Rape and Domestic Abuse: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Most convicted offenders received considerably less than the maximum sentence. Police indicated there were 16 sexual assault cases and 18 rape cases reported between January 1 and October 21.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was reported, and the number of reported cases has sharply increased in recent years. The law establishes clear mechanisms for reporting and prosecuting family violence and provides that the testimony of minors and experts, such as psychologists, may be used as evidence to prosecute abusers. The law provides for the imprisonment of persons found guilty of abusing family members. The court can issue a same-day restraining order against suspected and/or convicted domestic violence offenders. Doctors, hospital workers, and education professionals are required to report all suspected cases of domestic violence to police. Many victims refused to testify in court, however, and by law one spouse cannot be compelled to testify against the other. Courts were obliged to drop cases of domestic violence if the spousal victim was the only witness and refused to testify.
As of the end of October, police received 471 reports of domestic violence. They initiated criminal investigations in 281 of these and filed 131 criminal cases in court. In 77 percent of the cases, the victims were women. Of the domestic violence cases filed in 2012, the courts returned 39 guilty verdicts and three acquittals with 181 cases still pending trial.
The Association for the Prevention of Domestic Violence carried out national study on domestic violence against women in April and May 2012. The study’s results, published in December 2012, indicated that at least 28 percent of women over the age of 18 have suffered some form of violence at home, including physical and sexual violence but also economic violence, social violence, and emotional/psychological violence. Approximately 57 percent of the women who reported having been victims of violence did not tell other persons about their abuse. The highest proportion of women victims of violence (36 percent) was in the 45 to 64 age group.
There was one shelter for victims of domestic violence, primarily funded by the government, but run by the Association for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. An NGO working with domestic abuse victims reported an increase in the number of telephone calls to its hotline from 2011. The NGO reported that, of the 1,425 callers who claimed to be victims of domestic violence, 12 percent were children. Of the adult callers, 84 percent were women and 10 percent were men. The NGO also operated a shelter for women and children in Nicosia that served 82 victims of domestic violence through the end of October.
In July 2012 the commissioner for the protection of children’s rights criticized the police, the social welfare services, and the health services for mishandling a domestic violence case, violating the rights of the child involved. According to press reports, the father in the case abused his wife in front of their four-year-old child and, when the mother reported the abuse to authorities, police gave the child to the father despite the welfare services’ recommendation that the child stay with the mother. The commissioner asserted that officials in the services did not know and did not adequately apply procedures set out in their handbook on the handling of domestic violence and stressed the need for the services to improve.
Police conducted detailed educational programs related to the handling of domestic violence for their forces, including training focused on child abuse. NGOs noted, however, that police dismissed claims of domestic abuse by foreign women and children.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, but it was reportedly a widespread problem, with most incidents unreported to authorities. In 2009 a Cyprus University of Technology report indicated that 6 percent of employees in the country had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. From January through November, the labor office received 11 complaints regarding sexual harassment, all from foreign residents. The office sent three of the complaints to the police, and they remained under investigation. The rest were either withdrawn, found invalid, or discontinued due to the death of the employer, lack of evidence, or a decision by the complainant not to pursue it.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals were generally able to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There was easy access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, and doctors diagnosed and treated women for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, equally with men.
Discrimination: Women generally have the same legal status as men under family and property law and in the judicial system. The National Mechanism for Women’s Rights under the Ministry of Justice and Public Order promoted, protected, and coordinated women’s rights. The law requires equal pay for equal work or work of equal value.
Despite a strong legal framework, the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance’s enforcement was ineffective for many workers in more service- and retail-oriented sectors. Research by one NGO suggested that remuneration for female blue-collar workers was 25 to 30 percent less than for their male counterparts. The ombudsman reported serious cases of gender discrimination in the workplace, particularly against pregnant women, who were not promoted or dismissed from employment. The ombudsman’s 2012 report expressed concern over the continuing phenomenon of gender discrimination at the workplace, particularly the dismissal of working women as well as the hiring of fewer women. The ombudsman reported that women submitted 84 percent of the gender-discrimination complaints, of which 28 percent concerned discrimination on the grounds of maternity, pregnancy, or childbirth; 15 percent dismissal due to pregnancy; and 15 percent discrimination in hiring, career advancement, and salary. The ombudsman's office confirmed the phenomenon of pregnant women dismissed from work places intensified during the year for reasons related to the economic crisis.