Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of between 12 and 15 years’ imprisonment. The government enforced the law effectively. In 2010 (latest data available) the Ministry of Justice and Police received 189 reports of attempted rape and investigated 106 cases of rape.
Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. In 2010 (latest data available) the Ministry of Justice and Police registered 1,213 cases of domestic violence during the year, a drop from 1,769 in 2009. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence crimes. The Ministry of Justice and Police’s Victim Assistance Bureau provided resources for victims of domestic violence and continued to provide information on domestic violence through public television programs. There were four victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie, and police units were trained to deal with victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes and domestic violence. There was only one shelter for victims of domestic violence, operated by an NGO, and it provided care for 18 women and their children during the year. Length of stay depended upon the circumstances but averaged three months.
Sexual Harassment: There was no specific legislation on sexual harassment; however, prosecutors cited various penal code articles in filing sexual harassment cases. There were no reported court cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace during the year.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide freely and responsibly 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 was widely available and, according to 2009 UN estimates, contraceptive use among married women was 45 percent. The UN Population Fund estimated the maternal mortality ratio in 2008 at 100 deaths per 100,000 live births and reported that skilled health personnel attended 90 percent of births in 2009. Women and men were given equal access to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Although the law does not specifically prohibit gender discrimination, it provides for protection of women’s rights to equal access to education, employment, and property. Nevertheless, societal pressures and customs, especially in rural areas, inhibited their full exercise of these rights, particularly with respect to marriage and inheritance. Where local customs remain a strong influence on the family unit, girls traditionally marry at or near the legal age of consent, and inheritance rights pass to their husbands.
Men and women generally enjoyed the same legal rights under property law and under the judicial system. In practice, however, where local customs were observed, these rights were somewhat infringed. The Bureau for Women and Children under the Ministry of Justice and Police worked to ensure the legal rights of women and children. Women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work. The government did not undertake specific efforts to combat economic discrimination.
The National Women’s Movement, the most active women’s rights NGO, continued assisting women in launching small home-based businesses, such as sewing and vegetable growing, and provided general legal help. The Women’s Business Group advocated for business opportunities for women, while the Women’s Parliament Forum advocated for opportunities in the public sector. Another NGO, Stop Violence against Women, provided assistance to victims of domestic violence, including legal help with dissolving an abusive marriage.