Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties of up to 10 years in prison for rape or forcible sexual assault. If the victim is a minor under the age of 18, the sentences range from three to 15 years. According to the Public Ministry, rape continued to be a significant and pervasive problem. The government generally prosecuted rape allegations and often obtained convictions; however, many rapes went unreported due to fear of stigma and of retribution or further violence. Police generally did not give a priority to acting on rape reports. In 2010 the Public Ministry reported 892 cases of rape.
No unified official statistics accurately track the number of reported cases of domestic violence; however, the Public Ministry registered 1,977 cases of “family violence” in 2010. Although the law criminalizes domestic violence, including spousal abuse and psychological violence, and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine for those who are convicted, it requires that the abuse be habitual and that the aggressor and victim be “cohabitating or lodging together” before it is considered criminal. Those convicted were typically fined. Despite increased reports of domestic violence, individuals often withdrew complaints soon after filing due to spousal reconciliation or family pressure. In some cases the courts mediated in domestic violence cases, but there were no reliable statistics available as to the results. Domestic violence was very common, and thousands of women were treated for injuries sustained in domestic altercations, but the government took little action to combat the problem. The emergency 911 system took 16,974 calls on domestic violence in 2009, resulting in only 286 formal complaints to police.
Throughout the country, the National Police oversaw six domestic violence units staffed with approximately 30 police officers and administered from existing police stations in Asuncion, Encarnacion, Villa Elisa, and Villarrica. In 2010 the Secretariat of Women’s Affairs (SMPR) received 2,030 complaints of domestic abuse (410 for physical beating, 861 for psychological attacks, 642 for economic distress, and 117 for sexual abuse).
The SMPR operated a shelter for female victims of trafficking and domestic violence in Asuncion and intervened in 1,741 cases in 2010. It coordinated victim assistance efforts, public outreach campaigns, and training with the National Police, healthcare units, the Public Ministry, and women’s NGOs. NGOs provided health and psychological assistance, including shelter, to victims. The SMPR and the Public Ministry also provided victim assistance courses for police, healthcare workers, and prosecutors.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates a penalty of two years in prison or a fine; however, sexual harassment remained a problem for many women. Prosecutors found sexual harassment and abuse claims difficult to prove, and most complaints were settled privately without involving prosecutors.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination. The government provided access to information on contraception and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care. According to UN estimates for 2008-09, the maternal mortality rate was 95 deaths per 100,000 live births, with 82 percent of births attended by skilled health personnel. Seventy percent of women ages 15-49 reportedly used a modern method of contraception, despite religious bans on “artificial” contraception. Reproductive health services were concentrated in cities, and rural areas faced significant gaps in coverage. Adolescent pregnancy continued to be a problem. CODEHUPY speculated that the reason for the high rate of such pregnancy was that “sex education in school curricula lacks the incorporation of perspectives regarding lay society, gender, and human rights.” Women and men had equal access to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Although women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, gender-related discrimination was widespread and deeply ingrained. Employers often paid women significantly less than men for comparable work, and women experienced more difficulty finding work. Women generally were employed as domestic workers, secretaries, and customer service representatives. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported unemployment levels of 7 percent for women and 4 percent for men. Women in the private sector earn on average approximately 73 percent of the monthly pay of their male counterparts. The SMPR promoted the rights of women and sponsored programs intended to give women equal access to employment, social security, housing, ownership of land, and business opportunities. Its minister-level director reports directly to the president.