Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes spousal and all forms of rape, regardless of the relationship between the victim and the accused. Sentences for those convicted of rape are a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 12 years, or 15 years in cases of aggravated rape. The government failed to enforce the law effectively, however, leading to widespread impunity and increased violence. Many women were reluctant to report abuse due to enforced medical examinations for survivors of rape and other sexual crimes, social stigma, fear of retribution, impunity for perpetrators, and loss of economic security. During the year observers reported a general increase in sexual crimes against women compared with 2012. The NNP reported 1,659 cases of rape and aggravated rape and 3,087 cases of sexual abuse in 2012, the most recent data available. There were no statistics available on investigations, prosecutions, or convictions. The Women’s Network Against Violence (RMCV) found that in 2012 more than 60 percent of crimes against women went unpunished, and it claimed that attackers and abusers with political connections enjoyed impunity.
On September 25, the National Assembly passed substantive reforms to the Comprehensive Law (Law 779) on Violence against Women, which went into force in 2012. The reforms reversed the law’s mediation clause, which previously prohibited mediation between victims of gender violence and their abusers, and revised the law’s procedural underpinnings. Judges can now recommend mediation processes in crimes that carry a maximum sentence of less than five years’ imprisonment, rather than automatically send aggressors to face prosecution. Women’s rights advocates asserted that with mediation, there is less incentive on the part of victims to pursue formal justice and fewer violent aggressors will be punished for their crimes.
Law 779, passed in response to increasing incidents of gender-based violence, imposes stricter sentences for gender-based offenses and codifies several new crimes against women, including femicide. The law also creates new positions for judges specializing in gender-based violence. Women’s rights organizations claimed that the government did not allocate sufficient resources to carry out the stipulations of the law effectively.
The law requires female victims of sexual crimes to undergo a medical examination by CSJ forensic specialists before proceeding legally against alleged perpetrators, but the lack of female forensic physicians often deterred women from submitting to the examination. Rape victims often were unaware or uninformed about the procedures required to process their cases and therefore often did not receive the necessary examinations in sufficient time.
The law criminalizes domestic violence and provides prison sentences ranging from one to 12 years. In 2012 the NNP Women’s Commissariat reported that only an estimated 17 percent of reported cases went to court, while most were resolved through mediation, which often was ineffective and led to patterns of abuse and impunity. While the law provides for the issuance of restraining orders, problems in the effective enforcement of such mandates continued, and they were not perceived as effective.
Violence against women remained high during the year, according to domestic and international NGO reports. The RMCV reported that 60 women were killed as of September, many of whom were also raped, beaten, or maimed. The RMCV reported that during the past seven years, the rate of such violence more than tripled with an increase in the severity of the crimes. Of the cases of violence against women filed with the judiciary in 2012, 62 percent were ruled petty crimes, even when the life of the victim was in danger. Between January and November of 2012, the NNP reported 3,839 cases of domestic violence, compared with 3,169 reported for 2011.
A court convicted two of the six men accused of the 2012 kidnapping and rape of a 12-year-old girl with mental disabilities. The alleged perpetrators--five NNP officers and a private security guard – were part of President Ortega’s personal security team. While four of the five officers were expelled from the NNP, two were never formally charged.
On March 7, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights agreed to study the case against the government for lack of due process in the 2010 death of Dina Carrion Gonzalez, who was allegedly shot by her husband in her home over a domestic dispute. The case had been pending in the CSJ for more than three years, a delay that some human rights organizations attributed to the political connections of the victim’s husband. Women’s organizations highlighted the case as a prime example of judicial impunity in gender-based violence cases. No official investigations or arrests in the case had been reported since 2010.
NNP commissariats provided social and legal help to women, mediated spousal conflicts, investigated and helped prosecute criminal complaints, and referred victims to other governmental and nongovernmental assistance agencies. During the year 91 NNP women’s commissariats operated in the country, 32 more than in 2012. Commissariats often lacked sufficient equipment and funding to discharge their responsibilities adequately. There are two government-operated and 11 nongovernmental shelters dedicated to female victims of violence or abuse. Women’s groups asserted that the modest number of shelters did not adequately serve the population’s needs, especially on the Atlantic Coast where only one shelter (nongovernmental) operated in the RAAN.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and those convicted face from one- to three-year sentences, or three to five years if the victim is under 18. Sexual harassment likely was underreported due to the failure of authorities to consider the abuse seriously and victims’ fear of retribution.
Reproductive Rights: The Ministry of Health’s (MINSA) family-planning norms provide couples and individuals with the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. MINSA reported that 69 percent of married women used modern contraceptive methods. Access to information about contraception, skilled attendance at delivery, and postpartum care were more available in urban areas but improved slightly in remote areas, such as the Atlantic Coast. According to an official 2011 MINSA report, 95 percent of pregnant women had access to prenatal care and 79 percent to postpartum care in public facilities. According to the World Health Organization, skilled personnel attended 74 percent of births.
Women in some areas, such as the RAAN and the RAAS, did not have widespread access to medical care or programs, and maternal death was more likely to affect poor rural women than their urban counterparts.
Discrimination: The law provides equality for both genders, including within the family, workplace, and for property ownership, and the NNP Office of the Superintendent of Women is responsible for enforcement. Nevertheless, women often experienced discrimination in employment, credit, and pay equity for similar work, as well as in owning and managing businesses. According to the 2013 Gender Gap Report, women earned 43 percent less than men for equal work. Women were much less likely to be senior officials or managers. Authorities often discriminated in property matters against poor women who lacked birth certificates or identity cards. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Special Prosecutor for Women and the Nicaraguan Women’s Institute, the government entities responsible for protecting women’s rights, had limited effectiveness.