Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women continued to be a problem. Rape carries a maximum penalty of death, which the country occasionally imposed for the crime; spousal rape is not a crime. The media reported hundreds of rape cases, but government statistics indicated that only 34 cases were reported to the police. Social stigma associated with publicly acknowledging rape likely resulted in underreporting. Many victims were noncitizen domestic workers. Police occasionally arrested alleged rapists. The courts tried and convicted three rapists during the year, but authorities did not effectively enforce laws against rape, especially in cases of noncitizen women raped by their employers.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, but courts try such cases as assault. A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint with police requesting formal charges be brought against the alleged abuser. Each of the country’s 83 police stations reportedly received complaints of domestic abuse. Victims, however, did not report most domestic abuse cases, especially outside the capital. Police officials rarely arrested perpetrators of domestic violence even when presented with documented evidence of the abuse, such as eyewitness accounts, hospital reports, and social worker testimony, and treated such reports as social instead of criminal matters. Individuals also reportedly bribed police officials to ignore assault charges in cases of domestic abuse. Although courts found husbands guilty of spousal abuse in previous years, those convicted rarely faced severe penalties. Noncitizen women married to citizens reported domestic abuse, and inaction or discrimination by police during the year.
A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from abuse, but the law does not provide a clear legal standard regarding what constitutes injury. Additionally, a woman must provide at least two male witnesses (or a male witness and two female witnesses) to attest to the injury. There were no shelters or hotlines specifically for victims of domestic violence, although a temporary shelter for domestic workers housed victims during the year. The government completed construction of a high-capacity shelter for domestic workers in 2012, but the shelter was not fully operational by year’s end.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The penal code penalizes honor crimes as misdemeanors. The law states that a man who sees his wife, daughter, mother, or sister in the “act of adultery” and immediately kills her or the man with whom she is committing adultery will face a maximum punishment of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 225 dinar ($790), slightly less than a month’s earnings at the public-sector minimum wage. Sentencing guidelines for honor crimes do not apply to Bidoon. In February the court convicted and sentenced five foreign residents to life in prison for the June 2012 “honor killing” of a 19-year old female family member.
Sexual Harassment: No specific law addresses sexual harassment, but the law criminalizes “encroachment on honor,” which encompasses everything from touching a woman against her will to rape, and police strictly enforced this law. The government deployed female police officers specifically to combat sexual harassment in shopping malls and other public spaces. Perpetrators faced fines and jail time. Nonetheless, human rights groups characterized sexual harassment against women in the workplace as a pervasive and unreported problem.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children. Decisions regarding access to contraceptives, family size, and procedures involving reproductive and fertility treatments required the consent of both husband and wife. The information and means to make those decisions, as well as skilled attendance during prenatal care, essential obstetric care, childbirth, and postpartum care were freely available. While the government did not provide any formal family planning programs, contraceptives were available without prescription to citizens and noncitizens.
Discrimination: Women have many political rights, including the right to vote and serve in parliament and the cabinet, but they do not enjoy the same rights as men under family law, property law, or in the judicial system. Sharia (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over personal status and family law cases for Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sharia discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement (see section 1.d.), marriage, and inheritance. Secular courts allow any person to testify and consider male and female testimony equally, but in the sharia courts, the testimony of a man equals that of two women.
The law prohibits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men. The law does not require a non-Muslim woman to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man, but many non-Muslim women faced strong economic and societal pressure to convert. In the event of a divorce, the law grants the fathers custody of children of non-Muslim women who fail to convert. A non-Muslim woman who fails to convert is also ineligible for naturalization as a citizen and cannot inherit her husband’s property unless specified as a beneficiary in his will.
Inheritance is also governed by sharia, which varies according to the specific school of Islamic jurisprudence followed by different populations in the country. In the absence of a direct male heir, a Shia woman may inherit all property while a Sunni woman inherits only a portion, with the balance divided among brothers, uncles, and male cousins of the deceased.
In June the National Assembly passed an amendment that gave divorced and widowed women additional house ownership and rent allowance rights and allocations, but authorities had not implemented the law by year’s end. In July the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor granted a “housewife allowance” to nonworking women age 55 and older.
Female citizens remain unable to pass citizenship to their noncitizen husbands or their children; exceptions were made for some children of widowed or divorced female citizens. Male citizens married to female noncitizens did not face such discrimination.
The law states a woman should receive “remuneration equal to that of a man provided she does the same work,” although it prohibits women from working in “dangerous industries” and in trades “harmful” to health. According to international assessments, the average working woman earned 6,600 dinar ($23,385) annually, compared with 18,691 dinar ($66,231) for the average working man. Only 14 percent of managers, legislators, and senior officials were women. Educated women maintained the conservative nature of society restricted career opportunities, although there were limited improvements. Women comprise 72 percent of annual college graduates, according to statistics from 2011, but account for just 53 percent of the 270,000 citizens working in the public sector and 44 percent of the 60,000 citizens working in the private sector.
The law requires segregation by gender of classes at all universities and secondary schools. Public universities enforced this law more rigorously than private universities.
Two members of the 50-seat parliament elected in July were women. By early December a parliamentary committee for women’s and family affairs had not yet been established or staffed, although such a committee existed in previous parliaments. Some women attained prominent positions in business as heads of corporations. Two women served as ministers in the cabinet.
There were no female judges. For the first time, however, the Judicial Institute accepted 22 women during the year. Graduation from the institute is a prerequisite for employment as a prosecutor or judge.