Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties for conviction of two to six years in prison; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law permits prosecution of rape only when reported by the victim, which observers noted was rare due to victims’ fear of social stigma and retribution. This problem was exacerbated in the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Fula rural eastern regions of Gabu and Bafata, where the culture dictates the resolution of such problems within the family and community. There were no statistics available on the number of abusers who were prosecuted, convicted, or punished for rape.
Domestic violence, including wife beating, was reportedly widespread. No law prohibits domestic violence. Although police intervened in domestic disputes if requested, the government did not undertake specific measures to counter social pressure against reporting domestic violence, rape, incest, and other mistreatment of women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): In 2012 the National Assembly passed a law prohibiting FGM/C, making the practice punishable by a fine of up to five million CFA francs ($8,666) and five years in prison. Also in 2012 a group of Muslim preachers and scholars passed a declaration calling for the eradication of FGM/C. The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on FGM/C worked with the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the dissemination and application of the law by building the capacities of officials responsible for its implementation. In 2014 they also supported the Attorney General’s Office, police, and the Child Protection Service in trying four women who practiced FGM/C in Bissau and the eastern part of the country.
In November 2014 the government-run National Committee for the Abandonment of Harmful Practices announced it filed a complaint against six persons for perpetrating FGM/C. Three of the six were convicted during the year and received sentences of one to three years’ imprisonment.
Among certain ethnic groups, especially the Fula and Mandinka, FGM/C was performed on girls from as young as four months up to adolescence. UNESCO data from 2013 indicated that more than 350,000, or 50 percent, of girls and women in the country underwent the procedure from 2002 through 2012.
Fifty-four percent of public health-care facilities in 2014 had integrated FGM/C prevention into prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services. The Ministry of Health validated and disseminated the Manual for Norms, Procedure, and Protocols on Reproductive Health in connection with FGM/C and integrated FGM/C into two other key documents, the Strategic Plan for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula and the Peer Educators’ Manual on Reproductive Health.
Sexual Harassment: There is no law prohibiting sexual harassment, and it was reportedly widespread. The government took no initiatives to combat the problem.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 98 of 114 health centers offered family planning services and approximately 12 percent of women and adolescents used contraception. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups discouraged use of modern contraception.
According to UN estimates, the maternal mortality rate was 560 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 36. Major factors causing high maternal mortality were poor health infrastructure and service delivery as well as high rates of adolescent pregnancy. The health system’s obstetric care capacity was low, and emergency care was available only in Bissau. Emergency health care was available for the management of complications arising from abortion only in Bissau, which had the only two functioning hospitals in the country. Skilled health-care providers attended 93 percent of pregnant women at least once during pregnancy; however, skilled health-care workers attended only 44 percent of live births.
Discrimination: By law women have the same legal status and rights as men, but discrimination against women was a problem, particularly in rural areas where traditional and Islamic laws dominated. Women experienced discrimination in employment and pay, obtaining credit, and owning or managing businesses. Although urban women may manage land and inherit property, rural women in certain ethnic groups could do neither. Women were responsible for most work on subsistence farms.