Rape and Domestic Violence: These acts are illegal, and authorities generally enforced the law. In most cases the penalty provided by law for rape, including spousal rape, is one to 10 years in prison. Actual sentences were generally lenient, the average being three years.
Domestic violence is generally punishable by a fine or a one-year prison sentence.
According to NGO reports, courts often failed to prosecute domestic violence. When they did so, sentences were lenient. Lengthy trials, economic dependency, and a lack of alternative places to live often forced victims and perpetrators to continue to live together.
Domestic violence was a persistent and common problem. The law permits victims to obtain restraining orders against abusers. When abuser and victim live together, authorities may remove the abuser from the property, regardless of ownership rights.
According to NGOs and the ombudsman, female victims of domestic violence often complained that government-run social welfare centers did not respond adequately to their appeals for help. NGOs reported that state institutions did not provide physical protection for victims.
The government, in cooperation with an NGO, operated a free hotline for victims of family violence. NGOs continued to report that, despite progress, particularly in the law, some government agencies responded inadequately to prevent the violence and help survivors recover.
Sexual Harassment: According to the Center for Women’s Rights, sexual harassment of women occurred often, but few women reported it. Public awareness of the problem remained low. Victims hesitated to report harassment due to fear of employer reprisals and a lack of information about legal remedies. Sexual harassment is not defined as a crime under the law. According to the latest amendments of the criminal code, however, stalking or predatory behavior with physical intimidation can be punished with a fine or up to three years imprisonment.
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: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. All property acquired during marriage is joint property. The NGO SOS noted that women often experienced difficulty in defending their property rights in divorce proceedings due to the widespread belief that property belongs to the man. Sometimes women ceded their inherited property and inheritance rights to male relatives, but this practice has continued to decline. A consequence of these factors was that men tended to be favored in the distribution of property ownership.
The Department for Gender Equality worked to inform women of their rights, and the parliament has a committee on gender equality.
According to Romani NGOs, one-half of Romani women between the ages of 15 and 24 were illiterate. Romani women often noted that they faced double discrimination based on their gender and ethnicity.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: Although it is illegal, medical professionals noted that gender-biased sex selection took place, resulting in a boy-to-girl ratio at birth of 108:100. The government did not actively address the problem.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship from their parents and, under some circumstances, by birth in the country, through naturalization, or as otherwise specified by international treaties governing the acquisition of citizenship. Registration of birth, a responsibility of the parents, is required for a child to have the necessary documents to establish his or her citizenship. Births of all children in hospitals and medical institutions were registered automatically. Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptian children sometimes were not born in hospitals, and their parents registered their births at much lower rates than other groups, mostly due to their lack of awareness of the importance of registration and the parents’ own lack of identification documents. It was difficult for the unregistered children of Romani and Balkan Egyptian parents to access such government services as health care, social allowances, and education. Of the Romani and Balkan Egyptian children in primary school, 10 percent were not registered.
Education: The law provides for free elementary education for all children. Secondary education is free but not compulsory. According to the 2011 census, 95 percent of school-age children attended school.
The percentage of children attending school was much lower for Romani children (51 percent) and Balkan Egyptian children (54 percent), although the number of Romani and Balkan Egyptian children enrolling in public schools increased. At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, 1,622 Romani pupils were enrolled in primary schools; 125 Romani in secondary school; and 20 Romani and Balkan Egyptian students in university.
A government commission continued to develop methods for monitoring and preventing early school drop-out. To encourage attendance, the government provided free schoolbooks to Romani children in the first three grades of primary school and gave monthly stipends to Romani secondary school and university students of 60 and 150 euros ($72 and $180), respectively. There were no textbooks in the Romani language, but the government financed a Romani dictionary.
Child Abuse: The Ministry of Health reported that every third child was subject to emotional abuse, while every fourth child was a victim of physical abuse. Many children, particularly high school students, were exposed to alcohol, drugs, and violence. According to the Center for Children Rights and media reports, peer violence among children was on the rise. The ombudsman noted that child sexual abuse victims were usually girls between the ages of 14 and 16. The abusers were mostly close relatives of the children, and abuse usually occurred at home.
Authorities prosecuted child abuse when they had cases with enough evidence, and the government worked to raise public awareness of the importance of reporting cases. Facilities and psychotherapy assistance for children who suffered from family violence were inadequate, and there were no marital or family counseling centers. At times authorities placed juvenile victims of domestic violence in the children’s correctional facility in Ljubovic or the orphanage in Bijela.
Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 in most cases, but persons as young as 16 may marry with the consent of a court if it finds them mentally and physically fit for marriage. Child marriage was a serious problem, particularly in the Romani and Balkan-Egyptian communities. According to a survey by the NGO Center for Roma Initiatives, 70 percent of the Romani population between the ages of 12 and 18 entered into arranged marriages.
Punishment for arranging forced marriages ranges from six months to five years in prison. The custom of buying or selling virgin brides continued in the Romani, Ashkali, and Balkan-Egyptian communities. The government implemented measures to prevent underage marriage, including enforcing mandatory school education.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of sexual consent is 18. There is a statutory rape law. Sexual activity with a juvenile carries a prison sentence of up to three years. Paying a juvenile for sexual activity carries a prison term of three months to five years. Authorities may fine or imprison for one to 10 years any person found guilty of inducing a minor into prostitution.
Child pornography is illegal, and sentences for violators range from six months in prison for displaying child pornography to eight years for using a child in the production of pornography.
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.
There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts against the country’s small Jewish community, which numbered approximately 500 individuals.
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 constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental. The government was implementing the Strategy for Integration of Persons with Disabilities 2016-2020, but NGOs claimed that it did not do so effectively.
Authorities generally enforced the requirement that new public buildings be accessible to persons with disabilities, but most public facilities, including buildings and public transportation, were older and lacked access. Although election laws specifically require accessible polling places, the majority of polling stations remained inaccessible.
Despite legal protections, persons with disabilities often hesitated to institute legal proceedings against persons or institutions seen to be violating their rights. Observers ascribed this reluctance to the adverse outcomes of previous court cases or, according to the ombudsman, to insufficient public awareness of human rights and protection mechanisms relating to disabilities. The Ombudsman’s Office reported three ongoing court cases for discrimination against persons with disabilities in 2016, one against the national parliament and two against the Podgorica Municipality. The Association of Youth with Disabilities initiated two discrimination cases in 2016 against the Social Centers in Podgorica and the coastal towns of Kotor, Tivat, and Budva.
The Ministries of Health, Labor, and Social Welfare; Education and Sports; Finance; Justice; Human and Minority Rights; Sustainable Development, Traffic, and Tourism, as well as the Secretariat for Legislation, the State Employment Agency, and five NGOs provided assistance and protection in their respective spheres. Together, they constituted the Council for Care of Persons with Disabilities, which was chaired by the minister of labor and social welfare and had responsibility for policies protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
According to NGOs, services at the local level to children with mental and physical disabilities remained inadequate. Associations of parents of children with disabilities were the primary providers of these services. The law permits parents or guardians of persons with disabilities to work half time, but employers did not respect this right.
The government made efforts to enable children with disabilities to attend schools and universities, but education and facilities to accommodate them remained inadequate at all levels. The NGOs also stated that supported-living assistance at home and similar services were not provided to families and parents of children with disabilities.
Institutionalization perpetuated stigmatization. Persons with physical disabilities had difficulty obtaining through health and social insurance high-quality medical devices to facilitate their mobility as well as other orthopedic aids.
Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians remained the most vulnerable victims of discrimination, mainly due to prejudice and limited access to social services. Their lack of required documents often limited their access to services. The law relating to citizenship and its accompanying regulations makes obtaining citizenship difficult for persons without personal identity documents or those born outside of a hospital (see also section 2.d., Stateless Persons). For example, access to health-care services remained difficult for the members of these communities due to the lack of medical care cards. The government adopted the Strategy for Social Inclusion of Roma and Balkan Egyptians 2016-2020, which, as implemented so far, has resulted in some improvements to the number of Romani children attending school, access to health care, and access to housing.
According to the Roma Education Fund, the poverty rate among Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians was 36 percent compared with a rate of 11 percent for the general population. Many Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians lived illegally in squatter settlements that were often widely scattered and lacked services such as public utilities, medical care, and sewage disposal.
Albanians and Bosniaks in the northern and southern parts of the country frequently complained they were victims of central government discrimination and economic neglect. Ethnic Serbian politicians claimed that the government discriminated against the Serbian national identity, language, and religion.
Government-supported national councils for Serbs, Bosniaks, Albanians, Muslims, Croats, and Roma represented the interests of those ethnic minorities. NGOs, legal observers, and the media continued to accuse the government of misappropriating money from a fund established to finance the national councils.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law forbids incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation as well as discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and applies to LGBTI individuals. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation are considered an aggravating circumstance.
NGOs reported the number of attacks against LGBTI persons rose during the year.
In August two men physically assaulted and lightly injured an LGBTI activist in an LGBTI social and community center in Podgorica. The NGO LGBT Forum Progress stated that police reacted efficiently and apprehended the two attackers.
In September 2016 there was a vicious physical attack on a minor for his perceived sexual orientation and public support of the LGBTI community. Police arrested the two perpetrators and charged them with “violent behavior.” The perpetrators reached a plea bargain deal with authorities and were only required to perform community service.
LGBTI representatives claimed that young persons perpetrated 80 percent of violent crimes against members of the LGBTI community. Hostile individuals used social media and LGBTI dating sites to attack and bully known and suspected LGBTI persons anonymously. The NGO LGBT Forum Progress stated in its 2016 report that over 50 persons were reported to police for hate speech and incitement to violence targeting LGBTI persons on the internet and the police investigated two of these cases.
Negative public perception of LGBTI persons led many to conceal their sexual orientation, although there was a trend toward greater visibility as LGBTI persons came out to their families and colleagues. In one case the executive director of a leading LGBTI rights NGO decided to remain anonymous due to violence. In 2016 the Ombudsman’s Office received three reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The office dismissed two cases because witnesses did not want to cooperate, while in the third case, it found elements of hate speech. The ombudsman stated that the drop in the number of complaints showed that members of the LGBTI community had increased their focus on prevention and protection and had effectively raised public awareness about the problem.
In September 2016 the Supreme Court upheld the decision by Niksic police and the Ministry of Interior to temporarily ban the gay pride parade in Niksic in September 2015. The HRA, on behalf of the NGOs LGBT Forum Progress and Hiperion, filed a constitutional complaint against the Supreme Court’s judgement. In 2016 the Administrative Court dismissed an appeal by Forum Progress and Hiperion Niksic, which claimed that Niksic police had violated their constitutional right to freedom of assembly by refusing their three requests for a permit to hold a pride parade. Police cited security reasons for their refusals.
Every police station had an officer whose duties included monitoring observance of the rights of LGBTI persons. During the year a “team of confidence” between police and LGBTI NGOs continued working to improve communication between police and the community.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Juventas and the Montenegrin HIV Foundation stated that persons with HIV/AIDS were stigmatized and experienced discrimination, although most discrimination was undocumented. Observers believed that fear of discrimination, societal taboos relating to sex, and the lack of privacy of medical records prevented many persons from seeking testing for HIV. NGOs reported that patients often faced discrimination by medical personnel and received inadequate treatment.