Social services were introduced by the French in 1950. Social centers concern themselves with child care, hygiene, and juvenile delinquency and maintain kindergartens, orphanages, and classes in domestic sciences. There are no welfare services covering the whole population. However, the law provides an employees' old age, disability, and survivors' pension plan, financed by employee and employer contributions. Benefits are also paid for occupational diseases and accidents. The Public Health Service ostensibly provides free medical, surgical, and pharmaceutical services to those unable to pay. Since 1 July 1956, various schemes of family allowances and prenatal and maternity allowances were instituted for wage earners. The current law, passed in 1967, provides 14 weeks of paid maternity leave at full pay but no other medical benefits. There is a work injury insurance program covering all employed persons which provides cash benefits and medical care as well. Covered employees with children under the age of 14 receive a family allowance. Family assistance is a part of the traditional social system.
Although the constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, under powerful customary laws, women do not have the same rights as men. Inheritance practices are dictated by tradition and custom, which favor male heirs. Custody of children after a divorce is determined by the husband's wishes, and spousal abuse is not accepted as grounds for divorce. Domestic violence is common and polygyny remains legal.
There are over 200 different ethnic groups in Cameroon, and instances of ethnic favoritism are widespread. There are serious human rights abuses, including political and extrajudicial murders. Arbitrary detention and physical abuse of detainees is common. Although the press is independent and criticizes the government, the authorities seek to intimidate journalists. The government has also failed to cooperate with nongovernmental organizations monitoring human rights.