Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison, depending on the circumstances and age of the victim. Rape was a widespread problem. Most rape cases went unreported due to victims’ fear or shame. According to the prime minister, surveys on sex-based violence in 2010 showed that 43.2 percent of women nationwide had experienced physical violence at some point in their lives, while 28.3 percent had experienced sexual violence.
The law does not explicitly recognize spousal rape, and authorities seldom prosecuted it. Victims often sought to deal with the rape within the family or were pressured to do so, and many victims did not report spousal rape due to fear of retribution, including loss of economic support.
Domestic violence against women was reportedly widespread, although reliable statistics were not available regarding numbers of incidents, prosecutions, or convictions. Husbands commonly beat their wives.
While the law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence, a woman may sue her husband or lodge criminal charges for battery, penalties for which range from two months in prison and a fine of 10,000 CFA francs ($17) to 30 years’ imprisonment. The government tried with limited success to enforce these laws, and courts prosecuted cases of domestic violence when they received complaints. Charges stemming from family disputes often were dropped in favor of traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms. While women have the right to seek redress for violence in the customary or formal courts, few did so due to ignorance of redress offered by the legal system and fear of spousal or familial repudiation, further violence, or stigmatization. Through several events receiving widespread media coverage--such as International Women’s Day (March 8), National Women’s Day (May 13), and International Day of the Girl (October 11)--the Ministry of Women’s Promotion and Children’s Protection, international organizations, NGOs, and women’s organizations conducted public awareness campaigns on violence against women and legal recourse available to them.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, which is punishable by six months to three years in prison. If an FGM/C victim dies, the practitioner may be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. There were no reports of FGM/C perpetrated on women who were 18 and over. FGM/C was practiced on young girls, with clitoridectomy the most common form. Dangouria, a form of FGM/C found only in the country, also was common. It consisted of cutting away the hymen of newborn girls by traditional barbers known as wanzam. Certain ethnic groups--predominantly the Fulani (Peuhl) and Djerma in the west--practiced FGM/C. According to demographic and health surveys, the FGM/C rate nationwide was 2 percent in 2012, the most recent available information.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The practice continued of taking a “fifth wife,” or “wahaya,” in which girls and women were sold into slavery to perform labor and sexual services. Polygyny is legal and was practiced widely.
There continued to be serious stigma associated with being the descendant of a slave.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime punishable by prison sentences of three to six months and fines of 10,000 to 100,000 CFA francs ($17 to $170). If the violator is in a position of authority over the victim, the prison sentence is three months to one year and the fine is increased to 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($34 to $340). Nevertheless, sexual harassment was common. Courts enforced applicable laws in the small percentage of cases reported.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, but they often lacked the information and means to do so. Information regarding reproductive rights was not readily available.
Due to a shortage of skilled health professionals and limited resources, many women used traditional midwives during childbirth and were referred to hospitals only when the mother or child suffered health complications. According to the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 30 percent of births took place in health centers, and skilled personnel attended 29 percent of births. According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) was 553 in 2015, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 20. Major factors influencing maternal mortality included lack of prenatal care, high rates of adolescent pregnancy, diseases during pregnancy, infections after birth, malnutrition, and lack of access to emergency obstetric care. According to the 2012 DHS, only 6 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 19 and 12 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. The UN Population Division estimated 13.9 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2015.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equal legal status and rights regardless of sex, women do not have the same rights as men under family law, which customary courts usually adjudicate. In customary law, legal rights as head of household typically apply only to men. Customary law does not consider a divorced or widowed woman, even with children, to be a head of household. Traditional and religious beliefs resulted in discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment (see section 7.d.), credit, pay, owning or managing a business or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. Discrimination was worse in rural areas, where women helped with subsistence farming and did most of the childrearing, cooking, water- and wood-gathering, and other work. In the absence of a formal will stating otherwise, a daughter’s share of a deceased parent’s property is half the size of a son’s share. In the east there were reports some husbands cloistered their wives and prevented them from leaving their homes unless escorted by a male relative, usually even then only after dark.
The Ministry of Women’s Promotion and Children’s Protection and the Ministry of Labor and Civil Service implemented the government policies against discrimination.