Niger - Social development

The National Social Security Fund provides pensions, family allowances, sickness and maternity benefits, and workers' compensation for employees in the private sector. These programs are financed by a 1.6% contribution from employees, and 2.4% contribution of payroll from employers. Retirement is set at ages 58–60. Civil servants participate in a national provident fund and also receive family allowances from the national government budget. These programs apply only to the minority of citizens who are formally employed, and subsistence farmers are excluded.

The government sponsors an office of women's affairs and a women's association, but that does little to improve the status of women, who are denied educational and employment opportunities. Women face both legal and social discrimination. Men are recognized as the legal head of household, and in cases of divorce, the husband receives custody of all children under eight years of age. Among the Hausa and Fulani peoples, women are largely cloistered and leave the home only if accompanied by a male. According to Islamic family code, men have preferential inheritance and property rights. Domestic abuse is common and women do not seek redress due to ignorance of the legal system and social stigmatization.

Female children suffer from limited access to education. Marriages at an early age are common, and young girls may be sent to live with her husband's family from the age of ten. Female genital mutilation, a practice which is both painful and potentially life threatening, is practiced by some ethnic groups.

Prison conditions are poor and facilities are overcrowded. Civil and political rights were suppressed after the coup in 1996, and excesses by security forces included the assassination of the head of state. International human rights organizations are permitted to visit facilities.

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