Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides for penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case; however, the law does not expressly address spousal rape. The government did not fully enforce the law, partially due to widespread underreporting. Recent statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished were not available.
Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was a pervasive social problem. The government’s 2005 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) found that 81 percent of women believed a husband had a right to beat his wife. A 2005 World Health Organization study found that in two SNNPR rural districts, Meskan and Mareko, 71 percent of women were subject to physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Although women had recourse to the police and the courts, societal norms and limited infrastructure prevented many women from seeking legal redress, particularly in rural areas. The government prosecuted offenders on a limited scale. Domestic violence is illegal, but government enforcement of laws against rape and domestic violence was inconsistent. Depending on the severity of damage inflicted, legal penalties range from small fines to imprisonment for up to 10 to 15 years.
Domestic violence and rape cases often were delayed significantly and given low priority (see section 1.e.). On December 17, Fisseha Tadesse was convicted of attempted murder after gouging out his ex-wife’s eyes. On December 30, he was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. In the context of gender-based violence, significant gender gaps in the justice system remained, due to poor documentation and inadequate investigation.
During the year the Ministry of Health began the expansion of the rape crisis center at Gandhi Hospital into a training center for health workers, law enforcement personnel, and others. Police officers were required to receive domestic violence training from domestic NGOs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. There was a deputy commissioner of women’s and children’s rights in the EHRC.
Women and girls experienced gender-based violence, but it was underreported due to cultural acceptance, shame, fear, or a victim’s ignorance of legal protections.
The government established a National Commission for Children’s and Women’s Affairs in 2005, as part of the EHRC, to investigate alleged human rights violations against women and children. During the year the commission focused its efforts on workshops and seminars, and not on investigations.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): One of the most prevalent harmful traditional practices, FGM, is illegal, but the government did not enforce this prohibition or punish those who practiced it. The practice was still widespread but declining. The 2000 DHS found that 80 percent of all women surveyed had undergone FGM, while the total dropped to 74 percent of all women surveyed in 2005. In addition the number of younger women subjected to FGM was declining more rapidly; in 2005, 81 percent of women ages 35-39 had been subjected to FGM, compared with 62.1 percent of women ages 15-19. The same survey found that four in five women who had been subjected to FGM in the Somali region, and three in five in the Afar region, underwent infibulation, the most severe form of FGM (see Children, Harmful Traditional Practices).
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The most prevalent harmful traditional practices, besides FGM, were uvulectomy (cutting or removal the uvula, the piece of flesh that hangs down at the rear of the mouth), tonsillectomy (cutting or removal of the tonsils), and marriage by abduction.
Marriage by abduction is illegal, although it continued in some regions, including Amhara, Oromia, and SNNPR, despite the government’s attempts to combat the practice. Forced sexual relationships accompanied most marriages by abduction, and women often experienced physical abuse during the abduction. Abductions led to conflicts among families, communities, and ethnic groups. In cases of marriage by abduction, the perpetrator did not face punishment if the victim agreed to marry the perpetrator. Ethiopia Goji Limadawi Dirgitoch Aswogaj Mahibar (EGLDAM), an NGO that combats harmful traditional practices, reported in June 2010 that there were significant decreases in this practice in all regions over the past decade. Overall, 25 percent of women ages 60 and above reported marriage by abduction, but only 8 percent of women under age 30 reported this practice.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was widespread. The penal code prescribes penalties of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment; however, harassment-related laws generally were not enforced.
Reproductive Rights: Neither law nor practice curtailed the right of 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 2011 DHS Preliminary Report indicated a contraceptive prevalence of 29 percent nationwide among married women, a twofold increase from five years ago. A 2009 modeling study by the World Health Organization indicated that the maternal mortality rate was 590 per 100,000 live births. The principal causes of maternal mortality were excessive bleeding, infection, hypertensive complications, and obstructed labor, and the underlying cause for these was the prevalence of home births. Only 9 percent of women reported delivering in a health facility or with a skilled birth attendant.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women was most acute in rural areas, where an estimated 82 percent of the population lived. The law contains discriminatory regulations, such as the recognition of the husband as the legal head of the family and the sole guardian of children over five years old. Courts generally did not consider domestic violence a justification for granting a divorce. There was limited legal recognition of common-law marriage. Irrespective of the number of years the marriage existed, the number of children raised, and joint property, the law entitled women to only three months’ financial support if a relationship ended. A common-law husband had no obligation to provide financial assistance to his family, and as a result, women and children sometimes faced abandonment. Notwithstanding progressive provisions in the formal law, traditional courts continued to apply customary law in economic and social relationships.
According to the constitution, all land belongs to the government. However, both men and women have land-use rights, which they can pass on as an inheritance. Land law varies among regions. All federal and regional land laws empower women to access government land. Inheritance laws also enable widowed women to inherit joint property they acquire during marriage.
In urban areas women had fewer employment opportunities than men, and the jobs available did not provide equal pay for equal work. Women’s access to gainful employment, credit, and the opportunity to own or manage a business was further limited by their low level of education and training and by traditional attitudes.
The Ministry of Education reported that female participation in undergraduate and postgraduate programs increased to 123,706 during the 2010-11 academic year, compared with 90,938 in 2008-09, continuing the trend of rising female participation in tertiary education.