Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and carries maximum sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. The government was unable to provide the number of persons prosecuted for unlawful sexual intercourse, but anecdotal evidence suggested it was a pervasive problem. An investigation commences once the crime is reported, and legislation enacted in August identifies certain government employees as mandatory reporters. Police immediately refer reported rapes to the Serious Crime Unit, and a female police officer and often a caseworker from the Directorate of Gender Affairs accompany the victim for questioning, medical examinations, treatment, and court appearances, if necessary. In situations where the victim did not know her assailant, the case could take years to come to trial. The Directorate of Gender Affairs, part of the Ministry of Education, Gender, Sports, and Youth Affairs, publicized a crisis hotline for victims and witnesses to sexual assault and managed a sexual assault center that coordinates responses to sexual assault. The Directorate of Gender Affairs reported the number of rape survivors coming forward increased as a result of the crisis hotline and the directorate’s awareness campaign.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem. The law prohibits and provides penalties for domestic violence, but some women were reluctant to testify against their abusers due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence. The Domestic Violence Bill of 2015, which repealed the Domestic Violence Act of 1999, took effect on September 1. The new legislation targets perpetrators of domestic violence and sets forth the process required for victims to obtain an order of protection. The Directorate of Gender Affairs operated several domestic violence programs that provided training for law enforcement officers, health-care professionals, counselors, social workers, immigration officers, and army officers. The directorate also worked with NGOs, individuals, and businesses to provide safe havens for abused women and children. Services for victims of domestic violence included counseling and an advocacy caseworker who accompanied the victim to the hospital, police station, and court, if necessary.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not specifically defined in law. The country is, however, party to the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (the Convention of Belem do Para), which recognizes sexual harassment as a form of violence against women. According to the Ministry of Labor, there was a high incidence of sexual harassment in the private and public sectors, but no cases were formally reported during the year, and the lack of reporting was believed to result from concerns about retaliation. The labor court requires a safe working environment for all persons; thus, the court could address harassment cases, although no such cases were filed 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 rate of maternal mortality was not available.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Legislation requires equal pay for equal work. The labor code provides that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of his or her gender. Women continued to work mainly as homeworkers and domestics, but there was a trend for more women to work in the private and public sectors.