Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and punishable if convicted by imprisonment of five to 10 years or up to 15 years if the victim is younger than age 15. A 2014 law strengthened the punishment of violence against women, including by criminalizing spousal rape. The government enforced the laws on rape if victims filed charges. From January to September, the NGO Service d’Ecoute (listening and counseling service) branch in Grande Comore recorded 84 incidents of sexual aggression against minors; statistics were unavailable regarding convictions. The NGO recorded 24 cases of sexual abuse on Anjouan and 27 cases of sexual violence against minors and the arrest of 18 alleged perpetrators on Moheli. There were reports that families or village elders settled many allegations of sexual violence informally through traditional means and without recourse to the formal court system.
The law prohibits domestic violence, but courts rarely fined or ordered the imprisonment of convicted perpetrators. No reliable data were available on the extent of the problem. The government took action to combat violence against women, but women rarely filed official complaints. While women may seek protection from domestic violence through the courts, the extended family or village elders addressed most cases. Although officials took action (usually the arrest of the spouse) when reported, domestic violence cases rarely entered the court system.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and conviction is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Although rarely reported due to societal pressure, such harassment was nevertheless a common problem, and authorities did not effectively enforce the laws against it.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The prevalence of modern contraceptive use among married women and girls ages 15 to 49 was approximately 16 percent in 2014, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Existing health-care resources (including personnel, facilities, equipment, and drugs) were inadequate, making it difficult for the government to respond to the health needs of the population. According to the international NGO Population Reference Bureau, skilled personnel attended approximately 62 percent of births. The UNFPA estimated maternal mortality in 2013 to be 350 deaths per 100,000 live births. A general lack of adolescent reproductive health information and services contributed to unwanted pregnancies and increased morbidity and mortality among adolescent girls. These incidents generally were not reported for social and cultural reasons. No legal barriers prevent women from receiving treatment for sexually transmitted infections, but many hesitated to do so because of social and cultural stigma.
Discrimination: The law provides for equality of persons and, in general, inheritance and property rights practices do not discriminate against, but rather favor, women. The Ministry of Health, Solidarity, and Gender Promotion is responsible for promoting women’s rights. The local cultures on Grande Comore and Moheli are traditionally matrilineal, and all inheritable property is in the legal possession of women. This cultural practice leads, at times, to what might be seen as discrimination against men in the inheritance of homes and land. Men retain the head-of-household role in society, however. Throughout the country, including on the nonmatrilineal island of Anjouan, land and homes were usually awarded to women in case of divorce or separation. Societal discrimination against women was most apparent in rural areas, where women were mostly limited to farming and child-rearing duties, with fewer opportunities for education and wage employment. In urban areas growing numbers of women were employed and generally earned wages comparable with those of men engaged in similar work. Few women held positions of responsibility in business, however, outside of elite families.