A social insurance program provides benefits to all employed persons. Old-age pensions are payable at age 55 (men) or 50 (women). Disability pensions come to 30% of average monthly earnings. There is also a survivor pension available for those who are pensioners at death or meet other qualifications. Other payments include prenatal allowances, a lump sum payable at the birth of each of the first three children, and if the mother is employed, a recuperation allowance for 14 weeks. The government's commitment to social welfare and health was neglected in the 1990s because of a lack of funds. The majority of the population work in the agricultural sector and therefore are not covered by these programs.
The constitution mandates that all persons are equal, although in practice women face widespread discrimination. Single, widowed, and divorced women are not considered to be heads of household. In 1998, a new family code that strengthened women's rights was enacted by the National Assembly. Polygyny remains legal and is widely practiced. A 1996 decree banned female genital mutilation, which is practiced in some rural areas. Spousal abuse and violence is a widespread problem.
The government's human rights record remains poor. Indigenous pygmies face discrimination despite constitutional provisions. Freedom of speech and press are restricted. Arbitrary arrests and detention are common, police beat and torture detainees, and prison conditions are harsh.