Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape carries a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison. Judges typically imposed sentences of two to three years. The law does not explicitly address spousal rape. Activists continued to complain that the burden of proof in rape cases was too heavy and discouraged victims from reporting acts of rape and authorities from prosecuting them. The government did not respond formally to these concerns.
In March parliament amended the general penal code to criminalize domestic violence specifically with a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison.
Violence against women continued to be a problem. Many victims declined to press charges because they did not think they would win their cases in court or they did not have the stamina to go through court proceedings. In a number of cases, victims were not able to press charges because the statute of limitations had expired. In 2015, the most recent year for which data were available, 9 percent of the clients of the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence pressed charges.
Some local human rights monitors attributed the underreporting of domestic violence and sex crimes to the infrequency of convictions and to traditionally light sentences. Courts often based sentences on precedent and rarely made full use of the more stringent sentencing authority available under the law.
Victims of domestic violence can request police to remove perpetrators physically from the home for up to four weeks at a time. Police can also impose a 72-hour restraining order to prevent abusers from coming into proximity with the victim, and courts can extend this restraining order for up to a year. The law entitles victims of sex crimes to a lawyer to advise them of their rights and to help them pursue charges against the alleged assailants. In 2015 a total of 121 women sought assistance at the rape crisis center of the National University Hospital of Iceland, and 126 women sought temporary lodging at the country’s shelter for women, mainly because of domestic violence. The shelter also offered counseling.
The government helped finance the Women’s Shelter, the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence, the rape crisis center of the national hospital, and other organizations that assisted victims of domestic or gender-based violence. In addition to partially funding such services, the government assisted immigrant women in abusive relationships, offering emergency accommodation, counseling, and information on legal rights.
Sexual Harassment: Two laws prohibit sexual harassment. The general penal code makes sexual harassment punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. The law on equal status defines sexual harassment more broadly as any type of unfair or offensive physical, verbal, or symbolic sexual behavior that is unwanted and affects the self-respect of the victim and is continued despite a clear indication that the behavior is undesired. The law requires employers and organization supervisors to make specific arrangements to prevent employees, students, and clients from becoming victims of gender-based or sexual harassment. Victims of harassment can report incidents to the Complaints Committee on Equal Status. The law requires only employers with 25 or more employees to provide employees information on the legal prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace. The law establishes fines for violations, but more severe penalties could be applicable under other laws. According to the latest available information from the State Prosecutor’s Office, in 2015 prosecutors brought three cases to trial at the district court level and obtained convictions in two. One case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which had not ruled in the case as of September 14.
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.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men according to the constitution and the law. The law states that employers and unions should work towards gender equality in the labor market, especially in managerial positions, and that employers should work towards declassifying jobs as primarily female- or male-oriented. Employment discrimination occurred (see section 7.d.). The Gender Equality Complaints Committee ruled that the National Archives of Iceland violated the law on equal status when it established a lower number of fixed monthly overtime hours for a female employee than for a male employee in a comparable position over a period of roughly two years.