Rape and Domestic Violence: Although prohibited by law, rape, including spousal rape, remained a serious problem. The government generally enforced the law against rape. The penal code does not address spousal rape. There was no comprehensive database on the incidence of sexual violence, but NGO groups claimed rape continued to be underreported. Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is illegal, but consensual sex between adults was not prosecuted.
Rape accompanied by the use or threat of violence or threats with a weapon are punishable by death. For other cases of rape, the prescribed punishment is life imprisonment. If the victim is under the age of 20, penalties can be more severe (see section 6, Children). Nonconsensual sexual conduct not meeting the definition of rape, such as sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and molestation, may be prosecuted as “indecent assault,” which is punishable by up to six years in prison or 12 years if the victim is under the age of 18. In cases of nonviolent sexual assault committed against a minor, charges against the accused will be dropped if the victim’s parents consent to marriage, provided the marriage lasts at least two years. Human rights organizations strongly objected to this practice. The punishment is extended to life imprisonment if committed with weapons, threats, or detention or in cases where the victim was mutilated, disfigured, or if the victim’s life was endangered. The sentence is five years in prison for “indecent assault” attempted or committed without violence or aggression against a child, which is extended to 10 years if the perpetrator is related to the victim or holds a position of authority over the victim.
Rape remained a taboo and underreported subject. Cultural pressures often dissuaded victims from reporting sexual assault. Convictions for sexual violence were far below the number of actual incidents. A March 2015 study by UGTT’s National Commission of Working Women indicated that 32 percent of all women experienced some kind of physical violence, 29 percent experienced psychological violence or harassment, 16 percent suffered sexual violence or exploitation, and 7 percent experienced economic violence, including financial exploitation, extortion, or deprivation of money or the necessities of life. A large portion of violence against women occurred within marriage, according to the study. A 2015 Amnesty International report cited several reasons for underreporting and lack of prosecution for rape and sexual assault, including evidentiary standards that place a high burden on the victim, lack of trust in police and the judicial system, and an inadequate legal definition of sexual assault.
Laws prohibiting domestic violence provide penalties for assault committed by a spouse or family member that are double those of an unrelated individual for the same crime, but enforcement was rare, and domestic violence remained a serious problem.
There were no government public education programs on domestic violence, including rape. Victims received services at two dozen social centers throughout the country. There was a growing demand for services, but social stigma kept many women from utilizing existing resources.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was a problem, although there was no data to measure its extent. The law requires victims of sexual harassment seeking redress to file a complaint in criminal court, where authorities then investigate the allegations. According to the criminal code, the penalty for sexual harassment is one year in prison and a fine of 3,000 dinars ($1,300). Civil society groups criticized the law on harassment as too vague and susceptible to abuse.
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 access to the means and information to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to a 2016 study by the Health and Human Rights Journal, the country made slow progress in incorporating reproductive rights into its national reproductive health policy. The study highlighted limited accessibility to reproductive health services, low quality maternal health-care services, and discriminatory practices in some regions of the country. The UN Population Fund reported in 2014 that only 10 percent of the primary health-care centers in the northwest, central west and southeast regions of the country provided basic reproductive health services. Family planning had been provided by mobile clinics due to limited infrastructure in rural areas, but recently there was a significant decrease in the number and coverage of these clinics. The World Health Organization reported that single women were discriminated against for treatment of sexually transmitted infections and accessing contraceptives.
Discrimination: The law and constitution explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and the government generally enforced these prohibitions. Women faced societal rather than statutory barriers to their economic and political participation. Codified civil law is based on the Napoleonic code, although on occasion judges drew upon interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) as a basis for customary law in family and inheritance disputes.
Newly married couples must state explicitly in the marriage contract whether they elect to combine their possessions or keep them separate. Customary law based on sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying outside their religion. Sharia requires men, but not women, to provide for their families. Because of this expectation, in some instances sharia inheritance law provides men with a larger share of an inheritance. Some families avoided the application of sharia by executing sales contracts between parents and children to ensure that daughters received shares of property equal to those given sons. Non-Muslim women and their Muslim husbands may not inherit from each other. The government considers all children of those marriages to be Muslim and forbids those children from inheriting from their mothers. Spouses may, however, freely give up to a third of their estate to whomever they designate in their will.
Female citizens can transmit citizenship on an equal basis with male citizens. In November 2015 parliament amended a law that had previously prohibited a mother from traveling outside the country with minor children without written permission from the father. Under the new amendment, there is no discrimination between a mother and father regarding passport application and authorization to leave the country.
The law explicitly requires equal pay for equal work, and the government generally enforced it. The law allows female employees in the public sector to receive two-thirds of their full-time salary for half-time work, provided they have at least one child under 16 or a child with special needs, regardless of age. Qualifying women may apply for the benefit for a three-year period, renewable twice for a maximum of nine years. The government defended the law as allowing women to balance family and professional life, but some women’s rights advocates believed treating women and men differently under the law infringed women’s rights. Societal and cultural barriers significantly reduced women’s participation in the formal labor force, in particular in managerial positions. Women in the private sector earned on average one-quarter less than men for similar work.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: The ratio of boy-to-girl births was 107 to 100. There was no information on any government efforts to address this imbalance.