Rape and Domestic Violence: The law defines criminal sexual assault and specifies penalties. In cases of rape involving minors, sentences range from five to 15 years in prison. In extreme cases a person convicted of rape may be imprisoned for life. According to NGOs, cultural taboos and the fact that survivors were unaware of their rights resulted in underreporting of rapes. Spousal rape is illegal.
The law prohibits domestic violence. Penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence range from a prison sentence of one month to three years. Offenders are also fined the daily minimum national wage for 90 days. Three police stations across the country housed Women and Child Protection Units to address crimes involving women and children. According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the government commissioned a report on violence against women, set up mobile police stations, trained police on gender issues, and allowed civil society groups to undertake further efforts, including the opening of a crisis and rehabilitation center. CEDAW expressed concern about reports of violence against women by their spouses or other family members and at work. The NGO Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW) operated a domestic violence center in the capital. The parliament enacted the 2013 Domestic Violence Prevention Act, which authorizes the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) to, among other things, develop and implement programs to prevent domestic violence, rehabilitate survivors, and conduct studies.
Sexual Harassment: The Labor Employment Act has specific provisions to address sexual harassment in the workplace. CEDAW expressed concern about the large number of reported sexual harassment cases in the workplace.
Reproductive Rights: The country has no legal restrictions regarding the number, spacing, or timing of children, and there were no reports of coercion regarding reproduction. The National Statistics Bureau reported that in 2011 skilled personnel assisted with 70 percent of births, and contraceptive use was 65.6 percent among married women or women in civil unions, 30.2 percent among girls and women ages 15-19, and 56.5 percent among women ages 20-24. According to the World Bank, the maternal mortality ratio in 2010 was 180 deaths per 100,000 live births. The government’s 2010 Annual Health Bulletin attributed maternal deaths to delivery at home, poor quality of available care, lack of easy access to emergency medical facilities, and unsafe abortions.
Discrimination: The law covers questions related to family issues, including divorce, child custody, and inheritance. NGOs reported that women faced little overt discrimination and had equal access to health care, education, and public services, including for HIV/AIDS treatment and services. Women participated relatively freely in the social and economic life of the country. The law provides for equal inheritance for sons and daughters, but traditional inheritance practices, which varied among ethnic groups, may be observed if the heirs choose to forgo legal challenges. Traditional inheritance laws for the majority of Buddhists stipulate that daughters inherit family land. Tradition dictates that the most capable member of the family runs the household, which often resulted in the mother or eldest daughter handling this role. Within the household, men and women were relatively equal. Employers generally paid women in unskilled jobs slightly less than men in the same positions. According to the government’s 2012 Labor Force Survey Report, 63.2 percent of females participated in the workforce, a decrease of 4.2 percent from the previous year. The decrease in participation was actually greater among males, 65.7 percent of whom were in the workforce in 2012 compared with 72.3 percent in 2011. Dowries were not customary.
The law mandates the government take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination and exploitation of women, including trafficking, abuse, violence, harassment, and intimidation, at work and at home, and the government generally enforced the law. CEDAW expressed concern that the constitution does not adequately define discrimination to include both direct and indirect forms and noted that the government failed to adopt implementing legislation for its international treaty obligations related to women’s rights or to provide adequate resources to the NCWC to allow it to operate effectively.
The National Women’s Association, a local NGO, worked to improve women’s living standards and socioeconomic status, and the NGO RENEW promoted and advocated for women’s rights and political participation. The NCWC actively defended the rights of women and children during the year, although CEDAW expressed concern about the limited resources of the NCWC and its potential lack of independence from government influence. A women’s NGO reported concern for the increased number of young women, some of whom were possibly underage girls, working in bars and discotheques.