Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and domestic violence, but both occurred frequently, and authorities rarely prosecuted perpetrators. The law does not address spousal rape. Rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison. The penalty increases to 20 years’ imprisonment if the rape is committed against a pregnant woman, a gun is used, an accomplice is involved, or the rape involves incest. According to a 2011 government study, 91 percent of women had experienced gender-based violence and 49 percent had experienced sexual assault. Victims reported less than 1 percent of these crimes to police due to custom, fear of stigmatization and reprisal, and lack of cooperation from investigating police or gendarmes. Studies indicated citizens also were reluctant to report crimes because they feared police would ask the victim to pay for the investigation. The police Office for Protection of Women, Children, and Morals (OPROGEM) referred 20 rape cases for investigation through June, including 17 of minors.
Violence against a woman that causes an injury is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 30,000 GNF ($3.30). If the injury causes mutilation, amputation, or other loss of body parts, it is punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment; if the victim dies, the crime is punishable by life imprisonment. The law does not directly address domestic violence, although authorities may file charges under general assault, which carries sentences of two to five years in prison and fines of 50,000 to 300,000 GNF ($5.50 to $33). Assault constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law, but police rarely intervened in domestic disputes, and courts rarely punished perpetrators.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the law prohibits FGM/C, the country had an extremely high prevalence rate. UNICEF reported 96 percent of women and girls in the country had undergone the procedure, which was practiced throughout the country and among all religious and ethnic groups. In two trial cases, the judges handed down only light suspended sentences to the perpetrators. There were two cases of death from FGM/C at excision camps in the Forest Region; in one case the perpetrator was still awaiting trial, and in the second local authorities reportedly misplaced or destroyed evidence and denied the crime ever happened, despite reports to the contrary.
Cutting was done primarily on girls between ages four and 17. Different ethnic groups practiced FGM/C at different ages. For example, 6 percent of Toma girls were cut before age five, compared to 39 percent of Malinke girls. According to a UNICEF study using 2011 data from the Demographic and Health Survey, 100 percent of women ages 45 to 49 had undergone FGM/C. According to UNICEF’s 2013 report on FGM/C, 96.6 percent of women had undergone FGM/C before age 15. The law provides for a penalty of up to life in prison or death if the victim dies within 40 days of the procedure. The child code provides for minimum imprisonment of three months to two years and fines from 300,000 to one million GNF ($33 to $110) for perpetrators who do not inflict severe injury or death. If a victim is severely injured or dies, the child code specifies imprisonment of five to 20 years and a fine of up to three million GNF ($330). The government was still in the process of harmonizing the child code with the penal code.
The most common form of FGM/C was excision, which involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (Type II, according to the World Health Organization’s classification). The Coordinating Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting Women’s and Children’s Health reported high rates of infant and maternal mortality due to FGM/C. Social pressure to adhere to FGM/C customs was intense, and many families believed the stigma and social consequences of not conforming were more harmful than the procedure.
The government increased its efforts to combat FGM/C with the support of religious leaders. A foreign embassy continued to assist the government in a National Campaign to Accelerate the Abandonment of FGM/C. In collaboration with UNICEF and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the campaign included NGOs, media, civil society networks, and several ministries. Police worked with campaign partners to implement the law, and the government made several declarations against the practice of FGM/C.
The government also cooperated with NGOs in their efforts to eradicate FGM/C and educate health workers, state employees, and citizens on the dangers of the practice. More than 60 health facilities had integrated FGM/C prevention into prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services. A trend for medically trained staff to perform FGM/C under more hygienic conditions continued. While the “medicalization” of the practice may have decreased some of the negative health consequences of the procedure, it did not eliminate all health risks; it also delayed the development of effective and long-term solutions for the abandonment of the practice. Urban, educated families increasingly opted to perform only a slight, symbolic incision on a girl’s genitals rather than the complete procedure.
Sexual Harassment: In 2014 the government adopted a new labor code that prohibits all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment; the constitution prohibits harassment based on sex, race, ethnicity, political opinions, or other grounds. Although urban women working in the formal sector complained of frequent sexual harassment, employers did not penalize perpetrators. As of September the Ministry of Labor had not documented any case of sexual harassment, despite its frequency.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but they often lacked the information and means to do so. Cultural norms and taboos reportedly dissuaded individuals from taking advantage of opportunities to learn about reproductive health or seek health services for sexually transmitted infections. The UN Population Division estimated 7.5 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015. According to WHO, the maternal mortality ratio was 679 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. The UNFPA reported that 44 percent of women ages 20-24 had given birth before the age of 18. Health care for pregnant women, including caesarian surgery, was free and included limited access to skilled attendance during childbirth, prenatal care, essential obstetric care, and postpartum care. Patients, however, often had to offer medical staff between 500,000 GNF ($55) and 1,500,000 GNF ($165) to ensure services were effective. A government survey estimated 85 percent of girls and women of reproductive age received prenatal care, and 45 percent had a skilled birth attendant present during childbirth; only 40 percent of births occurred at a health facility or hospital.
Discrimination: The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as men, including in inheritance, property, employment, credit, and divorce. The labor code adopted in 2014 prohibits gender discrimination in hiring. Women nevertheless routinely experienced discrimination in employment, pay, and education. Traditional law discriminates against women and sometimes took precedence over formal law, particularly in rural areas.
The Ministry of Social Action and the Promotion of Women and Children worked to advance legal equality for women, who faced discrimination throughout society, but particularly in rural areas where opportunities were limited. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), women under traditional law are entitled to hold land only under an agreement basis, which authorizes them to work family-owned land and draw a wage but not to own it. Women had difficulty obtaining loans, according to the OECD.
Government officials acknowledged that polygyny was common. Divorce laws generally favor men in awarding custody and dividing communal assets. Legal testimony given by women carries less weight than testimony by men, in accordance with Islamic precepts and customary law.