Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law. The penalty for rape is two to 21 years in prison, depending on the severity of the assault, the age of the victim, and the circumstances under which the crime occurred. Very few cases, however, resulted in a sentence longer than three years and four months. According to police, 361 rapes and 28 attempted rapes were reported nationwide during the first four months of the year.
The media reported that in 2011, 892 of 1,186 reported rape cases (approximately 75 percent) were not prosecuted. Amnesty International claimed that the law inadequately protected women against violence and that statistics about rape and sexual assault were not regularly updated. In March 2012 the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern at the prevalence of violence against women, the high level of acquittals, and the lenient sentences imposed on perpetrators. The committee also expressed concern about the legal definition of rape, which maintains the requirement of the use of threat or force. In November 2012 the UN’s Committee against Torture reiterated many of the same concerns.
During the year the government presented an action plan against rape so that the police and court system could better handle these cases.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was a problem. The law provides higher penalties for domestic violence than for simple assault, one to three years in prison, with an increased term of up to six years in more severe cases and up to 21 years for aggravated rape. The government generally enforced the law, although the Oslo Crisis Center criticized the conviction rate (approximately 14 percent in 2011) as too low. During the first four months of the year, police received 1,044 reports of domestic violence, 13 percent more than during the same period in 2012.
The government had programs to prevent rape and domestic violence and to counsel victims. Respective action plans require each of the country’s 27 police districts to have a domestic violence coordinator to assist victims. According to NGOs, however, only 12 police districts had a full-time domestic violence coordinator. Public and private organizations operated 46 government-funded shelters, down from 51 in 2012, and managed five 24-hour crisis hotlines. NGOs criticized the government for shifting funding responsibility from the central government to the municipalities, which resulted in less funding and the closing and consolidation of shelters. The Oslo Crisis Center noted that consolidating shelters meant that many women were less likely or unable to seek help, since they would have to travel long distances.
The shelters provided support and counseling for victims and helped them gain access to social services, doctors, lawyers, and housing authorities. Victims of domestic violence have a right to consult a lawyer free of charge before deciding whether to make a formal complaint. If the government initiates criminal proceedings, the victim is entitled to free assistance from a victim’s advocate.
Sexual Harassment: The law provides that “employees shall not be subjected to harassment or other unseemly behavior,” and the government effectively enforced this provision. Employers who violate this law are subject to fines or prison sentences of up to two years, depending on the seriousness of the offense.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right 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.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status as men and enjoy identical rights under family, labor, inheritance, and property laws. For the most part, the LDO effectively processed and investigated complaints of gender discrimination. In its 2011 report, however, the ECRI regretted that the LDO did not have the necessary tools to enforce the duty of public authorities and employers to promote equality. During the first six months of the year, the LDO received 25 complaints about discrimination against women.
The law provides that women and men engaged in the same activity shall receive equal wages for work of equal value. According to Statistics Norway, women received largely the same pay and benefits as men for equal work but in 2012 earned on average 13.5 percent less than men on a monthly basis. The government attributed this to differences in the professions chosen by women and men and the predominance of women in part-time or public-sector work. The LDO expressed concern that many women were in part-time positions involuntarily because of a tendency in certain industries, such as health and service, to divide work into a large number of part-time slices with no meaningful full-time alternative. In 2012, 39 percent of women and 1 percent of men worked part time.
The law mandates that 40 percent of the boards of directors of publicly listed companies be women, and virtually all public companies complied with the law.