Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape carries a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison. Judges typically imposed sentences of one to three years. The law does not explicitly address spousal rape. Activists continued to complain that the burden of proof in rape cases was too heavy and discouraged victims from reporting acts of rape and authorities from prosecuting them. The government did not respond formally to these concerns.
According to national police statistics, 123 rapes were reported in 2012, the most recent data available. According to the latest available information from the State Prosecutor’s Office, in 2012 prosecutors brought 21 cases to trial and obtained a conviction in three (seven cases remained pending in the Supreme Court). In 2011 prosecutors obtained convictions in eight of the 21 cases that went to trial (two cases remained pending in the Supreme Court). In previous years the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence noted that the number of reported rapes consistently rose faster than the number of convictions.
While the law prohibits domestic violence, violence against women continued to be a problem. The penalties can range from a fine to 16 years in prison, depending on the type of violence committed. In addition the law permits judges to increase the sentences of persons who commit violence against persons with whom they had a domestic relationship or other close bond. There were no domestic violence cases in which judges actually handed down stronger sentences, and one respected activist expressed concern that sentences were too mild and too few.
Law enforcement agencies reported 264 cases of domestic quarrelling and 333 cases of domestic violence to the State Prosecutor’s Office in 2012, the most recent data available. A large majority of victims historically declined to press charges or chose to forgo trial, in part to avoid publicity. Some local human rights monitors attributed the underreporting of domestic violence and sex crimes to the infrequency of convictions and to traditionally light sentences. In the few cases of domestic violence that went to court, the courts often continued to base sentences on precedent and rarely made full use of the more stringent sentencing authority available under the law. In 2012, the most recent year for which data was available, 9.6 percent of the clients of the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence pressed charges.
Victims of domestic violence can request police to remove perpetrators physically from the home for up to four weeks at a time. Police can also impose a 72-hour restraining order to prevent the abusers from coming into proximity with the victim, and courts can extend this restraining order for up to a year. The law entitles victims of sex crimes to a lawyer to advise them of their rights and to help them pursue charges against the alleged assailants.
In 2012, 130 women sought assistance at the rape crisis center of the National University Hospital of Iceland, and 113 women sought temporary lodging at the country’s shelter for women, mainly because of domestic violence. The shelter offered counseling to 211 clients.
The government helped finance the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence, the rape crisis center of the national hospital, and other organizations that assisted victims of domestic or gender-based violence. In addition to partially funding such services, the government provided help to immigrant women in abusive relationships, offering emergency accommodation, counseling, and information on legal rights.
Sexual Harassment: Two laws prohibit sexual harassment. The general penal code prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates that violations are punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. The law on equal status defines sexual harassment more broadly as any type of unfair or offensive physical, verbal, or symbolic sexual behavior that is unwanted and affects the self-respect of the victim, and is continued despite a clear indication that the behavior is undesired. The law requires employers and organization supervisors to make specific arrangements to prevent employees, students, and clients from becoming victims of gender-based or sexual harassment. Victims of harassment can report incidents to the Complaints Committee on Equal Status. The law requires only employers with 25 or more employees to provide their employees information on the legal prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right 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.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, including under the family, labor, property, and inheritance laws. The law states that employers and unions should work towards gender equality in the labor market, especially in managerial positions, and that employers should work towards declassifying jobs as primarily female- or male-oriented. The Center for Gender Equality (CGE) reported that many more men than women were in managerial positions.
Despite laws that require equal pay for equal work, a pay gap existed between men and women. Using Eurostat methodology, Statistics Iceland published a report in April showing the gender pay gap amounted to 18.1 percent overall, with 18.5 percent in the private sector and 16.2 percent in the public sector. The survey did not take into consideration factors such as type of profession, education, age, and length of employment. In August a salary survey conducted by the Association of Academics showed the gender pay gap to be nearly 12 percent when taking into account working hours, education, age, number of persons supervised, and level of financial responsibility. In September a salary survey commissioned by the Federation of State and Municipal Employees showed the gender pay gap to be 11.4 percent among the federation’s membership when taking into working hours, education, age, number of persons supervised, type of profession, and length of employment.
The state-run CGE promoted gender equality and provided counseling and education on gender equality to national and municipal authorities, institutions, companies, individuals, and nongovernmental organizations. The Minister of Social Affairs and Housing appoints members of the Complaints Committee on Equal Status, which adjudicates alleged violations of the law. The minister also appoints members of the Equal Status Council, drawn from national women’s organizations, the University of Iceland, and labor and professional groups. The council makes recommendations for equalizing the status of men and women in the workplace.
As of November 14, the Complaints Committee on Equal Status ruled that the law on equal status had been violated two times. In the first case, the committee ruled that the National Broadcasting Service had violated the equal status law three times: first, by unlawfully firing a woman from the position of sound technician; second, by hiring a man instead of her as a substitute sound technician in April 2012; and third, by hiring two men as substitute sound technicians in June 2012 instead of the woman, who was deemed at least equally qualified. In the other case, the National University Hospital violated the law by hiring a woman as the head of the hospital’s department of vascular surgery instead of a man who was deemed more qualified.