Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, spousal rape, and domestic abuse are criminal offenses punishable by a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. Nevertheless, rape was a problem, and the government did not enforce the law effectively. Most victims did not report rape due to fear of reprisal or social stigma. As of September 15, there were 111 reports of rape, and 26 cases of sexual assault were pending in courts at year’s end.
Domestic violence against women was a problem. Police rarely responded to domestic disputes, although media reported some improvement during the year. Police maintained a specialized unit, the Family Squad, to address domestic violence and other family problems. The unit was underfunded and ineffective. Authorities often dismissed the few cases that reached a prosecutor. In the cases that continued, the court generally handed down light sentences.
The Social Affairs Division of the Ministry for Community Development, Social Affairs, and Sports and the Women in Action and Solidarity Organization (WASO), a local NGO, provided counseling services to victims of rape and domestic violence. The ministry’s Gender Secretariat conducted various outreach campaigns to end gender-based violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but enforcement was rare. The penal code provides no penalty for sexual harassment, although the court can order a person accused of such conduct to “keep a bond of peace,” which allows the court to assess a fine if the harasser fails to cease the harassment.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Health clinics and local health NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. The government provided free childbirth services--including nurses and midwives for delivery and for prenatal and postnatal care. When complications arose, mothers and their babies were referred to a public hospital. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. There were no legal, social, cultural, or other barriers to access these services.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, and the society was largely matriarchal. Unwed mothers were the societal norm, and the law requires fathers to support their children. There was no officially sanctioned discrimination in employment, and women were well represented in both the public and private sectors.
There was no economic discrimination against women in employment, access to credit, equal pay for equal work, or owning or managing a business. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women.