Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of between 12 and 15 years’ imprisonment, and fines up to 100,000 Surinamese dollars (SRD) ($13,333). The government enforced the law effectively, including applying its provisions in cases involving rape of men. Police received 410 reports of sexual abuse as of September. Authorities investigated and prosecuted all reported cases.
Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. Through September police received 421 reports of domestic abuse, down from 870 reports for the same period in 2016. Domestic abuse played a role in eight of the 12 homicides committed through September; prosecutions were pending.
The Victim Assistance Bureau of the Ministry of Justice and Police provided resources for victims of domestic violence and continued to raise awareness about domestic violence through public television programs. There were victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie. Authorities trained police units in dealing with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The Victim Assistance Bureau managed a shelter for female victims of domestic violence and children up to age 12 and served an average of 40 clients per year.
Authorities reported an average of 20 requests per week for restraining orders, primarily from women seeking protection from abusive partners.
Sexual Harassment: There is no specific legislation on sexual harassment, but prosecutors cited various penal code articles in filing sexual harassment cases. There were no reported court cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace.
Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without the filing of a formal complaint. Pending investigation, police may issue temporary restraining orders limiting contact between victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders can receive prison sentences ranging from four to 12 years and fines from SRD 50,000 to SRD 150,000 ($6,667 to $20,000).
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 protection of women’s rights to equal access to education, employment, and property. Nonetheless, women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work. The government did not undertake specific efforts to combat economic discrimination.
Birth Registration: The law on citizenship and residency provides that citizenship transmits to a child when either the father or mother has Surinamese citizenship at the time of birth, when the parent is Surinamese but has died before birth, or if the child is born in the country’s territory and does not automatically acquire citizenship of another country. Births must be registered with the Civil Registry within one week. Failure to do so within the mandated period results in a more cumbersome process of registration.
Child Abuse: Police registered 35 cases of physical abuse and 212 cases of child sexual abuse as of September. Observers believed the actual number of abuse cases was significantly higher than reported. To avoid intimidation by perpetrators, there were arrangements for children to testify in special chambers at legal proceedings. The Youth Affairs Office continued to raise awareness about sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol through a weekly television program. The government operated a telephone hotline for children and provided confidential advice and aid to children in need. Authorities reported an average of 80 calls per day. In August the government held an awareness campaign to highlight the severity of child abuse and to urge persons to report cases of physical and sexual abuse.
The UN Children’s Fund continued cooperating with the government in providing training to officials from various ministries dealing with children and children’s rights. In December 2016 the Ministry of Justice and Police opened its third child protection center in southern Paramaribo.
Several cases of sexual exploitation, sexual and physical abuse, and neglect came to trial. Victims included both boys and girls. Sentences ranged up to 10 years in prison.
Early and Forced Marriage: Parental permission to marry is required until the age of 21. The marriage law sets the age of marital consent at 15 for girls and 17 for boys, provided parents of the parties agree to the marriage. Children in certain tribal communities often marry at an age below that set forth by the law.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, offering or procuring a child for child prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Authorities prosecuted all reported violations. While the legal age of sexual consent is 14, trafficking-in-persons legislation makes sexual exploitation of a person under the age of 18 illegal. Criminal law penalizes persons responsible for recruiting children into prostitution and provides penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of SRD 100,000 ($13,333) for pimping. The law also prohibits child pornography, which carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment and maximum fine of SRD 50,000 ($6,667). Violations are punishable by prison terms of up to 12 years.
Deteriorating economic circumstances led to an increasing number of adolescent boys and girls entering prostitution to support family or to pay for education. One NGO reported commercial sexual exploitation of children as young as 14. While not marked as a destination for child sex tourism, cases were reported of tourists involved in sexual exploitation of children. There were also reported cases of parents forcing their young children into prostitution.
Institutionalized Children: A lack of financial support from the Ministry of Social Affairs for orphanages and other shelters for children significantly affected these institutions’ ability to care for children adequately.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of 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 was a declared Jewish community of approximately 150 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts or discrimination.
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 laws prohibit discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive general health benefits, but the process can be cumbersome. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and services. Authorities provided some training programs for persons with impaired vision or other disabilities. No laws or programs provide that persons with disabilities have access to buildings. A judge may rule to deny a person with a cognitive disability the right to vote, take part in business transactions, or sign legal agreements. Primary education was available for persons with disabilities and, depending on the disability, secondary and higher education could also be available. There was secondary and technical education for those with auditory disabilities but not for those with visual disabilities. Persons with disabilities are eligible to receive a stipend from the government until they marry or turn 60. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
The law affords no special protection for, or recognition of, indigenous peoples. The IACHR identified the Maroons (descendants of escaped slaves who fled to the hinterland–approximately 22 percent of the population) as tribal peoples and thus entitled to the same rights as the indigenous Amerindian communities (approximately 4 percent of the population).
Maroons and Amerindians living in the remote and undeveloped interior had limited access to education, employment, and health and social services. Both groups participated in decisions affecting their tradition and culture, but they had limited influence in decisions affecting exploitation of energy, minerals, timber, and other natural resources on their lands. Both Maroons and Amerindians took part in regional governing bodies, as well as in the National Assembly, and were part of the governing coalition.
The government recognizes the different Maroon and indigenous tribes, but they hold no special status under national law, and there was no effective demarcation of their lands. Because authorities did not effectively demarcate or police Amerindian and Maroon lands, these populations continued to face problems with illegal and uncontrolled logging and mining. No laws grant indigenous people the right to share in the revenues from the exploitation of resources on their traditional lands. Organizations representing Maroon and Amerindian communities complained that small-scale mining operations, mainly by illegal gold miners, some of whom were themselves tribal or supported by tribal groups, dug trenches that cut residents off from their agricultural land and threatened to drive them away from their traditional settlements. Mercury runoff from these operations as well as riverbank erosion also contaminated sources of drinking water and threatened traditional food sources, especially freshwater fish.
Maroon and Amerindian groups complained about the government granting land within their traditional territories to third parties, who sometimes prevented the villages from engaging in their traditional activities on those lands.
At year’s end the government had not taken action to carry out IACHR orders in the case of the Kalina and Lokono Peoples vs. Suriname. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the state responsible for violating the rights to recognition of juridical personality, to collective property, to political rights, and to cultural identity, and reminded the state of its duty to adopt appropriate domestic legal provisions. The court ordered the government to recognize the Kalina and Lokono collective juridical personality legally; delimit, demarcate, and title the territory to the peoples; establish a community development fund; and rehabilitate areas affected by mining by third parties. The court also ordered similar legislative changes to be made for recognizing the rights of all indigenous and tribal people and to have this effective legal recognition and protection within three years.
The government also took no action to implement precautionary measures requested by the IACHR in 2016 regarding a 2009 petition from the Kalina Indigenous Community of Maho. In 2014, despite the continuing litigation, the government continued to grant concession rights to third parties in the area of the Maho community. In 2016 the Maho community requested that the IACHR forward the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Throughout the year the community continued to report infringements on its lands.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The constitution prohibits many forms of discrimination but does not address sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-positive status. LGBTI groups could associate freely, were very active, and advocated within society under the same laws that pertain to the assembly and association of other groups. The law includes specific legislation regarding discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation, specifically protecting the LGBTI community. Violation of this law is punishable by a fine or prison sentence of up to one year. The legislation does not set standards for determining what constitutes such discrimination or hate speech. The law was in effect but had not been used in any case.
Despite the protective legislation, the LGBTI community faced discrimination from the government and society. LGBTI persons, particularly transgender commercial sex workers, reported arbitrary arrests, harassment, and beatings by security forces. Police have no specific policy for handling of male transgender commercial sex workers, which resulted in those arrested being placed in male detention facilities where they faced harassment and other violence by other detainees.
There were few official reports of societal violence against LGBTI persons, primarily due to the victims’ fear of retribution and because authorities reportedly did not take seriously complaints filed by members of the LGBTI community. There were reports of societal discrimination against the LGBTI community in areas of employment and housing.
In January the court ruled in favor of a transgender person who sought to have her gender officially changed by the Civil Registration Office in the public registry. The office appealed the ruling and, as of October, the court was hearing arguments.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV/AIDS continued to experience societal discrimination in employment and medical services. Medical treatment is free for HIV/AIDS patients covered under government insurance, but private insurers did not cover such treatment. NGOs reported discriminatory testing, and subsequent denial, when applying for housing assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Police statistics showed that crime in general was rising and had become more violent. Chinese shop owners continued to be targets of violent armed robberies, some of which resulted in fatalities. Violence in the gold-mining areas of the interior occurred primarily among and within the Brazilian and Maroon communities, where the government exercised little authority.