Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is prohibited and punishable by hard labor; however, rape, including of female refugees and IDPs, was a problem (see section 2.d.). No reliable data on the extent of the problem was available. The law does not specifically address spousal rape. Although police often arrested and detained alleged perpetrators, rape cases usually were not tried, and most suspects were released. Cultural norms sometimes forced women and girls to marry their attackers to preserve their honor.
Although the law prohibits violence against women, domestic violence, including spousal abuse, was common. Wives traditionally were subject to the authority of their husbands, and they had limited legal recourse in cases of abuse. Family or traditional authorities could provide assistance in such cases and often did, but police rarely intervened. During the year some women began reporting cases of violence and abuse to local human rights organizations. Information on the number of abusers who were prosecuted, convicted, or punished was unavailable.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): The law prohibits FGM; however, the practice was widespread, particularly in rural areas. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 44 percent of women and girls had undergone excision, with rates as high as 90 to 100 percent in some regions. The practice was prevalent especially among ethnic groups in the east and south. All three types of FGM were practiced. The least common but most dangerous and severe type, infibulation, was confined largely to the region on the eastern border with Sudan. FGM usually was performed prior to puberty as a rite of passage.
FGM could be prosecuted as a form of assault under the penal code, and charges could be brought against the parents of victims, medical practitioners, or others involved in the action. However, prosecution was hindered by the lack of specific penalty provisions in the penal code. There were no reports that any such suits were brought during the year. The Ministry of Social Action and Family was responsible for coordinating activities to combat FGM. The government, with assistance from the UN, continued to conduct public awareness campaigns to discourage the practice and highlight its dangers as part of its efforts to combat gender-based violence. The campaign encouraged persons to speak out against FGM and other forms of abuse against women and girls.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and such harassment was a problem.
Reproductive Rights: The law provides for the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children, as well as to have access to information regarding birth control methods. However, many persons lacked access to medical care, particularly those in rural areas. Couples lacked access to contraception and, according to UNFPA, only an estimated 3 percent of women used any form of contraception. According to UNFPA, the incidence of maternal mortality was 1,200 per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 14. The country had a severe shortage of healthcare providers (less than 400 physicians) and a significant shortage of nurses, midwives, hospital staff, and specialists such as pediatricians. Prenatal care was limited due to inadequate health infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. Low immunization rates and poor post-natal and child care education were other constraints.
According to UN estimates, only 14 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. Women were equally diagnosed and treated with men for sexual transmitted infections; treatment was free.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women and exploitation of women were widespread. Although formal property and inheritance laws do not discriminate against women, local leaders adjudicated most inheritance cases in favor of men, according to traditional practice. The Ministry of Social Action and Family is responsible for addressing gender-related issues. Women did not have equal opportunities for education and training, making it difficult for them to compete for formal sector jobs. Women were discriminated against in access to employment, credit, and pay equity for substantially similar work, and in owning or managing businesses due to cultural norms.
The law states that persons of legal age (18 according to formal law and 13 to 14 in traditional practice) have the right to decide whether to be married. The law does not address polygyny, but husbands may opt at any time to declare a marriage polygynous. If a husband takes a second wife, the first wife has the right to request that her marriage be dissolved, but she must repay her bride price and other marriage-related expenses.
A UNFPA-supported government awareness campaign to combat gender-based violence was expanded during the year to Pala in the south. The campaign included raising awareness regarding rape, sexual harassment, FGM, discrimination against women, and early marriage. In his August inaugural speech, President Deby called for an end to “traditional practices,” particularly in rural areas, where child marriage, FGM, unwanted pregnancy, and the denial of educational opportunities to girls were most common.