Rape and Domestic Violence: In September 2015 the government passed the Law on the Prevention and Repression of Violence Against Women and Girls and Support for Victims. Conviction of rape is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment, but the new law includes fines of 100,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($172 to $859). Police generally investigated reports of rape, but victims often did not file reports due to cultural barriers and fear of reprisal. According to human rights NGOs, rape occurred frequently. Although authorities prosecuted rape cases during the year, no statistics were available on the number of cases reported or prosecuted. Several organizations--including Roman Catholic and Protestant missions, the Association of Women Jurists in Burkina Faso, the Association of Women, and Promo-Femmes (a regional network that worked to combat violence against women)--counseled rape victims.
Domestic violence against women occurred frequently, primarily in rural areas. For example, on April 13, a man killed his wife in the rural community of Dapelgo after accusing her of adultery. An outraged mob later killed the husband. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, 33.9 percent of women had experienced physical violence, committed in 68 percent of cases by their husbands. Victims seldom pursued legal action due to shame, fear, or reluctance to take their spouses to court. For the few cases that went to court, the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion could provide no statistics on prosecutions, convictions, or punishment. There were no government-run shelters in the country for victims of domestic violence, but there were counseling centers in each of the 13 regional “Maison de la Femme” centers. In Ouagadougou the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family assisted victims of domestic violence at four centers. The ministry sometimes provided counseling and housing for abused women.
The ministry has a legal affairs section to educate women on their rights, and several NGOs cooperated to protect women’s rights. The ministry organized a number of workshops and several sensitization campaigns to inform women of their rights. According to the ministry, more than 5,800 persons received instruction on women’s and family rights and combatting domestic violence, including 60 radio journalists and 60 judiciary police who also received instruction on caring for victims of domestic violence and documenting their cases.
The law makes conviction of “abduction to impose marriage or union without consent” punishable by six months to five years in jail. Conviction of sexual abuse or torture or conviction of sexual slavery is punishable by two to five years in prison. Conviction of the foregoing abuses may also carry fines of 500,000 to one million CFA francs ($859 to $1,718).
The law requires police to provide for protection of the victim and her minor children and mandates the establishment of chambers in the High Court with exclusive jurisdiction over cases of violence against women and girls. The law requires all police and gendarmerie units to designate officers to assist female victims of violence--or those threatened by violence--and to respond to emergencies; however, some units had not complied by year’s end. It also mandates the creation of care and protection centers in each commune for female victims of violence and a government support fund for their care. The centers receive victims on an emergency basis, offer them security, provide support services (including medical and psychosocial support), and, when possible, refer the victims to court.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but it was practiced widely, particularly in rural areas, and usually performed at an early age. According to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) statistics from 2013, the incidence of FGM/C fell 27.5 percent in the 12 years preceding the report. Seventy-six percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 and 13 percent of girls under age 15 reported being subjected to FGM/C, however. Perpetrators, if convicted, are subject to a fine of 150,000 to 900,000 CFA francs ($258 to $1,546) and imprisonment of six months to three years--or up to 10 years if the victim dies. Despite the high incidence of FGM/C, according to UNICEF, authorities received only 72 reports of FGM/C in 2015 and 13 reported cases through September of the year.
Security forces and social workers from the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family arrested several FGM/C perpetrators and their accomplices, some of whom were serving prison sentences at year’s end. According to the ministry, all victims were minors ages 18 months to eight years. The ministry collaborated with security forces on a multidimensional approach. This included financial support to the security forces for the investigation and arrest of FGM/C perpetrators and training in educative and dissuasive enforcement techniques.
For example, in July police in Ouagadougou arrested a woman and man for FGM/C of a girl age six. A religious leader who allegedly encouraged the parents to perform FGM/C and an accomplice involved in the crime remained at large at year’s end.
Through the National Committee for the Fight against Excision, the government conducted awareness campaigns, training, and programs to identify and support FGM/C victims. It operated a toll-free number to report FGM/C cases. Through regional committees to combat excision, it worked with local populations to end FGM/C. These committees included representatives of government ministries, police, the gendarmerie, and local and religious leaders. The government also integrated FGM/C prevention in prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services at 35 percent of public health facilities. Government measures taken during the year to combat FGM/C included: the establishment of mobile courts in Tuy Province to try persons accused of FGM/C; creation of a public education Facebook page; distribution to public and private health centers of 322 treatment kits; training 164 Ministry of Education and Literacy officials on ending FGM/C; establishing five high school social networks to address FGM/C in Houet, Kadiogo, and Sanmatenga Provinces; and holding an international day of “zero tolerance for FGM/C.”
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law makes the conviction of physical or moral abuse of women or girls accused of witchcraft punishable by one to five years in prison and/or a fine of 300,000 to 1.5 million CFA francs ($515 to $2,577). Elderly women without support, living primarily in rural areas and often widowed, sometimes were accused of witchcraft by their neighbors and banned from their villages. Villagers accused such women of “eating” the soul of a relative or a child. Victims seldom took legal action due to fear of repercussions to their families and sought refuge at centers run by governmental or charitable organizations in urban centers. For example, on May 16, in the village of Pilimpikou (Passore Province), three elderly persons were accused of witchcraft involving the death of a young man. Seventy elderly persons fled the village for safety. Although some of the victims sought assistance from authorities, many that fled remained unable to return at year’s end. An estimated 600 elderly persons accused of witchcraft were lodged in 13 solidarity centers nationwide. Actions taken by the government to protect elderly persons accused of witchcraft included financial support of 111 million CFA francs ($191,000) and the organization of a national campaign against the social exclusion of persons accused of witchcraft.
Sexual Harassment: The law provides for sentences of three months to one year in prison and a fine of 300,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($515 to $859) for conviction of sexual harassment; the maximum penalty applies if the perpetrator is a relative, in a position of authority, or if the victim is “vulnerable.” The government was ineffective in enforcing the law, in large part because many considered sexual harassment culturally acceptable. There were no statistics available on the number of cases reported, prosecutions, or convictions.
Reproductive Rights: The law entitles couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but persons often lacked the information and means to exercise these rights. Government and private health centers were open to all women and offered reproductive health services, skilled medical assistance during childbirth (essential obstetric and postpartum care), and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Remote villages, however, often lacked these facilities or did not have adequate transportation infrastructure to permit easy access.
According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey, 95 percent of women received prenatal care from skilled personnel, and skilled personnel attended 67 percent of births. The UN Population Division estimated that 17.8 percent of girls and women ages 15 through 49 used a modern method of contraception. Cultural norms that left decisions regarding birth control to husbands contributed to the limited use of contraceptives. The World Health Organization attributed the maternal mortality ratio of 371 per 100,000 live births in 2015 to lack of access to health care in rural areas. Amnesty International reported maternal deaths also resulted from inadequate training of health-care workers. Emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion, were generally available in urban areas but often not in rural areas.
Discrimination: Although the law generally provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men--including under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws--discrimination frequently occurred. Women occupied a subordinate position in society and often experienced discrimination in education, jobs, property ownership, access to credit, management or ownership of a business, and family rights. Labor laws provide that all workers--men and women alike--should receive equal pay for equal working conditions, qualifications, and performance. Women nevertheless generally received lower pay for equal work, had less education, and owned less property. The law permits polygyny, but a woman must agree to it prior to marriage. A wife may oppose further marriages by her husband if she provides evidence he abandoned her and their children. Each spouse may petition for divorce, and the law provides for granting custody of a child to either parent, based on the child’s best interest. Mothers generally retained custody of their children until age seven, at which time custody reverted to the father or his family.
Women represented approximately 45 percent of the labor force in the formal sector and were primarily concentrated in low-paid, low-status positions. Although the law provides equal property and inheritance rights for women and men, land tenure practices emphasized family and communal land requirements more than individual ownership rights. As a result authorities often denied women the right to own property, particularly real estate. This condition was exacerbated by the fact that the law defined 75 percent of marriages as common-law unions (with only a religious or traditional ceremony) and not legally binding. For example, in rural areas land owned by a woman becomes the property of the family of her husband after marriage. Many citizens, particularly in rural areas, held to traditional beliefs that did not recognize inheritance rights for women and regarded a woman as property that could be inherited upon her husband’s death.
The government conducted media campaigns to change attitudes toward women. The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, and Family is responsible for increasing women’s awareness of their rights and worked to facilitate their access to land ownership. The government sponsored a number of community outreach efforts and awareness campaigns to promote women’s rights. For example, the ministry organized an information and education session on combatting gender inequalities and disparities in the education system for approximately 160 teachers in public and private schools in the Center North, Center South, Center West, and Sahel regions.