Rape and Domestic Violence: Sexual assault, including rape, is a crime. There is no specific law against spousal rape. Sexual assault involving a dangerous weapon or serious physical or psychological harm to the victim is punishable by up to nine years’ imprisonment in Chuuk and 10 years’ imprisonment in the other three states, and a fine of up to $20,000 (the U.S. dollar is the national currency) in Kosrae and $10,000 in the other states. If neither a dangerous weapon nor serious physical harm is involved, the assault is punishable in all states by up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine. Due to social stigma such crimes were underreported, and few cases were prosecuted. The curriculum at the police academy included programs to train police officers to recognize the problem. According to police and women’s groups, there were a number of reports of physical and sexual assaults against women, both citizens and foreigners, outside the family context.
Reports of spousal abuse, often severe, continued during the year. Although assault is a crime, there were no specific laws against domestic abuse. Effective prosecution of offenses was rare. In many cases victims decided against initiating legal charges against a family member because of family pressure, fear of further assault, or the belief that the police would not involve themselves actively in what is seen as a private family problem. Within the traditional extended family unit, violence, abuse, and neglect directed against spouses or children were deemed offenses against the family, not just the individual victims, and were addressed by a complex system of familial sanctions. However, traditional methods of coping with family discord were breaking down with increasing urbanization, monetization of the economy, and greater emphasis on the nuclear family. No government agency, including the police, has succeeded in replacing the extended family system or in addressing the problem of family violence directly.
There were no governmental facilities to shelter and support women in abusive situations. In Chuuk a private facility for women’s groups, funded by a foreign government, was opened at year’s end, but it did not include a shelter. In 2010 the Pohnpei Department of Public Safety began a program of domestic violence education that included a hotline and training of its officers to handle domestic violence situations.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and anecdotal reports suggested it was pervasive.
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. Access to information on contraception, prenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, and postpartum care were widely available through private and public medical facilities. From 2005-09 the maternal mortality rate was estimated as 128 per 100,000 live births. According to indicators published by the Population Reference Bureau, skilled health personnel attended an estimated 80 percent of births, and an estimated 46 percent of married women ages 15-49 used modern contraceptive methods. The government conducted public information campaigns on reproductive health matters through posters and billboards; other types of local media were not readily available.
Discrimination: Women have equal rights under the law, including the right to own property, and there were no institutional barriers to education or employment. The largest employers were the national and state governments, and women received equal pay for equal work. The public sector comprised approximately half of the country’s jobs, with 5,000 plus in state and municipal government positions and approximately 2,500 in national government and government agencies or public enterprises. Societal discrimination against women continued, however, and cultural mores encouraged differential treatment for women. For example, in Yap women are prohibited from entering a meeting hall during men’s meetings. In Chuuk women must bow in the presence of men during formal meetings. Nonetheless, women were active and increasingly successful in private business. A national women’s working group composed of female national government employees, including the secretary of health and social services, was formed to advise the government. Additionally, several small nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were interested in women’s issues, particularly those associated with family violence and abuse. The Women’s Interest Section of the Department of Health and Social Services worked to protect and promote women’s rights.
The Chuuk Women’s Advisory Council, an NGO, received a foreign government grant for a multipurpose center to be used initially as an office and eventually as a shelter for victims of domestic violence as well. At year’s end it was only being used as an office.
In July2010 the national government held a National Women’s Conference that adopted three resolutions: asking all states to pass mandatory maternity leave for state employees, as the national and Kosrae State governments already had done; urging state governments to pass necessary laws to address domestic violence and other forms of violence against women; and endorsing a pending congressional bill to provide reserved seats for women in Congress. None has been enacted.