Rape and Domestic Violence: Sexual assault, including rape, is a crime. There is no specific law against spousal rape. Sexual assault involving a dangerous weapon or serious physical or psychological harm to the victim is punishable by a maximum nine years’ imprisonment in Chuuk and 10 years’ imprisonment in the other three states, and a maximum fine of $20,000 (the U.S. dollar is the national currency) in Kosrae and $10,000 in the other states. If neither a dangerous weapon nor serious physical harm is involved, the assault is punishable in all states by a maximum five years’ imprisonment and a fine. Due to social stigma, such crimes were underreported, and authorities prosecuted few cases. The police academy curriculum included programs to train police officers to recognize the problem. According to police and women’s groups, there were several reports of physical and sexual assaults against women, both citizens and foreigners, outside the family context.
Reports of domestic violence, often severe, continued during the year. Although assault is a crime, effective prosecution of offenses was rare. In many cases victims decided not to initiate legal charges against a family member because of family pressure, fear of further assault, or the belief that police would not involve themselves actively in what is seen as a private family problem. The traditional extended family unit deemed violence, abuse, and neglect directed against spouses or children as offenses against the entire family, not just the individual victims, and addressed them by a complex system of familial sanctions. Traditional methods of coping with family discord were breaking down with increasing urbanization, monetization of the economy, and greater emphasis on the nuclear family in which victims were isolated from traditional family support. No institution, including the police, has succeeded in replacing the extended family system or in addressing directly the problem of family violence.
There were no governmental facilities to provide shelter and support to women in abusive situations. Chuuk has a private facility for women, funded by a foreign government. In Yap a multipurpose facility, including a shelter, was under construction. The Pohnpei Department of Public Safety’s program of domestic violence education included a hotline and training of police officers to handle domestic violence cases.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and anecdotal reports suggested it occurred.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, to manage their reproductive health short of abortion, and to have access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Access to contraception, prenatal care, skilled attendance at delivery, and postpartum care was widely available through private and public medical facilities. According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality ratio was 100 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. The United Nations Population Fund estimated the prevalence of modern contraceptives was more than 30 percent of women in 2015. The government conducted public information campaigns on reproductive health through posters and billboards. Other types of local media were not readily available.
Discrimination: Women have equal rights under the law, including the right to own property, and there were no institutional barriers to education or employment for women. The largest employers were the national and state governments, and female employees received equal pay for equal work. Societal discrimination against women continued, however, and cultural mores encouraged differential treatment for women. Nonetheless, women were active and increasingly successful in private business. For example a number of women ran successful retail businesses in all four states.