Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women continued to be a problem. Rape carries a maximum penalty of death, which the country occasionally imposed for the crime; however, spousal rape is not a crime. The media reported hundreds of rape cases during the year. Many victims were noncitizen domestic workers. Police occasionally arrested alleged rapists. The courts tried and convicted several rapists during the year; however, laws against rape were not effectively enforced, especially in cases of noncitizen women raped by their employers.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, but courts try such cases as assault. A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint with police requesting formal charges be brought against the alleged abuser. Each of the country’s 83 police stations reportedly received complaints of domestic abuse. However, victims did not report most domestic abuse cases, especially outside the capital. Police officials rarely arrested perpetrators of domestic violence even when presented with documented evidence of the abuse, such as eyewitness accounts, hospital reports, and social worker testimony, and treated such reports as social instead of criminal matters. Individuals also reportedly bribed police officials to ignore assault charges in cases of domestic abuse. Although courts found husbands guilty of spousal abuse in previous years, those convicted rarely faced severe penalties. Noncitizen women married to citizens reported domestic abuse, and inaction or discrimination by police during the year.
A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from abuse, but the law does not provide a clear legal standard regarding what constitutes injury. Additionally, a woman must provide at least two male witnesses (or a male witness and two female witnesses) to attest to the injury. There were no shelters or hotlines specifically for victims of domestic violence, although a temporary shelter for domestic workers housed victims during the year. The government completed construction of a high-capacity shelter for domestic workers by year’s end, but the shelter was not operational.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The penal code penalizes honor crimes as misdemeanors. The law states that a man who sees his wife, daughter, mother, or sister in the “act of adultery” and immediately kills her or the man with whom she is committing adultery will face a maximum punishment of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 225 dinars ($810), slightly less than a month’s earnings at the public-sector minimum wage.
In June five foreign residents, including the father and four brothers of a 19-year-old woman, reportedly killed her in an “honor killing” and buried her in the Salmi Desert. The case against the men was pending at year’s end.
Sexual Harassment: No specific law addresses sexual harassment; however, the law criminalizes “encroachment on honor,” which encompasses everything from touching a woman against her will to rape, and police strictly enforced this law. During the year the government deployed female police officers specifically to combat sexual harassment in shopping malls and other public spaces. Perpetrators faced fines and jail time. Nonetheless, human rights groups characterized sexual harassment against women in the workplace as a pervasive and unreported problem.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children. Decisions regarding access to contraceptives, family size, and procedures involving reproductive and fertility treatments required the consent of both husband and wife. The information and means to make those decisions, as well as skilled attendance during prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care were freely available. While the government did not provide any formal family planning programs, contraceptives were available without prescription.
Discrimination: Women have many political rights, including the right to vote and serve in parliament and the cabinet; however, they do not enjoy the same rights as men under family law, property law, or in the judicial system. Sharia (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over personal status and family law cases for Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sharia discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement (see section 1.d.), marriage, and inheritance. Secular courts allow any person to testify and consider male and female testimony equally; however, in the Sharia courts, the testimony of a man equals that of two women.
The law prohibits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men. The law does not require a non-Muslim woman to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man; however, in practice many non-Muslim women faced strong economic and societal pressure to convert. In the event of a divorce, the law grants the fathers custody of children of non-Muslim women who fail to convert. A non-Muslim woman who fails to convert is also ineligible for naturalization as a citizen and cannot inherit her husband’s property unless specified as a beneficiary in his will.
Inheritance is also governed by Sharia, which varies according to the specific school of Islamic jurisprudence followed by different populations in the country. In the absence of a direct male heir, a Shia woman may inherit all property while a Sunni woman inherits only a portion, with the balance divided among brothers, uncles, and male cousins of the deceased.
In January 2011 the National Assembly passed a series of amendments that gave women additional housing, work, and family benefits. The amendments provide female citizens working in the public sector with increased family leave benefits, and housing subsidies enjoyed by male citizens were extended to widowed and divorced female citizens, female citizens married to noncitizens, and single female citizens above age 40. The amendments also granted female citizens the right to sponsor their noncitizen spouses and children for legal residency and exempted them from paying annual residency permit fees. However, female citizens remain unable to pass citizenship to their noncitizen husbands or their children; exceptions were made for some children of widowed or divorced female citizens. Male citizens married to female noncitizens did not face such discrimination.
The law states a woman should receive “remuneration equal to that of a man provided she does the same work”; however, it prohibits women from working in “dangerous industries” and in trades “harmful” to health. According to the World Economic Forum, women earned 70 percent of men for similar work. The same report indicated the average working woman earned 7,200 dinars ($25,920) annually compared with 11,100 dinars ($40,000) for the average working man. Only 14 percent of managers and senior officials were women. Educated women maintained the conservative nature of society restricted career opportunities, although there were limited improvements. According to statistics from 2011, women accounted for 53 percent of the 270,000 citizens working in the public sector, 44 percent of the 60,000 working in the private sector, and 72 percent of the year’s college graduates.
The law requires segregation by gender of classes at all universities and secondary schools. Public universities enforced this law more rigorously than private universities.
Three members of the 50-seat parliament elected in December were women; no women won seats in the February elections. A parliamentary committee for women’s and family affairs exists; two of the five members were women, including the chairperson. Additionally some women attained prominent positions in government and business as ministers and heads of corporations. Two women served as ministers in the cabinet.
There were no female judges.