Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Penalties for rape range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, and the government generally enforced the law when violations were reported.
The law protects the privacy and safety of the victim making the charge. Between January and September the Public Prosecutor’s Office investigated 3,879 cases of rape, and the courts handed down 499 rape convictions between January and July. Experts, however, believed that most rape cases went unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma.
The law criminalizes both physical and psychological domestic violence. However, it remained a serious problem in the country. Family courts handle cases of domestic violence and penalize offenders with fines up to 556,680 pesos (approximately $1,145). Additional sanctions include eviction of the offender from the residence shared with the victim, restraining orders, confiscation of firearms, and court-ordered counseling. Cases of habitual psychological abuse and physical abuse cases in which there are physical injuries are prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Penalties are based on the gravity of injuries and range from 61 to 540 days’ imprisonment.
The authorities generally enforced the law in cases reported to them, and there was no indication of police or judicial reluctance to act. However, experts believed that most domestic violence cases went unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma. During the year 35.7 percent of women admitted to having suffered some kind of domestic violence throughout their lives, according to the National Women’s Service (SERNAM).
The government added social media to the domestic violence media campaign launched in 2010. SERNAM operated 96 assistance centers and 24 women’s shelters, and it maintained partnerships with NGOs to provide training sessions for police officers and judicial and municipal authorities on the legal and psychological aspects of domestic violence. The Ministry of Justice and the PDI operated several offices specifically dedicated to providing counseling and assistance in rape cases. SERNAM also operated a 24-hour hotline for victims of violence, including domestic abuse and rape. Data was not available to assess the effectiveness of government campaigns against domestic and sexual violence.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is classified as a misdemeanor, and penalties are outlined exclusively in the labor code. By law sexual harassment is cause for immediate dismissal from the workplace. The law requires employers to define internal procedures for investigating sexual harassment, and employers may face fines and additional financial compensation to victims if internal procedures are not met. The law provides protection to victims of sexual harassment by employers and coworkers. It also provides severance pay to victims who resign due to sexual harassment if they have completed at least one year with the employer. Authorities generally enforced the law in cases reported to them, and there was no evidence of police or judicial reluctance to act. From January to August, the Labor Directorate received 98 complaints of sexual harassment reported by individuals and companies, and 15 companies were sanctioned for procedural incompliance.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Government policy did not interfere with access to contraception, skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, or essential obstetric and postpartum care. However, despite the fact that emergency contraception is legal and that the law provides for the free distribution of emergency contraception in the public health system, many hospitals and clinics continued to refuse to prescribe it.
Social and cultural barriers in terms of reproductive rights existed in some cases. The law on surgical sterilizations requires voluntary informed consent. However, the Center for Reproductive Rights continued to report that in some cases health-care workers pressured or forced HIV-positive women into surgical sterilization.
Women faced significant obstacles to preventing HIV infection, including social and cultural norms; gender-based violence; and limited public-health awareness, outreach, and education. The law prohibits discrimination against persons on the basis of their HIV status, and in the area of health care, the law provides that neither public nor private health institutions can deny access to health-care services on the basis of a person’s serological status. However, the Center for Reproductive Rights continued to report that HIV-positive women received discriminatory health-care treatment, especially in reproductive health services. Problems included delayed care, verbal abuse, pressure not to have children, and refusal of treatment. On November 30, the Ministry of Health launched a national campaign to encourage citizens to be tested for HIV.
Discrimination: Women possess most of the same legal rights as men. However, discrimination in employment, pay, owning and managing businesses, and education persisted. There were no known reports of discrimination in credit or housing. However, the default and most common marital arrangement is “conjugal society,” which gives a husband the right to administer joint property, including his wife’s property. As a result women who were married under the conjugal society arrangement were usually required to obtain permission from their husbands to apply for housing subsidies and take out loans or mortgages, while men had unrestricted access to these and other services. Legislation remained pending five years after a 2007 agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to modify the “conjugal society law” to give women and men equal rights and responsibilities in marriage. The commercial code provides that unless a woman is married under the separate estate regime, she may not enter into a commercial partnership agreement without permission from her husband; a man may enter into such an agreement without permission from his wife.
Despite a law providing for equal pay for equal work, the average woman’s annual income was 52 percent lower than that of men, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Gender Gap Report. Only 47 percent of women participated in the labor force during the year (compared with 78 percent of men), and women were more likely to work in the informal sector. However, the report also indicated that 61 percent of women enrolled in tertiary education, compared with 57 percent of men. SERNAM is in charge of protecting women’s legal rights and is the only government office that deals specifically with discrimination against women.
The law provides for six months’ maternity leave, including for noncontracted temporary workers. The law includes a paternity leave option and gives mothers the flexibility to choose half-day or full-time leave during the last three months of postnatal leave.