Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 15 years in prison, but it does not criminalize spousal rape. The government generally enforced the law when cases were reported, but cultural and societal influences prevented victims from reporting rape. As a result, there was no reliable estimate of the extent of the problem. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the police charged 227 individuals with rape or attempted rape. Foreign nationals working as domestic employees occasionally reported that their sponsors or employees of labor recruitment agencies had raped them. According to diplomatic observers, police investigations resulted in few rape convictions, and sponsors repatriated most of women who made the allegations. The law does not specifically address domestic violence. Assault, battery, and aggravated assault carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Allegations of spousal abuse in civil courts handling family law cases reportedly were common. Victims of domestic violence may file a complaint with police. Due to societal customs, women often sought private family intervention to protect them from violent domestic situations. Authorities generally enforced the law when they were aware such crimes had occurred.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment. In a 2009 study, 11 percent of women surveyed said they had been sexually harassed.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Although the government prohibits female genital mutilation (FGM) in public hospitals and clinics, there is no law prohibiting private practitioners from performing the procedure. According to press reports, a recent Ministry of Health study on FGM found that men and women across all ages broadly accepted the practice, especially in rural areas, where it was reported to be a common occurrence.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Health clinics were able to operate freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There are no legal restrictions on the right to access contraceptives. The government provided free childbirth services to citizens within the framework of universal health care. Prenatal and postnatal care was readily available and used. World Health Organization statistics from 2008 indicated a maternal mortality rate of 20 per 100,000 live births. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; however, social taboos prevent individuals from seeking treatment.
Discrimination: Despite legal and some social progress, including the appointment of women as ministers, ambassadors, and senior government officials, some social and legal institutions discriminated against women. The law prohibits gender-based discrimination against citizens. However, some aspects of Islamic law and tradition as interpreted in the country discriminated against women. In some personal status cases, such as divorce, a women’s testimony is equal to half of a man’s. The law favors male heirs in adjudicating inheritance. Women married to noncitizens may not transmit citizenship to their children and cannot sponsor their noncitizen husband’s presence in the country.
Many women were reluctant to take an inheritance or marriage dispute to court for fear of alienating the family. Illiteracy among women 45 years of age and older hampered their ability to own property, participate in the workforce, or inform themselves about their rights.
Women may own property, but government officials and banks applied different standards to female applicants for housing loans, resulting in fewer approvals for women. The law equalizes the treatment of men and women in receiving free government land for housing.
Government policy provided women with equal opportunities for education. Alhough educated women held positions of authority in government, business, and the media, women still faced some job discrimination based on cultural norms. The law entitles women to such gender-related protections in the workplace as the right to paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. The government, the largest employer of women, observed such regulations, as did many private sector employers.
The Ministry of Social Development is the umbrella ministry for women’s affairs. The ministry provided support for women’s economic development through the Oman Women’s Associations and local community development centers. The government also formed a committee to monitor the country’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.