Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes violence against women, including rape, incest, sexual aggression, and other forms of domestic violence. Penalties for conviction of these crimes range from one to 30 years in prison and fines from 700 to 245,000 pesos ($15 to $5,400). The sentences for conviction of rape, including spousal rape, range from 10 to 15 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 pesos ($2,210 to $4,420). For rape cases involving a vulnerable person or a child or occurring under other egregious circumstances, the sentence for conviction is 10 to 20 years in prison.
Rape was a serious and pervasive problem. Survivors of rape often did not report the crime due to fear of social stigma, fear of retribution, and the perception that police and the judicial system would not provide redress. The state may prosecute a suspect for rape, including spousal rape, even if the victim does not file charges. Police generally encouraged rape victims to seek assistance from the specialized gender-based violence unit of the National Police, the Attorney General’s Office, public defenders, or NGOs.
Despite government efforts to improve the situation, violence against women was pervasive. The National Police reported that 54 women were killed by their partners through July. The Attorney General’s Office reported that on average 6,000 women were victims of sexual assault each year. The Attorney General’s Office reported it had received more than 500,000 complaints of gender-based or sexual violence, with complaints increasing approximately 33 percent annually. The Attorney General’s Office also reported that the caseload far exceeded prosecutorial capacity, such that only a small fraction of these complaints went to court.
The Attorney General’s Office oversees the specialized Violence Prevention and Attention Unit, which had 18 offices in the country’s 32 provinces. At these offices victims of violence could file criminal complaints, obtain free legal counsel, and receive psychological and medical attention. Each office had professional psychologists on staff to counsel victims and to assess the threat of impending danger associated with a complaint. These offices had the authority to issue a temporary restraining order immediately after receiving a complaint.
In an additional step to address the problem, the Attorney General’s Office instructed its officers not to settle cases of violence against women and to continue judicial processes, even in cases in which victims withdrew charges. District attorneys provided assistance and protection to victims of violence by referring them to appropriate institutions for legal, medical, and psychological counseling. The Attorney General’s Office also instructed its officers to conclude the investigation and presentation of charges within 35 days unless the case was considered complex.
The Office for the Attention of Women and Interfamily Violence, headed by Colonel Teresa Martinez, managed emergency call lines to facilitate quick response services. The office had a trained police officer in six of the 17 satellite violence-prevention and attention-unit offices.
The Ministry of Women, which had scarce resources, actively promoted equality and the prevention of violence against women through implementing education and awareness programs and the provision of training to other ministries and offices. The ministry operated two shelters for domestic violence survivors in undisclosed locations, where abused persons could make reports to police and receive counseling. The shelters provided women with short- and medium-term assistance of up to three months to escape violent situations, although the high demand limited stays to 15 days. The ministry had a presence in 31 provincial offices and 21 municipal offices, where it offered free legal counsel and psychiatric assistance to victims. The ministry also operated two programs to rehabilitate persons convicted of domestic abuse or gender-based violence. Through April the shelters had received 237 women; however, with a capacity of only 25 women and children at a time, the shelters were not able to accept all victims.
NGOs stated that while adequate laws were in place to punish gender-based violence, the judicial system did not adequately enforce those laws. The system lacked an integrated approach to victim care, the judicial system lacked the resources to prosecute perpetrators successfully, and the number of women’s shelters was inadequate for victim’s needs.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a misdemeanor, and conviction carries a sentence of one year in prison and a fine equal to the sum of three to six months of salary. Union leaders reported, however, that the law was not enforced and that sexual harassment remained a problem (see section 7.d.).
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 means and information to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Family-planning NGOs provided contraceptives without charge. Many low-income women, however, used them inconsistently due to irregular availability and societal influences. Religious beliefs and social customs reduced the use of modern methods of family planning. According to 2016 estimates by the UN Fund for Population (UNFPA), 69 percent of women used a modern method of contraception, and 11 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning; unmet need was higher among young women and adolescents (28 percent), and sterilization accounted for nearly half of all methods used, according to UNFPA. UNFPA reported that the adolescent birth rate was also high, at 90 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19, and 21 percent of adolescents were mothers or pregnant. Although 98 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel, the maternal mortality was 92 deaths per 100,000 live births, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 400, according to 2015 UN estimates.
Through June the country’s maternal hospitals reported that 35 women had died in childbirth. Maternal mortality remained a problem due to medical reasons, including failure to adhere to standards of quality care, general lack of accountability and an insufficient culture of patient safety, inadequate referrals, and residents filling in for attending physicians without sufficient supervision.
A high rate of pregnancies among adolescent girls remained a concern. The country’s maternal hospitals reported a 28 percent teenage pregnancy rate. Other significant factors contributing to maternal and neonatal deaths were poor quality of care and lack of access to health-care services as well as complications during pregnancy and delivery. Most women and girls had access to some postnatal care, although the lack of postnatal care was higher among those that were uneducated and from low economic backgrounds as well as young mothers.
Discrimination: Although the law provides women and men the same legal rights, women did not enjoy social and economic status or opportunity equal to that of men. Men held approximately 70 percent of leadership positions in all sectors. Only 11 percent of firms had female top managers. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, on average women received 16 percent lower pay than men in jobs of equal content and requiring equal skills. In 2014 the average unemployment rate among men was 9 percent of the active labor force, while for women it was 23 percent. Some employers reportedly gave pregnancy tests to women before hiring them as part of a required medical examination. Although it is illegal to discriminate based on such tests, NGO leaders reported that employers often did not hire pregnant women and sometimes fired female employees who became pregnant. There were no effective government programs to combat economic discrimination against women.