Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime under the law, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of SBD 30,000 ($3,735). In May parliament passed amendments to the sexual offense provisions in the penal code, introducing harsher penalties for sexual offenses. The amendments also criminalize some forms of internal human trafficking; spousal rape; and sex or attempted sex with a person with a known "significant disability," which is defined as an "intellectual, mental or physical condition or impairment" (or combination of two or more such "conditions or impairments") that significantly impairs the person's capacity to understand the nature of the sexual contact or to communicate decisions about sexual contact.
Violence against women, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussion of such matters.
A 2011 World Health Organization report revealed that more than half of women in the country had experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner, and 64 percent of women between 15 and 49 years regularly experienced violence in the home. The 2013 Solomon Islands Demographic and Health Survey found that 65 percent of women and 69 percent of men believed partner violence was justifiable.
Police made efforts to charge offenders for domestic violence and assault against women. As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape victims. They were also trained in the implementation of the 2014 Family Protection Act. Police have a Sexual Assault Unit, staffed mostly by female officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges.
In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts dealt with physical abuse of women as with any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and to cultural bias against women.
In 2015 the government endorsed a new National Gender Equality and Women in Development Policy and a National Eliminating Violence Against Women Policy. The government merged these two policies, and the National Taskforce on Eliminating Violence Against Women is responsible for implementation. The taskforce focuses on improving support and referral services for women who are victims of violence, an area that is severely deficient.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) conducted awareness campaigns on family violence during the year. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility for abused women provided counseling and other support services for women. The Family Support Center did not have an in-house lawyer and depended heavily on the Public Solicitor’s Office for legal assistance for its clients.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued to increase and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women. A 2009 study by the South Pacific Commission found approximately 60 percent of women whose marriage involved payment of a bride price experienced violence from their husband, and the figure rose to approximately 81 percent of women whose bride price was not fully paid.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread problem.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Contraception and adequate prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal care were accessible at all government hospitals and rural health clinics, and all nurses had training to provide family planning services. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an estimated 27 percent of women of reproductive age used modern contraceptive methods and a reported 57 percent of births were unplanned. The UNFPA estimated maternal mortality was 120 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In 2015 skilled health personnel attended approximately 90 percent of births.
Discrimination: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for equal work (see section 7.d.). The Solomon Islands National Council of Women and other NGOs attempted to make women more aware of their legal rights, including voting rights, through seminars, workshops, and other activities.