Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape; it does not specifically address spousal rape, which was rarely reported for societal reasons and, if reported, was often ignored by authorities. The law provides for prison terms of five to 10 years for those convicted. A maximum prison term for conviction of 20 years applies if the victim is a child under age 14; is gang-raped; or if the rape results in pregnancy, disease, or incapacitation lasting more than six weeks. The government was diligent in investigating reports of rape and prosecuting suspects, but victims were reluctant to report incidents due to the social stigma associated with being raped and fear of reprisal. Although neither the government nor any other group compiled statistics on rape or rape arrests, some observers claimed rape was a widespread problem throughout the country.
The law does not specifically address domestic violence, and domestic violence against women continued to be widespread. Police generally did not intervene in abusive situations, and many women were not aware of the formal judicial mechanisms designed to protect them. Although there were no official efforts to combat domestic violence, several NGOs were active in educating women on their rights.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for girls and women. It is usually perpetrated a few months after birth. According to 2015 data from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), FGM/C had been performed on 3 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 and on 1 percent of girls and young women ages15 to 19. The most common form of FGM/C was excision.
Penalties for those convicted of FGM/C range from two months to five years in prison as well as substantial fines. The law was rarely enforced because most cases occurred in rural areas where awareness of the law was limited or traditional customs often took precedence over the legal system among certain ethnic groups. The practice was most common in isolated Muslim communities in the sparsely populated Central Region.
The government continued to sponsor educational seminars on FGM/C. Several domestic NGOs, with international assistance, organized campaigns to educate women on their rights and on how to care for victims of FGM/C. NGOs also worked to create alternative labor opportunities for former FGM/C perpetrators.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem. While the law states harassment is illegal and may be prosecuted in court, no specific punishment is prescribed, and authorities did not enforce the law.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, to have the information and means to do so, and to manage their reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Health clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There were no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives, but according to the 2015 Demographic Health Survey (DHS), only 17 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. The UN Population Division estimated the unmet need for family planning was 37 percent of this cohort. The major barriers to contraceptive use were poverty and lack of education.
Skilled health-care personnel attended approximately 60 percent of births. Although the government provided free cesarean sections, it did not provide free childbirth services generally, and the lack of doctors meant most women used skilled midwives for childbirth as well as for prenatal and postnatal care, unless the mother or child suffered serious health complications. The maternal mortality rate was 400 deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 50, according to the DHS. The most common causes of maternal mortality were hemorrhaging, adolescent pregnancy, and lack of access to skilled obstetric care during childbirth.
Discrimination: Although women and men are equal under the law, women continued to experience discrimination in education, pay (see section 7.d.), pension benefits, and inheritance. In urban areas women and girls dominated market activities and commerce. Harsh economic conditions in rural areas, where most of the population lived, left women with little time for activities other than domestic tasks and agricultural fieldwork. While formal law supersedes traditional law, it is slow, distant, and expensive to access; rural women were effectively subject to traditional law.
There are no restrictions on women signing contracts, opening bank accounts, or owning property. Women did not experience formal sector economic discrimination in access to employment (see section 7.d.), credit, or managing a business. Under traditional law a wife has no maintenance or child support rights in the event of divorce or separation. The formal law provides inheritance rights for a wife upon the death of her husband. Polygyny was practiced.