Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes all forms of rape, regardless of the relationship between the victim and the accused. However, the government failed to enforce the law effectively, leading to widespread impunity and increased violence. Sentences for those convicted of rape were a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 12 years, or 15 in cases of aggravated rape. Many women were reluctant to report abuse due to social stigma, fear of retribution, impunity for perpetrators, and loss of economic security. During the year the NNP reported a general increase in sexual crimes against women, including 1,105 cases of rape and aggravated rape, 790 cases of rape of a minor, and 918 cases of sexual abuse. There were no statistics available on prosecutions, convictions, or punishment.
The law requires female victims of sexual crimes to undergo a medical examination by CSJ forensic specialists before proceeding legally against alleged perpetrators. However, the lack of female forensic doctors often deterred women from doing so. Rape victims were often unaware or uninformed about the procedures required to process their cases officially, meaning that often they did not receive the necessary examinations in sufficient time.
The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides prison sentences ranging from one to 12 years. The law also provides for the issuance of restraining orders. NGOs asserted that victims of violence did not have reasonable access to justice. In October the Women’s Autonomous Movement reported that only an estimated 15 percent of cases went to court, while the majority were resolved through mediation, which was often ineffective and led to patterns of abuse and impunity.
Violence against women remained high during the year, according to domestic and international NGO reports. The Women’s Network Against Violence (RMCV) reported that over the past six years, the rate of such violence more than tripled with an increase in the severity of the crimes. The Ministry of Health (MINSA) reported that in Managua cases of violence against women tripled from 110 in 2010 to 338 in 2011. On December 1, the National Assembly approved legislation to combat violence against women and increase sentences for convictions.
During the first half of the year, the NNP reported 2,013 cases of domestic violence, compared with 2,943 reported for all of 2010.
The RMCV found that more than 72 percent of crimes against women went unpunished and that attackers and abusers with political connections enjoyed impunity.
On July 22, the CSJ reduced the sentence of convicted rapist and FSLN member Farington Reyes, who was found guilty of the rape of his coworker, Fatima Hernandez. The press, women’s groups, and human rights organizations alleged that the sentence reduction was a result of Reyes’ familial ties to high-ranking FSLN members and government officials. On November 22, the CSJ granted Reyes house arrest for the remainder of his sentence.
The RMCV reported that 74 women were killed during the year, many of whom were also raped, beaten, maimed, or mutilated. By year’s end courts convicted only seven individuals for such killings.
Recent increases in violence against women as well as the reporting of it were attributed to a higher frequency of occurrence and, in the case of reporting, to a greater public willingness to come forward, due in part to increased public awareness campaigns by the NNP and women’s rights organizations. These campaigns and activities were instrumental in raising public awareness and helping domestic abuse victims.
During the year 54 NNP women’s commissariats operated in the country, 16 more than in 2010. Commissariats provided social and legal help to women, mediated spousal conflicts, investigated and helped prosecute criminal complaints, and referred victims to other governmental and nongovernmental assistance agencies. However, commissariats often lacked sufficient equipment and funding to discharge their responsibilities adequately. One government-operated shelter dedicated to female victims of violence or abuse opened during the year, and there were 10 nongovernmental women’s shelters.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and those convicted face between one- and three-year prison terms, or three- to five-year sentences if the victim is under 18. The NNP reported 201 cases of sexual harassment during the year.
Reproductive Rights: MINSA’s family-planning norms provide couples and individuals with the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were more available in urban areas but have improved in remote areas, such as the Atlantic coast. Seventy-four percent of births were attended by skilled personnel. Women generally received better access than men to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections because of NGO efforts and government campaigns dedicated to women’s reproductive health. A 2011 Population Reference Bureau report indicated that 72 percent of married women ages 15 to 49 used a modern contraceptive method and that the gap between urban and rural users had decreased.
Women in some areas, such as the RAAN and the RAAS, did not have widespread access to medical care or programs, and maternal death was more likely to affect poor rural women than their urban counterparts. MINSA noted a general downward trend in maternal mortality since 2006. However, 2010 MINSA data indicated that there were approximately 67 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, a slight increase over the 2009 rate of approximately 60. Most of the women who died in childbirth were older than 35 years or adolescents who lived in rural areas.
Discrimination: The law provides equality for both genders, including within the family and workplace and for property ownership. The NNP Office of the Superintendent of Women is responsible for enforcing gender-specific laws. However, women often experienced discrimination in employment, credit, and pay equity for similar work, as well as in owning and managing businesses. Women earned 47 percent less than men for equal work, although the wage gap has decreased over the past three years. Women were much less likely to be senior officials or managers. In practice authorities often discriminated in property matters against poor women who lacked birth certificates or cedulas. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Special Prosecutor for Women and the Nicaraguan Women’s Institute, the government entities responsible for protecting women’s rights, had limited effectiveness.