Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by two to 12 years’ imprisonment. The prosecution of rape occurred most often in cases in which there was evidence of violent assault or the victim was a minor. Government prosecutors won convictions, and judges imposed sentences of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for rape if the victim died, but the full extent of the problem was undocumented. A government family planning clinic and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) sought to combat rape by raising awareness of the problem.
Widespread reports of domestic violence continued. Although women have the right to legal recourse in cases of domestic violence, including against spouses, many were reluctant to bring legal action because of the cost and a general lack of faith in the legal system to address their concerns effectively. Women often were uninformed of their legal rights. Some observers stated tradition and custom inhibited women from taking domestic disputes outside the family. The law prescribes penalties ranging from imprisonment for three to eight years in cases of domestic violence resulting in harm to the health of the victim to incarceration for eight to 16 years when such violence leads to loss of life. The law was enforced, but there was no data on the number of prosecutions or convictions for domestic violence.
The Office of Women’s Affairs and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) maintained a counseling center and small shelter with a hotline for domestic violence. The hotline did not receive many calls, but the counseling center and shelter received numerous walk-ins. The Gender Equality Institute within the Office of Women’s Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Office also provided numerous awareness workshops and seminars during the year to educate women on their rights. It also trained police on how to recognize and respond to cases of domestic abuse.
Sexual Harassment: The penal code prohibits sexual harassment. Sexual harassment reportedly occurred, but no data were available on its extent. In cases of sexual harassment that involved violence or threats, the law prescribes penalties of between one and eight years in prison. The maximum penalty for other cases of sexual harassment is imprisonment for three years. The government enforced penal code provisions during the year.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide freely 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. Health clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. There were no restrictions on access to contraceptives. NGOs and the Ministry of Health, however, had insufficient supplies of contraceptives. According to estimates by the UN Population Division, 40 percent of women of reproductive age used a modern method of contraception. The government provided free childbirth services, but the lack of doctors obliged many women, especially in rural areas, to rely on nurses or midwives during childbirth. One government clinic provided prenatal and postnatal care, and the national hospital offered medical assistance when the mother or child suffered serious health complications. According to the most recent UN estimates, there were 74 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014. Emergency services for the management of complications arising from abortion were available, although the country’s health system was generally limited in ability to respond. Upgrades to the emergency room at the national hospital were completed during the year.
Discrimination: The constitution stipulates and law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, but they do not specifically recognize these rights as they pertain to the family, child custody, labor, employment, owning or managing businesses or property, nationality, or inheritance. Economic discrimination (see section 7.d.) did not generally occur in the areas of credit or housing.
While many women had access to opportunities in education, business, and government, women--particularly older women--generally encountered significant societal discrimination. Traditional beliefs left women with most child-rearing responsibilities. Younger women had increasing access to educational and professional opportunities compared with the older generation, although a high teenage pregnancy rate reduced economic opportunities for some. The Gender Equality Institute within the Office of Women’s Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Office held some seminars and workshops to raise awareness of discrimination against women.