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Title: Madagascar Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996




                           MADAGASCAR


Madagascar's transition from the 16-year authoritarian Socialist rule of 
Didier Ratsiraka officially ended in 1993 with the fair election of 
Albert Zafy as President and the selection of Francisque Ravony as Prime 
Minister by the National Assembly.  Under the 1992 Constitution, power 
is divided between the President, the Prime Minister and his Government, 
and the National Assembly.  A number of institutions provided by the new 
Constitution, including an upper house (Senate) of the National Assembly 
had not been established by year's end.  However, communal elections, 
which are a necessary first step toward the creation of the Senate, took 
place on November 5.  Departmental and regional elections, which must 
also precede a senate election, are scheduled to take place in 1996, 
although no date had yet been set.

Relations between the President and the Prime Minister deteriorated amid 
charges of corruption and mismanagement of the economy, forcing a 
realignment of parties in the National Assembly and a national 
referendum--called by President Zafy--to amend the Constitution.  
Malagasy voters strongly supported increased presidential powers during 
the September 17 referendum, which was conducted in a free and fair 
manner.  The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers resigned in 
October, opening the way for President Zafy to name Emmanuel 
Rakotovahiny as Prime Minister, along with a new cabinet.

In August the Government increased civilian control over the military 
through the passage of a new defense law.  The law established a new 
cabinet-level policy body, the High Council of Defense, chaired by the 
President, and an Interministerial Defense Committee, chaired by the 
Prime Minister, to carry out the decisions of the High Council.  After 
allowing the forces to shrink gradually, the Government has stabilized 
the overall size of the military at about 21,000 (13,000 military, 8,000 
gendarmes).  There were occasional reports that police committed human 
rights abuses and many reports of abuses by village-level law 
enforcement groups.

The Government has established targets for improved economic management, 
reduced government expenditures, and increased revenues.  Although some 
of these targets were met, the country's overall economic performance 
was mixed.  Living standards remained extremely low, and purchasing 
power continued to erode.  Per capita gross domestic product was 
estimated at $230 for 1994.  In early 1995, inflation was progressing at 
an annual rate of 60 percent, but with stricter economic management, 
including tighter control over the money supply, the inflation rate 
declined considerably by the end of the year.  The economy remains 
highly dependent on agriculture.  Primary commodities such as shrimp, 
vanilla, and coffee did relatively well, and rice production, the major 
staple, increased over previous years.  Tourism also increased as did 
manufacturing in the export processing zones.  The smuggling of vanilla, 
gold, precious stones, and cattle continued to be a major concern as did 
the rise in criminal activity.  Unemployment and underemployment also 
remained serious problems, especially among those under 25, who comprise 
about 60 percent of the population.

The human rights situation remained the same.  There was a notable 
absence of political violence, despite demonstrations and heated 
political rivalry between supporters of the President and then Prime 
Minister Ravony.  However, there continued to be human rights abuses in 
the law enforcement and judicial systems.  There were occasional reports 
of police brutality against suspects and detainees as well as instances 
of arbitrary arrest and detention.  Prison conditions are harsh and life 
threatening, and in some prisons women may experience physical abuse, 
including rape.  The authorities took no actions to relieve the 
overburdened court system.  As a result, suspects continued to be 
incarcerated for lengthy pretrial periods, often exceeding the maximum 
penalty for the alleged offense.  A magistrates' strike over judicial 
independence exacerbated this situation.  Traditional local law 
enforcement groups ("dina") carried out their own brand of summary 
justice.  Women continued to face societal discrimination.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
      Freedom from:

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known political killings by government forces.  However, 
harsh prison conditions resulted in an unknown number of deaths (see 
Section 1.c.).  Also, to combat rising crime village-level dina 
continued to mete out justice, including summary executions (see Section 
l.e.).  In addition, citizen mobs took summary action against suspected 
thieves in Antananarivo and elsewhere, resulting in severe injury or 
death to the suspects.

The official investigation into the 1994 beating death of radio 
journalist Victor Randrianirina, allegedly for his reporting on sapphire 
smuggling in Madagascar, remained open, but the authorities made no 
arrests and issued no statements.

Similarly, despite commitments by the Government that those responsible 
for 1991-93 incidents, in which security forces  killed or injured 
unarmed civilians, would be brought to trial, there was visible progress 
in only one case.  The authorities tried in a civilian court the 14 
soldiers arrested in April 1993 for alleged involvement in politically 
motivated violence in Antsiranana; several received prison sentences of 
varying length while others were acquitted.  The Government has not 
reported on or made arrests in a case involving the deaths of more than 
30 demonstrators who were killed by then president Ratsiraka's guards at 
the Iavoloha palace on August 10, 1991.  A formal commission named in 
1994 to investigate this incident did not hold hearings during the year.  
Nor was progress made in the investigation of the March 31, 1992, 
incident in which soldiers killed six pro-Ratsiraka supporters at the 
National Forum (Constitutional Convention).

  b.  Disappearance

There were no permanent disappearances and no acknowledged cases of 
unsolved abductions or disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
    Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the person.  However, 
there were occasional reports of police or other forces mistreating 
prisoners or detainees.  There were also isolated instances of dina-
sponsored trials in which torture was used to solicit confessions from 
criminal suspects.

Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening; government officials 
acknowledge that a serious situation exists.  The diet provided is 
inadequate, and family members must provide or augment inmates' daily 
food rations.  Prisoners without relatives nearby sometimes go for days 
without food.  Each prisoner has on average less than 1 square meter of 
space.  The prison population, estimated at 22,000, suffer a wide range 
of medical problems that are not routinely treated, including 
malnutrition, infections, malaria, and tuberculosis.  These conditions 
have resulted in an unknown number of deaths.

Women in prison suffer abuses, as do the children who are sometimes 
confined with them.  Gender segregation is not absolute, and there were 
some reported cases of rape.  The Government permits prison visits by 
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), religious and 
charitable organizations, and a Malagasy legal association investigating 
abuses of pretrial detention.  As a result of the access to prisons 
afforded to the media, a photographic exhibition on prison conditions 
was held.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for due process for accused persons, but in 
practice the authorities do not always respect these rights, frequently 
failing to observe legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and 
detention.  In particular, excessive pretrial detention of the accused 
results in the denial of due process.

According to the law, a criminal suspect must be charged, bound over, or 
released within 3 days after arrest.  An arrest warrant may be obtained 
but is not always required.  According to the Penal Code, defendants in 
ordinary criminal cases have the right to be informed of the charges 
against them, must be charged formally within the specified time frame, 
and must be allowed access to an attorney.  Court appointed counsel is 
provided for indigents accused of crimes which carry a minimum 5-year 
jail sentence.

Bail may be requested by the accused or by his attorney immediately 
after arrest, after being formally charged, or during the appeal 
process, but it is rarely granted at any stage for violent crimes.

Approximately 70 percent of the estimated 22,000 prisoners were in 
pretrial detention.  Despite existing legal protections, the average 
pretrial detention time often exceeds 1 year, and 3 or 4 years of 
detention is common, even for crimes for which the maximum penalty may 
be 2 years or less.  Prisoners may wait years in prison only to be found 
not guilty.  A Catholic nongovernmental organization (NGO), the 
Aumonerie Catholique, in conjunction with a lawyers association, 
intervened on behalf of a number of detainees and won release for 36 
persons.

Although the law allows prisoners to sue the Government for damages in 
unlawful detention, it virtually never occurs.  By law, persons 
suspected of activity against the State may be detained incommunicado 
for 15 days, subject to indefinite extension if considered necessary by 
the Government; however, this provision is used infrequently.

The Government does not use forced exile as a means of political 
control.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The 1992 Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, 
implementing legislation to define the rights and responsibilities of 
the judiciary had not been passed by year's end, due in part to 
President Zafy's narrow interpretation of the degree of autonomy for the 
magistracy called for in the Constitution.  This controversy led to an 
effective nationwide magistrates strike starting in January, with the 
magistrates subsequently providing only the "minimum service" necessary 
to ensure public security.  In February the President convoked an 
extraconstitutional "National Forum," to debate legal reform.  Since the 
magistrates refused to participate, the Forum was unable to reach 
consensus, although it did press the National Assembly to vote against 
greater powers for the judiciary.  The strike continued until August.  
Meanwhile, the National Assembly reviewed draft legislation to define 
better the responsibilities and powers of the magistracy but deferred 
action until 1996.  Although no precise statistics are available, the 
magistrates' strike contributed to an increased backlog of cases in an 
already overcrowded docket.

The judiciary has three levels of courts:  lower courts for civil and 
criminal cases carrying limited fines and sentences; the Court of 
Appeals, which includes a criminal court for cases carrying sentences of 
5 years or more; and the Supreme Court.  The judiciary also has special 
courts designed to handle specific kinds of cases (e.g., cattle 
rustling) under the jurisdiction of the higher courts.  The 
Constitutional High Court is a separate and autonomous body which 
reviews laws, decrees, and ordinances, and certifies election results.

In the absence of reform, the judiciary remained under the aegis of the 
Ministry of Justice.  The lack of internal controls and relatively low 
salaries for magistrates encourage corruption, although the Government 
began to address the problem by revising outdated and unevenly 
apportioned housing allowances.  Trials are public, and defendants have 
the right to an attorney, to be present at the trial, to confront 
witnesses, and to present evidence.  Defendants enjoy a presumption of 
innocence under the Penal Code.

The right of traditional institutions at the village level to take 
measures to protect property and public order is specified in the 1992 
Constitution, as well as in earlier laws.  The traditional dina handle 
civil matters within and between villages and also operate in some urban 
areas.  In practice, the dina are increasingly being used in criminal 
cases because of rising crime, the physical isolation of many rural 
areas, and practical inadequacies of the formal police and judicial 
systems.  The Government began an effort in late 1995 to combat crime 
and insecurity in isolated rural regions by reinforcing the law 
enforcement role of the army and the gendarmerie.

Dina punishments can be severe, in some cases including capital 
punishment.  A study being prepared by a Malagasy Lawyers Association 
for publication in 1996 found more than a dozen instances of execution 
following dina trials, usually for cattle theft.

In November 1994, the National Assembly formally recognized the role of 
the dina in reducing crime and insecurity; it passed legislation giving 
dina verdicts the same weight as judgments handed down by lower courts 
and increasing fines and prison sentences to those refusing to abide by 
dina decisions.  However, this legislation remained under review by the 
Constitutional Court at year's end and had not yet entered into force.  
Decisions by dina are not subject to codified due-process protections, 
but, in some instances, they can be challenged at the appeals court 
level.  Some cases have also been referred to the attention of the 
Office of the Mediator (ombudsman), which investigates and may seek 
redress from formal judicial authorities.

Military courts have some jurisdiction over cases involving national 
security, such as acts constituting a threat to the nation and its 
political leaders, invasion by foreign forces, and riots that could lead 
to overthrow of the Government.  Military courts, like civilian courts, 
provide for a process to reexamine interpretations of the law rather 
than the facts of the case.  They are presided over by a civilian 
magistrate who is joined on the bench by military officers. 

There were no reports of political prisoners.  However, there are 
approximately 25 self-proclaimed political prisoners, all civilians, who 
were convicted for their roles in the politically motivated violence in 
Antsiranana in late 1992 and early 1993. 

  f.  Arbitrary interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
    Correspondence

The home is inviolable by tradition and law, and the State does not 
intervene in the private lives of the people.  The law requires 
judicially issued warrants to search houses, but there were reportedly 
some instances of search without proper warrants.  One newsmagazine 
reported that the Government had increased the monitoring of mail and 
correspondence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, communication, and 
press and forbids press censorship.  The Government generally respected 
these provisions in practice.  People generally spoke freely, and debate 
in the National Assembly was open and lively.  The print media openly 
criticized both the Government and the opposition.  Opposition groups, 
trade unions, professional associations, and private citizens have 
regular access to the press.

Some journalists, however, although in decreasing numbers, continue to 
practice self-censorship fearing reprisals from the Government or others 
for aggressive investigative reporting.  Journalists rarely cite the 
names of sources, in part because Malagasy culture aspires to be 
nonconfrontational, and in part because journalists do not believe they 
can count on effective backing by their editors and publishers in case 
of a lawsuit.  There is also a persistent reluctance by government 
officials and others to share information with the press.

State-owned radio and television are the most important means of 
reaching the public and continued to feature discussion programs and 
debates on topics of public policy, although it rarely included 
editorial comment.  Malagasy television broadcasts network news from 
France via satellite each evening.  There is one private television 
station in the capital, and licenses have been granted for two others.  
English and French language television stations are available via cable 
in the capital or satellite dish throughout the country.  Along with 
state radio, there are seven private radio stations in the capital area 
and a number of others in provincial cities which cover political 
subjects and are sometimes critical of the Government.

Although a law dating from the previous Republic requires Ministry of 
Interior approval for films and videotapes shown in public, in practice 
this regulation is rarely enforced.

There were no reports of threats to academic freedom.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these freedoms, but there are some legal 
restrictions.  Municipal permits, usually granted, are required before 
holding public meetings but may be denied if government officials 
believe that the meeting poses a threat to the State, endangers national 
security, or significantly encumbers public thoroughfares.  Officially 
established security zones are off-limits to demonstrators.  The 
proliferation of political and nongovernmental organizations continued 
and is indicative of recent relaxations on free association rights.  
There are more than 60 political parties and some 900 NGO's.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.  Missionaries and clergy are permitted 
to operate freely.

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
    Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement, and the Government 
places no formal restrictions on travel within or outside the country.  
However, domestic security concerns do effectively restrict travel in 
some places, especially at night.  Malagasy and foreign residents 
require exit visas issued by the Ministry of Interior, but these visas 
are almost never refused unless the person is involved in legal 
proceedings.

The Government generally cooperates closely with the United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees in processing a small number of refugees or 
asylum seekers.  However, the Government has failed to resolve the 
status of approximately 127 Ethiopian asylum seekers, who have been in 
Madagascar for several years.  There are several refugees from Zaire and 
Sudan.  There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a 
valid claim to refugee status.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

Citizens have this right.  In 1993 Madagascar concluded more than 2 
years of political transition which were initiated by largely peaceful 
mass demonstrations against the previous regime of Didier Ratsiraka in 
1991.  Albert Zafy was elected to a 5-year term in 1992, and 138 members 
of the National Assembly were chosen for 4-year terms in 1993 in 
generally free and fair elections, by direct universal suffrage and 
secret ballot.

Under the Constitution, the President has primary responsibility for 
national defense and foreign policy while the Prime Minister is Head of 
Government and has primary responsibility for domestic policy.  During 
the year political tensions between the President and the Prime Minister 
continued; in July the President's supporters again brought 
unsuccessfully a motion of censure against the Prime Minister in the 
National Assembly, which, if the motion had passed, would have required 
him to resign.  In turn, some National Assembly supporters of the Prime 
Minister threatened, but did not carry out, impeachment proceedings 
against the President.

As a result of this political dispute, the President called a national 
referendum for September 17, to empower him to name the Prime Minister 
and the Council of Ministers directly.  The President's proposal won 62 
percent of the vote, although there was a high rate of abstention.  
Prime Minister Ravony resigned in October after the official results 
were published.  President Zafy selected Emmanuel Rakotovahiny from 
among candidates proposed by each bloc in the National Assembly and 
subsequently approved the new Council of Ministers named by the new 
Prime Minister.

The Constitution calls for the Prime Minister to be appointed every 4 
years when a new National Assembly is elected, or upon vacancy.  The 
Constitution gives the President, acting in conjunction with the Council 
of Ministers, the right to dissolve the National Assembly if there have 
been two governmental crises in the previous 18 months.  The High 
Constitutional Court must rule on what constitutes a crisis.  The Prime 
Minister is required to submit his resignation (as must the Cabinet) if 
a motion of censure is passed by a two-thirds majority of the National 
Assembly.

The creation of the Senate moved forward with the holding of communal 
elections on November 5.  Departmental and regional elections, which 
must also precede a senate election, are scheduled to take place in 
1996, although no date had been set by year's end.

There are no legal restrictions against women participating in politics, 
but in practice men dominate the political process.  Only one 
ministerial position was held by a woman in the second and third Ravony 
cabinets, and women hold only 6 percent of the legislative seats.  
However, in the judiciary women have significantly higher 
representation.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
      Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
      of Human Rights

By law, human rights groups are considered to be political groups and 
must register with the Government.  Some nongovernmental human rights 
groups exist and are increasingly active, for example in such issues as 
defending press freedoms.  They have been joined by civic education 
organizations that have much the same agenda.

The Constitution provides for the establishment of an independent 
organization charged with promoting and protecting human rights.  In 
1994 the National Assembly designated the Office of the Mediator 
(ombudsman) to assume that constitutional role.  This action reversed an 
earlier decision by the Ravony government to abolish the mediator on the 
grounds that it was redundant given the President's constitutional role 
as the public arbiter in matters of government administration.  The 
power of the Office of the Mediator rests on moral suasion.  The Office 
of the Mediator published annual reports in 1994 and 1995 on its 
activities and has produced and distributed a brochure to inform the 
public of its role.

While slow to carry out investigations of major cases of violence, 
notably the August 1991 killings at Iavoloha palace, the Government did 
not penalize or repress anyone for criticizing its human rights record 
(see Section l.a.).

The Government is open to visits by international human rights groups 
and to the presence of domestic and international election observers, 
although no foreign groups applied to observe the referendum.  United 
Nations organizations, including the International Labor Organization 
(ILO), operated freely and extensively in Madagascar.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
      Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination and groups that 
advocate ethnic or religious segregation.  However, there are no 
specific government programs to enforce antidiscrimination provisions.

  Women

According to various sources, including magistrates, journalists, and 
women doctors, violence against women is not widespread.  In the rare 
cases where physical abuse is detected, police and legal authorities do 
intervene, although there is no law dealing specifically with violence 
against women, except in cases of rape.  Spouses can be tried for 
nonrape abuses, generally under civil law.  Some women prisoners have 
been victims of rape.

Despite constitutional prohibitions, there is societal discrimination 
against women, although less so in urban areas where women have an 
important, if secondary, role in the business and economic life of the 
country, with many of them managing or owning businesses or filling 
management positions in state industries.  However, women in rural areas 
face greater hardship, bearing the responsibilities of raising a family 
while also engaging in farm labor or other subsistence activities.

Under a 1990 conjugal law, wives have an equal say in choosing where a 
married couple will reside, and they receive generally equitable 
distribution of marital property in instances of divorce.  Widows 
inherit one-half of joint marital wealth.  In practice, some parts of 
the island still observe a tradition known as "the customary third" 
whereby the wife has a right to only a third of a couple's joint 
holdings.  However, a widow receives a pension, and a widower does not.

  Children

While official expenditures on children's welfare are low, the 
Government has decided to maintain spending by the Ministries of Health 
and Education at current levels despite an overall climate of increasing 
budget austerity.  These levels are insufficient, however, to halt the 
decline of public services in the high-inflation environment.  There is 
no pattern of official or societal abuse against children.

  People With Disabilities

Physically disabled people are not subject to discrimination in 
education and in the provision of other state services, but neither are 
they the beneficiaries of special enabling or protecting legislation.  
The Government has not enacted legislation or otherwise provided for 
accessibility to buildings and transportation for the disabled.

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Madagascar is inhabited by over 12 million people.  The Malagasy are of 
mixed Malayo-Polynesian and African origins and are made up of 18 
distinct groups based on regional and ancestral affiliation.  Although 
there are some linguistic differences among them, nearly all speak 
Malagasy, which is of Malayo-Polynesian origin.  None of these groups 
constitutes a majority of the population.

Long-term historical processes of military conquest, ethnic domination, 
and political consolidation, however, have traditionally raised the 
political and economic status of highland ethnic groups of Asian origin 
over that of coastal groups of more African descent.  The centralized 
planned economy of the previous regime reinforced the concentration of 
economic and political power in the highland, capital area.  This 
policies have contributed to ethnic tensions between the two groups.  
Ethnic or regional solidarity may also be a determining factor in hiring 
practices.

An Indo-Pakistani community of about 20,000, primarily engaged in 
commerce, has been in Madagascar since the early part of this century.  
Few, however, have been able to obtain Malagasy citizenship, since it is 
customarily bestowed matrilineally through native Malagasy women.  The 
Indo-Pakistanis are frequent targets of mistrust and criticism, and 
their shops have often been targets of violent attack during civil 
disturbances.  There were several reported instances of wealthy Indo-
Pakistani businessmen or their family members being kidnapped and held 
for ransom.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

Citizens in both the public and private sectors have the right by law 
(the 1995 Labor Code--passed by the National Assembly in 1994, approved 
by the High Constitutional Court in 1995--and the 1992 Constitution) and 
in practice to establish and join labor unions of their own choosing 
without prior authorization.  However, essential service workers, 
including police and military, may not form unions.  Unions are required 
to register with the Government, and registration is routinely granted.  
About 80 percent of the labor force of 5 million is agrarian.  Unionized 
labor accounts for only about 5 percent of wage labor.

There are a number of trade union federations, and many are affiliated 
with political parties.  In practice, however, formal public and private 
sector unions have not played a major role politically or economically 
in recent years.  The Government exercised very limited control over 
organized labor.

The new 1995 Labor Code and the new Constitution provide for the right 
to strike, including in export processing ("free trade") zones.  Those 
groups providing essential services--police, fire fighters, hospital 
workers--have only a limited right to strike.  Labor unions fear that 
the 1995 Code could have the practical effect of discouraging strikes 
due to the mandatory requirement to first exhaust conciliation, 
mediation, and arbitration procedures.  However, the new law was not 
used in 1995 as a significant deterrent to legally called strikes.

In addition to the magistrates' strike (see Section 1.e.), there were 
strikes by the employees of the Ministry of Higher Education, two banks, 
an insurance company, and several state-owned organizations, and by 
university professors.  There were also brief work stoppages (usually 
not exceeding 2 days) in several ministries, by staff members in the 
National Assembly, and in hospitals in the capital and elsewhere.  For 
example, there was a work stoppage and blockade in the central market 
area of the capital in response to police efforts to enforce licensing 
and sanitary laws.  Laws and regulations prohibit retribution against 
strikers who adhere to legal procedures governing strikes.  In 1995 a 
court ruled in favor of employees of one firm who alleged that they had 
been discharged in retribution for a legal strike.

Unions may and do freely affiliate with and participate in international 
bodies and may form federations or confederations.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Both the Labor Code and the Constitution provide for the right to 
bargain collectively.  The Code states that collective bargaining may be 
undertaken between management and labor at either party's behest.  
Collective bargaining agreements exist but are not common, and the 
Government is often involved in the bargaining process, in part because 
of the large number of unionized employees in the public sector.  The 
minimum wage is set by the Government.  Other wages are set by employers 
with individual employees, sometimes below the minimum wage.  When there 
is a failure to reach agreement, the Ministry of Labor convenes a 
committee of employment inspectors who attempt to resolve the matter.  
If this process fails, the committee refers the matter to the chairman 
of the Court of Appeals for final arbitration.  No such cases reached 
the Court of Appeals in 1995.

The Labor Code prohibits discrimination by employers against organizers, 
union members, and unions.  In the case of antiunion activity, the union 
or its members may file a petition in civil court challenging the 
employer.  Labor laws apply uniformly throughout the country, including 
in free trade zones.  However, the Government has difficulty enforcing 
labor laws and regulations due to lack of basic resources.  Ministry of 
Labor inspectors, who number only 27, visit industrial work sites with 
some regularity but mostly in the capital region.

There are several export processing zones (EPZ's).  Firms in the EPZ's 
are required to follow all existing labor laws, including minimum wage 
laws, for their industry.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is explicitly prohibited by the Labor Code and is not 
practiced.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code describes a child as any person under the age of 18.  The 
legal minimum age for employment is 14 years, and the use of child labor 
is prohibited at sites where there is apparent and imminent danger.  The 
Government tries to enforce these child labor laws in the small formal 
employment sector through inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and 
Social Security.  However, in the large subsistence sector, many young 
children work with their parents on family farms at much earlier ages.  
Similarly, in the urban areas many children earn money by hawking 
parking spaces, newspapers or other wares, and by carrying water and 
begging.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code and its implementing legislation prescribe the working 
conditions and wage scales for employees, which are enforced by the 
Ministry of Labor and Social Security.  The law distinguishes between 
agricultural and nonagricultural work.

There are several administratively determined minimum wage rates in 
Madagascar, depending upon skill levels, starting at $25 (110,550 
Malagasy francs) a month for unskilled workers.  This wage is inadequate 
to ensure a decent standard of living for a worker and family, and 
workers must supplement their incomes through subsistence agriculture, 
petty trade, or reliance on the extended family structure.  Given 
insufficient enforcement measures, official wage rates are sometimes 
ignored as high unemployment and extreme poverty lead workers to accept 
salaries below the legal minimum.

There is a 40-hour workweek in nonagricultural and service industries 
and a 42 1/2-hour workweek in agricultural industries.  There are also 
provisions for holiday pay, sick and maternity leave, and insurance.

The Labor Code sets rules and standards concerning building and work 
safety, machinery, weight-lifting limits, and sanitation.  Ministry of 
Civil Service, Administrative Reform and Labor inspectors visit 
industrial work sites and report on violations of labor code rules.  
However, they are usually prevented from traveling regularly beyond the 
capital region by insufficient resources.  If cited violations are not 
remedied within the time allowed, the violators may be legally charged 
and subject to penalties.  Nevertheless, in some sectors safety measures 
are lacking due to the expense of even minimal protective clothing and 
other personal security apparatus.  To date, there have been no 
published reports on occupational health hazards and accidents, although 
there is clear evidence that these hazards exist.

There is no explicit right allowing workers to remove themselves from 
dangerous work without jeopardizing their continued employment.  The ILO 
has cited the Government within the past year for failure to observe ILO 
conventions and standards governing workplace safety and weight limits.

(###)

[end of document]

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