Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape but does not address spousal rape. Penalties range from five years to life in prison. Rape of a child or a pregnant woman is punishable by hard labor. Authorities may add an additional two to five years’ imprisonment if the rape involves assault and battery. Authorities rarely enforced the law.
On September 14, the national gendarmerie officially launched its new morals and minors protection unit with responsibility for protecting children, including rape victims, in rural areas, which are not covered by the national police’s morals and minors brigade. The Ministry of Justice, collaborating with UNICEF and telecommunications companies, implemented a website called “Arozaza” (protect the child) that is intended to combat online sexual exploitation of minors and warn potential abusers. The website includes a form to report child endangerment or online pornography.
The law prohibits domestic violence, but it remained a widespread problem. Domestic violence is punishable by two to five years in prison and a fine of four million ariary ($1,240), depending on the severity of injuries and whether the victim was pregnant. There were few shelters for battered women in the country, and many returned to the home of their parents, where parents often pressured them to return to their abusers.
Victims of domestic violence from vulnerable populations could receive assistance from advisory centers, called Centers for Listening and Legal Advice (CECJ), set up in several regions by the Ministry of Population, Social Protection, and Promotion of Women with the support of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). These centers counseled survivors on where to go for medical care, provided psychological assistance, and helped them start legal procedures to receive alimony from their abusers.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is against the law, and penalties range from one to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of one to four million ariary ($310 to $1,240). The penalty increases to two to five years’ imprisonment plus a fine of two to 10 million ariary ($620 to $3,100) if criminals forced or pressured the victim into sexual acts or punished the victim for refusing such advances. Authorities did not enforce the law, and sexual harassment was widespread.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: While women enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men in some areas, there were significant differences. Women experienced discrimination in employment and transfer of inheritance. While widows with children inherit half of joint marital property, a husband’s surviving kin have priority over widows without children, leaving the widow eighth in line for inheritance if there is no prior agreement. Families did not always observe these provisions.
Birth Registration: Under the new nationality code, citizenship derives from one’s parents. The new law, however, does not confer Malagasy nationality on children born in Madagascar if both parents are noncitizens. Mothers may confer nationality on children born in wedlock only if the father is stateless or of unknown nationality.
The country had no uniformly enforced birth registration system, and unregistered children typically were not eligible to attend school or obtain health-care services. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Education: The constitution provides for tuition-free public education for all citizen children and makes primary education until the age of 16 compulsory. Nevertheless, parents were increasingly required to pay registration and various fees to subsidize teacher salaries and other costs. As a result, education became inaccessible for many children. According to UNICEF, boys and girls generally had equal access to education, although girls were more likely to drop out during adolescence. A World Bank-supported project, strengthened by additional funding from UNICEF, continued to be implemented by the Ministry of Population. The program was intended to target several regions and provide money to vulnerable families in exchange for a commitment to send their children to school.
Child Abuse: Child abuse, including rape, was a problem. The press reported more than 20 cases of child rape, with most victims under the age of 12; the youngest was three years old. Government efforts to combat child rape were limited, focusing primarily on child protection networks, which addressed the needs of victims and helped raise public awareness.
In Nosy Be, the local office of the Ministry of Population put in place, in collaboration with UNICEF, a foster family system for child victims who needed placement. Some officials reported that victims of child abuse were returned to the home where the abuse occurred due to the lack of other options.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage without parental consent is 18 for both boys and girls. Nevertheless, child marriage remained very common, particularly in rural areas and in the south.
According to a 2013 report by the UN special rapporteur, the practice of “moletry,” in which girls are married off at a younger age in exchange for oxen received as a dowry, continued. The parents of a boy (usually around age 15) look for a spouse for their son (girls may be as young as 12), after which the parents of both children organize the wedding. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The recruitment and incitement to prostitution generally carries a penalty of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 10 million ariary ($3,100). Antitrafficking legislation, however, provides a penalty of forced labor for the recruitment and incitement to prostitution involving a child under the age of 18, the sexual exploitation of a child under 15, and the commercial exploitation of a child under 18. Both the penal code and antitrafficking laws address pornography, specifying penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and fines up to 10 million ariary ($3,100). Authorities rarely enforced the provisions. There is no minimum legal age for consensual sex.
The sexual exploitation of children, sometimes with the involvement of parents, remained a significant problem.
Employers often abused and raped young rural girls working as housekeepers in the capital. If they left their work, employers typically did not pay them, so many remained rather than return empty-handed to their families and villages.
The Ministry of Population operated approximately 750 multisector networks covering 22 regions throughout the country to protect children from abuse and exploitation. The ministry collaborated with UNICEF to identify child victims and provide for their access to adequate medical and psychosocial services. In collaboration with the gendarmerie, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Population, and UNICEF trained local law enforcement officials and other stakeholders in targeted regions on the rights of children.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Media reports documented several deaths of newborns abandoned in gutters and dumpsters. A traditional taboo in the southeast against giving birth to twins also contributed to the problem.
Displaced Children: Although child abandonment is against the law, it remained a significant problem. There were few safe shelters for street children, and governmental agencies generally tried first to place abandoned children with parents or other relatives. Authorities placed many children in private and church-affiliated orphanages outside the regulated system.
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 Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community was 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
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and broadly defines the rights of persons with disabilities and provides for a national commission and regional subcommissions to promote their rights. By law persons with disabilities are entitled to receive health care and education and have the right to training and employment; the law does not address air travel or access to the judicial system. Educational institutions are “encouraged” to make necessary infrastructure adjustments to accommodate students with disabilities. The law also specifies the state “must facilitate, to the extent possible, access to its facilities, public spaces, and public transportation to accommodate persons with disabilities.”
Authorities rarely enforced the rights of persons with disabilities, and the legal framework for promoting accessibility remained perfunctory.
Access to education and health care for persons with disabilities also was limited due to lack of adequate infrastructure, specialized institutions, and personnel. With the financial support of a French organization, the minister of education signed an agreement with Handicap International in February for the inclusion of 2,173 vulnerable children, including 503 children with disabilities, into the public schools in the regions of Diana and Analanjirofo.
Persons with disabilities encountered discrimination in employment. They were also more likely to become victims of various types of abuse, sometimes perpetrated by their own relatives.
The electoral code provides that individuals with disabilities be assisted in casting their ballots, but it contains no other provisions to accommodate voters with disabilities.
The Italian NGO Reggio Terzo Mondo, with funding from the Italian government, collaborated with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Education in a three-year project that ended in May to promote mental health in the regions of Amoron’I Mania and Vatovavy Fitovinany. At the end of the project, 13 public primary schools in the two regions had been equipped with specialized teaching materials and trained teachers able to accommodate 113 children with mental and intellectual disabilities. In addition, a mental health support and diagnosis center was established in each of the two regions.
An interministerial committee led by the Ministry of Population completed a document establishing the national committee for persons with disabilities as required by a 2015 five-year plan. As of August, however, the establishment of the national committee was still pending a decree by the government.
None of the 18 tribes in the country constituted a majority. There were also minorities of Indo-Pakistani, Comorian, and Chinese heritage. Ethnicity, caste, and regional solidarity often were considered in hiring and exploited in politics. A long history of military conquest and political dominance by highland ethnic groups of Asian origin, particularly the Merina, over coastal groups of African ancestry contributed to tension between citizens of highland and coastal descent, particularly in politics.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law provides for a prison sentence of two to five years and a fine of two to 10 million ariary ($620 to $3,100) for acts that are “indecent or against nature with an individual of the same sex under the age of 21,” which is understood to include all sexual relations. There is no law prohibiting same-sex sexual conduct for those over age 21. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community reportedly were unaware of the risk of arrest for “corruption of a minor,” and arrests occurred, although there were no official statistics. There are no specific antidiscrimination provisions that apply to LGBTI persons. No laws prevent transgender persons from identifying with their chosen gender.
There were reports of official discrimination and that local officials, particularly law enforcement personnel, either abused LGBTI persons or failed to protect them from societal violence. Health officials also reportedly denied services to LGBTI persons or failed to respect confidentiality agreements.
Members of this community faced considerable social stigma and discrimination, often within their own families and particularly in rural areas.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Providers in the health care sector subjected persons with HIV/AIDS to stigma and discrimination. HIV/AIDS patients have the right to free health care, and the law specifies sanctions against persons who discriminate against or marginalize persons with HIV/AIDS. Apart from the National Committee for the Fight against AIDS in Madagascar, national institutions–including the Ministries of Health and Justice–did not effectively enforce the law.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Mob violence occurred in both urban and rural areas, in large part due to crime and lack of public confidence in police and the judiciary. Crowds killed, beat, burned, or otherwise injured suspected criminals or accomplices, and the media reported 74 deaths resulting from mob violence between January and August. Authorities sometimes arrested the perpetrators, but fear of creating renewed anger hindered prosecution. Media and observers believed that the law was more likely to be enforced against perpetrators when it was in the interests of authorities or security forces.
A government delegation led by the prime minister, minister of justice, minister of public security, and secretary of state in charge of the gendarmerie visited the southeast region in March to raise awareness concerning mob violence. In Farafangana, where villagers attempted to lynch the alleged murderer of a young woman earlier in the year, the prime minister underscored mutual respect for the law.
Persons with albinism suffered witchcraft-related attacks. For example, in November 2016 a priest with albinism who escaped kidnappers reported that they had intended to sell him for 60 million ariary ($18,500), presumably so his body parts could be used in witchcraft.