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Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, caste, place of origin, political opinion, color, or sex, and the Government generally enforced these provisions.
Domestic violence against women, particularly spousal abuse, was a problem, according to the Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development, and Family Welfare; attorneys; and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides the judicial system with greater powers to combat this problem. In 2001, the NGO SOS Femmes published a study on domestic violence in the country in which 84 percent of the women surveyed reported being victims of physical abuse.
Alcohol or drugs was a contributing factor in nearly 70 percent of these domestic violence cases. According to the Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development, and Family Welfare, between January and July, there were 69 reported cases of domestic violence against women. Nevertheless, many victims still chose not to prosecute or report their attacker, primarily due to cultural pressures.
Many women remained in abusive situations for fear of losing financial spousal support. A magistrate can order a spouse to pay child support, but there are reports that some spouses stopped working to avoid payment. The law criminalizes the abandonment of one's family or pregnant spouse for more than 2 months, the nonpayment of court-ordered food support, and sexual harassment.
Although specific laws make rape illegal including spousal rape, it was a problem.
Prostitution is illegal; however, there were reports of prostitution during the year.
Traditionally women have played subordinate roles in society, and societal discrimination continued; however, women had access to education, employment, and government services.
The National Remuneration Board (NRB) changed minimum salaries to reflect more clearly gender equality in some industries. According to the Sex and Discrimination Act, enacted in March, women are afforded broadly defined wage protections. The law states "no employer shall discriminate against a person on the ground of that person's sex in terms of the conditions on which employment is offered," and this law was generally respected in practice.
In the agricultural sector, women are protected by law from being forced to carry loads above certain weight limits; however, remuneration is determined by the amount that one is able to carry during a period of time. As a result, women working in agriculture were often paid less than men because they carried less.
The Government placed strong emphasis on the health and welfare of children and displayed a commitment to expand educational opportunities for children. Education is tuition free and compulsory until the age of 12. Books are free for primary school, but not for secondary school. Those parents that cannot afford books could apply to the Government for an exemption and receive books free of charge. Attendance at the primary level was 100 percent, but only 64 percent at the secondary level. In 2001, the Government launched an education reform plan to increase mandatory education to the age of 16 by year's end. The plan eliminated the ranking of primary students based on their scores in a primary education certificate exam with the objective of making more students eligible to attend secondary school. During the year, the Government began building new schools and converting some schools, including private schools, into a regional network of secondary schools to accommodate the increase in secondary school students. In January, seven new secondary schools opened and three more secondary schools were constructed.
The Government provided full medical care for children.
Although incidents of child abuse were reported, private voluntary organizations claimed that the problem was more widespread than was acknowledged publicly. The state-funded National Children's Council and the Ministry of Women's Rights, Family Welfare, and Child Development administered most government programs. Both provided counseling, investigated reports of child abuse, and took remedial action to protect affected children.
Under the law, certain acts compromising the health, security, or morality of a child were crimes.
Child prostitution was a problem. A 1998 study reported that children entered into prostitution as early as age 13. Their clientele reportedly included industrialists, professionals, police officers, parliamentarians, and government ministers. The Government targeted child prostitution as a top law enforcement and prevention priority, and in 2002, the Government implemented a 5-year action plan with a series of recommendations to combat child prostitution. The plan was published in January. The Ministry of Women, Child Development, and Family Welfare ran a hot line for reporting cases of child prostitution, and only one case was reported in 2002. Some NGOs formed regional awareness networks and developed training materials for educators. The results of a task force on prostitution's quantitative study on the magnitude of child prostitution in the country had not been released by year's end.
Child prostitution is a criminal act, whereby the adult was considered the offender, while the child involved was given social assistance. Child pornography also is a crime, and the child was offered social aid while the adult offender was prosecuted.
Persons with Disabilities
There was no discrimination in employment, education, or in the provision of other state services against persons with disabilities, including mental disabilities. The law requires organizations that employed more than 35 persons to set aside at least 3 percent of their positions for persons with disabilities; however, the law was not always enforced. The law did not require that work sites be accessible to persons with disabilities, making it difficult for persons with disabilities to fill many jobs. There was no law mandating access to public buildings or facilities.
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