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.
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.
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.
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.