Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and punishable by imprisonment of five to 10 years or up to 15 years if the victim is younger than age 15. However, the government did not enforce the laws on rape effectively. The law does not specifically address spousal rape, which occurred. Statistics were scarce, since many of these situations were settled within families or by village elders without recourse to the formal court system. Authorities believed the problem was widespread, as was overall sexual violence. For example, allegations of crimes of sexual aggression accounted for about half of all persons detained.
The law prohibits domestic violence. No reliable data were available on the extent of the problem. The government did not take any concrete action to combat violence against women. While women can seek protection through the courts in such cases, extended family or village elders customarily addressed such problems. Domestic violence cases rarely, if ever, entered the formal court system.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Although rarely reported due to societal pressure, such harassment was nevertheless a common problem, and the government did not effectively enforce penalties against it.
Sex Tourism: The Comoros is a source country for men and women subjected to sex trafficking. There are reports that foreign tourists frequented establishments where such trafficking occurred.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals are generally free to choose the number and spacing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Modern contraceptive use among married women and girls ages 15-49 was approximately 19 percent, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Existing health resources (including personnel, facilities, equipment, and drugs) were inadequate, making it difficult for the government to respond to the health needs of the population. According to the Population Reference Bureau, approximately 62 percent of births were attended by skilled personnel. The UNFPA estimated maternal mortality in 2008 to be 340 deaths per 100,000 live births. A general lack of adolescent reproductive health information and services led to unwanted pregnancies and increased morbidity and mortality among adolescent girls. These incidents were generally concealed for social and cultural reasons. There are no legal barriers preventing women from receiving treatment for sexually transmitted infections, but many hesitated to do so due to social and cultural concerns.
Discrimination: The law provides for equality of persons, and in general, inheritance and property rights practices do not discriminate against women. The local cultures on Grande Comore and Moheli are traditionally matrilineal, and all inheritable property is the possession of women. This cultural practice leads at times to what might be seen as discrimination against men in the inheritance of homes and land. Men retain the head-of-household role in society. Throughout the country, including on Anjouan, land and homes are usually awarded to women in case of divorce or separation. Societal discrimination against women was most apparent in rural areas where women were mostly limited to farming and child-rearing duties, with fewer opportunities for education and wage employment. In urban areas growing numbers of women were employed and generally earned wages comparable with those of men engaged in similar work; however, few women held positions of responsibility in business. The Ministry of Health, Solidarity, and Gender Promotion is responsible for promoting women’s rights.