Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime under the law, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of SBD 30,000 ($3,735). In May parliament passed amendments to the sexual offense provisions in the penal code, introducing harsher penalties for sexual offenses. The amendments also criminalize some forms of internal human trafficking; spousal rape; and sex or attempted sex with a person with a known “significant disability,” which is defined as an “intellectual, mental or physical condition or impairment” (or combination of two or more such “conditions or impairments”) that significantly impairs the person’s capacity to understand the nature of the sexual contact or to communicate decisions about sexual contact.
Violence against women, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussion of such matters.
A 2011 World Health Organization report revealed that more than half of women in the country had experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner, and 64 percent of women between 15 and 49 years regularly experienced violence in the home. The 2013 Solomon Islands Demographic and Health Survey found that 65 percent of women and 69 percent of men believed partner violence was justifiable.
Police made efforts to charge offenders for domestic violence and assault against women. As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape victims. They were also trained in the implementation of the 2014 Family Protection Act. Police have a Sexual Assault Unit, staffed mostly by female officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges.
In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts dealt with physical abuse of women as with any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and to cultural bias against women.
In 2015 the government endorsed a new National Gender Equality and Women in Development Policy and a National Eliminating Violence Against Women Policy. The government merged these two policies, and the National Taskforce on Eliminating Violence Against Women is responsible for implementation. The taskforce focuses on improving support and referral services for women who are victims of violence, an area that is severely deficient.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) conducted awareness campaigns on family violence during the year. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility for abused women provided counseling and other support services for women. The Family Support Center did not have an in-house lawyer and depended heavily on the Public Solicitor’s Office for legal assistance for its clients.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued to increase and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women. A 2009 study by the South Pacific Commission found approximately 60 percent of women whose marriage involved payment of a bride price experienced violence from their husband, and the figure rose to approximately 81 percent of women whose bride price was not fully paid.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread problem.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Contraception and adequate prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal care were accessible at all government hospitals and rural health clinics, and all nurses had training to provide family planning services. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an estimated 27 percent of women of reproductive age used modern contraceptive methods and a reported 57 percent of births were unplanned. The UNFPA estimated maternal mortality was 120 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2015 skilled health personnel attended approximately 90 percent of births.
Discrimination: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for equal work (see section 7.d.). The Solomon Islands National Council of Women and other NGOs attempted to make women more aware of their legal rights, including voting rights, through seminars, workshops, and other activities.
Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship through their parents. The laws do not allow dual citizenship for adults, and persons who acquire dual citizenship at birth must decide by age 18 years which citizenship to retain. The creation of an electronic registration system in 2015 helped bridge infrastructure that delayed the registration of births. Delays did not result in denial of public services to children.
Education: Education was neither free nor compulsory. The government continued to implement the Free Fee Basic Education (FFBE) Policy, which covers the operational costs for children to attend school but allows school management to request additional contributions from families such as cash, labor, and school fundraising. The FFBE Policy is intended to increase educational access by subsidizing school fees for grades one through nine. This policy rarely covers all costs for schools, depending on their location. Additional school fees, uniform costs, book fees, and transportation needs prevented some children from attending school. According to the Ministry of Education’s Performance Assessment Framework, more boys (51 percent) enrolled in early childhood education than did girls (49 percent) in 2013. According to 2013 data from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 75 percent of boys who entered primary school reached the last grade, whereas only 69 percent of girls did. High school attendance rates were also higher for boys. According to the ADB, gender imbalance in education improved from earlier years.
Child Abuse: The law grants children the same general rights and protections as adults, with some exceptions. Laws do not specifically prohibit the use of children in illicit activities such as drug trafficking.
The government did not provide sufficient resources to enforce laws designed to protect children from sexual abuse, child labor, and neglect (see section 7.c.). The 2014 Family Protection Act, which criminalizes domestic violence including violence against children, lacked public awareness and enforcement. Child sexual and physical abuse remained significant problems. Nonetheless, the traditional extended-family system generally respected and protected children in accordance with a family’s financial resources and access to services. Virtually no children were homeless or abandoned.
Early and Forced Marriage: Both boys and girls may legally marry at 15 years, and the law permits marriage at 14 years with parental and village consent. Marriage at such young ages was not common.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued to increase and contributed to the perception of ownership of women and their children by the family of the husband.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15 years. The maximum penalty for sexual relations with a girl younger than 13 years is life imprisonment, and for sexual relations with a girl between 13 and 15 years, the penalty is five years’ imprisonment. Consent is not a permissible defense under either of these provisions; however, in the latter case, reasonable belief the victim was 15 years or older is a permissible defense. Selling or hiring minors younger than 15 years and girls younger than 18 years for prostitution is punishable as a criminal offense. Prostitution laws do not cover boys between 15 and 18 years and therefore leaves them without legal protection.
Child pornography is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. The penal code criminalizes the production and possession of obscene material if the purpose is to distribute or publicly exhibit the material. Amendments to the penal code passed in May criminalize commercial sexual exploitation of children and participation in or use, distribution, and storing of sexually exploitative materials with children, and some forms of internal child trafficking. Within the country girls and boys were exploited in prostitution and sexual servitude.
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 Jewish community was very small, and 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
No law or national policy prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities, and no legislation mandates access to buildings, information, or communications for such individuals. The Health National Strategic Policy, which parliament endorsed, includes a section on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, although the Ministry of Home Affairs is primarily responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Very few buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. The government relied upon the extended family and NGOs to provide services and support to persons with disabilities. The country had one educational facility, supported almost entirely by the International Committee of the Red Cross, for children with disabilities. During the year concerned citizens in Western Province operated a school for students with hearing disabilities. The school operated on in-kind donations. Children with disabilities could attend mainstream schools, but inadequate facilities and other resource constraints often made it impractical. A center for persons with disabilities in Honiara assisted persons with disabilities in finding employment, although with high unemployment nationwide and no laws requiring reasonable accommodations in the workplace, most persons with disabilities, particularly those in rural areas, did not find work outside the family structure.
The government relied upon families to meet the needs of persons with mental disabilities, and there were very limited government facilities or services for such persons. The Kilufi Hospital in Malaita operated a 10-bed ward for the treatment of psychiatric patients. A psychiatrist resident in Honiara ran a clinic at the National Referral Hospital.
The country has more than 27 major islands with approximately 70 language groups. Many islanders saw themselves first as members of a clan, next as inhabitants of their natal island, and only third as citizens of their nation. Tensions and resentment between the Guadalcanalese and the Malaitans on Guadalcanal culminated in violence beginning in 1998. The presence of RAMSI greatly reduced ethnic tension between the two groups, and reconciliation ceremonies organized during the year led to further easing of tensions. Underlying problems between the two groups remained, however, including issues related to jobs and land rights.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
“Sodomy” is illegal, as are “indecent practices between persons of the same sex.” The maximum penalty for the former is 14 years’ imprisonment and for the latter five years. There were no reports of arrests or prosecutions directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons under these provisions during the year, and authorities generally did not enforce these laws. There were no reports of violence or discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although stigma may hinder some from reporting.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There was societal discrimination toward persons with HIV/AIDS, but there were no specific reports of disownment by families as reported in the past and no reports of violence targeting persons with HIV/AIDS.