Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Conviction of gang rape or rape of a minor or an invalid is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Conviction of sexual assault is punishable by six months to eight years in prison. The law does not specifically criminalize spousal rape. No information was available on the prevalence of rape, which citizens seldom reported to officials.
The COI reported sexual violence against women and girls was widespread in military training camps, the sexual violence by military personnel in camps and the army amounted to torture, and the forced domestic service of women and girls in training camps amounted to forced sexual slavery. In a March 2015 report, CEDAW expressed concern about reports that women in national service frequently were subjected to sexual violence, including rape.
Domestic violence is punishable as assault and battery. Domestic violence was commonplace, but such cases rarely were reported or brought to trial. Women usually refrained from openly discussing domestic violence because of societal pressures. Authorities rarely intervened, due to societal attitudes, a lack of trained personnel, and inadequate funding. Traditional authorities, families, or clergy more commonly addressed incidents of domestic violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. According to the UN Children’s Fund, the prevalence of FGM/C was in decline. Health-care professionals and international organizations reported that the practice continued in several rural areas of the country. The 2010 Population and Health Survey found older cohorts had a higher prevalence of FGM/C than did younger cohorts. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) worked with the government and other organizations, including the National Union of Eritrean Women and the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students, on a variety of education programs to discourage the practice.
Sexual Harassment: There is no specific law against sexual harassment. Cultural norms often prevented women from reporting such incidents. There was no record of any person ever being charged or prosecuted for sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: The unimplemented constitution provides men and women the legal right to found a family freely. Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, but they often lacked the information, means, and access to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Some girls and women married at an early age in order to avoid national service or being mobilized.
According to the World Health Organization, the maternal death rate was an estimated 501 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman had a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 43 as of 2015. The high maternal death rate was likely due to factors including limited health-care services, particularly in rural areas, and adolescent pregnancy. The UN Population Division estimated in 2015 that 15.5 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. The UNFPA reported that 25 percent of women ages 20-24 had given birth before age 18, based on the most recent data available from 2010. According to the 2010 Population and Health Survey, skilled health-care personnel attended 34 percent of births in the five years preceding the survey. Access to government-provided contraception, skilled health-care attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, prenatal care, essential obstetric care, and postpartum care was available, but women in remote regions sometimes did not seek or could not obtain the care they needed due to lack of spousal or family consent, transport, or awareness of availability.
Discrimination: Family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws provide men and women the same status and rights. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Nevertheless, the percentage of men with access to secondary and higher education, employment, economic resources, property, inheritance, agricultural services, internet connectivity, and other technology exceeded that of women, particularly in rural areas.
Birth Registration: A child derives citizenship from having at least one citizen parent, whether the person is born in the country or abroad. Registration of a birth within the first three months requires only a hospital certificate. After three months parents must present themselves to judicial authorities with their child and three witnesses. CEDAW reported that authorities registered almost all children born in urban hospitals but not those born in rural areas, where there were few hospitals. If not registered a child may not attend school but may receive medical treatment at hospitals. There were reports of local officials refusing to register the births of children who had a parent living abroad who did not pay the 2 percent tax on foreign earned income.
Education: Education through grade seven is compulsory and tuition-free, although students’ families were responsible for providing uniforms, supplies, and transportation. Access to education was not universal. In rural areas parents enrolled fewer daughters than sons in school, but the percentage of girls in school continued to increase.
The government requires all students who reach grade 12 to complete their secondary education at the Sawa National Education and Training Center. Students who did not do so could not graduate and, therefore, could not pursue higher education, although they could attend vocational schools. Some persons who attempted to leave the country did so to avoid going to Sawa because of obligatory military training and poor living conditions at the school.
Child Abuse: Information on the extent of violence against or abuse of children was not available. Local social welfare teams investigated circumstances reported to be abusive and counseled families when child abuse was evident. Society generally accepted physical punishment of children, particularly in rural areas.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage for both men and women is 18, although religious entities may condone marriages at younger ages. According to the 2010 Population and Health Survey, 41 percent of women ages 20-24 were married before 18 and 13 percent before 15. Girls in rural areas were particularly at risk for early marriage. The government encouraged various semiofficial associations such as the National Union of Eritrean Women and the National Eritrean Youth and Student Association to discuss the effect of early marriage and raise awareness among youth regarding its negative consequences. Female ministers spoke publicly on the dangers of early marriage and collaborated with UN agencies to educate the public regarding these dangers, and many neighborhood committees actively discouraged the practice. In June the government and the United Nations launched a national campaign to end child marriage in the country.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Information is provided in women’s subsection above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child prostitution and includes penalties relating to obscene or indecent publications. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. Penalties for conviction of the commercial sexual exploitation of children include imprisonment. Crimes were seldom reported, and punishment rarely applied. Data on the extent of child prostitution were not available.
Child Soldiers: The law prohibits the recruitment of children under age 18 into the armed forces. Children under age 18, however, were detained during round-ups and sent to Sawa National Training and Education Center, which is both an educational and military training school. Both the COI and Amnesty International reported on living conditions in Sawa, including insufficient food and health care, and very little family contact. Those who refused to attend and participate in military training either hid, fled the country, or were arrested.
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.
There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts, and the country’s sole remaining Jew maintained the sole synagogue.
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 and unimplemented constitution prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or in the provision of other state services. There are no laws on discrimination in air travel and other transportation, in access to health care, or access to the judicial system. The unimplemented constitution and law do not specify the types of disabilities against which discrimination is prohibited. The government did not effectively enforce prohibitions, although it implemented programs to assist persons with disabilities, especially combat veterans. The government dedicated substantial resources to support and train thousands of persons with physical disabilities. No laws mandate access for persons with disabilities to public or private buildings, information, and communications. There were separate schools for children with hearing, vision, mental, and intellectual disabilities. Most of these schools were private. The government provided some support to them. Information on whether there were patterns of abuse in educational and mental health facilities was not available. The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, including mental disabilities.
Governmental and societal discrimination continued against ethnic minorities, particularly against the nomadic Kunama and the Afar, two of nine ethnic groups in the country.
According to a diaspora report, the government detained members of the Kunama ethnic group.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable if convicted by 10 days’ to three years’ incarceration. The government did not actively enforce this law. Antidiscrimination laws relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons do not exist.
There are no hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms to investigate bias-motivated crimes against LGBTI persons. There was no official action to investigate and punish those complicit in abuses, including state or nonstate actors. There were no known LGBTI organizations in the country. In general, society stigmatized discussion of LGBTI matters.