Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by penalties ranging from five to 20 years’ imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime with penalties from two to 10 years’ imprisonment. Authorities generally enforced the law effectively. According to police statistics, survivors reported 70 cases of rape in the first six months of the year.
According to the secretary general for gender equality, police, and NGOs, domestic violence, including spousal abuse, continued to be a problem. The government and NGOs made medical, psychological, social, and legal support available to rape survivors. EKKA operated a hotline that provided referrals and psychological counseling for individuals in need of help. The government operated 21 shelters for victims of violence and 25 counseling and support service centers. The General Secretariat for Gender Equality (GSGE) also oversaw 15 centers in each region. Following a memorandum of understanding signed in July 2015 between the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and the GSGE, 11 training seminars on gender equality were organized in eight cities throughout the country for primary school teachers.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides penalties ranging from two months to five years in prison. In its 2015 report on gender and equality, the ombudsman reiterated previous findings about the absence of a policy against sexual harassment in most businesses and private and public workplaces, emphasizing that employers were often ignorant of their obligations under the law when employees filed sexual harassment complaints. The ombudsman noted that the increase in gender-equality complaints filed in 2015 indicated victims’ increasing awareness and confidence in denouncing such incidents despite the difficulties in proving sexual harassment. In two of the 2015 cases, the ombudsman found substantial evidence to recommend imposing fines on alleged offenders.
Reproductive Rights: The government generally respected the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equality between women and men. The government effectively enforced laws promoting gender equality, which provided for women to enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, with exceptions related to the practice of sharia law involving the Muslim minority of Thrace.
According to a privately conducted survey released March 8, women held 27 percent of senior private-sector positions. The same survey, however, found that 29 percent of local enterprises had no women in top management.
According to the International Labor Organization and the GSGE, the country’s economic crisis had a disproportionate impact on women. Based on data referring to June released on September 29 by the country’s Statistical Authority, the rate of unemployment among women was 28 percent compared with 20 percent for men.
The government recognizes sharia applied by muftis as the law regulating family and civic matters for the Muslim minority of Thrace, with local courts routinely ratifying the muftis’ decisions. Muslims married by a government-appointed mufti were subject to sharia family law. Members of the Muslim minority also had the right to a civil marriage and the right to take their cases to civil court. Muslim women in Thrace could choose to be subject to sharia as interpreted by official muftis. The NCHR advised the government to limit the powers of muftis to religious duties because they might otherwise restrict the civil rights of citizens. Legislation provides that the courts shall not enforce decision of the muftis that contravene the constitution or international human rights treaties.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents at birth; a single parent may confer citizenship on a child. Parents are obliged to register their children within 10 days of birth. The law allows belated birth registration but imposes a fine. Birth registration takes place at the municipal level. For children not born in private or public clinics or hospitals, their birth may be officially declared by the mother, father, the doctor, the midwife, or any other medical personnel attending the birth. Attending medical personnel attest to the birth in a written certificate. In the absence of this certificate, a sworn statement by the principal hospital administrator can verify the birth. The mother can designate a representative through a special notary public authorization if health reasons preclude her from attesting to the birth.
Child Abuse: Violence against children, particularly street and Romani children and undocumented migrants, remained a problem. The law prohibits corporal punishment and mistreatment of children, but government enforcement was generally ineffective. Welfare laws provide for treatment and prevention programs for abused and neglected children as well as for alternative family care or institutionalization. Government-run institutions were understaffed, however, and NGOs complained of insufficient places for all children who required alternate placement. In a July 20 press statement, the NGO Smile of the Child reported receiving 352 child abuse-related calls to its helpline involving 722 children during the first six months of the year; it also provided shelter to 287 abused or endangered children.
According to local NGOs, exploitation of Romani children by their parents remained a problem. In the majority of cases, these children were forced to beg or sell trinkets on the streets. Government efforts to prevent such exploitation were inadequate.
On February 17, Smile of the Child reported the start of an initiative, Aegean Smile, to operate information desks inside reception and registration centers for migrants and asylum seekers in hotspots and open reception camps, building upon the European Hotline for Missing Children and the European Helpline for Children and Teenagers. The NGO, in cooperation with a number of government authorities, aimed to protect migrant and asylum seeker children with a primary focus on unaccompanied minors.
On September 8, HRW issued a report on the detention and protective custody conditions of unaccompanied minors in the country, notably in prison station cells, coast guard facilities and pre-removal centers. The report was based on 42 interviews with migrant and asylum-seeking minors ages 14-17 often kept in unsanitary and degrading conditions, facing abusive treatment, without access to critical care and services or to educational opportunities and recreational activities. Nine minors reportedly had been detained in the same quarters with adults. HRW noted that detention, instead of being a measure of last resort and only used for a limited period of time, had become a pattern often lasting for longer periods of time.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18. While official statistics were unavailable, NGOs reported that child marriage was common in the small Romani community, with Romani girls often marrying between the ages of 15 and 17 (some as young as 13) and Romani boys marrying between the ages of 15 and 20. State-appointed muftis in Thrace noted that the marriage of children under the age of 15 was not allowed and that marriages involving minors between the ages of 16 and 18 required a prosecutor’s decision. A limited number of marriages of children under 18 occurred in Athens and among the Muslim minority, with the permission of a prosecutor.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The legal age of consent is 15. The law criminalizes sex with children under the age of 15. In instances when a victim is under 10, there is a mandatory sentence of at least 10 years’ imprisonment; if the victim is between the ages of 10 and 13, the penalty is up to 10 years’ imprisonment. If the victim is between ages 13 and 15, the court determines the length of imprisonment. The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography and imposes penalties if the crime was committed using information and communications technology accessed from the country. Authorities generally enforced the law with harsher penalties of up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to 500,000 euros ($550,000). From January 1 through June 30, police investigated 51 internet child pornography cases; Hellenic police reported dealing with 119 internet child pornography cases.
Displaced Children: According to UNHCR data, an estimated 38 percent of 2016 migrant and asylum seekers arriving in the country were children. Unaccompanied minors were not always properly registered, at times lacked safe accommodations or legal guardians, and were vulnerable to homelessness, and labor and sexual exploitation. According to EKKA data, as of August 4, all shelter spaces designated for minors were filled, with 1,495 pending requests. EKKA reported it received more than twice the number of requests for transfers of unaccompanied children to shelters in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the first quarter of 2015.
On February 15, the minister of health and the alternate minister for migration policy issued a joint decision regulating the process for the age determination of undocumented unaccompanied minors. Upon referral from reception authorities or NGOs, a pediatrician, psychologist, and social worker at state health centers make age determinations based on physical, sociological, and psychological assessments. The ministerial decision provides that the assessment’s outcome should be taken into account during the asylum process and be in the applicant’s best interest. In case of doubt, an individual would be considered a minor.
Institutionalized Children: Isolated reports alleged police abuse of unaccompanied minors in migrant detention centers (see section 2.d.). Media and anecdotal reports from NGOs alleged incidents of sexual exploitation, physical abuse, including rape, of minors in migrant detention and reception facilities by co-residents. Local and international organizations, including the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, condemned the use of protective custody for unaccompanied minors for prolonged periods, often in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions, resulting from a lack of available spaces in specialized shelters (see section 2.d.).
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 Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Local Jewish leaders estimated the Jewish community had approximately 5,000 individuals. Anti-Semitic rhetoric remained a problem, particularly in the extremist press, social networking sites, and certain blogs. The Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) continued to voice concern about anti-Semitic attitudes among Golden Dawn party members, including those in parliament. KIS also reiterated concern about political cartoons and images in mainstream media mocking political controversies through the use of Jewish sacred symbols and comparisons to the Holocaust.
In February a known anti-Semitic organization, Unaligned Meander Nationalists, posted internet photos of neo-Nazis performing the Nazi salute in front of swastikas, drawn with graffiti and slogans in the city of Patras.
In March 19, activists monitoring anti-Semitic rhetoric and Holocaust trivialization criticized the minister for interior and administrative reconstruction as well as the main opposition party spokesperson for their March 18 statements comparing conditions in the unofficial refugee and migrant camp of Eidomeni in northern Greece to the Dachau Nazi concentration camp.
On June 28, media reported that Athens police initiated an investigation into a June 10 vandalism incident at the Athens Holocaust Memorial in which unknown perpetrators wrote a word believed to be interpreted as “roasting.”
On September 12, media reported swastika vandalism on the exterior walls of the historic synagogue of Ioannina. The Central Board of Jewish Communities condemned the attack. On September 14, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned the attack, describing it as a “hideous act” and stated that “this barbaric action offends the memory of Greek Jews and all our fellow citizens who were the victims of fascism and constitutes a direct attack on the values of the democratic Greek society.”
Deputy Education Minister Theodosis Pelegrinis was criticized by opposition political parties after a September 15 speech in parliament where he stated that Jews exploited the Holocaust. He defended himself, saying his speech was misunderstood and that he expressed sympathy for what the Jews suffered.
The mayors of Athens and Thessaloniki signed a declaration against anti-Semitism along with 60 other European mayors.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the judicial system. It provides for other government services, such as transportation and education. NGOs and organizations for disability rights reported that government enforcement of these provisions was inconsistent.
In its concluding observations on the country adopted in 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee noted with concern the discrimination faced by persons with disabilities, in particular with regard to access to education, employment, and health services. The committee also expressed concern about reports of the continuing widespread use of physical restraints, including enclosed restraint beds, and systematic sedation as a means of restraining patients with intellectual disabilities, including children, in institutions.
Persons with disabilities, including children, continued to have poor access to buildings, transportation, and public areas, which the law mandates they should have, particularly to buildings, ramps for sidewalks and public transportation vehicles. While the law allows service animals to accompany blind individuals in all mass transit and eating establishments, blind activists maintained that they occasionally faced difficulties when attempting to enter public transportation and certain restaurants with service animals or were charged additional fees for transporting them.
On May 9, a bus driver in Athens demanded a blind activist take her guide dog and step down from the vehicle after boarding. The activist refused, and the driver called police to arrest her. On May 31, the head of the Athens’ Urban Transport Organization publicly reiterated that blind individuals and persons with visual disabilities may enter public transport with a guide dog, reminding the organization’s staff members of their obligation to abide by the law.
NGOs and other groups supporting rights for persons with disabilities criticized government cuts in health-care funding for such individuals, the lack of qualified personnel to provide health and educational support to children with disabilities, the lack of social welfare support for migrants with physical disabilities, and the lack of quality education and appropriate educational support services at all levels.
On June 10, media reported the head of a social welfare center for mentally disabled individuals in Agiasos, Lesvos, filed a complaint with the public prosecutor against two staff members for allegedly mistreating and physically abusing residents. A judicial investigation of the case remained pending.
In 2015 the ombudsman handled 87 complaints related to persons with disabilities; 25 of the complaints alleged discrimination in employment, 56 in education and vocational training, and six in the provision of goods and services. In his 2015 antidiscrimination report, the ombudsman reiterated that children with disabilities were effectively discriminated against in the educational sector due to belated contracting of special teachers and transportation providers for them, and the lack of adequate teaching and auxiliary staff assigned to assist such children attending mainstream schools. On October 25, at the launch of a new primary school for children with disabilities, the minister for education stated that special-education schools in the country successfully started courses on time, hired 9,000 substitute special-education teachers, and established 500 new entry-level classes.
On February 21, parliament adopted legislation intended to ease municipal taxation on persons with disabilities and to protect labor positions within municipal agencies for employees with disabilities. On February 27, parliament adopted a law establishing a national registry for candidates to serve in executive positions in the public sector. The law facilitates disabled candidates’ access to the electronic registration system, provides for all necessary human or resource assistance during the interview process, and mandates necessary accommodations at the workplace.
The Manpower Employment Organization continued to offer EU- and government-funded programs to enhance the employability and entrepreneurship of individuals with disabilities, including subsidies for employers of such persons and subsidies for new businesses run by them.
While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination against members of minorities, Roma and members of other minority groups continued to face discrimination.
Although the government recognized an individual’s right to self-identification, many individuals who defined themselves as members of a minority group found it difficult to express their identity freely and to maintain their culture. A number of citizens identified themselves as Turks, Pomaks, Vlachs, Roma, Arvanites, or Macedonians. Some members of these groups unsuccessfully sought official government identification as ethnic or linguistic minorities. Courts routinely rejected registration claims filed by associations in Thrace with titles including the terms Tourkos and Tourkikos (Turk and Turkish) when based on ethnicity grounds, although individuals may legally call themselves Tourkos, and associations using those terms were not prohibited from operating. Government officials and courts denied requests by Slavic groups to use the term Macedonian in identifying themselves, stating that more than two million ethnically (and linguistically) Greek citizens also used the term Macedonian in their self-identification.
The government officially recognized a Muslim minority, as defined by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, consisting of approximately 100,000-120,000 persons descended from those Muslims residing in Thrace at the time of the treaty’s signature and including ethnic Turkish, Pomak, and Romani communities. Some Pomaks and Roma claimed that members of the Turkish-speaking community pressured them to deny the existence of a Pomak or Roma identity separate from a Turkish one and alleged that some Turkish-speaking community members provided monetary incentives to members of the Pomak and Romani community to self-identify as Turkish. In its fifth report on the country in 2015, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance noted that only two schools in the Thrace region provided secondary bilingual education for minority children in Greek and Turkish.
On March 24, the head of the regional directorate for education issued a circular advising on the use of both Greek and Turkish languages in minority schools when corresponding with administrative educational bodies or in official intra school communications. As this use of Greek in official correspondence was not previously enforced, some Turkish-speaking members of the Muslim minority, including an MP, alleged this circular essentially sought to ban the use of Turkish by Turkish-speaking teachers in these schools. On April 6, the head of the regional directorate for education clarified in a press statement that the circular was intended to address the exclusive use of only the Turkish language in some minority schools.
In April the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) reported on a verbal attack against the chairman of a Muslim minority sports and cultural association by a local political figure from the majority population. The incident took place in December 2015 inside a local police station. Police staff did not deem the act to be a racist crime and did not arrest the perpetrator.
Roma continued to face widespread governmental and societal discrimination, social exclusion, and harassment, including ethnic profiling by police and alleged abuse while in police custody, discrimination in employment, limited access to education, and segregated schooling. In contrast to 2015, there were no reports of arbitrary police raids and searches of Romani neighborhoods, demolition of their settlements, or forced evictions.
On May 4, the UN special rapporteur dealing with racism and discrimination noted that Roma were notably unable to access the justice system, encountering police brutality, discrimination, and racism by prosecutors, and excessive delays in court proceedings.
On August 2, media reported that the parents of two Romani minors accused a 27-year-old police officer in Attica of physically abusing the youth when they were at a police station for identity verification purposes. Authorities initiated a judicial investigation.
Authorities excluded many Romani settlements from municipal planning ordinances, preventing the legal construction of schools and other infrastructure, and isolating Romani settlements from resources and services, including schools, public transportation, health and social care services. Many unauthorized Romani settlements were not connected to the water supply system and had no sewage facilities. NGOs and Romani community representatives reported that government efforts to address these problems and enforce the law were inconsistent, especially at the municipal level.
In his 2015 antidiscrimination report, the ombudsman examined 53 discrimination cases submitted by Roma or their legal representatives, 21 from 2015 and 32 pending from previous years. Four of these cases alleged discrimination in employment, 14 in education and vocational training, and 35 in the provision of services.
Poor school attendance, illiteracy, and high dropout rates among Romani children remained problems. In his antidiscrimination report for 2015, the ombudsman concluded that Romani children continued to be excluded from the educational system, despite government proclamations and the implementation of support programs intended to increase literacy and reduce dropouts. Authorities did not enforce the mandatory education law for Romani children, and local officials often excluded Romani pupils from schools or sent them to Roma-only segregated schools. Government projects to attract Romani children to schools had very limited success. In its August 3-4 report to the UN’s CERD for its review of Greece, the Greek Helsinki Monitor noted that 43 percent of mandatory school-age Romani children in the country did not attend school, while 44 percent of Romani minors older than 16 reportedly had never attended school.
The government reported that, in addition to special educational programs, low-income Romani families could obtain an annual allowance for every child enrolled in public school, which was granted only at the end of the year and upon submission of a certificate of regular school attendance.
The government continued to operate 29 employment support centers throughout the country for Roma and other vulnerable populations.
In April the RVRN documented 75 incidents involving racially motivated verbal and physical violence against refugees and migrants in 2015. Observers believed the actual number of incidents was higher and criticized law enforcement and judicial officials for inadequately investigating racial factors in such attacks. Perpetrators were mainly male Greek citizens acting alone. Three of the 75 incidents were recorded as having groups as perpetrators. Perpetrators included civil servants, guards, law enforcement officials, employees, civilians, and members of extremist organizations.
UNHCR, local media, and NGOs reported race and hate-motivated attacks on migrants by far-right groups, including members of Golden Dawn, whose MPs publicly expressed anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and homophobic views. On May 25, the trial of 69 far-right Golden Dawn members, including 18 current and former MPs, on weapons charges and for operating a criminal enterprise, continued following a six-month break due to a nationwide lawyers’ strike.
Courts issued prison sentences during the year on cases relating to attacks on foreigners. On June 6, an Athens court handed down prison sentences to three individuals accused in 2011 of physical attacks on two women believed to be from Albania. In its decision, the court found that the perpetrators attacked the victims motivated solely by racist feelings on imputed nationality.
Five special prosecutors were designated to investigate racist and hate crimes in five cities. Some human rights activists noted that inasmuch as the duties of these special prosecutors were in addition to their other assignments, cases involving racist violence were often referred to other prosecutors, resulting in additional delays in investigating and prosecuting cases.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Anti-discrimination laws specify sexual orientation or gender identity. Violence against LGBTI individuals remained a problem, and societal discrimination and harassment were widespread despite advancements in the legal framework protecting such individuals. A 2015 law provided same-sex cohabitating couples the right to enter into civil union partnerships, with the first same-sex civil union in the country recorded January 25. LGBTI activists and human rights organizations maintained the new legal framework enabled same-sex couples to enjoy some of the rights granted to married couples such as inheritance rights, social security and labor benefits, but it did not guarantee adoption rights and legal gender recognition for transgender people.
On March 7, media reported that three Greek Orthodox metropolitans were among a group challenging the 2015 law’s constitutionality with the Council of State, citing the civil code, family law, and ethics; the case remained pending at year’s end. In June a human rights activist stated that the Athens Special Registry, which records births and marriages of Greek nationals abroad, had not yet registered same-sex civil unions conducted outside the country despite relevant legal provisions.
In its 2015 report, the RVRN documented 125 victims of attacks based on sexual orientation and another 60 victims due to gender identity. Law enforcement officials were allegedly perpetrators in five of these incidents. Criminal proceedings were initiated in six cases, while 11 others were reported to police at the time of the incident. Victims did not wish to lodge complaints in 136 of the 185 cases. The physical attacks reported included one shooting, and two rapes, one of which was considered “corrective rape.”
On August 3, media reported an allegedly targeted attack against a foreign homosexual tourist couple on Mykonos island by an unknown perpetrator in which one of the victims lost two of his front teeth. Police were investigating the incident.
The law includes sexual orientation and gender identity as aggravating circumstances in hate crimes, and crimes targeting sexual orientation or gender identity are included in the official mandate of offices combating racist and hate violence. LGBTI activists alleged that authorities were not always motivated to investigate incidents of violence against LGBTI individuals and that victims were hesitant to report such incidents to the authorities due to lack of trust. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ (FRA) 2016 report highlighted a scarcity of data concerning the extent of LGBTI discrimination and that policies on transgender rights were less developed than those for sexual orientation. FRA also emphasized the lack of LGBTI-specific protocols, training, and confidentiality in healthcare.
Hellenic Police reported 80 potential racially and hate-motivated incidents to the RVRN in 2015, of which 11 related to the victim’s sexual orientation and four to the victim’s gender identity. In 2015 the ombudsman reportedly examined four complaints alleging discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, including one in education and vocational training and three in the provision of goods and services.
The Greek Transgender Support Association (SYD) criticized discrimination against transgender individuals in education and employment, which limited access to housing and medical care (see section 7.d.).
The only way a person may obtain a formal change of gender identity in identification documents is to undergo a gender reassignment operation, followed by an additional administrative legal process in a court. On July 1, however, according to media reports, an Athens court ruled that a transgender male could formally change his gender identity documents without having to undergo a gender reassignment operation.
On January 18, the SYD criticized a Council of State opinion arguing that individuals who had undergone a gender reassignment operation could not have their technical high school diplomas reissued under their new identity, since such diplomas “can only be issued once.” The Council of State argued that graduates could instead be granted documents certifying, based on their new identity data, the receipt of their diplomas. SYD noted that the mismatch of identity data between such certificates and the original diplomas could subject transgender technical school graduates to discrimination and bureaucratic harassment.
The Athens metro transit system continued providing advertising space for the 12th annual Athens Pride Parade in June. Unlike in 2015 the National Radio and Television Council did not accept the Athens Pride request to have its television advertisement broadcast as a free-of-charge social message. Government officials, including the secretary general for transparency and human rights at the Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights, the regional governor for the Athens area, and the mayor of Athens, attended and addressed participants. For the fifth time, a gay pride parade under the auspices of the local mayor also took place in Thessaloniki in June.
In March the organizing committee of the second Pride event in Crete denounced local authorities in the city of Rethymno who refused to allow the use of municipal public gardens for the event, offering two closed facilities instead. After the pride organizing committee refused, the municipality counter-offered the garden space for a shorter period. The municipality reconsidered its position, and on June 27, it allowed the use of the garden for the full time requested to host the July 9-10 pride activities.
On June 14, the Ministry of Education, Research, and Religious Affairs announced that for the 2015-17 school years, it would sponsor a helpline providing psychological support and counselling to youth on sexual orientation and gender identity related issues.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
While the law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment of HIV-positive individuals, societal discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, including employment discrimination, remained a problem. Persons with HIV/AIDS were exempt from serving in the armed forces on medical grounds. A presidential decree provides the ability of professional military staff members to leave for medical reasons, including if a member diagnosed with AIDS does not respond to treatment. In contrast to the previous year, there were no reports of military staff dismissals under this provision. There were no reports of employment discrimination on the grounds of HIV/AIDS during the year.
On May 19, “Positive Voice” and “Synthesis” NGOs expressed concern for the explicit reference to HIV/AIDS on certificates issued by the disability certification centers for submission to tax authorities in order to claim tax exemptions, citing a violation of privacy rights and vulnerability to discrimination and social stigma. On July 29, Positive Voice reported that the Ministry of Finance addressed their claim by adapting its tax registration program to prevent disclosure of HIV/AIDS identifications to non-authorized tax personnel.