Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by two to 12 years’ imprisonment. The prosecution of rape occurred most often in cases where there was evidence of violent assault or the victim was a minor. No statistics on prosecutions were available. A government family planning clinic and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) sought to combat rape by raising awareness of the problem.
Widespread reports of domestic violence continued. Although women have the right to legal recourse in cases of domestic violence, including against spouses, many were reluctant to bring legal action because of the cost and a general lack of faith in the legal system to address their concerns effectively. Women often were uninformed of their legal rights. Some observers claimed that tradition and custom inhibited women from taking domestic disputes outside the family. The law prescribes penalties for domestic violence, ranging from imprisonment for three to eight years for domestic violence when it results in harm to the health of the victim to a sentence of eight to 16 years when it leads to loss of life. The law was enforced, but there was no data on the number of prosecutions or convictions for domestic violence.
The Office of Women’s Affairs and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) maintained a counseling center with a hotline. The hotline did not receive many calls, but the counseling center received numerous walk-ins.
Sexual Harassment: The new penal code, effective since August 2012, prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment reportedly occurred, but no data were available on its extent. In cases of sexual harassment that involved violence or threats, the law prescribed penalties of between one to eight years in prison. In other cases the maximum penalty was imprisonment for three years. The government enforced the penal code provisions during the year.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Health clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, but they were not widely used. NGOs and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs had insufficient supplies of contraceptives. The UN Population Fund estimated that 37 percent of women and girls between 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2012. The government provided free childbirth services, but the lack of doctors obliged many women, especially in rural areas, to rely on nurses or midwives during childbirth, unless the mother or child suffered more serious health complications. Only the government clinic provided prenatal and postnatal care outside the family. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, but women were more likely than men to seek treatment and refer their partners.
Discrimination: The constitution stipulates that women and men have equal political, economic, and social rights. Women, however, experienced some economic discrimination but generally not in the areas of credit, pay, or housing. The government was the largest employer, and there were reports that in 2011 the government forced some women to retire at age 57. A 1997 law allowed women to request permission to retire at age 57 or older and men at age 62, but did not oblige them to do so. Despite this law, in 2011 authorities reportedly terminated many women without warning from government employment on their 57th birthday. Some women protested, and the government later recalled them to work. During the year, however, there were no reports that the problem of discriminatory early termination from employment occurred.
While many women had access to opportunities in education, business, and government, women in general continued to encounter significant societal discrimination. Traditional beliefs left women with most child-rearing responsibilities and with less access to education or opportunity to enter a profession. A high teenage pregnancy rate further reduced economic opportunities for women. The Gender Equality Institute within the Office of Women’s Affairs held numerous seminars and workshops to raise awareness of discrimination against women.