Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, but police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law. According to women’s rights NGOs, police were not always effective in protecting domestic violence victims who had been granted protection orders from the court. The penalty for rape is 20 years’ imprisonment, with a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($6,920). As of November 2010, the police Family Support Bureau had received six reports of rape; 2010 statistics on prosecutions of rape were not yet available. However, rape was widespread, and most victims chose not to report or file charges against their attackers due to cultural pressures and fear of retaliation.
The law criminalizes domestic violence; however, it was a major problem. Domestic violence activists stated that police did not effectively enforce the law. As of August 2010, more than 1,600 domestic violence cases were reported during the year; no information was available on the number of abusers prosecuted during the year. Penalties for domestic violence that constitutes assault ranged from 10 years’ to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($6,920) depending on the extent of injuries involved. Anyone found guilty of violating a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act may be fined up to 25,000 rupees ($865) or imprisoned for up to two years. The local NGO SOS Femmes reported that women remained in abusive situations for fear of losing financial support and that few filed complaints against their abusers. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare maintained an abuse hotline and a Web site on legal protections for victims.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem, and the government was not effective at enforcing prohibitions against it. The law prohibits sexual harassment, which is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. During 2010 the Sex Discrimination Division of the NHRC received 20 complaints; two involved sex discrimination, four involved sexual harassment, and 14 involved moral harassment, a term which refers to nonsexual harassment. At year’s end four cases remained under investigation, authorities dismissed three for lack of evidence, plaintiffs withdrew one case, five cases were referred to other authorities for appropriate action, and the commission completed seven investigations.
Reproductive Rights: The law provides for 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. Couples and individuals were able to access contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, which was provided free of charge in government run hospitals, which also provided free essential obstetric and postpartum care. The maternal mortality ratio was 22 per 100,000 live births, according to a 2010 UNICEF report. Women were equally treated for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same rights under the constitution and the law, and these rights were upheld before the courts. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare is mandated to promote the rights of women. The National Women Entrepreneur Council, a semiautonomous government body, was set up in 1999 to promote the economic empowerment of women, and operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Gender Equality.
Cultural and societal barriers prevented women from playing a bigger role in society. For example, the first female firefighter was only recruited in 2011. There were few decision-making positions in the private sector filled by women; there were even fewer women sitting on boards of directors. A large majority of women were employed in unskilled labor jobs.
However, women had equal access to education, employment, and government services. Women had equal access to credit and could own or manage businesses; however, in the private sector, women were paid less than men for substantially similar work. The law criminalizes the abandonment of one’s family or pregnant spouse for more than two months and the nonpayment of court-ordered food support. The law affords women broadly defined wage protections, and authorities generally respected the law in practice. The law states that women should not be forced to carry loads above certain weight limits.