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Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination; however, both governmental and societal discrimination against women and ethnic minorities continued. Persons with HIV/AIDS were victims of societal discrimination and often kept their illnesses hidden.
Domestic and other societal violence against women, particularly wife beating, was common. The public beating of wives was forbidden by government decree; however, violence in the home generally was tolerated. The Government does not prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence. Women were subjected to sexual abuse both from the authorities and other prisoners while in detention (see Section 1.c.).
Prostitution is illegal; however, the massive influx of single foreign men in the petroleum sector contributed to an increasing prevalence of prostitution. During periodic crackdowns, police arrested prostitutes but allowed their clients, generally expatriates, to go free.
Although the Constitution provides for equal rights, women largely were confined by custom to traditional roles, particularly in agriculture. Polygyny, which was widespread among the Fang, contributed to women's secondary status, as did limited educational opportunity.
There was no discrimination against women in formal inheritance and family law; however, in the Fang, Ndowe, and Bisio cultures, primogeniture was practiced. Because women become members of their husband's family upon marriage, they usually were not accorded inheritance rights. When the husband dies, a widow either remains with his family in a dependent, marginalized position, or she returns the dowry and leaves with nothing.
For an estimated 90 percent of women, including virtually all ethnic groups except the Bubi, tradition dictates that if a marriage is dissolved, the wife (or her father or brother) must return the dowry given to her family by the bridegroom at the time of marriage. Tradition also dictates that if a girl's family accepts a dowry from a man, she must then marry him, regardless of her wishes. If the marriage does not take place, the family is required by tradition to return the dowry, which they sometimes cannot do, which could lead to imprisonment of the bride or a family member for the debt. The law protects women from imprisonment for not repaying the dowry following divorce; however, in practice, many divorced women faced intense family pressure to repay the dowry. If a marriage dissolves, the husband also automatically receives custody of all children born after the marriage, while the mother maintains custody of all children born prior to the marriage.
According to the law, women have the right to buy and sell property and goods; however, in practice, the male-dominated society permitted few women access to sufficient funds to engage in more than petty trading or to purchase real property beyond a garden plot or modest home.
No provisions for the welfare of children were legislated. The Government devoted little attention to children's rights or their welfare and had no set policy in this area. Education was compulsory through primary school, but the law was not enforced. In practice, boys were expected either to complete an additional 7 years of secondary school or to finish a program of vocational study following primary education. Pregnancy and the requirement to assist in agricultural work made this level of education less likely for girls. Many rural families were unable to afford the school fee and book expenses for children over 10 years of age. A 2003 UNICEF report noted that primary school enrollment from 1992 to 2001 was 38 percent both for boys and girls; however, secondary school enrollment from 1995 to 1999 was 43 percent for boys and 19 percent for girls. Generally women have only one-fifth the educational level of men. New schools have opened; however, they were reported to be without basic materials such as books and desks. Teachers were political appointees and often received no training. Children suffered poor health and a high mortality rate.
Child prostitution existed but was rare.
Child labor existed primarily in the form of children working as farmhands and market vendors in family businesses.
Persons with Disabilities
There was no constitutional or legal provision to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination in employment, education, or the provision of other state services. While there was no formal evidence of discrimination against persons with disabilities, anecdotal evidence suggested that basic care may be withheld when children have disfiguring diseases such as polio. The law does not mandate access for persons with disabilities to buildings.
Discrimination against ethnic or racial minorities was not legal, and the Government did not overtly limit their participation in politics; however, the monopolization of political power by the President's Mongomo sub-clan of the Fang ethnic group persisted. In practice, some members of ethnic minorities faced discrimination because they were not members of the Fang ethnic group, or belonged to a Fang sub-clan other than the President's. Differences among clans of the Fang ethnic group, in particular, resentment of the political dominance of the Mongomo clan, also were sources of significant political tensions.
In July 2002, police began forcing approximately 500 Cameroonians out of Malabo following a new government policy to prevent foreign nationals from benefiting from increasing petroleum wealth.
Several thousand citizens of Nigeria, Ghana, and Francophone Africa continued to reside in the country. Most were small traders and businesspersons. The police reportedly continued to harass and extort money from them as well as harassing asylum seekers on an individual basis.
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