Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, but there is no legal provision against spousal rape. The penalties for rape range from two years’ to life imprisonment, but the court has never imposed a life sentence. Many cases of rape went unreported because societal attitudes discouraged such reporting. In recent years, however, authorities noted a rise in the number of reported cases of rape. This development appeared to be a result of efforts by government ministries and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to increase awareness of the problem and the need to report rape cases to police. The courts treated rape seriously, and the conviction rate generally was high.
The constitution prohibits abuse of women, but societal attitudes tolerated their physical abuse within the home. Social pressure and fear of reprisal typically caused such abuse to go unreported. Village councils typically punished domestic violence offenders but only if they considered the abuse extreme, such as abuses involving visible signs of physical harm. Village religious leaders could also intervene in domestic disputes. When police received complaints from abused women, authorities investigated and punished the offender, including imprisonment. Authorities charge domestic violence as common criminal assault, with a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment. The government did not keep statistics on domestic abuse but acknowledged the problem was of significant concern. A 2011 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Samoa Family Health and Safety Study showed that more than 46 percent of women respondents experienced some form of partner abuse. The Ministry of Police and Prisons has a nine-person Domestic Violence Unit that works in collaboration with NGOs and focuses on combatting domestic abuse. NGO services for abused women included public antiviolence awareness programs, shelters, confidential hotlines, in-person counseling, and other support.
Sexual Harassment: No law specifically prohibits sexual harassment, and there were no reliable statistics on its incidence. The lack of legislation and a cultural constraint against publicly shaming or accusing someone, even if justifiable, reportedly caused sexual harassment to be underreported. Victims had little incentive to report instances of sexual harassment, since doing so could jeopardize their career or family name.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide 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, and violence. As part of its National Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy, the government set out to improve family planning services. According to the latest estimates by the UNFPA, only 31 percent of women between 15 and 49 years used a modern method of contraceptive, and 42 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning services. The unmet need among girls between 15 and 19 years was as high as 50 percent. The UNFPA also reported that skilled health personnel attended an estimated 83 percent of births.
Discrimination: Women have equal rights as men under the constitution and statutory law, and the traditionally subordinate role of women was changing, albeit slowly. The Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development oversees and helps secure the rights of women. To integrate women into the economic mainstream, the government sponsored numerous programs, including literacy and training programs for those who did not complete high school.