Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment; however, the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape was a widespread problem. Only a small percentage of rape cases were prosecuted, since most such cases were not reported, and victims felt social pressure not to pursue charges against aggressors who were frequently close relations. There is no law specifically prohibiting spousal rape, but law enforcement officials stated the criminal laws against rape apply to spousal rape. Police and judicial authorities were willing to pursue rape cases but stopped if parties reached an agreement prior to trial. The Bamako Court of Appeals had six cases of rape on its docket for the session held during the year; however, information on the number of convictions was not available.
Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, was prevalent. Most cases went unreported. Spousal abuse is a crime, but the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Police were reluctant to enforce laws against or intervene in cases of domestic violence. Many women were reluctant to file complaints against their husbands because they feared such allegations would be interpreted as grounds for divorce, were unable to support themselves financially, sought to avoid social stigma, or feared further ostracism. The government’s planning and statistics unit, established to track prosecutions, was not operational. Assault is punishable by prison terms of one to five years and fines of up to 500,000 CFA francs ($1,011) or, if premeditated, up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children, and the Family distributed a guide during site visits throughout the year regarding violence against women for use by health-care providers, police, lawyers, and judges, and many NGOs operated shelters for abused female domestic laborers.
Female genital mutilation (FGM): FGM is legal in the country and widely practiced across faith and ethnic groups. While the government has taken steps to raise awareness about the harmful health effects of FGM and has successfully lowered the percentage of girls excised in at least one region of the country, it has not criminalized it. FGM was very common, particularly in rural areas, and was performed on girls between the ages of six months and six years (see section 6, Children).
Reproductive Rights: Women’s ability to make decisions regarding reproduction was limited. Women faced pressure to defer responsibility to their husbands and family on reproductive issues including the number, spacing, and timing of pregnancies and often lacked sufficient information about alternative choices. Women often did not have access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, including essential obstetric and postpartum care. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the contraceptive prevalence rate was 8 percent, with unmet need for family planning estimated at 29 percent. Reportedly 49 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. Women were equally diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, but access to health care for both men and women was limited. According to UNFPA estimates, in 2008 the maternal mortality ratio was 830 deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 22.
Discrimination: Family law and traditional practices favor men. Women are legally obligated to obey their husbands and are particularly vulnerable in cases of divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Women had very limited access to legal services due to their lack of education and information as well as the prohibitive cost.
While the law provides for equal property rights, traditional practices and ignorance of the law prevented women from taking full advantage of their rights. A community property marriage must be specified in the marriage contract. In addition, if the type of marriage was not specified on the marriage certificate, judges presumed the marriage was polygynous. Traditional practice discriminated against women in inheritance matters, and men inherited most of the family wealth.
Women’s access to employment and economic and educational opportunities was limited. According to the National Center for Information on Women and Children, women constituted approximately 15.5 percent of the formal labor force. The government, the country’s major formal sector employer, paid women the same as men for similar work. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children, and the Family was charged with ensuring the legal rights of women. Women experienced economic discrimination due to social norms that favor men.
The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it occurred including in schools.