Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Penalties for rape range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, and the government generally enforced the law when cases of rape were reported.
The law protects the privacy and safety of the victim making the charge. Between January and August the Public Prosecutor’s Office investigated 3,456 cases of rape, and the courts handed down 490 rape convictions. Experts, however, believed that most rape cases went unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma.
The law criminalizes domestic violence, recognizing both physical and psychological violence. However, it remained a serious problem in the country. Family courts handle cases of domestic violence and penalize offenders with fines up to 556,680 pesos ($1,151). Additional sanctions include eviction of the offender from the residence shared with the victim, restraining orders, confiscation of firearms, and court-ordered counseling. Cases of habitual psychological abuse and physical abuse cases in which there are physical injuries are prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Penalties are based on the gravity of injuries and range from 61 to 540 days’ imprisonment.
The authorities generally enforced the law in cases reported to them, and there was no indication of police or judicial reluctance to act. However, experts believed that most domestic violence cases went unreported; again this was due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma. Between January and August, the Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated investigations into 72,222 cases of family violence and convicted 9,405 offenders of domestic violence.
The government launched a nationwide campaign in November 2010 (including advertisements on television, billboards, and public transportation) designed to raise awareness about domestic violence and encourage women to report abuse. SERNAM, the National Women’s Service, operated 94 assistance centers and 24 women’s shelters, and it maintained partnerships with NGOs to provide training for police officers and judicial and municipal authorities on the legal and psychological aspects of domestic violence. The Ministry of Justice and the PDI operated several offices specifically dedicated to providing counseling and assistance in rape cases. SERNAM also operated a round-the-clock hotline for victims of violence, including domestic abuse and rape. Data was not available to assess the effectiveness of government campaigns against domestic and sexual violence.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a misdemeanor. Penalties are outlined exclusively in the labor code. By law sexual harassment is cause for immediate dismissal from the workplace. The law requires employers to define internal procedures for investigating sexual harassment, and employers may face fines and additional financial compensation to victims if internal procedures are not met. The law provides protection to victims of sexual harassment by employers and coworkers. It also provides severance pay to victims who resign due to sexual harassment if they have completed at least one year with the employer. Authorities generally enforced the law in cases reported to them, and there was no evidence of police or judicial reluctance to act. During the year the Labor Directorate received 112 complaints of sexual harassment, and 18 offenders were convicted.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Government policy did not interfere with access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, or essential obstetric and postpartum care. However, despite the fact that emergency contraception is legal and that the law provides for the free distribution of emergency contraception in the public health system, many hospitals and clinics continued to refuse to prescribe.
Social and cultural barriers in terms of reproductive rights existed in some cases. The law on surgical sterilizations requires voluntary informed consent. However, the Center for Reproductive Rights reported that there were some cases in which health-care workers pressured or forced HIV-positive women into surgical sterilization.
Women faced significant obstacles to preventing HIV infection, including sociocultural norms, gender-based violence, and lack of information. The law prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of their HIV status, and in the area of health care the law provides that neither public nor private health institutions can deny access to health-care services on the basis of a person’s serological status. However, the Center for Reproductive Rights continued to report that HIV-positive women received discriminatory health-care treatment, especially in reproductive health services. Problems included delayed care, verbal abuse, pressure not to have children, or refusal of treatment.
Discrimination: Women enjoy most of the same legal rights as men. However, discrimination in employment, pay, owning and managing businesses, and education occurred. There were no known reports of discrimination in credit or housing. Despite the possibility of a “community property” marital arrangement, in which each spouse maintains separate control of the assets brought into the marriage, the default and most common marital arrangement is “conjugal society,” which gives a husband the right to administer joint property, including his wife’s property. As a result, women who were married under the conjugal society arrangement were usually required to obtain permission from their husbands to apply for housing subsidies and take out loans or mortgages, while men had unrestricted access to these and other services. Under a 2007 agreement with the IACHR, the government committed to modify the law to give women and men equal rights and responsibilities in marriage. Implementing legislation remained pending at year’s end. The commercial code provides that unless a woman is married under the separate estate regime, she may not enter into a commercial partnership agreement without permission from her husband; a man may enter into such an agreement without permission from his wife.
Despite a 2009 law providing for equal pay for equal work, the overall gap in wages was 32 percent in 2010, and the gap among those with a university education was 35 percent. Only 47 percent of women participated in the labor force in 2010 (compared with 78 percent of men), and they were more likely to work in the informal sector. The labor code provides specific benefits for pregnant workers and mothers of children under two years old, including a prohibition against dismissal during pregnancy and throughout the 449 days after the birth of a child. SERNAM is in charge of protecting women’s legal rights and is the only government office that deals specifically with discrimination against women.
On October 17, the Post-Natal Leave Law went into effect, which extends maternity leave in the country from three to six months and was estimated to benefit 2.5 million women, including noncontracted temporary workers. The new law allows for a paternity leave option and gives mothers the flexibility to choose half-day or full-time leave during the last three months of postnatal leave. Employers who obstruct the right to maternity leave are subject to fines of up to 5,000,000 pesos ($10,338). However, some women’s groups claimed that the new law does not go far enough in promoting gender equality and noted that the required conditions for noncontracted women to take leave put the new benefits out of reach for many.