Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, but it was not effectively enforced. Penalties range from two to eight years’ imprisonment if the victim is 12 years of age or older and 20 to 24 years’ imprisonment if the victim is under 12. Civil society organizations noted that while the wording of the revised penal code, passed in December 2014, covers both vaginal and anal sex, it does not cover other forms of rape such as oral sex and insertion of objects. Legal experts also noted a revised definition of “intercourse” in the new penal code meant that men could qualify as victims of rape. The July 2014 penal code no longer allows charges for rape to be dropped when the perpetrator marries the victim.
According to NGO reports, many families preferred to settle rape allegations through informal community courts or privately through financial remuneration rather than through the formal judicial system. Spousal rape was rarely reported; however, it was regarded as a common problem. Increasing numbers of victims sought assistance from human rights organizations, especially in cases that resulted in HIV infection.
Domestic violence against women remained widespread. According to local media reports, there were 23,659 reported instances of domestic violence in 2014. According to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report, 54 percent of all women reported being victims of sexual or physical abuse. Abuse of a spouse or unmarried partner is punishable with one to two years in prison, or a greater penalty if another crime is also applicable.
Although domestic violence was considered a valid reason to leave a partner, women often had few economic or social alternatives and thus remained with the abuser. An estimated 95 percent of women were dependent on the community or family-based (typically agricultural) economy. Many young women also engaged in transactional sex with older, wealthier men in order to survive economically.
With the exception of some ethnic and religious groups, the groom’s family provided a bride price to the bride’s family, usually in the form of money, livestock, or other goods, although this practice had become somewhat less common. Among Muslims, the bride’s family usually paid for the wedding and provided gifts. Some believed these payments contributed to violence against women and other inequalities due to the perception that married women were owned by their husbands.
Government agencies and NGOs continued to implement public outreach campaigns to combat violence against women nationwide.
Police and NGOs worked together to combat domestic violence. The PRM operated special women’s and children’s units within police precincts that received high numbers of cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and violence against children in order to assist victims and their families.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice of “purification,” whereby a widow is obligated to have unprotected sex with a member of her deceased husband’s family, continued, particularly in rural areas, despite a number of campaigns against it.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal; however, it was pervasive in business, government, and schools, and remained a societal problem. Although the penal code incorporates protections against sexual harassment in education, there is no legislation on sexual harassment in public places.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. They also have the right to manage their reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Healthcare clinics and local NGOs operated freely and disseminated information on family planning; however, only 15 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used modern contraception, according to the UN Population Fund. Rural communities often had limited access to basic health services. Many people in poor communities believed large families enhanced wealth generation.
The country had a high maternal mortality rate (408 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013), and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 41 due in part to poor clinical capacity for obstetric emergencies and a severe lack of doctors (1,452 for a population of approximately 25 million) and nurses, particularly in rural areas. Other reasons included poor infrastructure, a high HIV/AIDS rate, high rates of adolescent pregnancy (166 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 between 1999 and 2012), and poor access to health-care facilities, often resulting in delays in providing medical care.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as men under family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws; however, it does not specifically require equal pay for equal work, nor does it mandate nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring. The law also contains provisions that limit excessive physical work or night shift requirements during pregnancies. The law contains special provisions to protect women against abuse. Many women remained uninformed about the law.
Women continued to experience economic discrimination (see section 7.d.). Relative gender gaps in education and income remained high. In some regions, particularly the northern provinces, women had limited access to the formal judicial system for enforcement of rights provided under the civil code and instead relied on customary law to settle disputes. Women typically have no rights to inherit land under customary law.
Women held a relatively small proportion of private-sector salaried jobs, and they had correspondingly lower social security benefits and less access to higher-paying occupations than did men. Many worked as casual laborers or in the informal sector, primarily in subsistence agriculture. Enforcement of laws that protect women’s rights to land ownership was poor. Forum Mulher, a network of women’s rights advocacy groups, noted women’s representation in local and provincial-level bodies continued to lag while their representation in national decision-making bodies was relatively high.
The parliament has a women’s caucus, composed of members from the three parties with parliamentary seats, which seeks to address issues of gender balance, women’s representation in decision-making bodies, and advocacy of women’s rights.