Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 15 years in prison but does not criminalize spousal rape. The government generally enforced the law when individuals reported cases, but there were indications that many victims did not report rape because of cultural and societal factors. In previous years police charged individuals with rape or attempted rape. Foreign nationals working as domestic employees occasionally reported that their sponsors or employees of labor recruitment agencies had sexually abused them. According to diplomatic observers, police investigations resulted in few rape convictions.
The law does not specifically address domestic violence, and judicial protection orders from domestic violence do not exist. Charges could be brought, however, under existing statutes outlawing assault, battery, and aggravated assault, which can carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Allegations of spousal abuse in civil courts handling family law cases reportedly were common. Victims of domestic violence may file a complaint with police, and reports suggested that police responded promptly and professionally.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in hospitals and clinics but does not explicitly ban the practice. There were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of FGM/C, but some reports suggested it was practiced. According to press reports, a 2010 Ministry of Health study on FGM/C found that men and women across all ages broadly accepted the practice, especially in rural areas. In the southern Dhofar region, FGM/C reportedly was performed on newborns and involved a partial or total clitoridectomy (Type I as defined by the World Health Organization). Throughout the rest of the country, Type IV is reportedly most prevalent. According to local sources, an older female relative with no medical training typically performed the practice in unhygienic conditions.
Officials at the National Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Social Development claimed that language in the 2014 Child Law prohibits FGM/C as a harmful traditional practice, although the law does not explicitly describe types of FGM/C practices. As of the end of 2015, there was no public outreach to educate citizens about the provisions of the new law or about the harmful effects of FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: The country does not have a law against sexual harassment. Sexual harassment has been effectively prosecuted using statutes prohibiting offensive language and behavior. Nonetheless, a 2010 Freedom House report on women’s rights in the Middle East indicated that female employees were discouraged from reporting sexual harassment for fear of losing their jobs and because social pressure places responsibility on them for “proper moral behavior.”
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of married couples to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Health clinics freely disseminated information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. Some forms of birth control, including condoms, were available at pharmacies and supermarkets, although doctor-prescribed birth control medication was generally not available for unmarried women. According to 2016 UN Population Fund estimates, only 25 percent of women aged 15-49 were using a modern method of contraceptives, and 28 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning. The government provided free childbirth services to citizens within the framework of universal health care. Prenatal and postnatal care was readily available and used. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; however, social taboos prevented individuals from seeking treatment.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based discrimination against citizens. Local interpretations of Islamic law and practice of cultural traditions, in social and legal institutions discriminated against women. In some personal status cases, such as divorce, a woman’s testimony is equal to half that of a man. The legal provision that allows men to divorce their wives with the signature of two witnesses is not accorded to women. The law favors male heirs in adjudicating inheritance. Women married to noncitizens may not transmit citizenship to their children and cannot sponsor their noncitizen husband’s presence in the country. Men can marry up to four wives and do not require consent from existing wives to marry additional wives.
The law provides for transmission of citizenship at birth if the father is a citizen; if the mother is a citizen and the father is unknown; or if a child of unknown parents is found in the country. The law provides that an adult may become a citizen by applying for citizenship and subsequently residing legally in the country for 20 years or 10 years if married to a male citizen. During that time an applicant cannot reside more than one month of each year outside the country. A person seeking naturalization is expected first to give up any previous citizenship.
Women cannot transmit citizenship to their spouses or children. Observers reported a few isolated cases of children without documentation as the result of a marriage between an Omani woman and a non-Omani man. These children are not eligible for citizenship and are vulnerable to being stateless. Under the law, women--regardless of marital status--have equal property ownership rights as men. The law equalizes the treatment of men and women in receiving free government land for housing.
Government policy provided women with equal opportunities for education, and this policy effectively eliminated the previous gender gap in educational attainment. Although some educated women held positions of authority in government, business, and media, many women faced job discrimination based on cultural norms. The law entitles women to paid maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. The government, the largest employer of women, observed such regulations, as did many private-sector employers. Economic studies conducted by the World Economic Forum from 2015, however, showed that women earned 68 percent less than men and that their unemployment rate was at least twice as high. According to the forum, only 31 percent of women participated in the work force.
The local business community reported that the Ministry of Manpower increasingly rejected work permits for foreign women regardless of profession or country of origin, while it granted work permits to foreign men applying for comparable positions. Ministry officials said the purpose of the ban on female foreign visas was to “regularize” the labor market, without further explanation.
The Ministry of Social Development is the umbrella Ministry for Women’s Affairs. The ministry provided support for women’s economic development through the Oman Women’s Associations and local community development centers. The government has a committee to monitor the country’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.