Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment. Spousal rape is not specifically identified as a crime, but police investigated and filed charges when allegations of rape were made against a spouse. Police investigated all reports of rape that they received, and cases were vigorously prosecuted by the courts.
The law does not address domestic violence specifically, but domestic violence cases can be prosecuted under laws against common assault. The maximum penalty for simple assault is one year’s imprisonment, and for assault involving bodily harm, three years’ imprisonment.
The government kept no statistics on the incidence of physical or domestic abuse of women. However, credible reports from women’s organizations indicated that sporadic abuse occurred, often aggravated by alcohol use. Families normally sought to reconcile such problems informally and, if necessary, communally. The police and judiciary treated major incidents and unresolved family disputes seriously.
Sexual Harassment: There is no specific law against sexual harassment, but harassment involving physical assault could be prosecuted under the assault laws. Sexual harassment was not believed to be widespread.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. The government-run medical system provided access to contraception and prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care free of charge. A Department of Health survey on contraceptive use reported that 36 percent of surveyed married women used some form of contraception.
Discrimination: The law grants women the same freedoms and protections as men. The government officially provides equal opportunities in education and employment, and women may own property and pursue private interests. In practice, however, societal pressures and the country’s impoverished economic circumstances often limited opportunities for women to exercise these rights fully. While women headed approximately one-third of all households, less than one- quarter of heads of households engaged in paid work were female. Overall 70 percent of male heads of households and 40 percent of female heads of households were economically active in either paid or unpaid work, according to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. More than half of the female heads of household were not working and were either unemployed (25 percent), were undertaking other activities, or were not able to work (29 percent).
The Women’s Affairs Office was responsible for promoting professional opportunities for women.