Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime punishable by a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, but spousal rape is not included in the legal definition of this offense. The law recognizes domestic violence as a criminal offense. Under the law domestic violence offenses are punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of A$1,000 ($710), or both. Under the assault provisions of the penal code, the maximum penalty for common assault is six months’ imprisonment, and for assault with actual bodily harm, five years’ imprisonment.
Police have a Domestic Violence Unit, a “no-drop” evidence-based prosecution policy in cases of violence against women, and operate a 24-hour emergency telephone line for victims of domestic violence. The law recognizes the existence of domestic violence and gives express powers for police involvement and intervention, including the power to enter private property. Police may also issue orders for a person who has committed an act of domestic violence to vacate property, whether or not that individual has rights to that property, if a person at risk of further violence occupies it. The government has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tuvalu National Council of Women for handling domestic violence cases. The Women’s Crisis Center, operated by the women’s council, provided counseling services, but there were no shelters for abused women. Cases of rape and domestic violence often went unreported due to lack of awareness of women’s rights and traditional and cultural pressures on victims. According to United Nations Children’s Fund data collected during a 10-year period (2002-12), 73 percent of men and 70 percent of women believed wife beating was justifiable.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment but prohibits indecent behavior, including lewd touching. Reports of sexual harassment were uncommon, and there were no cases reported during the year.
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, or violence. The nongovernmental Tuvalu Family Health Association provided information and education about reproductive health and access to contraception. Government hospitals offered family planning services and provided free prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal care. Trained health personnel attended many births.
Discrimination: Aspects of the law contribute to an unequal status for women, for example in land inheritance and child custody rights. No laws prevent employment discrimination based on gender or require equal pay for equal work, and such discrimination occurred (see section 7.d.). Women held a subordinate societal position, constrained in some instances by both law and traditional cultural practices. Nonetheless, women increasingly held positions in the health and education sectors, headed a number of NGOs, and were more active politically.
There is a Department of Gender Affairs within the Prime Minister’s Office.