Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and carries maximum sentences ranging from 10 years’ to life imprisonment. Anecdotal evidence suggested it was a pervasive problem. A spouse can bring rape charges only if the two are separated and living in separate quarters. The Directorate of Gender Affairs, part of the Ministry of Education, Gender, Sports, and Youth Affairs, publicized a crisis hotline for victims and witnesses to sexual assault and managed a sexual assault center that coordinates responses to sexual assault. Police immediately refer reported rapes to the Sexual Offenses Unit, and a female police officer and often a caseworker from the Directorate of Gender Affairs accompany the victim for questioning, medical examinations, treatment, and court appearances, if necessary. An investigation commences once the crime is reported. The government was unable to provide the number of persons prosecuted for unlawful sexual intercourse. In situations where the survivor did not know her assailant, the case could take years to come to trial. The Directorate of Gender Affairs reported that the number of rape survivors coming forward increased following the creation of the Sexual Offenses Unit in 2007.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem. The law prohibits and provides penalties for domestic violence, but some women were reluctant to testify against their abusers due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence. The government noted an increase in women coming forward in the years since enactment of the Domestic Violence Act of 1999. The Directorate of Gender Affairs operated a domestic violence program that provided training for law enforcement officers, health-care professionals, counselors, social workers, immigration officers, and army officers. The directorate also worked with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), individuals, and businesses to provide safe havens for abused women and children. Services for victims of domestic violence included counseling and an advocacy caseworker who accompanied the victim to the hospital, police station, and court, if necessary.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not specifically defined in law. The country is, however, party to the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, known as the Convention of Belem do Para, which recognizes sexual harassment as a form of violence against women. According to the Labor Department, there was a high incidence of sexual harassment reported in both the private and public sectors, but there were no cases formally reported during the year, and the lack of reporting was believed to result from concerns about retaliation. The labor court requires a safe working environment for all persons, and the court could address harassment cases, although no such cases were filed during the year.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals had the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There was adequate access to contraception. Most pregnant women had at least one prenatal care visit, and most women gave birth in hospitals. A 2010 World Health Organization report indicated that skilled attendance at birth was 100 percent, and 99 percent of women received prenatal care from skilled health personnel at least four times during pregnancy. The contraceptive prevalence rate was estimated to be 53 percent. Incidence of maternal mortality was not available.
Discrimination: The labor code provides that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of his or her gender, and women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. Economic conditions, however, tended to limit women to home and family, although some women worked as domestics, in agriculture, or in the large tourism sector. Despite these limitations, women were well represented in the private and public sectors. There is legislation requiring equal pay for equal work, and women faced no restrictions involving ownership of property.
The Directorate of Gender Affairs is charged with promoting the rights of women, and other departments are also involved, including the Ministry of Labor.