Rape and Domestic Violence: Spousal abuse and other forms of violence against women were significant problems. Alcohol abuse frequently was a factor in attacks on women. Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime, with a maximum penalty of life in prison, but sentences typically were much shorter. In the first half of the year, six women reportedly were killed in domestic disputes by a spouse or partner.
Authorities passed the Te Rau N Te Mwenga Act (also referred to as the Family Peace Act) in April, criminalizing domestic violence. The government, in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team, facilitated training for police, public prosecutors, health, social welfare, education, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers to implement this legislation effectively. The law provides for penalties of up to six months in prison for common assault and up to five years in prison for assault involving bodily harm. During the year the government passed the first of two readings of an amendment to the penal code to introduce the death penalty as a deterrent for domestic violence.
While cultural taboos on reporting rape and domestic abuse and police attitudes encouraging reconciliation over prosecution still exist, prosecutions for these crimes occurred during the year. As of October the Office of the Attorney General had prosecuted 13 cases involving rape, indecent assault, and other sexual assaults against women.
The government continued implementing the Eliminating Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Policy through a 10-year national action plan launched in 2011. The police force has a Domestic Violence and Sexual Offenses Unit, and unit officers participated in a capacity-building program, funded by a foreign government, that provided training in handling such cases. Police also ran a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. The Catholic Church operated a shelter for women and children in Tarawa. The Ministry of Health opened a clinic during the year in the main hospital in Tarawa for victims of domestic violence and sexual offenses.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits female genital mutilation/cutting, and there were no reports of such practices.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment. Information presented in workshops conducted in 2010 in connection with efforts to develop a national policy on gender equality indicated that sexual harassment was more widespread than previously thought. The Ministry of Labor was implementing a three-year Gender Access and Equality Plan to promote a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment in workplaces and training institutes.
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, and the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health available in the country, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to contraception, as well as prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal care, was available from public health hospitals and centers. The NGO Kiribati Family Health Association also offered mobile reproductive health clinical services, undertook public campaigns, and provided information and counseling on family planning. In 2013 the UN Population Fund estimated that the maternal mortality ratio was 130. According to UN Children’s Fund indicators, an estimated 22 percent of married women ages 15 to 49 used some form of contraception, and skilled personnel (doctors, nurses, or midwives) attended 80 percent of births.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in employment but not in other areas. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The traditional culture, in which men are dominant, in some cases impeded a more active role for women in the economy. Women filled many government office and teaching positions. According to the 2010 census, 43 percent of the labor force were women (primarily teachers and nurses). Women have rights of ownership and inheritance of property as well as full and equal access to education. Land inheritance laws are patrilineal, although sons are entitled to more land than daughters.
The citizenship law contains some discriminatory provisions. For example, the foreign wife of a male citizen acquires citizenship automatically through the marriage, but the foreign husband of a female citizen does not.