Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
- 1 U.S. Department of State 2013
- 1.1 Afghanistan
- 1.2 Albania
- 1.3 Algeria
- 1.4 Argentina
- 1.5 Australia
- 1.6 Austria
- 1.7 Bangladesh
- 1.8 Belgium
- 1.9 Brazil
- 1.10 Bulgaria
- 1.11 Burma
- 1.12 Cambodia
- 1.13 Canada
- 1.14 Chile
- 1.15 China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)
- 1.16 Colombia
- 1.17 Congo, Democratic Republic of the
- 1.18 Costa Rica
- 1.19 Denmark
- 1.20 Dominican Republic
- 1.21 Ecuador
- 1.22 El Salvador
- 1.23 Fiji
- 1.24 France
- 1.25 Germany
- 1.26 Greece
- 1.27 Guatemala
- 1.28 Hungary
- 1.29 India
- 1.30 Indonesia
- 1.31 Iran
- 1.32 Iraq
- 1.33 Japan
- 1.34 Jordan
- 1.35 Kenya
- 1.36 Lebanon
- 1.37 Lithuania
- 1.38 Malaysia
- 1.39 Mexico
- 1.40 Morocco
- 1.41 New Zealand
- 1.42 Pakistan
- 1.43 Panama
- 1.44 Paraguay
- 1.45 Peru
- 1.46 Philippines
- 1.47 Poland
- 1.48 Romania
- 1.49 Russia
- 1.50 Rwanda
- 1.51 Singapore
- 1.52 South Africa
- 1.53 Spain
- 1.54 Sri Lanka
- 1.55 Sudan
- 1.56 Syria
- 1.57 Taiwan
- 1.58 Trinidad and Tobago
- 1.59 Tunisia
- 1.60 Turkey
- 1.61 Uganda
- 1.62 Ukraine
- 1.63 United Kingdom
- 1.64 Uruguay
- 1.65 Uzbekistan
- 1.66 Venezuela
- 1.67 Vietnam
- 1.68 Zimbabwe
U.S. Department of State 2013
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
While the constitution prohibits discrimination among citizens and provides for the equal rights of men and women, local customs and practices that discriminated against women prevailed in much of the country. The constitution does not explicitly address equal rights based on race, disability, language, or social status. There were reports of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, and gender.
Although the situation of women marginally improved during the year, domestic and international gender experts considered the country very dangerous for women, and women routinely expressed concern that social, political, and economic gains would be lost in the post-2014 transition.
Pursuant to the constitution, the 2009 Shia Personal Status Law governs family and marital issues for the approximately 19 percent of the population who are Shia. Although the law officially recognizes the Shia minority, the law does not adequately protect gender equality. Articles in the law of particular concern continued to be those on minimum age of marriage, polygyny, right of inheritance, right of self-determination, freedom of movement, sexual obligations, and guardianship.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The 2009 EVAW law, which was put into effect by presidential decree, criminalizes violence against women, including rape, battery, or beating; child and forced marriage; humiliation; intimidation; and the refusal of food. The law punishes rape with 16 to 20 years in prison. If the act results in the death of the victim, the law provides for the death sentence for the perpetrator. The law punishes the “violation of chastity of a woman…that does not result in adultery (such as touching)” with imprisonment of up to seven years. Under the law rape does not include spousal rape. The law was not widely understood, and some in the public and the religious communities deemed the law un-Islamic.
In May a female parliamentarian presented the law to parliament seeking additional reaffirmation of women’s rights even although this was not technically necessary. This inadvertently led to the conservative male majority arguing against the law by saying the protections for women were un-Islamic. The speaker prevented the law from being overturned or amended and weakened by promptly ending debate and proposing that it be reviewed by a parliamentary committee, where it remained at year’s end. The AIHRC, justice implementers, and civil society continued to make efforts to increase awareness of the law, despite the controversy. There was limited political will to implement the law, however, and authorities continued to fail to enforce it properly and successfully.
According to a survey by the Asia Foundation, fewer than one in five respondents said that an organization, institution, or authority existed in their area where women could go to have their problems resolved, while more than three-quarters said that there was no such organization in their area. Women who sought assistance under the EVAW law in case of rape often were subjected to virginity tests and in some instances had their cases converted into adultery cases. Interpretations of sharia also impeded successful prosecution of rape cases. Some female leaders believed that revisions and improvements to the EVAW law were needed, while others were primarily focused on implementation and enforcement.
As of August 1, there were 1,084 complaints registered with Violence against Women (VAW) prosecution units for crimes under the EVAW law, indicating a significant increase during the year compared with the approximately 1,500 cases registered in 2012. Provincial directorates of women’s affairs and civil society activists indicated that this also reflected increased awareness of women’s rights, which resulted in more complaints being reported. The vast majority of complaints brought under the EVAW law were resolved through family mediation. Government entities, such as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) and law enforcement officials, referred a small number of cases, but civil society referred most of them.
Prosecutors and judges in some remote provinces were unaware of the EVAW law, and others were subject to community pressure to release defendants due to familial loyalties, threat of harm, or bribes. Reports indicated that men accused of rape often claimed the victim agreed to consensual sex, leading to adultery charges against the victim, or made false claims of marriage to the victim. The Ministry of Interior’s Anticrime Police reported 397 cases of violence against women in 2012. The AIHRC and VAW unit reports indicated that registered incidents of violence against women continued to increase during the year. Statistics on convictions were unavailable by year’s end. Rapes were difficult to document due to social stigma. Male victims seldom came forward due to fear of retribution or additional exploitation by authorities, but peer sexual abuse was common. Female victims faced stringent societal reprisal, from being deemed unfit for marriage to being imprisoned or a victim of extrajudicial killing.
In 2009, 16-year-old Gulnaz was raped by her cousin’s husband and convicted and sentenced to a 12-year sentence for the crime of “adultery by force” because she refused to marry him. In December 2011 President Karzai pardoned Gulnaz following international criticism and lobbying by human rights groups after she served two-and-a-half years of her sentence. Gulnaz went to a women’s shelter, where the law required her and her child to remain until she went to the home of a male family member. Her family refused to accept her, and in February, after 13 months in the shelter, Gulnaz bowed to social and family pressure and married her rapist.
In December 2011 police rescued a 15-year-old girl in Baghlan Province after they found her locked in a basement bathroom, having had her fingernails pulled out and being forced into prostitution by her 30-year-old husband and in-laws. The husband escaped arrest, but a court sentenced her mother-in-law and sister-in-law to 10 year’s imprisonment in May 2012. In March the Supreme Court overturned the three convictions in the case, remanding the cases to the Kabul Appellate Court for reconsideration. The Kabul Appellate Court ordered that all three defendants be released from prison. The mother-in-law and father-in-law remained incarcerated while the Supreme Court reviewed that decision.
The penal code criminalizes assault, and courts entered judgments against domestic abusers under this provision. According to NGO reports, hundreds of thousands of women continued to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, armed individuals, parallel legal systems, and institutions of state, such as the police and justice systems. According to an AIHRC report on rape and honor killing, murders, assaults, and sexual violence against women commonly involved family members as suspects.
Police response to domestic violence was limited, in part due to low reporting, sympathetic attitudes toward perpetrators, and limited protection for victims. There were reports of government officials’ complicity in violations of the EVAW law. The AIHRC reported that 14.6 percent of honor killings and sexual assaults were committed by police. In January a teenage girl seeking safe haven with a local Department of Women’s Affairs allegedly was raped by six department guards while waiting to be transferred to a shelter. Some police and judicial officials were not aware or convinced that rape was a serious criminal offense, and investigating a rape case was generally not a priority. Even in instances when justice officials took rape seriously, some cases reportedly did not proceed due to bribery, family or tribal pressure, or other interference during the process. The AIHRC’s report on rape and honor killing asserted that only 64 percent of cases referred to the justice sector were prosecuted or adjudicated correctly. The AIHRC and NGOs, however, confirmed that a majority of cases went unreported due to societal acceptance of the practice.
According to the AIHRC, between March and June there were more than 2,500 cases of violence against women reported. The AIHRC registered more than 280 women who had been killed by family members during 2011 and 2012 but asserted that most cases probably went unreported. The AIHRC also expressed concern that traditional and cultural violence, such as child and forced marriage, the practice of exchanging women to settle disputes (baadh), forced isolation, and honor killings, continued and appeared to be on the rise.
Most women did not seek legal assistance for domestic or sexual abuse because they did not know their rights or because they feared prosecution or return to their family or the perpetrator. Women sometimes turned to shelters for assistance and sometimes practiced self-immolation, and MOWA reported that cases of suicide as a result of domestic violence continued. NGOs that ran women’s shelters in Kabul reported an increase in referrals from police, likely reflecting improved ANP training and awareness. Women’s access to shelters also increased due to international efforts to open new shelters and expand to more remote provinces. Space at the 29 formal and informal shelters across the country, however, was insufficient. Women who could not be reunited with their families were compelled to remain in shelters indefinitely because “unaccompanied” women were not commonly accepted in society. The difficulty of finding durable solutions for women compelled to stay in shelters was compounded by societal attitudes toward shelters, the belief that “running away from home” is a serious violation of social mores, and the continued victimization of women who were raped but perceived by society as adulterers.
Women in need of shelter but who could not find it often ended up in prison, either due to a lack of shelter alternatives, for their own protection, or based on local interpretation of “running away” as a moral crime. Adultery, fornication, and kidnapping are crimes under the law. Women often were convicted of those crimes in situations of abuse, rape, or forced marriage, or on the basis of invalid evidence, including flawed virginity tests. Running away is not a crime under the law. As of September 30, 80.4 percent of female prisoners were incarcerated for moral crimes, according to GDPDC records. The records also indicated that the number of women incarcerated increased from 683 in May 2012 to 799 in May. The AIHRC and MOWA reported that approximately 25 percent of the female prison population had been incarcerated for either zina or “running away.”
The Supreme Court acknowledged that women have a right to be free from violence in the home and indicated that women, who have left the home and approach relatives or government institutions for assistance with violence, have not committed a crime. There were reports that some justice officials conflated running away with the intent to commit adultery and proceeded with prosecution without regard to the conditions that prompted the woman to leave her home. In April 2012 the Attorney General’s Office issued a circular to prosecutors stating that running away was not, on its own, a crime and should not be prosecuted. In May a Human Rights Watch report stated that convictions of women for running away had decreased since 2012.
In June the juvenile rehabilitation centers in Kabul, Gardez, Balkh, Nangarhar, Kunduz, and Herat admitted to ordering virginity tests to be conducted on all female detainees and prisoners. The tests, conducted at hospitals by the Ministry of Public Health, involved a gynecological examination to detect the presence of the hymen. The tests also often were ordered by the police, prosecutors, and courts and could be used as evidence of moral crimes if authorities desired.
In 2011 the government announced a plan to bring all shelters under MOWA’s oversight. Human rights NGOs worked with MOWA to change the regulations and stop the proposed nationalization of shelters. The final shelter regulation authorizes MOWA to regulate all shelters but allows NGOs to continue to run them. In June 2012 the minister of justice equated shelters to brothels during a parliamentary conference on ending violence against women; he later apologized for the remarks. In May the parliamentary debate over the EVAW law reignited public debate over women’s shelters. One member of parliament likened the shelters to brothels, and one prominent television channel began to broadcast antishelter programming daily. While MOWA, civil society, and the international community criticized the antishelter rhetoric, the existence and independent operation of shelters continued to be an issue under analysis.
There were reports that MOWA, as well as nongovernmental entities, sought to arrange marriages for women who could not return to their families.
Female police officers trained to help victims of domestic violence were hindered by instructions to wait for victims to reach out. There were 355 female response unit investigators nationwide working out of 146 offices, which were staffed primarily by female police officers who addressed violence and crimes against women, children, and families. Women serving in civilian and ANP positions in the Ministry of Interior offered mediation and resources to prevent future domestic violence.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The EVAW law criminalizes forced or underage marriage and baadh. According to the UN and Human Rights Watch, an estimated 70 percent of marriages were forced. Despite laws banning the practice, many brides continued to be younger than the legal marriage age of 16 (or 15 with a guardian’s and a court’s approval). A survey of married women between the ages of 20 and 24 found that 39 percent had been married before the age of 18. Very few marriages were registered, leaving forced marriages outside legal control. There were reports that women who sought assistance under the EVAW law in cases of forced marriage or rape were subjected to virginity tests.
Local officials occasionally imprisoned women at the request of family members for opposing the family’s choice of a marriage partner or being charged with adultery or bigamy. There were also reports that local officials imprisoned women in place of a family member who had committed a crime but could not be located. Some women remained in detention facilities because they had run away from home to escape domestic violence or the prospect of forced marriage.
The AIHRC released its national inquiry on rape and honor killing report after a multi-year investigation. The commission reported that, between March 21, 2011, and April 21, 2013, there were 406 reported cases of honor killings and sexual assaults registered with the AIHRC. The unreported number was believed to be much higher and to include cases of suicide and self-immolation that covered honor killings. Under the penal code, a man convicted of honor killing after finding his wife committing adultery cannot be sentenced to more than two years’ imprisonment.
There were reports of summary justice by the Taliban and other antigovernment elements resulting in extrajudicial executions. For example, a father executed his young daughter on April 22 in front of a crowd estimated at 300 persons in Badghis Province. Four religious scholars issued the execution order for alleged adultery and “running away.” Later one of the scholars was arrested for ties to the Taliban, but at year’s end the father and the other three scholars remained at large.
The wide range of violence against women also included trafficking and abduction.
Sexual Harassment: There is no law specifically prohibiting sexual harassment. In July the Ministry of Interior established a directive on sexual harassment, but it was not implemented. Women who walked outside alone or went to work often experienced abuse or harassment, including groping, or were followed on the streets in urban areas. Women who took on public roles that challenged gender stereotypes (such as female lawmakers, political leaders, NGO leaders, police officers, and news broadcasters) continued to be intimidated by conservative elements or received death threats directed at them or their families. NGOs reported violence against women working in the public and nonprofit sectors, including killings, and initiated awareness-raising campaigns to mobilize groups against harassment. Female members of the ANP reported harassment by their male counterparts, and there were reports of intimidation of and discrimination against female ANP members and their families in their communities. According to Oxfam’s September report, Women and the Police, the National Public Radio found allegations of widespread sexual abuse and rape of female police officers as well as evidence that senior police officers demanded sexual favors in exchange for promotions.
Reproductive Rights: Women generally exercised little decision-making authority regarding marriage, timing and number of pregnancies, birthing practices, and child education.
Couples were free from government discrimination, coercion, and violence to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, although family and community pressures to reproduce, the high prevalence of child and early marriages, and lack of accurate biological knowledge continued to limit their ability to do so. Women could expect to bear on average 5.1 children in their lifetimes. Oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectable contraceptives, and condoms were available commercially and were provided at no cost in public health facilities and at subsidized rates in private health facilities and through community health workers. According to the 2012 State of the World Population Report, the maternal mortality rate in 2010 was 460 deaths per 100,000 live births. Although the situation improved, early marriage and pregnancy still put girls at greater risk for premature labor, complications during delivery, and death in childbirth. Postpartum hemorrhage and obstructed labor were key causes of maternal mortality. Only 34 percent of births were attended by a skilled health practitioner, and only 16 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern form of contraception.
Discrimination: Women who reported cases of abuse or who sought legal redress for other matters reported discrimination within the judicial system. Some observers, including female judges, asserted that discrimination was a result of faulty implementation of law and cultural nuances, rather than the law itself. A woman’s limited access to money and other resources to pay fines (or bribes) and the social requirement for women to have a male guardian affected women’s access to and participation in the judicial system. Local practices were discriminatory against women in some areas, particularly in parts of the country where courts were not functional or knowledge of the law was minimal. Judges in some remote districts acknowledged wide influence by tribal authorities in preempting cases from the formal justice system. In the informal system, elders relied on interpretations of sharia and tribal customs, which generally discriminated against women. Many women reported limited access to justice in male-dominated tribal shuras, where proceedings focused on reconciliation with the community and family rather than the rights of the individual. Women in some villages were not allowed any access to dispute resolution mechanisms. Lack of awareness of their legal rights and illiteracy also limited women’s ability to access justice. Women’s advocacy groups reported that in some cases the government intervened informally with local courts to encourage them to interpret laws in ways favorable to women. Many cases in remote districts, however, were reportedly still resolved according to the local police officer’s or prosecutor’s discretion or interpretation of the law. When legal authorities were aware of the EVAW law and its implementation, women were in some cases able to get appropriate assistance. Prosecutors in some provinces, however, continued to be reluctant to use the EVAW law and brought no charges under the law, despite their awareness of its existence.
Police, prosecutors, and judges discriminated against women in criminal and civil legal proceedings stemming from violence and forced marriages. Enhanced availability of legal aid, including through female attorneys, provided some relief in formal justice system proceedings.
Cultural prohibitions on free travel and leaving the home unaccompanied prevented many women from working outside the home and reduced their access to education, health care, police protection, and other social services. In June clerics in Baghlan Province issued a religious edict (fatwa) with provisions limiting the rights of women – similar to those under the Taliban – which banned women from leaving home without a male relative, including when visiting medical clinics, and sought to shut down cosmetic shops. The Ulama Council issued statements that called for restrictions on women’s ability to participate in society.
The law provides for equal work without discrimination, but there are no provisions for equal pay for equal work. Women faced discrimination in access to employment and terms of occupation. Some educated urban women found substantive work, but many were relegated to menial tasks. There were approximately 1,716 female police officers, constituting just 1.1 percent of the total police force. The government set having 5,000 female police officers by the end of the year as a goal but did not reach it. While the government made efforts to recruit additional female police officers, cultural mores and discrimination rendered recruitment and retention difficult.
The MOWA and NGOs continued to promote women’s rights and freedoms. The Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission Gender Directorate did not successfully implement an action plan for increasing the percentage of women in the civil service to 30 percent by 2013. At year’s end, there were at least 21 percent fewer women in the civil service than during 2012. According to the AIHRC, many women in the civil service could not meet the minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree imposed by the priority reform and restructuring system. MOWA, the primary government agency responsible for addressing gender policy and the needs of women, had offices in all provinces and established gender units in all ministries. Gender units were established at low ranks lacking major influence, and men typically dominated leadership positions. Although MOWA provincial offices assisted hundreds of women by providing legal and family counseling and referring women, they could not directly assist relevant organizations. The ministry and provincial line directorates continued to suffer from a lack of capacity and resources. Reports that MOWA provincial offices, such as in Ghor, returned abused women to their families continued.
The country achieved substantial improvements in health over the past decade, and public health statistics indicated a drop in maternal mortality. The overall health situation of women and children remained poor, however, particularly among nomadic and rural populations and those in insecure areas. Similar to males, female life expectancy was 64 years of age. Rural women continued to suffer disproportionately from insufficient numbers of skilled health personnel, particularly female health workers.
Compared to men, women and children were disproportionately victims of preventable deaths due to communicable diseases. Although free health services were provided in public facilities, many households could not afford certain costs related to medicines or transportation to health care facilities, and many women were not permitted to travel to health care facilities on their own.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, disability, language, religion, gender identity and/or sexual orientation, health, family, economic, or social status; however, the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The criminal code penalizes rape, including spousal rape, but the government did not enforce these laws effectively. Victims rarely reported spousal abuse, and officials did not prosecute spousal rape. The concept of spousal rape was not well established, and authorities and the public often did not consider it a crime. The law imposes penalties for rape and assault depending on the age of the victim. For rape of an adult, the prison term is three to 10 years; for rape of an adolescent between the ages of 14 and 18, the term is five to 15 years; and for rape of a child under 14, the term is seven to 15 years.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. As of October police reported 2,130 cases of domestic violence, compared with 1,860 cases during the same period in 2012. The government pressed charges in 825 cases, compared with 593 cases during the same period in 2012. The courts issued 1,306 restraining orders as of October, compared with 1,146 orders issued during the same period in 2012. Police reported they received 2,515 domestic violence-related complaints through their emergency hotline as of October, compared with 1,405 complaints received over the same period in 2012. Police often did not have the training or capacity to deal effectively with domestic violence cases.
The Ministry of Youth and Social Welfare oversees women’s issues, including domestic violence. The government shelter for domestic violence victims in Tirana assisted 27 women and 27 children as of November; however, the shelter could not accept victims without a court order. NGOs operated three shelters to protect victims from domestic violence, one in Tirana and two outside the capital.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment; however, officials rarely enforced the law. NGOs believe that sexual harassment was severely underreported.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and they have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Under the law health care is provided to all citizens. The quality of and access to care, however, including obstetric and postpartum care, was not satisfactory, especially in the remote rural areas. According to the Demographic and Health Survey, only 11 percent of the population used modern contraceptive methods. To address these issues, the Ministry of Health launched a new family planning strategy with the assistance of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for the period 2012-16. The strategy sought to increase the demand for and access to quality reproductive health and family planning services through increasing the prevalence of contraceptive use, to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and to improve maternal and child health.
Discrimination: The law provides equal rights for men and women under family law and property law and in the judicial system. Women were not excluded from any occupation in either law or practice, but they were underrepresented at the highest levels of their fields. Although the law mandates equal pay for equal work, the government and employers did not fully implement this provision. In many communities women were subjected to societal discrimination as a result of traditional social norms that considered women to be subordinate to men.
Gender-based Sex Selection: A December 2012 study by World Vision and UNFPA claimed that there may be gender-based sex selection occurring in the country, although accurate data were difficult to obtain.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on birth, race, gender, language, and social status. The government effectively enforced the law, although women continued to face legal and social discrimination.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, both spousal and nonspousal, occurred. The law criminalizes nonspousal rape but does not address spousal rape. Prison sentences for nonspousal rape range from one to five years, and authorities generally enforced the law. Claims filed by women for rape and sexual abuse continued to face judicial obstacles, and many women did not report incidents of rape because of societal pressures and bureaucratic problems in securing convictions. On November 21, news outlets reported statistics provided by the director of the judicial police Office for the Protection of Childhood, Juvenile Delinquency, and the Protection of Women Victims of Violence. The director indicated that in the first nine months of the year, 266 women were victims of rape, sexual harassment, and incest, and that cases were reported in each of Algeria’s 48 provinces. She further indicated that she believed the actual incidence of these crimes was more widespread than the figure suggested because reporting rape and other sexual violence remained “taboo” in Algerian culture. She added that women “prefer to suffer the pain in silence” rather than face possible rejection by their families and societies, particularly in those cases where sexual violence resulted in pregnancy.
Domestic violence was widespread. The penal code states that a person must be “incapacitated” for 15 days and a woman claiming domestic abuse must visit a “forensic physician” for an examination to document injuries. The physician then provides the survivor with a “certificate of incapacity” attesting to the injuries. The survivor then presents the certificate to authorities as the basis of the criminal complaint.
In March the gendarmerie reported that 6,039 women were the victims of domestic violence in 2012.
Harmful Traditional Practices: There was one alleged honor killing during the year. According to media reports, a man was arrested on June 5 for killing five people to “cleanse his family’s honor” after his niece eloped with her boyfriend to avoid an arranged marriage. There were no human rights organizations in the country that focused on honor crimes, but international organizations gathered information about the practice. The law provides a “crime of passion” defense to both men and women who discover their spouses engaged in the act of adultery, which lessens the punishment of the perpetrator. The provisions of the law limit the defense to lawfully married spouses.
Sexual Harassment: The punishment for sexual harassment is one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of DZD 50,000 to DZD 100,000 ($625 to $1250). The punishment is doubled for a second offense. The majority of reported cases of harassment occurred in the workplace. In January an appellate court affirmed the conviction of former television station director Said Lamrani for sexual harassment and increased the damages assessed by the court of first instance from DZD 30,000 to DZD 300,000 ($375 to $3,750) per victim plus an additional fine of DZD 300,000 ($3,750).
Reproductive Rights: The government did not impose restrictions on the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, timing, and spacing of their children. Married and unmarried women alike had access to contraceptives. According to a study conducted in 2009 by the health ministry, 62 percent of women, most of them married, reported regular use of contraceptives. Women encountered social and family pressure that restricted them from making independent decisions about their health and reproductive rights.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for gender equality, many aspects of the law and traditional social practices discriminate against women. In addition religious extremists advocated practices that led to restrictions on women’s behavior, including freedom of movement. In some rural regions women faced extreme social pressure to veil as a precondition for freedom of movement and employment. The family code contains traditional elements of Islamic law. The family code prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, although authorities did not always enforce this regulation. Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women. A woman may marry a foreigner and transmit citizenship and nationality to both her children and spouse.
Women can seek divorce for irreconcilable differences and violation of a prenuptial agreement. In a divorce the law provides for the wife to retain the family’s home until children reach 18 years of age. Custody of children normally is awarded to the mother, but she may not make decisions about education or take the children out of the country without the father’s authorization. Women were more likely to retain the family’s home if they had custody of the children.
The family code affirms the religiously based practice of allowing a man to marry as many as four wives. According to the family code, polygyny is only permitted upon the permission of the first wife and the determination of a judge as to the husband’s financial ability to support an additional wife. Polygyny occurred in 1 to 2 percent of marriages. It was unclear whether authorities followed the law in all cases.
Amendments to the family code supersede the religiously based requirement that a male sponsor consent to the marriage of a woman. The sponsor represents the woman during the religious or civil ceremony. Although this requirement has been formally retained and the sponsor continues to contract the marriage, the woman may choose any man that she wishes to be her sponsor. Some families subjected women to virginity tests before marriage.
Women suffered from discrimination in inheritance claims and were entitled to a smaller portion of an estate than male children or a deceased husband’s brothers. Women did not often have exclusive control over assets that they brought to a marriage or that they earned. Married women may take out business loans and use their own financial resources. Women enjoy rights equal to those of men in regard to property ownership, and women landowners’ names are listed on property titles.
Women faced discrimination in employment. Leaders of women’s organizations reported that discrimination was common and women were less likely to receive equal pay for equal work or receive promotions. In urban areas there was social encouragement for women to pursue higher education and/or a career. Girls graduated from high school more frequently than boys.
According to 2010 statistics, women represented 55 percent of the medical profession, 60 percent of the media profession, 30 percent of the upper levels of the legal profession, and more than 60 percent of the education profession. In addition 36 percent of judges were women. Women served at all levels in the judicial system, and female police officers were added to some precincts to assist women with abuse claims. Of nine million workers nationally, two million were female. Women may own businesses, enter into contracts, and pursue careers similar to those of men. Nevertheless, women faced challenges with regard to access to credit and businesses.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime, but evidentiary requirements, either in the form of clear physical injury or the testimony of a witness, often presented difficulties in prosecuting such crimes. The penalties for rape range from six months’ to 20 years’ imprisonment. There were no reports of police or judicial reluctance to act on rape cases; however, women’s rights advocates claimed that attitudes of police, hospitals, and courts toward survivors of sexual violence sometimes revictimized the individual.
No statistics were available on the number of rape cases reported during the year. Many rapes went unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma.
The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse, and complaints are addressed in civil courts to secure protection measures. Family court judges have the right to bar a perpetrator from a victim’s home or workplace. The law requires the state to open a criminal investigation potentially resulting in life imprisonment in cases where violence results in death. In November 2012 Congress passed the Femicide Law, imposing stricter penalties on those who kill their spouses, partners, or children as a consequence of gender violence. In July the executive branch enacted a law creating a national DNA registry of sex criminals. According to local NGOs, lack of police and judicial vigilance often led to a lack of protection for victims.
Domestic violence against women was a problem. The civil society organization La Casa del Encuentro reported that 209 women died between January and September as a result of domestic or gender-based violence. Approximately half of these cases occurred in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Santa Fe. Of these killings, 68 percent involved a husband, boyfriend, or former boyfriend. In at least 20 cases, the woman had filed a complaint against the aggressor for domestic violence.
The Supreme Court’s Office of Domestic Violence provided around-the-clock protection and resources to victims of domestic violence. The office received approximately 830 cases of domestic violence each month in the city of Buenos Aires, an estimated 64 percent of which involved violence against women. The office also carried out risk assessments necessary to obtain a restraining order. The “Victims against Violence Program,” which operated in the city of Buenos Aires and Chaco Province, empowers a team of specialists from the Justice and Security Ministry to assist victims of domestic violence. The program reported an average of 700 telephone calls per month.
Since 2008 there have been 1,236 reported cases of femicide. Since the highly publicized murder of Wanda Taddei, who was burned to death by her husband in 2010, there have been 66 similar killings, including seven in the first half of the year.
The Ministry of Social Development of the province of Buenos Aires reported 221 formal complaints of physical abuse against women during the first three months of the year. Individuals ages 20 to30 constituted a majority of the victims, and 53 percent of the cases involved psychological and emotional mistreatment.
Pursuant to an October 2012 agreement, the Office of Domestic Violence and the Security Ministry trained members of the Federal Police, Navy, and Gendarmerie in the city of Buenos Aires on domestic violence intervention. Statistics on the number trained were not available at the end of the year.
Public and private institutions offered prevention programs and provided support and treatment for abused women. The Buenos Aires Municipal Government operated a small shelter for battered women.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the public sector and imposes disciplinary or corrective measures. In some jurisdictions, such as Buenos Aires City, sexual harassment may lead to the abuser’s dismissal, whereas in others, such as Santa Fe Province, the maximum penalty is five days in prison.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally had the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available. The law requires the government to provide free contraceptives, and an estimated 64 to70 percent of women used modern contraceptive means.
Discrimination: Although women enjoyed equal rights under the law, including property rights, they continued to face economic discrimination and held a disproportionately high number of lower-paying jobs. Women also held significantly fewer executive positions in the private sector than men, according to several studies. Although equal payment for equal work is constitutionally mandated, the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report estimated that women earned approximately 58 percent as much as men for similar or equal work.
The Supreme Court’s Office of Women trains judges, secretaries, and clerks to deal with court cases related to women’s issues; it also seeks to ensure equal access for women to positions in the court system. The office also trained judges, prosecutors, judicial staff, and law enforcement agents to increase awareness of gender-related crimes and develop techniques to deal with gender-related cases and victims.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on disability, race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin, marital status, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and intersex status. An independent judiciary and a network of federal, state, and territorial equal opportunity offices effectively enforced antidiscrimination laws.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively when cases were reported to authorities. The laws of the individual states and territories prescribe the penalties for rape.
The law prohibits violence against women, including domestic abuse, and the government enforced the law. Violence against women remained a problem, particularly in indigenous communities.
According to the 2005 ABS Personal Safety Survey (the latest available), one in three women had experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and almost one in five experienced sexual violence. The ABS reported that during 2012, police recorded 15,137 victims of sexual assault, 83 percent of whom were women.
Observers believed domestic violence to be substantially underreported, particularly in indigenous communities; among reasons cited for this were cultural factors and the isolation of many indigenous communities. The federal and state governments funded programs to combat domestic violence and support victims, including the funding of numerous women’s shelters. Police received training in responding to domestic violence. Federal, state, and territorial governments collaborated on the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-22, which is the first effort to coordinate action at all levels of government to reduce the levels of violence against women.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Complaints of such harassment can lead to criminal proceedings or disciplinary action against the defendant and compensation claims by the plaintiff. Complaints of sexual harassment as well as sex discrimination may be submitted to the HRC under the Sex Discrimination Act. The HRC received 215 complaints of sexual harassment from July 2012 to June, but separate statistics on resolution of harassment complaints were not available.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. State and territorial governments provided comprehensive sex education, and sexual health and family planning services. Women had access to contraception and skilled medical care, including essential prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care. Indigenous persons in isolated communities had more difficulty accessing such services than the population as a whole. Cultural factors and language barriers also inhibited use of sexual health and family planning services by indigenous persons, and rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy among the indigenous population were higher than among the general population.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights and status as men, and the law provides for pay equity. According to the Workplace Equality Gender Agency (WEGA), the gender pay gap was 17.5 percent in May with the average weekly ordinary time earnings of women working full-time equal to A$1,252 ($1,165) per week, compared to men who earned an average weekly wage of A$1,518 ($1,412) per week. According to WEGA, the gender pay gap has increased by 1 percentage point since 1995. The law requires organizations with 100 or more employees to establish a workplace program to remove barriers to women’s entering and advancing in their organization. The law also prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of family responsibilities, including breastfeeding.
The HRC received 417 complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act from July 2012 to June. Of 533 complaints that were finalized during this period, 461 included claims on grounds of sex discrimination and 215 included claims on grounds of sexual harassment (some complaints raised multiple grounds). Of the finalized complaints, 165 were terminated, 219 resolved by conciliation, 122 discontinued or withdrawn, and 27 administratively closed.
There were highly organized and effective private and public women’s rights organizations at the federal, state, and local levels. The independent federal sex discrimination commissioner, who is part of the HRC, undertakes research, policy, and educational work designed to eliminate gender discrimination. There also is a federal Office for Women, which focuses on reducing violence against women, promoting women’s economic security, and enhancing the status of women.
In July the Sex Discrimination Commissioner released an audit of progress towards the implementation of recommendations made by the Review into the Treatment of Women at the Australian Defence Force Academy. The review found the academy was making strides in building a more inclusive place for all its members, including women, and noted the need for an evidence-based sexual ethics program.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law provides for protection against discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, or social status, and the government generally enforced these protections.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment under the law. The government generally enforced the law. Government statistics on rape and sexual coercion included 1,215 reported occurrences and 281 convictions in 2012.
Domestic violence is punishable under the criminal code provisions for murder, rape, sexual abuse, and bodily injury. There were reports of violence against women, including spousal abuse. According to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Civil Service, between 10 and 20 percent of adult women suffered from violence in a relationship sometime during their lifetimes. Fewer than 10 percent of women abused by an intimate partner filed complaints. Police can issue a two-week order barring abusive family members from contact with the victim, and courts may extend the order for up to six months. In compliance with a Council of Europe agreement, as of July the Justice Ministry eliminated court fees to obtain an injunction.
According to Justice Ministry statistics released in February, courts issued injunctions prohibiting abusive family members from returning home in 7,647 cases in 2012.
Under the law the government actively provides psychosocial care, in addition to legal aid and support throughout the judicial process, to survivors of gender-based violence. Police training programs addressed sexual or gender-based violence and domestic abuse.
The government funded privately operated intervention centers and hotlines for victims of domestic abuse. The centers provided for victims’ safety, assessed the threat posed by perpetrators, helped victims develop plans to stop the abuse, and provided legal counseling and other social services. NGOs observed that these centers were generally effective in providing shelter for victims of abuse.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the government generally enforced the law. The labor courts may order employers to compensate victims of sexual harassment based on the Federal Equality Commission’s finding in a case; the law entitles a victim to a minimum of 1,000 euro ($1,350) in financial compensation. Of the 3,218 cases of discrimination brought to the ombudsman in 2012 for reasons of gender, 301 involved sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The government offered free access to contraception. Mandatory health insurance provided skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, and essential obstetric and postpartum care.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, and the Federal Equality Commission and the ombudsman for equal treatment of gender oversee laws requiring equal treatment of men and women. The ombudsman provides advice in discrimination cases and can file complaints with the Federal Equality Commission on behalf of persons who assert discrimination against them. The minister for women’s affairs and civil service is responsible for promoting the legal rights of women.
To establish greater transparency and reduce the pay gap between the genders, the government required reporting on salaries by position and gender for all companies with more than 1,000 employees. During the year this requirement was extended to companies with more than 250 employees, which must file biannual reports. The participation rate for women between the ages of 15 and 64 in the labor force was 67.3 percent, as compared to 77.8 percent for men. Approximately 45 percent of employed women worked part time, compared with 32 percent in 2000.
Female employees in the private sector may invoke laws prohibiting discrimination against women. Depending on the Federal Equality Commission’s findings, labor courts may award the equivalent of up to four months’ salary to women found to have experienced gender discrimination in promotion. The courts may also order compensation for women denied a post despite having equal qualifications.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law specifically prohibits certain forms of discrimination against women, provides special procedures for persons accused of violence against women and children, calls for harsh penalties, provides compensation to victims, and requires action against investigating officers for negligence or willful failure of duty; however, enforcement was weak. Women, children, minority groups, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, and sexual minorities often confronted social and economic disadvantages.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and physical spousal abuse but makes no specific provision for spousal rape. According to Odhikar from January through September, there were 729 reported incidents of rape against women and girls, including 305 women, 404 children, and 20 victims whose age could not be ascertained. Of the women, 55 were killed after being raped and 201 were victims of gang rape. ASK reported 702 rape cases, including 166 attempted rapes, filed with police during the first nine months of the year. Of the women, 69 were killed after being raped and 207 were victims of gang rape. Twelve women committed suicide after being raped. According to human rights monitors, the actual number of rape cases was higher because many rape victims did not report the incidents due to social stigma or fear of further harassment. Prosecution of rapists was weak and inconsistent. On January 13, Roich Sheikh raped a fifth-grade girl in Mulghor, Rajbari. Police had arrested Sheikh in June 2012 on attempted rape charges against the same girl but had released him on bail in December 2012.
The law criminalizes domestic violence. The government introduced a confidential hotline and opened several crisis centers for victims of domestic violence. Women’s rights groups, however, criticized the government for its overall inaction on domestic violence, and data were difficult to obtain. From January through September, the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) received more than 2,569 reports of violence against women and filed 43 cases related to violence against women. NGOs, with little assistance from the government, funded most efforts to combat domestic violence. Courts sent most victims of domestic violence to shelter homes, such as those run by the BNWLA. In a few cases, the BNWLA sent victims to prison as a transitory destination for short periods. There were some support groups for victims of domestic violence.
A UN multi-agency study on violence against women, released on September 10, surveyed almost 2,400 men between the ages of 18 and 49 in one urban and one rural area of the country. According to the study, 55 percent of urban male respondents and 57 percent of rural respondents reported they themselves had perpetrated physical and/or sexual violence against women. The study concluded that the low prosecution rate of rapists supported a culture of impunity and encouraged further criminal acts of respondents who admitted to perpetrating rape. In total 88 percent of rural respondents and 95 percent of urban respondents reported they faced no legal consequences for rape charges.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Some NGOs reported violence against women was related to disputes over dowries. Odhikar reported 383 cases of dowry-related violence from January through September. Of this number, 125 cases involved victims who were killed and 15 involved victims who committed suicide. ASK reported 265 cases of dowry-related violence during the same period. Of this number, 128 cases involved victims who were killed and 21 involved victims who committed suicide. For example, 21- year-old Nilufa died on March 2 after her husband, Rakib Hossain, beat her in Sadar, Natore. Hossain told his in-laws that the model of motorcycle they gave him was not the one they had promised as part of Nilufa’s dowry. Nilufa’s family filed a case with the police against Rakib and his parents. The police completed their investigation, and court hearings continued at year’s end.
On May 12, the Supreme Court’s Appellate Division overruled a 2001 high court ruling prohibiting fatwas (religious edicts). In its ruling, however, the court declared that fatwas may be used only to settle religious matters and may not be invoked to justify meting out punishment, nor may they supersede existing secular law. Islamic tradition dictates that only those religious scholars with expertise in Islamic law may declare a fatwa. Despite these restrictions village religious leaders sometimes made such declarations. The declarations resulted in extrajudicial punishments, often against women, for perceived moral transgressions.
Incidents of vigilantism against women occurred, sometimes led by religious leaders enforcing fatwas. According to ASK there were 21 incidents of vigilante violence against women during the year, but only five incidents resulted in police action. The incidents included whipping, beating, and other forms of physical violence.
Acid attacks, although less common than in the past, remained a serious problem. Assailants threw acid in the faces of victims--usually women--leaving them disfigured and often blind. Acid attacks often related to a woman’s refusal to accept a marriage proposal or to land disputes.
The Acid Survivors Foundation reported acid attacks on 31 women, 23 men, nine girls, and one boy from January through September. Odhikar reported acid attacks on 31 women, seven men, four girls, and two boys, and ASK reported acid attacks on 36 women. The law seeks to control the availability of acid and reduce acid-related violence directed toward women, but lack of awareness of the law and poor enforcement limited its effect. The government made efforts to punish offenders and reduce the availability of acid to the general public. The Commerce Ministry restricted acid sales to buyers registered with relevant trade organizations; however, the government did not enforce the restrictionsuniversally. The law provides for speedier prosecutions of acid-throwing cases in special tribunals and generally does not allow bail. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation, the special tribunals were not entirely effective, and conviction rates remained low. The Police Acid Crime Control Monitoring Cell stated prosecutors obtained a conviction in 10 percent of such cases from 2002 to March 2013. From January to September, courts convicted 10 persons in three cases.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in public and private, including in educational institutions and workplaces, is a criminal offense; however, harassment remained a problem and sometimes prevented girls from attending school or work. Odhikar reported 291 cases of harassment against women, and ASK reported 157, although many incidents went unreported. On June 5, a supervisor at Kachua Garments in Fatullah, Narayanganj, sexually harassed worker Khadiza Akhter Munni. Khadiza committed suicide on June 6.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the information to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children free from discrimination, coercion, or violence through access to a full range of contraceptive methods, including long-acting reversible contraception and permanent methods. Pharmacies carried a wide range of family planning options and sold 41 percent of family planning supplies distributed. Low levels of income and education and traditional family roles often served as barriers to access, and most low-income families relied on public family planning services offered free of cost.
According to the 2010 Bangladesh Maternal Mortality Survey, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 40 percent during the preceding nine years, from 322 to 194 deaths per 100,000 live births. Approximately half of the maternal deaths were due to postpartum hemorrhage and eclampsia, with 7 percent attributed to obstructed or prolonged labor. According to the 2013 Utilization of Essential Service Delivery (UESD) survey, a skilled birth attendant delivered 34 percent of births, and 32.7 percent of the deliveries occurred at a health facility, compared with 31.7 and 29 percent, respectively, in 2011. Although 54.6 percent of women received at least one antenatal checkup from a medically trained provider, only 25.5 percent of women received the recommended four checkups following live births. Only 27 percent of the mothers received a postnatal checkup from a trained provider within two days of delivery.
Discrimination: Women do not enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in family, property, and inheritance law. Under traditional Islamic inheritance law, daughters inherit only half of what sons do, and in the absence of sons, they may inherit only what remains after settling all debts and other obligations. Under Hindu inheritance law, a widow’s rights to her deceased husband’s property are limited to her lifetime and revert to the male heirs upon her death.
Employment opportunities increased for women, who constituted approximately 80 percent of garment factory workers. Women were occasionally subjected to abuse in factories, including sexual harassment. There were some gender-based wage disparities in the overall economy, but wages of women and men were comparable in the garment sector. Women faced difficulty obtaining access to credit and other economic opportunities, but the government’s National Women’s Development Policy included commitments to provide opportunities for women in employment and business.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. The law identifies 18 grounds of possible discrimination subject to legal penalty: age, sexual orientation, civil status, place of birth, financial situation, religious belief, philosophical orientation, physical condition, disability, physical characteristics, genetic characteristics, social status, nationality, race, color, descent, national origin, and ethnic origin. A separate law governs gender discrimination in the workplace. Under a directive issued by the Board of Prosecutors General, police and prosecutors must cite racial motivation or sexual orientation if present when reporting or recording offenses. In such instances the prosecutor must escalate the case (for example, in a racially motivated crime, the charge would additionally include a hate crime offense).
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government prosecuted such cases. In 2012 federal police registered 3,003 rapes, and 3,381 indecent assaults. A convicted rapist may be imprisoned from a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of 30 years depending on such factors as the age of the victim, the difference in age between offender and victim, the relationship between the pair, and the use or absence of violence during the crime.
The law prohibits domestic violence and provides for fines and incarceration. In 2012 federal police registered the following complaints related to domestic violence: 20,263 complaints of physical violence between partners (22,013 in 2011), 112 for sexual violence (122 in 2011), and 19,530 for psychological violence (21,824 in 2011). The Federal Institute for Equality of Men and Women coordinated a national action plan to combat violence between domestic partners. Women from Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia were subjected to sexual exploitation.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Harmful traditional practices were a rare occurrence, with the most common practice being female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). The 2010-14 national action plan of the Federal Institute for Equality of Men and Women focused inter alia on violence linked to honor and FGM/C. Specialized nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) organized several awareness campaigns against FGM/C in early 2013.
Sexual Harassment: Reliable statistics on sexual harassment were not easily accessible since formal complaints could be filed with various entities. The law aims to prevent violence and harassment at work, obliging companies to set up internal procedures to handle employee complaints. The government generally enforced the antiharassment legislation. Although a national campaign to fight sexual harassment does not exist, politicians and organizations such as the Federal Institute for the Equality of Men and Women worked to raise awareness of the dangers of sexual harassment. A number of government-supported shelters and telephone help lines were available across the country for victims of domestic abuse. In addition to providing lodging, many shelters assisted in legal matters, job placement, and psychological counseling to both partners.
Reproductive Rights: The constitution provides for complete freedom in the way that persons organize their private lives, including the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Health clinics and local health NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning. There are no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, in the judicial system, in labor relations, and in social welfare protection. The law also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, or motherhood as well as sexual intimidation in labor relations and in access to goods, services, social welfare, and health care.
The Federal Institute for the Equality of Men and Women, which is responsible for promoting gender equality, may initiate lawsuits if it discovers violations of equality laws. Most complaints received during the year were work-related and most concerned the termination of employment contracts due to pregnancy. Economic discrimination against women continued. During the year the institute released a survey (based on 2010 data) indicating that women earned an hourly rate 10 percent less than their male colleagues. This represented an annual gap of 23 percent, taking into account part-time work. The law requires that one-third of the board members of publicly traded companies, but not private ones, be women.
The law requires companies with at least 50 employees to provide a clear overview of their compensation plans, a detailed breakdown by gender of their wages and fringe benefits, a gender-neutral classification of functions, and the possibility of appointing a mediator to address and follow up on gender-related problems. All elements of the law have been implemented through royal decree.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits and penalizes discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, or social status, but discrimination continued against women, Afro-Brazilians, indigenous persons, and LGBT persons.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape; sentences for convictions range from six to 30 years in prison. Domestic violence remained both widespread and underreported to the authorities, due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma. The law stipulates a penalty of three months to three years in prison for persons who commit domestic violence, and authorities generally enforced the law effectively. Official statistics regarding the number of prosecutions and convictions were not available.
The federal government continued to operate a toll-free nationwide hotline for women. In 2012 the hotline registered 732,468 calls reporting domestic violence, 11 percent more than in 2011. Calls to the hotline leveled off after an initial surge, which government officials attributed to greater awareness among women of the hotline program. According to hotline data, 57 percent of the complaints received in 2012 concerned physical abuse. An international hotline service enabled Brazilian victims of gender-based violence to call in from Italy, Spain, and Portugal. In the first six months of the year, the international service received 90 calls, resulting in 33 women receiving assistance abroad.
In March President Rousseff launched the 265 million reais ($114.2 million) “Women, Living Without Violence” initiative to improve service to victims of gender-based violence. The program aims to increase the capacity of the women’s hotline, provide more public health-care options for women, and construct 27 women’s centers throughout the country that integrate specialized police, judicial, prosecutorial, health, employment, and other ministerial resources.
In January the Pernambuco State Technical Chamber for Combating Violence against Women began operations as part of a statewide public security initiative. The chamber is responsible for monitoring and reporting monthly to the governor all actions taken to promote the eradication of violence against women.
In April the Espirito Santo State Court of Justice and the city of Vitoria distributed a “panic button” device to 100 victims of domestic violence as part of the municipality’s protection program. The device can send an alert with the victim’s exact location to a monitoring center and also capture and record conversations that can be used as evidence in court.
A report by the Rio de Janeiro Public Security Institute revealed an increase in the number of reported rapes in the state. According to the report, from January to July there were 3,453 cases, compared with 2,928 during the same period in 2012. Authorities attributed the increase partly to victims’ increased willingness to report assaults.
The Sao Paulo State Court of Justice created three new special courts of domestic and family violence against women. As of September the state of Sao Paulo had a total of 10 special courts to deal with domestic violence. As of July the courts had considered 35,959 cases, mostly related to threats of violence, rape, and coercion. There was no information available on the number of prosecutions or convictions.
Each state secretariat for public security operated police stations dedicated exclusively to addressing crimes against women. The 381 stations provided psychological counseling, temporary shelter, and hospital treatment for victims of domestic violence and rape, as well as criminal prosecution assistance by investigating incidents and forwarding evidence to courts. There were also 218 reference centers and 77 temporary women’s shelters operated by state and local governments. The Secretariat for Women’s Policies reported that fewer than 10 percent of municipalities had a dedicated space for the protection and care of victims of gender-based violence.
The Secretariat for Women’s Policies published the Third National Plan on Women’s Policies in August. The plan’s main focus was to address gender inequality through public policies that promote the economic, cultural, and political autonomy of women in order to eradicate extreme poverty and enable full participation in society. The Secretariat for Women’s Policies acted as the coordinating agency for all actions carried out under the Third National Plan and evaluated the end results across government organs.
The law requires health facilities to contact the police about cases in which a woman was harmed physically, sexually, or psychologically to collect evidence and statements should the victim decide to prosecute.
The Chamber of Deputies’ Special Office of Women’s Promotion remained active. The office undertakes surveys and studies on the situation of women, specifically pertaining to gender-based violence; works with international organizations and NGOs to share best practices; and heads a network of protection for victims of gender-based violence in conjunction with NGOs, state, and local governments. In March the Senate approved the creation of its own Special Office of Women’s Promotion.
A study on gender-based violence (GBV) published by the Institute for Applied Economic Research reported that between 2009 and 2011, the country registered nearly six killings for every 100,000 women. The states of Espirito Santo, Bahia, and Alagoas had the highest levels of GBV-related killings, with 11 deaths per 100,000 women. The study also compared data on GBV-related homicides before and after the 2006 passage of the Maria da Penha law to reduce domestic violence and found that GBV rates had remained stable since 2001.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison. The law encompasses sexual advances in the workplace or educational institutions and between service providers or clients. In the workplace it applies only in hierarchical situations where the harasser is of higher rank or position than the victim. The government generally enforced sexual harassment laws effectively. No official data were available on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, but in a survey conducted by the Sao Paulo Secretary’s Union, 25 percent of secretaries in the state claimed to have been sexually harassed by their supervisors.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception; skilled attendance at delivery; and prenatal, postpartum, and essential obstetric care generally were available. According to the 2013 UN Population Fund report, skilled health personnel assisted in 99 percent of births.
Discrimination: The cabinet-level Secretariat for Women’s Policies supervises a special entity charged with overseeing the legal rights of women. Women’s labor force participation (75 percent) was below that of men (85 percent), and women were more likely to work in the informal sector. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender in employment and wages, the IBGE reported that in 2011 women received 72 percent of the income of men for comparable work.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, social status, and sexual orientation but not language. Societal discrimination continued, particularly against ethnic minorities, LGBT persons, and persons with disabilities. Trafficking in persons continued to be a problem.
The government investigated complaints of discrimination, issued rulings, and imposed sanctions against violators. The law allows individuals to pursue a discrimination case through the court system or through the CPD. In the first nine months of the year, the CPD received 653 complaints, most of them containing multiple allegations of discrimination, mostly based on personal status and disability, particularly with regard to employment. The commission found discriminatory practices in 239 cases and imposed fines totaling 13,850 levs ($9,600) on violators.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and authorities generally enforced its provisions when violations came to their attention. The penal code does not criminalize rape, including statutory rape, if it is followed by marriage. While authorities could prosecute spousal rape under the general rape statute, they rarely did so. Sentences for rape range from two to eight years in prison, or from three to 10 years if the victim is under 18 years of age or a lineal descendant. When rape results in serious injury or attempted suicide, sentences range between three and 15 years’ imprisonment, and when the victim is a minor, between 10 and 20 years. According to NGOs, social taboos surrounding rape continued to discourage rape victims from reporting the crime. As of October the prosecution service filed 196 rape cases and pursued 69 prosecutions, and the court sentenced 69 persons. The State Agency for Child Protection (SACP) stated that investigation and prosecution of statutory rape increased since 2010. In 2012 the prosecution service opened 307 criminal proceedings for statutory rape and the courts convicted 267 persons. In March NGOs organized the first “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event in Sofia to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.
The law defines domestic violence as any act, or attempted act, of sexual violence or physical, psychological, emotional, or economic pressure against members of one’s family or between cohabiting persons. It empowers the court to impose fines, issue restraining or eviction orders, or require special counseling. Noncompliance with a restraining order may result in imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of 5,000 levs ($3,500). Between July 2012 and June 2013, courts received 393 complaints. The law requires the government to adopt an annual action plan to prevent and protect against domestic violence and requires the government to fund it.
Observers noted that authorities generally enforced the law in cases of physical violence but did not pay much attention to other types of domestic abuse. According to the Alliance for Protection against Domestic Violence, one in four women was a victim of verbal or physical abuse, and the degree of violence increased between July 2012 and June 2013. The alliance provided services to 2,528 victims.
A domestic NGO operated a free 24-hour hotline for women in crisis funded through an annual government grant. Other NGOs provided short-term protection and counseling to victims in 17 crisis centers and shelters throughout the country. NGOs complained that the hotline grant was insufficient and that the existing support posed a risk of discontinuing the line. As of October the hotline had worked with 1,067 clients, including 658 victims of domestic violence. Police and social workers referred victims of domestic violence to NGO-run shelters, but NGOs complained that local authorities rarely provided financial assistance for operational costs. Women’s rights organizations continued to insist that the government lacked strong gender equality and domestic violence policies, despite the annual action plans encouraging gender equality.
Sexual Harassment: The law identifies sexual harassment as a specific form of discrimination rather than as a criminal offense, although prosecutors may identify cases in which harassment involves coercion. If prosecuted as coercion, sexual harassment is punishable by up to six years in prison. Harassment remained an underreported problem. As of October the CPD received only one complaint of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: The government generally respected the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Women generally had good access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth and to prenatal care, including essential obstetric and postpartum care. Women in poor rural areas had less access to contraception due to poverty and lack of education. Skilled attendance at childbirth was sometimes less available due to lack of health insurance.
Discrimination: While the law provides women with the same rights as men, including equal pay for equal work, women faced some discrimination in economic participation and political empowerment. The pay gap between men and women continued to rise, and according to Eurostat, in 2011 women’s salaries were on average 18 percent lower than men’s. Women also experienced underrepresentation in government; approximately 16 percent of mayors were women. The National Council on Equality between Women and Men, headed by the minister of labor and social policy under the Council of Ministers, is responsible for safeguarding the rights of women. Primarily a consultative body, the council has responsibility for promoting cooperation and coordination among NGOs and government agencies.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Chapter 8 of the constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex, and wealth, but the government did not effectively enforce antidiscrimination laws.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Spousal rape is not a crime unless the wife is under 14 years of age. The government did not release statistics concerning the number of rape prosecutions and convictions. Police generally investigated reported cases of rape, but there were reports that police investigations were not sensitive to crime victims. One prominent women’s group reported that police in some cases verbally abused women who reported rape and that women could be sued for impugning the dignity of the perpetrator.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. Abuse within families was prevalent and considered socially acceptable. Spousal abuse or domestic violence was difficult to measure because the government did not maintain statistics. There are no laws specifically against domestic violence or spousal abuse (including spousal rape), although there are laws related to committing bodily harm against another person. The related prison terms range from one year to life, in addition to possible fines.
There were reports of rape by military and security officials in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine states. In one reported incident, officials kidnapped Rohingya women from Sittwe and subjected them to sexual slavery at a military installation; the government did not report a transparent investigation into these allegations.
Sexual Harassment: The penal code prohibits sexual harassment and imposes fines or up to one year’s imprisonment for verbal harassment and up to two years’ imprisonment for physical contact. There was no information on the prevalence of the problem because these crimes were largely unreported.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children outside of Rakhine State. The Rakhine government enforced a two-child policy against the Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State in two townships, in many cases refusing to register the birth of subsequent children. The government has pronatalist policies except in Rakhine State but allows government and private-sector clinicians to provide contraceptives under the banner of “birth spacing.” The most commonly reported barriers to accessing family planning services were cost and availability. Reproductive health services, including the availability of contraceptives, generally were limited to private clinics. Health authorities heavily regulated distribution of contraceptives, and the UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) 2012 State of World Population Report stated that in 2010, 38 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. The unmet need for contraception increased from 17.7 percent to 24.2 percent during the 2007-10 period. Community health workers only were allowed to advise on condoms. A client must be seen by a midwife to get injectable or oral contraception. An acute shortage of government-sector midwives impeded access and prevalence.
According to UNFPA 2010 data, the estimated maternal mortality ratio in 2010 was 200 per 100,000 live births. The unavailability of long-term contraceptives compounded with financial constraints led to unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Complications resulting from abortion reportedly were one of the leading causes of maternal deaths. Other major factors influencing maternal mortality included poverty; limited availability and access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, and to maternal and newborn health services; lack of information and awareness on these issues; a high number of home births; and lack of skilled birth attendants, auxiliary midwives, and other trained community health workers.
On November 15, the government renewed its pledge to promote the availability and voluntary use of modern contraceptives for women who wish to defer, delay, or avoid getting pregnant by signing onto the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Global Initiative. In its FP2020 commitment, the government promised to invest more resources in order to reduce the unmet need for contraception to less than 10 percent by 2015 and to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate to 50 percent by 2015.
Discrimination: By law women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including property and inheritance rights; however, it was not clear if the government enforced the law. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women remained underrepresented in most traditionally male occupations (e.g., mining, forestry, carpentry, masonry, and fishing) and effectively were barred from certain professions, including the military officer corps. Poverty affected women disproportionately.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status; however, the government did not generally protect these rights. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and assault; nevertheless, local and international NGOs reported violence against women, including domestic violence and rape, was common. Rape is punishable by a prison sentence of between five and 30 years. Spousal rape is not specifically mentioned in the penal code but can be prosecuted as “rape,” “causing injury,” or “indecent assault.” Under the domestic violence law, spousal rape may fall within the definition of domestic violence that includes “sexual aggression.” Charges for spousal rape cases under the penal code and the domestic violence law were rare. The domestic violence law criminalizes domestic violence but does not specifically set out penalties. The penal code can be used to punish domestic violence offenses, with penalties ranging from one to 15 years imprisonment.
As of June ADHOC received 133 reports of rape. Of these, the courts tried 27 cases, the courts or police mediated two, and local authorities mediated one case. The remainder awaited trial. ADHOC reported 171cases of domestic violence as of June, whereas another NGO documented 97 cases of domestic violence in the same period. Of the latter, four cases of domestic violence and four cases of rape each resulted in the death of a victim. There likely was underreporting on the problem of rape and domestic violence because of inadequate crime statistics reporting women’s fear of reprisal by perpetrators. NGOs reported authorities did not aggressively enforce domestic law and avoided involvement in domestic disputes.
The government supported NGOs that provided training for poor women vulnerable to spousal abuse, prostitution, and trafficking. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs coordinated with an NGO and a local media outlet to produce radio and television programming on women’s issues.
Sexual Harassment: The penal code criminalizes sexual harassment, imposing penalties of six days’ to three months’ imprisonment and fines of 100,000 to 500,000 riel (approximately $25 to $125). There were no arrests or prosecutions, however. The government continued a public awareness campaign specific to women promoting beer sales at entertainment venues because such female vendors were vulnerable to harassment. There was no information on the rate of incidence of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals could decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and they had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Women had access to contraception and prenatal care as well as skilled attendance at delivery and postpartum care, but access was often limited due to income and geographic barriers. According to the Cambodia Demographic Health Survey, the maternal mortality ratio in 2010 was 206 deaths per 100,000 live births. Major factors influencing high maternal mortality rates in the country included the lack of proper health facilities, medication, and skilled birth attendants. The contraceptive prevalence rate among women remained approximately 51 percent.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, and equal status in marriage. For the most part, women had equal property rights, the same legal status to bring divorce proceedings, and equal access to education and some jobs; however, cultural traditions and child rearing responsibilities limited the ability of women to reach senior positions in business or even participate in the work force. Men made up the vast majority of the military, police, and civil service.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which is mandated to protect the rights of women and promote gender equality in society, continued its Neary Ratanak (Women as Precious Gems) program. The program aimed to improve the image of women through gender mainstreaming, enhanced participation of women in economic and political life, and protection of women’s rights. Twenty-seven government ministries and institutions continued gender mainstreaming action plans with support from the UN Development Program and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, social status, sexual orientation; provincial or territorial statutes in three provinces and one territory prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The government enforced these laws effectively.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, as sexual assault, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for sexual assault carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison, up to 14 years for sexual assault with a restricted or prohibited firearm, and between four years and life for aggravated sexual assault with a firearm or committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization. According to the government’s statistical agency, in 2012 the police received approximately 21,900 reports of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon causing bodily harm, and aggravated sexual assault (up from 2011 figures). Most victims were women. Government studies indicated that victims of sexual assault reported approximately one in 10 incidents to police. Statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, and punished are not published by the federal government.
The law prohibits domestic violence. Although the criminal code does not define specific domestic-violence offenses, an abuser can be charged with an applicable offense, such as assault, aggravated assault, intimidation, mischief, or sexual assault. Persons convicted of assault receive up to five years in prison. Assaults involving weapons, threats, or injuries carry terms of up to 10 years. Aggravated assault or endangerment of life carry prison sentences of up to 14 years. The government enforced the law effectively. Studies indicated that victims of domestic violence and spousal abuse underreported incidents.
The federal statistical agency reported there were approximately 593 shelters providing services to abused women. These shelters provided emergency care, transition housing, counseling, and referrals to legal and social service agencies. Some shelters were located on Aboriginal reserves and served an exclusively Aboriginal population. Shelters in rural and remote areas generally offered a narrower range of services than urban facilities and a greater proportion focused on short-stay crisis intervention. Reports indicated a shortage of shelter spaces, trained staff, counseling, and access to affordable second-stage housing, all of which impeded women from leaving abusive relationships.
Police received training in treating domestic violence, and agencies provided abuse hotlines. The government’s family violence initiative (FVI) involved 15 federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations, including Status of Women Canada, Health Canada, and Justice Canada. These entities worked to eliminate systemic violence against women and advance women’s human rights. Provincial and municipal governments also sought to address violence against women, often in partnership with civil society, including funding public education programs, hotlines, and shelters.
The federal government awarded grants of almost Canadian dollars C$4.0 million ($4.0 million) to 21 organizations for projects to address violence against women on university and college campuses from November 2012 to November 2014.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The criminal code does not refer to honor killings but prosecutes such cases as murder. Murder convictions in the first or second degree carry minimum penalties of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole. The government enforced the law effectively. The government’s citizenship guide for new immigrants explicitly states that honor killings and gender-based violence carry severe legal penalties. The government trains law-enforcement officials on issues of honor-based violence and maintains an interdepartmental working group focusing on forced marriage and honor-based violence.
On June 28, the government announced a C$200,000 ($200,000) grant over two years to a multicultural and immigrant services British Columbia NGO to work with men and boys to develop strategies to recognize, intervene, and prevent honor-based violence. In September, the government awarded C$306,040 ($306,040) to the Canadian Council of Muslim Women for a project to curtail domestic violence and honor crime.
In May the British Columbia Supreme Court held an extradition hearing on charges a mother and uncle of a female family member ordered the alleged honor killing of the woman and her husband in India in 2000. Authorities held the accused in custody pending the outcome of the hearing.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not contain a specific offense of “sexual harassment” but criminalizes harassment (stalking), punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and sexual assault, with penalties ranging from 10 years for nonaggravated sexual assault to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. The government generally enforced these prohibitions. Federal and provincial labor standards law provide some protection against harassment, and federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions have responsibility for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers, companies, unions, educational facilities, professional bodies, and other institutions have adopted internal policies against sexual harassment, and federal and provincial governments provide public education and advice.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals enjoyed the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children without government interference. Couples are entitled to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The publicly funded medical system provided access to contraceptive services and information, prenatal care, skilled attendance during childbirth, and essential obstetric care and postpartum care.
Discrimination: Women have marriage and property rights and enjoy the same legal status and rights in the judicial system as men. They were well represented in the labor force, including business and the professions. Women did not experience systemic economic discrimination in the terms of employment, credit, or pay equity for substantially similar work, or in owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. Some equality and labor groups reported women were underrepresented in executive positions in the private sector. The federal statistical agency reported that hourly wages for women were, on average, lower than for men but that the wage gap had narrowed over the past two decades.
Status of Women Canada promoted the legal rights of women. Employment equity laws and regulations cover federal employees in all but the security and defense services, and provincial law requires equal pay for equal work in the public sector and, in some provinces, also in the private sector. Legislation passed in June extended matrimonial property rights to Aboriginal women living on reserves (where land is held communally). This law comes into effect in 2014. First Nations may choose to follow federal law or enact their own rules related to matrimonial real property rights and interests that respect their customs.
Aboriginal women and men living on reserves are subject to the Indian Act, which defines Indian status for the purposes of determining entitlement to a range of legislated rights and eligibility for federal programs and services. Aboriginal women do not enjoy full equality rights with aboriginal men to transmit officially recognized Indian status to their descendants.
According to the government statistical agency, Aboriginal women were three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to experience violent abuse and were overrepresented among victims of homicide. The federal government funded a project from 2005 to 2010 that documented at least 582 cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women that remain unresolved nationwide. The RCMP created the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains to support law enforcement investigations and established projects with some municipal police forces to review outstanding files of missing women, including Aboriginal women.
In February the House of Commons created a special committee on violence against indigenous women to hold hearings into cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls and to propose solutions to address violence against indigenous women. In October the House instructed the committee to deliver a report and recommendations by February 14, 2014. Also in February, NGOs reported allegations of excessive use of force, and physical and sexual abuse of indigenous women and girls, by RCMP officers in northern British Columbia.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution states the all persons are born free and are equal in terms of the law and dignity; however, it does not specifically identify groups protected from discrimination. The 2012 Anti-Discrimination Law provides civil legal remedies to victims of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic situation, language, ideology or political opinion, religion or belief, association or participation in union organizations or lack thereof, gender, sexual orientation, gender identification, marriage status, age, affiliation, personal appearance, and sickness or physical disability. The law also increases criminal penalties for acts of violence based on discrimination, but such discrimination continued to occur.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Penalties for rape range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, and the government generally enforced the law when violations were reported.
The law protects the privacy and safety of the victim making the charge. Between January and November, the Public Prosecutor’s Office investigated 4,676 cases of rape, and the courts handed down 469 rape convictions and convicted 431 individuals between January and November. Experts, however, believed that most rape cases went unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma.
The law criminalizes both physical and psychological domestic violence. Nevertheless, it remained a serious problem in the country. From January to June, police filed 66,523 cases of domestic violence. From January to September, there were 32,638 convictions and 140 sentences. Family courts handle cases of domestic violence and penalize offenders with fines up to 556,680 pesos ($1,145). Additional sanctions include eviction of the offender from the residence shared with the victim, restraining orders, confiscation of firearms, and court-ordered counseling. Cases of habitual psychological abuse and physical abuse cases in which there are physical injuries are prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Penalties are based on the gravity of injuries and range from 61 to 540 days’ imprisonment.
Authorities generally enforced the law in cases reported to them, and there was no indication of police or judicial reluctance to act. Experts believed that most domestic violence cases went unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma. The National Survey of Domestic Violence 2012 revealed that 32 percent of women suffered some kind of domestic violence from their family members, partners, or former partners during their lifetime. Of these aggressions, women reported only 36 percent to authorities, citing fear as the main reason for not reporting.
In its 2012 country report, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern at the lack of measures taken by the government to address other forms of violence against women, including femicide outside the family sphere and sexual violence. CEDAW also expressed concern at the disproportionate use of violence by police, including sexual abuse against female students during social protests and against women during Mapuche protests, an absence of prosecution of perpetrators, and the government’s failure to provide access to justice to women victims of such violence.
The government added social media to the domestic violence media campaign launched in 2010. The National Women’s Service (SERNAM) operated 96 assistance centers or “Women’s Centers” and 23 women’s shelters, and it maintained partnerships with NGOs to provide training sessions for police officers and judicial and municipal authorities on the legal and psychological aspects of domestic violence. The Ministry of Justice and the PDI operated several offices specifically dedicated to providing counseling and assistance in rape cases. SERNAM also operated a 24-hour hotline for victims of violence, including domestic abuse and rape. In October SERNAM launched a new awareness campaign, “Violence Against Women Angers Me,” to address this abuse. Data was not available to assess the effectiveness of government campaigns against domestic and sexual violence.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a criminal offense but is classified as a misdemeanor, with penalties outlined exclusively in the labor code. By law, sexual harassment is cause for immediate dismissal from employment. The law requires employers to define internal procedures for investigating sexual harassment, and employers may face fines and additional financial compensation to victims if internal procedures are not met. The law provides protection to victims of sexual harassment by employers and coworkers. It also provides severance pay to victims who resign due to sexual harassment if they have completed at least one year with the employer. Authorities generally enforced the law in cases reported to them, and there was no evidence of police or judicial reluctance to act. From January to August, the Labor Directorate received 111 complaints of sexual harassment reported by individuals and companies, and companies were sanctioned for procedural noncompliance.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Government policy did not interfere with access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, or essential obstetric and postpartum care. Despite the fact that emergency contraception is legal and that the law provides for the free distribution of emergency contraception in the public health system, many hospitals and clinics continued to refuse to prescribe it.
Discrimination: Although women possess most of the same legal rights as men, discrimination in employment, pay, owning and managing businesses, and education persisted. There were no known reports of discrimination in credit or housing. The default and most common marital arrangement is “conjugal society,” which gives a husband the right to administer joint property, including his wife’s property. As a result, women who were married under the conjugal society arrangement were usually required to obtain permission from their husbands to apply for housing subsidies and take out loans or mortgages, while men had unrestricted access to these and other services. Legislation remained pending six years after a 2007 agreement with the IACHR to modify the “conjugal society law” to give women and men equal rights and responsibilities in marriage. The commercial code provides that, unless a woman is married under the separate estate regime, she may not enter into a commercial partnership agreement without permission from her husband, while a man may enter into such an agreement without permission from his wife.
Despite a law providing for equal pay for equal work, the average woman’s annual income was 49 percent that of men, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report. Fifty-two percent of women participated in the labor force during the year (compared with 79 percent of men), but 74 percent of women enrolled in tertiary education, compared with 67 percent of men. SERNAM is in charge of protecting women’s legal rights and is the only government office that deals specifically with discrimination against women. There are 96 “women’s centers” throughout the country to help establish equal rights for women by offering services such as training, counseling, and legal advice.
China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
While there were laws designed to protect women, children, persons with disabilities, and minorities, some discrimination based on ethnicity, sex, disability, and other factors persisted.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, and some persons convicted of rape were executed. The penalties for rape can range from three years in prison to a death sentence with a two-year reprieve and forced labor. The law does not address spousal rape. The government did not make available official statistics on rape or sexual assault, leaving the scale of sexual violence difficult to determine. Migrant female workers were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence.
Violence against women remained a significant problem. According to reports at least a quarter of families suffered from domestic violence, and more than 85 percent of the victims were women. Domestic violence against women included verbal and psychological abuse, restrictions on personal freedom, economic control, physical violence, and rape. The government supported shelters for victims of domestic violence, and some courts provided protections to victims, including through restraining orders prohibiting a perpetrator of domestic violence from coming near a victim. In March, Shaanxi Province designated the Number Two People’s Hospital as an antidomestic violence service station to treat victims of domestic violence, the first designation of its kind. Nonetheless, official assistance did not always reach victims, and public security forces often ignored domestic violence. In 2010 the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF) reported that it received 50,000 domestic violence complaints annually. Spousal abuse typically went unreported, and an ACWF study found that only 7 percent of rural women who suffered domestic violence sought help from police. Almost 30 percent of respondents in a recent study felt that domestic violence should be kept a private matter.
While domestic violence tended to be more prevalent in rural areas, it also occurred among the highly educated urban population. The ACWF reported that approximately one-quarter of the 400,000 divorces registered each year were the result of family violence.
According to ACWF statistics nationwide in 2008 there were 12,000 special police booths for domestic violence complaints, 400 shelters for victims of domestic violence, and 350 examination centers for women claiming injuries from domestic violence. Many domestic violence shelters had inadequate facilities, required extensive documentation, or went unused. The government operated most shelters, some with NGO participation. In 2012 the government provided 680,000 office spaces in government buildings for women’s resource centers.
There was no strong legal mechanism to protect women from domestic abuse. According to the ACWF, laws related to domestic violence were flawed since there was no national provision for dealing with offenders. During the year the creation of such mechanisms was added to the NPC’s legislative agenda, the fifth time the ACWF submitted such a proposal. Both the marriage law and the law on the protection of women’s rights and interests have stipulations that directly prohibit domestic violence, but some experts complained that the stipulations were too general, failed to define domestic violence, and were difficult to implement. Because of standards of evidence, even if certain that domestic violence was occurring, a judge could not rule against the abuser without the abuser’s confession. Only 10 percent of accused abusers confessed to violent behavior, according to 2009 data from the Institute of Applied Laws. The institute reported that, although 40 to 60 percent of marriage and family cases involved domestic violence, less than 30 percent were able to supply indirect evidence, including photographs, hospital records, police records, or children’s testimony. Witnesses seldom testified in court.
Public support increased in the fight against domestic violence. A recent survey found that more than 85 percent of respondents believed that further antidomestic violence legislation was needed. A high-profile case, Kim Lee’s case against her celebrity husband, Li Yang, led to public outcry when she posted pictures of her injuries on a social networking site. After months of waiting, Lee was granted a civil protection order forbidding her husband from approaching within 200 yards of her. In February a Beijing court granted Lee a divorce on the grounds of domestic abuse and issued a three-month protection order against her former husband. This case set a precedent because the court acknowledged domestic violence as grounds for divorce, granted a protection order, and ordered the former husband to pay compensation for the violence she had endured during their marriage.
Sexual Harassment: The law bans sexual harassment, and the number of sexual harassment complaints increased significantly. A 2009 Harvard University study showed that 80 percent of working women in the country experienced sexual harassment at some stage of their careers. The same study found that only 30 percent of sexual harassment claims by women achieved favorable resolutions. In November an NGO published its survey of female manufacturing workers in Guangzhou, which indicated that as much as 70 percent of Guangzhou’s female workforce had been sexually harassed. Approximately half did not pursue legal or administrative actions, while 15 percent of respondents reported leaving the workplace to escape their harasser.
Sexual harassment was not limited to the workplace. According to a China Youth Daily survey reported in September, approximately 14 percent of women had been sexually harassed while riding the subway, and 82 percent of those polled believed the problem existed. At a Hainan Province festival in 2012, a dozen women were pinned down by a crowd of men who mauled the women and stripped off their clothes in broad daylight. Police escorted the women away and, according to press reports, subsequently detained six suspects in the assault.
According to information on the ACWF website, the internet and hotlines made it easier for women who were sexually harassed to obtain useful information and legal service. A Beijing rights lawyer told the ACWF that approximately
100-200 million women in the country had suffered or were suffering sexual harassment in the workplace but that very few legal service centers provided counseling.
Reproductive Rights: The government restricted the rights of parents to choose the number of children they have. Although national law prohibits the use of physical coercion to compel persons to submit to abortion or sterilization, intense pressure to meet birth-limitation targets set by government regulations resulted in instances of local family-planning officials’ using physical coercion to meet government goals. Such practices included the mandatory use of birth control and the abortion of unauthorized pregnancies. In the case of families that already had two children, one parent was often pressured to undergo sterilization.
The National Population and Family Planning Commission reported that 13 million women annually underwent abortions caused by unplanned pregnancies. An official news media outlet also reported at least an additional 10 million chemically induced abortions or abortions performed in nongovernment facilities. Government statistics on the percentage of all abortions that were nonelective was not available. According to Health Ministry data released in March 2012, a total of 336 million abortions and 222 million sterilizations had been carried out since 1971.
The national family-planning authorities shifted their emphasis from lowering fertility rates to maintaining low fertility rates and emphasized quality of care in family-planning practices. In 2010 a representative of the National Population and Family Planning Commission reported that 85 percent of women of childbearing age used contraception. Of those, 70 percent used a reversible method. A survey taken in September, however, found that only 12 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 35 had a proper understanding of contraceptive methods. The country’s birth-limitation policies retained harshly coercive elements in law and practice. The financial and administrative penalties for unauthorized births were strict.
The 2002 national population and family-planning law standardized the implementation of the government’s birth-limitation policies, although enforcement varied significantly. The law grants married couples the right to have one birth and allows couples to apply for permission to have a second child if they meet conditions stipulated in local and provincial regulations. The one-child limit was more strictly applied in urban areas, where only couples meeting certain conditions were permitted to have a second child (e.g., if both of the would-be parents were an only child). In most rural areas couples were permitted to have a second child in cases where their first child was a girl. Ethnic minorities were subject to less stringent rules. Nationwide 35 percent of families fell under the one-child restrictions, and more than 60 percent of families were eligible to have a second child, either outright or if they met certain criteria. The remaining 5 percent were eligible to have more than two children. According to government statistics, the average fertility rate for women nationwide was 1.8, and in the country’s most populous and prosperous city, Shanghai, the fertility rate was 0.8. In December the NPC Standing Committee amended the one-child policy to allow couples in which at least one spouse is an only child to have two children.
The National Population and Family Planning Commission reported that all provinces eliminated the birth-approval requirement before a first child is conceived, but provinces may still continue to require parents to “register” pregnancies prior to giving birth to their first child. This registration requirement could be used as a de facto permit system in some provinces, since some local governments continued to mandate abortion for single women who became pregnant. Provinces and localities imposed fines of various amounts on unwed mothers.
Regulations requiring women who violate family-planning policy to terminate their pregnancies still exist in Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces. Other provinces – Fujian, Guizhou, Guangdong, Gansu, Jiangxi, Qinghai, Shanxi, and Shaanxi – require unspecified “remedial measures” to deal with unauthorized pregnancies. A number of online media reports indicated that migrant women applying for household registration in Guangzhou were required to have an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) implanted.
In October, Western media reported that officials from the Shandong Province Family Planning Commission forced their way into the home of Liu Xinwen, dragged her to a nearby hospital, and injected her with an abortion-inducing drug. Shandong officials reportedly forced Liu, who was six months into her pregnancy, to sign a document stating that she had agreed to the abortion.
The government continued to impose “child-raising fees” on violators of the one-child policy. In the first half of the year, for example, Guangzhou City collected more than RMB 300 million ($49 million) in such fees without disclosing how the money was used. Guangdong Province reportedly refused to disclose the amount of fees it had collected from one-child policy violators. Family planning officials in Tunchang County, Hainan Province, used fines and terminated employment as punishment for one-child policy violators.
On December 30, overseas media reported that officials at Nurluq Hospital in Keriye County of Xinjiang’s Hotan Prefecture carried out forced abortions on four pregnant women. According to the report, the deputy chief of Hotan’s Arish Township confirmed that authorities had carried out four of six planned abortions utilizing abortion-inducing drugs. One woman escaped and another was in the hospital awaiting the procedure, the report stated. The head of the township’s Family Planning Department stated the abortions were carried out following orders from higher authorities. The husband of one victim stated that his wife had been seven months’ pregnant when the procedure was performed and that the baby had been born alive before succumbing to the effects of the chemical toxins hours later.
The law requires each parent of an unapproved child to pay a “social compensation fee,” which can reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income.
Social compensation fees were set and assessed at the local level. The law requires family-planning officials to obtain court approval before taking “forcible” action, such as detaining family members or confiscating and destroying property of families who refuse to pay social compensation fees. This requirement was not always followed, and national authorities remained ineffective at reducing abuses by local officials.
The population control policy relied on education, propaganda, and economic incentives, as well as on more coercive measures. Those who had an unapproved child or helped another do so faced disciplinary measures such as social compensation fees, job loss or demotion, loss of promotion opportunity, expulsion from the CCP (membership is an unofficial requirement for certain jobs), and other administrative punishments, including in some cases the destruction of private property.
It continued to be illegal in almost all provinces for a single woman to have a child, with fines levied for violations. The law states that family-planning bureaus conduct pregnancy tests on married women and provide them with unspecified “follow-up” services. Some provinces fined women who did not undergo periodic pregnancy tests.
Officials at all levels remained subject to rewards or penalties based on meeting the population goals set by their administrative region. Promotions for local officials depended in part on meeting population targets. Linking job promotion with an official’s ability to meet or exceed such targets provided a powerful structural incentive for officials to employ coercive measures to meet population goals. An administrative reform process initiated pilot programs in some localities that removed this criterion for evaluating officials’ performance.
Although the family-planning law states that officials should not violate citizens’ rights in the enforcement of family-planning policy, these rights, as well as penalties for violating them, are not clearly defined. By law citizens may sue officials who exceed their authority in implementing birth-planning policy, but few protections for whistleblowers against retaliation from local officials exist (see section 4, Whistleblower Protection). The law provides significant and detailed sanctions for officials who help persons evade the birth limitations.
According to online reports, women who registered newborns in Nanhai District, Foshan, Guangdong Province, were requested to insert an IUD. Many posted online complaints that officials threatened not to register the baby if the mother did not comply, even when the newborn was the mother’s only child. Other reports indicated that a mother could not enroll her child in school if she was unwilling to insert an IUD.
Discrimination: The constitution states that “women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.” The Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests provides for equality in ownership of property, inheritance rights, access to education, and equal pay for equal work. The ACWF was the leading implementer of women’s policy for the government, and the State Council’s National Working Committee on Children and Women coordinated women’s policy. Many activists and observers expressed concern that discrimination was increasing. Women continued to report that discrimination, sexual harassment, unfair dismissal, demotion, and wage discrepancies were significant problems.
Authorities often did not enforce laws protecting the rights of women. According to legal experts, it was difficult to litigate sex-discrimination suits because of vague legal definitions. Some observers noted that the agencies tasked with protecting women’s rights tended to focus on maternity-related benefits and wrongful termination during maternity leave rather than on sex discrimination, violence against women, and sexual harassment.
Despite government policies mandating nondiscrimination in employment and remuneration, women reportedly earned 66 percent as much as men. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the local labor bureaus are responsible for ensuring that enterprises complied with the labor law and the employment promotion law, each of which contains antidiscrimination provisions.
Many employers preferred to hire men to avoid the expense of maternity leave and childcare (paid paternity leave exists for men in some localities, but there is no national provision for paternity leave). Work units were allowed to impose an earlier mandatory retirement age for women than for men, and some employers lowered the effective retirement age for female workers to 50. In general the official retirement age for men was 60 and for women 55. Lower retirement ages also reduced pensions, which generally were based on the number of years worked. Job advertisements for women sometimes specified height and age requirements.
Women’s rights advocates indicated that in rural areas women often forfeited land and property rights to their husbands in divorce proceedings. Rural contract law and laws protecting women’s rights stipulate that women enjoy equal rights in cases of land management, but experts argued that this was rarely the case due to the complexity of the law and difficulties in its implementation. A 2011 interpretation of the country’s marriage law by the Supreme People’s Court exacerbated the gender wealth gap by stating that, after divorce, marital property belongs solely to the person registered as the homeowner in mortgage and registration documents – in most cases the husband. In determining child custody in divorce cases, judges make determinations based on the following guidelines: Children under age two should live with their mothers; custody of children two to nine years of age should be determined by who can provide the most stable living arrangement; and children 10 and over should be consulted when determining custody.
A high female suicide rate continued to be a serious problem. There were approximately 590 female suicides per day, according to a report released in September 2012 by the Chinese Center for Disease and Control and Prevention. This was more than the approximately 500 per day reported in 2009. The report noted that the suicide rate for women was three times higher than for men. Many observers believed that violence against women and girls, discrimination in education and employment, the traditional preference for male children, birth-limitation policies, and other societal factors contributed to the high female suicide rate. Women in rural areas, where the suicide rate for women was three to four times higher than for men, were especially vulnerable.
The World Bank reported that in 2009, 99 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 were literate, with a literacy rate of 91 percent for women above 15 compared with 97 percent for men above 15.
Women faced discrimination in higher education. The required score for the National Higher Entrance Exam was lower for men than for women at several universities. According to 2010 Ministry of Education statistics, women accounted for 49.6 percent of undergraduate students and 50.3 percent of master’s students in 2012 but only 35 percent of doctoral students. Women with advanced degrees reported discrimination in the hiring process, since the job distribution system became more competitive and market driven.
Gender-based Sex Selection: According to the 2010 national census, the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 118 to 100. Sex identification and sex-selective abortion were prohibited, but the practices continued because of traditional preference for male children and the birth-limitation policy.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Although the 2011 antidiscrimination law specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status, many of these prohibitions were not enforced. For example, the manual of administrative procedures for blood banks issued by the Ministry of Health states that to protect the recipient of a transfusion from HIV/AIDS, it excludes those who have had “male homosexual relations in the past 15 years.” In June 2012 the Constitutional Court asked the Ministry of Health to remove the selection criteria based on sexual orientation donors, but the regulation reportedly had not been changed at year’s end.
On April 10, the Constitutional Court struck down a lawsuit disputing the constitutionality of the 2011 law.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. The law provides for sentences ranging from eight to 30 years’ imprisonment for violent sexual assault. For acts of spousal sexual violence, the law mandates prison sentences of six months to two years and denies probation or bail to offenders who disobey restraining orders. There was no comprehensive or consolidated database on the incidence of sexual violence, but NGO groups claimed that rape continued to be underreported.
The Prosecutor General’s Office reported that between January and October, there were 3,257 new cases of rape, 6,549 cases of sexual assault, and 897 sexual crimes committed against “persons unable to resist,” such as children and persons with disabilities. The Prosecutor General’s Office indicated that many cases went unreported. Members of illegal groups, former paramilitary members, and guerrillas raped and sexually abused women and children.
Prosecution rates for rape have historically been low. Through October the Prosecutor General’s Office opened 25,155 new investigations for sexual crimes. As of November 15, 2,030 investigations were in the accusations or formal charging stage, 21,566 were in the pretrial investigation stage, 63 resulted in convictions during the year, 33 were closed without decisions, and 1,463 were kept open but archived for lack of evidence. In addition the Inspector General’s Office reported 136 open disciplinary investigations into members of the security forces for sex crimes, four of which were opened during the year.
A 2012 law allows authorities to prosecute domestic violence offenders when the victim does not testify if there is another witness. Judicial authorities may remove an abuser from a household and require therapy. The law provides for both fines and prison time if an abuser causes grave harm or the abuse is recurrent; however, authorities did not impose fines. Another 2012 law augments both jail time and fines if the crime causes “transitory physical disfigurement,” such as the increasingly common acid attacks, in which an attacker throws acid onto the victim’s face. The Prosecutor General’s Office reported 60 open investigations related to acid attacks, not all of which occurred during the year.
For example, on June 20, a court sentenced Alexis Eduardo Ramirez Romana to 16 years and six months in prison for throwing acid on the face of Daysi Natalia Valencia Gonzalez in Bogota in 2011.
The Prosecutor General’s Office reported opening 34,009 new investigations for cases of domestic violence through October. The victims in 30,987 of the cases were women, and the victims in 2,683 cases were minors. The law requires the government to provide victims of domestic violence immediate protection from further physical or psychological abuse. The ICBF provided safe houses and counseling for some women and children who were victims of domestic violence, but its services could not meet the demand. In addition to fulfilling traditional family counseling functions, ICBF family ombudsmen handled domestic violence cases.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Several indigenous groups reportedly practiced FGM. No accurate statistics existed regarding this practice (see section 6, Children).
Sexual Harassment: The law provides measures to deter and punish harassment in the workplace, such as sexual harassment, verbal abuse or derision, aggression, and discrimination. Nonetheless, NGOs reported that sexual harassment remained a pervasive and underreported problem. No information was available as to whether the government implemented the law effectively.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children and the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Women and men had access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, and obstetric care. During the year a group of 60 women participated in a mass filing of a gender-based violence complaint in Santa Marta. Ten of the women reported being victims of forced sterilization by armed criminal bands that operated in the area.
Illegal armed groups continued to force women to have abortions. Female combatants who demobilized from the FARC reported that women in the FARC were repeatedly forced to have abortions, with most experiencing between one and seven abortions. The Prosecutor General’s Office reported opening 21 new investigations in cases of forced abortion through October.
Discrimination: Although women enjoy the same legal rights as men, serious discrimination against women persisted. Women faced hiring discrimination, were affected disproportionately by unemployment, and received salaries that generally were not commensurate with their education and experience. According to government statistics, 54 percent of working-age women participated in the labor force. According to Sisma Mujer and the Ministry of Labor, women on average received 79 percent of the average wages of their male counterparts. The country’s National Administrative Department of Statistics reported women earned an average of 23.3 percent less than their male counterparts.
The Office of the Presidential High Advisor for the Equality of Women has primary responsibility for combating discrimination against women, although advocacy groups reported that the office remained seriously underfunded. On September 11, the high advisor announced the government’s launch of a national public policy for gender equity. The policy includes directives for incorporating women in the construction of a peace agreement; affording women access to economic autonomy, decision-making positions, health and reproductive rights, and a life free of violence; and incorporating a gender focus into education.
The Ministry of Defense continued implementing its protocol for managing cases of sexual violence and harassment involving members of the military. The Prosecutor General’s Office reported that through October it had 116 active investigations in cases of alleged sexual violence by members of the security forces.
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, language, culture, or religion but does not address disability or sexual orientation. The government did not enforce prohibitions against discrimination effectively.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law on sexual violence criminalizes rape, but the government did not effectively enforce this law, and rape was common throughout the country. The law defines rape to include male survivors, sexual slavery, sexual harassment, forced pregnancy, and other sexual crimes but not spousal rape. It also prohibits compromise fines and forced marriage, allows survivors of sexual violence to waive appearance in court, and permits closed hearings to protect confidentiality. The minimum penalty prescribed for rape is a prison sentence of five years.
The SSF, RMGs, and civilians perpetrated widespread sexual violence (see section 1.g.). Between December 2010 and November 2011, the United Nations reported a total of 625 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by parties to the conflict in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Orientale provinces. Of these, 602 were against women and girls and 23 against men and boys. The United Nations reported almost half of the incidents were attributed to the FARDC and the PNC, noting this high proportion could be explained by the greater access human rights monitors had to areas under SSF control. Separately the government reported 18,729 cases of sexual violence in 2012.
Some prosecutions occurred for rape and other types of sexual violence. Most survivors, however, did not pursue formal legal action due to insufficient resources, lack of confidence in the justice system, fear of subjecting themselves to humiliation and possible reprisal, or family pressure.
It was common for family members to pressure a rape survivor to remain silent, even in collaboration with health-care professionals, to safeguard the reputations of the survivor and her family. Survivors of SGBV faced enormous social stigma. After a sexual assault, many young women and girls were labeled as unsuitable for marriage, and married women were frequently abandoned by their husbands. Some families forced rape survivors to marry the men who raped them or to forego prosecution in exchange for money or goods from the rapist.
Domestic violence was common throughout the country. A 2012 study found 64 percent of girls and women age 14 and above had suffered physical violence; of that number 49 percent experienced physical violence again within 12 months of being interviewed for the study. Although the law considers assault a crime, there is no law that specifically addresses domestic violence, and police rarely intervened in domestic disputes. There were no reports of judicial authorities taking action in cases of domestic or spousal abuse.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment occurred throughout the country. A 2010 study conducted by the World Health Organization found 64 percent of all workers surveyed experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the minimum penalty prescribed by law is a prison sentence of one year. There was little or no effective enforcement.
Reproductive Rights: The government respected the right of couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The law does not require a husband’s permission before providing family planning services to married women, but providers generally required it. Women’s access to contraception remained extremely low. According to the 2010 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), 17.5 percent of women used a family planning method and 5.4 percent of women used modern contraceptive methods. According to MICS, total unmet need for family planning was 24 percent. According to UN estimates, the adjusted maternal mortality ratio was 670 deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was 1 in 24.
The extent of women’s access to treatment for sexually transmitted diseases was not known. Recent studies did not disaggregate data by gender.
Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender, but the law does not provide women the same rights as men. For example, the 1981 Family Code requires a married woman to obtain her husband’s consent before engaging in legal transactions, including selling or renting real estate, opening a bank account, or applying for a passport. According to UNICEF, many widows were dispossessed of their property because the law states the husband’s nieces and nephews, rather than his widow and children, have precedence with regard to inheritance. Women found guilty of adultery may be sentenced to up to one year in prison, while adultery by men is punishable only if judged to have “an injurious quality.” In their 2009 report to the UN Human Rights Commission, seven UN special rapporteurs and representatives expressed concern that, while the family code recognizes equality between spouses, it “effectively renders a married woman a minor under the guardianship of her husband” by stating that the wife must obey her husband.
Women experienced economic discrimination. The law forbids a woman from working at night or accepting employment without her husband’s consent. Although the Labor Code stipulates men and women must receive equal pay for equivalent work, this provision was not enforced effectively. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), women often received less pay in the private sector than did men doing the same job and rarely occupied positions of authority or high responsibility.
Various laws require political parties to consider gender when presenting candidates at all levels.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, or social status, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence, and it provides penalties from 10 to 18 years in prison for rape. The length of the sentence depends on the victim’s age and other factors, such as the assailant’s use of violence or position of influence over the victim. Rape was underreported due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma. According to the National Institute of Women (INAMU), the rape law applies to spousal rape, although such cases were much more difficult to prove. On August 13, the judicial branch and the social security system signed an agreement to improve the process of collecting physical evidence in cases of rape so that victims receive immediate attention. Four locations in the country, besides the judicial forensic clinic, had rape kits to collect and analyze physical evidence for use in prosecutions. According to the judicial branch’s statistics office, there were 1,840 reported rape cases in 2012. Ultimately, courts tried 282 cases of rape, 11 cases of attempted rape, and 80 cases of aggravated rape in 2012, and they convicted and sentenced 129, seven, and 38 defendants, respectively.
The government continued to identify domestic violence against women and children as a serious and growing societal problem. INAMU reported that five women died from domestic violence during the first six months of the year; in 2012, 26 women and girls died from domestic violence. The law prohibits domestic violence and provides measures for the protection of domestic violence victims. Criminal penalties range from 10 to 100 days in prison for aggravated threats and up to 35 years in prison for aggravated homicide, including a sentence of 20 to 35 years for persons who kill their partners. If a domestic violence offender has no violent criminal record and the sentence received is less than three years’ imprisonment, the law also provides for alternative sanctions, such as weekend detentions and assistance, including referrals for social services and rehabilitation. In 2012, according to the judicial branch’s statistics office, authorities opened 21,010 cases of domestic violence throughout the country. Although there were only 722 cases tried with 382 persons sentenced for crimes of violence against women, including six persons sentenced for femicide, this represented an increase of 238 cases from those tried in 2011.
INAMU assists women and their children who are victims of domestic violence in its regional office located in San Jose and in three other specialized centers and temporary shelters. INAMU maintained a domestic abuse hotline connected to the 911 emergency system, and it provided counseling to 3,350 women and protection to 148 women and 258 children during the first six months of the year.
The public prosecutor, police, and ombudsman have offices dedicated to addressing domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security generally enforced this prohibition. The law imposes penalties ranging from a letter of reprimand to dismissal, with more serious incidents subject to criminal prosecution. The ombudsman’s office received 138 complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace between January and June.
Reproductive Rights: Individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children; have information and access to safe methods of contraception from public hospitals and medical attention centers; and receive medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. The public health care system plays a major role in how women access contraception, including sterilization. In public as well as private healthcare, the right to obtain and use contraceptives extends to all members of the population. Patients who pay into the public health care system receive contraceptives at no additional fee, and 80 percent of women ages 15 to 49 used a modern method of contraception, according to 2011 UN estimates. According to the UN Population Fund, skilled health personnel attended 95 percent of births in 2010. The maternal mortality rate was 40 per 100,000 live births as of 2010.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men under the law in most cases. The law prohibits discrimination against women and obligates the government to promote political, economic, social, and cultural equality. The government maintained offices for gender problems in most ministries. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for investigating allegations of gender discrimination. INAMU implemented programs that promoted gender equality and publicized the rights of women. In 2012 the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) reported that women represented 45.2 percent of the labor force. The law requires that women and men receive equal pay for equal work. In 2012 INEC estimated that earnings for women were 93.4 percent of earned income for men.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced the law effectively.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape as well as domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and sexual harassment. Spousal rape is criminalized, but sexual assault is not penalized if the victim is married to the perpetrator and the victim is in a helpless state due to physical or mental illness, drugs, or alcohol.
Penalties for rape include imprisonment for up to 12 years, depending on the seriousness of the offense. The government effectively prosecuted persons accused of rape. In 2012 authorities received reports of 364 rapes compared with 392 in 2011. In 2012 courts handed down 67 convictions for rape and 681 convictions for other sexual offenses.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a problem. The government and NGOs operated 24-hour hotlines, counseling centers, and shelters for female victims of violence. The royal family supported a variety of NGOs that worked to improve conditions and services at shelters and to help families afflicted with domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for a perpetrator, or an employer who allowed or failed to prevent an incident of harassment, to pay monetary compensation to victims. The government enforced the law effectively. Few cases were reported during the year, and they were generally handled through the employee unions, which function as semigovernmental institutions.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to obtain the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Health clinics and local health NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Health. There were no restrictions on access to contraceptives, and the government provided free childbirth services. Women had unfettered access to maternal health services, including skilled attendance during childbirth. Women used nurses and midwives for prenatal and postnatal care unless the mother or child experienced more serious health complications.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, and the law requires equal pay for equal work. There was little reported discrimination in employment, pay, ownership and management of businesses, or access to credit, education, or housing. The law requires the 1,100 largest companies to establish target numbers for the participation of women on their boards, develop specific plans for recruiting women, and describe their actions to promote women’s participation in annual reports, explaining, if applicable, why targets were not met.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Although the constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, and social status, such discrimination existed. The government seldom acknowledged that discrimination occurred or made efforts to address the problem.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes violence against women, and the state can prosecute rape, incest, sexual aggression, and other forms of domestic violence. Penalties for these crimes range from one to 30 years in prison and fines from 700 to 245,000 pesos ($16.50 to $5,780). The penalties for rape, including spousal rape, range from 10 to 15 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 pesos ($2,360 to $4,718). For cases that involve a vulnerable person or a child, or if rape occurred under other egregious circumstances, the penalty is 10 to 20 years in prison. The amended penal code punishes domestic violence with four to 10 years’ imprisonment and a significant fine. When domestic violence causes the victim’s incapacitation for more than 90 days, the offender faces a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years, while those causing permanent injury or damage face a maximum 30 years of imprisonment.
Despite the law rape was a serious and pervasive problem. Survivors of rape often did not report the crime, due to fear of social stigma, fear of retribution, and the perception that police and the judicial system would fail to provide redress. The state may prosecute a suspect for rape even if the victim does not file charges, and rape survivors may press charges against spouses. Police generally encouraged rape victims to seek assistance from the specialized gender-based violence unit within the National Police force, the Attorney General’s Office, public defenders, or NGOs.
Despite government efforts to improve the situation, violence against women continued to be pervasive. The Gender Violence Unit at the National Police received 417 reports from victims of violence through September. The attorney general reported that from January through November, more than 60,000 gender-violence complaints were reported to authorities nationwide, compared with 70,000 complaints filed in 2011. Included in this figure were more than 9,000 complaints of sex crimes.
The number of cases of violence against women exceeded the prosecutor general’s capacity to deal with the situation. According to the National Police, more than 1,117 women lost their lives due to gender-based violence from January 2008 to October 2013. The Gender Violence Unit at the National Police reported 117 cases of femicide through September. In 2012 the National Police reported 162 cases for the year. The vast majority of survivors of violence never filed a complaint with the prosecutor general. The attorney general reported that from January to October, 140 women died as victims of domestic violence, compared with 160 deaths during this same period in 2012. Some examples of successful prosecution existed: On August 3, a court sentenced Freddy Antonio Sosa Vargas to 20 years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Belkys Collado, after a one-year investigation conducted by the Valverde district attorney in the Valverde province of Mao. Sosa Vargas shot and killed Collado in July 2012.
The press regularly published articles on domestic violence and femicide cases. On August 28, one newspaper reported on three cases that occurred August 26 in Boca Chica, Jarabacoa, and San Pedro de Macoris. In Boca Chica, Rafael Ramon Villar Bonilla stabbed his wife, Tapia Cepeda, 11 times and subsequently hanged himself from a tree. In Jarabacoa, Luis Tiburcio set his wife Yokati Cepeda on fire after she attempted to seize his motorcycle keys to prevent him from driving drunk. Cepeda suffered first- and second-degree burns. In San Pedro de Macoris, Victor del Carmen Rivera committed suicide after he shot and seriously injured his 17-year-old girlfriend Iliana Perez and her mother Fahana Perez. Both survivors received hospitalization, but police did not release additional information on the case. The families of all three victims asked authorities to intensify actions taken against aggressors to prevent future cases of domestic violence.
The Attorney General’s Office oversees the specialized Violence Prevention and Attention Unit, which has 17 satellite offices in the 32 provinces in the country. At these offices survivors of violence can file criminal complaints, obtain free legal counsel, and receive psychological and medical attention. Police had instructions to forward all domestic violence and sexual assault cases to these offices. Each office had professional psychologists on staff to counsel victims of violence and to assess the threat of impending danger associated with a complaint. These offices had the authority to issue temporary restraining orders immediately after receiving complaints and to serve as messengers for the victims to prevent contact between the victim and the abuser. Despite these developments, women’s organizations remained expressed concerned that the number of offices was insufficient.
In an additional step toward addressing the problem, the Attorney General’s Office instructed all its officers throughout the country not to conciliate cases of violence against women and to continue judicial processes--even in cases in which victims withdraw charges. District attorneys were instructed to provide assistance and protection to victims of violence by referring them to appropriate institutions for legal, medical, and psychological counseling. Furthermore, the Attorney General’s Office instructed all its officers that investigations and presentation of charges must be concluded in a period no longer than 35 days unless the case was considered complex.
The National Police launched the Office for the Attention of Women and Interfamily Violence, which integrated tens of newly graduated police officers trained by the NGO Profamilia as well as the Attorney General’s Office. The office, headed by Colonel Teresa Martinez, was linked in to the emergency call lines to facilitate quick response services. In cases involving violence, officers were authorized to enter the victim’s domicile without a court order to provide victim protection.
The Ministry for Women, which had limited resources, actively promoted equality and the prevention of violence against women through implementing education and awareness programs and the provision of training to other government ministries and offices. The ministry also promoted higher levels of female participation in the political life of the country.
The government and various NGOs conducted outreach and training programs on domestic violence and legal rights. The Ministry of Women operated two shelters for domestic violence survivors in undisclosed locations, where abused persons could make reports to police and receive counseling. The shelters provided women with short- and mid-term assistance of up to three months to escape violent situations.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 pesos ($116 to $232); however, union leaders reported that the law was not enforced, and sexual harassment remained a problem. The Attorney General’s Office reported sexual harassment was particularly prevalent in free trade zones (FTZs).
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children and generally had the information to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. When available, contraceptives were provided without charge; however, many low-income women used them inconsistently due to an irregular supply from public agencies. Social biases against and religious prohibitions on the use of modern methods of family planning existed. UNFPA research indicated that 73 percent of women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception. The Ministry of Health’s Department of Epidemiology reported 149 maternal mortalities per 100,000 live births for the period January through November. A 2012 World Health Organization/UN Children’s Fund/UNFPA/World Bank study estimated the maternal mortality ratio at 150 per 100,000 live births in 2012, a decrease of nine maternal mortalities since 2011. The slight improvement was attributed to increased access to reproductive and prenatal and postnatal health services, good health practices, and successful education and prevention programs. Although the UN estimated that skilled health personnel attended 95 percent of births 2012, there were women with limited access to adequate care, especially women of Haitian descent.
A high rate of pregnancies among adolescent girls remained a concern. In July the UNFPA estimated 22 percent of adolescent girls had been pregnant. The elevated pregnancy rates contributed to a high level of maternal mortality; the UNFPA found that 19 percent of maternal deaths occurred among adolescents. Other significant contributing factors to maternal and neonatal deaths were poor quality of care and lack of access to health services, as well as complications during pregnancy and delivery. Most women had access to some postnatal care, although the lack of postnatal care was higher among young, uneducated women and those in the lowest economic quintiles. Access to diagnostic services and treatment of sexually transmitted infections was limited by technical, financial, and management problems, which equally affected both men and women.
Discrimination: Although the law provides women and men the same legal rights, women did not enjoy social and economic status or opportunity equal to that of men. Men held approximately 70 percent of leadership positions in all sectors. On average women received 44 percent less pay than men in jobs of equal content and requiring equal skills. Some employers reportedly gave pregnancy tests to women before hiring them, as part of a required medical examination. Although it is illegal to discriminate based on such tests, NGO leaders reported that pregnant women often were not hired and that female employees who became pregnant sometimes were fired. There were no effective government programs to combat economic discrimination against women.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. The government did not fully enforce these prohibitions. Women, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, Afro-Ecuadorians, and LGBT persons continued to face discrimination.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Although the law prohibits violence against women, including within marriage, abuse was widespread. The law criminalizes rape and provides penalties of up to 12 years in prison. Under family law, spousal rape is considered a type of violence and may be prosecuted under the criminal code. The penalty for rape where death occurred is from 12 to 16 years’ imprisonment. On June 26, the Commission for Integral Security of the Ministry of Interior reported that sex-related crimes dropped 23 percent from 2012 levels. The National Police received 2,067 reports of rape and detained 789 individuals in 2012, the latest date for which the ministry provided information. It did not provide statistics on numbers prosecuted, convicted, or punished.
Individuals did not report many instances of rape and sexual assault because of the victim’s fear of retribution from the perpetrator or further violence and social stigma. According to local media reports, reporting rapes and other forms of violence continued to be a traumatic process, particularly for female minors. For example, a rape victim must file a complaint at the Office of the Public Prosecutor, and the victim must submit to several gynecological evaluations, including the Helsinki test. In certain cases officials mistreated victims and obliged them to deal with unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. In addition, authorities sometimes accused victims of being responsible for the aggression.
The most pervasive violence against women involved domestic and sexual violence. According to a 2011 national survey of 18,880 women conducted by the Ecuadorian Institute on Statistics and the Census (INEC), 61 percent of women reported being victims of abuse. The percentages were higher for women with children. INEC also reported that psychological aggression was the most common form of abuse nationwide, the least reported, and carried fewer sanctions than physical aggression. According to INEC’s survey, gender-based violence affected indigenous women more than any other group: 68 percent of women who identify themselves as indigenous reported that they had been victims of some form of domestic violence.
The Office of the Public Prosecutor recorded 767 injuries due to family violence from January 1 to August 31. In 2012 government-run Commissions for Women and Family Issues reported 74,025 complaints of domestic violence, 86 percent of which were against women. Beginning August 1, specialized judicial units under the Ministry of Justice replaced the commissions. The government placed 80 judges specializing in family and gender violence in 19 provinces. The judicial units have responsibility for collecting complaints and assisting victims, and they have the authority to order arrest warrants for up to 30 days of detention against the aggressor. The units forward serious abuse cases to the Office of the Public Prosecutor for prosecution.
According to family law, domestic violence may be punished with a fine for “damages, pain, and suffering” ranging from $264 to $3,960, depending on the severity of the crime. The law also gives family courts the power to remove an abusive spouse from the home if continued cohabitation creates a risk to the victim of abuse.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and provides penalties of up to two years in prison. Despite the legal prohibition of sexual harassment, women’s rights organizations described harassment in the workplace as common. In 2012, the National Police received 505 reports and complaints of sexual harassment; 2013 statistics were not available. Different studies revealed that female minors were targeted and victimized more than any other age group, particularly in schools and public places. On March 23, the organization Plan International, together with various ministries and organizations related to children’s rights, reported that 69 percent of underage women suffered harassment or gender violence, including sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: The law acknowledges the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. The law protects the sexual and reproductive rights of women and calls for free prenatal care, family planning services, and cancer screening.
Family Care International reported that 69 percent of women gave birth with the assistance of a skilled attendant. The Ministry of Public Health stated that approximately 62 percent of births to self-identified indigenous mothers took place at home without professional attendants in 2010, the latest date for which information was available. According to the UN Population Fund, the country’s maternal mortality rate was 110 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010. Limited access to maternal health care for women, particularly those residing in rural and remote areas, contributed to the high maternal mortality rate. During the year the government took steps to increase the number of medical staff in rural areas.
According to statistics published by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2012, 73 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used contraceptives. Family Care International estimated that 66 percent of women used some method of contraception. The Ministry of Health developed radio programs in indigenous languages to provide rural indigenous communities with information on reproductive rights and the use of modern contraceptive methods. On April 19, Minister of Health Carina Vance announced new regulations on availability and access to birth control methods, which included emergency contraception. The Ministry of Health promoted sex education in all public schools, and those under 18 years of age were required to go to a specialized health center for a general medical checkup before obtaining emergency contraception.
Discrimination: The constitution affords women an array of economic, political, and social rights. The law stipulates that the government should formulate and implement policies to achieve gender equality, incorporate a gender focus into plans and programs, and provide technical assistance to implement the law in the public sector; however, women often did not have equal rights. Societal discrimination against women was pervasive, particularly with respect to educational and economic opportunities for older women and for those in the lower economic strata. On March 8, NGOs reported that the average income of women was 33 percent lower than that of men, and only 13.7 percent of women had higher education. The average monthly income of women was $258, compared with $386 for men, according to a study by INEC. The same study revealed that 8 percent of working age women were heads of households and 40 percent were self-employed, especially in the commercial sector. Women were more likely to be employed in the informal sector or as domestic workers and thus enjoyed less stability and earned lower wages. Indigenous women continued to face triple discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and reduced economic status.
The government combated discrimination against women and other vulnerable groups through several programs. On April 11, the Ministry of Interior reported the start of the second phase of the “React Ecuador, Machismo is Violence” campaign with the aim of eliminating practices that condone gender violence.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Although the constitution and other laws provide that all persons are equal before the law and prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status, the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. There was discrimination against women, persons with disabilities, LGBT persons, and indigenous people. The Secretariat of Social Inclusion (SIS), headed by First Lady Vanda Pignato, made efforts to overcome traditional bias in all these areas.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and the criminal code’s definition of rape may apply to spousal rape. The law requires the FGR to prosecute rape cases whether or not the victim presses charges, and the law does not permit the victim to nullify the criminal charge. Generally, the penalty for rape is six to 10 years of imprisonment, but the law provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years for rape of certain classes of victims, including children and persons with disabilities.
Incidents of rape continued to be underreported for several reasons, including societal and cultural pressures on victims, fear of reprisal, ineffective and unsupportive responses by authorities toward victims, fear of publicity, and a perception among victims that cases were unlikely to be prosecuted. Laws against rape were not effectively enforced.
Rape and other sexual crimes against women were widespread. As of August 28, the FGR reported 4,826 cases of alleged sexual crimes resulting in 392 convictions during the year. As of October 10, the ISDEMU reported 3,466 cases of alleged sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape, and psychological abuse.
As of October, the ISDEMU provided health and psychological assistance to 5,535 women who experienced sexual abuse, domestic violence, mistreatment, sexual harassment, labor harassment, commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking in persons, or alien smuggling.
The law prohibits domestic violence and generally provides for sentences ranging from one to three years in prison, although some forms of domestic violence carry higher penalties. The law also permits obtaining restraining orders against offenders. Laws against domestic violence were not well enforced, and cases were not effectively prosecuted. A 2011 law prohibits mediation in domestic violence disputes.
Violence against women, including domestic violence, was a widespread and serious problem. As of July, the PNC reported 1,904 cases of alleged domestic violence. A large portion of the population considered domestic violence socially acceptable, and, as with rape, its incidence was underreported.
In June, in two separate incidents, two men set fire to their girlfriends following domestic disputes. Both women survived with injuries, and police arrested the two men. The cases were under investigation.
During the year President Funes engaged in a government campaign to support SIS in its efforts to eliminate violence against women. ISDEMU coordinated with the judicial and executive branches and civil society groups to conduct public awareness campaigns against domestic violence and sexual abuse. The PDDH, FGR, Supreme Court, Public Defender’s Office, and PNC collaborated with NGOs and other organizations to combat violence against women through education, increased enforcement of the law, and NGO support for programs for victims. SIS, through ISDEMU, defined policies, programs, and projects on domestic violence and continued to maintain one shared telephone hotline and two separate shelters for victims of domestic abuse and child victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The government’s efforts to combat domestic violence were minimally effective.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides penalties of imprisonment from three to five years if the victim is an adult and from four to eight years if the victim is a minor. Fines can also be imposed, and additional fines are added to the prison term in cases where the perpetrator is in a position of authority or trust over the victim. The law also mandates that employers take measures to avoid sexual harassment, violence against women, and other workplace harassment problems. The law requires employers to create and implement preventative programs that address violence against women, sexual abuse, and other psychosocial risks. The government, however, did not enforce sexual harassment laws effectively.
Since underreporting by victims of sexual harassment appeared to be widespread, it was difficult to estimate the extent of the problem. As of August 28, the FGR reported 552 cases of alleged sexual harassment during the year, of which 33 resulted in convictions.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children. Information about and access to contraception was widely available. Demographic Health Surveys indicated that 72 percent of married women used some method of family planning. Prenatal care and skilled attendance at delivery generally were available.
Discrimination: The constitution grants women and men the same legal rights under family and property law, but women did not enjoy equal treatment in practice. The law establishes sentences of one to three years in prison for public officials who deny a person’s civil rights based on gender, and six months to two years for employers who discriminate against women in the workplace, but employees generally did not report such violations due to fear of employer reprisals.
Although pregnancy testing as a condition for employment is illegal, some businesses allegedly required female job applicants to present pregnancy test results, and some businesses illegally fired pregnant workers. As of October, the Ministry of Labor received 16 complaints regarding illegal firing of pregnant workers but imposed no fines.
Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender, women suffered from cultural, economic, and societal discrimination. Although the law requires equal pay for equal work, the average wage paid to women for comparable work was 57 percent of that paid to men. Men often received priority in job placement and promotions, and women were not accorded equal treatment in traditional male-dominated sectors, such as agriculture and business. Training for women generally was confined to low- and middle-wage occupational areas where women already held most positions, such as teaching, nursing, apparel assembly, home industry, and small business.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The new constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, culture, ethnic or social origin, color, place of origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, birth, primary language, economic or social or health status, disability, age, religion, conscience, marital status, or pregnancy. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively, although there were problems in some areas.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, domestic abuse, incest, and indecent assault were significant problems. The law provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for rape, an indictable offense which can be tried only in the High Court. The law recognizes spousal rape as a specific offense. The NGOs Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and Fiji Women’s Crisis Center pressed for more consistent and severe punishment for rape.
The domestic violence decree identifies domestic violence as a specific offense. Police claimed to practice a “no-drop” policy, under which they pursued investigations of domestic violence cases even if a victim later withdrew her accusation. Women’s organizations reported that police were not always consistent in their observance of this policy. The decree gives police authority to apply to a magistrate for restraining orders in domestic violence cases, but police often told the victims to apply for such orders themselves. Police officers were not always aware they had the power to apply on the victim’s behalf. As a result, complainants sometimes were obliged to seek legal assistance from a lawyer or NGO. Courts dismissed some cases of domestic abuse and incest or gave perpetrators light sentences. Incest was widely believed to be underreported. Traditional and religious practices of reconciliation between aggrieved parties in both indigenous and Indo-Fijian communities were sometimes taken into account to mitigate sentences in domestic violence cases. In many cases offenders were released without a conviction rather than jailed, on the condition they maintain good behavior. Several locally based NGOs sought to raise public awareness of domestic violence.
Four women’s crisis centers funded by foreign governments operated in the country. The centers offered counseling and assistance to women in cases of domestic violence, rape, and other problems, such as a lack of child support.
Sexual Harassment: A decree prohibits sexual harassment, and criminal laws against “indecent assaults on females” prohibit offending the modesty of women and have been used to prosecute sexual harassment cases. Under the ERP, workers can file complaints on the ground of sexual harassment in the workplace. There appeared to be judicial reluctance to act in sexual harassment cases. The Ministry of Labor reported that two sexual harassment complaints filed with the Employment Relations Tribunal (ERT) under the ERP in a prior year remained pending at year’s end. One other sexual harassment complaint was filed with the ERT during the year; it also remained pending at year’s end.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children. The government provided family planning services, and women had access to contraceptives free of charge at public hospitals and clinics, and for a nominal charge if prescribed by a private physician. Unmarried and young women generally were discouraged from undergoing tubal ligation for birth control, and public hospitals, especially in rural areas, often refused to perform the operation on unmarried women who requested it. Nurses and doctors often required the husband’s consent before operating on a married woman, although there is no legal requirement for such consent. Most women gave birth in hospitals, where skilled attendance at birth and essential prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care were available.
Discrimination: Women have full rights of inheritance and property ownership by law but in practice often were excluded from the decision-making process on disposition of iTaukei communal land, which constituted more than 80 percent of all land. Women have the right to a share in the distribution of iTaukei land lease proceeds, but this right was seldom recognized. Women have the same rights and status as men under family law and in the judicial system. Nonetheless, women and children had difficulties getting protection orders enforced by police in domestic violence cases.
Although the ERP prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender and requires equal pay for equal work, women generally were paid less than men for similar work. According to the Asian Development Bank, approximately 30 percent of the economically active female population was engaged in the formal economy, and a large number of these women worked in semi-subsistence employment or were self-employed. Other than a prohibition on working underground in mines, there are no legal limitations on the employment of women, and many women were successful entrepreneurs. Several prominent women led civil society, NGO, and advocacy groups.
The Ministry for Women, Social Welfare, and Poverty Alleviation worked to promote women’s legal rights.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions.
The Ministry of Women’s Rights was responsible for preparing and implementing government policies that enforce women’s rights in society, fight discriminatory practices, and promote protection for female victims of violence and harassment. The ministry played a key role in drafting laws promoting gender equalities and laws against women’s precarious financial situation and domestic violence.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which could be increased depending on the age of the victim or the nature of the relationship of the rapist to the victim. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for rape victims.
The 2013 National Supervisory Body on Crime and Punishment (ONDRP) report registered 10,885 rapes in the country in 2012. The ONDRP based its finding on the number of lawsuits filed in which the defendant was accused of committing rape. According to the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), authorities convicted 1,252 persons of rape in 2011, the most recent year for which data was available. NGOs claimed that up to 90 percent of rape victims did not report the crime and estimated an average of 75,000 rape victims each year.
The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law. The penalty for domestic violence against either gender varies according to the type of crime, ranging from three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($60,795) to 20 years in prison. The government sponsored and funded programs targeted at female victims of violence, including shelters, counseling, hotlines, free mobile phones, and a media campaign. The government also supported the work of 25 associations and NGOs dedicated to fighting domestic violence.
The government budgeted 31.6 million euros ($42.7 million) to fund its 2011-13 interministerial Plan to Combat Violence against Women, a 30 percent increase over the previous three-year plan. The program focused on enhancing protection and social assistance for victims, increasing the number of shelters available to them, raising awareness about rape and violence against women, and improving training for health-care workers and other government employees to identify victims.
The government reported that spouses killed 148 women and 26 men in domestic violence cases in 2012, a 17 percent increase over 2011. The ONDRP estimated that approximately 400,000 women residing in the country were victims of domestic violence in 2011 and 2012.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C as “violence involving mutilation or permanent infirmity.” It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros ($202,650). The government provides reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C victims. On July 25, parliament adopted a law that expands and increases penalties in cases of female genital mutilation.
According to the Ministry of Women’s Rights, 20,000 women living in the country during the year were circumcised or at risk of FGM/C. According to several women’s rights NGOs, 55,000 circumcised women resided in the country. The majority of FGM/C victims were recent sub-Saharan African immigrants who had had the procedure performed in their country of origin.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors. Sexual harassment is defined as “subjecting an individual to repeated acts, comments, or any other conduct of a sexual nature that are detrimental to a person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, thereby creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.” The law divides sexual harassment into two categories: the first, for repeated instances of harassment, carries a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a 30,000 euros ($40,530) fine; the second, for a single serious offense, carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment and a 45,000 euros ($60,795) fine. The law also criminalizes discrimination against transgender individuals.
The Ministry of Justice estimated that 300,000 cases of sexual harassment occurred in the country each year but that only approximately 1,000 victims filed complaints. Of these, an estimated 80 resulted in convictions, with an average penalty of 1,000 euros ($1,351).
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals could decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and both had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There was easy access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors, but it does not apply to relationships between peers. Under the constitution and law, women have the same rights as men in family and property law and in the judicial system. The Ministry for Women’s Rights is responsible for the legal rights of women. The constitution and law provide for equal access to professional and social positions.
The law requires that women receive equal pay for equal work. In a study released in March, however, INSEE reported that in 2010 (the most recent year for which data was available), the average private sector salary was 21,700 euros ($29,317) for men, while women on average earned 15,603 euros ($21,080), or 72 percent of the average salary for men. In the public sector, women’s salaries were 82 percent those of men. Although they constituted 65 percent of the public sector workforce, women were underrepresented in managerial jobs and faced continuing difficulties in attaining positions of responsibility. A 2012 INSEE study also revealed that 19 percent of salaried men in the private sector held managerial positions, while 12 percent of women with similar skills were managers. Women also were generally much more likely to work part-time, due in part to childcare responsibilities. Data for 2013 was unavailable at year’s end.
While women were underrepresented in most levels of government leadership, the proportion of women in the National Assembly grew to 26 percent from 18 percent in 2007.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and laws prohibit discrimination based on sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith, religious or political opinion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity, or social status. Authorities compiled a strong enforcement record in most of these areas but acknowledged that they needed to do more in some areas, for example, to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison. The government enforced the law effectively. According to national police criminal statistics, 8,031 cases of rape or serious sexual abuse occurred in 2012. The federal government supported numerous projects in conjunction with the federal states and NGOs to deal with gender-based violence, both to prevent violence and give victims greater access to medical care and legal assistance.
The law prohibits violence against women, including spousal abuse. Officials may temporarily deny abusers access to the household without a court order, they may put them under a restraining order, or in severe cases prosecute them for assault or rape and require them to pay damages. Penalties depend on the nature of the case. The government enforced the law, but authorities believed that violence against women was widespread.
Organizations that aid victims estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of women had at some time been victims of physical or sexual violence. In 2012 approximately 360 women’s shelters were operational, as was a widespread system of emergency hotlines. According to the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth, 15,000 to 17,000 women and their children used these shelters every year. Many NGOs at the local level provided hotlines, assistance, advice, and shelter.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Forced marriages are illegal and invalid, and punishment may be up to five years’ imprisonment. While there were no reliable statistics on the number of forced marriages, evidence indicated that the problem was more prevalent in the immigrant Muslim community than in the general population. Forced marriages reportedly often led to violence. Victims included women and, in some cases men, whose families brought a spouse from abroad. In addition some families sent women to other countries to marry against their will.
“Honor killings” occurred. A study published in 2011 by the Federal Criminal Statistics Office placed the number of honor killings at approximately 12 annually between 1996 and 2005. Official data was unavailable, although some media outlets reported 14 honor killings in 2012.
In February the Detmold Regional Court sentenced the father of 18-year-old Arzu Oezmen to six and one-half years in prison on charges of being an accessory to murder, assault, and kidnapping resulting from his involvement in the Oezmen family’s abduction and killing of Arzu in 2011. The court also sentenced the victim’s mother to a suspended sentence of four months and community work. Arzu and her family, Kurds who adhere to the Yazidi faith, lived in the country, and Arzu had fallen in love with a man and disobeyed her father’s order not to see him. Her father and five older siblings locked her in the basement of their home and beat her, and eventually her oldest sibling shot and killed her. In May 2012 the court gave her siblings prison sentences ranging from five and one-half years to life.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Female genital mutilation affected segments of the immigrant population, although official statistics were limited. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, the country has no specific law referring to FGM/C, but instead prosecutes such cases under existing laws on crimes against bodily integrity and on marriage and family. In addition, German immigration law includes provisions stating authorities must consider FGM/C in reviewing immigration and asylum applications.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of women was a recognized problem. The law prohibits it and requires employers to protect employees from it. A variety of disciplinary measures against offenders in the workplace are available, including dismissal. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment to be a breach of contract, and an affected employee has the right to paid leave until the employer rectifies the problem. Although the press reported instances of sexual harassment in the workplace and in public facilities, no statistics were available. Unions, churches, government agencies, and NGOs operated a variety of support programs for women who experienced sexual harassment and sponsored seminars and training to prevent it.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There was easy access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, and essential obstetric and postpartum care.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy equal rights under the constitution. The law provides for equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in highly paid managerial positions and overrepresented in some lower-wage occupations. Women occupied 12-13 percent of positions on supervisory boards in the country’s top 200 companies and 3-4 percent of the positions on their management boards. The Federal Statistics Office reported in 2012 that, based on 2010 figures, the hourly pay gap between women and men for equivalent work was 22 percent. The survey also found that the gender pay gap increased with age. When the figures are adjusted for structural differences (such as profession, education, part-time and full-time employment), the hourly pay gap narrows to 7 percent.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and the law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. The government did not protect these rights consistently.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime. Conviction rates for rape were low for first-time offenders, but sentences were robust for repeat offenders. According to police statistics, victims reported 64 rapes in the first six months of the year. Medical, psychological, social, and legal support was usually available to rape victims from the government and NGOs.
The police recorded 167 rape or attempted rape cases in 2012, compared with 172 in 2011. Data on prosecutions, convictions, and prison sentences for rape and domestic violence crimes were unavailable.
Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, continued to be a problem. The General Secretariat for Gender Equality (GSGE), an independent government agency, reported that domestic violence was common. The GSGE developed policies to combat the problem, such as encouraging and empowering victims to report domestic violence and offering services to victims. An initiative funded by the EU structural funds program financed the creation of 19 shelters for victims of violence and the establishment of 25 counseling and support services centers in all major cities. The GSGE also oversaw 14 separate counseling and support services centers at the headquarters of each governing district and funded the upgrading of two shelters for battered women in Athens and Thessaloniki operated by the National Solidarity Center.
On July 9, the GSGE announced that the codification of 317 Greek and EU laws and legal provisions on gender equality was completed. The law provides for the prosecution of all domestic violence crimes without the need for a victim to press charges. Penalties range from two to 10 years of imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the crime. The GSGE estimated that only 6 to 10 percent of domestic violence victims contacted police, and only a small fraction of those complaints went to trial. In November the GSGE reported that its special SOS hotline for female victims of violence (domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, human trafficking, prostitution, etc.) received 12,313 calls from March 2011 to November 2013. According to police figures presented to the Parliamentary Committee for Equality, Youth, and Human Rights on December 4, there was a 54 percent increase in cases of domestic violence in 2011 and another increase of 22 percent in 2012. The vast majority of the victims were women. Ten women were killed in domestic violence incidents in 2011, five in 2012, and eight in the first 11 months of the year.
The GSGE, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection, trained police to work with domestic violence victims. NGOs reported that courts were lenient to male offenders in domestic violence cases. The GHM reported long delays in trial procedures until the final verdict. The GHM noted that the state did not provide legal aid to victims, or translation of key documents to non-Greek victims, which discouraged victims from pursuing their cases. Police stations generally had a manual on how police should treat victims of domestic violence.
The GSGE provided counseling and assistance to domestic violence victims. Shelters for battered women and their children, established in cooperation with municipalities, offered services including legal and psychological help. The GSGE operated a 24-hour emergency telephone hotline for abused women, and the National Center for Social Solidarity of the Ministry of Labor operated a hotline that provided referrals and psychological counseling for victims. The Greek Orthodox Church and a variety of NGOs also operated shelters and walk-in centers, providing counseling and assistance to victims.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides penalties ranging from two months to five years in prison. According to the deputy ombudsman for human rights, sexual harassment cases in 2012 remained underreported due to victims’ fear of losing their jobs. Of the gender-equality complaints handled by the ombudsman, 8 percent involved sexual and other harassment. No new numbers were available; credible reports alleged that while the phenomenon was widespread, co-workers and family members discouraged women from filing complaints and lawsuits. The deputy ombudsman complained that addressing sexual harassment cases was difficult, since there was often a lack of evidence and testimonies to support allegations.
Reproductive Rights: The government generally respected the reproductive rights of couples and individuals. Contraception was widely available in stores and hospitals, and the government respected the rights of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Public hospitals provided services free of charge. Consequently, any health issues typically surfaced only after a woman returned to her community, which might have substandard facilities. Both public and private hospitals provided modern and skilled attendance during childbirth. The Hellenic Statistical Service reported in August a 6 percent decrease in births from 2011 to 2012. The National Institute for the Health of Children noted that from 2007 to 2012, there was a 10 percent decrease in the number of births and a 21 percent increase in the number of stillbirths, attributing this directly to the economic crisis, high unemployment rate, and inability of expectant mothers to afford prenatal care. Women and men had equal access to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
Discrimination: The government recognizes sharia as the law regulating family and civic issues of the Muslim minority in Thrace, with local trial courts routinely ratifying the muftis’ decisions. Muslim women in Thrace may choose to be subject to sharia law as interpreted by official muftis. According to the UN independent expert on minority issues, women’s rights under sharia law were inferior to those of men. The UN independent expert on minority issues noted that in some instances sharia law subjected Muslim women to norms incompatible with the constitution, legislation, and international standards. She further noted that Muslim and Romani women experienced severe inequalities in access to education and consequently suffered disproportionately high levels of illiteracy and unemployment. The situation remained unchanged at year’s end.
In November the Supreme Court imposed sharia law and rejected civil law provisions in an estate case, apparently based on religion. The Muslim decedent had made a public will and testament in civil court leaving all his property to his wife. The Supreme Court ruled that, based on sharia law, the wife’s sister-in-law could claim part of the decedent’s real estate property, despite two prior court decisions to uphold the civil court will.
The NCHR advised the government to limit the powers of the muftis to religious duties and to stop recognizing sharia because it could restrict the civil rights of citizens. Muslim female activists claimed that since the overwhelming majority of Muslim women in Thrace were married under sharia, they were obliged to acquire a mufti’s consent to obtain a divorce. Inasmuch as these decisions stemmed from interpretations of sharia that did not exist in written form, they could not be appealed. Members of the Muslim minority in Thrace may also use the services of the country’s civil courts.
Apart from the Muslim minority in Thrace, women have legal rights equal to those of men, and the constitution stipulates gender equality.
The law provides for equal pay for equal work; however, according to EU data, in 2010 there was a 22 percent gap between the salaries of men and women in the country in favor of men. Although relatively few women occupied senior private-sector positions (25 percent), with only 5 percent in positions on boards of directors, women continued to enter traditionally male-dominated professions, such as law and medicine, in larger numbers. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, the economic crisis has had a disproportionate impact on women. The ombudsman noted an increase in number of complaints by women alleging discrimination by employers in the private sector. Most cases involved illegal employment dismissals, changes in work terms imposed by the employer due to pregnancy, and sexual harassment. A UN expert evaluating the impact of the economic crisis noted in April that the unemployment rate among women was 31.4 percent, 7.5 percent higher than for men.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. The government frequently did not enforce these provisions, however, and there was no protection related to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and sets penalties between five and 50 years in prison. Police, however, had minimal training or capacity to investigate sexual crimes or assist victims of such crimes, and the government did not enforce the law effectively; full investigation and prosecution of domestic violence and rape cases took an average of one year. Impunity for perpetrators remained at very high levels. Rape victims frequently did not report crimes due to lack of confidence in the justice system, social stigma, and/or fear of reprisal.
Rape and other sexual offenses remained serious problems. According to the Public Ministry, there were 2,156 cases of sexual or physical assault reported through September. Over the same period, there were 141 convictions for sexual or physical assault on women. Information on average length of sentences for those convicted was unavailable.
The government took steps to combat femicide and violence against women. It maintained the PNC’s Special Unit for Sex Crimes, Office of Attention to Victims, Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women, and a special unit for trafficking in persons and illegal adoptions within the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime. The Supreme Court and Public Ministry maintained a 24-hour court to offer services related to violence directed toward women, including sexual assault, exploitation, and trafficking of women and children.
The law establishes penalties of five to eight years for physical, economic, and psychological violence committed against women because of their gender. Violence against women, including domestic violence, remained a serious problem. The law prohibits domestic abuse, allows for the issuance of restraining orders against alleged aggressors and police protection for victims, and requires the PNC to intervene in violent situations in the home. The PNC often failed to respond to requests for assistance related to domestic violence, and women’s rights advocates reported few officers received training to deal with domestic violence or assist victims.
Femicide affected both women and girls and remained a major problem. In most killings, sexual assault, torture, and mutilation were evident. The Public Ministry reported 419 killings of women as of the end of September. The conviction rate was only 1 to 2 percent for femicide. NGOs noted that the severity of sentences was not always appropriate to the crime.
The Institute of Public Criminal Defense provided free legal, medical, and psychological assistance to victims of domestic violence.
The government’s Program for the Prevention and Eradication of Intrafamily Violence, under the Secretariat of Social Work, reported receiving five calls daily from battered women and children. The Public Ministry reported there were 6,880 complaints of intrafamily violence against women and children as of September 30. The government reported 152 convictions in cases of intrafamily violence against women and children as of the end of September.
Although the law affords protection, including shelter, to victims of domestic violence, there were insufficient facilities for this purpose.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Indigenous Women within COPREDEH provided social services for victims of domestic or social violence, as well as mediation, conflict resolution, and legal services for indigenous women. The office also coordinated and promoted action by government institutions and NGOs to prevent violence and discrimination against indigenous women, but it lacked human resources and logistical capacity to perform its functions on a national level. The office maintained no statistics on its caseload.
The Ministry of Government operated eight shelters for victims of abuse in departments with the greatest incidence of domestic violence. Several other shelters operated in cities and the countryside funded by private donors or municipal governments. Many of the centers provided legal and psychological support and temporary accommodation.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and there were no accurate estimates of its occurrence. Human rights organizations reported, however, that sexual harassment was widespread across all sectors.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and they sometimes had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. While the government provided access to family planning information and sex education through the public health system, provision of health services in remote areas and in indigenous languages was limited. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 34 percent of married women used a modern method of contraception in 2012.
Cultural, geographic, and linguistic barriers existed in access to reproductive health care, particularly for indigenous women in rural areas. Discriminatory attitudes among health-care providers and a lack of culturally sensitive reproductive and maternal health-care services also deterred many indigenous women from accessing these services. The UNFPA estimated that in 2010 the maternal mortality rate was 120 deaths per 100,000 live births. The principal causes of maternal mortality included limited access to skilled health-care attendants and, in some instances, poor prenatal and postnatal care. The UNFPA estimated that skilled health personnel attended 51 percent of births in 2012.
Discrimination: The law establishes the principle of gender equality and criminalizes discrimination, but women faced discrimination, particularly in family law and labor law, and were less likely to hold management positions. Women found employment primarily in low-wage jobs in agriculture, retail businesses, the service sector, the textile and apparel industries, and the government. Women also obtained employment more frequently in the informal sector, where pay and benefits generally were lower. The 2012 Global Gender Gap Report estimated that earned income of women was 44 percent that of men; women on average received 60 percent of men’s salaries for comparable work. Women may legally own, manage, and inherit property on an equal basis with men, including in situations involving divorce.
The government’s Secretariat for Women’s Affairs advises the president on interagency coordination of policies affecting women and their development. Several NGO groups working on women’s issues reported that the secretariat maintained a very low profile during the year and was not as engaged with members of civil society as during previous administrations.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
While the constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, the government failed to enforce these rights fully.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, but human rights observers generally considered the problem underreported. Under the law a sexual assault is considered rape only if it involves the use of force or aggravated threats. Penalties for rape range from two to eight years in prison and can be as long as 15 years in aggravated cases. In 2012 prosecutors pressed rape charges in 98 cases.
On June 3, parliament amended the criminal code introducing “violence within relationships” as a separate category of offence. Under the new rules effective July 1, certain cases of physical assault, defamation, violation of personal freedom, and coercion are more severely punished if the offender and the victim live together or have lived together, or if a child has been born as a result of their relationship. The new regulations extended custodial sentences for assault and acts of grossly insulting behavior to three years. Grievous bodily harm and malicious battery, violation of personal freedom or coercion committed against those incapable of self-defense or indicating consent, or against an elderly or disabled person, may be punishable by one to five years in prison. The new category of offense relates not only to relatives and dependents, but also to former spouses, partners, those under guardianship or care, guardians, and caretakers. A necessary condition for such an offense is that the act took place during or after a period of cohabitation. The new law also penalizes humiliation, or causing severe deprivation to, or grave violation of the dignity of, a relative or a dependent, with up to two years’ imprisonment. On June 5, four women’s rights NGOs applauded the legislative changes on domestic violence but described it as incomplete.
Police and courts could impose restraining orders. Under the law police called to a scene of domestic violence may issue an emergency restraining order valid for three days in lieu of immediately filing charges, while courts may issue 30-day restraining orders in civil law cases and a maximum of 60-day orders in criminal procedures. Women’s rights NGOs continued to criticize the law for failing to provide appropriate protection for victims and for not placing sufficient emphasis on the accountability of perpetrators.
During the first six months of the year, the Hungarian National Police Headquarters recorded 119 cases of rape and 3,570 cases of domestic violence. Statistics regarding the number of prosecutions in court of cases of rape were not available.
The Ministry of Human Resources continued to operate a 24-hour hotline for victims of abuse. The ministry operated the Regional Crises Management Network at 14 different locations around the country for victims of domestic violence, providing immediate accommodation and complex care for abused individuals and families. The ministry continued to operate four halfway houses, providing long-term housing opportunities (maximum five years) and professional assistance for families graduated from the crises centers. Additionally, the government sponsored a secret shelter for severely abused women whose lives were in danger. According to women’s rights NGOs, services for victims of violence against women either operated with limited capacity or did not meet international standards of good practice.
Sexual Harassment: The law establishes the right to a secure workplace and makes sexual harassment a criminal offense. Nevertheless, according to NGOs, sexual harassment remained widespread. NGOs contended that the law did not clearly define sexual harassment, leaving victims with a lack of legal awareness or incentive to file a complaint.
In the first nine months of the year, the Equal Treatment Authority (ETA), an independent authority set up by the government to monitor enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, received 39 reports of harassment, including two of sexual harassment. Both cases remained pending at the end of September.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There was relatively easy access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, and national family planning services focused on providing prenatal and postnatal care and counseling.
In a review of the combined seventh and eight periodic reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the committee urged the government to cease all negative interference with women’s sexual and reproductive rights, provide adequate access to family planning services and affordable contraceptives, establish an adequate regulatory framework for the practice of conscientious objection by health professionals, ensure that women are offered existing alternatives, and called on trained midwives to be recognized as independent professionals.
The committee also expressed concern about the limited access to and inadequate quality of sexual and reproductive health services for women with disabilities, women with low income, Romani women, women living in rural areas, and women living with HIV.
Although there is no conclusive evidence to suggest the sterilization of Romani women without consent has taken place since 2001, the European Roma Rights Center criticized legal provisions on sterilization, claiming that they fail to comply with international standards. It advocated the removal of any distinction between sterilization for medical reasons and sterilization for family planning reasons, as well as for the introduction of legal guarantees for fully informing patients of the permanent nature of sterilization procedures.
Discrimination: Under the constitution and the law, men and women have equal rights. The ETA is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the law and reports annually to parliament.
There was economic discrimination against women in the workplace, particularly against job seekers older than 50 and those who were pregnant or had returned from maternity leave. A ministerial commissioner, Piroska Szalai, was responsible for improving the situation of women in the labor market.
During the year the ETA conducted 10 investigations based on individual complaints of illegal employment discrimination against women and found one to be justified. In the “justified” case, the ETA ordered the employer to stop its illegal activity, to refrain from further violations, to pay a penalty of one million forint (approximately $4,600), and to publish the decision of ETA on the employer’s website for 60 days. The employer appealed the ETA’s ruling at court, which case remained pending at year’s end.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, language, place of birth, caste, or social status. The government worked with varying degrees of success to enforce these provisions.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, except spousal rape when the woman is over age 15. Punishment ranges from prison terms of two years to life, a fine of 20,418 rupees ($333), or both. Official statistics pointed to rape as the country’s fastest growing crime. The NCRB reported 24,923 cases of rape nationwide in 2012, the latest year for which data were available. Observers considered rape an underreported crime. Law enforcement and legal avenues for rape victims were inadequate, overtaxed, and unable to address the problem effectively. Law enforcement officers sometimes worked to reconcile rape victims and their attackers, in some cases encouraging female rape victims to marry their attackers. Doctors sometimes further abused rape victims who reported the crimes by using the “two-finger test” to speculate on their sexual history. The Supreme Court ruled in May that this practice violated the rape victim’s right to privacy and asked the government to provide better alternatives.
The Verma Commission, created following the December 2012 gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old woman and assault on her companion on a moving bus in New Delhi, identified areas of legislative reform to address crimes against women, some of which subsequently became law. The Criminal Law Amendment bill, passed in February, revised the penal code to introduce more stringent punishments for rape and other gender-based violence. Of the six persons accused in the December 2012 case, a court convicted four men and sentenced them to death, and convicted one juvenile and sentenced him to three years in custody. A fifth adult allegedly committed suicide in police custody before trial.
While authorities tried the six accused in the December 2012 Delhi rape case quickly, rapes outside of the national capital were not dealt with as swiftly. There remained concern that little progress was made for women since the Delhi rape case. Many investigations and legal proceedings relating to earlier rape cases during the year remained pending.
On June 7, a college student was raped and killed in Barasat, West Bengal. The state government faced widespread criticism after first offering the student’s family compensation and jobs, in an implied exchange for refraining from publicizing the crime. The family members refused, saying that all they wanted was punishment for the guilty. Police subsequently arrested eight men but were criticized for filing an incomplete charge sheet.
A 22-year-old photojournalist was gang raped in Mumbai on August 22 while she was on an assignment to take photos of an abandoned textile factory. Five assailants tied her colleague’s hands with a belt while she was gang raped. Police arrested all five alleged assailants. The Mumbai police stated that the men had previously committed at least five rapes at the same abandoned factory.
On October 26, the 16-year-old daughter of a taxi driver from Bihar was gang-raped in Madhyamgram, near Kolkata. She was gang-raped again on her way home after submitting a complaint at the local police station. In early November the girl received repeated threats from the accused to withdraw the police complaint, which led her family to move from their home to the Dum Dum area. The victim’s family alleged that on December 23, a close friend of one of the arrested culprits threatened severe consequences if she did not withdraw her complaint. Later the same day, her home was set on fire, and she died on December 31 as a result of the burns she sustained. Before dying she named the two men who set her house on fire to police. Authorities arrested the accused in both cases of rape and alleged murder, and the results of investigations were pending at year’s end.
Women in conflict situations, such as in Jammu and Kashmir, and vulnerable women, including lower-caste or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. National crime statistics indicated that, compared with other caste affiliations, rape was most highly reported among Dalit women.
The law provides for protection from some forms of abuse against women in the home, including verbal, emotional, and economic abuse, as well as the threat of abuse. The law recognizes the right of a woman to reside in a shared household with her spouse or partner while the dispute continues, although a woman may seek alternative accommodations at the partner’s expense. Although the law also provides women with the right to police assistance, legal aid, shelter, and medical care, domestic abuse remained a serious problem. Lack of law enforcement safeguards and pervasive corruption limited the effectiveness of the law.
While the Ministry of Women and Child Development has guidelines for the establishment of these social services, lack of funding, personnel, and proper training resulted in limited services, primarily available only in metropolitan areas. The ministry reported that there were 6,483 protection officers appointed in police forces across the country. Police officials, especially in smaller towns, were reluctant to register cases of crimes against women, especially if the cases were against influential persons. For example, authorities did not immediately take Bapu Asaram, a high-profile Hindu leader, into custody, despite the fact that a minor made formal allegations of sexual assault against him.
State governments took action to prevent violence against women. For example, in December 2012 West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that her government would create 65 all-female police stations across the state to help tackle crimes against women. Ten of these stations were operational by year’s end. On January 2, the West Bengal state cabinet met to identify steps to provide for swifter justice in cases of violence against women and decided to set up 88 permanent “fast-track” courts focused on timely hearings. No information was available as to how many of these courts existed by year’s end.
In January the chief justice of the Kolkata High Court inaugurated the country’s first women’s court (where female judges and staff deal exclusively with crimes against women) in Malda, West Bengal, a district with the highest reported rate of crimes against women in the state.
Domestic violence continued to be a problem, and the National Family Health Survey revealed that more than 50 percent of women reported experiencing some form of violence in their home. The NCRB reported that in 2012 there were 106,527 reported cases of “cruelty by husband and relatives,” an increase of more than 7.4 percent from the previous year. Advocates reported that many women refrained from reporting domestic abuses due to social pressures.
Available data from the NCRB showed that Tamil Nadu had the highest level in the country of cases of domestic violence: it registered 3,838 in 2012. According to NGOs the empowerment of women and better reporting resulted in higher numbers of domestic violence cases in Tamil Nadu.
Crimes against women were common. According to the NCRB Crime in India 2012 Statistics, there were 244,270 crimes against women in 2012, a 6.8 percent increase from 2011. These crimes included kidnapping, abduction, molestation, sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse, and trafficking. The NCRB noted that underreporting of such crimes was likely. The NCRB estimated the conviction rate for crimes against women to be 26 percent. Delhi recorded the highest number of crimes against women with 5,194 cases, followed by Bengaluru, Karnataka, with 2,263.
Acid attacks against women caused death and permanent disfigurement. For example, on July 21, a 28-year-old woman died, and three others sustained injuries, following an acid attack by a former romantic interest in Morena District, Madhya Pradesh. Although the government maintained statistics on gender-based violence and general assaults, it did not disaggregate acid attacks.
Acid was commonly used as a household cleaner and was widely available at local markets. The Supreme Court issued an order on July 18 to regulate the sale of acid across the country. The government issued guidelines in August aimed at preventing attacks and also moved to oblige states to implement guidelines requiring dilution and licensing of acid sold in retail shops. Those who purchase acid are required to show identification and proof of residence. The guidelines also direct states to pay 300,000 rupees ($4,880) to victims of acid attacks and treat victims free of cost at government hospitals. Individuals convicted of acid attacks face a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. The new regulations were not fully implemented in all states by year’s end and were inconsistently enforced where implemented.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The law forbids the provision or acceptance of a dowry, but families continued to offer and accept dowries, and dowry disputes remained a serious problem. The law also bans harassment in the form of dowry demands and empowers magistrates to issue protection orders. According to the NCRB, in 2012 there were 8,233 reported dowry deaths, mostly bridal deaths at the hands of in-laws for failure to produce a dowry. Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of dowry deaths with 2,244 cases, followed by 1,275 cases in Bihar. Since many cases were not reported or monitored, however, statistics were incomplete. The NCRB reported that authorities arrested 33,240 persons and convicted 4,296 persons for dowry death in 2012. According to the NCRB dowry deaths doubled in Kerala from 15 dowry deaths reported in 2011 to 32 deaths in 2012.
“Sumangali schemes” affected an estimated 120,000 young women. These plans, named after the Tamil word for “happily married woman,” were a form of societal abuse and bonded labor in which young women or girls worked to earn money for a dowry, without which they would not be able to marry. The promised lump-sum compensation, ranging from 30,000 to 56,000 rupees ($488 to $910), was withheld until the end of three to five years of employment, although such compensation sometimes went partially or entirely unpaid at the end of that term. During their years of bonded labor, the women were subjected to serious workplace abuses, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and death. The majority of sumangali-bonded laborers came from the SCs, and of those, Dalits, the lowest-ranking Arunthathiyars, were subjected to additional abuse. Trade unions were not allowed in sumangali factories, and most sumangali workers did not report abuses due to fear of retribution.
Most states have dowry prohibition officers, but Mizoram and Nagaland do not, since there is traditionally no dowry system in these states, and cases rarely were registered. The Dowry Prohibition Act does not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. In 2010 the Supreme Court made it mandatory for all trial courts nationwide to add the charge of murder against persons accused in dowry-death cases.
So-called honor killings continued to be a problem, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana, where as many as 10 percent of all killings were honor killings. These states also had low female birth ratios due to gender-selective abortions. In some cases the killings resulted from extrajudicial decisions by traditional community elders, such as “khap panchayats,” unelected caste-based village assemblies that have no legal authority. Statistics for honor killings were difficult to verify, since many killings were unreported or passed off as suicide or natural deaths by family members. NGOs estimated that at least 900 such killings occurred annually in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh alone. The most common justification for the killings offered by those accused or by their relatives was that the victim married against her family’s wishes. For example, in January the parents of a 21-year-old woman in Sangrur District, Punjab, killed their daughter because she intended to marry a man of her choice.
In some areas of the country women and girls dedicated in symbolic marriages to Hindu deities reportedly were subjected to instances of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons – a form of sex trafficking. NGOs suggested that some SC girls were sent to these symbolic marriages, and subsequent sex work in temples, by their families to mitigate household financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. The women and girls were also at heightened risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Some states have laws to curb prostitution or sexual abuse of women and girls in temple service. Enforcement of these laws remained weak, and the problem was widespread. Observers estimated more than 450,000 women and girls were in this system.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): According to human rights groups, the practice of female genital cutting was prevalent among the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims, a community located throughout the western part of the country. A short documentary film, A Pinch of Skin, on this practice debuted in the country.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment, sometimes euphemistically called “eve teasing,” remained prevalent. According to the NCRB, 9,173 cases of sexual harassment were reported in 2012, a 7 percent increase from 8,570 cases in 2011. There were 45,351 cases of molestation in 2012, nearly a 6 percent increase from 42,968 cases in 2011. Cases of rape and molestation remained largely unreported due to social pressure.
In February parliament passed the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act which is based on guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in 1997 to prevent harassment of women in workplaces. The law applies to domestic workers and agricultural labor in both the formal and informal sectors. All state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees are required to have committees to deal with matters of sexual harassment. By law sexual harassment includes one or more unwelcome acts or behavior, such as physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favors, making sexually colored remarks, or showing pornography. Punishment is a fine of up to 50,000 rupees ($813). The law also includes provisions for safeguarding against false or malicious charges.
Reproductive Rights: The government permitted health clinics and local health NGOs to operate freely in disseminating information about family planning. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives. Laws penalizing families with more than two children remained in place in seven states, but authorities seldom enforced them. The laws provide reservations for government jobs and subsidies to those who have no more than two children and reduced subsidies and access to health care for those who have more than two.
Government efforts to reduce the fertility rate were in some cases coercive. In many areas health workers were offered rewards for encouraging sterilization or given targets for quotas of female sterilizations and threatened with pay cuts or dismissal for failing to reach the set number. Some reports described a “sterilization season,” in which health-care workers pressed to reach quotas for sterilizations before the end of the fiscal year on March 31. National health officials noted that the central government did not have the authority to regulate state decisions on population issues. Some states also introduced “girl child promotion” schemes, intended to counter gender-based sex selection, some of which required a certificate of sterilization for the parents in order to collect benefits. In some areas sterilizations were practiced in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
Some women were pressured into having hysterectomies because of financial incentive structures for health-care workers, and others reported being paid approximately 615 rupees ($10), which could equal one week’s wages, to undergo sterilization. This pressure often affected poor and lower-caste women disproportionately. In one village, news reports indicated that 90 percent of women had hysterectomies, including many of those well below the age of likely medical necessity.
There were reports of more than 7,000 unwarranted hysterectomies conducted on illiterate tribal women, largely by doctors in 169 hospitals in Chhattisgarh. Reports alleged that doctors who recommended the procedures sought to make money by charging the maximum fees allowable for the procedure under the government insurance scheme for underprivileged families. In April the NHRC sought a detailed report on this matter from the Chhattisgarh government covering a period of 30 months. Most of the women belonged to poor families or indigenous tribes. As a result the Chhattisgarh government suspended the licenses of nine doctors. Following a PIL filed by the HRLN in March, the Supreme Court issued petitions to the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Bihar, where such hysterectomies took place. The petitions sought state monitoring, inspection, and accountability mechanisms for the private health-care industry and suspension of the doctors’ licenses, in addition to initiation of criminal proceedings against doctors who engaged in fraudulent health-care practices.
According to the most recent data from the 2012 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of World Population Report, the maternal mortality ratio was 200 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010. The major factors influencing the high maternal mortality rate were lack of adequate nutrition, medical care, and sanitary facilities. According to the UNFPA report, the major indicators for maternal mortality were poverty and inadequate access to medical facilities during pregnancy and at birth. The World Bank estimated that 75 percent of women received some prenatal care during the year, and the World Health Organization estimated that skilled help attended 47 percent of births, 75 percent of women made at least one prenatal visit, and 50 percent made at least four prenatal visits.
The National AIDS Control Organization, which formulates and implements programs for the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS, reported in its 2011-12 annual report that women accounted for nearly one million of the estimated 2.39 million citizens with HIV/AIDS. Infection rates for women were highest in urban communities, and care was least available in rural areas. Traditional gender norms, such as early marriage, limited access to information and education, and poor access to health services, continued to leave women especially vulnerable to infection. The National Aids Control Organization worked actively with NGOs to train women’s HIV/AIDS self-help groups.
NGOs reported that early marriage (under age 18) and early pregnancy remained common in West Bengal. Approximately 57 percent of women had home delivery births, according to NGOS, and prenatal and postnatal care were low in hard-to-reach rural areas. NGOs also reported a lack of prenatal education in remote areas.
Maternal mortality rates were highest in Madhya Pradesh, closely followed by Chhattisgarh. In comparison Maharashtra had better maternal survival rates. A common cause of maternal mortality was poor access to modern health facilities where women could safely deliver children. Madhya Pradesh also lacked doctors, especially gynecologists in public-health centers. Chhattisgarh started special ambulance services with a toll-free number to increase institutional deliveries.
The 2010-12 Sample Registration Report of the Registrar-General of India, released in December, showed that during three years the maternal mortality rate declined 16 percent from 212 to 178 per 100,000 births. Assam’s maternal mortality rate was the highest in the country at 328, followed by Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand at 292. The southern states of Kerala at 66 and Tamil Nadu at 90 had the lowest rates, and both met the Millennium Development Goal of 103 deaths per 100,000 live births. The main reasons for maternal mortality included women giving birth at an older age, giving birth at an early age, immediately conceiving after giving birth, and giving birth to many children.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace and requires equal pay for equal work, but employers paid women less than men for the same job, discriminated against women in employment and credit applications, and promoted women less frequently than men.
Many tribal land systems, notably in Bihar, deny tribal women the right to own land. Muslim personal law traditionally determines land inheritance for Muslim women, allotting them less than men. Other laws relating to the ownership of assets and land accord women little control over land use, retention, or sale. Several exceptions existed, such as in Kerala, Ladakh District, and Himachal Pradesh, where women could control family property and had inheritance rights.
Gender-based Sex Selection: According to the 2011 national census, the national average male-female sex ratio at birth was 109.4 to 100. In 2011 there were 914 girls per 1,000 boys under age six, down from 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001. The Prenatal Diagnostic Technical Act prohibits prenatal sex selection, but it was rarely enforced. Numerous NGOs throughout the country and some states attempted to increase awareness about the problem of prenatal sex selection, promote female children, and prevent female infanticide and abandonment.
Andhra Pradesh, through the Bangaru Thalli Girl Child Promotion and Empowerment Act (2013), mandates that economically disadvantaged families with female children be given money at different intervals from birth until the time the girl reaches age 21. The government of Odisha introduced a similar program, the “Odisha Girls Incentive Program,” to support Dalit and tribal girls through annual scholarships for education. Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh had incentive schemes as well as Save the Girl Child campaigns in varying formats.
In April the Tamil Nadu government increased fixed deposits from 22,000 rupees ($359) to 50,000 rupees ($816) for underprivileged female children under the state government’s Girl Child Protection Scheme. The program began in 1992 to eradicate female infanticide/feticide.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender, race, disability, language, or social status. It provides for equal rights for all citizens, both native and naturalized. The government sometimes failed to defend these rights, particularly for minority communities.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, although the legal definition of rape covers only forced penetration of sexual organs, and filing a case requires corroboration and a witness. The law criminalizes marital rape. Reliable nationwide statistics on the incidence of rape continued to be unavailable. Rape is punishable by four to 14 years in prison, and the government imprisoned perpetrators for rape and attempted rape; however, light sentences continued to be a problem, and many convicted rapists received the minimum sentence.
The law prohibits domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women; nevertheless, domestic violence was a problem. Violence against women remained poorly documented and significantly underreported by the government. Nationwide figures were unavailable. Most NGOs working on women’s issues believed the real figure was far higher than the available government statistics, noting the tendency of many victims to keep silent. The government’s National Commission on Violence against Women, Komnas Perempuan, reported domestic violence was the most common form of violence against women.
Social pressure deterred many women from reporting domestic violence. In 2012 the Women’s Legal Aid Foundation in Jakarta received 654 complaints of domestic violence, including physical and sexual harassment.
Two types of crisis centers were available for abused women: government-run centers in hospitals and NGO centers in the community. Nationwide police operated “special crisis rooms” or “women’s desks” where female officers received criminal reports from female and child victims of sexual assault and trafficking and where victims found temporary shelter.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): According to NGOs some FGM/C of women over the age of 18 occurred. A 2010 Ministry of Health decree provides specific instructions prohibiting certain more drastic types of FGM but explicitly permitting others. The decree states that doctors, midwives, and licensed nurses may perform type IV FGM (a symbolic pricking or piercing of the clitoris or labia) with the request and consent of the woman on whom it is performed (see section 6, Children).
Sexual Harassment: Although not explicitly mentioned in the penal code, article 281of the code, which prohibits indecent public acts, serves as the basis for criminal complaints stemming from workplace sexual harassment. Violations of this article are punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and eight months and a small fine.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of individuals and couples to choose the number, spacing, and timing of children and encouraged family planning. According to a study published by an international NGO in 2012, on average, 30 percent of women surveyed over a four-year period who wanted no more children subsequently gave birth. The study found that a number of factors influenced this statistic, including the use of short-term rather than long-term contraceptive methods. Although the government subsidized and provided access to contraception throughout the country, the cost of contraception and poor medical infrastructure often limited availability. An international NGO’s 2010 report indicated that unmarried women in particular were not provided adequate access to contraceptives, and this continued to be a problem. According to the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 62 percent of married women used contraception. The study also found that 96 percent of women received medical prenatal care. The official maternal mortality ratio per the 2007 DHS was 228 per 100,000 live births, and a 2010 World Health Organization report on maternal mortality estimated the ratio at 220 per 100,000 live births.
The primary causes of maternal mortality were postpartum hemorrhage, pre‑eclampsia, and sepsis. According to a 2010 World Bank review, there were several key factors in the high rates of maternal mortality. While 79 percent of women had skilled birth attendants at delivery, the uneven deployment of midwives at the community level, the substandard training for many midwives, and high use of traditional birth attendants were contributing factors. Hospitals and health centers did not perform at optimal levels in management of complications, and there were problems with referrals for complications, including financial barriers or limited availability of qualified health personnel. Close to 50 percent of births occurred at home. A woman’s economic status, level of education, and age at first marriage also affected maternal mortality.
Discrimination: The law states that women have the same rights, obligations, and opportunities as men; however, it also states that women’s participation in the development process must not conflict with their role in improving family welfare and educating the younger generation. The marriage law designates the man as the head of the family. Women in many regions of the country, particularly in Papua, complained about differential treatment based on gender.
Divorce is available to both men and women. Many divorcees received no alimony, since there was no system to enforce such payments. If there is no prenuptial agreement, joint property is divided equally. The law requires a divorced woman to wait 40 days before remarrying; a man can remarry immediately. The government continued to implement sharia in Aceh. The impact of this implementation varied across the province but, continuing the pattern of the last few years, in general appeared to be less intrusive due to improved government oversight of the Sharia Police. In January officials in Lhokseumawe, Aceh’s second largest city, promulgated a mayoral decree prohibiting female passengers from straddling motorbikes. There were no reports of arrest due to violations of the decree, but police occasionally set up check points to enforce the regulation. Sharia varies somewhat across the province; for example, in West Aceh District women are required to wear skirts, a restriction not explicitly stated elsewhere. It was not uncommon for Sharia Police to briefly stop and lecture Muslim women whose dress did not conform to local sharia requirements on appropriate attire.
Local governments and groups in areas outside Aceh also undertook campaigns to promote conformity by women with the precepts of sharia. Local regulations in some areas mandated the wearing of Islamic dress by government employees. Vigilance in enforcing separation of sexes, fasting, and dress codes increased during Ramadan. The Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for “harmonizing” local regulations that are not in line with national legislation. Between January and June, the ministry evaluated 1,320 local regulations throughout the country and requested clarification from local governments for 142 deemed in conflict with national law.
Women faced discrimination in the workplace, both in hiring and in gaining fair compensation; however, there continued to be progress in that area, especially in public sector jobs. According to a 2012 report on gender equality, women’s hourly wages as a percentage of men’s wages remained relatively unchanged between 2011 and 2012. A 2011 International Labor Organization report showed significant progress toward gender equality in labor market participation, employment, and wages. Gender wage gaps narrowed between 2004 and 2008 in most sectors but widened in others (professional, technical, and related workers). While women in administrative and managerial jobs earned more than their male counterparts, they were underrepresented at the managerial level. According to the government, women constituted 47 percent of all civil servants as of October 2011 and more than 24 percent of senior civil servants, up from only 9 percent in 2009. In July the governor of Gorontalo Province called on male agency heads at the provincial administration to replace their female secretaries with men. The new policy followed reports of affairs the officials had allegedly had with their secretaries. The governor instructed provincial officials to make a list of all female secretaries, and he decreed that only female agency heads would be able to hire female secretaries.
Some activists said that in manufacturing, employers relegated women to lower‑paying, lower-level jobs. Like their male counterparts, many female factory workers were hired as temporary workers instead of as full-time permanent employees, and companies were not required to provide benefits, such as maternity leave, to temporary workers. By law, if both members of a couple worked for a government agency, the husband received the couple’s head-of-household allowance.
Jobs traditionally associated with women continued to be significantly undervalued and unregulated. For example, domestic workers received little legal protection. Under the labor law, domestic workers are not provided with a minimum wage, health insurance, freedom of association, an eight-hour workday, a weekly day of rest, vacation time, or safe work conditions. Consequently, as reported by NGOs, abusive treatment and discriminatory behavior continued to be rampant.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution bars discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, and social status “in conformity with Islamic criteria,” but the government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. The constitution does not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and subject to strict penalties, including execution, but it remained a problem, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. There were reports of government forces raping individuals in custody (see sections 1.a. and 1.c.). Sex within marriage is considered to be consensual by definition, and therefore spousal rape is not addressed, including in cases of forced marriage.
Cases of rape were difficult to document due to nonreporting. Most rape victims did not report the crime because they feared retaliation or punishment for having been raped, as they could be charged with indecency, immoral behavior, or adultery for being in the presence of an unrelated male while unaccompanied. They also feared societal reprisal, such as ostracism. By law four Muslim men or a combination of three men and two women are required to have witnessed the rape for conviction. A woman or man found making a false accusation of rape is subject to 80 lashes.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. The Census Bureau, a government agency, does not permit international organizations to study domestic violence in the country and has never conducted its own study of violence against women. According to a 2011 University of Tehran study, a woman was physically abused every nine seconds in the country, an estimated three to four million women were battered each year by their husbands, and half of marriages had at least one instance of domestic violence.
Abuse in the family was considered a private matter and seldom discussed publicly. Some nongovernmental shelters and hotlines assisted victims during the year, but such services were virtually nonexistent outside major cities.
Harmful Traditional Practices: There were no official reports of killings motivated by “honor” or other harmful traditional practices during the year, although human rights activists reported that they occurred, particularly in areas with large rural and tribal populations.
Sexual Harassment: The law addresses sexual harassment in the context of physical contact between men and women, but the law is biased against women. Physical contact between unrelated men and women is prohibited and punishable by lashing. There was no reliable data on the extent of sexual harassment. Media reports indicated that unwanted physical contact and verbal harassment occurred, but there were no known government efforts to combat and address these acts.
Reproductive Rights: The law recognizes the basic right of married couples to decide freely and responsibly the spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. By law health and maternity benefits are eliminated for a family after three children. There were no restrictions on the right of married persons to access contraceptives. It is illegal for a single woman to access contraception, although most single women had access to contraception, particularly in urban areas. Couples who plan to marry must take a class in family planning.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal protection for women under the law and all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in conformity with Islam. The government did not enforce the law, however, and provisions in the Islamic civil and penal codes, particularly sections dealing with family and property law, discriminate against women. Discrimination restricted women’s economic, social, political, academic, and cultural rights. The governmental Center for Women and Family continued to publish reports on women’s rights with a conservative religious slant and limited the debate on women’s issues to matters related to the home. The center did not raise ideas contrary to the government or its interpretation of Islam.
Women may not transmit citizenship to their children or to a noncitizen spouse. The government does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, irrespective of their citizenship. The law states that a virgin woman or girl wishing to wed needs the consent of her father or grandfather or the court’s permission, even if she is older than age 18.
The law permits a man to have as many as four wives and an unlimited number of “temporary wives” (sigheh), based on a Shia custom in which a woman may become the time-limited wife of a Muslim man after a simple religious ceremony and a civil contract outlining the union’s conditions. Temporary wives and any resulting children are not granted rights associated with traditional marriage, but the contract is enforceable.
A woman has the right to divorce only if her husband signs a contract granting that right, cannot provide for his family, or is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. A husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. Traditional interpretations of Islamic law recognize a divorced woman’s right to part of shared property and to alimony. These laws were not enforced. In 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that a woman could withhold sex from her husband if the husband refused to pay a personal maintenance allowance. By law such an allowance may be requested during the marriage as well as after a divorce. According to the Islamic Students’ News Agency, if the allowance is not paid, the wife may “reject all legal and religious obligations” to her husband. If the allowance is not paid after the divorce, the woman may sue her former husband in court. Despite this ruling the ability of a woman to seek divorce was limited.
The law provides divorced women preference in custody for children up to age seven. After the child reaches age seven, the father is entitled to custody unless he is proven unfit to care for the child. Divorced women who remarry must give the child’s father custody. Courts determine custody in disputed cases.
Women sometimes received disproportionate punishment for crimes, such as adultery, including death sentences (see sections 1.a. and 1.e.). The testimony of two women is equal to that of one man. The blood money paid to the family of a woman who was killed is half the sum paid for a man.
UN statistics gathered from 2007-11 indicated that 99 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 were literate. Women had access to primary and advanced education, and approximately 65 percent of university students were women. Quotas and other restrictions limited women’s university admissions to certain fields, such as medicine and engineering, as well as to master’s degree and doctoral programs. According to the UN special rapporteur’s October report, the government did not reverse several universities’ 2012 decision to restrict 77 fields of study to male-only enrollment.
Social and legal constraints limited women’s professional opportunities. Women were represented in many fields, including in the legislature, on municipal councils, on police forces, and as firefighters, but the law requires a woman to obtain her husband’s consent before working outside the home. Despite the high proportion of women in universities, the unemployment rate for women was nearly twice that for men. The law does not provide that women must be paid equally to men for equal work. According to a survey for the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, women earned on average 61 percent as much money as their male counterparts for similar work. Women may not run for president or serve in many high-level political positions or as judges, except as consultants or research judges without the power to impose sentences.
Women faced discrimination in home and property ownership as well as access to financing. The government enforced gender segregation in many public spaces, including for patients during medical care, and prohibited women from mixing openly with unmarried men or men not related to them. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances.
The law provides that a woman who appears in public without an appropriate headscarf (hijab) may be sentenced to lashings and fined. Absent a clear legal definition of “appropriate hijab” or the punishment, however, women were subject to the opinions of disciplinary forces or judges.
On September 18, authorities released from prison women’s rights activist and One Million Signatures Campaign member Mahboubeh Karami. She had been serving a three-year sentence since 2011 for “membership in an illegal organization.”
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law without regard to gender, sect, opinion, belief, nationality, or origin. The law prohibits discrimination based on race, disability, or social status. The government was ineffective in enforcing these provisions.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Domestic violence remained a pervasive problem, and the law did not always adequately protect rape victims. The penal law criminalizes rape (but not spousal rape) and permits a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if the victim dies. The law allows a rape case to be dropped if the offender marries the victim. There were no reliable estimates of the incidence of rape or information on the effectiveness of government enforcement of the law. Due to social conventions and retribution against both the victim and perpetrator, victims of sexual crimes did not usually pursue legal remedies. The UN Development Program documented cases of families of rape victims sometimes demanding that the victim marry her perpetrator in order to maintain the family’s honor, noting that in some cases when the victim refused the marriage, families asked judges to intervene and force the marriage between victim and perpetrator.
Domestic violence is not a prosecutable offense. Local and international NGOs and media reported that domestic violence often went unreported and unpunished, with abuses customarily addressed within the family and tribal structure. Harassment of legal personnel working on domestic violence cases, which were criminalized as assault, and a lack of trained police and judicial personnel further hampered efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. According to UNAMI’s Women in Iraq Factsheet published in March, 46 percent of married women reported spousal violence, and 38 percent of women reported experiencing sexual violence by their husband at least once per month.
On March 5, the Council of Ministers approved a National Strategy for Combating Violence against Women to raise awareness about violence against women and provide better access to services and remedies. The strategy focuses on drafting and enacting legislation to make violence against women a prosecutable offense and prioritizes engagement with the Ministry of Interior to ensure federal police are involved in the effort to combat violence against women.
A 2011 Kurdistan regional government family violence law criminalizes domestic violence, including physical and psychological abuse, threats of violence, and spousal rape. Despite a Kurdistan regional government campaign to raise awareness of the law, NGO surveys indicated that awareness of the new Family Violence Law was low and that underreporting of domestic and gender-based violence was prevalent in the IKR. As of year’s end, the Kurdistan regional government had not implemented provisions of the law creating a special police force to investigate cases of gender-based violence and a family reconciliation committee within the judicial system.
The Federal Ministry of Interior maintained 16 family protection units around the country, which focused on family reconciliation rather than victim protection. Hotlines went directly to the male commander of the unit, and the units did not follow a regular referral system to provide victims with services, such as legal aid or safe shelter. The units referred women with physical injuries to hospitals as an investigation component. In the first six months of the year, the unit in Basra registered 382 complaints, 45 percent of which involved incidents of domestic violence. The unit reportedly referred 6 percent of cases to a court for resolution. UNAMI reported that a hospital admitted at least 22 domestic violence victims with severe burns on their bodies.
In the IKR, four women’s shelters operated by the Kurdistan regional government Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and one private shelter provided some protection and assistance. Space was limited, and service delivery was poor, with the private shelter providing a slightly higher level of service. In areas outside the IKR, NGOs ran shelters without official approval. Some NGOs assisted victims through community mental health workers. Other NGOs provided legal assistance to victims. NGOs played a key role in providing services to victims of domestic violence who received no assistance from the central government. Instead of utilizing legal remedies, authorities frequently attempted to mediate between women and their families so that the women could return to their homes. Other than marrying or returning to their families (which often resulted in the family or community victimizing the shelter resident again), there were few options for women housed at shelters.
According to the local NGO Warvin Foundation, between January and June in the IKR, there were 60 murders and 27 suicides of women, 184 incidents of women burned, 120 incidents of self-immolation, and more than 160 incidents of domestic abuse, torture, or sexual violence against women. Warvin believed the number was much higher and that many cases went unreported. In addition, there were 3,644 cases of women complaining to police about abuse and harassment between January and June. On December 25, the local press reported that, in the period 2003-13, there were 494 female suicides, 2,031 incidents of self-immolation, 16,199 court cases alleging violence against women, and 868 cases of sexual harassment in the IKR.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor killings remained a serious problem throughout all parts of the country, and some families arranged honor killings to appear as suicides. In the IKR, suicidal women used self-immolation as a method of killing themselves, and authorities dismissed certain cases as “accidents.” The penal law permits honor considerations to mitigate sentences; for example, a provision limits murder sentences to a maximum of three years in prison if a man suspects his wife or female dependents of committing adultery.
On January 3, press reported that Ahmed al-Jabouri of Anbar Province killed his daughter for allegedly speaking to a man on Skype. The victim’s brother informed police that al-Jabouri strangled his daughter.
Extremist groups and religiously motivated militias targeted women in violent attacks throughout the country. In June, according to UN reports, unknown militants killed seven women in Basra after threatening the women and alleging they were sex workers. On November 29, six women were killed by gunshot wounds to the head in the al-Ghareeb district of Baghdad after militants accused them of being prostitutes.
Government officials and international and local NGOs reported that the traditional practice of “fasl” – whereby family members, including women and children, are traded to settle tribal disputes – remained a problem, particularly in southern provinces.
According to multiple press reports, court-ordered virginity testing took place in Baghdad. Men who accused their wives of not being virgins the day after marriage could request a virginity test through courts. The Medical Legal Institute reportedly conducted the tests and provided results directly to the courts.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) July report, 1.3 million women between the ages of 15 and 49 had suffered some form of FGM/C. The practice occurred throughout the country but was most prevalent in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah provinces where, according to the study, 58 percent of women acknowledged having undergone some form of FGM/C. The law bans FGM/C in the IKR; the central government did not have a similar law. While the Kurdistan regional government did little to enforce the FGM/C provisions of the law, it conducted advocacy campaigns against FGM/C in collaboration with civil society during the year. The UN and NGOs reported that some advocacy initiatives decreased the occurrence of FGM/C in the IKR.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual relations outside marriage, including rape or sexual solicitation that may occur during sexual harassment. The penalties include fines and imprisonment. The criminal code provides relief from penalties if unmarried participants marry. No information was available regarding the effectiveness of government enforcement. Due to social conventions and retribution against both the victim and perpetrator of sexual harassment, victims of sexual harassment did not usually pursue legal remedies. Because of the unequal social status of women, their fear of telling close relatives, and distrust of the criminal justice process, victims rarely filed police complaints against their offenders.
Reproductive Rights: The government generally respected the basic rights of couples and individuals to decide the number, timing, and spacing of children free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There were no legal impediments to access to information on family planning, contraception, and maternal health services, including skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, and essential obstetric and postpartum care. Nonetheless, due to general insecurity in the country and attendant economic difficulties, many women received inadequate medical care.
Discrimination: Although the constitution forbids discrimination based on gender, conservative societal standards impeded women’s abilities to enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in all aspects of the judicial system. Throughout the country, women reported increasing social pressure to adhere to conservative social norms. Female employees were often pressured to wear, or questioned about not wearing, headscarves. In July militias attacked several cafes in Baghdad’s Karradah neighborhood for violating Islamic morals during Ramadan by employing female servers. According to local government officials and press reports, the militias accused the female employees of being prostitutes. Armed groups targeted cafes employing young women throughout Ramadan.
Women experienced economic discrimination in access to similar work as men and generally did not receive equal pay for equal work. Deteriorating security throughout the year limited women’s ability to work outside their homes. Weak labor laws and the lack of an equal opportunity employment law left women vulnerable to arbitrary dismissal. Government efforts to combat economic discrimination against women were minimal and unsystematic. Despite the existence of a widow-stipend program through the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, confusing bureaucratic procedures and significant processing delays, compounded by illiteracy, hindered an estimated 900,000 widows from accessing social support. Some NGOs believed that the number of widows greatly exceeded the Ministry of Planning’s estimate of 900,000. According to a July UNICEF report, between one and three million widows lived in the country.
On June 3, the Supreme Judicial Council voted unanimously to begin accepting female candidates for the council
The Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs, with 23 professional staff members, functioned primarily as an advisory office without an independent budget or the ability to expand. Civil society and women’s rights groups continued to express concern regarding the ministry’s commitment to advancing solutions to women’s problems. NGO leaders alleged during the year that the ministry was not committed to principles of women as equal members of society and female economic empowerment but rather focused only on security and protection for women.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, and social status but does not prohibit discrimination based on language, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Although the government enforced these prohibitions to some degree, discrimination against women; ethnic minority group members; persons with disabilities; LGBT persons; and foreigners remained problems. Moreover, enforcement was not uniform, with some provisions for persons with disabilities interpreted as applying to the public sector but not the private sector.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes all forms of rape involving force against women, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The law defines rape as “a person who, through assault or intimidation, forcibly commits sexual intercourse with a female of not less than 13 years of age.” Prosecutors have interpreted forcible to mean evidence of force and/or physical resistance by the victim is necessary for a sexual encounter to be considered rape. According to NPA statistics, in 2012 there were 1,240 reported cases of rape against women and girls, and authorities prosecuted 554 individual suspects. In June press reported that a local prosecutor’s office had released in 2012 contact information of a female victim to an indecent-assault suspect via his counsel.
Although prohibited by law, domestic violence against women remained a problem. According to NPA statistics, in 2012 there were 43,950 reported cases of domestic violence, with women constituting more than 94.6 percent of the victims.
On October 3, a revised stalker-control law came into effect, which prohibits e-mail harassment. On October 8, a female high-school student was stalked and killed by her former boyfriend hours after reporting the stalking to the police. In response, the NPA convened an expert panel meeting on control of stalking.
Faced with continued calls for dealing with the issue of the “comfort women” (women who were trafficked for sexual purposes during World War II), the government continued to stand by its previously extended apologies and offers of financial assistance.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not criminalize sexual harassment but includes measures to identify companies that fail to prevent it, and prefectural labor offices and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare provide these companies with advice, guidance, and recommendations. Companies that fail to comply with government guidance may be publicly identified, but according to officials, this has never been necessary. Sexual harassment in the workplace remained widespread, however, and from April 2012 to March 2013, government hotlines in prefectural labor bureau equal employment departments reported receiving 9,981 consultations, 58.5 percent of which were from female workers. On June 21, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation released survey results indicating that approximately 19 percent of female employees had suffered harassment, including sexual harassment in the workplace, although most did not file a complaint or seek consultation. Government hotlines in prefectural labor bureau equal employment departments handle consultations concerning sexual harassment and mediate disputes when possible.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals could decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and they had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Women had access to contraception and maternal health services, including skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, and essential obstetric and postpartum care.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender discrimination and generally provides women the same rights as men. The Gender Equality Bureau in the Cabinet Office continued to examine policies and monitor developments.
Inequality in employment remained a society-wide problem. Women constituted 42.2 percent of the labor force in 2012, and their average monthly wage was 231,900 yen ($2,300) seven-tenths of the monthly wage earned by men (328,300 yen ($3,300)). Women held 11.6 percent of managerial positions in 2012. Employers often forced women to leave their position if pregnant.
NGOs continued to allege that the country’s efforts to implement antidiscrimination measures were insufficient, pointing to discriminatory provisions in the law, unequal treatment of women in the labor market, and low representation of women in high-level elected bodies. NGOs urged the country to abolish a six-month waiting period stipulated in the law for women but not men before remarriage, eliminate different age minimums for marriage depending on sex, and adopt a system allowing for the choice of surnames for married couples.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution states that all citizens are equal under the law and prohibits discrimination based on race, language, and religion; however, discrimination on the basis of gender, disability, and social status is not specifically prohibited. The government did not effectively enforce these provisions, and the penal code does not address discrimination, thereby severely limiting judicial remedies. Women faced significant and widespread discrimination across society, especially in the economy, politics, and the legal system.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law stipulates a sentence of at least 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor for the rape of a girl or woman 15 years of age or older. Spousal rape is not illegal. The law does not explicitly ban domestic violence. The government did not enforce the law against rape effectively, and violence and abuse against women was widespread. Violence against women was reported more frequently in rural areas than in major cities, but women’s rights activists speculated that many incidents in cities went unreported because violence against women remained a taboo subject due to societal and familial pressures. The PSD’s Family Protection Department (FPD) reported 899 cases of domestic violence as of August. Human rights activists stated that girls and women with disabilities were particularly at risk of gender-based violence.
Women may file complaints of rape or physical abuse with certain NGOs or directly with judicial authorities. As of August, the FPD treated and investigated 580 cases of rape or sexual assault against women. The FPD actively investigated cases; however, there were some reports of pressure on families to settle disputes via mediation instead of the courts. The FPD also conducted awareness campaigns about domestic violence. Spousal abuse is technically grounds for divorce, but husbands claimed religious authority to strike their wives. Observers noted that judges generally supported a woman’s claim of abuse in court; however, due to societal and familial pressure, few women sought legal remedies.
As of November, a reported 144 girls left their homes and stayed in government-run shelters to avoid domestic violence and/or sexual abuse.
The FPD continued to operate a domestic violence hotline and received inquiries and complaints via the internet and e-mail. The FPD provided public information and training for government employees on domestic violence and rape. As of August, the government-run shelter Dar al-Wafaq assisted 487 female victims of domestic violence. As of September, the FPD dealt with 2,650 domestic violence cases. It provided reconciliation services to victims and their families and worked with NGOs to provide services, such as legal and medical assistance. Observers noted the lack of a comprehensive approach for victims, such as psychosocial assistance.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Judicial statistics indicated that 12 honor crimes were referred to the judicial system during the year. Activists reported that many such crimes went unreported. The Supreme Criminal Court’s panel of judges dedicated to cases involving honor crimes routinely issued sentences of up to 15 years to perpetrators of such crimes. The Cassation Court, which reviews the Supreme Criminal Court rulings, generally decreased the sentences by half. During the year the courts issued one guilty verdict, with a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and hard labor, against a man who killed his wife in an honor crime. There were several cases during the year in which family members dropped the charges against perpetrators of honor crimes, and the 2011 General Amnesty Law resulted in the government dropping charges in cases where the family also dropped the charges against the perpetrator. There were no reported instances of forced marriage as an alternative to a potential honor killing during the year. Observers noted that if a woman marries her rapist, according to customary belief, her family members do not need to kill her to “preserve the family’s honor.”
Numerous honor-crime cases were reported during the year.
On April 15, the body of a 20-year-old girl was found near a dumpster in Al- Rusayfah. The girl had been killed, her four-month fetus removed, and she had been burned to hide her identity. Security agencies began investigations into the case, but no arrests had been announced as of December.
On November 13, the criminal court prosecutor general charged a 28-year-old man with premeditated murder of his 20-year-old sister in an apparent honor crime. The suspect had signed a guarantee that he would not harm his sister upon release from Jweideh Correctional Center, but as soon as she arrived home, he stabbed her repeatedly and crushed her skull.
In December, two men, aged 23 and 20, were sentenced to death for strangling their divorced sister, also in her twenties, in June. The men confessed to killing their sister in order to cleanse the family’s honor.
Through their administrative detention authority, governors continued to place potential victims of honor crimes in involuntary protective custody in the Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in Jweideh detention facility, where some women had remained for more than one year. Underage potential victims were held in the Al-Khansa Juvenile Center under unclear legal status. The government estimated that 39 women were placed in protective custody during the year, 33 women were released during the year, and six remained in custody. A woman detained in protective custody can be released only after her family signs a statement guaranteeing her safety and both the local governor and the woman agree to the release. According to the Ministry of Social Development, 14 minor girls were placed in shelters following sexual assaults. One NGO continued to work for the release of these women through mediation with their families. The NGO also provided a temporary but unofficial shelter for such women as an alternative to protective custody.
Sexual Harassment: The law strictly prohibits sexual harassment and does not make a distinction between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Both carry a minimum prison sentence of four years with hard labor. The government did not enforce this law. Women’s groups stated that harassment was common, but many victims were hesitant to file a complaint and rarely did so because they feared blame for inciting the harassment or consequences such as losing their job, or because they faced social and cultural pressure to keep silent. NGOs reported that foreign migrant workers, including garment workers and domestic workers, were especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, including sexual assault, in the workplace.
Reproductive Rights: Couples have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and individuals were able to make such decisions free from discrimination and coercion. Contraceptives were generally accessible to all men and women, both married and single, and provided free of charge in public clinics. Comprehensive essential obstetric, prenatal, and postnatal care was provided throughout the country in the public and private sectors. The Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities and civil society activists reported that forced sterilization of women and girls with intellectual disabilities was a common practice. The Sisterhood Is Global Institute estimated that 65 such hysterectomies were performed annually.
Discrimination: Women do not have the same legal status and rights as men and experienced discrimination in a number of areas, including inheritance, divorce, ability to travel, child custody, citizenship, pension and social security benefits, the workplace, and, in certain circumstances, the value of their testimony in a sharia court. Nearly 10 percent of women were illiterate. Women owned only 17 percent of property.
There is no specialized government office or designated official to handle discrimination claims. The Jordanian National Commission for Women, a government-supported NGO, operated a hotline to receive discrimination complaints.
Under sharia, as applied in the country, female heirs receive half the amount that male heirs receive. A sole female heir receives only half of her parents’ estate, with the balance going to designated male relatives, whereas a sole male heir inherits all of his parents’ property. Women may seek divorce without the consent of their husbands in limited circumstances such as abandonment, spousal abuse, or in return for waiving financial rights. The law allows retention of financial rights under specific circumstances, such as spousal abuse. Special courts for each Christian denomination adjudicate marriage and divorce.
The law allows fathers to prevent their children from leaving the country through a court order; however, this same court order is not available to mothers. Some mothers claimed they were prevented from departing the country with their children because authorities enforced requests from fathers to prevent their children from leaving. Authorities did not stop fathers from exiting the country with their children when the mother objected.
The government provided men with more generous social security benefits than women. The government continued pension payments of deceased male civil servants to their heirs, but it discontinued payments to heirs of deceased female civil servants unless they were the sole income earner in the family. Laws and regulations governing health insurance for civil servants under the Civil Service Bureau do not permit married women to extend their health insurance coverage to dependents or spouses unless they are the sole income earner in the family. Divorced and widowed women may extend coverage to their children.
Union officials reported that sectors employing predominantly women, such as secretarial work, offered wages below the official minimum wage of 190 dinars ($268) per month. Many women said traditional social pressures discouraged them from pursuing professional careers, especially after marriage.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. Government authorities did not effectively enforce many of these provisions, and discrimination against women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons, individuals with HIV/AIDS, persons with disabilities, persons suspected of witchcraft, and certain ethnic groups was a problem. There was also evidence that some national and local government officials tolerated, and in some instances instigated, ethnic violence.
The law criminalizes homosexual activity.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, defilement, and sex tourism; however, enforcement remained limited, and civil society groups indicated that victims did not report as many as 95 percent of sexual offenses to police. The law does not specifically prohibit spousal rape.
The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for rape, although sentences usually were no longer than the minimum of 10 years. In October citizens gathered more than one million international signatures for a petition protesting government mishandling of a gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Busia, in which a court reportedly ordered several perpetrators to cut grass as punishment for their crime.
Traditional dispute mechanisms frequently were used to address sexual offenses in rural areas, with village elders assessing financial compensation for the victims’ families. NGOs reported difficulties in obtaining evidence and the unwillingness of witnesses to testify in sexual assault cases in areas where traditional dispute mechanisms were employed.
Police statistics for 2011 indicated 4,517 reported cases of gender-based violence, including 934 rapes, compared with 4,551 cases of gender-based violence, including 922 rapes, in 2010. Human rights groups, however, estimated that the actual number of rapes and other cases of gender-based violence was much higher. A study by the NGO Peace Initiative Kenya identified 383 cases of rape reported in the media between January and May, noting a 15 percent increase from that same period in 2012. The study stated that Nairobi’s women’s hospital reported receiving an average of 18 cases of rape and incest daily. The Coalition on Violence Against Women estimated that 16,500 rapes occurred per year. Several NGOs working to end gender-based violence stated in November that unofficial reports of rape during the year had already exceeded that number.
A December 2012 study on violence against women in Nairobi by the Small Arms Survey, a project funded by the Swiss government, found that the number of rapes reported to Nairobi’s largest post-rape service centers had risen during the year. The study also found that these centers were treating an increasing number of underage females--more female children than female adults-for sexual violence. The study also noted that women in informal settlements were more often targets of regular sexual violence. An NTV Kenya television program reported a dramatic increase in gang rapes in the Dandora informal settlement in Nairobi during the year. Sexual and gender-based violence also remained significant problems in the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps (see section 2.d.).
The rate of reporting and prosecution of rape remained low because of police practice requiring a police physician examine victims; cultural inhibitions against publicly discussing sex, particularly sexual violence; the stigma attached to rape victims; survivors’ fear of retribution; police reluctance to intervene, especially in cases where the victim accused family members, friends, or acquaintances of committing the rape; poor training of prosecutors; and the unavailability of doctors who might provide the evidence necessary for conviction. Reporting also remained low due to traditional attitudes toward sexual violence. A 2010 baseline survey by the National Commission on Gender and Development reported that 72 percent of respondents did not consider gender-based physical violence, including rape, to be “serious” crimes.
In 2009 the government promulgated national guidelines on the management of sexual violence, including the handling of forensic evidence, post-rape care, and victim support, but implementation mechanisms remained weak. Police procedures for handling cases of rape and sexual assault created substantial barriers to the investigation and prosecution of suspected perpetrators. In 2012 and during the year, police hired two additional police physicians for Nairobi following reports by human groups criticizing the existing physician’s unavailability. Human rights groups reported these additions significantly improved the speed and frequency of investigations into sexual crimes, but they also continued to note that the physicians sometimes were unavailable to conduct exams, failed to appear in court, and issued examination reports that conflicted with the findings of other medical professionals. Police physicians generally were not present in rural areas.
In 2012 police approved a change in procedure to allow clinical officers, in addition to police physicians, to examine victims of sexual violence; however, implementation of this change was slow during the year. Police prosecutors continued to require the same physician or clinical officer who conducted the initial examination to testify during trial. Human rights groups reported that lengthy and frequently interrupted trial procedures deterred clinical officers and outside medical professionals from assisting with the investigation of sexual violence cases. The new forms used to report sexual assaults, which many in civil society hailed as an important step in professionalizing police response to such crimes, were unavailable at most police stations at year’s end. Police also lacked the facilities to preserve forensic evidence. As a result, police did not investigate numerous alleged cases of sexual violence, and numerous cases were dismissed from court due to lack of evidence.
The final report of the Commission of Inquiry on Postelection Violence included a chapter on the widespread sexual and gender-based violence following the disputed election in 2007-08. There was no government effort to prosecute anyone in connection with the reported abuses.
Domestic violence against women was widespread but often condoned by society and seldom addressed in the courts. The UN Population Fund’s 2012 annual report indicated 39 percent of women experienced gender-based violence after the age of 15, primarily perpetrated by husbands. The penal code does not contain specific provisions against domestic violence but treats it as assault. Police generally refrained from investigating cases of domestic violence, which they considered a private family matter. NGOs, including the Law Society of Kenya and FIDA, provided free legal assistance to some victims of domestic violence. In 2010 FIDA reported that 83 percent of women and girls in the country reported one or more episodes of physical abuse.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Certain communities commonly practiced wife inheritance, in which a man inherits the widow of his brother or other close relative, regardless of her wishes. Other forced marriages were also common. Economically disadvantaged women with limited access to education living outside major cities were more likely to be inherited.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See section 6, Children, Harmful Traditional Practices.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment; however, sexual harassment continued to be a problem. It was often not reported and rarely resulted in charges being filed. IPOA reported in August that police officers frequently solicited sexual favors from junior officers to influence transfers and promotions and pledged to investigate cases that had been brought to the oversight body.
Reproductive Rights: Subsidized contraception options, including condoms, birth control pills, and long-acting or permanent methods, were widely available to both men and women throughout the country, although access was more difficult in rural areas. An estimated 39 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. Skilled obstetric, prenatal, and postpartum care was available in major hospitals, but many women were unable to access or afford these services. In 2009 skilled health personnel attended an estimated 44 percent of births. According to UN estimates, the maternal mortality ratio in 2010 was 360 deaths per 100,000 live births, a decline from 450 in 2005. A woman’s lifetime risk of dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth was 1 in 55. Of the 5,500 estimated maternal deaths, 20 percent were AIDS-related. Access to family planning and reproductive health services was impeded by sociocultural beliefs and practices, lack of female empowerment, lack of male involvement, poverty, and poor health management systems.
The government and private organizations supported a network of more than 8,000 counseling and testing centers providing free HIV/AIDS diagnosis. Diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections was available through hospitals and clinics throughout the country. HIV/AIDS carried social stigma, and many citizens avoided testing due to social pressure.
Discrimination: The law provides equal rights to men and women and specifically prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender. Nonetheless, women experienced a wide range of discrimination in matrimonial rights, property ownership, and inheritance rights. The average monthly income of women was approximately two-thirds that of men. Women held only 6 percent of land titles. Under traditional law women in many ethnic groups could not own land. Women had difficulty moving into nontraditional fields, were promoted more slowly, and were more likely to be laid off. Societal discrimination was most apparent in rural areas. Women also faced discrimination in access to employment and to credit. The justice system-particularly customary law-often discriminated against women, limiting their political and economic rights and relegating them to second-class citizenship.
The new constitution eliminates gender discrimination in relation to land and property and gives women equal rights to inheritance and unbiased access to land. The constitution also provides for the enactment of legislation for the protection of matrimonial property during and upon the termination of the marriage, and it affirms that parties to a marriage are entitled to equal rights at the time of marriage, during the marriage, and at its dissolution.
During the year parliament reviewed a new Marriage Bill with a controversial provision requiring husbands to seek existing wives’ permission before taking on an additional wife, which supporters cited as a safeguard for wives in regions with widespread polygamy but critics cited as the institutionalization of a practice harmful to women. The draft bill also included provisions to strengthen property rights for wives. In November, however, the National Assembly passed a draft of the separate Matrimonial Property Bill 2013 in which provisions in its earlier draft that protected the 50-50 ownership of jointly held property between man and wife had been altered. The version that was passed instead dictated that ownership of jointly held property would depend on how much each spouse contributed monetarily to that property. Many women’s rights groups and female members of parliament argued this provision was discriminatory and regressive.
Under the new government structure, the former Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Development was subsumed into other ministries, including the newly created Ministry of Labor, Social Security, and Services, although the Ministry for Devolution and Planning is now the lead ministry for implementation of laws protecting the rights of women.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law provides for equality among all citizens and prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. Although the government generally respected these provisions, they were not enforced, especially in economic matters, and aspects of the law and traditional beliefs discriminated against women.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape. While the government effectively enforced the law, interpretation of sharia law precluded full implementation of civil law equally in all provinces. Rape and domestic violence were underreported. The minimum prison sentence for a person convicted of rape is five years, or seven years for raping a minor. According to the penal code, the state would not prosecute a rapist and would nullify his conviction if the rapist married his victim. The law does not criminalize spousal rape and family violence towards women. According to the domestic NGO KAFA (Enough) Violence and Exploitation, 80 percent of domestic violence victims the NGO assisted had suffered spousal rape.
Neither the penal code nor personal status laws governing family matters adjudicated by state-sanctioned religious courts specifically prohibit domestic violence. There were no authoritative statistics on its extent, but there was a broad consensus that domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a serious and widespread problem. A 2010 UN Population Fund assessment estimated that there were high rates of domestic violence in the country. Despite a law that sets a maximum sentence of three years in prison for battery, some religious courts may legally require a battered wife to return to her home despite physical abuse. Foreign domestic servants, usually women, often were mistreated, abused, and in some cases raped or placed in slavery-like conditions (see section 7.c.). Some police, especially in rural areas, treated domestic violence as a social rather than criminal matter.
The government provided legal assistance to domestic violence victims who could not afford it, but in most cases police ignored complaints submitted by battered or abused women. The NGO Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women and KAFA worked to reduce violence against women by offering counseling and legal aid and raising awareness about the problem. During the year KAFA assisted in 2,808 new cases and followed up on121 old cases of victims of violence, the majority of which concerned domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but it was a widespread problem, and authorities did not enforce the law effectively. According to the UN Population Fund, the labor law does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace; it merely gives an employee, male or female, the right to resign without prior notice from his or her position in the event that an indecent offense is committed towards the employee or a family member by the employer or his or her representative, without any legal consequences for the perpetrator.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination and violence. Some women in rural areas faced social pressure on their reproductive choices. There are no legal prohibitions or governmental encumbrances to equal access under the law for reproductive health-care products or services, although the most advanced clinics and practices were in larger metropolitan areas.
Discrimination: Women suffered discrimination under the law and in practice. Social pressure against women pursuing some careers was strong in some parts of society. Men sometimes exercised considerable control over female relatives, restricting their activities outside the home or their contact with friends and relatives. In matters of child custody, inheritance, and divorce, personal status laws provide unequal treatment across the various confessional court systems but generally discriminate against women. For example, Sunni civil courts apply an inheritance law that provides a son twice the inheritance of a daughter. Religious law on child custody matters favors the father in most instances. Nationality law also discriminates against women, who may not confer citizenship to their spouses and children, although widows may confer citizenship to their minor children. By law women may own property, but they often ceded control of it to male relatives due to cultural reasons and family pressure.
The law provides for equal pay for equal work for men and women, but in the private sector there was discrimination regarding the provision of benefits. Although they composed the majority of the resident population, women made up only 14 percent of the workforce and only 8 percent of senior officials and managers, according to the World Economic Forum. Only 25 percent of women, compared with 75 percent of men, were in the formal labor force, and these women earned on average less than 25 percent of what men earned.
The Women’s Affairs Division in the Ministry of Social Affairs is the highest-level governmental organization dealing with women’s issues. The division undertook some projects to address sexual or gender-based violence, such as providing counseling and shelter for victims and training ISF personnel to combat it in prisons. In 2012 women were commissioned as ISF officers for the first time.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits and penalizes discrimination based on race, gender, social status, ethnic background, age, sexual orientation, disability, and religion or belief. Discrimination against women and ethnic and sexual minorities persisted despite government efforts at enforcement. In 2012 authorities began implementation of a two-year plan to coordinate, with Social Security and Labor Ministry oversight, governmental efforts against discrimination. The government allocated 298,500 litas ($110 million) to the plan in the second year, including funding for NGOs.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and domestic violence. In the first eight months of the year, authorities received 101 reports of rape, compared with 169 in 2012. Convicted rapists generally received three- to five-year prison sentences. The law does not designate marital rape as a crime, and no statistics were available on its prevalence.
The penalties for domestic violence depend on the level of injury inflicted on the victim. The domestic violence law provides a legal basis for rapid government action. For example, police and other law enforcement officials, with court approval, may require perpetrators to live apart from their victims, avoid all contact with them, and surrender any weapons they may possess. During the first eight months of the year, police registered 13,811 domestic violence calls and opened 6,712 investigations. In the first eight months of the year, domestic violence led to the deaths of 11 women. According to observers police did not always accord high priority to these problems. For example, at least two women died in February when police failed to respond to their calls for help in a timely manner. In one of the cases, a woman in Gardziai called police for help, but they responded only after five hours, by which time she was dead.
There were no up-to-date statistics on violence against women. Authorities did not break down statistics on sexual violence according to the type of violence.
Municipal governments and NGOs funded and operated 39 shelters that assisted victims of domestic violence. The government fully funded two. One of those funded, the Shelter for Children and Mothers in Vilnius, assisted more than 100 victims of domestic violence and human trafficking during the year. In September 2012 a new Crisis Center for Women, funded with support from the EU and the Danish Espersen Foundation, opened in Klaipeda.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but women who experienced it remained reluctant to approach police or other institutions because of lack of confidence that authorities would respond and because of the perceived stigma associated with making such matters public. In the first eight months of the year, the equal opportunities ombudsman received one complaint of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Health clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Health. There were no restrictions on access to contraceptives. The government provided free childbirth services. Women had access to regular prenatal care, essential obstetric care, and postpartum care.
Discrimination: Men and women have the same legal status and rights under the law, including property rights, inheritance, the judicial system, and the workplace. Women nevertheless continued to face discrimination. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but women often earned less than their male counterparts. Women were significantly underrepresented at the managerial level – only 17.8 percent of corporate board members and 4 percent of company CEOs were women. The Office of the Ombudsman for Equal Opportunity promoted the legal rights of women and men. This office and the Ministries of Social Affairs and Foreign Affairs, often in cooperation with NGOs, implemented programs to promote equal rights for men and women.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution provides for equal protection under the law and prohibits discrimination against citizens based on race, gender, religion, descent, or place of birth. The law is silent on discrimination based on disabilities and sexual orientation. The constitution also provides for the “special position” of ethnic Malays and the indigenous groups of the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak (collectively, bumiputra), and discrimination based on this provision persisted. One of the requirements for being considered ethnically Malay is to speak the Malay language.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including marital rape, is a criminal offense, as are most forms of domestic violence. The penal code states that rape is punishable by a prison term of up to 30 years, caning, and a fine. Marital rape does not have a minimum penalty, but the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment. There is no minimum jail term for a man convicted of statutory rape of a girl age 15 years or less. The government enforced the law effectively. In 2012 rape victims lodged 2,998 police reports, compared with 3,301 in 2011. In 830 of the reported rape cases, charges were brought against the accused, resulting in 156 convictions. Of the 3,419 cases of domestic violence reported, charges were brought in 1,131 of them, resulting in 526 convictions.
Cultural attitudes and a perceived lack of sympathy from the largely male police force resulted in many victims not reporting rapes. Many government hospitals had crisis centers where victims of rape and domestic abuse could make reports without going to a police station. NGOs and political parties also cooperated to provide counseling for rape victims. Women’s groups claimed that courts were inconsistent in punishing rapists.
Although the government, NGOs, and political parties maintained shelters and offered other assistance to battered spouses, activists asserted that support mechanisms for victims of domestic violence remained inadequate. There was a sexual investigations unit at each police headquarters to help victims of sexual crimes and abuse. In addition, police sometimes assign psychologists or counselors to provide emotional support. Women’s rights activists claimed that police needed additional training in handling domestic abuse and rape cases.
Some sharia experts urged Muslim women to become more aware of the provisions of sharia that prohibit spousal abuse and provide for divorce on grounds of physical cruelty. Provisions in state sharia laws, however, generally prohibit wives from disobeying the “lawful orders” of their husbands and thus were an obstacle to women pursuing claims against their husbands in sharia courts. Muslim women were able to file complaints in civil courts.
Reports of rape and spousal abuse drew considerable government, NGO, and press attention. Under the Domestic Violence Act, anyone who uses violence against a protected person to willfully contravene a protection order may be punished by imprisonment of up to one year and a maximum fine of RM2,000 ($611). In extreme cases involving “grievous hurt” inflicted using a deadly weapon, the maximum imprisonment increases to 20 years. Women’s groups criticized the act as inadequate and called for a broadening of the definition of rape to include husbands forcing themselves on their wives and other forms of sexual assault. They also believed the act failed to protect women in immediate danger because it requires that separate reports of abuse be filed with both the Social Welfare Department and police, causing a delay in the issuance of a restraining order. Cases also required visible evidence of physical injury.
In 2012 an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act that expanded the definition of domestic violence to include mental, emotional, and psychological abuse as well as physical violence took effect. It also allows courts to issue protective orders to prevent third parties from physically abusing, or even communicating with, victims of domestic violence and allows police to arrest a perpetrator when a protective order has been violated. Activists welcomed the amendment but pressured the government to amend it further to cover stalking and intimidation, relationships between unmarried persons, and make domestic violence a separate offense under the penal code.
Women’s rights groups most often pointed to the lack of support from police as the main obstacle of enforcing the new law. For example, on June 25, a woman in Penang suffered burns on more than 60 percent of her body after allegedly being set on fire by her husband. Women’s groups noted that at least five police reports were made by the victim and her family claiming abuse had taken place repeatedly. The attack occurred four days after the victim was granted an interim protection order, which the women’s groups contended was not enforced by police.
Up to 120 police officers participated in four training sessions on the Domestic Violence Act during the year.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): In 2009 the Fatwa Committee of the country’s National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs ruled that “female circumcision” was obligatory for Muslims but “if found to be harmful to health must be avoided.” In 2012 a university study reported that of more than 1,000 women interviewed, more than 90 percent of Muslim respondents stated that they were circumcised. The most common reasons cited for its practice were religious obligation, hygienic purposes, and cultural tradition. The Ministry of Health responded to the fatwa by developing guidelines for the practice of female circumcision and allowed the practice to take place in health-care facilities, where, prior to the fatwa, it was prohibited. NGOs reported FGM/C was also performed privately outside of government clinics. The practice reportedly gained popularity, even among adult women, converts to Islam, and in urban centers (see Children below).
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits a person in authority from using his position to intimidate a subordinate into having sexual relations. A government voluntary code of conduct provides a detailed definition of sexual harassment intended to raise public awareness of the problem, but women’s groups advocated passage of a separate law on sexual harassment. In past years the Malaysian Employers Federation opposed attempts to legislate against sexual harassment in the workplace, arguing government-imposed policies would unduly restrict the management of labor relations. Some observers noted that authorities took claims seriously, but victims were often reluctant to report sexual harassment because of embarrassment, the difficulty of proving the offense, and trial length.
The Employment (Amendment) Act 2012 makes certain forms of sexual harassment in the workplace criminal offenses. Under the act, sexual harassment encompasses complaints in the employer-employee relationship including sexual harassment complaints made by an employee against another employee, an employee against an employer, or an employer against an employee. It excludes complaints by or against independent contractors. Employers are obligated to inquire into most sexual harassment complaints in a prescribed manner. The penalty for noncompliance is a fine not exceeding RM10, 000 ($3,058).
Advocacy groups, such as the Association of Women Lawyers, stated the provisions pertaining to sexual harassment under the Employment Act were not comprehensive enough to provide help to victims. The association advocated for passage of a separate sexual harassment bill making it compulsory for employers to formulate sexual harassment policies.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Information on family planning was readily available from government and NGO sources. Contraceptives such as birth-control pills and condoms were permitted and were locally available. Estimates of contraceptive use by women remained at approximately 50 percent. Skilled medical personnel attended a large majority of births, and women generally had access to postpartum care.
Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination against citizens based on gender. The law allows polygyny for Muslims, which a small minority of men practiced. Islamic inheritance law generally favors male offspring and relatives. A small but steadily increasing number of women obtained divorces under the provisions of sharia that allow for divorce without the husband’s consent. Non-Muslim women are subject to civil and criminal law but not sharia. The constitution gives men and women equal rights to inherit, acquire, own, manage, or dispose of any property, including land. Within the matriarchal Minangkabau community, women are favored in the sense that ownership of hereditary or tribal lands is restricted to women. The Guardianship of Women and Infants Act gives mothers equal parental rights. Four states extend the provisions of the act to Muslim mothers, and women’s groups continued to urge the other states to do the same.
The law requires equal pay for men and women workers for work of equal value. NGOs reported, however, continued discrimination against women in the workplace in terms of promotion and salary.
Women experienced some economic discrimination in access to employment. The UN Development Program Country Program report for Malaysia (2013-2015) noted participation in the labor market for women was 46.1 percent compared to 78.7 percent for men.
According to the UN Development Program, women made up 36 percent of the labor force, which it defined as women ages 15 to 64 actively engaging in the labor market, by either working or actively looking for work. In June Prime Minister Najib stated women occupied 33 percent of decision-making positions in the public sector. The law provides that women in the private sector are entitled to 60 days’ maternity leave and women in civil service are entitled to 90 days’ maternity leave. Men are not entitled to paternity leave. Some pregnant women experienced employment discrimination. Employers routinely asked women their marital status during job interviews.
The government undertook a number of initiatives to promote equality for women and the full and equal participation of women in education and the workforce. The Women’s Ministry developed programs and workshops to encourage women to enter the business community and operate small- and medium-sized enterprises. Women outnumber men in universities. A leading public university, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, reported approximately 70 percent female enrollment in its 2012 academic year.
The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry established a Women Directors Registry, which compiled data on qualified women. The ministry also implemented a training program that included coaching on technical and soft skills.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. While the government made some progress enforcing these provisions, significant problems, particularly violence against women, persisted.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The federal penal code criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and imposes penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Twenty‑three states and the Federal District have laws criminalizing spousal rape. According to the UN and NGOs, rape victims rarely filed complaints, in part because of the authorities’ ineffective and unsupportive approach to victims, victims’ fear of publicity, and a perception that prosecution of cases was unlikely. Human rights organizations asserted that authorities did not take seriously reports of rape, and victims continued to be socially stigmatized and ostracized. Forced disappearances and sexual violence continued to be a widespread problem along the border region.
The federal penal code prohibits domestic violence and stipulates penalties between six months’ and four years’ imprisonment. Twenty-eight states and the Federal District stipulated similar penalties, although actual sentences were often more lenient. Federal law does not criminalize spousal abuse. State and municipal laws addressing domestic violence largely fail to meet the required federal standards and often were unenforced, although states and municipalities, especially in the north, were beginning to prioritize domestic violence-related training.
Victims of domestic violence in rural and indigenous communities oftentimes did not report abuses due to fear of spousal reprisal, stigma, and societal beliefs that abuse did not merit a complaint. There were no authoritative government statistics available on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished. According to the most recent National Survey on Household Relations, conducted in 2011, 46 percent of women age 15 and older had in their lifetimes been victims of violence by their partner, with the incidence ranging from 30 percent in Chiapas to 57 percent in the state of Mexico.
Femicide is a federal offense punishable by 40 to 60 years in prison. As of September, 28 states and the Federal District had added femicide to their criminal codes. In many cases state laws allow for reduced sentences when a killing was associated with infidelity. According to a report published in late 2012 by SEGOB’s Human Rights Office, the number of female homicide victims increased dramatically over the past three years, particularly in the states of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Federal District. The study cited regional disparities in the number of female homicide victims, stating that a woman between the ages of 20 and 24 from the northeastern region of the country was 29 times more likely to be killed than a woman of the same age elsewhere in the country.
According to the National Femicide Observatory, between January 2010 and December 2012, offices of state attorneys general in 10 states (Sinaloa, Chiapas, Mexico State, Jalisco, the Federal District, Morelos, Guerrero, Veracruz, Durango and Guanajuato) registered only 388 femicides. The National Femicide Observatory disputed the figure and reported that the actual number of femicide victims was considerably higher.
The PGR’s Special Prosecutor’s Office for Violence against Women and Trafficking in Persons is responsible for leading government programs to combat domestic violence and prosecuting federal human trafficking cases involving three or fewer suspects. With only 15 federal prosecutors dedicated to federal cases of violence against women and trafficking countrywide, the special prosecutor faced challenges in moving from investigations to convictions, although it achieved several convictions.
On February 4, masked gunmen broke into a beach resort bungalow in Acapulco, Guerrero, and raped six Spanish women who were vacationing in the area. According to official reports, the attackers tied up and gagged several male companions before repeatedly raping the victims over a period of at least three hours. The attackers allegedly spared a seventh woman of Mexican origin. On February 13, PGR officials reported the arrest of six suspects in the case, who allegedly confessed to the crimes. Police officials arrested a seventh suspect on March 7. Following the final arrest, the Guerrero Attorney General’s Office stated that its investigation into the matter was closed.
There were approximately 70 shelters for women and their children funded at least in part by the government. Shelters were mostly for victims of gender-based violence, but the PGR operated one government shelter with a focus on adult sex trafficking victims. According to the National Network of Shelters, shelter staff were professional and the shelters well equipped; however, because government funding typically only covered shelter operations for eight months, there was a high turnover of personnel. Civil society and women’s rights groups maintained numerous shelters as well.
Sexual Harassment: The federal labor law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for fines from 250 to 5,000 times the daily wage. Sexual harassment is explicitly criminalized in 15 of 31 states and the Federal District, and all states have provisions for punishment when the perpetrator is in a position of power. According to the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES), the federal government institution charged with directing national policy to achieve equality of opportunity between men and women, sexual harassment in the workplace was widespread, but victims were reluctant to come forward and cases were difficult to prove.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the legal right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and sometimes have the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Numerous NGOs reported that services, information, and public policies in the area of reproductive health were limited. Despite the existence of a national family planning program, the lack of sex education and access to contraceptives in public hospitals and rural areas continued to undermine the government’s commitment to reproductive rights. In a study released in February by SEGOB, the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (CONAVIM) reported that, of indigenous women who underwent sterilization procedures provided by public health services, 27 percent were sterilized after doctors consulted with only the woman’s partner and not the woman herself. According to UN estimates from 2011, 67 percent of married women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception. Information on maternal health was accessible at public and private health clinics and online at the Federal Secretariat of Health’s website. According to government figures, the maternal mortality rate was 47 for every 100,000 live births. Skilled attendants at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available except in some rural indigenous areas.
On October 3, an indigenous woman gave birth on the back lawn of a health clinic in San Felipe Jalapa de Diaz, Oaxaca, after the clinic staff allegedly denied her care. According to the town’s mayor, the woman arrived at the clinic experiencing labor pains, but a clinic employee told her that the doctor was not available to help her. The mayor stated a nurse later refused to open the door for the woman, causing the woman to deliver the baby in a grassy space behind the clinic. The Oaxaca secretary of health acknowledged medical negligence in the case but accused the indigenous woman of not following medical instructions and for willingly giving birth “out of desperation” in the back lawn. He further justified the refusal of service by noting the clinic’s limited resources to attend to the various needs of its patients. Another indigenous woman delivered a child outside the same clinic July 18 following similar circumstances. The CNDH opened an investigation into the October 3 case and continued to look into the incident.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same rights and obligations as men and “equal pay for equal work performed in equal jobs, hours of work, and conditions of efficiency.” According to INMUJERES, women continued to earn between 5 and 30 percent less than men for comparable work. According to the World Economic Forum, women earned 42 percent less than men for comparable work. According to the 2011 National Survey on Household Relations, 21 percent of women said they had been victims of discrimination in the workplace in the past year; this figure likely underreported the problem. Women constituted 99 percent of domestic workers and therefore were more likely to experience discrimination in wages, working hours, and benefits. The law provides labor protection for pregnant women. According to the Information Group on Reproductive Rights, some employers reportedly sought to avoid this law by requiring pregnancy tests in pre-employment physicals and by continuing to make inquiries into a woman’s reproductive status. INMUJERES reported that 14 percent of women age 15 and older had been required to take a pre-employment pregnancy test in order to get a job, despite labor laws that prohibit employers from requiring such tests. The illiteracy rate for women living in urban areas was 5 percent, compared with 18 percent for women living in rural areas. In all but two states (Sinaloa and Sonora), women had lower literacy rates than men.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, social status, faith, culture, regional origin, or any other personal circumstance. Discrimination occurred based on each of these factors. The 2011 constitutional provisions provide for gender equality and parity, although parliament had not passed implementing legislation.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law punishes men convicted of rape with prison terms of five to 10 years; when the conviction involves a minor, the prison sentence ranges from 10 to 20 years. Spousal rape is not a crime, and police were slow to act in domestic violence cases. A sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of 15,000 dirhams ($1,810). The government generally did not enforce the law. The vast majority of sexual assaults were not reported to police for social reasons. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions were rare.
Domestic violence was widespread. Various domestic advocacy groups, such as the Democratic League for Women’s Rights (LDDF), reported that husbands perpetrated eight of 10 cases of violence against women.
Numerous articles of the penal code pertaining to rape perpetuate unequal treatment for women and provide insufficient protection despite family law revisions. Statistics on rape or sexual assault were unreliable due to underreporting. A 2010 government planning survey revealed that 63 percent of women reported suffering an act of violence in the preceding 12 months.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence against women, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence. By law high-level misdemeanors occur when a victim suffers injuries that result in 20 days of disability leave from work. Low-level misdemeanors occur when victims suffer disability for less than 20 days. NGOs reported that the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors. Police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. The government reported that they provided direct support to 50 counseling centers for female victims of violence.
Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported such abuse to authorities. Domestic violence mediation generally occurred within the family. Women choosing legal action generally preferred pursuing divorce in family courts rather than criminal prosecutions.
The law is lenient toward husbands who commit crimes against their wives. Police rarely became involved in domestic disputes. Several women’s NGOs reported that laws were not often enforced due to societal pressures not to break up a family and to the conservative mentality of some police and court officials.
The government operated hotlines for victims of domestic violence. A small number of groups, such as the Antirust Network and the LDDF, were also available to provide assistance and guidance to victims. Counseling centers existed exclusively in urban areas. Services for victims of violence in rural areas were generally limited to local police. Women’s shelters were not government funded. A few NGOs made efforts to provide shelter for victims of domestic abuse. There were reports, however, that these shelters were not accessible to persons with disabilities. Courts had “victims of abuse cells” that bring together prosecutors, lawyers, judges, women’s NGO representatives, and hospital personnel to review domestic and child abuse cases to provide for the best interests of women or children according to proper procedure. In the past authorities occasionally used Article 496 of the penal code, which criminalizes hiding married women, against domestic violence shelters. Officially recognized shelters were not targeted using article 496 during the year.
Many domestic NGOs worked to advance women’s rights and promote women’s issues. Among these were the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, Union for Women’s Action, LDDF, and Moroccan Association for Women’s Rights. All advocated enhanced political and civil rights for women. NGOs also promoted literacy and taught women basic hygiene, family planning, and childcare.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is criminal only when it is an abuse of authority by a superior. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against sexual harassment. According to the government, although the law allows victims to sue employers, only a few did so. Most feared losing their job as a result or worried about proving the charge. NGOs reported widespread sexual harassment was one of several causes of the low rate of women’s labor force participation.
Reproductive Rights: Contraception is legal, and most forms were widely available. Individuals and couples were able to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The Ministry of Health ran two programs, one with mobile clinics providing maternal and child health and family planning services in remote rural areas, and the other involving systematic home visits to encourage the use of contraception and provide family planning and primary health-care services. NGOs reported that women often faced obstacles obtaining emergency contraception from pharmacies. Skilled attendance at delivery and postpartum care were available for women who could afford it, with approximately 74 percent of overall births attended by skilled health personnel.
The most recent UN statistics showed that there were approximately 100 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the country in 2010 and that 52 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2010. The major factors influencing maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence rates were female illiteracy, lack of knowledge about availability of services, cost of services, social pressure against contraceptive use, and availability of transportation to health centers and hospitals for those in rural areas.
Discrimination: The constitution provides women equal rights in civil, political, economic, cultural, and environmental affairs. The previous constitution provided for only political equality. The constitution mandated the creation of a new body, the Authority for Equality and the Fight against all Forms of Discrimination, to monitor equality issues. Implementing legislation for the body was not adopted by year’s end.
Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained. A Muslim woman’s share of an inheritance, determined by sharia (Islamic law), varies depending on circumstances but is less than a man’s. Under Islamic law daughters receive half of what their brothers receive. If a woman is the only child, she receives half, and relatives receive the other half. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate. The 2004 reform of the family code did not change the inheritance laws. The constitution does not specifically address inheritance law.
According to the law, women are entitled to a one-third share of inherited property. While ministry decrees carry the force of law, implementation met considerable resistance from men in certain areas of the country. Despite lobbying by women’s NGOs, enforcement of these property laws remained inconsistent. The Ministry of Interior further pressed for local enforcement of women’s entitlement to collective land rights. A ministry circular published in March 2012 requires all local authorities to follow the law rather than local customs, which in many regions allow male heirs to receive all lands. The government followed up with training for local authorities on the implementation of the land allocation process. Women’s NGOs continued to press the government to codify women’s rights in formal legislation.
The family code places the family under the joint responsibility of both spouses, makes divorce available by mutual consent, and places legal limits on polygamy. The law stipulates neither that the wife has a duty of obedience to her husband nor that women have a marital tutor as a condition of marriage. The penal code criminalizes “knowingly hiding or subverting the search for a married woman who is evading the authority to which she is legally subject.” This section was used to return women involuntarily to abusive homes.
Implementation of the reformed family law remained a concern. The judiciary lacked willingness to enforce it, as many judges did not agree with it. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about its provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to greater enforcement of the law. Widespread female illiteracy also limited women’s ability to navigate the legal system.
There were few legal obstacles to women’s participation in business and other economic activities. According to some entrepreneurs and NGOs, women experienced difficulty in accessing credit and owning and managing businesses. According to a 2011 government report, the rate of participation in the formal labor force for women was 25.5 percent. Average female wages were 17 percent of average male wages. The law does not require equal pay for equal work. Rural women faced restrictions for social and cultural reasons. Women were not represented in leadership positions in trade unions. Most women were able to travel, receive loans, and start businesses without the permission of their husbands or fathers.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, social status, language, disability, age, and national or ethnic origin, and the government actively enforced these prohibitions.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women affected all socioeconomic groups. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment; however, indefinite detention may occur in cases where the parole board, during its annual review, believes that the prisoner poses a continuing threat to society. During the period July 2012 to June 2013, police recorded 3,651 charges for “sexual attacks,” resulting in 1,952 cases resolved. From July 2012 to June 2013, there were 17 charges of spousal rape resulting in 12 cases resolved and 11 charges of “unlawful sexual connection with spouse” resulting in eight cases resolved.
Domestic violence is a criminal offense; however, police no longer classify domestic violence separately from other types of assault. Police investigated 86,722 domestic violence complaints in 2011 (the latest separate figures available); of those, 40,024 were classified as actual offenses and the remainder were classified as “non-offense investigations.” The government’s Task Force for Action on Violence Within Families continued to coordinate a variety of government initiatives to eliminate family violence, including its Te Rito program, a national strategy to address all forms and degrees of domestic violence. Police were responsive when domestic violence was reported. The government partially funded women’s shelters, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, family violence networks, and violence prevention services.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides civil penalties. Sexual contact induced by certain threats may also fall under the criminal code, with a maximum 14-year prison sentence. The HRC published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments on a regular basis. In the fiscal year ending June 30, the HRC received70 new human rights inquiries and complaints that cited sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, and granted access to information on reproductive health. The government did not limit access to male contraception, and contraception for women was available without parental consent to those ages 16 and older. Skilled healthcare for women was widely available, including skilled attendance at childbirth, prenatal care, and essential obstetric and postnatal care.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, and the law prohibits discrimination in employment and rates of pay for equal or similar work.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs addresses problems of discrimination and gender equality, and there is a minister of women’s affairs in the cabinet. The HRC has an equal opportunity employment team that focuses on workplace gender-related problems. This team regularly surveys pay scales, conducts a census of women in leadership roles, and engages public and private employers to promote compensation equality.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, language, or social status; however, the government did not regularly enforce these legal prohibitions. Those subject to such practices filed few discrimination suits or formal complaints due to a belief that their complaints would not be addressed and could lead to negative outcomes for those filing.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes spousal and all forms of rape, regardless of the relationship between the victim and the accused. Sentences for those convicted of rape are a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 12 years, or 15 years in cases of aggravated rape. The government failed to enforce the law effectively, however, leading to widespread impunity and increased violence. Many women were reluctant to report abuse due to enforced medical examinations for survivors of rape and other sexual crimes, social stigma, fear of retribution, impunity for perpetrators, and loss of economic security. During the year observers reported a general increase in sexual crimes against women compared with 2012. The NNP reported 1,659 cases of rape and aggravated rape and 3,087 cases of sexual abuse in 2012, the most recent data available. There were no statistics available on investigations, prosecutions, or convictions. The Women’s Network Against Violence (RMCV) found that in 2012 more than 60 percent of crimes against women went unpunished, and it claimed that attackers and abusers with political connections enjoyed impunity.
On September 25, the National Assembly passed substantive reforms to the Comprehensive Law (Law 779) on Violence against Women, which went into force in 2012. The reforms reversed the law’s mediation clause, which previously prohibited mediation between victims of gender violence and their abusers, and revised the law’s procedural underpinnings. Judges can now recommend mediation processes in crimes that carry a maximum sentence of less than five years’ imprisonment, rather than automatically send aggressors to face prosecution. Women’s rights advocates asserted that with mediation, there is less incentive on the part of victims to pursue formal justice and fewer violent aggressors will be punished for their crimes.
Law 779, passed in response to increasing incidents of gender-based violence, imposes stricter sentences for gender-based offenses and codifies several new crimes against women, including femicide. The law also creates new positions for judges specializing in gender-based violence. Women’s rights organizations claimed that the government did not allocate sufficient resources to carry out the stipulations of the law effectively.
The law requires female victims of sexual crimes to undergo a medical examination by CSJ forensic specialists before proceeding legally against alleged perpetrators, but the lack of female forensic physicians often deterred women from submitting to the examination. Rape victims often were unaware or uninformed about the procedures required to process their cases and therefore often did not receive the necessary examinations in sufficient time.
The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides prison sentences ranging from one to 12 years. In 2012 the NNP Women’s Commissariat reported that only an estimated 17 percent of reported cases went to court, while most were resolved through mediation, which often was ineffective and led to patterns of abuse and impunity. While the law provides for the issuance of restraining orders, problems in the effective enforcement of such mandates continued, and they were not perceived as effective.
Violence against women remained high during the year, according to domestic and international NGO reports. The RMCV reported that 60 women were killed as of September, many of whom were also raped, beaten, or maimed. The RMCV reported that during the past seven years, the rate of such violence more than tripled with an increase in the severity of the crimes. Of the cases of violence against women filed with the judiciary in 2012, 62 percent were ruled petty crimes, even when the life of the victim was in danger. Between January and November of 2012, the NNP reported 3,839 cases of domestic violence, compared with 3,169 reported for 2011.
A court convicted two of the six men accused of the 2012 kidnapping and rape of a 12-year-old girl with mental disabilities. The alleged perpetrators--five NNP officers and a private security guard – were part of President Ortega’s personal security team. While four of the five officers were expelled from the NNP, two were never formally charged.
On March 7, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights agreed to study the case against the government for lack of due process in the 2010 death of Dina Carrion Gonzalez, who was allegedly shot by her husband in her home over a domestic dispute. The case had been pending in the CSJ for more than three years, a delay that some human rights organizations attributed to the political connections of the victim’s husband. Women’s organizations highlighted the case as a prime example of judicial impunity in gender-based violence cases. No official investigations or arrests in the case had been reported since 2010.
NNP commissariats provided social and legal help to women, mediated spousal conflicts, investigated and helped prosecute criminal complaints, and referred victims to other governmental and nongovernmental assistance agencies. During the year 91 NNP women’s commissariats operated in the country, 32 more than in 2012. Commissariats often lacked sufficient equipment and funding to discharge their responsibilities adequately. There are two government-operated and 11 nongovernmental shelters dedicated to female victims of violence or abuse. Women’s groups asserted that the modest number of shelters did not adequately serve the population’s needs, especially on the Atlantic Coast where only one shelter (nongovernmental) operated in the RAAN.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and those convicted face from one- to three-year sentences, or three to five years if the victim is under 18. Sexual harassment likely was underreported due to the failure of authorities to consider the abuse seriously and victims’ fear of retribution.
Reproductive Rights: The Ministry of Health’s (MINSA) family-planning norms provide couples and individuals with the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. MINSA reported that 69 percent of married women used modern contraceptive methods. Access to information about contraception, skilled attendance at delivery, and postpartum care were more available in urban areas but improved slightly in remote areas, such as the Atlantic Coast. According to an official 2011 MINSA report, 95 percent of pregnant women had access to prenatal care and 79 percent to postpartum care in public facilities. According to the World Health Organization, skilled personnel attended 74 percent of births.
Women in some areas, such as the RAAN and the RAAS, did not have widespread access to medical care or programs, and maternal death was more likely to affect poor rural women than their urban counterparts.
Discrimination: The law provides equality for both genders, including within the family, workplace, and for property ownership, and the NNP Office of the Superintendent of Women is responsible for enforcement. Nevertheless, women often experienced discrimination in employment, credit, and pay equity for similar work, as well as in owning and managing businesses. According to the 2013 Gender Gap Report, women earned 43 percent less than men for equal work. Women were much less likely to be senior officials or managers. Authorities often discriminated in property matters against poor women who lacked birth certificates or identity cards. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Special Prosecutor for Women and the Nicaraguan Women’s Institute, the government entities responsible for protecting women’s rights, had limited effectiveness.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution provides for equality for all citizens and broadly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, residence, or place of birth; however, there was significant discrimination based on each of these factors.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense, with punishment that ranges from a minimum of 10 to 25 years in prison and a fine to the death penalty. The penalty for gang rape is death or life imprisonment, but sentences were often less severe. Although rape was frequent, prosecutions were rare. Spousal rape is not a crime.
As in previous years, the government’s enforcement of the Women’s Protection Act of 2006 was poor. The act brought the crime of rape under the jurisdiction of criminal rather than Islamic courts. By law police are not allowed to arrest or hold a female victim overnight at a police station without a civil court judge’s consent. The law requires a complaint to be made directly to a sessions court, a trial court for heinous offences. After recording the victim’s statement, the sessions court judge officially lodges a complaint, after which police may then make arrests. While this procedure was meant to eliminate abuses relating to social norms that make it difficult for women to seek legal redress from police, NGOs reported that it created other barriers for rape victims who could not afford to travel to the courts or access the courts. Rape was a severely underreported crime due to societal taboos that prevented persons from speaking about it.
September14 media reports of four men gang raping a five-year-old girl in Lahore sparked national outrage. On September 12, the girl went missing from her home. A security guard discovered her mutilated, beaten body outside of a hospital the following day. According to local authorities, the victim’s assailants repeatedly and brutally raped her before dumping her body. Police arrested one of the alleged perpetrators on September 15. The case garnered attention at the highest government levels, with the Punjab inspector general reportedly keeping Prime Minister Sharif apprised of police efforts to apprehend the remaining suspects.
In 2010 the FSC declared several clauses of the Women’s Protection Act un-Islamic and unconstitutional. The verdict sought to reinstate certain provisions of the 1979 Hudood Ordinance and expand the FSC’s jurisdiction in cases of adultery and false accusations of adultery. The FSC directed its judgment to the federal government as well as the provincial and Islamabad high courts for implementation. In 2011the federal government appealed the FSC’s decision to the Supreme Court, which had yet to set a hearing date by year’s end. In September the nongovernmental Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises parliament and the prime minister, rejected the Women Protection Act, saying it was contrary to the spirit of the Koran and sharia. On December 30, the country appointed a female judge to the FSC for the first time.
There were no reliable national, provincial, or local statistics on rape due to underreporting and a lack of any centralized law enforcement data collection system. Based on media reports, however, the Aurat Foundation estimated 4,283 women were raped between 2008 and 2012, with 822 rapes and gang rapes in 2012. According to a September 17 The Express Tribune article, more than 600 rape cases were registered with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights since 2011. Punjab had the highest number of registered cases with 460, while Sindh recorded six cases. Balochistan and Punjab each had six cases, and KP had none. There were more than 3,200 rape cases reported during this two-year period. According to the article, the slow legal process kept the conviction rate for rape cases low.
According to the Aurat Foundation and others, prosecutions of reported rapes were rare. Police and NGOs reported that false rape charges sometimes were filed in different types of disputes, reducing the ability of police to identify legitimate cases and proceed with prosecution. NGOs reported police were at times implicated in rape cases. NGOs also alleged police sometimes abused or threatened victims, demanding they drop charges, especially when police received bribes from suspected perpetrators. Some police demanded bribes from victims before registering rape charges, and investigations were sometimes superficial. While the use of post-rape medical testing increased during the year, medical personnel in many areas did not have sufficient training or equipment, which further complicated prosecutions. Extrajudicial resolutions to rape accusations were common, with a victim often forced to marry her attacker.
Women’s rights activist Farzana Bari stated that those who committed crimes against women generally enjoyed strong connections in society and were more powerful and resourceful than the victims. In many cases, the victim’s family came under pressure and opted for an out-of-court settlement. Bari suggested that to discourage settlement of such cases, the offense against women or other citizens from vulnerable segments of society should be considered an offense against the state. According to Bari, if the state were to register such cases, the individual families would not be in a position to choose an out-of-court settlement, allowing for proper punishment of the offenders.
Rape by police also was a problem (see section 1.c.).
No specific law prohibits domestic violence, which was a widespread and serious problem. Husbands reportedly beat and occasionally killed their wives. Other forms of domestic violence included torture, physical disfigurement, and shaving the eyebrows and hair off women’s heads. In-laws abused and harassed the wives of their sons. Dowry and family-related disputes often resulted in death or disfigurement by burning or acid.
According to the Aurat Foundation, the media reported 7,516 cases of violence against women in 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), compared with 8,539 in 2011. These were the lowest statistics the Aurat Foundation reported in five years, possibly due to a decrease in case registrations and media coverage. The foundation’s data showed that, among the abuses registered, there were reports of 1,745 women killed, 1,607 abducted, 989 victims of domestic violence, 58 sexually assaulted, 83 victims of acid attacks, 71 victims of burning, 822 raped, and 575 as having committed suicide. The foundation attributed the reduction in reporting to a declining law and order situation in Sindh and Balochistan, making it difficult to access information.
Women who tried to report abuse faced serious challenges. Police and judges were sometimes reluctant to take action in domestic violence cases, viewing them as family problems. Instead of filing charges, police typically responded by encouraging the parties to reconcile. Authorities usually returned abused women to their abusive family members. Women were reluctant to pursue charges because of the stigma attached to divorce and their economic and psychological dependence on relatives. Relatives were hesitant to report abuse due to fear of dishonoring the family.
To address societal norms that disapprove of victims who reported gender-based violence and abuse, the government established women’s police stations, staffed by female officers, to offer women a safe haven where they could safely report complaints and file charges. Men were also able to utilize these police stations. Women’s police stations struggled with understaffing and limited equipment. Training for female police and changing cultural assumptions of male police also remained challenges. Due to restrictions on women’s mobility and social pressures related to women’s public presence, utilization of women’s police centers was limited, but NGOs and officials reported use was growing and that more centers were needed.
The government operated the Crisis Center for Women in Distress, which referred abused women to NGOs for assistance. A total of 26 government-funded Shaheed Benazir Bhutto centers for women across the country provided women with temporary shelter, legal aid, medical treatment, and psychosocial counseling. These centers served women who were victims of exploitation and violence. Victims later were referred to a “darul aman” or a shelter house (approximately 200 centers for women and children who were victims were established with funds from the Provincial Women Development Department). These centers provided shelter, access to medical treatment, limited legal representation, and some vocational training. Many government centers lacked sufficient space, staff, and resources. In some cases women were abused at the government-run shelters and found their movements severely restricted, or were pressured to return to their abusers.
Harmful Traditional Practices: At times women were victims of various types of societal violence and abuse, including honor killings; facial, bodily, and genital mutilation; forced marriages; imposed isolation; and being used to settle disputes. Women often were treated as chattel, and perpetrators were often husbands and other male family members.
A 2004 law on honor killings and the Prevention of Antiwomen Practices Act 2011 criminalizes acts committed against women in the name of traditional practices. Despite these laws, hundreds of women reportedly were victims of honor killings. Many cases went unreported and unpunished. The Aurat Foundation reported 2,773 honor killings between 2008 and 2012 and estimated less than 2 percent of honor killings were reported. The practice of karo-kari or siyah kari – a premeditated honor killing that occurs if a family, community, tribal court, or jirga determines that adultery or some other “crime of honor” occurred – continued across the country. Karo-kari derives from “black male” (karo) and “black female” (kari), metaphoric terms for someone who has dishonored the family or is an adulterer or adulteress. Once a woman is labeled as a kari, male family members assume there is justification to kill her and any coaccused karo to restore family honor. In many cases the karo is not killed but is able to flee.
Human rights groups criticized the federal law banning honor killings because it allows the victim or the victim’s heirs to negotiate physical or monetary restitution with the perpetrator in exchange for dropping charges. On June 25, Dawn reported a mother and her two daughters were shot and killed in their home during an honor killing. According to police, the attack was motivated by a video of the girls playing in the rain. The mother’s stepson allegedly considered the video to be an “assault on the honor of his family,” and he killed the three women in an attempt “to restore the family’s honor.”
On September 16, a jirga council in KP ordered the death of a 22-year-old woman after it judged her guilty of “illicit relations.” According to media reports, she was shot and killed along with two older female relatives who assisted her attempt to flee her husband and elope with another man. Police eventually arrested two suspects linked to the honor killing.
On April 28, a woman’s family severely injured her and killed her husband in an honor killing attack in Nowshera. The victim’s decision to elope and marry without her parents’ consent motivated the attack. Five of her male relatives carried out the honor killing. Police filed a case against the suspects, but all five men were able to escape following the attack.
Police in Sindh established karo-kari cells with a toll-free telephone number in the districts of Sukkur, Ghotki, Khairpur, and Nausharo Feroze for persons to report karo-kari incidents. Because honor crimes generally occurred within families, many went unreported. Police and NGOs reported, however, that increased media coverage enabled law enforcement to take some action against a limited number of perpetrators.
The practice of cutting off a man’s or a woman’s nose or ears, especially in relation to honor crimes, was reported.
Many young girls and women were victims of forced marriages arranged by their families. Although forced marriage is a criminal offense and many cases were filed, prosecution remained a problem. There were reports of citizens abroad bringing their daughters back to the country, taking away their legal documents, and forcing them into marriage against their will.
The practice of buying and selling brides also continued in rural areas, although prohibited by law. Many tribes, communities, or families practiced sequestering women from all contact with men other than their relatives. Despite prohibitions on handing over women as compensation for crimes or as a resolution of a dispute (also known as “vani” or “swara”), the practice continued in Punjab and KP. In rural Sindh landowning families continued the practice of “marriage to the Koran,” forcing a female family member to stay unmarried to avoid division of property. Property of women married to the Koran remained under the legal control of their fathers or eldest brothers, and such women were prohibited from contact with any man older than age 14. These women were expected to stay in the home and not contact anyone outside their families.
According to a September 6 report in The Express Tribune, police arrested seven men for allegedly engaging in “swara” to settle a feud between two men regarding an extramarital affair. A jirga resolved the dispute by marrying a 16-year-old girl to a male member within the aggrieved party’s family. The girl attempted suicide in order to avoid the marriage but survived. The girl’s father denied the swara allegations and claimed his daughter was “staging a drama.” Police investigated the matter and the victim presented her case in court. The status of the case was ongoing at year’s end.
The Senate passed the Prevention of Anti-Women Practice Amendment Act in 2011. The law criminalizes and punishes giving a woman in marriage to settle a civil or criminal dispute; depriving a woman of her rights to inherit movable or immovable property by deceitful or illegal means; coercing or in any manner compelling a woman to enter into marriage; and compelling, arranging, or facilitating the marriage of a woman with the Koran, including forcing her oath on the Koran to remain unmarried or not to claim her share of an inheritance. The Senate also unanimously passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Practice Bill 2010, which makes maiming or killing via corrosive substance a crime and imposes stiff penalties against perpetrators. As with other laws, these measures are not applicable to the FATA and PATA unless the president issues a notification to this effect.
A third bill, passed in 2011, provides for economic and other support to women in prison who were unable to defend themselves legally or post bail for lack of familial support and funds.
In March 2012 on International Women’s Day, the president signed the National Commission on the Status of Women Bill into law, which accords the commission new financial and administrative autonomy and thereby better scope to investigate violations of women’s rights.
NGOs and women’s activists stressed that while these laws were positive steps, implementation remained a serious challenge.
Sexual Harassment: In 2010 two comprehensive laws, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2010 and the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, were enacted to prevent and criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace and in the public sphere. In 2010 Musarrat Hilali was appointed the country’s first federal ombudsman for protection against harassment of women at work. Since 2010 the office had received 139 cases; the office disposed of 130 cases and nine were under process. Under the law all provinces were to establish provincial-level ombudsmen. In July 2012 Sindh became the first province to appoint a provincial ombudsman to redress complaints relating to sexual harassment. On February 22, the Punjab government appointed former Kinnaird College (Lahore) Principal Mira Phailbus as a provincial ombudsman. Neither Balochistan nor KP had an ombudsman. Despite these measures, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem. Press reports indicated harassment was especially high among domestic workers and nurses.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children but often lacked the information and means to do so. Young girls and women were especially vulnerable to problems related to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. They often lacked information and means to access care. According to a survey by the Women’s Empowerment Group released during the year, only 25 percent of adolescents were aware of their sexual and reproductive rights. Spousal opposition also contributed to the challenges women faced in obtaining contraception or delaying pregnancy. Access by women, particularly in rural areas, to health and reproductive rights education remained difficult due to social constraints. For these same reasons data collection was also difficult.
According to the National Institute of Population Studies’ 2012-2013 Demographic and Health Survey, 27 percent of women received no prenatal care. The report showed a substantial improvement in the proportion of mothers receiving antenatal care over the prior 11 years, increasing from 43 percent in 2001 to 61percent in 2007 to 73 percent during the year. The survey also revealed that skilled health-care providers delivered 52 percent of births and that 48 percent of births took place in a medical facility.
According to UNICEF’s 2009 State of the World’s Children Report, the country’s maternal mortality rate was 276 deaths per 100,000 live births, a rate attributed to lack of information and services. Women in rural areas were at twice the risk of dying of birth-related causes than women in urban areas (with maternal mortality rates of 319 and 175 deaths per 100,000 live births, respectively). The rate increased to 785 deaths per 100,000 live births in Balochistan Province. Few women in rural areas had access to skilled attendants during childbirth, including essential obstetrics and postpartum care. According to UNICEF, the situation for mothers and children in the country was complicated by deteriorating security, which caused displacement and affected access to medical services, especially in KP and the FATA.
According to a 2007 UN Population Fund estimate, only 17 percent of the country’s women between the ages of 15 and 24 knew that a person could reduce HIV risk through condom use. Women were less likely than men to be diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections due to the social stigma attached to visiting a doctor, among other factors. According to a UNAIDS 2009 report, the country had an estimated 98,000 HIV cases, of which approximately 28,000 were women age 15 or older; the National Aids Control Program estimated only 5 percent of cases were actually recorded. Although HIV prevalence among women was less than 1 percent, some groups of women, including wives of migrant workers, and prostitutes and girls forced into prostitution, were highly vulnerable.
Discrimination: Women also faced legal and economic discrimination. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but authorities did not enforce it. Women faced discrimination in family law, property law, and the judicial system. Family law provides protection for women in cases of divorce, including requirements for maintenance, and lays out clear guidelines for custody of minor children and their maintenance. Many women were unaware of these legal protections or unable to obtain legal counsel to enforce them. Divorced women often were left with no means of support, as their families ostracized them. Women are legally free to marry without family consent, but women who did so frequently were ostracized or faced becoming the victims of honor crimes.
The inheritance law also clearly discriminates against women; however, the Anti-Women Practices Act, passed in 2011, makes it illegal to deny women inheritance of property by deceitful means. Female children are entitled to one-half the inheritance of male children. Wives inherit one-eighth of their husband’s estate. Women often received far less than their legal entitlement.
Women faced significant discrimination in employment and frequently were paid less than men for similar work. In many rural areas of the country, strong societal pressure prevented women from working outside the home. Some tribes practiced sequestering women from all contact with men other than relatives.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, but the government did not always enforce these prohibitions effectively.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with prison terms of five to 10 years, or eight to 10 years under aggravating circumstances (use of a weapon). Rapes constituted the majority of sexual crimes investigated by the PNP and its Directorate of Judicial Investigation. NGOs reported that many women were reluctant to report rape to the authorities due to fear of retaliation, inadequate response, and social stigma. The Integrated National System for Criminal Statistics (SIEC) within the Ministry of Security reported 946 cases of rape as of the end of July.
Domestic violence continued to be a serious and underreported problem. On October 21, President Martinelli signed into law a measure designed specifically to confront “femicide,” or cases involving gender-based violence. The new law stipulates stiffer penalties for harassment and both physical and emotional abuse and provides prison terms of up to 30 years for murder. The law criminalizes domestic abuse and family violence with prison terms of two to four years and makes domestic violence an aggravating circumstance in homicide cases. It also mandates education and violence prevention measures as well as a host of victim support services. SIEC statistics reported 1,283 cases of domestic violence from January through June. Statistics for January through September from the Panamanian Observatory Against Gender-Based Violence, run by the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, showed that of the 47 women who died violently, 30 died as a result of domestic violence. Most domestic violence homicides took place on weekend evenings, and 51percent of the victims were between 11 and 30 years old.
The government,through the National Institute for Women Affairs,operated shelters in Panama City, Chiriqui, and Colon for victims of domestic abuse and had offered social, psychological, medical, and legal services to approximately 45 women as of November. In 2012 the Ombudswoman’s Office procured the facilities for a seven-apartment shelter for domestic abuse victims to be operated by the Panamanian Observatory Against Gender-Based Violence; however, lack of funds to pay administrative staff to run the shelter prevented the government from issuing the legal permit to open the shelter. In September the observatory and the National Institute for Women Affairs signed an agreement to transfer the facilities to the institute’s management.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in cases of established employer/employee relations in the public and private sectors and in teacher/student relations; violators face up to a three-year prison sentence. The extent of the problem was difficult to determine, as convictions for sexual harassment were rare, and pre-employment sexual harassment was not actionable. Government statistics showed 110 open cases of sexual harassment from January through July.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and they had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available, except in provincial-level indigenous regions, where it was limited, according to the American Red Cross. In March the government approved a sterilization law, Law 196, allowing women 23 years old or older who already have two children to decide if they preferred to undergo voluntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, and women enjoyed the same rights as men under family, property, and criminal law. The law recognizes joint and common property in marriages. The law mandates equal pay for men and women in equivalent jobs. The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) and the National Institute of Women promoted equality of women in the workplace and equal pay for equal work, attempted to reduce sexual harassment, and advocated legal reforms.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, but it was not effectively enforced. Women, LGBT persons, indigenous persons, and persons of African ancestry also faced discrimination. The country has no comprehensive law against discrimination, which undermined enforcement of the constitutional clause against discrimination and the protection and restitution for victims of discrimination and societal abuses.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or forcible sexual assault. If the victim is a minor under the age of 18, the sentences range from three to 15 years. According to the Public Ministry, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem, including reports of minors who were drugged and gang raped. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and sometimes obtained convictions; however, many rapes went unreported due to fear of stigma or retribution. The Public Ministry lacked a specialized unit for cases of gender violence and abuse of children and adolescents. The Public Ministry’s antitrafficking specialized unit was at times assigned cases, but it lacked sufficient resources.
Police were responsive but generally did not prioritize acting on rape reports. During the year police received 453 rape complaints, of which 331 were solved. Of all complaints received, 266 cases involved minors; of these, 179 cases were resolved. Also during the year, the Public Ministry reported 836 cases of rape and 456 cases of attempted rape.
Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including spousal abuse and psychological violence, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine for those who are convicted, it requires that the abuse be habitual and that the aggressor and victim be “cohabitating or lodging together” before it is considered criminal. Judges typically fined those convicted but began sentencing offenders to jail to ensure the safety of the victim. Despite increased reports of domestic violence, individuals often withdrew complaints soon after filing due to spousal reconciliation or family pressure. In some cases the courts mediated in domestic violence cases, but there were no reliable statistics available for results. Domestic violence was common, and thousands of women received treatment for injuries sustained in domestic altercations.
No unified official statistics accurately tracked the number of reported cases of domestic violence. During the year the Attorney General’s Office registered 5,670 cases of domestic violence. Women were identified as victims in three-quarters of these cases. The National Police registered 865 complaints of domestic violence.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MWA) took actions to combat the problem, including promoting the national 24-hour telephone hotline for victims of domestic violence. As of October 31, a total of 11,774 women called the hotline.
The National Police oversaw seven domestic violence units throughout the country, staffed with approximately 123 police officers and administered from existing police stations in Asuncion (three units), Villeta, Encarnacion, Nemby, and Villarrica. From January to September, the domestic violence units received 5,493 complaints and helped 2,298 victims. One domestic violence unit in Asuncion provided psychological counseling in 483 cases and legal counseling in 782 cases.
From January through October, the MWA received and monitored 2,750 complaints of domestic abuse (including 634 for physical beating, 1,253 for psychological attacks, 106 for sexual abuse, and 619 for failure to provide economic support, compared with a total of 1,050 domestic abuse complaints in 2012. Each individual can report more than one type of domestic abuse complaint. There were 1,850 individuals who filed complaints, of which 1,069 were new cases and 781 were continuing cases from previous years. The MWA offers domestic violence victims information, counseling, and psychological and legal support.
The MWA operated a shelter for female victims of trafficking or domestic violence in Asuncion, which had hosted 49 women and 58 children as of October. The ministry also coordinated victim-assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training with the National Police and healthcare units. The MWA, the Public Ministry, and women’s NGOs provided health and psychological assistance, including shelter, to victims. From January to October, the MWA’s shelter received 16 female trafficking victims. From January to October, its National Reference centers assisted 11 adolescents and 18 adult trafficking victims. The MWA and the Public Ministry also provided victim-assistance courses for police, health-care workers, and prosecutors. In 2012 the MWA, with the financial support of the Andean Fund, assisted 15 trafficking victims in reinsertion and rehabilitation programs. During the year the program assisted nine additional women. Most of the women received small-business support, training, and microloans.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine; however, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for many women, especially in workplace environments. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove because of victims’ fear of workplace retaliation and societal pressures against victims, many of whom dropped their complaints or were unwilling to continue cooperating with prosecutors.
On August 22, however, a trial court sentenced the mayor of Itapua Poty, Mauro Ramon Escalante Godoy, to three years in prison for sexual harassment and extortion of a female municipal employee in 2011. The court granted a compensation of 15 million Gs ($3,300) to the victim.
Some complaints were settled privately without involving prosecutors. Police statistics, for example, reported only one complaint filed during the year, and this case was cleared by investigators.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and they had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. The government provided access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care. According to the 2013 UN Population Fund (UNFPA) report, the maternal mortality rate was 99 deaths per 100,000 live births, with approximately 85 percent of births attended by skilled health personnel as of 2012. As of 2011, 70 percent of women ages 15-49 reportedly use a modern method of contraception. Reproductive health services were concentrated in cities, and rural areas faced significant gaps in coverage.
Adolescent pregnancy continued to be a problem. The UNFPA reported that 20 percent of all pregnancies occurred between the ages of 10 to 14. The UNFPA also reported that approximately 2 percent of all maternal deaths corresponded to adolescents 10 to 14 years old.
Discrimination: Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, including a law mandating equal pay for equal work; however, gender-related discrimination was widespread. Women experienced more difficulty than men did in employment and occupation. Women generally obtained employment as domestic workers, secretaries, sales staff, and customer service representatives. The MWA promoted the rights of women and sponsored programs intended to give women equal access to employment, social security, housing, credit, ownership of land, and business opportunities.
The government’s General Directorate of Statistics, Surveys, and Censuses (DGEEC) reported unemployment levels of approximately 9 percent for women and 7 percent for men. The DGEEC statistics from 2012 indicated women in the private sector earned, on average, approximately 92 percent of the monthly pay of their male counterparts for similar jobs. On the other hand, the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Competitiveness Report indicated that on average women earned 59 percent of men’s wages for comparable work.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, but enforcement lagged and discrimination persisted. The law does not specifically protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The legal framework governing women’s rights and protections is comprehensive and well defined. Application and enforcement of the law, however, was severely lacking. The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with penalties of six to eight years in prison, but enforcement was ineffective. The government reported 1,453 cases of rape nationwide through August, but sector experts maintained that rape was significantly underreported due to a fear of retribution, including further violence and stigma. There were no available statistics on rapists prosecuted, convicted, or punished.
The law prohibits domestic violence, and penalties range from one month to six years in prison. The law authorizes judges and prosecutors to prevent the convicted spouse or parent from returning to the family home and authorizes the victim’s relatives and unrelated persons living in the home to file complaints of domestic violence. It also allows health professionals to document injuries. The law requires police investigation of domestic violence to take place within five days and obliges authorities to extend protection to female victims of domestic violence. There were no statistics available on the number of men sentenced for crimes related to domestic violence.
Violence against women and girls including rape, spousal abuse, and sexual, physical, and mental abuse remained very serious national problems. MIMP reported that an average of seven women died per month as a result of domestic violence and documented more than 23,913 cases of violence against women through August. Police and judicial authorities were sometimes reluctant to assist female victims and arrest and prosecute abusers. The government reported 99 actual and 122 attempted femicides as of October. Femicide is incorporated into the criminal code and carries a minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment for those convicted of killing a woman who is an immediate relative, spouse, or partner. The law establishes sentences of up to life in prison when the victim is a minor, pregnant, or disabled.
Many domestic abuse cases went unreported, and NGOs stated that the majority of reported cases did not result in formal charges due to fear of retaliation or the expense of filing a complaint. The protections offered were limited because of legal delays and ambiguities in the law. Through the National Program Against Family and Sexual Violence, the national government provided technical assistance to regional governments to support 48 temporary shelters. There was an insufficient number of shelters for victims of domestic violence, and those in operation did not adequately protect and support victims.
MIMP operated the Women’s Emergency Program, which included 193 centers that combined police, prosecutors, counselors, and public welfare agents to help victims of domestic abuse. It also addressed the legal, psychological, social, and medical problems victims of domestic violence face. In addition the ministry operated a toll-free hotline. As of October the program had attended to 41,478 cases of domestic and sexual violence, of which 36,136 cases represented violence against women.
MIMP implemented projects to sensitize government employees and the citizenry to domestic violence. The government continued to implement a broad national plan for 2009-15 to address violence in the family and against women. Nonetheless, NGOs and the ombudsman asserted that police officers reacted indifferently to charges of domestic violence, despite legal requirements to investigate such complaints.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a serious problem. The law defines sexual harassment not as a criminal offense, but rather as a labor rights violation subject to administrative punishment, which depends on the professional situation in which the violation occurred. Sexual harassment was poorly defined in law, and government enforcement was minimally effective. The ability of women to report sexual harassment was hampered by the undue burden on the victims themselves to prove their cases and by the fear of retribution. There were no available statistics on sexual harassers prosecuted, convicted, or punished.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Citizens generally have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception and family planning was widespread. According to 2011 UN estimates, 85 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel, and 75 percent of women ages 15 to 49 used a form of contraception in 2011. According to UNICEF estimates, women in rural areas had, on average, more than five children per lifetime, yet only 64 percent of these births were attended by a skilled birth attendant, while 96 percent of women giving birth within urban areas had access to a skilled birth attendant. According to 2010 INEI data, the average maternal mortality rate was 93 deaths per 100,000 births.
Discrimination: The law provides for equality between men and women and prohibits discrimination against women with regard to marriage, divorce, and property rights. Women from the upper and upper-middle classes assumed leadership roles in companies and government agencies. While the law prohibits sexual discrimination in employment and educational advertisements and the arbitrary dismissal of pregnant women, discrimination remained common. The law stipulates that women should receive equal pay for equal work, but women often were paid less than men for comparable work. Societal prejudice and discrimination also led to disproportionate poverty and unemployment rates for women. Women were more likely to work in the informal sector or in less secure occupations such as domestic service, factory workers, or street vendors, and they were more likely to be illiterate due to lack of formal education.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, disability, language, or minority status, but not discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, vague regulations and budgetary constraints continued to hinder implementation of specified protections.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, with penalties ranging from imprisonment for 12 to 40 years with an option for pardon or parole only after 30 years have been served. A conviction can also result in a lifetime bar from political office. Penalties for forcible sexual assault range from six to 12 years’ imprisonment. As of August the PNP received 778 cases: 642 cases were filed in court, 88 were under investigation, 29 were settled, and 19 were referred to other agencies for further investigation. From January to September, the DSWD provided shelter, counseling, and health services to 94 female victims of rape. Nationwide statistics continued to be unavailable on prosecutions, convictions, and punishments during the year for cases filed by the PNP, although BuCor reported that its prisons and penal farms held 7,972 prisoners convicted of rape, 273 of whom were admitted as of July. There continued to be reports of rape and sexual abuse of women in police or protective custody. Women from marginalized groups, such as suspected prostitutes, drug users, and indigent individuals arrested for minor crimes, were disproportionately affected.
In July the media reported on the sexual abuse of overseas Filipino workers by Philippine embassy and consulate personnel in the Middle East. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) undertook an investigation of a so-called sex-for-flight arrangement that government officials imposed on distressed domestic workers who had sought shelter with embassies and consulates. The government recalled 12 ambassadors and principal officers for assistance with the investigation and to receive training on preventing future abuses overseas. On August 23, DOLE filed administrative charges against three overseas labor officials in connection with the case. DOLE charged Adam Musa for gross negligence, Mario Antonio for grave misconduct, and Antonio Villafuerte for negligence. The complaints of sexual harassment against Villafuerte were referred to the DOLE Committee on Decorum and Investigation.
Domestic violence against women remained a serious and widespread problem. The law criminalizes physical, sexual, and psychological harm or abuse to women and children committed by their spouses, partners, or parents. As of August the PNP reported 9,687 cases of domestic violence against women and children: 2,908 were filed in court, 781 were under investigation, 1,409 were settled, and 4,589 were referred to other agencies for further investigation. Statistics were unavailable on prosecutions, convictions, and punishments during the year for cases filed by the PNP.
The DSWD extended assistance to 521 victims of physical abuse and maltreatment as of September, a statistic that likely significantly underreported the level of violence against women. A local women’s support group noted that in smaller localities perpetrators of abuse sometimes used personal relationships with local authorities to avoid prosecution. On other occasions women who sought to file complaints through the police were told to pay special fees before their complaints could be registered. The PNP and DSWD both maintained help desks to assist victims of violence against women and encourage the reporting of crimes. With the assistance of NGOs, the CHR, and the Philippine Commission on Women, officers continued to receive gender-sensitivity training to deal with victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The PNP maintained a central women and children’s unit with 1,909 desks throughout the country to deal with these matters, an increase compared with 2012.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but it remained widespread and underreported in the workplace due to victims’ fear of losing their jobs. Women in the retail industry worked on three- to six-month contracts and were often reluctant to report sexual harassment for fear their contracts would not be renewed.
Reproductive Rights: The constitution upholds the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The provision of health care services is the responsibility of local governments, and restrictions on the provision of birth control supplies by government-run health facilities in some localities reduced the availability of family planning resources for impoverished women. While individuals could purchase modern forms of contraception on the open market in most areas, they remained unaffordable for many of the country’s poorest residents.
In December 2012 the president signed into law the national reproductive health bill, which provides for universal access to contraception, fertility control, sexual education, and maternity care. The law requires the Department of Health to procure and distribute family planning commodities, including a wide range of modern forms of contraception. Various individuals and religious groups filed 15 separate petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law in the Supreme Court. On July 16, the Supreme Court extended its March 19 status quo ante order stopping the law’s implementation.
Social hygiene clinics in urban areas served everyone who sought consultation and treatment. The Health Department trained rural health physicians in diagnosis and treatment, but local health offices continued to face resource constraints. Midwives, sometimes with little formal training, performed essential services for families in geographically remote communities underserved by other medical professionals.
Discrimination: By law but not always in practice, women continued to have most of the rights and protections accorded to men. Women are accorded the same rights as men regarding the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment, and disposition of property and assets. Married women generally have property ownership rights equal to married men. In Muslim and indigenous communities, however, property ownership law or tradition grants married males more property ownership rights than married females.
No law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring practices, and women in the labor force reportedly earned 37 to 47 percent less than men. Some labor unions claimed female employees suffered punitive action when they became pregnant. Women, like men, are subject to severe and systematic age discrimination, most notably in hiring practices. Although women faced workplace discrimination, they continued to occupy positions at all levels of the workforce. In a July labor-force survey, 58 percent of government officials, corporate executives, managers, and supervisors were women. The survey also revealed that 38.7 percent of the three million unemployed persons were women.
The law does not provide for divorce, although courts generally recognized the legality of divorces obtained in other countries if one of the parties was a foreign national. A legal annulment may terminate a marriage, but its costs and bureaucratic burdens precluded it as an option for many families. Many lower-income couples simply separated informally without severing their legal marital ties. The law provides that in child custody cases resulting from annulment, illegitimacy, or divorce in another country, children under age seven are to be placed in the care of the mother unless there is a court order to the contrary. Children age seven and older normally are also to remain with the mother, although the father may dispute custody through the courts.
The Philippine Commission on Women, composed of 10 government officials and 11 NGO leaders appointed by the president, is the primary policy-making and coordinating body on matters of women and gender equity.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination in “political, social, and economic life for any reason whatsoever.” The law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, age, disability, race, nationality, trade union membership, ethnic origin, and sexual orientation.
The law requires the ombudsman for citizen rights to monitor implementation of the principle of equal treatment and to support victims of discrimination. The ombudsman and NGOs asserted that some provisions of the antidiscrimination law might be unconstitutional, since they do not treat all groups equally, providing greater protection against discrimination on grounds of race, ethnicity, and gender than on disability, sexual orientation, or age.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Stalking is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. According to national police statistics, during the first half of the year there were 670 reported cases of rape. NGOs, however, estimated that the actual number of rapes was much higher because women often were unwilling to report incidents due to social stigma. During the same period, police forwarded 219 possible rape cases to prosecutors and 35 to family courts (for underage offenders) for indictment. On June 13, parliament adopted a revision of the criminal code to allow prosecutors or police to initiate an investigation ex officio even without a formal complaint filed by the victim.
While courts can sentence a person convicted of domestic violence to a maximum of five years in prison, most of those found guilty received suspended sentences. The law permits authorities to place restraining orders on spouses to protect against abuse without prior approval from a court, but police do not have the authority to issue immediate restraining orders at the scene of an incident.
During the first half of the year, police identified 8,004 cases of domestic violence (938 fewer than the same period in 2012). Authorities forwarded 7,358 of these for prosecution (74 fewer than the same period in 2012). During the first six months of the year, police reported that officers conducted 27,708 interventions related to domestic violence (3,619 more than the same period in 2012). According to prison authorities, at the end of September, 4,430 individuals were serving prison sentences for crimes related to domestic violence.
According to some women’s organizations, the statistics understated the number of women affected by domestic violence, particularly in small towns and villages. The Women’s Rights Center reported that police were occasionally reluctant to intervene in domestic violence incidents if the perpetrator was a police officer or if victims were unwilling to cooperate.
The law requires every municipality in the country to set up an interagency team of experts to deal with domestic violence. According to some NGOs, this requirement might actually have worsened the situation because the interagency teams focused on resolving the “family problem” rather than initially treating claims of domestic violence as criminal matters. The NGOs also believed the additional work required by the new procedures discouraged police from classifying cases as domestic violence and might have contributed to the reduction in reported cases during the year. On July 15, the supreme audit chamber noted that the establishment of interagency teams delayed assistance to victims of violence and that the procedures for granting assistance were excessively bureaucratic and time consuming. As of year’s end, the government had not addressed the supreme audit chamber’s criticisms.
Centers for victims of domestic violence operated throughout the country. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics were available, local governments provided victims and their families with legal and psychological assistance and operated 209 crisis centers and 12 shelters for pregnant women and mothers with small children. In addition local governments operated 35 specialized centers funded by the government’s National Program for Combating Domestic Violence. The centers provided social, medical, psychological, and legal assistance to victims; training for personnel who worked with victims; and “corrective education” programs for abusers. In 2012 the government allocated approximately 12.5 million zloty ($4.0 million) for the centers’ operating costs.
During the year the government spent 4.1 million zloty ($1.3 million) on programs to combat domestic violence, primarily corrective education programs for abusers and training for social workers, police officers, and specialists who were the first contacts for victims of domestic violence. In addition, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy spent 260,000 zloty ($84,000) to organize a conference, conduct a national public awareness campaign, and undertake research on the problem of domestic violence. Regional governments spent almost 1.7 million zloty ($548,000) on training first responders. The government also spent approximately 670,000 zloty ($216,000) on combating domestic violence under the “safer together” program and 150,000 zloty ($48,000) for a hotline for children and young persons operated by the Nobody’s Children Foundation, a Warsaw-based NGO.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and violations carry penalties of up to three years in prison. The law defines sexual harassment as discriminatory behavior in the workplace, including physical, verbal, and nonverbal acts violating an employee’s dignity.
According to the Women’s Rights Center, sexual harassment continued to be a serious and underreported problem. Many victims did not report abuse or withdrew harassment claims in the course of police investigations due to shame or fear of losing their job. The media reported some high-profile cases of sexual harassment. During the first six months of the year, police reported 36 cases of sexual harassment, compared with 46 cases during the first six months of 2012.
Reproductive Rights: The government generally recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. While there were no restrictions on the right to obtain contraceptives, some NGOs believed their use was limited because the government excluded prescription contraceptives from its list of subsidized medicines, which made them less affordable. Some NGOs also believed that religious factors, such as the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church, affected the use of contraceptives. The law does not permit voluntary sterilization. The government permitted health clinics and local health NGOs to provide information on family planning, including information about contraception, under the guidance of the Ministry of Health.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for men and women and prohibits discrimination against women, although few laws exist to implement the provision. According to the government plenipotentiary for equal treatment, women have a worse situation in the labor market in comparison with men. A 2012 report by the central statistics office showed that women had a higher rate of unemployment and earned less than men. According to a European Commission report, the gender wage gap in 2011, the latest year for which data was available, was 4.5 percent.
The plenipotentiary for equal treatment had a mandate to counter discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all. The plenipotentiary prepared the “National Plan for Equal Treatment for the Years 2013-2016” in September and presented it to the Council of Ministers on December 10. The plan identifies the main objectives and policies for equal treatment, including detailed actions to improve gender equality in the labor market. The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy continued to promote gender mainstreaming in the labor market, including providing support for the Congress of Women and funding public awareness campaigns.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law forbids discrimination based on race, gender, disability, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, social status, beliefs, sexual orientation, age, noncontagious chronic disease, HIV infection, or belonging to an underprivileged category, or on any criteria that aim at restricting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The government did not enforce these prohibitions effectively, and women, as well as Roma and other minorities, often were subjected to discrimination and violence.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal. The law provides for three to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape; the sentence increases to five to 18 years if there are aggravated circumstances. The successful prosecution of rape cases was difficult because the law requires a medical certificate in rape cases and, as in all criminal cases, requires either the active cooperation of the victim or a third-party witness to the crime. Police and prosecutors cannot pursue a case on their own, even with independent physical evidence. Consequently, a rapist could avoid punishment if the victim withdrew the complaint.
According to police statistics, during the first 11 months of 2012, there were 697 reported cases of rape and 440 persons sent to trial for this offense. Statistics for 2013 were not available at time of publication.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem, according to NGOs and other sources. The government did not effectively address it. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows police intervention in such cases. It provides for the issuance of restraining orders upon the victim’s request and for the payment by the abuser of some expenses, such as medical and trial expenses, or the cost of the victim’s accommodation in a shelter. While the law imposes stronger sanctions for violent offenses committed against family members than for similar offenses committed against others, the courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic abuse. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when alleged victims dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abusers. In cases with strong evidence of physical abuse, the court can prohibit the abusive spouse from returning home. The law also permits police to penalize spouses with fines of 100 lei to 3,000 lei ($30 to $915) for various abusive acts. During 2012, 1,857 persons reported being victims of domestic violence, and authorities sent 440 persons to trial for domestic violence.
At the end of 2012, 59 government and privately run shelters for victims of abuse provided free accommodation and food, assistance, and counseling; 23 other centers provided support and counseling. The centers were too few and unevenly distributed, and some parts of the country lacked any kind of assistance. During 2012 the Directorate for Child Protection (DPC) in the Ministry of Labor, Family, and Social Protection, in partnership with NGOs, implemented programs to prevent and curb domestic violence and to provide better conditions for domestic violence victims.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Penalties vary significantly depending on whether the act is criminal or not and range from fines between 400 lei and 8,000 lei ($122 to $2,440) to imprisonment for three months to two years. Although the problem existed, public awareness of it continued to be low. No effective programs existed to educate the public about sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide on the number, spacing, and timing of children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Some women, especially Roma, had difficulty accessing reproductive health services for various reasons including lack of information, ethnic discrimination, lack of health insurance, and poverty.
Discrimination: Under the law women and men enjoy equal rights, including under family law, labor law, property law, and inheritance law. The government did not enforce these provisions, and authorities did not devote significant attention or resources to women’s problems. Women occupied few influential positions in the private sector, and differences between the salaries of women and men continued to exist in most sectors of the economy. According to Eurostat, the salary gap between men and women was 12 percent in 2011.
While the law provides female employees reentering the workforce after maternity leave the right to return to their previous or a similar job, pregnant women and other women of childbearing age could still suffer unacknowledged discrimination in the labor market.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, language, social status, or other circumstances, but the government did not universally enforce these prohibitions.
During the year the government conducted a campaign of raids on migrant workplaces and homes and introduced anti-LGBT laws. Hostile rhetoric and propaganda against some groups spread through state-run media outlets contributed to discrimination and xenophobia. The escalation in anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT rhetoric created an atmosphere in which nationalist groups could attack LGBT persons with impunity and could attack migrants at their workplaces and hostels, sometimes with police collusion.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and the law provides the same punishment for a relative, including the spouse, who commits rape as for a nonrelative. Rape victims may act as full legal parties in criminal cases brought against alleged assailants and may seek compensation as part of a court verdict without initiating a separate civil action. While members of the medical profession assisted assault victims and sometimes helped identify an assault or rape case, doctors were often reluctant to provide testimony in court.
The penalty for rape is three to six years’ imprisonment for a single offender and four to 10 years if a group of persons commits the crime. The perpetrator receives an eight- to 15-year sentence if a victim was 14 to 18 years old and 12 to 20 years if a victim died or was under 14 years of age. According to NGOs many law enforcement personnel and prosecutors did not consider spousal or acquaintance rape a priority and did not encourage reporting or prosecuting such cases. NGOs reported that local police officers sometimes refused to respond to rape or domestic violence calls until the victim’s life was directly threatened.
According to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, 2,200 rapes were reported in the first half of the year, approximately 6 percent fewer than in the same period in 2012. According to NGOs many women did not report rape or other violence due to fear of social stigma and lack of government support.
Domestic violence remained a major problem. There is no significant domestic violence provision in the criminal code and no legal definition of domestic violence. The two statutes that address bodily harm are general in nature and do not permit police to initiate a criminal investigation unless the victim files a complaint. Federal law prohibits battery, assault, threats, and killing, but most acts of domestic violence did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Prosecutor’s Office. According to NGOs police were often unwilling to register complaints of domestic violence and frequently discouraged victims from submitting them. According the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, 21,400 women were victims of domestic violence in 2011.
The NGO Center for Women’s Support asserted that a majority of domestic violence cases filed were either dismissed on technical grounds or transferred to a reconciliation process conducted by a justice of the peace, whose focus was on preserving the family rather than punishing the perpetrator. Civil remedies for domestic violence included administrative fines and divorce. Physical harm, property, and family rights cases, such as divorce, asset division, and child custody, cannot be heard in the same case or the same court.
According to the ANNA National Center for the Prevention of Violence in Russia, the government operated approximately 23 women’s shelters across the country.
Harmful Traditional Practices: According to human rights groups, honor killings of women in Chechnya and elsewhere in North Caucasus region were increasing. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stated that women of “loose morals” should be killed by their male relatives.
In some parts of the North Caucasus, women continued to face bride kidnapping, polygyny, forced marriage (including child marriage), legal discrimination, and enforced adherence to Islamic dress codes. As part of his “modesty campaign,” Kadyrov required women to wear head scarves in public (including at schools, universities, and in government offices) and advocated seizure of cell phones from young women to prevent potential illicit contact with men. There were cases in some parts of the North Caucasus where men, claiming that kidnapping brides is an ancient local tradition, reportedly abducted and raped young women, in some cases forcing them into marriage. In other cases the young women were permanently “sullied” as they were no longer virgins and could not enter a legitimate marriage according to local custom.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, which remained a widespread problem. Instead, the criminal code contains a general provision against compelling a person to perform actions of a sexual character by means of blackmail, threats, or by taking advantage of the victim’s economic or other dependence on the perpetrator.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognizes the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. While there are no legal restrictions on access to contraceptives, the Russian Orthodox Church continued its opposition to family planning initiatives, and access to family planning in the country was limited, especially outside of big cities. Senior government leadership explicitly encouraged women to have as many children as possible to counteract the country’s declining population.
Discrimination: Women encountered discrimination in employment, although the constitution and law provide that men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under family law, labor law, property law, inheritance law, and in the judicial system. Men and women have an equal right to obtain a bank loan, but women often encountered significant restrictions. There was no government office devoted to the protection of women’s legal rights.
Discrimination based on gender in compensation, professional training, hiring, and dismissal were characteristic of the labor market. Employers often preferred to hire men to save on maternity and childcare costs and avoid the perceived unreliability associated with women with small children. Such discrimination was often very difficult to prove.
The labor code specifies that female labor is limited in jobs with “harmful or dangerous conditions or work underground except in nonphysical jobs or sanitary and consumer services” and forbidden in “manual handling of bulk weights that exceed the set limits for their handling.” According to the NGO Peterburgskaya Egida, this law resulted in a list of 456 occupations from which it was legal to exclude women, including those of diver, gas rescue worker, paratrooper, and firefighter. The International Labor Organization (ILO) documented a widespread gender pay gap and noted that women predominated in low-paying jobs.
Only July 2, President Putin signed a law prohibiting discrimination in job vacancy information. The bill prohibits employers from requesting workers with specific gender, race, nationality, address registration, age, and other factors unrelated to personal skills and competencies. Notwithstanding the law, vacancy announcements continued to specify gender and age requirements, and some also specified a desired physical appearance and preference for applicants who were open to intimate relations with their prospective supervisors.
The law upholds equal ownership rights for women and men. The civil code provides equal rights to access to land and access to other property for men and women. All property acquired during a marriage is the couple’s joint property; unless their marriage contract states otherwise, it is split into two equal shares in the event of divorce. Each spouse retains ownership and management of property acquired before marriage or inherited after marriage. Traditional legal practices in the North Caucasus award the husband custody of children and all property in divorce cases, with the result that women in the region were often unwilling to seek divorce, even in cases of abuse.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law, without discrimination based on ethnic origin, tribe, clan, color, sex, region, social origin, religion or faith, opinion, economic status, culture, language, social status, or physical or mental disability. The constitution and law are silent on sexual orientation and gender identity. The government generally enforced these provisions, although problems remained.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and spousal rape, and the government handled rape cases as a judicial priority. Penalties for rape ranged from five years’ to life imprisonment, with fines of 500,000 to one million Rwandan francs ($760 to $1,510). Penalties for spousal rape ranged from two months’ to life imprisonment, with fines of 100,000 to 300,000 Rwandan francs ($151 to $450). Rape and other crimes of sexual violence committed during the genocide are classified as Category I genocide crimes.
The law provides for imprisonment of three to six months for threatening, harassing, or beating one’s spouse. Domestic violence against women was common. Most incidents remained within the extended family and were not reported or prosecuted. UNICEF reported in 2010 that 48 percent of adolescent girls believed a husband was justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances. National Institute of Statistics data from 2006 indicated that 31 percent of women and girls over age 15 were victims of domestic violence and 10 percent of women and girls experienced domestic violence during pregnancy.
Police headquarters in Kigali had a hotline for domestic violence. Several other government ministries also had free gender-based violence hotlines. Each of the 75 police stations nationwide had its own gender desk, an average of three trained officers, and a public outreach program. The RNP Directorate against Gender-Based Violence handled all cases of such violence and child protection. One-stop centers were established throughout the country, providing medical, psychological, legal, and police assistance at no cost to victims of domestic violence. The government worked to establish one-stop centers in hospitals, districts, and refugee camps throughout the year.
The government continued a whole-of-government, multi-stakeholder campaign against gender-based violence, child abuse, and other types of domestic violence. GBV was a required module of training for all police and military at all levels.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment by employers or any other person and provides for penalties of two months’ to two years’ imprisonment and fines from 100,000 to 500,000 Rwandan francs ($151 to $760). Nevertheless, sexual harassment remained common. According to a 2010 Transparency Rwanda study, gender-based corruption was perceived as being fundamentally linked to recruitment practices and to the determination of salary and other benefits. In the study, 21 percent of female respondents believed their salary determination was not objective, and some claimed their salaries were determined by their willingness to have sex with company executives. The study also found, by contrast, that respondents believed promotion, evaluation, and opportunities for training or travel were based on more objective and transparent criteria. Fifty-six percent of interviewees stated that they did not report gender-based corruption cases. The effectiveness of government enforcement efforts was unknown.
Reproductive Rights: The government encouraged citizens not to have more than three children but respected the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The government made available reproductive health services and contraceptives for all citizens, regardless of age, sex, or ethnicity. More than 90 percent of the population had some form of health insurance, with free coverage provided to the poorest of the population. Insurance plans did not provide adequate coverage for more expensive medical care.
There was a small copayment for obstetric services, but this fee was waived for women who completed the recommended four prenatal care visits. According to the UN, the estimated maternal mortality ratio in 2010 was 340 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Major factors influencing maternal mortality included lack of skilled attendance at birth and unhygienic conditions. Between 2008 and 2010, the UN reported the use of modern contraceptives increased from 26 percent to 44 percent. Between 2005 and 2010, skilled attendance at birth rose from 39 to 69 percent, according to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey. The proportion of assisted births at health facilities increased from 45 percent in 2007-08 to 69 percent in 2010.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and are entitled to the same rights as men. The law allows women to inherit property from their fathers and husbands, and couples may make their own legal property arrangements, although women had serious difficulties pursuing property claims due to lack of knowledge, procedural bias against women in inheritance matters, polygyny, and the threat of gender-based violence. After the 1994 genocide, which left many women as heads of households, women assumed a larger role in the formal sector, and many operated their own businesses. According to the National Institute of Statistics August 2012 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey, 28 percent of households were headed by women, and 47 percent of female-headed households were below the poverty line, compared with 45 percent of all households. Women were more concentrated in the agricultural sector, with 82 percent of women engaged in agricultural work, compared with 61 percent of men. The other main occupations in which women found work were sales and commerce, where similar proportions of men and women were engaged. The law prohibits discrimination in hiring and salary decisions on the basis of gender. Despite the election during the year of a Chamber of Deputies with a female majority, women continued to have limited opportunities for employment and promotion. According to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce 2011 Establishment Census, women managed approximately 26 percent of all formal enterprises. Men owned key assets of most households, particularly those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, making formal bank credit inaccessible to many women and rendering it difficult to start or expand a business.
The government-funded National Women’s Council served as a forum for women’s issues and consulted with the government on land, inheritance, and child protection laws. MIGEPROF led government programs to address women’s issues and coordinated programs with other ministries, police, and NGOs, including the national action plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. The government provided scholarships for girls in primary and secondary school and loans to rural women. A number of women’s groups actively promoted women’s and children’s concerns, particularly those of widows, orphaned girls, and households headed by children. The government-run Gender Monitoring Office tracked the mainstreaming of gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout all sectors of society and collected gender-disaggregated data to inform policy processes.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution states that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law, and the government generally respected these provisions; there is no explicit provision granting equal rights to women and minorities. Mindful of the country’s history of intercommunal tension, the government took numerous measures to provide for racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural nondiscrimination. Social, economic, and cultural benefits and facilities were available to all citizens regardless of race, religion, or gender.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The government enforced the law against rape, which provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and the possibility of caning for offenders. Under the law rape can be committed only by a man. Spousal rape is generally not a crime, but husbands who force their wives to have intercourse can be prosecuted for other offenses, such as assault. Spousal rape is a criminal offense when the couple is separated, subject to an interim divorce order that has not become final, or subject to a written separation agreement, as well as when a court has issued a protection order against the husband. In 2012 at least 20 persons were charged for rape; seven were convicted, two were acquitted, and 11 were awaiting trial. Agencies, including the Ministry of Education and the police, carried out programs aimed at preventing rape.
The law criminalizes domestic violence and intentional harassment. A victim of domestic violence can obtain court orders barring the spouse from the home until the court is satisfied that the spouse has ceased aggressive behavior. The law prescribes mandatory caning and a minimum imprisonment of two years for conviction on any charge of “outraging modesty” that caused the victim fear of death or injury. The press gave prominent coverage to instances of abuse or violence against women. Several voluntary welfare organizations provided assistance to abused women. During the year there were 3,072 applications for personal protection orders, 1,600 of which were filed by wives for protection against their husbands.
Sexual Harassment: No specific laws prohibit stalking or sexual harassment; however, the Miscellaneous Offenses Act (MOA) and laws prohibiting insults to modesty were used successfully to prosecute these offenses. Under the MOA a person who uses threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior can incur a fine of up to S$5,000 ($4,000). A 2008 survey by a local NGO found that 54 percent of respondents (58 percent of women and 42 percent of men) reported having experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. The Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Council, and the Singapore Employers Federation jointly operated a venue for public feedback and advice on fair employment practices.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Contraceptive supplies and information provided by the Ministry of Health as well as public and private doctors were readily available. The national birthrate was well below replacement levels and since the mid-1980s the government has pursued policies intended to encourage higher birthrates, which provide comprehensive clinical services and a wide range of social and fiscal incentives.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including civil liberties, employment, commercial activity, and education. They accounted for 56.9 percent of civil service employees. No laws mandate nondiscrimination in hiring practice on the basis of gender, prohibit employers from asking questions about a prospective employee’s family status during a job interview, provide for flexible or part-time work schedules for employees with minor children, or establish public provision of childcare.
For the most part, Muslim marriage falls under the Administration of the Muslim Law Act, which empowers a sharia (Islamic law) court to oversee such matters. The law allows Muslim men to practice polygyny, although the Registry of Muslim Marriages, which solicits the views of an existing wife or wives and reviews the financial capability of the husband, may refuse husbands’ requests to take additional spouses. As of October there were 40 applications for polygynous marriage of which 10 were approved. Polygynous marriages constituted 0.2 percent of Muslim marriages.
Both men and women have the right to initiate divorce proceedings; however, significant difficulties, including a lack of financial resources to obtain legal counsel, prevented some women from pursuing such proceedings. Men do not have the right to seek alimony from their wives in cases of divorce or separation.
In recent years women constituted approximately 55 percent of the labor force and were well represented in many professions. In June the employment rate for women between the ages of 25 and 54 was 77 percent. Women, however, held few leadership positions in the private sector. Women were overrepresented in low-wage jobs such as clerks and secretaries. In 2008 women’s salaries ranged upwards from 66 percent of men’s salaries, depending on the occupational grouping.
Gender-based Sex Selection: The country’s sex ratio at birth was reported to be 1.07 male babies to one female baby. The country has a total fertility rate of 1.29 (the number of children per woman of childbearing age; 2.1 is replacement level), and the government has pursued a variety of policies to encourage population growth or at least maintenance. Sex-selective abortion is illegal.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and law prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, disability, ethnic or social origin, color, age, culture, language, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or marital status. Nevertheless, entrenched attitudes and practices often resulted in gender-based violence and employment inequities.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal but remained a serious and pervasive problem. The minimum sentence for rape is 10 years in prison for the first offense, 15 years for the second, and 20 for the third. Under certain circumstances--such as multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities--conviction results in a minimum sentence of life imprisonment (25 years), unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV-positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence.
On February 2, Anene Booysen died in Tygerberg Hospital after being gang-raped, beaten, and disemboweled in Bredasdorp, Western Cape Province. Booysen, who was 17 years old, was found alive by a security guard but later died from her injuries. President Zuma condemned the attack as “shocking, cruel, and most inhumane,” and the UN issued a statement strongly condemning Booysen’s rape and murder. The incident triggered a call by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) for mass action against rape in the country. Two men, Jonathan Davids and Johannes Kana, were originally arrested in connection with the incident. In May the state dropped charges against Davids due to insufficient evidence, despite the fact that Booysen named him as her assailant. Johannes Kana was charged with the rape and murder, and on November 1, he was convicted and given two life sentences for the crime.
According to the 2012‑13 SAPS annual report, 197,877 crimes were committed against women. As in previous years, SAPS did not provide a breakdown of the crime categories. SAPS recorded an increase in total sexual crimes (perpetrated against men and women), with 66,387 cases reported compared with 64,517 cases in the previous year. A 2009 Medical Research Council (MRC) report stated that more than 25 percent of men interviewed in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces admitted to committing at least one rape, and more than one-half of those persons admitted to raping more than one person. In a 2011 study conducted in Gauteng Province by the MRC and Gender Links, 37.4 percent of men admitted to having committed one or more rapes.
In most cases attackers were acquaintances or family members of the victim, which contributed to a reluctance to press charges, as did a poor security climate and societal attitudes. According to the 2012-13 NPA annual report, the conviction rate for sexual offense crimes was 65.8 percent, although watchdog groups claimed the rate was lower because it did not include the many credible cases that never made it to trial. Many cases were never referred for prosecution, and many watchdog groups estimated that the real conviction rate in rape cases was 4.1 percent. Poor police training and overburdened courts contributed to the low conviction rate. The NPA does not track the length of time required to bring cases to trial, but according to media reports, it can take between six months and three years for a rape case to be brought to trial depending on the complexity of the case and the plea of the accused. Backlogs in laboratory processing of DNA evidence also caused delays.
Allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment of black and foreign female farm workers by white farm owners, managers, and other farm workers were common.
The government operated six dedicated sexual-offense courts throughout the country that included facilities such as waiting rooms, court preparation rooms, and closed caption television rooms for victims. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist as a basis for imposing lighter sentences. Critics also charged that support for dedicated sexual-offense courts had eroded, and that some of the previously dedicated courts were hearing other types of cases. As a result sexual offense cases took longer to resolve, and conviction rates--which were previously the highest in the country--had decreased. According to the 2012-13 annual report of the NPA’s Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA), dedicated sexual-offense courts recorded a 61 percent conviction rate; 48.7 percent of cases were referred to prosecution. In August the minister of Justice and Constitutional Development announced the re-establishment of 57 dedicated sexual-offense courts, of which 22 were scheduled to be operational by the end of the 2013-14 financial year.
The government operated 86 rape crisis centers, called Thuthuzela Care Centers (TCCs), five of which were added during the year. Of the 86, the NPA operated 35 and SOCA operated 51. Most TCCs were located in hospitals. Seventy-five percent of rape cases brought to TCCs were terminated--either by conviction or by acquittal--within nine months from the date the case was reported.
The government prosecuted domestic violence cases under laws governing rape, indecent assault, damage to property, and violating a protection order. Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking by former partners. The law facilitates the serving of protection orders on abusers, requires police to take victims to a place of safety, and allows police to seize firearms at the scene and to arrest abusers without a warrant. Violating a protection order is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, or 20 years if additional criminal charges are brought. Penalties for domestic violence include fines and sentences of between two and five years’ imprisonment.
According to NGOs, an estimated 25 percent of women were in abusive relationships, but few reported it. A 2009 MRC report stated more than two-fifths of men interviewed in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces had been physically violent toward an intimate partner. In a 2011 report conducted by the MRC in Gauteng Province, more than 50 percent of men admitted to being physically violent towards women during their lifetime. TCC counselors also alleged that doctors, police officers, and judges often treated abused women poorly.
The government financed shelters for abused women, but more were needed, particularly in rural areas. The government continued to conduct domestic violence awareness campaigns. In honor of Women’s Month, the government hosted numerous events focused on empowering women in business, government, health, sports, and the arts.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): (See subsection on Children.)
Sexual Harassment: Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, it remained a widespread problem. The government left enforcement primarily to employers, with criminal prosecution a rare secondary step at the initiative of the complainant. The Department of Labor issued guidelines to employers on how to handle workplace complaints, which allow for remuneration of the victim’s lost compensation plus interest, additional damages, legal fees, and dismissal of the perpetrator in some circumstances. Tougher punishments can be generated for assault, which carries a range of penalties depending on the severity of the act, but only if the complainants press charges.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Contraception was widely available and free at government clinics. According to the Department of Health, 94 percent of women had access to prenatal care, while 84 percent had access to a skilled attendant at birth, except in the poorest communities, where the rate was 68 percent. According to the country’s 2010 Millennium Development Goal Report posted by the UN Development Program, the maternal mortality ratio was 300 per 100,000 live births. The government and numerous international organizations continued efforts to reduce the maternal mortality rate through a variety of pilot projects. Primary challenges included low awareness among mothers of available antenatal care, the high HIV/AIDS rate, poor administrative and financial management, poor quality of care, and lack of accountability in the health-care system.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women remained a serious problem despite legal equality in inheritance, divorce, and child custody matters. Women experienced economic discrimination in wages, extension of credit, and ownership of land.
Many rural areas were administered through traditional patrilineal authorities, such as a chief or a council of elders. Such authorities did not grant land tenure to women, a precondition for access to housing subsidies. The Employment Equity Act, which aims to promote equality in the workplace, does not expressly prohibit unequal pay for work of equal value; however, it does prohibit discriminatory practices, including unequal pay and separate pension funds for different groups in a company.
Women, particularly black women, typically had lower incomes and less job security than men. Most women were engaged in poorly paid domestic labor and microenterprises, which did not provide job security or benefits. The Department of Trade and Industry provided incentive grants to promote the development of small and medium-size businesses and microenterprises for women, young persons, and persons with disabilities. The department also operated the Isivande Women’s Fund to improve women’s access to formal finance.
According to the 2012-13 Employment Equity Report, women held only 19.8 percent of top-level management positions and 30.7 percent of senior management positions, rates significantly lower than the government-mandated target of having 44.4 percent management positions filled by women. The Commission for Employment Equity released statistics showing that 62 percent of top managers in private companies were white men, while black women constituted only 3 percent and Coloured (a heterogeneous, mixed-race ethnicity recognized by the government) and Indian women made up only 1.4 and 1.6 percent, respectively.
Female farm workers often experienced discrimination, and their access to housing frequently depended on their relationship to male farm workers. Female farm workers on maternity leave who could not obtain timely compensation through the Unemployment Insurance Fund often had to return to work shortly after giving birth, according to NGOs working with farm workers in Limpopo Province.
A number of governmental bodies, particularly the Commission for Gender Equality and the Department of Women, Children, and Persons with Disabilities monitored and promoted women’s rights, as did numerous NGOs.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status, and the government generally enforced the law effectively.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is six to 12 years in prison. The law also prohibits violence against women, and independent media and government agencies generally paid close attention to gender violence. The law sets prison sentences of six months to a year for domestic violence, threats of violence, or violations of restraining orders, with longer sentences if serious injuries result.
According to the government’s Delegate for Gender Violence, by August 31, a total of 30 women were killed by their partner or former partner. The delegate noted that only 11 of the women killed had reported abuse prior to their death. According to the Special Prosecutor against Gender Violence, 67.2 percent of the 45,306 sentences resulted in conviction in 2012. The Observatory against Domestic and Gender Violence reported 29,487 complaints of gender-based violence in the first quarter of the year. The observatory cautioned that immigrant women and women over the age of 56 remained vulnerable, especially to gender violence.
A report by the governmental polling group Sociological Research Center in 2012 showed that 10.9 percent of women (2.15 million) suffered mistreatment at a certain point in their lives, and 600,000 sometime during the year. Of the victims, 73 percent never reported the mistreatment, and 25 percent of those who did withdrew their complaint.
The secretary of state for equality operated a digital platform where units working on gender violence could share information, best practices, and documents. More than 50 offices provided legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, and there were more than 454 shelters for battered women. A 24-hour toll-free national hotline advised battered women on finding shelter and other local assistance. The hotline took calls in Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Portuguese, Romanian, and Russian. As of August, this hotline handled 37,002 telephone calls.
In April 2012 the Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality and approximately 20 multinational companies created a program called “Businesses in favor of a society free of gender violence” by which the companies include messages against gender violence in their products, at no cost to the government. On July 8, another 22 companies joined the program.
On July 26, the government approved the National Strategy to Eradicate Violence against Women for 2013-2016. The strategy includes 250 measures to fight gender violence, and has a budget of 100 million euros ($135 million).
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and authorizes courts to prosecute cases even if the crime occurred overseas. According to the Wassu-Foundation, an NGO dedicated to the study and prevention of FGM/C, approximately 16,869 girls under the age of 14 in the country were at risk of FGM/C, 6,182 of whom resided in Catalonia.
In Catalonia the law requires that a doctor examine immigrants considered in danger of FGM/C when they travel to and from their countries of origin. Parents who subject their children to FGM/C risk losing custody. Catalan regional police had procedures to prevent FGM/C through the early detection of potential victims, immediate reporting of possible cases to appropriate authorities, and when possible, preventing the travel of potential victims. Catalan police registered 20 cases of women who were either treated for or prevented from being victims of FGM/C.
The government included the development of a sanitary protocol to fight FGM/C in the National Strategy to Eradicate Violence against Women 2013-2016.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace; however, harassment reportedly continued to be a problem although few cases are brought to trial. The punishment in minor cases can be between three and five months in jail or fines of six to eight months’ salary. In aggravated cases it can be five to seven months jail time or fines of 10-14 months’ salary. Penalties can be increased for victims who are determined to be especially vulnerable.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
Discrimination: Under the law women enjoy the same rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, labor law, and inheritance law. Discriminatory wage differentials continued to exist, and women held fewer senior management positions than men. According to 2013 data from the National Statistical Institute, women earned 23 percent less than men for comparable work. The Women’s Institute within the Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality conducted and published studies on women’s problems and processed complaints of gender-based discrimination.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. There were instances, however, in which gender and ethnic-based discrimination occurred.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape and domestic violence, but it was not enforced effectively. Sexual assault, rape, and spousal abuse were pervasive societal problems. According to a September UN study conducted in six Asian countries, about 10 percent of Sri Lankan men in relationships admitted sexually abusing their partners. The law specifically addresses sexual abuse and exploitation, and it contains provisions in rape cases for an equitable burden of proof and stringent punishments. The law considers marital rape an offense only in cases of legally separated spouses. An average rape case took six to 12 years to be resolved. Observers believed that domestic violence was widespread, although discussion of the problem was not common.
While the law could potentially address some of the problems of sexual assault, many women’s organizations believed that greater sensitization of police and the judiciary was necessary to make progress in combating the crime. The Bureau for the Prevention of Abuse of Women and Children (BPWC), established by police, continued awareness programs in schools and at the grassroots level, encouraging women to file complaints. In March the government reported that training on prevention and management of gender-based violence was also provided by the Public Health Midwives and the Primary Health Care Workers groups. Police also continued to establish women’s bureaus in police stations throughout the year. The BPWC held awareness programs for men in state and private organizations and targeted passenger transport personnel.
Police recorded 900 incidents of rape during the first six months of 2012, the most recent period for which data was available, but this number was an unreliable indicator of the degree of this problem because many victims were unwilling to file reports. Services to assist victims of rape and domestic violence, such as crisis centers, legal aid, and counseling, were generally scarce due to a lack of funding. The government established one shelter for victims of violence. The Ministry of Health, in partnership with NGOs, developed hospital-based centers to provide medical assistance to those requiring attention for sexual assault-related injuries before referral to legal and psychosocial services.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Some observers acknowledged sexual harassment to be widespread. As with domestic violence, discussion of the problem was not common.
Increased reports of the prevalence of “survival sex,” whereby vulnerable women engaged in sexual acts for monetary and other kinds of support or compensation, especially with security force personnel, emerged throughout the year.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals usually have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. In 2012 an estimated 68 percent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 used modern contraceptives, and observers estimated skilled attendance was present during childbirth at approximately 99 percent of births. Women appeared to be diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections at the same rate as men.
In September researchers claimed they discovered that public health workers had administered the subdermal contraceptive implant Jadelle, potentially without informed consent to women from Veravil, Keranchi, and Valaipaddu at a government-run nutrition clinic in Kilinochchi. A group of activists called The Social Architects (TSA) visited the Veravil, Keranchi, Valaipaddu, Umaiyalpuram, and Malaiyalapuram villages, where IDPs had begun to rebuild their postwar lives. TSA, under constant military surveillance, interviewed 23 women ranging in age from 15 to 43, members of the Ministry of Health in Kilinochchi, field-level health workers, and community leaders. TSA investigators concluded that public health workers administered the contraceptive under false pretenses to women attending a nutrition clinic. In November a 26-year-old Kilinochchi woman died 10 weeks after administration of the contraceptive, and subsequent tests demonstrated the woman had been two months pregnant at the time of the implant. Investigations into the contraceptive administration and the woman’s death continued at year’s end.
Discrimination: The law provides for equal employment opportunity in the public sector. Women had no legal protection against discrimination in the private sector, where they were sometimes paid less than men for equal work and experienced difficulty in rising to supervisory positions. Although women constituted approximately half of the formal workforce, according to the Asian Development Bank, the quality of employment available to women in 2012 was less than that available to men. The demand for female labor was mainly for casual and low-paid, low-skilled jobs.
Women have equal rights under civil and criminal law. Adjudication of questions related to family law – including divorce, child custody, and inheritance – according to the customary law of each ethnic or religious group, resulted in de facto discrimination. The government’s National Action Plan for Women was still not available at year’s end.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The interim national constitution prohibits discrimination based on race and gender, but the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. The law does not address discrimination based on disability, language, or social status. The law criminalizes sodomy, and antigay sentiment is pervasive in society. A few small lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations existed but operated underground due to fear of official and societal discrimination.
The government made efforts to improve its prosecution of crimes involving trafficking in persons. Local and state authorities stepped up enforcement activities against trafficking gangs operating along the Eritrean-Sudanese border. According to the UNHCR, Sudanese authorities prosecuted 40 human trafficking cases in 2012 and during the year.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The punishment for rape varies from 100 lashes to 10 years’ imprisonment to death; the government did not effectively enforce these provisions. Spousal rape is not addressed in the law. In most rape cases, convictions were made public. Observers believed sentences often were less than the legal maximum. Because there was no official tracking of rape cases, no information was available on the number of persons prosecuted, convicted, or punished for rape, but high-profile cases often attracted public and media attention.
Rape of women and girls throughout the country, including in Darfur, continued to be a serious problem. Authorities often obstructed access to justice for rape victims. In August, President Bashir pardoned a convicted rapist who was serving a 10-year prison sentence.
By law a woman who accuses a man of rape and fails to prove her case may be tried for adultery. Victims sometimes refused to report their cases to family or authorities due to fear they would be punished or arrested for “illegal pregnancy” or adultery.
While the law prohibits violence in general, it does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Violence, including spousal abuse, against women was common. There were no reliable statistics on its prevalence. Women who filed claims under the law against violence were subjected to accusations of lying or spreading false information, harassment, and detention, which made many women reluctant to file formal complaints, although such abuse constituted grounds for divorce. Police normally did not intervene in domestic disputes. Statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished were not available.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See section 6, Children, Harmful Traditional Practices.
Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, although the law prohibits gross indecency, which is defined as any act contrary to another person’s modesty, and authorities enforced the statute. The penalty for gross indecency is imprisonment of up to one year and 40 lashes. There were frequent reports of sexual harassment by police in Darfur and elsewhere.
Reproductive Rights: Couples were able to decide freely on reproductive issues. Contraception, skilled medical attendance during childbirth, and obstetric and postpartum care were not always accessible in rural areas. The UN Population Fund estimated in 2010 the maternal mortality rate was 730 deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 31. Skilled health-care personnel attended approximately 23 percent of births. The UN Population Division estimated just 12 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception in 2012. The high maternal mortality rate stemmed in large part from lack of access to reproductive health and emergency obstetric care, particularly in rural areas, lack of access to family planning services, poor sanitation, and chronic undernourishment in poorer areas. The leading causes of maternal death were infection, malaria, anemia, and hemorrhage.
Discrimination: The law, including many traditional legal practices and certain provisions of Islamic jurisprudence as interpreted and applied by the government, discriminates against women. In accordance with that Islamic judicial interpretation, a Muslim widow inherits one-eighth of her husband’s estate; of the remaining seven-eighths, two-thirds goes to the sons and one-third to the daughters. Depending on the wording of the marriage contract, it is often much easier for men than women to initiate legal divorce proceedings. In certain probate trials, the testimony of women is not considered equivalent to that of men, and the testimony of two women is considered equivalent to that of one man. In other civil trials, the testimony of a woman is considered equivalent to that of a man.
A Muslim woman cannot legally marry a non-Muslim unless he converts to Islam. This prohibition usually was neither observed nor enforced among certain populations.
Various government institutions decreed women must dress modestly according to Islamic or cultural standards, including wearing a head covering, but women often appeared in public wearing trousers or with their heads uncovered. In Khartoum Public Order Police occasionally brought women before judges for allegedly violating Islamic standards.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Women, and Child Affairs was responsible for matters pertaining to women.
In addition to housing and education discrimination, women experienced economic discrimination in access to employment, equal pay for substantially similar work, credit, and owning or managing businesses. Women were accepted in professional roles, and more than half the professors at Khartoum University were women.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution provides for equal rights and equal opportunity for all citizens and prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. The constitution does not address sexual orientation or gender identity. The government did not enforce the law effectively or make any serious attempt to do so. Women faced widespread violence, discrimination, and significant restrictions on their rights.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a felony, but the government did not effectively enforce existing rape laws. The COI reported that rape was widespread and government and proregime forces used rape to terrorize and punish women, men, and children perceived as associated with the opposition. The COI concluded that underreporting and delayed reporting of sexual violence was endemic, making an assessment of its magnitude difficult.
According to the law, rape is considered to occur “when a man forces a woman who is not his wife to have intercourse” and is subject to punishment of at least 15 years in prison. The law further stipulates that the rapist faces no punishment if he marries the victim. The victim’s family sometimes agrees to this arrangement to avoid the social stigma attached to rape. There are no laws against spousal rape. The magnitude of sexual violence was unknown. Observers of the refugee crisis reported that women, men, and community leaders consistently identified sexual violence as a primary reason their families fled the country.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, and violence against women was extensive and went unpunished. The vast majority of domestic violence and sexual assault cases were not reported. Victims traditionally have been reluctant to seek assistance outside the family for fear of social stigmatization. Security forces consistently treated violence against women as a social rather than a criminal manner. Observers reported that when some abused women tried to file a police report, police did not investigate their reports thoroughly, if at all, and in other cases police officers responded by abusing the women, including by sexual harassment, verbal abuse, hair pulling, and slapping.
The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Damascus operated a 24-hour emergency shelter and telephone hotline for female victims of domestic violence, although they reported that police were less helpful in referring women to the shelter as general violence increased. Additionally, the Association for Women’s Role Development, Oasis of Hope, and the Syrian Family Planning Association provided family and psychological counseling to battered women in Damascus. There were no known government-run services for women available outside Damascus. According to local human rights organizations, the Local Coordination Committees, and other opposition-related groups offered programming specifically for protection of women; however, NGOs did not integrate these programs throughout the country, and none reported reliable funding.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The law permits judges to reduce usual legal penalties for murder and assault if the defendants assert an “honor” defense, and they often did so. The government kept no official statistics on use of this defense in murder and assault cases. There were no officially reported “honor” killings in the past year, but local human rights groups asserted that the practice continued, reportedly at previous levels despite or even because of the ongoing violence. NGOs working with refugees reported that families reportedly killed some rape victims inside the country, including those raped by regime forces for reasons of “honor.”
Female Genital Mutilation /Cutting (FGM/C): There were limited reports of FGM/C, primarily in rural Kurdish communities.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and specifies different punishments depending on whether the victim is a minor or an adult. The government did not enforce the law. Victims rarely reported sexual harassment due to social and cultural pressures.
Reproductive Rights: The government generally respected the basic rights of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children, including the right to have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The violence throughout the country made accessing medical care and reproductive services both costly and dangerous. Women reportedly had little to no regular access to contraception and maternal health services such as skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, or essential obstetric and postpartum care.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equality between men and women and for the “right of every citizen to earn his wage according to the nature and yield of the work,” the law does not explicitly stipulate equal pay for equal work. Moreover, a number of sections of family and criminal law do not treat men and women equally. Before the regime violence began, only 16 percent of women participated in the formal labor force, compared with 72 percent of men. The percentage of female employment decreased as violence and insecurity increased over the past year. In previous years the government sought to overcome traditional discriminatory attitudes toward women and encouraged women’s education by ensuring equal access to educational institutions, including universities. Before the onset of violence, women made up 41 percent of tertiary education students. In some opposition-held areas, extremists interfered with girls’ right to attend school and prevented female teachers from entering the classroom. In Tweihineh ISIL forbade girls from attending school unless they wore Islamic clothing.
The Commission for Family Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor shared responsibility for attempting to provide for equal legal rights of women. Governmental involvement in civil rights claims, including cases against sexual discrimination cases, was stagnant, and most claims were unanswered.
Personal status, retirement, citizenship, and social security laws discriminate against women. Men are the vast majority of the judiciary, and NGOs suggested this circumstance led to discriminatory treatment of women by federal courts. Under criminal law if a man and a woman separately committed the same criminal act of adultery, the woman’s punishment is double that of the man’s. For Muslims personal status law treats men and women differently. Some personal status laws mirror Islamic law regardless of the religion of those involved in the case. A divorced woman is not entitled to alimony in some cases, such as if she gave up her right to alimony to persuade her husband to agree to the divorce. Additionally, under the law a divorced mother loses the right to guardianship and physical custody of her sons when they reach the age of 13 and of her daughters at age 15, when guardianship transfers to the paternal side of the family.
The government’s interpretation of Islamic law is the basis of inheritance law for all citizens except Christians. Accordingly, courts usually granted Muslim women half of the inheritance share of male heirs. In all communities male heirs must provide financial support to female relatives who inherit less. If they do not, women have the right to sue. During the year there were reports that in some regions custom prevailed over the law, and women were denied any inheritance. A woman’s husband, or male relative in a husband’s absence, may request that the government prohibit his wife’s travel abroad.
Women participated actively in public life and in most professions, including the armed forces, although violence in many regions reduced women’s access to the public sphere. Legally, women and men had equal rights in owning or managing land or other property; however, cultural and religious norms impeded women’s rights, especially in rural areas. Various sources observed that women constituted a minority of lawyers, university professors, and other professions. While women served in the judiciary, parliament, and high levels of government, the government often denied them decision-making positions.
Opposition-held areas: Throughout the year reports increased from local NGOs and women that some opposition elements banned women from teaching and girls from attending school (particularly in Dayr al-Zawr governorate) and also forbade women from participating equally in irregularly constituted courts (Aleppo governorate). Women did not hold an equal share of political positions in local opposition governance bodies, but remained active in civil society, humanitarian assistance delivery, media, and keeping some schools operating. There were limited reports of women actively participating in hostilities including in armed Kurdish opposition groups.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, or social status.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. Because victims were socially stigmatized, many did not report the crime, and the Ministry of Interior estimated that the total number of sexual assaults was 10 times the number reported to police.
The law provides protection for rape victims. Rape trials are not open to the public unless the victim consents. The law permits a charge of rape without requiring the victim to press charges.
The law establishes the punishment for rape as not less than five years’ imprisonment, and courts usually gave those convicted prison sentences of five to 10 years. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as of July there were 8,029 reports filed for rape or sexual assault. As of July, courts indicted 1,282 persons and convicted 1,297 persons. According to the Ministry of Justice, the average prosecution rate for rape and sexual assault over the past five years was approximately 50 percent, and the average conviction rate of cases prosecuted was approximately 90 percent.
As of September, authorities prosecuted 1,921 persons for domestic violence and convicted 1,595 persons. Typically, courts sentenced persons convicted in domestic violence cases to less than six months in prison. Social pressure not to disgrace their families discouraged abused women from reporting incidents to the police. The law allows prosecutors to take the initiative in investigating complaints of domestic violence, without waiting for a spouse to file a formal lawsuit.
The law requires all cities and counties to establish violence prevention and control centers to address domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. These centers provided victims with protection, medical treatment, emergency assistance, shelter, legal counseling, education, and training on a 24-hour basis. The Health and Welfare Ministry, newly established in July, will be responsible for combating and addressing rape and domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a crime punishable by fines of NT$100,000 to NT$1 million ($3,400 to $34,000) and imprisonment for up to two years. All public employers and larger private employers are required to enact preventive measures and establish complaint procedures to deter sexual harassment. Women’s groups complained that, despite the law and increased awareness of the issue, judicial authorities remained dismissive of sexual harassment complaints.
Reproductive Rights: Individuals and couples had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Unmarried persons, however, are prohibited by law from obtaining fertility treatments. Access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth and the postpartum period were widely available. Medical authorities gave women equal treatment for diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on gender. The law provides for equal treatment with regard to salaries, promotions, and assignments. The law entitles women to request up to two years of unpaid maternity leave and forbids termination of employment because of pregnancy or marriage. Central and local agencies, schools, and other organizations are required to develop enforcement rules and set up gender equality committees to oversee the implementation of the law. One NGO claimed that the authorities were not doing enough to raise public awareness of this issue.
Women’s advocates noted that women continued to be promoted less frequently, occupied fewer management positions, and worked for lower pay than did their male counterparts. Women made up 44 percent of the workforce. According to the Council for Labor Affairs (CLA), salaries for women averaged 82 percent of those for men performing comparable jobs.
Gender-based Sex Selection: The ratio of boy-to-girl births lowered to 107 males per to 100 females, the lowest ratio in 25 years. In 2010 authorities banned medical institutions from conducting gender-based sex selective procedures. Authorities put under surveillance clinics and hospitals with higher rates of imbalance, and doctors who facilitate gender-based sex selection can be fined. There were no reported cases of such sanctions being applied.
Trinidad and Tobago
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The government generally respected the constitutional provisions for fundamental human rights and freedoms for all without discrimination based on race, origin, color, social status, or gender.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to life imprisonment; however, the courts often handed down considerably shorter sentences. The government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that many incidents of rape and other sexual crimes were unreported, partly due to perceived insensitivity of police, exacerbated by a wide cultural acceptance of gender-based violence. The Crime and Problem Analysis Branch of the police service reported 468 cases of rape, incest, and other sexual offenses through November 1, with 197 of those solved. Although proper procedures were in place, there was little or no monitoring of rape and sexual assault cases. Police channeled further resources to its Victim and Witness Support Unit in an effort to overcome the public perception of insensitivity. The unit continued outreach activities during the year to support survivors of domestic violence.
Many community leaders asserted that abuse of women, particularly in the form of domestic violence, continued to be a significant problem. The law provides for protection orders separating perpetrators of domestic violence, including abusive spouses and common-law partners, from their victims. Courts may also fine or imprison abusive spouses. While reliable national statistics were not available, women’s groups estimated that as many as 50 percent of all women suffered abuse.
The NGO Coalition against Domestic Violence charged that police often hesitated to enforce domestic violence laws and asserted that rape and sexual abuse against women and children remained a serious and pervasive problem.
The Division of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Youth, and Child Development operated a 24-hour hotline for victims of rape, spousal abuse, and other violence against women. Hotline operators referred callers to eight shelters for female survivors, a rape crisis center, counseling services, support groups, and other assistance.
Sexual Harassment: No laws specifically prohibit sexual harassment. Although related statutes could be used to prosecute perpetrators of sexual harassment, and some trade unions incorporated antiharassment provisions in their contracts, both the government and NGOs continued to suspect that many incidents of sexual harassment went unreported.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Access to information on contraception and maternal health was widely available from health-care providers and online sources. According to the UN Population Fund, skilled health personnel attended 98 percent of births, and 38 percent of women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception.
Discrimination: Women generally enjoyed the same legal rights as men, including employment, education, and inheritance rights. No laws or regulations require equal pay for equal work. While equal pay for men and women in public service was the rule rather than the exception, both the government and NGOs noted considerable disparities in pay between men and women in the private and informal sectors, particularly in agriculture.
The Ministry of Gender, Youth, and Child Development had primary responsibility for protecting women’s rights and advancement, and it sponsored income-generation workshops for unemployed single mothers and nontraditional skills training for women.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions, although discrimination against women occurred due to reliance on customary law and social norms. The law is silent regarding sexual identification and/or gender identity and social norms resulted in discrimination.
Women faced barriers to their economic and political participation, and certain laws adversely affected women. Despite these challenges, the government broke with past taboos and sought to change societal norms on topics such as domestic abuse and violence against women and children.
Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. There was no comprehensive or consolidated database on the incidence of sexual violence, but NGO groups claimed rape continued to be underreported.
The penal code prohibits rape, and the government generally enforced this law. There were, however, no reported prosecutions of spousal rape. Sexual assaults accompanied by acts of violence or threats with a weapon are punishable by death. For other cases of rape, the prescribed punishment is life imprisonment. If the victim is under age 20, penalties can be more severe (see section 6, Children). Nevertheless, societal and cultural pressures often dissuaded victims from reporting sexual assault.
Rape remained a taboo and underreported subject. Convictions for sexual violence were far below the number of actual incidents. A 2011 study by the National Office of Family and Population concluded that 15.7 percent of women ages 18-64 claimed to be victims of sexual violence.
Laws prohibiting domestic violence provide penalties for assault committed by a spouse or family member that are double those of an unrelated individual for the same crime, but enforcement was rare, and domestic violence remained a serious problem. The government and the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women reported in 2012 that 47 percent of women suffered from physical or verbal abuse.
There were no government public education programs on domestic violence, including rape. The first government-run domestic violence shelter and hotline opened in December 2012 on the outskirts of Tunis. Advocates called for similar shelters in other parts of the country.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem, although there was no data to measure its extent. Victims of sexual harassment are required to file a complaint in criminal court, where the allegations are then investigated, although bureaucratic problems in securing convictions occurred. According to the criminal code, the penalty for sexual harassment is one year in prison and a 3,000 dinar ($1,817) fine. Civil society groups criticized the law on harassment as too vague and susceptible to abuse. There were no statistics available on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished for sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Women had free access to contraception, and according to the UN Population Fund, an estimated 52 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception. In collaboration with NGOs, the government maintained its policy of keeping the national birthrate low through public awareness campaigns. The government provided essential health care for women, including skilled attendance during childbirth and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, although some rural women did not have access to these services. Several registered domestic NGOs also cared for HIV-infected individuals.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions, although discrimination against women occurred due to reliance on customary law and social norms. Codified civil law is based on the Napoleonic code, although on occasion judges drew upon interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) as a basis for customary law in family and inheritance disputes. Most property acquired during marriage, including property acquired solely by the wife, was held in the name of the husband. Customary law based on sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying outside their religion. Application of sharia inheritance law resulted in discrimination against women, although some families avoided the application of sharia by executing sales contracts between parents and children to ensure that daughters received shares of property equal to those of sons. There was a double standard in sharia inheritance law based on gender and religion: non-Muslim women and their Muslim husbands may not inherit from each other. The government considers all children of those marriages to be Muslim and forbids those children from inheriting from their mothers.
Female citizens can transmit citizenship to their children regardless of the father’s citizenship.
The law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work, and the government generally enforced it, but the law also allows some female employees in the public sector to receive a pro-rated salary for part-time work. The government defended the law as allowing women to balance family and professional life, but some women’s rights advocates believed treating women and men differently under the law was an infringement of women’s rights. Societal and cultural barriers significantly reduced women’s participation in the formal labor force, in particular in managerial positions. Women in the private sector earned on average one-quarter less than men for similar work.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: The ratio of boy-to-girl births was 107 to 100. There was no information on any government efforts to address this imbalance.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. The government did not enforce these prohibitions effectively. The constitution allows measures to advance gender equality as well as measures to benefit children, seniors, persons with disabilities, widows, and veterans, without violating the constitutional prohibition against discrimination. The government maintained hotlines to prevent the exploitation of women, children, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens, although some human rights groups questioned their effectiveness.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits violence against women, but human rights organizations claimed that the government did not effectively enforce it. The law prohibits sexual assault, including rape and spousal rape, with penalties of imprisonment for two to seven years. The government did not effectively or fully enforce these laws or protect victims, and victims often waited days or weeks to report incidents due to embarrassment or reprisals, hindering effective prosecution of assailants. Government statistics on violence against women were incomplete, and human rights organizations alleged that authorities manipulated the statistics to show progress on the issue. Societal acceptance of domestic abuse in some cases contributed to underreporting of gender-based violence.
The law covers all women, regardless of marital status, and provides for the police and local authorities to grant various levels of protection and support services to victims of violence or to those at risk of violence. It also requires government services such as shelter and temporary financial support for victims, and provides for family courts to impose sanctions on perpetrators.
The law provides for the establishment of prevention-of-violence and monitoring centers to offer economic, psychological, legal, and social assistance. The Ministry of Family and Social Policies (MFSP) operated 90 women’s shelters with a capacity of 2,429 persons. These shelters assisted 4,463 women and 1,899 children as of September. The MFSP reported that municipalities operated 32 women’s shelters with a capacity of 779 persons, although the Ministry of Interior put this figure at 57 women’s shelters. One women’s shelter was NGO-operated.
Regulations call for state-funded women’s shelters in any city with a population of more than 50,000. Observers noted that there were an inadequate number of shelters, or no shelters at all, in many such cities. The NGO shelter suffered from a lack of financial support, and two shelters in Ankara and Istanbul were closed through March due to insufficient funding. Through August 31, the government’s domestic violence hotline received 75,836 calls regarding violence, negligence, or exploitation. The TBA’s Poppy Center, which provides legal support to women facing domestic violence, received 589 requests for assistance through September 30. The Federation of Women Associations received 1,715 domestic violence reports via telephone and internet.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious and widespread problem both in rural and urban areas. The criminal code does not specifically forbid “spousal abuse” but provides for crimes such as assault, wrongful imprisonment, or threats. The civil code establishes spousal abuse as a ground for divorce. During the year courts regularly issued restraining orders to protect victims, but human rights organizations reported that police rarely enforced them effectively. Women’s associations charged that government counselors sometimes encouraged women to remain in abusive marriages at their own personal risk rather than break up families.
On August 9, Beyaz Bal’s husband stabbed her 27 times on an Istanbul street near Taksim Square, less than 500 feet from the local police station. According to the women’s rights NGO, “We Will Stop the Murders of Women,” Beyaz Bal had applied for police protection from her husband numerous times but was always turned away.
The Turkish Women’s Associations Federation reported the killing of 165 women through September 30, primarily by husbands or domestic partners. In the first 11 months of the year, according to reporting by the independent news entity BIANET, violence led to the killing of 189 women, the raping of 164, and battery of 195. The GDS reported 39,084 incidents of domestic violence involving 46,432 victims through May 31. As of October the Jandarma reported 10,848 domestic violence incidents and 489 sexual assaults.
Harmful Traditional Practices: So-called honor killings of women continued to be a problem. Most honor killings occurred in conservative families in the rural southeast of the country or among families of migrants from the southeast living in large cities. Individuals convicted of honor killings may receive life imprisonment. Because courts reduce sentences for juvenile offenders, observers noted that families often designated young male relatives to perform such killings. Due to penalties for honor killings, family members sometimes pressured girls to commit suicide to preserve the family’s reputation. The Jandarma reported 18 honor killings during the year, in addition to one reported by the TNP. For example, on September 28, 22-year-old Sibel Aslan, married four years by traditional matchmaking and seven months pregnant, was found hanged in her father-in-law’s house in Van. Relatives from her husband’s side claimed she had committed suicide. An investigation was ongoing at year’s end.
Sexual Harassment: The law provides different penalties for the crimes of sexual harassment and sexual assault, requiring three months to two years’ imprisonment plus a fine for sexual harassment and two to seven years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. Women’s rights activists reported authorities rarely enforced these laws. BIANET counted 129 cases of sexual harassment through November, while the Jandarma reported 578 cases as of October.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals in most cases had the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Women and men had equal access to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The prime minister called for married women to have at least three children, after calling in 2012 for them to have at least two.
The UN Population Fund report, State of World Population 2013, estimated that skilled attendants assisted in 91 percent of all births, while 73 percent of married women used some method of birth control as of 2010.
Discrimination: While women enjoy the same rights as men under the law, societal and official discrimination were widespread. The constitution permits measures, including positive discrimination, to advance gender equality.
Women continued to face discrimination in employment and were generally underrepresented in managerial-level positions in business and government. According to the Turkish Statistic Institute, women’s participation in the labor market was at 31.8 percent, compared to 30.3 percent in 2012. Women mostly served as unpaid family workers with no social protection apart from that afforded by other family members. According to the European Commission’s progress report, some women were dismissed or discouraged from working because they were pregnant or had children.
The number of women in politics and the judiciary remained very small. Of 81 provincial governors appointed by the Ministry of Interior, only one was female. There was only one female chief prosecutor. Of 4,357 judges, 300 were women. Of 550 members of parliament, 79 were women. Sometimes members of parliament used language that denigrated women.
Women were also underrepresented in management in trade unions. The government, working with the state employment agency Is-Kur and women’s groups, developed programs to encourage the hiring of women. The government reported that men and women had equal employment opportunities and received equal pay for equal work.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status but is silent on sexual orientation and gender identity. The penal code, however, prohibits “unnatural offenses.” The government did not enforce the law in matters of locally or culturally prevalent discrimination against women, children, persons with disabilities, or certain ethnic groups.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. According to the penal code, a person convicted of rape could be sentenced to death. The same law states that a person who attempts to commit rape is liable for life imprisonment.
Rape remained a serious problem throughout the country, and the government did not consistently enforce the law. Although the government arrested, prosecuted, and convicted persons for rape, the crime was seriously underreported, and authorities did not investigate most cases. Police lacked the criminal forensic capacity to collect evidence, which hampered prosecution and conviction. The 2012 police crime report registered 530 rape cases throughout the country, of which 301 were tried and convicted, with sentences ranging from three years to life imprisonment. Local NGOs had hotlines in 11 districts, including Kampala, Mukono, and Jinja. On November 26, the minster for gender, labor, and social development launched a 16-day activism campaign against gender-based violence and opened a shelter for victims in Kampala. During the year the local NGO Center for Domestic Violence sponsored six police training courses focused on gender-based violence. At least 30 police officers benefited from the training. In addition police authorities were working with the center to develop a structure for the planned directorate that will handle gender-based violence issues.
The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides penalties for abusers, ranging from fines to two years’ imprisonment. Women’s rights activists, however, were concerned the law was not enforced. Although the 2012 UPF annual crime report listed 154 reported cases of domestic violence, a decrease of 15 from 181 cases in 2011, observers believed these statistics grossly underestimated the extent of the problem. Domestic violence against women remained widespread. According to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, at least 27 percent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 experienced some form of domestic violence during the year prior to the survey. The same survey showed that at least 56 percent of married women reported having experienced some form of domestic violence during their marital life.
A July 2012 report by the Center for Basic Research, a local research NGO, reported that 70 percent of women interviewed from eastern and northern regions had been beaten by their husbands. In addition the findings indicated that 17 percent of the same women had been raped, 23 percent forced into marriage, 1 percent denied inheritance rights, and 10 percent denied political rights.
Many law enforcement officials viewed wife beating as a husband’s prerogative, as did the majority of the population, and police rarely intervened in cases of domestic violence. Between January and September, the government arrested 17 persons for domestic violence offenses. For example, on September 10, a court in Mukono District sentenced Yoweri Egesa to 10 years in prison for killing his wife following a domestic dispute on March 12.
On July 19, the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development launched an intensive media campaign across the country to prevent violence against children and women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law and constitution prohibit FGM/C and establish a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Neither culture, religion, nor the consent of the victim is an allowable defense. The government, women’s groups, and international organizations continued to combat the practice through education. These programs, which received some support from local leaders, emphasized close cooperation with traditional authority figures and peer counseling. Nevertheless, the Sabiny ethnic group in rural Kapchorwa District and the Pokot ethnic group along the northeastern border with Kenya continued to practice FGM/C (see also section 6, Children). FGM/C is practiced during even-numbered years; therefore, no reports of FGM/C were received during the year.
On February 5, during celebrations to commemorate the International Day against FGM/C, the government issued a warning that anyone found practicing FGM/C would face legal consequences.
In September the Reproductive Education and Community Health program, a local NGO that monitors the prevalence of FGM/C, received reports that 120 women were victims of the practice in 2012.
In December 2012 police in Bukwo District arrested Danis Kokop, Kissa Kokop, and Rholah Kokop for conducting FGM/C on 20 women in Bukwo District. In January the court released the suspects and dismissed the case for lack of witnesses.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment with penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, but authorities did not effectively enforce it. Sexual harassment was a serious and widespread problem in schools, universities, and workplaces.
Reproductive Rights: There are no laws restricting couples or individuals from deciding the number, spacing, and timing of their children. There are no laws restricting access to reproductive information or otherwise limiting such access through discrimination, coercion, and violence. Family planning information and assistance were difficult to obtain, however, particularly in rural areas, where there were few health clinics. Eighteen percent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. Women also faced challenges of religious restrictions imposed by their faiths.
UN Population Fund (UNFPA) officials reported that the maternal mortality rate rose to 438 per 100,000 live births, as compared with 435 in 2012. Skilled health personnel attended 42 percent of births. Health officials attributed the high maternal mortality rate to medical complications based on excessive bleeding after birth, obstructed labor, high blood pressure, malaria, a shortage of staff to attend to mothers, and delivery outside of health facilities.
Discrimination: The law invests women with the same legal status and rights as men. Discrimination against women, however, continued to be widespread, especially in rural areas. Many customary laws discriminate against women in adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Under local customary law in many areas, women cannot own or inherit property or retain custody of their children. Traditional divorce law in many areas requires women to meet stricter evidentiary standards than men to prove adultery. Polygyny is legal under both customary and Islamic law, and in some ethnic groups men can “inherit” the widows of their deceased brothers.
Women also experienced economic discrimination in access to employment, credit, income, business ownership, and senior or managerial positions. Women and girls had equal access to educational opportunities. The Employment Act of 2006 states that “every employer shall pay males and females equal remuneration for work of equal value.” A 2009 study by the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, however, found women were disadvantaged in the labor market and their monthly wage was approximately 30 percent less than the average wage of men. The gender pay gap narrowed as women advanced in their careers and acquired more experience and power.
Eliminating gender inequality remained a high priority for the government, which, in conjunction with NGOs and women’s rights groups, sponsored workshops and training sessions throughout the country to increase awareness of women’s rights.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law and constitution prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, social status, and ethnic and social origin. Nevertheless, both governmental and societal discrimination persisted, and the government did not effectively enforce the prohibitions.
In September 2012 parliament adopted a law to prevent and counteract discrimination. It covers discrimination based on race; political, religious, or other beliefs; sex; age; disability; ethnic or social origin; family and property status; place of residence; language; and other characteristics. Experts generally described the law as well intentioned but noted that the definition of discrimination was too narrow because it omitted explicit reference to sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition experts expressed concern that the law lacked meaningful enforcement mechanisms.
In June 2012 President Yanukovych signed a government resolution implementing additional measures to suppress terrorism in the country by banning distribution of materials that incite ethnic, racial, or religious hatred, intolerance, and discrimination.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape but does not explicitly address spousal rape. The courts may use a law against “forced sex with a materially dependent person” as grounds to prosecute spousal rape. Under the law authorities can detain a person for up to five days for offenses related to domestic violence and spousal abuse.
Sexual assault and rape continued to be significant problems. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, through September there were reports of 447 incidents of rape or attempted rape; prosecutors initiated criminal charges in 231 of those cases.
On November 29, a district court in Pervomaysk convicted three police officers and a taxi driver of attempted murder in connection with the assault and rape of Iryna Krashkova, a resident of Mykolayiv. The perpetrators – men she knew – beat and raped Krashkova on June 26. Police detained one of the officers and the taxi driver after the assault, but the second officer, who was the godson of the Mykolayiv oblast police chief, remained free, prompting local residents to attack the regional police department building. Police later arrested the second officer, and the police chief was dismissed for failing to supervise the investigation properly. The hospital discharged Krashkova in August. The two police officers received sentences of 15 years in prison. A third officer who attempted to cover up the assault got a five-year sentence. The taxi driver received an 11-year sentence.
In March 2012 three men in the southern city of Mykolayiv raped, strangled, and set fire to 18-year-old Oksana Makar before leaving her in a ditch. Makar died after two weeks in a hospital. Police initially released her attackers, prompting spontaneous demonstrations. The three men were eventually arrested, tried, and convicted. The court gave one man a sentence of life in prison, while the other two received sentences of 14 and 15 years.
Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. Spousal abuse was common. Advocacy groups asserted that the percentage of women subjected to physical violence or psychological abuse at home remained high. Human rights groups noted that the ability of agencies to detect and report cases of domestic violence was limited and that preventive services remained underfunded and underdeveloped.
La Strada-Ukraine, an NGO that focuses on gender issues, reported that through November, 88,162 persons were under police supervision in connection with domestic violence, compared with 117,400 persons for all of 2012.
During the first six months of the year, the Ministry of Social Policy received 65,797 complaints of domestic violence. The majority, 58,039, were from women. Men filed 7,346 complaints; 412 came from children. Police issued 95,329 warnings and protective orders related to domestic violence through November. During the same period, authorities brought administrative charges against 108,467 individuals for domestic violence and disobeying protective orders. Punishment included fines and community service.
La Strada-Ukraine operated a national hotline for victims of violence and sexual harassment. Through June 3,990 individuals called the hotline for assistance related to domestic or sexual violence, accounting for 93 percent of calls to the hotline. La Strada-Ukraine reported that expanded public awareness campaigns had increased the number of requests for assistance each year over the preceding five years.
Although the law requires the government to operate a shelter in every major city, it did not do so, in part due to the lack of municipal funding.
Through September, according to the Ministry of Social Policy, government centers provided domestic violence-related services, in the form of social-psychological assistance, to 797 individuals. Social services centers assisted 1,517 families in matters related to domestic violence and child abuse. NGOs operated additional centers for victims of domestic violence in several regions, but women’s rights groups noted that many nongovernment shelters closed due to lack of funding. There were no shelters for adult victims of domestic violence in Kharkiv, Vinnytsya, Poltava, or Cherkasy regions.
According to women’s advocacy groups, municipally and privately funded shelters were not always accessible. Shelters were frequently full, and resources were limited. Some shelters did not function throughout the year and administrative restrictions prevented women and families from accessing services. For example, some shelters would only accept children of certain ages, while others did not admit women who were not registered as local residents. Government centers offered only limited legal, psychological, and economic assistance to victims of domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law puts sexual harassment in the same category as discrimination; however, women’s rights groups asserted there was no effective mechanism to protect against sexual harassment. They reported continuing and widespread sexual harassment, including coerced sex, in the workplace. Women rarely sought legal recourse, however, because courts declined to hear their cases and rarely convicted perpetrators. Women’s groups also cited a persistent culture of sexism and harassment and protests against sexist comments by senior government officials.
While the law prohibits coercing a “materially dependent person” to have sexual intercourse, legal experts said safeguards for workers and employees against harassment were inadequate.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Health clinics and local health NGOs could operate freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives. Quality prenatal and postnatal care, however, remained inaccessible to many women because state-funded clinics lacked adequate funds and high-quality equipment, and private clinics were expensive.
Sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, continued to rise rapidly. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance of Ukraine reported that Ukrainians with HIV were more likely to die from AIDS than HIV-positive individuals in countries with the highest HIV incidence. The quality of sexual and reproductive health services was poor in state-funded hospitals, and high prices in private medical clinics made them unaffordable for many persons.
Men and women enjoyed equal access to diagnosis of and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Local health NGOs and clinics reported that women were more likely than men to seek treatment and refer their partners. State-funded clinics discriminated against homeless and economically disadvantaged people in providing medical treatment. Romani women experienced discrimination in medical care and lacked access to information on health matters, according to reports by Romani rights groups.
Discrimination: Under the law women enjoy the same rights as men, including equal pay for equal work. Industries dominated by female workers had the lowest relative wages. Women received lower salaries due to limited opportunities for advancement and the types of industries that employed them. In March the minister of social policy stated that men earned on average 29.5 percent more than women did. Domestic and international observers noted that women held few elected or appointed offices at the national and regional levels. The parliamentary ombudsman for human rights created a permanent representative to address gender equality, children’s rights, and nondiscrimination. Unlike in previous years, senior government officials largely refrained from making disparaging and demeaning remarks about women in public.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, or social status, and the government routinely enforced the law effectively.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, spousal rape, and domestic violence. The maximum legal penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The law also provides for injunctive relief, personal protection orders, and protective exclusion orders (similar to restraining orders) for female victims of violence. The government enforced the law effectively when cases were reported. Courts in some cases imposed the maximum punishment for rape. In January the Ministry of Justice, Home Office, and the Office for National Statistics produced a joint statistical bulletin covering sexual offenses for England and Wales. In 2011-12 police recorded a total of 53,700 sexual offenses across England and Wales of which 16,000 were for rape. The government provided shelters, counseling, and other assistance for victims of rape or violence. It offered free legal aid to battered women who were economically dependent on their abusers. During the year a magistrate’s court in Birmingham instituted a court dedicated to domestic violence cases, with the aim of increasing support and safeguards to victims.
The most recent figures published in Scotland showed 59,847 incidents of domestic violence in 2011-12, an increase of 7 percent compared with the previous year. In September former member of the Scottish Parliament Bill Walker was jailed for 12 months after being convicted of 23 domestic abuses charges over a 28-year period. This highlighted concerns about sentencing in domestic violence cases. According to Member of the Scottish Parliament Alison McInnes, of more than 4,000 charges of domestic violence during the year, less than 200 were heard before a jury, which allows for a sentence of more than 12 months. Nearly 3,500 cases went before a Sheriff Court, which has limited sentencing powers. In September the Scottish government appointed a new national prosecutor to improve how domestic abuse cases are handled with the power to change prosecution policy. There were 1,462 rapes and attempted rapes in 2012-13, an increase of 15 percent. Police reported 7,693 sexual offenses in 2012-13, an increase of 5 percent compared with 2011-2012.
In Northern Ireland the PSNI recorded 27,190 incidents of domestic violence from April 2012 through March. This figure represents an increase of 1,994 incidents over the previous year’s statistics. The PSNI recorded 172 rapes with a domestic abuse motivation, an increase of 62.3 percent over the previous year. The PSNI recorded 124 cases of indecent or sexual assaults on women.
In Bermuda reported sexual assaults increased. In the first half of the year, police responded to 19 cases of sexual assault, which is equal to the total number of assaults in 2012. Police estimated there were 20 to 30 reported incidents of domestic abuse per week; of these, fewer than five per month were prosecuted. Reported domestic abuse cases also increased.
In 2012 the Bermudian NGO Center Against Abuse saw just more than 80 female clients and 45 male clients. From January until August the Center assisted nearly 100 female clients and more than 40 male clients. The Center reported two domestic violence cases involving firearms in 2012; none was reported for the first eight months of the year. In September the Bermuda Health Council reported that women were three times more likely than men to report experiencing domestic violence, with 19 percent of all women suffering abuse compared to 7 percent of men.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) operated a helpline providing confidential support and advice to victims and professionals and conducted a nationwide outreach program with schools, social services, and police. The FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,485 cases. Where the age was known, 13 percent involved victims below 15 years; 22 percent involved victims aged 16-17; 30 percent involved victims aged 18-21; 19 percent involved victims aged 22-25; 8 percent involved victims aged 26-30; 8 percent involved victims aged 31 and over. The oldest victim was 71 and the youngest was two; 82 percent involved female victims and 18 percent involved male victims.
Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment. No further information was available.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals may decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children. They also generally have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men under family law, labor law, property law, and inheritance law. The government’s Equalities Office is responsible for the government’s overall equality strategy. Its stated aims are to improve equality and reduce discrimination and disadvantage for all, at work, in public and political life, and in a person’s life opportunities. In Scotland the equivalent department is the Equality, Human Rights, and Third Sector Division. According to the NGO Fawcett Society women earned an average of 14.9 percent less than men.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions effectively, although societal discrimination against some groups persisted.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. The law allows for sentences of two to 12 years’ imprisonment for a person found guilty of rape, and the law was effectively enforced. The Ministry of Interior reported 257 cases of rape in 2012. Ministry officials believed some victims of rape did not report such incidents because they did not understand their rights and due to fear of social stigma or retribution.
The law criminalizes domestic violence, including physical, psychological, and sexual violence, but victims without severe injuries often did not file complaints. Victims requiring hospitalization were more likely to receive follow-up assistance from health care and police authorities. The Interior Ministry reported 23,988 cases of domestic violence in 2012, of which 26 cases resulted in death. The law allows for sentences of six months to two years in prison for a person found guilty of committing an act of violence or making continued threats of violence. Civil courts decided most of the domestic cases during the year. Judges in these cases often issued restraining orders, which were difficult to enforce. In February the judiciary began a pilot program with the Ministry of the Interior to impose the use of electronic bracelets for perpetrators of domestic violence. The double- bracelet sets (one bracelet for the victim and one for the aggressor) track distance between the perpetrator and victim. The program includes awareness training for judges.
The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES), some police headquarters in the interior, INAU, and NGOs operated shelters where abused women and their children could seek temporary refuge. All services were funded and staffed according to the reported prevalence of domestic violence in each location. The Montevideo municipal government and the state-owned telephone company Antel funded a free nationwide hotline operated by trained NGO employees for victims of domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and punishes it by fines or dismissal. The law establishes guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as in student-professor relations, and provides damages for victims. In February the Ministry of the Interior approved a specific protocol of action. In September the Human Rights Office of the Public Education Bureau approved a specific protocol for education centers.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception, skilled attendance at delivery, and prenatal and postpartum care were widely available. Skilled personnel attended an estimated 75 percent of births.
Discrimination: By law women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, including rights under family and property law. Women, however, faced discrimination in employment, pay, credit, and business ownership. No gender discrimination cases have ever been litigated. The National Institute for Women supervised the work of the Tripartite Committee on Equal Opportunities and Employment, which included a subcommittee on gender consideration in salaries and benefits. The law does not require equal pay for equal work. Women constituted almost half of the workforce but tended to be concentrated in lower-paying jobs, with salaries averaging 51 percent of those of men for comparable work.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law and constitution prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, language, and social status. Nonetheless, societal discrimination against women and persons with disabilities existed, and child abuse persisted.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including rape of a “close relative,” but the criminal code does not specifically prohibit marital rape, and the courts did not try any known cases. Cultural norms discouraged women and their families from speaking openly about rape, and the press rarely reported instances.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, which remained common. While the law punishes physical assault, police often discouraged women from making complaints against abusive partners, and officials rarely removed abusers from their homes or took them into custody. Human rights contacts, however, reported greater willingness by local police and officials to address reports of domestic violence, including in Jizzakh Region and in the traditionally conservative Fergana Valley. Society considered the physical abuse of women to be a personal affair rather than a criminal act. Family members or elders usually handled such cases, and they rarely came to court. Local authorities emphasized reconciling husband and wife, rather than addressing the abuse.
In contrast with past years, there were no reported cases in which women attempted or committed suicide as a result of domestic violence. Those active in women’s issues suggested that there could be unreported cases, and there were no reliable statistics on the problem’s extent. Observers cited as the usual reason for suicide conflict with a husband or mother-in-law, who by tradition exercise complete control over a wife. There were no government-run shelters or hotlines for victims of domestic abuse, and very few NGOs focused on domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not explicitly prohibit sexual harassment, but it is illegal for a man to coerce a woman who has a business or financial dependency into a sexual relationship. Social norms and the lack of legal recourse made it difficult to assess the scope of the problem. During the year the government brought sexual harassment or rape charges against several individuals known to be at odds with the authorities or who reported human rights abuses.
Reproductive Rights: The government generally allowed couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and it granted access to information and the means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There continued to be periodic media reports that the government directed doctors to sterilize women to control the birth rate and skew infant mortality data. Contacts in the human rights and health-care communities confirmed that there was anecdotal evidence suggesting that sterilizations without informed consent occurred, although it was unclear whether the practice was widespread and whether it was directed by senior government officials.
Contraception generally was available to men and women. In most districts maternity clinics were available and staffed by fully trained doctors, who gave a wide range of prenatal and postpartum care. There were reports that women in rural areas chose in greater numbers than in urban areas to give birth at home without the presence of skilled medical attendants.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and the National Women’s Committee exists to promote the legal rights of women. Women historically have held leadership positions across all sectors of society, although not with the same prevalence as men, and cultural and religious practices limited their effectiveness. The government provided little data that could be used to determine whether women experienced discrimination in access to employment, credit, or pay equity for substantially similar work. The labor code prohibits women from working in as many industries as men.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, language, or social status; however, discrimination occurred against women; persons with disabilities; members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; and indigenous persons.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, making it punishable by a prison term of eight to 14 years. Cases often were not reported to police, however, due to fear of social stigma and retribution, particularly in light of widespread impunity. There were no reliable statistics on the incidence of, or prosecutions or convictions for, rape. A man may avoid punishment by marrying (before he is sentenced) the person he violated. Women faced substantial institutional and societal prejudice with respect to reporting rape and domestic violence. The law allows authorities to consider alternative forms of punishment, including work release, for those convicted of various crimes, including rape, if they have completed three-quarters of their sentence.
The law criminalizes physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the home, in the community, and at work. The law punishes perpetrators of domestic violence with penalties ranging from six to 27 months in prison. The law requires police to report domestic violence to judicial authorities and obligates hospital personnel to notify authorities when admitting patients who are victims of domestic abuse. Police generally were reluctant to intervene to prevent domestic violence. The law also establishes women’s bureaus at local police headquarters and tribunals specializing in gender-based violence.
Violence against women continued to be a serious and underreported problem. Maryelith Suarez, director of the Public Ministry’s Directorate for the Defense of Women, announced in August that the ministry had recorded 30,103 criminal acts against women, including 38 deaths and 10,352 cases of physical violence, during the first three months of the year. In 2012 the Public Ministry recorded 150,584 acts of violence against women, the majority related to physical abuse (50,014), followed by psychological abuse (47,406), and harassment (32,463). Separately, women’s rights advocates noted nearly 600 cases of gender-based killings of women in 2012.
According to the Public Ministry, 33 prosecutors and 46 courts were exclusively responsible for dealing with such crimes. Statistics were not available for 2013 on the number of cases concerning violence against women or their outcomes.
Many advocates said there was a lack of public awareness among women regarding resources and support available to prevent and combat domestic violence. The government offered some shelter and services for victims of domestic and other violence, but NGOs provided the majority of domestic-abuse services.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years. The law establishes a fine of between Bs 3,210 ($510) and Bs 6,420 ($1,020) for employers who engage in sexual harassment. Although allegedly common in the workplace, sexual harassment cases were rarely reported.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available. The Ministry of Health revealed that it had closed 47 health centers for adolescent sexual and reproductive health since 2005.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men under the constitution. Women and men are legally equal in marriage, and the law provides for gender equality in exercising the right to work. The law specifies that employers must not discriminate against women with regard to pay or working conditions. The law also prohibits the requirement of a pregnancy test to qualify for a job and provides six weeks of maternity leave prior to birth. The law extends the period of maternity leave after birth or an adoption from 12 to 20 weeks and prohibits an employer from firing either parent for two years after a birth or adoption. According to the Ministry of Labor and the Confederation of Workers, regulations protecting women’s labor rights were enforced in the formal sector, although according to the World Economic Forum, women earned 36 percent less than men on average for comparable jobs.
The Ministry of Women worked to protect women’s rights but did not make statistics publicly available.
The law provides women with property rights equal to those of men; however, women frequently waived these rights by signing over the equivalent of power of attorney to their husbands.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, but enforcement of these prohibitions was uneven, and the law does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits using or threatening violence against women or taking advantage of a person who cannot act in self-defense. It also criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Rapists are subject to two to seven years’ imprisonment. In severe cases of rape, including organized rape, a repeat offense, or extreme harm to the victim, sentences may range from seven to 15 years in prison. Authorities reportedly prosecuted rape cases fully, but the government did not release arrest, prosecution, conviction, or punishment statistics.
Domestic violence against women was common. A special 2010 UN report found that 58 percent of married women had been victims of physical, sexual, or emotional domestic violence. Authorities treated domestic violence cases as civil ones, unless the victim suffered injuries involving more than 11 percent of her body. The law specifies acts constituting domestic violence, assigns specific portfolio responsibilities to different government agencies and ministries, and stipulates punishments for perpetrators ranging from warnings and probation for up to three years to imprisonment for three months to three years. NGO and survivor advocates considered many of the provisions weak, and the government did not release arrest, prosecution, conviction, or punishment statistics. Officials acknowledged domestic violence as a significant social concern, and the media discussed it openly during the year.
While the police and legal system generally remained unequipped to deal with cases of domestic violence, the government, with the help of international and domestic NGOs, continued to train police, lawyers, and legal system officials in the law.
According to a March report by the Vietnamese Central Women’s Union and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, authorities recorded 178,847 domestic violence cases between 2009 and mid-2012, of which more than 16,000 cases involved elders and 23,300 involved children, with the majority of the rest involving spouses, mostly wives.
Several domestic and international NGOs worked to address domestic violence. Domestic NGOs operated hotlines for victims in major cities. The Center for Women and Development, supported by the Women’s Union, also operated a nationwide hotline, although it was not widely advertised in rural areas. Although rural areas often lacked the financial resources to provide crisis centers and hotlines, a law establishes “reliable residences” to allow women to turn to another family while local authorities and community leaders attempt to confront the abuser and resolve complaints. There were 300 such residences in the country, all established through the Women’s Union at the commune level. Many women remained in abusive marriages rather than confront social and family stigma as well as economic uncertainty.
The government, with the help of international NGOs, continued to support workshops and seminars aimed at educating women and men about domestic violence and women’s rights in general and highlighted the problem through public awareness campaigns. Local NGOs affiliated with the Women’s Union remained engaged in women’s concerns, particularly violence against women and trafficking of women and children.
Sexual Harassment: No law prohibits sexual harassment of adults, and no law protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace, although the law does prohibit employers from discriminating against female workers or offending their dignity and honor. A labor code prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Publications and training on ethical regulations for government and other public servants do not mention the problem, although it existed.
Victims of sexual harassment may contact social associations such as the Women’s Union to request their involvement. Victims with access to a labor union representative may lodge complaints with union officers. In serious cases, victims may sue offenders under a provision that deals with “humiliating other persons” and specifies punishments that include a warning, noncustodial reform for up to two years, or a prison term ranging from three months to two years. Nevertheless, there were no known prosecutions or sexual harassment lawsuits during the year, and most victims were unwilling to denounce offenders publicly.
Reproductive Rights: The constitution obliges society, families, and all citizens to implement “the population and family planning program.” The law affirms an individual’s right to choose contraceptive methods; access gynecological diagnosis, treatment, and health check-ups during pregnancy; and obtain medical services when giving birth at health facilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions. Nonetheless, unmarried women of reproductive ages continued to have limited or no access to subsidized contraceptives due to a lack of available government-approved contraceptives throughout the country. The social stigma attached to unmarried women who seek contraceptives further limited access. The government allocated additional resources for family planning services in 2010 with a goal of increasing the contraceptive prevalence rate to 80 percent by 2015.
The Population and Reproductive Health Strategy for 2011-20 applies to all citizens and strives to maintain the average number of children per reproductive-age couple at 1.8. The government, primarily through broad media campaigns, maintained its strong encouragement of family planning. A decree issued by the Politburo subjects CPV members to reprimand if they have three children, removal from a ranking position if they have four children, and expulsion from the CPV if they have five children. Violating the decree also increased the likelihood of job termination and decreased the likelihood of promotion.
Discrimination: The law provides for gender equality in all aspects of life, but women continued to face societal discrimination. Despite the large body of law and regulation devoted to the protection of women’s rights in marriage and the workplace, as well as provisions that call for preferential treatment, women did not always receive equal treatment. They continued to experience discrimination since they were not allowed to work in all the same industries or for the same hours as men (due to pregnancy or nursing). Moreover, no laws prohibit employers from asking about family status during job interviews. Women are expected to retire at age 55, compared with age 60 for men.
Although the law provides for equal inheritance rights for men and women, women continued to face cultural discrimination: A son is more likely to inherit property than a daughter is, unless otherwise specified by a legal document. A 2012 UN Development Program (UNDP)-funded study on land rights concluded that the law and cultural stereotypes limited women’s access to land ownership and inheritance. The law also prohibits gender-based preferential hiring for jobs, and while NGOs assumed that such discrimination occurred, allegations were hard to prove.
The Women’s Union and the government’s National Committee for the Advancement of Women continued to promote women’s rights, including political, economic, and legal equality, and protection from spousal abuse. The Women’s Union also operated microcredit consumer-finance programs and other programs to promote the advancement of women. The government’s National Strategy Plan for Gender Equality 2011-20 asserted that substantive equality between men and women should be provided in opportunity, participation, and benefits in the political, economic, cultural, and social domains to contribute to fast, sustainable national development.
During a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City in August to review the 30-year implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to discuss other measures related to gender equality and women’s rights, the National Assembly Committee for Social Affairs reported that women accounted for 48 percent of an estimated 1.5 million workers. The law requires equal pay for equal work in principle, but many women complained about receiving lower pay than male counterparts do.
Gender-based Sex Selection: According to the UNDP, the national average male-female sex ratio at birth in 2012 was 112.3 to 100. The imbalanced ratio of newborn boys to girls continued to increase during the year, particularly in some wealthier areas of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The government acknowledged the problem (reduction of the ratio was a highlighted goal in the National Program on Gender Equality) and continued to take steps to address it. The Ministry of Health received additional funds and resources to address the imbalance.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The bill of rights in the new constitution provides that no person can be deprived of fundamental rights, such as the right to life, personal liberty, security of person, freedom of assembly and association, equality, and political and socioeconomic rights. It prohibits discrimination based on one’s race, tribe, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed, gender, or disability. The bill of rights cannot be arbitrarily amended and, in the section on the rights of women, states that all “laws, customs, traditions, and practices that infringe the rights of women conferred by this constitution are void to the extent of the infringement.” Nevertheless, discrimination against women and persons with disabilities persisted. The government and ZANU-PF continued to infringe on the right to due process, citizenship, and property ownership in ways that affected the white minority disproportionately.
Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, the law was not effectively enforced, and rape remained a widespread problem. Sexual offenses, including rape, are punishable by life imprisonment. Few cases of rape were reported, however, due to social stigma and societal perceptions that rape was simply a “fact of life” that could not be challenged. Rape victims seldom received protection in court. Even fewer cases of spousal rape were reported due to victims’ fear of losing economic support, fear of reprisal, unawareness that spousal rape was a crime, police reluctance to interfere in domestic disputes, and bureaucratic hurdles. Most rural citizens were unfamiliar with laws against domestic violence and sexual offenses. Gender-based violence usually was handled through customary law in trials by chiefs of local authorities.
Gender-based violence was prevalent in society. Approximately three in 10 women over the age of 14 in the country had suffered physical violence. More than one in four women (27 percent) had had forced sexual intercourse, and one-fourth of HIV-affected women were exposed to sexual violence as a child. While almost two-thirds (65 percent) of women who reported domestic violence stated that the perpetrator was their current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend, 48 percent of women interviewed believed that a husband is justified to beat his wife. Women were also vulnerable to human rights abuses and politically motivated violence.
The media frequently published stories criticizing rape and reporting convictions. President Mugabe was quoted in the state-owned newspaper in September advocating for harsher penalties for rapists, suggesting that they should be castrated. Police sometimes did not act on reported rape cases if the perpetrators were aligned with ZANU-PF or if the rape was used as a political tool against non-ZANU-PF members, as occurred during the 2008 election. Unlike the 2008 elections, which resulted in numerous cases of politically motivated gang rapes, there were very few reports of rape used as a political weapon during the July elections period.
The Judicial Service Commission established a Multi-Sectoral Protocol on Sexual Abuse in December 2012 in partnership with 11 government bodies. The protocol details the respective roles and responsibilities of different government agencies in responding to adult and child sexual- and gender-based violence cases. The government must rely upon external funding and assistance to implement the protocol.
Children born from rape suffered stigmatization and marginalization. The mothers of children resulting from rape sometimes were reluctant to register the births, and such children did not have access to social services.
There were two adult rape clinics in public hospitals in Harare and Mutare. These facilities were run as NGOs and did not receive a substantial amount of financial support from the Ministry of Health. The clinics were designed to receive referrals from police and NGOs, administer HIV tests, and provide medicines to prevent HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy. Even though the majority of women and men who received services from the rape centers were referred by police, very few of these cases resulted in prosecutions. Private clinics and clinics supported by NGOs and bilateral and multilateral development partners have emerged in the past few years to provide medical assistance to survivors of rape. In addition, there were facilities that served underage victims of sexual assault and abuse. There were also NGOs that provided psychosocial support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence through assistance from the Integrated Support Program, a multi-donor effort funded by international aid donors and managed by the UN Population Fund.
The law criminalizes domestic violence, which was a serious problem, especially wife beating. Domestic violence is punishable by a fine and a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, but authorities generally considered domestic violence to be a private matter and convictions were rare. Most cases of domestic violence went unreported due to traditional sensitivities, victims’ fear of abandonment without support, and police reluctance to intervene. There were newspaper reports of wife killings, and there were a few reports of prosecutions and convictions for such crimes. In November 2012, “Tin-Tin,” a popular local disc jockey with a daily morning radio show, was assaulted by her boyfriend, and the incident received significant media coverage. Tin-Tin’s experience publicly highlighted the inefficiencies, corruption, and insensitivities of the judicial system as well as the challenges faced by women who pursue domestic violence charges. She was both lauded and stigmatized for discussing her case on her show as it progressed.
An Anti-Domestic Violence Council was created in 2009 to educate women about their legal rights and to protect victims of abuse. The council as a whole was ineffective due to lack of funding and the unavailability of statistics and information on prevailing trends of domestic violence, although its members were active individually in raising awareness about domestic violence.
The government continued a public awareness campaign against domestic violence. Several women’s rights groups worked with law enforcement agencies and provided training and literature on domestic violence as well as shelters and counseling for women. The high turnover rate within the police force demanded a continuous level of training that could not be met, given the scarcity of resources. While public awareness increased, other problems emerged. For example, the police form required to report domestic violence was difficult to complete, and victims were often required to make their own photocopies due to police budgetary constraints. The law requires victims of any form of violence to produce a police report to receive treatment at government health facilities without cost. This requirement prevented many rape victims from receiving necessary medical treatment, including postexposure prophylaxis to prevent victims from contracting HIV.
Sexual Harassment: Labor legislation prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, and an employer may be held liable for civil remedies if found to be in violation of provisions against “unfair labor practices,” including sexual harassment. The law does not specify penalties for such violations. Women commonly faced workplace sexual harassment. Government enforcement was not effective, and there were no reports of any prosecutions during the year.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. However, contraceptive prevalence rate remained static at 59 percent, with a significant drop in usage among urban populations from 2005 to 2010. Inadequate medical facilities, an advanced HIV/AIDS epidemic, poorly trained health care professionals, and a shortage of health professionals contributed to a high maternal mortality rate of 960 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the UN Population Fund’s 2011 State of the World’s Midwifery, as well as Zimbabwe’s Demographic and Health Survey 2010-11, skilled attendants attended approximately 86 percent of urban and 58 percent of rural births, while 40 percent of rural women gave birth at home. Approximately 90 percent of women received prenatal care during pregnancy at least once, but only 65 percent made all four antenatal care visits. No information was available on whether women were equally diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Despite laws aimed at enhancing women’s rights and countering certain discriminatory traditional practices, women remained disadvantaged in society. Economic dependency and prevailing social norms prevented rural women in particular from combating societal discrimination.
The law recognizes a woman’s right to own property, but very few women did so because of patriarchal inheritance rights under customary practice. Less than 20 percent of female farmers were official landowners or named on government lease agreements. Divorce and maintenance laws were equitable, but many women lacked awareness of their rights. Women have the right to register their children’s births, although in practice either the fathers or male relatives must be present.
Women and children continued to be adversely affected by the government’s forced evictions, demolition of homes and businesses, and takeover of commercial farms. Widows, when forced to relocate to rural areas, were sometimes “inherited” into marriages with an in-law after the deaths of their spouses.
The government gave qualified women access to training in the armed forces and national service, where they continued to occupy primarily administrative positions.
The UK Department for International Development’s 2011 Gender and Social Exclusion Analysis Report found that women experienced extensive economic discrimination, including in access to employment, credit, pay, and owning or managing businesses, despite being responsible for 53 percent of all economic activity in the country, including 75 percent of all agricultural labor. As a result three-quarters of households headed by a woman were “poor” or “very poor.”