Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 15 years in prison but does not criminalize spousal rape. The government generally enforced the law when individuals reported cases, but there were indications that many victims did not report rape because of cultural and societal factors. In 2012 the most recent year for which statistics were available, police charged 223 individuals with rape or attempted rape. Foreign nationals working as domestic employees occasionally reported that their sponsors or employees of labor recruitment agencies had raped them. According to diplomatic observers, police investigations resulted in few rape convictions.
The law does not specifically address domestic violence. Assault, battery, and aggravated assault carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Allegations of spousal abuse in civil courts handling family law cases reportedly were common. Victims of domestic violence may file a complaint with police, and reports suggested that police responded promptly and professionally. Domestic violence was more prominently discussed in the media than in past years.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not explicitly ban female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). The government, however, prohibits FGM/C in hospitals and clinics.
Sexual Harassment: The country does not have a law against sexual harassment. According to a 2010 Freedom House report on women’s rights in the Middle East, female employees are discouraged from reporting sexual harassment, not only for fear of losing their jobs but also because social pressures place the responsibility for “proper moral behavior” on them.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of married couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so. Health clinics operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the ministry of health. There were no legal restrictions on the right to access contraceptives for unmarried individuals. The government provided free childbirth services to citizens within the framework of universal health care. Prenatal and postnatal care was readily available and used. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; however, social taboos prevented individuals from seeking treatment.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based discrimination against citizens. Economic studies conducted by the World Economic Forum from 2012, however, showed that women earned 75 percent less than men and that their unemployment rate was at least twice as high. Aspects of Islamic law and tradition, as interpreted in the country, discriminated against women, as did some social and legal institutions. In some personal status cases, such as divorce, a woman’s testimony is equal to half that of a man. The legal provision that allows men to divorce their wives with the signature of two witnesses is not accorded to women. The law favors male heirs in adjudicating inheritance. Women married to noncitizens may not transmit citizenship to their children and cannot sponsor their noncitizen husband’s presence in the country. In terms of marriage, a woman’s consent is not required to legalize a marriage. Men can marry a second wife without informing their first wife.
The law provides for transmission of citizenship at birth if the father is a citizen; if the mother is a citizen and the father is unknown; or if a child of unknown parents is found in the country. The law provides that an adult may become a citizen by applying for citizenship and subsequently residing legally in the country for 20 years or 10 years if married to a male citizen. During that time an applicant cannot reside more than one month of each year outside the country. A person seeking naturalization is expected first to give up any previous citizenship.
Women cannot transmit citizenship to their spouses or children. Observers reported a few isolated cases of children without documentation as the result of a marriage between an Omani woman and a non-Omani man. These children are not eligible for citizenship, and are vulnerable to being stateless. Women may own property, but it was unknown what percentage of women actually owned property. The law equalizes the treatment of men and women in receiving free government land for housing.
Government policy provided women with equal opportunities for education, and this policy effectively eliminated the previous gender gap in education attainment. Although some educated women held positions of authority in government, business, and the media, many women faced job discrimination based on cultural norms. The law entitles women to gender-related protections in the workplace, such as the right to paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. The government, the largest employer of women, observed such regulations, as did many private sector employers. According to the World Economic Forum, only 27 percent of women participated in the work force. The local business community reported that, since 2013, the Ministry of Manpower had not approved work permits for foreign women regardless of profession or country of origin, while it granted work permits to foreign men applying for comparable positions. Ministry officials said the purpose of the ban on female foreign visas was to “regularize” the labor market, without further explanation.
The Ministry of Social Development is the umbrella Ministry for Women’s Affairs. The ministry provided support for women’s economic development through the Oman Women’s Associations and local community development centers. The government also formed a committee to monitor the country’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which met in 2013.