Amnesty International Report 2016/17 - The State of the World's Human Rights - Madagascar

Poverty was widespread, with extensive malnutrition and deteriorating primary health care. Children’s rights were routinely flouted. Human rights violations by police were committed with impunity and corrupt officials were involved in trafficking activities. Discrimination against women in law and practice continued. The right to freedom of expression was restricted. Prison conditions remained dire.

Background

Madagascar struggled to overcome the instability resulting from its five-year political crisis. In April, following weeks of political conflict, Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana replaced Jean Ravelonarivo as Prime Minister.

Extreme levels of poverty were widespread, with approximately 91% of the population living on less than US$2 per day. A drought in the south aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation. According to UN agencies, 1.2 million people (around 80% of the population) living in the south were food insecure, of whom 600,000 were severely food insecure.

Right to health

Neonatal and maternal mortality remained very high, and the deterioration of the primary health care system was a major barrier to accessing even basic health services. Limited access to clean water and poor sanitation and hygiene practices were of particular concern, particularly given the level of chronic malnutrition.

Children’s rights

In Madagascar, 47% of all children suffer from stunting, and nearly 10% from acute malnutrition.

As families sought to cope with the impact of the drought, there were reports of alarming increases in economic exploitation, with children working in mines and leading cattle, and instances of sexual exploitation and child marriage. Drop out rates in primary schools reached 40% in some communities, according to UNICEF.

Child sex trafficking continued, often with the involvement of family members, and was most prevalent in tourist destinations and near mining sites.

Impunity

The government failed to ensure respect for the rule of law, allowing human rights violations to be committed with impunity. Deadly clashes involving police, villagers and armed cattle rustlers (dahalos) continued in the southern region, leading to civilian casualties.

Civil society organizations denounced the lack of free and fair access to justice, the corruption of government officials, and their involvement in trafficking activities.

Madagascar continued to be a source country for forced labour and sex trafficking. Despite recent efforts, the government failed to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute suspected traffickers, including complicit officials.

Women’s rights

The Nationality Law denied women the right to transmit nationality to their children on an equal basis with men, resulting in a large number of stateless persons.

The predominance of customary laws favoured harmful traditional practices including arranged, forced and early marriages. Women and girls continued to suffer sexual or other physical violence, but reporting rates were low and prosecutions rare. Efforts to prevent gender-based violence and to provide care and treatment for victims remained inadequate.

Freedom of expression

After months of protest from journalists and international media organizations, in August the High Constitutional Court approved a draft law on a new Code of Media Communication. The contentious Code punished with heavy fines offences such as contempt, defamation or insult against a government official.

Environmental activists reported threats and harassment for publicizing issues such as trafficking in rosewood and endangered species. They denounced a lack of protection by the government.

Prison conditions

Prison conditions continued to be dire, with severe overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure. Almost half of all prisoners suffered moderate to severe malnutrition.

About half of prison inmates had not yet been tried, with pre-trial detention often exceeding the maximum potential sentence.