Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from one’s parents. Birth registration, especially in remote rural areas and in nomadic communities, did not take place promptly due to parental poverty, lack of awareness, and distance from government services. With the support of UNICEF, the government worked to address this problem, and several NGOs encouraged birth registration. The government’s failure to register births did not result in denial of public services, although it complicated the process of qualifying as a candidate for public office. According to UNICEF, 32 percent of children less than five years old had their births registered in 2011, with significantly higher numbers in urban areas.
Education: Six years of elementary education are compulsory, tuition-free, and universal from the age of six, but only 63 percent of these children attended school during the 2007-08 school year. Students often had to buy their own books and supplies. According to the National Institute of Statistics, in 2012 the primary school completion rate for children in school was 71 percent for girls and 88 percent for boys. Many parents kept young girls at home to work, and girls rarely attended school for more than a few years. During the year the government promulgated no laws to fulfill President Issoufou’s pledge in 2011 to provide tuition-free education to children until the age of 16.
Child Abuse: Violence against and abuse of children was common. The law prescribes penalties for child abuse. For example, parents of minors who usually engage in begging, or any person who encourages children to beg or profits from their begging, can be sentenced to six months to one year of imprisonment. The abduction of a minor under 18 years of age is punishable by two to 10 years’ imprisonment. The penalty for abduction for ransom is life imprisonment.
In June authorities in Tillabery referred to the Niamey Court of Appeals two cases of rape of young girls (ages nine and 13). The defendants were in prison at year’s end pending trial. Local NGOs provided assistance to the girls, who continued their education in community schools.
Each of the 10 district courts and 36 magistrate courts had at least one judge who addressed children’s issues, including child labor. All judicial police sections at the regional and district levels may handle cases involving juveniles and refer them to judges. The government also collaborated with UNICEF and the International Labor Organization (ILO) on programs designed to improve enforcement of the law and to sensitize civil servants, parents, traditional chiefs, and other key actors to children’s rights.
Forced and Early Marriage: Child marriage was a problem, especially in rural areas. Prevalence was highest in the south, in the Diffa, Zinder, Maradi, and Tahoua regions. The law allows a girl deemed to be “sufficiently mature” to marry at 15. Some families entered into marriage agreements under which rural girls 12 or even younger were sent to their husband’s families under the “supervision” of their mothers-in-law. The Ministry of Population, Women’s Promotion, and Children’s Protection cooperated with women’s associations to sensitize traditional chiefs and religious leaders of rural communities to the problem of underage marriage. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) was working at the community level with the Association of Traditional Chiefs to raise awareness of the problem, including the risk of maternal death and disability. According to UNICEF, 36 percent of women 20-24 years old were first married or in union before they were 15 years old, and 75 percent were married or in union before they were 18 years old. According to the UNFPA, the adolescent birth rate in 2011 was 199 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19.
In Tillabery twin 13-year-old sisters were married to the same man in exchange for payment to the girls’ father of 150,000 CFA francs ($309).
Harmful Traditional Practices: FGM/C was practiced on young girls, with clitoridectomy the most common form. Dangouria, a form of FGM/C found only in Niger, was also common. It consists of cutting away the hymen of newborn girls by traditional barbers known as wanzam. FGM/C is against the law and punishable by six months to three years in prison. If an FGM/C victim dies, the practitioner can be sentenced to 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. Certain ethnic groups practiced FGM/C, predominantly the Peuhl and Djerma in the west. According to UNICEF, the FGM/C rate nationwide decreased from 5 percent in 1998 to 2.2 percent in 2006. Among girls ages 15-19, the rate decreased to 1.9 percent. A 2008 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report stated that “excisers” traveled from Burkina Faso to Niger to carry out FGM/C on nomadic Gourmantche girls as part of a rising trend of cross-border FGM/C.
On May 15, the local councils of 20 villages in Makalondi, Tillabery Region (where FGM/C was perpetrated on 65 percent of young girls), declared in a public gathering in the presence of the president’s wife, government ministers, and representatives of international and local NGOs that they had abandoned the practice of excision. On November 8, in a widely attended event, the president’s wife chaired the premiere of a film on FGM/C by Fati Mariko, an artist who was a victim of FGM/C when she was seven years old. The film, which shows the atrocity of excision, is an advocacy tool for combating the practice. Mariko and her sponsor, Animas-Sutura, a local NGO, were undertaking a campaign in schools and villages in which victims spoke about their experiences and raised awareness of the harm caused by FGM/C. The government collaborated with local NGOs, community leaders, UNICEF, and other donors to distribute educational materials at health centers and to participate in educational events.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Although the law criminalizes the procurement of a minor for the purpose of prostitution, child prostitution was a problem. The penal code provides for two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($103-$1,030) for the prostitution of children. The law does not define a minimum age for consensual sex, although it prohibits “indecent” acts toward minors under age 18. It leaves to judges to determine what constituted an indecent act. Such activity and a related statute against “the incitement of minors to wrongdoing” are punishable by three to five years in prison. This provision also applies to child pornography. There were reports that girls in particular were trafficked for forced prostitution along the main East-West highway, particularly between the cities of Birni n’Konni and Zinder along the border with Nigeria. Families of victims were often complicit in child prostitution.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Infanticide occurred, and a sizeable proportion of the female prison population was incarcerated for this crime, which was often committed to hide the fact of having become pregnant out of wedlock.
Displaced Children: Many displaced boys from rural areas were indentured to Islamic schools and begged on the streets of larger cities. Displaced children had access to government services.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.