Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 15 years in prison, but does not criminalize spousal rape. The government generally enforced the law when individuals reported cases, but reports indicated that many victims did not report rape due to cultural and societal factors. As a result there was no reliable estimate of the extent of the problem. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the police charged 227 individuals with rape or attempted rape. Foreign nationals working as domestic employees occasionally reported that their sponsors or employees of labor recruitment agencies had raped them. According to diplomatic observers, police investigations resulted in few rape convictions, and sponsors repatriated most of the women who made the allegations.
The law does not specifically address domestic violence. Assault, battery, and aggravated assault carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Allegations of spousal abuse in civil courts handling family law cases reportedly were common. Victims of domestic violence may file a complaint with police. Due to societal customs, women often sought private family intervention to protect them from violent domestic situations.
Harmful Traditional Practices: There were no reports of honor killings; however, a number of women were reportedly subject to mistreatment due to behavior deemed “inappropriate.”
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the government prohibits female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in public hospitals and clinics, there is no law prohibiting private practitioners from performing the procedure. According to press reports, a 2010 Ministry of Health study on FGM/C found that men and women across all ages broadly accepted the practice, especially in rural areas, where it was reported to be a common occurrence. The World Health Organization lists Oman as a country of occurrence but it does not have statistics.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of married couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Health clinics operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There were no legal restrictions on the right to access contraceptives for nonmarried individuals permitting unmarried persons to acquire birth control easily. The government provided free childbirth services to citizens within the framework of universal health care. Prenatal and postnatal care was readily available and used. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; however, social taboos prevented individuals from seeking treatment.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based discrimination against citizens. However, economic studies conducted by the World Economic Forum showed that women earned 75 percent less than men and that their unemployment rate was at least twice as high. Aspects of Islamic law and tradition as interpreted in the country discriminated against women, as did some social and legal institutions. In some personal status cases, such as divorce, a women’s testimony is equal to half of a man’s. The law favors male heirs in adjudicating inheritance. Women married to noncitizens may not transmit citizenship to their children and cannot sponsor their noncitizen husband’s presence in the country.
The law provides citizenship at birth if the father is a citizen, if the mother is a citizen and the father is unknown, or if a child of unknown parents is found in the country. The law provides that an adult may become a citizen by applying for citizenship and subsequently residing legally in the country for 20 years or 10 years if married to a male citizen. During that time an applicant cannot reside more than one month of each year outside the country. A person seeking naturalization is expected first to give up any previous citizenship.
Women were not allowed to transmit citizenship to their spouses or children. Observers reported a few isolated cases of children without documentation as the result of a marriage between an Omani woman and a non-Omani man. These children were not eligible for citizenship.
Women may own property, but it is unknown what percentage of women actually own property. The law equalizes the treatment of men and women in receiving free government land for housing. Women may, and do, own land.
Government policy provided women with equal opportunities for education, and this policy effectively eliminated the previous gender gap in education attainment. Although some educated women held positions of authority in government, business, and the media, many women faced job discrimination based on cultural norms. The law entitles women to gender-related protections in the workplace such as the right to paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. The government, the largest employer of women, observed such regulations, as did many private sector employers. According to the World Economic Forum, only 27 percent of women participated in the work force.
The Ministry of Social Development is the umbrella ministry for women’s affairs. The ministry provided support for women’s economic development through the Oman Women’s Associations and local community development centers. The government also formed a committee to monitor the country’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.