Côte d’Ivoire: Domestic violence, including legislation, state protection and available support services (2012–December 2015) [CIV105345.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Background

The US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 indicates that domestic violence is [US English version] “a serious and widespread problem” in Côte d’Ivoire (US 25 June 2015, 18). In a 2013 report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee, Côte d’Ivoire notes that [Côte d’Ivoire English version] “spousal violence ... is actually the most common sort” of violence against women (Côte d’Ivoire 21 May 2013, para. 131). Radio France internationale (RFI) quotes a representative of UN Women as stating that, based on interviews with Ivorian women who were victims of violence, his organization had noted that domestic violence had the [translation] “highest” incidence among all the forms of violence faced by women (RFI 11 Nov. 2015).

The Multiple Indicator Demographic and Health Survey (Enquête démographique et de santé et à indicateurs multiples, EDS-MICS) 2011-2012 [1], co-authored by the Ministry of Health and the Fight Against AIDS (ministère de la Santé et de la Lutte contre le sida) and the National Statistics Institute of Côte d’Ivoire (Institut national de la statistique de la Côte d’Ivoire), reveals that, in the 12 months leading up to the survey, 31 percent of participants aged 15 to 49 who had a husband or partner had experienced one form of domestic violence or another, as follows: 25 percent were physically abused, 18 percent emotionally abused and 5 percent sexually abused (Côte d’Ivoire June 2013, ii, 352). Sources from 2015, however, state that there are no national data on the prevalence of domestic violence in Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015; LIDHO 3 Dec. 2015). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Ivorian Human Rights League (Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’homme, LIDHO), an NGO founded in 1987 and dedicated to promoting and defending human rights and democracy in Côte d’Ivoire (LIDHO n.d.), explained that the data available were [translation] “incomplete” and unreliable because there had been no “national survey” conducted specifically on domestic violence (ibid. 3 Dec. 2015).

The Association of Women Lawyers in Côte d’Ivoire (Association des femmes juristes de Côte d’Ivoire, AFJCI), an NGO [created in 1984 (AFJCI n.d.a)] that aims, among other things, to promote the rights of women, the family and children (AFJCI n.d.b), compiled a list of domestic violence cases reported to the AFJCI between May and July 2015 based on the data collected by the six legal aid clinics that it manages in various regions of Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI 2 Dec. 2015). Of the 1,021  cases of violence identified, in which the victims were men, women and minors, 457 cases involved adult female victims, and 138 of these cases were related to domestic or family violence [meaning 30 percent were cases of violence against women] (ibid. n.d.c). The LIDHO representative reported that, from 2012 to 2015, his organization had dealt with four cases of [translation] “women in forced marriages ... who [had been] beaten by their spouses for being disobedient,” and with seven cases “involving spouses prone to drink alcohol and who turned violent when inebriated” (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015).

The EDS-MICS 2011-2012 survey reveals that 48 percent of women responded that, in certain circumstances, a husband was justified in beating his wife (Côte d’Ivoire June 2013, 312). The LIDHO representative stated [translation] “that it was generally considered normal for a man to resort to violence against his wife if she failed to show him respect” (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015). The representative of UN Women quoted by the RFI noted that all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, were [translation] “often overlooked” (RFI 11 Nov. 2015). Other sources similarly indicate that domestic violence is [translation] “scarcely” (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015) or [US English version] “seldom” reported (US 25 June 2015, 18). According to Country Reports 2014, [US English version] “[m]any [domestic violence] victims’ families reportedly urged victims to withdraw complaints and remain with an abusive partner due to fear of social stigmatization” (ibid.).

2. Legislation

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the AFJCI secretary general stated that Ivorian legislation has [translation] “no specific law on domestic violence” (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015). Similarly, in its report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee in 2013, Côte d’Ivoire recognizes that [Côte d’Ivoire English version] “there is no specific law against domestic violence” and notes that this constitutes a “gap” in the Ivorian legislation with regard to protecting women against violence (Côte d’Ivoire 21 May 2013, para. 164). The same source indicates that [Côte d’Ivoire English version] “[t]he only provisions that can be invoked [in matters of domestic violence] are the general provisions on assault in the Criminal Code” (ibid., para. 131). The LIDHO representative, however, added that the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to murder and violence or death threats could also be invoked in matters of domestic violence (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015), while the AFJCI secretary general explained that domestic violence was also punished under the provision on rape in the Criminal Code (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015). Sources indicate that the law does not specifically penalize spousal rape (US 25 June 2015, 16-17; Freedom House 28 Jan. 2015). In its concluding observations on the initial report of Côte d’Ivoire regarding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee states it was concerned by the fact that [UN English version] “article 354 [of the Côte d’Ivoire Criminal Code], which criminalizes rape, fails to mention marital rape” (28 Apr. 2015, para. 13). Article 354 of the Criminal Code states the following:

[translation]

Rape is punishable by imprisonment of 5 to 20 years.

It is punishable by life imprisonment if the perpetrator

  1. committed the crime with the assistance of one or more persons, or
  2. is the father, a relative or a person with authority over the victim, who is responsible for the victim’s education or their intellectual or professional training.

It is also punishable by life imprisonment if the victim is a minor of 15 years of age. (Côte d’Ivoire 1981, Art. 354)

A training module on marriage and divorce, created in 2013 by a lawyer affiliated with the AFJCI, indicates that violence against a husband or wife, in any form, constitutes legal grounds for a [translation] “fault-based divorce,” which does not require the mutual consent of the spouses (AFJCI 2013, 19-21). Similarly, the report submitted by the government of Côte d’Ivoire to the UN Human Rights Committee states that [Côte d’Ivoire English version] “[f]ault-based divorce is allowed in cases of ... excesses, abuse or serious insult of one spouse by the other” (Côte d’Ivoire 21 May 2013, para. 139). The AFJCI training module explains that [translation] “a single transgression is sufficient if it is serious enough” and that “the spouse filing for divorce has the onus of proving the other is at fault” (AFJCI 2013, 20). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3. State Protection

3.1 Police

Country Reports 2014 indicates that in 2014, [US English version] “[p]olice often ignored women who reported rape or domestic violence” (US 25 June 2015, 18). Likewise, the LIDHO representative stated the following:

[translation]

police authorities tend to refuse certain complaints, thinking that the victim deserved the treatment received from her spouse. Therefore, reported cases of spousal rape are not generally considered by police authorities. (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015)

According to the AFJCI secretary general, the police tend to ask victims of domestic violence to [translation] “settle the issue as a family matter” (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015).

3.2 Prosecution

RFI indicates that in Côte d’Ivoire, perpetrators of violence against women, including those who commit acts of domestic violence, are [translation] “rarely” prosecuted (11 Nov. 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to Freedom House, the law mandates “high standards of evidence to prosecute domestic violence cases” (Freedom House 28 Jan. 2015). For example, sources indicate that the victim must provide a medical certificate (ibid.; AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015; LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015). Sources also report that this certificate is expensive, costing approximately 50,000 CFA francs [about C$110] (ibid.; AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015).

4. Support Services

Sources indicate that there are no shelters for victims of domestic violence in Côte d’Ivoire (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015; AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015). The LIDHO representative stated that [translation] “instead, there are help lines and support centres” (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015). The AFJCI secretary general indicated that the Ministry of Solidarity, Family, Women and Children (ministère de la Solidarité, de la Famille, de la Femme et de l’Enfant, MSFFE) had a [translation] “green line,” that is, a hotline providing support to all victims of violence (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015). However, according to the same source, this service is [translation] “not well known” (ibid.).

The AFJCI secretary general stated that victims of domestic violence also had access to [translation] “free psychological and psychosocial counselling services” offered by MSFFE social workers (ibid.). Similarly, Country Reports 2014 indicates the following:

[US English version]

The [MSFFE] assisted some victims of domestic violence and rape, including counseling at government-operated centers. The National Committee to Fight Violence against Women and Children monitored abusive situations and made weekly radio announcements about hotlines for victims. (.S 25 June 2015, 18)

However, according to the LIDHO representative, the government support services for domestic violence are not [translation] “sufficient” (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

With regard to NGOs, the secretary general stated that the AFJCI assisted victims of domestic violence within the framework of its legal aid clinics in order to explain the steps required to file a complaint, among other things (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015). The AFJCI secretary general indicated that in addition to the AFJCI, the LIDHO, the Ivorian Human Rights Movement (Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains), the Organization of Active Women in Côte d’Ivoire (Organisation des femmes actives de Côte d’Ivoire, OFACI) and the Movement for Education, Health and Development (Mouvement pour l’éducation, la santé et le développement, MESAD) also offered support services to victims of domestic violence (ibid.). The LIDHO representative stated that his organization provided legal aid services to women who are victims of domestic violence (LIDHO 2 Dec. 2015).

According to the LIDHO representative, NGO support for victims of domestic violence [translation] “is inadequate [due to a lack of] sufficient funding” (ibid.). The AFJCI secretary general noted that [translation] “in general, NGOs are not financially independent” and that they are subsidized by international donors (AFJCI 30 Nov. 2015). She added that the AFJCI, for example, receives [translation] “no government funding” (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] The survey conducted from December 2011 to May 2012 involved a [translation] “national sample of 10,413 households ... chosen ... as an adequate representation” (Côte d’Ivoire June 2013, 7).

References

Association des femmes juristes de Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI). 2 December 2015. Correspondence from the secretary general to the Research Directorate.

_____. 30 November 2015. Telephone interview with the secretary general.

_____. 2013. Anne Bera-Dasse. Formation sur le mariage et le divorce. [Accessed 2 Dec. 2015]

_____. N.d.a. “Présentation.” [Accessed 9 Dec. 2015]

_____. N.d.b. “Objectifs et missions.” [Accessed 9 Dec. 2015]

_____. N.d.c. Cas des violences basées sur le genre sur les cliniques juridiques. Sent to the Research Directorate by the secretary general, 2 December 2015.

Côte d’Ivoire. June 2013. Ministère de la Santé et de la Lutte contre le sida et Institut national de la statistique. Enquête démographique et de santé et à indicateurs multiples (EDS-MICS) 2011-2012. [Accessed 26 Nov. 2015]

_____. 21 May 2013. Examen des rapports présentés par les États parties en application de l’article 40 du Pacte. Rapports initiaux des États parties attendus en Juin 1993 : Côte d’Ivoire. (CCPR/C/CIV/1) [Accessed 26 Nov. 2015]

_____ . 1981 (amended 1995). Code pénal. [Accessed 1 Dec. 2015]

Freedom House. 28 January 2015. “Côte d’Ivoire.” Freedom in the World 2015. [Accessed 22 Oct. 2015]

Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’homme (LIDHO). 3 December. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. 2 December 2015. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

_____. N.d. “Historique.” [Accessed 2 Dec. 2015]

Radio France internationale (RFI). 11 November 2015. “Violences faites aux femmes : L’ONU Femmes brise le silence à Abidjan.” [Accessed 26 Nov. 2015]

United Nations (UN). 28 April 2015. Human Rights Committee. Observations finales concernant le rapport initial de la Côte d’Ivoire. (CCPR/C/CIV/CO/1) [Accessed 26 Nov. 2015]

United States (US). 25 June 2015. Department of State. “Rapport 2014 sur les droits de l’homme en Côte d’Ivoire.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014. [Accessed 26 Nov. 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Afrik.com; AllAfrica; Amnesty International; Centre féminin pour la démocratie et les droits humains en Côte d'Ivoire; Coalition ivoirienne des défenseurs des droits de l’homme; Côte d’Ivoire – Commission nationale des droits de l’homme de Côte d’Ivoire, ministère de la Justice, des Droits de l’homme et des Libertés publiques, ministère de la Solidarité, de la Famille, de la Femme et de l’Enfant, Portail officiel du gouvernement de Côte d’Ivoire; Council of Europe; ecoi.net; Factiva; Hot Peach Pages; Human Rights Watch; IRIN; United Nations – UN Women, United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, Refworld, ReliefWeb; World Bank.