Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women continued to be a problem. Rape carries a maximum penalty of death, which the courts occasionally imposed for the crime; spousal rape is not a crime. The media reported hundreds of rape cases, but government statistics were unavailable. Social stigma associated with publicly acknowledging rape likely resulted in underreporting because of reluctance by women to report the crime. Many victims were noncitizen domestic workers. When reported, police arrested and prosecuted alleged rapists in some but not all cases. In September the higher courts revoked a life sentence on a citizen for raping a Filipina woman and instead sentenced him to death. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against rape.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, but in some instances courts try such cases as assault. A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint with police requesting formal charges be brought against the alleged abuser. Victims, however, did not report most domestic abuse cases, especially outside the capital. In July the government established two hotlines for reporting of domestic violence. The hotlines are operational only during the day and trained counselors do not respond to the calls. In some cases hospitals denied treatment for victims of sexual assault who had not reported the case to the police first. Police officials rarely arrested perpetrators of domestic violence even when presented with documented evidence of the abuse, such as eyewitness accounts, hospital reports, and social worker testimony, and treated such reports as social instead of criminal matters. Individuals also reportedly bribed some police officials to ignore assault charges in cases of domestic abuse. Husbands convicted of spousal abuse in previous years rarely faced severe penalties. Noncitizen women married to citizens reported domestic abuse and inaction or discrimination by police during past years, but no data were available for the year.
A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from abuse, but the law does not provide a clear legal standard regarding what constitutes injury. Additionally, a woman must provide at least two male witnesses (or a male witness and two female witnesses) to attest to the injury. There were no known shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence, although a permanent shelter for domestic workers could house up to 400 victims. The Public Authority for Manpower operated the shelter, and, as of August, according to a government source, the shelter housed 340 victims and received approximately 200 victims per month. International and national organizations had relatively open access to workers residing in the shelter and reported adequate living conditions; however, observers accused male guards of abusing and sexually harassing some of the women. Human rights groups also stated the shelter was not staffed by year-end with representatives from the Public Prosecutors Office, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and representatives from human rights organizations. As of September, 4,757 domestic workers had used the shelter.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although officials did not report any honor killings during the year, there were familial attacks by male family members on female family members that fit the category of potential honor killings. The penal code penalizes some honor crimes as misdemeanors. The law states that a man who sees his wife, daughter, mother, or sister in the “act of adultery” and immediately kills her or the man with whom she is committing adultery faces a maximum punishment of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 225 dinars ($750). Sentencing guidelines for honor crimes do not apply to bidoon. Media reported in November that a bidoon man stabbed his sister three times because he was upset she “was planning to stay alone in an apartment.” A local contact reported that in December family members raped, beat, and sexually assaulted a noncitizen woman for converting to Christianity from Islam.
Sexual Harassment: No specific law addresses sexual harassment, but the law criminalizes “encroachment on honor,” which encompasses everything from touching a woman against her will to rape, and police strictly enforced this law. The government deployed female police officers specifically to combat sexual harassment in shopping malls and other public spaces. The government prosecuted cases of sexual assault. Perpetrators faced fines and imprisonment. Nonetheless, human rights groups characterized sexual harassment against women in the workplace as a pervasive and unreported problem.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The information and means to make decisions, as well as skilled attendance during prenatal care, essential obstetric care, childbirth, and postpartum care were freely available. While the government did not provide any formal family planning programs, contraceptives were available without prescription to citizens and noncitizens. According to the UN Population Division, an estimated 45 percent of women of reproductive age used a modern method of contraception in 2014.
Discrimination: Women have many political rights, including the right to vote and serve in parliament and the cabinet, but they do not enjoy the same rights as men under family law, labor law, property law, inheritance law, or in the judicial system. Sharia (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over personal status and family law cases for Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sharia, as implemented in the country, discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement, marriage, child custody, and inheritance. There were no known cases of official or private sector discrimination in employment, occupation, credit, pay, owning and/or managing a business, education, and housing. Secular courts allow any person to testify and consider male and female testimony equally, but in sharia courts the testimony of one man equals that of two women.
The law prohibits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men. The law does not require a non-Muslim woman to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man, but many non-Muslim women faced strong economic and societal pressure to convert. In the event of a divorce, the law grants the father custody of children of non-Muslim women who fail to convert. A non-Muslim woman who fails to convert is also ineligible for naturalization as a citizen and cannot inherit her husband’s property unless specified as a beneficiary in his will.
Inheritance is also governed by sharia, which varies according to the specific school of Islamic jurisprudence. In the absence of a direct male heir, a Shia woman may inherit all property, while a Sunni woman inherits only a portion, with the balance divided among brothers, uncles, and male cousins of the deceased.
The law grants a “housewife allowance” to nonworking women age 55 and older. Female citizens are unable to pass citizenship to their noncitizen husbands or their children; exceptions were made for some children of widowed or divorced female citizens. Male citizens married to female noncitizens do not face such discrimination.
Women experienced discrimination in the workplace (see section 7.d.).
According to government statistics, women comprised only 14 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers.
The law requires segregation by gender of classes at all universities and secondary schools, although it was not always enforced. In December the constitutional court ruled that the gender segregation law is constitutional but that separate facilities are not required to enforce gender segregation. The court ruled that separate sitting areas in the classroom met the law’s requirement.
Two members of the 50-seat National Assembly elected in 2013 were women, although both subsequently departed (see section 3). When it reconvened in October 2014, parliament reconstituted its committee on women’s and family affairs. Some women attained prominent positions in business as heads of corporations, but only one woman served as a minister in the cabinet.
There were no female judges. In November 2014 the first 22 female employees of the Public Prosecutor’s Office completed their training and became public prosecutors, a prerequisite for appointment as a judge. In 2013 these 22 women were the first to be accepted to the judicial institute. During the year, however, the Ministry of Justice again tried to prevent women from applying for entry-level positions in the Public Prosecutor’s Office. In March the government put a hold on future women’s applications for prosecutor positions pending an assessment of the performance of the first 22 prosecutors.