Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes spousal and all forms of rape, regardless of the relationship between the victim and the accused. Sentences for those convicted of rape are a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 12 years, or 15 in cases of aggravated rape. However, the government failed to enforce the law effectively, leading to widespread impunity and increased violence. Many women were reluctant to report abuse due to enforced medical examinations for survivors of rape and other sexual crimes, social stigma, fear of retribution, impunity for perpetrators, and loss of economic security. However, during the year the NNP reported a general increase in sexual crimes against women compared with 2011, including 1,659 cases of rape and aggravated rape and 3,087 cases of sexual abuse. There were no statistics available on investigations, prosecutions, or convictions. The Women’s Network Against Violence (RMCV) found that as of September more than 60 percent of crimes against women went unpunished, and it claimed that attackers and abusers with political connections enjoyed impunity.
On January 26, the National Assembly passed the Comprehensive Law (Law 779) on Violence against Women, in response to increasing incidents of gender-based violence. This law imposes stricter sentences for gender-based offenses and codified several new crimes against women, including femicide. The law also created new positions for judges specializing in gender-based violence. Women’s rights organizations claimed that following implementation of the law in June, the government did not allocate sufficient resources to effectively carry out the stipulations of the law.
The law requires female victims of sexual crimes to undergo a medical examination by CSJ forensic specialists before proceeding legally against alleged perpetrators. However, the lack of female forensic physicians often deterred women from submitting to the examination. Rape victims were often unaware or uninformed about the procedures required to process their cases and therefore often did not receive the necessary examinations in sufficient time.
The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides prison sentences ranging from one to 12 years. In September the NNP Women’s Commissariat reported that only an estimated 17 percent of reported cases went to court, while most were resolved through mediation, which was often ineffective and led to patterns of abuse and impunity. While the law provides for the issuance of restraining orders, problems in the effective enforcement of such mandates continued, and they were not perceived as effective.
Violence against women remained high during the year, according to domestic and international NGO reports. The RMCV reported that 72 women were killed as of November, many of whom were also raped, beaten, maimed, or mutilated. By year’s end courts convicted only three individuals for such killings. The RMCV reported that during the past seven years, the rate of such violence more than tripled with an increase in the severity of the crimes. Of the cases of violence against women filed with the judiciary, 62 percent were ruled petty crimes, even when the life of the victim was in danger. Between January and November, the NNP reported 3,839 cases of domestic violence, compared with 3,169 reported for 2011.
On August 9, a 12-year-old girl with mental disabilities was allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint and repeatedly raped by five NNP officers and a private security guard, all part of President Ortega’s personal security team. The rapes allegedly took place in a private house within the security perimeter surrounding the president’s official compound. Rights advocates claimed that, until the victim’s father reported the case to CENIDH, the police had ignored the case. Although four of the five officers were expelled from the NNP, by year’s end the courts had not issued a final ruling on the case, and two of the five had not been formally charged.
NNP commissariats provided social and legal help to women, mediated spousal conflicts, investigated and helped prosecute criminal complaints, and referred victims to other governmental and nongovernmental assistance agencies. During the year 59 NNP women’s commissariats operated in the country, five more than in 2011. However, commissariats often lacked sufficient equipment and funding to discharge their responsibilities adequately. One government-operated shelter dedicated to female victims of violence or abuse opened during the year, making a total of two government-operated shelters; there were 10 nongovernmental women’s shelters. Women’s groups state that the modest number of shelters did not adequately serve the population’s needs, especially on the Atlantic Coast where only one nongovernmental shelter operated in the RAAN.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and those convicted face from one- to three-year sentences, or three to five years if the victim is under 18. The NNP reported 81 cases of sexual harassment during the first half of the year; sexual harassment was likely underreported due to the failure of authorities to consider the abuse seriously and victims’ fear of retribution.
Reproductive Rights: The Ministry of Health’s (MINSA) family-planning norms provide couples and individuals with the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Sixty-nine percent of married women used modern contraceptive methods. Access to information about contraception, skilled attendance at delivery, and postpartum care were more available in urban areas but improved slightly in remote areas, such as the Atlantic Coast. According to an official MINSA report, in 2011 95 percent of pregnant women had access to prenatal care and 79 percent to postpartum care in public facilities. According to the Population Reference Bureau, 74 percent of births were attended by skilled personnel in 2011.
In the past women generally received better access than men to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections because of NGO efforts and government campaigns dedicated to women’s reproductive health. In the last two years, the access of men and transgender persons to reproductive health services, especially for HIV/AIDS prevention, has increased.
Women in some areas, such as the RAAN and the RAAS, did not have widespread access to medical care or programs, and maternal death was more likely to affect poor rural women than their urban counterparts.
Discrimination: The law provides equality for both genders, including within the family, workplace, and for property ownership, and the NNP Office of the Superintendent of Women is responsible for enforcement. However, women often experienced discrimination in employment, credit, and pay equity for similar work, as well as in owning and managing businesses. Women earned 12 percent less than men for equal work. Women were much less likely to be senior officials or managers. Authorities often discriminated in property matters against poor women who lacked birth certificates or identity cards. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Special Prosecutor for Women and the Nicaraguan Women’s Institute, the government entities responsible for protecting women’s rights, had limited effectiveness.