Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Domestic violence is a crime under the law, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of SBD 30,000 ($3,863). In May the government officially launched a National Policy to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls, 2016-2020. Aims of the policy include strengthening the referral network for survivors of domestic violence in rural areas and better coordination among all stakeholders for public awareness about domestic violence.
Violence against women, including rape and domestic abuse, remained a serious problem but was underreported. Among the reasons cited for failure to report abuse were pressure from male relatives, fear of reprisals, feelings of shame, and cultural taboos on discussion of such matters.
A 2011 World Health Organization report revealed that more than half of the women in the country had experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner and 64 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 regularly experienced violence in the home.
Police made efforts to charge offenders for domestic violence and assault against women. As part of the police curriculum, officers receive specialized training on how to work with rape victims. Police have a Sexual Assault Unit, staffed mostly by female officers, to provide support to victims and investigate charges.
In reported cases of domestic abuse, victims often dropped charges before a court appearance, or settled cases out of court. In cases in which charges were filed, the time between the charging of an individual and the subsequent court hearing could be as long as two years. The magistrates’ courts dealt with physical abuse of women as with any other assault, but prosecutions were rare due to low judicial and police capacity and to cultural bias against women.
The Family Protection Act requires that victims of domestic violence have access to counseling and medical services, legal support, and a safe place within the community if they cannot return home. The government has a referral system in place to coordinate these services, but referral agencies are often underfunded, especially in rural areas. The Family Support Center and a church-run facility for abused women provided counseling and other support services for women.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued to increase and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread problem.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/.
Discrimination: While the law accords women equal legal rights, including the right to own property, most women were limited to customary family roles that prevented them from taking more active roles in economic and political life. No laws mandate equal pay for equal work (see section 7.d.).