Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape carries a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison. Judges typically imposed sentences of one to three years. Spousal rape is not explicitly addressed in the law. In previous years the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence noted that the number of reported rapes consistently rose faster than the number of convictions.
According to national police statistics, 128 rapes were reported in 2011, the most recent data available. During that year prosecutors brought 22 cases to trial and obtained a conviction in eight (three cases remained pending in the Supreme Court). In 2010, prosecutors obtained convictions in 13 of the 23 cases that went to trial. Activists continued to complain that the burden of proof in rape cases was too heavy and discouraged victims from reporting acts of rape and authorities from prosecuting them. The government did not respond formally to these concerns.
While the law prohibits domestic violence, violence against women continued to be a problem. The penalties can range from a fine to 16 years in prison, depending on the type of violence committed. In addition the law permits judges to increase the sentences of persons who commit violence against persons with whom they had a domestic relationship or other close bond. However, there were no domestic violence cases in which judges actually handed down stronger sentences, and one respected activist expressed concern that sentences were too mild and too few.
Law enforcement agencies reported 249 cases of domestic quarrelling and 303 cases of domestic violence to the state prosecutor’s office in 2011, the most recent data available. Some observers suggested that many incidents of domestic violence went unreported. Following his January visit to the country, the COE commissioner for human rights noted that violence against women remained “an enduring problem” in the country.
Some local human rights monitors attributed the underreporting of domestic violence and sex crimes to the infrequency of convictions and to traditionally light sentences. In the few cases of domestic violence that went to court, the courts often continued to base sentences on precedent and rarely made full use of the more stringent sentencing authority available under the law. In 2011, the most recent year for which data was available, 11.5 percent of the clients of the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence pressed charges.
Victims of domestic violence can request police physically remove perpetrators from the home for up to four weeks at a time. Police can also impose a 72-hour restraining order to prevent the abusers from coming into proximity with the victim, and courts can extend this restraining order for up to a year. Victims of sex crimes are entitled to a lawyer to advise them of their rights and to help them pursue charges against the alleged assailants. However, a large majority of victims historically declined to press charges or chose to forgo trial, in part to avoid publicity.
During the year 130 women sought assistance at the rape crisis center of the National University Hospital of Iceland, and 113 women sought temporary lodging at the country’s shelter for women, mainly because of domestic violence. The shelter offered counseling to 211 clients. .
The government helped finance the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence, the rape crisis center of the national hospital, and other organizations that assisted victims of domestic or gender-based violence. In addition to partially funding such services, the government provided help to immigrant women in abusive relationships, offering emergency accommodation, counseling, and information on legal rights.
Sexual Harassment: Two laws prohibit sexual harassment. The general penal code prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates that violations are punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. The law on equal status defines sexual harassment more broadly as any type of unfair or offensive physical, verbal, or symbolic sexual behavior that is unwanted and affects the self-respect of the victim, and is continued despite a clear indication that the behavior is undesired. The law requires employers and organization supervisors to make specific arrangements to prevent employees, students, and clients from becoming victims of gender-based or sexual harassment. Victims of harassment can report incidents to the Complaints Committee on Equal Status. Only employers with 25 or more employees are required to provide their employees information on the legal prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have 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.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including under the family and property laws, and in the judicial system. However, despite laws that require equal pay for equal work, a pay gap existed between men and women. According to a salary survey conducted by the country’s largest union and published in September, the gender pay gap amounted to 9.4 percent after taking into consideration such factors as education, profession, age, number of hours worked, length of employment, and number of employees supervised. The law states that employers and unions should work towards gender equality in the labor market, especially in managerial positions, and that employers should work towards declassifying jobs as primarily female- or male-oriented. According to the Center for Gender Equality (CGE), the government took steps to attract men to female-oriented jobs and vice versa, with only limited success. The CGE reported that many more men than women were in managerial positions.
The government funded the CGE to promote gender equality. The center also provided counseling and education on gender equality to national and municipal authorities, institutions, companies, individuals, and nongovernmental organizations. The minister of welfare appoints members of the Complaints Committee on Equal Status, which adjudicates alleged violations of the law. The minister also appoints members of the Equal Status Council, drawn from national women’s organizations, the University of Iceland, and labor and professional groups. The council makes recommendations for equalizing the status of men and women in the workplace.
During the year the Complaints Committee on Equal Status ruled that the law on equal status had been violated three times. The committee ruled that the minister of the interior had violated the equal status law by appointing a man as district commissioner for the town of Husavik, instead of a female candidate who was deemed at least equally qualified. In the second case, the Reykjavik Metropolitan Health Clinic System violated the law by providing a similar compensation package to a female employee and her male colleague, even though the female had greater job responsibilities. In the third case, the committee found that the Central Bank of Iceland had breached the law on equal status by hiring a man as a specialist instead of a female candidate who was deemed at least equally qualified.