Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years or up to 15 years if the victim is younger than 15. The government enforced the laws on rape effectively. In the first six months of the year, the Morals Brigade investigated and charged 61 individuals with child rape. Statistics on adult rape investigations were not readily available. The law does not specifically address spousal rape, which was a problem. Statistics were scarce, and there were reports that many of these situations were settled within families or by village elders without recourse to the formal court system.
The law prohibits domestic violence, but fines and imprisonment were rarely imposed. No reliable data were available on the extent of the problem. The government did take action to combat violence against women when that violence was reported; however, women rarely filed official complaints. During the year there were two cases of spousal killing. The husbands in both cases were charged and convicted for murder and were serving prison sentences at year’s end. While women can seek protection from domestic violence through the courts, most cases were addressed through extended family or the village. Domestic violence cases rarely entered the court system, but officials took action (usually the arrest of the spouse) when necessary.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Although rarely reported due to societal pressure, such harassment was nevertheless a common problem, and the government did not effectively enforce penalties against it.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals are generally free to choose the number and spacing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The prevalence of modern contraceptive use among married women and girls ages 15-49 was approximately 19 percent, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Existing health resources (including personnel, facilities, equipment, and drugs) were inadequate, making it difficult for the government to respond to the health needs of the population. According to the Population Reference Bureau, skilled personnel attended approximately 62 percent of births. The UNFPA estimated maternal mortality in 2008 to be 340 deaths per 100,000 live births. A general lack of adolescent reproductive health information and services led to unwanted pregnancies and increased morbidity and mortality among adolescent girls. These incidents were generally concealed for social and cultural reasons. No legal barriers prevent women from receiving treatment for sexually transmitted infections, but many hesitated to do so due to social and cultural concerns.
Discrimination: The law provides for equality of persons and, in general, inheritance and property rights practices do not discriminate against, but rather favor women. The Ministry of Health, Solidarity, and Gender Promotion is responsible for promoting women’s rights. The local cultures on Grande Comore and Moheli are traditionally matrilineal, and all inheritable property is in the legal possession of women. This cultural practice leads, at times, to what might be seen as discrimination against men in the inheritance of homes and land. Notably, men retain the head-of-household role in society. Throughout the country, including on the nonmatrilineal island of Anjouan, land and homes were usually awarded to women in case of divorce or separation. Societal discrimination against women was most apparent in rural areas where women were mostly limited to farming and child-rearing duties, with fewer opportunities for education and wage employment. In urban areas, growing numbers of women were employed and generally earned wages comparable with those of men engaged in similar work. Few women held positions of responsibility in business, however, outside of elite families.