Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, but there is no provision for spousal rape. Police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law. The penalty for rape is 20 years’ imprisonment, with a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($6,667). Rape was widespread, but most victims chose not to report or file charges against their attackers due to cultural pressures and fear of retaliation. As of September 1, the police Family Support Bureau had received 39 reports of rape. Six persons were found guilty of rape during the year.
While the law criminalizes domestic violence, it remained a major problem. Domestic violence activists stated police did not effectively enforce the law. According to women’s rights NGOs, police were not always effective in protecting domestic violence victims who had been granted protection orders from a court. As of September 1, more than 5,900 domestic violence cases were reported and most of these cases were prosecuted, but firm figures on the number of prosecutions were unavailable during the year. Crimes including assault, such as aggravated assault, threats, and blows are prosecuted under the Criminal Code, but law enforcement recordkeeping does not always indicate whether they are linked to domestic violence. The law provides for both protection and occupancy and tenancy orders, as well as counseling for the abuser. Penalties for domestic violence amounting to an assault ranged from 10 years’ to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees ($6,667) depending on the extent of injuries sustained. Anyone found guilty of violating a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act may be fined up to 25,000 rupees ($833) or imprisoned for up to two years. The local NGO SOS Femmes reported women often remained in abusive situations for fear of losing financial support and, as a result, few filed complaints against their abusers. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare maintained an abuse hotline and a website on legal protections for victims.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, which is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. Sexual harassment was a problem, however, and the government was not effective at enforcing prohibitions against it. The EOC is responsible for investigating allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, a mandate formerly carried out by the NHRC. Statistics on the number of EOC investigations of alleged sexual harassment and gender discrimination were unavailable at year’s end.
Reproductive Rights: The law provides for the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Couples and individuals were able to access contraception and skilled attendants during childbirth, which were provided free of charge in government-run hospitals together with free essential obstetric and postpartum care. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 39 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception.
A 2012 World Health Organization report estimated the maternal mortality ratio at 60 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same rights under the constitution and the law, including under family law, labor law, property law, and inheritance law. The courts upheld these rights. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare is mandated to promote the rights of women. The government established the National Women Entrepreneur Council, a semiautonomous government body, in 1999 to promote the economic empowerment of women. It operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development, and Family Welfare.
Despite legal equality, cultural and societal barriers prevented women from playing a more active role in society. For example, the first female firefighter was not recruited until 2011. There were few decision-making positions in the private sector filled by women, and there were even fewer women sitting on corporate boards. A large majority of women held unskilled labor jobs.
Women had equal access to education, employment, housing, and government services, and could inherit land. Women had equal access to credit and could own or manage businesses. The law requires equal pay for equal work; however, the private sector paid women less than men for substantially similar work. The law criminalizes the abandonment of one’s family or pregnant spouse for more than two months as well as the nonpayment of court-ordered food support. The law affords women broadly defined wage protections, and authorities generally respected the law in practice. The law states that women should not be forced to carry loads above certain weight limits.