Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties for conviction of two to six years in prison; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law permits prosecution of rape only when reported by the victim, which observers noted was rare due to victims’ fear of social stigma and retribution. This problem was exacerbated in the predominantly Muslim and ethnically Fula rural eastern regions of Gabu and Bafata, where the culture dictates the resolution of such problems within the family and community. There were no statistics available on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished for rape.
Domestic violence, including wife beating, was widespread. No law prohibits domestic violence. Although police intervened in domestic disputes if requested, the government did not undertake specific measures to counter social pressure against reporting domestic violence, rape, incest, and other mistreatment of women.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. Conviction of the practice is punishable by a fine of up to five million CFA francs ($8,500) and five years in prison. Muslim preachers and scholars have called for the eradication of FGM/C. The Joint Program on FGM/C of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) worked with the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the dissemination and application of the law by building the capacities of officials responsible for program implementation.
Among certain ethnic groups, especially the Fula and Mandinka, FGM/C was performed on girls from as young as age four months to adolescence. The 2014 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) reported 50 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 and 30 percent of girls ages 10-15 in the country underwent the procedure from 2002 through 2014.
In 2014, 54 percent of public health-care facilities integrated FGM/C prevention into prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services. The Ministry of Health validated and disseminated the Manual for Norms, Procedure, and Protocols on Reproductive Health in connection with FGM/C and integrated FGM/C into two other key documents, the Strategic Plan for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula and the Peer Educators’ Manual on Reproductive Health.
Sexual Harassment: There is no law prohibiting sexual harassment, and it was widespread. The government undertook no initiatives to combat the problem.
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. The UNFPA reported 114 health centers offered family planning services but that the availability of birth control services offered varied from center to center. The 2014 MICS reported 14.4 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception. The Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups discouraged use of modern contraception.
According to UN estimates, the maternal mortality rate was 560 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 36. Major factors causing high maternal mortality were poor health infrastructure and service delivery as well as high rates of adolescent pregnancy. The health system’s obstetric care capacity was low, and emergency care was available only in Bissau. Emergency health care was available for the management of complications arising from abortion only in Bissau, which had the only two functioning hospitals in the country. Skilled health-care providers attended 93 percent of pregnant women at least once during pregnancy; however, skilled health-care workers attended only 44 percent of live births.
Discrimination: By law women have the same legal status and rights as men, but discrimination against women was a problem, particularly in rural areas where traditional and Islamic laws dominated. Women experienced discrimination in employment and pay, obtaining credit, and owning or managing businesses. Although urban women may manage land and inherit property, rural women in certain ethnic groups could do neither. Women performed most work on subsistence farms.