Rape and Domestic Violence: The law contains a clear definition of criminal sexual assault and specifies penalties. In cases of rape involving minors, sentences range from five to 17 years in prison. In extreme cases, a rapist may be imprisoned for life. NGOs reported that many women did not report rape because of cultural taboos or because they were unaware of their rights. Spousal rape is illegal.
Three police stations across the country house Women and Child Protection Units to address crimes involving women and children. The law prohibits domestic violence. Penalties against offenders of domestic violence range from a jail sentence of a minimum of one month to a maximum of three years. Offenders are also fined a daily minimum national wage of 90 days. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the government commissioned a report on violence against women, set up mobile police stations, trained police on gender issues, and allowed civil society groups to undertake further efforts, including the opening of a crisis and rehabilitation center. The CEDAW committee expressed concern over reports of violence against women by their spouses or other family members and at work. According to the 2010 National Statistics Bureau, 68 percent of women surveyed justified domestic violence as permissible if they forgot to cook or were not taking good care of their children.
Sexual Harassment: The Labor Employment Act has specific provisions to address sexual harassment in the workplace. CEDAW expressed concern about the large number of reported sexual harassment cases in the workplace.
Reproductive Rights: The country has no legal restrictions regarding the number, spacing, or timing of children, and there were no reports of coercion regarding reproduction. According to World Health Organization estimates, the maternal mortality ratio in 2008 was 200 deaths per 100,000 live births. The 2011 National Statistics Bureau report showed that 64.5 percent of births occurring between 2008 and 2010 were assisted by skilled personnel. The National Statistics Bureau reported that contraceptive use by women was 65.6 percent among married women or women in civil unions, 30.2 percent amongst women ages 15-19, and 56.5 percent of women ages 20-24.
The law covers questions related to family issues, including divorce, child custody, and inheritance. The minimum age of marriage for women is 18. Polygamy is allowed provided the first wife gives her permission. Polyandry is permitted but is rare. Marriages were arranged by the marriage partners themselves or by their parents. The law requires registration of all marriages with the government.
Discrimination: NGOs reported that women faced little overt discrimination and had equal access to health care, education, and public services, including for HIV/AIDS treatment and services. Women were accorded respect in the traditions of most ethnic groups and participated relatively freely in the social and economic life of the country. Inheritance law provides for equal inheritance for sons and daughters, but traditional inheritance practices, which varied among ethnic groups, may be observed if the heirs choose to forgo legal challenges. Traditional inheritance laws for the majority of Buddhists stipulate that daughters inherit family land. Tradition dictates that the most capable member of the family runs the household, which often resulted in the mother or eldest daughter holding this position. Within the household, men and women were relatively equal. Employers generally paid women in unskilled jobs slightly less than men in the same positions. According to the government’s 2009 Labor Force Survey Report, 46 percent of the country’s workforce was female. Dowries were not customary in the country.
The law mandates that the government take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination and exploitation of women, including trafficking, abuse, violence, harassment, and intimidation, at work and at home, and generally the law was enforced. CEDAW expressed concerns that the constitution does not adequately define discrimination to include both direct and indirect forms and noted that the government failed to adopt implementation legislation for its international treaty obligations related to women’s rights or to provide adequate resources to the National Commission on Women and Children (NCWC) to allow it to operate effectively.
The National Women’s Association, a local NGO, tried to improve women’s living standards and socioeconomic status, and the NGO Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women promoted and advocated for women’s rights and political participation. The NCWC actively defended the rights of women and children during the year, although CEDAW questioned the limited resources of the NCWC and its potential lack of independence from government influence. One of the women’s NGOs reported concerns for the increased number of young girls, some of whom were possibly underage, working in bars and discotheques.