Rape and Domestic Violence: The penalty for rape is life imprisonment; however, rape, including spousal rape, was a widespread problem. The maximum penalty for attempted rape is seven years’ imprisonment. Authorities prosecuted at least six rape cases reported to police during the year; most prosecutions resulted in conviction. The law against spousal rape was difficult to enforce effectively, as many did not consider spousal rape a crime and failed to report it. Police generally considered reports of spousal rape to be domestic issues outside of their jurisdiction.
The law prohibits any form of violence against women, but there are no specific penalties. Domestic violence was underreported due to social stigma, and most cases are settled through family mediation. No statistics were available for abusers prosecuted or convicted.
Between January and October, officials at the Department of Social Welfare recorded more than 375 cases of domestic violence, which included paternity and custody cases in addition to cases of violence against children and women.
In February 2012 the Special Criminal Court in Banjul convicted and sentenced to death 81-year-old Sheriff Aba Hydara of Bakalarr village for shooting and killing his wife in 2010. Hydara stated his late wife had angered him over her control of his garden and that he had no regrets over killing her.
In July 2012 police arrested Libelley Ceesay of Kantong Kunda village for hitting his wife with a hoe, which led to her death. Police stated that the incident happened during a fight over a bag of rice Ceesay intended to divide between his two wives. His trial was ongoing at year’s end.
GAMCOTRAP, one of the leading women’s rights NGOs in the country, included gender-based violence in its training modules for combating FGM/C. Another group, the Female Lawyers’ Association of The Gambia, educated women on their rights and represented them, often without charge, in domestic violence cases.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See section 6, Children.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for a one-year mandatory prison sentence for offenders. Although sexual harassment was considered a common problem, few cases were reported to the police.
Reproductive Rights: The government did not interfere with the basic right of couples and individuals 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. Couples and individuals had access to contraception and skilled attendance during childbirth, including essential obstetric and postpartum care. Women were equally diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections. The maternal mortality rate during the year was 378 per 100,000 live births.
During the year the national reproductive and child health unit of the Department of Health and Social Welfare continued to implement a reproductive health campaign launched in 2007. The campaign, which was funded by the World Health Organization, was designed to encourage men to become involved with sexual and reproductive health issues. All maternal health care services were provided free of charge in government-run hospitals.
Discrimination: The law provides equal rights to men and women and prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender; however, women experienced a wide range of discrimination in matrimonial rights, property ownership, and inheritance rights. Employment in the formal sector was open to women at the same salary rates as men, and no statutory discrimination existed in other kinds of employment, access to credit, owning and managing a business or in housing or education; however, societal discrimination lingered, and women generally were employed in such pursuits as food vending or subsistence farming.
Sharia (Islamic law) is applied in marriage, divorce, and inheritance cases for Muslims, who make up more than 90 percent of the population. Women normally receive a lower proportion of assets distributed through inheritance than men. The respective churches and the office of the attorney general settled civil marriage and divorce issues affecting Christians.
Marriages often were arranged and, depending on the ethnic group, polygyny was practiced. Women in polygynous unions had problems with property and other rights arising from the marriage. They also had the option to divorce, but no legal right to disapprove or be notified in advance of subsequent marriages by their husbands. The women’s bureau under the Office of the Vice President oversees programs to ensure the legal rights of women. Active women’s rights groups existed.