary roads outside of Abidjan. Although some roadblocks served legitimate security purposes, racketeering and extortion were common. For example, FACI engaged in racketeering at illegal checkpoints with the participation of gendarmes and police. By the end of September, a police antiracketeering task force working with the High Authority for Good Governance (HABG) identified 59 cases for prosecution. Two of the accused were convicted of racketeering by year’s end.

Exile: Several loyalists to former president Gbagbo, some with pending criminal charges, remained in self-imposed exile.

Emigration and Repatriation: Of the more than 39,000 Ivoirian refugees who remained outside the country, more than 19,000 were in Liberia. Due to concerns over the possible spread of ebola, the borders with Liberia and Guinea officially remained closed until September. Nevertheless, in December 2015 humanitarian corridors to resume voluntary repatriation of refugees from Liberia were opened, despite the closure of the border for all other travelers. From January through September, UNHCR assisted the return of more than 18,000 refugees, primarily from Liberia. With the opening of the border with Guinea in September, UNHCR facilitated the repatriation of an additional 128 refugees from Guinea.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

Most IDPs were in the western and northeastern regions and in Abidjan and surrounding suburbs; no estimates of the total number of IDPs were available. Most IDPs were displaced due to the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis and evictions from illegally occupied protected forests. For example, the United Nations estimated more than 51,000 persons were evicted during the summer from Mont Peko National Park, where they were living and farming illegally. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports the government evicted residents of Abidjan from flood-prone areas or removed structures built on illegally occupied land.

In 2014 the government adopted the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). The convention commits the government to protect the rights and well-being of persons displaced by conflict, violence, disasters, or human rights abuses and provides a framework of durable solutions for IDPs. The government respected the principle of voluntary return but provided limited assistance to IDPs; the United Nations and international and local NGOs worked to fill the gaps. While many of those displaced returned to their areas of origin, difficult conditions, including lack of access to land, shelter, and security, prevented others’ return. Host communities had few resources to receive and assist IDPs, who often resorted to living in informal urban settlements.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The constitution and law provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR the country hosted fewer than 1,400 refugees, most of whom were Liberian refugees who opted for local integration following the 2012 invocation of the cessation clause, which ended refugee status for Liberians. All 103 Liberian refugees who applied for formal resettlement in the country were accepted and remained in the country.

Durable Solutions: The government facilitated local integration for refugees in the most extreme situations by issuing resident permits to all refugees more than 14 years old to allow them to move freely in the country. Refugees also had access to naturalization, although UNHCR reported many had been in the naturalization process for more than five years.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection for individuals who no longer qualified as refugees under the relevant UN conventions. Persons awaiting status determination received a letter, valid for three months, indicating they were awaiting a decision on their status. The letter provided for temporary stay and freedom of movement only. Holders of the letter did not qualify for refugee assistance such as access to education or health care.

STATELESS PERSONS

Statelessness in the country remained extensive. Citizenship is derived from one’s parents rather than by birth within the country’s territory, and birth registration was not universal. The country had habitual residents who were either legally stateless or effectively stateless. UNHCR continued to estimate the number of stateless persons at 700,000.

The special declaration program–based on a 2013 law that allows foreign-born persons living in the country before independence in 1960 to obtain citizenship by declaration and gives foreign nationals born in the country between 1961 and 1973 the option of citizenship–ended on January 24. Casework continued on the 123,810 claims submitted, and approximately 12,000 claimants received administrative nationality certificates. Responsibility for the final step–converting the nationality certificate into the ultimate proof of nationality (a judicial nationality certificate)–was on the claimant.

The National Action Plan to eradicate statelessness in the country was completed in Grand Bassam during a September 8-9 workshop organized by the Ministry of Justice. The plan delineates the steps required to uphold the government’s obligations under statelessness conventions, including legal reform to provide for access to nationality for stateless persons not included in the declaration program (other historic migrants, foundlings, and others).

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of international and domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: In a January cabinet reshuffle, the president created the Ministry of Human Rights and Public Freedom, headed by Paulette Badjo Ezouehu, former head of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). The government-funded ministry is responsible for implementing and monitoring the government’s policy on human rights, a function previously under the Ministry of Justice. The CNDH is an advisory body under the Ministry of Human Rights and consults on, conducts evaluations of, and creates proposals to promote, protect, and defend human rights. The ministry was neither adequately funded nor effective.

During the January cabinet reshuffle, the government also created the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Cohesion, and Victims’ Compensation, funded by the government and headed by Mariatou Kone. Before creation of the ministry, issues of social cohesion and victim compensation were the responsibility of two state institutions–the National Commission for Reconciliation and Reparations for Victims in Cote d’Ivoire (CONARIV) and the National Program for Social Cohesion. During the year the ministry, which had an adequate budget and operated effectively, facilitated the voluntary repatriation of refugees, promoting social cohesion and compensating victims of crises based on a CONARIV list. The elevation of these issues to ministerial level reflected the president’s stated second-term goal of reconciliation.

In January, UNOCI and the FACI added the CNDH to the Joint Mechanism on Human Rights to share information, address allegations of FACI human rights violations, and coordinate human rights activities within the FACI. In August the CNDH began opening offices outside Abidjan to assume some of the monitoring and other activities from UNOCI’s Human Rights Division, which was scheduled to close in March 2017. Although the CNDH is chartered as a nongovernmental independent body, its funding was fully dependent on approval by the Ministry of Justice, and its offices outside of Abidjan were not fully staffed or equipped.

The civilian-controlled Special Investigative Cell (Special Cell) within the Ministry of Justice continued to investigate and try alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses committed during the postelectoral crisis. The Special Cell had an indefinite mandate but lacked sufficient resources and staff.

In March 2015 the government established CONARIV to provide for and distribute monetary compensation to victims of the crises from 1990 to 2011. The government allocated 10 billion CFA francs ($17,035,000) for this effort. On April 19, CONARIV presented its final report to the president, including a consolidated list of victims, a draft reconciliation plan, and a national reparation policy proposal. CONARIV validated applications for compensation of 316,954 victims from the 874,056 requests submitted to it. CONARIV officially concluded its activities at the end of April, and the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Cohesion, and Victims’ Compensation was responsible for paying reparations. CONARIV’s final report and recommendations were not made public.

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

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and provides for prison terms of five to 20 years for perpetrators. The law does not specifically penalize spousal rape. A life sentence can be imposed in cases of gang rape if the rapists are related to or hold positions of authority over the victim, or if the victim is under 15 years of age. Most rape cases were tried on the lesser charge of “indecent assault,” which carries a prison term of six months to five years. Of the 20 rape cases tried between October 2015 and June in four Assize Court sessions, 14 resulted in convictions with prison terms of between three and 10 years.

The government made some efforts to enforce the law, but local and international human rights groups reported rape remained widespread. UNOCI reported dozens of rape cases through September, including a number of gang rapes and rape by members of FACI (see section 1.c.). For these crimes civilian perpetrators either were convicted for crimes of lesser offense or were still in pretrial detention. Convicted perpetrators received between one month and 10 years’ imprisonment.

Relatives, police, and traditional leaders often pressured female victims to seek an amicable resolution with the rapist rather than pursue a criminal case. In July the Ministry of Justice issued a circular advising that rape cases tried on a lesser charge violated the law and that amicable resolution of a case with the rapist should not stop investigation or the legal process.

Psychosocial services for rape victims were available with support from NGOs in some areas. Rape victims were no longer required to obtain a medical certificate, which could cost up to 50,000 CFA francs ($85) to move a legal complaint forward. As a practical matter, however, cases rarely proceeded without one since it often served as the primary form of evidence. In an August interministerial circular, the government announced gendarmes and police could no longer ask victims for a medical certificate and that a victim’s complaint–whether written or verbal–was sufficient to initiate an investigation. Nevertheless, police lacked the training and equipment to investigate rape cases, so medical certificates often were the only evidence available.

The law does not specifically outlaw domestic violence, which was a serious and widespread problem. According to the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Family, and Child Protection, more than 36 percent of women reported being victims of physical or psychological abuse at some time. Victims seldom reported domestic violence due to cultural barriers and because police often ignored women who reported rape or domestic violence. Many victims’ families reportedly urged victims to withdraw complaints and remain with an abusive partner due to fear of social stigmatization.

In July the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Family, and Child Protection approved the creation of a national program against gender-based violence, in coordination with the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict. Key goals included preventing gender-based violence, coordinating a multisectoral response, and eliminating impunity.

The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Family, and Child Protection assisted victims of domestic violence and rape, including counseling at government-operated centers. The National Committee to Fight Violence against Women and Children monitored abusive situations and made weekly radio announcements about hotlines for victims.

In June the government created the National Committee to Fight against Sexual Violence Related to Conflict under the authority of the president; in November the committee met in Grand Bassam. The chief of staff of the army, the minister of defense, and key sectoral ministries were charged with working together with the committee.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was a serious problem. The predominant form of FGM/C was Type II–removal of clitoris and labia–although infibulation also occurred. The law specifically forbids FGM/C and provides penalties for practitioners of up to five years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to two million CFA francs ($610 to $3,400). Double penalties apply to medical practitioners. FGM/C was most common among rural populations in the northern regions, where approximately 70 percent of women and girls had been subjected to the practice, followed by the center-north part of the country (50 percent) and the Abidjan region (36 percent). The procedure was generally performed before a girl reached age five. Local NGOs continued public awareness programs and worked to persuade practitioners to stop. The government successfully prosecuted some FGM/C cases during the year.

During a February event to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Euphrasie Kouassi Yao, the minister for the Promotion of Women, Family, and Child Protection, said the government was starting to pursue persons who ordered and assisted FGM/C through more effective implementation of the existing law. No further details were available.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Societal violence against women included traditional practices, such as dowry deaths (the killing of brides over dowry disputes), levirate (forcing a widow to marry her dead husband’s brother), and sororate (forcing a woman to marry her dead sister’s husband).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes penalties of between one and three years’ imprisonment and fines of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($610 to $1,700). Nevertheless, the government rarely enforced the law, and harassment was widespread and routinely tolerated. In 2015 Anne-Desiree Ouloto, the then minister for the Promotion of Women, Family, and Child Protection, stated 38 percent of students experienced sexual harassment in school, and teachers sexually harassed 14 percent of students.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from coercion, discrimination, or violence. Government policy requires emergency health care services to be available and free to all, but care was not available in all regions, particularly rural areas, and was often expensive. Family planning indicators remained low, and the government’s ability to deliver high quality maternal and reproductive health service was weak.

Only 14 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. Unmet need for family planning was at 27 percent nationally and above 30 percent for the poorest women and girls. Thirty percent of adolescent girls had been or were pregnant when surveyed, a percentage that rose to 46 percent in rural areas. Threats or perceived threats of violence from husbands or other family members inhibited some women from seeking family planning or health services. In urban areas access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth were available to women who could afford them. According to the 2011-12 Demographic Health Survey, approximately 57.4 percent of pregnant women gave birth in a health facility. For women who were poor or lived in rural areas, transportation and the cost of services posed significant barriers to accessing health centers and hospitals.

According to the UN Population Fund, in 2015 the maternal mortality rate was 645 deaths per 100,000 live births; in 2010 the rate was 717 per 100,000. In addition to lack of access to adequate maternal health care services, factors contributing to the high maternal mortality rate included repeated pregnancies spaced too close together, each of which carried the risk of obstetric complications; incomplete abortions; the prevalence of HIV/AIDS; and FGM/C scarification, which often resulted in obstructed labor.

The penal code, which penalizes abortion in all cases unless the pregnancy puts the mother’s life in danger, contributed to a high number of undesired pregnancies. Approximately two in five women had their first child before age 18, and approximately half of these births ended in poor outcomes as a result of unsuccessful attempts to seek illegal abortions performed by traditional healers or to abort by using medicinal plants, pills, broken bottles, or other sharp objects. Although women and girls who resorted to illicit abortions theoretically could access emergency health care, most were reluctant to do so since abortion was illegal.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men in labor law but not under religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. In 2012 parliament passed a series of laws to reduce gender inequality in marriage, including laws to allow married women to benefit from an income tax deduction and to be involved in family decisions. Many religious and traditional authorities rejected these laws, however, and there was no evidence the government enforced them.

Some women had trouble obtaining loans because they could not meet lending criteria, including requirements for posting expensive household assets as collateral, which may not have a woman listed on the title. Women also experienced economic discrimination in owning or managing businesses.

Women’s organizations continued to campaign for tax reform to enable single mothers to receive deductions for their children. Inheritance law also discriminates against women.

Women’s advocacy organizations continued to sponsor campaigns against forced marriage, patterns of inheritance that excluded women, and other practices considered harmful to women and girls. They also campaigned against legal provisions that discriminated against women and continued their efforts to promote greater women’s participation in national and local politics.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. At least one parent must be a citizen for a child to acquire citizenship at birth. For births that occur outside health clinics, the law provides parents a three-month period to register their child’s birth for a fee of 500 CFA francs ($0.85). According to some reports, the actual cost for birth registration was higher due to corrupt officials demanding bribes. For births that occurred in health clinics, the government charged no registration fee if parents submitted the appropriate documentation within 30 days of birth. More than two million children below 17 years old were not registered, including at least 1.5 million who were under age five. Although the government did not officially deny public services such as education or health care to children without documents, some schools reportedly required parents to present children’s identity documents before enrolling them. Children without documents could not continue their studies after primary school.

Education: Education was free and compulsory for children ages six to 16. Parents of children not in compliance with the law are subjected to fines up to 500,000 CFA francs ($850) or jail time of two to six months. In principle students do not have to pay for books, uniforms, or fees, but some reportedly did because the government did not cover these expenses for every student. Some schools expected parents to contribute to the teachers’ salaries and living stipends, particularly in rural areas. Students who failed secondary school entrance exams did not qualify for free public secondary education, and many families could not afford to pay for private schooling.

Educational participation of girls was lower than that of boys, particularly in rural areas. Parental preference for educating boys rather than girls reportedly persisted, particularly in rural areas. Most schools had inadequate sanitary facilities for girls. Rates of pregnancy among school girls were high. There were numerous reports of teachers demanding sexual favors from students in exchange for money or grades. Schools reported some girls did not return to school after vacation due to an early or forced marriage.

During the year the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, working with its financial and technical partners, implemented awareness programs to encourage children to stay in school. The ministry also worked with teachers to enable them to detect at early stages problems such as pregnancy, sexual exploitation, and violence.

Child Abuse: The penalty for statutory rape or attempted rape of a child under age 16 is a prison sentence of one to three years and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($610 to $1,700). Nevertheless, children were victims of physical and sexual violence and abuse. Authorities reported rapes of girls as young as age five during the year. Authorities often reclassified claims of child rape as indecent assault since penalties were less severe. There were some prosecutions and convictions during the year. To assist child victims of violence and abuse, the government cooperated with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to strengthen the child protection network.

Although the Ministries of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training; Justice; Promotion of Women, Family, and Child Protection; and Education were responsible for combating child abuse, they were ineffective due to lack of coordination between the ministries and inadequate resources. In 2015 the Ministry of Education released a document in which it committed to protecting children in schools against abuses and to contributing to preventing, identifying, and reporting cases of children abused outside of schools. As of October, however, no reports of any action taken by the ministry were available.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits the marriage of men under age 20 and women under age 18 without parental consent. The law specifically penalizes anyone who forces a minor under age 18 to enter a religious or customary matrimonial union. Nevertheless, traditional marriages were performed with girls as young as 14 years old. The United Nations documented several cases of forced marriage and attempted forced marriage during the year.

According to the 2011-12 Demographic and Health Survey, the most recent survey available, 10 percent of women ages 20 to 24 were married before age 15, and 33 percent of women ages 20 to 24 were married before age 18.

In March authorities sentenced a man in Dabou Region to six months in prison for having sexual contact with a girl younger than age 15.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Information is provided in women’s subsection above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. The law prohibits the use, recruitment, or offering of children for prostitution or pornographic films, pictures, or events. Violators can receive prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years and fines of five to 50 million CFA francs ($8,510 to $85,180). Statutory rape of a minor carries a punishment, if convicted, of one to three years in prison and a fine of 360,000 to one million CFA francs ($610 to $1,700).

The country was a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to trafficking in persons, including sex trafficking. During the year the antitrafficking unit of the national police made several arrests of suspected child-sex traffickers.

In January authorities sentenced two individuals to six months in prison and a fine of two million CFA francs ($3,400) for pimping children, although the minimum sentence for coercing children into or offering them for prostitution is five years’ imprisonment. Nine girls were exploited in prostitution in the restaurant owned by one of the perpetrators.

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

Displaced Children: Local NGOs reported thousands of children countrywide living on the streets. NGOs dedicated to helping these children found it difficult to estimate the extent of the problem or to determine whether these children had access to government services. No known government program specifically addressed the problem of children living on the streets.

In January the government launched a new service for the protection of children in conflict with the law. The inauguration of the Service for Judicial Protection for Children and Youth within the first instance tribunals took place in four districts–two in Abidjan, one in Man, and one in Bouake. This service was established to help magistrates in charge of cases involving children find ways to reintegrate the children into society.

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

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community numbered fewer than 100 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

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

Persons with Disabilities

The law requires the government to educate and train persons with physical, mental, visual, auditory, and cerebral motor disabilities; hire them or help them find jobs; design houses and public facilities for wheelchair access; and adapt machines, tools, and work spaces for access and use by persons with disabilities as well as to provide them access to the judicial system. Wheelchair-accessible facilities were not common, however, and only five of the 36 tribunals were accessible by wheelchair. There were few training and job assistance programs for persons with disabilities. The law prohibits acts of violence against persons with disabilities and the abandonment of such persons, but there were no reports the government enforced these laws.

Persons with disabilities reportedly encountered serious discrimination in employment and education. While the government reserved 800 civil service jobs for persons with disabilities, government employers sometimes refused to employ such persons. Prisons and detention centers provided no accommodations for persons with disabilities.

The government financially supported special schools, training programs, associations, and artisans’ cooperatives for persons with disabilities, but many persons with disabilities begged on urban streets and in commercial zones for lack of other economic opportunities. Although public schools did not bar persons with disabilities from attending, such schools lacked the resources to accommodate students with disabilities. Persons with mental disabilities often lived on the street.

The Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training and the Federation of the Handicapped are responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

In January the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Professional Training signed an agreement with La Libellule, a private jobs agency, to promote employment for persons with disabilities and to improve their social conditions. In June the ministry signed a similar agreement with six private enterprises.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country has more than 60 ethnic groups, and ethnic discrimination was a problem. Authorities considered approximately 25 percent of the population foreign, although many within this category were second- or third-generation residents. Disputes among ethnic groups, often related to land, resulted in sporadic violence, particularly in the western region. Despite a 2013 procedural update that allows putative owners of land an additional 10 years to establish title, land ownership laws remained unclear and unimplemented, resulting in conflicts between native populations and other groups.

Although the law prohibits xenophobia, racism, and tribalism and makes these forms of intolerance punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment, no prosecutions occurred during the year. There were instances in which police abused and harassed non-Ivoirian Africans residing in the country. Harassment by officials reflected the common belief that foreigners were responsible for high crime rates and identity card fraud.

Numerous persons were killed during the March intercommunal conflict between Loni farmers and Fulani herders, many of whom were Burkinabe, in Bouna, in the northeast. Dozos killed at least 27 persons during the conflict. An estimated 1,000 persons fled to Burkina Faso following the conflict. Authorities arrested the regional chief of the Dozos, who remained in detention awaiting trial at year’s end.

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

The law’s only mention of same-sex sexual activity is as a form of public indecency that carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, the same prescribed for heterosexual acts performed in public. Antidiscrimination laws exist, but they do not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (see section 7.d.).

Societal discrimination and violence against the LGBTI community were problems. In June, for example, LGBTI members gathered at an embassy to sign a condolence book following a terrorist attack on an LGBTI community abroad. Following the posting of a photograph of the signing on social media, residents assaulted LGBTI individuals pictured in the posting, and many subsequently fled their homes.

Law enforcement authorities were at times slow and ineffective in their response to societal violence targeting the LGBTI community. The few LGBTI organizations in the country operated freely but with caution.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

There was no official discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status. A 2014 law expressly condemns all forms of discrimination against persons with HIV and provides for their access to care and treatment. The law also prescribes fines for refusal of care or discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status.

The Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene managed a program to assist vulnerable populations (gay men, sex workers, and migrants) at high risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Family, and Child Protection oversaw a program that directed food, education, and protection to orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS.

In the most recent Demographic and Health Survey, approximately 47 percent of women and 45 percent of men in 2011-12 reported holding discriminatory attitudes towards those with HIV/AIDS. According to Afrobarometer’s 2014-15 report, 76 percent of the population was tolerant of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Outside of hospitals and clinics, societal stigmatization was widespread, with the most overt discrimination directed at gay men with HIV/AIDS. Many persons with HIV/AIDS chose not to reveal their status to friends and family for fear of stigmatization.

Section 7. Worker Rights

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The 2015 labor code raised the minimum age from 14 to 16 years old, although the minimum age for apprenticeships (14 years old) and hazardous work (18 years old) remained the same; minors under age 18 years old may not work at night. Although the law prohibits the exploitation of children in the workplace, the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training enforced the law effectively only in the civil service and large multinational companies.

The law prohibits child trafficking and the worst forms of child labor. Although lack of resources and inadequate training continued to hinder enforcement of child labor laws, the government took active steps to address the worst forms of child labor. The government worked on implementing its 2015-17 National Action Plan against Trafficking, Exploitation, and Child Labor and strengthened its national child labor monitoring system. In 2015 a targeted raid of various enterprises in the San Pedro area led to the rescue of 48 child victims of trafficking and the worst forms of child labor. As a result 22 persons were referred to the courts on trafficking-related charges. Beginning in 2014 the government implemented stricter regulations on the travel of minors to and from the country, requiring children and parents to provide documentation of family ties, including at least a birth certificate; however, these regulations were not always enforced.

The Department of the Fight against Child Labor within the Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs, and Professional Training, the NMC, and the Interministerial Committee led enforcement efforts. The 2015-17 National Action Plan had a budget of 9.6 billion CFA francs ($16.4 million). The plan calls for efforts to improve access to education, health care, and income-generating activities for children, as well as nationwide surveys, awareness campaigns, and other projects with local NGOs to highlight the dangers associated with child labor. First Lady Ouattara made the elimination of child labor a centerpiece of her efforts and continued to be actively involved.

The government engaged in partnerships with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to reduce child labor on cocoa farms. Through its International Program to Eliminate Child Labor, the ILO had two projects targeting child labor, both of which concluded in 2015.

The government worked with a foreign government entity on two child labor projects. The first project, implemented by the International Cocoa Initiative, was the recently inaugurated Eliminating Child Labor in Cocoa project. The goal of the four-year, 2.6 billion CFA francs ($4.5 million) project was to assist the country’s 50 cocoa growing communities to develop and implement community action plans and to provide direct education and livelihood services to reduce the use of child labor in the cocoa sector. The second project was the third and final survey to measure the prevalence of child labor in cocoa growing areas in the country and in Ghana, pursuant to the declaration and accompanying framework to support the implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol. The survey was scheduled for the 2018-19 cocoa growing season as a follow up to earlier surveys in 2008-09 and 2013-14.

The government coordinated with NGOs to conduct campaigns to sensitize farm families about child labor, based on the government’s list of prohibited worst forms of child labor. Consequently, local domestic worker organizations sought to prevent the exploitation of children in domestic work. Other NGOs campaigned against child trafficking, child labor, and the sexual abuse of children.

The punishment for violating the law includes a prison term of one to five years and a fine of 500,000 to one million CFA francs ($850 to $1,700). The penalties were not sufficient to deter violations, and the government did not effectively enforce the law. Child labor remained a widespread problem, particularly on cocoa and coffee plantations and in gold and diamond mines.

Children routinely worked on family farms or as vendors, shoe shiners, errand boys, domestic helpers, street restaurant vendors, and car watchers and washers. Some girls as young as nine years old reportedly worked as domestic servants, often within their extended family networks. While the overall prevalence of child labor decreased, children in rural areas continued to work on cocoa farms under hazardous conditions, including risk of injury from machetes, physical strain from carrying heavy loads, and exposure to harmful chemicals. A small percentage of the children working on cocoa farms had no family ties to the farmers, but most worked on family farms or with their parents. According to a 2014 ILO report, approximately 40 percent of children between ages five and 14 worked, and nearly a quarter of all children combined work and school.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/ .

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